Book Reviews and New Year Faliures

ccc0001cc6a0b0ae_Love_Sex-2015ReadingChallenge

I decided to see where I was with the resolutions I set myself at new year and the results are….. very average. I don’t think I’ve forgotten any birthdays so far, but I think I’ve only sent one non-birthday card since Christmas. Blogging more and making my own lunches have both gone out the window lately due to stressful times at work, but now that’s levelling out I will hopefully have time to do more of both soon. I do think I’m looking pretty glam though, so that’s going well.

I have however managed to read three books since New Year, so I thought I’d have a go at writing some little reviews. I was hoping to read more, but again work stress made it much easier to just go home and stick E4 on. My Andy Samburg crush is getting intense.

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

paying_guests

I just finished this book and I absolutely loved it. It’s actually really hard to say anything about the plot without giving away the story but… In post-war London, Frances and her mother are forced to take in lodgers to help pay the bills in their big Champion Hill house. Well to do and sheltered, they are not ready for the young ‘clerk class’ couple that move in. But they slowly get to know each other (and anyone that’s read Sarah Waters before will know what that means) before something terrible happens that changes all their lives completely.

All the characters are well-written and so interesting. The story is told by Frances, a spinster who doesn’t want to be married but also isn’t ready to accept the life she’s fallen into, looking after her mother in a big, crumbling house while her friends live exciting, independent lives. There’s also the Barbers, the paying guests of the title: cocky, arrogant Leonard Barber who makes Frances so uncomfortable and his wife Lillian, a dreamy, self-styled free spirit unhappy in her marriage. The plot doesn’t sag at all and it both gets going straight away and doesn’t finish until the last page, which I really liked for some reason. I also thought the time it was set in (straight after the first world war, where soldiers had returned and were struggling to find jobs) was really interesting.

I highly recommend this book, it’s classic Sarah Waters and I honestly had no idea how the story would end. If you like historical fiction with a bit of courtroom dramz thrown in, look no further!

I would also like to add that I downloaded this book on WhisperSync so I could listen to it on my walk to work and it’s beautifully read by Juliet Stevenson.

Buy it here

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

22557272

I read this on holiday in Amsterdam a couple of months ago and finished it in about 3 days which is quite rare for me. It’s the story of Rachel, a borderline alcoholic and recent divorcee, who becomes a bit obsessed with a couple whose house she can see into on her daily commute. She names them Jess and Jason and when Jess goes missing and its reported on the news, Rachel believes that she has a vital bit of evidence and decides to help the police.

This book was quite a big deal, becoming a huge best seller and even Reece Witherspoon was talking about it on Instagram. It’s easy to see why. The book totally taps into the voyeur part of you that checks out people’s living rooms when it’s dark and looks into how desperate people are to be part of something, even harassing the police and lying just to feel important.

If I have to be negative about the Girl on the Train, I’ll admit it does get a bit silly towards the end and, given the relatively small list of suspects, its not hard to figure out whodunit. I also read that it’s being made into a film but I personally think that this has “ITV 9pm drama” written all over it, to the point that I wondered if it had been written just to be sold to TV. Please don’t think that’s a criticism though, ITV dramas are one of my favourite things, I can think of no higher praise.

Despite its silliness, this book is still a solid 4 out of 5 and perfect for reading on holiday. Just don’t expect to like any of the characters, everyone’s pretty hateful.

Buy it here

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

the-miniaturist-978144725089001

And now to a book I really didn’t like and I so wanted to. The Miniaturist is the story of Petronella, an 18 year old from a grand but poor family. She leaves home in the Dutch countryside to move to Amsterdam and marry Johannes, a super rich merchant who lives on the canal with his staff of two and his scary, strict sister Marin. Johannes’ gives a wedding gift to Petronella of a perfect miniature version of the house and suggests that she hire a miniaturist to fill the house with furniture. But the miniaturist sends unasked for objects that show they know exactly what’s going on in the unhappy house and what is about to happen.

And that’s it. It just goes nowhere and it’s so BLEAK. The first half of the book is so good; learning about the different members of the household and why Johannes seems so nervous to go near his new wife, but once that’s been explained it becomes just another unhappy part of the story. And the mystery of the miniaturist and why they know (and care) so much about the household is a really good idea, but it’s never resolved, it just fades away as if the author didn’t know how to end it. The second half of the book is just absolute misery, with almost every character coming to some kind of sticky end. The sheer, relentless gloom of the book reminded me of Slammerkin by Emma Donoghue, so if you enjoyed that, knock yourself out, but it was too much for me.

There are some good points to The Miniaturist; the descriptions of Amsterdam are really beautiful and as I finished this waiting for my flight to go there, I was excited to see the areas mentioned in the book. And I guess there was a slight feeling of hope at the very end of the book. But overall The Miniaturist was not for me.

Buy it here

I’ve got a few books to read on my Kindle and I think I’m going to with Dark Places by Gillian Flynn next, I loved Gone Girl and found Sharp Objects horrible but very readable so I’m looking forward to seeing what that’s like. If anyone’s got any recommendations of good books then please send them my way!

Clare xx

@ClareErin

2015 Resolutions

IMG_3283

Happy New Year!

Time to think of the ole’ resolutions.

I know a lot of people think NY resolutions are bollocks, but i kind of like the idea of them; listing all the things you want to change this year just seems to make sense to me. I’ve come up with 5, without having to resort to the usual healthy eating or getting fit ones.

My boyfriend has also asked if i can have one that involves me chucking old clothes to clear up space in the wardrobe, but that ain’t happening…

1. Remember birthdays and generally get better at keeping in touch with people. (Facebook doesn’t count!)

This is the main one because I SUCK at this. I am always the person sees you post the (now mandatory) “Thanks for the birthday love guys, I’ve been very spoilt” Facebook post, waits 20 minutes then writes a happy birthday message so it doesn’t look like I only remembered because YOU mentioned it. Don’t look at me like that, we’re all guilty of this.

I’m generally just quite bad at keeping in touch with people. I tend to refer to everyone I know or used to be close to as my friends, to which my boyfriend always patiently asks “Are they really your friend? When did you last see them?” which I think is a little rude, but I also think he’s got a point. I partly blame social media. I use Facebook and Twitter constantly so I therefore know what’s going on in most of my friends and acquaintances’ lives; I know when they’re seeing someone new, what they cooked for dinner and even (if they’re an over-sharing Susan) when they last went to the doctors. I comment on statuses and say congratulations when big things happen, so I feel like I’m still in the loop and socialising.

But I’m not really socialising. All my (real!) friends and I are very busy now, with boyfriends and babies and weddings and increasingly stressful jobs, so we see each other less and less. We are in our 30s, after all. I talk to people online and email occasionally but I probably physically see my friends maybe once a month, once a fortnight at the most. I’m lucky I’ve got a boyfriend at home, close friends at work and a twin sister and mum that I talk to all the time, or I would truly be a hermit. Remember when you said “When we all move out and get our own places, we can just go round each others houses and see each other all the time. We’ll probably save loads of money, too.”? Did that come true for anyone??

SO, I’m going to try and keep in touch with my friends better! It’s not as simple as announcing “You’re seeing more of me from now on, I’ve signed us up for a bowling league!”- as I mentioned, my friends are busy people, but I’m definitely going to check my calendar for birthdays, make an effort to text, email and send cards more, and just try and see people more. I did a kind of ‘soft launch’ of this by actually writing and sending out Christmas cards and I’ve downloaded a birthdays reminder app, so wish me luck!

2. Make lunches for work and waste less food

Speaks for itself really, but spending up to £5.00 a day on lunch when I have the food to easily make sandwiches or salad at home, honestly makes me feel a bit disgusted with myself. As does the constant ‘forgetting to freeze leftovers, so having to throw away half a pie’ situation. No more!

3. Look more groomed and glamorous

In my natural state, I am scruffy, curly-haired and honestly, a little spotty. I look alright when I put the work in, but I can’t always be bothered to make much of an effort beyond the exact same makeup every day and a quick hair straighten.

I would like to look more glam and grownup though so I’m going to make a conscious effort to improve myself in the following areas:

  • Care for my skin by taking my makeup off at night moisturising properly
  • Use all the colours in my new makeup palettes and not just the nude champagne one every day
  • Moisturise my legs everyday
  • Wear perfume more
  • Look after my hair and grow out my crop (although my boyfriend pointed at Shirley in Eastenders the other day and said “That’s just what your hair’s going to look like soon”, so looking forward to THAT)
  • Finally stop biting my nails

That’s actually quite a long list when you write it down, isn’t it?

4. Blog more

I do really like writing this blog, I just have a hard time actually getting round to it, or thinking of stuff to write about. I want to try and post things once a week, or at least once every 10 days if only because it makes me try and think of new things to cook.

5. Read more

I love reading and I did read quite a lot last year, but I would like to get through more books in 2015. I just find sitting reading a book quite anti-social when I’m not on my own so my boyfriend and I tend to watch TV together instead.

I’ve been reading Life After Life by Kate Atkinson for MONTHS so I want to start by finishing that and then reading at least one book a month. I would like to put book reviews on here too, but my critique of books tends to be simply ‘hate, like or love’ so I’m not sure they’d be too long, but I might give it a try, which would add to Resolution 4! It’s all coming together!

I’ve kind of started on all the resolutions, except the reading and 5 days in, it’s going well! Has anyone else made any resolutions? Please let me know in the comments if you have.

I also saw this http://www.buzzfeed.com/alannaokun/im-so-im-so-proud-of-you#.sue51KK4do on Buzzfeed which is sweet but very ‘Pinteresty’ . It also has the worst name ever (The REMEMBERLUTIONS JAR!!) but I might give it a go.

I hope everyone had a great NYE and here’s to a top 2015!

Clare xx

@ClareErin

UPDATE: On new year’s eve (A super-fun night of Chinese, drinking and board games) my friends and I decided to start going to our local quiz night once a month. We shall see if this actually happens, but I’m hopeful!

ZIGGY UPDATE: Our little cat is now so friendly that he was referred to a ‘needy’ the other day! He follows me everywhere from the moment I wake up, demands to share all our meals and sleeps on the sofa, flat on his back like he’s sunbathing. I’m so pleased we got our water-loving weirdo, he’s a brilliant addition to our home. I’ve also found out that just before we got him, Ziggy got his old housemate pregnant and she’s now had 4 kittens. #PLAYA

IMG_3282

IMG_3286

IMG_3288

IMG_3272