Friday, 31 July 2015

109. Summer Book Club Review 2 - Us by David Nicholls

Hello everyone, I finished reading my second book of the summer earlier today, the first also being one by David Nicholls which I reviewed last month. Us is his latest novel and was published in 2014. This is the third book by Nicholls that I've read and I really do admire how flexible his writing style is, I feel that he can write about characters who are obviously very different in terms of age, class and gender but all share some attributes which is what makes them so human and relatable. 

Us follows Douglas and Connie Petersen and their son Albie during the most eventful summer of their lives so far. Albie is off to university come September to study photography and Connie has dropped the bombshell that she is thinking of leaving her husband. Connie used to be a painter and was working in an art gallery when she and Douglas met while he was a biochemist working in the field of Drosophila ( fruit fly/ the bane of my life during my degree but that's a story for another day) genetics. As Albie is following in the artist footsteps of his mother, Connie decides that a grand tour of Europe's art galleries should be their final family holiday so Douglas is determined to make this the best summer of their lives whilst simultaneously saving his marriage. Unfortunately, as one might expect, things don't always go the way you want them to in life and after a heated argument, Albie runs away and Connie returns to the UK but the story is far from over.

The story is told from Douglas' perspective and alternates between the present (their grand tour of Europe) and stories from his 25 year relationship with Connie. There are usually clusters of two to four chapters told from either era which is much better than it alternating after every chapter. The chapters are short with 180 in total but I think that just adds to Douglas' character of being a scientist, I've often been told how concise I can be (although my blog posts are usually anything but). There is a chapter towards the end of the book where Douglas considers what the book would have been like had it been told from Connie's or Albie's perspective albeit briefly. This made me realise that I related to Douglas quite a bit and if the story had been told by Connie or Albie, I probably wouldn't have enjoyed Us as much. Douglas and I share a hatred of glitter and a view on how the next 50 years is not looking so good for our species, oh the joys of being life scientists!

There are several aspects of the book that I loved. First, it has to be the travel aspect. Late last year, I reviewed A Single Breath and that really made me want to go travelling in Australia and Us has done the same but with Europe. Also, it's made me want to learn more about art as I spent a great deal of time on Google searching some of the paintings that are mentioned in Us. Aside from what I personally gained from the book, I love how genuine Douglas, Connie and Albie are and this is a reason why I have read almost all of Nicholls' novels. The ending wasn't the happy ever after you may expect after a major event towards the end of the book but it was realistic and in that way, is similar to the ending of One Day. Us touches upon issues that many 50 something couples go through - death, depression, affairs, tough career choices and parenting challenges but he writes about them in a way that is universally accessible. My favourite quote of the book is: "Grief is as much about regret for what you've never had as sadness for what you've lost" and I think from that quote you can see what I mean about the book being universal.

The only thing that is stopping me from giving Us the full 5 sheep is that the first half of the book is quite slow. There is a lot about the art in France and Amsterdam but most of the time, the family are just arguing or travelling and even the chapters about their history focus on the first weekend they met for a considerable amount of the book despite Douglas simultaneously protesting that he is not writing about their meeting through rose tinted spectacles. I think we really get to know Douglas once Albie runs away and Connie goes home which is why I enjoyed the second half of the book more.

Rating: 4/5 

The next book I am reading is One Night in Italy by Lucy Diamond which I have no doubt will make me want to travel too and also leave me quite hungry as Italian cuisine is my favourite. Keep an eye out for the review which will be posted in the coming week.

Until next time, take care.
Mancunian Sheep x

Sunday, 26 July 2015

108. July Favourites

Hello everyone, it's monthly favourites time and I have everything from a shop to a candle that I've been loving this month.

1) Dettol mould spray - If you have read The Life of a Mancunian Sheep for a long time then you may remember my favourite cleaning products post from 2013. This is the best bathroom cleaner I've come across. It has left our tiles and shower unit sparkling white and the best thing about it is that you don't even have to scrub. Simply spray on and rinse off. I leave it overnight but if the strong smell of bleach gets too much for you then rinse off after 5-10 minutes. I actually bought 3 bottles of this in a pack off Amazon, it's that good!

2) Primark ankle high socks - Even in summer, I just have to wear socks (unless I am wearing sandals or flip flops) and these are perfect because they are a nude colour so they don't look weird with flats. You get 5 pairs for £1.50 and although they only last one or two washes before they get holes in the toes, you can't really complain at that price. I wouldn't mind buying some that are of a better quality but I haven't found any in M&S which is where I buy socks from usually. Other shops do have the ones that are like shoe liners but I'm worried that they won't stay on and that you'll be able to see the top of them on your ankle.

3) Vanilla Frosting Yankee Candle - Up until a couple of years ago, I hated candles (I know, how could I?) because I just found them boring and pointless (unless they were birthday cake candles, I've always loved cake) but now, I love them. I haven't actually had the time to bake since my bake sale for Parkinson's Awareness Week back in April but this candle fills the house with the scent of freshly baked cake.

4) Paperchase - Paperchase is one of my favourite shops because they have the most gorgeous stationery with really cute and pretty floral patterns. I've taken countless trips to my local store this month because I've needed to buy lots of cards for birthdays, graduation and also my stationery for work. I've been using an academic diary but now that I've finished education, I've bought an 18 month Moleskine planner so that it sees me through until the end of 2016. It comes with really handy stickers for work and play commitments. I also bought a couple of notebooks for myself, I'm using the floral one as a diary that I've been keeping since I turned 21.

Paperchase have recently brought out their Treat Me card which is fabulous because you get 15% off with your first purchase after registering your card and you also get a £5 voucher as a birthday treat. My local store has a cafe too and you can get a free hot drink from there but as it was Ramadan, I didn't bother. You can find out more here:

5) Gardening - Gardening has been one of my favourite hobbies for as long as I can remember. I used to have my own vegetable patch even when I was a toddler and used to help my parents by planting carrots, peas, beans and tomatoes. Unfortunately, I've had to place my green fingers on the back burner for the past 5 years due to A-levels and university but this month, I took a trip to B&Q and HomeSense and have had lots of fun gardening again. I've planted petunias, fuschias, pumpkins and courgettes amongst other things. I last planted marrows in 2010 after finishing my GCSEs and they were massive so watch this space for the pumpkins and courgettes!

6) Films - I've watched a few films since Ramadhan finished last week so have included two in my favourites. One is a recent release and the other is a film that I wanted to watch but didn't have time to because of university.

a) Ant Man - So my Marvel obsession continues into July. Don't worry I'm not going to watch this 3 times like I did with Age of Ultron (she says now). Quite a few people are skeptical of an ant sized superhero but I knew Marvel would deliver. Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas and Evangeline Lilly are all brilliant but my favourite character was Luis who is played by Michael Peña, his storytelling is hilarious. Evangeline Lilly looks so much like Cobie Smulders in Ant Man that I had to ask my friend Alex what Maria Hill was doing in this film. The story is a heart warming one as Ant Man is very much Marvel's answer to Robin Hood. I love the relationship Ant Man has with one of the ants, Antony and also with his daughter, Cassie. I strongly recommend that you go and watch this unless you suffer from myrmecophobia. There was a scene with a gigantic (relative to Ant Man) rat and I almost died. 

Rating 5/5: 

b) Love, Rosie - I love Lily Collins and Sam Claflin after watching her in Stuck in Love last month and him in The Hunger Games films so decided to give this a watch earlier this week. Rosie (Lily) and Alex (Sam) have been best friends since they were children and are practically joined at the hip until they're 18 when Alex decides to apply to Harvard to study medicine and encourages Rosie to apply to Boston to study hotel management. They are both accepted but unfortunately, something big happens to Rosie which prevents her from joining Alex in America. She's left behind and their lives become very different to one another so they drift apart and each time they try and become close to one another again, someone else is involved romantically with one of them. 

Although it is quite a predictable will they, won't they? chick flick, Lily and Sam's acting and on screen chemistry is undeniably brilliant. They are best friends and I guess that's what your spouse should be because best friends love each other no matter what. 

Aside from Alex and Rosie, my other favourite character was Ruby (Jaime Winstone) who is Rosie's best friend after they meet in a very unlikely place (I can't say anymore about Ruby without giving a massive spoiler away). Ruby is very straight talking and a great friend to Rosie. Suki Waterhouse is also in the film and she really isn't a very convincing actress, later on in the film, her character becomes a model so I guess she didn't have to act. I really liked the two lead characters and the storyline is quite cute but the number of predictable twists was getting a bit ridiculous:

Rating 3/5: 

7) Jess Glynne - Hold My Hand. I love Jess' voice and have done so since hearing her on Clean Bandit's "Rather Be" and Route 94's "My Love" last year. I'm obsessed with this song and have had it on repeat this past week. My favourite lyric is: "Break my bones but you won't see me fall". 

What's been your favourite film, song and shop this month?

Until next time, take care.

Mancunian Sheep x

Saturday, 25 July 2015

107. Lilac Nails - Barry M Berry Ice Cream vs Rimmel Rita Ora Go Wilderness

Hello everyone, just a quick little beauty post for you today. I love painting my nails and am loving lilac this summer so thought I would review two lilac nail polishes for you.

First up is Barry M Berry Ice Cream:

Barry M is my favourite nail polish brand because they have such a large collection, are reasonably priced and well pigmented. Berry Ice Cream is more of a pinky lilac compared to Rimmel's Go Wilderness. I applied two thin coats to achieve this finish:
Go Wilderness is part of the 60 Seconds Supershine nail polish collection by Rita Ora for Rimmel London. I can vouch for the 60 seconds as it did dry quicker than the Barry M one however, that is likely to be because it is such a thin formula. This shade of lilac has more blue undertones rather than the pink seen with Berry Ice Cream. I used two coats for Go Wilderness too but whereas one coat of Berry Ice Cream could have passed, you really do need two coats for Go Wilderness.
What I really like about the Rimmel nail polish is the brush, it is wide so makes application much easier despite me testing this on my right hand.

As you can see, the wide brush made it easier to apply so that the nails on my right hand are neater but usually as I am right handed, they are messier than my left hand. 

Overall, I like the formula of the Barry M one better but the brush of the Rimmel one. If Barry M made their brushes wider, they would be perfect. I love both the colours and they're both £2.99 so you can't lose!

As well as using lilac products on my nails, I am obsessed with the passion fruit EOS smooth sphere lip balm. It smells delicious but these aren't just a gimmick, they are really good lip balms. I love the sphere packaging because it makes for hygienic application, it's compact and there's no way that you're losing the lid. 

I hope you've enjoyed this post, let me know if you've tried any of the products mentioned above and what you thought of them. Also, what nail colours are you all loving this season?

Until next time, take care.
Mancunian Sheep x

Friday, 24 July 2015

106. Busy Bee

Honey I'm home! See what I did there? I'm really sorry for not posting at all so far in July, it has been the busiest month of my life so far which means I have a lot of Mancunian Sheep news for you all. I may as well start from the beginning of the month!

  • I got a job! I will be working at the university and my role involves widening participation to higher education and science communication as well as administrative work so it combines my degree and previous work experience as a student ambassador and my summer internship at the university last year. It's the perfect job for me and I can't wait to actually start. There are just over 3 weeks of summer holidays left for me before I start working so I have been making the most of them!
  • I went to Liverpool! My friend Sean finally got back from his placement year in Barcelona so my other friend Alex and I went to visit him! I love Liverpool. They actually have a green space in the city centre unlike the horror that is Piccadilly "Gardens" and with the dock and masses of seagulls, you feel like you're close to the beach. Liverpool One is also really nice and I like how the shops are mostly outdoors so the stores are larger and it's not as stuffy as the Arndale can sometimes get. This is actually only the third time I've been to Liverpool but we're already planning to go back again soon. It was too hot to take photos in Liverpool despite having my camera with me!
  • I graduated! After three years of biology and learning about everything from cell organelles to elephants, I graduated! I'm so happy that so many people I love could be there including my mummy of course, my neighbours who are basically my honorary godparents, my two best friends at university and also my two besties who I've been friends with since secondary school. I'd just like to thank everyone mentioned above and others for their support as I couldn't have done this without you all, you know who you are. (What I wore for anyone that wants to know: Shrug - Debenhams, Dress - Coast, Headscarf - from a local independent Islamic shop, Tights - M&S of course, Flats - Next, Ring - Accessorize and Watch - Daniel Wellington).

  •  I turned 21 - As my birthday was during Ramadan this year too, I didn't have a party and to be fair, since my 18th, I really don't get the big deal about my birthday (I only enjoyed my 19th because Andy won Wimbledon and it was my final teenage year). I just want to thank all my friends for all of my beautiful gifts. I really appreciate all the trouble you went to as we've all been so busy lately with Ramadan and graduation and everything else!
  • I am no longer a student ambassador! As I have now graduated, I am no longer a student and therefore no longer a student ambassador as of yesterday. I have thoroughly enjoyed this job for the past 3 years and have had such fun at every single shift I've worked. It's not every day you can say that you met the Chief Medical Officer at work; worked with hundreds of prospective students, their parents and teachers and also alumni; played Charades sat on deck chairs in the rain and all as part of one job! I've made so many friends on other courses that I wouldn't have otherwise met! Being a student ambassador is one of the best things I did at university and would recommend it to any students reading.

Watch out for a book review in the next few days! I wasn't reading during Ramadan so unfortunately feel like the summer book club has gone out of the window but oh well, I will still review all of the books in due course. Also, my monthly favourites will be up in a few days time so keep an eye out for that too. Finally, I haven't been blogging much but I have made a couple of YouTube videos this month, one is the closet confidential tag and the other is an updated what's in my bag and you can watch them here:

Until next time, take care.
Mancunian Sheep x