Monthly Reads | January 2016

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The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

On reflection, I am feeling equivocal about this novel. It has a promising and in some places evocative plot; historically atmospheric in way that reminded me of the richly narrated Girl With a Pearl EarringThe critical difference being we don’t have a passionate, artistic, hyper sensitive narrator like Griet, we have Nella who fizzles in filmy comparison. Whilst the events unfurling in this Dutch household are combustive in subject matter, the personalities are dull – I was longing for an honest dialogue between the protagonists instead of an insufferable amount of repressive behaviour

A few neat little twists helped the pace of the novel lending a near hysterical urgency after certain salacious secrets are revealed and being an easy digestble little novel meant I devoured it over 2 busy days. I really wanted to like this book but found the small range of characters all SO unlikeable, unrealistic and two dimensional. Would I recommend it? I’m not sure.

In Between the Sheets – Ian McEwan

Ian McEwan is one of my favourite authors and I had wanted to read some of his earlier work, out of curiosity. McEwan has an incredible way of quickly submersing the reader in complicated narrative microcosms so beautifully detailed you will feel bereft when they end, this collection of short stories was no different.

In Between the Sheets is far less macabre, shocking or perverse than First Love, Last Rites
collection, however stories like “Dead As They Come” [my favourite] powerfully and exigently coax you into sympathising with the anguish of a mentally ill man, tortuously infatuated with a female mannequin.  This left me reeling from the violently destructive behaviour and most of the protagonists in this collection have pretty fucked up problems, but their flaws give the small stories grit, rawness and intrigue.

Plot lines are difficult for me to discuss without revealing spoilers, so I would encourage you to instead read this collection!

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Why Not Me? – Mind Kaling

I LOVED THIS SO MUCH! This second collection of micro essays from Kaling are even funnier and more revealing. And yes, she does indulge us in more behind the scenes gossip of life whilst filming/working on The Office — Hooray!  A couple of the essays were indulgent, comical, frivolous and fun but many surprised me with the overarching motivational message of “you gotta work hard, make your own opportunities and really believe in you”. Trying to break it down like that sounds a little cheesey, but the message of this book is potentially very empowering.

The autobiographical account that Kaling gave regarding her newest work “The Mindy Project”, shows what an admirable, inspiring and dedicated work ethic she has. I was impressed even more so with her positivity, attitude and “Go Get It Girl” spirit… the main thing I learnt was was how driven Mind Kaling is and her most passionate and insightful chapters were when explaining her roles job, as a director, writer and actor.

It’s such a fucking feel good, girlie, joyful book that just writing about it now makes me want to re-read it.

The Book Thief – Markus Zusak

Nazi Germany – 1939 on the verge of war and narrated by Death might sound a like a depressing combination of ingredients but there are moment of pure love and joy amongst the prevalence of death in this novel.

At first I struggled, no, wrestled with the narrative style. I didn’t enjoy Death’s voice or style in which he sliced into the story with quizzical interferences.  I didn’t enjoy the dictionary use of definitions of words that broke up the story or hinted at the tone of the chapter to come. But aside from that… I gradually grew very close to the characters and terribly angry at Zukas for certain deaths that occured.

Liesel is a wonderful character, robust and refreshingly unfeminine. She is persistent with her reading and education despite lacking natural ability and plagued by many horrors and traumas in her early life. We follow her development and relationships with her new adoptive family and the people of Himmel Street. Finally, I was blown away by the humanity that was given to the German people involved in the Nazi politics. It made me very reflective for the families and children of the Nazi regime, a view point I had not personally considered before.

Have you read any of these? What did you think? Let me know what you thought in the comment as I’d love to hear from you

Next month I will be reading The Night Watch
and The Bassoon King

FIVE THINGS FRIDAY #1

The five things I’m loving this week…

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1.) Neom Organics London Essential Sleep Kit

A very lovely Christmas gift. The three products are supposed to help soothe before bed time, in the form of a pillow pray, a body oil and a roll on perfume. I love the botannical mix of lavender, herbs and is that teatree I smell? The scents are divine and slumber inducing. I keep this kit on my bedside table and use it when I’m experiencing bad anxiety before sleeps. I am definitely going to repurchase the sleep spray as it’s my favourite of the three products.

2.) This gorgeous notebook, I sadly can’t find it online and it was a gift!  The paper quality is superb and I’ve been using it to write a tonne of design ideas and upcoming posts for my blog. There’s nothing quite as exciting as a new book to record new ideas in…

3.)Yankee Candle – Small Jar Candle – Bundle Up
I’ve been burning this delicate scented candle…it’s a deft blend of crisp linen, balsam/piney notes which results in a masculine, fresh and wintery combination. It’s perfect to burn outside of the festive season to compliment this frosty January!

4.)  Vasanti Cosmetics Brighten Up! Enzymatic Face Rejuvenator with Microderm Exfoliating Crystals – Treats Dull, Uneven Skintone
I received a sample size in my Birchbox subscription a few months ago, I started using it and have already added it to my Amazon basket to repurchase, so instantaneous was my love. It’s an intensely fine facial scrub that really buffs away any dry, tired bits, leaving my skin polished, silky and the softest its ever felt. Note: it is also one of those extra friendly wonder products which is 99% natural, paraben free, not tested on animals and vegan!

 

5.) Erm… this adorkable fluffy pom pom key ring!?!? My reasons for buying being… It’s very soft and  it’s a subtle beautiful shade of grey. I bought it from a gorgeous stall in Farnham, Surrey so can’t link it! Cute riiiight?

 

10 FACTS ABOUT ME | 2015

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  1. I have been a vegetarian for 7 and a half years!
  2. My ideal night in would be cooking for my closest friends and boyfriend. I love the anticipation of planning and putting together a really good three course meal and the satisfaction of sitting down to enjoy it whilst drinking lots of wine with my guests.
  3. My favourite books include (but is not limited to) : Possession by A S Byatt, The Hours by Michael Cunningham, Enduring Love by Ian McEwan, Hamlet – Shakespeare, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, by Jonathan Safran Foer, Austen anything… and The Picture of Dorian Gray by Wilde
  4. I am massive introvert and find large groups or new situations a terribly painful experience. Networking is my idea of torture and small talk awkwardness makes my insides squeeze with the discomfort of it all. People’s first impression of me (quite sadly) is often that I’m shy/uninteresting or, over compensating with extra loud, gushing babble to fill silences. I love being with friends but really need my solitude and private time to recharge, as this picture illustrates: https://40.media.tumblr.com/2b521b6424b2d320862c7b4c0bf9bdba/tumblr_inline_nmsawcIV9c1qf4j1l_540.jpg
  5. I have an obsession for Breton  jumpers, make that any stripey version of this top in a myriad of different colours… my collection is a little excessive.
  6. My ultimate female girl crush/style icons are: Angelina Jolie, Hayley Williams and Gwyneth Paltrow
  7. For my “Death Row Meal” I would have a smorgasbord of the following: Avocado mash (paprika, lime, olive oil, salt), fresh free range eggs from local chickens — poached, smoked salmon, brie, camembert, super stinky Stilton and thick hunks of fresh French crusty bread with tonnes of Mote butter with crunchy salt veins running through. I would pile up, dip, mix and feast…and die very happy.
  8. I have a Masters degree in Shakespeare yet have never been to Statford Upon Avon — Which I NEED to do ASAP!
  9. My favourite movies are: Ghost World, Vicky Christina Barcelona, The Young Victoria, Skyfall, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Marie Antoinette and Coraline
  10. I really, really, really want to move out and have massive nesting syndrome. All I think about is having my own house and being able to decorate my own little nerd space. Thank goodness for Pinterest for allowing me to virtually scrapbook all interior inspiration…. I also can’t wait to have my own dog. I want a gorgeous, little, fluffy, wolfy, black, shiny eyed Schipperke.

🙂

Charlotte xx

 

*Photo was taken at the rose garden, Hampton Court by boyfriend

 

Birthday Week | July 2015

IT WAS MY BIRTHDAY!

I had a whole week a celebrations planned.

I took an indulgent few days off work, went up North to visit my best friend where many snuggles, drunken silliness, trips to Ikea, dinners out, mischief and catch ups happened… then I had a more relaxing, beautiful evening at Cote with friends closer to home, delicious bubbly, conversation and French food. Perfect.

On the day of my birthday, boyfriend and I headed into London and visited the eccentric oddity that was the Sir John Soane Museum. We ate at Bob Bob Ricard where I had the famous lobster burger and my boyfriend had the pork belly with the BEST truffle mashed potato. If it hadn’t been my birthday he wouldn’t have let me have steal so many spoonfuls!Paul Winch-Furness / PhotographerSource

In the afternoon we went shopping in Harrods and later on I was treated to Oysters and Champagne in the food court. Whilst the bubbly was crisp and delicious, I detested the bitterly salty Oysters! We wondered around,  gazed longingly at many beautiful diamonds (me) and watches (him), bought my yearly birthday cigar and had enough time to purchase some Macarons from Laduree before catching the train home… Tummies full with rich food, sugary treats and arms heavily loaded with glossy dark green Harrods bags.

I was lucky enough to receive many lovely presents but since forever I have wanted a Mulberry handbag. What I didn’t expect was that the kindest individual would treat me to my first one! When my boyfriend presented it to me the night before my birthday, I was too stunned to even speak, except to give a little squeak and stare disbelievingly at the chic, grey carboard shopping bag, with gilt gold writing.  It was the most thoughtful  present I have ever been given. mulberry1 mulberry2 It’s a Blossom tote, and I am head over heels in love with the colour. What do you think? Next was this adorkable macaron bracelet from Laduree at Harrods. It’s in pistachio, my favourite flavour. Yum! macaronbracelet This perfume by Jo Malone. I had wanted to try this range for a while now, the scent is sweet, complex and I adore the crisp, woody notes. joe malone

Boyfriend’s parents gave me this necklace from Mint Velvet, I love the bronzed, golden colour. They also treated me to a cream dress from Mint Velvet, to wear out in London on the day of my birthday.

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I also got so many candles, I’m pretty much obsessed with candles, after I took this photo I received three more! The Gardenia Blossom is particularly gorgeous, a heady mix of coconuts, beaches and white gardenias.

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Oh and it wouldn’t be my birthday without a little geekery… the new pokemon game — I am obsessed with!

I admit, I was feeling very anxious about aging another year, creeping closer to 30 (well, in a few years) but with the company of my good friends to celebrate, plenty of fizz and decadence… It all made it a little less painful 🙂

Hope you’re enjoying the sunshine!

Love,
Charlotte

 

Monthly Reads – April/May

Oh my Gosh. Such reads.

 Marie Antoinette I loved, loved, loved this. All 550 pages. Riveting from beginning to end. An astoundingly extensive and comprehensive work on French history, The French Revolution, Versailles and Courtly life, and  of course…Marie Antoinette. If you love 18th C history or are mildly obsessed with Marie Antoinette, this is an incredible read. A huge volume of information digested easily, beautifully well written, never dry or dull… such an impressive work!

 

Sex, Lies, and the Ballot Box I was trawling the political literature section on Amazon in light of the upcoming/recent British election and this was flagged up: a collection of political essays that scrutinised the electoral process, psychology of voting and our current understanding of parliament. I found it moderately interesting, short pieces that you can dip in and out of, especially if you aren’t very interested in current affairs or politics.  It’s accessible and will hopefully get you more interested, but gives a very accessible insight into British politics.

 

Mini Shopaholic This was pure, guilty, chick lit, feel good, holiday, easy reading. My little sister recommended this because she is a big fan of all of Kinsella’s Shopaholic series. This was a great addition to the series, cute, funny and upbeat… which also helped distracted me from my fear of imminent death whilst flying en route to my holiday to Rome. Ha!

 

Eat Nourish Glow I was really inspired by Freer’s instagram account,  I thought this would be predominantly a recipe book but it’s so much more. Refreshingly honest both in tone and information, it’s a down to earth, full on lifestyle guide which has really helped sculpt my understanding of the value of nutrition and healthy eating. Freer writes in a no-nonsense tone, you can change the fact you feel tired all the time, you can change small aspects of your food habits and resultantly change your life. I love the simple yet revolutionary philosophy of this and would encourage you to buy it 🙂

Link Love… August #1

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A trail of links of my monthly interests for your perusal… Eats

  • Doesn’t this vegetarian curry look beyond tempting? Goop have lots of tasty veggie recipes and I can’t wait to make this one next weekend…
  • Check out this menu, this restaurant is in the beautiful city of Winchester… I really want to eat here!
  • “Watch how this supermarket got people to buy their rubbish” Incredible mini documentary… I *really* hope this concept comes to British supermarkets.
  • My boyfriend and I cooked these super tasty salmon burgers this week and they were delicious, packed full of chilli and peppers for extra flavour (And a skinny option too, bonus points!)

Lifestyle

Reads

  • As part of my U.S “The Office” obsession, I decided to read this collection of short stories by one of the writers, B. J. Novak. Whilst a handful of the stories are good, I’ve found the collection disappointingly hit and miss, and rather underwhelming…
  • I hired this really great book from the university library to read, particularly the chapter “Boxing with Ghosts: The Shakespeare Films of Kenneth Branagh”. If you’re a Branagh/Shakespeare fan you will enjoy this 🙂
  • Another of the many books I have read this month is “GirlBoss“, I jumped on the hype-wagon and found it suprisingly inspiring, motivating and pure badass easy read!
  • This is a perfectly compiled reading list, regardless of season and love many of the titles listed…

And the crazy, funny rest…

 

Date Night, or, The Best Fries I Have Ever Eaten.

This is a post dedicated to the best fries I have ever eaten in my life.

YES, FRIES. Get on board now and bare with me, it will make this all a little easier…  Fries are one of my favourite snacks and whilst these are a far stretch from a healthy Alkaline green smoothie, if you are going to indulge in a little decadence you need to go all out with these:

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These are truffle and parmesan fries and they are the most incredible pub snack you will ever eat. They are the creation of The Thomas Lord,  a  traditional period, country pub that does astoundingly good food which supersedes your average local. My boyfriend and I both live in “middle of nowhere” villages and on one of our first dates,  he took me to the Thomas Lord. It was love at first bite.

They are cooked multiple times in order to create the perfectly crisp outer skin that crunches with each delicious mouthful. Not only is the texture sublime but for added taste they are cooked in flavoursome truffle oil. This  is not an over powering flavoured oil, it lends a distinctive richness and mouth-watering scent that I have not experienced or tasted previously. They are finished with a light coating of salty, parmesan shavings that are the final scrumptious seal.

As you can see, I enjoy these with a large glass of Rose whilst my boyfriend opts for a local ale, Ringwood.

If you are ever in the county of Hampshire and are headed South, I would highly recommend dropping by this beautiful little Bistro, it is one of my favourite places to curl up on an old creased leather sofa, with a lovely glass of wine, catching up with my love and tucking into some tasty eats.

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Charlotte xx