Book Review: The Miniaturist

The Miniaturist, Jessie Burton 
Book | The Miniaturist
Book | The Miniaturist

 

This book was one that had caught my eye many a time from its place of pride, on the bestseller bookshelf at my favourite bookstore. I had read the blurb a half a dozen times but for some reason never purchased it. The description was so intriguing and it made its’ way onto my reading list but there were always other books that distracted me until it was gifted to me at Christmas (is there a reoccurring pattern here? -I think so). It wasn’t until our summer ‘uproot’ that I finally cracked the spine and got sucked into the world of what happens behind the doors of a 17th-century merchant trader family home in Amsterdam. 
 
The story revolves around Nella Oortman who becomes Nella Brandt, the young wife of Johannes Brandt. With her husband off at sea and trading in distant lands, he gives her a miniature cabinet house to fill her time and distract herself with. After sourcing a miniaturist the cabinet quickly comes to a life in a way that unnerves Nella and so the story twists and turns in the most unexpected of ways. 
 
Both the story and the way Burton has produced this story was both beautiful and intensely gripping. I wish I could mention more about this novel but I do not want to give away any spoilers, especially as there are so many plot twists within. As soon as you think you have figured out why and what is happening, you are blindsided by another piece of the puzzle. Overall, I loved this book. It made for a great read, no doubt one I will return to and reread over and over. 
 
Have you ever read The Miniaturist? What did you think? 
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Book Review: Hounds & Valleys

The Hound of Baskervilles & The Valley of Fear, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle 

 

Confession time. I have never read a Sherlock Holmes novel -well until this book I hadn’t. That probably sounds shocking to some seen as I read so much but it wasn’t until now that I had come across any that I truly wanted to read. This book edition includes The Hound of Baskervilles and The Valley of Fear. I immensely enjoyed The Hound of Baskervilles and the first part of The Valley of Fear but the second part I found quite difficult to get into and so, I weren’t that fussed about it. Both novels involve both Holmes and Watson trying to solve perplexing crimes that they’ve been told of. 


The novel, The Hound of Baskervilles, revolves around the murder of Sir Charles Baskerville, the legendary curse of the hound that haunts the Baskervilles and Holmes trying to prevent the new master, Sir Henry Baskerville, coming to the same fate as his predecessor. As Holmes and Watson unravel the mystery, events, and characters within this tale, so to do the readers. This made for a quick read for me, mostly because of how exciting and gripping the tale was. 

The first part of The Valley of Fear was also a fast read for the same reason. The story drew me in and I felt enveloped within the story, wanting to know more and more until I reached the final verdict. As I mentioned, I wasn’t all that fussed with the second part. In comparison to the first, I found it a little slow to start and I didn’t feel as drawn in as I previously had. Though I would still recommend the first part and The Hound of Baskervilles to any who enjoy intriguing puzzles or ‘murder mystery’ type things. I can already see The Hound of Baskervilles becoming one of those books I return to continuously. 

Have you ever read these books? What did you think? Comment Below
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Book review: the wind in the willows

The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame

The wind in the willows is a classic home to many a bookshelf. It’s one of those books you hear as a child and hold forever, like the wizard of oz or the little princess. This book has always held a nostalgic place in my heart and while I don’t often return to books from my childhood, I couldn’t resist returning to it this fall.

 
I find Kenneth Grahame’s descriptions of nature, the river and the wild wood so beautiful and mesmerising that I often become distracted by picturing the natural surroundings rather than paying attention to the story. Fall is often the time we all hibernate into the warmth of our homes, wrapping ourselves in cozy layers with warm brews; though after spending a summer stuck inside I wanted to get out in nature -so to speak. While my health hasn’t improved that much since summer, I decided rather than chance a flare and cold from the bitter cold, I’d instead turn to a book. A book bulging with references and descriptions of the life of outside nature and general wilderness. 
 
If you’ve been living under a rock and have never read the wind in the willows, I’ll give you the quick run down -and the Amazon link. The story of the wind in the willows follows the adventures of the water rat, mole, toad and badger. All equally interesting characters, we read of their adventures at the river, the wild wood and the troubles they (mostly toad) find themselves in. The main lessons are to always go through the wild wood in pairs, never joy ride a motor car and do not dress as a washerwoman –it’s not a good look
 
In all seriousness, I love this book and thoroughly enjoyed returning to it. If you like this story, its characters or even just psychology/counselling, you should also check out counselling for toads which involve toad, badger, the water rat, and mole -but mainly toad. I also loved that book and would recommend to anyone who loves the wind in the willows. 

Have any suggestions for fall reads? leave them in a comment below
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Dracula

Dracula, Bram Stoker

Flat Lay: Dracula, by Bram Stoker (Red Leather-bound classic by Barnes & Nobles)

October has always been my favourite month, and while there are many Halloween movies I love to revisit each year, I wanted to turn my attention to some darker books. Initially, I had set my sights on Frankenstein but after many failed attempts, I tossed it across the room and reached for Dracula. As you can see, it’s a pretty chunky book which made it a little daunting at first; however, as soon as I started the first page I was sucked into the story and within a few days I had entirely finished.

 
Dracula by Bram Stoker is a classic with many having read, watched adaptions or know of the story in some form of way. Going into this book I was nervous about its’ length and language used. Classic books often hold the reputation of having long, difficult language throughout; being hard for the reader to decipher. However, the language used was simple and straightforward, making it a super easy read. The story is told through a series of journal entries, letters and news articles, from a handful of the characters within the story. At first, I worried whether I’d be able to keep up with whose perspective I was reading when, though it was a lot easier than I thought and I whizzed through the book. 
This was a really enjoyable read, especially for this time of year. Reading the story through multiple perspectives, corresponding letters and articles added another dimension to the tale, which made it all the more gripping. Another thing I loved was that even though it is told in an alternative way, it doesn’t scrimp on describing the vividly eerie environments and surroundings throughout. 
 
This made for a great Autumn read -in fact, I’m probably going to find it hard finding my next Autumn/Halloween read after enjoying Dracula so much. 
 
Any recommendations for Halloween reads? Leave a comment below

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Book Review: Careless People

Murder, Mayhem and the invention of the Great Gatsby 
Books: Careless People & The Great Gatsby Covers
Book: Careless People cover

 

Careless people, by Sarah Churchwell, was a book that always caught my eye on the shelf at my local bookstore. It’s blue and black patterned hue border, with the jazz, dancing skeleton gents made for an intriguing front cover –yes, I judged a book by its’ cover. It wasn’t just the cover, after quickly reading the blurb I knew I had to read this book and so, it wasn’t long before I headed towards the check out with it clutched under my arm, along with a few other reads.

This book is pretty self-explanatory in its’ title, but nevertheless, I will go through the motions. The book is a huge collection of information explaining the true events behind the story of The Great Gatsby and what led Fitzgerald to write the classic book. Including news articles to social events, diaries and ledgers of both Fitzgerald and his friends, even letters between Zelda and Fitzgerald. Churchwell uses every ounce of information to piece together the puzzle of what happened behind the novel, how he came to write the novel and uses all these different forms of information to form this biography of The Great Gatsby.

Book: Written Ledger account of Fitzgerald's life
Book: Black & White photos of Fitzgerald's and friends

I loved this book. Gatsby is one of my favourite novels and I loved the film adaptation too, so it felt only natural to sink my teeth into this read and unveil the inner works of the story. Through the various sources of information Churchwell draws upon, she paints the picture of the time period the Fitzgeralds lived, what they got up to and all the acquaintances that came along for the ride. We learn about the area they lived, the parties they attended, their neighbours, their travels, the social events of the time and the various goings on of the roaring 20s; all of these things adding facets to the story of Gatsby.

This book is a must for any who loved the story of Gatsby, or even those who just love reading about true events of the past. An interesting read, with vast amounts of information. I can only imagine how long the research for this book took Churchwell -in fact, it gives me a slight headache just thinking of the amount of reading and archives she had to go through to produce this book. Nevertheless, her mission was accomplished -and accomplished well. I can’t wait to reread The Great Gatsby, and see it through new eyes, having read all that went into it.

Was Gatsby your type of book? If so, you have to read this! 
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Book Review: The Night Circus

Ribbons, Ravens, and Rêveurs 
The Night Circus Book - accompanied by a red Rêveurs scarf and a black and white cup and saucer

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern has quickly become my favourite book. I remember constantly seeing it recommended on blogs and in magazines but never troubling myself to search it on Amazon. It wasn’t until a few years back I picked it up as an impulse buy at my local bookstore. It was right at the checkout and feeling drawn to the cover I quickly purchased it before having time to give it a second thought. It sat on my bookshelf ever since til last fall, when I devoured it on a rainy day. 

 
There is very little detail of the story I can give without giving away spoilers so let’s just say the story is a game played by Celia Bowen and Marco Alisdair which takes place at the night circus. It involves magnificent feats, vivid characters, and the most beautiful story ever wrote (in my opinion). The way it’s written is truly magnificent, not only telling you the story of the circus but also threads of outsiders’ stories who baffle you, to begin with, only to fall into place as you read on. The threads carefully curated by Morgenstern slowly weave together and make the book even more enchanting. I also love how the reader can experience certain elements and feats from within the circus through sections of the books; which just adds to the overall enjoyment and lures the reader in, as though they could brush shoulders with the characters themselves. 

It’s the type of book you can read over and over, with its enticing magic affecting you more and more with every read. The type of book you never want to finish, as you will have to leave this wonderful escape Morgenstern has created and come crashing back to reality. 

Have you ever read The Night Circus? What did you think? Comment below. 
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Book Review: Skin Cleanse

The Simple, All-natural Program for Clear, Calm, Happy Skin 
Skin Cleanse book - the simple, All-natural program for clear, calm, happy skin

Just like many of the books I read, Skin Cleanse by Adina Grigore had been lurking on my Amazon Wishlist for months before I received it for my birthday. Having already started the process of going all-natural with my toiletries and skincare for little over 6 months, I was seeking guidance in a big way and so this book couldn’t have fallen into my hands at a better time. 

Skin Cleanse - a map of your skin illustration

Adina talks her reader through every aspect of adopting the simple, all-natural body care routine in an easy, jargon-free way. When reading you honestly feel as though she’s sitting telling you this over a coffee. Through the 8 chapters, she educates you on not only how to identify problematic products, but also how to weed them out of your routine and find another little gem to slip in its place (-usually something you already have in your kitchen, I might add). She teaches you how and the importance of keeping food and product journals to notice triggers for your skin and body. The book also contains so many vital lessons and tips on how to read and decipher ingredient labels to identify those little nitty-gritty buggers you really don’t want going onto your skin, and then being absorbed by your body. Another aspect I really didn’t anticipate to read in the book was how your ancestry, environment and how your great-grandmother lived, can affect your own lifestyle and body (truly fascinating and educating chapter). 

Skin Cleanse book - Chapter 7 be your own apothecary

Adina also has created and provided her reader with a whole chapter based around becoming your own apothecary and making your own effective, and all-natural, products right out of your kitchen cupboards. I mean the power to clear, healthy skin is right at your fingertips and once you read Adina’s insights on how to do so you’ll never look back, trust me! 

Skin Cleanse Book - so much in common, head to toe illustration

Overall this book has been an amazing read and became my best friend/bible/guru all in one. I love the entire approach of this book and the way it’s been written. The easy-to-read affect but also the important message that your body absorbs everything you put on it; so it’s important to pay attention to those ingredients and how your body reacts. 

Have you ever read Skin Cleanse? 
No -you need to get it | Yes, what did you think? 
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Book Review: It’s not how good you are, It’s how good you want to be

It’s not how good you are, It’s how good you want to be 
-Paul Arden 
It's not how good you are, it's how good you want to be

Quite a short, compact book It’s not how good you are, it’s how good you want to be by Paul Arden was a fast and inspiring book to read. Full with personally and professional advice, both for the corporate employee and the creative folks, this made for a really interesting read; and really opened my mind about my own career path. From failures to strokes of luck, Arden discusses is it all and motivates you to see these situations in different lights. It’s almost as though this book is preparing you for every situation you could possibly be put in, in your career. For this reason, I would say it would probably make a great gift for someone graduating, leaving school or maybe even someone who has recently left a job or changing jobs. Where it is a short and fast read, it’s also pretty ideal for those short of time. 

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Have you ever read this book, what did you think? Comment below
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Book Review: The Crossroads of Should and Must

Find and follow your passion 

The Crossroads of Should and Must by Elle Luna had been on my Amazon wishlist for quite some time before I received it last Christmas. After months of hearing and reading such amazing reviews of the book I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it and so, as you could imagine, I was over the moon when I unwrapped it. I devoured it in the next three days, whilst staying at my grandparents for the holiday. I just couldn’t put it down, it was even better than I’d imagined.

Wrote in the first person by Elle Luna herself, she takes us through her own experience of wanting to pursue art and finding her own dream space to make it happen. She tells of the differences between ‘Should’ and ‘Must’, why these are different to one another and how to figure out which you are living to in your own life. ‘Should’ revolve’s around, well around things people feel they should be doing; ie. going to university or college to get qualifications. On the other hand, the things you feel compelled and drawn to are the ‘Musts’ in your life. ‘Must’ is the thing that is so rooted in your being that if you didn’t fulfil it, you would feel a little lost or out of sync with yourself. For me, this space is a big part of my ‘Must’. I feel the need to write. Whether it’s an account of a day out, thoughts on an issue or even just passing on the love of a book -I feel the constant need to write and produce something (even if that means no one is watching or listening on the other end).
extract:

If you believe that you have something special inside of you, and you feel it’s about time you gave it a shot, honour that calling in some way – today. If you feel a knot in your stomach because you can see the enormous distance between your dreams and your daily reality, do one thing to tighten your grip on what you want – today. If you’ve been peering down the road to must but can’t quite make the choice, dig a little deeper and find out what’s stopping you – today. Because there is a recurring choice in life and it occurs at the intersection of two roads. We arrive at this place again and again. 

Elle uses not only her own experiences within the book but also others stories of their own crossroads and how they made those steps towards their own ‘Musts’. She uses quote, tips, illustrations, pictures and even activities throughout to help the reader come to the conclusion of their own ‘should & must’ and where to go from there. One of my favourite activities was the obituary one -sounds a little ominous, but bear with me- where she says to write what you want your obituary to say, how do you want to be remembered and what you did with your life. She then gets you to write your obituary following how your life is now, what are you doing and what it will inevitably say if you were to follow your ‘should’. The difference is often startling and a real eye-opener when you compare and contrast.

From my own experience and the profound effect the book has had on me, I feel confident in my recommendation of this book to everyone -I quite literally want to talk about the book to everyone I see, much to their disappointment of my choice of conversation. The book as a whole has reiterated my passions and what I want to be doing with my life, regardless of what I ‘should’ be doing and what is expected from me, from general society. It’s encouraged me to follow my heart and give it my all.

Favourite quote:

Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who come alive -Howard Thurman, philosopher 


Have you read this book -what did you think? (let me know below) 
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Book Review: Grace

Grace: A Memoir, by Grace Coddington 

I’m not entirely sure where to start with this book. I have been waiting so long to read this and now that I finally have I’m not sure what book to go onto next. For me, this book was an easy read full of both Grace’s wit and humour, as well as a full dose of truth and honesty about her life. She recites everything from her childhood to her modelling career, her transition to creative director as well as her transition through relationships giving us a look through not only her love life but also her family life. She also lets us in behind the scenes of her relationships with colleagues, and friendships with famous faces. The book is also full of Grace’s neat and quirky sketches, along with photographs from her modelling days, personal life and photo shoots from her creative direction. 
I have to admit, I’m not a hardcore fashion follower so I was a little nervous at how much I would relate to this memoir. As I made my way through, I was surprised at how many names I recognised. From models to designers, photographers to editors; I impressed myself with my knowledge of the fashion world. 
This book made for an easy-breezy read; wrote as though you were sitting with a cuppa listening to Grace, herself. I’d recommend to anyone, especially those who love memoirs or anything within the realm of the fashion or creative art world. 
Ever read Grace: a memoir? What did you think? 
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