May Book: Face Paint by Lisa Eldridge

The only book I read this month was a non-fiction book which is very unusual for me! When it comes to reading it’s usually a no-brainer that I pick a fiction book but I’m more open-minded to reading non-fiction now.

This book is about the entire history of makeup which I thought sounded fascinating being a beauty lover and slightly nerdy person in some respects 😉 . I finally got around to reading all of it after dipping in and out of it since I received it as a gift for Christmas in 2015.

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It’s an interesting, if sometimes repetitive, read. It naturally covers lots of women’s history which is fascinating and at times shocking. You learn all about how beauty ideals have changed throughout history and how attitudes to makeup have changed and evolved. It also shares in depth insight into what women used to make cosmetics hundreds of years ago, some of which we now know are highly toxic! There’s also pages of ‘Makeup Muses’ which look at individuals and how they influenced and impacted beauty ideals and makeup during their lives and beyond. Some of these people I’d never heard of but most I was aware of. They included people like Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Meena Kumari and Amy Winehouse.

It covers the period where makeup began to be mass produced and the industry and competition began to grow. This was so interesting as it taught me the history of brands and entrepreneurs I had heard of, such as Max Factor, Elizabeth Arden, Estee Lauder and Revlon.

There’s some gorgeous photography and makeup looks too, which is always nice to appreciate, as well as old school, vintage adverts that were used.

I found this book really interesting and I can appreciate the amount of work and research that would have to have gone into this! My only gripe was repetition in Section 1 where it felt like I was re-reading the same information again and again, just worded slightly differently. That’s not a big deal though and not something that should put someone off reading it. If you like makeup/beauty and I guess probably if you have an interest in history too, then it’s definitely worth reading.

Love Nicole xxxx

April Book: How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

We’re halfway through May now so I should’ve got this up about two weeks ago but whatevs, this blog writing thing is supposed to be a hobby. I’m sat in the sun in the garden writing this and it’s lovely. Got my two little bunnies in their run to my left and I love watching them being little cuties.

Anyway, I read one book in April and it was How to Stop Time by Matt Haig. I’ve followed Matt on Twitter for quite a while now after coming across him in various retweets about mental health. He’s pretty inspirational when it comes to talking and articulating his own mental health and about the struggles and stigma attached to it so if you have any interest at all in mental health, whether through your own personal mental health issues or through someone close to you, then I recommend following him.

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I also, as it happens, recommend reading this book! I read through this very quickly as it was engaging, engrossing and overall just very intriguing! The book is about a man called Tom Hazard and the unusual thing about him is that he has a condition that means he ages far slower than the general population. The book flits between various time periods of his life, from when he was a boy in the 1500s, (I think he was born in the 1500s… It’s been about a month since I finished this book so I can’t remember everything) to meeting Shakespeare, 1920’s Paris and the present day where he is just starting out as a history teacher at a secondary school. He’s seen a lot of things!

He joins a society that has been formed to keep people with the same condition secret and protected but the society is not all it’s cracked up to be… Tom also has a long lost daughter who has the condition so he is trying to find her.

Admittedly, at times the novel is a bit corny but that never put me off as I liked the messages within it and I genuinely wanted to know how Tom’s story would pan out. I won’t go into any more detail as to be honest, I’m not in the mood to write a super in depth review of everything about this book. The bottom line is I really enjoyed it and that was reflected by how quickly I finished it and how much I looked forward to getting the time to read it.

My laptop is also freaking out because of the heat; well, I’m assuming it’s because of the heat from the sun. I’m literally having to watch my words appear two minutes later as it can’t keep up. It’s like watching my mum write a text message. Worse actually.

I’ve now moved to the shade, begrudgingly, so I hope it will sort itself out. I want to be outside writing some posts! A robin just landed 2 metres away, I won’t get that in my bedroom!

But now I’m cold in the shade. 😦 FFS. I think if I want to be out here I need to read a book instead!

Love Nicole xxxx

P.S I went inside to finish this because the laptop could not cope. 😦

 

March Book: The Wilderness by Samantha Harvey

This month’s book review is not an intense book marathon like January and February before it. I only got through one book and I actually finished it in the first few days of April. This was partly due to not being enthralled by the book but also because I went on a Netflix binge as I renewed by subscription so I could watch all 10 series of Friends… I digress. Now to talk a bit about the book.

This book is essentially about a man’s experience of Alzheimer’s disease, which is the most common cause of dementia. You are taken on a journey through the workings of his mind as it deteriorates. The book frequently flips from different time periods in Jake’s life as he explores his memories and experiences. He was an architect and was married and had two children, a boy and a girl. He grew up in Lincolnshire to an English father and Jewish Austrian mother.

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The book is written in third person but it very much focuses on Jake as the central character. Something which I didn’t like was that his name is hardly ever used, he is always referred to as ‘he’. This is especially confusing in scenes where there are other men and I found it grinding on me as I got further into the novel. Something about the way this book is written in general annoyed me and is one of the reasons I found it hard to motivate myself to finish it. This was my second attempt at reading this book.

My next point is a tricky one as I can see why it is done. It is that the story jumps around all over the place and is disjointed. There’s not really a plot as so many situations and events in Jake’s life are touched upon and then just left at that. So many areas of possible interest are never resolved or explained which is frustrating as a reader. I understand that this is probably done to reflect Jake’s illness and the way his mind works: frequently forgetting, going off on tangents, not getting to the point, creating things that never happened etc. The book doesn’t seem to go anywhere and if someone asked me to explain the plot all I could say was a man develops Alzheimer’s disease and the book explores some of his past and memories and he goes in the only direction Alzheimer’s can go.

Lastly, another reason I probably didn’t get into this book is that there aren’t really any likeable characters. Jake is the main one we grow to know anything about and there’s nothing I particularly liked about him. Most of the other characters are relatively undeveloped so it’s hard to grow a liking for them. Again, this underdevelopment could be to reflect Jake’s Alzheimer’s.

In conclusion, this book was not an immensely enjoyable read for me. I think it’s an interesting subject but I did not find a series of unfinished and incomplete memories, events and thoughts satisfying or entertaining as a reader. Is that bad to say, that I didn’t find a man with dementia’s story entertaining? I don’t think dementia will ever be any fun for anyone. I appreciate what this book was trying to do and that it is told from Jake’s reality, I am not ignorant to dementia and bought this book specifically because I thought it would be interesting, which I suppose in a way it was, but even so I did not finish this book with any sense of satisfaction or enlightenment.

Love Nicole xxxx

February Books: Enduring Love by Ian McEwan, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion by Jane Austen

February went by very quickly but I still managed to read three books – well, one I actually finished on March 1st but I’m still going to include it in this roundup!

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Enduring Love by Ian McEwan

This was a very intriguing and engaging read from the very first page. I had preconceptions merely from the title that it might be about a life long love story and romantic in nature. However, it is actually about how a man finds himself gaining an obsessive stalker through their mutual experience of a freak accident involving a hot air balloon. It is fascinating and has you questioning the sanity of both parties and how their behaviour would appear to an outsider. For me so far in my reading ‘back catalogue’ it was a unique and captivating story. I also think Ian McEwan’s writing style is amazing and I really enjoy his descriptions. 4/5

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

The first of Jane Austen’s novels I read this month was Northanger Abbey. I’d not seen any adaptions of this so the story was completely new to me; I always prefer to read a book first before watching any film or television portrayals! I feel it allows you to form a more uninfluenced image in your head which is all part of the fun with books. This satire of Gothic novels follows young heroine Catherine Morland on a story that takes her to Bath and then onto the spooky, or not so spooky, Northanger Abbey, residence of the Tilney family. Of course, she makes friends and acquaintances, has admirers and finds herself admiring one man in particular. I’m a huge Jane Austen fan so I was never not going to like this, it has wit and humour as well as endearing and shocking characters. Also, it is largely set in Bath which I absolutely loved as I live nearby and visit regularly! I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and I watched a film adaption straight after finishing as I didn’t want the experience to end quite yet. 4/5

Persuasion by Jane Austen

As I was completely immersed in the world of Austen, as has always happened after I’ve finished one of her books, I decided to dive straight into the last of Austen’s novels I had left to read – Persuasion. I still have Lady Susan to read but I don’t know if that really counts as a novel… Anyway, Persuasion was delightful! I found it rather slow to start but once I was into it on the second sitting I completely devoured it. It follows 27 year old Anne Elliott of the Elliott family of Kellynch Hall. Seven years earlier she fell in love and embarked on an engagement to Frederick Wentworth, which was not approved of by her family or friends and she was persuaded to give it up. In the present day her family are forced to leave their ancestral home and lower their expenses because of financial difficulties. Their home is let to an Admiral and his wife, who just happens to be the sister of Frederick (Captain) Wentworth… I will leave it there as to the plot. 😉 I loved this novel and I reckon it is my second favourite Austen novel after Pride and Prejudice… Probably. It’s been a while since I’ve read the others! I am a sucker for this time period and Jane Austen just completely captivates me with her stories! Loved it. 5/5

Love Nicole xxxx

January Books: The Girls by Emma Cline, The Girlfriend by Michelle Frances and Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

I started off 2018 rather well on the book reading front! I managed to get through three in the first 3 weeks! Rather than do an individual review on each book like I did with Wilde Like Me by Louise Pentland, I thought I’d talk about them all in one post.

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The Girls by Emma Cline

This book centres around a 14 year old girl named Evie who in the summer of 1969 gets caught up in a cult that inhabits a run-down ranch and has a leader named Russell (who is creepy af). It’s a lot darker than I expected and was actually quite unsettling. Evie is vulnerable, insecure, lonely and craving attention – particularly male (and Suzanne’s) attention. Themes it made me consider were the dynamics between men and women, girls and boys, and how girls feel growing up. Also, women’s position in society and their desire for attention and validation from men. I found Evie to be very sexualised for a young teenager and that made me uneasy; she seemed to be much older than her years, but also so naive.

The ending is left quite ambiguous and I still had questions. It also left me feeling rather sad about the portrayal of women and girls. Sasha in the present day is used to show girls are still overlooked and willing to be treated poorly in return for attention and ‘love’. I like to think girls know they are worth more and don’t need no man! 😦

It wasn’t an action-packed page turner the whole way through but I did get into it. The narrative, which flips between younger Evie and older Evie, gives away the plot somewhat early on, as you are fed bits and pieces which means it loses shock value. The writing style was somewhat different due to the way the author used commas. I found this made it harder to read. Overall though I found it powerfully and cleverly written. I give 3/5.

The Girlfriend by Michelle Frances

This story is told from two different points of view: wealthy Laura, who is mother to 23 year old Daniel, and aspirational Cherry, who becomes Daniel’s new girlfriend. It’s described as a psychological thriller and examines the thoughts and actions of the two women as they compete for Daniel’s attention. It gets you constantly questioning who’s side you’re on, Laura or Cherry’s.

It explores wealth and the privileges that come with this and through Cherry, it considers how this can look to a young person not from a privileged background who really feels injustice because of this. I could relate to some of her thoughts and feelings of unfairness when she sees how Daniel’s family and friends live their life and are given opportunities just because.

I really enjoyed this and found it a real page turner so finished it quickly. It is shocking in places (one in particular incident where I was horrified) and I liked the writing style. 4/5

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

Another book written from multiple viewpoints, Small Great Things is essentially an examination of racial discrimination and prejudice – conscious and subconscious. Set in America (I think Connecticut?), a black labour and delivery nurse, Ruth, finds herself going to trial over the death of a newborn baby. As well as Ruth, the novel also has chapters from the viewpoint of Kennedy, Ruth’s lawyer, and Turk, the white supremacist father of the baby who died. The opinions expressed by Turk and his acquaintances was utterly disgusting and horrifying, I can’t believe people can think like that.

I’d not read any Jodi Picoult books before and I loved this one. Overall, I found it well paced with only a few points where I found it slow and wished things would move along. I respect her attempting such an important topic and she talks a bit at the end about the research that went into this book. It made me think about my own behaviour and consider subconscious prejudices I may have. I highly recommend, 5/5.

Love Nicole xxxx