What I’ve Been Watching #3

Struggling for something good to watch? That shouldn’t really be a problem, especially if you have access to Netflix or Catch up. Here’s a short list of some of the programmes I’ve been enjoying lately.

Mindhunter

Set in 1977, this series follows two FBI agents, Holden Ford and Bill Trench, in the early days of criminal profiling and psychology and reveals how the term serial killer was coined. To truly understand what spurs a killer on, the two agents interview several in an attempt to get into their mind. One such murderer is the real-life Edmund Kemper (played wonderfully by Cameron Britton) who is serving 8 life sentences. Kemper killed 10 people – including his mother and paternal grandparents – engaged in necrophilia, and claimed to have eaten the flesh of one of his victims. He is 6ft 9inces tall and very intelligent, with an IQ of 145, making him a formidable beast.

This show is extremely interesting, not only due to the main focus, but the differences in how life was back in the 70s. How women were treated, what sort of things were considered acceptable, in all avenues. There is one episode in particular that stands out to me and I talk about it to anyone who will listen; it’s about how a head teacher in a primary school punishes naughty children. I won’t go in to it too much, I want you to go and watch it for yourselves, but it divides the characters, with Ford finding it appalling.

The show is based on the true crime book Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit by John E. Douglas and Mark Olshaker.

Dark

When you go to watch this German thriller on Netflix, it will be dubbed – which, in my opinion, is lazy and off-putting. You can, however, changed the audio settings to German and then switch on the subtitles; just a wee tip for you to fully enjoy this dark, and at times confusing show.

Set in 2019, with the story also spreading to 1986 and 1953, Dark follows the residents of a small German town with many of them concealing disturbing secrets. A young boy, Mikkel Nielson, disappears one night after entering a cave in the woods. This brings back memories for his police officer father, Ulrich, whose younger brother also went missing in 1986, and Ulrich becomes consumed with the effort of finding his boy. His search takes many twists and turns, in more ways than he could ever have expected, and the revelation of what has been happening in their sleepy town, spanning over three generations, is astounding.

I’ll admit, I got lost during the course of this show, but didn’t lose interest, and when the whole story comes full circle at the end, it is mind blowing and satisfying.

The Punisher

We watched this before Daredevil, and while we were unfamiliar with the story behind the Punisher, it didn’t take us long to pick up on what was happening.

It begins with Frank Castle hanging up his Punisher vest after exacting revenge on those who killed his family, and he assumes a new identity, working on a building site and keeping his head down. However, he becomes involved with David Lieberman, a former NSA analyst who has faked his own death and together they uncover a conspiracy in the military involving several of Castle’s friends and comrades. This also leads to the revelation that there was more to the killing of Castle’s family than originally thought.

This show is brutal, bloody, dark, everything I want in the Marvel universe that I don’t get watching The Avengers movies. If you like violence, vengeance, and the bad guys getting their arses kicked, them you’ll love this.

If any of these shows sound like they are right up your street, they are all available on Netflix.

Happy watching xXx

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Benefit Goof Proof Brow Pencil

Eyebrows. Eyebrows, eyebrows, eyebrows. I am so bad at filling in my eyebrows. I’ve tried powders and pomades (I prefer powders – Freedom Duo Eyebrow Powder to be exact), but find them to be time consuming – mornings are manic, I need speedy makeup tools! For this reason I like pencils or crayons. You may remember that I reviewed theSoap and Glory Archery 2 in 1eyebrow sculpting crayon and liked it. I still do, but I also like to try new things, and so picked up the Benefit Goof Proof Brow Pencil in Boots one day.

I have dark hair and like my eyebrows dark, too (funnily enough) so I bought the deepest shade: 05 Deep. It’s a nifty wee pencil, with an angled “non-sharpen” tip for easy precision at one end, and a spoolie to blend and tidy at the other. It glides on effortlessly, shaping and filling in your brows nicely. As it doesn’t come with a setting gel, I use Benefit Gimme Brow when I’m done, just as a finishing touch.

The formula is soft and intense, resulting in a bold brow. I’m a rather heavy-handed person, so any kind of product that’s highly pigmented is going to look quite harsh on my face. When I went in gently I loved the final look, but that then became time consuming and defeated the purpose of me using the pencil. The Soap and Glory Archery crayon formula is much less concentrated, therefore I could afford to go in with a heavy hand and still have full neat brows.

I did like this product and would recommend it, but maybe for those of you who are dainty and delicate.

Keep smiling x

Gwendy’s Button Box by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar

On Thursday 1st March it is world book day, and to mark it, I decided that my first blog post of 2018 (not to mention the first in about 4 months) would be a review of the latest book I have read from my favourite author, Stephen King.

To be clear, this isn’t his latest novel, just the most recent one I have read. It was published in May 2017 after King reached out to fellow horror writer Richard Chizmar for help finishing a short story. After a month toing and froing with the piece, the two finally had a finished novella on their hands.

The tale follows Gwendy Peterson, a 12-year-old girl growing up in 1974 Castle Rock. That summer, Gwendy spends every day running up the 305 “Suicide Stairs” to Castle View in order to lose a wee bit of weight. Being called “Goodyear” by Frankie Stone at school has made her both self-conscience and determined to shift her Goodyear Blimp appearance before the start of middle school.

It is on one of these runs when she first encounters the strange man in the black hat who asks her to sit and “palaver” with him. During this palaver, the man gives Gwendy the button box; a mahogany box with 8 coloured buttons on top, a small lever at each end, and a slot in the middle. When pulled, the levers dispense a small animal shaped chocolate and a valuable Morgan silver dollar. The chocolates help Gwendy lose weight and she saves the silver dollars to sell to a collector when needed.

Six of the buttons represent six continents, one of the buttons will do whatever she wants, and the last button (the black button) does everything – “The whole shebang. The big kahuna . . .”.

Gwendy’s life is pretty sweet after she’s gifted the button box. She loses weight, becomes popular, boys begin to notice her, and she becomes a star athlete. She continues to eat the chocolates and squirrel away the silver dollars, and she never touches any of the buttons . . . but her finger often hovers over the one that will do whatever she wants. Eventually, her curiosity gets the better of her and she presses that button. What happens coincides with a real life tragedy that happened on 18th November 1978, but was Gwendy Peterson responsible?

I thoroughly enjoyed this novella – and it only took me an hour to finish it (45 minutes whilst my sons where in taekwondo, and the rest at home afterwards). It’s a simple yet imaginative story, with a likeable protagonist. The concept is interesting; a normal person given a seemingly normal object that they can use in any way to their advantage, but that can also cause absolute destruction. What if it fell into the hands of the wrong person? What if Gwendy was the wrong person? And why was Gwendy chosen?

“Stashed away in this world of ours,” Farris says, looking down at her, “are great arsenals of weapons that could destroy all life on this planet for a million years. The men and women in charge of them ask themselves that same question every day. It is you because you were the best choice of those in this place at this time. Take care of the box. I advise you not to let anyone find it, not just your parents, because people are curious. When they see a lever, they want to pull it. And when they see a button, they want to push it.”

Rating: 5/5

Scary books for Hallowe’en

Close the curtains, turn off the telly, light some candles, and cosy down on the couch with a scary book this Hallowe’en. Why not just ignore the door and eat all the sweets for yourself? Those pesky trick-or-treaters will get plenty from the neighbours, and you’ll need the comfort of those sugary snacks to get you through your creepy novel.

My bookcase is practically bursting at the seams, and the main genre? You guessed it, horror.

When I was in primary school my favourite books to read were Point Horror and Goosebumps. Silly kid stories, but fun and with just enough ghouls and gore to keep me interested.

I then graduated to the master of horror, and my hero, Stephen King. I’m not sure what the first novel of his I read was (maybe Carrie), but i was instantly hooked and am now the proud owner of all his tomes.

If you fancy delving into a terrifying tale this weekend (you should) then here’s a list of ones I highly recommend. Some may not be of the ghosts and monsters variety, but they will disturb you and stay with you long after you’ve closed the book:

  1. Intensity by Dean Koontz
  2. Midnight by Dean Koontz
  3. Dracula by Bram Stoker – the classic gothic tale of the king of vampires, Count Dracula. After English lawyer, Jonathan Harker, arrives at Castle Dracula he discovers the counts horrifying secret. And when Dracula shipwrecks at Whitby it is down to Jonathan and professor Van Helsing to put a stop to him once and for all.
  4. IT by Stephen King
  5. The Strain by Chuck Hogan and Guillermo del Toro
  6. The Shining by Stephen King
  7. The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty – the scariest book/film I have ever read/seen. Regan MacNeil has an invisible friend called Captain Howdy. She met him whilst playing with a Ouija board, but he isn’t a figment of her imagination. He is the demon Pazuzu and he possesses young Regan. Jesuit priests, Fathers Merrin and Karras are her only hope.
  8. Rats by James Herbert – I reviewed this novel last year in my blog. You can find it in the menu under Book Reviews.
  9. The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris
  10. We need to talk about Kevin by Lionel Shriver
  11. Storm of the Century by Stephen King – a small island off the coast of Main is hit by a very powerful storm, stranding it’s residents. It brings with it a mysterious stranger who demands one of the children or the town will vanish forever.
  12. The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks
  13. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
  14. Carrie by Stephen King
  15. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  16. Books of Blood by Clive Barker – I also reviewed this book last year. It can also by found in the menu

Of course, the list could go on, but for brevity I’ve kept it short. I hope you find something here, or elsewhere, that gives you goosebumps.

If you have a favourite scary novel, please tell me what it is in the comments below.

Happy Hallowe’en x

What I’ve Been Watching #2

Over the past few months I have been watching a lot of excellent t.v. shows – too many to list in this one post, so I’ve picked three of the most recent ones to share with you.

There may be SPOILERS ahead. . .

Liar

Teacher Laura Nielson (Joanne Froggatt) is recently single and agrees to go on a date with the father of one of her pupils, Dr Andrew Earlham (Ioan Gruffudd).

Andrew is charming, polite and very friendly. Laura invites him back to hers for a drink and to call a taxi.

The next morning she wakes up feeling groggy and with very little memory of the night before. One thing she is sure of though, is that Andrew raped her.

The police are involved, but with no evidence and Andrew’s insistance that the sex was consensual, it’s a case of he-says-she-says and the police close the case before it’s even opened.

As the weeks go on Laura behaves more and more like a deranged banshee, screaming “rapist” whenever she sees Andrew and tarnishing his name on social media sites, whereas Andrew comes across as the patient, down to earth, loving father while he trys to understand why Laura is doing this to him.

Who’s telling the truth?

It’s not long until we find out and the story takes an even darker turn.

There are many twists and turns in Liar which launches it from a regular straight forward crime mystery to something that’s posed to explore the mind of a very disturbed individual.

If you want to catch up on this intriguing show then go to the ITV Hub. Next week is the finale and it’s sure to be explosive.

Dr Foster

The second series of the acclaimed BBC drama begins two years after the events of the first. Gemma (Suranne Jones) and her son, Tom (Tom Taylor), are happily living their lives, safe in the knowledge that husband and father Simon (Bertie Carvel) is far away with his new family.

Then Gemma and her friends receive a card from Simon stating that he’s moved back to town with Kate (Jodie Comer) and their wee girl.

The shit well and truly hits the fan, then. Simon is completely obsessed with Gamma, but it’s a dangerous obsession laced with sexual attraction and hate. He turns Tom against his mother and delights in harrassing Gemma by sending her flowers with “Bitch” on the card and setting up appointments with estate agents who turn up at her home thinking she wants to sell.

He is a smug, self-involved little man and I’ve never hated a character as much as I hate him – not even Lord Voldermort or Ramsey Bolton!

Gemma’s behaviour is unhinged and very stressful to watch. Her pretentious friends are no help to her plight, but the worse thing about the whole sorry affair is that Gamma and Simon are so busy trying to destroy each other that they are blind to who their actions are really affecting . . . Tom.

I was torn over the finale. It was obviously not going to end well, but I felt is was a bit lacklustre. However, you cannot fault the performances of all the actors involved.

Tune into IPlayer to catch up.

Power

James “Ghost” St.Patrick (Omari Hardwick) is a powerful business man in New York. Not only is he owner of high-end nightclub Truth, he also runs a multi-million dollar drug operation. His partner and childhood friend Tommy Egan (Joseph Sikora) enjoys their lifestyle, as does his wife Tasha (Naturi Naughton), but Ghost is feeling tired and disillusioned by the whole thing, his dreams plagued by the murders he’s committed.

One night in Truth he meets his high school girlfriend Angela Valdes (Lela Loren) and the two embark on a passionate affair. What Ghost doesn’t know is that Angela is a government attorney for the FBI and is working on an investigation to uncover and take down the enigmatic druglord “Ghost”. In turn, Angela has no idea that the love of her life is, in fact, Ghost.

Meanwhile, someone is killing drug dealers and couriers on the street, with the murder of Ghost their ultimate goal. We discover that the murderer is obeying orders from Kanan (50 Cent) who is rotting in jail, put there by Ghost and Tasha.

Kanan wants revenge, but it’s a pity Fiddy’s wooden acting and mumbling dialogue makes it impossible to care what he wants. Whenever he’s on screen I tend to switch off and ask Paul what I missed.

Don’t let this put you off, though. The story is gripping, with Joseph Sikora giving an electric perform as the violent and unbalanced Tommy.

Watch all 4 seasons now on Netflix. The season 4 finale is particularly exciting.

Keep smiling x

Kat Von D Lock-it Foundation

Hello, there! Remember me? It’s been a while, but I’m back to bring you weekly reviews, short stories, and general musings.

This week I want to tell you all about my new favourite foundation; Kat Von D Lock-it Liquid Foundation.

At this moment in time I can, without a shred of doubt, tell you that this is the best foundation I have ever used. In fact, just ignore all my previous foundation reviews, Lock-it has rendered them null and void!

Of course, this isn’t new on the market, but I only purchased it a few months ago in preparation for my best friend’s wedding. I was a bridesmaid and, as we were doing our own makeup, I wanted to ensure that I wore a foundation that, not only provided full coverage, but lasted all day.

Full disclosure, I am a rather sweaty person, with my top lip getting particularly drippy, and I am rarely seen without blotting paper at hand. Most foundations, even under a layer of setting spray, cannot withstand my . . . glistening, and simply slide off my skin, but Lock-it . . . my oh my, that foundation literally locked onto my face like the facehugger from Alien.

The formula is thick, very thick, so you must be careful when applying it. You do not need a lot. I made the mistake of slapping it on with a trowel (not literally) the first time I used it and it felt like cement on my skin. Heavy and suffocating. Finished off with a dusting of powder it turned cakey and unsightly, a common complaint on other reviews I’ve read.

But I’d spent too much money (£27 for 30ml) on it to simply abandon it at the bottom of my makeup case, so the next time I just dabbed a few dots over my entire face and blended it all in with a brush.

This time I was able to appreciate just how flawless the product made me look. My skintone was perfectly even, with blemishes and dark circles obscured. As I had only applied a thin layer this time, no product settled into the creases around my eyes and it felt weightless, almost as though I was makeup- free. Almost.

I am quite pale, but can just about take a tan when the sun is out (which isn’t often in Scotland) and the shade I wear, as seen above, is Light 48 Neutral.

As for it’s durability; well, during a day filled with five bridesmaids laughing and drinking in the morning, then rushing to get the bride to the chapel in the afternoon, followed by photographs in the rain then raucous dancing until midnight, I can put my hand on my heart and say that Lock-it served me well, without a single touch-up.

Keep smiling x

What I’ve been watching #1

Since the new year there have been a lot of great shows on the telly . . . whether they’re Netflix Originals or BBC dramas, there’s no denying we’ve all been entertained since January.

I’ve been meaning to write this post for months now, but I have been concentrating on my creative writing recently so the blog has been on the back burner. However, I want to get back into regular blogging and share with you some of the programmes I’ve thoroughly enjoyed and think you will, too.

The O.A.

This is a beautifully written and passionately acted Netflix Original about a girl who returns to her parents 7 years after going missing. The intriguing thing about Prairie Johnson’s return is that she has somehow regained her sight, having been blind from a young age.

Despite questions from the police and her parents, Prairie refuses to discuss how her sight became restored or what happened to her during the 7 years she was gone. What they don’t realise is that Prairie does want to tell her story, but only to a certain chosen few. Five local people, mostly high school students and each living their own anguished lives, meet with Prairie – who now refers to herself as The OA – every night to listen to her amazing and emotional tale.

I was sucked right into this show from the get go. It’s slow moving, but with so much depth and intrigue it keeps you gripped and constantly guessing as to what exactly is going on. The acting is incredible, with the writer Brit Marling taking on the role of OA, one, which is obvious from the very beginning, that she is completely invested in. OA is a complex and ethereal character that only creator Marling could bring to life.

As with any show, you know that you’ll reach an explosive – and hopefully satisfying – series finale, but I was completely blown away with The OA’s climax. It initially seemed that it had came completely out of left field, but I believe that it was always heading that way, OA and the five just didn’t realise it.

I cried uncontrollably at the end and have watched the final scene many times on YouTube, it’s incredibly powerful and moving.

If you’ve scrolled past this show on Netflix, unsure if you should devote any of your time to it, do me a favour and give it a shot. But have your hankies at the ready.

No Offence

It’s been two years since the 1st season of this exciting drama aired on Channel 4 and I had been waiting impatiently for season 2, but it was worth the wait.

The show follows the Friday Street police station and it’s unconventional detectives, particularly DC Dinah Kowalska, DS Joy Freers and, their boss, Detective Inspector Viv Deering.

Season 1 focused on the team trying to solve the murders of girls with Down’s syndrome, and was a great introduction to the predominantly female cast. DI Deering and her gang of gutsy girls are a force to be reckoned with and leave you punching the air at their awesome show of girl power.

The shocking twist at the end of Season 1 caught me totally off guard, but left me wanting more and Season 2 delivered. This time the detectives have to investigate a Manchester crime boss called Nora Attah, and with more twists and turns than a roller coaster you’re never quite sure if Nora is fully aware of the atrocities taking place within her criminal world, until the very end.

The writing and acting on this show is impeccable, and although the subject matters are very serious, the show isn’t afraid to pull out a few laughs and poke fun at its characters.

If you like police shows that are a wee bit different, then check out No Offence and let me know what you think.

The Moorside

You may all be very familiar with the case of 9 year old Shannon Matthews who dissappeared for 24 days in 2008. She was last seen outside of her school at the end of the school day, but didn’t make it home.

After a huge manhunt and lots of publicity, Shannon was found concealed under the bed in a flat owned by Michael Donovan – the uncle of Shannon’s mothers boyfriend. It later transpired that Michael and Shannon’s mother, Karen Matthews, had orchestrated the whole thing hoping to pocket thousands of pounds generated from the publicity of Shannon’s “kidnap”.

The nation was shocked and disgusted by this so-called Mother’s actions, but no more than the community where the family lived.

This BBC drama tells the story of Shannon from the point of view of all Karen Matthew’s friends and neighbours, who all rallied together to find the little girl. They searched the streets, they comforted Karen, they campaigned publicly – never wanting the country to forget poor Shannon . . . their lives revolved around Shannon Matthews and reuniting her with her poor mother, and then they had to face the sickening realisation that they had been duped.

I found this show very interesting and we’ll executed. With most true crime programmes, the focus is mainly the victim and criminal, with very little detail on those close to the people involved. The Moorside not only featured the community’s tenacious spirit in helping others, but also the fallout in being deceived so cruelly, with one couples’ marriage falling apart thanks to Karen’s lies.

It shows the ripple effect ones actions can have and how there can be no coming back from it.

Keep smiling x