Although I didn’t really make any new years resolutions this year, there were definitely things I wanted to work on and improve over the next year. One of those things was to make a bit more time to myself, to do things I enjoy, look after myself and relax more. These included buying new sheets and pillows for my bed to make it extra comfy and cosy, taking more long baths with a cuppa and a good book and being creative with simple things like colouring and sketching.

Illustration School - Lets Draw Plants and Small Creatures Sachiko UmotoOne thing I’ve made the effort to do, is to go to bed an hour early where possible and put on an audio book and getting out my colouring books and sketchbook. Although January was a very busy month for me and I certainly didn’t manage to do this every day, when I did I definitely felt better for it.

Illustration School Little Miss SunflowerI recently picked up a lovely book, with step by step guides to drawing cute little plant characters and flowers. The Illustration school series is a lovely set of adorable books, each showing you how to draw different sketches. So far this year I have whiled away quite a few hours copying all the cute little pictures.

Illustration School SunflowerI love that you can try different poses and expressions on the little characters and once you’ve worked your way through the book you can put all the ideas together and create your own pictures or even make your own characters. The possibilities are endless and I’ve really enjoyed having an easy creative outlet at the end of busy days.

Illustration School Sunflower PictureI’d love to share some more of the things I’ve been doing in my down time this year. So look out for some more posts about things I do to relax. What do you to when you take time out for yourself?

This book is available to buy on Amazon.

I’ve always had an interest in royal history, looking back on our monarchy gives us a wonderful snap shot of the past. It is a great starting point for looking at how England has changed and the people who have shaped it and influenced it, right up to present day. I have read a huge amount about the Georgian era, as it has always been a time that I find fascinating. I have however never read any books on our current Queen, so Kate Williams’ book on Elizabeth’s early life seemed like a great place to start.

Young Elizabeth by Kate Williams ReviewA few years ago I read Kate Williams’ book on the early life of Queen Victoria, which is one of my favourite books ever. I learned so much from it and as a result of reading it and being absolutely fascinated, I went on to visit so many interesting places and read a lot more books to find out more.

Young Elizabeth by Kate WilliamsRecently when I found myself stuck for something to read I picked up Young Elizabeth. It was a great choice, especially because I’ve been reading a lot about the 20s and 30s lately and as this period and it’s events feature heavily in the book, it really helped to set the scene for me.

Young Elizabeth Book ReviewElizabeth’s childhood is interesting because until her uncles abdication her father and she herself had never been expected to reign, making the build up to her becoming queen all the more intriguing to read about.

Young Elizabeth BookThe book covers her family background, her childhood and early adulthood, right up to the point where she becomes Queen. It makes for very interesting reading and there was so much I didn’t know. The fact that the book covers a relatively short period of time in historical terms, means that the writer can really go into depth when discussing Elizabeth’s early life. The details are so interesting and I found myself every bit as engaged as when I read about Victoria a few years earlier.

Young Elizabeth Kate Williams Book ReviewWilliams’ writing style is fantastic, I found myself totally absorbed in every page. The historical facts flow off the page and are as easy to read as a novel, I really couldn’t put it down and got this one finished in record time.

As well as the obvious fascination with learning more about the life of a living monarch, the book works it’s way through the significant events that shaped the first half of the twentieth century. Through four monarchs and two world wars and tempestuous social changes, this is such an interesting era to read about.

Young Elizabeth by kate Williams Book ReviewAs usual I won’t discuss the content of the book too much as I want people to go and read it and discover everything for themselves, but I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone with an interest in both social and royal history, or if you just want to know what the queen was like before she was the old lady that I’ve associated with the monarchy my entire lifetime.

Buy the book on Amazon here.

I hope you enjoyed todays book review. I’ve been reading loads lately and I’m hoping to make reviews a regular thing, just like I used to when I first started blogging a few years ago. Let me know if you have any book recommendations.

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With the ever-growing popularity of wearing vintage and the vintage scene in general, there has never been a better time for a really good quality vintage magazine. Last year saw the launch of the hugely popular In Retrospect Magazine. The quarterly magazine describes itself as ‘a modern magazine for old-fashioned people’ which is a very accurate description.

In Retrospect MagazineSo far I’ve read the first four issues which are packed with a wide variety of pieces from some really fantastic contributors, bringing their knowledge from all corners of the vintage world. Variety is what makes the magazine such a great read. The audience is both male and female and it’s great to see the male element of vintage which is all too often forgotten when we talk about vintage fashion and lifestyle.

In Retrospect Vintage MagazineOver 120 or so pages of quality text and beautiful photography you can find not only fashion, but book reviews, lifestyle posts, the latest vintage events and discussion. The magazine is a wealth of information to immerse yourself in. Whether vintage is an occasional fashion choice, a hobby or your full lifestyle you’ll find something in its pages to enjoy.

In Retrospect Contents PageWhat makes me enjoy it especially, is that so many of my favourite bloggers write for the magazine. It’s like an anthology of my favourite blogs in one place and as well as really enjoying leafing through the pages I’ve definitely gained so much knowledge of the past from its interesting features.

In Retrospect Collecting CelluloidOne of my favourite parts of the magazine are the useful guides to collecting vintage pieces, I was fascinated by a guide to vintage celluloid in the first issue by vintage jewellery expert Natalie Leon.

In Retrospect Are the 90s Vintage

In Retrospect Make Do and AccessorizeAdvertising is kept to a minimum with a few relevant adverts for vintage related companies scattered throughout. The bulk of the magazine is really good quality writing and for the £4.50 that each issue costs, you definitely get your moneys worth in content.

In Retrospect Trench cake

In retrospect the Tweed RunThe magazine is written by vintage lovers, for vintage lovers and I really recommend it. You can buy back issues from the In Retrospect website and also subscribe to future issues.

Find out more on the In Retrospect website.

The Vintage Guide to Love and Romance Review

I’ve read so many great books recently and have lots of reviews to catch up on. It seems that more and more books with a vintage theme are coming out at the moment and I absolutely love it. I’m a total chick lit addict, so when you mix fantastic girly books with vintage fashion I can’t wait to start turning the pages.

I was recently sent The Vintage Guide to Love and Romance by Kirsty Greenwood to review. Kirsty is no stranger to the world of blogging, as the founding member of super successful book blog Novelicious she knows everything there is know about what makes a good novel. I’ve been going into London a lot recently for blog events and this book got me through all the boring journeys on the tube.

What it says on the back of the book:

Jessica Beam is a girl who knows how to party. Only lately she’s been forgetting to turn up for work on time. Or in clean clothes. Down on her luck, out of a job and homeless, Jess seeks the help of her long-lost grandmother.

Things aren’t going well for Matilda Beam, either. Her 1950s Good Woman guide books are out of print, her mortgage repayments are staggering and her granddaughter wears neon Wonderbras.

 When a lifeline from a London publisher arrives, the pair have an opportunity to secure the roof over their heads – by invigorating the Good Woman guides and transforming modern, rebellious Jess into a demure vintage lady.

 The true test of their make-over will be to capture the heart of notorious London playboy Leo Frost and prove that Matilda’s guides still work. It’s going to take commitment, nerves of steel and one seriously pointy bra to pull this off . . .

Review The Vintage Guide to Love and Romance

What I thought of the book:

At first I found it really hard to like Jessica, she’s rude, she makes bad choices and can be a little selfish. However I very quickly warmed to her as a character and even started to relate to her a little. As we find out more about her past it’s easier to understand her and you start to really want the best for her. By the end of the book she was one of my favourite characters from a book and I want a sequel to find out what she does next.

Summer begins the book at Jessica’s best friend, although she soon becomes the baddy of the book and she makes a great evil character. The fact that she and Jessica work together on a blog was really interesting and Summer definitely reminded me of a few people!

Matilda is such a sweet lady and I loved that she was a little eccentric and emotional. She is the perfect grandma character and I loved how kind she was to Jessica throughout the book. The fact that she still had all her vintage clothing and accessories from the 50s made me wish she was real so I could talk about the past with her.

The male characters in the book are all really well written, I like that they are complex characters who are not as they first appear. At first you really want Jamie to be the main love interest in the book, but that definitely changed for me as we got to know Leo a little better.

The Vintage Guide to Love and Romance

The books main strength is that the plot is really clever and things definitely didn’t always go the way I thought they would. There were points where I felt it was going to be very predictable and then it really surprised me. I really enjoyed reading all of Matilda Beams tips from the past and how they weren’t always relevant but could be applied to today. I also liked the way Jessica’s feminist views at times conflicted with Matilda’s old fashioned attitude, and how she managed to find the balance.

The story was very believable and I had so many laugh out load moments, that I definitely got a few funny looks on the tube! Jessica’s swearing and expletives were absolutely hilarious I may have used the term “knob prince” a couple of times since reading the book! The book has both happy and sad bits and the sections that talk about Jessica’s mother are definitely sadder parts. I did really enjoy how her story unfolded alongside the main plot.

The book was a really easy read and I really didn’t want to stop reading it, as I was desperate to know what happened at the end. The ending was perfect, as someone who is often dissatisfied by rushed and predictable endings in chick lit books, I was pleasantly surprised by this one.

I’d recommend this to anyone who likes a good girly book, or anyone who has ever dreamed of having a full vintage make-over. It will definitely appeal to vintage loving girls as well.

The Vintage Guide to Love and Romance is published by Pan and written by Kirsty Greenwood.

Buy a copy of The Vintage Guide to Love and Romance on Amazon. 

In recent months I’ve found very little time for reading, by nature I’m an avid bookworm so it’s always a real treat when I manage to fit a little reading into a busy day. I read a wide range of books, I love light-hearted chick lit as well as history books and books on vintage fashion. My biggest love is books written in and based on the 1920s and 30s. It’s such a glamorous era of history. I love authors like Nancy Mitford and Agatha Christie and have read most of their books.

Book People Carola Dunn Collection

I thought I’d write a little list of some of my favourite books and authors from the era to offer a little inspiration to your reading lists…

The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald:

I have to say I absolutely loved the recent film of this book. I know it received mixed reviews but I’m a huge fan of Baz Lurhman’s films and I adored the opulence of this stylised interpretation of the book. If period authenticity is what you expected then I can understand the disappointment, but the film was everything I wanted it to be. The book itself is a stunning use of language and every word is perfectly placed. If you are one of the few who hasn’t read this yet I would highly recommend it. It was written in 1925 and set in 1922.

Every book by Agatha Christie (especially Poirot):

I had already seen most of Miss Marple and Poirot on TV before I ever picked up an actual Agatha Christie novel. I love her style of writing and her mysteries are so fun to read, I never guess the actual culprit so it’s always a great surprise when they are revealed at the end. Poirot is the my favourite deceptive of all time and his idiosyncrasies are even more amusing in the books than on TV. There’s a reason Christie has inspired so many imitators over the years, as she is simply the queen of cosy crime.

Gentleman Prefer Blondes by Anita Loos:

The book is very different to the famous Marilyn Monroe film from 1953. For a start it was written in 1925. It’s of the same era as Gatsby and is one of many of the time that represents the jazz age. It’s a fab and very fun book and is perfect for would be flappers!

Nightingale Wood by Stella Gibbons:

I read this a few years back and it’s one of my favourites. The book was written in 1935 and tells the story of a young widow forced to live in the country with her late husbands family. There are many plot similarities to Downton Abbey and I’m sure the script writers must have read this book first!

Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day by Winifred Watson:

This book is just magical, I’ve not seen the popular film based on it and personally I don’t want to as I love the book so much. Miss Pettigrew is a penniless governess and through a series of misunderstandings, ends up befriending Delysia LaFosse a young socialite. Miss Pettigrew ends up getting glammed up and enjoying the perfect day with Miss LeFosse and the ensuing fun is absolutely adorable. Read this book if you want something to make you smile. The book was first published in 1938.

20s and 30s novels

Nancy Mitford:

Mitford is one of my very favourite authors. Her books are full of upper class English wit, and are often inspired by her and her sister’s very unusual lives. I’d recommend reading about her and her family as well, as their story reads like a novel in itself. They were at the very heart of the 1920s London party scene and as well as being aristocratic debutantes, they were also Bright Young Things.

I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith:

This wonderful children’s book from the author of 101 Dalmatians, is about a girl living an impoverished life in her families castle. The fate of many wealthy and aristocratic families in the early 20th century was the struggle to maintain great houses once the money had dried up. The book is written in the form of a journal and it’s an absolutely lovely read.

Before I Met You by Lisa Jewell:

Lisa Jewell is one of my very favourite modern authors. Her books go beyond chick lit and are complex and dark as well as being beautifully written. The book has two stories running parallel in both 1990s and 1920s London. The book is about Arlette who lives in London at the hight of the roaring 20s, but after tragedy strikes she leaves the city and never returns. Moving forward to 1995 her granddaughter has newly arrived in Soho and is looking to discover her Grandmother’s story. The book is very sad at times but id a fantastic read which would make a brilliant film.

Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh:

This one took a while to get into for me. But as Waugh is such an iconic reader and also a good friend of Nancy Mitford, I just had to read one of his books. This book was written in 1930 and is a satire of the Bright Young People of the 1920s.

Daisy Dalrymple Mysteries by Carola Dunn:

Having recently made a vow to read more, I took to one of my favourite websites. The Book People are great for picking up bargain books and I really love their bundles of books which are so cheap I have to stop myself buying more books than I could ever actually read!

Having read the first few Daisy Dalrymple books on my Kindle I was really pleased to see a bundle of 12 books from later in the series none of which I had read for just £6!!! I cannot wait to get through these and I’m sure the hours will slip by very quickly reading all of them.

Daisy Dalrymple Books

While looking through the book collections I spotted a couple from authors I’ve not yet read I got a set of 5 books by Molly Keane. Keane was an Irish author who wrote her first few books under the name M.J Farrell had a writing career spanning from the 1920s to 80s and is known for her wickedly black humour. I can’t wait to give these 5 novels a try.

Molly Keane Book

I also got 3 books by Barbara Comyns whose books were published in the 40s to 80s. Her books are set in the early 20th century and she is also completely new to me. I’ll report back as soon as I’ve managed to read them and let you know what I thought. Although these are set in the Edwardian era I thought I’d give them a mention anyway.

Barbara Comyns Books

What are your favourite books from the 20s and 30s? I’d love some recommendations as I know there are so many great authors I’m yet to discover, my list of books to read is increasing at an alarming rate at the moment.