Book Review #1 – We Have Always Lived in the Castle (Shirley Jackson)

Hey there,

I don’t know why I never did this before. As a bibliophile, and as a blogger who’s focus is ‘books, beauty, and Parisian dreams,’ why have I never blogged about a book review, before? Yes, I’ve given suggestions, and yes, I’ve shared my monthly book stacks, but I never took the time to write a review. Maybe because I’m not sure if that’s what my particular readers are drawn to… let me proceed with this book review, and you can let me know what you think!

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

This purchase was a cover purchase. I don’t do that too often, because more often than not, the cover is significantly better than the story. But there was just something haunting about this cover that I had a gut feeling the story would match. I wasn’t disappointed: the story was indeed haunting.

I read this book in a day. The writing is superb in that it’s descriptive but not heavy, and flows in a way that makes you want to keep reading. It’s written from the perspective Mary Katherine “Merricat” Blackwood. Let me give you a spoiler-free synopsis.

The Blackwoods are a family of three: Uncle Julian, the oldest in the house, and a crippled man who suffers from dementia. Constance, the oldest child in the Blackwood family, a protector, a caring head of the household. And Mary Katherine “Merricat” (and her cat Jonas), a curious child who believes in the power of words and intention. The Blackwoods weren’t always a family of three. There were many more Blackwoods in this house, until they decided to have some sugar with their dessert. There was arsenic in the sugar. But Uncle Julian only took a little – he lived. Constance doesn’t take sugar – and she washed the bowl. And Merricat was sent to her room without dessert. Who put the arsenic in that bowl? Why did Constance wash it? And why does the village fear and hate the remaining Blackwoods? And who is Cousin Charles, and what is he doing here, visiting?

This is a book of mystery, of intrigue, of suspense and a little bit of magic.

I loved Merricat; I thought she was a fascinating character with so much depth, and seeing the world from her perspective made my mouth drop at a few points.

Once you reach the halfway point in this book, it becomes something you don’t want to put down until the end. There are too many questions and it would have kept me up at night if I hadn’t made my way through it.

That being said, unfortunately the end of the novel was not what I expected, and not in an, “Oh my gosh, what an ending!” kind of way. There was some predictability and outcomes I guessed, and the end itself I didn’t guess, but was also rather disappointed with. I expected more. I wanted more. The story keeps you haunted all the way through, until those last two chapters, and then you’re begging for more.

Despite that, the book was an easy, enjoyable, and engaging read. I really loved it. It’s one of those books that I will probably read again, and will likely pull out every Autumn, as it seems to fit the weather and the ‘mood’ of this season.

Pros: Well written, easy read, amazing characters and dialogue, haunting storyline, suspenseful
Cons: A little confusion in chapter 9, some questions left unanswered, uninspiring ending


Currently Reading: By Gaslight by Steven Price
Initial Thoughts: Okay, so I see how this storyline could be interesting, but my God, it’s complicated and all over the place. Not to mention, the lack of QUOTATION MARKS (WHAT?!) add to the madness and confusion. Why would anyone choose to exclude quotation marks? Let’s see if I actually make it through this book…


What do you think? Should book reviews become a more frequent thing on lifeofcloud? Let me know in the comments! And if you’ve read this book, as well, please share your own review, below!



Perfume Samples – Collect, Experiment, Explore, Discover!

Hey there,

I love perfume samples!
Whenever I’m in a shop that gives you an option of what samples you want to try, I always go for the perfumes. And if there is an opportunity to get a deluxe sample, I’ll find a way to get that, too!

Recently, I made a Christmas purchase (don’t judge me – I start on presents, early) on and they were not only giving away a deluxe sample of a perfume they carry in store, but you also had the option of picking three other samples. As expected, I selected three other perfumes. None of that fancy face cream (Kiehl’s is my go-to anyway), no hair-transforming concoctions, just give me perfume, perfume, and more perfume.

I don’t have a signature scent. I used to when I was younger, but now my perfume collection is vast. I love to try new scents to see if I “bond” with them. That way, I know what direction to go when I’m looking to buy another perfume. The best way to see if a perfume is meant for you, is to wear it an entire day. Perfumes change with your body over time, and no scent smells the same on each person.

I’m going to take a moment to review the four perfumes that I received as samples!

My deluxe perfume sample was FLOWERBOMB by Victor Rolf. This perfume is reasonably priced in Sephora stores, and what I love about the deluxe sample is that it’s literally a miniature stylistic version of the original bottle. If you know me at all, you know that I love mini-things!

The first smell that hits your nose is a top note that’s rather musky. It comes out seeming to have a patchoulli scent but with what might be a jasmine undertone, which makes the musky-ness of the scent even more prominent. I have a hard time smelling the distinct flowers used in this perfume, and they didn’t even come through when wearing them.

This perfume was an award winner for Allure magazine, but I’ll be honest: it smells like an old grade one teacher. You all know that smell! I don’t think it smells sophisticated or chic,  it just smells heavy and old.

The next sample I’m going to review is TAINTED LOVE by Tokyo Milk’s Dark Femme Fatale Collection. The first smell that hits me is a top note of a vanilla that is softened by citrus! It’s got a smooth smell that is juxtaposed with a fresh scent, and it’s immensely unique. There are hints of tea in those middle notes, and the basenote is a musky sandalwood that only becomes prominent as you wear it.

This scent is very original, and if you are someone who likes a balance of fresh and sophisticated, something quite dramatic and something that definitely leaves a mark on whoever smells it, then I highly recommend it. Again, this wasn’t a scent that I would particularly wear, because it’s the flowered middle notes paired with musk that I never seem to enjoy. Also, heavy musk smells seem to cause my nose to get stuffy… riddle me this.

The next sample I received was BERGAMOTE SOLEIL by Atelier Cologne. I didn’t even know this company existed, so it was a pleasant find, since, as you may have guessed by the name, it’s a Parisian company! This perfume is on the “middle” side of cost, rather than low (anything under $100 is low), but it’s quite obvious why: this is a higher quality perfume and it’s obvious as you smell it.

This perfume is outstanding. The first smell that hits you are those “sunny” top notes of citrus – that powerful bergamot orange! It’s such a distict citrus note; almost like an orange and a lime combined. It’s so powerful in this perfume, and yet so soft and fresh.

The middle notes have hints of soft floral scents like lavender or jasmine, and while there is a slight hint at a musky basenote like a white amber, it’s so soft that this perfume keeps that “fresh” and “light” feeling throughout it’s wear on your skin. I absolutely adore this sample.

Last but not least is another sample from Atelier Cologne called POMELO PARADIS . I forgot to mention that this company also has a less expensive cologne option: a rollerball for about $30. I just find that rollerball perfumes, though convenient, finish rather quickly.

I picked, accidently, two citrus based samples. But those seem to be my favourite scents overall, and Pomelo Paradis is no exception. The top note that hits you immediately, and with such a force, is a smell I would compare to the rind of a grapefruit, which is, of course, pomelo! It’s so powerful and so beautiful, I can’t describe it. I can smell a light middle note of blackcurrant, and it seems like there are some hints at orange blossom in there. There is a pungent kick that will hit you sometimes, that seems to be of mint. And that base note is of course a musk of amber, but it’s so light, even as you wear it,  it never reaches a point of overpowering that beautiful pomelo top note. I loved this sample, as well.

Hopefully knowing a bit more about each of these samples might help you make decisions on what you should try. Do you have a particular smell that you’re always drawn to? What about one that you always stay away from? Let me know in the comments!


Sherway Shopping Spree! + Shop this look #3!

Hi there,

In case you didn’t read my post from Friday morning, I got an amazing surprise in my Instagram Direct Message Inbox from Sherway Gardens Mall (the best mall close to me, without question) that said that they loved my Instagram feed and were gifting me a $100 gift card! It was an absolutely amazing surprise and, of course, meant that a shopping excursion was in my near future (aka this weekend)!

super excited about my surprise gift!

Firstly, I want to mention something so we’re all on the same page. I often get compliments on certain outfits, or certain pieces or accessories, or even certain perfumes I am wearing, and it’s totally flattering and it’s really an honour to hear. I have never been considered to be “stylish” before, but it’s my love of Paris that put fashion in my brain, and I dress nice or make myself look nice not for anyone other than myself. I feel more confident when I feel good in what I’m wearing.

That being said… recently, my partner J has been saying that I “look rich” and I also noticed I will be treated differently (ie. with more respect) and will be shown different merchandise (ie. more expensive merchandise) when this is the case. I want to mention a few things about this:

Number one: it is not the case. I am not by any means wealthy. At all. I’m an educator (whomp whomp salary) with a solo mortgage (monthly yikes) and a car that’s over four years old (needs random repairs all the time) who has four animals (re: four monthly vet bills). I do not have money. But I am a savvy shopper, and I’m never opposed to used merchandise.

I only ever buy clothes if they’re truly worth the cost (rarely will I spend over $40 on a piece of clothing) or on sale (I LOVE SALES!), and I’m always in thrift shops. I love used clothing and accessories and think vintage wares make amazing statement pieces in an outfit. Brand name vintage? Even better! And not to mention hand-me-down jewelry or shoes from family members is always welcome (as are random travel souvenirs or “thought of you” gifts!). I’m as thrifty as they come and mix and match what I have to create something new, chic, and “wealthy looking”.

Secondly: I don’t like the idea that rich people get treated differently than others. Just as I can fool someone with my clothing into thinking I have money, another person can fool the same individual into thinking they have none. You never know who you’re interacting with, and a person with a $20 bill in their pocket should be treated the same way as someone with $100 in their pocket. That’s not to say that I don’t like the extra attention (I play it up and act like I can afford everything I’m being shown — today I was shown $399.99 perfume, as if I can just whip out my Visa and make that purchase, no problem), but it doesn’t mean it’s right.

Hence why $100 from Sherway was so absolutely and positively exciting; it’s not every day that I have $100 to spoil myself with (although when it comes to books, it’s as if I have an endless supply of money… a strange thing…)!

Perfumes were my focus going in and I checked out a lot of different kinds. By the end of the day, I smelled overwhelming and it was giving me a headache!

Initially, I had my heart set on a Chanel perfume, because I love Chanel and it’s classic scents, but they simply didn’t jive with J. They didn’t feel authentic or sophisticated to him, which blew my mind considering they’re CHANEL! But since he’ll be spending a lot of time next to me, smelling the scent, I figured he should have at least a little say into what lingers in our home.

We got a little sidetracked along the way and were distracted by watches. I love watches. As a teenager, I used to collect Fossil watches in particular, and my parents would gift me one on every trip we went together. After a while, wearing watches became a tedious task for me and I put away my collection. After a trip to Switzerland, I gifted myself a limited edition Swatch watch, after years without anything on my wrist. And last Christmas, I was gifted a limited edition Swatch watch again! Only recently did I buy myself my first watch in years; a cheap but classy watch from ASOS. I love it. And now I’m back into the watch swing of things! I love minimalist watches, but I can’t help but admire the kitschy watches of Kate Spade with as much love. It’s an expensive item to collect, but it can really add something amazing and unique to an outfit.

i love the one with the script!

Of all shopping days, we were lucky enough to see a Cirque event happening at Saks Fifth Avenue (my dream store, where I just shop with my eyeballs and cry when I’m told the price of items). Food and drink were out for the taking, and shop floor sales men and women were on and ready to go! (That’s where I was shown and told to try numerous $399.99 perfumes and to look for a lovely woman named Zara if I was interested.)

The displays were amazing pieces of art, and my time spent there reminded me of being back in my favourite mall in the entire world, Galleries Lafayette (Paris, France). I could have spent hours there, just browsing each floor and taking my time through beauty and the perfumes, but the J seemed to be getting restless and I still needed to decide what I was spending my gift card on!

the silver birdcage purse held by 'HIGH SHINE' mannequin was to DIE for
I wrote about all these “in” items in my Fall Fashion post!

Finally, I landed at Sephora and I settled upon a scent that I have been eyeing for a few months, now: Replica’s Paris Flower Market perfume by Maison Margiela. It is truly a most Parisian scent, and what, for me, could be more fitting? It was slightly beyond my gift card amount, but it will be one of those perfumes I cherish and use sparingly.

It really was an exciting day! It was very much like winning the lottery  and I’m so grateful to Cadillac Fairview Sherway for gifting me this opportunity to spend with some carefree whimsy!

But I think my favourite part of the day was when I was at the Dior perfume counter at The Bay and the woman was talking to me about the new Dior perfume having been made in Grasse, France and I said, “Ah yes, the scent capital of the world. Are the flowers pressed with alcohol or through a natural extraction process?” and she looked at me (and the Sephora bag I was carrying) and said, “Do you work at Sephora in perfume or something? Because you’re really knowledgeable…” hahaha #IwishIwasAperfumer I just read a lot and people think I know what I’m talking about… I’m really good at faking it if I’m passionate about it!

And, to end the post, here was my outfit of the day…

It got a handful of compliments and there was really nothing to it:
Top – plain white, basic t-shirt
Bottoms – vintage Levi’s that cost me $3.99 (can you believe that?)
Shoes – GAP loafers (what?!) that were on sale from $50 to $13 dollars (WHAT?!)
Jacket – A thrift store find with the tags still on – some Polish brand ($10)
Hand-Me-Down Jewelry and a wicked hair style I’ll be doing more often, from now on!


FriYay Musings

Hello friends,

I’m going to avoid discussing my crummy sleep and instead tell you about this outstanding book I’m reading, and some good news I wish to share.

I started ‘Leave Your Mark’ yesterday morning, and had few opportunities to read (recess, lunch, reading period) but am already halfway through. It’s immensely inspiring! The intentions are to take your life by the horns and make it your own, but make it as successful as possible.

You might be asking me why I would read a book on careers when I already have a successful career, especially one that speaks to internships and promotions (teachers don’t ask for promotions; salary increases happen over time) and the answer is simple: I want to succeed in all aspects of my life.

I am an active participant in making my passions more than simply something I do on my spare time. As made evident by the fact that I am a Feminist Apparel ambassador (use promo code CLAUDIA10 for 10% off), I like to turn my interests and passions into something that I, others, or even my pockets can benefit from. I even ran a  Tarot Reading company for a while as a side job last summer, and I was very successful through self-promotion of myself and my website (I only stopped this because it was immensely time consuming and emotionally and spiritually draining). This book basically assists you in being successful in those passions, eventually turning them into careers.

The writer, Aliza Licht, was a MED student looking to go into Plastic Surgery as a career. She had a full scholarship and loved her internship at the clinic, but it was upon going home emotionally and physically exhausted that she realized she wasn’t truly happy. She couldn’t make a career out of something that, despite being able to pay her well and knowing she would be excellent at it, wouldn’t fulfill her fully and completely. So she went into fashion, starting with internships and eventually moving her way up.

Her switch from a set career path to following her heart is immensely brave and truly inspiring. I don’t have the guts to move forward with a change like that without knowing I would have a comfortable salary to back it up and support the life I live now. She still  lived at home when she made the change, so things were a little bit more simple for her, but her advice, her tips for success, and her stories and examples, are all valuable, nonetheless. I’m excited to make my way through this book!

In other really wicked news, I got a surprise Direct Message through Instagram from Sherway Gardens which is, without any question, my most favourite mall. In it, I was told that the person running the IG for Sherway “love[s my] feed” and they’re gifting me a $100 CF SHOP! gift card as a surprise gift!

WHAT?! That happens in real life?! It’s like I just won the lottery! Not only do I now have an excuse to go shopping, but I also have $100 off whatever I plan to buy! I plan to write about my little “shopping excursion” in this blog, and post some Snapchat style Instagram videos about the trip (along with photos, of course).

I’m debating between a lovely crossbody bag and Chanel perfume (which I’ve wanted for a while now), but my course could change once I’m actually at Sherway.

AND to top off the good news, Chapters gave me a top-up of my Plum Points, moving me from $10 off to $20 off, which means I finally had a reasonable excuse to buy the Vogue Paris F/W Collection Magazine…

AND!! Did you notice? I finally bought my own domain name!