Bookish Delights

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Yesterday I sported a Pride & Prejudice scarf:

A bookish ring:

And some delightful book-themed earrings:

Unfortunately I can't actually tell you where any of these amazing accessories came from. Soz. They were all presents (I have excellent friends who know exactly what I will like!) and I dunno about you, but I don't like to rummage into the background of gifts I've received because that means finding out the price of them and it all seems a bit odd. I think I have a vague recollection of seeing the earrings on The Literary Gift Company's website a while ago but I may be wrong.

Anyway, a bit of googling should provide you with the answers, should you wish to follow in my literary-accessorised footsteps. I can't recommend this scarf highly enough. Not only does everyone absolutely love it (so many compliments all day!) but because it's a snood/infinity scarf type thing, one half is printed one way and the other, the other. Should you get bored in a meeting, let your eyes drift downwards and indulge in a bit of Pride & Prejudice. What could be more fun?

A New Vintage Frock

Friday, 24 July 2015

I had a bit of a trying-on session of lots of my vintage clobber last weekend. Sad times. As I bought most of them just after The Great Weight-loss Campaign and have subsequently chubbed up a bit, lots of them don't quite fit any more. Actually, lots of them never really fitted - I was hoping I'd slim down a bit more and magically get into them and, well, that never happened.

On the bright side, the fabulous Vix was in my neck of the woods at the time. All her vintage stock is so incredibly tempting that it's not really surprising that I treated myself to some new bits and bobs, is it? Then I went back the next day and bestowed a large bag of vintage goodies on her. In the spirit of decluttering, I decided to get rid of all the aforementioned stuff that never fitted, along with a load of silk scarves I never wear. Might as well let them get passed onto someone that will appreciate them!

Being the all-round excellent person she is, Vix made me take a couple more delightful vintage frocks home with me in exchange. Think we can all agree that this 70s midi is a winner, right?

My resting bitch face is strong today but I do love it, I promise! Also well done hair, you look epic here.

Dress - courtesy of Vix's amazing vintage shop
Wedges - Dolcis
Ring - Dorothy Perkins sale
Necklace - either Dorothy Perkins or H&M! All my jewellery comes from there...

A Blogging Good Read - July

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Hello! Joining me for this month's edition of A Blogging Good Read are Jessica from Jessica In Your Ear and Lizzie from Lizzie Dripping.

Jessica's choice was S. by J.J. Abrams & Doug Dorst:

If anyone ever asks me to recommend them a book, I always tell them to try S by JJ Abrams and Doug Dorst. I wrote my dissertation for my undergraduate degree on the book and if I ever talk to anyone about it, I become very geeky and enthusiastic about it! It’s basically a book within a book, as Doug Dorst and JJ Abrams teamed up to create a normal novel as well as a love story written by two characters within the margins. I love the concept and the little touches are incredible – the book ‘Ship of Theseus’ has a library stamp and the pages are interspersed with postcards, newspaper articles and even a hand drawn map on a napkin. It’s definitely a book to ‘explore’ rather than just read and if you want to immerse yourself in the whole world, there is a huge cult online fan following. It’s definitely a unique book and I personally think it is brilliant. A word of warning, I might be rather heartbroken if my fellow book bloggers didn’t enjoy it!

This is like nothing I've ever read before. I'd never even heard of it before Jessica chose it as her pick for BGR and I was fascinated by the description when I investigated further. Even that didn't prepare for me for the actual book. It's the most mindbogglingly intricate publication I've ever seen and I can't imagine how much work must have gone into creating it. There's the book itself (The Ship of Theseus), a story told via margin notes over different timelines and all the varying inserts. Everything is utterly beautifully crafted and I honestly don't know how they managed to do it.

It's an unusual one to read. I ended up going for the swirly approach and read story and notes at the same time, going round and round and round in a joyous whirl of text and margin comments. There are multiple options though! Given the sheer volume of story on offer, I think there's something to be said for reading The Ship of Theseus first and reading Eric & Jen's story afterwards. Even the fact that their story unfolds over four different timelines (handily marked in different coloured pens) means that there's a huge amount of re-readability to S and I'm looking forward to going back and reading about them in chronological rather than page order. I'm a big fan of epistolary narratives so I found the occasionally snarky and rather charming unfolding of their relationship more engrossing than the story told in The Ship of Theseus but all elements of this book are worth diving into.

On a side note, I notice that this is available as an audiobook and I have no idea how that would work. If you're going to read it (and I strongly recommend you do so!), please invest in the paper version. It's a mini work of art.

Did Lizzie like it?

This was a book I really struggled with. The multiple narratives were interesting but I found the pages quite distracting and overwhelming in terms of the text on them. I was reading this on a Kindle, and I imagine that the text version is probably better spaced and has better contrast. I ended up reading the "main story" first and the "annotations" second. Both the narratives were good - I was more involved in the annotations- but it wasn't quite the immersive, whole book experience, that was promised in the foreword. I think I'd definitely recommend a paper copy for this book.

Lizzie picked The Awakeningby Kate Chopin:

This is a book I read for the first time a year ago and I absolutely loved. The novel focuses on a woman (Edna) who is married and has two children and yet feels that her life is lacking something. As the book continues, she explores whether she is missing love, freedom or simply just time to discover herself.

I love this book for a number of reasons. Firstly, I love the character. "The Awakening" was first written in 1899 and it presents a woman who was very forward thinking - the book was actually banned in a few circles because it was so forward thinking. Despite being nearly 120 years old, I still felt that this book spoke to me on a very base level. Secondly, Edna is struggling with something that we all struggle with - she just feels like she isn't in the right place. This is something I think we've all experienced, whether in work, academia or relationships, and Edna is very real and relatable as she explores her life. Finally, I think I quite like the fact that the book is quite dark in places and things are not always what they seem (but I'll say no more so as not to spoil it).

This is definitely a book I would recommend: it's written in a very unique way and was way ahead of it's time too.

What did Jessica think of it?

The Awakening was the final book I read. I had never come across it or the author before but it definitely reminded me of the kind of book I read during my English Lit degree. As a result, it took me a little time to really settle into it and stop feeling like I needed to be analysing and writing notes! It was shocking for the time it was published because it details a married woman who actually has feelings, and those feelings are for another man who isn't her husband. It was interested to read in this feminist context and if you enjoy your classics, this is a less well-known novel to add to your to-read list.

I know what Jessica means on this one! There is a certain whiff of English Literature set text about this but that's not a bad thing as far as I'm concerned. The good set texts I had for A level English, that is...if I ever start comparing anything to Nights at the Circus or Things Fall Apart then you'll be only too clear about exactly how much I hated those two... Ahem. Back to The Awakening. It also reminded me quite strongly of certain Persephone titles - that leisurely pace, the level of detailed description about even the most of minor of things and the appreciation that a woman actually can write a serious work of literature about the everyday lives of women. 

Unsuprisingly, I liked it a lot. Very much my cup of tea!

I went for The Miniaturistby Jessie Burton:

This is a rare case of me overcoming my natural antipathy towards award-winning books and giving it a go. While I don't entirely agree with the massive amounts of hoopla that came along with this book (seriously, it seemed like everyone was reading it at one point), I did enjoy reading it and that makes it a definite BGR candidate. The sense of place is extremely strong - open the covers of the book and bang, you're in seventeenth century Amsterdam and caught up in the mysteries surrounding Nella.

She's recently married to a trader, much older than her, and is presented with a dolls house as a wedding present. It's a miniature version of their own house, furnished in exquisite detail. Then additional items keep appearing in the post. Who's sending them? How do they know so much about the inner workings of the household? Whilst I could wish that this book went a little deeper into certain elements and fleshed out some of the characters a bit more, the setting and mystery are more than enough to sell it to me.

What did Lizzie think?

This was a book that I'd been longing to read and the opening hooked me straight away into the characters. If I'm honest though, the middle third of the book kind of lost me; it became, in my opinion, a little repetitive and confusing (a lot of characters and not a lot of information). The last third though, was wonderfully written - fast paced, intriguing and a real page turner. I guess I'm meant to feel a lot like Nella, the main character, but it was still a frustrating middle none-the-less.

How about Jessica?

The Miniaturist has been on my ‘to-read’ list since it won Waterstones Book of the Year in 2014. It’s been so hyped up that my expectations were sky-high and although it was an enjoyable read, it really didn’t enthuse me in the way I expected it to. Like the doll-house which drives the plot, I felt that the characters were all a little two-dimensional; I found it hard to truly connect with anyone in the story emotionally. I think the book had simply been too hyped up for me, as it didn’t blow me away like other ‘big reads’ of 2015. That said, I did finish it in just one train journey so it can’t have been that bad! I thought it was an intriguing concept and a plot which I haven’t encountered before but it just failed to completely grab me.

Thank you so much for taking part, Jessica and Lizzie. I loved both of your picks!

I'll be back next month and we'll be reading Coralineby Neil Gaiman, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hydeby Robert Louis Stevenson and Modern Serpents Talk Things Throughby Jamie Brindle.

Long time, no outfit post...

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

I'm just not entirely feeling it at the moment. Mainly cos urgh, life is severely getting in the way, but also because I am feeling mahoosive right now and outfit photos are not turning out the same way that my reflection does. Funny that.

My new skirt is undoubtedly very pretty though, so that's some solace. As is the cardi. You just have to be careful not to wear it on sunny days because hello awkward tan lines.

Also I've finally been able to dig out all my summer sandals. Yay! These trusty cork-soled wedges have been going strong for about 15 years now. Love 'em.

Skirt - George
Cardi - Dorothy Perkins
Stacking rings - H&M sale
Wedges - Dolcis

A Blogging Good Read - June

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Joining me for this month's edition of Blogging Good Read are Lucy from Books & Brooches and Jen from Gingerella. What did we read?

 Lucy's book choice was Yes Pleaseby Amy Poehler:

I was really excited about reading this as I think Amy Poehler is very funny and articulate, you may know her from Mean Girls, Parks and Recreation or Saturday Night Live (she does a killer Hilary Clinton) amongst others. She is also best friends and often writing partner/award show host with Tina Fey, so I was looking forward to being blown away by her book. Except I wasn't. The book was OK, there were funny parts and interesting parts as well as insights in to the world of showbiz and comedy. She covers diverse topics from her time on Saturday Night Live, divorce and heartbreak, taking drugs to motherhood. It just wasn't as great as I was expecting. I think this is because Amy's comedy is all in the delivery, she is charming and quickwitted and I think this may have been better as an audiobook than a paperback.

Did Jen enjoy it?

 With this one, I am really torn; I really enjoyed parts and disliked others. The parts I disliked were the constant name-dropping, and not because it was name-dropping - she's a famous person, she knows other famous people - but more because I didn't know the names! Maybe that's my fault and I can't hold that against Amy but it got to the point where I would be reading and these names I didn't know would be replaced by 'Famous Person X', 'Famous Person Y'. Yes, that might be my fault but I wasn't about to go and Google every single name. Also, the intro was too long, and yes it is difficult to write a book but you've written one now so please, let us continue. The parts I really enjoyed were the stories of her childhood, youth and current life, and especially her viewpoints on life and people. Some would consider it preaching or self-help but I think it's more about her sharing her experiences and perhaps, even her recognising herself as a role model. I found myself able to relate to her and would read several parts and internally shout 'YES! Totally! That's me'. There were also several laugh-out-loud moments. I wouldn't say this was a quick read as I did have to keep taking breaks from it but it was a book I enjoyed. Another three out of five stars.

I know I should technically write my reviews in isolation but hey, if you've read my last post you'll know I'm quite the champ at procrastination so you're probably not surprised that I do occasionally end up penning my thoughts on the BGR post as the very last part of putting the whole thing together. In this instance, it's not a bad thing because I've been wholeheartedly nodding along with Lucy and Jen's thoughts on Yes Please and I basically want to write "Yup, what they said."

Parts of it were brilliant, parts were a bit meh. It seemed quite uneven and although that is kind of part of the charm of it - it's like Amy is sitting down and chattering on with you - it does also make it a bit hit and miss overall. I definitely agree with Lucy on the audiobook thing - I've since listened to autobiographies by Mindy Kaling and Neil Patrick Harris and there's something about hearing an actor or comedian's words in their own voice that does really enhance things.

I chose Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George:

Prior to my Orkney trip I ran my Amazon wishlist through Scribd to see if anything was on there - might as well make use of my subscription! Now I have no idea why this particular book was on my wishlist in the first place but I'm delighted that Jessica Day George's entire back catalogue turned out to be available on Scribd because I promptly glommed them. As with all of her books, this is quite a gentle, sweet, satisfying read. It's a retelling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses fairytale, which I must admit I was only vaguely familiar with beforehand.

The twelve princesses of Westfalin disappear every third night and return exhausted in the morning. The curse that ties them to having to dance all night at the Midnight Ball also means that they can't tell anyone about where they're going and so no-one can help them break the curse. That is until an enterprising young soldier returns from the wars, gets a job in the palace gardens and sets about solving the mystery. I am very fond of Galen - a hero who knits! Although I'd never describe this sort of book as realistic, there's enough of an edge to the world-building to set it apart from sugary sweet kids fairytales.

What did Lucy think?

This was an enjoyable read, sometimes you need to know the heroes win the day and the bad guys will fall. I really like old fairy tales, and remember reading the story Twelve Dancing Princesses that this is based upon, years ago. I enjoy a bit of magic and whimsy, which this has in spades, mix that in with a mystery, magical objects and forbidden love and you have a gentle, pleasant, easy read.

How about Jen?
Fantasy isn't typically a genre I would read and as such, I wasn't sure I was going to like it. However, the ending of the first chapter had me wanting to read on. When there are a lot of characters in a book, sometimes with unusual names, I can struggle to follow, remember or connect with who they are. But in this case, having the thoughts and feelings of the two main characters being the principal focus worked well to prevent that. Having said that, I might've liked more development of some of the characters. The fate of the princesses and her saviour held my intrigue and the love story was sweet although them being 'madly in love' never quite shone through for me. I did very much enjoy the descriptions and imagery in the book and it was definitely enchanting; it reminded me of Beauty and the Beast, or similar, in its depictions (not the storyline). Again, this was a quick read and I enjoyed it. Three out of five stars I'd say.

Jen picked The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins:

Rachel catches the train to London every morning and each day, as the train stops at the same signal, she watches the couple living at number 15. She becomes obsessed with their seemingly perfect life. One day, she sees something at number 15 that shocks her. Rachel begins to get caught up in what she saw, and the life of this young couple. It raises questions about herself and her own life. I chose the book as I'd seen it praised in the media and the plot sounded intriguing.

From the start, my impression of Rachel was one of unhappiness, depression and self-loathing. Despite this, I still warmed to her character and I was intrigued to see what would transpire; would she pick herself up, and what was she going to witness at number 15? The 'something shocking' that Rachel sees, I found a little disappointing and was expecting something a little more sinister. As the story progresses, no-one takes Rachel seriously about what she sees or knows, the people in her life seem to despise her and she continues to fall apart at the seams rather than pull herself together. The twist at the end was not a surprise to me as the build up definitely points in this direction and if I'm completely honest, I wasn't so captured by the characters that I felt all that bothered by it. Finally, at the end, Rachel gets her life together. This was a quick read and had enough of a plot to keep my interest but, given all the hype, I thought it was mostly just OK, somewhere between two and a half and three stars out of five.

The Girl on the Train is a book that's quite hard to review without giving anything away so I'll steer clear of too much description, but I think the comparisons it's had in the press to Gone Girl are fair. Both books feature a whole host of deeply unpleasant characters, have quite an unsettling atmosphere and are so full of twists and turns that you carry on reading just to see how it all ends up. As with Gone Girl, I loathed all the characters. Rachel is a very unreliable narrator and it's a bold choice by the author to make her protagonist quite so unpleasant. You don't finish this book because you're anxious to find out that she's ok - frankly I didn't care about her enough for that. You finish it because the plot and pacing are interesting enough to hook you in. Overall it's not a wonderful book and I don't quite understand why it's being raved about so much, but it's an entertaining enough read.

Did Lucy enjoy it?

I couldn't get hold of this book for love nor (a reasonable amount of) money, so I downloaded the audiobook (thank goodness for free trials!), this only added to the eerie atmosphere of the book. Before BGR I had no desire to read this book, as it had often been likened to Gone Girl, which I had really not enjoyed. I'm so glad BGR made me read this, so I could finally see what the fuss was all about. Paula Hawkins is an excellent writer, you quickly become entangled with Rachel and the other characters as you delve deeper in to their disturbing lives. The mystery (which I won't spoil here) was also good, although you may find yourself sensing the 'twist' sooner than the write thinks. The only reason I didn't enjoy this book is I need at least one character that I like (however slightly) in a book, and in The Girl on the Train, there was no-one.

Huge thanks to Lucy and Jen for joining us with BGR this month. Next month the books will be S. by J.J Abrams & Doug Dorst, The Awakening by Kate Chopin and The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton.

I'm on the hunt for more people to take part in BGR for the rest of the year so if you like reading and want to join in, please give me a shout!

10 Things I'm Bad At

Friday, 5 June 2015

On the flipside of my last post, here are ten things I'm bad at.

Getting up. I am actually hopeless at this. I have six different alarms and I'm all too capable of turning them off and just going back to sleep. I really need one of those Wallace & Gromit waking-up gadgets that tips me directly out of bed and into my clothes.

Remembering birthdays. Don't take it personally. I love you, I really do, but you should probably prepare yourself for dropping several hints in my direction if your big day is coming up soon. The same applies for addresses. I'm awful at writing them down.

Housework. I know it needs doing but there's always something more fun to do, isn't there? I like a tidy house but I'm not capable of keeping it that way.

Putting up with stupidity. Extreme eye-rolling will occur. It also happens when people are banging on about wanky self-help stuff or mooing about things that are entirely their own fault. I should be more empathetic but christ, it only goes so far.

Overlooking poor spelling and grammar. I've reached the point where I can hold myself back from pointing it out all the time but I cannot and will not subject myself to it by choice. If your blog or Twitter feed are constantly full of idiotic typos or you don't know the difference between your/you're then I'm not reading. Soz.

Making myself exercise. It's just not fun! I know I need to get back into swimming and 30 Day Shred but I will take every possible opportunity and make every possible excuse not to do it. Horse-riding and associated yardwork is the exception to this. That stuff is fun.

Art. I'm forever envious of people who can draw and doodle and paint. I haven't got an artistic bone in my body, which is doubly disappointing because my grandad was a wonderful painter and I'd have loved to inherited some of his talent.

Following dress patterns. Oh my gosh. What I wouldn't give to know which part of my brain is broken in this respect. I cannot comprehend them. I can't visualise what things should look like. I just don't understand. It's as if my brain takes one look and goes BLUUUUUUUUUHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH. When I first attempted sleeves I couldn't make head nor tail of the instructions and it was only by some miracle that I did the first one correctly first time. Then I did the second one wrong EIGHT times in a row, even though I had literally just done one and had it right there to compare it to.

Procrastinating. I'm really good at it actually. But that's bad, so on this list it goes. There are two sides to this awesome talent of mine: putting off things I can't be arsed doing and hiding away from things I think are scary. Guess what? Neither of them are that bad if I actually make myself get off my arse and do them.

Attracting men. *plays tiny violin*

10 Things I'm Good At

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Forgive me for shamelessly nicking this idea from Janet, Louisa and Sarah but I loved their posts so much that I wanted to have a go myself. My list is scarily similar to Janet's. I feel like we might actually be the same person, just with different coloured hair.

Anyway, I digress. This is a list of 10 things that I'm really good at. I am suppressing hard my natural inclination to add "but" to the end of all of these. These are good, solid things that I kick arse at and I'm not ashamed to blow my own trumpet.

Reading. Probably not a surprise to anyone who has seen the amount of books I own. I read a lot. An awful lot. Also I read mega fast. I take great pleasure in seeing the recommended reading time that programmes like Scribd suggest for a book. I usually come in at about a third of it.

On a related note...

Recommending books. This is always an inexact science because it's v. tricky to find someone whose tastes exactly match your own, however I've read enough books to make a decent stab at recommending titles to people who are in search of a particular thing.

Remembering places and navigating. I don't get it when people say they don't understand maps. Maps are easy. There's no room for you in my family if you can't navigate down Z roads in the middle of nowhere in search of elusive historical sites. I have a good memory for places too. If I've been somewhere once, I'll recognise it a second time, even if I come across it from a different direction.

Proof-reading. Not for nothing am I known as the Grammar Police at work. They bought me a policeman's helmet and everything. If you need your letter/email/article/leaflet/sign/presentation to be checked and edited, I'm your woman.

Buying presents. I hope I'm good at this... I think I am! I will not buy dull gift sets or generic crap for people. I pay close attention to little things that people say they like or mentions they make of things and then if they haven't already bought them, I'll snap them up for birthdays or Christmas. I think about things, basically.

My job. Which you would hope most people would be good at, right? Especially when they've been doing it for 10 years. But I'm not ashamed to say that I'm really good at my job. I work really hard and I get excellent annual reviews. It's a completely different beast from the role I started off doing in 2005 but ten years on I think they would genuinely struggle to directly replace me. Finding someone who can do all your admin, phone & email customer service for 120k visitors, be in charge of records management and compliance, run and help with some kick-ass events, manage 250+ volunteers, write the content for the websites, keep on top of social media, generally solve all the problems, run a booking system and deal with the myriad associated transfers/problems/date changes for 10k visitors a year, plus the million and one other things I get called upon to do that I can't remember right now, yeah, that would be tricky.

Budgeting. Go me: I saved up a deposit and bought my own house, all whilst earning less than the national average. I budget like a champ. Separate accounts for car spending and presents shopping and everything. I like to know where my money goes.

Being on my own. I live on my own, I quite often go on holiday on my own and I see absolutely nothing scary about taking myself out for a cinema date and meal. Love it. Work makes me be a lot more extroverted than I'm naturally inclined to be, so I truly relish time by myself. Company is all well and good but there's nothing nicer than pottering around by yourself. Solitary bliss.

Sleeping. Like an actual log. Face down in the pillows, looking like a dead person. Very little wakes me up. I have awesome dreams and the handy knack of being able to wake up, go back to sleep and pick up where I left off with the dream. It's great fun.

Decorating. I did have to delegate ceiling-painting to my dad, purely because I'm too short to do it comfortably, but almost all of the rest of my house was done by me and Mum. If there's a vertical surface, I either painted or wallpapered it (hey, I even peeled 47 layers of disgusting wallpaper off it first). I'm handy with sandpaper and a tube of Polyfilla. I can hang pictures. I can finangle carpet and lino cut-offs to fit inside cupboards (woo Stanley knife). I am shit-hot at putting together Ikea furniture. I own a toolkit. I am woman, hear me roar.