Wednesday, 31 December 2014

The Best Books I read in 2014

2014 was a great year for me in almost every sense, including literary wise. Although this was the year I graduated from university and as a result spent the first months of it writing my dissertation, I still found plenty of time to read other books than the ones dedicated to French foreign policy. Without further ado, here are just five of the best books I read in 2014…

Marie Antoinette by Stefan Zweig
2014 will forever be the year that I finally reached for a book by the great Stefan Zweig. Although I have been intending to do so for quite some time, it was not till I went to the Conciergerie in Paris, that I decided it was time to read Zweig's book on France’s last queen. Zweig is a literary genius, who writes about real people, the way other authors write fiction – it is compelling, all consuming, vivid and addicting. As a history buff, I was well aware of a lot of the aspects from Marie Antoinette’s life, and still my interest in her story only grew bigger and bigger with every page. Zweig gives us a great portrayal of the Queen of France, probably the truest one we are ever going to get – beautifully written, this is a thorough study on the Austrian princess.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

If there is one word to describe this one it would be addictive. Even though I was amongst the first ones to watch Gone Girl as it hit the cinemas, my interest in the book grew even bigger as I already knew the whole story. And rest assure that the film did not take anything away from the experience of reading it (well, I was spoilt for the ending, but that was a minor price to be paid). For everything else I think on Gone Girl, here is my full review.

The Girl at the Lion d’Or by Sebastian Faulks
Now this one is a beauty! Sebastian Faulks is a writer, loved by many as the author of Birdsong. However, I would definitely recommend to any romance lover with a preference for classics to give The Girl at the Lion d’Or a read as well. A palette of colourful characters, complimented by a masterful narrative, this is quintessentially one of the more believable love stories out there. Set in a little French village in the transitional time between the two world wars, The Girl at the Lion d’Or is one of those pieces of historical fiction that has the power to take you away from your own world and put you in a place you never knew you wanted to visit, but feels strangely compelling. More of my thoughts on it here.

The Wolf of Wall Street by Jordan Belfort
This one is probably the one I had most fun reading and if you have seen the movie by the same name, you will know why. However, The Wolf of Wall Street is so much more than just a humorous look at Jordan Belfort’s wealthy lifestyle. It is a very honest and detailed autobiography that tells you things about Jordan’s life that maybe you did not need to know, but that help painting a full picture of one self-destructive existence. Once again, money does not equal easy living or a happy, problem-free time. More on why I love the book, right here.

Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case by Agatha Christie
As an avid Agatha Christie reader, I was postponing reading that one for quite a while. After reading numerous of books, featuring the clever little Belgian detective, it is inevitable that one would grow to love the character and eventually find oneself being too attached to it. But sooner or later great things have to come to an end. Curtain is a great crime novel and, to me, one of Christie’s best as it still manages to fool you and surprise you at the end. Unsurprisingly, also one of the saddest ones – definitely the book that made me cry in 2014.
A full review coming soon.

Thank you for reading! Whoever you are, have a great New Year full of brilliant moments and even more brilliant books!

Mira x
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Wednesday, 10 December 2014

History of a Pleasure Seeker: Review

Author: Richard Mason
Genre: Fiction, Romance, Adult Fiction
Originally published in: 2011
Pages: 280

"There is no adventure in staying at the same place"

When you want to visit Amsterdam, you book a flight and you go there for the weekend. When you want to see Amsterdam as it was in 1907, during the Belle Époque - things get a bit trickier. The best solution I find to this wanderlust, is reaching for History of a Pleasure Seeker.

The story is about Piet Barol - a young man with humble beginnings, who leaves the Dutch province in order to be a tutor for the son of a wealthy family in Amsterdam. While residing in their mansion, Piet has the opportunity to observe everyone living there - from the servants, to the masters - quietly finding out everyone's secrets, seducing them one by one. His intelligence and his charisma prove to open a lot of doors - an ambitious young man at the dawn of the 20th century, Piet will use all his carefully manufactured qualities in order to succeed in life. Which, for him, means wealth and indulgence.

History of a Pleasure Seeker is wonderfully written by Richard Mason - marvellously witty, it is a combination of humour and erotica, making it a great read for both hot summer nights and chilly winter evenings. Have you ever thought that your usual period drama lacks a bit of sexuality? History of a Pleasure Seeker is the one for you then. It is both a period piece that gives a greatly detailed look into the Dutch society of the Belle Époque, and a deeply erotic story. The characters are developed to a very intimate level - by examining their sexuality, Mason paints a more thorough picture of their true natures. He reflects on the effects of sexual repression, the nature of desire and how one deals with it - as we keep reading, we see that Piet is a man of many pleasures, who is not afraid of experimenting in order to satisfy his wants.

“The adventures of adolescence had taught Piet Barol that he was extremely attractive to most women and to many men. He was old enough to be pragmatic about this advantage, young enough to be immodest, and experienced enough to suspect that it might be decisive in this, as in other circumstances.”

This is the kind of novel that heavily relies on its main character. And what a protagonist we have here! Piet is handsome, intelligent, ambitious and witty - he knows what he wants and seemingly, nothing will stop him on his way to getting it. The world of money and pleasures is his aim, and in pursuing it he becomes less and less apologetic. Even though you might question some of his decisions, there is something to admire in a man who is so strongly driven to achieve his goals.

The book is not for the fainthearted – if you are used to rosy romances, this is not the one for you. The matter of sex is a driving force for this novel, so there are more than one or two erotic scenes, and they are all described with quite the detail. This is what is so great and refreshing about it – just because the story is situated during sexually repressed times, long before the sexual revolution changed the way we talk about sex, it does not mean that people were not having it. And do not think that those moments are just thrown in the book in order to make it spicier or to provoke its readers – on the contrary, these erotic scenes will help you understand the characters more. Reading about it will give you a far better idea of who Piet, Jacobina and Maarten are. Some detail might make you feel uncomfortable, yes, but this is the kind of daring writing that I love – everything feels real: there is no sugar-coating, but no unnecessary brutalities either.

A great read, History of a Pleasure Seeker is the kind of novel that grips you from the start and holds your attention till the very end – it won’t take you a lot of time to finish this one. It is that enjoyable. 

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Tuesday, 9 December 2014

My favourite Christmas time moments: Books

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We are well into December now, so naturally I am all about the ice skating, mulled wine-drinking, Christmas-pudding-eating experience. But before I head into yet another Christmas market, I thought it would be a good idea to look into some of my favourite books and find festive inspiration in them. So, here I am browsing in my library for those special little chapters dedicated to Christmas or at least to some fun winter activity, re-reading the stories  that have the ultimate festive effect on me. Here are my favourites... (Spoiler alert: there isn't any evidence of a crazy, jazzy, champagne-filled Christmas party at Gatsby's on the pages of Fitzgerald's novel...) 

"Little Women" - Christmas time is all about the once you love most. About playing in the snow and being happy with what you've got

Not intending to copy Rachel Green, but Little Women is definitely a book I can keep re-reading and I won't get tired from it. Come Christmas and I suddenly find myself in the mood to watch the film again, too (well, that might have something to do with a certain Christian Bale). Personally, I think this is one of the best Christmas movies - not only is it based on a classic, but it is also so beautiful and full of good performances. 
Now, there are whole chapters dedicated to winter festivities involving the March sisters, but here is just a little bit of it - a passage showing a girl's excitement in a Christmas' morning; the joy of opening your presents however small they are, and the warmness of genuine sisterly love .

"Jo was the first to wake in the gray dawn of Christmas morning. No stockings hung at the fireplace, and for a moment she felt as much disappointed as she did long ago, when her little sock fell down because it was crammed so full of goodies. Then she remembered her mother's promise and, slipping her hand under her pillow, drew out a little crimson-covered book. She knew it very well, for it was that beautiful old story of the best life ever lived, and Jo felt that it was a true guidebook for any pilgrim going on a long journey. She woke Meg with a Merry Christmas, and bade her see what was under her pillow. A green-covered book appeared, with the same picture inside, and a few words written by their mother, which made their one present very precious in their eyes. Presently Beth and Amy woke to rummage and find their little books also, one dove-colored, the other blue, and all sat looking at and talking about them, while the east grew rosy with the coming day.
In spite of her small vanities, Margaret had a sweet and pious nature, which unconsciously influenced her sisters, especially Jo, who loved her very tenderly, and obeyed her because her advice was so gently given."

"Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" - the one my generation grew up with. About true magic, true friendship and true invisibility cloaks. 

Is there any need to explain this one? As a person in their early twenties, I am one of the people who grew up with Harry Potter. Naturally, Harry's first special Christmas has a place in my heart - this was just the beginning of the adventure, and the books were getting better and better, but the Philosopher's Stone first gave us a glimpse into Hogwarts' festivities (and with that to ALL THE FOOD).
So, from there on, I would always look forward to chapters, dedicated to Christmas times in Hogwarts - the ultimate dream! Wouldn't you love to be a part of the Christmas Ball from the Goblet of Fire,? Wouldn't you love it to have a festive trip to Hogsmeade, eat all the candy in Honeydukes and then run quickly to warm up at The Three Broomsticks Inn? We both know you would lie, if you say no to that!

Christmas was coming. One morning in mid-December, Hogwarts woke to find itself covered in several feet of snow. The lake froze solid and the Weasley twins were punished for bewitching several snowballs so that they followed Quirrell around, bouncing off the back of his turban.” 

"After a meal of turkey sandwiches, crumpets, trifle, and Christmas cake, everyone felt too full and sleepy to do much before bed except sit and watch Percy chase Fred and George all over Gryffindor tower because they'd stolen his prefect badge."

"A Moveable Feast" - the one when you grow up. About everything. About life. About Paris. Just Hemingway...

Maybe this one is not very festive. Maybe it is just very honest - just like Hemingway himself. In A Moveable Feast, Hemingway writes a very poignant, very real and honest description of one winter in Schruns, with his first wife Hadley and their little boy, Bumby. A marriage that is coming to its end. A winter resort that possess of beauty which cannot help mend something that is already destroyed. "When there is three of us instead of just the two, it was the cold and the weather that finally drove us out of Paris in the winter time." 
The whole wine and dine experience at the Taube Hotel might be lovely, the snow might be the crispiest, the skiing might be gorgeous, the writing might be going just fine - the perfect place does not always come at the perfect time. This happy winter story is the last one for Ernest and Hadley.

"I remember the smell of the pines and the sleeping on the mattresses of beech leaves in the woodcutters' hats and the skiing through the forest following the tracks of hares and of foxes. In the high mountains above the tree line I remember following the track of a fox until I came in sight of him and watching him stand with his forefoot raised and then go on carefully to stop and then pounce, and the whiteness and the clutter of a ptarmigan bursting out of the snow ad flying away and over the ridge."

Hope you enjoyed this post, I definitely feel a bit more festive!

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Monday, 8 December 2014

5 Best: Book Accessories

A good book accessory is to a reader, what a MAC brush is to a girl - makes the whole experience more convenient. And by book accessories I mean all those little things that are there to enhance one's reading time - pretty bookmarks, little booklights and all sorts of different gadgets. 

Since Christmas is upon us, those also make great budget buys and you should definitely consider adding them to your shopping list. Especially if you are thinking what to get a book lover - those cute little accessories make the perfect stocking fillers. Stationary makes perfect gifts, people!

Pretty bookmarks

As an avid reader, I have to say a nice bookmark can change the whole reading experience! I always pick up some of the free ones that you could find in the likes of Waterstones and Foyles, in my local library, or even at the cinema (you would be surprised at how many cash tills you can find a block of free bookmarks).
However, if you decide to actually pay for one of those, then your choices are getting even wider. For example, for the history addicts there are these kings and queens bookmarks, while for the Harry Potter fans there are these gorgeous Hogwarts bookmarks.
If you want to get a child into reading (or you already know one that is a bookworm) - try getting them one of those cute, furry book-tails - they come in different animals and are simply adorable.
If you want to go a step further: you love gadgets and you often read foreign literature - there are bilingual electronic dictionary bookmarks, too! 

Little booklights

Now those are seriously cute and even more seriously practical. Mainly because it doesn't matter where you are and what time of the day you choose to be reading (to be honest, in England right now, any time past 3pm requires some sort of artificial lightning! That is unless you are a bat and you can see in the dark, in which case, no, you don't really need that booklight, do you?). When I saw those tiny booklights in Waterstones, I knew they would be my best friend!


It is a truth universally acknowledged that if you possess of a lot of books, bookends you will need. This is why, in a true Christmas spirit you should get your book lover some fancy bookends for those big bookshelves of his/hers. For some great choice, check out KnobCreekMetalArts on Etsy - among my personal favourites are this Swan one and this Brilliant one!

Reading Journal

Reading journals are a must for serious book readers - or at least for the ones who are very organised and like to keep track of everything they read. This would be a perfect gift all year round, but especially for Christmas as the beginning of the new year makes a great start to a new journal. This one from The Literary Gift Company is perfect as it has sections for rating and reviewing the book, as well as "Reading Trees" to fill in. Here is a more classic one and here is another lovely Book Lover's Journal.

Kindle Covers

Now, books come in all shapes and sizes, and a lot of the book lovers of today choose to read from a tablet. A perfect gift for such a person is a cover - one that looks a lot like an actual book for the traditionalists, or maybe a floral leather one for the girly readers. Really, when it comes to those, the internet is your oyster - there is plenty of choice for those who are looking. To help you further here are three more : a Terry Pratchett one, a Wuthering Heights one, a Kate Spade one. And endless pages of pretty kindle cases here.

Hope you enjoyed this post! I do like making lists, but this week I will be back with my more book-specific posts and reviews.

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Sunday, 7 December 2014

Five Inspirational Christmas Quotes

Keeping it festive, here are 5 quotes about Christmas that are sure going to get you in the Christmas mood! 

“It is a fair, even-handed, noble adjustment of things, that while there is infection in disease and sorrow, there is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humour.” 
~ Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol 

“When we recall Christmas past, we usually find that the simplest things - not the great occasions - give off the greatest glow of happiness.”
~ Bob Hope

“Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.” 
~ Calvin Coolidge

“One can never have enough socks," said Dumbledore. "Another Christmas has come and gone and I didn't get a single pair. People will insist on giving me books.”
~ J.K.Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

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Saturday, 29 November 2014

Christmas Gift Guide: Books

Christmas Gifts: Books

Following my previous Christmas Gift Guide for Book Lovers, here are some book ideas that could make the perfect Christmas present.

1. Stay Classy: Pride and Prejudice, Little Women, Oliver Twist, Vanity Fair
The classics always make a good Christmas gift, especially when you go for a beautiful special edition. Personally, I am a big fan of the clothbound ones as they look stunning and are a perfect addition to anyone's library as they have such a traditional feeling to them. The Penguin Clothbound classics have to be some of the best on the market as their covers are simply gorgeous and your reading experience will be definitely upped a notch. 
Clothbound Classics

2. Keep it Christmassy
Christmas stories will always be a top choice when selecting a book as a Christmas gift. After all, now is the perfect time of the year to read them - not only are those stories going to get you in the Christmas mood, but they are also usually wrapped up in a beautiful snowy cover. Just looking at them makes you want to buy them for that special someone. I would suggest Louisa May Alcott's A Merry Christmas and Annie Groves' Christmas on the Mersey . Another more classic choice is Tolkien's Letters from Father Christmas.

3. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Because this one needs to have its own individual place on every Christmas list. A Christmas Carol is the perfect gift no matter the age - children and adults, everyone loves the timeless story of Ebenezer Scrooge, who is haunted by three spirits in order to understand the true meaning of Christmas. Perfect Christmas present if there ever was one. If not the Penguin clothbound version, I would recommend getting the gorgeous Barnes&Noble Leatherbound hardback. However, my personal favourite has to be this lovely Dickens at Christmas hardback that both already looks like a Christmas gift, and is full of all the quintessential festive Dickens stories - including "A Christmas Carol", "The Chimes", "The Haunted Man", and a special festive tale of "The Pickwick Papers".

4. Collections: Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones
When it comes to book series, sometimes buying all of them for yourself could end up being a bit too expensive. This is why Christmas is the best time to treat someone to a full collection of their favourite book series - be it a fantasy like Harry Potter, or everything Dan Brown has ever written - book collections are the ultimate geek's present.

5. The Pretty Hardback: Fashion/Photography/Cooking
In this category I would put all the nicely looking coffee-table books that you can enjoy in your free time - here are all those reads that are not novels, but are very enjoyable nonetheless. For the girl in your life that is obsessed with fashion - definitely get her one of the Vogue on Designers books (here is the Chanel one and here is the Vivienne Westwood one) or go the extra mile and opt for Vogue:The Gown. For the ones who love to spend some time in the kitchen, the Great British Bake Off: Christmas  or New York Cult Recipes should do the trick. Alternatively, other great gifts would be Tequilla Mockingbird: Cocktails with a Literary Twist , London: Portrait of a Cityor even some of the great Lonely Planet guides such as Great Escapes:Experience the World at your Leisure.

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Monday, 24 November 2014

Christmas Gift Guide: What to get a book lover

Perfect Gifts for Book Lovers

A month til Christmas means it's time to get serious on the Christmas shopping. So, here is my guide on what is the perfect present for a bookworm/geek/book addict/you-name-it.

First of all, in my experience at least, I have noticed that the book lover is an animal that could often be spotted with a cuppa - hence, I highly recommend getting your very own geek this lovely Winter Tea Collection from Whittard of Chelsea, or why not an Alice in Wonderland themed teapot! For those cosy nights in, one of the season-special Yankee Candles is a must! Here I have put a picture of the Gingerbread one, but my personal favourite has to be the Snowflake Cookie! For the girl who is always with a book, a lovely oversized scarf is a must. When it comes to scarves, Zara is a great choice! Another great gift is this gorgeous red pocket book with 72 cream, gold glided pages, that I stumbled upon in Asos. This Works' Deep Sleep Pillow Talk makes for an original present - spray this lovely fragrance on your pillow and be prepared for the most relaxing night's sleep! 
And lastly: for that special book lover of yours - there is nothing better than a satchel to put your current reads in, which makes this one the perfect Christmas present!

Hope you enjoyed this post & let me know what you think! 
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Sunday, 23 November 2014

Gone Girl Review

Author: Gillian Flynn
Genre: Thriller
Originally Published in: 2012
Pages: 463

Surprise, surprise! Guess who read Gone Girl and loved it. You might be tired of hearing how good that book is, but truth is stuff like that should not remain a secret. So, here I am joining the massive fan base that Gone Girl is enjoying today…

Important Note One: Usually, I am one of those snobs who prefer to read the book before they watch the movie. You know the ones: we prefer to be a step in front of everyone else so we can point and laugh at them. So that when we walk into the cinema, we know what we are getting ourselves into. And, of course, we are, thus, able to criticize the film adaptation on a whole more knowledgeable level – you know, we have read the book, and this entitles us of a certain opinion. However, in this case I watched the film first. That is due to the fact that I didn’t even intend to read the book – truth is, the moment I first watched the trailer, I was immediately hooked and could barely wait till the release date. Add to that David Fincher, Rosamund Pike, and a better-than-usually Ben Affleck, and my excitement was getting out of hand. Once I saw the movie…a different story.

Important Note Two: You read a book you love from start to finish. You:
       a)      Immediately write a review on it for your blog
       b)      Take a few days to carefully write a very honest and informative review, full of quotes and witty remarks
       c)      Rave about it for ages, keep postponing reviewing it, finally doing it in a month.
Answer: C, definitely C.

First things first, reviewing books like Gone Girl is a bit tricky since it is pretty easy to spoil them. That is, when there is a twist after twist, you can’t just go and talk about it with people who haven’t yet read it, because you will ruin the whole experience for them. So, I will keep this short.

It is the morning of the fifth anniversary of Nick and Amy Dunne’s wedding, when Amy suddenly disappears. The police’s prime suspect is Nick as everything points to the fact that his wife was growing scared of him. Although he denies it, his charming smile when posing next to the poster of his beautiful, missing wife, is not helping him. So, what really happened? Where is Amy?

The story is gripping – there is a reason I keep seeing people on the underground reading it. Once you start it, you just cannot put it down. What makes it so addictive is not just the mystery element to it, but the characters themselves – they feel real and utterly believable. What Gillian Flynn does in this book is a very honest portrayal of marriage and human nature. It is easy to put yourself on the place of these characters and ask yourself how you would act in such a messed up situation. Would you even put yourself in such a situation? Nick and Amy eventually fall in the traps of daily life – they turn into clichés, into stereotypes – but is that all they are? Sometimes turning into a cliché is what scares us the most and drives us into doing things we wouldn’t believe we would normally do.

“I was the embodiment of every writer's worst fear: a cliché.”

At the end of the book, I find myself understanding all of the characters involved – especially Nick and Amy. You get the feeling that everything comes into place, and even if you didn’t expect such an end – it somehow feels like the only real ending to their story.

Apart from the brilliant psychological side to the book and the very serious matters it reflects on, the story, as a whole, is entertaining. I found myself laugh on more than a few occasions – especially at Amy’s witty remarks. The book definitely did not make me cry, but it made me laugh. A lot. And it made me think about characters. Take the idea of the Cool Girl, for instance. I would not say this is just a description created purely for fictional reasons – the idea of a Cool Girl very much exists in our society. Here are just a few lines from her descriptions and tell me she does not sound familiar: “Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex, and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she’s hosting the world’s biggest culinary gang bang while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are above all hot. Hot and understanding.”

Another major issue in the book, is the media. In Gone Girl, the outcome of Amy’s disappearance hugely relies on the way the media portrays her, her husband, her parents, her friends and neighbourhood. During the course of the book, you can see both people and police falling in and out of love with Nick, hating him, then admiring him – all depending on the way he is represented in the news. Now, this is what makes the story even more believable and causes you to think about the media age we live in today. For is that not the way we shape our opinions nowadays? Especially when it comes to huge criminal cases: what you see on the news, is what you usually end up thinking.

I recommend Gone Girl to anyone who loves a good thriller, or just a good modern book in general. If you need a break from reading the classics – read Gone Girl. If you need a break from your marriage – read Gone Girl. I am not saying that everyone will love it. What I am saying is this: the book works on many levels and gives a very poignant portrayal of society today, of men and women, and their roles in it. I am pretty sure you will find something for yourself. I do not promise you will like that something.

Did you see my top 5 quotes from Gone Girl? Also, if you have read the book, let me know what you think of it and let's get this discussion going...
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Friday, 21 November 2014

5 best quotes from Gone Girl

Before I share with you my review on Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl, I decided we need a post with five of the best quotes from the book. I am not gonna lie, choosing just five was not easy! Gone Girl is full of moments where I would just think "this is spot on" and as with most books, it's almost impossible to tell which are the "five best lines". So, here I will share with you five of my personal favourites (ones that do not contain major spoilers to the story).

1.  "What are you thinking, Amy? The question I've asked most often during our marriage, if not out loud, if not to the person who could answer. I suppose these questions stormcloud every marriage: What are you thinking? How are you feeling? Who are you? What have we done to each other? What will we do?"

2.“Men always say that as the defining compliment, don’t they? She’s a cool girl. Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex, and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she’s hosting the world’s biggest culinary gang bang while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are above all hot. Hot and understanding. Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want. Go ahead, shit on me, I don’t mind, I’m the Cool Girl."

3. “My mother had always told her kids: if you're about to do something, and you want to know if it's a bad idea, imagine seeing it printed in the paper for all the world to see.” 

4. “She’s easy to like. I’ve never understood why that’s considered a compliment - that just anyone could like you.” 

5. “Love makes you want to be a better man. But maybe love, real love, also gives you permission to just be the man you are.” 

...What about you, guys? What were your favourite Gone Girl quotes and were they Nick's, or Amy's.. who is the most quotable to you?
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Sunday, 26 October 2014

Sunday Brunch: Lazy and Happy

Pumpkin spice latte and a carrot cake - perfect combination for the cold days

Sundays are meant to be lazy. There is nothing better than a well used Sunday and by that I mean staying in bed, watching film after film, reading a book and having lots of tea and biscuits. However, Sundays change throughout the year and I can definitely say that a lazy day in July is significantly different to a lazy day in October. 

So, here are a few things that have made my October Sundays the best part of my weeks. Or, in other words, what makes autumnal weekends so pleasurable.


Basically: I love a good pumpkin. Pumpkin pies and cakes, lattes and soups - you name it. The more pumpkin, the better. This Sunday, for example, I enjoyed a nice Pumpkin Ghoulash - the perfect soup for cold autumnal days. Plus, have I mentioned how much I love Covent Garden's soups? You just pore them in a saucepan and heat them for five minutes - perfect for those lazy days when you are craving for something quick and tasty, but you can't wait to go back to bed and watch Friends.


Sundays are also the best time for some home pampering! Hydrating is key when weather becomes colder and I cannot stand dry skin. So, here comes one of my new beauty favourites - the Body Shop sorbets. I definitely enjoy the Mango one the most...

Coffee and a book

Personally, I find Autumn  the perfect time to indulge into some classic romance stories - especially period pieces such as North and South, Pride and Prejudice, and Jane Eyre. A flavoured coffee just makes the whole experience even more enjoyable - this year, it is a Gingerbread latte  plus a sprinkle of cinnamon, all in my favourite Minnie Mouse cup!

The Book

The book I am reading at the moment is still Gone Girl (review coming up this week). Basically, after I thoroughly enjoyed the film, I instantly knew I had to get my hands on the original. As a result, here I am becoming Gillian Flynn's biggest fan and loving it.

All-day breakfast

Best part about Sunday's though, have to be the all-day breakfast option! If there is one time of the week when it is socially acceptable to have breakfast at lunch time or even in the afternoon - that is it. And I love me some brunch: a full English is something I cannot say no to!

What about your Sundays? How do you spend them this Autumn?
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Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Halloween costumes: book inspiration

Halloween is upon us and while some people have chosen their outfits well in advance, a lot of us keep waiting till the very last moment (seriously, when will I learn?). If you really leave it all for the last minute (read: a couple of hours before the party starts), you will basically have two possibilities: to put on something tight and black, paint whiskers on your face and hope you look like a cat, or to cover yourself in red and black paint/make-up/whatever-is-near, and resemble a zombie/victim of a horrible murder/etc...
...You might want to try something different this year and you still have some time to prepare. So, why not opt for a literature character instead? (Especially if you are in a couple, most of these ideas look best in a two-person Halloween team!)

The Straight-Out-Of-A-Period-Drama One

This is a good choice for couples and now you have the chance to dress up as Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy/Jane Eyre and Rochester/Margaret Hale and Mr. Thornton/any of your favourite classic romance couples. However, I would only recommend this if both (and I mean both) of you enjoy this kind of books/films, if one of you hates period drama, do not make them wear this... seriously, they are never going to enjoy their night.

Anyway, to do that you can find some Victorian dresses in fancy dress shops, or you still have time to order online - there is even more choice there. For men - going around charity shops is helpful too, as chances are you would find appropriate pants, coats and waistcoats there for a fraction of the price. 

P.S If you are a Jane Austen fan, living in England, go to Bath, where you are going to find a solution to all your fancy dress problems.

The Great-Gatsby-Lover

The theme very popular last year due to the premiere of Baz Lurman's Great Gatsby, is a good Halloween choice if you want to keep it classy - to feel comfortable in your skin, yet, knowing you still have dressed up for the occasion. 

This one can easily be found in the fancy shop near you. However, instead of spending money on a dress that looks like a flapper's one, but feels like a costume, and you won't wear again, I suggest you visit some shops on the high street instead. You can find dresses, skirts and tops, inspired by the 20s easily enough if you check the likes of Top Shop, Miss Selfridge and even H&M. The good thing in this case is that you could wear this clothes again throughout the year. For lovers of the true classics you can find some proper jazz era pieces in vintage shops. Same goes for men+lots of gel and confidence.

The Stay-Classy One

You do not want to dress up as a zombie, a skeleton, a monster or a scary clown, because you prefer to keep it nice looking and stylish. Yet, you still want to dress up for Halloween. Enter your favourite stylish heroes - the characters that have outgrown their own books to become fashion icons.

Maybe you like Breakfast at Tiffany's? That's a good last minute option as you do not necessary need to buy anything new. Put on your little black dress, big black shades and a cat eye-liner (a massive hat is an option, too), tie your hair in a bun - and you have lovely Holly Golightly. 

Or, maybe you are a Fitzgerald fan? You have plenty of classy characters to choose from - it does not have to be the aforementioned Gatsby. Actually, why not dress up as Fitzgerald himself? A dapper 20s suit is a must and maybe a bottle of alcohol in hand....only if you want to address his alcoholism of course....

If you are a fan of Atonement, your costume is even easier to achieve. Girls, just go for a long green dress, style your hair in a nice 30s-40s style (plenty of tutorials on how to achieve that on youtube), and apply little make up. Furthermore, a lot of french novels can inspire you to dress up in 18th century aristocratic style - an excuse to wear a huge ball gown and a massive wig. Because, you know, it was all about excess in the French court during the reigns of Louis XIV, XV and XVI...

Sherlock Holmes? Probably the literary character with the most famous look in the world - and one easy to achieve this Halloween. Again, cheap and appropriate clothes could be find in vintage and charity shops, but if you are willing to spend more, you can find something Sherlockey in suit stores. Finish the look by adding a pipe. This look also allows you to wear some modern clothes - if you decide to go for Benedict Cumberbatch's Sherlock. In this case a slim fit suit is a must plus a long black coat.

The Scary One

It's Halloween and you want to keep it scary, we get it.

First off, there are characters like Bronte's Heathcliff, that might be considered a romantic hero, but still looks pretty scary on the outside. Or there are characters such as Moriarty - Sherlock's biggest enemy he is, but he brings the scary with his brain rather than his looks. Then again, a pair of Sherlock and Moriarty could spice up the traditional Sherlock and Dr. Watson Halloween combo.

Then, you could always dress up as Voldemort, who is scary both inside and out. To be honest, there a lot of Harry Potter characters that could be your inspiration here. Most of Game of Thrones characters would do, too, but keep in mind that with the popularity of the series, it is likely you won't be the only Khal Drogo and Daenerys on the party.

To sum up

If you don't find some of the suggestions appropriate enough,  after you choose your character, you can put some more paint on your face and say you are the dead version of him.

Basically, you can find some Halloween inspiration in any book you like. If you want, just put your most fashionable clothes and new boots and say you are Andy from the Devil wears Prada. No one on the party should mind.

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Sunday, 19 October 2014

Sunday Brunch: Benedict Cumberbatch

Sometimes you just need a different kind of book...and sometimes you just find something with Benedict's face on it...

A few months back as I walked into my local library, I decided to check out the 'New In' section. And can you imagine my surprise when I saw this lovely book! Obviously I did not waste another minute and immediately got it, the first person in the library to get her hands on it! Undoubtedly,  Being Benedict Cumberbatch is the ultimate Sunday book for every (excuse my language) Cumberbitch.

It is full of pictures of our favourite actor (more than 85 of them to be exact) plus some interesting trivia from his life. It is also pretty up-to-date as it was released earlier this year. Not only does it include facts dating back to when he was just a Cumberbaby, but the style of the writer (Joanna Benecke) is quite laid-back and humourous. It is not your traditional biography, written with a tiny font, consisting of a lot of chapters, discussing its subject's inner struggles with a serious tone. On the contrary, it reminds me a bit of a magazine - with shiny photographs and witty remarks; it does not take itself too seriously, which is a breath of fresh air. It is also a book that is obviously targeting Benedict's fangirls - so if you are one of them, this is the book for you.

Personally, I found this to be the perfect book for me between my reads - I was reading some serious novels at the time, so a light read like that one was the perfect balance in my day and in my reading routine. It is also a fast read, so you can go through all 140 pages quite quickly. Basically, if you are a Cumberbitch - you will like it a lot.

It is not an official biography but is hugely enjoyable and I am sure all fellow admirers of him would like reading it, as it offers a good insights into Benedict's life. You can find it here.

What do you think? Would you read something like that?
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Friday, 17 October 2014

Love, according to your favourite classic heroes

Mr Darcy. Mr Thornton. Mr Rochester. I could think of a lot other "misters" that come from classic period pieces and have turned into the ultimate literature heroes. They are the original leading men, who have made women around the world fall in love with them decades before films were invented and the Hollywood leading man was introduced.

And as we know, they still make a lot of us swoon and wish we could go back in time just to find one of the original English gentlemen, standing at the end of the ball room, tall and proud…unsuspecting of the fact that he is about to be smitten by our grace, and will have no other choice but to admit to his feelings in a reserved, yet charming way, as he asks us to marry him…


Without these literary characters we wouldn’t have enjoyed Colin Firth’s or Matthew MacFadyen’s wonderful performances as Mr Darcy. Or even worse…without Elizabeth Gaskell’s beautiful North and South, we would never have witnessed the perfection that is Richard Armitage in the skin of a 19th century mill owner.

So, without further ado, let’s look at what made those men so inhumanly perfect. This is not a post describing their ideal features (although I would not mind reflecting on that some time, too). Instead, here is a look at some of the loveliest lines from classic period literature – thoughts from men, so hopelessly in love, they turn into the definition of a romantic hero.

North and South, Elizabeth Gaskell. Mr Thornton:

“He could not forget the touch of her arms around his neck, impatiently felt as it had been at the time; but now the recollection of her clinging defence of him, seemed to thrill him through and through,—to melt away every resolution, all power of self-control, as if it were wax before a fire.”

“One word more. You look as if you thought it tainted you to be loved by me. You cannot avoid it. Nay, I, if I would, cannot cleanse you from it. But I would not, if I could. I have never loved any woman before: my life has been too busy, my thoughts too much absorbed with other things. Now I love, and will love. But do not be afraid of too much expression on my part.”

Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen. Mr Darcy:

In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”

“You are too generous to trifle with me. If your feelings are still what they were last April, tell me so at once. My affections and wishes are unchanged; but one word from you will silence me on this subject for ever.”

Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë. Heathcliff

“Catherine Earnshaw, may you not rest as long as I am living. You said I killed you--haunt me then. The murdered do haunt their murderers. I believe--I know that ghosts have wandered the earth. Be with me always--take any form--drive me mad. Only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you! Oh, God! It is unutterable! I cannot live without my life! I cannot live without my soul!”

“If he loved with all the powers of his puny being, he couldn't love as much in eighty years as I could in a day.”

Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy. Levin:

“He stepped down, trying not to look long at her, as if she were the sun, yet he saw her, like the sun, even without looking.”  

Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë. Mr Rochester:

“I have little left in myself -- I must have you. The world may laugh -- may call me absurd, selfish -- but it does not signify. My very soul demands you: it will be satisfied, or it will take deadly vengeance on its frame.”

“You — you strange — you almost unearthly thing! — I love as my own flesh. You — poor and obscure, and small and plain as you are — I entreat to accept me as a husband.”

The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton. Newland Archer:

“Each time you happen to me all over again.”

“He simply felt that if he could carry away the vision of the spot of earth she walked on, and the way the sky and sea enclosed it, the rest of the world might seem less empty.”

Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy. Angel

“How very lovable her face was to him. Yet there was nothing ethereal about it; all was real vitality, real warmth, real incarnation. And it was in her mouth that this culminated. Eyes almost as deep and speaking he had seen before, and cheeks perhaps as fair; brows as arched, a chin and throat almost as shapely; her mouth he had seen nothing to equal on the face of the earth. To a young man with the least fire in him that little upward lift in the middle of her red top lip was distracting, infatuating, maddening. He had never before seen a woman’s lips and teeth which forced upon his mind with such persistent iteration the old Elizabethan simile of roses filled with snow.
Perfect, he, as a lover, might have called them off-hand. But no — they were not perfect. And it was the touch of the imperfect upon the would-be perfect that gave the sweetness, because it was that which gave the humanity.”

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