The Signature of All Things

The Signature of All Things has got to be my favourite book, possibly ever. It’s a wonderful story and is exactly everything the perfect book should be: interesting, insightful, amazing characters, beautifully written, insert specification here – I tell you, it’s got it.

It does help that Liz Gilbert is one of my favourite writers. I first read Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything at a time of immense emotional turmoil, as I guess most people who find themselves reading it are. And it helped, lots. It helped because Gilbert writes in that way, that languid way of friends recounting tales over a glass of wine. She’s the awesome friend you have who has been through the wringer and come out all the more sparkly for it. I then read Committed: A Love Story, and that helped too, in a different sort of way. But The Signature of All Things is just brilliant because it’s written in that same amazing style of Gilbert’s, and it’s researched tremendously well but it’s an actual made up story, not an account of real life events and that’s why I love it all the more.

It tells the story of Alma Whittaker and the lives of those around her (while you wait for her to grow up a bit and start doing things). Set over most of the the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, this is a global story that centres around one of the smallest of things: moss, and the largest of human discoveries. Alma is independent, brave and interested. Science and botany are her calling, and her world changes as her discoveries become more well known. Combining science and the natural world with life and all the emotions that go along with living it are what make this book so special. Read it.

Not That Kind of Girl

Lena Dunham’s star is risen and the story of how she gets there is quite entertaining. I devoured this book in a day, simply because I like how she writes. As I’m inquisitive by nature (nosy), I like to know about other people’s lives; how they’ve gotten to where they are and why. Dunham is a bit nuts, but she couldn’t do what she does if she wasn’t. How she thinks about certain things is very similar (mostly) to how I think about the same things – not everything, but enough to make me go ‘Oh yeah, I’m not the only one.’ every couple of chapters or so.

Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s Learned, to give it it’s full title, takes on the format of a controversial self help book ‘Having It All’ that Dunham found in a charity shop aged 20. Borrowing it’s structure of sections detailing different aspects of typically female life, Dunham tells us a warts and all (literally) account of growing up in the early ’00’s. I’m the same age as Dunham, so her book is not going to speak to me on the same level as younger reader, but it is interesting to read how a peer has dealt with life and, admittedly, very different experiences to my own. Like I said, I’m nosy.

If you like ‘Girls’ and/or humorous, honest female writers, you’ll like this. Plus, her Dad doles out the best advice, the chapter ’17 Things I’ve Learned from my Father’ was one of my favourites.

It’s That Time Again

Winter boot time! Whoo autumn, I am ready for you…

This year, I discovered a magical thing called the pre season sale when the lovely people at Kurt Geiger released new season stuff AND THEN REDUCED IT. Not the good stuff mind. Not the embellished dagger heels or this uber gorgeous bag, but the stuff you need, which I think is more helpful really. This also coincided with me realising that not one pair of shoes I own are waterproof and so necessity won out and I bought these boots.

A good seasonal/winter boot goes a long way. These are sturdy yet pretty and practical and they don’t make my feet hurt. I’m not going to wear the heel down if I walk for longer than 20 minutes and there are no zips for me to trap my socks in. Yes, this has happened. Sometimes it amazes me I manage to dress myself and leave the house.IMG_1085.JPGIMG_1084.JPG

The Miniaturist

I love a gripping page turner that completely sucks you into the story and so I loved The Miniaturist. Jessie Burton made me feel I was actually in 17th century Amsterdam, wrapped in fog, damp and intrigue. She has obviously done a tonne of research.

In this book, no one is quite what they seem and the reader discovers this along with Nella as she grows and matures, learning to fight for her place in a wealthy, and sometimes dangerous, town. But who is The Miniaturist, and why do these tiny little parcels keep turning up? AND WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN? Even by the end, I’m not entirely sure.

A lot of the story does need to be taken on trust and not a lot is explained but I like to think this is to plunge the reader to the same depths as Nella ie. completely out of it and not allowed under the surface, which is frustrating at times but then it is for the character too.There are a lot of twists and turns in the plot which are prime for more emotional scenes, prime for more character layer revelations than there actually are but, I wanted to find out more.

I did care about the characters and what was going to happen to them. I did stay up till midnight furiously reading the last bit and I did feel that loss you feel when you finish a book that has taken over your brain for a bit and suddenly, you can’t slip into that world anymore because the story is over.

An intriguing page turner that lets you escape to another time and place completely. If you’re a fan of historical novels, or not, it’s a gripping read although, I’d have liked more onion peeling of characters to get to their core. Looking forward to the next one, Jessie!

Ren Glycolactic Radiance Renewal Mask

Ren Glyco Mask

While I now double cleanse and hydra mist religiously twice a day, I have left the mask department alone – save smothering my face with Neal’s Yard Wild Rose Beauty Balm when the need arises. I don’t have a good track record with masks.

At 14, I slathered my face with the contents of those little sachets from high street drug stores that have ladies with their faces covered in fruit on the packet. Back then, my approach to skin care was like my approach to medicine – if it doesn’t taste gross/hurt, it’s not working. This is possibly why I have sensitive skin now. Fast forward a few years (fine, a good few) and there was the Disappearing Mask Incident at a spa. Every time the therapist applied a thick layer of gunk and turned away, my skin ate it. This happened four times before the therapist realized she wasn’t going bonkers and was dealing with a seriously thirsty face. Since then, I’ve left the mask department alone and concentrated on getting my skin to hold onto its moisture without draining the nearest pot of product it sees.

Anyone who buys skincare from Ren will know that they offer 2 free mini products with your purchase (plus other brilliant things like 10% off your favourite product for life, which you can change every 6 months, and points- which obviously mean prizes of a Ren description) and I selected a trial size of this mask as one of my two. A long time has passed since the Disappearing Mask Incident and my skin is much improved now I follow a proper routine and read the ingredients on the packet of what I am putting on my face. Still, a history of bad mask incidents left me a bit nervous about trying the Glycolactic Radiance Renewal Mask. Lactic means acid and acid means peeling and red and sore, right?

Not in this case. The mask is thick and honey orange and viscous enough to stay on top of my skin. It smells a bit like Haliborange tablets taste and tingles a little bit but doesn’t exactly hurt. After 10 minutes (read a magazine, clean the bathroom, whatever you like but time it, please) you wipe the mask away with a damp cloth, rinse and reveal a face that looks like yours but a little bit better. My skin was plumper and more even. The spot/spot scar issues around my mouth and chin were not red and less noticeable. In short, I like…and I’ll probably be back for more.

Buy yours here.

A Girl is a Half-formed Thing

If you are looking for an easy read, this book is not for you. If, on the other hand, you are looking for a challenging read -wonderfully written but hard- that will take you completely into someone else’s life (also hard), then this is one for you. It’s less of a book and more of a reading experience, and an intense one at that.

A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing is bleakly beautiful. Eimear McBride take you right into the main character’s head from the start, surrounded by her thoughts, feelings and point of view. Yes, it takes a bit of getting used to but suddenly, the words make sense as you get accustomed to the style. If you’re looking for description and happy endings, forget it. It’s more involved than that. Here is a new way to create a person and build the world they live in.

It’s not an easy read emotionally either. The narrative is fragmented and unfinished and raw. Abandonment, neglect, illness, sexual abuse and death all swirl together (I never said it was fun, I said it was good). Set in Ireland, the Irishness permeates the text and gives it a cultural anchor. McBride unfolds everything that living in a small Catholic community is, especially how where you come from affects who you are.

I don’t usually like books that critics like but this one seems to be the exception! It’s probably not one for the sun lounger but if you are looking for something different and are bored of cookie cutter characters and endings, get it. I’m looking forward to seeing what Eimear McBride does next…

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

I sat down to write about this book and started several times before I realized…this is a book that is so hard to write about without giving away CRUCIAL PLOT SPOILERS! So here goes: this is Rosemary’s story about her family and how messy and complicated families can be. Rosemary is an only child although she used to have a sister and a brother, both of whom have vanished and are not really mentioned by the rest of her family. Rosemary, on the other hand, thinks and talks about them a lot (but just to you).

One of the most genius things about We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves is the topsy-turvy narrative that takes you forward and back in time along with Rosemary’s memories, where her past has a stronger calling than the present. If Karen Joy Fowler had written this story in any other way, I don’t think it would have worked so well. This magical weaving of narrative cements Rosemary’s character and whisks the reader along perfectly. Fowler explores lots of themes in this brilliant story but I especially like how she writes about memory; how events that shape your life may or may not have played out in reality like you remember them, and how important that is.  

And that’s it. That’s all I can say. Honest, you’ll have to read it for yourself (and you will thank me for not saying more).