Monthly Archives: March 2019

Reading Diary – February/March 2019

Book people tend to categorise themselves as either a ‘character-based reader’ or a ‘plot-based reader’. Character studies with little plot aren’t enough to keep me interested in a book but at the same time, I’m happy with slow-paced books if I like the overall mood of the world in which they’re set. I have therefore decided that I am an ‘atmosphere-based reader’.

Equal Rites (Discwolrd 3) by Terry Pratchett

“Hilta laughed like someone who had thought hard about Life and had seen the joke.”

This is the first Discworld book I’ve read. I’ve been put off it up to this point because I’m not generally a fan of zany humour and was concerned this wouldn’t be to my taste (as much as I’m a fan of fantasy). I decided to give Equal Rites a try because it’s the first in the Witches series and I liked the premise of a young girl accidentally inheriting a wizard’s powers.

I thoroughly enjoyed myself from start to finish. The world is fascinating and the characters are excellent with the relationship between young Esk and Granny Weatherwax being a complete joy. It’s funny and often silly, but not absurd to the point of being annoying. The writing is pleasingly clever and there is a strong plot.

Generally, I just loved hanging out in the Discworld. There is something warm and comforting about it that soothed my frazzled nerves – perfect light-hearted escapism. I decided to carry on with the next book. 5/5

 

Equal_Rites

 

Mort (Discworld 4) by Terry Pratchett

I bought Mort as it’s the next book in the Discworld and I’d heard good things about it. Unfortunately, I would have been better off continuing with the Witches series. I liked Mort as a character and there was good comic value in Death but the rest of the cast left me cold. This meant I wasn’t engaged with the quest to rescue one of them. There were still some nice ideas, funny moments and clever writing as you’d expect from Terry Pratchett but I never really got on board with it and just wanted to finish the book so I could get back to the witches. 2.5/5

 

The Colour of Magic (Discworld 1) by Terry Pratchett

Portia is a big fan of the Discworld series and told me that I should never have bothered with Mort and to go back to the first book, so I did. It made sense because this book gives you a fair amount of background to the world. Unfortunately, The Colour of Magic was everything I was concerned this series would be – convoluted and all over the place. I didn’t care for the craven wizard, Rinsewind or the irritatingly naïve tourist, Twoflower. Some lines were amusing but it was more like a collection of a stories than a cohesive narrative, with the pair being involved in one surreal episode after another. I did learn more about the world but I barely got through it. Although I still want to read Wyrd Sisters, this has sadly put me off for now. 1.5/5

 

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

“The beauty of this world where almost everyone was gone. If hell is other people, what is a world with almost no people in it?”

You can’t get much further away from the Discworld than a post-apocalyptic thriller – not a genre I normally read. I’d heard a lot about Station Eleven but what got me to try it is the fact it was often described as atmospheric and elegiac.

The book starts off with Day Zero of the flu pandemic that will wipe out 99% of the globe’s inhabitants in a matter of days.  The story is set around the Great Lakes where we follow the stories of a number of interconnected characters in different time periods before, during and after the collapse of civilisation. Twenty years hence, we follow a travelling band of musicians and actors performing Shakespeare to the disparate settlements.

This isn’t just a tale of survival. it’s about what really sustains us when everything is stripped away, how our lives touch those of others, how we can sleepwalk through our lives and what matters when all is said and done.

It’s a thought-provoking, gripping read. 5/5

 

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Fear: Essential Wisdom for Getting Through The Storm by Thich Nhat Hanh

“To meditate with mindful breathing is to bring body and mind back to the present moment so that you do not miss your appointment with life.”

I’ve wanted to read the teachings of Zen Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, for ages. My recent determination to give mindfulness a proper go gave me the impetus I needed to pick this up. It covers fear in a whole range of circumstances from death and personal relationships to terrorism. There are then exercises for incorporating mindfulness into your daily life. I’m a dreamer, so mindfulness will always be a struggle for me but I know it’s practice, rather than something you master. 3.5/5

 

fear

 

What are you reading this spring?

 

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Skincare Serums – GOW

The launch of budget skincare brand The Ordinary got me seriously into skincare a few years ago. However, the more I learnt and watched YouTube vloggers, the more I bought  into expensive products. Now I’m stripping it all back and concentrating on well formulated serums with active ingredients at a reasonable price. I don’t want to spend over the odds for gorgeous packaging or coveted brands.

Garden of Wisdom (GOW)

I had limited success with The Ordinary and when they parted ways with Victoria Health I was interested to see that it was replaced with a number of products from an American brand, Garden of Wisdom, which they reformulated and repackaged. I’ve been using three of the serums for a couple of months now and am extremely happy with them.

“All Garden of Wisdom products are cruelty free, suitable for vegetarians and free from alcohol and silicones. Garden of Wisdom uses as few ingredients as possible to allow the actives to reach the deeper layers of skin to improve the appearance of skin.”

 

Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant which combats the damage done by pollution and UV exposure. It also has a skin brightening effect. However the formula has to be stable and at a decent percentage. The GOW offering is Vitamin C 23% + Ferulic Acid (£10 for 30ml) and has a pleasant cream formulation which isn’t too grainy or sticky.

It contains the gold standard of Vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid). I could tell it is a high strength from the sharp tingle I felt on my skin the first few times I applied it, however my skin has become accustomed to it. The air-tight packaging with pump is very welcome although after a couple of weeks it started to catapult the product across the room so I had to cup my hand over it. At this price it’s not a deal-breaker.

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Peptides boost collagen which keeps skin plump and bouncy. GOW’s Anti-Aging Multi-Peptide Serum (£20 for 30ml) is a clear, almost jelly-like serum that has a hydrating effect thanks to the presence of hyaluronic acid. It feels lovely on the skin. It can be used over the Vitamin C.

Niacinamide is another ingredient with proven skin benefits. It helps regulate oil production, improves the skin’s barrier function (preventing dehydration) and minimises dark spots. I found the Ordinary’s Niacinamide very drying but I’ve had no such problems with GOW’s Niacinamide Serum (£9 for 30ml). I use it on nights I’m giving my skin a break from retinols or on weekend mornings when I’m not using Vitamin C.GardenOfWisdom_SD-1024x681

I’m going to continue with these products and intend to repurchase when they run out.

Let me know in the comments whether you use any serums in your skincare routine and if you’ve tried GOW.

All products purchased by me. 

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Strange Tales from the Cookie Kitchen.

“But today there is no day or night, Today there is no dark or light, Today there is no black or white, Only shades of gray.”   Shades of Gray by The Monkees.

I returned from the Dominican Republic to find MJ dead.  He had overdosed the night before.  My first love, my partner of eight years, the person I had moved to Amsterdam with.

My father died in 1971.  MJ´s father died in 1975.  No one teaches you how to deal with the pain and we both carried the scars.

College 1978.  I was sat in the common room, listening to Spirit’s The Twelve Dreams of Doctor Sardonicus, when MJ walked through the door.  Barefoot, ripped jeans, long curly black hair, an earring, and John Lennon glasses.   It was love on the spot.  Who hears warning bells at eighteen?

I was fourteen when I went to see Stardust. It was the 1974 sequel to the film That’ll be the Day.  It follows the fictional band, the Stray Cats,  who were David Essex, Keith Moon, Paul Nicholas and Peter Duncan.  Essex, a real-life pop star, playing the rise and fall of Jim Maclaine, fictitious pop star.  Managed by Mike, played by Adam Faith.   Kind of mixture between fiction and reality.

Spellbound from the start,  I was in the film every step of the way.  The music, the clothes, the drugs, the glamour.  I was living it.   Jim Maclaine, who had become a megastar and split from his band, was being used and abused by the business; and eventually goes to live in Spain in a castle, becoming a  recluse, his manager in tow.  No one has seen him for two years,  at which point he is talked into giving a live interview, in his castle, which he absolutely does not want to do.   As he sits in front of the cameras, he starts to talk,  but makes no sense.  Publicly there was triumph but privately disintegration.  Mike realises that Jim has OD’d, calls an ambulance and goes and pulls him out of the press circus.   You see him carried out and put into the ambulance on a stretcher.  And then he dies.

I was absolutely blindsided and started to cry.  I could not stop.  I wept all the way home, and as I went into the house, my mother came running, asking what was wrong.  I kept crying.  She told me it was only a film, but it was so much more than that.  I felt that I had known Jim, and my heart was broken.  I cried for the rest of the night, a deep pain in my chest.

MJ and I spent the next nine years together, the last two of them in Amsterdam.   A couple of busts.  A shitload of fabulous music, the punk years, the club years, the festivals years.   No TV but always a good sound system.  Music day and night;  reggae, punk, hippie, psychedelic;  Stooges, Velvets, The Clash, Stones, Talking Heads, Grace Jones, the music that accompanied the slow descent into a heavier scene.  Funny stories, sad stories and some quite terrifying stories.

MJ. 1959 – 1989.  I loved not only him, but his amazing family too.  And still do.

I had not been back in Amsterdam for 36 hours from the Dominican Republic, when I found myself on the way to the airport to meet his mother and brother. off of a plane.  I was in total shock.  It would be some time before I was able to cry, my heart so broken that the pain had not yet set in.

 

MJ

 

“It was easy then to know what was fair, when to keep and when to share, How much to protect your heart, And how much to care, But today there is no day or night, Today there is no dark or light, Today there is no black or white, Only shades of gray, Only shades of gray.

CQ of APJ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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