Ordering Chanel in 2021. Coromandel EdP.

“While she looks at you so cooly, and her eyes shine like the moon in the sea, she comes in incense and patchouli, so you take her, to find what’s waiting inside, the year of the cat. AL STEWART.

It was not until last week when I went to Vienna with a girlfriend that I bothered to really try the Coromandel EdP. It fell into the “it cannot possibly be better than the EdT, oh my gosh what did Chanel do?” category.

The service and knowledge in the stand-alone Chanel beauty store in Vienna is excellent. Totally welcoming, you can spray everything, and all of the parfum extraits are out to try. (That has not been my experience in the Chanel Boutiques, you know, the ones that have security on the door, and take your backpack when you walk in.) We were sprayed top to bottom with Le Lion and Coromandel, each given both perfumes in the cute mini form, and sent off to breakfast and truck around town whilst the fragrances settled. Who knew if we would even go back? I also grabbed a few drops of the Coromandel Extrait and off we went.

My girlfriend knew before exiting the store that she would be back for Le Lion. We returned in due course, and she made the purchase. We both received more cute minis, and as the fabulous SA said, one can never have too many. I was enjoying the Coromandel EdP, but not enough to justify buying it, I still have the EdT after all.

I came home and spent the next four days wearing the EdP. Well well. It is much smoother than the screechy EdT. Screechy does not mean I don’t like it, I love it. But it can be wearing on the nose. Several years ago Tara and I tried a number of the EdPs in the store in Covent Garden. My Coromandel impressions at the time were that they had taken the incense out, an integral part. Uhm, nope. So I never bothered again.

Fast forward five years. The incense is there, but in the base notes, and to my nose it was in the heart notes of the EdT. Therein lies a really big difference. The EdP is not as tenacious and what is not to love about a rich patchouli, benzoin, and incense base? Infinitely more wearable, not as tenacious, divine dry down. Chanel Patch don’tcha know?

I WhatsApped Chanel Vienna and ordered a bottle. Two days later I had it. WhatsApp? Of course, Why? How do you order your Chanel?

CQ

*Yep, Chanel here have a WhatsApp number. I’m screwed. Thank you Peter.

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April/May Reading Diary

What is the novel that made the biggest impact on you? I was reminded of mine by one of the books I read this month.

I read Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro well over a decade ago but it has stayed with me and I have thought about it on and off ever since. It revolves around three characters that grow up in an unusual boarding school together and explores what it means to be human. It’s best not to know more about than that going in. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it but know that you may never fully recover from it. Well, I didn’t.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

“We need not to be let alone. We need to be really bothered once in a while. How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real?”

I’ve been trying to read more sci-fi since the pandemic derailed that resolution last year. I just wasn’t in the mood for it. Now I’ve been enjoying it a lot. Portia inspired me to pick up this particular classic of the genre. It’s amazing to me that it was written in 1953 although I always smile when these old sci-fi books are set well into the future but still use names of the time they were written, for example, here the main character’s wife is called Mildred.

Anyway, this has such a brilliant central concept. In this America of the future, fireman are used to start fires rather than put them out and their job is specifically to burn books. No one is allowed to own them and you may get your entire house burnt down if you do. People are kept compliant by mind numbing leisure activities such as the huge TV-like screens taking up whole walls of their homes. When away from them, they can plug ‘seashells’ into their ears for constant distraction. Not a million miles from us today. Our protagonist, Guy, is a fireman who starts to question his life after meeting a young woman who has not succumbed to the brainwashing.

Not as good as 1984 but much better than Brave New World. 4/5

Revelation by Russell Brand

“There is no end or separation, merely new notes played in the ongoing symphony of existence in which we all play our part.”

This is an Audible Original audiobook that Russell wrote during lockdown. The pandemic does crop up throughout the book but it is concerned with spirituality. Russell has been heading this way for a while now but here he goes Full God. This was a bit of a surprise as it’s quite a risk for a public figure to talk so explicitly on this topic, purely because it so polarising. I was up for it but was more interested in his personal revelation than the esoteric. For someone to change their life as dramatically as he has is quite something and I’d like to hear about that in detail but maybe he felt he covered that in his book Recovery. In Revelation we get a lot of meandering around Jungian psychology, Indian mysticism, the 12-steps programme and – yawn – politics. It just felt a bit muddled for the most part although he’s always engaging. Its best bits were towards the end where he shares his experiences at shelters for addicts and homeless families. 3/5

A Close and Common Circuit (Wayfarers 2) by Becky Chambers

“Owl had been good to her. She stayed on the screen by the bed all day, and she taught Jane about something called music, which was a weird bunch of sounds that had no point but made things feel a little better.”

This is the second book in the sci-fi Wayfarers series. I did miss the main characters from the The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet but I knew they wouldn’t feature in it before I began which stopped me from being disappointed. The first book wasn’t plot filled but this is an even slower burn, focusing on just two main characters as they both try and navigate new environments and come to terms with who they are. About a third of the way in I felt it wasn’t really going anywhere but I connected with the characters and their struggle with being displaced. It also helped that I find the ethical issues around advanced Artificial Intelligence interesting (anyone else captivated by the series Westworld?). I was completely invested by the last quarter of the book when the plot speeds up and it was emotional towards the end. It’s an added bonus that Val the Cookie Queen is hooked by the series too. I will be reading the last two books in the series before long. 4.25/5

Six of Crows (Book 1) by Leigh Bardugo

Well this was a mistake: I really should have known as I’d previously DNFed it. However I’d enjoyed the fantasy fun that was the Netflix show Shadow and Bone and thought this connected novel would be a light read after a bit of a stressful time when I didn’t read for almost 2 weeks. It’s a YA fantasy with good characters and an Amsterdam-style setting, but it based around a heist plot which I could care less about. The characters are all around 17 years old (as seems to be the law with YA) however they act at least 10 years older. Everyone fancies someone else but no one talks about it which got tiresome. To be fair I am 30+ years older than the target audience. Needless to say, I won’t be continuing with the second part of the duology. 2.5/5

Child of the Prophecy (Sevenwaters Book 3) by Juliet Marillier

“Good and bad; shade and sunlight, there’s but a hair’s breath between them. It’s all one in the end.”

Try not to judge this book by its cover

I took another stab at a comfort read and this one hit home. Returning to a fantastical medieval Ireland with familiar places and characters was soothing. This third book (and end of the first plot arc) follows the granddaughter of the heroine of the first book. Fainne is interesting because she is also the granddaughter of the evil sorceress of the Daughter of the Forest. Therefore she is torn between dark and light as she is coerced into bringing down not just the inhabitants of Sevenwaters but the Fair Folk themselves. At times it got frustrating when she was about the tell someone the truth and ask for their help but then didn’t, several times over. She’s also not the most likeable protagonist and this instalment features much less of the Fae and forest than the previous books. However, I loved the writing, enjoyed seeing familiar characters again, and it became gripping as events drew to a conclusion. 4.25/5

Please share the book or books that have stayed with you in the comments as well as any other recent finds you’d like to recommend.

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Current Skincare and Body Favourites

I’ve fallen for a few amazing products over the course of the last few months so I thought it would be fun to share.

OSKIA Renaissance Cleanser

I avoided this cult cleanser for ages thinking it was a gel formulation for oilier skin types. It’s actually suitable for all including dry skin and comes out as a pink emulsion that feels lovely on the face.

Let’s be honest though: perhaps the main reason I love it is the smell. It’s a soft rose scent accented with chamomile. I like it so much I can’t imagine the pleasure I get from it wearing off. I usually change my cleanser every time one runs out but I can see this one being a keeper. It has a pump but oh how I wish it had a flip top. Taking the lid off irritates me every use. Maybe I should leave it off.

C.E.O. Serum by Sunday Riley

I’ve tried many vitamin C serums but this is hands down my favourite. It used to be that I’d go for the highest percentage of the strongest form (say 30% L-Ascorbic acid). This meant they were often unpleasantly grainy and stung my skin over time, if not immediately.

I’ve now learnt my lesson. Using a lower concen tration on a regular basis can be just as effective and doesn’t punish your skin barrier.

C.E.O. 15% Vitamin C Brightening Serum contains THD Ascorbate which converts to L-Ascorbic acid on contact with the skin and doesn’t oxidise. It also smells like oranges and has a pump dispenser, not a dropper. The search is officially over.

OSKIA Renaissance Mask

This British skincare brand is knocking it out the park. Along with the cleanser, I’ve fallen hard for this award winning mask.

Skincare gurus don’t usually bother with masks because they say it’s what they do day-to-day that counts. However, I enjoy a face mask on a Sunday while soaking in the bath. This one has resurfacing properties with 9 active ingredients. I don’t have an acid in my daily routine, partly because I use tretinoin and partly because I can’t be bothered with another step.

This thick pink gel turns white when properly massaged onto the skin, which I get a kick out of (hey it’s the little things). It gently exfoliates but never leaves my skin feeling tight or irritated, even if it’s feeling fragile. It simoly leaves me with super soft, radiant skin.

Reviving Pine Bath Milk by Weleda

I bought this after seeing it recommended by Lisa Eldridge in one of her videos. I love aromatic scented bath products and this has an unusual milky pine aroma that makes me feel like I’m bathing in a forest pool of tree sap. That may not be everyone’s idea of good time but it is mine.

Geranium Leaf Body Scrub by Aesop

No one needs to spend £27 on a body scrub but this was gifted to me for my birthday and it’s a real treat. It comes out as a transulcent gel but you really feel its exfoliating grains when applied to the skin. It contains milled pumice and micronised bamboo stem, fragranced with geranium leaf, mandarin and bergamot oils. Again, the scent is wonderful: the greenest leafiest geranium you can imagine.

Balance – Restoring Bath and Shower Gel by Cowshed

I can’t imagine there is a Cowshed bath and shower scent I wouldn’t like and intend on trying them all. This restoring blend features essential oils of rose geranium, linden blossom, frankincense and ylang-ylang. It smells lovely and completely natural.

Have you tried any of these? Do you have a recent discovery you’d like to share?

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Mood Scent 4: Roses, Roses, Roses

Hey there A Bottled Rose, It’s a Mood Scent 4 week. WOO HOO! This month the crew are looking at Roses, Roses, Roses. I’m a total rose fan and there seem to be loads of them in my wardrobe. I think it stems (see what I did there?) from my Mum’s love of roses in the garden. She had two major favourites, Mr Lincoln (deep red) and Freesia (yellow) both fragrant. My personal favourite (narcissistically) is a David Austin rose, Wise Portia, which is mauve/pink and if you cut one and have it in a room the whole room is suddenly full of sweet, peppery rose.

Mood Scent 4 Roses, Roses, Roses pic

Can’t wait to read about your favourite Roses, Roses, Roses fragrances in the comments too. Please let me know the ones you thought I’d put in that didn’t make the list too.

 

So excited to be blogging with these three superstars again: Esperanza L’Esperessence, Megan Megan In Sainte Maxime and Samantha I Scent You A Day. Check theirs out too.

mood-scent-4-roses-roses-roses

Mood Scent 4: Roses, Roses, Roses

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March Reading Diary

 

How much do you push yourself out of your reading comfort zone? It’s a question I’ve been contemplating lately. I don’t want to constantly dwell in a genre fiction ghetto, but I also don’t want to spend a lot of time reading books I don’t enjoy. I did find in March that books dealing with real life issues aren’t confined to Booker Prize winners. I read a brilliant sci-fi book covering all the same topics but in a much more subtle and entertaining (for me) way. 

 

The Examined Life by Stephen Groz

“Closure is just as delusive-it is the false hope that we can deaden our living grief.”

This is a collection of stories from the couch of a London psychiatrist. Most end with some kind of twist or revalattion. Unsurprisingly, a lot of them show people in denial, consciously or unconsciously, about what is going on in their lives. I can’t say they gave me any insight into my own life, being more a diverting read than a tool for self-reflection. They do shine a light on psychoanalysis as well as human nature and shows what can be achieved with the process although these are short summaries and usually feature more extreme cases which is understandable. I found the child cases most interesting although there were only two of these. 2.75/5

A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet (Wayfarer 1) by Becky Chambers

“All you can do, Rosemary – all any of us can do – is work to be something positive instead. That is a choice that every sapient must make every day of their life. The universe is what we make of it. It’s up to you to decide what part you will play.”

If it’s possible for a sci-fi book to be cosy, then this is it. Set in a time when humans have left Earth for good, Rosemary gets a job aboard a spaceship called the Wayfarer. It has a small crew made up of humans and other species, who – with one exception – are more like family than colleagues. That’s what makes this novel so feel-good. It’s mainly character focused and the relationships between those characters – including the ship’s A.I. – are really special.

There was more than enough of a plot to keep me interested and it got tense towards the end. I’ve long been curious about the sci-fi sub-genre of space operas and apparently this falls under that category. To be honest, I’m still none the wiser but I loved it. 

Can’t wait to read the rest of the 4-part series, although I believe they can all be read as standalones 5/5.

Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins

“You are in danger of living a life so comfortable and soft, that you will die without ever realizing your true potential.”

I have so much love and respect for David Goggins. He is the most mentally tough person on the planet but he wasn’t born that way; he MADE himself that way. By the age of 8 he’d endured hundreds of beating by his pimp father. As a teen he cheated his way through school and was going nowhere fast. The racism he suffered in his small Indiana town didn’t help either.

He gradually began to turn his life around by realising that no one was coming to save him and he needed to be accountable to himself. Through strict accountability and self-discipline he ‘calloused his mind’ to the point where he no longer relied on motivation to achieve his goals. He became a Navy SEAL and went on to hold a number of endurance records. He has more than his fair share of haters for having such an extreme fitness regime but they are seriously missing the point. Goggins doesn’t expect others to do what he does. He is showing you that you can do better than you are doing now – immeasurably better. That if he can transform his life, you can too and begin to fulfill your potential. 

I knew his story well already but wanted to hear the Audible audiobook because I heard it has a unique format. It is narrated by the writer who worked on the book, but every few pages he breaks off and interviews David about what has just happened and where his head was at the time . This gives an incredible level of additional insight. There are also 10 challenger throughout the books which are intended to help you become the hero of you own life.  It was the bestselling audiobook on Audible last year for good reason. 5/5

The Mermaid of Black Conch by Monique Roffey

‘How does a man accept a woman, any woman into his house? Just like that, let alone a mermaid. Life changed quick, boy, I never plan it so. Later I saw that change came as change always comes, from a chain of events with a long history, too long to see from back to front, till it come.’

This was an odd one. It has been shortlisted for a number of prizes and won Costa Book of the Year 2020 so I expected it to be pretty accessible with relatively broad appeal. I think that’s what threw me and I might have enjoyed it more otherwise.

This is a deeply strange tale set on the fictional Caribbean island of Black Conch where a mermaid is caught by white American tourists in 1976. She is treated brutally by the tourists (and some of the locals) when she is strung up on the shore. This beginning was unpleasant to read. However she is rescued by a local fisherman, David, and they fall in love.

It is written in the local parlance and partly in verse but readable for the most part, plus it’s only short. I came to like the characters that helped the mermaid but wasn’t captivated by it. Maybe I am too skewed towards gentle fairytales and myth re-tellings so one set in the in the 1970s was a bit too jarring for me.. I can appreciate how inventive it was though and it is much praised so go for it if it sounds intriguing to you. 3.25/5

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo

“You see, Megan, I learnt first hand how women are discriminated against, which is why I became a feminist after I’d transitioned, an intersectional feminist, because it’s not just about gender but race, sexuality, class and other intersections which we mostly unthinkingly live anyway”

I usually avoid winners of the Booker Prize but I’d heard so much about this one and my sister really enjoyed it so I gave it a go. I also liked the fact it was structured as a series of stories about the lives of 12 girls, women and one non-binary ‘other’. They span the twentieth century and follow a broad range of Black people from a suburban teacher, to a feminist lesbian playwright, to a high-flying banker. Some were more likeable than others, all were interesting and I liked the way the stories interconnected; the best friend of the main character in one story, became the protagonist in the next and so on. The writing is exemplary and I liked the way most of the characters came together at the end.

I still prefer to escape into the distant past or future or a fantasy land, but it’s good to spend some time in the real world. It dealt with a range of issues including race, gender and sexuality. I’ll just always struggle with literary fiction, particularly when the ‘political’ issues are upfront and centre. 3/5

Do you tend to stick with the genres of fiction you love? Do you see any problem with this?

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Mood Scent 4: Zesty Citrus!

(OK Everyone. This is my first time using the new WordPress block editor. ASSHOLES! Why did they have to screw with the way this works. SO annoying. Whoever made these changes deserves a measly, unhappy life. )

Hey there A Bottled Rose, It’s a Mood Scent 4 week. WOO HOO! This month the crew are looking at Zesty Citrus. The Northern Hemisphere moving towards warmer weather you’ll be grabbing out your Zesty Citrus frags any moment now! How exciting. As we’ve just come through the hot I have a list of some of the things I wore throughout. Of course it doesn’t have to be warm to wear them, some are perfect win her warmers or brighteners.

Can’t wait to read about your favourite Zesty Citrus fragrances in the comments too.

So excited to be blogging with these three superstars again: Esperanza L’Esperessence, Megan Megan In Sainte Maxime and Samantha I Scent You A Day. Check theirs out too.

Mood Scent 4: Zesty Citrus!

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Vintage Magie Noire by Lancome

Top notes: Galbanum, Cassis, Cassia, Hiacynth, Bulgarian Rose, Raspberry and Bergamot.

Middle notes: Honey, Narcissus, Cedar, Orris Root, Ylang-Ylang, Tuberose, Jasmine and Lily-of-the-Valley.

Base notes: Oakmoss, Spices, Civet, Incense, Patchouli, Amber, Sandalwood, Myrrh, Vetiver and Musk

I’ve long lusted after vintage Magie Noire and been filled with regret that I didn’t buy a bottle when I first encountered it over ten years ago. Therefore, last year when Vanessa mentioned in Part 1 of her perfume collection reorg that she no longer felt any attachment to her vintage bottle, I asked if I could buy it from her. After sending me a sample, she generously gifted me the remains of her bottle. When it arrived I was thrilled to find that it was the Darth Vadar version.

I’ve found myself increasingly drawn to green chypres in recent times. There’s something about their mix of forest wildness and stern self-possession that seems to cut through any anxiety.

Magie Noire was launched in 1978 and I can’t help but wonder if a brand released a fragrance today with the name ‘Black Magic’ whether it would be in the same genre. I think it would more likely be some kind of amber oriental. It is the antithesis of Lancome’s current smash hit La Vie Est Belle with its overwhelming iris-drowning-in-caramel accord.

Magie Noire is magnificently eerie. It opens with tart, lip-staining, blackcurrants and bitter stems with a scattering of white flowers. But what gets me is the depth. I’ve read that it starts off with the base notes first and I can see where that comes from. You can pick up on the deeper, darker notes straight away. There is also just a tinge of honied, fruity sweetness but it doesn’t quite manage to blunt its thorns.

I sense I’m experiencing something greater than the sum of its parts. Its fully formed personality materialises before me. It’s every dream of a beguiling witchy scent I’ve ever had.

Vol de Nuit captured my attention because of the way it sits at the intersection of chypre and oriental. Magie Noire does something similar being half green chypre and half sultry oriental. I find the complexity and contrast between the two utterly enthralling.

Unlike most green chypres, it has the slinky texture of fur. The throw is moderate and I find its longevity to be excellent.

It possesses a maturity that is perfectly in keeping with the fragrances of its era. Magie Noire does not pander. On the face of it, it’s all wildflowers, fresh shoots and berries but they lie in the shadow of intoxicating leather, civet and musk.

I see Magie Noire as the mythological crone; a mature woman at the height of her powers. Before the patriarchy took over, discrediting and burning these astute women as witches, the ancient crone was associated with attributes of ‘wisdom, compassion, transformation, healing laughter, and bawdiness’*. This is a woman who has grown comfortable in her own skin and feels able to speak her mind because she could care less what others think of her. She rejoices in her esoteric interests and values her coven. If you look closely, you can see a wry sparkle in her eye.

Is Magie Noire a favourite of yours? Do you love the vintage version? I understand old bottles are prone to turning.

*from http://www.cronecounsel.org

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Freddie Albrighton Perfumes

DREAMY. LIGHT. COMFORTING. WEARABLE. AFFORDABLE. ACCESSIBLE.

“I went out on the balcony to clear my head, I was burning up in my queen-sized bed, down on the strip beneath the billboard moon, teenaged kids look for love in the neon sex and doom, of your Hollywood perfume.” Hollywood Perfume. The Pretenders.

I first met Freddie in 2014 and we have remained friends ever since. We share a deep love of Vero Profumo, and of the Hermessence collection, and of Malle’s Le Parfum de Therese. Style matters.

Although on the surface it may look as though Freddie Albrighton leans more towards the weird and unwearable (indeed I do believe he had a phase of this) he actually has a deep love for fragrances that are quite classical in their construction and beauty.

That is not to say that I wasn’t apprehensive when he told me he was going to create his own perfume line. After all we have all had more than enough of the complete and utter crap put together by people in their broom cupboards and sold at extortionate rates to those who were not brought up on the literary folklore tale of The Emperor`s New Clothes penned by Hans Christian Anderson.

I need not have been. Freddie Is an artist, clear to see in his tattoo work. This translated well in the cross-over to perfume, proving he would not be satisfied with anything less than performing to the best of his ability. You are either a perfectionist or you are not – this being a person who refuses to accept any standard short of perfection, and only offers up what to them, at the time is the best that they can do.

MABEL´S TOOTH. A dark fragrance, but Mabel has a diamond on her tooth, allowing it to glint and glisten. Ristretto with a splinter of caramel. Earthy and nutty. Not for those who take marshmallows in their chocolate.

BERNADETTE MARGARET EVELYN THERESA. Vintage without the vinegar. Full of joy and flowers. Apricot schnapps and quantum droplets of patchouli. The beauty of this is quite astonishing and there is actual love in the formula. You can feel it. I want to drown in it.

BOYS. Walking into Top Shop on Oxford Circus. Straight onto the first level, full of plastic earrings, leather bags, fake leather bags, pink fluffy slippers, purple fluffy slippers, cupcakes, candy canes, lollipops, key rings, a photo booth or two. Add a hefty dose of shattered violets and a hit of musk.

This collection is exactly what we need after a year of lockdown, and as we manoeuvre our way through the months to come. Perfumes that are bright and cheerful, and a delight to have on the skin. These have no nuclear bases that cling ’til you’re in a coma. They slowly vanish, leaving a whisper of what was. And then you spray more. At 89 pounds for 50ml, what are we waiting for?

http://www.freddiealbrighton.com

Stay tuned for an Instagram live interview with @freddiealbrightonperfume and me @armadilloscookiequeen. Imminent.

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February Reading Diary

I am a big proponent of qutting books you’re not enjoying because I think it’s an important factor in having a good reading life. However I know people find this hard (hey Portia). Maybe it’s a throwback from school or the way books are intellectualised that makes it feel like a failure if you ‘give up’ on a book. We don’t feel this way about turning off a TV show though and you wouldn’t force yourself to finish a film you were finding a chore so why do it with a book? Nothing kills the joy of reading faster. I DNF (Did Not Finish) quickly and often and I encourage you to do the same.

Obviously it helps that many of my ebooks are bought for 99p (as were 3 of the 5 below). Buying Kindle offers, secondhand paperbacks or borrowing via the Libby app is a good idea.

The only exception is ‘hate reading’. I hate read The Starless Star and that brought its own perverse pleasure.

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

“Here she is a puppet, a vessel for others to pour their speech. And it is not a man she has married, but a world.”

I read this book at the same time as Vanessa and Undina. I read the ebook, Vanesssa the paperback and Undina the audibook.

It was very much my style being an atmospheric, slightly eerie, historical fiction set in Amsterdam in the 1600s. Eighteen year-old Nella marries the nearly forty year-old merchant, Johannes Brandt, and moves to the city. Marriage is far from what she expected as she rarely sees Joanne’s, while his haughty sister, Marin, runs the house as if Nella doesn’t exist. Her only solace is the replica house Johannes buys her as a wedding present. She contacts a mysterious miniaturist to make items for the house but soon finds the striking little models of items and people turn out to be prophetic.

I read the first half at a leisurely pace but raced through the second half as we are hit with one revelation after another. It was nearly a five star book except that the mystery of the fortune-telling miniatures is never resolved plus it made no sense to me to have the epilogue at the start of the book instead of the end. Still a very good read. 4/5

The Four Agreements by MIguel Ruis

“Whatever happens around you, don’t take it personally… Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves.”

This is a modern self-help classic based on ancient Mexican Toltec wisdom. It’s a quick read and pretty simple in concept. The Four Agreements we are encouraged to make with ourselves are: Be Impeccable with your Word, Don’t Take Anything Personally, Don’t Make Assumptions and Do Your Best. All admirable and will make a real difference if you can implement them but you need to challenge your existing limiting beliefs first and that’s not so easy (probably more achievable with CBT). It did remind me of the Carlos Castenda books I read in my youth about the Toltec shaman Don Juan which was nice and I hope to remember not to take things personally more. 3.75/5

The Ten Thousands Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

“How fitting, that the most terrifying time in my life should require me to do what I do best: escape into a book.”

This book ticked so many of my boxes. It’s a portal fantasy with a historical setting and the most gorgeous writing. January, a girl with copper coloured skin, lives with her benefactor, Mr Locke, in Vermont during the early 1900s. Her father travels the world sending back rare artefacts for Mr Locke’s collection. At age 7, January writes in her notebook and a door opens up to another world that smells of salt and cedar. At the age of 17 she finds a book called The Ten Thousand Doors and her story is then interwoven with that of Adelaide Larson who sees a door open in a field and a strange boy walk through it. The two of them spend the following decade looking for one another again. Meanwhile, January learns that Mr Locke’s archaeological society is not as harmless as it seems and she is in fact, in grave danger.

The story is beautifully told and it was great to have a mixed race heroine in a fantasy book for once. There was also a strong olfactory element which I always enjoy. Just my thing. 5/5

A Cry in the Dark (Carly Moore #1) by Denise Grover Swank

Towards the end of February I found out shielding was extended to 31st March, so I only felt like reading something pulpy and undemanding. Years ago, I read the Rose Gardner Mysteries by this author and they were humorous with a good slug of romance, all set in the Deep South (which I love). Cry in the Dark is similar being a spin-off featuring a side character from the original series. By this point, I had zero recollection of her or her storyline but it didn’t matter. Carly is escaping a dangerous and powerful ex, with a new identity, when her car breaks down and she has to make a stop in a backwoods Smoky Mountain town. She gets a temporary job at Max Drummond’s tavern but is attracted to his seemingly hostile brother, Wyatt. On her first night in the town she witnesses the murder of a teenage boy by a drugs gang and the police are out to nail it on her.

It was not in the least bit scary/stressful because the baddies are more like comic book characters. Truth be told, the plot was a load of twaddle and the writing is sub par. I did consider DNFing it, but sometimes it’s good to read something daft if you’re feeling fragile. 2.75/5

Eat, Drink, Run by Bryony Gordon

“I learn how to do something called a burpee, which seems to involve squatting down, throwing your legs back, and then jumping back up again. Burpees look simple, fun even, but do not be fooled. They have actually been sent from the third circle of hell to punish those of us who have committed the cardinal sin of gluttony.”

I’d previously read journalist Bryony Gordon’s mental health memoir, Mad Girl. I bought the audio book about running to listen to on my 30 minute trots around the local streets because I thought it might be motivating. Actually it’s less a book about how to run and more about how exercise can help your mental health. At age 36, 16 stone, a smoker and binge drinker, Bryony agrees to run the London Marathon for the Royals’ Heads Together charity. She goes to one of those ‘body camps’ in Ibiza that rich people go to train for the marathon and is told she has a biological age of 51. However, during one of my 30 minute stints, with some ups and downs, she goes from jogging to running 10km. Sadly I found this rather demotivating as after 2 months, I still feel like I’m about to collapse running 3.7km. Why can’t I improve?!

This is a very short, humorous book though and not intended as a guide for runners. The inclusion of the podcast she did with Prince Harry in which he opened up about his own struggles for the first time was a nice bonus. 3/5

How do you feel about giving up on books you’re not getting on with?

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Vero Profumo Eau de Parfums – The Return

And what costume shall a poor girl wear, to all tomorrow’s parties?” Lou Reed.

The Vero Profumo Eau de Parfums, although related to both the Voiles and the Extraits, are quite different. The EdPs are available again as limited editions in the black VP bottles. Online only, from Campomarzio. The Voiles are no longer available, and apart from a couple, neither are the extraits. You missed out? Tough.

Vero Kern once said that she likes to put “something a little bit disturbing” into her fragrances. Perhaps a note that people cannot identify. Sometimes it may disturb in a positive way and sometimes in a negative. “A characterful perfume has to have this disturbance, otherwise it is flat.” The Eau de Parfums are anything but flat.

The EdPs are sensual. Carnal, fleshly, unchaste. Voluptuous and beautiful. Lustful, earthy, and warm.

Vero commented at the launch of the original three edps, Rubj, Kiki, and Onda, that the new perfumes were not diluted versions of the extraits. An EdP needs a structure highlighting more the top notes as opposed to the base notes; but the aim still being to keep the original style of the extrait intact.

Vero in her Atelier.

The EdPs are delightfully lascivious. “I replaced the animalic notes with the unique scent of the passion fruit …. it lends a sensual and erotic lightness to the composition.” The luscious passion fruit links the four perfumes, Rubj, Kiki, Onda, and Rozy, adding to their communal seductiveness. (There is no passion fruit or cumin in any of the Voiles or the extraits, regardless of what you read – discontinued anyway. The number of comments and posts from people in the past writing about the cumin in Rubj Voile or extrait, used to make Vero crazy. Me too. I mean really? )

The above does not apply to the Mito EdP. That is a completely different kettle of fish. It is rich and green, sparkly and mossy, uplifting and elegant. Oh and the Mito Extrait is divine, but suck it up, it’s discontinued. NAJA stands alone from them all. And at the moment of writing this is still available.

I have the Rubj and Kiki EdPs in the black bottles, and the fragrances are exactly the same as in the original bottles. No changes at all. So chill.

Vero and Val

All of the perfumes Vero created are exquisite, but it is so much more than that. They have the same effect on me as The Velvet Underground did when I first heard them. Both added to my soul. Both Vero and the Velvet Underground have an erotic, revolutionary, pioneering, and subversive character. A most powerful perfume synesthesia. Vero and the Velvets stand at opposite ends of the bridge that connects me to the young woman I was, and to who I am now.

CQ.

Some of the above thoughts have appeared in previous pieces I have written.

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