Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Book Review: What I've Been Reading Recently

I've been sitting here for around ten minutes trying to think of a more interesting way to say, 'this is a post about books I've read' but words are failing me so I'm just going to dive right in.

Here's what I've been reading recently:

Book Review: What I've Been Reading Recently

Origin by Dan Brown - Robert Langdon, Harvard professor of symbology and religious iconology, arrives at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao to attend the unveiling of a discovery that “will change the face of science forever”. The evening’s host is his friend and former student, Edmond Kirsch, a forty-year-old tech magnate whose dazzling inventions and audacious predictions have made him a controversial figure around the world. This evening is to be no exception: he claims he will reveal an astonishing scientific breakthrough to challenge the fundamentals of human existence.

But Langdon and several hundred other guests are left reeling when the meticulously orchestrated evening is blown apart before Kirsch’s precious discovery can be revealed. With his life under threat, Langdon is forced into a desperate bid to escape, along with the museum’s director, Ambra Vidal. Together they flee to Barcelona on a perilous quest to locate a cryptic password that will unlock Kirsch’s secret.

I'll admit, I love a Dan Brown novel. They're controversial, full of mind-boggling details and supported by a gripping storyline - his latest release is no exception. The book explores the idea of where life came from and where it is ultimately heading in a startling, yet thought-provoking revelation. I don't want to spoil the surprise so I highly recommend reading it for yourself but the ending gave me goosebumps and if it doesn't give you food for thought, I don't know what else will. 

The Muse by Jessie Burton - On a hot July day in 1967, Odelle Bastien climbs the stone steps of the Skelton gallery in London, knowing that her life is about to change forever. Having struggled to find her place in the city since she arrived from Trinidad five years ago, she has been offered a job as a typist under the tutelage of the glamorous and enigmatic Marjorie Quick. But though Quick takes Odelle into her confidence, and unlocks a potential she didn't know she had, she remains a mystery - no more so than when a lost masterpiece with a secret history is delivered to the gallery.

The truth about the painting lies in 1936 and a large house in rural Spain, where Olive Schloss, the daughter of a renowned art dealer, is harbouring ambitions of her own. Into this fragile paradise come artist and revolutionary Isaac Robles and his half-sister Teresa, who immediately insinuate themselves into the Schloss family, with explosive and devastating consequences.

It took me a couple of attempts at The Muse to really get into it, as it's a bit of a slow burner, but I'm glad I persevered. Despite the story line being fairly predictable, with most of the twists and turns expected rather than surprising, I still really enjoyed it. It flits between two different tales, one of a young Trinidadian woman living in London and the story of the Schloss family living in Spain, weaving a web between the two. Full of detail and vivid descriptions, The Muse is well worth a read. 

Into The Water by Paula Hawkins - In the last days before her death, Nel called her sister. Jules didn’t pick up the phone, ignoring her plea for help. Now Nel is dead. They say she jumped. And Jules has been dragged back to the one place she hoped she had escaped for good, to care for the teenage girl her sister left behind. But Jules is afraid. So afraid. Of her long-buried memories, of the old Mill House, of knowing that Nel would never have jumped. And most of all she’s afraid of the water, and the place they call the Drowning Pool...

From the author of The Girl On The Train, Into The Water is another psychological thriller from Paula Hawkins. Unlike its predecessor, Into The Water doesn't flow, (if you'll pardon the pun) as well as The Girl On The Train, and the sheer number of characters that take turns in sharing their order of events, makes for a complex and sometimes confusing read. I did have to circle back a few times to remind myself who was who and to make sure I was keeping up. That being said, I was compelled to keep reading and I did enjoy the story as a whole. If you're looking for an easy read or a book to dip in and out of, this probably won't be for you. I feel like to get the most out of this book, you need to commit to tackling it in a few sittings. 

The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley - Two brothers. One mute, the other his lifelong protector. Year after year, their family visits the same sacred shrine on a desolate strip of coastline known as the Loney, in desperate hope of a cure. In the long hours of waiting, the boys are left alone. And they cannot resist the causeway revealed with every turn of the treacherous tide, the old house they glimpse at its end. Many years on, Hanny is a grown man no longer in need of his brother's care. But then the child's body is found. And the Loney always gives up its secrets, in the end.

I have mixed feelings about this book. I think that the author did an exceptional job of building suspense and creating and eerie and atmospheric read. I was completely gripped from start to finish; however I did get the feeling that the story was left incomplete. I feel like part of that was intentional, a piece of the mystery but I found that the ending was weird and there were too many loose ends left to tie up. In spite of that, I think this book is worth reading for the sheer brilliance of Hurley's use of language - the descriptions and the way he really manages to set the scene are a pleasure to read. 

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi - At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, the next he was a patient struggling to live. When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a medical student asking what makes a virtuous and meaningful life into a neurosurgeon working in the core of human identity – the brain – and finally into a patient and a new father. What makes life worth living in the face of death? What do you do when when life is catastrophically interrupted? What does it mean to have a child as your own life fades away? 

Paul Kalanithi died while working on this profoundly moving book, yet his words live on as a guide to us all.

The cover of this book describes it as 'Powerful and poignant' and I feel that this entirely sums up Paul Kalanithi's memoir. It is, at times, a difficult read, but also an inspiring and honest one. There's some really interesting insight into the challenging life of a medical student/doctor, which is probably more relevant now than it ever has been. If you're looking for an emotionally-charged, insightful book, then I suggest picking this up. 

The Silent Wife by A.S.A Harrison - Todd and Jodie have been together for more than twenty years. They are both aware their world is in crisis, though neither is willing to admit it. Todd is living a dual existence, while Jodie is living in denial. But she also likes to settle scores. When it becomes clear their affluent Chicago lifestyle could disintegrate at any moment, Jodie knows everything is at stake. It's only now she will discover just how much she's truly capable of.

If you're a fan of Gillian Flynn's psychological thriller Gone Girl, you'll get on really well with this book. It has a very similar narrative; albeit not as complex. Silent Wife delves into the relationship between Todd and Jodie, unraveling their secrets and giving a sombre insight into their marriage. It's a real page turner and even though the ending is somewhat predictable, it's still a very compelling read.

Book Review: What I've Been Reading Recently

Let me know if you've read any of these books and what you thought of them. Also, please make sure to leave me your suggestions for any books you've read and loved recently as I am always all ears for a good book recommendation. 

Thanks for reading.


Monday, 13 November 2017

Sneak Peek: Christmas Decorations Haul & How We'll Be Decorating Our Home This Year

Is it too soon to be talking Christmas?

If you answered yes then I can bet a Terry's Chocolate Orange that this post isn't going to be for you. 

The other day, Scott and I went shopping for Christmas decorations and I feel like we found some real gems - so much so that I just couldn't wait to jump on here and share with you some of the festive goodies that we bought. 

Sneak Peek: Christmas Decorations Haul & How We'll Be Decorating Our Home This Year
Sneak Peek: Christmas Decorations Haul & How We'll Be Decorating Our Home This Year
Sneak Peek: Christmas Decorations Haul & How We'll Be Decorating Our Home This Year
Sneak Peek: Christmas Decorations Haul & How We'll Be Decorating Our Home This Year

We hit Maisons Du Monde pretty hard. Their City Centre Mirdif store has an UHHmazing selection of baubles and little trinkets, (if you're in Dubai I'd hurry because I'm told they won't be restocking so what you see is what you get!) I was really inspired by this Christmas Tree on Pinterest and was so pleased I managed to get some white faux fur garlands - I think it really gives the appearance of snow, what do you think?

We have a lot of traditional baubles that we've collected over the years, but this year I wanted to incorporate different shapes - I love the snow-dipped pine cones and the fuzzy squirrel baubles. 

Sneak Peek: Christmas Decorations Haul & How We'll Be Decorating Our Home This Year
Sneak Peek: Christmas Decorations Haul & How We'll Be Decorating Our Home This Year
Sneak Peek: Christmas Decorations Haul & How We'll Be Decorating Our Home This Year

We also popped into a store called Daiso which is a Japanese retail brand and stocks a whole range of products - it reminds me of a typical pound shop you would get back in the UK. 

They had a load of quirky, wire brush Christmas trees that I think we'll either display around the base of our tree or stand along our floating shelves. We also managed to pick up some really cute Christmas mugs that will be perfect for hot chocolate, some snow spray, festive cookie cutters and a bag of fluffy, white pom poms that I plan on displaying in a glass vase. 

It's our first Christmas in Dubai and the first in our villa so we're really looking forward to having more space to play with this year. I'm trying to convince Scott that we need to hang Christmas lights in our garden but with neither of us being very handy with a toolbox, I'm not really sure how we'll make it work logistically. Any tips?

Are you looking forward to decorating for Christmas? Have you started buying your decorations yet and do you like to stick to a theme? 

Sneak Peek: Christmas Decorations Haul & How We'll Be Decorating Our Home This Year

For more festive content and to see how I've decorated my Christmas tree previously, click here


Wednesday, 8 November 2017

The Most Instagrammable Places In Dubai

I'm just going to come right out and say... I absolutely LOVE  Dubai - the city's unbeatable restaurant scene, shopping facilities, beaches, bars and everything in between makes Dubai one of the most fun places in the world to live. Fact. 

It's also pretty darn full of some seriously Insta-Worthy places too!

If you live in Dubai, or you plan on visiting in the near future, here's my guide to some of the most Instagrammable places you can find in the emirate. 

The Most Instagrammable Places In Dubai

City Walk

City Walk is an upscale, urban lifestyle destination that boasts a mix of interesting retail outlets and enticing cafes and restaurants. It's a predominantly outdoor venue that's packed with quirky design features and stunning art work, making it a great place to grab a few Insta shots whilst you scoff an ice cream. 

Madinat Jumeirah

The Madinat Jumeriah is one of my favourite places in Dubai. It's a luxury resort that's designed to look like a traditional Arabian town and hosts luxury hotels, a world-renowned spa and a souk. Its cafe and restaurant lined waterways are a great place to take a traditional abra (water taxi) ride, plus you can also bag yourself a few pictures of the iconic Burj Al Arab in the distance. 

Shimmers Beach Bar and Restaurant 

Speaking of the Burj Al Arab, if you're looking for a place to photograph the iconic Dubai landmark, as well as soak up some sea air, you need to head down to Shimmers in the Madinat Jumeriah Mina A' Salam hotel. They also serve up some pretty great food and drinks too!

The Burj Khalifa

Okay, we couldn't talk about the most Instagrammable places in Dubai without mentioning the Burj Khalifa. Whether you're admiring the 160-storey building from the ground or taking in the views from one of their observation decks, you're guaranteed a great photo-op. Whilst you're there, you can also nip into Dubai Mall - just make sure you're back in time to see the spectacular fountains that run every 30 minutes in the evenings from 6pm-11pm (Check here for full timings)

Jumeirah Beach Residence - JBR

The Walk at JBR is a waterfront shopping and dining destintion. Wander along the boulevard, soak up the sun on the beach or grab a bite to eat at one of JBR's many cafes or food trucks. There's murals dotted along the way and numerous stylish boutiques to pose in front of. 

Dubai Marina

Dubai Marina is a must-visit if you're looking to capture some of the city's impressive architecture. The dramatic skyline provides a great backdrop for photographs. Whether you want to hire a yacht to take in the views, walk around the marina's many restaurants and bars or hit the shops in the adjacent Marina Mall, this is a part of Dubai that isn't to be missed. 

Jolie Cafe

It's back to City Walk to talk about one of the most Instagrammable cafes I've come across in Dubai. Jolie Cafe is a 'floral boutique cafe' that features quaint decor and a stunningly beautiful floral ceiling. The food is delicious and well presented, usually served with fresh blooms. There's a daily afternoon tea that consists of canapes, finger sandwiches, homemade cakes, pastries and scones. Convinced yet?

Dubai Miracle Garden

Every 'Winter' the Dubai Miracle Garden opens its doors with a jaw-dropping garden display. The huge garden features stunning floral displays and statues that make for great Instagram content. This year will be the first time I visit due to the garden being closed when I made the move to Dubai.  Due to the sweltering heat of Summer, the garden is only open during the cooler months - usually around November to April/May. Make sure you check the timings via their website before you visit. 

Have you visited Dubai and been to any of these places? Let me know what your favourite Instagrammable places are in the city. 


Monday, 6 November 2017

HUGE Bath and Body Works Autumn/Winter Candle Haul

I went a bit cray in Bath and Body Works. 

I'm not even sorry. There was a sale on all of the 3 wick candles so I did what any self-respecting candle enthusiast would do and stocked up on a whole load of Autumn and Christmas scents. 

HUGE Bath and Body Works Autumn/Winter Candle Haul

Before we crack on with the haul there are three things I want to just throw out there:

1. Don't waste your time on the smaller, single-wick candles or votives. They're okay, but they really don't fill a room like the 3 wicks do. Unless you're Harry Potter and you live in a cupboard, just grab yourself the larger size and thank me later. 

2. I'm not blessed in the scent description department so I'll share with you what the candles are supposed to smell like and then embarrass myself by attempting to describe them myself - I'll probably use the words 'nice' and 'festive' a lot. 

3. Stick around until the end because I'll narrow this haul down to my favourites and will throw in some suggestions for other Bath & Body Works scents that I love and recommend. 

Okay, shall we get cracking?

HUGE Bath and Body Works Autumn/Winter Candle Haul
HUGE Bath and Body Works Autumn/Winter Candle Haul

Maple Cinnamon Pancakes - Warm maple syrup, fresh buttermilk pancakes and fresh ground cinnamon. This is one of those sweet, baked goods scents that Bath & Body Works does so well. You can really smell the maple syrup but the touch of cinnamon keeps it from straying into the sickly sweet territory. I love to burn candles like this in the kitchen throughout Autumn/Winter for that homely 'I just made a batch of pancakes but really I'm sitting on my backside watching Netflix' vibe. 

Pumpkin Apple - Red delicious apple, fall pumpkin. fresh ground cinnamon and clove bud. There's something really hard to describe about this scent. When I spoke about it on my Instastories, I described it as smelling like apple bubblegum and I still stand by that description. There's a subtle hint of spice from the cinnamon and clove but this ultimately smells like some kind of apple chewy sweet. I've burnt this candle already and I have to say, it doesn't have the most overpowering scent once lit. It's not as strong as some of the other candles on offer so if you prefer a more subtle fragrance, I'd consider this one. 

Leaves - Crisp red apple, golden nectar and warm clove spice. I feel like Leaves is such an Autumn candle staple - so much so that I actually bought two of these. It's such a warming, cosy scent. You only need to light this for a short while for it to really fill the room and the bark-like packaging looks much more sophisticated than their traditional Autumn/Winter designs. I love this one. 

Cinnamon Spiced Vanilla - Fresh ground cinnamon, sugar crystals and Tahitian vanilla bean. I'm not usually the biggest fan of vanilla candles but this smells absolutely incredible! It smells just like cinnamon-spiced cake - think along the lines of carrot cake and you're not far off. Again, the spice keeps it from straying into the realms of the sickly sweet, which is good, especially if overly sweet scents aren't your thing. I feel like this could very well work its way up into my all-time, Bath & Body Works candle favourites. 

Cinnamon and Clove Bud - Cinnamon leaf and clove leaf essential oils. This is pure Christmas in a jar. It's so warm and spicy and probably the most festive of all the candles I bought. It kind of reminds me of those fiery jawbreakers you could get as a child (see pic if you have no idea what I'm talking about.) I'll probably save this to burn in the run up to Christmas whilst watching Elf and drinking mulled wine. 

Hot Cocoa and Cream - Decadent milk chocolate, fresh steamed milk and mini marshmallows. This is my first time with this candle and when Scott picked it up off the shelf in the Bath & Body Works shop, I let out a bit of a squeal. It smells just like a rich, creamy hot chocolate and if this burns anything like it smells in the jar, it's going to be absolutely life-changing! Again, this is another perfect candle for cosy nights in watching a movie. 

Evergreen - Crisp white fir needles, Forest cedarwood and sweet evergreen sap. This is a traditional 'Christmas Tree' scented candle. It's the ideal candle to have in your home if you're unable to have a real Christmas tree as it smells like the real deal. I bought the single wick version of this last year so I'm excited to be able to give the larger size a go this year. 

Chestnut and Clove - Warm roasted chestnut, fresh ground clove, forest pine needles and cedarwood. I included this candle straight after Evergreen because they have a somewhat similar scent. Whilst Evergreen is a true Christmas tree scent, Chestnut and Clove is more of a nod in the Christmas tree direction. The cloves help to balance this out and whilst yes, it still smells festive, it also has a woody, men's aftershave feel to it. I think this is another great one for those who like their festive home fragrances to be a little less obvious. 

The final two candles I bought aren't 'festive' however I thought they were worth including:

Berry Waffle Cone - Sweet Summer berries, golden waffle cone and creamy vanilla. I think this was part of the Summer collection; however it smells like a baked apple pie. If you've tried the Warm Apple Pie scent from Bath and Body Works, this is very similar. I love this candle so much that I purchased two and have already burnt through one of them. That almost never happens for me as I like to chop and change the candles I burn but I've had this one burning constantly in my home. If you can still get your hands on it, I really recommend this one. 

Rose Water and Ivy - Soft rose petals, rain-kissed ivy and spring musk. Okay, this one has absolutely nothing to do with the Autumn/Winter seasons; however it's a beautiful, light floral scented candle. I love floral fragrances but I find if they're too heavy, they give me a headache. I'm hoping that the fact that this candle is quite light means that it won't be the case with this one. It smells like a really delicate rose perfume and I'll probably keep hold of this one to burn in the new year or sit it on the dressing table in my bedroom. 

So... if I had to pick my favourites?

This is tough but I would probably say Leaves, Cinnamon Spiced Vanilla and Berry Waffle Cone. I'm still holding out to get my hands on Spiced Gingerbread as I haven't seen that one in Dubai yet and it's an absolute favourite of mine. 

I'd also highly recommend 'Tis the Season (apple, cinnamon and cedarwood) this was the candle I lit on Christmas Day last year, Twisted Peppermint (cool peppermint, sugared snow, vanilla buttercream, fresh balsam and hint of musk) if you want a sweet, minty, candy cane scent and Pumpkin Pecan Waffles (maple syrup, golden waffles, pumpkin spice and brown sugar) if you want a really nutty, baked goods candle. 

And if that's not enough, you can check out my previous Bath & Body Works hauls here

Do you love burning scented candles at this time of year? What are your favourite Autumn/Winter candle scents? 

HUGE Bath and Body Works Autumn/Winter Candle Haul

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