Monday, 30 November 2015

The Virgin Blue by Tracy Chevalier | Book Review

The Virgin Blue, 320 pages. Published June 2003 by Plume
Rating **** 1/2

Tracy Chevalier is a breaker of hearts. This isn't the first novel of hers that I've read and felt so much sadness for the characters in her novel. The Virgin Blue is her debut novel which for some reason has taken me years to finally pick up, but it was well worth it. This story is split between two women who share an ancestral history - Isabelle du Moulin and Ella Turner. Separated by four hundred years of history but connected by the colour blue - a colour which brings pain and heartbreak to Isabelle's family and which haunts the dreams of Ella as she tries to make a life for herself in France as an expat American who is finding adjusting to life with her husband in a small French village difficult.

To me Tracy Chevalier is the master storyteller of not only historical fiction but small stories that have a powerful and emotive pull bigger than their pages. Isabelle's domestic life in rocked by religious unease in their tiny village, their family fearful of persecution while Ella also feels the discomfort of being a talking point in her new town, especially when she strikes up a friendship with the Librarian who is both handsome and single (and who I couldn't help but picture as a Serge Gainsborough lookalike, sorry not sorry). Ella and Isabelle's lives are further mirrored in that within their own families neither woman is sure of where to turn towards as their marriages strain against these outside forces.

Tracy Chevalier has a way of capturing the messiness of people's lives both past and present, yet presenting their stories in a way that makes me empathise with Isabelle and Ella where perhaps other authors would fail. The Virgin Blue is a stunning book that reveals that a little bit of heartbreak is sometimes necessary in order to find something beautiful.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Unpopular Opinions Book Tag

One of the main reasons I even started my blog and subsequently Youtube channel (you can subscriber here If you fancy, go on go on go on) is so that I can share my favourite books with people I don't know on the internet. No, I jest but really it is so I can share my love for what I think are great reads. But, every now and then it's kinda fun to get to know the things that are a tad disappointing, which is why I thought the Unpopular Opinions Book Tag would be a good laugh to film.

All in all I don't think any of the books I mention are bad books, they just didn't appeal to me in one way or another. Let me know what some of your unpopular opinions are that other bookish folk don't seem to share in below!

Thursday, 26 November 2015

The Day We Disappeared by Lucy Robinson

The Day We Disappeared by Lucy Robinson, 432 pages. Published April 9, 2015 by Penguin UK
Rating: ***

The Day We Disappeared by Lucy Robinson is a chick-lit meets mystery novel that doesn't give much away about it's two female protagonists. Although overall I liked this book, it was kind of funny read as for me things didn't really pick up until the second half. I spent half of the book being vaguely interested and amused at Kate and Annie, two characters who are both harbouring secrets - Annie about her heartbreaking past and Kate who has run away to escape her problems.

Kate's country surroundings and Annie's city life were nicely offset by one-anothers stories but overall I found the characters all to be a little bit same-y and this was probably the main reason I didn't fall for this novel. Although this was an easy and enjoyable read there wasn't much that had me really hooked on the story to start off with but finally in the second half things shifted gear and I found I actually really wanted to discover Kate and Annie's secrets. I have to say I actually didn't pick the ending at all and it was a pleasant surprise to be blind-sided by what I thought might be a pretty average end to an enjoyable book.

If you're looking for a fun and easy holiday read you might enjoy picking this up but overall this book was simply okay.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Crime and Thriller Fiction Recommendations

You guys know I love me some crime fiction so today I'm sharing my favourites and where to start if you want to dip a toe into the genre! Most of these books have been mentioned around these parts before so if you fancy reading the book reviews or recommendations from the same authors I've posted the links down below, enjoy!

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith
The Girl in the Spiders Web by David Lagercrantz
Authors to Note: Dennis Lehane
You by Caroline Kepnes
The Son by Jo Nesbo


Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Quotes I Loved From Books I Read In The Past Year Or So

If you've read my blog for a while you will have maybe noticed I'm not usually one for meme's but, the Broke and the Bookish's Top Ten Tuesday posts have really gotten me thinking. Today, I give you my top (almost ten, I think there's only eight) quotes from books I've read lately! I hope these give you a little insight into the feels of the books I've taken them from!

“You know your problem, Quentin? You keep expecting people not to be themselves. I mean, I could hate you for being massively unpunctual and for never being interested in anything other than Margo Roth Spiegelman, and for, like, never asking me about how it's going with my girlfriend - but I don't give a shit, man, because you're you.”
Paper Towns

“When I lost my sight, Werner, people said I was brave. When my father left, people said I was brave. But it is not bravery; I have no choice. I wake up and live my life. Don't you do the same?”
All the Light We Cannot See

“Well, I suppose one ought not to employ a magician and then complain that he does not behave like other people.”
Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell

“Ha, no, that it’s always the wrong people who have the guilty conscience. Those who are really responsible for suffering in the world couldn’t care less. It’s the ones fighting for good who are consumed by remorse.”
The Girl in the Spiders’ Web

“Let's not forget The Things They Do To Make Themselves Happy That Actually Make Them Miserable. This is an infinite list. It includes - shopping, watching TV, taking the better job, getting the bigger house, writing a semi-autobiographical novel, educating their young, making their skin look mildly less old and harboring a vague desire to believe there might be a meaning to it all.”
The Humans

“Your mother and I do not approve of drinking. Have you not heard of the Eighteenth Amendment?”

“Prohibition? I drink to its health whenever I can.”
The Diviners 

"When I hear women talking about how their wedding is going to be/was the best day of their life, I can't help but think, 'You just haven't taken enough MDMA in a field at 3am, love."

How to Be a Woman

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Beauty Game Changers

It's only in the last couple of years that I've really started to get into the nitty gritty side of beauty. I'd always been about the instant results when it came to makeup, the pretty eyeshadows or adding a punchy lipstick to my collection but more recently it's the unsung heroes in my beauty stash that have been making the biggest different. Here are my top beauty game changers and why I love them so:

Eyelash curlers :: I, like many people, had heard people harp on about how much of a difference curling your eyelashes makes to open up your peepers but never jumped on board this bandwagon. While I didn't shell out major dosh for a pair of Shu Umeura's even my little drugstore pair make such a big difference. Who knew your mascara was only doing half the job?

Toners :: The often forgotten about and murky watered step that is the toner has made such a big difference to my skin! This is where I truly think drugstore and supermarket brand just don't cut the mustard and investing in something a little more pricey is the way to go. My two favourites are REN Clarifying Toner ($30 from Mecca Cosmetica) for making a big difference in my spotty adult skin and Clarins Brightening Toner for perking up and exfoliating my complexion. If, like me you're still looking for a way to get monthly breakouts under control I highly recommend picking up a bottle of the REN Clarifying Toner!

Primers :: Being an oily/combo/what the fuck is my skin up to type of girl primers have always been my makeup best friend, but it's the oil free soaking-that-stuff-up kind that has really put primers into game-changer territory. If you're not of the same skin type as me worry not as there is a primer out there to meet every want and need, (I'm particularly fond of the Hourglass Mineral Veil Primer and the Laura Mercier Oil Free Primer for keeping my face shine free, while the Laura Mercier Radiant Primer brings a seriously luscious amount of glow.)

What are your favourite beauty game-changing products?

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

5 Books I'd Recommend To Everybody

Whenever I'm asked for book recommendations I usually do my best to figure out what type of reader the person asking is. Whether they like big books or small books, funny books or sad ones, serious or whimsical. But there are some books that are just so good I'd recommend them to anyone and everyone. Here are my picks of the books everyone can enjoy:

Mr Pip by Lloyd Jones :: I read this one hot summer spent lying in the backyard of my Dad's house with his snuffly boxer dog by my side. Why do I remember exactly what I was doing when I read this book? Because all of the emotions, that's why. This book is at times beautiful, shocking and sad and was one of the most unexpected things I read that summer. I highly highly recommend you read it. It's references to Great Expectations also made me want to delve into this classic book and also made me realise the transportive power that reading does to us.

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusack :: I've just made a mental note to re-read this as soon as I can because it's such a wonderful book that it makes me want to pick it up and hug it just a little bit. *ahem, I digress.* At times funny and sad, The Book Thief is a book that will forever remind me of the goodness of family and of never losing hope.

Harry Potter by J K Rowling :: Did you know there are people in this world who haven't read Harry Potter? Did you know there are people in this world who consider themselves to be avid readers and haven't read Harry Potter? Did you know there are many members of my immediate family who still FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, haven't read Harry Potter? Can you all guess, what you're all getting for Christmas this year? Seriously though is there anything better than a book that combines defeating evil with the importance of friendships like Harry Potter does? Read it, all of it. You won't regret it.

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee :: There's a reason this is prescribed in English reading classes across the world and that's because this is one of the best modern classics ever written. I was never made to read this book at School, I simply fell in love with it on my own and it's become simultaneously my favourite book ever and the book I read when I don't know what to read.

Gone Girly by Gillian Flynn :: Do you know what I love about books like Gone Girl? When people raved about this no-one thought about whether they liked thriller fiction or not they just knew that everyone was talking about it and they had to read it. This is the type of book that once you read it all you want to do is force everyone around you to do the same.

So, there you have it, my picks on books I think everyone should read (and love, obviously). What book would you recommend to every type of reader?

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Book Review: Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke

When I saw Jonathan Strange and Mr Norell at my library I did second guess whether I should pick it up or not. At 1006 pages it's the longest book I've ever read and actually finished *pats self on back*. You all know that magical fiction is my thing and combined with a historical fiction it's like my two favourite genres have gotten together to throw a party. Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell did not disappoint, but it wasn't entirely what I was expecting either.

Set over a twenty year period, (hence the length!) the book centres around the last two magicians in England - Mr Norrell who believes magic should be studied and learned from books and aims to make English magic respectable once more and Jonathan Strange whose powers are revealed to him by a dirty looking vagabond hiding under a hedge.

The best part of this book for me was the relationship between Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, I quite enjoyed their differences of personality and found Jonathan Strange to be quite the humorous character. Rather than this book being focused on one major event the novel stretches out over two decades which does make the plot feel like more of a meander than a fast paced adventure, the latter being what I would usually expect.

I definitely think that for fans of fantasy and magical fiction this might be a polarising read. I almost enjoyed it more for its prose which reads a bit like a classical novel probably more than the actual magic, which I know will be off-putting for some. Overly though I found Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell a really enjoyable book but it's somewhat unnecessary length stopped it from being brilliant.

Monday, 2 November 2015

October Wrap Up | Books

With October now done and dusted I thought I'd take you through a quick run down of all the books I've been reading during the past month. This month I did a bit of a cheat and included books from September too, as reading an 1006 page book didn't leave much room for many more titles. In this video there were quite a few hits, a few misses and a sudden realisation at how bad my rising inflection has become since moving to Australia.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Books On My Want To Read List #3

Originally I was planning on writing a TBR list of books I wanted to read by then of 2015, but when I started racking up double the amount of books than weeks left in the year it seemed more like a wishlist than what I would actually get through. Whether or not I can get through the nine books already on my bookshelf plus these by the end of the year remains to be seen, but here are some reads that I would love to get to by the end of 2015.

Jackaby by William Ritter :: This book pretty much combines all of my favourite things! Mystery, suspense, a historical setting and a detective of the paranormal (which prior to reading The Diviners this year I probably wouldn't have thought paranormal was my jam). Also that cover needs to get in my bookshelf.

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater :: I first heard of this book from Peruse Project's magical books recommendation videos. I've really been enjoying reading magical fiction and this book's themes of death, love and magic seem like the perfect mix of drama and excitement.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz :: A funny and touching coming of age story about two teenage boys who begin an unlikely friendship with one another. I kind of love books like this whose small stories involve only a handful of people, but often these books have the biggest hearts.

The Beast's Garden by Kate Forsyth :: When I heard this book is basically a retelling of Beauty and the Beast my inner six year old gave a little squeal of delight. I know this isn't the first book to take inspiration from this story but it will be a first for me to read! The Beast's Garden's setting of Nazi Germany also adds an interesting historical fiction note to this fairytale retelling.

What books are on your want to read list for the rest of 2015?
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