Friday, 31 May 2019

Dior: Designer of Dreams (part 2)..

It seemed about time for another little instalment of pictures from the Dior exhibit I visited recently, following on from my first post here.


 As a keen amateur dressmaker, one of my favourite things about exploring the Dior: Designer of Dreams exhibit was just to take in the construction of some of the amazing works of art.

Bows on the bodice detail - I'm a sucker for a bow.


I adore the tailored, nipped in waist on this jacket.


Some of the displays showed samples of the fabrics used, and also detailed the design process, which I found pretty fascinating.


The detail on this dress was just incredible. From afar, it looks like feathers, but the effect is made from layers of net and sequins.


It looks amazing up close, and like feathers from further away. 


Everything was incredible - the attention to detail stunning and we're only in the second room (of many). 

Thursday, 30 May 2019

Blog Tour: Concerto by Hannah Fielding

Concerto: Hannah Fielding
Another blog tour for you today, and a new author to me. I've not read any Hannah Fielding before but if Concerto is anything to go by, I'll certainly be looking out for some more.

When Catriona Drouot, a young music therapist, honours an opera diva’s dying request to help her son, Umberto Monteverdi, recover his musical gift, she knows it will be a difficult assignment. She had shared a night of passion with the once-celebrated composer ten years before, with unexpected consequences. The extent of her challenge becomes apparent when she arrives at her client’s estate on the glittering shores of Lake Como. Robbed of his sight by a nearfatal car accident, the man is arrogant, embittered and resistant to her every effort to help him. Still, Catriona sings a siren’s call within him that he cannot ignore. Caught up in the tempestuous intrigues at Umberto’s Palladian mansion, Catriona discovers that her attraction to the blind musician is as powerful as ever. How can she share what she has hidden from him for the past decade? Soon she realises that hers is not the only secret that is rippling uneasily below the surface. Dark forces haunt the sightless composer, threatening his life – for the second time. Concerto is a sensual and romantic story of lost love and forgiveness, destiny and difficult choices, and of a heroine determined to put things right at last. 

I found the detail in this book so immersive - I was thrown right into the Italian landscape and descriptions of both that and Nice, where Catriona's life is now, have me longing to visit. We hop back into several chapters detailing how Umberto and Catriona first met, and where their lives have taken them since those romantic encounters, years before. 

The pace the slowly builds and so does Catriona's heart rate when she realises she is going to have to see Umberto again. But, he's been through an awful experience and she believes she can help him, so of course she has to do what she can to help.

She faces her fears, with a huge secret to hide and decides to fulfil the opera singer's mother's dying wish and do everything she can to help Umberto. 

This is a slow-burning romance with a bit of a twist at the end - I'd say it's the perfect holiday read. 

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Tuesday Titles 172: Kingsbane Blog Tour


It's been such a while since I read something on schedule and took part in a book blog tour, but I'm getting back on track and this is an exciting tour to jump back onboard with.

Throw yourself into a world of queens, angels and kingdoms at war. Kingsbane is the long-awaiting sequel to Furyborn, the first in a trilogy of books billed as fiercely feminist fantasy. So, of course I was intrigued. 

Kingsbane intensifies the legacy of Furyborn, building on the threat and thrills, lust and romances, whilst reigniting Claire Legrand as a trailblazing voice in the fantasy genre.

Rielle Dardenne has been anointed Sun Queen, but her trials are far from over. The Gate keeping the angels at bay is falling. To repair it, Rielle must collect the seven hidden castings of the saints. Meanwhile, to help her prince and love Audric protect Celdaria, Rielle must spy on the angel Corien—but his promises of freedom and power may prove too tempting to resist. Centuries later, Eliana Ferracora grapples with her new reality: She is the Sun Queen, humanity's long-awaited saviour. But fear of corruption—fear of becoming another Rielle—keeps Eliana's power dangerous and unpredictable. Hunted by all, racing against time to save her dying friend Navi, Eliana must decide how to wear a crown she never wanted by embracing her mother's power or rejecting it forever.

The pace is fast and each chapter pinballs back and forth between the queens: Eliana and Rielle. We know that they are living hundreds of years apart and yet that there's a strong connection between the two of them, and the book unravels this connection neatly by the end. I'd hoped for a little more progression between their worlds, which seemed to jump between centuries and yet be described very similarly, but I think that's just me being a little picky. 

There's a lot of magic at force in this series and some incredibly strong characters - my only flaw is with Rielle, who we know has abundant magical power, and yet seems to turn to jelly when her beau, Prince Audric is around. Having said that, I love the dynamic between these two and Ludivine and the way that they played off one another. 

There are a couple of characters in here who I loved to hate as well (Simon, Corien) and some downright evil behaviour - it's funny how people's behaviour can be so driven by greed and their longing for power. 

But, time is running out and Rielle has some huge decisions to make which could change her life forever: the Gate which is holding back the Angels (not good) is beginning to fall and it's up to her to protect her kingdom.

If you can bear to fall deep into this world, Kingsbane is available today. 

Kingsbane Blog Tour Final

Monday, 20 May 2019

Dior: Designer of Dreams (part 1)


A few weekends ago, we hopped on a train (well, several trains!) to London for an overnight trip. We had tickets to the Albert Hall to see a friend perform, and decided to try and make the most of a rare weekend "off" from working on the house and spend some time in the Big Smoke. 


One of the things I was desperately hoping to go to was the Dior: Designer of Dreams exhibition. It's being shown in a separate wing of the V+A museum, and it's opening times are extended past that of the museum, but even so it's been sold out since tickets were released. However, I discovered that a few more tickets are released around the 15th of each month, for the following month so I stalked the website in mid-April and managed to nab us two. They sold out like hot cakes, so I think I was pretty lucky. I'd have ideally liked to get an earlier time slot, but we ended up with 17:15, which I was hoping would be enough time to see the exhibit, then make our way to the Royal Albert Hall for the 19:30 concert start time. 


Arriving at the entrance to the queue at just after five, we were told to come back in ten minutes as we wouldn't be allowed access to the queue until our ticketed time. This filled me with a little panic, but we hovered around the courtyard for ten minutes and then were allowed to join the queue. Where we waited to be allowed down the stairs. At around 17:20 we were allowed through the rope to descend the staircase and...join another queue, where our tickets would be checked at a second desk. We were then informed that there would be a short wait before they let any more people in, as the rooms were getting crowded. Once in, there is free reign and the tour guide at the queue said that people often spend upwards of two hours in the exhibit. The other thing which wasn't helping numbers, was that although all tickets had been sold out, people who sign up to become V+A members, are able to access the exhibit on that day, so there was an extra queue for those which was being merged in with the timed tickets. There were a LOT of these people, so I guess they have a lot more visitors than ticket sales would suggest. 


Fiiinally, at 17:35 our tickets were scanned and we were able to enter the first room, which gave us a potted history and timeline of Christian Dior's life and career. Thankfully, as this is something I'm fairly clued up on already, I opted not to spend too much time reading up on all of the information on the walls, although there was a lot. 


Progressing to the first display-case filled room, you're met with several dresses, at eye level and ceiling height. In the central glass case, the dress designed for Princess Margaret's twenty-first birthday takes centre stage, and it's clear to see why the princess deemed it her "favourite dress of all". Such detail. This one is on loan from the Museum of London, so if you miss it at the Dior show, it will be visible there once again, come September. 


Honestly, the level of detail was amazing on this, but the general staging of the room was also great -for the two rows of dresses on the far wall there were printed information cards at the side of the room which gave more detail on each of the garments, which was a nice touch. People took their time, but this room didn't feel crowded or slow to progress through. 


As someone who makes dresses, I was super interested to see some of the construction details, as well as (of course!) the famous New Look shape. It's easy to see how much these designs have had an impact on today's fashion trends and I loved being able to take in so many of the details. In order for this post to not become photo-heavy and never-ending, I'll split the rooms up into several posts. 

Thursday, 16 May 2019

Gin and tonic, endless cups of tea.


A few weekends ago, I boarded a plane from Liverpool with the rest of my THFC crew and hopped across the Celtic Sea to spend the weekend in Belfast. Although the weather had some funny ideas, we refused to let it rain on our parade. 


One of our stops on the itinerary was to visit the Botanical Gardens and we did this on Friday afternoon after we'd checked into our lovely city centre apartment. It was a short walk from there and we managed to locate and have a nose about in a couple of super indie bookshops as well (No Alibis and Books Paper Scissors were both great).


We'd been told about the Tropical Ravine and had planned to visit that to see the banana plants, but it happened to be closed for repairs on the day we visited, so that was a shame. The palm house was open though, so we had a lovely explore around there.


The palm house is one of the earliest examples of a curved iron-framed glasshouse: it was built in the 1830s, with the curved dome being added about two decades later and it's still used today to grow a range of plants. I'm unsure whether these are then used for the park around- there was a beautiful flower bed full of all kinds of blooms outside the front of the glasshouse when we visited: an absolute riot of colour.


I find greenhouses and glasshouses a bit like libraries - they're generally pretty quiet and seem to be places where you can just go at your own pace and explore as you like, without being hassled. Everyone's in their own little world of appreciation and discovery, and generally people only tend to be there because they wish to, so they always seem like a happy and contented place to be.


I'm not great at plants, although I'm trying my best with my annual veg-planting endeavours (and incidentally, this year it's going better than most, since I now have a greenhouse of my very own!), but I was pleased to see that many of the specimens in the glass house were labelled. I like to note down the name of things which I see in the hope I'll be able to find myself one for the garden next time I'm at the garden centre..


We spent a very enjoyable hour or so exploring the glasshouse, avoiding the drizzle and generally taking in the planty goodness. I'd definitely recommend. Do you have any nice glasshouses nearby?


Tuesday, 7 May 2019

Tuesday Titles 171..

Ask again, Yes
Ask Again, Yes: Mary Beth Keane 

One of the books I've most enjoyed recently: you know you've enjoyed a book when you're still thinking about it weeks after reading, right?

This one focuses on two families who move into a suburban New York neighbourhood in the 1970s to raise their families. Although both men are police officers, they don't really know each other to begin with and their lives slowly begin to overlap as they have kids in the same school and time passes.

Starting off with the fast passing of time, as things begin to settle into a slower pace, we learn more and more about some of the characters and witness a love story unfold, with some dramatic consequences. Suddenly on one night, everything changes and the families are left dealing with the fallout from this tragedy for the rest of their lives.

I don't know how much more I can share about this one as I don't want to give away the major event, so I'll just implore you to read it and leave it at that. Happy Tuesday!