The Mistresses of Cliveden & Other Great Historic Reads

I have always felt drawn to those strong women in history deemed scandalous but merely trailblazing the way for others to follow. I don’t know what that says about me or my upbringing but I have just always been fascinated by them. Maybe it’s the feminist within me that finds reading about these women empowering for the rest of us or maybe their stories are just interesting in of themselves. Either way, I thought I’d share with you a few thoughts on some of my recents reads about a few books and the awe-inspiring women they revolve around.

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire by Amanda Foreman

Often dubbed the ‘it’ girl of the eighteenth century, this beautiful book revolves around Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. Born Lady Georgiana Spencer (yes, she is an ancestor of Lady Diana Spencer), she married the fifth Duke of Devonshire in 1774. Not only was she considered the queen of the fashionable elite and aristocratic society, but she constantly exuded an aura of glamour which drew the press and public to her. She was also best buds with the Prince of Wales, closely acquainted with Marie Antoinette and an important supporter of the Whig party. For all the adoration she received in her public life, it didn’t mirror that of her life behind closed doors. The book takes you through the hardship experienced in her marriage as well as her obsession with gambling leading her into an overwhelming amount of debt and disgrace. It also details her quest for love along with the difficulties and exile that came with that.

‘Mesmirising’, as Antonia Frazer describes this gorgeous book, it takes you through Georgiana’s opulent and glamorous public life as well as her private life full of suffering. It follows the Duchesses life while also touching on society at the time such as civil unrest and royalty of the time. I have the illustrated edition which is full of beautiful pictures of the people she knew and socialised with, the places she lived or visited and objects such as the remnants of her fashionable outfits, accessories, etc. Quite apart from this, the wiring itself is informative and incredibly detailed whilst remaining readable and easy to understand. All too often I pick up historical reads that lose me within the first few pages due to their confusing lingo and stern, scholarly tone. Foreman’s writing couldn’t be further than this. It is appealing with a warm tone, illustrating her intrigue and passion to display Georgiana’s life with the attention that it deserves.

What would Boudicca do?: Everyday Problems Solved by History’s Most Remarkable Women by Elizabeth Foley & Beth Coates

As the back cover states, this book ‘will make you fired-up and ready for anything’. Showcasing fifty women from all eras and areas in the world, this book shows some fiercely, trailblazing women and the incredibly inspiring things they achieved. It includes women such as Elizabeth I, Frida Kahlo, Hypatia, Ada Lovelace, Marie Stopes, Josephine Baker and Catherine the Great. Accompanied by illustrations by Bijou Karman, it provides bitesize chunks about each woman. I wouldn’t say its the read for you if you want an in-depth, detailed account of each woman, as they only give a short, stream-lined account for each woman. Having said that, it is still a great and easy read.

The Mistresses of Cliveden: Three Centuries of Scandal, Power and Intrigue , Natalie Livingstone

I have wanted to read this book for the longest time but never actually took the plunge until now. As a total bookworm, the majority of my Christmas and birthday presents are books -this being one of them. After reading Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire by Amanda Foreman and Marie Antionette: The Journey by Antonia Fraser, I have been intrigued by all the historical scandal that rooted from such ladies. The Mistresses of Cliveden was the perfect read to cater to my curiosity on the subject.

The book is sectioned into five parts -a part dedicated to each of the mistresses at the forefront of Cliveden’s history. Those women are Anna Maria Brudnell, Elizabeth Villiers, Augusta Princess of Wales, Harriet Duchess of Sutherland, and Nancy Astor. While all of the sections are fascinating, I personally found the first two women to be the most interesting, intriguing, and scandalous. I think what is most interesting is how simple gatherings and parties held at Cliveden played such a role in British politics and society at the time. Throughout it’s history, each mistress of the stately home held such an influence in her society: whether it be through her beauty and charm, personality or politics, each woman contributed to the English society in one way or another. It adds praise to the age old saying of its not what you know but who you know.

I love the fact that the narrative revolves around the women of a place. It gives the illusion that we are privy to information and events that Cliveden’s walls would have been too. The idea that those walls have stood the test of time and witnessed all these events and people in English history.

While it is a chunky book, I think the structure of it being sectioned into five parts (which also have their own smaller chapters within) make it easier to digest. I would definitely recommend to anyone with an interest in history. It is also one hell of a read if you’re a feminist -these women really paved a way for us. Even if you’re not into history, I’d say it’s an easy entry into the more heavier historical non-fiction.

If you love historic reads or even want to try something new then I’d definitely recommend all three of these reads. I have so many more I want to recommend too but I think I’ll hold off and keep this post at those three for now.

Stay safe – Cheerio for now!

Book Review: Rapture (Bioshock)

Rapture (Bioshock), John Shirley

Where to begin.

So, this book is a prequel to the first two Bioshock games. It gives you a wealth of knowledge about the characters and what led them to Rapture which, once you have read these things, gives you a whole new depth of backstory and layer to enrich the games.

I’d highly recommend this book to anyone who has played the games however, I think even people who haven’t or have no knowledge of the games plot would also really enjoy this book.

Would you kindly?

In a post-war world, everyone seeks to rebuild a life they once had – one man has a vision, Andrew Ryan. He manifests an underwater utopian society free from government, censorship and moral restrictions on science; for both men and women to build a better life away from the corruption above the surface. Using his wealth, he creates this shinning city beneath the sea; a world of autonomy and liberty . But of course, as all worlds and civilisations have, there are rules and a manner of conduct that Andrew expects to be followed – what could go wrong?

The plot slowly turns sour with an idyllic world slowly transforming into a living nightmare. With autonomy and liberty, as well as the lack of government and restrictions on science, people begin to do as they like. Hidden dreams and fantasies start to take shape and with the natural greed of mankind, everyone wants it for themselves.

The structure of flits from dates and places, following numerous characters and showing their opinions of, and paths to, Rapture. The story ends just as the Bioshock game begins, making sure not to overlap and become boring or repetitive.

I found that the text posed a lot more philosophical questions for me than the game, specifically the idea of ‘one bad apple’ and the corruption of mankind being inevitable wherever peace tries to prevail.

Although I say that anyone would enjoy this book, even those who haven’t played the games, I will say that while it is true to the games, I do also think it flushes out a lot of the world and story that isn’t explored in the games. I also wonder how I would have felt reading it without knowledge, or experience, of the games. Would I be able to picture the splicers? Would I be able to keep up with the multiple characters or envisage Rapture in all its’ glory? I’m not so sure.

All in all, I enjoyed this book and I’d recommend it.

Cheerio for now.

The Darker Arts

The Darker Arts, Oscar de Muriel

You only need to look at my book posts on here to know that I love Oscar de Muriel’s books. His Frey & McGray series is without a doubt my favourite series of all time (yes, I would even say above A Series of Unfortunate Events). So when I saw back in June that the fifth book in the series was to be released in August, I clicked that preorder button like my life depended on it and then did a happy dance whilst marking it on my calendar (blacking out a day or two to devour it for when it arrived).

*Now, before I go on -I must put a brief disclaimer here. While I don’t discuss major spoilers, or give a play-by-play account of what happens in this instalment to the series, I do detail a quick run-through of the overall premise of the book. Now if you are like my boyfriend and liked to go into a book or film completely blind to what will happen, then I would personally skip over the next paragraph so you don’t ruin anything for yourself.

The book picks up in Edinburgh, 1889 after the fatal events of the last book, The Loch of the Dead. The ‘closed-room seance murder’ is as dark and spooky as murder mysteries come, especially when the only survivor claims to have seen the hand of the devil appear. Those involved, and murdered that night, all have one thing in common Grannie Alice: the matriarch of the family, who held an important secret that her family members are desperate to find out. Attempting to communicate with her, those involved find themselves killed in the most terrifying way: something so terrifying that even Madame Katerina, the gypsy fortune teller, is petrified beyond belief. With Katerina as the only survivor she is of-course the culprit or at least, in everyones eyes but Inspector Nine-Nails McGray. With his fierce protection over her he pulls in his colleague Inspector Frey to help prove her innocence. With so many conflicting factors to the case, it seems that in an age of superstition Madame Katerina’s fate is sealed.

Oscar de Muriel’s ensemble of characters is by far superior to any cast of characters I have ever encountered before. They are so diversely interwoven with one another that you have to remember all the other factors that link them to the murder: which makes plot twists and motives absolutely gripping. I have to say, the last ten chapters are just beautifully written and entirely addictive. Once you reach a certain turning point there is simply no putting the book down.

While the fourth book, The Loch of the Dead, is still my favourite I must say I applaud Oscar de Muriel on what a tremendous job he did with this addition to the series. I did not know what to expect from this book. Having enjoyed the fourth so much I really was apprehensive to dive into this next one. As much as I was excited for it, I also held it an arms length in my mind and had a mental ‘proceed with caution’ sign on it. The middle section did lag a little at a certain point but now having read it in its entirety, I must say that the lag was necessary to give the reader a breather before it picks up and reaches its apex of the story.

Ultimately, this is a wonderful addition to the series of Frey & McGray mysteries and although it isn’t my favourite, I would say it’s one of them. I would highly recommend this series to anyone, they are an absolutely fantastic series of books which I personally think should be a part of everyones home library.

Cheerio for now!

Iris Apfel, accidental icon

Iris Apfel, accidental icon: Musings of a Geriatric Starlet

The name Iris Apfel is not one that the everyday Joe would know. Hell, my boyfriend didn’t know who she was. But if you have an interest in fashion, wisdom, or are just up to date on the pop culture scene you’ll know exactly who I’m talking about. The bold little lady wearing every colour imaginable, usually sporting at least five chunky bangles on each wrist and always sporting her signature thick, round spectacles and swoosh of red lippy.

She’s everything you want to be when you’re in your 90s.

Young in spirit, she embodies everything wonderful about the fashion industry but at the same time doesn’t conform to any fashion trends or rules. She plays with fashion and accessories wonderfully: putting together the most creative and unexpected ensembles, which is so refreshing when we are used to seeing the black and grey drab outfits or the perfectly co-ordinating ones.

I never want to be an old fuddy-duddy; I hold the self-proclaimed record for being the World’s Oldest Living Teenager and I intend to keep it that way

Iris Apfel

A true icon full of vibrant panache, Iris Apfel shares anecdote, maxims, and passages on all topics from technology, style, interior design, textiles, and all things in-between. Her pearls of wisdom fill each sentence alongside pages of vivid colours and eye-catching prints. Iris embodies everything I wish I will be when I’m older, and not even older but now. Entirely awe-inspiring, I hope to breath fresh-air into my wardrobe with prints and colours in the future; and over all try to be fearless and go with what I like rather than what ‘goes’ together.

Full of practical advice and inspiring stories, this book is a must for anyone: especially women. I think there is a lot of ‘take homes’ for women, especially from Iris’ experience in the workplace and just growing up in general. The insight I have personally gained from this book is something I wish I had come across in my teens -which I honestly think would be the perfect time to read it for anyone. With so much good sense within its’ pages, it is one of those books I wish I could give a copy of to everyone I know. I can’t recommend it enough!

Cheerio for now!

Book Review: The Loch of the Dead

The Loch of the Dead, Oscar de Muriel

**I just wanted to add a little note here. This is one of the many posts I have had in my draft section since before my hiatus but with the fifth Frey and McGray book, The Darker Arts, being released today, I figured now is the perfect time to get this baby out. Enjoy.

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If you are a long time follower, then you will have already seen my reviews of the previous three books in the series of cases for Frey & McGray, by Oscar de Muriel. If you haven’t read them or even heard of these book, I’d encourage you to head on over here, and give the reviews a read to get the gist of these characters and the genre these books fall into. Now onto the book itself…The Loch of Dead starts with a death threat against an unknowing heir, which leads the inspectors to the remote Loch Maree. Isle Maree, one of the islands perched in the middle of the loch, is known for its ancient burial ground although that is not the only thing the Inspectors should be aware of. The highland area is cut off from the rest of the world, and the few souls who do reside there are strange – causing many questions that need answering. On arrival, and with little time to find a stable footing, the heir’s guardian is brutally murdered which makes everyone a suspect; especially that of the Koloman’s, a mysterious family whom the young heir and detectives must stay with.

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I have to admit it was incredibly difficult to type the above section without giving away major spoilers and divulging some of the many plot twists. I must also say that, out of the collection of Frey & McGray books, this one included -this has without a doubt been my favourite. The previous elements of the grim Victorian era of the 1800s mixed with the surreal crimes and the hint of humour this duo creates, alongside the folklore element of this book makes for a terrific read. The plot lines are so cleverly interwoven with one another that even though they are there, with so many clues as to who the culprits are, you can never truly pin it on anyone.

As previously mentioned, there are three books in the series preceding this. I think this book could standalone however, I don’t think the reader would experience every part of the book at it’s best. Especially that of Frey & McGray’s relationship, which has evolved leaps and bounds, or that of McGray’s never-ending guest to cure his sister so I would recommend reading the three previous books before this one.

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All-in-all this was an amazing read and I throughly enjoyed every second of it. I would highly recommend it to anyone and if me rambling about it doesn’t make you pick it up, maybe the 100% and five-star reviews on Amazon will.

Have you read this new addition to the series yet?

Cheerio for now!

The Silent Companions

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You know those little recommended reads based on books you’ve bought on Amazon? Sometimes they really are amazing. This was one of them. This was an impulse buy and to be honest it was money well spent. 

 Elsie, newly married and newly widowed, finds herself sent to her husbands estate, The Bridge, to see out her pregnancy. She finds the servants of the estate indignant and the locals suspicious and unwelcoming. Elsie’s only company to see her through the dismal days ahead of her at the estate is Sarah, her late-husbands cousin. Within her first few days in residence, she discovers a locked room with beyond it holds a two-hundred year old diary and a wooden figure (a Silent Companion), resembling Elsie. What follows is a string of unnerving and terrifying events, including peculiar events and horrific deaths which is so vividly written it will give you chills. 

I can’t recommend this novel enough, especially for those who love plots revolving around the Gothic genre. It plays around with the supernatural and black magic, which set against the nineteenth century adds a darker and more sinister effect to it. 

*Spoilers Appear Beyond This Point – Proceed With Caution* 
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This gothic read was a quick read, not only because of its’ plot but also its’ writing and setting. Framed by a narration from an asylum, it drew you in to the story and made you crave the knowledge of events and what happened to Elsie. Another element I really loved was the sections throughout the book rewinding back two-hundred years to the first ancestors of Bainbridges’ at The Bridge. This essentially represents the information and events within the two-hundred year old journal which illuminates what is happening with the Silent Companions in such a vivid way. It honestly sends chills through you, and adds to the pace of the novel and events. 

 
Have you ever read The Silent Companions? What did you think? 
Cheerio for now!

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Make Your Bed

Make Your Bed: Small things that can change your life… and maybe the world, William H. McRaven 


Have you ever read a book and had to just sit and take a moment for its powerful words to sink in? Have you ever thought to yourself that you’ll just read another chapter? And another? And before you know it, it’s gone 1am and you only have two chapters left to complete it. You realise it will end soon and you suddenly feel sad -that’s what this book did to me. Part of me wanted to soak up every ounce of his inspiring words and part of me didn’t want it to ever end.

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In this book, McRaven shares 10 lessons he learned during the 37 years of his life as a Navy SEAL. These lessons, as he shows, aren’t just applicable to a life in military but to life in general. They really are simple yet life-changing. His words have an authenticity to them which I have never experienced in anyones writing before. It provides timeless advice, that is so simple however it’s told with such encouragement and optimism that you can’t help but feel moved and motivated. Each chapter states its lesson, goes onto to give you a bit of background about how he came about this lesson, an example of this lesson being practised and then finishes off with a strong summary: that quite honestly sets your soul on fire. -I know, I sound corny, but it really does happen like that. You feel pumped and like you could kickass! A quick snippet…

Start each day with a task completed. Find someone to help you through life. Respect everyone. Know that life is not fair and that you will fail often. But if you take some risks, step up when times are toughest, face down the bullies, lift up the downtrodden, and never, ever give up-if you do these things, then you can change your life for the better… and maybe the world! 


Now, to be honest, I didn’t know what to expect when I ordered this. I’d came across it in Liv’s, from what olivia did, youtube video about the books she wanted to crack open this year. This was one of them and I just felt drawn to it. With a little summary from her and a few days later an Amazon package in hand, I was set to go!
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My personal favourite is Chapter 5: failure can make you stronger (don’t be afraid of the circus). This chapter had me overwhelmed with emotion (and let me tell you, I can be a real cold b*tch -so thats saying something people!). This chapter told us how McRaven and his swim partner kept falling short on their swims in their SEAL training, and when you were letting the rest of your team down you were slung in the circus -essentially extra training in the evening, but the most badass, and hardcore training sessions ever! McRaven states that most people end up quitting from the circus because the next day your not only exhausted from your normal training but the extra circus sessions too. It becomes an endless cycle of exhaustion and the weak fall off from this routine. However, he and his swim partner were determined not to give up and they didn’t. Instead they pushed through the pain and the exhaustion and something better happened. They became better, stronger, and faster than the rest of the team. So much better than they’re team mates that they would finish first in their swimming training with the second pair not even in sight! (I probably didn’t do that story justice, and McRaven would probably throw me into the circus for how poorly I described that -but I just love that chapter!).

Overall, I loved this book. The chapters are short and easy to read and because of that, I know i’ll be flipping back through certain chapters when I’m in need a boost. I would recommend this to anyone, regardless of where they are in their lives. I truly believe theres something everyone can take from this incredible book of wisdom.

Cheerio for now! 
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Almost Adulting

Almost Adulting, Arden Rose 

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As a budding almost ‘adult’, loose use of that word, I constantly feel in a grey hazy space of fear. That grey space often turns red with panic, fear, and sometimes even despair. Yup, I suck at being an adult. It’s odd because I’m twenty-two and I have ‘adult-ish’ stuff happening around me, I sometimes feel like I make ‘mature’ decisions, but yet I also feel like an anxious seventeen year old fearing the time that I’ll have to move out and try to figure things out myself. Contradicting myself -I do really want to move out, it’s been an itch I’ve had that I can’t seem to scratch. See what I mean? I’m a mess not an adult. That is where this book comes in. 
 
As a subscriber to Arden’s channel, I saw her video back in 2016 and was immediately excited at the idea of an easy-to-read, experienced guide at how to ‘adult’ from one of my favourite youtubers. As someone who moved away from her family, six hours away to LA when she was only eighteen I figured she’d have some insight on how to ‘adult’. 
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This book was such a quick read for me. I completed it in a few nights and felt so much more at ease at the thought of being an ‘adult’ or more so about my ability to be an adult. Divided into bitesized chunks it covers everything from living on your own, adult responsibilities like washing and bills, sex life, health, relationships, family, and whole bunch of other information squeezed in too. I loved the conversational tone of the book. It came across so friendly but at the same didn’t sugar coat you from the bitter truth of getting adult sh*t done. 
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As a twenty-two year old young woman still living with the family, but quickly outgrowing my family home, I was surprised and partially relieved to be quite familiar with some of the topics and ideas in the book already. It made me feel like I already have a bit of handle on things already. Having said this, there was also a plethora of info which I found so reassuring: the main thing being the content covering self-confidence, body image and mental health. The idea that ultimately i’m on the right course and it’s okay to not be okay, as long as you reach for help when you need it. 
 
I really enjoyed this read and would recommend it to anyone, especially budding ‘adults’. I think this is a book that I need to keep hold for my younger relatives. 
 
Have you ever read Almost Adulting? What did you think? 
Cheerio for now! 

Book Review: Uprooted, Naomi Novik

Uprooted, Naomi Novik 

Uprooted was a book title that kept popping up in my related reads, and I guess it falls into the fantasy-fairytale genre. The story is centred around a valley which is near the wood, enchanted with dark magic that corrupts all who enter. Agnieszka’s, the main character, village relies on the Dragon, an infamous wizard to protect them from the wood’s dark magic. However, his help comes at a steep price. Every ten years he picks a girl from the village to serve him for ten years. Agnieszka and the rest of her village assume he will pick her best friend Kasia but when the ‘choosing day’ comes, it isn’t Kasia who he leaves with. Spoiler: he picks Agieszka, but its’ with good reason. 

This book felt like a modern fairytale/folktale. I felt as though it transported me into Agnieszka’s world and I experienced what the characters went through, alongside them. There were many plot twists to this book and many elements that I really liked, such as the development of relationships such as Agnieszka and Kasia’s as well as Agnieszka and The Dragon/Sarkan. I felt torn through the book part of me wanting to know what happens and part reluctant for it to finish, and about half way through I felt it slowed down for a few chapters however by that point I was so engrossed within the world it couldn’t put me off wanting to know the ending.

Have you read Uprooted? What did you think? 
Cheerio for now! 

Book Review: The Strings of Murder

The Strings of Murder, by Oscar De Muriel 
After becoming hooked on the darker books, like Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde and The Hound of Baskervilles, I was finding it difficult to become interested in any other reads. Nothing seemed to grip my attention enough. Then this book came along. 
 
The book is centered around the murder of the violinist Guilleum Fontaine in Edinburgh 1888, who was murdered in a room locked from the inside with no way in or out. The case is perplexing, gruesome and, in the fearful age of the Ripper, to be handled with the utmost secrecy. Scotland Yard sends Inspector Ian Frey to Edinburgh to work on the case under a fake department specialising in the supernatural. The department is the perfect illusion to work on a case of such importance in secrecy, especially considering Frey’s new boss Detective ‘Nine-Nails’ McGray holds such an infamous reputation in the area. 
 
I’m not one for gruesome elements to stories, however, I enjoyed the darker elements to this book. I think because it was based in the era of the ripper and because of the nature of the storyline, it was written in a very subtle way, instead of being too graphic with details. I also really enjoyed seeing the development of the relationship between Frey and McGray, especially considering they are complete opposites to one another. 
 
This story had so many plot twists and was filled with many interesting details to the storyline which keeps you hooked to the story constantly. I’d recommend it to anyone who loves murder mysteries, puzzles or even just books that keep you on the edge of your seat. I’d particularly recommend to anyone who likes Sherlock Holmes novels. The bond between Frey and McGray isn’t as respectful or open-minded as that of Sherlock and Watson, however, their bickering, digs, and swearing towards one another add a humorous element to the story. 
 
This is the first book in a series of books with Frey and McGray, the second is A Fever of the Blood and the third is A Mask of Shadows. Both of which I have posts coming up on.  
 
What have you been reading lately? Any recommendations? 
Cheerio for now! 
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