Autumnal Fashion Favourites – Capes, Shoes and Handbags.

So, the nights are drawing in, there’s a chill in the air, and the leaves have dropped and are brown underfoot. Autumn has officially arrived, and this season has given rise to a change in fashion, a change in taste, and a change in what I find enjoyable. Like spring, autumn is one of those transitional times of years where you can certainly feel a change in the air. Halloween is fast approaching, I’ve already seen the first Christmas advert, and I find myself steering away from the kimonos and maxi dresses of this past few months, and back into thick tights and warm outerwear. So I thought I’d give you a quick overview of my autumnal favourites.

Capes/Blanket Wraps

(New Look Fur-Trimmed Blanket Wrap – £24.99 (Discontinued online but available within shop)

How excellent are capes?! With  the wind getting cooler, and a definite touch of frost nipping at my arms as I walk to work, I’ve found myself dragging my cape over my shoulders. And for me, capes or blanket wraps are the perfect fashion must-have for these colder months. Not only have they been the favourite autumn/winter staple for the last few years, they seem to be the perfect finishing touch to a variety of outfits and styles. You can dress them down with jeans, jumper and boots for the day, and then use it as a stylish cover-up over a dress and heels for the night. Also what I love about capes is that, as somebody who runs quite warm throughout the year, I sometimes find winter jackets and hoodies restricting. I usually find myself ripping them off throughout the day when I get too hot, but their bulkiness makes them difficult to carry. So the brilliance of capes are that they can be easily tucked away in some moderate-sized handbag. Also, if you add a belt, you can transform this sometimes, shapeless design into a gorgeous waist-flaunting piece of fashion. And for all us curvy girls, who sometimes find the coat-over-chest size an issue, the cape is comfortable and wide enough to cover these areas without appearing too shapeless.

And what I love about my particular cape is the fur collar. Because no matter when I wear it, I feel like a Russian princess!

Handbags

(Louis Vuitton Speedy Bandouliere 30 in Monogram Canvas – £790)


Now, this isn’t a typical young adult piece of fashion. This is high-end and with a matching high-price. But I have been blessed with this bag as a graduation present, and it definitely had to come in my Autumn Favourites. The Speedy 30, originally designed in the 1930s, has become a staple bag for wannabe handbag collectors, and usually one of the first pieces that they own. And I was no different. With the monogram canvas design, calfskin handles and beautiful design (honestly this bag can hold so much!) this bag can seamlessly move between day-to-night, and even as an overnight bag. Also, with the Bandouliere design, this comes with a strap that can be adjusted to be shoulder-carrying, or even cross-body, so for that added comfort and security. As well as being a fashion classic, this bag is perfect for autumn as it has a muted colour scheme that fits in well with the typical autumnal colours of browns, reds and purple, and it also is sturdy enough to survive being rained on, strong winds and probably even snow. I just love this bag. And there will be a proper blog post linked here.

Shoes

(Black Over-The-Knee Block Heel Boots – New Look £44.99)

and

(Cat face ballet shoes – George for Asda £8)

So, with winter coming, the shoes that I’m now veering towards are quite different from my summer flipflops and lacey flats. And recently, I’ve bought two pairs of shoes that have completely revolutionised my wardrobe.

The first are these over-the-knee block boots from New Look. Now, as a girl who has been blessed with significantly musclear calves and thighs, I find buying boots on the high street a very difficult and limited task. Either they have to be built for people with wider calves – and these completely swamp my thinner ankles and make my boots sag – or I have to just go for ankle-length ones, which is completely fine, but isn’t what I want in a winter boot. But recently, after a random trip into my local New Look and having a peruse around the shoe department, I stumbled upon these boots that miraculously fit snugly over my calves without any zippers or stretchy panels, and even went up to my knees.

These boots are faux-suede, and very cosy for these colder months. With the over-the-knee design, they offer that little more warmth and protection for your knees and lower thigh, as well as making you look a little like a super-hero. The block heel isn’t too high that it looks out of place for a regular boot, and they can easily be worn over jeans for a casual day look, or with tights for a dressier nighttime. And for £45, it isn’t too high a price. So I’d definitely recommend these boots! And for all those girls out there who don’t know whether they’ll fit, go in and try them on! I have worn mine to death, as they look and feel good, plus they fit over my calves and flatter my legs. So click here if you want to buy them.

And the second pair of shoes I bought are these adorable cat-face ballet shoes. Now, I have lusted over the Charlotte Olympia Kitty flats for a long time, but at nearly £400, I just couldn’t afford them. But when I was flicking through a fashion magazine and stumbled upon this £8 supermarket alternative, I just knew I had to have them. Despite being labelled as a ‘slipper’, these are perfect for the crisp autumnal weather, and with a subtle cat face design, and a gorgeous velvet exterior, these shoes may not be suitable for wet days, but are an adorable alternative to the staple black-ballet pumps that should be in every girl’s wardrobe. And for £8? Absolute bargain.

So, these are my go-to autumnal fashion favourites. Links to items will be listed below if they are available online, and if not, try in your local shops or through catalogues. But let me know in the comments if you have any autumnal fashion favourites!

-Alice x

Links to accessories!

Cape – (Alternative Colour Online) 

Handbag – Louis Vuitton Speedy Bandouliere 30

Boots – Over the Knee Block Heel

Ballet Pump – Out of Stock 

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The Secret History by Donna Tartt – Book Review

Title: The Secret History

Author: Donna Tartt

Rating: 5/5

Genres: Whydunnit, Adult Fiction, Crime Fiction, Inverted Detective Novel


“Does such a thing as ‘the fatal flaw,’ that showy dark crack running down the middle of a life, exist outside literature? I used to think it didn’t. Now I think it does. And I think that mine is this: a morbid longing for the picturesque at all costs.”

When people to ask me, an English graduate and self-confessed bibliophile, ‘so what is your favourite book?’, it sends my mind reeling. Do I pick from my childhood loves of Harry Potter, or do I go to my Gothic favourites of Dracula or Wuthering Heights, or do I even bring out the doorstopper of a novel, Gone with the Wind? It honestly is one of the hardest questions I’ve ever had to answer. But I do usually narrow it down to a few select books, and have justified reasons for so. And within this, Donna Tartt’s The Secret History is always there.

Now known as a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, and with massive international acclaim, Tartt and her The Secret History is not an unknown book or author, and nor is it one that quietly unappreciated. As a debut novel, and written in 1992, The Secret History had an initial print run of 75,000 copies (which is a big deal, considering the usual print run is 10,000) and it instantly became a best-seller. In her literary life, Tartt has only written three fictional books, yet she has amassed a huge following, and whenever I read her books, I find myself feeling so unbelievably small when you experience the genius way she crafts sentences and plots.

So, through this brilliantly more-ish and highly addictive tale, the reader meets Richard Papen, as he gives the recollections of his time as a freshman in an imposing and highly prestigious college in Vermont. And whilst in this college, Richard quickly falls under the allure of the reclusive and almost other-worldly Classics students, and quickly becomes friends with them all. But as he falls further into the group, and the complexities that they all have, Richard finds himself tangled up in a web of terrifying crime, ancient Grecian traditions, and tragic circumstance which ultimately ends up in the murder of one of the group members by the rest of them.

Labelled as more of a ‘whydunit’ rather than a ‘who’, the novel explores the ideas of increasing anxieties, builds up of tensions, unavoidable circumstances and the panic that comes with guilt. So this novel could happily run with detective fiction anytime, and as it is written in such an excellent way, it really gives the reader the sense of actually being there, committing the crime and reaping the consequences. As the text deals with a very Classics-heavy theme, this novel certainly has elements of a ‘Greek tragedy’ to it. With whole unavoidable circumstances, hamartia, fatal flaws and an overall ‘tragic’ element, the ancient Grecian world does impact on the text. And I, as a once-Classics student, really appreciated it. But this novel can be easily read by any person who is hungry for a satisfying and stimulating read. The novel also would appeal to readers who like the ‘campus’ genre of fiction, as the college that they all attend is beautifully described, and makes you wish you could see Vermont throughout the seasons.

Through her writing, Tartt has really reached down to the subconscious of the human mind and has, therefore, made characters so unique and realistic that you cannot help picturing and drawing from them. With the complex nature of Henry – who is, by far, my most favourite character – Tartt has given him enough depth, personality and mystery to make him a puzzle. And even with Richard, who as the protagonist and newcomer to the group could seem a little flat compared to the rest of the students, he seems realistic, and gives the reader an outsider view on the strange group of students that he becomes friends with.

The novel doesn’t seem to drag, but tease the audience with little tidbits here and there, and makes the ending well-done and highly satisfying. This text works brilliantly as a stand-alone piece of work, and there isn’t necessarily anything else Tartt could have done to make it better. Easily labelled as a modern classic, Tartt is really an author to read and watch out for. I know that I am highly anticipating the next novel.

Links:

To buy the book – Waterstones
/Amazon

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo – Book Review.

Title: Shadow and Bone

Author: Leigh Bardugo

Rating: 3/5

Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult, Adventure, Teenage Fiction


“This was his soul-made flesh, the truth of him laid bare in the blazing sun, shorn of mystery and shadow. This was the truth behind the handsome face and the miraculous powers, the truth that was the dead and empty space between the stars, a wasteland peopled by frightened monsters.”

As an avid reader, I picked up Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone, and thought it just to be another teenage fantasy novel that has drawn me in with the beautiful front cover and promising blurb, yet could not deliver on the promises it made. However, little did I know, that it would also appeal to my historian side. Because, not only is this a well-written, addictive and well-thought out novel, but it is based on my favourite period on history, which is late Tsarist Russia. So, instantly I had to devour it. And I am so pleased that I did.

Set primarily in the once-great nation of Ravka, the reader gets drawn into the turmoil and horror that is plaguing the country. Despite its size, mountainous regions, legends, and historical cities, the country has been ravaged and divided in two by a virtually impenetrable wall of darkness, known as ‘The Fold’. And hiding within this division, there are flesh-eating creatures feast on whomever is desperate enough to attempt to cross. The Fold has brought untold damage to the world outside of it, as it completely isolates either side of the country, and keeps the Ravkans from different and crucial regions. However, there are still forces who want to discover the secret of the Fold, control it and make crossings easier. And this is primarily made up of the Grisha, who are Masters of the Small Sciences – a form of magic –  and an elite of soldiers who have talents to control the elements, and guard the country and monarchy. And within this world, the novels follows the stories of two orphans, Alina and Mal, and how even the most unextraordinary people can turn out to be extraordinary, save a country defeat and conquer evil.

In Shadow and Bone, the reader is introduced to Alina and Mal as orphan friends who grew up together, and have both enlisted into the army. And, unsurprisingly, one of their first missions is to cross The Fold. But when this mission goes horribly wrong, Alina is revealed to not just be the ordinary girl she thinks she is, but a Grisha of extraordinary power and legendary talent. She is a Sun Summoner, and may just be the key to destroy the darkness of the Fold, and rescue Ravka from ruin. So, Alina is moved from the hard graft of the army and into the royal court to be trained as a Grisha, and she is under the control of the mysterious Darkling – a Grisha of equal power and ambition. During her training, Alina learns all about amplifiers – magical emblems that boost the Grisha powers – and she falls more under the thrall of the Darkling, and away from her old life as the orphan.But not all is as it appears in the court, and Alina has to decision to make that could either save the country she lives in, or save the people she loves.

Now, I have read the whole trilogy, and I loved them all, but it is very difficult to write a review on all of them without giving away too many spoilers. But Shadow and Bone was definitely one of my favourites. I believe that this could really be a stand-alone book, as it does end with a satisfying enough conclusion to make you think that it didn’t necessarily need to continue, but I’m very glad it did. The plot of Shadow and Bone was intriguing and had enough twists and turns to make it a good YA novel, and the world-building of Ravka was more than enough to keep me interested. As a Tsarist Russia historian, I have enough knowledge to know where some of the places were based on, and what characters were clearly based on which historical figures, which was a massive point-score in my book. But even if you didn’t know anything, it would diminish the story at all.

The world of the Grisha was a good take on the ‘guild of magicians’ that is sometimes used as overkill in YA novels nowadays. As a fighting force, they did seem fairly competent, and I did like how they were their own entity in a way. They didn’t necessarily follow the monarchy despite being under their control, and in the story it was shown that in different countries, Grisha weren’t respected as they are in Ravka, and even killed for being a commodity, rather than a person, which I found to be highly interesting. Also, with the use of the Fold, and the creatures that lurked within, Bardugo did have a good use of tension, and made you as the reader really get a sense of the terror that was felt, and how desperate the whole situation was.

But one thing I didn’t like was Alina. Which isn’t good considering she is the protagonist. Alina, to me, seemed to be too much of a drip, too indecisive, weak, a bit too whiny, and just not able to wield the power that she is born with. Now, I know that she is an orphan, and completely thrown into the deep end as she discovers her powers, but she just wasn’t the female role-model that should have been used. Let’s just say that she was not up to the same levels of Katniss and Hermione. Also what irked me was the love triangle. Love triangles can sometimes really work in YA, but it has to be done as a sideplot to the main story, and not take over the whole story, and make the conclusion depend on it. But, on a sidenote, within the love triangle, Bardugo did write passion quite well, especially with the Darkling. But apart from with the Darkling, the characters just felt a bit flat. The Darkling was an interesting figure as he had quite a lot of sides, and you weren’t really sure which one was his real side, and whether everything else was false. But, unfortunately with Mal and Alina, I just didn’t get on with them. In a writing sense, this was fairly well-written, and definitely showed promise for Bardugo to develop as a writer. There were some sloppy parts, but for a debut novel I thought it was gripping and moreish.

For a YA novel, it was well-done in world-building, in the plot line, and in the whole good-versus-evil thing. I’d recommend it and as an owner of the rest of the trilogy, I can say that when newer characters get introduced, everything gets a bit more interesting.

The rest of the trilogy is out to buy now!

Links:

To buy this book – Waterstones/Amazon

Author’s Website – Click Here

Macbeth (2015) – Film Review.

Title: Macbeth (2015)

Cast: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Paddy Considine, Sean Harris, David Thewlis, Jack Reynor, Elizabeth Debicki

Director: Justin Kurzel

Genre: Drama, History, Adaptation, Shakespearean Tragedy

Rating: 5/5


If there is one thing that people love to do with Shakespearean plays, it is to adapt, film and just revisit the classic tales over and over again. Throughout the years, the play of Romeo and Juliet has been transformed into the mafia-based drama of Baz Lurhmann’s 1996 film, and the story of Hamlet became the basis for the well-loved Disney tale of The Lion King. And with this is mind, Macbeth hasn’t been ignored. With directors such as Orson Welles and Roman Polanski having chosen to adapt ‘The Scottish Play’, along with countless others, it begins to beg the question ‘Can you do anything more?’. And in this instant, the answer is a firm yes. This new adaptation, from Australia filmmaker Justin Kurzel, strips back the tale, and  macbeth-poster-michael-fassbendergives the audience a raw, expertly filmed and deeply memerising version of this play, and certainly gives that ‘wow factor’ that Shakespeare’s tragedy’s are so well-known for.

With graphic, bloody battles set against the raw beauty of the Scottish landscape, this adaptation doesn’t apologise for the shock value that it gives the audience. With the language coming straight from the original play, the soliloquies and conversations are expertly delivered by the actors, yet I must give you some warnings. Some iconic moments were completely cut out. So, if you’re expecting to hear the famous ‘double, double’ scene, then I’m afraid you’ll be disappointed. However, some other scenes which may have been difficult, or even cringy to watch (the Birnam Wood scene, which I have actually seen as men covered in tree bark marching into battle) have been wonderfully adapted and changed to fit in with the feel of the film. Kurzel and his team have completely ripped open the heart of this play, and just bared its contents to the world. And I must applaud the filming and visual team on this film. It can be said sometimes, that the landscape and shots really outshone the actors. The film was shot beautifully, and really showed off the wild and bleak beauty of the Scottish – or if you want to geographically narrow it down further, Skye – region.

But behind every great director, there must be an equally good cast. And boy, what a group. Fassbender slid so well into the role of Macbeth, he seemed to be almost born to play this power-mad, and ambitious warrior-king. When delivering his soliloquies, Fassbender’s delivery was flawless, and the agonised and tortured way he portrayed Macbeth as he slowly descended into madness was fantastic to witness. Throughout the film, Fassbender seemed to be able to flit between the characters of angry warrior, power-mad king, lustful husband, paranoid murderer and smooth liar without any sort of effort, and when you first of all saw him in his face-paint, blood-splattered armour and steely stare, he really intimidate all who were watching. What I also loved about the battle scenes were that in some parts, they went into slow-motion. This really hyped up the tension, and made you focus on the expressions just before the conflict started.

Cotillard’s Lady Macbeth was another powerful performance. With these iconic roles, you needed the actors playing them to be of equal standing, and be able to deliver such blistering performances that they would be shine in their own light, and just elevate the other up. And in my opinion, Cotillard certainly held her own against Fassbender.
Initially set up, as the play shows, to be Macbeth’s accomplice in the murder of Duncan, and giving off an ice-cold composure in her quest to be queen, it is only when we come to the famous ‘Out damned spot’ scene when we see the real level of Cotillard’s acting ability. In the famous sleepwalking scene, Cotillard’s heart-wrenching delivery really haunted me. Slumped against the floor, delivering her lines in a broken manner, and with tears cascading down her face, Cotillard’s Lady Macbeth doesn’t seem to be the aloof, power-driven murderess of other adaptations, but suffering from her own traumas, her own madness and her own her despair. And from this, Kurzel has almost softened the character of Lady Macbeth, which some people may not like, but to me, it made her more human and less cruel than previous adaptations. Also, the film starts off with the death of the Macbeth’s young son, and from this, it can almost be suggested that the madness and ambition to rise in power can come from their grief.

Also, with a cast of Paddy Considine playing a battle-weary, stoic Banquo, Sean Harris as avenging Macduff, and the wonderfully re-imaged Witches – as played by Seylan Baxter, Lynn Kennedy, Kayla Fallon and Amber Rissmann – this film packs a punch, and leaves you wanting more. To me, this movie is a blisteringly raw, stripped back and battle-heavy account of Macbeth, that not only triumphs in the acting capabilities of its cast, but also in the sublime nature of Scotland wilderness. One of the best films I’ve seen this year. And I’m not just saying that as an English graduate. The film is out now in the UK, so please check your local cinema listings to see if they are showing it.

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith – Book Review

Title: The Cuckoo’s Calling

Author: Robert Galbraith

Genre: Detective Fiction/Murder-Mystery/Whodunnit/Crime Fiction

Rating: 4/5


“How easy it was to capitalize on a person’s own bent for self-destruction; how simple to nudge them into non-being, then to stand back and shrug and agree that it had been the inevitable result of a chaotic, catastrophic life.”

When set against the greats such as Christie’s Poirot, Conan Doyle’s Holmes and Chandler’s Marlowe, the detective in crime fiction certainly has standards to live against. And through all these mysteries, whodunnits, kidnapping, exortion, missing persons and good ol’ fashioned murders, readers begin to wonder if there can ever been a new detective who can rival these. But fear not! For in 2013, under the pseudonym of Robert Galbraith, our favourite magical writer J.K Rowling published The Cuckoo’s Calling, and gave us a detective with more issues than Vogue.

When, on one snowy night, the supermodel Lula Landry plunges off her Mayfair balcony, her death sends shockwaves through the press and celebrity world. Written off as a desperate suicide bid, the case seems closed on this tragic event, and her family are left to grieve the loss of their daughter. However, when her brother seems to have his doubts, and begins to suspect murder, he starts his own search and enlists the skills of private investigator, Cormoran Strike. Strike, a hulking war veteran with both physical, and psychological injuries, and whose life seems to on a downward spiral, initially takes on the case for pure financial gain. Yet, as he becomes involved in the secret world of the celebrity, and what the glitz and glamour hides to the public, Strike begins to piece together Landry’s last few hours, and whether it was a cry for help, or something far more sinister.
Like the traditional murder-mysteries, it does follow a familiar pattern of the description of the murder scene, introduction of the detective, being employed to take on the case, the long witness questioning, and narrowing down of events until the detective reveals what happened, and although it does follow this pattern down, it never seems to be dull or dip in interest at any time. Galbraith (as I will be calling the author) was very methodical in his approach to narrowing down the case, and making Strike research every possible avenue, so the reader benefits from every aspect of this case.

The characters in the novel truly have clearly been clearly thought out, and almost birthed by the author to make actually fully-fledged individuals, each with their different flaws and situations.
Cormoran Strike is one of those characters who you warm too and find yourself wanting to meet such a person. His complex life and back-story is played out so well, that it doesn’t feel as though you’re being fed information, but you just pick up on it and piece a person together in your own time. For the reader, his grumpy and less than perfect personality makes him even more lovable, and there are points when you do just want to slap him due to his argumentative side.
With Robin, Strike’s assistant, she is also a figure of great intrigue. A perfect counterpoint to Strike, as she is a woman who knows her own mind, is highly intelligent and determined and uses her own initiative throughout the text, which makes her an invaluable piece in the case.The working/friendship relationship between Robin and Strike is also one of ups and downs throughout the novel, but plays back-fiddle enough to make it not too in your face, but enough to keep it interesting.
The other characters, and most interestingly, the deceased figure of Lula Landry do each get significant parts of the novel dedicated to the exploration of who they are and why they are driven into being important to the crime. What I find interesting is that Lula, despite being dead before the novel even starts, her story is revealed right throughout the novel, and at the end, she feels like one of the most alive characters going.
Also, it’s interesting to see how Galbraith portrays the media circus around the case. Due to the death being one of a famous model in such a dramatic circumstance, bringing the media back into the threshold of the possible murder is a constant weapon that Strike is aware of throughout the entire narrative. It makes the novel feel tense, and that if a slip-up could happen, it couldn’t be hidden.

The language used throughout the novel flows well, and draws the reader in, and only releases its hold until the last page has been turned over. Galbraith is very good at describing people as well as transcribing accents and dialects, which does add to the realism of the text. The author also describes the city of London in a convincing and realistic manner, and does make you feel that you, the reader, is right next to Strike as he runs through dark allies and into abandoned houses.

I found this novel to be highly readable, very interesting, a complete page-turner and also complex enough that you do keep guessing what actually happened until the very end. And as this is a first in the series, I can expect great things from Strike and Galbraith. This particular book is available now, along with the sequel.

So, if you as a reader, enjoyed:

  • The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
  • The Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson
  • Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Then you’ll love this!

Links:

Buy the book – Waterstones/Amazon

Author’s Website – Click Here

Author’s Twitter – Click Here