Winter LookBook

Tuesday, January 30, 2018
Even though it's getting lighter and I cannot wait for spring, we still have a couple of months of winter left as you can tell from the snow days we've been having! I do love clothing and trends during the autumn and winter months and if I could live in jeans, ankle boots and jumpers I would (and I pretty much do)! Here are some of the outfits and items of clothing I've been wearing constantly over the past couple of weeks.

*Lasula Mustard Stripe Detail Cropped Jumper (£26)
Let's start with one of my favourite items! I don't own nearly enough items that are mustard coloured and that needs to change as it's a gorgeous shade especially for the colder months. I have the S/M size which is a great fit for me (I'm a UK 8) and it has that slightly slouchy, relaxed fit jumper for everyday. I love the black and red stripe detail along the sleeves, the soft feel of the jumper and the length which is shorter than most of my other jumpers so it doesn't feel bulky or heavy.
*Lasula Navy V Neck Side Split Jumper (£32)
Another jumper that is perfect for everyday with a slight twist. I love the navy shade, it's a soft jumper that is great under coats as it isn't too thick and I love the asymmetrical side split hem. I usually stay well away from v-neck anything but this one is quite subtle. I've been wearing it constantly around the house and with jeans, ankle boots and my longer pea coats over the past couple of weeks. It's a 'one size' fits all size that is a little too big on me but it just looks like an oversized jumper on me - if you are an 8-12 then it will probably fit well.
*LOTD Navy Quilted Hooded Jacket (£10.50 - SALE)
I've been wearing my cute peacoats constantly but I needed something new and LOTD always have gorgeous coats and jackets at amazing prices - this one, along with many others, are currently on sale so check out their site. I love how simple this jacket is, I know I will get so much use out of it especially as I'm hoping to be more active this year and this jacket will keep me very warm (it's very warm and cosy).

I have the small size which is a great fit for me (I'm a UK 8) and I love the pockets! I have been wearing it when I don't want to wear my longer more structured peacoats as it's so easy to just throw it on especially when it's very chilly as this jacket is surprisingly warm, cosy and comfortable.
*Lasula Red Belted Checked Dress (£30)
How perfect is this dress for the winter! I love checked prints during the autumn and winter months as to me it's so cosy! The material is so soft, it's thicker than I thought it would be and even on snow days it's quite warm. I have a similar dress but it's so thin and very short which makes it almost unwearable so I'm glad that I can replace it with this one which is just gorgeous. It's perfect with cute tights, ankle boots and a faux leather jacket for an easy, no fuss winter outfit. It is another 'one size' fits all item but thankfully the belt makes it easy to adjust to your size.
*Damart Sherpa Button Through Fleece (£29)
Last but not least is one of the most perfect items for this time of the year! This coat from Damart only comes in 10/12 and larger sizes which is definitely too big for me but I'm still going to wear it because it's like wearing a radiator - this coat is so incredible cosy, warm and soft. It's been so chilly recently with snow days and this coat has been absolutely perfect and I cannot recommend it enough. They have various colours available such as magenta, navy (which I also love), opal, sky blue and more; although the beige has to be my favourite. Use the code WELCOME1 to get 10% off your first order. 

Have you bought anything from Lasula Boutique or LOTD? What have been your winter go to outfits? 

January Reading Wrap-up 2018

Sunday, January 28, 2018
It's time for my first reading wrap-up of 2018! I had a fairly ambitious TBR for the month of January (although I always have ambitious TBR lists for every month!) but thankfully I was able to finish everything I wanted to in January and more which included 3 audiobooks, 3 e-books and 10 physical books! I think I managed to read much more than usual this month as a few of the books were a little shorter than average, the audiobooks were very short and I've been ill on and off in January so I managed to get even more reading done than usual. However, hopefully I can keep up this pace and read just as much in February! 

*Zenith by Sasha Alsberg and Lindsay Cummings (511 pages - 11th January)  ★★★
Out of all the books I read this month, I was cautious about this one the most as it's written by a youtuber and I typically stay well away from youtuber/blogger books but this one subverted my exceptions. We follow a misfit all girl space ship crew as they take risky jobs to survive in a cut throat universe but some of the girls have secrets from their past that come to haunt them and take them on a rip roaring adventure filled with action, revenge, loss and unrequited love. 

I love the crew as they were so unique, spunky and vivid, even if they were quite cliche and very YA at times. I loved the adventures, the relationships between the crew. Despite being over 500 pages, it was such an easy, entertaining and quick read with very short chapters, every one of which focused on one characters perspective/thoughts. 

I'm not really a Star Wars fan but I have watched a couple of the films and this book definitely gave me Star Wars vibes, albeit on a very YA level. However it did have the typical sci-fi elements as well as spaceships, 'aliens' and much more. If you like sci-fi books then I'd recommend this one but just be aware of the YA genre and the tendencies towards tropes and cliches. 

*Beautiful Star & Other Stories by Andrew Swanston (256 pages - 11th January)
★★★
I'm not going to talk about this book too much as I've already published a full book blog tour post on it which you can read for more information. I was initially drawn to this short story collection as the cover is amazing and the synopsis sounded like something I'd absolutely love as it's historical fiction with what seemed to be quirky elements which I'm all for! 

There are seven short stories, all of which are historical fiction and focus on time periods that I'm interested in. My favourite stories from this collection include: Beautiful Star, The Tree, The Flying Monk and A Witch and A Bitch. If you like historical fiction then check out this interesting, entertaining short story collection! 

*Women of the Raj by Margaret Macmillan (320 pages - 25th January)
★★★★
Thames and Hudson kindly sent me a few stunningly beautiful books last month that I adored and I was sent a few more (thank you!) which the first being Women of the Raj. It's a non-fiction book with a gorgeous cover and a topic that I know nothing about!

It starts with the horrendous journey to India for both men and women in the 1800s and early 1900s which is something I would not want to experience! It also looks at the travellers first impressions of India and it's people as well as how they perceive this foreign exotic country, cultural clashes and how the Europeans try to carry on with their own version of society in a country that is very different to their own. 

Throughout the book the author not only describes the experiences, history and culture concisely and in a way that isn't dry, dusty or dreary but it's also accurate as the author draws on individual accounts from that time. I personally didn't know too much about the raj, the individual experiences of europeans in India or the caste system in India so it was definitely informative! I wasn't taught anything throughout my schooling about India or the British empire so this book in it's accurate, informative and surprisingly easy way definitely helped fill in the blanks in my knowledge. I'd definitely recommend it as a unique, interesting and very niche non-fiction read. It's great to see a book focusing on women's experiences as so much of history is focused on men! 
*The Child Finder by Rene Denfield (288 pages - 11th January) ★★★
I love reading thrillers during the autumn and winter months so I was excited to receive this book for review. I managed to read this book in one day as it's super a quick, page turning thriller. 

We follow Naomi, the child finder, who has been hired by the Culvers to find their missing daughter who disappeared during a winter trip to Oregon. Throughout the book we not only find out Maisons story but also the main characters past which has surprising parallels to the missing girl she's been hired to find.

Let's start with the positives, I loved the setting, the wintery landscape and the tension filled, sinister atmosphere of the book. I also like the main character, the fairytale elements and the writing style which was very quick and easy but also compelling. The story on the whole was interesting and a page turner but it was also thoroughly disturbing with dark, awful topics, mainly around child abuse which made for very uncomfortable reading. If you think that you had handle those kinds of themes then definitely check out this book! 

*My Sweet Orange Tree by José Mauro de Vasconcelos (192 pages - available now) ★★★
How cute is this cover! I was sent this book from the amazing people at Pushkin Press and I was interested to read it as it's very different to any of the other books I've read because it is a semi-autobiographical almost modern classic from the Brazilian author, José Mauro de Vasconcelos. The book has been in print since it's publication in 1968 but it has been republished in this gorgeous edition by Pushkin Press.

We follow the author's childhood in Rio De Janeiro but don't be fooled by the adorable, colourful cover as this book will break your heart! The main character of Zeze has to endure so much at such a young age and the saddest part of the story is that it's based on the authors life. It manages to covey an emotional, heart wrenching story in under 200 pages. 

*The Wages Of Sin by Kaite Welsh (308 pages - available now) ★★★
I noticed this book on BookBridgr in December and I knew, not just from the cover, that I had to request it and I was so excited when it arrived at the very end of December - I had to read it immediately, although I didn't finish it until the first of January. We follow Sarah, one of the new female medical students at the University of Edinburgh as she struggles with her past, her studies and the negativity she experiences because of her gender within the medical profession and academia. 

I adored the setting of the book, it was one of my favourite things about the book as well as the medical side, the mystery and the hate to love almost romance within the book. The main characters felt feel and vivid, I liked the writing and how quick of a read it was. However, I didn't like the constant mentions to the main characters 'stained' past as I think it undermined the rest of the book which is very much a girl power and equality focused book. I also think the book was far too slow at times which made me skim read a fair few paragraphs within the middle of the book. I would 
recommend it as it was entertaining and enjoyable but not quite as amazing as I'd hoped it would be. 

*Thief Of Time by Terry Pratchett (316 pages - available now) ★★★
I hoped to finish this book last year but sadly I couldn't! It's the final book in the death series within Terry Pratchett's huge Discworld series. I love this series on the whole with Hogfather being my favourite but there are a couple that I haven't liked quite as much as the others including Soul Music and annoyingly, this book too. 

We follow an acclaimed clockmaker as he is commissioned to create the most accurate clock in existence by a mysterious benefactor, Susan (who we met in the previous two books in the series which I reviewed last month) and the monks of history. The book started, for me, like a book that wasn't written by Terry Pratchett at all but thankfully it regained it's unique Terry Pratchett charm and wit. 

The start wasn't very compelling but it definitely picked up and I read the rest of the book quite quickly as I wanted to find out what was going to happen. Also Susan is definitely my favourite Terry Pratchett character so I'm glad she was in this book. Terry Pratchett is such an intelligent writer and his books are always filled with dark humour, witty remarks and sarcasm. From a rocky start, I finished the book feeling so glad that I read this series. If you haven't read any of his books then you need to start with Mort (or Equal Rights which is the first book in the witches series). 

*The Intruder by P.S Hogan (288 pages - e-book available now) ★★★
This is another read that I won't talk too much about as I've already published my full blog tour book review for the e-book release. The e-book is available now but the paperback will be released in May. We follow William Henning, an estate agent who happens to keep the keys to all of the houses he has sold and visits the residents without them knowing...we also look back on his life and childhood to try to understand him. 

It was fairly creepy from the beginning, especially as we just focus on the main character and it feels like we are in his head (it's not a comfortable place to be). The writing was quick, very easy to read and as entertaining as you would expect from a thriller so I would recommend it as a quick thriller or halloween recommendation. However, the ending for me was a little anticlimactic especially compared to the rest of the book. 
*Dear Ijeawele by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie via BookBeat ★★★
I listened to the audiobook of We Should All Be Feminists last year and loved it as a simple, straightforward introduction to feminism and this one was no different. If you are like me and haven't read or listened to much feminist literature or work in general then the audiobooks from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie are great starting points. 

I agreed with so much of this book about subverting gender roles, gender equality, how parenting should be an equal task rather than being viewed as something for women to manage, how girls and boys should be treated more similarly and that women shouldn't feel guilty to be themselves rather than just a mother. It's such a short, no-nonsense audiobook that I'd definitely recommend to everyone - I just wasn't a fan of the narrator. 

*Art In The Blood by Bonnie Macbird via BookBeat ★★★
I have had a hit or miss experience with audiobooks recently as I've had to DNF a couple (including To Catch A King and Pretty Honest) but thankfully this one was great! It's a reimagining of a classic Sherlock Holmes story which I'm all for as I love the Sherlock Holmes series but sadly, while it was entertaining, it didn't have the classic, unsolvable or intricate feel of the originals for me. 

I liked the narrator on the whole, although his voice for Sherlock was very high and a little creepy, it was a fairly quick audiobook and it was entertaining and enjoyable but for me it is quite forgettable and it missed that Sherlock Holmes feel or spark that we are all familiar with. I would recommend listening to it but don't have your expectations too high! 

*Shadow Show edited by Sam Weller via BookBeat ★★★★
Ray Bradbury is one of my favourite authors as his way with words is so unique and magical so I had to listen to this anthology of short stories created by various famous authors who loved or were influenced by Ray Bradbury.

The stories range in their influence and similarities to Ray Bradbury's stories. The stories I loved the most were from the following authors: Neil Gaiman, Margaret Atwood and David Morrell as well many others. I liked the vast majority of the stories, the narrators and the Ray Bradbury themes or inspiration in each story but within the middle there were a few that weren't as interesting or as unique as the rest. 

*The Beginning Of The World In The Middle Of The Night by Jen Campbell (288 pages) ★★★
Jen Campbell is an author and youtuber that I follow so I had to read her last book (with the longest book title ever) especially as she has such an amazing knowledge of fairytales and folktales which definitely shows in this short story collection! The cover is stunning and for me it such was a quick, easy and poetic read. 

I think that I had built this short story collection up a little too much before reading it as I wasn't as impressed or as in love within it nearly as much as I thought I would be. Out of the twelve short stories, my favourites include: animals, little deaths, human satellites and bright white hearts. I would recommend it if you like fairytales, folktales and bizarre stories but it could be quite polarising. 

*The Coffin Path by Katherine Clements (384 pages - 8th February) ★★★
We follow Mercy and her family who reside in a decaying country home in a rural region filled with folktales and haunting stories passed down from generation to generation. With the changing seasons, farmhands travel from farm to farm for work and Ellis joins Mercy at Scarcross Hall. Suspisions fly when items start to disappear, eerie sightings and gruesome discoveries are made. 

The premise of the book sounded incredible, however the first 20 to 25% was so slow, especially compared to the super quick reads I've been reading recently. Although thankfully the pace did pick up and become even more atmospheric, eerie and mysterious. I did enjoy this book but I feel a little let down by it, maybe I had built it up too much before reading it. I found it entertaining, genuinely creepy and eerie at times but it was also a little too slow and the end/reveals were predictable for me. I think you'd like it if you like the film Crimson Peak as it did have those vibes, especially towards the end or The Silent Companions but I was personally a little bit disappointed by this book. 

*The Wicked Cometh by Laura Carlin (352 pages - 1st February) ★★★
I requested this book a while ago via Netgalley but I have been receiving so many physical arcs (I'm not complaining) that my netgalley books have been neglected however I'm trying to catch up with my Netgalley reading and reviews, including The Wicked Cometh. I adore the cover so I might have to buy a physical copy!

It's a historical fiction novel partly set in the grimy backstreets of London in the 1800's and it's also partly set in a grand house in the country - both of those settings tick my reading preferences boxes. We follow Hester, a teenage girl living in poverty after a series of tragedies that have taken her away from her rural, idilic upbringing. Her fate turns around after an unfortunate encounter after which she meets the intriguing Rebekah Brock. 

I adored the writing style as it was rich but concise and extremely quick to read, so much so that I managed to read 66% of the e-book in one day! I also loved the characters of Hester and Rebekah as well as their somewhat tension filled relationship which possibly turns into something more...I loved the twists and turns as well as the LGBT, Burke/Hare and slightly Frankenstein vibes; however it was just a little too slow at times. 

I did read a whopping 13 books (including physical books and e-books) as well as 3 audiobooks via BookBeat this month but I haven't included all of the books in this post as it would just be too long! The books I read in January but haven't reviewed here include: The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton and The Owl Always Hunts At Night by Samuel Bjork but I am reviewing each individually as part of blog tours in collaboration with the publisher in February instead so you'll still get reviews of those two books! 

Have you read any of these books or audiobooks? What are you currently reading?

DegustaBox - January 2018

Friday, January 26, 2018
Today's post is the first review of the wonderful DegustaBox of 2018! Last year I was lucky enough to become a DegustaBox ambassador and thankfully I will be in the next year too. if you didn't know, DegustaBox is a UK food subscription box in which you will receive between 10 to 15 food, drink and snack items which I think is fantastic considering the low price and if you use the discount code KVAA2 it will make the box only £5.99 instead of £12.99.

*Pulsin Vanilla Whey Protein Powder (£1.99, 25g)
Let's get right into the items are there are so many to talk about! I have tried a couple of protein powders before and to be honest, I wasn't really a fan but they were berry flavoured so I think I'll like vanilla more. I love the packaging of this brand and I'm interested to see how this protein powder can be incorporated into smoothies.

*Pulsin Protein Booster Vanilla Choc Chip Bar (£1.59)
Another item from Puslin and it is the same flavour/packaging as the powder. I love vegan protein bars and snack bars as they are usually so delicious as well as being healthy and very filling for what they are so I'm glad I have another to add to my handbag for on the go healthy snacking.
 *Clipper Everyday Organic Tea - Gift Sample
As I am an ambassador, I receive items from other boxes that you may not receive in yours (although it's only ever one or two items per month) and this might be one of them. It is described on the leaflet as a 'gift sample'. I don't drink 'normal' tea so I'll be passing this on but I do love the Clipper mint and green tea options.

*Miso Tasty Spicy Ramen Noodle Kit (£1.99)
I receive one of these kits in a previous box and I'm glad it has appeared again as I loved the last one. Noodles are one of my favourite things to eat and this kit is suitable for vegetarians and 100% natural. This is an item that you might receive in your box or you could receive Tabasco sauce or Mallow & Marsh.
 *LighterLife Fast Ready to Drink Shakes (£2.49 each)
I have tried products from this brand previously and reviewed them on my blog which you can check out if you're interested in this brand. I received two milkshakes in the strawberry and vanilla flavours. They are high in protein, low in calories and high in nutrition including a plethora of vitamins and minerals.

*Mahtay Yerba Mate Sparkling Tea (£1.49, 300ml)
Another drink I received in the January box is something I haven't tried before - sparkling ice tea! I loved iced tea so I'm excited to try this. It's 100% natural and is blended with Yerba mate, coconut water and açai berries, all of which have natural health benefits.
*Robinsons Fruit Cordial (£2.49, 500ml)
I love Robinsons cordial so I was excited to receive this one which comes in a fancy glass bottle! I have the raspberry, rhubarb and organ blossom flavour that sounds incredible. One of my goals for 2018 was to drink more water and I have been sticking to it so far and cordials definitely help me get my two litres per day. It's the most delicious cordial ever!

*Hersheys Cookies N Creme Snack Pack (£1)
One of the most exciting items in the box, along with the Robinsons cordial, ramen and Pulsin protein booster, was this Hersheys snack pack which contains five mini bars of the cookies 'n' creme flavour. I haven't tried any Hersheys chocolate but I'm definitely interested to see what American chocolate is like compared to British chocolate.

*Jordans Frusli Juicy Red Berries Bars (45p each)
I received two of these bars and while I do love snack bars and cereal bars (I used to eat cereal bars at school every day), I am not a fan of berry flavoured bars. They contain wholegrains, cranberries and raisins as well as strawberry puree, blueberry juice and grape juice.

*Explore Cuisine Organic Edamame & Mung Bean Fettuccine (£3, 200g)
I have actually been looking at non-pasta versions of pasta over the past couple of weeks so I'm glad that this item was included in the January box as I means I can try it out! I haven't tried anything like this before so I'm interested to see what it's like - I'll let you know on my Instagram Stories so make sure you're following me!
*Santa Maria Colombian Crunchy Chicken Bites (90p, 50g)
This is a brand that has appeared in a coupe of previous boxes and I've loved everything so far so I'm glad it's back! I thought that this seasoned breading wasn't suitable for vegetarians but it is so I think I'll make some crunchy breaded cauliflower bites with it!

*Wild Planet Wild Tuna Steaks (£3.49, 142g)
I don't eat fish so this will go to my mum who does and I think she'll love it for work lunches! An interesting fact about this product is that is it ranked #1 in the US by Greenpeace for sustainability which is great if you do eat fish and want to have a more sustainable option.

*Santa Maria Chipotle Mayo Topping (£1.80, 215g)
I'm not actually a fan of mayonnaise (or anything similar) but I've tried this and it is so delicious, if a little spicy and smoky. I'll definitely be using it within pasta salads and on burger buns over the next couple of months! It's suitable for vegetarians, it's changed my opinion on mayo and I will definitely buy it in the future, along with the Robinsons cordial!

Don't forget to use the discount code KVAA2 as it will reduce the price of the box to only £5.99 instead of £12.99.


Have you tried DegustaBox? Have you tried any of the items within the January DegustaBox? 

Blog Tour: The Intruder by P. S Hogan

Wednesday, January 24, 2018
It's been a very busy month in terms of reading, book blog tours and various appointments but I'm now posting my final book blog tour of the month! I've already published a couple with Culture Smart and Corvus but today's post is all about a brand new sinister thriller which was kindly sent to me from the lovely people at Penguin Random House UK.

*The Intruder by P.S Hogan (288 pages - ebook available now) ★★★
I have the paperback version as an ARC which won't be available until May but the e-book is available to purchase now (£4.99). It's a fairly short thriller at less than 300 pages and the countless quoted reviews of this book describe it as sinister, witty, eerie, tension filled and deeply unsettling...so obviously I couldn't wait to read it! While thrillers aren't my favourite genre, I do love a good thriller every so often. 

We follow William Henning, an estate agent who happens to keep the keys to all of the houses he has sold and visits the residents without them knowing...we also look back on his life and childhood throughout the book. It quickly becomes apparent how unusual, disturbed and unfeeling the main character is which makes for an interesting, creepy and haunting experience of reading the book especially as it seems as though the author is narrating his life to you from the page. 


This is the first true thriller that I've read in a while and oh boy, did I start with one of the creepiest! The main character is so disturbing and the whole book has an eerie, tension filled and atmospheric feel to it which makes you want to keep reading to find out what will happen, if the main character will be caught and if there will be any consequences of his actions. 

As with the other thrillers I've read, it was a very quick and easy read as well as being entertaining and intriguing; however I did find a little slow at times and I felt as though the very end was a little anticlimactic, especially compared to the rest of the book which seemed to be building and building up to a cliffhanger or catastrophically dramatic ending. Although I would definitely recommend it if you are looking for a new thriller unlike any other your have read before! 

Will you be reading this new release? Are you a fan of thrillers? 

Winter To Spring Wish List

Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Before you all start saying that there are still a couple of months of winter left, I know! I usually love winter (and I do love snow days) but I'm so over it now and I cannot wait for bright spring days, flowers coming into bloom and lighter evenings!

However, the transition between winter and spring is so awkward in the UK as we have very chilly winters with a few snowy days and even in the spring it is still chilly but you want to start wearing spring knitwear and shades. I've found some gorgeous winter to spring pieces from Shein that I am drooling over!

Fleece Lined Faux Fur Jacket  -  Pink Striped Tee  -  Wide Striped Sweater  -  Pink Shoulder Bag  -  Sports Bra  -  Chevron Jacket 

I think you can tell that I love anything that is dusty pink or tan and that has stripes...I have a problem. At least half of my wardrobe is striped but I need more and all of these striped and chevron jumpers are so gorgeous - I need them all!

If you follow my blog or social media then you'll have seen my arm knitted pink blanket (that I made) so much and since I made it, I've been obsessed with anything that is dusty pink so it needs to make it's way into my spring wardrobe too.

What do you think of my winter to spring picks? Are you looking forward to spring? 

How To Save Money + Reduce Plastic Waste In January

Monday, January 22, 2018
2018 is the year that I want to start to become more responsible and conscious of the items I'm buying and using; I also want it to be the year that I reduce most of the plastic I use. The world's plastic consumption and waste is shocking and the pollution as a result is something that needs to be tackled on a global scale but until then I'm making small changes in my own life to help minimise my input.

Steamer Trading recently sent me a couple of fantastic, high quality goodies that not only help to save money in the long term but also help to reduce plastic waste. In addition, they can help you to prep meals, stay hydrated and as a result, glow and feel healthier in 2018.

*Black + Blum Thermal Food Flask (£30, Olive)
Let's start with the food flask which is BPA free, perfect for work or school and it can keep food hot for 6 hours and cold for up to 8 hours! The spoon strap is made from vegan leather and it's perfect on for on the go. We have so many plastic containers which isn't the best idea so this food flask might be the answer for a durable food container and one way of reducing our plastic consumption.

I love the design of the food flask, the quality is amazing and I love the little ladle-like spoon that comes with it. I've only used it a couple of times so far for my vegan 'New England' chowder which is from the Isa Does It cookbook. It does keep food hot for hours and it looks great too! If you are looking for a re-usable non-plastic food container then check out this fantastic food flask from Black + Blum.

Making lunches at home can be so much cheaper and healthier than buying pre-made lunches each day! Also they are usually covered in plastic so why not reduce your plastic consumption, eat a little healthier and save money by meal prepping and making your lunches or snacks at home for work, school or days out!
*Black + Blum Eau Good Filter Water Bottle (£20, Blue)
For the past couple of years I have been drinking bottles of flavoured water which are made of plastic but I made the change from the beginning of this month to stop buying disposable plastic water bottles and to use a bottle that can be re-used over and over again.

This bottle isn't your regular water bottle as it's BPA free and it is composed of stainless steel and natural cork. I adore the unusual design of the water bottle as well as the cute cork stopper. It is large and fairly heavy when filled so it might not be the most ideal to travel with but if you are like me and struggle to drink enough water then this is great as it has a huge 800ml capacity and due to the natural charcoal stick which you secure within the water bottle, you get filtered, nicer tasting tap water. To get the full filtered benefit you should leave it filled for between one and eight hours but I drink it before then and throughout the day.

Since using this water bottle and a couple of others I was kindly sent over the past couple of weeks, I haven't bought or used any disposable plastic water bottles and I have been drinking so much more water than normal - even up to 2,400ml each day which is incredible for me!

I cannot recommend these two products enough as not only do they look amazing but they are super practical, environmentally friendly and they can help you to save a little money, eat healthier, drink more water, prep meals and help reduce the amount of plastic you buy.

To get 20% off the entire Black + Blum range, use the code: BEAUTY20 on steamer.co.uk!

Have you bought anything from Steamer Trading? Are you trying to reduce the amount of plastic products you buy? 

Self Care Saturday: Puffy Eyes + Headaches

Saturday, January 20, 2018
I know the term 'self care' is thrown around so much and sometimes it is viewed as just buying a Lush bath bomb but I think self care is so important and it's about so much more than just pampering. I think self care refers to all aspects of your body, life or mental health, from taking time out to destress, using pampering products, addressing certain health concerns, eating well and looking after yourself, especially areas or concerns that are usually ignored. Today's post is focusing on eye health particularly if you are a contact lens wearer as I am because I'm reviewing the *Thera Pearl Eye-ssential Mask (£7 - SALE) from feelgoodcontacts.com.

Contact Lens Problems 
I have been wearing contact lenses for around eight years and even though I couldn't recommend contact lenses enough, there are a few issues that I have experienced. The most irritating and consistent problem is dry eyes due to wearing contacts which is why I've had so many contact lens appointments over the past few weeks as the dryness is making my contact lenses fall out...while I'm driving!

Eye drops definitely help but I don't want to use them all of the time so this mask is a great temporary solution and it doubles up as a pampering product too. You can freeze the mask to have a cooling eye mask or you can warm it up in the microwave for soothing relief from dry, sore eyes. I have been using it a few times per day, just for a few minutes which has been helping over the past few days as I am at my iMac all day and it can take its toll on my eyes.
Eczema Flare-ups & Puffy Eyes 
Another problem I have related to my eyes is eczema which is something I've had for over ten years! My eczema started around my eyes and it has contained to spread but the worse flareups are over my eyelids. Besides steroid creams, the most soothing temporary remedy for me is ice cold cotton pads on my eyes but it's very awkward so I think this cold eye mask will be fantastic for the next flare-up.

Additionally, if you suffer from puffy eyes, especially in the morning then putting this eye mask in the freezer overnight or for a minimum of two hours could be a great start to your morning routine. I also think this cold eye mask will be ideal when the dreaded hay fever season comes around again because last year it was awful and this cold eye mask would have been so soothing on itchy pollen filled eyes.

Headaches 
Lastly, this mask can also be used to relieve headaches or to help clear your sinuses, the latter will be perfect as we've all been full of a cold recently. The mask is very comfortable to wear, it isn't very tight and the heat stays within the mask for an hour or so. When I feel a heartache coming on, I'm definitely going to be reaching for this warm, soothing eye mask. Feel Good Contacts have a few alternative eye masks on their site along with various contact lenses, coloured contacts, eye care products and designer sunglasses.

Use the code: FEELGOODTIME to get 10% off at feelgoodcontacts.com

Have you tried an eye mask? Do you have any solutions for dry, puffy eyes or headaches? 

*This is a sponsored post

My Weight Loss Journey + Tips

Thursday, January 18, 2018
December 2016 (9 stone 3lbs) - November 2017 (7 stone 9lbs)
One of my New Years goals every single year is to exercise consistently and to lose weight which I never did; however in July and August 2017, I started exercising almost every day even if it was only for five or ten minutes (because every little bit adds up) and tracking what I eat. I had a goal of losing around one stone, if I could but I'd never done anything like this before so I didn't know if I would be able to stick to it or how much I would lose but I lost even more than I thought I would so here are my tips for those looking to do the same!

Analysing What You Eat & Not Over Eating
My diet is fairly healthy as it is mostly vegan and it has been for a couple of years now but since I started using the Lifesum app, it has made me realise just how much I was overeating without even realising it! When I started to weigh out food and use the app to see how many calories I consumed each day, I was genuinely shocked as I thought that I was eating within the average range or just less but I was eating so much more than I should have been, hence the slow weight gain. I think most people, my previous self included, think that the amount they consume is fairly normal and within the normal calorie intake range but it might not be so. Even if you don't want to loose weight, I'd suggest downloading the app just to check as it also shows if you're not getting enough protein in your diet too which is another important point for me to keep in mind.

Reducing Calories & Carbs - Nutrition, Not Wasted Calories
One of the first things I did back in the summer was to dramatically reduce the amount of processed carbohydrates I was eating such as pasta and bread as they contain so many calories but not that much nutrition - sadly, pasta is one of the favourite foods! I switched from bread and pasta/rice to grains and pulses such as bulgar wheat, beans of various kinds, quinoa and more, all of which came in those easy microwaveable pouches that are so easy to add to salads or on their own with extra veggies and a delicious dressing. I think a fair amount of my weight loss is definitely due in part to my cutting back on carbs and also the reduction in calories from around 1,600 or more calories per day to between 700 to 1,000 calories each day (my average is now around 900 which works for me and my body/activity levels).
 Daily Exercise + Being More Active
If you asked any of my friends from school or my parents, you'll know that I never liked exercise or sports (unless you count trampolining or table tennis) and I would do anything to get out of it! However, I think I've found exercises now that work for me and my abilities such as yoga and using my cross trainer (it's almost a mix between an exercise bike and a treadmill). In the summer I exercised every single day but with the colder weather recently I have only been exercising a couple of times per week - I actually miss it so I need to start my daily exercise routine again! It's not only good for me as I sit at my desk all day but it also seems to help me feel motivated and good about myself!

One of my goals for 2018 is to be more active and I want to try kayaking and maybe rock climbing again as I loved both when I tried them years ago. Another activity that I'd like to try is snowboarding and thankfully in Manchester we have the Chill Factore which is an indoor skiing/snow boarding slope! It is somewhere that I've known about since it opened but I've never been - maybe 2018 will be the year that I go...and fall on my face.

Tracking Weight Loss & BMI
I think a lot of people who start the process of exercising or losing weight can become demotivated quickly, as I did but one thing that really helped was the weight and BMI tracking on the Lifesum app. You can see my weight loss progress via screenshots from the app above. As you can see I've lost almost 24lbs (which means that I'm almost 7 stone 5lbs now) and almost five points off my BMI which I'm so happy with as my BMI is now in the healthy range rather than the overweight range!

Tracking my weight and seeing the plots on the graph decrease is so motivating and it means that my hard work is paying off and I'm closer to my goal. I reached my initial goal of 8 stone a few weeks ago and now I've set my new goal of 7 stone 5lbs which I'm so so close to reaching. Another motivator is trying on old clothes and having to donate them as they are now too big when previously they were tight! I'm hopefully taking some outfit photos this weekend (if it isn't snowing) so you'll see my updated weight loss as I've lost more since November 2017.

Consistency...With Treats
Lastly, even though I am strict at keeping track of what I'm eating and not going over my calories, I do have treat days as I adore food and I sometimes want a treat or a few...Instead of having a treat every day or every couple of days, I'm having a treat once a week so I don't fall back into the habit of over eating or indulging for no reason. Additionally, I have to mention that I'm taking multivitamins everyday to keep my vitamin/mineral levels topped up and I'm using the LeanBean tablets every so often which have been helping (I think....), it's difficult to know if it's the tablets or just the changes to my diet and exercise that have been helping.

Overall, using the Lifesum app, exercising daily and reducing carbohydrates/calories, I've managed to lose 24lbs which is much more than I thought I would and for the first time in at least three years, I'm happy with the way I look and how my clothes fit me. I'm buying much smaller sizes, I feel so much better in myself and I'll definitely be sticking to this routine and lifestyle for the foreseeable future as after I've reached my new goal weight, I want to maintain that progress!

Do you have any exercise or weight loss tips? Do you use the Lifesum app (not sponsored, I wish this post was)? 

Pout Case: The World's First Mobile Beauty Case

Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Today's post is a little different as it's my first makeup post for 2018 and it's also tech focused as I'm going to be reviewing the world's first mobile beauty case...yes, you read that correctly! I was kindly sent this item for review but obviously all of my opinions/photographs/views are my own.

*Pout Case (£15)
I chose the white/pink colour option although there are others to choose from and I have the option for iPhone 7 but again there are other sizes available (only for iPhones though). Let's explain what it is, first of all it is a sturdy plastic phone case but it is bulkier than the others I've tried as the back of the case has a hidden compartment that slides out to reveal three makeup pans which can be filled with a foundation, concealer, eyeshadow, powder, lipstick, lip balm or highlighter!

The case itself fits my iPhone 7 well, it's easy to attach and remove without scratching my phone and it is bulky/heavier than most cases but it's still practical and easy to use. I love the white and metallic pink colour option and it came really nicely presented/packaged.
There are instructions online as to how you remove the compartment and install the makeup pans as they don't come within the case, you have to add them. It was a little bit fiddly adding the makeup pans but once in the case, they are secure and the size of the pans are great (you get a decent amount of product for your money and for the limited space).

I chose three makeup options including a foundation, concealer and eyeshadow which I'll go into shortly but I wanted to mention that while the front facing camera on my iPhone 7 is ok, it isn't detailed enough for me to see if my makeup is fully blended so I think a small mirror within the hidden compartment would be really useful, even if it means that there are only two makeup pans in the case.
For the makeup, I chose the foundation (in the shade 'gentle ivory'), concealer (in the shade 'porcelain') and an eyeshadow (in the shade 'cafe au lait'). The makeup is all made in Germany and is cruelty free which is absolutely fantastic!

I've been using the case and makeup for almost two weeks now and I have a few opinions, some of which are positive and others are a little less so. I'll start with the makeup positives which include the foundation and concealer shades which are definitely pale enough for my ghostly skin and the foundation texture is quite creamy which suits my dry skin.

In terms of the shade range of foundations and concealers, it isn't great, although they are working on more shades and colours. However the range of lipstick shades and eyeshadow shades is just fantastic! I opted for a slightly boring but very practical, everyday eyeshadow shade and I've been using it so much as it's a slightly darker version of my skin tone so it helps to cover discolouration and provides a little definition.
Overall, I have been loving the case as well as the makeup, especially the foundation and eyeshadow (less so when it comes to the concealer as it can highlight dryness a little). I like the design of the case, the idea is fantastic and it would be great for festivals or travelling; however, it might be a little too bulky for some and if you dropped it, I don't want to think about how messy that would be. Additionally, my phone is new (I bought it new in August 2017) but as it heats up, the foundation and concealer starts to melt, maybe because of the waxes within the product? It does actually help the product become creamy and easier to blend but it doesn't look very nice and maybe the heat will compromise the products in the future.

What do you think about this phone case? I know that growing up in the 90's, this would have been a dream product! 

Veganuary: Cruelty-Free Cleanser Challenge

Monday, January 15, 2018
January is the month for veganuary and this is my third time taking part although it's not going 100% to plan, especially as I didn't stock up on vegan essentials beforehand but I'm back on track now with my diet. I love taking part in veganuary, even though my diet is almost completely vegan already and I'd definitely encourage you to take part or to switch to a vegetarian diet to try it out.

One aspect of becoming a vegetarian or vegan that I think most people overlook is their beauty collection as well as leather items they may buy. I don't personally buy leather and I'm pretty sure that I don't know anything that is fully made of leather either, thankfully. However my beauty collection still contains products that aren't cruelty free or 100% vegan but it's something I'm working on in 2018 - it will be a slow process as I want use up those products rather than wasting them by throwing them all away.

Green People have created the 'cruelty free cleanser' challenge to coincide with veganuary as they have lots of vegan products to choose from and all of their products are crudely free. I've used some of their products previously and I've loved them so I was excited to try this box of goodies when it arrived a couple of weeks ago!
*Green People Quinoa & Artichoke Hair Duo (£16.95, 100ml each)
Let's start with the products I've been using the most which include this gorgeous and very effective shampoo and conditioner duo. Both products contain spring water, artichoke, quinoa proteins, sweet orange peel oil, ginger root oil and many others. Their products are SLS free, fragrance, gluten, colourant, paraben and lanolin free which is amazing!

I've been using this duo on and off for the past couple of weeks and I've now used up both bottles (as my hair is SO long) and I've loved using them especially as the shampoo lathers so quickly and easily. Additionally, as my hair is so long, it can become a birds nest of tangles but this conditioner really helps to detangle and moisturise my hair.

*Green People Daily Aloe Shower Gel (£12.50, 200ml)
Another product from Green People that I've been loving this month is their Daily Aloe Shower Gel which is not only gently effective but it smells heavenly. It doesn't just contain aloe vera, it also contains spring water, olive fruit oil and lavender, the latter is a favourite of mine so I knew I'd love this shower gel! It's effective as well as being gentle on the skin and the scent is gorgeous.
*Green People Gentle Cleanse & Makeup Remover (£13, 50ml)
Last but not least is one of the most gentle, non-irritating cleansers I've ever used! I have tried the Neutral Scent Free Cleanser from Green People a few years ago which I loved but I definitely prefer this one. It contains sunflower seed oil, rosemary leaf extract, marigold flower extract and many more wonderful, natural ingredients that are perfect for my sensitive, eczema prone skin.

Admittedly it is a very basic, no frills cleanser but that's what I want! I need something that will remove even waterproof makeup easily without drying out my skin or irritating it and this product ticks all of the boxes! I also love the packaging of this cleanser!

Overall, Green People has been consistently one of my favourite natural brands and I've loved every item I've tried so far. If you are looking to add in some more natural cruelty free or vegan items into your beauty collection then look no further than Green People.

Have you tried anything from Green People? Are you taking part in Veganuary? 

Blog Tour + Q+A: Beautiful Star by Andrew Swanston

Saturday, January 13, 2018
One of my reading goals for 2017 was to read more diversely which sadly I didn't achieve but I hope to read a little mow diversely in terms of genre, characters and format in 2018. I do read historical fiction, it's one of my favourite genres but I haven't read a historical fiction short story collection, until now. I was very kindly sent an early copy of Beautiful Star & Other Stories from The Dome Press and I was also able to have a few of my questions answered by the author, Andrew Swanston.

*Beautiful Star & Other Stories by Andrew Swanston (256 pages - available now) ★★★ (3.5)
The blurb of this book features monks, kings, crime, battles and swashbuckling adventures instantly intrigued me as well as the gorgeous cover! Also it's historical fiction and it is relatively short at under 300 pages so I knew I'd enjoy it.

There are seven short stories within the collection, of varying lengths, topics and characters, all of which I liked but my favourites from the collection have to include: Beautiful Star, The Flying Monk, The Tree and A Witch and A Bitch, the latter focuses on witchcraft accusations which is one of the most interesting aspects of history, for me at least!

I loved the range of time periods, topics and focuses of the stories as it means that there's something new in each story as well as a new adventure and characters. I love the setting of the stories and it has just reinforced my love for historical fiction and history in general.

I've read The Incendium Plot by Andrew Swanston (which I rated 4/5 stars) last year and I loved it so I knew I'd love this collection. The authors writing is rich, detailed and paints a truly vivid image of the scene, characters and their emotions even within a very short story. If you are looking for an immersive read filled with historical events but you don't want to commit to a full length historical fiction novel then definitely check out this fantastic short story collection!
Q&A
1. Do you have any tips or advice for aspiring writers?

When I was a wee lad of thirteen my headmaster asked me what I wanted to do in life. I told him I wanted to be a writer. Fifty years later my first book (The King’s Spy) was published. So my advice to aspiring writers of any age is NEVER GIVE UP.

2. What are your top five books that you'd recommend to everyone?

A terribly difficult question but I will plump (in no particular order) for the following because I have either read them more than once or would like to read them again: The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho, Samuel Pepys - The Unequalled Self: Claire Tomalin, The Aeneid: Publius Virgilius Maro (Virgil), His Dark Materials Trilogy: Philip Pullman and The Jeeves Omnibus (2 vols): P G Wodehouse.

3. Who are your favourite authors? Any lesser know authors that you love?

In addition to the above: Rose Tremain, Robert Hughes, Jared Diamond, Ben Macintyre, Michael Lewis, Anthony Beevor, Tom Holland and John Boyne. All their books are ‘must reads’. I cannot offer any ‘lesser knowns’ but instead recommend two authors who set me to reading: Conan Doyle and C S Forester.  Sherlock Holmes and Horatio Hornblower are my two great fictional heros.

4. Are there any books that have inspired your work or influenced you as a writer?

P G Wodehouse for his dialogue and economy of words, Philip Pullman for his wonderful story telling skills, P D James for her elegant style and Anthony Beevor for making history come alive.

Are you a fan of historical fiction? Have you or will you be reading this book? 

Long Term Health + Fitness Goals

Friday, January 12, 2018
I love the feeling of the start of a new year as it means that there's an opportunity for change, improvement and healthy habits! I have already published a post about my 2018 goals but I wanted to write a more in-depth post about my long term health, fitness and exercise goals for the foreseeable future.

Drink More Water ft. Herbalife and Ion
This goal has been on my yearly goals list for the past few years and I've never accomplished it - I don't know why I find it so difficult to drink enough each day! The minimum I drink is around 500ml and the most is around 900ml which is no where near the two litres recommend each day. However, I received a fantastic and huge water bottle from Herbalife which I've been loving and it has been helping me accomplish this goal already this year.

I also received one from Ion which I'm loving too and it has a 550ml capacity so it's more travel friendly especially as it has a very secure lock/lid. From the first few days of January until now, I have been drinking between 1300ml to 2100ml every single day which is completely unheard of for me and I really hope that it continues for the rest of 2018.

Exercise Consistently + Track My Fitness ft. Fitbit
Just after Christmas I bought myself a Fitbit Charge 2 as I'm a very organised person so I like to be able to analyse, measure and look back on statistics....yeah, I'm that kind of person. So my Fitbit has been amazing as well as the Lifesum app, 1byOne Wellness app and the Fitbit app which have all been perfect for tracking my health, fitness and weight.

As well as tracking my weight, fitness and health, I'd love to carry on with my 2017 habits of exercising consistently which so far this year, I haven't been achieving, oops. I have an exercise cross trainer at home which definitely helps me to stay fit so I want to exercise even a little bit each day.
Be More Active
Another exercise goal of mine is to not only exercise consistently but to push myself and to become more active in terms of walking and hiking (and maybe rock climbing or kayaking) which is something I've wanted to do since coming back from Norway last summer. I already have a list of places I want to visit in the North West this year to not only experience some culture and history but to get in my steps as well.

Reduce Carbs, Salt & Caffeine
I've been a vegetarian for almost 14 years now (I think it's 14 years...maybe 13) but over the past three years I've been incorporating more vegan foods into my diet so that now in 2018, my diet is mostly vegan (about 90% vegan). However, my diet can always improve and it would be even better if I could reduce the amount of salt, carbs and caffeine in my diet.

Start Yoga Again
Back in 2016 and somewhat into 2017, I started practicing yoga and breathing medication occasionally at home which I found so relaxing and I'd like to start yoga again (I used the Yoga With Adrienne videos) so hopefully it will become a long term practice.
Try Health Tonics ft. Tonic by Tanita de Ruijt 
Last but not least is something new to my list and it's to try various homemade health tonics with the help of Tonic by Tanita de Ruikt. It's a gorgeous hardback book I was sent a couple of days ago and it's already inspiring me to try homemade juices, drinks and tonics to help me have a healthy 2018. I've tried one so far, the liver tonic which was...interesting. I need to experiment more with tonics and recipes in 2018 and I think this book will be perfect as it's beautifully published, well laid out and full of health tonic recipes.

Do you have any health or fitness goals for 2018 or the future? 

New In Homeware ft. PhotoWall

Thursday, January 11, 2018
Just before Christmas I was lucky enough to receive my gorgeous canvas from the lovely people over at Photo Wall and I absolutely adore it! It arrived a little too late for me to include it within one of my Christmas gift guides but I still had to mention it as it's one of my favourite homeware items!

*Photo Wall Canvas (£68)
Photo Wall have a fantastic range of wall murals, designer wallpaper and various canvas prints to choose from including pre-made designs but as I visited the stunningly beautiful country of Norway last summer, I had to use one of my favourite photos from our trip instead. Although their canvas prints are gorgeous especially the landscapes, cities and architecture prints.

The process of uploading your own photo or collage is so quick and easy, you can change the dimensions of your frame and size of the canvas easily too and you can see how much of your chosen photograph will appear on the canvas by adjusting the canvas measurements - I found this so useful as I could cut off some of the photograph that I didn't need and include parts that I did want. I opted for the 76cm by 56cm canvas option which is the best size for the space I wanted to add it to and for my photograph.
The canvas is made in the equally beautiful country of Sweden (I've visited Gothenburg and Stockholm) using environmentally and fire-retardant materials. The canvas prints will not fade in sunlight, they're made from 100% cotton and they come with a DIY frame.

Unlike other canvas prints, this one comes with a very simple, DIY frame (instructions are included) which doesn't require tools as it is an adhesive frame with corner plates and included screws to keep the frame together. It was very quick and easy to construct and attach to the print and because of the frame design, the image wraps around the sides of the canvas which looks amazing!
The canvas image itself is perfect, it's vivid and true to colour and it is more detailed than I thought it would be although you do lose some detail as the image is larger and printed onto cotton. I have the canvas print on our mantlepiece where I think it looks unique and draws comments (always positive ones) from everyone!

For the space, the size is absolutely perfect, I love the photograph and the shades within it match the shade around the room. It's a little heavier than I thought it would be but it's easy to hang on the wall or move. I cannot recommend their products enough and I'm so happy with my canvas!

Not only do get receive a wonderful canvas or wall mural but you get to look back and share memories too. Also for every purchase on photowall.co.uk, you help to plant tress in Africa which is fantastic. To get 20% off your order use the code: ofbeautyandnothingnesscampaign but you'll have to hurry as it expires on the 31st January 2018.

What do you think of the canvas? Have you purchased from Photo Wall? 

*Travel Ideas: Why Europe Never Disappoints

Wednesday, January 10, 2018
Image from Gal Meets Glam via Pinterest
There are some pretty amazing places to see in the world. Some of them might feature quite highly on your bucket list. But we’re all different. We want different experiences, sights and culture from our travels. What if there was a way to see it all in one go? That’s not actually possible, but Europe offers a pretty good way to see a lot of it all in one go:

Landscapes, Seascapes & More
Let’s face it, you really have got everything in Europe. There are lakes and forests, icescapes, mountains, valleys, and gorgeous beaches. In fact, it is perhaps the amazing variety of coastlines that makes yacht holidays in Europe so popular. Sail as you like through the Mediterranean. Take in Greece, Italy, France, Spain and Portugal. There are so many incredible beaches, island stops, and amazing views to enjoy.

The Arts
If you love city breaks, chances are you take the time to explore the arts and exhibitions available. Music, dance, sculptures and more are accessible almost every day of the year. Some of Europe’s most historic buildings offer dramatic insights into civilisations and cultures that have been and gone and others that continue to thrive. Enjoy a theatre production, an opera, or some street mime. The

Food
Most cities offer great eateries featuring cuisine from all over the world. But each individual country and even each region offers something special you’ll taste nowhere else. Cheeses, wines, cakes, biscuits, ciders, whiskey, and chocolate are all native to European towns and cities. Famous dishes like pizza, beef and ale pie and cheesecake have their origins on this continent. Treat yourself to a few meals out when you’re travelling through Europe.

The Culture
With so many different countries on this continent, it’s no surprise that there are so many different cultures and local traditions to explore. Some countries have several different spoken languages or dialects too. Traditional costume, peculiar festivals, and obscure activities make for a lot of fun if you’re around to witness them.

The Climate 
Europe has snow and unsurpassed skiing resorts. Europe also has sun and unsurpassed beaches. There is something for every season when you travel through this continent. The weather is reasonably predictable for each corner of the continent too. You can expect a few places to offer adequate warmth all year round. And you can also expect snow and ice in others. Of course, some are just rainy most of the time. Others are dry and dusty. What is your preference?

The Journey 
With some of the best road infrastructure, public transport, and waterways, travelling through Europe is easy. You can take a yacht and sail around many of Europe’s most delightful countries. Even some of the waterways and rivers are accessible this way. Most places accept the single currency, so hopping across borders should prove trouble-free. Now all you need to figure out is which language to speak!

Have you visited any destinations in Europe? If so, any recommendations? 

*This is a collaborative post
*Image from Pinterest

Top Five Audiobooks Of 2017 with BookBeat

Tuesday, January 09, 2018
Last year I was very kindly given a one year subscription to BookBeat and I've been using it over the past year (and loving it). It's the first time I've ever listened to audiobooks and if I'm honest, it did take me a while to get into them; however now I'm obsessed and it means that I can listen to books whenever I want and they contribute to my reading goal on GoodReads.

BookBeat is such an amazing audiobook service as unlike others, you don't have credits, you just pay £14.90 per month and you can listen to as many audiobooks as you want which is amazing value for money compared to other audiobook services out there. I also love their app as it's so easy to use. There have been some boring, slow or tedious audiobooks but there have also been some wonderful ones and today's post is all about my top five audiobooks of 2017 (although I only started the service in March/April).

Borne by Jeff Vandermeer ★★★★★
In 2017 I discovered my love for Jeff Vandermeer's books as I read the first book in this southern reach series and then the other two books on BookBeat. I really liked the trilogy so I had to listen to Borne as well which is a newer release. All of his books are very unusual so I think they will be something you either love or hate!

Borne isn't set in the same world as the southern reach trilogy but the world is just as weird...wait, weirder. I'm not going to say anything else about the audiobook as it's best to be surprised, intrigued and grossed out as you listen to it. I did like the narrator and it is one of the best fiction audiobooks I've listen to so far.

House Of Furies by Madeleine Roux ★★★★
Next up is a YA paranormal audiobook from an author that seems to be fairly prolific in that genre so it definitely shows. I loved the narrator for this audiobook (no matter how good the book is, it can definitely be ruined by an awful narrator) and I loved the spooky, atmospheric setting as well as the sweet romance. It's the perfect audiobook for dark winter nights or around halloween!

Victorians Undone by Kathryn Hughes ★★★★
I've listened to more non-fiction audiobooks in 2017 than fiction but there are actually only two on my list as the others have just been a little forgettable or boring, if I'm completely honest! This book was the first audiobook I ever listened to and I definitely chose well as this audiobook was interesting, intriguing and definitely gave me an intimate insight into the numerous historical figures it features. If you are looking for an informative non-fiction with an unusual twist and intimate details then check this one out!

Ancient Wonderings By James Canton ★★★★
The final non-fiction audiobook on this list is more like a walk with a friend or listening to someones thoughts rather than a list of facts. It mentions various ancient monuments, sites and objects but in a more relaxed, easy listening kind of way which I loved and it was such a nice change compared to the dull, information heavy audiobooks I was listening to at the time.

The Strain by Guillermo Del Toro ★★★ (3.5)
Lastly we have an audiobook that links with the TV show of the same name - I love the TV show (I've only watched the first season so far) so I wanted to listen to the audiobook. From my memory, the TV show and the audiobook aren't massively different so you can just watched/listen to one or the other. I like the narrator (not so much the sound effects), the story on the whole and the creepy mystery.

Honorary Mentions
I'd like to mention a couple of fantastic audiobooks that I loved but that didn't quite make the top five including Coraline by Neil Gaiman and it's narrated by Neil Gaiman too (★★★) and We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie which was a great lesson on the basics of feminism (★★★★★).

Have you listened to any of these audiobooks?