Saturday, 14 March 2015

End of Winter Book Reviews

After setting myself a few reading goals at the beginning of this year I have been steaming ahead into my 'to read' pile and found myself super pleased with most of the books read.

Having, or more specifically making that precious time, in a jam packed day, to really sit back and enjoy a book, was my first and foremost literary goal, and already flying through the third month, setting sail for Spring, I find myself actually dedicating parts of my day for this purpose. Gone are the excuses and distractions that used to keep me from indulging in reading. Having that ridiculous pressure of 'what should I be doing/ what am I missing out on' etc was blocking my way, and by pushing those negative and dragging thoughts away I have fallen in love with reading once more.

These are the books I have read and enjoyed over this fading Winter:

A Feast For Crows (A Song of Ice and Fire #4) by George R. R. Martin - 5 stars
I don't have a review of such for this novel for several reasons. One reason being that it is such a beast of a book that I wouldn't know where to begin, another would be for fear of spoiling an essential plot twist for fellow Game of Thrones followers, but also because I doubt my ability to do the story justice. I will say though, that although it was a little slower getting started than the previous three, I really enjoyed it and towards the second half of the book found myself unable to put it down. If you're already a fan of the series, of course you will pick it up! Enough said.

Stardust by Neil Gaiman - 3 stars
"Young Tristran Thorn will do anything to win the cold heart of beautiful Victoria Forester, even fetch her the star they watch fall from the night sky. But to do so, he must enter the unexplored lands on the other side of the ancient wall that gives their tiny village it's name. Beyond that stone barrier, Tristran learns, lies Faerie... and the most exhilarating adventure of the young man's life."

I hate to say this, but I really couldn't enjoy this book, despite it ticking all kinds of boxes. The story was adventureful, the characters were odd and wonderful and the worlds were interesting and had my curiosity tightly gripped... But... I just couldn't get on with how it was written. I feel I may have missed something. I really didn't enjoy the tone or the style and couldn't therefore appreciate the novel, as I had hoped.
I think this book, with it's witches and unicorns and wonderfully fairytale happenings, will capture the imagination and hearts of many people yet to read it, but sadly I speed read my way to the end, feeling a light relief as I closed the book.

Paper Aeroplanes by Dawn O' Porter - 4 stars
Set in the 90's, Renee and Flo are an unlikely friendship paring but find kinship together throughout this nostalgic read. Following their teenage dramatics this book shows a peek into the lives of two small town adolescents and the entanglement of friendship.

What a sweet and funny book. It is what it is, no frills attached and certainly doesn't claim to be poetry, but for a nostalgic and often hilariously cringe worthy glimpse back at life as a teenager, this little novel was marvellous. It's the honest insight, the unforgivably brutal happenings and the awkwardly familiar emotions that really make this book. I recommend this to anyone looking for a blast from the past, to squirm in their seat and to laugh at and with the characters and themselves whilst remembering days gone by!

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent - 4 stars
"A brilliant literary debut, inspired by a true story of the final days of a young woman accused of murder in Iceland in 1829."

Soft, enchanting, gentle paced story full of intrigue and emotion. Emotion made stronger by the moment you realise this tale is based on true events. Cleverly led and delicately delivered, I was captured by this touching story and felt submerged into it's world. One for solitary souls seeking a glimpse of a foreign time and place.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald - 3 stars
"Young, handsome and fabulously rich, Jay Gatsby is the bright star of the Jazz Age, but as writer Nick Carraway is drawn into the decadent orbit of his Long Island mansion, where the party never seems to end, he finds himself faced by the mystery of Gatsby's origins and desires. Beneath the shimmering surface of his life, Gatsby is hiding a secret; a silent longing that can never be fulfilled. And soon, this destructive obsession will force his world to unravel."

Ahh Mr. Gatsby. A finely spun tale of decadence and consumption in a time so fittingly equal. An honest review; I didn't fall in love with this book. I think the story line is wonderful and clever and full of awfully honest romance. But the telling, (sorry Fitzgerald), just didn't jam right for me. It was however, a perfect insight into the times of excess and showed a distinct window into the 1920's. The characters are also fantastic and believable, flaws and all. Over all this book gave great story and captured the essence of the decade but for me personally I fought my way through the writing style.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel - 4 stars
"A band of actors and musicians called the Travelling Symphony move through their territories performing concerts and Shakespeare to the settlements that have grown up there. Twenty years after a prolific event, life feels relatively safe. But now a new danger looms and threatens the hopeful world every survivor has tried to rebuild." (I was purposefully vague whilst selecting this summary... Go into this one with little insight as possible!)

What a truly fascinating idea! I loved the entwining elements that run throughout the story, the pacing all the way along, the focus on various characters and their individual stories merging into a whole. I really loved the thoughts this book provokes; the reflection upon ones own existence, priorities and importance when looking from a greater height.
As the story moves back and forth between what are in the end two worlds, the parallels made between this and the comic book, also between the world on stage and real life, was really quite something.
I did start out with a 3 star rating opinion, but as the story developed and unfolded I found myself sucking into it, as each character drew closer to some revelation I was also handing onto the end of each chapter.
One thing I couldn't personally groove with; within a paragraph made up of several sentences I could all too easily notice the repetition of stand out words or phrases. Such a minute thing to point out but now and then I found it noticeable enough to distract slightly.
Other than that I really enjoyed this book. An original telling of a classic 'what if' scenario.

I am very much looking forward to choosing and turning to the first page of my next book, and hopefully continuing to allow space in my day to really consume the story. What have you guys been reading lately and do you have any suggestions or recommendations for me, based on my reviews?

Friday, 6 March 2015

Play Bill // Alternative Design Movie Posters

There are some seriously talented people out there in this creative curioso of a world we live in and a handful of those people have caught my beady eyed attention through the form of stunning art work for some of my favourite films ever! The magic of the movies is captured with such vivacious design and imagery in these alternative offerings of classic pin ups.

These crafty designers and illustrators have whipped up such genius posters, some seriously minimalist, some beautifully sketched, all totally awesome. I enjoy the visual aspect and movie references so much that I have created an ever growing pinterest board dedicated to them! If you share my love of these witty play bills then feel free to head over to my board, as I struggled in short listing a handful for this post, you can feast your eyes on the rest over there!

Some of these beauties are even up for sale, so follow the link down the rabbit hole to it's origin and go wild snapping up a print or two!

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At least as grown ups we can celebrate our love of art and entertainment with these beauties framed and pride of place to spruce up a stuffy office, rather than those pull outs from Top of The Pops and Sugar magazine... And the mess that blue tac leaves on the walls!! (Anyone else have nostalgic memories of that??!)

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Pencil Me In // Etsy Buy

Dearest friends of the internet, please let me introduce you to my new scrummy treasures, purchased from a wonderfully sleek and quirky Etsy store DubuDumo **big dreamy sigh**

When surfing the tumultuous waves of online delights, it can be super tricky to choose that special piece of desk wear that will organise your chaos, keep you up to date and hold your hand, leading you through a new year, with ease and style!

There are so many gorgeous designs, beautifully sumptuous papers and all manner of notation devices that when you see one (or the two, in my case!), that really jump out at you, then you just know it's meant to be! Hey, I take my stationary seriously...

This leather covered academic monthly/ weekly planner (or journal as I will be making FAST use of this beauty), and it's cute partner in crime, the standing weekly scheduler found their way into my greedy little hands through the Aladdin's cave that is Etsy, specifically DubuDumo. Seoul based but shipping worldwide, DubuDumo sell all kinds of organisational wonders and stationary delights, from sticky note macaroons to animal shaped wooden business card holders, so good I had to buy two pieces!

Both of these planners were exactly as described online and if I dare say, even better in the flesh. The soft buttery fabric used for the blush pink diary is beyond gorgeous and the quality paper used for each of them is such great quality. The desk planner sits perfectly sound and displays two pages, ready for your weekly notes, reminders and important dates, not forgetting space for your all important to do list! The smaller slim diary has the perfect combination of a year review spread over two pages, monthly sheets and of course the ever useful daily slots. There are also a great amount of empty pages that always house the odd phone number, blog post idea and doodle procrastination!

A gentle push to get my shiz together, to keep on track of up coming events and to remind myself to record more of my thoughts and ideas but also daily happenings. Now, where do I buy a purdy pencil with which to write upon my shiny new pages...

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

To Do

Get back in the saddle and reacquaint myself with my sewing machine, set new challenges and projects.

Keep chugging through my Dutch book, set a study timetable, search for fresher study material, watch more Dutch tv.

Write some blog posts in bulk and start scheduling posts, get organised, become more frequent (without setting dates), make time for photography.

Prepare and pack for my trip to England!

Build up some productive playlists on spotify //blogging, studying, travel, crafting//.

Purchase a new hard drive and back up!

Plan places to visit around SW Germany for our holiday in March.

Squeeze every day out of my birthday month, begin with planning all the baking!

Organise and file photographs, clean up and edit, label etc.

Frequently journal and document (my memory sucks), daily tasks and recorded thoughts, ideas etc.

Move more. Source motivation and quit the sofa. Make use of my yoga mat daily!

Write a clear plan for my shop, begin with prototypes, organisation, paper work, build up pattern network.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Lipstick On Your Collar

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You know that expression 'it's all in the details'? Well after diving into a fashion packed inspiration sea of fine detailing and clever little touches, all I want to do is update my wardrobe with these beautiful collar led looks!

Something so simple can really update an outfit, allows you to express creativity and personality and sets you apart from a crowd of crew necks. This look is so easily achieved, even when layering up to survive this chilly weather, in fact, these sweet collars look especially cute when peeking out from under a jumper!

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Printed blouse, scalloped edge or fastened with a vintage pin; there are so many ways to work this style and each one gives a special twist to an otherwise regular get up. If retro is your thing, pair your pretty blouse with a fitted knit and second hand brooch, or perhaps you prefer a more masculine fashion, working the sharp edge of a classic white shirt worn with a beautiful pair of brogues, or go for cutie pie with a peter pan curve under a checked pinafore.

Scattered across the wonderful world of internet, there are many fab tutorials for re shaping an existing collar into a fun new shape and also DIY videos for knitted and crochet pieces, such as this beaut of a post by Erin from The Halfway Point blog.

What are your thoughts on the peek a boo blouse? Are you a fan of fine detailing an outfit? Do you have any other great tips on how to achieve something similar?

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

2015 Bring It On!

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Let's make this one count. 

Let's open our eyes and minds, make it the year to learn something new, to explore and discover, to grow and develop as individuals, to listen to what we want, to spread kindness and knowledge, to enjoy the small, simple moments, to make the most of opportunities and to see the best in a situation, to take steps towards something new, to open doors and start fresh chapters, to embrace change, to strengthen relationships and make an effort, to broaden horizons and learn to see things through the lens of others, to love and laugh but most of all to be the best version of ourselves. 

2015 bring it on!

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Turning Pages // Top Ten Books Read in 2014

The end of the year always supplies the perfect opportunity to look back over the previous twelve months, to review and observe and to reflect on another year, and to prepare ourselves mentally for the fresh new start almost upon us.

I think this is a really enjoyable thing to do, not to mention pretty important really, if you think about it. It gives the chance to look back on wonderful memories but also to objectively point out what went well, what could have gone better, what you enjoyed and not so much, and such alike. It's also a great time to take a moment to appreciate what you have. That never hurts to do, does it, and it's something I am most selfishly bad at and can often forget to notice the bloody brilliant things I've done and the precious moments I have had.

Enough of the smushy stuff, this here is a literary review post, listing my most enjoyed novels of 2014. This was the first year I really made note of the books I read, giving reviews and ratings as I went along, and it is such a fantastic tool for looking back, particularly as my memory is so gosh darn awful! Here is my selection, ranking 10-6 in order of preference and then my top 5 in no particular order, since I struggled tremendously to choose!!

10. Before I Go To Sleep by S. J. Watson  4/5*

'As I sleep, my mind will erase everything I did today. I will wake up tomorrow as I did this morning. Thinking I'm still a child. Thinking I have a whole lifetime of choice ahead of me...' Memories define us. So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep? Your name, your identity, your past, even the people you love - all forgotten overnight. And the one person you trust may only be telling you half the story. Welcome to Christine's life.

9. Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn  4/5*

Fresh from a brief stay at a psych hospital, reporter Camille Preaker faces a troubling assignment: she must return to her tiny hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls. For years, 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 in her old bedroom in her family's Victorian mansion, Camille finds herself identifying with the young victims--a bit too strongly. Dogged by her own demons, she must unravel the psychological puzzle of her own past if she wants to get the story--and survive this homecoming.

8. The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides  4/5*

First published in 1993, "The Virgin Suicides" announced the arrival of a major new American novelist. In a quiet suburb of Detroit, the five Lisbon sisters--beautiful, eccentric, and obsessively watched by the neighbourhood boys--commit suicide one by one over the course of a single year. As the boys observe them from afar, transfixed, they piece together the mystery of the family's fatal melancholy, in this hypnotic and unforgettable novel of adolescent love, disquiet, and death. Jeffrey Eugenides evokes the emotions of youth with haunting sensitivity and dark humour and creates a coming-of-age story unlike any of our time. Adapted into a critically acclaimed film by Sofia Coppola, "The Virgin Suicides" is a modern classic, a lyrical and timeless tale of sex and suicide that transforms and mythologises suburban middle-American life.

7. Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane  4/5*

The year is 1954. U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels and his new partner, Chuck Aule, have come to Shutter Island, home of Ashecliffe Hospital for the Criminally Insane, to investigate the disappearance of a patient. Multiple murderess Rachel Solando is loose somewhere on this remote and barren island, despite having been kept in a locked cell under constant surveillance. As a killer hurricane relentlessly bears down on them, a strange case takes on even darker, more sinister shades--with hints of radical experimentation, horrifying surgeries, and lethal countermoves made in the cause of a covert shadow war. No one is going to escape Shutter Island unscathed, because nothing at Ashecliffe Hospital is what it seems. But then neither is Teddy Daniels.

6. #Girlboss by Sophia Amoruso  4/5*

A #Girlboss is in charge of her own life. She gets what she wants because she works for it.' The first thing Sophia Amoruso sold online wasn't fashion - it was a stolen book. She spent her teens hitchhiking, committing petty theft, and dumpster diving. By twenty-two, she had resigned herself to employment, but was still broke, directionless, and working a mediocre day job she'd taken for the health insurance. It was there that Sophia decided to start selling vintage clothes on eBay. Eight years later, she is the founder, CEO, and creative director of Nasty Gal, a $100 million plus online fashion retailer with more than 350 employees. Sophia's never been a typical CEO, or a typical anything, and she's written #Girlboss for outsiders (and insiders) seeking a unique path to success, even when that path is winding as all hell and lined with naysayers. #Girlboss includes Sophia's story, yet is infinitely bigger than Sophia. It's deeply personal yet universal. Filled with brazen wake-up calls ("You are not a special snowflake"), cunning and frank observations ("Failure is your invention"), and behind-the-scenes stories from Nasty Gal's meteoric rise, #Girlboss covers a lot of ground. It proves that being successful isn't about how popular you were in high school or where you went to college (if you went to college). Rather, success is about trusting your instincts and following your gut, knowing which rules to follow and which to break. Sophia Amoruso turned her hobby selling vintage clothing on eBay into Nasty Gal, one of the fastest growing companies in America. Her rise has been covered by major media like The New York Times, Forbes, Fortune, Inc., and The Wall Street Journal, and she has a devoted following on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

My Top 5

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It is 1866, and young Walter Moody has come to make his fortune upon the New Zealand goldfields. On the stormy night of his arrival, he stumbles across a tense gathering of twelve local men who have met in secret to discuss a series of unexplained events: A wealthy man has vanished, a prostitute has tried to end her life, and an enormous fortune has been discovered in the home of a luckless drunk. Moody is soon drawn into the mystery: a network of fates and fortunes that is as complex and exquisitely ornate as the night sky.

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At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother's death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life: to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State—and to do it alone. She had no experience as a long-distance hiker, and the trail was little more than “an idea, vague and outlandish and full of promise.” But it was a promise of piecing back together a life that had come undone. 
Strayed faces down rattlesnakes and black bears, intense heat and record snowfalls, and both the beauty and loneliness of the trail. Told with great suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humour, Wild vividly captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.

The plot summary on this book is in Dutch, natuurlijk, but briefly, the story is set in South Limburg during the time the Germans occupied the Netherlands and allows you a glimpse of life during the war through the eyes of an 11 year old Dutch boy. This is truly heart felt and although written for a much younger audience, I couldn't help but fall in love with the sweet main character and felt such compassion towards him. This is such a great way to teach kids history whilst opening their eyes to times gone and the lives of others, in a way they can understand and reach, without being over loaded with facts and dates.

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Here is the third volume in George R.R. Martin's magnificent cycle of novels that includes A Game of Thrones and A Clash of Kings. Together, this series comprises a genuine masterpiece of modern fantasy, destined to stand as one of the great achievements of imaginative fiction.

I didn't include the full plot summary, as I really really don't want to spoil ANYTHING from this series for anyone. Just trust me in knowing it is jam packed to the tippie top with action and huge G.O.T. story turning points!

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Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now...

A fantastic year in books, I really enjoyed devouring each of these and recording my thoughts on each, but I also can't wait to get started with next years pile!! Have you read any stand out novels this year or do you have anything especially exciting on your list for the up coming new year?