#GirlCrush, Bookclub, Life

Nicole’s top book picks you won’t be able to put down

This month we had our February Book Club at my friend and colleague Nicole’s house (yes, the same Nicole whose beautiful floral dress I featured on clothes swop) This beautiful redhead, is currently the Special Projects Manager at Associated Media, and a former managing and beauty editor for ELLE South Africa. (read: has the most impeccable taste in whatever she buys – including books!) Sneak Peek asks her all about her latest paperback choices and more!

What books did you choose for Book Club this month and why? How do you go about choosing new books to read?

I was so excited when it finally came to my turn to choose books for Book Club – the idea of going to Exclusive’s and browsing for great reads is my idea of a Saturday well spent 🙂 I chose three books: The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris, Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens and The Labyrinth of the Spirits by Carlos Ruiz Zafón.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris, R199, takealot.com (it’s a little more expensive at Exclusive Books, R287)

I have heard and read incredible reviews about The Tattooist of Auschwitz and it seemed like a book everyone should read and that everyone would enjoy. I couldn’t not choose it.

‘In April 1942, Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew, is forcibly transported to the concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau. When his captors discover that he speaks several languages, he is put to work as a Tätowierer (the German word for tattooist), tasked with permanently marking his fellow prisoners.

Imprisoned for more than two and a half years, Lale witnesses horrific atrocities and barbarism—but also incredible acts of bravery and compassion. Risking his own life, he uses his privileged position to exchange jewels and money from murdered Jews for food to keep his fellow prisoners alive.

One day in July 1942, Lale, prisoner 32407, comforts a trembling young woman waiting in line to have the number 34902 tattooed onto her arm. Her name is Gita, and in that first encounter, Lale vows to somehow survive the camp and marry her.

A vivid, harrowing, and ultimately hopeful re-creation of Lale Sokolov’s experiences as the man who tattooed the arms of thousands of prisoners with what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust, The Tattooist of Auschwitz is also a testament to the endurance of love and humanity under the darkest possible conditions.’ – Heather Morris (Goodreads Author)

Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, R302, Exclusive Books

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I saw that this book had been recommended by Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club and I have always been a fan of her top literary picks – she is an avid reader and her recommendations are always interesting page-turners!

‘For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life–until the unthinkable happens.

Perfect for fans of Barbara Kingsolver and Karen Russell, Where the Crawdads Sing is at once an exquisite ode to the natural world, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story, and a surprising tale of possible murder. Owens reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.’ Delia Owens (Goodreads Author)

The Labyrinth of the Spirits by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, R338, Exclusive Books

Last but last least, I couldn’t resist Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s new release that completes his quartet of books about The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, The Labyrinth of the Spirits. His first three novels, The Shadow of The Wind, The Angel’s Game and The Prisoner of Heaven were enthralling, magical and so well written that I have no doubt his fourth book will follow suit!

‘The internationally acclaimed, New York Times bestselling author returns to the magnificent universe he constructed in his bestselling novels The Shadow of the Wind, The Angel’s Game, and The Prisoner of Heaven in this riveting series finale—a heart-pounding thriller and nail-biting work of suspense which introduces a sexy, seductive new heroine whose investigation shines a light on the dark history of Franco’s Spain

In this unforgettable final volume of Ruiz Zafón’s cycle of novels set in the universe of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, beautiful and enigmatic Alicia Gris, with the help of the Sempere family, uncovers one of the most shocking conspiracies in all Spanish history.

Nine-year-old Alicia lost her parents during the Spanish Civil War when the Nacionales (the fascists) savagely bombed Barcelona in 1938. Twenty years later, she still carries the emotional and physical scars of that violent and terrifying time. Weary of her work as investigator for Spain’s secret police in Madrid, a job she has held for more than a decade, the twenty-nine-year old plans to move on. At the insistence of her boss, Leandro Montalvo, she remains to solve one last case: the mysterious disappearance of Spain’s Minister of Culture, Mauricio Valls.

With her partner, the intimidating policeman Juan Manuel Vargas, Alicia discovers a possible clue—a rare book by the author Victor Mataix hidden in Valls’ office in his Madrid mansion. Valls was the director of the notorious Montjuic Prison in Barcelona during World War II where several writers were imprisoned, including David Martín and Victor Mataix. Traveling to Barcelona on the trail of these writers, Alicia and Vargas meet with several booksellers, including Juan Sempere, who knew her parents.

As Alicia and Vargas come closer to finding Valls, they uncover a tangled web of kidnappings and murders tied to the Franco regime, whose corruption is more widespread and horrifying than anyone imagined. Alicia’s courageous and uncompromising search for the truth puts her life in peril. Only with the help of a circle of devoted friends will she emerge from the dark labyrinths of Barcelona and its history into the light of the future.

In this haunting new novel, Carlos Ruiz Zafón proves yet again that he is a masterful storyteller and pays homage to the world of books, to his ingenious creation of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, and to that magical bridge between literature and our lives.’ – Goodreads

What book are you currently reading?

I am currently reading Shelter In Place by Nora Roberts, R272, Exclusive Books – another Instagram recommendation from Reese – seems like I am really trusting Ms. Witherspoon for book suggestions ATM!

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What are your 3 all-time-fave books?

Tricky question! If I had to name just three they would have to be The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern and then my all-time favourite, South of Broad by Pat Conroy.

Besides reading, how do you spend your downtime? 

I am a big fan of watching series to wind down! I feel like they give my mind a break from thinking and I enjoy being entertained while putting my feet up on the couch. I’ve just finished watching American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace – if you haven’t seen this, do yourself a favour and watch it immediately! You won’t be disappointed.

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Home, My style

My new obsession 💫

I’ve started swopping clothes with all my friends (that you get to keep for one month only) and I can’t believe I didn’t think of doing this sooner! By now you know, I own a narrow 100 items in my wardrobe so this genius idea couldn’t have come sooner.

It started when my friend, Roxy, went on a spontaneous trip to America. She was leaving that week and wanted a few ‘new’ items for her trip,  we both found some clothes in our wardrobe that we wouldn’t mind temporally parting with (for that month only) and the ULTIMATE CLOTHES SWOP WAS BORN. On top of giving your cupboard an instant refresh without spending loads, clothes swop is considered an act of environmentalism #SCORE!

This week I borrowed some amazing dresses from my friend Nicole, here’s how I dressed one up for work today:

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My style

#CosmoTries: I wore the same jumpsuit every day for a week. Here’s what happened…

For the past three years I’ve been trying to reduce the amount of clothes I own to a narrow 100 items. After reading that almost everyone only wears 20 percent of their clothes 80 percent of the time, I decided to focus on the 20 percent of my wardrobe that I absolutely love.

Working at a women’s magazine gives me free reign to wear whatever I feel like to work – and has made it tricky at times to stick to my “hot 100” rule – but I have drastically cut the amount of clothing I purchase monthly. If I buy something new, I force myself to choose a piece to let go of. I have held three jumble sales, and it makes me feel good to donate the money I make to charity.

After surprising myself at how possible it was to let go of so much clothing – I even set myself a challenge to pack only 20 items of clothing for a month-long trip to Germany last year – I decided to really up the ante. I wanted to see how feasible it would be to wear one item of clothing – a jumpsuit – for an entire week. Would I run out of ways to make it feel fresh and updated? Would my colleagues raise their eyebrow in my direction when I turned up in the same jumpsuit day after day? Would the new guy I had started dating wonder if I actually owned more than one outfit?

My style

My normal style is a bit of a mixed bag, completely dependent on my mood when I roll out of bed in the morning. I asked my colleagues to define my style, and they threw out, “Quirky, unpredictable and eclectic”. I also asked my sister-in-law and she texted back immediately, saying “Eccentric!” Lol. My best friend was a bit more diplomatic with her declaration of: “Modern, boho, fun”. Their feedback inspired me to really make this challenge my own, while sticking to my own, unique style. Ready…GO.

Disclaimers

  1. I can accessorize and layer however I wish
  2. I bought two of the same jumpsuits, so I can wash one, wear one

Day 1

I woke up knowing exactly what I was going to wear, obviously, so got ready for work in a record-breaking five minutes. I styled it with a vintage belt and sunnies, heels (which I don’t usually wear) and one of my fave pair of tassle earrings, that one of my best friends bought me for my birthday. I then spent the other 15 minutes I would have normally spent deciding what to wear, on my hair and make-up, which left enough time for me to grab a coffee before work and still arrive early. #Score!

Day 2

I wanted my LBJ (little black jumpsuit) to look different so I accessorized it with a hat and floral kimono. Surprisingly, no one noticed I was wearing the same jumpsuit, and even the people who knew about the challenge commented how different I looked. After work I met up with a guy I had recently started dating, where I felt confident and put together. At this rate I could carry on this challenge for a year!

Day 3

Day three was a Saturday and I went off to a wine farm for a good friend’s farewell. I was running super late, so it was a relief knowing I could only wear one thing. This challenge was becoming a lifesaver. For a slight change, I tied the string detail around my neck, accessorized my outfit with every ring I own and wore my granny’s bag for a pop of colour. I got so many compliments at lunch and because no one was from my office and so hadn’t seen my LBJ before, I didn’t feel self-conscious. This jumpsuit was turning out to be super versatile and paired with a scarf and leather jacket when the sun went down, I felt comfortable and stylish.

Day 4

On Sundays, my roommate and I often do our weekly groceries together and window shop at the V&A in Cape Town. We were both getting ready and I laughed when she moaned, ‘I can’t find anything to wear’. I officially had one less problem, although I definitely still have 99 bobbi pins and can’t find one. I decided to mix it up and wear a flowing pastel pink skirt over the jumpsuit, paired with a headband and choker. Because we use our window shopping as cardio, I wore comfy flats and had a big bag for water and my grocery shopping bags. That night, I went to the movies with my new guy. He smiled and said he liked my outfit – I’m pretty sure he didn’t even notice it was the LBJ he’d seen me in two days earlier.

Day 5

I woke up on Monday morning, late, even for someone who didn’t have to make any wardrobe decisions. So I naughtily decided to wear the exact same outfit I wore doing grocery shopping and to the movies the day before. If no one saw you, does it even count? The skirt over the jumpsuit made me feel uber feminine, but truthfully, it was the first day I didn’t feel like wearing the jumpsuit. I was starting to realise that so much of my expression is tied up on my wardrobe choices, and on Monday I felt a bit ‘bleh’ about my outfit.

Day 6

Paired with my granny’s scarf (I wear something from my granny’s wardrobe nearly every day and have never selected one of her things to purge – they’re all too special to me) and a pair of sparkly socks. I was back to feeling like myself (sparkly socks have that special power, don’t they?). I realised in a bit of a panic that even though I was taking practically no time to get ready, my normal 20-minute lay-in had turned into 45. Eeeeek.

Day 7

The final day, was most definitely the most challenging. The novelty had worn off (again), and I was looking forward to packing the jumpsuit away for a while. Keen to end the challenge on a high, I went a bit overboard dressing it up – to an extent that the IT guy asked, “Where’s your pants thingy?” The problem with pairing it with extra shorts and an army jacket, was every time I went to the bathroom I had to take off 1.) the army jacket, 2.) the shorts and then 3.) the jumpsuit. I had loved having less choices to make each morning, but was desperately missing all my colourful and crazy clothes.

What this challenge has taught me

  1. You can wear the same thing, and no one cares, especially if you take the time to dress it up and accessorize it differently. I got so many compliments during this week, because I had spent extra time on my hair and makeup. I felt more confident and ‘put together’, which is often what people notice – more than your specific outfit.
  2. I found I used much less water for washing, I wore the same jumpsuit for two days in a row and would then rinse it in my shower and hang it up to dry. By the end of the week, I only had my gym clothes to wash.
  3. This challenge made me look at other areas of my life that I could minimize. I got rid of all the apps on my phone that I don’t use and cleaned out all my jewellery and accessories I haven’t worn in the last year.
  4. The time I saved in general was astonishing. It also made me so grateful for all the amazing clothes I have in my cupboard that I was able to wear after the challenge had ended. It’s clichéd but so true – instead of focusing on what you don’t have – realise how lucky you are.

The Day After

Back to my normal quirky self, wearing a red turban, earrings from India and bright red sneakers.

Pic credits: Glen Montgomery