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Homegoing – Yaa Gyasi: Book Review

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In June this year, I bought and downloaded ‘Homegoing’ by Yaa Gyasi onto my tablet, and I finally completed it today and it was such a different book from the ones I normally read and very relevant for the UK’s Black History Month that I wanted to talk about it. It is an amazing piece of literature definitely deserving a review. 

Yaa Gyasi is a Ghanaian-American novelist and Homegoing is her debut novel. At only 26 she has already won awards for this novel and of course, they are well deserved. According to her Wikipedia, Homegoing was inspired by a trip to her home country of Ghana, that she had not visited since being an infant. Homegoing is a phrase used for African-American funerals and is a big part of the culture and history. Back in the days of the slave trade, slaves believed death meant their soul would ‘go home’ and return to their native place in Africa. Of course, as the novel starts in the 18th century and explores the theme of slavery so raw and bluntly, I can see why Gyasi used this as a title. Of course, when I started reading I knew deep down this book was going to be more educational to me than it would ever be empathetic because this is a book of black history and the suffering, discrimination and such African people went through from 18th century onwards. I think it is a good idea for white people to read stories like this as it’s stories that are true and need to be told. Not forgotten. So many people went through so many things to even get to where we are today and in recent stories such as the rise of Black Lives Matters, the obvious problem of racism in many industries and shootings of black youth by police – it’s very important to remember we’ve still got a long way to go in learning from our ancestor’s discrimination and cruelty.


Admittedly I was terrible with keeping up on my reading on the first few chapters of Homegoing but I don’t put that down to the writing or topic at all. I’m very bad for procrastinating reading. But recently I picked up Homegoing again and got sucked back in and even between University classes or on the tram home I have found myself wishing I had more time to ‘just finish this chapter’ or ‘find out who the next character is’. Each character was so different but I loved how you could trace back the relatives and descendants to the original characters of Effia and Esi. Family/ancestors are an important theme in this story. It also explores two regions of Ghana, the Ashanti people and the Fante. From reading this I am so in love and amazed by Gyasi’s knowledge and research of her culture and the past of Ghana. Even at the end of the book I looked at her list of references and was incredibly impressed. The passion to spread the knowledge and history of Ghana is so amazing and Gyasi is an incredible author and writes each character so beautifully and makes each of their stories so unique, that you find yourself glued to the book intrigued.

Gyasi does not spare anything writing the honest past of these characters and how some of them lived through well-known history including the African Slave Trade, the Plantation era, segregation in the US, riots, war on drugs etc., it left me feeling like I had gotten a more honest and powerful insight to how people of colour experienced these times. A quote that stood out to me massively about half way through the book was:

“We believe the one who has power. He is the one who gets to write the story. So when you study history you must ask yourself, Whose story am I missing?, Whose voice was suppressed so that this voice could come forth? Once you have figured that out, you must find that story too. From there you get a clearer, yet still imperfect, picture.” 

This stood out because I think it’s a quote and question to ask yourself even now. What’s in the history books in school in the US isn’t always correct. Things are missed out, people are missed out. Think of the Ferguson riots and many other riots after innocent black youth had been killed after. Thankfully on Twitter, people are lot more quick to notice the anomalies, but there was so many call outs for ‘trustworthy’ media ignoring important facts or honest stories from black witnesses. Media would paint the white policeman as a victim and the barely even adolescent black child as not. In this day and age, racism is systematic and history is changed to suit those who are in charge.


As I prepared to write this review, I actually scanned over other people’s reviews and one talked about how most ‘the past of slavery’ centered books tend to just be there to shock and upset. I don’t really agree and I definitely think Homegoing is different from that. It doesn’t give you a bird’s eye view, it puts you right there in the character’s shoes. It takes you through generations to see how, even though the African slave trade is in the past, things still effect people of colour today. There is still lasting effects and that we shouldn’t ever forget about it. It’s not something we can brush under a rug or let a white leader convince us that it’s all ‘over and done with’.

I wanted to make this a spoiler-free review but I’ll mention briefly, the ending characters who close the book for me were based in the 21st century, I’m guessing around 2001. The final female character, Marjorie, takes our final male character Marcus back to Ghana where she grew up, more specifically, the Cape Coast. The story itself starts with fire and fire is actually a prominent theme throughout the story, however as the two characters stand on the beach in the sun there is this one paragraph:

She walked to where he stood, where the fire met the water. He took her hand and they both looked out into the abyss of it. The fear that Marcus had felt inside the castle was still there, but he knew it was like the fire, a wild thing that could still be controlled, contained.”

I thought this was such an amazing little scene that I actually wrote it down. I loved the contrasting symbolism of starting with a fire and ending with water. I can never spot or decipher exactly what this symbolism could have meant to the author but I feel it was to maybe be a metaphor for the character’s futures. The vast, big sea on the coast of Ghana, the character’s ancestors homes – where it all started. To show despite all of the anger, distress, brutality, violence and suffering the characters go through during the book, they are still there. They are still strong and part of the Earth. Their ancestries are important stories to the Earth and despite how horrible the world can be, people will keep fighting. The ocean scene is almost like a healing scene compared to the rest of the book, although it is clear you are meant to understand that racism and discrimination is still rampant, the two characters are given a moment of peace and clarity, of happiness.

I think this is definitely a novel to pick up this year and read as it is so educational and relevant even now. The cover art I have seen for it is also beautifully illustrated and it’s just such a raw, enthralling book that I might consider getting a physical copy for myself to read again in the future.

Thank you for reading, Homegoing is currently available here on Amazon UK

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Captain America: Civil War Review

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The other day me and my boyfriend Will had a date night and got to finally watch the long awaited first Marvel hit of the year – Captain America: Civil War. Admittedly, I hadn’t been hugely vamped up for this film as much as other Marvel fans are, however I can admit that those fans were not wrong for being excited as I absolutely loved every minute of Civil War. This post will start including important stories when I post the word ‘Spoiler’, so let’s start with the stuff everyone can hear.

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First of all, I would recommend watching the first two Captain America films before Civil War. Both films give you all of Steve Roger’s backstory so you understand his motives in this film, as well as stories of important characters Bucky Barnes, Peggy Carter and the Agents of Shield. I personally don’t think you’d need to see the first Avengers film, but the second Avengers film – Age of Ultron; would be worth watching as it introduces you to some of the characters in the film and how the character Vision becomes a thing. Another point is, much like this year’s Batman Vs Superman, I personally wouldn’t recommend taking young children to see Civil War. I work at a cinema and have been seeing parents take very young children, and it is allowed because of the 12A rating however there are some scenes that I personally think wouldn’t go past me as a kid. Considering the film is sold as a rivalry between Captain America and Iron Man, there is of course TONS of fight scenes. Although I think the part of the film I think is a bit out there for children to see, is a particular scene where the film’s antagonist tortures another villain by basically hanging him upside down and lowering him into water – the characters are obviously sold as villains and not characters to look up to, but the scene goes on for a few minutes and some parents might find it too dark for young children.

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Ok so, spoilers ahead!

The film dives straight into the action, like most Marvel films, with an awesome scene of the new Avengers, fighting in Sokovia – in the aftermath of Age of Ultron. Unfortunately in this mission, Scarlet Witch – whilst attempting to protect Captain America from a grenade – destroys a building full of innocent people. This whole scene is the leading impetus for the whole film. From this the government declares a United Nations deal to the Avengers which tells them they should sign the deal, make the government aware of their alias and publicly take responsibility for damage that is made. Captain is against this deal, however Tony Stark is very much for it after hearing a woman’s story of how her ambitious, intelligent son was killed in the destruction of the building in Sokovia. Another thing the film lets us see is, the backstory of Tony Stark’s parents. The last time young Tony saw his parents they were going away to travel but apparently never even made it to the airport. It is later then revealed that a Hydra assassin (ooh, I wonder who), stalked down and murdered the Starks in cold blood, to steal a container of super serum from the back of Stark’s car. I very much enjoyed seeing Iron Man’s motives behind why he is very much for the United Nations deal, as I really enjoy Tony Stark as a character. I think he has a lot of personality and I like how in the Iron Man films and Age of Ultron it shows us Tony’s anxiety and PTSD. He’s a complex character and I’m glad the film gave us the reasons behind his choices because I was worried it wouldn’t be obvious and it’d just be seen as ‘Iron Man being a bit of a dick’ towards Captain America.

The film does make you realise both sides have valid points. Steve Roger’s is also in fear of the safety of his long lost friend Bucky Barnes. Bucky was basically captured by Hydra(an evil company that parallel Nazis, they are main villains in both previous Captain America films), and brainwashed heavily by them so they could use him as their assassin. He has killed a LOT of people whilst he was working as the ‘Winter Soldier’, but his childhood friend Steve Rogers was able to get through to the Bucky deep inside and this film furthers Captain America trying to save Bucky. The film shows us flashbacks to Bucky’s torture which is really heartbreaking to watch. In present day of the film Bucky is living in hiding (as they do in a Marvel film, wearing a cap because that makes them look nothing like them – apparently), but is noticeably highly anxious and nervous because of his ‘Winter Soldier’ actions. It’s quite precious to see how Bucky is slowly remembering who Steve Rogers is and how he tells Steve he doesn’t want to kill anymore.

Other characters that pop up in the film include Black Panther, Spiderman and Antman. I actually haven’t got round to watching last year’s Antman but this film definitely sold him to me. Paul Rudd has so much wit and charm, his introductory scene in the film made me laugh and how he acted meeting the Captain. Black Panther and Spiderman are the main new additions to this film and definitely stole the show. Black Panther was a brilliant character and has made me so excited to watch his stand alone film because I think his independent story will be super interesting. He also has a scene at the end with the antagonist of the film, where he stops the villain from shooting himself and getting out of this. It’s very badass and unexpected and I think it fits T’Challa’s character so well. T’Challa is played amazingly by Chadwick Boseman who gives the character a lot of emotion and he is the character on Iron Man’s side you really cheer on because he is trying to avenge his father. Spiderman is also new, because this is Marvel’s new spiderman. He is the perfect Spiderman with his cocky, chatty personality and I loved his interactions with Tony Stark and his interactions on the battlefield. I also long for future scenes between him and Captain America, because despite them being on different sides of the ‘war’, they had quite an amusing moment when fighting and I am impressed by Spiderman’s moves that actually managed to stagger Steve pretty well.

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Some other stand out points of this film to me included:

  • Black Widow is back like I wanted her. Age of Ultron did Black Widow’s character terribly, in my honest opinion compared to her character in Winter Soldier. In Civil War she is full of badass moves and is strong and amazing. Scarlet Witch also brings it to the table too, I love all the scenes with her in it – fighting or not. Elizabeth Olsen is an incredible actress and I low-key have a crush on her.
  • The Vision in everyday clothes trying to cook. Enough Said.
  • Bucky’s ‘activation’ brainwash words are very intriguing. Are they code for something? Or just random words? I wonder if this’ll be cleared up later on in other films.
  • Where is Nick Fury.
  • A lovely send off for Peggy Carter that got me teary-eyed. As soon as Steve receives the text saying ‘she’s passed in her sleep’, it instantly hit me who it was about and I inaudibly mouthed ‘no Peggy my baby’ in the cinema.
  • Let’s talk about that amazing chase scene between Captain America, Bucky, Falcon, Black Panther and the police. My favourite part of that was when Bucky stole that motorcycle. The intense cinematography and sound effects made it so badass.
  • The ending was a bit fast paced for me to be honest. The final stand off between Captain, Iron Man and Bucky had me on the edge of my seat and I was genuinely in fear Captain would kill Iron Man as he basically had his shield half way through the reactor in his chest. The cold hearted way Captain chucked down his shield when Tony called out saying ‘you don’t deserve that. My dad made it for you.’ was thrilling and I honestly wasn’t expecting that to be the last scene between them. However not long after it is shown Tony receiving an apology letter from Steve. It felt a bit half-arsed considering the fight that just happened but I guess they needed to wrap up fast.
  • Bucky is back in the freezer. I wasn’t expecting that either after the whole film and chase down for Bucky. Will he be awoken in Infinity War or before that? If Bucky was to get a stand alone film would that be his chance to wake up and remove more of his brainwashed side before Infinity War?
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Vision looking dapper

All in all I rate Civil War a definite 4.5/5!

Thanks for reading,

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2016 Films: Zootopia

(WARNING: Spoilers to the film will be in this post)

I’m a BIG fan of Disney films. You could tell me all the problematic things about Disney and their capitalist plans etc but honestly, when I walk into the Disney store and see the life size Stitch stuffed toys and the new Star Wars lightsabers and the mugs – oh my god the ADORABLE mugs – I just want absolutely everything.

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I didn’t catch the earlier Disney film out this year, which was The Good Dinosaur, but I made it my goal to see Zootopia (or named Zootropolis over here), as it looked so bright and bubbly. You can sense the aura of adorableness and good humour just from all the promotion and merchandise. The lead character of animated film Zootopia is a wee bunny named Judy Hopps. The film introduces Judy when she is just a young bunny and she performs with confidence in her school project discussing how prey and predators now live in peace and animals can be whatever they want. Judy announces her dreams to become a police officer and even though her parents and a bully try and put down her ideas, she doesn’t give up. You are shown a great training montage as Judy goes through Police Academy with a group of huge predators. Judy manages to use her strength to come top of her class, and honestly during this whole beginning part I was cheering her on. I fell in love with her character and the message the film was setting up. I could sense the underlying ‘adult’ message the film was trying to send off, which is that it targets bigotry in our society. Throughout the masterpiece, certain attitudes call towards the typical behaviours of sexism and racism we see in everyday life. There was tons of scenarios for characters I’m sure everybody will experience growing up and I’m glad certain scenarios can teach kids that they do not make you any weaker or different than everybody else; whether you’re female or male, white or POC.

An example, and beware spoilers, that I found interesting was Nick Wilde’s backstory. He advises Judy never let anybody see her struggle, after a small stand off with Judy and her Police superiors(who, unfortunately because of her being a small bunny, do not see her aspirations to help out on the force as seriously) which leaves Judy a bit shaken. Nick then opens up and tells her how as a kid he wanted to be part of a rangers group. A bit reminiscent of say Brownies or Scouts. It shows a young, enthusiastic Nick with his mumma fox in front of a mirror getting in his uniform and when he goes to the meeting, the other members(who are all ‘prey’ animals) turn on him and terrorize him because he is a ‘predator’. They pin him down and put a muzzle on him, which then leads baby Nick to run out into the street and break down in tears. This scene was very real and reminded me of how a lot of young boys can be bullied into these situations because kids are told all boys should not ‘show weakness’ and that crying or struggling is ‘weak’. Judy eventually warms up to Nick and together they become very close until a small hiccup where Judy publicly announces that ‘predators have a biological trait that makes them aggressive’, she groups predator animals under the term ‘them’ and this really hurts Nick because he thought Judy trusted him and believed in him.

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Obviously I won’t spoil the whole movie here but it was absolutely heartwarming when Judy finally apologized to Nick and they solved the case together and stuck by each other despite their differences and even learnt that they’d make an amazing cop duo. The whole film has small scenarios and moments that are important to both adults and children and I thought they were all very interesting and endearing. I am extremely proud of this film and honestly I recommend everyone thinking of going to see a film at the cinemas should go check it out!

Thanks for reading,

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February Updates✨

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I feel like I’ve been neglecting my blog a bit lately, but I’ll be honest I’ve been having a bit of a low moment the past few weeks and a very bad case of writers block. As well as that, on the upside, I have a new part time job! Which I’m enjoying a lot and gives me a bit of pocket money whilst I wait for University to start. Also have some possible writing opportunities coming up that I’m trying to plan for and hopefully when my writers block goes away I should be able to focus on that! But for now I’ll give you some updates from myself about what I’ve been up to in February and what stuff I’ve enjoyed!

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I got my nostril pierced! I did this piercing on a massive impulse, and didn’t really plan for it at all – although I’ve considered a nostril piercing on and off for a while, since I got my septum done. The guy who pierced it was really kind and comforting, and it definitely didn’t hurt as much as my septum did. However somehow my nose/skin did not react well to the jewelry and the skin somehow flared up/got swollen and then started to almost swallow the stud. It was kind of scary! Google reassured me that the piercing sinking into the piercing hole, is quite a common mishap in nostril piercings so I went to a local piercer to get them to have a look at and they changed it to a much better jewelry piece for my nose and now it has started to calm down!

Next up, over the past month I’ve been trying to get back into reading. I suffer from depression and sometimes I can get really drowsy and have no energy to concentrate on anything. It is an unfortunate symptom as it draws me away from doing things I really enjoy including reading, writing and even playing video games! I miss when I used to be able to focus on a video game for hours on end. But a week or so back I picked up a book in Waterstones called ‘Too Close to Home’ by Aoife Walsh, and so far I am really enjoying it. Growing up I was a massive fan of book series including Ally’s World and Sadie Etc by Karen Mccombie, books by Sarah Dessen, ‘Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging’ – basically any book with a teenage female protagonist. I really like reading books from a teenage girl’s POV, because well I am one. It somehow helps me imagine the characters a bit better and Aoife definitely paints a really good picture of the characters in Too Close to Home. I admittedly find myself sometimes reading it, getting a bit annoyed at the main girl Minny for thinking poorly of her family members but she is an interesting character and her family are definitely interesting. I can’t wait to read more of it.

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Lush is still one of my beauty obsessions of course. Recently they released a bubble bar shaped like a Unicorn horn and there was no force on earth to stop me from picking one of these candy-coloured, ‘bubble-mania-in-a-stick’ beauties! Annoyingly, I’m not sure if they are still available as the website won’t let me on the page for it which is a massive shame because I’d recommend them to anyone who is a big fan of the candy-scented stuff at Lush. Did you like Snow Fairy or Prince Charming shower gel? Do you like the pink heaven you get in the bath from Sex Bomb or Twilight bath bombs? The unicorn horn bubble bar would be amazing for you! It does not leave any glittery/cream residue in baths and makes the water a gorgeous pink colour. If your local Lush store still has them, I’d definitely recommend picking one up!
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So last but not least of my February favourite products is a cruelty-free, vegan beauty product that I definitely recommend for any vegan/cruelty-free makeup users who want a cheap BB cream/foundation that includes SPF 15, UVA filters and ‘antioxidant protection’. Now I can’t say I swear by this BB cream to make your skin flawless – because it’s a very light coverage. However it definitely makes my skin feel moisturized but does a good enough job to make my skin tone seem even and lessen any redness.

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As someone who isn’t a massive fan of heavy makeup and wanted a cheap, cruelty-free alternative to my foundation this definitely is something I don’t regret buying! Hurray for Superdrug and their cruelty-free branding.

And finally I leave you with a link to a couple of songs I’ve really been enjoying this month! Have a listen and comment any songs you like too!

Hope you guys enjoyed your February!

Thanks for reading,

Helena x

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Cruelty-free beauty products under £10!

Recently I followed a useful twitter account that provides cruelty-free ‘dupes’ of popular makeup and beauty products. You can check their account out here! The account got me thinking of what cruelty-free products I own already and which ones I would love to try next time I need to purchase new makeup. However some of the ‘dupes’ are still quite expensive and make it hard for people who cannot afford say the eye palette from Too Faced or import Kat Von D’s makeup so I thought I’d put together a little list of cheap, under £15 cruelty-free makeup items you may enjoy!

#1 Superdrug’s ‘B.’ Brush Cleanser Spray

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Have I owned?: YES Price: £4.99 

When I was growing up, throughout high school and college, I struggled a lot with acne and skin picking, so makeup was an easy way of making my skin feel a bit cleaner and less gross but I never really thought about the importance of keeping my makeup brushes clean until the past year or so. Superdrug have their own brand ‘B.’ which is all cruelty-free and vegan so when I noticed they had a makeup brush cleanser I thought it’d be a sensible purchase to make and it was! This cleanser works by spraying a pump of the cleanser onto your makeup brush and massaging the brush into a tissue to remove residue. Since I started regularly cleaning my makeup brushes with this I have seen an improvement in my skin, obviously my diet and lifestyle also effect my skin/acne but keeping my brushes clean with this cheap, cruelty-free cleanser probably also helped a lot!

#2 Boots Natural Collection Pressed Powder

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Have I owned?: YES Price: £1.99

The Natural Collection at Boots are a wonderful, good for price, makeup brand that imply they do not animal test and are cruelty free. I can’t find any evidence about if they are vegan or not so if anybody could provide me more background on the brand that would be extremely helpful! I recently purchased their pressed powder as sometimes my concealer and face makeup easily wipes off over the course of the day and this one was extremely cheap and works fine for the price it is! A definite cheaper and better dupe to use compared to brands such as Rimmel or Max Factor.

#3 Superdrug Naturally Radiant Hot Cloth Cleanser

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Have I owned?: YES Price: £5.99

If you’re a fan of hot cloth cleansers you would of probably heard of the lovely Liz Earle hot cloth cleansers, which are very heavenly and I have to agree when I once got a little tester tube – made my skin feel so soft. Luckily for us cruelty-free fans Liz Earle claim on their website they do not test their ingredients or products on animals and do it on human volunteers! They also have the Leaping Bunny stamp of approval and point out on their FAQ which products are not vegan (e.g products with manuka honey/beeswax). Hooray! However Liz Earle’s products can be quite pricey for some of us and a fabulous, cheap dupe is Superdrug’s hot cloth cleanser! Only recently buying this (like literally yesterday), I have not yet tried and tested this product but it is suitable for vegans and cruelty free and has a lot of amazing reviews on their website so I cannot wait to introduce it into my skincare routine!

#4 Barry M Gelly Hi Shine Lips

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Have I owned? NO Price: £4.99

Red lips are very much back in recently.  Loads of different shades suit loads of different people and I can definitely agree I am on the bandwagon and love having red lips and would love to own a quick, cheap cruelty free one I can keep in my bag to apply whenever. Barry M is cruelty free and have marked this cheap, convenient lip pencil as vegan! It comes in a couple of colours including a dark, plum-like red or an orange-tinted pink. This is an amazing dupe to the Bourjois lip crayon range.

#5 Cruelty-free shower gels

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IMPORTANT EDIT: I have been told unfortunately Original Source’s parent company is known for testing their ingredients on animals which means these aren’t completely cruelty-free products unfortunately – alas they are still vegan if you are looking for a good vegan cheap shower gel however some *definite* cruelty-free shower gels could include Superdrug’s own shower gels! These carry the leaping bunny logo and are only a brilliant 99p!!! They come in a wide variety of lovely scents including my beloved coconut scent. 

 

#6 e.l.f Studio Eyeshadow Primer

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Have I owned? NO Price: £4.50

A lot of makeup reviewers/artists swear by the ‘Urban Decay’ eyeshadow primer and I am sure, considering it’s hype, it is a very trustworthy product however I am never sure of Urban Decay’s cruelty-free stance as some days I’ll hear people say it is cruelty free and other days people claim they’re lying. It’s all a bit of a fuss and personally the price is quite peak and not really made for a broke consumer either! E.L.F is a company that have the cruelty-free bunny stamp and do not test on animals and their products are extremely cheap so why not try their eyeshadow primer!

So yeah there are some cheap, cruelty-free alternatives you may want to check out next time you treat yourself on the beauty isle! Is there any cruelty-free products you stand by and love that you’d recommend to me? Feel free to comment!

 

Thanks for reading,

Helena x

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#WheresRey

This Saturday I would have seen the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens 3 times. I am absolutely in love with the film – from it’s stunning cinematography to it’s amazing cast. When watching it I fell in love and grew greatly attached to the new 3 heroes. Especially Daisy Ridley’s character Rey. Rey is a scavenger who lives alone on the wasteland planet of Jakku, trying to get by and survive until whoever left her returns. She is an amazingly strong character which is perceived in her first few minutes on camera. A beautiful woman who’s appearance is very practical and in no way sexualised or overdone, which as a female audience member I really adored. Ridley’s natural face and scraped back hair left me in awe of her and has recently given me a lot more inspiration to try and get used to my own natural beauty.

(Warning: Spoilers as we go along) As the film progresses Rey is soon accompanied by reluctant hero Finn and small, cutesy droid BB-8. They embark on the risky adventure to get BB-8 back to the resistance headquarters before the First Order can get their hands on the information BB-8 stores. Rey’s importance and talents become very much clear when she steps into the Millennium Falcon. Her pilot skills come naturally and you can see the spark in Han Solo’s eyes when he spots the similarities between him and her. One of my favourite parts is when Han offers her a job with him and Chewbacca and she respectfully turns it down because she wants to return to Jakku. Han turns around and goes “It’s a shame, Chewie kind of likes you.” That part warmed my heart. When the team visit one thousand year old Maz Kanata – Rey comes across a very familiar weapon and when touched relives a lot of thunderous flashbacks. Maz confronts Rey and tells her that it once belonged to Luke Skywalker’s father, then Luke himself and now it calls to Rey. It takes a bit of the film for Rey to come to terms with her new powers and I for one, absolutely adored seeing her use jedi powers. Admittedly when I first saw teasers of The Force Awakens, I believed Finn would be the new jedi, but it makes me incredibly proud that the female lead became the jedi. Daisy Ridley plays Rey’s fear and anxiety of using the force so incredibly well and they definitely chose the perfect actress for Rey.

So on that point, as an avid lover of The Force Awakens and an audience member/consumer who looks up to Daisy Ridley’s character as almost an idol character I have to ask companies such as Disney and Hasbro – where is Rey?

Me and the boyfriend, Will, actually have seen that second set in our local Disney Store and we were both surprised at the fact the Disney set includes an unnamed Stormtrooper and First Order pilot – yet the main character Rey isn’t in there?! We discussed it could be due to trying to keep an equal ratio of hero characters to villains but even then – surely even Captain Phasma would be a more relevant villain character than an unnamed stormtrooper? Let’s just admit to the sexism here. Disney really didn’t want to put a female character in this set.

This isn’t the first time Disney’s messed up with what characters they put in their sets. When Age of Ultron came out, I believe Disney or a company released a set that included Black Widow’s motorbike she rides in the chase scene, however instead of making a Black Widow figurine – they replaced her with Captain America, who actually does not even ride the motorbike in that scene. What gives toy companies?!

As a consumer, in the future I will be buying a hell of a lot of Rey merchandise. If companies are convinced female characters will not sell, I think the audience should prove them wrong. These toys are not gendered and if you are purchasing Star Wars merchandise for a young boy – don’t be put off by Rey being included. Buy your son the badass, inspiring female scavenger. Don’t let these companies believe that Rey, Gamora, Black Widow or any female character won’t sell. Please tweet to Disney and Hasbro and tell them that their choices of not including Rey is completely sexist and as a consumer you will not stand for it.

The hashtag being used on twitter is #WheresRey

Thanks for reading,

Helena x

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animal crossing and it’s relaxing mechanics

Animal Crossing is a ‘community simulation’ game that is developed and published by Nintendo! I have been a massive fan of it since I was 10 years old. I remember my parents getting me Animal Crossing: Wild World back near my birthday in 2006 and I remember loving the game to bits. The game is very simplistic in the way it works however has improved greatly over the years and added more and more stuff to do in each newer version. So far I own the gamecube version, Wild World, City Folk and New Leaf! You could say the series is one of my top 5 game series and that’d definitely be right!

I decided to write about the game today because I recently picked up by 3DS again and started a new town on Animal Crossing New Leaf and I remembered how lovely and relaxing the game is for me now, even at 19 years old. The soundtrack to all of it’s games is so soothing and you never get tired of it. My favourite pieces of music from the series are probably these:

To be fair, it is very hard to pick just 3 or 4 favourites as I love majority of the music on all the games! So much so, I even have a google chrome extension that plays hourly animal crossing music if I turn it on!

I feel like the whole series is a perfect kind of handheld or console game for people who lead stressful lives, have anxiety/panic issues, depression or even just like games that let them forget about the busy world. I admittedly struggle with anxiety and stress myself so I can see the reason why I’m so drawn to the Animal Crossing series. The music is relaxing, the art style is colourful and eye-pleasing and all the things that you can do in your game is very calming in the way it can give you the feeling of accomplishing tiny things and the feeling of organisation and tidying.

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When I start a town on Animal Crossing I love to let my character talk to all the NPC villagers in the town, they all have different personalities and their automated conversations are mostly all positive and friendly. It’s a small and cheesy reason to love this game, but having phrases like “Isn’t it a lovely day today!” or “Good morning, remember to take a break!” shown to you as you play through the game are slightly uplifting to your mood. In a busy lifestyle you might feel you miss out on little things like being told ‘Have a nice day’ or that you seem happy or energetic and it definitely makes me get a warm feeling when playing Animal Crossing.

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You can also decorate your town as you play, collecting furniture from the game’s ‘recycle shops’ or even from calendar events, other characters, special visiting NPCs or using the game’s wi-fi to go to your friend’s towns and see what their town stores sell. Basically, it feels like you are making your own little unique, relaxation haven in which you can decide what happens. Obviously, only if this is how you want to play your game – I love seeing other town designs and how some people base there’s on horror towns or just everything goes!

To get in-game currency, after collecting ‘basic equipment’ like fishing rod, a net, watering can, shovel, axe and a slingshot, you can start to explore your town and help (or destroy) the environment and the town museum. You do this by collecting bugs in your net that you can free, sell for coins or donate to the town museum. That also goes for fossils that you dig up or fish you catch. It’s very traditional ways to get money which suits the game’s style and it makes it very fun and you get so lost in it that it relaxes you. Being able to finish off a complete dinosaur fossil at the museum or collecting favourite bugs or fish to give to villagers is like a tiny accomplishment and makes you feel good. Using your watering can to create a bed of pretty flowers in your town is also a lovely feeling.

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A lot of gamers now seem to be cautious of playing ‘casual games’. This is very ingrained by the idea of ‘proper games need violence/guns/story-telling’, which is mostly likely influenced by what games are popular on the market currently like Call of Duty, Halo and Grand Theft Auto. Nothing is wrong with playing a game that does not include violence, weapons or a story. Some of the best games in history don’t have any of these. Think of the Sims series, Super Mario, Tetris, Pac-Man, Pokemon etc. etc.
Nothing is wrong with games with violence and guns though, I do love using weird, corrosive rocket launchers on the Borderlands series or using magic to defeat enemies in Dragon Age. But if any gamer ever wants to try a ‘casual’ game on the Nintendo platforms, I’d definitely recommend trying out Animal Crossing New Leaf.

So yeah, that’s my recommendation of the day! Also have a look at the trailer for the upcoming Animal Crossing spin-off game Happy Home Designer, coming out October 2nd in Europe!

Thanks for reading,

Lenah x x