re:View – The 2016 Bookshelf: September/October

My year of not reading very much continues. I don’t know what it is this year – maybe I’m just not picking very good books, but I’m just not in much of a reading state of mind. Of course, it may also have to do with the little fact that I’m single for the first time in many years and just really enjoying having the time and freedom to do my own thing and work on some new projects. That, and being able to pick what I want to watch on TV rather than reading my way through somebody else’s choice of evening entertainment. In any case, the bookshelf has grown by a few more books, so here they are.


Super-Cannes by J. G. Ballard
The master of everything that’s fucked up about the human experience turns his attention to the business park – that clinically clean, highly secure and perfectly isolated enclosure of human progress where abominations fester below a perfectly landscaped surface. Retired pilot Paul and his young clinician wife Jane move into Super-Cannes, the business park to end all business parks in the hills above the French coast, where the world’s most brilliant minds live and work in luxury – until one amongst them goes on a sudden murder spree, executing several people and killing himself. Bored out of his mind with nothing to do, Paul investigates the events and becomes obsessed with the motivation behind the massacre, in the process uncovering a sinister secret that could bring down the multi-billion empire of Super-Cannes. I so wanted to love this book because it seemed to feature absolutely everything I loved about High-Rise and Ballard’s other studies of human nature. But somehow I just didn’t get into it. The book takes way too long to get to the point, building and furnishing a (not very atmospheric) atmosphere while hinting at a massive plot revelation that happens too late, and too unconvincingly. The only thing that Ballard does get across very well is the deadly ennui of a person being stuck in the perfect workplace with absolutely no work to do.
Pens: 2 out of 5

Blood on the Moon (Lloyd Hopkins #1) by James Ellroy
Ooh, this is very early James Ellroy. This is baby James Ellroy, and as such quite fascinating. Having read (and obsessed over) his later works that earned him a cult following (the L.A. Quartet and Underworld USA trilogy), I really enjoyed going back to his older books and getting an insight into his brilliant author mind as it evolved. The Lloyd Hopkins books have everything that makes his later work stand out – the obsessively detailed profile of the conflicted police detective, the gruesome and twisted case he investigates, the particular shade of noir that would later become Ellroy’s trademark style – but it’s all there in traces, it’s all just evolving. For a seasoned Ellroy fan these early novels are more like a study of an author in the making. Ellory introduces the book by saying that it was written at the same time as Red Dragon and that his own work is far inferior to “Thomas Harris’ brilliant and ground-breaking novel”. However, I would argue that Ellroy produced a pretty decent first attempt at a serial killer novel, which has everything from a perfectly twisted killer to an incredible range of imaginative murder scenarios, as well as a memorable detective character. It pales in comparison to his later books, but it’s still a very good, fast-paced and enjoyable noir thriller.
Pens: 3 out of 5

Because the Night (Lloyd Hopkins #2) by James Ellroy
Having gotten off to a pretty good start with Blood on the Moon, Ellory seems to lose the plot a little bit in the second Lloyd Hopkins book. The idea for the story is, again, very solid: a psychologist who is equal parts genius and madman uses his powers of manipulation to rope unsuspecting patients into a series of horrendous crimes, which eventually leads to a duel of the minds when he crosses the (by now very well established) character of the detective. But despite the brilliant characterisation and some pretty outrageous criminal action, the story seems to lag, taking a lot of unnecessary corners that were probably meant as plot twists but largely serve to confuse the reader. The book is important for the continuity of this series, but not necessarily worthy of reading as a standalone novel.
Pens: 2 out of 5

Suicide Hill (Lloyd Hopkins #3) by James Ellroy
After a mediocre middle part, the Lloyd Hopkins trilogy picks up the pace again for a memorable finale. Wrecked emotionally by the events of the previous two cases, Lloyd is taken off his duties and faces early retirement, when he sniffs out a series of bank heists that turn into one of the biggest investigation in the LA police force. What’s particularly enjoyable about this book is that it most of the action takes place on the side of the bad guys and as the story unfolds (as opposed to after the event), which creates a very compelling counterpoint to Hopkins’ police work. While Ellroy’s look into the minds of serial killers and offenders in the first two parts look pretty dated by today’s standards, the crimes in this story seem to originate from social circumstances and the very human desire to build up a life against the odds, which engages the reader on a whole different level. Overall, I think this trilogy is a very good early work and certainly holds up against other examples in the genre from its time.
Pens: 3 out of 5

Girl with a camera: New adventures in photography

So I finally got myself a proper camera. Photography is something I’ve wanted to learn for absolutely ever, and seeing as my food blog will never go anywhere with smart phone snapshots, I decided the time to do it may as well be now.

My budget determined an entry-level price range, so after reading and watching every single review on the Internet I chose the Olympus Pen E-PL7. Even though the little retro-look compact system camera was aggressively marketed at selfie-snapping fashionista lifestyle vloggers, it came out at the top of its price range among all the reviews I compared, and a lot of photographers were quick to point out that it can do a lot more than what Olympus positioned it for.

My first test run wasn’t the most successful because I hadn’t had time to read the manual and found it difficult to get past the various auto and selfie settings and Instagram style filters to find the real stuff. But after a bit of reading and with the help of some online advice, I’ve got my newly customised buttons and a quick-access custom menu all set up and ready to shoot.

Now I just need to learn to use the thing. To start with I’m reading food photographer Corinna Gissemann’s very helpful, beginner-friendly book Food Photography, and setting up a low-budget photo studio nook in my flat with some pretty props and a decent light.

In the meantime, here are some very early test shots from when I was figuring out where all the buttons are, and all that.

Healthy apple and cinnamon cake (recipe here)

Lovely carrots from the market

derp1My beautiful baby cat…

derp3…his ridiculous facial hair

Hampstead Heath on a sunny autumn day

Squirrel in Golders Hill Park

And yes, Olympus, I took a fricking selfie.


Red hair adventures: Lush henna vs Henne Color

Let’s talk about hair. It’s something I have a lot of, and I like it to be in colours that don’t, unfortunately, grow out of my head naturally.

I was born blonde. Growing up I really wanted dark hair and my genetics complied – to a degree. But then nature left me stuck in between blonde and brown in that not-quite-anything shade known as mousy.

Now, I’m not a mousy kind of girl. More of a rainbow glitter unicorn, really. In the last ten years, I’ve put my long hair through everything from blonde highlights to permanent darkest brown, and via aubergine to a vibrant pinkish purple that was my absolute favourite colour but did so much damage that it left me dangerously close to no hair.

Happy hair days – except my hair wasn’t happy at all.

Years of bottle dyes laced with bleach had made my hair so thin and brittle that I left a trail of broken ends wherever I went. I tried to salvage it with a gentle trim and the hairdresser warned me that one more shot of bottle dye and I’d be back getting a full crop.

Letting a full head of purple-pink grow out into mousy was out of the question, so I turned to henna in an attempt to contain the damage while at least keeping some degree of colour.

Lush Colour to the rescue

A friend recommended Lush’s henna-based colour in the Rouge (brightest red) shade and it was a real life saver. From the first application, it restored my hair more than I ever thought possible. It covered the faded remains of my old colour very well, leaving me with a gorgeous gradient of red shades, from bright copper on the very bleached ends to a deep red on the darker roots. For the first time in years, my hair felt soft to touch and fell in soft waves instead of sticking out in frizzy tufts.

Result of the first henna application with Lush Colour.

I kept using Lush for a year and with each application the colour deepened and my hair got softer and stronger. It stopped breaking and actually grew, by at least 15cm in the past year.

Lush’s all-natural henna colours are super conditioning and create great results, but they are very messy and time-consuming to apply. Here are a few things you need to know before you get started.

Block to paste – prepare to get messy. Image: Lush

Lush henna pros:

  • Only uses natural ingredients – henna, cocoa butter and essential oils
  • Great conditioning effect, leaves hair very glossy
  • Improves hair health over time. After one year of regular applications, my hair is much thicker and more resilient
  • Long lasting, vibrant colour
  • Natural-looking coverage that adjusts to the colour variations in your hair

Lush henna cons:

  • Sold in a solid block which has to be chopped up finely before you can mix it, adding time to the already lengthy application process.
  • Doesn’t dissolve properly in hot water – the paste stays kind of grainy, making it difficult to apply evenly and a complete pain to rinse out. On long hair you need to condition and brush several times under the shower to get all the grains back out.
  • Separates back into solids and liquid as it dries, so be prepared to wipe away a lot of staining goo dripping off your head for hours.
  • It needs three to four hours to yield proper results. Add to that at least an hour for application, and another hour to rinse it back out, and you basically spend an entire afternoon colouring your hair.

Lush henna about three months after the last application.

So while I really love the results of Lush Colour, I was open to a more practical and less time-consuming option.

Red becomes super red with Henne Color

Another henna-savvy friend recommended Henne Color from France, which offers a wider range of colours and is available from Holland & Barrett (for example) in the UK.

Henne Color lacks the added conditioning ingredients that Lush offers, and it contains sodium picramate which has been researched for potential health risks. But it creates a stunning colour result and a degree of coverage that comes close to permanent dyes, and also comes through more strongly on darker roots compared to Lush.

After consulting Henne’s colour chart I chose Acajou (mahogany). On my hair the result was similar to Lush’s Rouge but with a slightly deeper, less orange tint. The colour came out very evenly across my lighter ends and darker roots, as well as on the various random highlights that are left over from my bleaching days. The coverage isn’t quite as solid as with bottle hair dye though, so the result is a beautiful ombre gradient with natural-looking highlights.

Henne Color first application, comparison of inside light and sunlight.

Henne Color comes in a handy powder that dissolves completely in hot water, creating a smooth, melted chocolate-like consistency that’s very easy to apply and quick to rinse out. No problems with crumbling or dripping either. The manufacturer recommends to leave the product in 30 minutes to two hours, so again I went for the maximum time to get the maximum colour out of it.

It actually had a conditioning effect similar to Lush’s henna as well, leaving my hair noticeably softer and smoother.

So which henna wins?

Both Lush and Henne Color create great results and are so much better for your hair than chemical dyes.

I will forever love Lush’s product for rescuing and restoring my bleach-damaged hair. If you want a product that’s free from all additives and creates a very natural-looking result, this is a great choice.

Henne Color, meanwhile, is the quicker and more convenient option so if you’re new to colouring with henna, this will probably work better for you. And if you like your red to be bright and bold, you’ll probably be happier with the stronger coverage it offers compared to Lush.

I still miss my purple-pink hair days but I won’t be going back, because the amount of bleaching it requires would end up ruining my long hair completely. But with these two henna products offering a brilliant alternative, I’ll very happily be a redhead for the foreseeable future.

Hair sorted; selfie skills still need some work.

#TransformationTuesday reminded me that the biggest change isn’t always the most visible change

I did my first #TransformationTuesday on Instagram this week and the feedback has been so positive and encouraging that I decided to write about it in a bit more detail here.

After three years of training it has become more difficult to spot progress in the short term, but that doesn’t mean it’s not still happening. After losing quite a bit of body fat initially and then building some basic strength, I’m now working on building my figure with a bit more attention to detail – adding more tone and muscle here and there. As with any fine-tuning, it’s not as instantly visible as the major transformation that preceded it, and I’ve been getting a bit frustrated with my progress recently.

So I dug out some old photos to remind myself how far I’ve come and how much it has changed not only my body but also my entire life.

The picture below shows me on summer holidays in 2013 on the left and in 2016 on the right. The experience in 2013 – both the holiday and looking at pictures of it afterwards – actually triggered my weight loss and fitness journey, the first stage of which I wrote about here. The picture on the right is where I am right now. So, looking at these pictures, which me do you think had more fun?


For me getting fit wasn’t just about being a certain shape. Yes, in the beginning it was primarily about losing that extra bulk I had put on, which was making me feel miserable, and being able to comfortable in my skin again. But very quickly, as I started noticing the changes in my body – seeing the external results and also feeling how it affected my overall wellbeing, it became much more than that. It became a complete lifestyle change.

To me training and healthy eating isn’t about the numbers on the scale or the size written on the labels in my clothes. It’s about being healthy and strong and nourishing this body that’s carrying me through my life.

I was always sporty as a kid but fell into bad eating habits and a completely sedentary lifestyle when I started working – with a few significant impacts on my health. In the three years between those two pictures, I didn’t just get fit and lose weight. I also got rid of crippling IBS and managed to gain control of the effect asthma was having on my everyday life. I learned how to eat healthy food that’s good for me – and vast amounts of it as well, because my metabolism is on fire now that I work out hard most days – and most importantly I learned to enjoy every meal without feeling guilty.

In the picture on the left I was on a round trip of Switzerland, which involved lots of walking tours. After two hours of walking in hilly terrain I was in so much pain that I had to rest, and too sore to move for days after – which put some serious limitations on the amount of enjoyment I got out of that holiday. During my summer holiday at Lake Garda this year, not a day went by that didn’t involve some sort of activity – whether it was exploring the nearby mountains, long runs along the coast, morning yoga and evening workouts in the garden of my holiday home, or in fact discovering that it’s entirely possible to stand on your head on a fricking surfboard in the middle of a lake.

And that’s what it’s all about really. Three years ago I struggled to walk up the road, now I can run up hills and enjoy it, lift some pretty heavy-ass weights, stand my ground in martial arts…and I’m having so much fun pushing the limits of what my body can do while getting stronger all the time.


Digging out and posting those photos from 2013 took some courage but it was important to remember where I started and how far I’ve come since. My fitness, my strength and my figure are all still works in progress, and they probably always will be because there’s always room for improvement. But for now I’m very happy with where I am. I feel not only comfortable in my body, but I’m actually proud to show it – and that’s an entirely new experience for me.

One of my friends commented on this picture saying, “Even your body language is different.” Of course it is. On the left I’m painfully aware that I’m being captured in a moment where I’m utterly uncomfortable with both how I look and how I feel. Look at me basically trying to disappear inside myseslf! On the right, I’m in the middle of my first ever family album photo shoot where I’m not begging my parents to put down the camera, but in fact happy to pose for another picture, and another, and another.

So that’s the story. My transformation isn’t as huge as most you see on that hashtag because I wasn’t that much bigger when I started – I only lost around 15kg altogether. But in terms of the impact it had on my life, my health, and how I feel, you could say I’m a whole different person now. And I do see that in those photos.

re:View – The 2016 Bookshelf: August

The August bookshelf is a bit of a mixed bag, featuring brilliant children’s books, some bad choices, and some good advice. See if you can guess from the covers which book proved particularly crap.


Momo by Michael Ende
My great-aunt gave me this book for my first communion and I re-read and treasured it all through my childhood. I recently rediscovered it going through some old stuff at my parents’ house, and amazingly, it’s still every bit as wonderful and magical twenty years later. In an unspecified city, in an unspecified era, life is disturbed by the arrival the the mysterious Men in Grey, who live off the lifetime they steal off humans. Momo, an orphan girl living in an old amphitheatre on the edge of town, is the only one who knows about their secret undertaking and ends up having to save the entire city from an army of supernatural, life-sucking creatures. This book is a wonderful example of fantasy for children with a serious undercurrent. The time-stealing baddies are, of course, a metaphor for modern life, which has left us leading incredibly busy lives. It reminds us of our obsession with saving time, and argues that all this time we save is essentially time lost. An absolute classic of children’s literature and also a very good book for any adult who wants to be reminded what really matters in life.
Pens: 5 out of 5

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re:View – The 2016 Bookshelf: July

So, after ending a six-year relationship and finding a home for myself and my two kitties in the first half of the year, I will admit it has taken some time to settle back into a new routine. And with all the moving and sorting out a new flat, books moved pretty close to the bottom of the priorities list – temporarily, of course. Just managed to stick with my book-a-week minimum once again. And a rather random selection at that!


A Greedy Man in a Hungry World by Jay Rayner
You may know Jay Rayner as the slightly annoying food critic from the Guardian and Masterchef, and I have to report that while he makes some interesting points in his book, he’s also a bit annoying as an author. Greedy Man is part very good and party very annoying. The good part: it told me a lot of things I didn’t know about the UK’s food industry (and the supply chain in the wider world) and as someone who cares about what I eat and where it comes from, I found those things both informative and though-provoking. The bad part: Rayner’s an opinionated bastard (I have a hunch he would take this as a compliment) and won’t miss a single opportunity to get on his soap box. Fair enough so far – it’s his book after all. And I do like a good rant, actually. However, some of his opinions seem just a little too self-congratulatory to be enjoyable, and too obviously aimed at causing insult to come across as sincere. This bit I can forgive him; it’s an occupational hazard that comes with journalism. But when it comes to the structure and planning of the book, I won’t take any excuses – because he is a journalist. Greedy Man suffers as an overall product from a lack of coherence, sitting in between the essay collection and the memoir without really being either. While both the essays and the memoir episodes are enjoyable reads individually, the way they’ve been stitched together doesn’t make sense and detracts from the focus of the book. A lot of Rayner’s personal memories are completely irrelevant to the topic at hand and you keep asking yourself why exactly you’re reading pages and pages of personal memories that just don’t get to a point. I actually skipped a few of those towards the end. If this book had been firmly rooted on the journalism side, without trying to awkwardly straddle memoir as well, it could have been great. As it is, it leaves a bit of a bland aftertaste.
Pens: 2 out of 5

The Terminal Beach by J.G. Ballard
Ballard is always good for a doomsday nightmare, but in this collection of short stories from 1964 he’s taking a particularly gloomy perspective, exploring death from all kinds of angles. From a demented ex-pilot roaming a nuclear wasteland to a giant human body decaying on a beach, and from a remote-triggered mass suicide to individual lost souls drawn into natural disasters, every story leads up to the inevitable in some bizarre form. However, the story that terrified me the most isn’t even about death. Billennium imagines a near future where the world’s overpopulation has grown to such an extent that each person is granted a legally prescribed maximum of 3.5 square metres of living space. That’s maximum, yes. I read this story while commuting home from my central London office to my tiny flat and Ballard’s account of frantically crowded city pavements and claustrophobic living quarters made me so anxious that I had to stop reading, get off the train and finish the story on a quiet park bench. The way things are going with living conditions in London, I can fully imagine such a scenario happening not too long after my lifetime. Overall this is is a brilliantly imaginative – if somewhat depressing – collection of early Ballard that deserves a place in any collection of speculative fiction.
Pens: 3 out of 5

Japanese Tales of Mystery and Imagination by Edogawa Ranpo
I love Japanese fiction for so many reasons, but mostly because it generally feels so much more subtle and delicate than most of Western fiction. I found the same to be true for this collection of mystery and horror stories, which are rendered all the more terrifying by their subtleness. Dealing mostly with the mind and the terrors of guilt, regret and psychological abuse, these stories made my hair stand up more than any graphic account of horror ever could. From perverse fantasies to cold-blooded murders, this collection is a thrilling and intelligent homage to Rampo’s literary idol Edgar Allan Poe.
Pens: 4 out of 5

The Gods of Gotham by Lyndsay Fay
The first part of Fay’s Timothy Wilde series follows one of NYC’s first policemen through the early days of the New York Police Department as he deals with the fallout from a fire that destroyed his face and his life while investigating a series of racially and religiously motivated murders. I picked up this book because I was hoping that it would bring alive the world of its period (in the way James Ellory’s books bring alive the underworld of LA), but it wasn’t quite as exciting as that. Think murder mystery rather than fully fledged police thriller. It’s still an enjoyable and entertaining book – great for a casual holiday read I would imagine – but it was a little too predictable and tame to really blow me away.
Pens: 3 out of 5

Schrödinger’s immigrants: Brexit and the blatant xenophobia in the Leave camp’s immigration argument

Brexit rages in the minds and the mouths of this country, and the whole debate has pretty much boiled down to the question of immigration control. That’s understandable, as it’s the most emotionally charged aspect of the referendum, and the easiest target for the Leave campaign’s very cleverly calculated rhetoric.

We’re being flooded by immigrants. They come here taking your jobs and your children’s jobs. They come here without jobs and take your benefits and your children’s benefits.

So goes the Leave campaign’s prime argument.

Schrödinger’s immigrants

When challenged on this xenophobic stance, Brexiters are quick to point out that, of course, they’re not against all immigrants. Just, you know, the bad ones.

Taking last night’s Question Time as an example, the anti-immigration comments from the Leave camp (panel and audience alike) can be summed up as this:

“Oh we’re not against immigration as such. We do like immigrants. We just don’t want the ones that come here taking our jobs, and the ones that come here and don’t work and take our benefits.”

So tell me again, who are these immigrants that you do like, then? Because if you don’t want the ones that come here to work, and you don’t want the ones that come here without a job, that adds up to 100% of foreigners coming to this country.

And that makes you exactly one thing: a xenophobe.

Heart vs mind

I’m worried about Brexit. As a German, European and adopted Brit who has lived, worked and paid taxes in the UK for the past eight years, I’m very worried indeed about a potential exit from the EU. But what worries me most is the blatant xenophobia driving the Leave campaign.

As Eddie Izzard kept saying on the Question Time panel, this stance is hugely damaging to our efforts to improve the state of humanity globally. What we need is not more withdrawal into our own little national bubbles, shutting our borders and throwing out people whose nationality we don’t like. History should have taught us enough of the consequences this approach tends to create. What we need is to reach out to each other and work together on the real threats facing us and our children: Climate change. Resources running out. Spreading political instability. War. Hunger. Good luck to any nation trying to make a difference to those issues on their own.

I’m worried about the referendum because when it comes to immigration, the Leave camp has a very emotionally charged argument that is being driven right into people’s hearts, while the Remain campaign is trying to appeal to economic considerations, humanity and plain old common sense.

I can only hope that when the people of this country vote on the 23rd, they will read their minds as well as their hearts and not let the scaremongering rhetoric cloud their human judgement.

re:View – How SensatioNail changed my nail game (yes, I’m reviewing a beauty product!)

Once upon a time I loved to paint my nails – back when I was in school and had hours to spend on creating fiddly nail art, waiting for fancy top coats to dry and doing it all over again a few days later. Then adult life happened and I stopped bothering, mainly out of the frustration of seeing my lovingly painted nails chipping and peeling off within a day. In between work, fitness and social life, there just wasn’t enough time for constant nail maintenance. I’ve never seen the point in spending time and money on getting my nails done, and as someone who types a lot at work and plays the piano, I have to keep them fairly short anyway.

Sure, it bothered me a bit, always having short, plain, boring nails – but there just wasn’t a convenient enough alternative.

Then, just before Christmas last year, my colleague told me about her do-at-home gel nail kit from SensatioNail, which – so she said – let her create perfect manicures that last, all within a few minutes. This sounded a bit too good to be true, but I was sufficiently intrigued to grab a starter kit.

And it actually works. With the SensatioNail system it takes me about twenty minutes to paint my nails, with no drying time, and each manicure I’ve had over the past half year lasted for two weeks or more. No chipping, no peeling – just perfect, glossy nails.

A simple French tip style design, using SensatioNail colours ‘Pink Champagne’ and ‘Going For The Rose Gold’.

It’s as simple as anything. Buff, put on primer, apply base coat and cure for 30 seconds, apply two coats of colour and cure for 1 minute each, finish with the clear coat and cure again – job done. SensatioNail offers around 90 gel colours, ranging from elegant to vibrant, all reasonably priced at £12.50 (if you buy them from their website; £15 at Boots).

The SensatioNail starter kit comes with a lamp, all essentials (primer, base/top coat, etc), and two gel colours (different colour options available), currently priced at £49.99.

Within a few weeks of doing my own gel nails, I was so comfortable with the routine that I started experimenting with glitter coats, French tips, studs, stickers, layered colours – all the nail designs I never used to bother with because if you do them with normal polish they take hours to dry. Now I can do a bit of nail art with multiple layers and accessories and event the more complex, layered styles don’t take more than an hour.

And, best of all, this gel polish just lasts and lasts, without chipping or peeling or losing its shine. I’ve read it depends on your nail type and some of my friends have reported their manis only last for about a week, but on my nails every colour I’ve tried so far has lasted a full two weeks.

Here’s a comparison of SensatioNail colour ‘Ocean Sparkle’ with silver sequins on day 1 and day 15 – grown out of course, but otherwise still spotless after two weeks of wear.


And a few more examples of colours and designs I’ve tried to far:

Simple two-tone design using SensatioNail colours ‘Midnight Rendezvous’ and ‘Disco Fever’.

One of my favourite colour combos so far. SensatioNail colours ‘Pink Champagne’, ‘Mauve Maven’ and ‘Rose Gold Glitter’ layered with the help of striping tape.

My favourite pink nail polish ever, SensatioNail ‘Kitten Heel’, layered here with ‘Midnight Rendezvous’, a sprinkling of silver glitter and a few sparkly nail gems.

And there’s another neat trick you can do with this. Here I’ve used SensatioNail colour ‘Kitten Heel’ with a layer of regular top coat with graffiti style particles. I finished the gel process as usual, top coat and everything, then applied a layer of the graffiti polish, let it dry and fixed it with another layer of gel top coat. It lasted for about a week before the graffiti coat started peeling off the gel mani underneath. Great way to freshen up a gel mani for the second week.

Now that I’ve had glamorous nails for half a year, I can honestly say the SensatioNail kit has been the best beauty product I’ve ever invested in. And this post isn’t in any way sponsored or paid, by the way – purely my own, honest opinion on a fabulous product. I don’t even write about beauty stuff on this blog, I had to shout about this one.

re:View – The 2016 Bookshelf: June

June was all about moving flats, so my contact with books was mostly limited to packing them in boxes, carrying them and buying new book storage. Managed to squeeze in a few reading hours though. You could say this edition of Bookshelf is all about monsters – human, superhuman and in between.


The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood
This was my first book by Atwood outside the realms of sci-fi / dystopia and I struggled a bit initially when I realised this was all going to be about relationships – but Atwood’s brilliant style soon won me over. In many ways this is a long and mostly sad story of three women who didn’t have a lucky start in life and put themselves on an even unluckier path by choosing the wrong kind of men. Initially we are led to believe it’s all the fault of the mysterious Zenia – the Robber Bride, the Jezebel, morally decayed to the bone, seemingly born without a conscience, without any sense of female camaraderie – who lies and cheats her way through the lives of these three, bent on stealing their men and ruining their happiness. But as the story of each woman unfolds you can’t help but wonder if Zenia didn’t indeed do them a favour by relieving them of cheating husbands that were only preying on their gullible nature, helplessness or financial security. I still can’t decide whether I found this book uplifting or depressing. True, the women all come out of the encounter with Zenia stronger, if not necessarily happier, but all the female characters are either infuriatingly gullible and spineless, or else the embodiment of all female evil. It’s a bit like a war of different types of femininity in which nobody wins. However, Atwood’s writing style and world view is delightful and irresistible as always, so I still loved this book overall.
Pens: 4 out of 5

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re:View – The 2016 Bookshelf –
May: From Disturbia to Delight

May 2016: quite possibly my month of the fewest books ever. I managed just three, and one of them is a German book from my hometown that will never be translated, so this month’s bookshelf remains very short indeed.


The Birds and Other Stories by Daphne du Maurier
Another recommendation from a colleague and a book I probably wouldn’t have picked up otherwise. I wasn’t blown away by the title story, but some of the lesser known short stories in this collection really got to me – particularly Monte Verita, about two men’s lifelong search for a women spirited away by a mysterious mountain sect, and The Little Photorapher, which explores the darker side of romantic obsession. Most of these stories are quite disturbing in an uncomfortable, somebody-get-her-a-therapist kind of way and all shine a revealing light on the depths of the human psyche. Overall a very enjoyable and captivating collection that definitely made me want to dig deeper into the work of Daphne du Maurier.
Pens: 4 out of 5

The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson
Another hilarious and totally incredible story from the genius behind The Hundred-Year-Old-Man…, this time about a girl born in a shack in South Africa who goes on to become a figure of significant influence behind the scenes of international politics. As always with Jonasson, it works if you’re prepared to go along on a ridiculous rollercoaster ride without questioning any of the plot twists. If you can do that (and it took me about the first half of the first book to get into the right state of mind), it’s a wonderful story about an improbable heroine, a guy who doesn’t exist, an atomic bomb which technically doesn’t exist either but nevertheless causes serious mayhem around the world, and a loveable cast of royalists, revolutionaries and general weirdos. Jonasson writes with wit and a whole lot of heart, and has once again produced a book that feels like a road trip with a good friend – a delightfully Swedish good friend.
Pens: 3 out of 5