31 December 2016

Written by Charlie Pallett
for Daily Focal

I think it's fair to say Gin was the alcoholic drink of choice during 2016 and as a gin lover myself I thought what's a better way to carry gin through to 2017 than with a list of some super tasty cocktails you need to try!

Which one are you going to perfect?
Elderflower Collins
One of my new favourite cocktails this fresh and fruity gin drink is super refreshing.

To Make:
50ml Gin
20ml Lemon
10ml Sugar Syrup
10ml Elderflower Cordial
Soda and Mint to finish

Gin Fizz
A gin classic with egg whites and sofa.

To Make:
50ml Gin
30ml Lemon Juice
10ml Sugar Syrup
1 Tsp Sugar
20ml Lightly Whipped Egg White (Optional)
Chilled Sofa Water to finish

Highwayman Spritz
Chilled and refreshing and a great drink for Summer.

To Make:
35ml Highwayman Gin
20ml Bittermans Citron Savage
10ml Lemon
10ml Sugar
75ml Prosecco
Over ice in a wine glass

Citrussy and lightly floral blend, recipe from the Jazz Age.

To Make:
60ml Gin
15ml Maraschino Liqueur
10ml Creme De Violette
25ml Lemon Juice
Shaken Until Cold
Strained into Martini Glass
Garished with a Cherry

Long Island Iced Tea
A famous cocktails of many spirits with a gorgeous amber colouring.

To Make:
17ml Spiced Rum
17ml Vodka
17ml Gin
17ml Tiquila
17ml Orange Liquer
17ml Sugar Syrup
17ml Lime Juice
Topped with Cola
Slice of Lemon

Salty Dog
Salted cocktail with lovely hint of gin and grapefruit.

To Make:
50ml Vodka
20ml Dry Sherry
37ml Grapefruit Juice
15ml Sugar Syrup
Garnished with Grapefruit Zest
Glass rimmed with Salt

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30 December 2016

Written by Charlie Pallett
for Daily Focal

With 2016 at a close and no doubt you've plans to exit it in style with your family and friends and after a killer outfit for the evening. We've selected our favourite picks from all your favourite high street and online shops with something for everyones budget and everyones style.

You can't go wrong with this 80's throwback skater dress embellished with silver stars you're bound to stand out at NYE.

This dress shouts red carpet red with the stunning drop scoop back statement.

This flattering layer sequin dress is great for NYC with a bit of sparkle you'll stand out from the crowd for sure.

Show off some colour in this princess like lace bodice midi dress pair it with your favourite black heels and you'll definitely be best dressed.

You can't go wrong with a sequin bodycon dress that's the perfect wardrobe staple to pop out for the parties!

If you prefer something a little more long and floaty with a hint of bling, then you'll love this jewelled maxi from ASOS.

Be the rock chick inside of you with this lace sleeved PU leather dress and party, party, party!

A high and plunged neckline is super glam in this gorgeous crochet style lace overlay dress which is bound to WOW.

Channel your inner mermaid with this amazing green and blue sequin dress with choker.

This fun circus style playsuit it so different and would look great with your favourite heels or boots this NYE.

Pastel Pretty - Boohoo | £20.00
If glitz and glam isn't your thing then you'll love this pastel blue pleated midi dress which is sophisticated and pretty.

Dress this burgundy frill layered dress up or down with tights and a leather jacket or up-do and platforms.

Off the shoulder and full of print, this dress is the perfect piece to stand out this NYE.

We'd love to know...
What are your plans this NYE and what are you wearing?
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29 December 2016

Written by Charlie Pallett
for Daily Focal

It's a well known fact that 2016 was pretty... Shit!
We're all ending the year in a weird mind set of 'what the hell just happened over the last 12 months'?
So we thought we'd share with you 5 ways to make 2017 better than 2016 with some simple tips you can adapt into your daily life.

Try something new this New Year!
1. Try a new hobby
For me, taking up a new hobby can be very challenging and rewarding which are two things I think are really important to have in life to keep you entertained and interesting in everything you do.
So, in 2017 why not try a new hobby or two and see how you get on as you might realise you're really bloody good at it, or you just really enjoy doing it. But, you'll never know if you don't try.

Some examples of new hobbies that I've been thinking of trying out are; painting, candle making, writing a book, baking, going to the gym, scrap booking etc

2. Step up your social life
Mid-way through 2016 I felt a little flat and like my life was missing something. I've not had a huge social life since leaving college but that was my choice because I basically abused it as a teen.
But one of the best things I did in 2016 was step up my social life, make friends and get out of the house! I felt like a new person and my confidence grew massively!
So if you're feeling a little down in the dumps of the failure of 2016 as a year, then maybe try stepping up socially and see how you get one.

3. Try a new look
Along with my previous point about feeling 'flat' during 2016, before the year ended I decided to try a new look and booked an appointment with my mobile hairdresser, cut my hair into a little bob and dyed it blonde - because why the hell not.
I felt instantly fab and had new confidence just from having a different look that encouraged me to get out, update my wardrobe and feel fresh, ending 2016 on a high.
Now some of you might be reading this and thing I've had some kind of crisis but, no I haven't I was feeling uninterested and disengaged and wasn't sure why so I took the plunge and gave my 'look' a little sparkle of change and it was a really good decision for my mental health as well as my anxiety and confidence.

4. Get organised
I find getting organised can really change the game of stress and anxiety.
Do you ever feel there are never enough hours in the day? or you're always forgetting things?
Then, try simple ways to adapt your life into all-things-organised!
A good way to ease your life into being the king or queen of planning is to invest in some funky stationery. Get yourself a diary, meal planner, pack of post-it notes etc (BusyB is great brand for stationery for the organised. Get 15% OFF with Discount Code: BB15) and see if being planned and organised make you feel a little more brighter.

5. Travel
Whether you're exiting the post code or jet setting across the world, just simply leaving your comfort zone can really give you a change to chill and explore.
My partner and I find that exploring a new town or country can be really refreshing and helps to let go of the stress and attachment of daily life, even if it's just for the weekend!
Whether you prefer a trip to a busy city, walking in the hills or sunning on a beach travelling can be a great way to find new interested and gives excitement to your life which can improve your stress and mental health hugely.

We'd love to know...
Do you have any plans to make 2017 better than 2016?
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28 December 2016

Written by Kirsty Hanson
for Daily Focal

2016 was such a brilliant year for new book releases.
Some series got their finale (Crooked Kingdom and The Raven King), whereas some series were just beginning (Lady Midnight and Passenger). If your reading year was like mine and full of re-reads and reading for school/college/university, then you may want to take a look at this list: the top 5 books that you just HAVE to read in 2017. I can't really talk about all of the books that are being released in 2017 because I haven't read them all, but I can recommend a few!

Let's get into it!

1. LADY MIDNIGHT by Cassandra Clare
If you haven't read Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare yet, then you have to. This book is also set in the Shadowhunter world (like that of The Mortal Instruments series and The Infernal Devices series). By reading Lady Midnight early on in 2017, it means that you're ready for when the second book in the series, The Lord of Shadows on 23rd May.

'In a secret world where half-angel warriors are sworn to fight demons, parabatai is a sacred word.

parabatai is your partner in battle. A parabatai is your best friend. Parabatai can be everything to each other—but they can never fall in love.

Emma Carstairs is a warrior, a Shadowhunter, and the best in her generation. She lives for battle. Shoulder to shoulder with her parabatai, Julian Blackthorn, she patrols the streets of Los Angeles, where vampires party on the Sunset Strip, and faeries—the most powerful of supernatural creatures—teeter on the edge of open war with Shadowhunters. When the bodies of humans and faeries turn up murdered in the same way Emma’s parents were when she was a child, an uneasy alliance is formed. This is Emma’s chance for revenge—and Julian’s chance to get back his brother Mark, who is being held prisoner by the faerie Courts. All Emma, Mark, and Julian have to do is solve the murders within two weeks…and before the murderer targets them.

Their search takes Emma from sea caves full of sorcery to a dark lottery where death is dispensed. And each clue she unravels uncovers more secrets. What has Julian been hiding from her all these years? Why does Shadowhunter Law forbid parabatai to fall in love? Who really killed her parents—and can she bear to know the truth?' 

(blurb taken from Goodreads)

2. THE STAR TOUCHED QUEEN by Roshani Choski
The Star Touched Queen by Roshani Choski is a diverse fantasy that will capture your imagination and your hearts with the beautiful writing and imagery. The second book in the series, A Crown of Wishes is released on 28th March.

'Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of death and destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire…

But Akaran has its own secrets—thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most…including herself.' 

(blurb taken from Goodreads)

3. CARAVAL by Stephanie Garber
Caraval is Stephanie Garber's debut novel and it's hard to see because it's so amazing! If you're a fan of The Night Circus, then I can guarantee that you're going to enjoy Caraval, which is released 31st January.

'Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever.'

(blurb taken from Goodreads)

The Female of the Species by Mindy McGuinness is such a powerful, moving, important book to read. It is full of moments that will get you right in the feels and it's crammed full of moral questions. This book is unbelievably brilliant.

' Alex Craft knows how to kill someone. And she doesn’t feel bad about it. When her older sister, Anna, was murdered three years ago and the killer walked free, Alex uncaged the language she knows best. The language of violence.

While her crime goes unpunished, Alex knows she can’t be trusted among other people, even in her small hometown. She relegates herself to the shadows, a girl who goes unseen in plain sight, unremarkable in the high school hallways.

But Jack Fisher sees her. He’s the guy all other guys want to be: the star athlete gunning for valedictorian with the prom queen on his arm. Guilt over the role he played the night Anna’s body was discovered hasn’t let him forget Alex over the years, and now her green eyes amid a constellation of freckles have his attention. He doesn’t want to only see Alex Craft; he wants to know her.

So does Peekay, the preacher’s kid, a girl whose identity is entangled with her dad’s job, though that does not stop her from knowing the taste of beer or missing the touch of her ex-boyfriend. When Peekay and Alex start working together at the animal shelter, a friendship forms and Alex’s protective nature extends to more than just the dogs and cats they care for.

Circumstances bring Alex, Jack, and Peekay together as their senior year unfolds. While partying one night, Alex’s darker nature breaks out, setting the teens on a collision course that will change their lives forever.'

(blurb taken from Goodreads)

Robin Talley is an author who prides herself in writing books about gay characters and she does it so so well. The top book that I recommend you guys to read in 2017 is Lies We Tell Ourselves. It's a standalone young adult novel that is brilliant. It's set during the Civil Rights movement and like To Kill a Mockingbird, it raises awareness of what racial prejudice was like at the time and it's morals can be taught in today's society.

'It's 1959. The battle for civil rights is raging. And it's Sarah Dunbar's first day of school, as one of the first black students at the previously all-white Jefferson High. 

No one wants Sarah there. Not the Governor. Not the teachers. And certainly not the students – especially Linda Hairston, daughter of the town’s most ardent segregationist. 
Sarah and Linda have every reason to despise each other. But as a school project forces them to spend time together, the less their differences seem to matter. And Sarah and Linda start to feel something they've never felt before. Something they're both determined ignore. 

Because it's one thing to be frightened by the world around you - and another thing altogether when you're terrified of what you feel inside.' 

(blurb taken from Goodreads)

So there we have it guys!
Those are my top 5 books that I think you should read in the new year! Have any books on my list caught your eye? Do you have any recommendations for me? Let me know in the comments below!

We'd love to know...
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27 December 2016

Written by Kirsty Hanson
for Daily Focal

The book that changed my life was 'To Kill a Mockingbird' by Harper Lee. Probably like many other secondary schools throughout the UK, 'To Kill a Mockingbird' was one of the books that we had to study for our English GCSE and you know what required reading is normally like: boring. The books are nearly always terrible and you hate the fact that you need to read it ten times so that you can get that good grade. With 'TKAM', I read it ten times, but not because I felt like I had to: it's because I wanted to.

"This book is the thing that made me fully aware of the racial issues and prejudice that have been in the world for centuries and that are still going on today - in the 21st Century"
I know what you're thinking: 'how unoriginal to pick this book'.
Guys, this book is the thing that made me fully aware of the racial issues and prejudice that have been in the world for centuries and that are still going on today - in the 21st Century.

I was so captivated by the story of Scout, Jem and their Father - Atticus Finch. I was moved by the way Atticus raised his children to see the good in people and that you "never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” Published in 1960, 'TKAM' reflects the racial prejudice of the time and portrays the racist thoughts of the society during those times. Even though the book was published in 1960, it's actually set in the early 1930s during the Great Depression. During the Depression, it was the African-Americans that were hit the hardest and at least half of them were out of work. White people started to call for black people to be fired from their jobs as white people didn't want to work with black people. It was the fear of the unknown. Sound familiar? 

I was sixteen. I wasn't racist; I have never been racist, but 'TKAM' opened my eyes to the world of pain and neglect that different races and cultures have felt, it opened my eyes to the stigma that surrounds a lot of these cultures. It may sound young and naive of me to think 'why can't everyone just love each other?' but is it not true? Why can't we just accept people for the colour of their skin, or the religion that they practise? Why can't we accept the certain clothing that their religion requires? I have never understood - and will continue to not understand - why people can't see past the colour of someones skin. And 'To Kill a Mockingbird' helped me understand. It helped me realise that I am very privileged, I fit comfortable into the box of a white, heterosexual female. But it's what I do with that privilege that means something. I could sit back and not do anything whilst all this hate is boiling over or I could use my voice and my social platforms to do something about it. So I decided to do something about it. 

If you've never read 'To Kill a Mockingbird' because it's a 'school text' then fair enough, I understand that it being on a school syllabus might stop you from reading it. But 'To Kill a Mockingbird' is so relevant to today's society as well and the teachings from the book can be applied to now. Since I was sixteen years old, Atticus Finch has always been my role model and I have lived by his teachings, I don't care that he's a fictional character. Harper Lee created a piece of art that is timeless. A piece of art that will always be relevant. 

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FILM REVIEW: Star Wars Rogue One

26 December 2016

Written by Kirsty Hanson
for Daily Focal

Another year means another 'Star Wars' film. Because that's what the film industry has become right? Just an industry full of re-makes, spin-offs and adaptations. For some people, hearing about another 'Star Wars' film is just ''whatever''; they don't care. For me, it's everything. 'Phantom of the Menace' was the first film that I ever saw in the cinema - I was three years old. I have always loved 'Star Wars' and I always will. 

Star Wars Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
'Rogue One: A Star Wars Story' tells the story of former scientist, Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelson) who lives on a farm with his wife and young daughter Jyn (Felicity Jones). His peaceful existence comes crashing down when the evil Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) takes him away from his beloved family. Many years later, Galen is now the Empire's lead engineer for the most powerful weapon in the galaxy, the Death Star. Knowing that her father holds the key to its destruction, a vengeful Jyn joins forces with a spy and other resistance fighters to steal the space station's plans for the Rebel Alliance.

This was a brilliant film; it was better than 'The Force Awakens' due to the main point that it was nothing yet everything like the original 'Star Wars'films. Confused? Okay, so with 'The Force Awakens', it was so similar to 'A New Hope' that you could argue that it wasn't an original storyline. But with 'Rogue One', it’s a prequel to 'A New Hope', so there was only the groundwork of the Death Star plans to work on. It felt new due to it's storyline, yet it felt like the original 'Star Wars' films due to the way it was produced, the atmosphere of the film and the dialogue. 

There is a couple of things throughout the film that will leave fans with their mouths open wide - whether it's in anger or amazement is up to them, personally, it was amazement for me. (If you've seen the film already, you'll know what I'm going on about).

The acting during this film was superb; here were the funny one-liners that are consistant throughout the 'Star Wars' franchise which gave this dark film it's funny quirks. Also, let's talk about the actors. A diverse cast - finally! A female lead (Felicity Jones), a Hispanic (Diego Luna), an African-American (Forest Whitaker), a British/Muslim/Pakistani (Riz Ahmed), two Chinese men (Wen Jiang and Donnie Yen) - who may also be in a relationship with each other - and a male Dane (Mads Mikkelson). Never before have I seen such a diverse cast in a Disney film and it was such a massive breath of fresh air to finally see representation of different races. It was a breath of fresh air knowing that children watching this film, finally had role models that they could identity with. 

'Rogue One' was spectacular, from the storyline, to the acting to the subtle nods to the original 'Star Wars' films. It was so good, that I'm considering buying Odeon Limitless, just so I can watch it over and over again. 

Kirsty's Film Review Ranking:

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What did you think of it?
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