Sunday, 26 July 2015

Moving to Onechromosomeshort....

Cashmereandcushions UK, originally Cupcakesandcosmeticsbyclare, has always reflected my personal interests, as well as my journey as a blogger and writer. As such I now want to dedicate my blog to creative writing, reflecting my move away from beauty and lifestyle related posts. I have set up a new blogspot page solely for this purpose.

I hope you'll check it out! 
Thank you. Cx

Friday, 5 June 2015

Review 2015 No. 13 | Love, Tanya by Tanya Burr

All the way back in November 2015 the UK's most famous YouTuber Zoe Sugg released her debut novel Girl Online. The book became a bestseller, made history as the fastest selling debut novel, and sparked a trend of YouTube stars being offered lucrative book deals. If Zoe is Brighton's answer to Virginia Woolf then her Norwich counterpart, makeup and beauty guru Tanya Burr, is Norwich's answer to Zoe Sugg. Whilst Zoe is busy writing up the code-named Girl Online 2, her fellow YouTubers are equally successfully releasing their efforts. British YouTuber's Marcus Butler ('Hello Life!'), Carrie Hope Fletcher ('All I Know Now'), Louise Pentland ('Life With a Sprinkle of Glitter'), and Zoe Sugg's boyfriend Alfie Deyes ('The Pointless Book'), have all been offered deals and some sequels. American YouTubers, such as Joey Graceffa ('In Real Life'), have also been enveloped in the trend.

Tanya Burr is part of the Norwich YouTube dynasty that includes fiancĂ© Jim Chapman and his sisters Sam and Nic (of Pixiwoo). Her light-hearted, positive beauty and lifestyle videos aimed at her 13-24-year-old target audience gave the 25-year-old the opportunity to have her own lifestyle and beauty book, Love, Tanya, published by Penguin Books on 29th January 2015. The book includes chapters on Baking & Recipes and Confidence & Happiness, as well as familiar themes Skincare Essentials and Make-up Essentials. This book is high-quality, and as she says meant to be a 'keep-sake', with glossy magazine style photographs throughout and sections for writing personal notes and lists.

To read my review of Girl Online by Zoe Sugg:

Monday, 4 May 2015

Review 2015 No. 12 | Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination by J.K. Rowling

J.K. Rowling

"We do not need magic to transform our world; we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already"

Very Good Lives is one of the most unassuming and unpretentiously presented volumes you will ever come across. It certainly stands plain and slim in my compact personal library. If it weren't for the wisdom contained within the little red book with a white dust jacket, and the notoriety of the author, this 80-page piece might go relatively unnoticed in the world. I would not have impatiently pre-ordered it on Amazon or eagerly awaited its arrival on 14th April this year. 

As if J.K. Rowling's career writing and creating the Harry Potter empire between 1997 and 2007 (and beyond) weren't enough, her subsequent media presence and writing fame have proved both her talent and a rare determination and work ethic. When she presented her speech at the Harvard Commencement of 2008, the transcript of which was to become the content of the book, it is unlikely that she ever conceived of it being reproduced in text format. Some have criticised the fact that publishers Little, Brown did little more than produce the transcript of the 20-minute speech alongside pretty and creative illustrations. Personally I think that the words count more than any flowery introduction or photo collage could have added.

In the twenty-minute speech, available to view on YouTube, Rowling proves herself not only as an orator, but also as a talented speech writer and a passionate humanitarian. In relating her own experiences of poverty, love, life and loss, she illustrates several prescient messages. The central note that runs throughout her is however that we are our own heroes. Rowling started her speech discussing her Classics degree and subsequent work with Amnesty International, going on to quote Seneca, but her real value is shown in her fiction, which includes the seven-strong Harry Potter series. Harry Potter and friends live in uncertain and dark times, but as Dumbledore assures Harry in The Deathly Hallows, happiness can be found in dark times if we turn on the light.

Finally, I return to the quote neatly printed on the back of Very Good Lives. It is a quote which is aimed, as is the speech, at anyone who has ever felt hopeless, worthless, or powerless. It is J.K. Rowling reminding us of our inherently unique human quality of hope. Even if we are starving, poverty-stricken, mentally ill, or suffering impossibly, we have the opportunity to hope for more, or as she puts it more eloquently, to imagine better. We can imagine a better future, imagine ourselves out of dark times and choose resilience over defeat.

Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination (2015), J.K. Rowling; Little, Brown

Sunday, 3 May 2015

April Showers, May Flowers and a Royal Princess | A Photo Blog

Acer, Clare McMurtrie 2015

Magnolia, Clare McMurtrie 2015

Fritillary, Clare McMurtrie 2015

Knole House, National Trust, Clare McMurtrie 2015

Happy Bank Holiday Weekend! Cx

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Review 2015 No. 11 | Boy: Tales of Childhood by Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl is a legendary figure for whom little introduction or fanfare is necessary. After a near idyllic childhood in Wales (some say a breeding ground for imagination), interrupted abruptly by an English Public school education, he joined the Shell Petroleum Company (the adventures of which form the sequel to Boy, Going Solo). From there his creativity and love of storytelling and language brought him to the world of children's fantasy books. He was a prolific writing (creating seventeen books for children alone) during his 74-year lifetime (including Matilda and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory). His imagination represented pictorially in illustrator Quentin Blake's work, which are now synonymous with Dahl's writing. His achievement and contribution to the world of fiction, which have put him up alongside the literary greats - J.K. Rowling, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien - were recognised in his World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement, which he received in 1983.

The first of Dahl's two autobiographies, Boy: Tales of Childhood was first published in 1984, the year after he received his Lifetime Achievement Award. Boy is a fascinating insight into what made the genius linguaphile, and confirms the axiom that truth is stranger than fiction (and Dahl never shied from the strange in his writing). In a time before public obsession with high profile abuse cases, Dahl describes the horrific and often torturous nature of the English public school system through his time at St Peter's and Repton School. Dahl also gives a personal insight into 20th century medicine when describing the death of his sister Astri to appendicitis, as well as his own treatment for adenoids and a broken nose (both without anaesthetic). 

Further to Dahl's time in rural Wales with his parents Harald and Sofie, we also learn about his Norwegian blood and lakeside Scandinavian family holidays. As a reader and a writer, what is most prescient and revealing is Dahl's description of writing. He compares a writing career to his time with Shell, juxtaposing a chaotic, schedule-less, but rewarding world with an ordered 9-to-5 existence. That is what draws you in. Dahl didn't have to take to the shed in his garden and write (okay, maybe at the beginning he did it for the money), he continued on day after day because he enjoyed it. He loved storytelling and wanted to share his world with those around him. For that we should be truly grateful. He leaves behind a legacy beyond bound volumes on shelves.

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Weekend Bake | Skinny Chick Easter Nests

A no-cook Easter Weekend make for the family, to get you in the chocolate spirit. This recipe is adapted from Nigella Lawson's How To Be A Domestic Goddess:

Ingredients (Makes 12):
400g dark and milk chocolate (adapt the ratio of bitter/sweet chocolate to taste)
100g Shredded Wheat (about 4 nests of Shredded Wheat)
2 packs of Milkybar Mini Eggs (enough for about 3 or 4 eggs per nests)
1 tablespoon Golden Syrup
25g unsalted butter

1) Place 12 muffin, cupcake or fairy cake cases in a muffin tray.
2) Break up 100g of Shredded Wheat in a large bowl.
3) Melt all of the chocolate and butter in a smaller bowl, by placing over a saucepan of boiling water.
4) Stir the melted chocolate and Golden Syrup into the Shredded Wheat until fully combined (NOTE: This needs to be done quickly, before the chocolate is too set to cover the Shredded Wheat fully).
5) Place blobs of the mixture in the muffin cases and decorate with chocolate eggs (I used white chocolate Milkybar eggs) and Easter chicks.

Monday, 30 March 2015

Review 2015 No. 10 | The Hobbit or There and Back Again by J.R.R. Tolkien

"In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit", begins John Ronald Reuel Tolkien's The Hobbit, which has been consistently in print, and widely regarded as one of the finest high fantasy and children's books ever written in the English language, since it's publication in 1937. The Hobbit tells the story of the human-like hobbits Bilbo and Frodo, as well as others such as the wizard Gandalf (literally "Dreamer") and Thorin, and is the prequel to the magnum opus of all magnum opus', The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

I could wax lyrical about its many diacritic facets, the fact that it has spawned generations of geeks and a multi-billion pound film trilogy, but I'm convinced that you've heard that all before. In many ways what is key to The Hobbit's success is its self-contained, tight prose and lucid plot. My own Tolkien story began when I was given a copy (and a hobbit house cake!) for my twelfth birthday. It picked up again along the lines of "in a student house in Canterbury there lived a girl (who hadn't read The Hobbit before)". I was enthralled and enamoured in equal measure.

I discovered a treasure (Gollum might refer to it as precious) that was entirely unique, readable, and a crossover novel for all ages. Tolkien was a storyteller, of the kind your mum became when making up stories for you in the back of the car on long journeys, and a true creative. The hobbits lived "between the Dawn of Faerie and the Dominion of Men" and Tolkien lived between the Dawn of the fairy tale and the modern world. This allowed him to create more than books. He created an entirely complete, entirely perfect world. With the diminishment of the academic, literary and social world in which he created The Hobbit, I believe it is a feat that will never be repeated again. He was a one off. It is a one off. Read it!

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Review 2015 No. 9 | Miss Marple's Final Cases by Agatha Christie

  • Sanctuary
  • Strange Jest
  • Tape-Measure Murder
  • The Case of the Caretaker
  • The Case of the Perfect Maid
  • Miss Marple Tells a Story
  • The Dressmaker's Doll
  • In a Glass Darkly

Continuing with this year's theme, which is rapidly turning into a gameshow ("How Many Old Fictional Friends Can You Revisit In A Year"), this week I stuck with Christie but this time a Miss Marple. Originally only published in America in 1924, Miss Marple's Final Cases and Two Other Stories is a collection of six short stories set, as is the case in The Labours of Hercules (see link below), towards the end of the detectives career. Two short supernaturals tales are also included at the end, sans Marple, as if an afterthought. The collection was published in the US first and then (posthumously) in the UK in 1979, and it shows. This is not the pinnacle of her work.

Miss Marple is a character you fall in love with. She's the favourite great-aunt that you will always have a place in your heart for. However she is shamelessly ill-utilised in these short stories. As in The Labours, Christie doesn't have the space for character and plot building,  the kind for which she is celebrated in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. The detective is used as a mere pawn, a plot device to tie up clues that would otherwise remain unresolved. In the two supernaturals Christie reveals herself scrabbling in the deep end, lacking the stylistic flair and practice to pull it off. In short, as a Miss Marple book this just doesn't cut it. But then it has quite some competition. The Final Cases are the lifetime's notes and unpublished papers of a serial wordsmith, the kind found lingering in the back of a writing desk. But why should that make it any less masterful?

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Review 2015 No. 8 | The Labours of Hercules by Agatha Christie

I have put off reading much of Agatha Christie's work for far too long. Her 66 detective novels and 14 short story collections have become an itch that I must scratch. Last week I decided to go on a Christie kick in order to discern once and for all what I think of her as a writer, what her detective fiction contributed at the time, and which, if any, are her masterpieces. The Labours of Hercules is Christie in her prime. She was into her third decade as a published writer when she published The Labours of Hercules in 1947. Her success led to one of her two plays, The Mousetrap, opening in the theatre five years later. Her career is mirrored in that of her egg-headed, pompous detective Hercule Poirot, who says he will take on twelve final cases before supposedly retiring in The Labours. 

The Labours are a feat of engineering. Christie designed the marathon short story collection so that Poirot's 'final twelve cases' would reflect the Greek mythical adventures of Hercules, they even share the same names. The effort is carried off with all the pluck and aplomb of a serial writer. She does for example demonstrate her intellectual prowess, sense of humour and wit in the first of the cases, when Poirot is involved in a discussion about his unique name, which is compared with that of Arthur Conan Doyle's fictional figure Sherlock Holmes

Short story collections create technical difficulties not seen in the average Joe novel. When Guy Andrews wrote the screenplay for the 2014 ITV adaptation five of the stories were merged into one, based around the dreamy Swiss Alps setting of the fourth story, The Erymanthian Boar. And that's just it. The stories are a sprint, an unrewarding attempt to do too much, too quickly, too soon. There is none of the character development, intricate weave of red-herring trails, motives and timely clues. That's not to say the reader should be deterred. It's Christie having fun, experimenting. It stands to reason that if you are a Christie fan then it's still worth the effort. For me it just doesn't work in the same way as her epic novel plots, seen in the likes of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and And Then There Were None.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Spring Citrus Sponge | Lemon Cake Recipe

I'm a cake addict. Have been for as long as I can remember. Sometimes the mood takes you and nothing but a dangerously indulgent combination of sugar and fat, in the form of cake, will do. My favourite is usually the toxic 50:50 fat:sugar ratio found in cheesecake. For those who hanker for the citrus in moments of weakness, a light lemon sponge cake is the ticket. Why not try this sponge laced with lemon zest and topped with a sugar/lemon glaze.

4 large eggs, room temperature
8oz sifted flour
8oz caster sugar
8oz unsalted butter, room temperature
Zest of 2 lemons

For the butter icing/topping
Juice of 2 lemons
100g caster sugar
50g icing sugar
100g unsalted butter

1) Preheat your oven to Gas Mark 4, 180oC or 160oC fan, and line 2 large round shallow cake tins with parchment paper.
2) Cream together the caster sugar and butter until combined and fluffy.
3) Beat the eggs together separately and add to the mixture gradually.
4) Fold in the flour and grated lemon zest until the mixture is fully combined.
5) Use a tablespoon to divide the mixture equally between the 2 cake tins and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes.
6) When ready, take the cakes out of the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack.
7) Whilst still warm, spread a mix of half of the lemon juice and all of the sugar over the top half of the cake with a egg or pastry brush.
8) Make the butter icing by combining the other half of the lemon juice, the icing sugar (sifted) and the butter. (Be careful not to add too much lemon juice as it makes the icing runny!)
9) When both halves of the cake are cool assemble the cake by filling the middle with the butter icing and spreading any leftover lemon and sugar glaze over the top.

To see the Mary Berry Lemon drizzle cake recipe that inspired this post:

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Review 2015 No. 7 | The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, illustrated by Christian Birmingham; C.S. Lewis (1950); Collins 

"I can always get back if anything goes wrong," thought Lucy. She began to walk forward, crunch-crunch over the snow and through the wood toward the other light. In about ten minutes she reached it and found it was a lamp-post. As she stood looking at it, wondering why there was a lamp-post in the middle of a wood and wondering what to do next, she heard a pitter patter of feet coming toward her.
Lucy Looks into a Wardrobe; The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; page 9

With these immortal words, Clive Staples Lewis (or C.S. Lewis as he's usually known) conjured up one of the most captivating and unique children's fantasy world's ever created. The Irish Oxford University don created the Narnia world, seen throughout the Chronicles of Narnia's seven high fantasy novels. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was published first in 1950 by Geoffrey Bles and masterfully illustrated by Pauline Baynes, whose illustrations are still used in many editions to this day.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, illustrated by Pauline Baynes; Pocket Edition; HarperCollins

Although published first, the story actually comes second chronologically in the series, preceded by The Magician's Nephew, published in 1955. The series sprouted from post-war England and reflects Lewis' conversion to Christianity following the early death of his wife. The Lion is the Jupiter of Michael Wood's The Narnia Code. Wood claims that each of the seven stories represent a planet and that the second is the snowy, icy winter tale representing a pre-Christian world before Jesus Christ's sacrifice, his place taken here by Aslan the lion. Best-selling British writer Philip Pullman has cast Lewis as a Christian propagandist is the guise of a children's author, famously opposing Narnia's religious undertones in his fantasy trilogy His Dark Materials.

The second in the series is set in 1940 and tells the story of how the Pevensie's - Lucy, Susan, Peter and Edmund - originally discovered Narnia in a wardrobe of the old house that they were evacuated to. Along the way we meet Professor Digory Kirke (who we first see as a child in The Magician's Nephew), as well as the White Witch Jardis, Aslan the Lion, and forests of talking animals. 

As a child I was captivated by the idea of finding another world in a wardrobe. It's similar to the Alice Through the Looking-Glass fantasy of a parallel universe lurking behind the mirrors in your house. I think that is why this book instantly became my favourite ever children's story, and why I spent my childhood looking in the backs of wardrobes and watching the 1988 BBC adaptation again and again. It is a crossover novel and is utterly charming. Whatever your beliefs, this is a winter tale like no other.

Watch an interview with the actors who played the Pevensie children in the BBC series adaptation:

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Bookish Things Haul | Little Women Out Of Print

Out Of Print is a company that searches for unique and quirky out-of-print book cover designs to use on book-related clothes and accessories. This beautiful pencil case, with a cover design for an out-of-print copy of Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, is available, along with other Out Of Print products, from Waterstones

Visit the website to find out more:

Friday, 20 February 2015

'Mr Nutella' Chocolate Cupcakes | Weekend Bake Recipe

In honour of Ferrero Rocher chocolate tycoon Michele Ferrero, or 'Mr Nutella', who sadly died this week, I had fun developing these Nutella inspired treats. Warning: These cupcakes contain a combination of ingredients so indulgently sweet as to probably be capable of inducing a heart attack. Bon Appetit!

Ingredients (Makes 6):
2 eggs (room temperature)
2oz caster sugar
2oz self-raising flour, no need to sift (or plain flour and 1 teaspoon baking powder) 
2oz unsalted butter (room temperature)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Butter icing: icing sugar, unsalted butter, vanilla extract, 1 dessert spoon of Nutella

1) Preheat oven to Gas Mark 5
2) Cream together sugar and butter
3) Mix in eggs and vanilla extract
4) Fold the flour into the mixture
5) Spoon half of the mixture into 6 muffin cases
6) Add a teaspoon of Nutella in the middle of each case
7) Spoon the rest of the mixture into the cases, so that it covers the Nutella blob in the middle
8) Bake for 15-20 minutes in the preheated oven and allow to cool on a wire rack when baked
9) Decorate with a sprinkle of icing sugar or a dollop of Nutella butter icing

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Review 2015 No. 6 | Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne

The central premise of Around the World in 80 Days is known throughout most of the literary world - as it states on the tin, the tale is about an adventure around the world in eighty days. French author Jules Verne's 1873 classic is number 11 in the Extraordinary Voyages series and was cinematised in 1956. The book succeeded his 1870 20,000 Leagues Under The SeaThe story was inspired by just such an journey taken by Bostonian George Francis Train - circumnavigating the globe in the same manner as BBC/TV personality and comedian Michael Palin attempted to in 1989. Archetypal Victorian Londoner Phileas Fogg is following his life of leisure as a man of private means, visiting the Reform Club daily for meals and to read the papers with mathematical precision. This calm, unnerving man's world is interrupted when he strikes up a £20,000 wager (equivalent to £1.6 million today) that he can travel across the world in eighty days - in Victorian fashion, without airplane (as they hadn't been invented).

With the precision and tenacity of Hercule Poirot, and with his trusty French manservant Passepartout (meaning master key/skeleton key, a play on the English 'passport') in tow, he attempts the feat. The story is fascinating and enticing - the premise itself is one most people wish they could have written first - and is telling in its Victorian optimism ('anything one man can imagine, other men can make real'). There are unabashedly racist sentiments in many passages throughout - colonial Britain at its height and eugenics and the Nazi's yet to take hold of social ideas of biological determinism. As an anthropologist I find this uncomfortable at best, but, hey, cultural relativism hadn't been invented and it doesn't change how marvellous this book is. Despite this - as in many classics, particularly those assigned to the higher up shelves - Around the World in Eighty Days is well written and still a brilliant travel adventure to this day. 

Friday, 13 February 2015

Review 2015 No. 5 | The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah (a Poirot mystery)

There are few characters in literary and cultural history that become so human to their audience that they take on a life of their own. Detective Hercule Poirot is quintessentially, simultaneously both Belgian and English. First birthed into the world by 'Queen of Crime' Agatha Christie, in 1920, Poirot has in the preceding decades become both a national and literary treasure. Dame Christie herself wrote 66 detective novels and 14 short stories, a writer so prolific and world-renowned that she has become a genre all of her own. 

All this being said, when it was announced in 2014 that author of the Spilling CID detective series, Sophie Hannah, would be publishing the first non-Christie Poirot novel, the release was to become hailed as "the literary event of the year". As a lifelong Christie fan I knew that I would have to get my hands on it! It is doubly problematic for reviewers when authors revive  another author's character, especially one as lovingly adored as Poirot, who stands in similar ranks to Sherlock Holmes or Doctor Who. Do we judge Hannah by Christie's standards, or assess the novel as a new phenomena - a non-Christie Poirot?

The Monogram Murders has it all - the fastidious mannerisms, attention to detail, charming punctuality and reverence for the truth. Poirot is joined in The Monogram Murders by Detective Catchpole, who neatly diametrically opposes Poirot. Catchpole is the perfect contrast - always late, missing clues, never quite grasping the mystery as it unfolds. The plot itself is Christie - three bodies in a London hotel, linked by past motives mirroring Christie's 1942 Five Little Pigs - but the novel is Hannah. And that, mon ami, is how we should view it. The story isn't a Christie. It never could be. But Hannah's style is all of it's own. She brings passion, revenge and guilt together in a uniquely Hannah way. 

To find out more about Sophie Hannah and watch interviews with her:

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Lifestyle Favourites | Winter 2015

This winter I have been loving smoothies. Using a hand blender to make my own (or buying the occasional cute supermarket variety) has mean my breakfasts are now fruitful ('scuse the pun). I love this Innocent Pomegranates, Blueberries and Acai pure fruit smoothie, with its own cute knitted hat; the hats are hand-knitted and raise money for Age Concern and Age UK. Double win! So why not boost your antioxidant/vitamin intake for the day and put a smile on your face at the same time.

Winter can put a strain on everyone's skin, let alone people with sensitive or dry skin. With rapidly changing indoor/outdoor temperatures and dry, cold winds our skin can be left dehydrated and dull. Maintaining a good regular skincare routine is vital during winter. One area we often neglect is actually our hands. I've been loving this Nivea Anti-Dryness Smooth Nourishing Hand Cream with Macadamia Nut Oil and Hydra IQ. 

Winter is the time for hot drinks. Drinking regularly, including cups of tea, is a way of boosting not only your nutrition but also your mental health, as tea is a proven stress-reliever. I have been trying out all types - Twinings Mango and Cinnamon, Twinings Earl Grey (occasionally, as it stains my teeth) - but have recently been trying Pukka Supreme Matcha Green, which is Fairtrade :)

Dental Care:
As some of you might know, I am at the end of fixed appliance dental brace treatment. Anyone who has had braces knows that they take a lot of maintenance and mean that you have to be extra vigilant with keeping your teeth clean. I use the Colgate Plax Antibacterial Mouthwash twice a day as it is alcohol free and so doesn't taste disgusting! 

To see some of my previous braces updates:

February can be a quiet time on the social life front. Stuck between Christmas/winter celebrations and Easter/spring, a lot of people (including me) like a good hibernation. But that is no reason to be bored! Films, books and plays were made for winter! I have been getting back to 'reading' after a few months of slump and have been posting regular book reviews. Look out for The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe and Hamlet posts soon!

My review of the 1979 Moonraker film:

A review of the original book of The Jungle Book:

Monday, 9 February 2015

Review 2015 Film No. 1 | Moonraker

This year I am reviewing one film per month for the blog - in order to spread cinematic love as well as increase my own poor filmic knowledge base. So, a week or so into February, welcome to January's review - Moonraker! Moonraker is the third book and 11th film in the British cult classic James Bond adventures. Directed by Lewis Gilbert and fronted by Roger Moore, the film has all the best bits of Bond that you would expect - the baddie (Hugo Drax played by Michael Lonsdale), the gadgets, the chases, the casual sexism... The chases through Venetian canals, the Amazon jungle and Rio are superb, and Moore's acting is a nice mix alongside the female characters Corinne Dutour and Holly Goodhead. 

Released in 1979, the film also neatly reflects the 1969 American Moon landing. Ian Fleming's original book was published in 1955, years before the mission, and so was almost entirely prophetical and caught the political mood of the time in the anti-Red post-War States. After all that was put into the film, with its record-breaking $34 million production cost, you might wonder why it only gets mediocre reviews and two-star ratings. It is the eleventh film in one of the biggest film/book franchises of all time. I think that partly speaks for itself.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Review 2015 No. 4 | The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling

I started this in October last year. Sitting on the bus I whizzed through about half of it in an hour or two (it was a longgg bus journey). It's hard to know where to start with this one, or how to critique it. Rudyard Kipling had it published in 1894 and his father John Lockwood Kipling provided the original illustrations, but most people will have experienced The Jungle Book, or The Jungle Books if you are discussing the sequel, via the 1967 Disney film classic. Despite this 121 year time lag, the 14 anthropomorphic jungle tales, inspired by Kipling's time in colonial India, are as fresh and witty as when he first put pen to paper.

Kipling writing is at times archaic, but always evocative and magical. The book has your favourite Disney characters - Mowgli the Man-Cub, Baloo the bear, Shere Khan the tiger, Bagheera the panther, Tabaqui - alongside others; Kaa, Rikki-Tikki, Toomai the elephant, and a Sea Cow. I will definitely be re-reading this (at some point), and I think that says a lot.

To purchase the beautiful Penguin Clothbound Classic above, follow the link:

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Quick Winter Glamour | Makeup Look

It would feel somewhat more ironic to be posting a winter glamour makeup tutorial on a grey, rainy Wednesday morning in January, if we hadn't already had weeks of grey, rainy Wednesday mornings. January, and winter in general, can make you feel blue, Christmas and summer holidays seem distant, fond memories, so why not glam it up with a simple, low-key, quick makeup look (and let's not talk about the terrible picture above, snapped just before going out a week or two ago).

Foundation: Rimmel Wake-me-up 'Sand'

Red lip: Revlon 'Fire and Ice' (the 1950s classic) lipstick and Revlon 'Bordeaux' lip gloss

Eye shadow: Maybelline Mocha Mirage

Mascara: Maybelline Rocket Volume 'Black'

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Review 2015 No. 3 | Live And Let Die by Ian Fleming

“You start to die the moment you are born. The whole of life is cutting through the pack with death. So take it easy. Light a cigarette and be grateful you are still alive as you suck the smoke deep into your lungs. Your stars have already let you come quite a long way since you left your mother’s womb and whimpered at the cold air of the world.” 

With these words in his second James Bond book, Ian Fleming reminds us of something. In the majesty and mystery of the world of the secret service agent - the films, the long-limbed actors, the wealth - we lose sight of one pertinent fact; Fleming was more than a half-decent writer. Here Fleming works with a fundamental of writing - write about what you know - taking Bond on a journey through Harlem, Florida and Jamaica, places he knew well. This novel has all the best bits of the films and more - scuba diving, an international baddie chase ('Mr Big' in Live and Let Die), a Bond girl - and I would argue it is a difficult card to trump. If Fleming follows a trend I strongly believe in - that writer's tend to release the majority of their creative energy in their first book or two - then it will be. The jury's out, as I still have 10 or so of the other Bond novels to digest. I say SAY YES to this one!

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

The Body Shop Vitamin E | Skincare Review name is Clare and I'm a moisturiser addict. Okay, all hilarity aside - but seriously I do have 5 in my wash bag - I have dry skin even in summer, so needless to say winter brings a few skincare treasures of its own. Winter brings colds, cracked hands, red faces, and, for those few who possess dry skin, random breakouts and a dull complexion. As I have mentioned before I now have a minimal and more environmentally-friendly makeup regime and choose to focus on moisturisers, so when I saw this Vitamin E gift set on sale in The Body Shop, I jumped at it. The most sensible of impulse purchases. I've been trying it for four weeks now, so you can say this is post was a long time in the making. Details below!

Vitamin E Cream Cleanser - Massage into the skin with your fingertips (but careful not to use too much!). Remove with a clean cotton pad or muslin cloth and feel the skin-softening effects of the wheat-germ oil and shea butter.

Vitamin E Hydrating Toner - Soak the alcohol free toning liquid onto a cotton pad and sweep across your face to remove excess oil, cleanser or makeup. This part really prepares your skin for the moisturiser part later on.

Vitamin E Moisture Cream - For those who vacillate over the qualities of face creams - this is a light one and probably not for the perennially dry skinned.

Vitamin E Overnight Serum-In-Oil - WARNING Do not try to use this while drunk! I am clumsy - so when trying to put 3 separate drops of the serum on my cheeks and forehead, I knocked half the bottle down the sink. Beware! The serum, when massaged in, works very effectively though.

Unfortunately I cannot find the Vitamin E gift set on sale any more. This is a link to the small, but complete, Vitamin E Skincare Kit: