5 Books I Always Recommend (Part 2)

It’s back!  The book recommendation post series returns for the second installment.  So technically, it’s only just become a series…  Here it is, five more books that if you haven’t read, you need to shut up and read.  In my opinion, anyway.

Angela Carter – The Bloody Chamber

With shows like Once Upon a Time, Supernatural and Grimm tackling classic folklore and fairytales in their story arcs, I think it’s necessary to bring Angela Carter into the fray; ‘The Bloody Chamber’ takes the well-known tales we recognise from our childhood and twists them into beautifully crafted, sinister short-stories strictly for grown-ups.  The title story is a re-imagining of the folktale of Bluebeard, centring on the thoughts and feelings of the mysterious, bearded brute’s latest wife, a talented young pianist who discovers her husband’s secret and realises she is doomed to the same fate.  Carter herself has expressed displeasure at the idea that her collection is “adult”, but somehow I don’t know that stories which feature nods to bestiality and outright necrophilia could be described as anything but just that.

Jon Ronson – Psychopath Test

This month, the book club I host for Croydon Waterstones is moving and branching into two separate groups – one for fiction, one for non-fiction.  I’m looking forward to the chance to read and discuss some interesting non-fiction titles, because it’s only in the last few years that I’ve taken an interest in such books.  ‘The Psychopath Test’ is a great place to start for anyone wanting to expand their reading choices to include factual books as it is easy to read while informative, as well as being written in Ronson’s inimitable self-deprecating and witty style.  His books tend to be about people on the margins of society; having previously written about conspiracy theories and weird, top-secret experiments in his other books, this book focuses on the world of psychopaths – including some bizarre and sometimes frightening encounters with psychopaths and criminals.  He includes the checklist of characteristics and signs that lead to being diagnosed as psychopathic, and once you’ve read the book you’ll find yourself noticing these characteristics in people you meet, perhaps even people you already know.

Joe Hill – Horns

I’ve spoken before of my love for Stephen King, and while browsing for his books on Amazon, the website recommended a book by Joe Hill named “Heart Shaped Box’, pitching it to me as a good old fashioned ghost story brought up to date with a helping of rock ‘n’ roll.   I figured what the hell – it was his debut novel, it was a hardback and it was on offer.  It was an enjoyable novel, but his second full-length novel is the one I’d recommend.  ‘Horns’ starts with the main character, Ig Perrish, waking with the hangover from hell – quite literally; Ig looks in the mirror to find horns growing on his forehead.  These horns have a strange effect on people around him, who start to tell him things that they normally wouldn’t reveal and as this starts on the anniversary of the brutal rape and murder of his girlfriend, Ig finds that people are telling him things that he doesn’t want to hear.  Hill’s style of writing is both modern and gothic, with elements reminiscent of Stephen King – which makes even more sense when you learn that Hill is King’s son, and uses a pen name to make his own career without the association.  ‘Horns’ is raw, scary, heartbreaking and brutal.  If you’re not afraid of supernatural elements in your fiction, you should read this book!

Philip Pullman – The Good Man Jesus & The Scoundrel Christ

I’d never read anything by Philip Pullman before, but I was aware of the comments that his work is staunchly atheist; as I’ve mentioned before, I have an interest in religion (although I don’t follow one myself) and find that it can be boring to hear atheists talk about how great atheism is, so I was unsure about what to expect from this book given its title.  But I was blown away by it.  How about if instead of Jesus Christ being one man, he was actually two brothers – one charismatic and good, the other manipulative and cunning?  Created by Pullman as part of the Canongate Myth series, where authors have written stories around characters from myths for a contemporary audience – this contrasts to Angela Carter’s stories, which have an older literary style.  I’ll be checking out more of the series when I can.

Michael Sandel – Justice

So this book is basically my bible.  I often wonder why people make the choices they do, whether they are motivated by religion, civic duty, greed, or any other influence.  Michael Sandel’s book, based on his Harvard lecture series of the same name (available on his website via the hyperlink), challenges you with thought experiments and hypothetical situations where there is no clear answer; rather, you are supposed to assess your own ethics, and learn the motives of people with different options to you.  I would highly recommend watching the lectures on his website, or better still reading the book.  I stumbled across the lecture series when it was shown on BBC4 a few years ago, and I’ll admit I was roped in by the discussion of high art vs ‘low’ art, where Sandel uses examples of Simpsons episodes and Shakespeare to question what makes something art. He also tackles some really weighty stuff – when I got to the chapter on Kant’s philosophy I thought my brain was melting, and I found myself reading paragraphs through twice or more to get the point properly into my head.  But it will have you exploring and defending your opinion on topics like surrogacy, conscription and even taxes, and with plenty of pop culture and historical examples he makes the content accessible as well as interesting.  Sandel’s latest book, “What Money Can’t Buy” is out in hardback at the moment, and only comes out in paperback in 2013 – I will definitely be investing in that when it becomes available.


Why I Love…Leopard Print

As Helen said in her Nail Art post, I love leopard print. As a pattern it’s my favourite followed by polka dots and stripes. But it can be done/worn/used badly. You see it all the time. Just like you see people walking down the street wearing styles that don’t suit them. I don’t want to say that all women should be a certain size. They shouldn’t. But by learning what shapes suit you, everyone could look amazing – without the help of Gok Wan. This is probably a separate issue but does, in a way, link to leopard print. The wearing of it.

I’ve previously mentioned my love for Marilyn Monroe, Scarlett Johnasson and Diane Kruger and this post links them with leopard print too. Cos they’re great.

One key note I would make about leopard print is that one item is usually enough. In the same way that I think double denim is the worst crime against fashion: two pieces of leopard print are unlikely to match. But if they did then that would look too matchy-matchy. It’s a conundrum. Or, just don’t do it.

So here are some examples from the top down. Pretty much:

Audrey Hepburn

An iconic sixties photo with a leopard print pillbox hat. Although the photo only shows the top-half of Hepburn we can see that she’s wearing a classically tailored white trenchcoat. The leopard print pattern is the key aspect of her outfit and she would be overpowered if the rest of what she was wearing was too fussy.

Marilyn Monroe in ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’

My second favourite Monroe film. If there was a way to casually wear this shawl on a day-to-day basis, I would try it. As with Hepburn, this outfit is simple. The focus is on the shawl and, because it is so close to her face, Monroe.

Scarlett Johansson in a black pencil skirt with a leopard print blouse. A way to wear leopard print to work. Also a great look for someone pear shaped. The black pencil skirt emphasises the waist, skims over the hips and the leopard print highlights the bust as a way of balancing the body out. This emphasis would make someone “top heavy” look a little bigger. Hourglass Johansson has the best of both. Of course.

A photo of Johansson modelling a leopard print coat. Why wouldn’t I use it?

Kate Moss in her leopard print coat. I remember reading in some fashion magazine that Moss was a key factor in bringing leopard print back in the ’90s. I think that’s why I didn’t love it back then. But a coat is a great stand-out piece. You just have to be careful what you wear it with.

Scarlett Johansson modelling for Mango.

If you didn’t want to shop at Mango before you do now, right? (Bear in mind this was a few years ago.) I think a leopard print cardigan is one of those wardrobe staples. I wear mine ALL THE TIME. With jeans, skirts, shorts, dresses. Anything. That doesn’t have too much of a print about it. But even some of the stuff I wear it with is more detailed than my mum would like. But, she has issues with a lot of my wardrobe and I don’t listen to that.

Christian Dior 1947 Leopard Print Dress

Here is a Christian Dior classic. The leopard print dress is a classic and is simply accessorised. This is a classic way of wearing the pattern. My worst nightmare would be this dress worn with leopard print shoes and leopard print clutch. Just the thought is making me shiver.

Iconic Monroe photo taken by Eve Arnold.

So the image of Johansson above has her wearing a leopard print body. Personally I’ve never understood this new obsession with bodies. It’s a leotard right? I didn’t like wearing a leotard when I took dancing lessons, why would I wear one during an entire day? To counter this, there’s Monroe in a leopard print swimsuit. If I had Monroe’s figure I would, wouldn’t you?

Johansson’s leopard print pencil skirt has the shape of the 40s/50s but the punky hair, slogan t-shirt and the studded leather jacket bring it right back. Not to mention the loudness of that patterned skirt. I love this outfit. And have you seen the shoes?

Diane Kruger

Leopard print shoes are another of my wardrobe staples. I’ve just bought a new pair because my others are so damaged from over wear. Have I thrown that pair away though? No. They’ve still got some time. Here, Diane Kruger wears them to brighten up a black jumpsuit. This is how I’d wear them. A little black dress but you don’t want it to look too dark? Leopard print shoes. I do the same with bright coloured shoes as well. An interesting feature is great for an outfit.

Leopard print scarves. Another accessory that can brighten an outfit. You can get away with a lot more with a scarf. Something that I need to own. But, as with everything I’ve said before, I wouldn’t combine it with other leopard print items.

A leopard print bag. Probably a hard one. I would get a clutch for evening wear but not a day bag because, generally speaking, my wardrobe planning is so limited I would inadvertently have a leopard print bag with a leopard print cardigan and be mad at myself all day. I have other reasons to be mad at myself, I don’t need over leopard print-ing to be one.

(If any of this has come across as condescending or arrogant that was not my intention. A last minute fear of personality discrepancies as viewed over the internet.)

S x

P.S. If I had the patience I would definitely do the leopard print nails. But then back away from wearing leopard print. But that’s just me.

Happy Nolan Day!

It’s all about the pocket square in today’s HND post. Pocket squares add that extra flourish to any suit, and Nolan pulled it off perfectly at the Graysons’ Indepdence Day party:

He went all out with the whole ‘red white and blue’ theme, huh?

I also love the fact that he’s wearing two shirts here and popped one of the collars. Very geeky.

N.B. I love the style of Emily’s dress too, it’s very feminine, and the red colour adds a bit of drama.

“Would you like a gun as a side dish for that plate of food, sir?”

He should definitely wear these more often.

Revenge Season 1 Episode 14 (‘Perception’) is on tonight at 9pm on E4.


Youtube Nail Art Binge

Oh god I can’t stop watching nail art tutorials.  I need help.  I go through a  cycle with my nails.


… and so on.

Over on our friend @LydiarghGrace’s blog, she featured a list of nail art pictures from when she suffered the same fate that many girls go through – the endless trap of watching tutorials for making awesome nail art.  Her post sort of had a theme, as it was featured in her Geek-to-Chic bit.  Now, I’m not much of a geek and I couldn’t handle chic if I tried, so here’s some of my favourite nail art tutorials that I have either tried or watched while hugging my knees and crying because I lack the dexterity and concentration to create such awesome nails.

Vintage flowers, rose prints

Video by Violet LeBeaux

I’ve tried this one before and I’m not exaggerating when I say you need that god damn nail art brush.  Toothpicks and hairpins just won’t do, I’m telling you. But isn’t this gorgeous?  I tend to struggle with really girly, elegant things and so this didn’t suit me much, but if you’re the Cath Kidston type, then I reckon this is the nail art for you.

Ombre nails

I LOVE this style, I love love love it.  I think it looks best on mid-length to long nails rather than short, because you get the best effect with blending the colours and whether you want it to be subtle or have an impact there’s something for everyone.

Video by MissChievous

This is an example of a more glitzy style of ombre nail, and while I quite dislike glittery nail varnish (I used to love it, so this might change in the future) I love how this one looks.  Over on the MissChievous channel there are loads of great tutorials for nails, one of which features later on.  There’s another video by NikkieTutorials which features a great colour combination of bright yellow, bright pink and purple.  I’ve hyperlinked the video rather than featured it because I don’t think it’s actually that good of a tutorial, partly because she doesn’t properly remove the excess polish from around her nails and her nails are grubby as fuck at the start – you’d think someone would clean their nails before filming them, jeez.

Anything by CutePolish

I’m serious, anything by this girl.  She’s incredible.  There’s no theme she can’t do – peacock nails, tuxedo nails, Sesame Street nails – even friggin’ Nyan Cat nails.  She has a really clear and relaxed way of describing her designs and how to do them, plus she doesn’t just rely on her nails and polish.  She really commits!  There’s a few that require you to print stuff out and stick them to your nails, but it always looks awesome once you’re finished.  I’m using a few of her videos later on in this post but for now, here’s three of my favourite videos, including her brilliant April Fool’s polar bear tutorial.

Newspaper nail art

Yeah it’s a CutePolish video again.  This is a design I’ve only recently seen, and I reckon would actually be easy to do but difficult to pull off.  I used a different technique that does not require rubbing alcohol, just water.

I didn’t take to it because I used white as a base colour, and my skin tone doesn’t really accommodate bright colours all that well.

Five Finger Nail Art

That’s my name for the kind of nail art that uses all your fingernails with a different design on each to make one big design.  It takes dedication to commit to something like that, I think.  A common one is the bumble bee nail art; there’s one by CutePolish (obviously) but here I’m going to include one by the adorable and crazy talented Bubz Beauty:

How cute is that?  That’s one I reckon I could do, if it weren’t for the fact that all my nail polishes are just variations on the same pink/nude colour.

Animal Print

Our very own Sophia is a fan of leopard print, and in the last year or so the leopard print nail art has really taken off once people have seen how easy it is to do.  Here’s another video courtesy of CutePolish.

If you don’t have the special nail art brush, you can use a toothpick of a hairpin to get the narrow lines and dots.  I know I’m starting to sound like a CutePolish fan-girl, but I don’t care – here’s one more video from her, and you will LOVE this design:

I’ve also tried this one, and I used the matte topcoat from ELF Cosmetics.  It works really fast and has a fantastic effect.  Again, I used a toothpick to create the lines on my nails.  The next day my mum had me helping in the garden and my hard work was ruined, but it was lovely while it lasted.

Marble Nails

I accidentally found out about marble nails, and I can’t remember how but I do remember trying a whole bunch of the videos before finding – you guess it – CutePolish.  Her’s really is the best one, as the other videos kind of made me feel sick somehow – they overload the water with polish, film their videos in poor light giving the whole thing a yellowish tone, and don’t bother cleaning round their nails at the end of the video.  Bit nauseating.  Anyway, here’s the golden girl’s video for marble nail art that totally works.  Her tips about the temperature of the water and quality of the nail polish are spot on – I used old-ish nail polish in cold-ish water, and I ended up with just blobs of nail polish dropping to the bottom of the bowl.  The effects are brilliant and always different.  Love this!

Manicured Nails

I’m not talking about those white tips and fake nails.  I mean just healthy, well-looked after nailed with a nice clear or nude colour over the top.  Often, this beats out the nail designs for me – it can give you a real confidence boost to just have a nice basic manicure displaying your clean, neat nails and I think it’s a lot more feminine to wear your nails this way sometimes.  MissChievous features a great video on doing an at-home manicure on her channel, which she finishes with painting her nails red but it’s worth watching through to the end for her tips on how to properly paint your nails in 3 strokes.

So come on, girls, what are you waiting for?  Get on it!

Saw This And Thought It Was Cool

So my Fringe re-watch reminded me of this clip. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never watched Fringe, but who here has never watched an episode of Dawson’s Creek? For that reason, watch and enjoy this brilliant funny or die clip. Yes, I’m aware it was published about two years ago.


(I’m actually very sad that I can’t embed the video. It might be the computer I’m on, or the site. Either way – I’m sorry.)

S x

Saw This And Thought It Was Cool

For my Superhero Saturday post yesterday I spent a fair amount of time on youtube. I also found this and wanted to put it on the blog but separately from the James Marsters post. This is hilarious but again, only watch if you’ve seen all of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. It’s making me want to stop my Fringe re-watch.

S x

Saw This And Thought It Was Cool

It’s me, Helen here.  I don’t normally do these STATIWC posts, largely because I have a poor sense of style – if you ever see a roaming gang of DTSFT ladies, you’ll recognise me as the one with the scuffed shoes, tracksuits bottoms and food-stained top.  That’s kind of my uniform, but you don’t see me bragging about it, jeez.

Anyhoo, one thing I love is big, stupid jewellery – you know, the stuff that’s as subtle as Lethal Bizzle song and almost as jarring.  One website I love is www.galibardy.com – handmade, funky jewellery that actually manages to be cool, different AND not totally ugly.  One of my favourite pieces from her current catalogue is this:

Holy crap, it’s massive isn’t it?  I want it so damn much – and it’s only £12!  Some of the stuff on her website is a lot pricier, but this is, in my opinion, the best thing on there at the moment.  It’s a little bit Big Brother, Illuminati-esque… but that’s not a bad thing, right?  Regardless of the fact that the utterly dreadful Rita Ora seems to be a fan, Galibardy’s stuff is awesome.

There also this one:

I don’t actually like the look of this one that much, but check it out here.  Here’s the plan: Fill it with melted chocolate, then go about your business, giving it time to cool and set.  Snack-time rolls around, just crack open that pendant, my friend – you’ve got yourself a chocolate cat.  THAT’S THE DREAM!  I’d say a reusable chocolate cat cast is worth the asking price of £28, wouldn’t you?

If you see something you like, you’d better snap it up quick – the items change all the time and once they’ve gone, they’ve gone!  You can get updates about new products via Galibardy’s Facebook page.