Monday, 20 January 2014

Holiday Reads

I was a very lucky girl over the New Year and headed to Sharm El Sheikh for a spot of sun, sea and snorkeling whilst we brought in 2014. We had such an amazing time.

Now I am not going to lie there was only 2 things I was interested in on this holiday:

1. Getting some much needed vitamin D 
2. Catching up on some good reads

If you are looking for something new to read or just add to your Amazon Wish List (am I the only one that has a specific 'To Read' wish list) you might be interested in what I downloaded for my holiday.

Life After Life  - By Kate Atkinson

This book follows Ursula, a girl born into a relatively wealthy family during a snow storm in February 1910. Ursula immediately dies. In the next chapter her birth is played out again but this time a few facts are changed and baby Ursula survives. 

The book follows in this vein, with Ursula as a child and adult often being in the wrong place at the wrong time but when she re-joins life and we re-join her she has the opportunity to make certain changes that will influence her path through life. Throughout Ursula doesn't realise that she is being re-born and instead views it as a series of deja vu and an instinct to travel in a certain direction. 

As a result the book is very jumpy and goes back and forward in time which can be a little taxing. I have to say that at the beginning I found this really difficult, never before have I had to pay such particular attention to dates in a  fiction book. But around a quarter of the way in it started to pick up pace and I had got my head around the large swathe of characters that come in and out of the story depending on which period in time is being written about. 

The story is interspersed with some philosophy and other literary references which I think are supposed to reflect Ursula's intelligence and wisdom from having lived a 'number of lives'. 

As Ursula grows we follow her life in the context of great historical events given that she 'lives' through 2 world wars. We see her married, single in London and in Berlin following various life paths including being a housewife, mother and civil servant. During this time she is also able to influence the fate of other key characters. This is not necessarily something that I like, but is always tied into the storyline. 

The story was spoilt slightly with a rather far fetched and honestly random sub-story featuring Eva Braun and Adolf Hitler but excluding those few chapters it is a great read. Whilst other reviews have commented on the repetitiveness I really enjoyed seeing the same scenes with the eyes of a 'different' Ursula, who is viewing them for the first time after following a different series of choices to get her to that point. 

Perfect for any reader who often wishes "If I had just..."

Jemima J - By Jane Green

Jane Green is one of the queens of chick lit, writing about glossy women leading glossy lives in glossy cities. Perfect sun lounger reading if you ask me 

The story of Jemima J starts with an unhappy overweight 27 year old working as a journalist at The Kilburn Herald with dreams of being skinny, beautiful and writing features for a  women's glossy. We learn early on that Jemima J has the talent and ambition to hit her career goals but unfortunately not the confidence after years of rejection from editors, "friends" and her mother. Her lack of self-confidence has led her into the life of an isolated recluse.

Like all women who have something they don't like about themselves, Jemima believes that everything in her life will be perfect - a great job, great friends, great parties and of course a great boyfriend preferably in the shape of Ben, Deputy News Editor, at The Kilburn Herald - if she could just loose her weight. 

First published in 2006 it was interesting to hear Jemimas thoughts as she dials up the modem upon discovering the internet and its opening up of the world to her, where no one knows what she looks like. The catalyst for change in Jemima is meeting the very hunky Brad, a Californian, on an internet chat room. 

One of the things I really like about this book is that Jemima only changes through her own hard work and dedication - a lesson to us all during the January resolutions. But unfortunately that is where my love for this tale ends. Perhaps it would have been a little twee but there is no 'beauty is on the inside' message here. A little detour through LA and Brad but of course like any good rom come Jemima gets her happy ending!

Predictable, yes and frustrating moral undertone at times but certainly a pleasant and quick read whilst soaking up the winter sun. 

Room - By Emma Donoghue

Jack is 5. Jack lives in Room. Room is 11 foot by 11 foot with a sky light and a locked door. Ma was captured 8 years before by Old Nick and held in this fortress in his garden unbeknown to everyone around them. Jack is the result of the relationship between Old Nick and Ma. 

We are given a detailed description of Room through the eyes of Jack. Each key reference point uses capital letters to depict its 'Name'. It is part of Jacks life rather than merely an object. We realise that every aspect of his life is in this room with his mother protecting his view of the 'outside'. This naive viewpoint is endearing in a strange way. 

You realise relatively soon in the book that Ma and Jack do get out of Room. This part of the book is written so well. My heart was actually pounding and ensuring their safe recovery meant that I stayed up well past my bed time. 

Jack is the hero of the story and watching him learn about the outside world and meeting his new family and surroundings is fascinating. As if a baby could articulate how they feel. 

The story then focuses on how Ma and Jack try to assimilate in the first month or so. They realise its not going to be an easy process and I love the optimism shown by both of them through a list shared with us towards the end that details all the things they want to do together in the future. 

I was genuinely upset when the book finished with unanswered questions. Does Ma recover? Does Jack integrate back into his new world? What happens to Old Nick? Do Ma and Jack get the justice they deserve? I suppose its nice to think of these things yourself because then you can create the happy ending you want for them. 

Have you read any of these books ? What did you think? Do you have an recommendations for my virtual reading list?

Sunday, 12 January 2014

What's In My Bag: The Cambridge Satchel Edition

The Cambridge Satchel is the new addition to my weekend wardrobe as I have been looking for something a little smaller and more casual than the Michael Kors suitcase that I lug around during the week. It took a little while to arrive but I am thrilled with my choice and have fallen instantly in love with the gorgeous colour, practical size and the quality of the bag.

This is the 13" Cambridge Blue satchel. 

It's not the most roomy of bags which means decanting and downsizing for those laid back weekend days where minimal make up and fuss are a must!

So the essentials that I carry around with me are:
  • iPhone 5 in white with Accessorize case
  • Ted Baker Elonka Wallet in gun metal.  I managed to pick this up in the sales after my last Ted Baker wallet gave up after 8 hard wearing years. It is large so takes up a lot of room in the bag but I can't be faffing with a separate wallet for weekends as well! Plus it's silver and shiny *heart eyed emoticon*. 
  • Teal notebook from Paperchase. God knows I do not need another notebook but this is a handy size, a pretty colour and was in the sale.  This lets me jot down any little random thoughts that I think deserve pen and paper rather than a digital life. 
  • Ray Ban sunglasses because I am the eternal optimist that the sun might just come out!
As it is the weekend I try to wear a slightly paired back make up look. This little silver bag from a Xmas hair gift set a number of years ago gets a de-clutter to face the weekend. No where near full on a Saturday and Sunday it squashes down to fit in the bag before being ceremoniously refilled on a Sunday night before the Monday morning commute / train make up scenario happens again.

 My weekend essentials include:
  • Mini Hairbrush for on the go grooming
  • Hair band and grips
  • Hand Sanitiser
  • L'Occatine hand cream
  • Nivea Hydra Care Lip Balm - I brought this after watching this Lisa Eldridge beauty solutions video
  • Benefit lip gloss in 'nudie-tude'
  • Rimmel mositure renew lipstick in 'To Nude Or Not To Nude'
  • KIKO natural concealer in shade 2
  • Calvin Klein Euphoria roller ball perfume
As I said I like to keep the weekend edit as minimal as possible but I am still covered for almost all eventualities with this selection whether it be a trip to the cinema, meeting friends for coffee or shopping. 

I love reading 'What's in my bag posts' so please link yours in the comments below so that I can have a good nose and I will also plan a week day edition. 

Thursday, 9 January 2014

100 Day Spending Ban 2014

Things have become a little excessive of late, in the purchasing arena, spurred on by even more excessive blog reading and youtube watching. My love of make up and all things sparkly, along with a penchant for accessories and an almost unhealthy relationship with Paperchase means that our little house is bursting at the seams. 

A week away with no purchases and a New Year makes it the perfect time to take stock (literally) and try and rein it all in a bit. So here comes the 100 day spending ban. My oh my 100 days is a long time though taking us up until the 10th April.

I do want to use this time wisely - a big clear out and charity shop drop along with more focus on diet and fitness after the festive season and a holiday saw this all come to a grinding halt - to ensure that I see the new year started in a healthy and practical way. 

Whilst this is my idea my husband is 100% behind it - obviously!

So I think that I need to set some rules.


1. Simples. Do not spend money on unnecessary purchases. 

2. Unnecessary means anything new make up wise unless replacing a crucial item for which there is no viable alternative already within my stash. 

3. This does not include personal hygiene products like deodorant, shower gel and shampoo/conditioner which will only replace what I am currently using when it runs out and I'm sure is something my nearest and dearest will be pleased about. 

4. Unnecessary also extends to clothes, accessories and stationery products. 

5. I will also stop the pre-work Starbucks habit and when possible take a pre-prepared lunch. 

6. The 100 days started on the 1st January and will continue until the 10th April. 

So far it has been easygoing as I have been sat on a sun lounger in Egypt with very little to no spending temptation or desire to spend money. So far so good! I'll keep you updated ...

If you are doing a spending ban at the start of 2014 then please link your blog in the comments below and follow me on Twitter @mrsnicholls33 so that I can follow you back and keep up to date with your progress.