The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
Nella Brandt arrives in Amsterdam to her new husband’s house on a cold winters day in 1686. To her dismay, she receives an equally frosty welcome from her sister-in-law Marin, with Johannes, her wealthy merchant groom, nowhere to be seen. Nella struggles to become the “woman of the house” against Marin’s judgemental character and the servant’s apparent defiance. Johannes does not join his wife at night and when he arrives with a cabinet house for Nella to ‘practice’ with, she feels further slighted.
However, she engages the services of a miniaturist who proves to be more than a regular artisan. Nella starts to receive unsolicited items which ring eerily true. As the Brandt household starts to crumble underneath deeply held secrets, Nella desperately attempts to read into the miniaturist’s messages. Can she unravel the mysteries held within the cabinet house in order to save her real house in time?
In The Miniaturist, Burton creates a deeply vivid portrayal of 17th Century Amsterdam. Oppressed and controlled by Calvinist Burgomasters while swimming in imperial wealth, the city is a hotpot of suspicion, gossip and scandal. Johannes represents the very pinnacle of this – an outwardly respectable, successful trader with a young doting wife, but a risk-taker who stands on the precipice of disaster.
Although the setting was 1686, Nella, Johannes and Marin seem transported from the modern times, each with their individual search for freedom. This worked for me, but someone looking for a historical fiction way feel it lacking for accuracy. However, I really enjoyed The Miniaturist. I found it to be well paced with an intriguing plot and couldn’t wait to get to the bottom of the enigma of Marin Brandt in particular.
It’s been a while since I picked up an OPI mini set and to be honest, I’m not sure what attracted me to this one. But it’s here now and it’s actually very nice indeed! So that’s lucky. I bought this from good old Nail Polish Direct for the very reasonable price of £10.95. Yes, the bottles are a pretty dinky 3.75ml, but who ever finishes a full size one anyway? I’m not a massive fan of the OPI mini’s as they’re so tiny so the brush is pretty fiddly but they are good for travel (and for when you’re feeling patient).
The colours are: (left to right) ‘Suzi Shops & Island Hops’ a very pale pink; ‘That’s Hula-rious’ a proper pastel mint green; ‘Lost my Bikini in Molokini’ quite a dark purple; and ‘Aloha from OPI’ a bright red-based coral.
Both ‘That’s Hula-rious’ and ‘Suzy Shops and Island Hops’ need at least three coats to reach opacity, to be expected for this kind of pale shade really. They both scream ‘spring’ to me and I actually love them paired together in a kind of double scoop mint and strawberry ice cream sundae.
‘Aloha from OPI’ is slightly more red than coral in my opinion but it’s a very, very nice shade however you call it. Plus, this was one coat. ONE! If you like this colour, rush out and buy the full sized bottle, it’s perfect.
‘Lost my Bikini in Molokini’ is probably my least favourite of the collection. It’s just a little on the dark side for spring/summer for me. However, it’s a high quality polish which needs just two coats for a perfect finish. I’m sure it’ll appear on my rotation in the autumn.
All four polishes over a nice high shine finish and I have had them on for three – four days (full mani’s not the weird combo above) without chips. Overall, a very nice little collection. Success, considering the full Hawaii collection contains the ugliest glitter ever invented. Seriously, check it out – ‘Pineapples Have Peelings Too‘.
Time to mini-review all my used up samples from the last two months so that I can can finally chuck them in the bin! I’m actually running low on sample sized products! So I guess the whole point of this series has worked (it was to use ’em up) but it makes me a bit sad. I might have a get a few beauty boxes to build them up again!
The first thing I have here is the Malin + Goetz Grapefruit Face Cleanser. This is a gel cleanser which is great for the morning due to the zingy fragrance. I liked this but I wasn’t wowed by it. I need something a little more moisturising but if you don’t have dehydrated skin like me you might like it.
I had a little vial of Rise by Beyonce. It’s a floral perfume with orchid, freesia and jasmine with wood and musk base notes. Again, I was a bit indifferent to it, nice but wouldn’t buy it.
Next up we have the h20+ Face Oasis Hydrating Treatment. I loved this! It’s a blue gel (that basically smells like the sea) that you apply to damp skin for a deep hydrating boost. Dunno how this works, but it does. I used in instead of serum and moisturiser on most days and it feels lovely and refreshing to use too. M&S sell it so if it comes back into stock I think I will be picking this up.
Unfortunately, I didn’t feel the same about the Aromatherapy Associates Hydrating Triple Rose Renewing Moisturiser or Renewing Rose Cleanser. The moisturiser was just a bit average, fine but it didn’t do anything special enough to counter out my dislike of strong rose scents. However, I really didn’t on with the cleanser. I had to stop using this tiny sample halfway through because it was drying my skin out so much it was becoming even more flaky. Definitely not hydrating as it claims.
I did like the Ren Evercalm Gentle Cleansing Milk a lot more. As you would expect, it was very gentle but still left you with clean feeling skin.
However, it was all overshadowed this month by the Elemis Hydra-Boost Day Cream. I think this is my ‘the one’ moisturiser. It has hyaluronic acid and vitamin E in it which are the two things I usually apply separately as I know they work for me. Straight to the top of the to-buy list.
What have you been trying/loving/hating this month?
Left to right: ‘That’s Shore Bright'; ‘Too Yacht to Handle'; ‘Neon and On and On’
I’ve been eyeing up these three particular nail polishes for the longest time. Well, two years, since the collection launched in 2013. The China Glaze Sunsational Collection consisted of 6 jellies and 6 cremes and I have three of the creme polishes. I bought these from Nail Polish Direct for just £3.95 each.
I don’t know why I waited to long to get these because I couldn’t love the colours more. ‘That’s Shore Bright’ is easily the brightest purple I own, but it has a bluey tone to it which makes it super cool. ‘Too Yacht to Handle’ is pure awesome for the name alone, but as a neon teal, it’s also a colour I want to wear all the time. It’s currently my toe shade and makes me so happy. And ‘Neon and On and On’ is a gorgeous neon coral. You can tell how bright this one is as it makes the other two look muted in the top photo. It’s definitely a shade that attracts admiring comments.
Unfortunately, the formula is not the best, but I wonder if that might be because the bottles are two years old? They take a little work – three thin layers with drying time in between is best – plus they dried semi matte, which I really wasn’t expecting and don’t like so they really need a glossy top coat as well. On me, I got chips after two days, I would normally hope for three or four days at least for China Glaze. However, I really don’t care. I’ll take the extra work for these babies.
Next time I just won’t wait so long.
Hurrah! I finally went out and did something in Gloucester! A few weeks ago David’s parents were over visiting and we decided to pop into the cathedral for a ‘quick look’. I’m not usually one for cathedrals however, Gloucester Cathedral is something else.
Gloucester Cathedral is a spectacular, sprawling Gothic building with some astonishingly beautiful examples of stained glass artwork. It is famous for it’s cloisters which featured in Harry Potter so visitors can imagine themselves in the halls of Hogwarts (or something, haven’t actually seen it).
It was really interesting to explore as it’s such an iconic place in English history – Henry III was crowned there in 1216 and it is home to the tombs of many historical figures such as Richard II. You can also take a tour up the tower so stunning views over Gloucestershire – I think we’ll go back on a sunnier day to experience this!
I’m a big fan of OPI but I had never tried anything from their Nicole by OPI diffusion line. Originally designed for US drugstores, it’s now easily available on the UK high street with Superdrug carrying it. It is cheaper than the OPI range at £7.99. I was sent the above by Direct Cosmetics who have a selection of shades for just £1.99 each.
I’ve been using the Strengthener Plus* under my nail polish for about two weeks now and I am finding that my nails are peeling a lot less. They still not super strong but we’re getting there gradually. And the treatment itself doesn’t effect how long nail polish lasts which is a good thing, nothing worse than base or top coats which peels your polish.
This is the appropriately named ‘I Orchid You Not’* – nice to see OPI continue their punderful names to all their ranges. This is a darker take on the 2014 colour of the year, Radiant Orchid. I used two coats with applied really easily and dried well. One thing I would say is that it’s quite a bit darker than it looks in the bottle and I’m not too sure why.
The second colour I have is ‘I’m A Pool For Love’*. I tried really hard to take a decent photo of this and failed miserably so sorry about that. It is actually a dark, duochrome shimmer with purple base which flashes electric blue and bronze. It really reminds me of OPI’s ‘Ink’ but with an added golden bronze shimmer. I love this kind of ‘black but not black’ look so I love this.
Both polishes benefit from having the same kind of brush as the main OPI range – flattish, a slight fan and not too wide which is my favourite kind of brush. This makes application super easy and quick. I used three coats for each and they dried fairly quickly between coats and didn’t drag. Staying power was pretty standard for me – about three or four days before it was badly chipped.
Overall, I can’t see much difference between OPI and Nicole by OPI. The main OPI range has more shades but Nicole is definitely catching up so I will definitely be keeping my eye on this more affordable option.
The Discovery Box from The Fragrance Shop is a quarterly subscription box which guarantees your best smelling mail packed with perfume samples. It’s four boxes per year for just £5 each. The number of samples varies but this one included 6 scents for women and 1 for the guys. The best thing is that the fragrances are all current season and includes a £5 or £10 off voucher for each one.
The Spring box is still available to order so this is what you can expect:
- Hugo Boss Hugo Woman – fruity and floral with boysenberry and jasmine yet reminiscent of their classic masculine scent with sandalwood and cedar.
- Givenchy Very Irresitible – very rosy and feminine with a hit of star anise.
- Guerlain Le Petite Robe Noire Eau Fraiche – light and fruity with lemon, bergamot and rose but with a bit of a nutty bite via pistachio and almond.
- Versace Eros Pour Femme – a strong fragrance with a sharp citrus hit. It has lemon and bergamot like the Guerlain but is a more rich scent with sandalwood and musk base notes.
- Dolce and Gabbana Floral Drops – as you can guess, it’s very floral with lily, daffodil and neroli leaf with musk to deepen it down.
- Stella McCartney Stella – a bright fruity scent with lemon and mandarin plus floral notes supplied by rose, peony and violet.
- Versace Eros (for him) – a masculine scent with apple and mint for freshness and vanilla and cedar wood for depth.
I feel like it has something for everyone. I don’t love the Versace or the Guerlain but I do love the Stella and the Hugo Boss. Looking forward to seeing the summer selection which I believe will be available in May.