18 December 2013

Guest Post: Outfit Ideas - Keeping Alternative in the Office

Hi my name is Amy Marie & I work for Scarlett Fashion. My lovely bestie Kariss has allowed me to guest post on her blog today, because she's so nice like that! Scarlett Fashion is an online boutique that sells an assortment of pieces from smaller brands. We often run competitions for bloggers and enjoy working closely with them. 

I thought i'd share with you a fashion related post today that I hope Kariss' readers will enjoy. It's about how to keep an alternative style while working an office 9-5 job. I'm so proud of Kariss who has recently taken on that sort of job, which I find super strange imagining her in a smart clothes as she's always been my multicoloured haired friend who wears corsets to go clubbing. But of course, people from all walks of life work all sort of jobs so there must be a happy medium! So today I've put together an outfit that could keep Kariss' style of quirky, alternative, nerd girl and not upset her boss! 

There aren't many places that sell them, but I can't express how much I adore 200 denier tights. They are the closest things you can get to leggings, without being tights.. in fact.. they're actually more opaque than some pairs of leggings! They hide a multitude of sins, short skirts, unshaven legs. They a really are a perfect addition to any work place outfit. Speaking of short skirts (although, granted no inappropriately) the dress i've chosen that really looks like it would suit Kariss' style is this gorgeous Scallop Dress by Sugarhill Boutique. Sugarhill is one of my personal favourite brands and they really do have the right amount of quirkiness without loosing the grown up feel. There are few reasons why I've gone for this particular dress, one is the cut. The shift style is very flattering. Secondly, the collar keeps it looking like work wear and finally, apart from myself, Kariss is the biggest Alice in Wonderland fan I know.. in fact, it's quite possible she's bigger. The blue and cream of this dress really does scream Alice to me. If you are going along a different route from the bog standard, blouse and suit route, why not skip the blazer as well? A simple black cardigan can really do the trick like this one from New Look, that also comes in many different colours should you like the style but want to match it with more outfits. It's a great price at £9.99. To go along with the Alice in Wonderland theme, this Falling Alice necklace from Truffle Shuffle will look really cute tucked under the collar of the dress. With it being gold it looks smart but the design is still very much quirky. Trying to find smart shoes when smart isn't really your "thing" can be difficult, thankfully Dr Martin does have some simple styles that will work well in a office, like the Sophie T-Bars! And you'll be able to wear them out of work too! Finally, the bag. The bag is still very kawaii, but it's a satchel and the blue will go well with the dress. It's the Magic Panda Love Satchel and hey, if we're being grown up with the rest of the outfit, why not have something a little out there with a handbag? It's not like i'm suggesting you put a huge bow in your hair! 


3 December 2013

Library Sale Haul

Would you believe I've put myself on a book buying ban, I'm talking before I posted about the books I bought from charity shops a couple of weeks ago.  Clearly book buying bans are not something I'm good at, but it doesn't count when there discounted right?  I'm glad we are agreed cause my local library had a sale recently and I got a tiny bit carried away.  In my defence all the books were 0.30p and there trying to close it so every bit of cash helps!  Or at least that's how I'm justifying my overflowing bookcase. 
I need to massively apologise for the quality of these photos!  It's the time of year now when it's dark whenever I'm not at work and I'm also pretty Ill so I haven't got the patience for spending ages trying to find some decent lighting.  Also I've kept them in there library jackets (I like to keep the bit of history) so this makes them super shiny.
 So here is what I picked up:

Life on the Refrigerator Door by Alice Kuipers
"Dear Claire, I had a stressful weekend. It would be nice to come home and not be made to feel guilty. I hope school was interesting. There's some of the chicken (which was very good, by the way) left over. See you for breakfast. I want to talk to you about something. Mom"

Beautifully told through notes left on their kitchen fridge, this is an intimate portrait of the relationship between a hard-working mother and her teenage daughter.

Stunningly sad but ultimately uplifting, it is about being a 'good mother' or a 'good daughter', and is a reminder of how much can be said in so few words, if only we made the time to say them.

Try and forgive me.  In real life this book is the exact colour of strawberry milk and I think that was probity the thing that first attracted me (I have a colour coded bookshelf so I'm a sucker for coloured spines).  I'd never heard of it before but I liked the premise although I thought it would be a series of note length stories rather then one story told in the form of notes.  I've read this already as it was a super short and I think because of the serious notion of the subject matter this style didn't work and it just left it lacking depth.  At least it will look good on my shelf!

I Have Heard You Calling In The Night by Thomas Healy
It seems now like a different me, the years I spent with Martin, a Doberman dog, and before he came, another me; and it is a new me now, once again, writing this. I would have been dead long ago had I continued to live the way I had before he came.

I think someone would have murdered me, given how I drank and the dives that I drank in and that I was an aggressive, angry man. I had no money and no friends. I didn’t care, I couldn’t have.
 Thomas Healy was a drunk, a fighter, sometimes a writer, often unemployed, no stranger to the police. His life was going nowhere but downhill. Then one day he bought a pup—a Doberman. He called him Martin. Gradually man and dog became unshakable allies, the closest of comrades, the best of friends. They took long walks together, they vacationed together, they even went to church together. Martin, in more ways than one, saved Thomas Healy’s life. Written with unadulterated candor and profound love, this soulful memoir gets at the heart of the intense bond between people and dogs

This is the book I am reading right now, I have to admit, I was mainly attracted to it because of the dog on the cover and also some personal reasons that I'm not going to get into on here.  The book itself is hardback and in pretty decent condition, it looks as though the cover might have faded but it's really hard to tell if this is just the cover design.

Addition by Toni Jordan

Everything counts...

Grace Lisa Vandenburg orders her world with numbers: how many bananas she buys, how many steps she takes to the café, where she chooses to sit, how many poppy seeds are in her daily piece of orange cake. Every morning she uses 100 strokes to brush her hair, 160 strokes to brush her teeth. She remembers the day she started to count, how she used numbers to organize her adolescence, her career, even the men she dated. But something went wrong. Grace used to be a teacher, but now she's surviving on disability checks. According to the parents of one of her former students, "she's mad."

Most people don't understand that numbers rule, not just the world in a macro way but their world, their own world. Their lives. They don't really understand that everything and everybody are connected by a mathematical formula. Counting is what defines us...the only thing that gives our lives meaning is the knowledge that eventually we all will die. That's what makes each minute important. Without the ability to count our days, our hours, our loved ones...there's no meaning. Our lives would have no meaning. Without counting, our lives are unexamined. Not valued. Not precious. This consciousness, this ability to rejoice when we gain something and grieve when we lose something—this is what separates us from other animals. Counting, adding, measuring, timing. It's what makes us human.

Grace's father is dead and her mother is a mystery to her. Her sister wants to sympathize but she really doesn't understand. Only Hilary, her favorite niece, connects with her. And Grace can only connect with Nikola Tesla, the turn-of-the-twentieth-century inventor whose portrait sits on her bedside table and who rescues her in her dreams. Then one day all the tables at her regular café are full, and as she hesitates in the doorway a stranger—Seamus Joseph O'Reilly (19 letters in his name, just like Grace's)—invites her to sit with him. Grace is not the least bit sentimental. But she understands that no matter how organized you are, how many systems you put in place, you can't plan for people. They are unpredictable and full of possibilities—like life itself, a series of maybes and what-ifs.

And suddenly, Grace may be about to lose count of the number of ways she can fall in love.

I don't relay know anything about this book but I spotted Richard and Judy Summer Reads logo on it so thought it must be worth a read, probably for when I'm in the mood for something simple and easy.  Every now and then it's good to have a strait forward shorter read to get myself back into the swing of reading I find.  I'm really hoping this will be funny but of all the books this is the one I'm the most unsure of. 

Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson

For 10 years Arlene has kept her promises, and God has kept His end of the bargain. Until now. When an old schoolmate from Possett turns up at Arlene's door in Chicago asking questions about Jim Beverly, former quarterback and god of Possett High, Arlene's break with her former hometown is forced to an end. At the same time, Burr, her long-time boyfriend, has raised an ultimatum: introduce him to her family or consider him gone. Arlene loves him dearly but knows her lily white (not to mention deeply racist)Southern Baptist family will not understand her relationship with an African American boyfriend. Reluctantly, Arlene bows to the pressure, and she and Burr embark on the long-avoided road trip back home. As Arlene digs through guilt and deception, her patched-together alibi begins to unravel, and she discovers how far she will go for love and a chance at redemption.

This was another 'summer' read that drew my attention, I liked the idea of a white girl bringing an African-American boyfriend home to Alabama, which as we all know is probably one of the most stereotypically racist cities in the world so I'd be interested to see where they go with this.

The Reader by Bernhard Schlink

A powerful and intense tale of secrets and a hidden past, The Reader is a thrilling book. As a 15-year-old boy in postwar Germany, Michael Berg had a passionate affair with a mysterious, guarded woman twice his age that ended suddenly when she disappeared. Years later, Michael sees her again -- when she is on trial for a terrible crime

To be perfectly honest this is one of only two books I bought that ware already on my to be read list.  I have heard lots of great things about it and heard it's has the possibility of becoming something of a modern classic so I'm really looking forward to this one.

Engleby by Sabastian Faulks

"My name is Mike Engleby, and I'm in my second year at an ancient university." 
With that brief introduction we meet one of the most mesmerizing, singular voices in a long tradition of disturbing narrators. Despite his obvious intelligence and compelling voice, it is clear that something about solitary, odd Mike is not quite right. When he becomes fixated on a classmate named Jennifer Arkland and she goes missing, we are left with the looming question: Is Mike Engleby involved? As he grows up, finding a job and even a girlfriend in London, Mike only becomes more and more detached from those around him in an almost anti-coming-of-age. His inability to relate to others and his undependable memory (able to recall countless lines of text yet sometimes incapable of summoning up his own experiences from mere days before) lead the reader down an unclear and often darkly humorous path where one is never completely comfortable or confident about what is true.

I've never read and Faulks and although I don't really know anything about this particular book I thought it would be a good place to start.  It's obviously not his most famous work but it will hopefully give me a good taste as to his writing style.

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

WICKED above her hipbone, GIRL across her heart 
Words are like a road map to reporter Camille Preaker’s troubled past. Fresh from a brief stay at a psych hospital, Camille’s first assignment from the second-rate daily paper where she works brings her reluctantly back to her hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls.

NASTY on her kneecap, BABYDOLL on her leg 
Since she left town eight years ago, Camille has hardly spoken to her neurotic, hypochondriac mother or to the half-sister she barely knows: a beautiful thirteen-year-old with an eerie grip on the town. Now, installed again in her family’s Victorian mansion, Camille is haunted by the childhood tragedy she has spent her whole life trying to cut from her memory.

HARMFUL on her wrist, WHORE on her ankle 
As Camille works to uncover the truth about these violent crimes, she finds herself identifying with the young victims—a bit too strongly. Clues keep leading to dead ends, forcing Camille to unravel the psychological puzzle of her own past to get at the story. Dogged by her own demons, Camille will have to confront what happened to her years before if she wants to survive this homecoming.

This is the second book I found that was actually on my to be read list.  I know this has had a lot of attention in the young adult community and a few of my favourite booktubers have given it amazing reviews so I look forward to reading it, probably going to be a post christmas wintery read!

The Death and Life of Charlie St.Cloud

The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud tells the haunting story of a young man who narrowly survives a terrible car wreck that kills his little brother. Years later, the brothers’ bond remains so strong that it transcends the normal boundaries separating life and death. Charlie St. Cloud lives in a snug New England fishing village. By day he tends the lawns and monuments of the ancient cemetery where his younger brother, Sam, is buried. Graced with an extraordinary gift after surviving the accident, he can still see, talk, and even play catch with Sam’s spirit. But townsfolk whisper that Charlie has never recovered from his loss.

Into his carefully ordered life comes Tess Carroll, a captivating, adventuresome woman training for a solo sailing trip around the globe. Fate steers her boat into a treacherous storm that blows her back to harbor, to a charged encounter with Charlie, and to a surprise more overwhelming than the violent sea itself. Charlie and Tess discover a beautiful and uncommon connection that leads to a race against time and a desperate choice between death and life, between the past and the future, between holding on and letting go.

This is the final book I picked up, another book I don't really know anything about but it has the 'Richard and Judy Summer Reads' tag on the front, so I picked it up for the same reason as the others, a fun light read that should have some quality behind it.  I also have the feeling I've heard this mentioned around somewhere before but I'm not sure where so hopefully its good!

So there you have it!  Not bad for for £2.40!  If you've read any of these I'd love to hear about it as there are loads I know little about, have you got any info you'd like to pass on?

Kariss xx

30 November 2013

Books of 2013: Part 4

I'm not completely sure any of you are enjoying this....and I know I'm neglecting writing other thing (and I have so much to blog about!) but i'm determined to finish this off!  I'm so ill today and this is the first weekend that I'm not going away somewhere so I'm looking forward to not traveling, but i still have tons of stuff to do!  Anyway enough complaining, on with books 16 through 20!

Peter Pan by J.M.Barrie
Neverland is home to Peter Pan, a young boy who has never grown up. On one of his visits to London, Peter makes the acquaintance of young Wendy Darling, whom he invites to travel with him to Neverland and become the mother of his gang of Lost Boys. Flying through the night sky to Neverland, Wendy and her brothers are soon caught up in adventures.

This is one of my beloved Barnes and Nobel Leather-bound books, it's so pretty and the page ends are all silver!  Anyway moving away from the aesthetics and onto the actual contents!  I'm familiar with this story, as most people are, because I grew up with thee Disney version, which I loved!  I went through a phase in my teens of being obsessed with Tinkerbell, so I was really looking forward to reading this.  It did not disappoint!  This is one of the greatest children storeys I've ever read, different enough from the Disney version but still completely magical and imaginative.  I really wish I'd read this when I was younger as I know it would have completely captured my imagination.  Everyone should read this at least once in their lifetime!

Filth by Irvine Welsh
With the festive season almost upon him, Detective Sergeant Bruce Robertson is winding down at work and gearing up socially - kicking off Christmas with a week of sex and drugs in Amsterdam. There are irritating flies in the ointment, though, including a missing wife, a nagging cocaine habit, a dramatic deterioration in his genital health, a string of increasingly demanding extra-marital affairs. The last thing he needs is a messy murder to solve. Still it will mean plenty of overtime, a chance to stitch up some colleagues and finally clinch the promotion he craves. But as Bruce spirals through the lower reaches of degradation and evil, he encounters opposition - in the form of truth and ethical conscience - from the most unexpected quarter of all: his anus.

Well I couldn't have picked a book much different from my last one!  Like all Irvine Welsh's work it's full of sex, drug use and crude language, and frankly I love it!  This is probably my favourite of all of Welsh's books that I've read, and it's also one of the most controversial.  I read it knowing the film was coming out in the same year and I loved both, although there's certain erm....internal things...that the film leaves out....I'm trying not to say anything so I don't give it a way but if you love modern fiction that doesn't hold back and your not squeamish then I really recommend this book!

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
Everybody gets to be supermodel gorgeous. What could be wrong with that? 

Tally is about to turn sixteen, and she can't wait. Not for her license - for turning pretty. In Tally's world, your sixteenth birthday brings an operation that turns you from a repellent ugly into a stunningly attractive pretty and catapults you into a high-tech paradise where your only job is to have a really great time. In just a few weeks Tally will be there.

But Tally's new friend Shay isn't sure she wants to be pretty. She'd rather risk life on the outside. When Shay runs away, Tally learns about a whole new side of the pretty world and it isn't very pretty. The authorities offer Tally the worst choice she can imagine: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn pretty at all. 

The choice Tally makes changes her world forever..

I'd been looking forward to this series for a long time so to be honest I was left disappointed   It was an easy read and I found that while I enjoyed it while I was reading, after I put it down I didn't have much desire to pick it up and carry on with it.  It was full of cliche's and just seemed to go down the same path all the YA distopian novels do.  Maybe I'm just too old or I've read too much of this style, either way it missed the mark for me

Pretties (Second book in the uglies series) by Scott Westerfeld

Tally has finally become pretty. Now her looks are beyond perfect, her clothes are awesome, her boyfriend is totally hot, and she's completely popular. It's everything she's ever wanted.
But beneath all the fun -- the nonstop parties, the high-tech luxury, the total freedom -- is a nagging sense that something's wrong. Something important. Then a message from Tally's ugly past arrives. Reading it, Tally remembers what's wrong with pretty life, and the fun stops cold.

Now she has to choose between fighting to forget what she knows and fighting for her life -- because the authorities don't intend to let anyone with this information survive.
Even though I didn't love the first book I cracked strait on with the second book in the series as I knew if I left it I probibily wouldn't carry on with the series.  If i hadn't already bought the rest of the books in the series I probably wouldn't have carried on with it.  To be honest this one hasn't made much of an impression on me and I think the first and second books have sort of blurred together in my mind.
The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick
Meet Pat. Pat has a theory: his life is a movie produced by God. And his God-given mission is to become physically fit and emotionally literate, whereupon God will ensure a happy ending for him -- the return of his estranged wife Nikki. (It might not come as a surprise to learn that Pat has spent time in a mental health facility.) The problem is, Pat's now home, and everything feels off. No one will talk to him about Nikki; his beloved Philadelphia Eagles keep losing; he's being pursued by the deeply odd Tiffany; his new therapist seems to recommend adultery as a form of therapy. Plus, he's being hunted by Kenny G!

This was a birthday gift given to me from my beautiful friend Amy of Cocktails in Teacups and I set to reading it strait away.  I love contemporary fiction so this was right down my street.  I loved the way it was written and how all the character dealt with their flaws, it was really easy to read and very enjoyable, the football stuff was a little lost on me however but I did really enjoy the book references.

So, are you enjoying these?  Let me know if you've read any!

Kariss xxx

24 November 2013

Books of 2013: Part 3

Well I have not stopped, I've been between work in Barnsley, Hertford and London for more work constantly for weeks.  I can't wait for next weekend when the only thing I have to do is Christmas lunch with my school friends! (although I am going to London again in the week for a conference!) I seriously need a lie in!  Anyway because I've been away every weekend for the last month or so I've spent my nights after work catching up with things I normally do at the weekend (cleaning, tidying etc) which has essentially meant I'm miles behind on my blogging!  I am determined not too get too far behind with this book series but that is proving difficult and it also means neglecting my other kinds of blog post, so you'll just have to bare with me!  Anyway enough excuses, on with part 3!

Tessa has just a few months to live.

Fighting back against hospital visits, endless tests, drugs with excruciating side-effects, Tessa compiles a list. It's her To Do Before I Die list. And number one is sex.

Released from the constraints of 'normal' life, Tessa tastes new experiences to make her feel alive while her failing body struggles to keep up.

Tessa's feelings, her relationships with her father and brother, her estranged mother, her best friend, her new boyfriend, all are painfully crystallized in the precious weeks before Tessa's time finally runs out.

I actually picked this book up during a bit of a buying spree in Waterstones thinking it was a different, similarly named book.  I wasn't expecting much from it when I realised my mistake, but it actually was pretty entertaining.  Its a YA book, easy to read and much more blunt then the usual YA fair (for instance, theres a scene early on in the book where she sneaks into a night club and tries to loose her virginity with a random guy, normally in these kind of books they 'come to there senses',  realises its not right and don't go through with it, in this however she did) and I respected the book more so for this, it felt more real and brave.
This is a book about a dying girl, but she wasn't painted as flawless, just a normal teen with normal desires, trying to get on with her life while she can, and I think this is what made it more enjoyable.  It felt honest and sad at times.  I would recommend this book for anyone after a quick read, dealing with some heavy issues in a not too heavy way

In seventeenth-century Boston, Hester Prynne shoulders the scorn of her fellow Puritan townsfolk for bearing a child out of wedlock. For her refusal to name the father of her daughter Pearl, Hester is made to wear a scarlet "A" stitched conspicuously upon her dress. But though she bears the stigma of the shame her peers would confer upon her, others feel the guilt for her transgression more acutely—notably the pious Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale, the confessor with whom Hester and Pearl's destinies are intimately bound up.

I collected Barnes and Noble leather-bound edition books (I will do a blog post about my collection at some point) and added this beautiful book to my collection a year or so ago.  I haven't read most of these books yet (I am quite precious about them) but I was in the mood for a classic.  Spurred on by the amazing film Easy A (in which she reads this book in class and is inspired by it) I decided to get stuck in.
However this is one of the WORST books I have ever read.  The first and last chapters in particularly are both awfully written and completely unnecessary.  Seriously you can completely skip these, they don't effect the story at all, it sort of like "oh i found this robe, I wonder who it belongs to" *rewinds time back and story begins* except much more wordy and unnecessarily long and awkward to understand..  The plot itself you could easily fit into a couple of paragraphs but they stretch it out into a book by using unnecessary language and dragging everything out making it incredibly slow and boring.  Each chapter really only needed to be a sentence.  The general story is OK(ish) and so thats why I have given it more then once star but seriously, buy the book cause the cover looks pretty, leave it at that.

Magic takes many forms. Supernatural magic is what our ancestors used in order to explain the world before they developed the scientific method. The ancient Egyptians explained the night by suggesting the goddess Nut swallowed the sun. The Vikings believed a rainbow was the gods’ bridge to earth. The Japanese used to explain earthquakes by conjuring a gigantic catfish that carried the world on its back—earthquakes occurred each time it flipped its tail. These are magical, extraordinary tales. But there is another kind of magic, and it lies in the exhilaration of discovering the real answers to these questions. It is the magic of reality—science.

Nice bit of none fiction!  This book is aimed at 12+ but it really is good for everyone!  I haven't studied Science since school and this covers some of the stuff I know I learnt then but in a much more fun, interesting and understandable way.  It is a great book for people getting back into this kind of thing or who just have a curiosity.  For instance it covers, atoms, rainbows and evolution in a new light which really made me understand it much more then I ever did at school when I was just learning facts to pass exams!  I would recommend this for everyone old enough to understand it.

On her seventeenth birthday, Cassia meets her match. The Society dictates that he is her perfect partner for life, except he's not.

In Cassia's society, Officials decide who people love.
How many children they have.
Where they work.
When they die.

But, as Cassia finds herself falling in love with another boy, 
she is determined to make some choices of her own.

And that's when her whole world
begins to unravel...

I actually lent this book from my younger sister in the sumer of 2012 and got about 75% of the way through it before I left it in the back of a friends car on the way to a gig, never to be seen again.  I eventually got round to replacing it for her and finished it off.  To be honest I haven't got much to say about this, it's hard with me having read most of it so long ago.  It's a decent YA dystopian, no more no less, I wouldn't mind finishing the trilogy at some point but I'm in no rush to do so.

Restoration is set in eighteenth-century England: a world of
cruelty, injustice and iron privilege. Lord Are is forced by poverty
into an unwanted marriage with the daughter of a wealthy mineowner. One
morning, during breakfast, he commits a bizarre and fatal crime. He
seeks to pin responsibility for it on his guileless, illiterate
footman, Bob Hedges. A battle ensues between Bob's black,
justice-hungry wife and the fortified privilege of the ruling classes.

I'm an ex-drama student and worked in theatre for 4 1/2 years so it makes sense that every now and again I like to read a good play.  On top of that at some time during my second year of university I took an interest in the restoration period (the time when Charles II was restored to the thrown after the Puritans got rid of the monarchy), so much so I wrote my dissertation about a famous figure of this period.  This book I bought to read during that time and never got round to it, and finally got read it this year!  It was mega short and billed as a comedy, so I figured I'd wiz through it and get a laugh, I was greatly disappointed   To be totally honest looking back now I don't remember much other then I hated it and it had no plot, don't go out of your way to read/see this.  That's all I have to say.

So there you are, books 11-15, we have a long way to go!  I hope you enjoyed it!  I'm currently in London, having come down for work, and stayed the weekend to grab some culture so hopefully I'll be sharing that soon.  In the meantime if your liking this book series follow my Goodreads I update it regularly :)

13 November 2013

Books of 2013: Part 2

Well part one showed me starting the year of in a reading fury, completing all the five books shown before the end of January, now to continue with my final January book and on into March!

Submarine by Joe Dunthorn

"At once a self-styled social scientist, a spy in the baffling adult world, and a budding, hormone-driven emotional explorer, Oliver Tate is stealthily nosing his way forward through the murky and uniquely perilous waters of adolescence. His objectives? Uncovering the secrets behind his parents' teetering marriage, unraveling the mystery that is his alluring and equally quirky classmate Jordana Bevan, and understanding where he fits in among the mystifying beings in his orbit. Struggling to buoy his parents' wedded bliss, deep-six his own virginity, and sound the depths of heartache, happiness, and the business of being human, what's a lad to do? Poised precariously on the cusp of innocence and experience, Oliver Tate aims to damn the torpedoes and take the plunge."

This was a book from my christmas list and I happily opened my hardback first edition!  I'd been looking forward to reading this for quite a while, I was certain it would be a prime example of 'my kind' of book, and with that thought I was left disappointed.  This is not a slight against the book, the book itself is pretty good I was just expecting more.  I love The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Grow up and having lazily watched the film I expected this to fit into the quirky growing up tales category perfectly.  On paper it did, but it still misses the mark, the lead character Oliver is defiantly quirky enough but the writing lacks an essential intelligence that makes these kind of books endearing and memorable.  

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald 

"The world and his mistress are at Jay Gatsby's party. But Gatsby stands apart from the crowd, isolated by a secret longing. In between sips of champagne his guests speculate about their mysterious host. Some say he's a bootlegger. Others swear he was a German spy during the war. They lean in and whisper 'he killed a man once'. Just where is Gatsby from and what is the obsession that drives him?"

I really wanted to watch this before the film came out so I prioritised it, I think this is the kind of book you need to read more then once to really appreciate.  On the first read I enjoyed it but i think i missed much of the symbolism that is key in this novel.  After seeing the film and looking at a lot of discussion about it I honestly think I'd five star it if I re-read it, but for now it's a 4, I can defiantly see why it's a classic but I think you need to see it as more then just  novel to really appreciate it.  I also really the bravery it must have taken to write important characters that an audience can enjoy even though essentially they are "bad" people.  The intelligence in the writing is brilliant and that is why i think you could read it over and over and always see something new.  Also can we just take a minute to appreciate how beautiful this version of the book is!  I may have traveled to several book stores before I found one with an unspoiled cover....

The Colour of Magic of Terry Pratchett

"In the beginning there was.a turtle.

Somewhere on the frontier between thought and reality exists the Discworld, a parallel time and place which might sound and smell very much like our own, but which looks completely different. Particularly as it's carried though space on the back of a giant turtle (sex unknown). It plays by different rules.But then, some things are the same everywhere. The Disc's very existence is about to be threatened by a strange new blight: the world's first tourist, upon whose survival rests the peace and prosperity of the land. Unfortunately, the person charged with maintaining that survival in the face of robbers, mercenaries and, well, Death, is a spectacularly inept wizard."

I'd been building this up in my head for a long time, having had so many people tell me how incredible this series is.  It felt like everyone had started reading these really young and I was missing out, its a crazy long series (somewhere in the 40's now in terms of individual books, not including all the extra stuff), however if you read my review of The Light Fantastic, the second book in series and my first post on here, you will know I was disappointed.   I struggled to imagine the world fully, or at all in some places, and as much as there were elements I enjoyed, (mainly the characters and humour) I was left confused at certain aspects of the story and struggled to keep up with where the hell they were!  

Smut by Alan Bennett

Two unexpected tales written by the bestselling author of The Uncommon Reader, Untold Stories and The History Boys.
The Greening of Mrs. Donaldson
Mrs. Donaldson is a conventional middle-class woman beached on the shores of widowhood after a marriage that had been much like many others: happy to begin with, then satisfactory and finally dull. But when she decides to take in two lodgers, her mundane life becomes much more stimulating...
The Shielding of Mrs. Forbes
Graham Forbes is a disappointment to his mother, who thinks that if he must have a wife, he should have done better. True, her own husband isn't all that satisfactory either. Still, this is Alan Bennett, so what is happening in the bedroom (and in lots of other places too) is altogether more startling, perhaps shocking, and ultimately more true to people's predilections.
I am a huge fan of Alan Bennett but hadn't read any of his newer books since I was a teenager.  This book looked so cute and neat on the shelf I couldn't resist it and lets face it, everyone is drawn in by a sexy title.  This book is split into two short stories, both were entertaining, funny and enduring in different ways.  Despite the title his is not a "50 shades of grey" style book, and that is important to know before reading.  It is a book about people dealing with sex not a titalation, which is great for me because they are not my style at all!  As with all Bennett the characters are perfect, always totally fleshed out and realistic and its this that really makes the stories. 
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
"The compelling story of two outsiders striving to find their place in an unforgiving world.

Drifters in search of work, George and his simple minded friend Lennie have nothing in the world except each other and a dream--a dream that one day they will have some land of their own. Eventually they find work on a ranch in California's Salinas Valley, but their hopes are doomed as Lennie, struggling against extreme cruelty, misunderstanding and feelings of jealousy becomes a victim of his own strength.
Tackling universal themes and giving a voice to America's lonely and dispossessed, Of Mice and Men has proved to be one of Steinbeck's most popular works, achieving success as a novel, a Broadway play and three acclaimed films"

I wasn't one of those kids who had to read this in school, I had A Kestrel for a Knave and Macbeth as far as I recall, so I feel like I missed out.  Most of my friends had read it for their GCSE's and it was pretty much the only required reading I've heard people say they still enjoyed , even after all that analysing!  I was surprised by how short it was when I bought it, knowing nothing about it perviously, and I can defiantly see why it's picked for teenagers, who are notorious for there short attention span!  I loved the book, it is without a doubt worthy of the title modern classic, it has depth and manages to make you really care about the characters in such a short within such a short amount of text.  I think I need to read it again to really appreciate all the themes and I know I would enjoy it just as much the second time round.

So that's it, we are up to 10 books of 2013 so far!  See you next week so the next 5!

6 November 2013

Molton Brown body wash gift set

This isn't a haul or a review, I don't really know what it is!  I just got a pretty gift and I wanted to show it off.  A few weeks ago my older sister bought me this gift set from Molton Brown as a congratulations for starting my new job and it's so cute I had to share

Look at all the pretty colours!  The top rom left to right: Black Peppercorn, Ylang-Ylang, Templetree, Silver Birch, Samphire, Eucalyptus.  Bottom row: Gingerlily, Pink peppercorn, Suma Ginseng, Japanese Orange, Orange & Bergamot, Coco & Sandalwood.

The are really unusual scents and seem really subtle so I look forward to giving them a go.  Have you had any good gifts lately?  


5 November 2013

Books of 2013: Part 1

So here's a new feature I've had in mind for a while, I've been unemployed for a large part of this year and as such I've done a lot of reading.  So I decided that every week I will share 5 of the books I've read this year with very short reviews (lets see how well my memory serves me!).  In 9 weeks its the first week of January (scary right!) and seeing as I have already read 34 books and plan on reading at least 40 (hopefully somewhere between 40-50) I realised I need to start now to be finished by the start of the new year.  So without further adieu:

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak 

1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier.
Liesel, a nine-year-old girl, is living with a foster family on Himmel Street. Her parents have been taken away to a concentration camp. Liesel steals books. This is her story and the story of the inhabitants of her street when the bombs begin to fall.
It's a small story, about: a girl, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist fighter, and quite a lot of thievery.

This almost doesn't count because I finished it at exactly half past midnight which probably tells you a great deal about how much of a party animal I was this new year!  I asked for this for christmas and just devoured it, from the opening paragraph I knew i was going to love it.  The writing style is amazing and having it narrated by Death adds a great deal to the stories tragedy and charm (yes, Death can be charming).  I enjoy character driven books and this has some fantastic characters, but overall it is the writing that is the main draw.  I was warned that it would make me cry but I managed to keep the tears inside.  There is a film of this book coming out in the new year and I will defiantly be checking it out but I am quite sceptical, there are certain things that make this book special that I just don't think they can translate to film which leaves it at the risk of being just another war film.  Overall I highly recommend this book to pretty much anyone

Wonder by R.J Palacio

"I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse.
August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He's about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you've ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie's just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he's just like them, despite appearances?"

I picked this up on a whim at Tesco after hearing great things about it.  Technically it's a children's book, vaguely aimed at the 10-12 age range but I'd heard so many adults rave about it I thought it was worth picking up.  It was an enjoyable read, although I only gave it 3 stars almost everyone else has voted it higher (its at almost 5 stars on Goodreads!) and I just felt it was missing something.  This could be because it's not aimed at my age range.  I did really enjoy the different perspectives, each chapter is told be a different person in Auggie's life and it allows you to see things from different angles.  I challenge you not to be moved and fall in love with the protagonist, he's one of those characters you just want to scoop up and make everything ok!

One Day by David Nicholls 

"Emma and Dexter meet for the first time on the night of their graduation. Tomorrow they must go their separate ways. So where will they be on this one day next year? And the year after that? And every year that follows? 

Twenty years, two people, ONE DAY."

Ok, I'm going to be really controversial here, I do not like this book at all.  I know everyone loves it and it's some what of a modern classic but I just found it really boring.  To be honest I don't like romance novels but so many people had told me how great this book was I thought they had to be something to it.  But no, it just proved once more it's just not for me, dull dull, dull.  I also thought the guy was a doosh and it all seemed kinda shallow.  Every time someone saw me reading this and I told them I wasn't enjoying it they gave me a look like I'd just kicked a puppy.  I still gave it 3 stars but I can't remember why, there must have been some redeeming features.  I do remember relating quite a lot to the female character

The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling

"The Tales of Beedle the Bard, a Wizarding classic, first came to Muggle readers’ attention in the book known as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Now, thanks to Hermione Granger’s new translation from the ancient runes, we present this stunning edition with an introduction, notes, and illustrations by J. K. Rowling, and extensive commentary by Albus Dumbledore. Never before have Muggles been privy to these richly imaginative tales: “The Wizard and the Hopping Pot,” “The Fountain of Fair Fortune,” “The Warlock’s Hairy Heart,” “Babbitty Rabbitty and Her Cackling Stump,” and of course, “The Tale of the Three Brothers.” But not only are they the equal of fairy tales we now know and love, reading them gives new insight into the world of Harry Potter"

So another confession, until last year, I'd never read Harry Potter, more then that I knew nothing of the story!  I managed to read all the series before June when we went to Florida to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  At the end of the year I read Mysterious Beats and Where to Find Them and Quiditch Through the Ages and that just left this cute little book.  As a companion novel it's a great edition, the stories are short, simple and cute

The Acid House by Irvine Welsh

"Made up of a collection of Welsh's most powerful stories, all come from the rough, tough badlands of the schemes of North Edinburgh and take us into a dark but hilarious world of drugs, deviant sex and football hooliganism fired by Welsh's passion and fierce steaming rock and roll.
Stories include: The Shooter, Eurotrash, Stoke Newington Blues, Vat '96, A Soft Touch, The Last Resort on the Adriatic, Sexual Disaster Quartet, Snuff, A Blockage in the System, Wayne Foster, Where the Debris Meets the Sea, Granny's Old Junk, The House of John Deaf, Across the Hall, Lisa's Mum Meets the Queen Mum, The Two Philosophers, Disnae Matter, The Granton Star Cause, Snowman Building Parts for Rico the Squirrel, Sport for All, The Acid House, A Smart Cunt: a novella"

Like with all collections of short stories, it's a bit hit and miss.  Some stories are always going to be more engaging and personal choice dictates you'll always like somethings more then others.  Welsh hits the mark most of the time and his unique writing style is evident throughout, although it usually takes me a couple of pages to be able to understand the language and I occasionally have to google the odd Scottish slang word that I don't know.  

So there you are, what do you think of my new feature?  Have you read any of these books?  Let me know and we'll start a discusuion
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