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hannahm223

hannahm223
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    • More +
      26.11.2010 13:40
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      A humorous, unique and eye opening piece of chick lit.

      Having started this year as an au pair in Italy (I left after a month as the experience was so traumatic!), I was interested in reading 'The Nanny Diaries'; a chick lit novel which details a fictionalised account of life as a nanny, written by two former nannies themselves.

      Not only did I want something to console myself with after my own nightmare "nannying" experience - longing to read a novel by two women who had experienced something similar - but I was drawn to this book as it seemed a bit different from the usual "boy meets girl" formula of chick lit.

      As soon as I read the extremely entertaining prologue I knew straight away that I had made a good choice and, while the story didn't exactly have me gripped, the novel certainly kept me entertained to the end, and even made me realise that perhaps my experience wasn't so bad after all in comparison...





      PLOT

      Twenty one year old Nan has scored the perfect part time job nannying for the sweet four year old Grayer in a gorgeous Manhattan apartment, working for a rich mother who gives away free Prada shoes! Great, right? Well... not exactly.

      In reality, Nan's "part time" job is in fact taking over her life as her employer, Mrs X, has her rushing all over Manhattan running complicated and impossible errands, while at the same time taking on the role of almost full time parent, guardian and educator of her son.

      Trying to juggle her job, college, thesis, job interviews, annoying flatmates, almost-boyfriend (the gorgeous "Harvard Hottie" who lives in the X's building) and ultimately the responsibility of holding the entire X family together, Nan has certainly got far more than she bargained for.

      However, she soon finds that the drama is only just beginning as she unwittingly stumbles across a secret about the absent Mr X, and the prospect of divorce for the Xs rears its ugly head. Swept up in the crazy world of the Xs and trying to singlehandedly save their marriage via an underwear rescue mission, Nan is desperate to escape and start living her own life again, but there's just one problem: Grayer.

      Torn between her hatred of the Xs and her love of their son, Nan wonders if she can really leave the neglected, unappreciated, loving Grayer alone with the Xs to fend for himself...





      WHAT I LIKED

      The main thing that I really liked about this book was the subtle, fairly sarcastic humour. I love how the authors appear to be having a laugh as they recall the ridiculous situations they experienced themselves and as they pour all their bad experiences and situations in to one farcical nightmare of a story for poor Nan.
      Some parts are indeed really funny, particularly the prologue where the authors describe a typical interview process for a Nanny and the typical employer. The prologue is heavy in sarcasm and exaggeration and you get the feeling they are finally letting out all the criticisms they have ever kept to themselves over the years as they have sat through one crazy interview after the other.

      I think that this humour is particularly effective as at times - in fact fairly often - the story is actually really sad and tragic. The authors are in fact telling a story of the true neglect of parents towards their children that they have witnessed on countless occasions -parents who think that as long as they are sending their kids to the top schools and providing them with all the best possessions they are doing their job to their utmost, parents who simply "forget" to love their children because they are just so busy sitting on committees and planning important parties and making all the money that is required to buy all the ridiculously expensive things their child doesn't really need.

      The story is at times genuinely heartbreaking, yet it is told with a trace of humour and sarcasm that maintains an effective balance between making the reader sad and yet still entertaining them, which is very effective. The observations at times are often at their core very tragic, yet always told in a way that is as humorous as it is shocking to the reader, for instance with this observation Nan makes on the "Nanny tour" of the house:

      "The distance of the child's room from the parent's room always runs the gamut from far away to really, really far away. In fact, if there is another floor this room will be on it. One has the image of the poor three-year-old awakening from a nightmare and having to don a pith helmet and flashlight to go in search of her parent's room, armed only with a compass and fierce determination."

      One thing that I did really like about the book is that, although some of the story seems farcical and over the top - such as Mrs X employing a Long-term Development Consultant when four year old Grayer fails to get into the "right" school, who grills Nan over whether she has been regularly reading the 'Wall Street Journal' to the four year old, and whether she has been dressing him using "an Apparel Chart" while "documenting his choices with him on a Closet Diagram" - as the two authors were nannies themselves prior to writing this, you get the idea that these things are not farfetched ideas produced by their imagination, or that the characters are not simply clichéd stereotypes. In fact, you get the idea that the whole thing is based on reality and that there is a grain of truth in everything, which makes the novel so much more tragic yet compelling also.

      As well as having the benefit of experience, however, what really makes the novel so enjoyable is that the two authors also have the benefit of actually being really good writers. Not only is the novel very humorous and entertaining, but the characters are also quite interesting and complex. Mrs X, for instance, is one of the most "alive" characters in the novel and, while she is on the surface a quite detestable character, there are elements in the story which allow you to sympathise with her also.

      The two authors also work well together and the whole novel is very smoothly written, with no obvious alteration or point where the two authors obviously switch over. I have read a few books by two authors where this was the case- where the characters' personalities would suddenly change, or the writing would suddenly improve or deteriorate - but with this one you would never know (unless you looked on the cover) that it wasn't written by a single author, as the characters are extremely consistent, as is the quality of writing.

      One of my overall favourite things about this book is also that it is quite unique. I get tired of the same old chick lit formulas based around a girl and a boy meeting, overcoming some sort of obstacle, and getting together for a happy ever after ending. However, this is a lot different from that. As with 'The Devil Wears Prada', the novel is based more around Nan's job than it is her love life, and her romance is only a very small subplot in the background. While there were some problems with this (as discussed below), and while this may present a source of disappointment for fans of romantic novels, on the whole I think that it was an interesting unique twist on the chick lit formula that I really enjoyed.





      WHAT I DISLIKED

      The main thing that I disliked about this novel was the anonymity of the characters, including the narrator and protagonist, Nan. Although the novel is written in first person, it is just not as "honest" as normal chick lit, where you are generally given the protagonist's every thought and feeling, where the focus is on the protagonist's personal life, and where you are given lots of background to the character.

      In contrast to the normal chick lit heroine, Nan (or Nanny as she is often referred to) is sadly a little bit anonymous, even down to her name! She doesn't have a proper name, there is little focus on her personal life outside of work (her romance is almost completely skimmed over and only recounted briefly in retrospect), and consequently I just felt a bit detached from her character, feeling as though she were more of a metaphor or type (the typical Nanny) than a fleshed out character.

      Similarly, the other characters (with the exception of Grayer, the only "real" character) are equally vague, non specific and anonymous. None of the central characters are given a real name (Nan's boyfriend is simply referred to as HH - standing for Harvard Hottie - throughout the novel, and her employers are dubbed simply Mr and Mrs X), and they all seem to be metaphorical characters or types rather than actual characters.

      Mrs X, for instance, is seemingly a metaphor of a ubiquitous type of mum, rather than an actual character. I can see what the authors are trying to do here, but personally I would have preferred them to use their imaginations a bit more and deliver real, authentic and fleshed out characters rather than anonymous metaphors, and tell an authentic, specific, imaginative story, rather than a sort of documentary of life as a typical nanny.

      Another letdown of the novel for me personally was that it was a little bit predictable at times, like a lot of chick lit. Although this didn't ruin its enjoyment for me or detract from its entertainment value, it did prevent the book from being completely gripping or intriguing, as I did have an idea at what was coming next at each stage and how it may end, although I didn't anticipate the ending entirely!





      RECOMMENDED FOR...
      Former, current or prospective nannies; parents; or fans of chick lit wanting something a little bit different.

      READ WHEN...
      You need a reminder that your family/job isn't so bad after all!

      READ IF YOU LIKED...
      'Mary Poppins' or 'The Devil Wears Prada'.

      IF IT WERE FOOD IT WOULD BE...
      Jam sandwich triangles with the crusts removed. Sweet, fun and easy to get through, yet slightly generic (like Nan and Mrs X).

      IF IT WERE A COLOUR IT WOULD BE...
      Light blue. Inoffensive and subtle, and a little bit sad.

      BEST QUOTE...
      "She is always tiny. Her hair is always straight and thin; she always seems to be inhaling and never exhaling. She is always wearing expensive khaki pants, Chanel ballet flats, a French striped T-shirt, and a white cardigan. Possibly some discreet pearls. In seven years and umpteen interviews the I'm-mom-casual-in-my-khakis-but-intimidating-in-my-$400-shoes outfit never changes. And it is simply impossible to imagine her doing anything so undignified as what was required to get her pregnant in the first place."

      MARKS OUT OF 10 FOR:
      WRITING STYLE - 7
      PLOT- 7
      CHARACTERS- 6
      UNPREDICTABILITY- 4
      UN-PUT-DOWN-ABILITY- 7
      OVERALL BOOK - 7

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      • More +
        22.11.2010 16:36
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        A romantic, moving, historical saga.

        For my dad's birthday, I struggled for some time wondering what to buy him (how hard are men to buy for?) before eventually deciding to make a trip to the book store. Remembering he had been a fan of 'The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas' by John Boyne, I decided to browse what else the author had written and came across a few novels.

        Reading the blurb on the back of a few novels, this one - a work of fiction based loosely on real historical events - stood out to me as something he may like, so I decided to buy it. After having given it to my dad he told me it was, "Very good but really, really sad" and lent it to me to read. To be honest, I wasn't that sure if I would like it, not being a huge fan of historical novels, however, being an avid reader, I decided to give it a go, and found that I was quite glad I did.





        PLOT

        In 1915, in a little town in Russia, a sixteen year old boy - Georgy Jachmenev - unintentionally saves the life of the cousin of the Tsar. Hailed as a hero, he is whisked away from his home to the Winter Palace in St Petersburg, where he is to work as a companion and bodyguard for the Tsar's young son, Alexei Romanov.

        Living amongst the Romanovs - the Tsar Nicholas II, the Tsaritsa Alexandra and their five children - Georgy finds himself a fish out of water as he becomes an unexpected participant in controversial dealings with the government, scandalous meetings with Rasputin, and a surprising love story.

        Many years later, as an old man living in London, Georgy reflects on his past life; the family he grew to love, the country he turned his back on and the tragic story of the Romanovs that remains with him today. As he faces the end of his life with his beloved wife, Zoya, Georgy is overwhelmed with memories of tragedy and love, as he unravels the tale of how he got to where is today, and unveils the secrets that have surrounded his life to this day.





        WHAT I LIKED

        When I first picked up this book to read, I was a little bit daunted as, this being "a novel of the Romanovs" - as the book cites it to be on the front cover - I thought it would be packed with politics and, consequently, quite heavy and difficult to read. Not knowing anything about the political history of Russia, I wondered whether it would be a bit over my head. However, I soon discovered that this was not the case.

        Although the novel obviously tells the story of a controversial time in Russia, Boyne focuses more on Georgy's personal feelings towards the Romanov family than the political side of things; crafting an intimate account that is that is centrally about family and love. Rather than detailing what is happening outside of the Tsar's home too heavily, Boyne focuses instead on Georgy's experiences and on the universal feelings of heartbreak and love, creating a romantic and moving novel that is remarkably down to earth and easy to empathise with, despite its grand setting.

        Like the themes of the book, Boyne's language is also notably beautiful yet simple to follow at the same time. Boyne is undoubtedly a skilful writer, who crafts his characters well, presents interesting concepts and ideas and expresses himself eloquently with beautiful language and phrasing, yet at the same time he writes simply. He doesn't use his language to show off, but rather to tell a story, and this makes the novel extremely easy and enjoyable to read. Likewise, he describes things really effectively yet does not go overboard with description, which was something that I liked about the novel.

        Boyne is also good at creating characters and bringing them alive. Although I didn't always like his characters (see below) they still seemed very real and authentic to me. Georgy, particularly, had a really strong, authentic narrative voice; I could sense his tiredness, his sadness and the weight on his shoulders, and I could completely imagine this story being told by a Russian man in his seventies, rather than an Irish one in his thirties.

        I also think that Boyne's choice of format for the novel is quite effective for the most part, as it was quite interesting to read a novel from Georgy's perspective as an old man looking back at the near past, the further past, and also right the way back to when he was a young boy. You get a full look at his life in its many parts, and this makes the story all the more compelling - to find out how Georgy got from where he was to where he is now - and moving (as you really get to know Georgy as a character and the tragedy he has faced).

        One surprising thing that I did find that I liked about this novel is that I found that I actually enjoyed the historical story and discovering what had happened in Russia involving the Romanovs and the Bolshevik government. I have never really been that interested in history and knew absolutely nothing about the history of Russia (I had never even heard of a Tsar), but I found it really interesting to read about.

        In fact, after finishing the novel, I actually felt compelled to do a bit of research in to Russian history and the fascinating true story of the Romanovs, as found it really compelling and intriguing. Although this is a very fictionalised account of life at that time (and has been criticised for its overuse of Boyne's creative license), and although the picture painted here is probably quite inaccurate in many ways, I still enjoyed getting a very small glimpse into another place and time that I knew absolutely nothing about.

        Overall, this is an interesting, creative and compelling novel, however what pulls it all together and makes it so successful, much like with 'The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas', is Boyne's ability to move the reader. It is the sadness of the novel, its slightly tragic nature, that actually makes it so satisfying to read. It is an emotive, moving and romantic novel which is extremely sad, but actually in a very effective way.





        WHAT I DISLIKED

        I discovered, only after reading this book, that there was a lot of criticism hurled at the novel for being historically inaccurate. This seemed to be the main criticism of this work of fiction - that it was, in fact, fiction. However, while I feel that I should mention this, as it may be a disadvantage for some, I will say that this is not one of the things that I disliked about the novel. In fact, it didn't bother me at all.

        I suppose if you are very interested and knowledgeable about Russian history and are reading the book for this reason then you may feel let down, but I think it is best to approach the novel simply as a piece of fiction, which is what it is. I actually think with this book you have an advantage if you know absolutely nothing about the Romanovs and Russian history (like I did) as it not only means you are mostly unaware that it is historically inaccurate, but it makes the story a lot more intriguing and surprising.

        Along with the criticism about this novel being historically inaccurate, another thing that this novel has widely been criticised for is that, in a similar vein to the criticism of the movie 'Titanic', aspects of the novel have been dubbed unrealistic or, in fact, impossible. While I see the point here, and it is something I pondered on myself, again this didn't really bother me. I believe this is one of those times where you need to suspend disbelief to enjoy an otherwise good story, however if you think this would ruin the novel for you I advise you to give it a miss. However, as I say, this is not something that bothered me personally.

        Now, on to the main thing that did bother me about this novel: the characters. As I mentioned earlier, Boyne is good at creating characters that seem real and authentic. However these characters, at least in my opinion, are very difficult to sympathise or empathise with. Basically, I didn't find them very likeable at all.

        Although a few flaws in a character can be quite compelling, I just felt that the main characters in this novel (and not just including the Tsar and his family, for who this is may be understandable) were extremely self centred and selfish. I found Zoya particularly hard to empathise with. Although her behaviour is perhaps explained a lot by her tragic past, I still (perhaps unfairly) couldn't warm to her, finding her cold and unfeeling towards her husband, seemingly punishing him for everything that was not his fault, giving no thought to how her actions might make him feel.

        I also found it hard to fully sympathise with Georgy. Although he obviously adores his wife and is shown to be selfless in his attitude towards both her and the Romanovs, in every other way I found him utterly selfish. Although he is presented in a sympathetic light, I found it hard to buy his caring, loyal, selfless act when he showed such little loyalty or love towards his own family, who clearly see as much tragedy, if not more so, than the Romanovs. I basically couldn't warm to either if the central characters, which was my main issue with the novel.

        I also felt that at times - while it was undoubtedly a good idea in theory and, at times, in practise - the format of the novel was a little bit complicated and hard to follow, with the plot jumping back and forth too much, to this place and that place, so that you never quite knew where you were.

        I think that the format would have been easier to follow if Boyne had missed out some periods of Georgy's life, however, as I think that the main problem was that he simply tried to squeeze too much in. This made the novel quite hard to follow in itself as there was so much squeezed in to the novel that some things were really skimmed over, some threads were hard to follow and not fully developed (such as some of Georgy and Zoya's marital troubles and the brief introduction of Georgy's mysterious second job) and some characters were also completely skimmed over and never really fleshed out.

        I just felt like there were lots of things included in the novel that didn't really need to be there and which in fact detracted from the quality of the novel. It basically felt to me like Boyne included every single detail he could think of and then didn't bother to edit it down. It also felt that the ending - which could have been one of the most significant and moving parts of the novel - was quite rushed, as though Boyne had included so many other pointless details that he simply ran out of time or energy to give the novel the ending it deserved.

        A final thing that I will say about the novel is that, although the novel on the whole is beautifully and insightfully written, and although (despite it apparently being historically inaccurate) Boyne has clearly done some research into the big things, he does make the occasional mistake when it comes to everyday details.

        For instance, he seems to be a bit confused about young people and what is realistic dialogue for them. His one year old daughter, for instance, poses an amazingly articulate question at one point that seems far too advanced for a child who is apparently still "uncertain on her legs", asking, "Father... Whose present is the best, mine or Mother's?" Meanwhile, near the end of the novel Alexi, at one month away from fourteen, could be mistaken for a five year old based on the description of his actions and dialogue, and is certainly not like any fourteen year old boy I have ever encountered!

        I just felt that with trying to squeeze so much detail and plot into the novel, some of the more minor details, such as basic human behaviour and dialogue, have been neglected and have not been paid as much attention to or researched thoroughly. I felt that, although on the whole I really enjoyed this novel, it could have perhaps done with a final edit simply to smooth over some things, tidy up some details, and cut out some irrelevant threads of plot.





        'RECOMMENDED FOR...
        Those who aren't well-versed in Russian history, or those who can quite happily suspend their disbelief.

        READ WHEN...
        You are in the mood for an easy to read but absorbing novel.

        READ IF YOU LIKED...
        'The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas', or the movie 'Titanic' (a similarly unlikely, tragic and romantic tale based loosely on history and told from the point of view of an elderly person looking back on their life and an historical event).

        IF IT WERE FOOD IT WOULD BE...
        Borscht - thick, substantial, and very Russian. A traditional and popular format, but not to everybody's taste.

        IF IT WERE A COLOUR IT WOULD BE...
        Grey. Foggy and vague in detail at times, exploring a political grey area, and shrouded by a cloud of misery and depression, the book is an emotive mix of both lightness and dark times.

        BEST QUOTE...
        "The characters in my memory emerged from their hidden places and looked towards the skies, their hands outstretched, smiling at each other, together once again, wishing that these moments might never end and the future might never come."




        MARKS OUT OF 10 FOR:
        WRITING STYLE - 7
        PLOT- 7
        CHARACTERS- 7
        UNPREDICTABILITY- 4
        UN-PUT-DOWN-ABILITY- 5
        OVERALL BOOK - 7

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        • 221b Baker Street / Board Game / 72 Readings / 67 Ratings
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          19.11.2010 16:58
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          A fun, complex and intriguing game based on one of the world's most popular detectives.

          Year Published: 1975
          Publisher: Gibson Games
          Genre: Detective Board Game
          Players: 2-6
          Age: 10+

          As geeky as this is to admit, I absolutely love Sherlock Holmes! After having read a short story in the detective series by Arthur Conan Doyle when I was studying GCSE English, I was surprised to discover that I was a fan. Many years later I purchased a book of 'Sherlock Holmes' short stories, which I then lent to my mum and converted her also.

          As this review suggests, our family have also always been something of a board game family, being quite competitive about 'Monopoly', 'Cluedo' and the like. Consequently, when I noticed a couple of years ago a 'Sherlock Holmes' board game, I was thrilled! I knew instantly that this was the perfect Christmas present for my mum so I purchased it straight away, wrapped it up excitedly and put it under the tree until Christmas day, when I handed it to my equally thrilled mum.

          We played the game as soon as we got the opportunity and, happily, neither of us was disappointed with it (although we were pretty rubbish at it at first!). In fact to this day my mum actually cites this as one of the best Christmas presents she has ever received! Easily pleased? Perhaps. But it is still a pretty great game!





          WHAT IS 221B BAKER STREET?

          221b Baker Street is a detective game that pays homage to Arthur Conan Doyle's popular series of short stories and novels about Sherlock Holmes and his sidekick Watson. The game is basically a cross between 'Cluedo' and a crossword puzzle, with each player taking on the role of Holmes and using their powers of deduction to solve intriguing and complex cases by visiting various locations around London (not literally, of course) and picking up cryptic clues.





          HOW TO PLAY

          At the beginning of the game, each player must choose their playing piece from a selection of coloured, mini, plastic Sherlock Holmes figurines, and then place it at 221b Baker Street, which is the starting and finishing point for each game.

          Each player must then be given a 'key' card (the rest are then stored at the Locksmiths), a 'lock' card (the rest of which are stored at Scotland Yard) and a Solution Checklist.

          Once everything has been allocated, a case card is then chosen from a pack of forty and read out. These cards tell you the storyline of the case you are to solve, in varying detail.

          Although the level of detail initially given is different with each case, some of the things which may be detailed on the case cards are the background of what has happened so far (what crime has been committed), what evidence has been collected, who has been arrested or suspected (if anyone), what characters are involved (and their many complex relationships and motives), and any key locations which were involved in this case.

          It is important to bear in mind that some of these details will be actual clues while some will be red herrings to lead you off the scent.

          The intriguing cases, which were written by professional mystery writers and which adhere closely to the atmosphere and themes of a Holmes story, are numbered from one to forty. I believe you can play them in any order you like, but we have always played them in chronological order so far, to keep track.

          At the end of each case card, there will be a list of the things which you - as Holmes - are required to solve. Depending on the case there may be only a couple of things to solve or there may be several (the maximum is six), but some things you may have to solve to win the game are, for example, who the criminal is, what their motive was, what they used as a murder weapon, where they hid the jewellery they stole, etc, etc. The solutions you are looking for are as diverse as the cases but will be listed at the end of each card for you to make a note of on your Solution Checklist.

          Once you are fully acquainted with the characteristics and background of the case (it is recommended you read the case twice out loud before beginning, but you can refer back to it at any time) you can begin your attempt to solve the crime.

          By throwing the dice and moving around the board (or taking a Hansom Cab to any location if you drop by the Carriage Depot) you will begin to pick up various clues to help you solve the case.





          THE LOCATIONS

          There are 15 locations in total on the game board. Some of these locations have special features, which are listed below. Also some of the locations may be more pertinent to the case you are solving than others (for instance, if a murder took place at the hotel, you will inevitably get a bigger, more revealing clue at the hotel than you will in other places).

          You can choose to travel to the places in any order you like - whether you decide to visit the places that are listed on the case card first or head to the places that are nearest is up to you. As a side note, some locations will occasionally have no clues there once you get to them, so it's up to you to do your best poker face and not let on to the other players if you encounter one of these!

          The locations are as follows:

          * Bank
          * Boar's Head
          * Carriage Depot - from here you can get a Hansom Cab, meaning that you can move to any location on the board you like as one turn
          * Chemist
          * Docks
          * Hotel
          * Locksmith - the key cards (to be discussed below) are kept at the locksmith. You can pick one up whenever you are here, although you are only allowed to have one key card at any time.
          * Museum
          * Newsagents
          * Park
          * Pawnbroker
          * Scotland Yard - the lock cards (to be discussed below) are kept at Scotland Yard. You can pick one up whenever you are here, although you are only allowed to have one lock card at any time.
          * Theatre
          * Tobacconist
          * 221b Baker Street - there are no clues found at this location. However, this is where you start each game and also the place you must return to to make your guess when you think you have solved the case.





          THE CLUES

          When a player arrives at a location, they must consult the case card to find the corresponding number for the clue at that location. They must then look up that number in the 'Rules, Clues and Solutions' booklet to find their clue. They can then make a note of the clue next to the location on their Solution Checklist.

          Some "clues" will be red herrings, while some will be actual clues to the case. Some clues will be vague and refer to the entire case, while some clues will be more specific and relate to the solution of one aspect of the case only (eg. the murder weapon).

          Also, some clues will provide factual information; hints and/or background information to the case which you must deduce answers from. Others, however, will be given in a cryptic crossword style, giving you a clue that, once you have worked out, will reveal the answer to one (or part of one) of the solutions





          THE KEY AND LOCK CARDS

          Each player starts the game with one of these cards. They can pick up more as they move around the board, but they can only ever have one of each at one time.

          With the lock cards, players are able to close off any location by putting their card down over the location's entrance (providing nobody is inside) as they leave it. Once an entrance is locked off, nobody can enter it without using their key card, which should be placed over the lock to nullify its effects. Both cards should then be restored to the Locksmith and Scotland Yard, and the place is free to enter again.

          It is worth noting, however, that some places have more than one entrance, meaning that they are more difficult to close off. Players are also not allowed to close off the Carriage Depot, Locksmith, Scotland Yard or 221b Baker Street. However, these cards can be useful for either closing off a location with a particularly good clue, or closing off locations with no clues as a bit of a double bluff to other players.





          WINNING THE GAME

          Once a player thinks they have found a solution to all the elements of the crime they are required to solve, they should try to get back to 221b Baker Street before any other player. The first person to get back to 221b Baker Street and solve all parts of the crime accurately (the correct solutions are listed in the back of the 'Rules, Clues and Solutions' booklet) is the winner.





          WHAT I LIKED

          One of the best things about this game is that the cases are often quite intriguing and are generally very well written. You can tell with most of the cases that they are written by professional mystery writers as they are intriguing, interesting and complex cases - often with a number of different possibilities and suspects and an abundance of colourful characters - yet the background stories are also simple enough to get the general gist of (after a few reads).

          The cases, clues and techniques required to solve the cases are also incredibly diverse. In some games you may need to solve lots of crossword style clues, while in others you may be piecing the case together based on background information, and in others still you may be solving secret codes to find the solution. Every case is different which makes the game more interesting and fun.

          Basically there is a lot to this game, which makes it a good step up for fans of 'Cluedo' who fancy a longer game with more complexities, clues and more of a storyline. It is also the perfect mix of luck and skill, which makes it easy to follow yet satisfying to play (and win!). I am not really a fan of games which require no skill at all (not least because I like to gloat somewhat on winning!) so I liked that there is an aspect of skill involved in this game. For instance, although it is quite "lucky" if you find the right places to go first, quite a few times when I have played, all the players (including myself) have made it round every location but are still completely flummoxed about the case, as it also takes skill to crack the case.

          As a big 'Sherlock Holmes' fan, I also like the authenticity of the game. I love the locations listed, the mention of Hansom Cabs, the language used in the booklets and on the case cards (each card ends with the sentence 'The Game is Afoot' and the losers are referred to as "Watsons"!) and the intricacies of each case.

          Because one of my favourite aspects of the game is the Sherlock style deducing of clues, I also love the cases where the clues are mostly given to you as factual information, revealing hints and background information which you then must relate to the case. I prefer these types of clues to the crossword ones as they are harder to deduce, require a lot more skill and seem more relevant to a Sherlock Holmes style game.

          I also love that there are red herrings scattered around so that you have to actually use your powers of deduction (a la Sherlock) quite frequently. You really have to get into a Sherlock frame of mind in order to solve the cases, which makes the game more fun and authentic.





          WHAT I DISLIKED

          Although I absolutely love this game, one of the things that lets it down a bit is that, while most cases are intriguing, intricate and well thought out, occasionally you come across a case that is bit, well, rubbish. The background of the case is sketchy, the clues are easy to decipher, and when you reach the end it merely gives you one word solutions without any real explanations. Although these cases are rare, they do pop up so often and are just not as satisfying to solve.

          Also, there are a lot more crossword style clues in the cases than personally I would prefer. Although these are still fun to work out, I prefer the factual clues as, as I mentioned earlier, I think they are more authentic (I don't remember Sherlock ever being given his clues in a crossword form!) and also, in a lot of cases, you need quite extensive general knowledge (which I don't have) to solve the crossword clues, meaning that often I simply can't solve the case because I don't understand the meaning of a word in one of the clues or something! However, the types of clues given are mixed up enough for this not to have ruined many cases in this way for me.

          Another minor problem with this game is that the board is really hard to get around quickly. The locations are all quite far apart, there is only one Carriage Depot (from which you can take a Hansom Cab) and there is only one dice used in the game. Consequently, you spend an awful lot of time between locations, and, especially when there are a few people playing, turns and turns can go past without anybody looking at a clue. To counteract this, however, my mum and I have implemented the "double six" rule you encounter in many games, where you get another go if you throw a double six, and this helps to speed up the game a little bit.

          Because of the distance of the locations, however, I also found that the key and lock cards were not a very useful feature with only two players. Because there are only two people playing, if one of you locks up a location, the other one can easily unlock it with their key, and it will take the first player so long to get to Scotland Yard for another lock that in the end it is not really worth doing! This feature of the game is consequently often something that is neglected when we are playing as just two players, however I think it would be a fun aspect if there were more players involved.

          Aside from any features of game play, however, one thing that is undoubtedly a disadvantage of 221b Baker Street is the longevity of the game (or the expense if you wish to make it longer!). Unlike with most board games, you can generally only get a limited number of games out of this game, simply because the game only includes 40 cases.

          I suppose if you don't play the game very often, or if you don't have a very good memory, this is no problem as you can simply repeat the cases once you have finished the pack, but as I have quite a good memory this is no good for me. The good thing is that once you have finished the 40 case cards provided there are a further 180 cases available (sold in groups of 20 cases), however, as these are no longer being produced, they are quite hard to get hold of and are quite expensive also. The pack I bought I got from ebay and it cost about £25, which is quite a lot for only 20 cases!





          PRICE AND AVAILABILITY

          This game is available from a few online games stores and is also generally up for sale somewhere on ebay, however I purchased my game from amazon, where it is currently on sale for £17.95.



          RECOMENDED FOR: Fans of 'Cluedo', cryptic crosswords and/or 'Sherlock Holmes'.


          MARKS OUT OF 10 FOR:
          STORYLINES - 9
          ADDICTIVENESS - 8
          FUN - 9
          SKILL INVOLVED - 8
          INNOVATIVENESS - 8
          LENGTH OF SINGLE GAME - 8
          LONGEVITY OF PRODUCT - 5
          OVERALL GAME - 8

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          • More +
            15.11.2010 15:56
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            An intriguing, engaging mystery full of family secrets and surprising twists.

            'The Legacy' is one of the latest books in a fairly ubiquitous genre of novels involving a dual narrative; following both a contemporary story and a narrative focusing on the past. As a genre (or sub genre?) this is absolutely my favourite style of novel when it is in done well. I absolutely love the unravelling of the past, the family secrets, the romance, the mystery and, of course, the presence of a big house full of servants and scandal. It is kind of like reading an old fashioned classic (such as 'Jane Eyre') but in easier to read English, and with the presence of a contemporary tale too.

            As I said, however, this is my favourite genre when it is done well, and I have read a couple of books of this genre which simply aren't. 'The Legacy' by Katherine Web, however, is absolutely not one of these. In fact, this in one of the best books of this genre that I have read as yet.

            Although Webb is dealing with a much done formula of narrative telling, she puts her own unique spin on it and develops an intriguing, mysterious and emotional tale that drew me in from the start and kept me up until two in the morning for an entire week, unable to put it down!





            PLOT

            Following the death of their grandmother, sisters Erica and Beth Calcott inherit her home, Storton Manor; a house filled with many happy childhood memories for the girls, but a house that is ultimately shrouded in misery following a final summer visit when their cousin, Henry, disappeared.

            On the surprise announcement of their inheritance, the girls find themselves returning to the house for the first time in over twenty years, with the motive of reaching a decision about what to do with the property. Erica, however, is also hiding a secret agenda - she is determined to find out what exactly happened to Henry that summer once and for all.

            While rooting through her grandmother's belongings, however, Erica soon finds herself at the centre of another family secret; one that has been buried in history for decades. The discovery of a mysterious old photo of her great grandmother, Caroline, leads Erica unwittingly towards another mystery. What secrets does this photo reveal? And could it provide any explanation as to why the distant, cold Caroline became the way she did?

            As Erica begins stumbling upon secrets of betrayal, tragedy and atonement that lead all the way from 1902, Oklahoma, she begins to unravel the secrets of her family's past in a bid to discover - and break - the legacy of misery and bitterness that has been passed down the generations for years and which still surrounds the girls today.





            WHAT I LIKED

            As mentioned above, I have read many books of this kind, and I have noticed that in most of these novels there is a greater emphasis on either the past or the present narrative. I have read many novels where the "past" story is much more interesting and dominating than the contemporary one and the present characters are primarily there as a device for uncovering the past (such as 'House of Riverton' by Kate Morton) yet I have also read novels where the contemporary story dominates the book and the historic narrative appears to be included merely as a gimmick (as in 'The Memory Garden' by Rachel Hore). I had yet to find a novel of this kind where there is equal focus on each, until now.

            In 'The Legacy', unlike in many of these novels, both narratives are equally weighted both in quantity and quality. The use of alternating chapters (one in the past, one in the present) means that both stories are equally developed and detailed, while the intriguing plotlines for both generations mean that neither narrative is there simply as a time filler, gimmick or story telling device.

            In this novel both narratives are extremely engaging and intriguing, which is one of my favourite things about the book. Often there is no mystery or intrigue at all in the contemporary narrative, yet in this one I was equally as interested to find out what had happened to Henry as I was to discover Caroline's compelling story.

            Each narrative was full of tension and mystery, and every chapter ended on a cliff hanger, meaning that I would be dying to know what had happened in the past story when it switched to the present one, but then by the end of that chapter I would be eager to know what was happening in the present (when it would suddenly switch to the past).

            Basically, I could have read both stories as novels on their own and been utterly impressed with each, yet the inclusion of both within one novel meant that this was a thoroughly engaging, clever and compelling read right the way through.

            I suppose what makes this book so interesting is that the themes and twists are completely unique. The mystery of the present story - following the strange disappearance of the girls' cousin and the secrets that surround it - is an intriguing and unique concept, while the locations and twists of the past narrative are just as unexpected in this type of novel.

            This novel is basically a breath of fresh air within this genre as, for once, the mysteries do not just extend to infidelities, secret pregnancies and romantic relationships, but there are so many more themes touched upon, and there is much more depth, feeling and heartbreak at the heart of this novel than is usual within this genre. The twists are surprising (I didn't guess any of them personally), the plots and locations are engaging, and the whole novel is just utterly unique and compelling.

            Another thing that I really liked about this novel is that the past story is told to the reader in depth, in detail and (most refreshingly) in chronological order. Often in these novels the past story is revealed to the reader in small snippets as and when the character/s in the present discover them, which can be intriguing but also immensely frustrating. It also often means that the characters in the past are sketchy as you never really get to know them or their stories in complete detail. In this novel, however, you get to know Caroline's full story in extensive detail, told as a straight forward chronological narrative, so that you really get to know her character and have empathy for her and her story, which makes the novel a lot more satisfying and complete, as well as much more heartbreaking and emotional.

            This device also means that the characters in the present don't learn everything - every secret and answer - about the past (as they don't need to to tell the story), which makes the novel a lot more believable and realistic.

            Overall the best thing about this novel is that it is so well written. The language is beautiful, the descriptions effective and the characters are believable and, if not exactly likeable, at least easy to empathise with. The author also expertly links the past with the present and ties everything together in a clever and subtle way.

            What I like most about the author's writing, however, is that the past story is clearly extremely well researched and thought out, yet the author does not needlessly give every detail of every single thing she has ever found out just to impress the reader with how much research she has done, which authors often do. In fact, the details are so appropriate yet authentic, and the narrative is so convincing, that you almost get the feeling that the author has really lived it herself. In fact, I was astonished to discover that the author was English, as her passages and dialogue set in America are some of the most convincing in the novel.

            One final thing that I really liked about this novel is that I think the author paces it really well in terms of revealing information and answering questions. I think it is really effective, in novels such as this, to solve mysteries and answer questions steadily and slowly throughout the book, so that the reader doesn't lose interest part way through (if all the mysteries are left to be resolved at the end) or have nothing to read on for (if all questions are answered early on), and Katherine Webb does that in this book. Some mysteries are unravelled early on, some are hinted at throughout for the reader to work out, and some things are left to the end to be revealed, meaning that the reader's interest is maintained throughout. Or, at least, mine certainly was!





            WHAT I DISLIKED

            There is little that I truly disliked about this book. I suppose a criticism that some may have is that you are left in suspense for quite a while at the end of each chapter of each story, as the two narratives are written in alternating chapters. While it can be extremely frustrating to reach a cliff hanger and have to wait fifty or so pages to get back to that story to find out what happens next, I actually also think that this makes the book more intriguing and packed with suspense, however, and I quite liked this device.

            I also think that some may enjoy the past story more than the present, simply because the characters are (on the whole) perhaps a little easier to empathise with, their story is more emotive and the mystery is perhaps more engaging for some. However, although I found the past story more emotional and moving, I was equally intrigued in the contemporary mystery so this was not the case for me.

            One criticism that I will offer, however, is that some of the twists and answers to some of the mysteries and events felt a little bit contrived and were not explained quite convincingly enough. However, this was only in a few cases and it is perhaps just my personal opinion. In any case, it was not enough to ruin the book for me as I found the twists quite unique and unexpected at the same time.

            One thing that I did class as a small negative with this book, however, is that is so extremely sad and there is so much misery throughout the novel. In lots of these books the past story has quite a sad ending, but it is generally balanced out by a fairly happy one in the present. In this one, however, I feel that the present ending is debatable. While some may deem it happy, I found it far from satisfying and certainly not happy enough to counteract the huge sadness and misery generated by the rest of the novel. Basically, although I still ultimately loved this book, I did finish the book with a huge feeling of sadness which I felt could have been alleviated just a little if the contemporary story had had a more satisfying ending.





            RECOMMENDED FOR...
            Those who like a good mystery with a heavy dose of family drama.

            READ WHEN...
            You're not already feeling depressed and miserable! I also think this is one of those books that is good to read in the Winter, by the fire.

            READ IF YOU LIKED...
            'The House at Riverton' or 'The Forgotten Garden' by Kate Morton, or 'The Thirteenth Tale' by Diane Setterfield.

            IF IT WERE FOOD IT WOULD BE...
            A Lindt Chilli Chocolate bar. A dark, bittersweet and unique take on a popular formula.

            IF IT WERE A COLOUR IT WOULD BE...
            Brown - to match the dirt that surrounds both narratives (and their characters) both figuratively and literally.

            BEST QUOTE...
            "It's always the way. We wait until the people who could answer our questions are dead and gone, and only then do we realise we had questions to ask them."



            MARKS OUT OF 10 FOR:
            WRITING STYLE - 9
            PLOT- 10
            CHARACTERS- 8
            UNPREDICTABILITY- 9
            UN-PUT-DOWN-ABILITY- 10
            OVERALL BOOK - 9

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            • Everyday Minerals Wet Sand / Make Up / 90 Readings / 87 Ratings
              More +
              11.11.2010 16:37
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              A lovely shimmery highlighting powder.

              When I first came across Everyday Minerals makeup, I was delighted to see that they had a range of "lucent face" powders; shimmery highlighting finishing powders that illuminate the face with a natural looking sparkle and luminosity.

              Illuminating powders have always been something that I've loved for their multi-purposeness. Applied after foundation, they are perfect for perking up tired looking skin, masking imperfections, highlighting cheekbones and favourite features, and generally giving a lovely, natural, "glowy" fresh faced look, without making skin look too shiny.

              Everyday Minerals offer nine different powders of this type - making it extremely difficult to know what to go for! - but eventually I opted for this one, Wet Sand, for the reasons I will outline below.





              WHO ARE EVERYDAY MINERALS?

              As mentioned in my other reviews of various Everyday Minerals products, Everyday Minerals are an American mineral makeup company who offer some of the purest, most ethical makeup products around; all of which are vegan, eco-friendly, organic, and made from 100% natural minerals which are safe and kind to the skin.

              Where Everyday Minerals really stand out from the crowd, though, is that their products are also very cheap in comparison to other mineral makeup brands (especially when you consider the high quality of the ingredients used) and they also offer a huge, extremely diverse range of shades and formulas for every product they stock. Basically, they seem to stock almost everything you could ever want makeup wise, and the products are of an extremely high quality too.





              WHO SHOULD BUY THIS PRODUCT?

              * Anyone in need of a healthy glow.
              * Anyone with skin imperfections they want to disguise.
              * Those with dry, matte or dull complexions.
              * Anyone wanting to define and highlight features or emphasise cheekbones.
              * Girls of all skin tones.
              * Those with sensitive skin.
              * Acne sufferers.
              * Eco-friendly women.
              * Vegans and animal lovers (Everyday minerals have a strong no animal testing policy and are on PETA's list of approved companies).





              INGREDIENTS

              * Mica - this is a natural mineral which gives the makeup a light-reflective quality.
              * Lauroyl Lysine - according to Everyday Minerals, this is "An all-natural amino acid derived from coconut fatty acid, contributing to the products silk like creamy texture and spreadability qualities."

              May contain:

              * Titanium Dioxide - this is a natural inert mineral which "is used as a color adjuster", and which also helps absorb excess oil.
              * Iron Oxides - these minerals give colour to the makeup.





              WHY CHOOSE WET SAND?

              As I mentioned previously, Everyday Minerals currently offer nine different lucent face powders; all of which vary in colour, levels of shimmer and intended effect. Some are designed to be dusted all over the face for an all over glow, while some of the other powders, such as Wet Sand, are more sparkly and are designed to be used on particular features for highlighting.

              Consequently, it is important to decide what effect you are after before purchasing your powder. Do you want an all over subtle glow or just to highlight your best features? Do you want a neutral shade or do you want your product to add colour?

              After a bit of deliberation, I decided to opt for Wet Sand - described as "A sprinkle of shimmer to highlight your best features" - simply because it was stated that it could be used on all skin tones (so is a fairly safe choice); it looked quite neutral and I wasn't after a coloured product; it was designed to be used to highlight features (which was what I was after); and it looked very shimmery without looking overly sparkly.





              APPLICATION

              Wet Sand, like all of Everyday Minerals' Lucent Powders, is designed to be applied over foundation and powder for a final radiant glow. I generally apply my foundation, bronzer and blusher, then apply this using either my blusher brush or my kabuki foundation brush (whichever comes to hand; both work just the same really).

              Like most of Everyday Minerals' products, this is not a pressed (or compact) powder but it instead comes in a loose powder form. As with the other products I have tried, I prefer this as I think it easier to apply the exact amount of product you want, rather than having the product build up on the brush without you realising it.

              Simply shake as much of the powder into the lid as you like, apply as much to the brush as you like by dipping the brush into the powder, shake any excess powder off the brush by tapping the brush against the lid, and you are ready to apply the powder.

              This product is quite easy to apply simply because it is quite subtle and neutral in colour, so there is relatively little danger of applying too much and looking like a drag queen as with some products! However, if you find that you do go a bit over the top with the product and it looks a little too shimmery, this is easy to rectify simply by applying a bit of matte (powder) foundation or finishing powder over the top to tone down the sheen.

              When you look at the product in the tub, it looks a little different from on the website, where it does indeed seem to resemble sand. In reality, the colour is quite a bit paler than any sand I personally have seen, and is more of a shimmery light beige.

              With this powder, I generally apply just a small amount to my cheekbones, and sometimes to my forehead and nose if I want to look a little more glowing, and the product goes on really smoothly and blends in naturally with the skin, without leaving a "powdery" look on its surface, leaving it with a glow that looks quite intrinsic and natural.

              I was worried, when I first applied the product, that it would make me look either overly sparkly or really shiny in a "just got back from the gym" kind of way, but in fact the shimmer is very subtle and just gives a nice, natural looking glow and a slightly shimmery, sparkly look if you move your face under certain light.

              The colour of the product, as mentioned before, is also neutral and is perfect for most skin tones. However, I should mention that it is actually a little bit paler than it looks in the pot once it goes on the skin, and if you are applying this over blusher or bronzer you may find that it tones down the colour of your other makeup, or if you apply too much it can make the face look a little drained of colour. However, this was the only problem I found with this product, and even this wasn't a huge problem as you would have to apply quite a bit for this to happen.

              Overall, this is a lovely and impressive highlighting powder which goes on perfectly; softly highlighting features and leaving the skin looking smooth and shimmery with a subtle, radiant glow.

              As a final thought, I have often found that, for whatever reason, skin has a tendency to look shinier for some reason in photos, and highlighters and light reflecting products can show up badly. However, having had many photos taken while wearing this product (my friends are like the paparazzi on a night out!), I can safely say that this one, as well as looking nice in real life, also passes the photo test! (But that doesn't mean I'm putting one on here!)





              ENDURANCE

              Not only does this product look great on initial application, I have found that its effects are long lasting. The product only needs to be applied once of a morning or evening and it will stand the test of time, leaving skin looking just as shimmery and glowing at the end of the day as it was at the beginning.





              COMPLEMENTARY PRODUCTS

              For a bit of an extra glow, I like to use Wet Sand alongside Everyday Minerals Soft Bronzer; a translucent gentle bronzer which can be used all over the face for a very subtle, dewy glow.

              I also find that it is handy to have some Natural Reflections Loose Powder about when using this product. This mattifying, light diffusing powder is great to use prior to applying Wet Sand (either on its own or after foundation) to get rid of any natural sheen and leave you looking less shiny, more glowing, and I also like to use it as a rescue product to correct any excess use of Wet Sand, as it will tone down the shimmer if you accidentally use too much.





              SERVICE

              Everyday Minerals offer good customer service with international delivery, cheap delivery rates*, quick postage and quick email replies if you get in touch.





              PRICE AND AVAILABILITY

              Everyday Minerals Wet Sand Lucent Face Powder is available at www.everydayminerals.com. It costs $2.50 for a generous sample sized jar (which, considering the small amount you need to use, should last a long time. Mine has lasted well over a month!) or $8 for the full size product. At the moment, with current conversion rates, this is roughly £5 for the full size product.



              *As mentioned in a previous review, there are problems with ordering from Everyday Minerals in that, with the company being based in America, you can occasionally get charged excessive customs charges. I have ordered several times from this company and have only been charged these once, but when I did they were quite extensive charges which added significantly to the overall cost of my order. This is not a fault of the company itself, as it is something you would face when ordering from any company overseas, but I thought it was something I should point out to anybody considering ordering from them.





              SCORE OUT OF 10 FOR...
              PURITY OF INGREDIENTS - 10
              EASE OF APPLICATION - 10
              APPEARANCE - 10
              LONGEVITY - 10
              OVERALL PRODUCT - 10

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              • More +
                09.11.2010 15:52
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                Formulaic girly novel about dancing, romance and self discovery.

                When it comes to books, chicklit is probably not my favourite genre. However, that said, I will admit that it does feature relatively frequently in my reading repertoire. The thing with chicklit, you see, is that, probably more than any other genre, when you get a good book written in this style it is very, very good, yet when you get a bad one, it is truly terrible!

                Chicklit, on a bad day, is all too often stuffed with cliche, predictability, cardboard characters and based around an entirely guessable, done to death formula. However, every so often there comes along an author who takes takes the chicklit world by storm; who writes about likeable characters in interesting situations with real humour and depth. And one of these authors is Belinda Jones. Hence the reason I was all too keen to snap up this book, full of high hopes that it would live up to Belinda's usual standards...




                WHO IS BELINDA JONES?

                Belinda Jones is an author who I became aware of probably about six years ago when I received a copy of 'Divas Las Vegas' - her first novel - free with a magazine. Not wanting to look a gift horse in the mouth, I obediently gave it a courtesy read. However, I was soon extremely glad I did. Having got a bit bored of the generic chicklit formula over the last couple of years, I was pleased to find a chicklit novel that I actually enjoyed and even found myself recomending to others. In fact, I actually ended up writing about the book for an essay for uni! But back to Belinda...

                Belinda Jones, who published her debut novel in 2001, has currently written nine novels, all of which undoubtedly fall under the "chicklit" umberella. The themes that connect all of her novels are travel, romance and self discovery.

                Belinda's novels have been desribed as a cross between travel guides and fiction, mainly because they all feature her protagonists travelling to foreign locations (California, Capri and Las Vegas to name but a few) in pursuit of fulfillment and romance. And because Belinda is never one to skimp on research, the detail in the novels is amazing, as Belinda describes in great detail real-life hotels, bars, beaches, and everything in between!

                Aside from the travel though, Belinda's novels generally also revolve around the tale of an insecure, discontented protagonist who unwittingly embarks on a journey of self discovery and acceptance, often aided by - but never exclusively the result of - a heavy dose of romance. Well, where would chicklit be without romance and happy endings?




                'LIVING LA VIDA LOCA' - THE PLOT

                Carmen and Beth have been best friends for a long time; two twenty something girls united by their love of dance. Carmen, the curvy, insecure wallflower, is happier behind the scenes, content in her job as a costume designer yet trapped in an abusive relationship with a man she can't resist. Beautiful, guarded Beth, meanwhile, is a frustrated dancer with ambitions of "making it" which never quite work out.
                When the girls hear about a reality show looking for dancers to spend three weeks traveling and learning the native dances of selected exotic locations (tango in Argentina, flamenco in Spain and the salsa in Cuba), they see it as the perfect opportunity to escape from their heartbreak and frustrations and take one last shot at their dreams.

                However, the girls soon get more than they bargained for as they start to discover the real meanings of the dances and meet the all too alluring men they will be performing them with. As the goal posts change on their dreams, the girls start to realise what exactly will make them happy, but is obtaining their dreams easier said than done, and can the girls ever truly shake off their pasts?




                WHAT I LIKED

                One thing that I liked about this book was the same thing that appeals to me about many of Belinda Jones's books, and that is the main characters. The author is extremely talented when it comes to characterisation, creating protagonists that seem real, likeable and multi dimensional; like girls you could actually meet or be friends with.

                The girls aren't perfect, they don't always make the right decisions and they don't have it all sorted, and I think that many female readers could identify with this. I also think that the relationship the author creates between Carmen and Beth is believable and likeable and creates a strong centre point for the novel.

                My main point of praise for the novel, however, is that I think that it is commendable that the author has chosen to write a chicklit novel that deals with domestic violence and its impact on women. All to often, chicklit plotlines are all too light and fluffy and skirt around serious issues that affect women, but Belinda Jones has done a good job in putting domestic violence at the centre of her novel, dealing with it in a delicate yet outright way, yet without it making the novel too "heavy".

                The book is (generally) well balanced between frivolity and significance, and it maintains its sense of fun while also getting across some very good points and words of wisdom about domestic violence, which are particularly poignant given that the author admits to having been in Carmen's situation herself.

                Another nice thing about this novel is that the girls don't end up getting exactly what they want, but they do get fulfilment anyway. I think this is quite a nice message, and it is also quite refreshing for a chicklit novel for the protagonists not to end up "happily ever after", but to be content anyway! However, that said, I do think that the message would have been more impressive if it had been left to speak for itself through the plot. Instead, Belinda Jones does hammer her points home somewhat, with Carmen and Beth both repeatedly reflecting on the lessons they have learned, which actually lessens the realism a bit and makes it all a little more "chicklit"!

                I suppose the main thing that will appeal to readers is that the book is light, fun and girly. Everything is obvious, the plot is not intricate, the characters are likeable, you don't have to concentrate too hard. It is light, airy, girly, predictable chicklit, and there is definitely a market for that kind of thing today.




                WHAT I DISLIKED

                I have to say at this point, however, that, all the above said, personally I was very disappointed in the novel. Having read many books by Belinda Jones, I have always been impressed by her chicklit. OK, at times her novels are a little formulaic, and at times the whole self-discovery bit can be a bit schmaltzy, but on the whole her characters are so likeable, her humour is so appealing, her descriptions of places are so engaging and the plotlines are so fun that all the rest is forgiven! However, with this one, aside from the characters, the rest really fell apart for me.

                First of all, I felt that this book was not nearly as humorous as 'Divas Las Vegas'. In fact, at times it just felt a little too packed with messages, inspirational dialogue and meaningful points to hammer home that the humour seemed to have very much fell by the wayside. Of course, as I mentioned before, the plot is ultimately quite light hearted, but light hearted is not exactly the same as humour, and I missed that in this book.

                Secondly, the descriptions in this book - of both places and people - is not as effective as in the author's other books, simply because I feel she tries to squeeze in too many of both. With the characters starting off in London, then jetting off to Argentina, squeezing in a trip to Spain, then ending up in Cuba, there are just too many places to describe properly, and the author's attempts to do so just mean that the book is far too saturated with description and far too light on action.

                Also, with new characters being introduced in each place, it is difficult to get to know or care about many of the characters, meaning that the romances portrayed in the novel lack significance and are not as convincing or interesting as they could be. I really didn't care who ended up with who, mainly because all the men were like hollow shells, defined simply by their physical characteristics.

                Thirdly, the plot in this novel was not nearly as engaging or fun as in the author's other novels as there is actually very little plot outside of the contrived and superficial relationships and the dancing, and there is very little tension or intrigue at all.

                I thought that the plot was far too heavy on dance and, not really knowing or caring much about dance myself, I found the book a little boring at times. I know that you might think "why read a book about dance if you have no interest?" and you may have a good point, but I generally think that the theme of a book should not impede so much on a plot as to make that big a difference to its readership. For instance, I have read chicklit books about office workers and about a reporter following the Tour de France, yet I never felt the need to have any intricate knowledge of, or interest in, office work or cycling in order to read them!

                I think that the theme should just be background, to set a scene or build in to the plot, yet with this novel the dancing theme is so all-encompassing, so forced on you the whole way through - with every comment, relationship and thought being brought back to it and dancing being used as a metaphor for just about everything - that I felt you really needed to have some love of dance (which sadly I don't have) to not drift off a bit while reading!

                Aside from the dancing theme, however (if you can possibly put the dancing theme to one side with this novel!), I just felt that overall the plot was lacking in tension and excitement and had none of those, "what's going to happen??" moments that every book should have. I think, for a book like this to be exciting, there needs to be some tension - some potential threat to the character's happiness lurking in the future that the reader is dying to see resolved - but with this novel I felt that all the possible impediments to the characters' happiness were dealt with swiftly and promptly at the beginning of the book, and there was little to care about by the middle of the novel!

                In fact, all the things that were left for you to "wonder" about (namely Carmen and Beth's relationships, including the one between Carmen and her ex) were so utterly predictable that I could call the outcome - of each relationship and the book itself! - a mile off, which really didn't leave me much reason to read on.

                I basically thought that, especially compared to the author's other books, this novel was very formulaic and predictable, with the inclusion of "goodies", "baddies" and predictable outcomes for each, which just felt a bit easy and contrived.

                I also felt that the book was a bit unrealistic in its attitude to dance as some kind of life changing experience. I am not saying that dance is not a wonderful activity for many people, and even that it helps people to feel good short term, but I have to say I doubt its ability to completely change people's characters, attitudes and lives to the extent demonstrated in this book. It all felt a bit too easy and unrealistic to me... although perhaps that is because I am not a dancer?




                RECOMMENDED FOR...
                Fans of formulaic chicklit, and those with a passion for dancing!


                READ WHEN...
                You fancy a light hearted, easy going read, or are suffering from 'Strictly Come Dancing' withdrawal symptoms!


                READ IF YOU LIKED...
                'Strictly Come Dancing' (the TV show), or any of Belinda Jones's other books (although, in my opinion, this doesn't quite measure up to them).


                IF IT WERE FOOD IT WOULD BE...
                Love hearts. Fun, sweet and romantic, yet packed with too many messages and quite predictable.


                IF IT WERE A COLOUR IT WOULD BE...

                Brown - mixing too many bright "colours" together (characters and locations) has actually left it quite surprisingly dull!


                MARKS OUT OF 10 FOR:
                WRITING STYLE - 7
                PLOT- 2
                CHARACTERS- 5
                UNPREDICTABILITY- 1
                UN-PUT-DOWN-ABILITY- 1
                OVERALL BOOK - 3

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                • More +
                  05.11.2010 20:53
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                  A beautiful, creative, unusual album by a very talented artist.

                  Siobhan Donaghy is often described simply as an "ex-Sugababe", however I believe that this is a title that does her a massive disservice. While it is true that the enigmatic singer/songwriter was once a member of the girlband Sugababes, on listening to either of Siobhan's thoroughly impressive solo albums it is clear that the singer has come a long way since she turned her back on the glitzy world of girlbands, and the difference between Siobhan the Solo Star and Siobhan the Sugababe is astronomical.

                  For one thing, Siobhan's music undoubtedly has an intelligence and integrity to it that the Sugababes arguably lack. While the Sugababes seemingly monthly slot in a new band member to sing the same meaningless lyrics that the girl before her formerly churned out, Siobhan's music has a unique indentity about it that reflects her in every way. It is clear she is an integral part of her music and her songs are sung with an abundance of meaning and feeling that Siobhan herself brings to them.

                  Because of this, Siobhan Donaghy has, despite her lack of albums and success, not only been one of my favourite recording artists for a long time, but she is also an artist that I greatly admire. Although in recent years Siobhan has become distinctly disillusioned with the music industry, claiming that she has no plans to produce another album at present, for a long time Siobhan worked incessantly hard at creating music that she knew would never be commercially successful, simply because of her love of music.

                  The singer has been cited as saying: ""I would like some commercial success. But only because then you're allowed to make another record", and this is something that is clear from Siobahan's music. Siobhan is clearly an artist who would like to have the doors opened for her that commercial success would bring, but she is certainly not going to compromise her music for it, because she clearly loves what she does. And what she does is utterly brilliant.

                  Siobhan's music is best described as intelligent, quirky and pure, with an ethereal quality that is reflected in the album's artwork and the singer herself. Siobhan herself described her style of music to The London Paper as "left field pop music... it's not straight pop, it's not alternative", and this seems like a good description of this unusual album.

                  There is a wistfulness and dreamy quality to her music, an elegance and serenity to her vocals, and an intelligence and authenticity to the lyrics. Siobhan has cited the Cocteau Twins, Kate Bush and Shakespeare's Sister as her main influences on the album, and likenesses have also been made to Massive Attack and Bjork. Yet while these influences are all evident throughout the album, I also feel that Siobhan's music is still very unique and shows a lot of creativity and a desire to carve her own path rather than following any trend.

                  Accordingly, I suppose that my favourite thing about this album is the intelligence and care that has gone into each and every track. While many of the albums I listen to (and, I confess, love) are focused more on great backing tracks and catchy choruses than anything, Siobhan appears to take into account everything that makes up a song - the music, vocals and lyrics - and puts her all into every aspect of her songs, creating not just beautiful melodies but beautifully eloquent lyrics that read like poetry.

                  However, although I am full of praise for both this album and Siobhan herself, I will say one negative thing about the album and that is this: in my humble opinion, it is just not quite as good as 'Revolution In Me', Siobhan's debut album.

                  Although, as a standalone album, I would, without hesitation, give Siobhan's second album, 'Ghosts', five out of five stars, when compared with her debut album I can't help feeling that it doesn't quite match up. First of all, I think that this album loses something in Siobhan's attempts at more upbeat tracks and humour that, while quite effective, don't seem as natural to her as the sombre, haunting melodies that her previous album showed. The album simply, at times, loses some of the fragility and emotion that made her debut album what it was.

                  Also, one of the things that I really liked about 'Revolution In Me' was its eccentricity and experimental nature. The lyrics were extremely clever (particularly 'XY' and the very political 'Iodine') and the melodies and composition of such tracks as 'Suasex' were quirky and more than a little bizarre.

                  With 'Revolution In Me' the whole album was just slightly off-kilter, which was actually one of its strengths.The album was more "out there", yet more sombre, and much more left field. Although this album has some of these traits, in comparison to the first it sounds a lot more polished at times, which I feel actually takes something away from it.

                  However, this is only my opinion, and in fact even coming second place to her spectacularly brilliant debut album actually takes little away from this second offering which is, overall, an inspired, sophisticated and mature pop album packed with beautiful, haunting vocals, thought provoking lyrics and the inexorable quirkiness synonymous with Siobhan.

                  In fact, I recently read that this album, in 2008, was voted by music bloggers and readers of music site we7 as their favourite underrated album of all time. Really, of all time! Pretty impressive, hey? It just shows, Siobhan may not have had commercial success, she may not have made a lot of money, her album may only have reached number 92 in the UK charts but, to the ears this album actually managed to reach, Siobhan certainly made an impression. And it is easy to see why. Siobhan is a real artist and so talented, and I just wish that more people would give her music a go.





                  DON'T GIVE IT UP was Siobhan's first single off this album, but I wouldn't be surprised if you've never heard it; it sadly only reached number 45 in the UK charts. However, this low chart placing says nothing about the quality of the track. The track kicks off with almost 'Doctor Who' sounding music before Siobhan's vocals come in for a wistful, dreamy sounding track. This is probably the most similar in sound to the tracks on Siobhan's first album and it is a really good track. 8/10

                  SO YOU SAY was Siobhan's second, and last, single off this album, this time reaching only number 76 in the UK charts. This is a very strong track, however, which starts off as a quite sombre track but then heads to a more upbeat chorus which showcases a little of the Kate Bush influence, but with a much cooler, more sophisticated edge. 8/10

                  THERE'S A PLACE is an absolutely beautiful track with really moving, fragile vocals and a dreamy, whimsical feel to it. The lyrics are quite beautiful and meaningful ('All is lost but if you try you can see there's a place for you where I will know your pain') and are carried off well by Siobhan's heartfelt vocals and the delicate guitar backing music. 9/10

                  SOMETIMES is a really strong track that sounds more upbeat musically than some of the other tracks, yet the lyrics reflect on a bad relationship which has Siobhan "losing the plot". Although I prefer Siobhan in a more sombre mood, I have to say I love this track. I just love the quirky music and sound effects, the incongruity of the upbeat music with the heartfelt lyrics, and the fact that there are no actual words in what appears to be the chorus, which is a little unusual! One of my favourite tracks on the album. 10/10

                  12 BAR ACID BLUES is not at all like Siobhan's normal style of music and features quite light hearted lyrics with Siobhan telling a story about a disastrous trip ("Oh no what can I do, my passport's gone, my wallet too, I've eaten fish and I'm feeling sick, I can only hope we'll be landing quick"), rather than the enigmatic poetry of her usual lyrics. The verses are also very different from her usual stuff with fast paced, almost spoken vocals. In fact, it all sounds a bit too much Sheryl Crow to begin with! However, while I much, much prefer Siobhan's normal stuff, as a one off this is quite listenable, and the chorus (which I do like a lot) rescues it somewhat! 8/10

                  MAKE IT RIGHT is back to somewhere closer to Siobhan's normal style with its distinctive sombreness and dreamy, quirky feel to the verses, yet the faster paced choruses lack the emotion and vulnerability of the verses. While Siobhan's vocals are strong and the lyrics are quite interesting, this is not quite as heartfelt or impressive as what Siobhan has done before. 7/10

                  COMING UP FOR AIR is my joint favourite song on the album. I LOVE it! It is really beautiful and moving and has the heartfelt, wistful, serene vocals, the meaningful lyrics, the vulnerability and the quirkiness that I just love about Siobhan's music. It is a really strong, beautiful track that I think would have fit in really well on 'Revolution In Me'. 10/10

                  GOLDFISH is another really beautiful, slow, sombre track with the same wistful, dreamy feel and delicate, beautiful vocals. It is a really peaceful, serene track with very poetic lyrics. 9/10

                  MEDEVAC is another standout track with strong vocals and eerie, emotive backing music. This is a haunting, sombre track and is probably one of the most "left field" tracks on the album, with an unpolished, vulnerable feel to it and probably some of the most heartfelt vocals on the album. 10/10

                  HALCYON DAYS has been compared to 'Teardrop' by Massive Attack, and I can sort of see the resemblance. This is another quite serene, dreamy track with a whispery, ethereal sound and vocals. It is a really nice track but is not the most memorable or edgy track on the album. 7/10

                  GHOSTS is Siobhan's favourite track on the album, according to her interview on we7. This very fact makes me think that I was correct in thinking the quirkier, creative, slightly off-kilter tracks are more true to Siobhan's nature, as this track defines all these characteristics and is a lot more "alternative" than the rest of the album. It is a really unusual, experimental track with strange, echoey vocals that you can barely make out, bizarre made up lyrics ('Full mug my friends certainly familiar
                  Ah, hear that glitch say search the orbs'), vocals which are played backwards in parts of the sung and conceal a secret message apparently part way through, and an eerie, haunting, dreamy feel to it. I love this track just for its quirkiness and bizarre yet beautiful nature. I would class it as my joint favourite song on the album. This is a real work of art in many ways and when you listen to not just the amount of work (Siobhan called it "pain-staking") but the amount of talent that went into this song, it is just a tragedy to think how few people will ever hear this truly special song and album. 10/10





                  TRACK LIST -
                  1. Don't Give It Up
                  2. So You Say
                  3. There's a Place
                  4. Sometimes
                  5. 12 Bar Acid Blues
                  6. Make It Right
                  7. Coming Up For Air
                  8. Goldfish
                  9. Medevac
                  10. Halcyon Days
                  11. Ghosts

                  UK SINGLES FEATURED ON ALBUM -
                  'Don't Give It Up' and 'So You Say'

                  TRACKS WRITTEN/CO-WRITTEN BY SIOBHAN -
                  11 out of 11

                  BEST TRACK -
                  'Coming Up For Air' and 'Ghosts'

                  WORST TRACK -
                  There are no bad tracks on the album, but 'Halcyon Days' is probably my least favourite.

                  NUMBER OF GOOD SONGS -
                  11 out of 11

                  ALBUM UNIQUE SELLING POINT -
                  Siobhan's intelligence and creativity.

                  ALBUM NEGATIVES -
                  It's not as quirky or unique in parts as her previous album. The album is also quite short with only eleven tracks.

                  SOUNDS MOST SIMILAR TO - Siobhan's influences include the Cocteau Twins, Kate Bush, Shakespeare's Sister and Massive Attack.

                  ALBUM SUMMARISED IN ONE WORD - Artistic.

                  SCORE OUT OF 10 FOR...
                  VOCALS - 10
                  LYRICS - 10
                  MUSIC/BACKING TRACKS - 10
                  VARIATION IN TRACKS - 8
                  OVERALL ALBUM - 10

                  RECOMMENDED - Yes, without any hesitation whatsoever.

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                  • Lily Lolo Lip Gloss / Make Up / 90 Readings / 85 Ratings
                    More +
                    02.11.2010 21:32
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                    A nice shimmery gloss for subtle, pretty lips.

                    It has been speculated that the average woman eats somewhere between five and nine pounds of lipstick in her lifetime (I would imagine not at all at once, I don't think it's as some kind of midnight snack or anything), which is actually quite shocking when you think of some of the potentially quite harmful ingredients that go into most lipsticks.

                    Now, I am not much of a lipstick fan myself, but I imagine the statistic is just as true of lip glosses, and that is why I was particularly keen to find a nice, natural lip gloss which contains nice, safe ingredients yet which doesn't compromise on quality.

                    There are three natural, mineral makeup brands that I usually purchase from, the main one of these being Everyday Minerals. However, unfortunately Everyday Minerals seem to have overlooked the lip gloss trend (which is quite unusual given the variety they offer in most products) and only stock lipsticks. Being much more of a lip gloss girl, I decided to turn to another favourite brand of mine: Lily Lolo.





                    WHO ARE LILY LOLO?

                    Lily Lolo are a UK based cosmetic company who were launched in 2005. Apparently the founder of the company started up the company after discovering the joys of mineral makeup while travelling abroad and then being unable to find similar makeup that was up to scratch once she returned home.

                    The company began with the mission of producing quality makeup which was entirely free from chemicals, looked nice on the skin and was also affordable, and these are the standards that the company have continued to strive to obtain.

                    Today, there are many cosmetic companies that offer mineral makeup both on the high street and online, however there are actually very few brands that offer cosmetics made from entirely pure and natural ingredients, particularly within the UK. Lily Lolo, however, not only provide affordable makeup that is safe and pure, but all their makeup has a luxurious, girly, beautiful feel to it, making them (in my opinion) one of the best mineral makeup companies around.





                    WHO SHOULD BUY THIS PRODUCT?

                    * Anyone after a sheer, sparkly yet subtle look for their lips
                    * Those with dry lips
                    * Those with sensitive skin
                    * Eco-friendly girls
                    * Vegetarians





                    INGREDIENTS

                    Oleic/linoleic/linolenic Polyglycerides, Ricinus Communis Seed Oil (Castor Seed Oil), Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Sucrose Acetate Isobutyrate, Cera Alba (Beeswax), Simmondsia Chinensis Seed Oil (Jojoba Seed Oil), Copernicia Cerifera (Carnauba Wax), Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E), Aroma. May Contain: CI 77491, CI 77492, CI 77499 (Iron Oxides), CI 77891 (Titanium Dioxide), CI 77742 (Maganese Violet), CI 77019 (Mica).

                    N.B. All above ingredients are 100% natural. The lip gloss is made from a combination of natural oils, waxes and minerals which add colour as well as moisture and protection.





                    CHOOSING YOUR LIPGLOSS

                    Lily Lolo currently offer nine shades of lip gloss, in shades of neutral, pink, brown and peach. When you first come onto the lip gloss page of the website, it automatically displays their five best sellers. Being a bit unobservant I thought for a long time that these were the only shades they offered, however if you scroll along the tabs you can actually see more of their available shades.

                    Handily, Lily Lolo classify their lip glosses into the above four overall colours (neutral, pink, brown and peach) so you can choose what colour you want first and then browse the various shades within it.

                    There are two neutral shades (Clear and Nude Shimmer), three pink shades (Bubblegum Pink, Raspberry Crush and Berry Kiss), two brown shades (Skinny Latte and Cocoa Kiss) and two peach shades (Apricot Smack and Baked Peach Crush).

                    Of course, being a girly girl, I went immediately to the pink section to browse their offerings. Within this section, there is a bright bubblegum pink, a medium pink and a darker, more plum coloured shade. Normally being a bubblegum pink kind of girl, I actually surprised myself and opted for the darker pink (Berry Kiss) as my lips are quite red anyway and I thought the others were a little on the pale side.

                    Beside each lip gloss to help you choose there is a photograph of the lip gloss both in the tube and as a blob or smear squeezed out of the tube, so you can get a sense of the colour. However if you are having difficulty choosing your lip gloss, once you have clicked on any gloss you can click on a helpful tab of "How To's" which includes helpful tips from the Lily Lolo team on "How to choose your lip gloss"!





                    APPLICATION

                    The lip gloss is very easy to apply with both fingers and a lip brush. Generally I simply squeeze a tiny bit of the product on to my finger and then apply it to my lips and it goes on really well this way; smoothly, evenly and sheer. If, however, you are wanting to apply it with a brush you can click on the tab next to the lip gloss which reads "videos" and see video tips on how to apply the lip gloss with a brush.

                    The shade of lip gloss which I choose (Berry Kiss) is a lot darker than some of the other shades, however it is still quite subtle. Because of this, you can apply quite a lot of the product without it looking over the top, yet it still looks nice and sheer when applied sparsely. I like to apply a little bit of the product at first and then build it up to create my perfect shade.

                    I find that the gloss can be a little hard to blend for the first few seconds, but once the waxes meet with the warmth of your lips (particularly if you rub them together once the lip gloss is on) it melts a little and smoothes on quite easily.





                    CONSISTENCY/ FEEL OF PRODUCT

                    My pet hate when it comes to lip products is sticky lip glosses! I think that the feel of a lip gloss is just as important as its appearance. I absolutely hate the old gust-of-wind-hair-stuck-in-lipgloss scenario! I also hate it when your lips practically stick together every time you close them.

                    Consequently, one thing that really impressed me a lot about this product was its comparative lack of stickiness. Although, as a lip gloss, there will always be an element of stickiness to such a product as this, the lip gloss has more of an oily, creamy consistency to it than the Pritt Stick texture of some lip glosses, making it a lot more wind (and kiss) friendly than many lip glosses out there!

                    The lip gloss also has a moisturising, rich and soothing feel to it that many lip glosses lack. I tend to get quite dry lips which become quite reliant on lip balm particularly in winter, and many lip products can simply exacerbate this problem. However, this lip gloss has quite a luxuriant, moisturising feel to it. On the days when I am wearing makeup I hardly ever use lip balm under this lip gloss, yet I have noticed that simply applying the lip gloss makes my lips both look and feel softer and moisturised and prevents cracked, sore lips.

                    Basically, this lip gloss has one of the nicest consistencies of any lip gloss I have so far tried. It makes my lips feel as though I am wearing a moisturising, rich lip balm while simultaneously giving the colourful, sparkly effect of a great lip gloss.

                    Incidentally, just to cover all the senses (aside from hearing, which might prove a little more tricky!), I should mention that the product also has a nice, subtle berry scent. In case you are interested, it also has absolutely no taste at all (although, just so you know, I didn't find this out by consuming nine pounds of it!), which may be a downside or advantage for some, depending on what you are after in your lip products!





                    APPEARANCE

                    Most of Lily Lolo's lip gloss shades are quite natural looking and subtle. The shade that I chose, Berry Kiss, is one of the darkest shades, but it is still quite sheer and natural looking. If you are after a dramatic look, therefore, this is perhaps not the best lip product to go for, but for a pretty, glossy daytime look, this is the perfect lip gloss.

                    As well as being quite subtle in colour, this lip gloss also has a nice subtle shine. The gloss effect is more like a glossy lip balm than the glass like effect which some lip glosses offer. Instead of sitting on the lips with that plastic like veneer some lip glosses have, the moisturising waxes of this gloss mean that it settles more naturally on to the lips. If you have ever mixed a lip balm (such as Vaseline) with a lipstick, that is quite similar to how this product looks on the lips.

                    To up the glam and girliness of the product, however, the lip gloss also has a lovely golden shimmer to it. If you are not a fan of sparkles or shimmer, Lily Lolo are probably not the best choice for you as all their lip glosses are quite shimmery, however I like the shimmery effect of the product as I feel that it gives it a more sparkly, dressed up, glamorous look to the product.





                    ENDURANCE

                    One of the downsides of this product is that sadly it does not last very long! Like with most lip glosses, if you have a drink or something to eat the lip gloss will rub off instantly. However, actually the lip gloss really doesn't need even that much encouragement to do a vanishing act!

                    I think because of the oils and waxes in the product, the lips seem to absorb the lip gloss or something after a while (as they would a lip balm) because the lip gloss becomes more muted over time and, after about an hour, it eventually starts to lose its gloss and colour.

                    If you like your lip colour to last for a long time, this is not the product for you, however I don't find the lack of durability of the product to be a huge problem, mainly because no lip gloss really lasts all that long, and also because you use so little of the product at a time that it is easy to just reapply as and when needed without running out of the product too quickly.





                    COMPLEMENTARY PRODUCTS

                    To give eyes a shimmer to match your lips, Lily Lolo also offer a great range of shimmery eye shadows, including Smoky Brown - a lovely, mineral eye shadow which has earthy, natural tones to complement the natural shades of lip gloss. It is also great for playing up eyes to complement the more subtle lip look.

                    If you want to really concentrate on your lips, however, Lily Lolo offer a great Lip Brush (made from natural hair) which will help you to apply your lip gloss like a professional, creating a perfectly smooth, glossy look.





                    SERVICE

                    Lily Lolo offer fantastic customer service. Not only was delivery extremely cheap (£1 for standard delivery of the lip gloss) but I received helpful email updates of the status of my order and received the product within just a couple of days.





                    PRICE AND AVAILABILITY

                    Lily Lolo are apparently stocked in "selected beauty salons across the UK" according to their website. However I get the feeling that these selected beauty salons are few and far between as, according to the stockists locator on their website, the nearest one to me is 11.8 miles away. All of Lily Lolo's products, however, can be purchased from their lovely website www.lilylolo.co.uk. The lip glosses are available on here for £7 each for a 10g tube.





                    SCORE OUT OF 10 FOR...

                    PURITY OF INGREDIENTS - 10
                    VARIETY OF SHADES - 6
                    ATTRACTIVENESS OF SHADES - 7
                    EASE OF APPLICATION - 10
                    CONSISTENCY - 10
                    SMELL - 7
                    APPEARANCE ONCE APPLIED - 7
                    LONGEVITY - 4
                    OVERALL PRODUCT - 7

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                    • More +
                      26.10.2010 17:18
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                      A fun, unique and varied pop album.

                      Despite having keenly followed popstar Ashlee Simpson's career for her first two albums, it took me two years to get around to buying this, her third album. I think the main reason for this was that I got a feeling, without having even listened to the album, that it wouldn't have the imagination or effort of her previous two albums; that it was being released simply to fill some sort of obligation perhaps, as it seemed that Ashlee's heart wasn't really in it.

                      I suppose the first thing that gave me this impression was the complete lack of airtime of the two singles off the album; the first of which I had absolutely no awareness of, the second of which they never bothered even to release outside of America. My second piece of "evidence" was, I must confess, the rather uninspired album cover. They say you shouldn't judge a book by its cover and I guess the same goes for CDs too, for I did judge, and I judged wrongly.

                      You see, while Ashlee's previous two albums were covered in beautiful, glossy pictures of a sultry, pouty Ashlee dressed in glamorous clothing and looking every inch the perfect popstar, this album tells a different story. Dressed in jeans, trainers and a red hoody, Ashlee is shown on the front cover with her hood up, her head down, looking into the camera with a look bordering on boredom. I took this to be a sign of not only Ashlee's discontentment with her music career, but also of a lack of effort that I felt would no doubt be reflected on the album.

                      After listening to the album, however, I realised that I had completely grasped the wrong end of the stick and that, rather than being indicative of a lack of effort or enthusiasm as I previously thought, Ashley's casual appearance on the cover perhaps alludes more to a rejection of her conventional polished popstar persona of old, and emphasises a more laid back and individualistic approach to her music that is showcased on this album. For, in fact, rather than being a thoughtless, mundane collection of tracks, this album is actually the most creative and experimental album Ashlee has released to date.

                      Simultaneously while shedding her glossy, perfected popstar image, Ashlee appears to have located her sense of humour, individuality and fun for this album, losing the perhaps formulaic pattern of some of her previous songs and instead creating a collection of tracks that are more experimental, unique and, ultimately, fun.

                      In this album, Ashlee's sound ranges from pop to rock to R&B, often combining elements of all of the above. However what is appealing about the album is that, regardless of the overall genres of each track, Ashlee refuses to deliver the safe, conventional track one might expect from her. Instead, she has fun with the conventions of her genre, creating tracks that are quirky, unexpected and, quite frequently, completely bizarre!

                      Although the tone of the album lies mainly within the pop sphere, Ashlee has also matured and diversified her sound and vocals since her last album; a change which reflects her foray into musical theatre between albums, with Ashlee taking on the role of Roxie Hart in the musical Chicago. Ashlee's theatrical work has clearly inspired her a lot, as the album is obviously more theatrical in parts than her previous pop rock albums, yet in an entirely quirky way.

                      Overall, this album is best described as pop with a sense of humour. It is a fun, inspired, creative album which ultimately impressed me in a big way. If you still have trouble conjuring up an idea of the album in your mind however, try to imagine the old rocky Ashley Simpson crossed with Britney Spears in her 'Blackout' days, inspired by Gwen Stefani (on a good day), experimenting with a bit of musical theatre. Then imagine that actually sounding good! :-)




                      OUTTA MY HEAD (AY YA YA) was Ashlee's only UK single off the album and is a completely bonkers song with a crazy (but brilliant) video to match. A fast paced, shouty, dancey song with a strong backing beat, it is a little bit Gwen Stefani-ish (but not enough to ruin the song for me, not being a fan of Gwen at all!) with some very bizarre vocals. It is an interesting, unique song that marks a huge change in direction for the former wannabe rock chick. Also, I do like the fun lyrics: "All I hear is ay ya ya ya ya, you're talking way too much... all your noise is messing with my head, you're in my head, get out of my head." 8/10

                      BOYS is a slightly retro sounding, mellow pop track with electro beats that remind me of a track by The Saturdays. It is kind of like the former rock chick Ashlee swallowed a sedative and then transported herself back to the 80s to record the track. However, that is not as bad as it sounds! This is actually a really good, quirky track with more tongue in cheek lyrics about Ashlee "hypnotising" all the boys. 7/10

                      RULE BREAKER is my absolute least favourite track on the album. It is, in fact, the kind of thoughtless, inauthentic pop rock track that I feared would litter this album. Fortunately, it stands almost alone, but it is still a real low point on the album for me. Ashlee has a naturally gruff, edgy voice with a rock edge, but this track still does it no favours. It is a very Avril Lavigne-esque track but with less authenticity and an immature sound to it both lyrically and musically, with Ashlee's faux status as a "rule breaker" being cemented with such lyrics as "I've got a boyfriend, he likes to fight a lot... we like to break rules, both got tattoos, we tend to smash things and we like to scream." Hmmm.... draw your own conclusions of this song from that! 1/10

                      NO TIME FOR TEARS is a really good song which builds a bridge between Ashlee's old and new sound, combining electro beats with a rockier pop chorus. Although it is not as quirky as some of the tracks on the album, it is a really good, upbeat pop song with a strong chorus. A real standout track. 9/10

                      LITTLE MISS OBSESSIVE is one of my favourite tracks on the album. Featuring Tom Higginson of the Plain White T's (I have no idea who these are, I only knew he was in the band five minutes ago thanks to google!), this is a mid tempo duet with heavy backing music and an edgier, rockier, more downbeat feel than some of the other tracks on the album. A really good track. 9/10

                      RAGDOLL is probably my favourite track on the album. It is quite a quirky, retro sounding fun pop rock song with electric guitars, staccato, punchy backing beats, powerful vocals and a very catchy chorus where Ashlee questions: "Why you gotta throw me around like a ragdoll?" Her vocals are both emotive and strong on this song and the backing track is also probably one of the strongest on the album. 10/10

                      BITTERSWEET WORLD is a quite theatrical song with jazzy backing music and vocals that would be quite at home in a show. It is an uplifting, soulful and catchy mid tempo track, where Ashlee poses the question: "Why can't we all just get along in this bittersweet world?" Although I wasn't struck on this at first it was a definite grower and is now a firm favourite. 9/10

                      WHAT I'VE BECOME is one of the more rocky pop songs on the album which sees Ashlee reverting to her former formula of angsty vocals, rocky choruses and heavy guitar backing music. It is a lot better (and more mature sounding) than 'Rule Breaker', yet it is a fairly forgettable track which doesn't stand out amongst the more fun and quirky tracks on the rest of the album. Also, the lyrics on this one are a little annoying. The song is about Ashlee finding out who she is and not wanting to change the person she has become - "It's what I've become, let me live as who I am... I've just begun to find my way" - but this is such a recurrent theme in Ashlee's songs that it just seems a little overdone and inauthentic at this stage! Back on her first album, at the age of 20, Ashlee initiated this theme of self discovery and acceptance by telling us "Here I am perfect as I'm ever gonna be" and "Trying to be someone that you know you're not, it gets harder every day", a year later on her second album she was still going on about it with her declaration on the album's title track "I am me and I won't change for anyone". Onto her third album this message is getting just a little stale. Ashlee, we get it, now move on! 5/10

                      HOT STUFF is a very weird and un-Ashlee sounding track that, while I can imagine it being a standout track for some people, I personally really dislike. It seems to be like a bit of an experiment that hasn't quite worked, and I find it a little too cringey to listen to. I think the lyrics are supposed to be clever and innovative, but really they just don't make a lot of sense, with lyrics such as: "Feels like I'm in candy land, I'm going down the chute again, with unicorns and fairy wings." On the music side of things, it is a bit of a nothing song that mainly features Ashlee talking in a strangeand irritating fashion over repetitive guitar music. With its dance vibe and slightly crazy nature, it reminds me in style of a track that could have featured on Britney's quite experimental, electro pop album 'Blackout', only it misses some vital ingredient that pushes it from simply bizarre to bizarrely good! Overall, the best line of the song is Ashlee's confession: "I think I've had too much to drink", which could quite clearly have been the case here going on the song! 3/10

                      MURDER is one of my favourite tracks on the album. It is another experimental, fun and quirky electro dance/pop song with more of a mature, edgy, authentic feel than some of the other tracks; less saccharine and poppy, but still very playful and fun, featuring a catchy chorus and fun lyrics about a girl who gets away with murder. It is another track that reminds me a bit of Britney in her 'Blackout' days, particularly with the slightly reggae vibe introduced in the backing music and the incorporation of a rap by hip-hop artist Travis McCoy (yes, I had to google him too!). This one would deserve its place on such an album too. It is a great, fun track, and I particularly love the theatrical ending to the song. 10/10

                      NEVER DREAM ALONE is the only ballad on the album and it is a really good one at that. It is a delicate, emotive and authentic ballad which features Ashlee musically stripped right down to just her vocals and a piano. With all the crazy lyrics, heavy guitars and electro beats going on in the rest of the album, it is nice to just hear Ashlee's voice in its purity and be reminded of the vocal talent she actually has. Over the years, Ashlee seems to have learned how to soften and put more emotion in to her vocals, which can often sound overly gruff and aggressive, and she employs this softness and vulnerability in this track really well, while retaining an edge to her voice that keeps it from becoming an overly dull, generic pop ballad. 9/10

                      INVISIBLE is a bonus track on the album that really need not have been included. While I have always enjoyed Ashlee in rock chick mode, on this album it is the rockier pop songs that are really the down points on the album. It seems as though Ashlee has put so much effort into moulding her new style that when she gets back into the "comfort zone" of her rock pop tracks she feels she doesn't need to try so hard. Indeed, the only three (original) pop rock tracks on this album feel extremely lacklustre and uninspired and are not a patch on anything she has done before, and this is another extremely forgettable, generic pop rock track with bland verses, unimaginative lyrics and a shouty yet dull chorus. 4/10

                      PIECES OF ME and 'Boyfriend' were two of Ashlee's most successful singles off her first two albums and she has, for some unfathomable reason, decided to include them again as bonus tracks on this one. Although they are great tracks, including them again does seem pretty lazy and unnecessary. Anyway, for those who don't own the other albums, 'Pieces of Me' was Ashlee's first ever single (back when she had black hair, was passing herself off as a rock chick and basically looked like an entirely different human being!). It is a strong pop rock track with emotive, powerful vocals and a catchy chorus accompanied by guitars. This is Ashlee's pop/rock sound at its best! 9/10

                      BOYFRIEND is another fun, upbeat rock/pop track with lots of attitude. Ashlee's aggressive, surly vocals complement the track perfectly and match the assertive lyrics that feature Ashley rectifying the lies that a friend has been spreading about her and telling said friend "I'm bigger than that, no you don't have my back... I didn't steal your boyfriend". This is a feisty, upbeat track with a heavy guitar baseline and strong, catchy chorus. This was one of my favourite tracks at the time of release, and it is still one of the best she has ever recorded in my opinion! 10/10




                      TRACK LIST -
                      1. Outta My Head (Ay Ya Ya)
                      2. Boys
                      3. Rule Breaker
                      4. No Time For Tears
                      5. Little Miss Obsessive
                      6. Ragdoll
                      7. Bittersweet World
                      8. What I've Become
                      9. Hot Stuff
                      10. Murder
                      11. Never Dream Alone
                      12. Invisible (Bonus Track)
                      13. Pieces Of Me (Bonus Track)
                      14. Boyfriend (Bonus Track)

                      UK SINGLES FEATURED ON ALBUM -
                      'Outta My Head (Ay Ya Ya')

                      TRACKS WRITTEN/CO-WRITTEN BY ASHLEE -
                      14/14 tracks

                      BEST TRACK -
                      'Ragdoll'

                      WORST TRACK -
                      'Rule Breaker'

                      NUMBER OF GOOD SONGS -
                      10 out of 14

                      ALBUM UNIQUE SELLING POINT -
                      Its creativity and sense of fun.

                      ALBUM NEGATIVES -
                      The pop rock tracks (Ashlee's usual strong point) are very uninspired and forgettable.

                      SOUNDS MOST SIMILAR TO - The album is a mish mash of styles with influences and similarities to many artists including Kelly Clarkson, Gwen Stefani and Britney Spears.

                      ALBUM SUMMARISED IN ONE WORD - Creative.

                      SCORE OUT OF 10 FOR...
                      VOCALS - 8
                      LYRICS - 7
                      MUSIC/BACKING TRACKS - 8
                      VARIATION IN TRACKS - 10
                      OVERALL ALBUM - 8

                      RECOMMENDED - Yes. Just don't buy it expecting an album similar to Ashlee's previous offerings.

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                      • Everyday Minerals Blush / Make Up / 156 Readings / 151 Ratings
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                        13.10.2010 13:17
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                        A fantastic way to achieve a nice, healthy glow!

                        Despite having been blessed generously with nature's blusher (the annoying tendency to be embarrassed far too easily!) I am still quite surprisingly fond of the powdered alternative. Although I tend not to wear that much makeup, a bit of blusher is pretty much essential in my books and has been an integral part of my makeup routine for a long time.

                        Having moved on from the days of experimenting with a Barbie makeup set and painting huge red circles on my cheeks, however, I tend to go for a more subtle blusher look, but I find this can be quite hard to achieve with the limited amounts of shades some makeup companies have on offer. I think that, more than any other makeup product, blusher needs to be absolutely perfect for the skin tone (to avoid the "I've been dabbling in a clown's makeup kit" look), and this is something that Everyday Minerals seem to have taken on board.

                        While most companies out there offer your basic few shades of blusher (one each for light, medium and dark skintones), Everyday Minerals allow you to really embrace your individuality and find your perfect look by offering up a huge selection of blusher... in 34 different shades!

                        Being a fan and all, after stumbling across this fabulous range of makeup I dutifully decided to test out a couple - well, seven - shades of Everyday Minerals blusher. All in the name of research (and pretty things!)...





                        WHO ARE EVERYDAY MINERALS?

                        As mentioned in some of my other reviews of Everyday Minerals' brilliant products, Everyday Minerals are a mineral makeup company based in America. The company has a strong focus on ethics - offering exclusively vegan, eco-friendly, organic products - and also on offering great quality products at fantastic prices.

                        Everday Minerals, as the name suggests, specialise in mineral makeup; a type of makeup that is manufactured from minerals which are pure, natural, safe and kind to the skin. Mineral makeup has become a big trend in makeup in recent years, however Everyday Minerals differ from the other brands out there in that they offer more variety and better quality products than any other brand I have seen out there (mineral or otherwise) as well as purer (yet cheaper) makeup than most other mineral makeup brands.

                        While it is a pain having to have my makeup delivered from America, I have found it impossible to break my loyalty to Everyday Minerals simply because I have never found to date a brand of makeup to rival Everyday Minerals' range in quantity or quality!





                        WHO SHOULD BUY THIS PRODUCT?

                        * Anyone in need of a healthy glow.
                        * Anyone - of any skin tone - who struggles to find their perfect shade of blusher.
                        * Those with sensitive skin.
                        * Acne sufferers.
                        * Eco-friendly women.
                        * Vegans and animal lovers (Everyday minerals have a strong no animal testing policy).





                        INGREDIENTS

                        * Mica - this is a natural mineral which gives the makeup a light-reflective quality.
                        * Laurnyl Lysine - according to Everyday Minerals, this is "An all-natural amino acid derived from coconut fatty acid, contributing to the products silk like creamy texture and spreadability qualities."

                        May contain:

                        * Titanium Dioxide - this is a natural inert mineral which "is used as a color adjuster", and which also helps absorb excess oil.
                        * Iron Oxides - this mineral gives colour to the makeup.
                        * Ultramarines - this mineral also adds colour.





                        CHOOSING YOUR BLUSHER

                        As I mentioned previously, Everyday Minerals currently offer 34 shades of blusher. While this ensures that it is extremely likely you will find a great match for your skin tone, it also makes it quite tricky to find your perfect choice.

                        Luckily, Everday Minerals make it a lot easier to find a suitable blusher without you having to buy and sample every single shade by providing lots of large photos and descriptions of their products. They also offer very handy (and cheap) sample sizes of all the blushers so that you can try out a few before you commit to the full size product.

                        The first thing to decide when choosing your blusher is what kind of effect you are hoping to achieve, as Everyday Minerals conveniently categorise their blushers into three sections: "matte", "sheen" and "shimmer". Once you have selected the look you are after, you can then choose your colour. As is to be expected from such a number of shades, Everyday Minerals' blushers cover a vast array of colours, ranging from very subtle light pinks to red-ish tones to browns.

                        Unfortunately I am only qualified to review just over 1/5 of the shades they offer (and I think this would be a very boring review if I were to review all 34!), but the others come with handy descriptions to help you make your choice. Here is a very brief summary, however, of seven of Everyday Minerals' blusher shades...

                        * All Smiles (matte) - This is a peachy shade that has more of an orange than pink undertone. It is OK for pale skins but is not particularly subtle. I think it would look best with a tan.

                        * Soft Touch (matte) - My favourite! This is a very, very subtle light pink shade that gives a subtle glow without looking too "made up". May perhaps be too subtle for some however.


                        * Weekend Getaway (matte) - A dusky pink that is more "earthy" than girly. Nice to add a touch of colour to pale skins but doesn't provide much of a "glow".

                        * Wild Vines (matte) - Word of warning to any pale skinned ladies: This one does not look as pinky or pale in real life as it does on the picture! It is much more of a purple pink and far too dark for my quite fair skin. I didn't look so much glowing as as though I had been slapped really hard across both cheeks!

                        * Like Lady Bird Lake (sheen) - Another earthy pink but with more of a reddy undertone and a nice shimmer. Would be fine for most skin types but should be applied very sparsely on pale skin.

                        * Come What May (shimmer) - More of a lilac than a pink, this blusher is a lot paler than my natural cheeks and left me looking completely washed off. Good perhaps for very pale skins, but not suitable for anyone with rosy cheeks!

                        * Pink Ribbon (shimmer) - Another favourite. This is another very subtle, soft pink that is perfect for lighter skins. It is like Soft Touch but with sparkles!





                        APPLICATION

                        I generally apply my blusher after foundation, using my Bare Escentuals Angled Face Brush (which sounds posh but which I have actually owned so long that it has started to feel a bit like a brillo pad against my skin! So I think any brush would do just fine.)

                        The blusher comes in a loose - rather than compact - powder form, making it easy to get just the right amount of product out (by shaking it into the lid and dipping your brush into the powder) and to remove any excess blusher off the brush (by tapping the brush lightly against the lid).

                        I have found that it really depends on the shade of the blusher and the look you want to achieve how much of it you use. Some shades definitely need to be used quite sparingly, but others can be built up gradually to the desired effect. I prefer to use a lighter shade and apply more so that I have more control over how light or dark it turns out (Soft Touch and Pink Ribbon are great for this!) but that is just personal preference.

                        I found, on applying all blushers, that the makeup goes on really nice and smoothly and gives a great application. It doesn't clump, it doesn't look powdery, it is very easy to blend and, in most cases, it looks quite sheer and natural; giving the skin a nice, subtle glow which really brings it to life.

                        One thing that I would say about this product - which could be a positive or a negative depending on how you look at it - is that the shimmery and sheeny blushers are not actually all that shimmery or sheeny, and the two formulas themselves are very hard to distinguish between. In fact, on writing this review (and after having a quick test of all the blushers to refresh my memory) I had to look up on Everyday Minerals' website which blushers were which formula as I couldn't tell for definite.

                        I am always a little wary about shimmery products as I prefer more of a matte makeup look, however after exhausting all potential colours for my skin tone in the matte section of the website I decided to take a gamble on the shimmer and sheen blushers. On opening the blushers I noticed that they were quite sparkly, which I found quite pretty and worrying at once! However, once I applied them to my skin, I can't say that I noticed a massive difference between them and the other blushers!

                        Don't get me wrong, there was a definite sparkle when I moved my face under the light, but it is something you would have to be quite close to notice. I definitely didn't notice that I looked particularly sparkly or sheeny, which may be a disadvantage of the product to some. However, for me, this was a definite advantage and I was pleased with the subtle sparkliness of the product.

                        I would point out though, as I mentioned earlier, that the shimmer and sheen products had, to my knowledge, almost exactly the same effect, and I couldn't really tell which was which just from looking at them either in the pots or on my face. Although this didn't particularly bother me, I expect it would be a criticism of the product for some.





                        ENDURANCE

                        I usually apply my blusher in the morning and then leave it for the rest of the day and I find that it endures really well. No matter how long I leave it for, I find that when I get home at the end of the day (or in the early hours of the morning!) it has stayed put and hasn't gone cakey or rubbed off.





                        COMPLEMENTARY PRODUCTS

                        To give dull skin an extra boost, I would recommend Everyday Minerals' Soft Bronzer to accompany the blusher and work with it to provide a subtle, healthy glow. If you'd prefer the glow without the colour, however, Wet Sand is a lovely shimmery highlighter which I highly recommmend and which I love to use on my cheekbones after the blusher for a night out or when I'm really making an effort!





                        SERVICE

                        Everyday Minerals offer good customer service. Although based in America, they ship internationally at cheap rates and deliver products quite quickly. They also respond to emails very quickly if you need to get in touch. One problem that I did find, however, was that on my most recent order I was charged £11.50 in Customs charges (which I had never been charged before) for products that only cost me £24 in the first place! While I understood that this is more a disadvantage of the international mailing system than the service of the company itself, it does making shopping from Everyday Minerals a lot more inconvenient and pricey!





                        PRICE AND AVAILABILITY

                        Everyday Minerals Blusher is available at www.everydayminerals.com. It costs $2.50 for a sample sized jar (which will last for well over ten uses; mine have lasted me for about two months each) or $8 for the full size product. At the moment, with current conversion rates, this is roughly £5 for the full size product.

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                        • More +
                          01.10.2010 18:17
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                          A disappointing debut album from a very talented lady!

                          When Pixie Lott first appeared on the music scene just over a year ago, she appeared to have stepped straight out of some popstar manufacturing machine or mould (although it was more likely just your common-or-garden stage school!). With her gorgeous looks, musical talent and likeability, she was oozing star quality and seemed to be just about the perfect popstar (even down to her perfectly popstarish pseudonym). From the moment her debut single exploded onto TV screens, grabbing the attention of pop fans everywhere, it was clear she had success written all over her, something that her proceeding singles only served to confirm.

                          Undoubtedly Ms Lott (real name Victoria Louise), has achieved fantastic success in the short time she has been on the scene. After an instant number one with her first single 'Mama Do', the nineteen year old cemented her status as the new princess of pop with five consecutive top twenty singles, two MTV EMA Awards and a top ten album within the space of one year.

                          I suppose that a key to Pixie's success was that the pretty blonde has an element of credibility and cool that many pop acts lack, and which has won her a huge fan base of all ages and genders as well as many fairly high profile advertising campaigns. Although her singles are fun, catchy and primarily pop, there is a maturity and soulfulness to her vocals and an edgier vibe to her sound (which incorporates both R&B and soul influences) that stops her from falling into the cheesy pop camp that many pop princesses have plummeted headfirst in to. Pixie also has obvious talent, something which she demonstrated fabulously on her eclectic range of singles.

                          All this said, you can probably see why I was so excited about Pixie Lotts' debut album, and why shortly after first hearing her initial single I cleared a space in the 'blonde female' section of my CD collection (yes, literally; my CD collection is categorised according to gender and hair colour) with her name on it (not literally). Pixie seemed to have eased into the role of 'popstar' as though she had been doing it forever, and I felt that she had already demonstrated so much potential that her album was clearly going to be one of the best things to happen to pop for a long time.

                          Well.... sadly I was wrong! The first thing that I discovered once I got around to listening to Pixie's much anticipated musical offering was that Pixie's singles were a deceptive gauge of the quality of the album. In fact, 'Mama Do' is head and shoulders above pretty much every other track on the album in terms of quality, and the singles are basically some of the only really good tracks on what is primarily an album made up of ballads and fairly bland fillers.

                          Looking at both Pixie's quirky, cool demeanour and track record for fun, upbeat pop, I was surprised to discover so many ballads featuring on her album. It is not that I am suggesting the odd ballad is bad thing - and there are, in fact, a couple of fairly nice ones on the album - but I was disappointed to find that ballads were the rule rather than the exception on this album, making up seven out of the twelve tracks!

                          The album is also not necessarily bad, being overall a fairly sophisticated, polished collection of pop, most similar to the style of pop synonymous with the likes of Mariah Carey, rather than the fun, glittery and slightly camp pop showcased today by the likes of Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and Girls Aloud. However, while this is not necessarily bad for an album, it was not what I expected from Pixie, particularly given the quirkiness and upbeat nature of Pixie's initial two singles. Basically, I was disappointed to find that the album lacks the sparkle, fun and feistiness I expected; qualities that surround not only Pixie's singles but Pixie herself. On the few occasions where Pixie does stumble back into the more upbeat pop genre, she provides some really great tracks that are worth a listen, but she reverts back to the ballads far too easily and often for these moments to drastically improve the album.

                          Overall, I would say that if you loved Pixie's singles, the album is worth a go just for them, but I would just advise you not to buy it expecting an album of similar tracks, as you may be severely disappointed!

                          While Pixie's singles were unique, fun and soulful, I can't help thinking that the rest of the album is lacklustre, clichéd and unmemorable. While it is impossible to fault Pixie's vocals, which remain powerful throughout the album, when it comes to the actual songs, there is little to make you sit up and take notice, and there is the feeling throughout the album that it has been a rushed, lazy effort, that everything has been done before, and that Pixie is merely emulating the styles and sounds of other successful artists before her rather than creating her own style. While the tracks are certainly sophisticated, it just seems that there is nothing really special about them, and it feels as though neither heart nor a great deal of thought really went into the album.

                          I have no doubt that Pixie has got a lot more to offer, so I am not giving up on her just yet, but it was just a shame that her obvious talent was only glimpsed at and not made the most of on this album. While I gave this album more than a good few listens to give it a fair go, it was eventually an album that got shelved, and unfortunately it is an album that has rarely been picked up since.





                          MAMA DO is, in my opinion, the best song on the album, and was the first single to be taken off it. It is an upbeat track with soulful, husky lyrics and a bit of a 60s vibe (à la Duffy). This song really made me -and a lot of people - sit up and take notice of Pixie, as it is quite unusual and also incredibly catchy. It is quite a quirky, grownup pop song that has been likened to Amy Winehouse. Albeit a more upbeat, cleaned up version. 10/10

                          CRY ME OUT was Pixie's third single, and her first not to reach number one in the charts (it peaked at number twelve). Although many loved this song, as a ballad it didn't pack the same punch as her previous two singles. However, in the world of ballads, this is actually an extremely proficient and sophisticated track that does justice to Pixie's vocal talent. It is a sultry, soulful and mature ballad with a nostalgic, old fashioned sound to it and extremely powerful vocals. It also has some feisty, sarcastic lyrics; mainly the opener: "I got your email, you just don't get females, now do you?" 6/10

                          BAND AID is a mid tempo track that is almost a ballad, but yet not quite as slow and sentimental as some of the other tracks on the album. It has quite an R&B vibe to it with breathy, husky vocals and strong backing vocals and beat. It is a fairly good track with a fairly uplifting chorus and good vocals. However, there is nothing particularly memorable about it and it is certainly not single material. 5/10

                          TURN IT UP was one of the first songs I really took to when I got this album. It hadn't yet been released as a single but I really hoped it would be, and eventually it was. However, I think the hype surrounding Pixie had died down after her releasing two consecutive ballads as this didn't quite make top ten, which I think it should have. With this song, I found myself on familiar ground, as it is the sort of fun pop song I had expected to dominate an album by Pixie Lott. It is not quite as catchy or unusual as 'Mama Do', and not quite as mature or sophisticated as some of the other tracks, but I like that this is one of the few songs on the album where Pixie actually sounds like a teenage girl. This is basically a fun, upbeat pop song with refreshing lyrics about breaking up with someone, staying friends and being OK about it, something that you rarely hear of in the dreary world of song lyrics. 9/10

                          BOYS AND GIRLS is the sort of song I should love. When it was released as Pixie's second single, I did in fact try really hard to love this upbeat, fast-paced pop song, but I could never get past finding it just OK. This is probably the most "poppy" song on the album, emphasised by the fact that it is complemented by a video featuring Pixie doing a full-on 90s style dance routine. Lacking the conviction and innovation of 'Mama Do', it is a listenable enough song, but it is basically a good example of generic teenage pop; the sort of song you could imagine any faceless girl band releasing before disappearing into oblivion. 6/10

                          GRAVITY is, in my opinion, a pretty bland song. Pixie released this as her fourth single and I could never figure out why. It is a pretty self-indulgent, lacklustre ballad that never really goes anywhere. The best thing I can say about it is that it showcases Pixie's brilliant vocals, but other than that it is really nothing special at all and gained Pixie her lowest chart position to date, reaching just number twenty. 4/10

                          MY LOVE is another bland ballad, continuing in the same vein as 'Gravity'. It has weak, generic vocals (You're the definition of a life I would be missin', oh we can make this right, don't wanna lose, don't wanna lose your love) and a slightly whiny feel to it, with bland verses and a weak chorus. It feels like this was written and recorded in about five minutes to fill in a gap on the album, with no real effort involved in the process. 4/10

                          JACK is one of those songs that I can't quite make my mind up about. For some reason I hate the lyrics, which are based around a nursery rhyme: "Jack was nimble, Jack he was quick, Jack jumped right over the candlestick". They don't seem to fit in with a pop song, particularly given the sophisticated tone of most of Pixie's album. However, if you can overlook that (I struggle) this is actually an OK song, which makes a nice change from the ballads that surround it. It is quite a soulful yet upbeat mid-tempo track with strong backing music and a fairly catchy chorus. However, the fact that I have to try and make myself like this song speaks volumes; I definitely think that I would automatically class this as a filler if it appeared on a stronger album. 5/10

                          NOTHING COMPARES is another ballad that showcases more subdued, husky, soulful vocals from Pixie. Of the ballads, I would say this was actually one of the best, with a strong, emotional chorus, emotive vocals and a nice key change in the middle. Not bad at all. 8/10

                          HERE WE GO AGAIN is my second favourite song on the album and I really think that it should have been released as a single. It is a strong, catchy pop song that is probably most similar to 'Mama Do' in style than any of the other tracks, although probably leaning more heavily on the pop than 'Mama Do' and ditching some of the soul. It is a unique yet contemporary fun pop track with a refreshingly young feel that extends to the lyrics: "I dont care about tomorrow, here we go again, here we go again, I'll be the last one on the dance floor when this party ends, when this party ends, I dont even care, I dont even care, never want to stay I wish that I'd been there". It is an incredibly catchy, fun song that really brightens up this otherwise fairly bland album. 10/10

                          THE WAY THE WORLD WORKS is another really dull song that lacks imagination and sparkle. I don't know what else to say about this, as the song really doesn't do enough itself to inspire any further comment! 3/10
                          HOLD ME IN YOUR ARMS finishes the album off gently with more emotive vocals, gentle verses and emotional choruses. Yes, it is another ballad! However, at least Pixie has the decency to finish off the album with a fairly nice ballad. OK, it is nothing memorable or different, but it is certainly better than some of the other ballads on the album, with a romantic, sentimental feel to it that Pixie's vocals carry off quite nicely. 8/10




                          TRACK LIST -
                          1. Mama Do
                          2. Cry Me Out
                          3. Band Aid
                          4. Turn It Up
                          5. Boys and Girls
                          6. Gravity
                          7. My Love
                          8. Jack
                          9. Nothing Compares
                          10. Here We Go Again
                          11. The Way The World Works
                          12. Hold Me In Your Arms


                          UK SINGLES FEATURED ON ALBUM -
                          'Mama Do'
                          'Boys and Girls'
                          'Cry Me Out'
                          'Gravity'
                          'Turn It Up'


                          TRACKS WRITTEN/CO-WRITTEN BY PIXIE -
                          10 out of 12 (All with the exception of 'Mama Do' and 'Gravity').

                          BEST TRACK -
                          'Mama Do', closely followed by 'Here We Go Again'.

                          WORST TRACK -
                          'The Way The World Works'.

                          NUMBER OF GOOD SONGS -
                          7 out of 12

                          ALBUM UNIQUE SELLING POINT -
                          Pixie's strong, soulful vocals.

                          ALBUM NEGATIVES -
                          The album is primarily made up of ballads and frequently feels uninspired and generic.

                          SOUNDS MOST SIMILAR TO -
                          Her soulful, sophisticated brand of pop reminds me a lot of Stacie Orrico in her R&B/pop days, but I am guessing most of you probably won't know who she is. She could also be (and has been) compared to a more contemporary Duffy or a more polished Amy Winehouse in her debut single, although many of the ballads are more obviously inspired by the likes of Mariah Carey (who Pixie cites as an influence).

                          ALBUM SUMMARISED IN ONE WORD - Unimaginative.

                          SCORE OUT OF 10 FOR...
                          VOCALS - 10
                          LYRICS - 5
                          MUSIC/BACKING TRACKS - 5
                          VARIATION IN TRACKS - 5
                          OVERALL ALBUM - 5

                          RECOMMENDED - It all depends on what you are after... If you loved 'Mama Do' and are after an album of similar unique, upbeat, fun yet soulful pop songs, then I wouldn't recommend this album. If, however, you are more a fan of polished pop and ballads and loved Pixie's single 'Gravity', then I would definitely recommend this.

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                            21.09.2010 20:25
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                            A fairly good, but fairly confused, album from the Disney star.

                            Out of the ubiquitous set of Disney-borne popstars, I think it is fairly clear that, whatever you may think of her, Miley Cyrus is easily the most talented of the lot.

                            The seventeen year old daughter of Billy Ray Cyrus (of 'Achy Breaky Heart' fame) first shot to fame as the star of 'Hannah Montana'; a Disney show about a popstar (Hannah Montana) masquerading as a normal highschool girl (Miley). From here, the star went on to appear in films including 'The Hannah Montana Movie' and 'The Last Song'. However, while Miley has proved to be a fairly successful and proficient actress, I believe that it is through her vocal capabilities that she really shines.

                            Not only is Miley vocally a lot stronger than her fellow Disney stars - with an unexpectedly mature tone to her voice and a wide vocal range - but she is also a very talented songwriter, having co-written all but one song on this, her third studio album.

                            However, what this album makes quite clear is that although Miley has a lot of talent as a singer and songwriter, she has not quite worked out what exactly to do with it yet, and what direction to take her music in. While I think that this album marks the beginning of Miley's transition from Hannah Montana to adult recording artist, for this particular album she has not yet managed to either fully shake off her Disney alter ego or fully embrace her new style. Consequently, the album is a big mishmash of styles, incorporating feisty, attitude filled pop anthems such as 'Can't Be Tamed' nestled alongside quaint country inspired ballads about love, forgiveness and singing cowboys!

                            Luckily for Miley she has enough talent to just about pull of this fairly confused album, yet the album lacks a clear identity. Also, more disappointingly for me, the album shows just glimpses of a great new style for Miley that is never fully cemented or developed. While Miley does full justice to most of the tracks on this album, it is on the edgier, feistier pop tracks where she really hits her stride, and, in my opinion, the three strongest tracks on the album ('Liberty Walk', 'Cant Be Tamed' and 'Robot') are of this style.

                            These Britney-esque tracks - which are packed with lyrics asserting Miley's independence and refusal to be molded or changed; a theme that is covered by just about every teen star who has ever been (see Britney's 'Overprotected' or Ashlee Simpson's 'I Am Me' for just two examples) - show glimpses of the new assertive, adult Miley trying to burst out. Yet this Miley is continually reigned back in and made to sing all country and ballad-like, making these excellent songs just seem like oddly incongruous tracks that have been tacked on to a Hannah Montana album as an afterthought.

                            Despite her claims of independence, Miley still seems to be being pushed in certain musical directions on this album and, despite there being some really good tracks on the album, it fails to entirely live up to the precedent set by its preceding single, with the attitude and feistiness showcased on this track unfortunately falling by the wayside for much of the rest of the album.

                            However, despite the album being a little bit hit and miss and not quite living up to my expectations, there are some really strong tracks on the album and I think that Miley shows a lot of promise and potential. She may not be sure of her identity yet, but what seventeen year old girl is? Ultimately, Miley demonstrates on this album that she clearly has a lot more talent than many popstars around today; perhaps she just needs to start channeling it in one direction!




                            LIBERTY WALK is undoubtedly one of the best songs on this album. It is quite Britney-esque with synthesised beats and vocals and a very strong chorus. Miley loses the country edge to her voice on this track for some assertive, feisty vocals that reflect the underlying message of the song. This is an edgy, uncompromising pop track that is quite similar to 'Can't Be Tamed' in style and message, featuring Miley asserting her independence from the restraints that have been put on her in no uncertain terms: "It's a liberty walk, say goodbye to the people who tied you up. It's a liberty walk, feeling your heart again, breathing new oxygen. It's a liberty walk, walk free yourself, slam the door, not a prisoner anymore." 10/10

                            WHO OWNS MY HEART is another heavily synthesised track, but this one is more in a dance/pop vein than the tracks on either side of it. It is one of the more energetic, dancier tracks on the album with a fairly catchy chorus. It reminds me a little bit of a teenage attempt at a 90s dance track. 7/10

                            CAN'T BE TAMED is easily one of the best songs on the album, if not the best. I love the confidence of the lyrics ("I go through guys like money flyin' out their hands, they try to change me but they realise they can't"). I also love Miley's aggressive, husky vocals and the quirky, catchy chorus. It is a brilliant, sultry pop track with a darker, edgier feel than most of the songs on the album, and it again features Miley asserting her independence with the declaration: "I can't be tamed, I can't be saved, I can't be blamed... I can't be changed". The single (particularly the video) caused a lot of criticism about the launch of this new "raunchy" and "sexy" Miley, but I don't see the big deal personally - she's a fully grown adult come November; let her be! 10/10

                            EVERY ROSE HAS ITS THORN is a bit of an odd choice to come after the preceeding track, but as I mentioned before the album is quite confused when it comes to styles. This track was apparently originally a power ballad by some glam metal/rock band in 1988, but Miley's version couldn't sound sound less rock. Or power ballady. Or glam metal... I'm guessing (I have no idea what glam metal is!). Don't get me wrong, she actually does a good job with it, but I am simply speculating that it is probably quite different from the original. Given that Miley already has a clear country edge to her voice (she can thank/blame her dad for that!) when she sings a ballad involving cowboys it of course sounds very much like a nice, gentle country song. However, this is not necessarily a bad thing, and, although it is a little bland, Miley pulls off the song as nicely as can be expected (given the song) thanks to her strong vocals. 5/10

                            TWO MORE LONELY PEOPLE reminds me, weirdly, of a cheesy Jason Donovan song from the 90s, only with a slight country (and feminine, obviously) edge! I don't know if it is the music (complete with strumming guitars) or the cheesy lyrics ("Yeah there's two more lonely people in the world tonight, baby, you and I, and there's two more lonely people who gave up the fight, yeah, wrong or right"), but it just sounds very 90s pop. However, I happen to love cheesy music and 90s pop, so that's OK with me! I think it's a nice, fun, pop track with quite a catchy chorus. 7/10

                            FORGIVENESS AND LOVE really has a very country feel to it, but, again, that could just be Miley's voice. It is quite a saccharine ballad with quite corny lyrics: "The only thing that our hearts are made of are the acts of forgiveness and love. The only thing real, when push comes to shove, are the acts of forgiveness and love." However, despite the corniness, I actually think the lyrics are quite admirable and sweet. It is quite a mature, beautifully sung ballad but, again, it is just a little bit bland. 5/10

                            PERMANENT DECEMBER is a track that I can best describe as Hannah Montana does Kesha. It has the same sassy rapping and lyrics of Kesha (with a striking resemblance to 'Tick Tock' at the beginning) the autotuned vocals and the catchy choruses. Although the lyrics (boasting of Miley's prowess with the boys) sound a little inauthentic in this track and the vocals are not the strongest or most mature on the album, it is a fairly fun, energetic pop song that will probably appeal to Miley's younger fans. 6/10

                            STAY is a really heartfelt, beautiful ballad showcasing strong, emotive vocals from Miley. At first I wasn't sure about the track as I thought it was a little dreary and generic, but it really grew on me. It is not the most innovative of tracks, but I think that it is Miley's unique vocals that really make the track. 7/10

                            SCARS is a bit of a pop rock track that sounds quite similar to Ashlee Simpson, with the husky, aggressive vocals, shouty choruses and rocky beats in the background. It is an OK song but it is a little bit of a background track with nothing exceptional about either lyrics or tune. 5/10

                            TAKE ME ALONG is a pop track with faint country and rock influences. It is a really great mid-tempo track with the slow, heartfelt verses of a ballad, yet more energetic, powerful choruses. Despite it not being a million miles away from the stuff Miley was doing before this supposed turnaround in her music, it is definitely one of the stronger tracks on the album. 8/10

                            ROBOT is an absolutely brilliant song and one of the definite highlights of the album. As in 'Can't Be Tamed' and 'Liberty Walk', Miley is back giving it attitude as she delivers another confident, feisty track with a message. In this track Miley delivers another protest against those who want to control her, only this time she sounds quite angry as she delivers the lines: "Stop trying to live my life for me,I need to breathe, I'm not your robot. Stop telling me I'm part of this big machine, I'm breaking free, can't you see? I can love, I can speak, without somebody else operating me. You gave me eyes and now I see, I'm not your robot, I'm just me." Miley's aggressive vocals reflect the lyrics well and I think the track is especially poignant given firstly the anger recently directed at Miley for having the cheek to grow up, and secondly because of her recent announcement of her dissatisfaction with the music industry and her decision to take a break from it. Overall this is an energetic, rocky track with a really strong, powerful chorus and lyrics. 10/10

                            MY HEART BEATS FOR LOVE is a really good track that finishes this often quite average album off on a high. Although the track sounds like it could very well feature on the soundtrack of one of Miley's teen films with its positive, optimistic message (about not giving up on love) and strong, uplifting choruses, it has a surprisingly mature sound to it and is a great track with beautiful vocals and a really strong chorus. 9/10




                            TRACK LIST -
                            1. Liberty Walk
                            2. Who Owns My Heart
                            3. Can't Be Tamed
                            4. Every Rose Has Its Thorn
                            5. Two More Lonely People
                            6. Forgiveness and Love
                            7. Permanent December
                            8. Stay
                            9. Scars
                            10. Take Me Along
                            11. Robot
                            12. My Heart Beats For Love

                            UK SINGLES FEATURED ON ALBUM -
                            'Can't Be Tamed'

                            TRACKS WRITTEN BY MILEY -
                            11 out of 12 (All with the exception of 'Every Rose Has Its Thorn')

                            BEST TRACK -
                            'Can't Be Tamed' or 'Robot'

                            WORST TRACK -
                            'Scars'

                            NUMBER OF GOOD SONGS -
                            9 out of 12

                            ALBUM UNIQUE SELLING POINT -
                            Miley's strong, unique vocals.

                            ALBUM NEGATIVES -
                            Miley doesn't seem to have settled on a style and the album lacks identity and focus. She has some really strong edgy pop tracks, yet she fails to commit to this genre.

                            SOUNDS MOST SIMILAR TO -
                            Britney at times; Kesha in one particular track; a more country inspired, vocally powerful Selena Gomez/Hilary Duff/Ashlee Simpson.

                            ALBUM SUMMARISED IN ONE WORD - Varied.

                            SCORE OUT OF 10 FOR...
                            VOCALS - 9
                            LYRICS - 7
                            MUSIC/BACKING TRACKS - 6
                            VARIATION IN TRACKS - 10
                            OVERALL ALBUM - 7
                            RECOMMENDED - Yes. Although it is a bit of a mixed bag, the good tracks definitely make it worth a listen!

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                              14.09.2010 19:24
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                              A fun, feisty pop rock album.

                              After the influx of young, American girly pop rock artists around the middle of this decade (singers such as Lindsay Lohan, Hilary Duff, Kelly Clarkson and Ashlee Simpson, to refresh the memory of those of you who aren't quite as devoted to this genre as myself!), the genre seems to have all but died a death. Lindsay started dabbling with the illegal substances, Ashlee took time out to focus on being a mum, Hilary decided to flex her literary muscles by penning her first novel (thanks for the info tom1clare!) and Kelly... well, Kelly is apparently still recording, but has anybody actually heard anything of her recently?

                              Anyway, amongst all this madness these girls seem to have forgotten about one important little thing... me! How am I meant to cope without my constant stream of girly pop rock music?! For a while, I didn't think I would. I attempted to numb the pain by listening to my old albums, plastered over the void with paltry girlbands, yet it just wasn't the same! However, one day not so long ago - don't worry, there's a happy ending to this story! - I was sat watching the music channels, and suddenly there she was, the girl I instantly knew to be my new Hilary Duff/Ashlee Simpson/Lindsay Lohan! The girl to whom I bestow this wonderful accolade is, of course, none other than Selena Gomez.

                              Selena Gomez, for those of you who may not have heard of her (I hadn't until that moment very recently), first shot to fame, like many before her, as a Disney star, appearing as a guest star on 'The Suite Life of Zack and Cody', obtaining a recurring role in two seasons of 'Hannah Montana' and playing a lead character on 'Wizards of Waverly Place'. Following on from her acting, Selena then signed a recording contract with Hollywood Records (seemingly a rite of passage for these Disney stars) and produced a couple of songs mainly for Disney soundtracks. However, it was in 2009, a year later, when she really hit her stride musically.

                              In 2009, in a unique step within the genre of music synonymous with Disney stars, Selena decided to turn her back on the solo life and form a band, Selena Gomez and the Scene, consisting of herself, a guitarist (Ethan Roberts), a bassist (Joey Clement), a drummer (Greg Garman) and a keyboard player (Dane Forrest).

                              In all honesty, I have to state that it would, in fact, be pretty impossible to tell that this album was actually a band effort if you had not been informed, as Selena pretty much runs the show with her vocals, and the band are also conspicuously missing from the album sleeve and cover. However, that said, perhaps it is the inclusion of a band that gives this album an added edge of maturity and confidence at times that is missing from some other albums of this genre. For a first album it is a surprisingly accomplished, self-assured album packed with catchy pop/dance tracks, beautiful ballads, rock pop songs and lots of attitude.

                              I think, given Selena's age, I half dreaded - yet expected - to find an album packed with weak vocals, dreary lyrics, cheesy choruses and plenty of fillers, however this was thankfully a million miles away from these expectations. Although some of the lyrics are admittedly pretty unimaginative, there are a couple of songs that don't quite match up to Selena's excellent first single, and the rock element of the album is a bit hit and miss, on the whole it is a great album that shows a lot of promise and is a lot stronger than the early albums of some of Selena's peers both vocally and musically. Whereas other young singers (such as Britney and Hilary Duff) struggled early on to really find their sound and emerge as mature, confident artists with an appeal that spread beyond the pre-teen years, Selena appears to have almost hit the ground running with this album.

                              I feel that her music defies many of the stereotypes expected of an eighteen year old Disney star as she effortlessly pulls off this generally impressive pop rock album with strong vocals and the accompaniment of a talented band. Therefore, although it is an album that I am convinced I should have been reluctant to buy and embarrassed to admit to listening to (given the fact I am no longer a teenage girl) I am actually pretty impressed with Selena and the Scene and their debut album, and I am not afraid to say so!

                              I think that this is much more than just an album for teenage girls, and I would encourage others who have been impressed with Selena's debut single, or anyone who just loves fun, catchy pop music with a rock edge, to give this album a go - even if you aren't an eighteen year old girl!




                              KISS AND TELL is the first song off this album. It reminds a little of the angsty American girly pop rock music that always features in American teen films, complete with bitter lyrics about someone "kissing and telling" and selling Selena out. The music is quite rocky (heavy on the electric guitars and drums) and Selena's aggressive, sassy lyrics complement the backing music well. At first I felt that this song sounded a bit too much like a "teenage" attempt at rock (which I suppose it is!), but it soon kicks into a really great, catchy pop rock chorus that is hard not to like. 9/10

                              I WON'T APOLOGIZE is the only song on the album written by Selena and it is all about being who you are and not trying to change yourself. It is in a similar vein to the first track with a strong rocky feel throughout and a fast paced, catchy chorus, however I would say it is a little bit more mature and edgier than the previous track. It actually sounds very much like Ashlee Simpson (during the rock phase showcased in her first album) both vocally and musically, with an almost angry feel to it and strong, assertive vocals. 8/10

                              FALLING DOWN sounds a little Gwen Stefani-esque at the start, with sassy stacatto vocals packed with attitude, before heading into another very Ashlee Simpson sounding chorus with shouty vocals and strong backing music. It is probably one of the more rocky, grown up sounding tracks on the album, and while it is not as catchy as some of the other songs it is still a very strong track. 7/10

                              I PROMISE YOU is one of my favourite songs on the album and is a bit of a change in direction from the previous tracks in that it is slower and more mellow. Selena's vocals are more whimsical and girly yet still with a bit of a rock edge. The lyrics are all very teenage, about people thinking Selena and her boyfriend are too young to be in love but they know it's real... but it's quite sweet, I guess. Well, it doesn't completely put me off the song at any rate! The song picks up its speed and the band kicks in more heavily for another catchy chorus, yet this is a very rare song in that I actually prefer the mellow, melodic verses to the chorus for perhaps the first time ever in a song. 9/10

                              CRUSH is similar to 'Kiss and Tell' in that the rock element sounds a bit contrived and try-hard at times with heavy bass and guitars, overly aggressive lyrics telling someone in no uncertain terms that "everything is not about you", and Selena trying to put just a little too much attitude into her vocals, which makes her sound a bit petulant. However, once it gets going the song really picks up and the chorus is really catchy. 8/10

                              NATURALLY is easily the best song on this album. Whereas most of the songs lean towards a rockier pop sound, this has more of an electro pop/dance feel to it which really suits Selena's voice. I feel that this is the sort of direction Selena should take her music in as she has a great pop voice, and whereas her attempts at aggressive rock vocals can sound inauthentic at times, when she lets her voice sound young and soft, as in this track, her vocals are really great. This is just a great, unique pop song with a strong beat and an extremely catchy chorus. Love it. 10/10

                              THE WAY I LOVED YOU is the only real ballad on this album. The track sounds, to me, like a mixture of a Natalie Imbruglia album track and a song off a Disney soundtrack! Again Selena lets some softness and vulnerability into her voice and, in this track, I find the pure, emotive, almost fragile sound to her vocals to be very reminiscent of Natalie's. In terms of the song itself, however, it has a very Disney sound to it with the sad, yearning verses and soaring choruses. It is not the most memorable of tracks but it is a nice, pretty ballad that adds a bit of variety to the album. 6/10

                              MORE sees Selena returning to her rock pop sound, with heavy backing music, rocky choruses and an interesting rap interlude that again sounds a bit Gwen Stefani-ish. The choruses are not as catchy as some of the earlier tracks but it is still a strong, edgy track with a more authentic rock sound somehow. 7/10

                              AS A BLONDE is a track that I am really not sure about. It again sounds like the sort of fast paced, shouty pop rock song you would see performed by some angsty girlband (probably with piercings and blue hair) at a high school dance or in a garage or something in an American teen film from the late 90s. Does anybody else know the kind of thing I am referring to here?? It just has an almost annoying, inauthentic quality to it that is hard to take seriously as "rock". It is basically all very teenage, which I suppose I should expect, but I feel it undermines the talent and proficiency showcased in a lot of the rest of the album. That said, it is an OK enough track with a fairly catchy chorus. The lyrics, however, are a bit silly, with Selena wondering if she came back "as a blonde, would I get whatever I want?" And what exactly is it you want, Selena, that you are missing out on as a brunette? A recording contract? A lead role in a TV show? Loads of money and fame? Oh, wait a minute! 5/10

                              I DON'T MISS YOU AT ALL is a track where the rock element actually really works. It is basically about Selena, well, not missing someone at all, and the feisty vocals carry off this message well. It is a great feisty, fun pop rock track. 8/10

                              STOP AND ERASE is a pretty weak track compared to the rest. It is more shouty, feisty pop, only this time without a catchy hook or anything really memorable about it. It is a definite filler and real background music. 4/10

                              I GOT U is a real hidden gem, being so close to the end of the album where the dross is often located. Selena's vocals are again a lot softer, yet more mature sounding, with, in my opinion, that Natalie Imbruglia vibe about them again. In fact, this edgy, quirky pop track is something that I could very much imagine Natalie releasing. This song reaffirms to me that pop is definitely the direction Selena should go in as this is a really great, mature pop track with confident vocals and an absolutely brilliant chorus. It sounds a little bit 80s (particularly the backing vocals at the end) but in a very good way. 10/10

                              TELL ME SOMETHING I DON'T KNOW is another pleasant surprise, considering where it is placed on the album. This is pop music at its best with the most unbelievably catchy chorus, great backing music and a brilliant refrain ( "Tell me something I don't know, like how many inches in a mile, what it takes to make you smile"). It is a fast, fun, quirky pop track that actually sounds a lot like something Britney Spears would release. 10/10

                              The Dave Aude Radio Mix of NATURALLY is exactly what you would expect: the original song extended slightly and accompanied by heavy synthesized beats that do not improve the song in any way at all. I will never understand the point of these remixes! 7/10




                              TRACK LIST -
                              1. Kiss and Tell
                              2. I Won't Apologize
                              3. Falling Down
                              4. I Promise You
                              5. Crush
                              6. Naturally
                              7. The Way I Loved You
                              8. More
                              9. As a Blonde
                              10. I Don't Miss You at All
                              11. Stop and Erase
                              12. I Got U
                              13. Tell Me Something I Don't Know
                              14. Naturally (Dave Aude Radio Mix)

                              UK SINGLES FEATURED ON ALBUM -
                              'Naturally'

                              TRACKS WRITTEN BY SELENA -
                              'I Won't Apologize'

                              BEST TRACK -
                              'Naturally'

                              WORST TRACK -
                              'Stop and Erase'

                              NUMBER OF GOOD SONGS -
                              12 out of 14

                              ALBUM UNIQUE SELLING POINT -
                              When she gets it right, Selena's brand of pop is quirky, edgy, fun and extremely catchy. Also, she has her own band, which kind of sets her apart from the rest.

                              ALBUM NEGATIVES -
                              Occasionally Selena's attempts at rock lack some authenticity and credibility, and lead me to recall the fact that Selena is still only a teenager and so her vocals are not as mature as some. However, this is no bad thing really as it means the album will no doubt appeal to her young fanbase, and also in time Selena's music and vocals (which both show a lot of potential) will no doubt mature with her.

                              SOUNDS MOST SIMILAR TO -
                              There are strong reminisces of Ashlee Simpson throughout the album. In her poppier phases, however, Selena also reminds me a lot (at different points on the album) of Natalie Imbruglia, Hilary Duff and even Britney Spears.

                              ALBUM SUMMARISED IN ONE WORD - Catchy.

                              SCORE OUT OF 10 FOR...
                              VOCALS - 8
                              LYRICS - 6
                              MUSIC/BACKING TRACKS - 9
                              VARIATION IN TRACKS - 5
                              OVERALL ALBUM - 8

                              RECOMMENDED - Yes. I would recommend this album to young teenagers and other fans of the girly pop rock genre.

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                                10.09.2010 15:49
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                                A useful - yet definitely not essential - guide for wannabe novelists.

                                I have been writing novels since I was five years old (hopefully the quality has improved at least a tiny bit since then), however it was only at the end of last year that I decided to take my writing a bit more seriously. I set aside more time for writing, allocated myself a daily word count, joined a writing group and, of course (given this review), bought several books on the art of novel writing.

                                One of the books that I purchased was entitled 'A Novel in a Year', a book that I chose specifically because a) its title corresponded with my goal at the time, and b) the author is a successful writer herself so undoubtedly knows what it takes to make it as a novelist. I have dutifully been working away at my novel (and using this book) for a year now, so it has finally got to the point where I can do a proper analysis of 'A Novel in a Year'.




                                SO...WHAT'S THIS ALL ABOUT?

                                This book is described as "A Novelist's Guide to Being a Novelist." The novelist in question - and the author of this book - is Louise Doughty, a novelist, playwright and critic who has currently written six novels and five radio plays. The idea for this book came about after Louise's stint as a newspaper columnist in 2006 for the 'Daily Telegraph'. Louise's column, also entitled 'Novel in a Year', involved her expanding on a different aspect of writing each week, then allowing the readers to send in examples of their writing (in relation to this topic) to a message board so that fellow writers, and Louise herself, could give feedback. This column turned out to be extremely successful, so the author decided to turn it into a book.

                                The setup of the book is much the same as the column. The book is divided in to fifty two chapters, and readers are encouraged to read one chapter a week. At the end of every other chapter an exercise is set on the particular technique or aspect of writing discussed within that chapter. Louise then discusses examples of others' attempts at the same exercise (as submitted to her column's message board) in a later chapter, and discusses why she set the exercise and what readers should learn from it.

                                Early exercises in the book are pretty vague and are just about getting the brain working, thinking outside the box and creating a body of material that may (or may not) come in useful one day. Such exercises include writing an account of an accident you have had in the past, writing an account of getting lost, writing from the point of view of a character who lives in a country you have never visited, and writing from the point of view of a character living in a different time period. Later exercises in the book become more specific to your own novel, however, and include such things as putting together a CV for your novel's protagonist, writing about various incidents involving your main character (such as them breaking their thumb) and experimenting with narrative voice (changing sections of your novel into first or third person).

                                The book explores a wide variety of writing techniques and themes and makes them relevant to the readers' own novels through practical exercises, taking them on a year long journey as a practising novelist.




                                CONTENTS

                                There is no contents page in this book as the book is divided into weeks rather than chapters or themes. However, to give you an idea of what this book contains, here is a brief list of just some of the aspects of writing that this book discusses:

                                * Preparing to write a novel
                                * Finding the time to write
                                * Fictionalising biographical stories and memories
                                * Creating engaging characters
                                * Researching a novel
                                * Editing first drafts
                                * Using metaphors
                                * Choosing your narrative viewpoint




                                WHAT I LIKED

                                The main thing I liked about this book is the inclusion of the exercises. Many writing books that I have read give lots and lots of advice and knowledge but they have few (or no) exercises where you can actually practise what you are being told and apply it to your own writing. This is one of the main strengths of this book, as the exercises make the advice practical.

                                The exercises are also often very fun, they help you to think of things that perhaps you wouldn't have thought of before, they encourage you to create characters and scenes you wouldn't have created before, and they allow you to generate new ideas. They also help you to get to know the characters that you have already created better and experiment with scenes and ideas to improve your novel. Moreover, they keep you writing. Even if you are experiencing writers block in a major way, by doing the fortnightly exercises at least you can ensure that you are writing something and regularly building up your body of material.

                                I also liked that you could read examples of others' responses to the exercises and Louise's discussion of them. I thought that this was not only very interesting (to see how others have approached the same exercises in hugely different ways) but it was helpful to read Louise Doughty's response to them, and to apply the feedback to my own writing.

                                Another great thing about this book is that it is good for busy people. The book is broken down into one short chapter a week, making it easy to fit into a busy schedule as well as less intimidating than other writing books, as it offers useful yet bitesize pieces of advice for busy people who want a broad array of tips on all aspects of writing without having to devote an entire thirty page chapter or so to each.

                                Louise Doughty is also very honest and easy to read, and I liked the way she approached this book. Rather than adopting a formal or teacher-ish tone to dispense her wisdom, Louise's writing style is a lot more chatty, honest and easy to read. Although the author is giving away a lot of advice and know-how in this book, the book is very easy to follow, and the main impression when reading it is of having a friendly conversation with a fellow author who is keen to help you as much as she can by passing on what she has learned in a down to earth way.

                                Following on from this, one of the main things that new writers will get from this book is a sense of encouragement. Louise never allows her readers to feel despondent and has a great empathy for them, assuring them that she understands that they may not have much time for writing, that it is of no great significance if they fell short of their word count this month, that it's perfectly fine if there are big gaps in their plot right now, that it's quite OK to write completely haphazardly for the moment, and that they should in no way listen to those negative voices in their heads. She constantly reminds you that you are doing fine and that you should just keep writing, which is often exactly the advice that a new writer needs to hear.




                                WHAT I DISLIKED

                                One of the downfalls of this book, in my opinion, is that although the book covers a wide variety of topics, it doesn't cover anything in great detail. Some of the topics that the book covers are dealt with in as little as two pages, which I felt was not enough time to go into them properly. Also, some chapters are actually extremely light on substance and cover topics that are basically common sense or just repeat things that have already been said before (such as the constantly reiterated advice not to censor yourself right now and to use a "scattergun approach" to writing, writing scenes as and when you like, not necessarily in chronological order).

                                A lot of the advice is the same as what I have read in many other writing books before, yet it is nowhere near as expansive or detailed. As I mentioned earlier, this can be an advantage for those with busy lives who just want to skim the surface of what it takes to be a writer, but for those who want an in-depth look at the writing craft and/or lifestyle, this is not the ideal book. Basically, this is more like an "access course" to ease in and encourage the new writer rather than a comprehensive writing book. Used as a "supplement" to a more detailed writing book (such as 'Your Writing Coach' by Jurgen Wolff), it is actually a good, helpful book, offering quick weekly reminders on writing techniques, however it is not ideal as a standalone writing book.

                                One area of writing that I particularly felt was short on detail was devising a plot. Although, naturally, I understand that nobody can hand you a readymade plot, or even give you a sure fire way to come up with one yourself, many writing books do give great tips and exercises to help with this. However, I felt that this book skimmed over this. Although the book includes ideas for getting a general body of material together and also lots of specific technical advice for once you have devised a plot, it sort of skims over the part where you actually come up with the plot.

                                Once you have come up with your plot, the book is actually really helpful for helping you to expand on it and improve it, but if you are struggling to come up with one at all then you may find the book pretty frustrating. For this reason, I would suggest that people may want to read this book only if they have some idea (however brief) of what it is they want to write about in the first place.

                                I suppose another disadvantage of this book, although this doesn't apply to me, is that if you followed Louise Doughty's aforementioned column back in 2006 you may perhaps feel a little bit cheated if you buy the book as well, as apparently the book is just a combined collection of the weekly columns, featuring the same advice and exercises. However, as the accompanying message board for the column is no longer active, if you enjoyed the column at the time and would like to refresh your memory of it and try the exercises again, then the book is perfect for that.

                                My main problem with the book, however, is this: the book is called 'A Novel in a Year', there is a question on the back cover enquiring "Can you write a novel in a year?", yet once I had bought the book, got it home and read the introduction, I had discovered that Louise Doughty has no intentions whatsoever of you actually writing a novel in a year! In fact she states: "In the feature that started the column, I was careful to explain that for many writers three years was probably a more realistic estimate". She then goes on to explain that she hoped the column readers would begin the process "not seriously believing that if they followed my advice they would end up with a finished book but that they would get some idea of the processes involved and enough raw material that might one day be shapeable into a first draft." Excuse me?! But the book is called 'A Novel in a Year'!

                                Now, it is all very well that Louise made all the above disclaimers clear to her column readers, but what about the readers of the book? We had no such feature explaining to us that the title of this book is in fact just a gimmick! I bought this book with the full expectation that the author would at least *try* to help me get my novel finished in a year! I do understand, of course, that the responsibility of getting a novel finished in a year (or any amount of time) is fully that of the writer, but if I had known I would have to attempt it all by myself anyway without any outside help, I would definitely have saved on the pennies and not bought into Louise's promise that she could help me do it.

                                Basically, I just felt a little bit ripped off. Although the book was admittedly quite helpful and fun, it really didn't do what it was advertised to do: help me write a novel within the space of the year. If the book had been called "Get Some Idea of the Processes Involved and Get Together Enough Raw Material that Might One Day be Shapeable into a First Draft of a Novel in a Year" I highly doubt it would have sold as many copies! This is because I expect that practically all writing books give writers "some idea" of the processes involved in writing a novel, and I expect practically all writing books allow writers to gather together enough material that might "one day" be "shapeable into a first draft". So if that's all this book is offering its reader, what is it exactly that makes it so much different and special from all the other writing books out there, once you take away its misleading title?




                                RECOMENDED FOR... Busy writers, new writers and those in need of some encouragement to get started or keep going.




                                MARKS OUT OF 10 FOR:
                                WRITING STYLE - 10
                                RELATIVENESS OF ADVICE - 5 (As it's not relative to the title of the book)
                                CLARITY OF ADVICE - 7 (It's easy to understand yet not comprehensive)
                                DIVERSITY OF ADVICE - 7
                                INNOVATION (PRESENTATION OF NEW IDEAS) - 4
                                KNOWLEDGE OF AUTHOR - 10
                                READABILITY - 10
                                OVERALL BOOK - 6




                                RECOMMENDED? - Yes, I would recommend this if you are after an easy to read book with both advice and exercises. However if you are trying to save money and buy only the very best writing books out there, I think there are better ones. I would also not recommend it to those who are *actually* trying to write a novel in a year!

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                                • Lush BB Seaweed / Skin Care / 86 Readings / 83 Ratings
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                                  02.09.2010 16:15
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                                  A softening, reviving facemask for all skin types

                                  I am a big fan of facemasks. In fact, in the rather high maintenance world of Hannah, I'm afraid I see them as an obligatory part of my beauty routine rather than a luxury. I have used various facemasks in the past to treat specific skin issues and conditions, however at the moment, as I have no real skin issues to contend with, I just like to use a twice weekly facemask simply for "maintenance" and to give my skin a little TLC.

                                  I am, as I have mentioned in various reviews, quite obsessed with using natural, chemical free products. For this reason I have tried in the past to make my own facemasks. Unfortunately, these have always been a bit hit and miss (sometimes you end up with a lovely fresh facemask, sometimes you end up with blobs of strawberry all over your cheeks and honey running down your face!).

                                  For this reason, I started to look - a few years ago now - for some nice, natural facemasks on the high street which gave the same results as the homemade kind, only with less mess and effort. I discovered, unfortunately, that the ingredient lists of most "natural based" facemasks in fact read like the listings for a chemical experiment. However, I then stumbled across Lush...




                                  WHO ARE LUSH?

                                  Lush are a prolific cosmetics company who now have stores in most major cities. The main characteristics of Lush are their fresh, fun products and their ethical attitude to making skin products. Lush make their products only from fresh fruit and vegetables, essential oils and safe synthetics; they never test on animals or work with people who do so; they use little or no packaging and little or no preservatives in their products; and their products are exclusively vegetarian, and many are also vegan.




                                  HOW ARE LUSH FRESH FACEMASKS DIFFERENT FROM OTHER FACEMASKS?

                                  Lush's Fresh Facemasks are probably the freshest facemasks you can get without making your own. The facemasks are all made by real people using big mixing bowls and wooden spoons (this is the image I was given when I worked for them, anyway), they are made using naturally effective and beneficial products, and they are so natural and fresh (containing no preservatives) that they are stored in big containers of ice in the store and must be refrigerated once taken home and used within four weeks of manufacture for best results (these are the instructions given on the Lush website).




                                  WHAT IS BB SEASWEED AND WHAT DOES IT DO?

                                  There are currently nine facemasks in Lush's Fresh Facemask range, all of which offer different effects and results. One of these facemasks, which I tried for the first time only recently, is BB Seaweed. Many of Lush's facemasks are targeted at specific problems or skin types (there are facemasks for spotty skin, oily skin, ageing skin, sensitive skin, etc.), however what made me decide to buy BB Seaweed is that this facemask is described as good for all skin types.

                                  At the time of buying this facemask, I felt that, although my skin had no major problems, perhaps it needed a bit of a moisture boost. For whatever reason (sun, wind, makeup, skin products, who knows?), it was feeling just a tiny bit dry. However, I was worried that getting anything too moisturising might give me spots (what it is to have temperamental skin!). For this reason, after a lot of umming and ahhing, I opted for BB Seaweed, which seems to be the most multi-tasking facemask Lush make.

                                  This facemask is described on the Lush website as:
                                  "Relaxing and reviving fragrant, mineral rich mask to cleanse, soften and beautify all skins."

                                  They also go on to give a fuller description of this product as follows:
                                  "All skin types can benefit from this nutritious mask, containing seaweed and seaweed absolute to refresh and restore. Kaolin will cleanse the pores, honey is a gentle antiseptic to keep spots at bay and soothing aloe vera will calm redness."

                                  A softening facemask that also keeps spots at bay? Well, it was like they had read my mind!




                                  INGREDIENTS

                                  Lime Tree Flower and Sweet Violet Leaf Decoction (Tilia europaea and Viola odorata), Kaolin, Honey, Glycerine, Ground Almonds (Prunus dulcis), Toothed Wrack Seaweed (Fucus serratus), Organic Aloe Vera Gel (Aloe barbadensis), Millet Flakes (Panicum miliaceum), Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil (Olea europaea), Bentonite Gel, Fresh Rose Petals (Rosa centifolia), Rose Absolute (Rosa damascena), Patchouli Oil (Pogostemon cablin), Rosemary Oil (Rosmarinus officinalis), Seaweed Absolute (Fucus vesiculosus), *Citral, *Geraniol, *Benzyl Benzoate, *Limonene, *Linalool, Perfume




                                  KEY INGREDIENTS

                                  * LIME TREE FLOWER - The Lime Tree Flower has soothing properties when applied topically, and also works as an astringent (meaning that it tightens pores and tones the skin). Combined with Sweet Violet Leaf, Lush claim that it has a "soothing, cleansing and clearing action on the skin".

                                  * KAOLIN - Kaolin is a form of clay which is used very often in facemasks and also in face powders because of its absorbent properties. Kaolin helps to reduce clogged pores by drawing oil from them and clearing the skin of dirt and dead skin cells.

                                  * HONEY - Honey is antibacterial, antiseptic, moisturising and soothing when applied to skin.

                                  * GROUND ALMONDS - Not only are almonds softening, but ground almonds work as a gentle exfoliator for the skin.

                                  * SEAWEED - Seaweed is packed with vitamins and minerals, making it a nutritious, revitalising, ultra softening treat for the skin.

                                  * ALOE VERA - Aloe vera is a wonder product in the health and beauty world. Applied topically, it is great for moisturising, soothing and nourishing the skin. It also has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.

                                  * FRESH ROSE PETALS AND ROSE ABSOLUTE - Rose is extremely moisturising and is good for mature and/or sensitive skins.




                                  WHO SHOULD BUY THIS PRODUCT?

                                  * Those with dry, dehydrated skin .
                                  * Those with congested and/or spotty skin.
                                  * Those with redness or irritation on the face.
                                  * Those with dull, tired skin.
                                  * Those who fancy a relaxing treat with an indulgent, lovely smelling facemask.
                                  * Vegetarians.
                                  * Ethical buyers.
                                  * Those against animal testing.




                                  APPLICATION

                                  On opening the ubiquitous little black Lush pot, I was pleasantly surprised to find that this facemask did not in fact smell of seaweed. In fact, it smells quite sweet, with the honey, rose and violet scents being quite dominant.

                                  The facemask looks just like a thick, beige coloured clay, with pieces of seaweed scattered throughout. It is quite a good consistency for a facemask, which I do appreciate with having bought several before that are too thick, too runny or too lumpy. This one, however, is easy to apply and smoothes on to the face evenly without leaving big lumps of the product stuck to your face or without immediately running off. It also has a nice instant cooling effect when applied, although this is probably more because it has been stored in the fridge than a real characteristic of the mask itself!

                                  Once the facemask has been applied you are told to wait between five to ten minutes before removing it. I like to leave it a bit longer though just because... well, partly because I don't like being told what to do! I also figure that leaving it on longer just gives it more time to do its thing, which can't be bad. I generally leave it on for about fifteen minutes, during which time the mask will thicken and dry slightly on the face. I also noticed that when I went to wash the mask off it had absorbed into some areas of my face (perhaps the parts that needed more moisture?) but I presumed there was no harm in that (too late if there was!).

                                  The good thing about this mask is that it felt nice on my skin the entire time it was on. Sometimes with these masks you can start to experience a bit of itchiness or your skin can start to feel a bit tight after a few minutes, but there was none of that with this facemask.

                                  Once my fifteen minutes was up, it was time to remove the mask. These clay masks are generally quite tough to remove, and this one is no exception! They kind of turn into a sticky paste when you add water, which clings to your skin and refuses to budge. For this reason, I normally apply these facemasks before having a shower, so I can have a good scrub at the mask and not worry about it getting into my hair. I liked removing this one as the ground almonds meant that you could have a good scrub of your face as you were removing it, which made my skin feel like it had had a really good clean!




                                  AFTER EFFECTS

                                  After removing the facemask my skin felt really lovely! It felt super soft and smooth, and because of the exfoliating ground almonds it also felt thoroughly clean and refreshed. Often when I have removed facemasks I have found that my skin felt really tight and in need of a moisturiser, but with this one my skin did feel really soft and lovely immediately after removal and for some time afterwards.

                                  However, I did have one little problem with the facemask; although I went to bed happy with my lovely soft skin, I woke up a little less happy with an itchy patch of skin on my forehead. Now, it wasn't the crisis of the century or anything, and it did go away quickly, but I did feel like it was worth a mention.

                                  Anyway, the itchiness went quickly and my skin stayed soft and smooth for a couple of days. And that is the story of my Great BB Seaweed Adventure!




                                  WHAT IS GOOD ABOUT BB SEAWEED?

                                  One of the best things about BB Seaweed is that it is a really lovely mask to apply and relax with. It is easy to apply, smells really nice, cools and soothes the skin, and does not irritate the skin while it is on. It is also nice that you can relax in the knowledge you are using a facemask made entirely of natural, safe ingredients. In fact, it has one of the best ingredient lists of all the Lush facemasks in my opinion, as several of the other masks are listed as using talc as a primary ingredient. Aside from talc being quite a controversial ingredient in terms of its safety, surely it can't actually do the skin any positive good, so is just being used as a cheap filler? BB Seaweed, however, seems to be made up entirely of beneficial and active ingredients.

                                  I would also give BB Seaweed extra points for its efforts to be a mask to please the masses. Most facemasks are quite tailored to one specific skin type, so it was nice to come across a facemask that can be used by all, to rectify a skin problem or just for use a treat.

                                  I would say one of my favourite things about BB Seaweed, though, is that it can also be used as a face scrub on removal. Although I generally treat my skin quite gently, I like to have a good scrub every so often to leave it feeling really clean, and the inclusion of the ground almonds is great for this.

                                  BB Seaweed also gets top marks for its softening abilities. If you are after a nutritious, softening treat for your skin then this is your mask! From the instant I washed it off, my skin really felt like it had been cared for and pampered, and it stayed feeling lovely and soft for a few days.




                                  AND THE BAD?

                                  Well, the bad was simply that the facemask did make my skin itch a tiny bit, which really, given all its promises, it shouldn't have. However, I won't hold that too much against it for three reasons. Firstly, it was so short lived so as to not be a major problem. Secondly, perhaps I should have followed the instructions more closely and left it on for less time! Thirdly, as earlier stated, my skin is quite temperamental and does like to overreact, so don't let it put you off! However, if your skin is particularly sensitive, perhaps you should be a bit cautious with this one.

                                  My only other problem with the product is the bits of seaweed in it. I found that, despite my efforts to not get it in my hair when washing it out, I kept finding little bits of seaweed in my hair for a short while afterwards! Never a good look. Unless you happen to be going to a fancy dress party as the Little Mermaid. Which is always a good look!




                                  PRICE AND AVAILABILITY
                                  Lush facemasks cost £4.95 and are available from Lush stores (see their website for a store directory) or from lush.co.uk.

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