Sunday, July 20, 2014

Book Review: Three to Get Deadly by Janet Evanovich (Stephanie Plum #3)

THE DETAILS:
Pages: 321
Genre: Adult Fiction, Crime/Mystery
Original Release Date: 01/06/1997
Publisher: St Martin's Press
Third book in the series.

THE DESCRIPTION:
A “saintly” old candy store owner is on the lam - and bounty hunter extraordinaire Stephanie Plum is on the case. As the body count rises, Stephanie finds herself dealing with dead drug dealers and slippery fugitives on the chase of her life. And with the help of eccentric friends and family, Steph must see to it that this case doesn't end up being her last....

THE REVIEW:
Because I enjoyed 'Two For The Show' so much I thought It would be a good idea to go straight on to book three. I guess I have got some kind of Stephanie Plum addiction because I ordered the next three books in the series this morning. You can probably already guess my thoughts after the last two reviews and after the last sentence. Yeah I kind of really really like them!

One thing that I don't think I have mentioned in the other reviews yet is that I love the way that the main character Stephanie narrates. I don't know if it's crime jargon, Jersey talk, Nineties slang or a combination of all three, but the words and phrases used really add to the story. She calls her handbag a pocket-book for example. A phrase I haven't come across since the last time I read 'The Bell Jar'.I think the writing style really reflects on the setting and the culture of the people in that area.

In this story, what seems like an easy pick-up turns out to be a bit of a nightmare. I am not going to tell you too much about the story because hello spoilers so I will try to be vague here. This novel really shows how people can get too carried away with the idea of trying to do the right thing. Sometimes peoples idea of the right and wrong can become warped and they can end up taking the law into their own hands. This really makes you question the idea of right/wrong and the relevance of the laws in certain situations.

We also got to learn a little more about other characters such as Stephanie's family and Ranger (another Bounty Hunter). I really enjoyed the character development here and I think I like the idea of a mysterious character like Ranger in a series like this, because there is always that feeling that there is something else to find out. We learn more about Stephanie's family through memories of  her childhood.

I have also noticed that one of the reviewers quoted on the inside of one of the books calls the series a "Romance" series, which I think is pretty false (at least this far into the series it is). As far as I can see (read) the only romance evident is shown in the form of Stephanie bickering/flirting/calling-for-help Joe Morelli. There is one scene and it's not even really a scene, so just in case you read something similar- I wanted to set it straight- this is a crime series, the romance is only really on the side. If you could call that romance...

This series (so far) can be surprising at times and crazy things can happen when you are least expecting it. However, there is always a feeling of a metaphorical "safety net" the fact that there are at least sixteen books in the series plus novellas and that the big drama always occurs at the end of each novel makes the timing slightly predictable. I don't think this detracts from the series at all and I actually appreciate this kind of familiarity. I have only read three of the books so far though, so that could all change...

The only thing that really annoyed me in this book was one scene that felt a little unfinished. Something happens and then next minute she's waking up from her sleep (the same way she would any other morning) and I had to question 'Was she dreaming?' or did I miss something when I was reading through it so fast? I read over that section a few times, gave up, And then continued to read on to find that my question was answered quite a few chapters later. I'm wondering if it was meant to be on purpose...

Once again I am giving the book 5/5 stars. I really enjoyed the book and the "creepy" stuff is starting to bother me less and less. In a way I feel like there are a lot of similarities between me and Stephanie (except for her being so BRAVE), And, for that reason she is probably not the best role model. It's also one of the reasons I really like the series. I can't wait to get book four into my hands!

Your Favourite Blogger,
Natalie

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Book Review: Two for the Dough by Janet Evanovich (Stephanie Plum #2)

THE DETAILS:
Pages: 325
Genre: Adult Fiction, Crime/Mystery
Original Release: 1996
Publisher: St Martin's Press
Second book in the series.

THE SYNOPSIS:
Bounty hunter Stephanie Plum is still learning the ropes at her cousin Vinnie's bail bond office, so when she sets out on the trail of Kenny Mancuso--a suspiciously wealthy, working class Trenton boy who has just shot his best friend--the stakes are higher than ever. That Mancuso is distantly related to vice cop Joe Morelli--who is trying to beat Stephanie to the punch--only makes the hunt more thrilling….

Taking pointers from her bounty hunter pal, Ranger, and using her pistol-packing Granda Mazur as a decoy,Stephanie is soon closing in on her mark. But Morelli and his libido are worthy foes. And a more sinister kind of enemy has made his first move…and his next move might be Stephanie's last.

THE REVIEW:
When I was reading 'One for the Money' I didn't know what to think. It was enjoyable, but because I had already seen the movie and wasn't really a fan of the genre my brain was going into over drive. I was over thinking the time-line, because I was noticing changes in between the two and I wasn't really keen on reliving the same story even though I did like the way it had ended as a film. I knew that 'Two for the Dough' would be an entirely different reading experience before I had even started it and I am glad that I chose that book to read next...

I am usually not drawn to creepy movies or books. It's not just horror that I don't like, but I'm not a fan of the whole crime thing either. I have watched a bit of 'Bones' and 'Castle' on TV and I even enjoyed it for a while, but to be honest I usually prefer something romantic and cheesy or something a bit historical or magical. After reading this book I have no more doubts about reading this genre if it's written by Janet Evanovich. Evanovich has managed to add enough humour, enough family drama, enough small town insider info (ok, so what I like small towns) and enough bickering with the "boys" to make this book lose (most of) its creep factor.

The sequel book always seems to show the character development and the dynamics of some of the relationships in a series. I think the second book is always the one that is most likely to fail in my eyes and it's one of the reasons that I hardly ever get around to finishing a series. I really really liked this one though. It could be because I didn't enjoy the first book as much as I wanted to (because I saw the movie) or maybe this is one of those series, that just continues to get better as it goes on? either way, this was an impressive sequel and on that note, I guess I will probably just continue onto the third book now that I have finished this one.

Stephanie Plum would have to be one of my favourite lead female characters so far. I know that's a pretty high pedestal to put her on, especially since I have only just read the second book. I think Stephanie is crazily brave and even when she does stupid things (hey don't we all) I can't help but to think that at least she tried. Everyone is trying to tell her that she is in the wrong profession and she keeps on going to prove that she can do it.

I think that these books have so far been fairly timeless. It's hard to notice that the characters are living in the nineties until Stephanie mentions the Doc Martens she's wearing. I think that's an important quality in a book, because it means that people might be able to read them years and years from now and still enjoy them without having to ask their parents what a "_____" is. Obviously this is probably a silly thing to note in a review, because it's not like an author can plan for their book to be timeless, but then who reviews a book that was written nearly twenty years ago anyway? oh yeah, that's me...

I really like that Morelli and Stephanie's relationship is not conventional (they mainly argue and try to pretend they are not interested in each other) and that they didn't just jump into an actual "relationship" straight after the first book. I also like that Stephanie can stand up for herself and think it's hilarious to watch her parents try to set her up with people. I don't think "crime" books are meant to make you laugh, but this one did...

Overall, I think this book was the bees knees and I give it 5/5 stars. I couldn't mark it as a favourite because it's still a smidge too creepy for me to want to re-read it straight away. I really like the characters so far and I can't wait to see what happens next (not that there was a cliff hanger or anything; the story actually ended properly, so I could feel content to stop there if I wanted to). I recommend the series to anyone who likes crime shows like 'Castle' or 'Bones'. If you have already watched the movie 'One for the Money' you could probably skip to the second book, there are a few differences between the book and the movie, but I don't think it should matter too much...

Your Favourite Blogger,
Natalie

Monday, July 14, 2014

Beauty Review: Sleek iDivine Eyeshadow Palettes

I have had these for a while and I have been meaning to review them since I got the first two that I tried out. I now have 8 Sleek iDivine palettes so I guess it's pretty obvious that I really like these and that I might have a bit of an idea on how to review them by now. The majority of my eyeshadows are Sleek iDivine Palettes now so I don't have a whole lot to compare them to, but lets see how we go...

DETAILS:
 I paid US$11.99 plus whatever postage is from UK to Australia when I purchased these from the Sleek Website. Obviously this is one of those sites that you buy a fair bit from at once if you want to make the postage worthwhile. These can also be purchased from Crush Cosmetics or Lipstick Republic which both sell this product at a dearer price, but have a different shipping price. I have heard things about shipping issues to the USA, but the site does allow you to choose US currency so if you live in the USA or somewhere else and aren't sure maybe check the FAQs.

PACKAGING:
As you can see in the first picture these palettes come in a black matte plastic packaging. I didn't clean the packaging for the picture because I want you to see how dirty it gets. this packaging is like a magnet for any loose powders in your make-up bag. These palettes are not overly huge, bigger than my phone and it would probably be a bit of a squeeze to fit in a clutch bag, but I don't feel like it's really huge and because it's so thin I can easily store all 8 of them vertically in my make-up organiser.

The lids clip shut so well that it can be difficult to open the palette at times. I don't know if this is a contributing factor to one of the lids having broken off or if I am just to rough with my make-up. Maybe they aren't built to be stored vertically? This has only happened to one lid so far though and it is the palette I have been absolutely flogging since I got it. For me I don't think this will be a major issue unless I want to go travelling and in that case I think a rubber band will hold the lid on just fine, or I could buy one of those z palettes and take the individual shadows out and take that, but the truth is I have another palette I would take travelling, because it has blush, lip colour and everything. Maybe sleek should think about using magnets or a different hinge or something so the palettes are a little stronger and easier to open...

I have the same issue with these that I have with the Limecrime lipsticks. They are all black, so I have to sift through them to find the one I want, which is annoying. These come in beautiful cardboard packets that are all in the bin by now. I think I would have preferred that they saved on the cardboard and printing costs and spent more on the plastic packaging. Some of the limited edition palettes have the palette names included on the front, but most of the palettes only have the name on the back. Shadow names are written on a clear slip of plastic that sits over the eyeshadows. This slip was always falling out and so I ended up binning most of them. There are no colour names written on the back of the palette or on the inside. I would have preferred that Sleek Cosmetics spent less on the clear slip and included colour names either directly under the colour or on the back of the palette. 

The packaging also includes a space for the brush and a double ended sponge-tip eyeshadow applicator. 

^Here are the first two palettes I purchased. The 'Showstoppers limited edition' is on the left and the 'Oh So Special' palette is on the right. I got these two around this time last year and the 'Oh So Special' palette is my absolute favourite. Realistically this palette has everything you need for a day to day basis. The caramel colour and the dark brown are great for wearing in the crease.

FALL-OUT?
Like most eyeshadows, you can get a little fall-out with this during application, usually just on the eyelashes. I don't have any issues with fall-out during the day though unless I use a dodgy primer or I have packed on too much of one of the shimmery shades (Happens to the best of us). Most of the time I can put this on in the morning and have it last ten hours or more without eyeshadow falling onto my eyelashes or under eye area.

PRIMER?
I wear a primer under this. I get oily eyelids so I kind of have to. I find that primer is also essential for preventing fall-out and to make the colour last. 

^The palette on the left is the 'Vintage Romance' palette and the palette on the right is called the 'Garden of Eden' palette. I like the shimmery shades in these palettes and the chocolate-y browns in the 'Garden of Eden' palette.

PIGMENTATION:
The sleek eyeshadows are more pigmented than Covergirl and Maybelline ones that I have tried. Most of the dark colours, shimmery colours and neon colours are really pigmented. Some of the pastels and lighter colours can be a little bit sheer though. I usually have no problem getting the pastel colours to look more pigmented by building the colour or by using a cream eyeshadow as a base. I actually like that the lighter colours are sheer because it's helpful for when I am blending. One of the colours (yes out of eight palettes there only seems to be one) looks different in the palette to what it looks on my skin. That colour is the dark shimmery plum colour from the 'Vintage Romance' palette. It looks a lot sheerer and more brown when swatched.

FEEL:
These feel very velvety and don't irritate my sensitive skin at all. They feel very light on my skin and the more glittery shades don't feel scratchy like some glittery colours can feel. 

^On the left we have the 'Del Mar' palette and on the right we have the 'Celestial' palette. These palettes have a lot of brighter shades. The 'Del Mar' palette has a very sixties/seventies feel to me and the 'Celestial' palette has a lot of darker, more challenging shades 

BLENDING:
I find that some of the darker colours are so pigmented that they can be a bit tricky to blend. I find that having decent eyeshadow brushes is really important with these colours and I recommend only using a little bit of colour at a time. 

LASTING COLOUR?
These eyeshadows do last a really long time, especially when worn over a primer and cream eyeshadow. I have noticed though, that the colours can look a little more grey or brown depending on whether the colours are cool or warm toned. 

^On the left is the 'Lagoon' palette and on the right we have the 'i-Candy' palette. These both have a lot of fun colours and shimmers to play around with. 

MY FAVOURITE PALETTES:
While I can't deny that all of the i-Divine palettes I have purchased are beautiful, they aren't all practical. My favourite palette is the 'Oh So Special' palette. I also really like the 'Garden of Eden' eyeshadows because the middle-toned browns and purple-toned browns are stunning. My third favourite is the 'Del Mar' palette because even though the shadows are not the most "practical" colours they are very easy to wear.

VALUE FOR MONEY:
When you consider that most eye-shadow quads these days will set you back about $15, a sleek eyeshadow palette with 12 different colours for US$11.99 (plus shipping) is a great deal. I think the quality is fairly decent for the price and it beats other drugstore eyeshadows I have tried. I originally came across these when looking for an eyeshadow palette that wasn't going to cost me $30 (or more) for a decent number of shadows. While the packaging isn't great I think the qty of product and the quality of product is great. I think these shadows are great for anyone on a budget or for anyone who wants to play around with brighter/darker shadows, but doesn't want to pay a fortune for them.
^Some of the limited edition palettes have the palette names written on the front like this.

^ What the back looks like

^The annoying plastic sheet.

^I couldn't swatch all of the colours because that would take forever, so instead I just swatched my favourites. 

OVERALL, I really like these palettes. I guess that's kind of obvious because I have eight of them. I think that apart from the packaging, the quality is really good. I couldn't compare it to a high-end eyeshadow, because I don't own anything more expensive than this. I do have other eyeshadows though and I always prefer to use these.

I hope this was helpful. I didn't take any pictures of what these look like on, so if you would like to see some different eye looks or tutorials with any of these palettes let me know and I will see what I can do.

Your Favourite Blogger,
Natalie

Monday, July 7, 2014

Book Review: One for the Money by Janet Evanovich (Stephanie Plum #1)


THE DETAILS:
Pages: 320
Genre: Fiction, Mystery/Crime
Release Date: 25/01/2012
Original Release Date: 23/06/1994
Publisher: Penguin
The first book in the series.
This Book Belongs to my mum.

THE DESCRIPTION:
Stephanie Plum is down on her luck. She's lost her job at New Jersey's most down-market lingerie store, her car's on the brink of repossession, and her apartment is fast becoming furniture-free. 

Enter Cousin Vinnie, a low-life who runs a bail-bond company. If Stephanie can bring in vice cop turned outlaw Joe Morelli, she stands to pick up $10,000. But tracking down a cop wanted for murder isn't easy. And suddenly Stephanie has another problem on her hands. 

Benito Ramirez, a prize-fighter with more menace than mentality, wants her to be his friend – and he won't take no for an answer. Soon Stephanie begins to know exactly what it feels like to be pursued – and the best person to protect her just happens to be on the run...

MY THOUGHTS:

I feel like I am the last person to read this book. I know that's not true, but as far as bookworms are concerned I am definitely pretty late with this one. I usually don't read anything from the Crime genre, because I feel like there is enough of that in the world already and so I prefer the world of fiction to be filled with butterflies and lollipops. I can't remember if Mum bought this or if I bought it for her, but I did end up getting her the DVD of the movie and we both watched it before either of us even touched the book. Mum read it first and said it was "better than the movie" and so I picked it up and here I am.

I took a real long time to read this. It wasn't bad or boring at all, it was just that I had already seen the movie and I was shopping a lot  on the Internet and thinking a lot about my nail art designs. You know how it is... I am hoping the sequel will be a quick read in comparison, because there is no movie for the second book...

I really liked the writing style and the main character. The story is told in first person from Stephanie Plum's perspective and it's not very often that a writer can completely pull this off without making the character seem a little self-possessed and whiny. Stephanie Plum is a character that I think a lot of women can relate to or would be inspired by. She's a strong woman because she challenges herself and isn't afraid to be different. She accepts her weaknesses and mistakes, but she doesn't dwell on them or cower easily. Her stubbornness, sarcasm and matter-of-fact narrating is refreshing and humorous enough to balance out the dark and creepy "Crime Fiction" vibe.

This story is as much about finding out what really happened as it is about getting the $10 000 for turning Morelli in and learning how to be a successful bounty hunter. We also get a little look at the setting Stephanie grew up in and get to know her family. I thought this book was really interesting because it was about a bounty hunter rather than a police officer or a detective (not that some of the minor characters in this book didn't have these job titles). This is an aspect of American Law/ Criminal Justice System that you don't tend to see a lot of in movies and TV shows...

Because Stephanie has history with Morelli there's a lot of debate about whether or not she's after him for just the money or if she wants to get revenge. This makes for an interesting relationship between the two characters. I think the title choice was really smart because Stephanie is the only character in the book who is confident that it's just for the money. I also like that the book number is in the title, this way there are no Goodreads look-ups to figure out what sequel comes next when I purchase more books for the series.

Overall, I give this book 4.5/5 stars. It was a great book and I am going to read the sequel straight away, but Crime is not my genre and I feel like I can't give it 5 stars because of the creepy factor (even though I understand this is probably necessary for a Crime Novel). As far as the movie vs the book goes, I agree that the book is better (though I have no problems what so ever with the casting or the acting in the movie). Ideally I would have preferred to have read the book first and then written a book vs movie post after watching the movie... I recommend this to anyone who is right into crime shows on TV.



Your Favourite Blogger,
Natalie

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Pretty Picture Post: Monochramatic Dreams

Hello People,
I decided today that I wanted to share some black and white pictures I like. Not all of them were originally black and white, but some of them definitely look nice that way. I recently purchased some more black and white movies from my local discount store which happens to be having a closing down sale. Yes that's right "closing down", though that's not entirely unusual in our town, especially with discount stores. I am hoping the other store will be enough until something new opens up in the place of this one. That is, if something does replace it...

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I hope you all enjoyed the pictures :)
I promise to make an attempt at some beauty and book reviews shortly. I know it has been a while since I posted any decent reviews.

Your Favourite Blogger,
Natalie