A Stunning New Word – And Some Ramblings

By Val the Cookie Queen

Hi Guys 
 
Dropping in for my bi-monthly visit here at A Bottled Rose.  About a year ago I heard the most wonderful word used on the radio, sometime around 4.00am.   I sleep with BBC World Service playing softly at the side of the bed. I often hear interesting things but have no recollection when I wake up.  However on this occasion I got up and wrote the word down.  I have been waiting ever since to present it in a post.  
 
ANTICAPPOINTMENT
 
Forgive me those who are familiar with the word,  I was not.   It covers a host of events and situations in life.
I will in this case use it in relation to my feelings regarding the current perfume scene. My anticipation at new releases and the continual disappointment that follows. Anticappointment.
Perfume is subjective, we all know that, I name no names.  Nine out of ten things that I sniff are awful and the one out of ten that isn’t is not what I would buy. Hahahaha – it makes you wonder that I don’t just give up, huh?
To give up an addiction one first has to want to, and I don’t.  
Before anyone jumps out at me, I know there is good new stuff, but let us be honest here, it’s few and far between.  
 
Fear not.  I still have classic signs of addiction.  I recently bought 50mls of Dior”s discontinued Mitzah from a perfumista friend who scored a half gallon in Paris.  
I tried it once years ago and did not like it.  LMAO.  But I have moved on and I reckon I am gonna love it now.  It was shipped to Tara and I will get it next week. 
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Which brings me nicely to my ramblings.  I’m heading to London tomorrow, along with BlondesWunder, and as you read this we will be in Pack’n’Panic mode.  
I will get two full days with Tara, an evening with Portia, time with Bonkers Vanessa, a meet up with Megan In St Maxime, and most of us are going to The Art and Olfaction Awards. Keep your eyes out on my Instagram …
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I have a date with a favourite blogger, (to be revealed in my next post) and together we will spend some time with Nathalie Vinciguerra, the founder and CEO of Anima Vinci.  These perfumes excite me and come highly recommended.  Stay tuned. 
 
What perfume will I wear to the Art and Olfaction Awards? I hear you ask. Why Vero Profumo of course. Naja Eau de Parfum, including notes of red apple and leather. Launch date to be announced.  
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Have you ever been anticappointed?
 
Britain Bound Bussis
CQ
 
 Apple image by John Hyde Phillips
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Slowdive by Hiram Green

Notes: Neroli, Orange flower, Tobacco flower, Dried fruit, Beeswax, Tuberose and Resins.

Hiram Green makes high quality, opulent perfumes that sing on the skin. My particular favourite of his collection is the glorious sunlit orange blossom, Dilettante. These beautiful fragrances are handcrafted from natural ingredients at his base in the Netherlands. A bonus is that they are available in 10ml sprays as well as 50ml bottles.

His latest release is the evocatively titled Slowdiveslowdive.png

Slowdive is a languid, floral tobacco-themed fragrance and its name suits it perfectly. After an opening of unctuous honey tinged with Play-doh, you gently drift down into its swirl of petals, tobacco leaves and dried fruit.

It’s a lot brighter in feel than many tobacco fragrances which tend to reside in shuttered gentlemen’s clubs. Slowdive has the warmth of days filled with hazy sunshine, ripe fruit and the low hum of bees flitting from bloom to bloom. The beeswax gives it a sumptuously soft landing with its honeyed waxiness.

It makes me think of an autumn harvest, but if you love honeyed and/or tobacco scents, you’ll enjoy it at any time of year. It has a caressing, lazy mood which I’ve found immensely enjoyable on these gloomy London days. It’s the feeling you get when you kick off your shoes and sink into a big, squashy armchair at the end of a tiring day. It has that sense of letting go and having nothing better to do than watch the sun melt into the horizon, bleeding into colours of amber, gold and ochre.

Slowdive is a fragrance to relax into; a place to rest your aching bones. The sillage is low-key but within its orbit, you can’t mistake its distinctive character.

One thing to make clear regarding the presence of tuberose, is that there’s no need to be put off if you normally hesitate at its mention in notes lists. As I’ve said before, natural tuberose is not the stonker of the synthetic variety, which can trample over everything in sight. Here, the natural absolute adds a flowery creaminess to the composition without overpowering the other accords. It’s probably what makes Slowdive such an uncommon tobacco perfume.

It’s definitely a fragrance anyone could wear comfortably and combining the traditionally masculine tobacco with the uber feminine tuberose, makes for a clever and interesting pairing that works beautifully.

 

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How do you feel about tobacco/honey perfumes?

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PSA: APJ Update

Editor’s note: My dear friends over at Australian Perfume Junkies are going through every blogger’s worst nightnare at the moment,  so the Cookie Queen is here today to let everyone know what’s happening.
‘READ ALL ABOUT IT, SHOCK HORROR, HAVE YOU HEARD THE NEWS’   –  Shock Horror by Mick Farren & The Deviants  (1977) 
 
“There is some corrupted code that allowed malware to enter the APJ site.  We have worked so hard but its proving resistant to our efforts.  The places that offer a fix are expensive and not even failsafe, so we are seeking other avenues.“ –  Portia Turbo
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Australian Perfume Junkies as we know and love it has gone. Like the proverbial parrot.  As some of you may know, APJ has been having some serious issues over the last months. Portia did think for a moment that they had been resolved, but sadly to no avail.
 

You would think in this digital day and age, where everything is there to find, and it is virtually impossible to remove anything from the Web, that there would have been a way to have at least kept the content of APJ hovering in cyberspace . But no. The only way to even start to fix things is to have the slate wiped.  Where did it go? We have no bloody clue.  I managed to screenshot what I considered my three best posts, so I have something.  

I know how sad Portia is to lose the Scent Diary, her personal journal for over a year.  Not to mention the hard and loving work from all the other contributors.  
 
But yeah, APJ will regroup in one way or another.  In the meantime Tara has offered to let me carry on with my twice monthly posts here on A Bottled Rose. I couldn’t be more honoured.  And excited.  
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“The parrot is definitely deceased, and when I purchased it not ‘alf hour ago, you assured me that its total lack of movement was due to it bein‘ tired and shagged out following a prolonged squawk.“ –  Monty Python 
 
APJ is merely resting.
 
Bottled Bussis
CQ
 
 

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Mood Scent 4: Perfumes Perfect for Any Occasion

Today we, the Mood Scent 4 blogging project, are sharing our picks for perfumes that we feel are suitable for any occasion.

I think of perfumes that you can wear anytime, anywhere, as those that are not too overbearing and which you feel at ease in. The second category will vary from person to person. Some people will feel at home in easy-going florals while others will reach for something woody as their go-to.

I have a few all-rounders and it’s no surprise to me that two of them are chypres. This is  a genre I’ve long loved and always felt can take me anywhere.

These four perfumes are the olfactory equivalent of the versatile white shirt  – but with added character.

 

 

Mood scent purple

Diorella, Dior

Sicilian lemon, peach, basil, Italian bergamot, melon, greens, honeysuckle, jasmine, violet, rosebud, carnation, cyclamen, oakmoss, vanilla, clove, sandalwood, vetiver, musk, patchouli

This carefree fruity chypre with gentle florals is truly a ‘take me anywhere’ scent. The green accents keep it fresh while the mossy base elevates it to the level of chic. The white vernal flowers lend it some prettiness and the ripe fruit prevents it from feeling too formal. It’s a significant step up form a cologne-style fragrance like its older brother, Eau Sauvage, but it’s not as dressed-up as its older sister La Parfum de Therese.

 

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Seville a L’Aube, L’Artisan Perfumeur

Lavender, pink pepper, lemon tree leaves, orange blossom, jasmine, magnolia, beeswax, incense, Benzoin Siam, Luiseiri lavender

This orange blossom scent has a zesty opening, caramelised lavender and a resinous breath of incense that makes it intriguing yet relaxed. The syprupy aroma of orange blossom is counter-balanced beautifully by the other accords and means it has enough depth to wear outside of summer. Its radiance and style means it can be to spritzed for smarter events while being languid enough to also sport on casual occasions.

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Vol de Nuit EdT, Guerlain

Bergamot, galbanum, petitgrain, jasmine, daffodil, spices, sandalwood, orris, vanilla, amber, oakmoss, benzoin, musk, ambergris, castoreum

The large gold Habit de Fete canister I have of Vol de Nuit contains a perfume that feels like me. I can wear the EdT at any time and it always feels right, with the added bonus that it soothes my soul. Its inherent chypre classiness means it can take me anywhere – including the office – but it also works on the weekends because it simply feels like a second skin. I know it so intimately now that I find it hard to break down. There’s still nothing like it.

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La Fille de Berlin, Serge Lutens

Rose, violet, pink and black pepper, musk

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I love Rose de Nuit for an evening out and Tobacco Rose by Papillon Perfumes for the whole rose-bed, but my ‘all occasions’ rose is La Fille de Berlin. Though it has presence, it also has a transparency that makes it unobtrusive. The soft puff of violet-scented powder makes it feminine and the musky amber drydown gives it substance. I can wear it through the summer as well as the cooler seasons. It’s one of those perfumes that never fails me.

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I can’t wait to jump over to Megan in Sainte Maxime and I Scent You a Day to see their choices. Make sure you do too and share your own ‘white shirt’ perfumes in the comments.

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Books I’ve Been Reading Lately

I decided to set some reading goals after all. I’m aiming for a total of 40 books this year which will be a real stretch. I’m also going to try and read one classic a month. I’m currently 2 books ahead of schedule and some great books over the last couple of months has certainly helped.

 

This Savage Song by V.E. Schwab

Victoria Schwab is a masterful fantasy writer and one of my favourites. She creates great worlds, characters and plots. This Savage Song is set in a dystopian America where people’s violent deeds have taken shape and formed monsters.  Most are the stuff of nightmares but August is a rare ‘Sunai’ who looks like a teenage boy and only feeds on the souls of sinners.  He becomes an unlikely ally of Kate, a girl who is trying very hard to be something she’s not in order to gain the approval of her Kingpin father. I enjoyed This Savage Song despite usually find dystopians too distressing. However, I’m reticient about reading the second part of the duology, His Dark Duet because I hear it’s absolutely heart-breaking. We’ll see if I can brave it at some point soon. 4/5

 

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Uprooted won a number of awards when it came out in 2014 but I was mainly drawn to it because it has a dark fairy-tale theme.  The plot revolves around a valley where a seventeen year-old girl is taken by the Dragon every ten years. It’s not a spoiler to reveal that the Dragon is actually a wizard. He is tasked with the duty of holding back the evil wood which threatens to swallow every village in the valley and beyond. The latest girl he has taken to his tower, Agnieszka, turns out to have gifts of her own and might just remind the Dragon of his humanity after centuries of detachment. I enjoyed it but it wasn’t the 5 star read I thought It’d be. The Dragon annoyed me immensely at the start and his character wasn’t really developed. Beautifully written and a gorgeous setting though. 3.75/5

 

Every Heart A Doorway by Seanan McGuire

This a strange and beguiling little book at just 173 pages. Eleanor West (whose perfume incidentally smells of dandelions and ginger snaps) runs a home for teenagers who’ve stumbled through doorways to other worlds but aren’t believed by their families. These places can be anywhere from Fairyland to the Underworld, but none of the children want to return, so when they do, they long to find a way back “home”.  It sounds dark and creepy – which it is – but it’s also quirky, humorous in parts and nicely written. Most of all though, I loved the idea of these doors appearing for the children out of need and sympathy. 4/5

 

The Bear and The Nightingale by Katherine Arden

The writing here is stunning to the point of hypnotic. It’s a gently moving plot but whenever I picked it up, I didn’t want to put it down again. I’ve rarely come across such beautiful, lyrical prose that is pitched just right, never overdone. The Bear and the Nightingale is the tale of a girl in medieval Rus’ with “second sight” who can see the old spirits living in the house and forest, but which the new Priest has made the rest of the villagers turn their backs on, with potentially disastrous consequences.

I adored the setting at the edge of the wilderness where the winters are all encompassing. The atmosphere Arden conjures is so vivid and yet dream-like. I also loved the main character, Vasya, for her openness, free-spirit and kind heart. This is the perfect book to read wrapped up on a cold, dark night and I’ve just started the sequel, The Girl in the Tower. 4.6/5

 

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

This 2017 novel is a complete gem. It’s tragicomic in the best way. I would go from smiling broadly to being troubled as we get more and more dark glimpses into Eleanor’s past. Overall though it’s a life-affirming read with lots of little references to everyday life in Britain. Eleanor lives alone in Glasgow and although she works in an office, she avoids talking to anyone. She tells herself she likes it this way because most people are inane idiots. However, it soon becomes apparent that Eleanor is very far from fine. Then a chance event throws her regularly into the path of the affable IT guy, Raymond.  I have so much love for Eleanor and this book, I can’t do anything but give it 5/5.

 

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde was no doubt a genius and it’s terrible that he was born into an era which essentially condemned him to death because of his sexuality. His cleverness radiates from the page.  I knew it was the story of man whose portrait ages while he stays youthful, but I didn’t realise the painting also reflects the state of his soul. The beautiful Dorian’s “friend” Lord Henry irritated me immensely with the way he constantly shows off his intellect and I started to think Wilde must have been the same. I enjoyed the book a lot more when I read that in his autobiography, Wilde said Lord Henry was what the world thought he was like, while in reality, he was akin to the much more reticent painter, Basil Hallward. The Picture of Dorian Gray is essentially a morality tale and watching an innocent become so thoroughly corrupted isn’t to my taste. Although I can appreciate it’s a great work, in terms of personal enjoyment I’m giving it 3.75/5

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Have you read a book you’d give five stars to this year? Can you recommend another book set in Russia?

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Iris Poudre by Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle

 

Notes: Bergamot, Orange, Palisander, Rosewood, Magnolia, Ylang-Ylang, Jasmine, Violet, Rose, Carnation, Lily, Aldehydes, Iris, Musk, Vanilla, Tonka Bean, Amber, Ebony Tree, Sandalwood and Vetiver

 

I don’t think there is a niche fragrance line I admire more than Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle and the perfume among them I love the most is Iris Poudre. I have sunk into it over this autumn/winter: there was a desire in me to take on its character as my own. It’s one of those rare fragrances that has become a part of me, managing to get under my skin as well as on top of it.

Iris Poudre was created by Pierre Bourdon and released in 2000. I can safely say it has pushed Hiris off the top spot as my favourite iris scent.

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When I’ve read reviews of Iris Poudre over the years they have tended to focus on the perfume’s old-school glamour.  This is because it eschews the more familiar metallic and vegetal facets of iris root in favour of something infinitely more refined and alluring. It highlights the pure luxury of orris butter which is prettied-up by the accompanying florals and given sparkle by a sheer veil of aldehydes.

Despite its name, Iris Poudre is not a powder-bomb but has just enough to make the link with the golden age of Hollywood; all red lips and glittering jewels. It strikes the perfect balance between classic and modern. It has a retro flavour but doesn’t read as vintage.

It starts out cool with gentle aldehydes tickling the senses like an icy chill. These aren’t the overly soapy or intense kind that can be off-putting, but silky and shimmering.

This is not a challenging perfume to wear – file under “effortless chic”. It’s curvaceous and figure-hugging but never restrictive.  It’s rare to find a fragrance that has an aura of sensuality and glamour but still feels comfortable. Iris Poudre is satisfyingly complex and the kind of perfume you can still get a thrill from time and time again.

The fragrance possesses style without being aloof or prim. It’s a boudoir scent extraordinaire, reminiscent of make-up, silk stockings, fur and supple powdered skin.

However, there is even more going on in Iris Poudre than that. There is greater depth and substance than the soft-focus image of a movie star would suggest. I’ve found there is strength behind the feather boa and a wilfulness beneath the come-hither eyes.

I suspect it’s the ambrette seed that does it. That vegetal musky essence which imbues fragrances with a subtle sexuality. It has a very distinct character which warms on skin over time and the pairing with slick musk amplifies the effect.

When I first owned Iris Poudre the ambrette eventually put me off enough to sell my bottle. I’m not sure if in the intervening years whether Iris Poudre has changed, or I have (probably both) but in any case, we are now a perfect match. 

 

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If you’ve missed it, be sure to check out Undina’s Entertaining Statistics post covering February’s Month of Iris.

 

 

 

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Morning Skincare: Two Serums from DECIEM

It’s taken me a while to catch on to the fact that it’s serums that make a real difference to your skin and not moisturiser. Now I’ve found a few I use regularly and have incorporated these two into my morning skincare routine.  Both are from brands under the umbrella of DECIEM “The Abnormal Beauty Company”.  Journalist and vlogger Nadine Baggott recently filmed a fascinating interview with the founder of DECIEM, Brandon Truaxe, which is well worth a watch if you’re into skincare.

I alternate these two serums each morning after a hydrating spritz and applying hyaluronic acid to my neck in the form of Multi Molecular Hyaluronic Complex by NIOD.

 

Copper Amino Isolate Solution 1% by NIOD

Another catchy name from NIOD. CAIS has become quite the cult product since its release, being thought to promote long-term skin health and combat the effects of skin ageing. Copper peptides are supposed to have multiple benefits including assisting with wound healing, collagen synthesis and anti-inflamatory responses.  Victoria of Bois de Jasmin didn’t think much of it  so I didn’t expect great things. However I found my skin really liked it. It seemed to soothe and strengthen my reactive skin.

It has very low viscosity (it’s like water!) and absorbs really well. The main reason I like it is that it feels healing on my cheek and neck which are constantly battling eczema. Maybe if you skin is already healthy you won’t notice a difference.

It comes in two bottles which you combine to create a bright blue liquid. A friend of mine doesn’t like face products that are blue, in the same way she doesn’t trust blue food, but I like it. It also smells faintly of rusty pipes which I don’t mind one bit. I’m sticking with it for now and will purchase the new improved CAIS 2 when I run out of the original formula. If the price of £38 for 15ml is a bit rich for you, The Ordinary are launching The Buffet + Copper Peptides 1% in the spring.

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Niacinamide 1% + Zinc 1% by The Ordinary

Niacinamide + Zine 1% regulates the skin’s sebum activity, reduces the appearance of blemishes and brightens skin tone. I use it because I have combination skin and this has noticeably helped to balance it out: I no longer have an oily T-Zone. I like The Ordinary’s version because it states it has a high 10% concentration of niacinamide (vitamin B3) whereas some don’t tell you the exact percentage. Paula’s Choice do a Niacinamide Booster at 10% but it costs considerably more then £5 for 30ml, at £40 for 20ml.

I really like the texture of this serum because although it combats oiliness, it doesn’t feel  drying.  I don’t use it at the same as my Vitamin C serum because this can cause a redness reaction.

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Do you use a serum in your morning skincare routine? Please share your choices in the comments. I love to hear what works for other people.

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A Month of Irises

Who needs roses on Valentine’s Day when you can have irises?

You may already be a reader of Undina’s excellent blog, but she came up with the idea of making February ‘A Month of Irises’.  There is a new post each week on Undina’s Looking Glass which she is adding to each day with a little iris-related review or fact, so do check in there for the rest of the month and share your SotD. Other bloggers are getting involved in the fun too and I’m hosting here on A Bottled Rose today.

I’ll be posting a full review of my current No.1 iris, Iris Poudre by Frederic Malle Editions de Parfums at the end of the month, but today I wanted to talk about another iris in my collection: 28 La Pausa by Les Exclusifs de Chanel.

 

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I own a 200ml vat of the original EdT and while it is notorious for poor longevity, strangely I don’t have any problems on that score. It would be tough to produce an iris-centric perfume that wasn’t elegant but I think you’d be hard pressed to find one more refined and coolly charming than this Chanel.

28 La Pausa is a silken iris, being low on rootiness and much more floral in character. I find it soothing and minimalist yet radiant. It stops short of aloof and floats pleasantly around me in the palest blue aura.

When I tried the new EdP version I found that it progressed rather too quickly to its vetiver base on my skin. However Victoria of Bois de Jasmin recently wrote that she prefers it, in her brilliant Top Ten of Winter Iris Perfumes so do see how you find it. That post also spawned galloping lemmings of On Lipstick from Maison Martin Margiela Replica and Mythique by Parfums DelRae.

Iris Silver Mist by Serge Lutens is surely the ne plus ultra of iris perfumes but it has too much of a cold knife edge for me to wear it comfortably. My “lottery win” iris would be Irisss by Xerjoff at £560 for 100ml.

Chanel No.19 EdT is the iris-forward perfume that is currently on my To Buy list. Another fantastic iris that I’m sure I’ll own one day is Prada’s Infusion d’Iris Absolu.

Some others that I admire and have reviewed in the past are Hermes Hiris, the white iris of Nirmal by Laboratorio Olfattivo, the moonlit Iris Nazarena from Aedes de Venustas and the fabulously smoky Iris Cendre by Naomi Goodsir.

If you missed it on Olfactoria’s Travels back in the day, you might be interested to read my write-up of Incredible Irises, an evening of iris at Perfume Lovers London. It features some background information about this luxurious ingredient as well as a good selection of scents.

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Please let us know in the comments which iris perfume you are wearing today or which one/s you love!

 

 

 

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Mood Scent 4: First Love Perfumes

Today, we as the joint blogging project Mood Scent, 4 are sharing the first perfumes we fell in love with. What memories do they recall? How do we feel about them now?

Unlike many British teenage girls in the 1980s, I didn’t go through a phase of wearing soft, feminine fragrances like Anais Anais or Lou Lou. No, I went straight for the hard stuff…

 

Mood scent purple

 

Obsession by Calvin Klein

Mandarin, orange blossom, bergamot, jasmine, rose, coriander, tagete, armoise, oakmoss and amber

I bought a small bottle of Obsession on a school trip to France and vividly remember a friend asking to try some on the ferry home. I couldn’t believe she was expecting me to open the brand new bottle and let her be the first one to use it. Me being me, I complied without a word. That tells you how much I coveted that bottle and the scent within. Looking back now, this classic 1980s power perfume seems way too strong for a teenager but I loved it. A heavy, musky amber is just about the opposite of anything I’d wear today.

 

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Parfum d’Ete by Kenzo

Mahogany, green leaves, lily-of-the-valley, freesia, peach, hyacinth, rose, jasmine, ylang-ylang, cycalmen, peony, narcissus, iris, sandalwood, oakmoss, cedar, musk and amber 

I went through quite a love affair with Kenzo perfumes at one point. I bought and thoroughly enjoyed their excellent fruity florals Le Monde Est Beau and Ca Sent Beau.  I remember trying the now discontinued version of Parfum d’Ete on skin for the first time at a department store. By the time I reached the exit I was so smitten I turned around, went straight back to the counter and bought a bottle.  It’s a pleasant, breezy scent with plenty of heft despite its lightweight feel.  Although the name meaning “summer fragrance”, it actually comes across as rather spring-like with its tender florals and green shoots full of water.

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Aromatics Elixir by Clinique

Sage, chamomile, verbena, geranium, jasmine, ylang-ylang, tuberose, rose, patchouli and oakmoss

I bought the 70s classic Aromatics Elixir when I started my first permanent office job and received lots of compliments on it. So much so that my mother, sister and boss all started wearing it too. It was unlike anything I’d come across before and I guess it was my first experience of a chypre. While I’d find it a bit too intense now, I still admire it. It’s such a distinctive, cohesive composition that is more than the sum of its parts, which are herbal, floral, woody and mossy.  My mum still wears it, 20 years later.

 

 

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Envy by Gucci

Hyacinth, magnolia, jasmine, lily-of-the-valley, iris, musk and woods

Owing to the popularity of Aromatics Elixir among those close to me, I had to find a new signature scent. I turned to Envy which had just been released in 1997 It was created by perfumer Maurice Roucel who composed the iconic Iris Silver Mist for Serge Lutens three years earlier and Musc Ravageur for Frederic Malle three years later. It’s such a clever perfume in my book because it takes the green floral as a theme and turns it into something sleek, chic and subtly sexy.

 

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Unfortunately Esperanza isn’t up to joining us today but don’t miss the First Love Perfumes of Megan In Sainte Maxime  and I Scent You A Day.

 

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Please share your own fragrant first loves in the comments below!

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Books I’ve Been Reading Lately – October 17 to January 18

Do you set reading goals in the New Year? I thought about doing it but decided against it. I don’t think finally finishing Sapiens counts. I’m going to continue to make an effort to read consistently and fairly broadly and try not feel guilty about indulging my love of fantasy.

Here’s what I got through over the last few months.

 

All the Harry Potter books by J K Rowling

Encouraged by a couple of friends, I finally read the seven Harry Potter books. I had thought it was pointless as I didn’t get to read them as a child (being too old) and disliked the first film. However, hardly a week goes by without some reference to Harry Potter.  I enjoyed the first few books but got properly hooked about midway through the third. From there on in, they just got better and better as the kids grow up and the plots get darker and more complex.

The final book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is nothing short of brilliant. If you’re a fan but haven’t checked it out already, J.K. Rowling’s Pottermore website is well worth a look. You can get sorted into your Hogwarts House and find out your Patronus. I dearly wanted the Sorting Hat to place me in Ravenclaw with the other dreamers – and it did!

 

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Christmas Past by Jodi Taylor

Another Christmas short story from the St. Mary’s Chronicles. What a treat. I especially enjoyed this one because it continues on from the last book in the series about a lovable bunch of time-travelling historians, rather than being a complete standalone. It amazes me how Jodi Taylor manages to mix humour in with dark themes so effortlessly. This quick read involves a journey back to Dickensian London to brighten the wretched lives of two young chimney sweeps on Christmas Eve.

 

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

This book has recently been made into a film by Steven Spielberg. It’s set in a dystopian near-future where people spend most of their time plugged into a virtual reality programme called the OASIS. In his Will, its creator states his multi-billion fortune will go to the first person who completes a quest within that virtual universe. He was obsessed with the books, comics, films and most of all, videogames, that he grew up with in the 1980s and the “Easter Egg hunt” is based on knowledge of the pop culture of the time. Therefore if you don’t remember the 80s, the constant references are likely to become tedious. The nostalgia the writer obviously feels for that era is half the pleasure of the book.  Being a child of the 80s myself and a fan of fantasy novels, I loved it.

 

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Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

Well this was a big mistake for the beginning of January. What a wretched tale of the cruel mistreatment of children and the horrors of the workhouse. Thank goodness Dickens brought awareness to this issue in the 19th Century but I did not need to read about it during a depressing start to the year. I picked it because after Ready Player One I wanted to swing back into the past. I have a weird tendency after finishing a book to want to read something that’s the polar opposite. I’d only read A Christmas Carol so wanted to try more Dickens and thought this one would be accessible. It wasn’t a difficult read and there was some justice and salvation, but overall the grimness didn’t make it worth my while.

 

Self-Compassion by Kristin Neff

I found this via self-improvement writer, Mark Manson’s recommendations of the 5 Best Books for Anxiety and Depression.

For those of us worrying we are not “winning at life”, self-compassion is the answer. You read a lot about self-care but fostering a kind, compassionate attitude to yourself is what really makes the difference. It can interupt the habit of regretting the past, beating yourself up in the present and fearing the future. People tend to pour scorn on self-help books but I have come across a handful that have totally shifted my perspective and changed my life for the better: this is one of them.

 

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Please share what you’ve been reading lately in the comments!

 

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