September Reading Wrap-up 2018

Sunday, September 30, 2018
I carried on from August my love of reading and my apparent need to read ALL THE BOOKS as I was able to read 12 books this month and six audiobooks, the latter isn't nearly as good as August but I'm still very happy with the audiobooks I've listened to. September was a mix of either very short books (and short audiobooks) or long books, four of which were either over 500 pages or very close. Most books this month were very good and I would recommend almost every single one I read this month! However, I did have one DNF this month which was The Bastard Legion by Gavin Smith which sounded AMAZING but sadly I just didn't click with it.

*The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale (480 pages) ★★★ (3.5)
I've reviewed this book and the next book within their own book blog tours already so you can read those for an in-depth review! I was very kindly sent a gorgeous hardback copy of this book, thanks Penguin! However as I was travelling so much in August I read most of this book as an e-book on my iPad while on holiday but finished it in September.

In The Toymakers we follow Cathy, a runaway who has applied to work at the wonderful Papa Jack's Emporium in London; however all is not what it seems in the Emporium or for Cathy as she has her own not so little secret...What follows is an incredibly magical, endearing and christmas themed read that is tinged with sadness. I utterly adored the descriptions of the Emporium as well as the wonderful toys held within - it would be a perfect read for christmas time as it had quite a few moments of childhood wonderment you feel during that time of the year. It is simultaneously a very heart warming, magical read but it is also very wistful and heartbreaking - I never read emotional books and this one did get to me at times. I'd definitely recommend it for it's utterly magical, christmas themed setting and wonderful writing.

*He Will Find You by Diane Jeffrey (279 pages) ★★★
The second book I already have a review of on my blog is for He Will Find You by Diane Jeffrey which is her latest thriller! I was able join the blog tour for this book and I was very excited to start it as I really liked her debut novel, Those Who Lie. Despite receiving an e-arc of this book I actually listened to it as an audiobook on BookBeat while on holiday so I listened to it on the train and while on German autobahns!

We follow Kaitlyn as she travels across the country to live with her school crush and her one night stand, Alex. Moving away from her friends, her job and distanced from her family as she has had to move to the Lake District, she becomes more dependant on Alex and she discovers that he isn't what he seems. Kaitlyn uncovers dark secrets and an even darker side to her new husband that she didn't know existed.

I liked the narrator of the audiobook and it was a fairly quick and very easy to follow audiobook. I do love thrillers and this one was definitely compelling, interesting and I wanted to find out what would happen to Kaitlyn. I definitely liked the last 30% of the book the most! I only had one negative about this book and that was some of Kaitlyn's decisions and thoughts which were sometimes fully rational and intelligent but most of the time they were ridiculous and I couldn't understand why she was acting or thinking the way she was which did pull me out of the story and made it seem quite unbelievable, if I'm honest (this was mostly the beginning and middle of the book and decreased as the book continued, thankfully). However, I would recommend it as a quick, easy and compelling domestic thriller.

*She is Fierce by Ana Sampson (304 pages) ★★★ (3.5)
I never really liked English as a subject in school and I think that is in part due to being forced to try and understand poetry and Shakespeare at such a young age which has meant that I haven't read any of either since then! However, I was very kindly sent this bold and beautiful poetry collection from Ana Sampson which features various poets and writers including Emily Bronte, Kate Tempest, Margaret Atwood and many more.

I'll admit that I was a little nervous about starting this collection as I haven't read any poetry in so long and I've always thought that poetry was a little too abstract and intelligent for me (although I do have a BSc Hons degree). Aesthetically it would make for a lovely gift for literary lovers in your life and the poetry is equally as beautiful on the whole. For me, I find that I either instantly connect to a poem or not and thankfully with a collection such as this, it means you will find a range of poems and poets that you'll like. Some of my favourite poems from the collection includes: Dead Love, A Birthday, Siren Song, Witch, Thirteen, Timetable, Phenomenal Woman, My Body, Hope Is A Thing With Feathers and Rosa Parks. I loved the mini biographies of each poet at the end of the collection. If you know a poetry lover then this new and beautiful collection would make a perfect christmas gift!

*Snapshot by Brandon Sanderson (129 pages) ★★★ (3.5)
Brandon Sanderson is an author I've wanted to read for a couple of years but his usual fantasy is a little intimidating so when this book arrived in the post, I was very excited to start it as it sounded very unusual and it's also very short! Snapshot is a short hardback novella which is set in Snapshot, a reconstruction of one day in the real world. Within this world we follow two detectives as they are tasked to find where a murder weapon was dropped which will help the police in real life. However, one day they discover a gruesome crime and reveal more about themselves and Snapshot than they'd want to know.

The concept of this book sounds little complicated but he tells it in a way in which you can easily follow and enjoy as well as being quite thought provoking. It was a very quick, entertaining read and now I cannot wait to read more from Brandon Sanderson. If you're looking to try this author or you want a very interesting crime read with almost sci-fi elements then check out Snapshot.

*The Caged Queen by Kristen Ciccarelli (367 pages)  ★★★ (3.75)
As with The Toymakers and He Will Find You, this book also will also have it's own blog tour post so this review will be short and sweet. I read this authors previous book and really enjoyed it so I couldn't wait to start the next book in the series although you don't need to read the first before reading this, as far as I know. I adored the setting, magic and the ending was exactly what I wanted! My only negative was that it is a touch too long and there were a few generic YA tropes that I've read again and again. However, if you like YA, fantasy or a combination of the two then you'll love this book.

*A Dance of Water and Air by Antonia Aquilante (287 pages) ★★★
I've read couple of LGBT books this month because my reading was getting a bit narrow and I wanted to read a wider range of books so when this one came up on Netgalley, I had to request it because it sounded like an interesting (although not super original) LGBT fantasy read.

We follow Edmund, heir to the throne of Thalassa as he is betrothed to the heir to the Aither kingdom, Hollis, which it is hoped will strength both kingdoms against their enemies. However, Edmund and Hollis's brother, Arden, strike up a friendship which leads to something more. Amidst this are political problems and Edmund and Arden have to flee.

One of the main points I loved about this book was the complete acceptance in this world of LGBT relationships and I adored the elemental magic (I need to read more books with elemental magic in them). I liked the relationship between the characters of Edmund and Arden as well as Peregrine and his love interest (I can't remember his name!). Overall, it was a very quick, entertaining and light hearted fantasy read with a conclusion I wanted and interesting magic elements; however it was definitely trope filled, nothing new to the genre and a little cheesy at times but if you are looking for a quick, fun read with LGBT elements in a good fantasy setting then check it out.
*Lud In The Mist by Hope Mirrlees (288 pages) ★★★
There are a few books in this wrap-up with very beautiful covers and Lud In The Mist is definitely one of them - just look at it! However, this book has one of my bookish pet peeves...teeny tiny text! Books with tiny text makes me not want to read the book, I don't know why, I just hate it. Rant over, this book is set in prosperous country town, Lud-In-The-Mist, at the confluence of two rivers, the Dawl and the Dapple. In this setting we follow the Chanticleer family, the oldest and most prestigious family in the area; we mainly follow the father, Nathanial, as people start to disappear and the town he loves is changing which might be due to the influx of the restricted fairy fruit.

The start of the book is very richly descriptive (it's almost haunting which I adored), I loved the setting as it was so vivid and almost magical especially with the mentions of 'fairyland' and 'fairy fruit'. It sets up to be a cross between a classic fairytale, a quaint English novel and a mystery. Even though the page number is fairly low at less than 300 pages, due to the tiny font, it did take me so much longer to read than I thought it would.

I loved the mysteries, the setting was wonderful and the writing was very rich; however at times it felt like the reading version of running through treacle, so thick and tiresome sadly. In terms of the page number, a book this size wouldn't take me long at all to read but this one was a little bit of a slog. Although despite the sometimes slow pace and the more than often overly descriptive writing that left me feeling physically bogged down, I did enjoy the world, the magical elements, intriguing fairies and the mysteries that occur along the way - the more I read, the more I enjoyed the book. I think that if it sounds like something you'd enjoy then definitely give it a go but I was a little disappointed by it sadly.

*A Winter's Promise by Christelle Dabos (468 pages) ★★★★ (4.5)
I have a few favourite books this month including the audiobook of Rebecca by Daphne de Maurier, A Gathering Of Ghosts by Karen Maitland, The Price Guide To The Occult and this read, A Winter's Promise, which is definitely my favourite of all of them! A Winter's Promise is an English translation of a best selling French YA fantasy read and after reading it I can see why it is so loved!

A Winter's Promise is set in a world which has been blown apart, quite literally, by an event called 'the rupture' which has resulted in the world being split into small floating 'arcs', each of which is home to their ancestor spirit. We follow Ophelia, an unusual, gifted and quiet teenager who lives on the arc, Anima, where objects have souls which she can read with her magical gift. I actually found myself relating to Ophelia quite a lot and I wish I had her magical ability! She lives a quiet life with her family and eccentric great uncle until she's told that she has to marry Thorn, a member of the dragon clan on the Ark of the Pole. A tale of betrayal, the unknown and political intrigue unfold revealing that all is not what it seems on the Ark of the Pole and with Ophelia's distant husband.

I UTTERLY ADORED the setting and magic within this book, it made it seem very special in a way that I've only really experienced with Roald Dahl and Harry Potter books. The writing is quick and easy to follow but at the same time it is whimsical, magical and allows you to envision this mysterious fantasy world perfectly. I found the concepts, fantasy elements and magic in this book to be enrapturing and I can see why this book is so beloved as it just has something very unique and special about it. It's the first of four books with the second English translation being released next year and I cannot wait. However, the only minor negative I had was that I found the ending a little anticlimactic and left so much undiscovered and unsaid frustratingly.

The Magpie Lord by K.J Charles (222 pages) ★★★ 
I found myself scrolling through Amazon as I wanted a quick, slightly horroresque read that would be a page turner and I found a great one with LGBT characters (definitely a 18+ book) in The Magpie Lord. We follow Lucien Vaudrey, a disgraced heir who has recently returned from exile in China, as he takes over the family estate following the suspicious deaths of his violent, brutal father and brother. He finds a hostile community, a decaying grand house and a desire to leave England as soon as possible but he is unable to leave because of a curse which requires the help of magician Stephen Day.

I loved the setting of the novel, the horror and supernatural elements were great and exactly what I wanted and I actually liked the unlikely romantic relationship between Vaudrey and Day. It felt a little gothic which I adored and I liked the magpie element which reminded me a little of Blackwing/Ravencry. There are some more difficult topics in this book such as rape and abuse so be aware of that but overall, I'd definitely recommend this LGBT supernatural read especially as it was so quick, easy and entertaining.

*Buffy The Vampire Slayer - Pop Classic (40 pages) ★★★ (3.5)
I was very kindly sent this adorable middlegrade read from the ever lovely people at Quirk Books. Buffy is a TV series that is a little nostalgic to me as it was at it's height in the late 90's and I did watch some of it at the time - I need to watch the whole series soon. I thought this book would be an adorable and slightly halloweenesque read and I was right. I adored the illustrations, it's a quick and easy to follow story and I think children between the ages of maybe 6 to 10 would love it.

*A Gathering Of Ghosts by Karen Maitland (544 pages) ★★★ (3.75)
Since reading The Plague Charmer last year and Wicked Children, I've realised that Karen Maitland is one of my new favourite authors, even though I haven't read too many of her books but I knew that I would love her latest release. I was very kindly sent the gorgeous and gigantic paperback from the publisher Headline so thank you! However, I read most of it as an e-arc from Netgalley as I couldn't take the huge paperback travelling with me. I read the vast majority of this book in August while on holiday but finished it in September.

We follow three intertwining storylines with a range of characters which never feels like too much or confusing. It's set during a tumultuous time with poverty and famine a constant in England as well as religious tension and through this time we follow a poverty stricken wise woman and her daughters, an arrogant knight and a crippled young woman, along with the other tinners as they endure backbreaking work for very little.

At first you don't see how the stories intertwine but they do and you feel the hardship, struggles and strife the characters have to go through in their own way. I adored the folklore and magical realism elements within this book as well as the atmosphere, mysterious and bleak setting and the characters of Morwen and Sorrel especially. It is a very bleak, dark and grim read with some very eerie elements and harder to read topics such as rape, miscarriage, abuse, poverty, mental illness, torture and loss. As I mentioned, I love The Plague Charmer and this one had the same rich, atmospheric writing that is compelling and easy to read but I think I prefer The Plague Charmer out of the two; however I did throughly enjoy (...that might not be the right word considering how melancholy, raw and dark both books are) this read. If you are a fan of darker historical fiction with magical, folklore and mysteries featuring spell binding writing and raw, realistic characters then look no further than the wonderful Karen Maitland - I can't wait to pick up another book of hers from my shelves.

*The Price Guide To The Occult by Leslye Walton (288) ★★★ (3.75)
The cover of this book has to be one of the most beautiful I received in September and it turned out of to be one of my favourite books of the month too. Set on an atmospheric, eerie and rugged island we are told the story of the original inhabitants of the island, in particular Rona Blackburn who was spurned by her lover, has cursed the inhabitants but the ramifications led to a curse upon the Blackburn women as well. Each generation is cursed with a magical burden of their own which changes with each generation until we reach the present day and the latest daughter, Nor. We follow Nor and her unusual family, abusive mother and less than idyllic childhood memories as well as her friendships, the discovery of her burden and the destructive path her mother leads which causes devastation of the island, her followers and her unknowingly powerful daughter.

I absolutely adored the setting of the books and the wonderfully rich descriptions of the landscape, weather and nature. I liked the characters on the whole, although Nor did become a little annoying at times! The atmosphere, halloween vibes and the very dark elements were some of my favourite parts of the book along with writing but I didn't care too much about the romance, although thankfully it wasn't the sole focus of the book (yay!). I have to point out that it mentions self harm quite a lot as well as abuse so if that might be triggering for you then maybe give it a miss or approach with caution. It was a fairly quick, easy and entertaining read that has put me into the halloween spirit (it reminded me of old school teen halloween films) so if you like the sound of this book then definitely pick it up!
*Dracula's Guest and Other Stories by Bram Stoker ★★★
I'm coming to the end of my fantastic BookBeat subscription (thanks BookBeat!) so I wanted to listen to some of the books I've been meaning to get around to for a while including this one which is perfect for the upcoming halloween season. It was a quick and easy listen with a range of mildly horror and supernatural related stories, the first of which was my favourite but the others were a little forgettable. I would recommend this audiobook for the halloween season!

*Rebecca by Daphne de Maurier ★★★★
I am a huge fan of gothic literature so I don't know why I've not read this book before but I decided to listen to the audiobook this month and I wasn't disappointed! We follow a naive young new bride who travels to her husbands, Maxim de Winter, family home of Manderley in the English countryside. The new bride, who's name is never mentioned, soon feels out of her depth as the new mistress of Manderley and discovers haunting reminders of her husbands beautiful first wife, Rebecca.

What follows is an exploration into Rebecca's life, her influence on Manderley and the staff, her relationship with Maxim de Winter and how she died which seems more than a little mysterious. I knew that I'd like this book, or audiobook, but I liked it much more than I thought I would. The character of the second wife was a little annoying at times but the others were fantastic, especially the disturbing Mrs Danvers! It reminded me of Agatha Christie novels in parts which you already know I'm a huge fan of. I loved the eerie, mysterious atmosphere and now I need to read more from Daphne de Maurier. If you're looking for a mysterious modern classic that is very easy to follow and perfect for the upcoming autumn and halloween season then definitely pick up Rebecca.

*A Haunted House by Virginia Woolf ★★
I listened to one Virginia Woolf audiobook last month and even though I didn't enjoy it, I did want to listen to something else but sadly, this one was also disappointing. The start of the audiobook follows a woman as she experiences a haunted house but that abruptly stops and a short biography of Woolf begins...It was an incredibly short and unusually structured audiobook that I wouldn't really recommend.

*Weight by Jeanette Winterson ★★★
Next up, I listened to Weight by Jeanette Winterson as I've wanted to buy the book for a while and I love mythology, especially greek and roman mythology! Sadly, it was a little unusual, far more sexual than I ever thought it would be from the blurb and as with the previous audiobook, it had an unusual structure than I wasn't really a fan of. Overall, I'm giving it three stars as I am interested in mythology, I like Jeanette Winterson and it was a very quick audiobook; however I don't know if I would recommend it - I just didn't get on with it sadly.

*The Hound Of Death by Agatha Christie ★★
BookBeat has an amazing range of these very short 'masterpieces in miniature' which are quick Agatha Christie stories, usually under one hour in length so they're perfect audiobooks to listen to in the car or while cooking. I love how quick and easy they are and they're all narrated by the amazing Christopher Lee. It's an unusual audiobook but I did enjoy it to an extent but it isn't very memorable; however, I'd still listen to the others.

*Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol ★★
Lastly, I listened to a Russian classic that is one of the very few on the shorter side. We follow Chichikov as he rises through the ranks and social sphere until an unknown illness causes him to deteriorate and look back on his life and existence in general until his eventual death. I found the life of Chichikov, his business, the focus on taxes and serfs more than a little boring but the end of the audiobook and his thoughts of his life and death were more interesting. If it sounds interesting to you then definitely check out the audiobook.

Have you read any of these books? What have you been reading recently?

*Home Office Wish List ft. Sundeala

Saturday, September 29, 2018
I think I've mentioned this before but I'm currently working from home as a freelance writer and blogger while I'm looking for training so my home office space is important to me as I spend so much time there. My home office is light, simple and filled with books, the best kind of office space! There are always little bits and pieces that I want for my office and here are some at the top of my wish list.

Kikki K Pens  -  Colourful Vase  -  Trinket Dish  -  Sundeala Colourboard  -  2019 Diary 

Stationery is one of the most important aspects of any office and for me, the cuter the better! Kikki K has some gorgeous stationery collections, especially this 'Wonderful' collection which I need everything from. I particularly love the 2019 diary from this range so I might have to buy it early so it doesn't sell out.

Office extras and brighter items are always needed to liven up a work space, whether it's in an office setting or a home office. I love these two homeware items from Oliver Bonas, the trinket dish is so unique and I adore the design. The vase is equally as gorgeous and I find that having flowers around while I'm working definitely helps for a nice working environment.

Staying organised is something I'm fairly good at and it's something I like doing so I need the tools to be prepared and organised. I have so many list pads that help me stay on track and having a cute and colourful notice board would be perfect too. Sundeala have a great range of notice and memo boards that are ideal for a home office for a blogger to stay organised, to plan ahead and to schedule blog posts. I haven't had a notice board in my office but the one in our kitchen comes in so handy and I think an office noticeboard or memo board would help me become more organised - especially with a busy blogging period coming up with halloween and christmas. The red/pink colourboard from Sundeala would look amazing in my home office with my simple but cosy decor and they're composed of recyclable materials so they are environmentally friendly too which is always a good thing!

What do you think of my office wish list? Do you have any home office organisation tips or product recommendations? 

*This is a sponsored post
*Images from Sundeala, Kikki K and Oliver Bonas

*Money Saving Tips For Christmas

Friday, September 28, 2018
I know that for some people it's too early talk about christmas but I personally love that warm and comforting feeling of the lead up to christmas and everything it entails. Also I love choosing gifts for friends and family, treating people and planning/organising so it's one of the best holidays (besides halloween, obviously). I've already started planning and organising gifts for christmas and if you are too then these money saving ideas might be helpful!

Organisation + Prepping
Firstly, you have to be organised with your money and start prepping, for example, don't leave it until the last minute and try stretching out payments. I write a list of everyone I need to buy for with some ideas and an approximately budget so I know where I'm at which definitely helps me stay organised. I also buy gifts in advance and gifts that I can potentially gift to numerous people if I need to switch it up as then I always have options.

Sales
The main time that I buy gifts are in sales, especially the Boxing Day and after christmas sales then I'm not spending as much and I can usually buy more for friends and family. The Boxing Day sales online are usually pretty good, particually on the Boots and Superdrug sites but you have to be quick and know what you want to buy before hand - I go through the site before the sale and compose a mental checklist of gifts that I want to look out for in the sale. Sales throughout the year as well as offers are when I pick up most gifts because who doesn't want to save money and give a lovely gift at the same time!

Scale Back Gift Giving or Give Handmade Gifts
As I've said, I write a list of everyone I need or want to buy a gift for, whether it's family, friends or neighbours and while over the past three or so years, I've been buying and giving to so many more people than I ever did - next year I'm definitely scaling it back to only close friends and immediate family because my gift giving is getting a little out of hand, especially this year as I'm giving everyone a hamper full of gifts.

Another option to save a little money while also giving something special is by making your gifts. The Craftiosity subscription boxes have given me the tools and ideas to make some fantastic gifts in the future - especially the bath bomb, macrame and candle making kits, all of which would be great ideas for handmade gifts. Edible gifts such as homemade beer (the Home Brewtique kit would be ideal), gingerbread houses, cookies or cute cupcakes would also be perfect for the festive season.

Get Cash Back & Using Points
Last but not least are a few savvy tips to get a little extra cash that is always needed before and after the chaotic festive and new year season. Returning items you're not 100% certain on or calling out a service your not happy with might get you some money back or store credit and every penny counts during the christmas period. Head Office Finder is a great site in which you can get hard to find customer service numbers such as Asda head office contact number, for example. Getting cash back on your purchases is another great way to earn a little and using your store points, such as Boots or Superdrug points, can buy for a gift or two - if you can hold back and save up your points, unlike me!

Do you have any money saving tips for the festive season? Do you plan your gift buying?

*This is a sponsored post
*Image from Pinterest

Christmas Gift Guide: Something For Everyone

Wednesday, September 26, 2018
I'm so excited by all of this christmas gift guides I have planned and I'm so glad that I started early as chistsmas releases and gifts are already coming out - christmas planning and gift buying seems to start earlier and earlier each year! However, I'm as organised as ever and I have a range of amazing christmas gifts for you in this post from a selection of fantastic brands including Conscious Skincare, Home Brewtique, RSPB and Zzysh.

*Conscious Skincare Soy Candle - Cinnamon and Rhubarb (£19, 220g)
The first gift in today's post is one of my favourites, well I love them all, but this one is the gift I've been using the most. The gorgeous candle from Conscious Skincare is composed of soy and essential oils so they are environmentally friendly, vegan and natural so they're a great option for those gift recipients who want to receive some natural and green gifts or if you don't know your gift recipient too well.
The candle comes in a really nice presentation box so aesthetically it would make a great gift and you wouldn't really have to wrap it. The scent I was very kindly sent is the Cinnamon and Rhubarb scent which is so incredibly lovely and perfect for this time of the year as it's spicy, cinnamon rich and very wintery in my opinion. I personally don't detect the rhubarb too much, maybe it adds a little sweetness to the overall candle scent but it's still such a lovely candle.

*Conscious Skincare Organic Sweet Orange and Frangipani Body Lotion (£14, 250ml)
Another gorgeous and cruelty free gift idea is this lovely body lotion from Conscious Skincare which can come in a sleek gift tube. It contains organic nourishing shea and cocoa butter, the former is fair-trade and it also contains organic sunflower oil and rosehip oil too. The body lotion comes with a pump dispenser which is very handy and I love the minimal packaging design. As for the lotion itself, it smells heavenly, the texture is so silky smooth and it leaves my skin feeling comfortable, moisturised and nourished which is what it needs now that the weather is much colder!
*RSPB Victorian Flora Bath and Body Set (£11.99)
It's always nice to give to charity and to give gifts to loved ones and you can combine those with this gorgeous gift set from RSPB! The set is inspired by the plants within victorian gardens which is when the RSPB was founded. The set is vegan and contains two 100ml bottles of the bath foam and body lotion which contain essences of rose, geranium, sweet orange and cedarwood - combined this scent is just gorgeous!
To be completely honest, I had no idea that the RSPB made gift sets and I think it's fantastic as not only are they nice gift sets and you can give a lovely present to someone but you are supporting a charity and buying ethical products. RSPB products don't contain parabens, chemicals or palm oil which is absolutely amazing! Additionally, all of the products are cruelty free, they aren't tested on animals and they don't contain any animal derived ingredients so it's a safe gift to give!
*Zzysh Wine Preserver (£79.90)
For today's gift guide I wanted to show off a few products that I think would make great gifts for a wide range of people whether your gift recipient loves pampering products, is vegan or only buys cruelty free, loves beer and wants to make their own or if your gift recipient is a wine connoisseur. I also wanted to show a few options for a range of budgets, whether is mid range or a little higher. The next gift in my gift guide is a very elegant looking wine preserver which would make for a very luxe and practical gift for those wine aficionados in your life.
The Zzysh wine preserver is a highly effective wine preserver that maintains the flavour and quality of the wine for weeks which is significantly longer than other traditional perseveres or stoppers. The way it works is by replacing the air within the opened bottle with 100% food grade argon gas. The set comes with the preserver hand piece, food grade argon gas canister and the stopper as well as instructions. It's a new and innovative Swiss design so naturally it looks very sleek and sophisticated - aesthetically it would make a very luxe but practical gift this christmas for any wine lovers in your life. They also make a champagne version, if that's more to your recipients taste. Scroll down to the end of the gift guide for a quick video of the Zzysh wine preserver in action!
*Home Brewtique (£139)
Last but not least for this gift guide is an amazing gift as not only does your gift recipient (or yourself) get an amazing practical, crafting gift but they also get bottles of their own home made beer at the end of it! Growing up my parents tried to make home brewed beer and to be honest, it didn't really work out and for me, looking on, it looked like a very complicated and time consuming process but thanks to Home Brewtique, it's much simpler!

I was very, very kindly sent the whole kit which is want you'll need if you are a beginner and don't have any of the equipment yet as they'll provide everything from the tools to ingredients and the basic equipment you will need. If you already have some of the items then you can just purchase the ones you're missing or the ingredients to get started. The entire kit came so well packaged, I love all of the hessian bags and how well laid out and designed everything was - it definitely looks impressive, which is what you want a christmas gift to be. 
I'm not going to go into too much detail about this kit now as I'm going to have a full post all about the process, how easy it was and the end result when the beer has finished brewing (along with a quick video of all the process) at the beginning of November so stay tuned. However, so far, it's been an interesting project to work on with my dad and it is so nice to try and make something together! It as been fairly easy to far and now the beer is brewing, we have bottling coming up and then there's another wait before we can try it! So far so good and I cannot recommend it enough!

What do you think of the gifts in today's gift guide? 

*Autumn Hair Care Routine

Tuesday, September 25, 2018
Image from Pinterest 
While autumn is by far my favourite season, it does have one downfall, the toll it takes on my skin and hair due to the wind, cold and as I'm in Manchester, rain. I always switch up my skincare at this time of the year to thicker, richer and more nourishing products such as oils and cleansing balms so why am I not doing this with my haircare routine?

Hair Masks + Oils
One product that I tend to use more during the colder months is definitely oils and hair masks. When it comes to hair masks, I never find that using it in the shower really benefits my hair so I always apply it all over my hair and scalp while it's dry then wash it out after an hour or so. I do the same with hair oils and it always leaves my hair incredibly soft, smooth and manageable - especially when my hair was very long and unruly!

Minimal Heat
During high school I used heat on my hair every single day and I'm throughly surprised that I still have any hair left as heat is one of the most damaging factors you can inflict upon your hair. To minimise the heat I use on my hair I use a heat protector (when I remember...) and I never blow dry my hair as I wash it in the evening so it can dry overnight. While the overnight hair dying method isn't the best for frizz, it does help to reduce damage and the heat used on my hair. To help my hair dry quicker in the evening so it isn't soaking wet overnight, I use the incredible Aquis Hair Towel which I've been using for two years and I LOVE it.

Leaving It Down
Since I was a teenager, my hair has always fallen out at a fairly alarming rate due to stress but now it's such much better thanks to the Regrowz treatment and I also think it's because of I don't tie my hair up as much. When I need my hair out of my face I typically use a giant clip from Primark. Tying my hair up definitely tends to make my hair fall out a little more and it gives me a headache so leaving it down is the way to go. If you're unsure of what hairstyle to opt for this autumn, check out my Autumn 2018 Hair Trends post.

Clip In Hair Extensions
Going back to the minimal heat point, an idea to get around using too much heat on your hair is to style extensions and minimally style your own hair to blend in. Clip Hair have a wide range of easy to clip in hair extensions to choose from that are composed of 100% human hair so it will style as normal and there are lots of shades so you'll find some to match. Additionally the extensions can add thickness to your hair if it's a little thin as mine was when I'd lost quite a bit. You can also switch up your style with ombre extensions and clip in highlights for the new season! Don't worry about matching your colour as they have a free colour matching service and they offer free delivery.

Do you have any autumnal haircare tips or styling ideas? 

*This is a sponsored post
*Image from Pinterest

Autumn 2018 Hair Trends ft. Jeunesse Global

Monday, September 24, 2018
Image from Elle via Pinterest
It's now autumn! I am so happy that autumn is finally here because it's the best season and this summer has felt as though it went on forever especially with the heatwave we had across Europe! Autumn clothing, makeup and hair trends tend to be some of my favourites of the year and the AW18 hair trends are definitely ones I can get behind.

Messy Buns + Top Knots
The first trend is all about messy buns and top knots as seen on the runway at Chanel (where buns were piled high and messy but still chic), twisted and pulled through at Sportmax or nostalgically accessorised at Prabel Gurung. I'm personally a huge fan of cute little buns at the base of the neck, I think it looks quite chic but minimal and I also love the messy, almost undone and dishevelled buns as seen on the AW18 Chanel models - I wish I had some gorgeous Chanel hair accessories too!

Buns and top knots are some of the quickest, easiest and most effortless styles for autumn as it keeps your hair out of your face but I find that buns don't give me a headache nearly as much as other styles do. However, if buns and top knots aren't your thing then sleek and soft ponytails as seen at Valentino or slicked back braids a la Alexander McQueen, Jil Sander and more might be your autumnal go to hair styling options instead.

Accessories
I think we all come across those trends that look amazing on the runway and on six foot tall models but in reality, it isn't right for us. For me, that's hair accessories! Whether it's bejewelled clips as seen adorning the models at Chanel, Max Mara or Zadig & Voltaire, I know it won't be for me personally but I do love this trend. I think the glittery, sparkly and glitzy hair accessories are perfect paired with a casual and cosy outfit for the autumn and winter season, the latter especially with festive parities and new year (yes, I did mention Christmas and new year, it's basically here already).

Undone 
Lastly, my favourite trend which I've seen slight different variations of on the AW18 runway is of undone hair. From wind blown, natural texture at Coach, a loose natural style at Lanvin and messy curls at Paco Rabanne to 'watch me walk away' hair at Isabel Marant, smooth waves at Balmain or natural textured hair at Versace, I love it all.

My hair is naturally frizzy, unruly and thick so it needs all of the help it can get and one of my go to looks recently has been loose, disorganised GHD curls as it takes almost no time at all, it looks pretty sleek and put together but in a more natural, 'I spent two minutes on my hair' look - best of all, it tames the halo of frizz I have! I'm all behind the undone, loose waves and natural textured looks this season...and for all of the other seasons.

Whatever style you opt for this season, it's important to look after your hair, especially during the colder months (as with your skin too!). I always treat my hair to nourishing oils during the day to tame frizz and thick hair masks that coat my hair in the evening to give my hair as much moisture and TLC as it can handle, particularly because I've been using more much heat on it than I usually do.

Jeunesse Global are releasing a new haircare range that's going to be released this month that would be perfect to add to your autumn haircare routine, especially the miracle restoring treatment! The range is designed to enrich the hair, fortify against environmental damage and hydrate so it sounds ideal for the upcoming colder months!

What do you think of these autumn hair trends? 

*This is a sponsored post
*Image from Pinterest

Gift Idea: Prestige Christmas Hamper

Sunday, September 23, 2018
Today is the autumn equinox, the first day of autumn for the northern hemisphere, so that means that it's acceptable to post ALL THE CHRISTMAS posts now, right? I've already published my first christmas gift guide of the year which features a range of quirky gifts from Cool Stuff but today's is all about an amazing food hamper from the very lovely people over at Prestige Hampers.

*Prestige Food Hamper 
The hamper in todays post is one of their larger food hampers which doesn't seem to be on the website yet but I'll include a price and link as soon as I can! The hamper was delivered quickly and was well packaged; it's definitely a treat to open and discover all of the wonderful goodies within! The box I have contains so many fantastic food items from snacks, chocolates, biscuits and tea to preserves, wine and savoury snacks.
Savoury Snacks & Preserves 
I do have a sweet tooth but only very occasionally, I definitely prefer savoury and or salty snacks and there are a few within the hamper. My favourite snack from the hamper is the Yorkshire Popcorn and I received the sweet and salty flavour which is best popcorn flavour! The other savoury snacks in the hamper include a very nicely designed packet of garlic stuffed olives (sadly I'm not a fan of olives), gouda cheese biscuits (gouda isn't suitable for vegetarians as far as I know) and a couple of preserves, including a sun-dried tomato and balsamic chutney. Lastly for the savoury snacks, there's a tub of cured ham and pickle crisps from the same Yorkshire brand as the popcorn in the box which as a vegetarian, I'm not interested in at all but I know a lot of my family would love them.
Chocolates & Wine
There are a couple of bottles of wine within the hamper, one pinot grigio and one merlot, both from the brand Luccello which I haven't heard of before. I don't drink very often at all but I think one of the best things about this hamper in particular is that it caters for a lot of different tastes and preferences as there are a range of savoury options, sweet offerings, alcohol and biscuits to choose from - I think it would make a fantastic family hamper as there's something for everyone to enjoy.

There are a couple of sets of chocolates, the first is from a brand I've already tried and loved, Monty Bojangles and it's their yummy truffles. The second is a set of assorted Belgian chocolates - all of which look amazing! The hamper would be equally as good to split up and share between family members or friends as a group sharing gift.
Biscuits, Fudge & Tea
The final category of items are all of the sweets things and tea! The contents of this hamper would be great to make an afternoon tea with as there are lots of biscuits to share, strawberry jam to add to scones and wine for an adult afternoon tea! The biscuits I'm most excited about within the hamper are the original Scottish shortbread as not only does the packaging look amazing but they taste amazing as well - great for dunking in tea, hot chocolate or coffee.

There's another pack of shortbread but these are made in Cornwall's oldest bakery which makes them a little special. Chocolate Turkish delight and salted caramel fudge are also included and sound so delicious and perfect for Christmas Day snacking as we all do that over the christmas period. I personally don't like many traditional Christmas snacks or food so this hamper is perfect for me.
Overall, I think the wicker hamper box itself looks amazing, really well made and great for re-using after you've ate all of the wonderful goodies within. I think I'm going to re-use mine as bath bomb storage. The hamper, rather than a box, makes the gift as whole look so much more expensive, luxe and special, in my opinion.

I love so many of the snacks included, especially the popcorn, fudge, shortbread biscuits and the chocolates. There's a great range of items so your gift recipient(s) will definitely find a variety of items that they'll love and can indulge in over the festive season because christmas is a time for giving, eating and snaking! Check out my video below for a look at the hamper in detail and all of the wonderful products within.

What do you think of this hamper? Would you like to give and or receive one for christmas? 

First Christmas Gift Guide of 2018 ft. Cool Stuff

Saturday, September 22, 2018
Today's post is my first Christmas gift guide of the year so far (yes, I am very organised this year!) and it's featuring a perfect gift website, Cool Stuff. Cool Stuff stocks a huge range of gifts from quirky gifts, stocking fillers, gifts for him/her and gadgets. I was very kindly sent a few of their gift ideas and I love all of them! Cool Stuff offers very quick delivery and it's free on orders over £29.95.

*Prepara Herb Savor (£19.99)
The first gift is something I've wanted for ages and that's a fresh herb saver. I have been cooking for myself since I was about twelve so I'm always excited by cooking or kitchen gadgets. I use fresh and dried herbs in almost everything I make but fresh herbs don't tend to last very long so I thought this would be the perfect solution and so far so good. The herbs saver is very quick and easy to put together, it looks fairly sleek in the fridge and it has quite a large storage capacity. However, it is a little tall so I've had to rearrange the fridge. I think it would make a great practical cooking gift for any foodies in your life; also it would be ideal as part of a christmas cooking or food gift hamper.
*Pop-A-Cob Gourmet Popcorn (£5.99)
Next up is tied with the Papa Bear Screwdriver as my favourite gift in today's gift guide! You might not know this about me but one of my favourite snacks is popcorn, I can't get enough so I had to try this very unique looking popcorn. I haven't ever come across popcorn that pops straight off the cob before!

There are four varieties to choose from and I opted for the 'ruby red' corn which looks so unusual. You put the whole cob in the microwave, in it's bag, and it does what it says on the box - it pops right off the cob for crunchy popcorn. I think it would make such an amazing and very unique stocking filler, I cannot recommend it enough.
*Utenu Window Bird Feeder (£5.99)
Along with the popcorn, another unique and inexpensive gift, is this cute window bird feeder which is composed of clear plastic so you can attach it to your window and watch the birds as they visit the feeder - love this idea! Since we had an extension on the kitchen and split it into a utility as well, it's meant that we haven't been able to see the birds and squirrels that frequent our garden as much so I hope this will solve that!

It comes with suction cups so it's easy to attached to the window and the clear plastic means that it isn't an eye sore or a window obstruction. The feeder is a very inexpensive stocking filler or gift and I would be ideal for families or nature lovers, especially if your gift recipient doesn't have a garden.

*Papa Bear Screwdriver 
Last but not least is one of the cutest tools I've ever seen but sadly it doesn't seem to be on the website anymore. The bear comes in a range of colours but I chose the grey shade and I cannot get over how adorable it is! The bear conceals the screwdriver handle and a set of six screwdriver heads in the base. It's adorably presented and designed and would make the cutest practical stocking filler ever! You can see all of the products in action in the video below, apart from the bird feeder as it's been constantly raining in Manchester recently, as always.

What do you think of these gift ideas? Are you prepping for Christmas? Will you be checking out Cool Stuff?

*Car Buying: New vs Used

*Car Buying: New vs Used

Friday, September 21, 2018
Image from Cool Chic Style Fashion via Pinterest
If you’ve been following my blog or social media then you’ll have seen that we’ve been in the process of looking at new and used cars to buy which will be replacing my beloved Renault Clio (the car I first learned to drive in so I feel like it might be more normal to be sad to see it go). The whole process of choosing not just what make or model to opt for but also whether to choose a brand new car or a used car has been very stressful!

Depreciation 
There are so many points to consider when you’re looking for a car, whether it is new, used or a classic. There are positives and negatives for both a new and used car and one main negative that we were thinking about is the depreciation when it comes to a new car. New cars lose their value very quickly which for some might be a deal breaker and it was for us too. Compared to used and typically cheaper cars, newer options are a big investment!

Initial Cost 
Along with the condition of the car, one of the first things to consider is the initial cost of the car which naturally with a new car will be higher compared to a used car, depending on the model. Going back to depreciation, the initial outlay of the car is very high with a newer car and then it loses it’s value and to be honest, this was the main reason we chose a two year old car rather than a brand new model.

Driving History & Milage 
Another point to think about is the driving history! With a new car, you’ll only have the delivery milage and no driving history but a used car, depending on the age and condition, can have a whole array of hidden problems and a checkered history. The age and milage are easy points to check but the way a used car was driven is another matter.

Warranty 
It can be very exciting buying a new car (although I came to hate most of the car salesmen we encountered by the end of it) and there are numerous benefits such as a full warranty which is usually three years. Typically a used car will have a warranty but it will be more along the lines of 12 months after than three years. The used car we bought last month came with a 12 month warranty from Vauxhaul which is beneficial but a newer car does have a better deal in terms of the warranty.

Tax 
As well as the initial cost of the car, there’s also the MPG, insurance and road tax to consider, all of which will differ depending on the make, model, specifications and age of the car. With some newer cars, there’s a set rate of tax but with used or older cars, it might be cheaper; however it may not be the case with all. For example, our fourteen year old Clio had a road tax of £140 and our two year old Astra is only £20.

Insurance 
The final point to consider is insurance and whether you opt for a brand new car straight out of the show room or a used car, Aviva car insurance is a great option to consider. Aviva car insurance covers damage to your brand new vehicle and roadside repairs for your older used car. In the end, it’s up to you and your budget as to whether you want to buy new or used but make sure you look around for the best deal on your car and insurance.

Do you drive? What are your thoughts on new vs used cars?

*This is a sponsored post
*Image from Pinterest

Blog Tour: The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale

Thursday, September 20, 2018
I was very kindly sent a gorgeous hardback copy of this book, thanks Penguin! The cover is just stunning! However as I was travelling so much in August I read most of this book as an e-book on my iPad while on holiday but I finished half of the book within the month of September.
*The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale (480 pages) ★★★ (3.5)
In The Toymakers we follow Cathy, a runaway who has applied to work at the wonderful Papa Jack's Emporium in London. However all is not what it seems in the Emporium or for Cathy as she has her own not so little secret. What follows is an incredibly magical, endearing and christmas themed read that is tinged with sadness, loss and the devastating unseen affects of war.

I utterly adored the descriptions of the Emporium as well as the wonderful toys held within. It would be a perfect read for christmas time as it had quite a few moments of childhood wonderment you feel during that time of the year. Christmas feels like it is just around the corner (even though it is a few months away) and the descriptions of toys, childhood excitement for presents, whimsical decorations, the magic of Christmas and the thrill of playing with new toys during the Christmas period were rich and constant throughout this book which made it a very heartwarming, nostalgic and cosy read at times.

However, it is simultaneously a very heart warming, magical read as well as a very wistful and heartbreaking book with moments of sadness and melancholy. I never read emotional books and this one did get to me at times, especially after the half way mark of the book. I definitely prefer the more light hearted, magical elements of the book rather than the heartbreaking realities of life, uncomfortable emotions of jealousy, guilt and self doubt as well as the mental health aspects of the book but they are very important to read about and for the story. I'd definitely recommend it for it's utterly magical, Christmas themed setting and wonderful writing so if that sounds like something you'd enjoy then check out this read!

Will you be picking up this christmassy read? What are you currently reading?

*Are Bloggers Looking After Their Mental Health?

Wednesday, September 19, 2018
Mental health is an important topic of conversation recently as an increased number of individuals have confided they have been affected or are affected by mental health struggles. Mental health issues and illness can affect anyone in society regardless of profession, ethnicity, income etc so it's nothing to be ashamed of. So now more than ever, we should be showing support to each other and even checking in. Although life can get busy, sometimes we might find ourselves feeling out of touch or isolated, especially when working or staying at home on a regular basis.

Bloggers, in particular, can spend a huge amount of time keeping their blog updated and networking on social media, but while online conversations are great and lead to new friends, human contact is necessary for a healthy life.

While the stay/work from home lifestyles are nothing new in society, with people have worked in partial isolation in some circumstances for centuries, there has been an increase in individuals adopting a work from home life, including bloggers, freelance artists, marketers and independent business owners, to name a few. In response, a number of studies were carried out to confirm that “social isolation” was detrimental to our mental health, including a study that saw 42% of home workers report they had suffered from insomnia during their work from home, remote working lifestyle.

Can Bloggers and Freelancers Combat Social Isolation? 
There are plenty of things that can bloggers and work from home freelancers can do to practice good self-care including regular networking, working to a daily schedule and ensuring they eat a well-balanced diet (quite underestimated by many work-at-homers who sometimes revert to unhealthy snacking). Here are some other tips for bloggers who want to make better connections and scratch their social itch;

Voice Chat - Networking between freelancers tends to happen over social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter or even industry related forums and message boards in texts, posts or direct messages. Platforms that offer voice chat can help networkers forge better bonds and contribute to combating social isolation. Skype and Discord are popular examples of voice platforms and offer voice chat rooms for large amounts of people.

Build a Community - If you’ve been blogging for a while, you might belong to a community of bloggers already. If not, joining a community can be great for swapping stories about working from home struggles with others that have experienced it themselves, in addition to getting advice for seasoned work from home freelancers who have been doing it longer.

Organise an Event - Getting together is the best way to combat social isolation but going over to someone's home or inviting someone into your home can be uncomfortable or awkward or you might not have the space to invite all the bloggers you network frequently with into your space. An alternative idea is to organise an event between your group of bloggers, whether taking on responsibilities between each other, or seeking out a company to take care of the details or arrange an activity, like the services offered by team building organisation Team Challenge Company.

Taking on Part Time or Casual Work - Not only a positive contribution to combating social isolation but an opportunity to make some money on the side. Where time allows, working a part time or casual job can be a great way to connect with others and get you out the house for a bit in a new environment. It could even offer you inspiration or subjects for content creation, through writing or vlogging about what you do at work and the things you have experienced.

In conclusion, bloggers and freelancers should put more consideration into their positive mental health and self-care and work towards proactively being social with others regularly so they don’t find themselves falling into a negative self-care routine that could potentially have a negative effect on their mental and physical health.

Do you have any tips to stay connected while working from home? 

*This is a sponsored post

GlossyBox Back To School: September 2018

Tuesday, September 18, 2018
It's that wonderful time of the month again when subscription boxes are coming in and one I'm always excited for is GlossyBox. I subscribed to GlossyBox myself years ago and loved it but a student budget doesn't allow for pretty things so I had to cancel; however I'm very grateful that I am now sent the boxes to review from the incredibly lovely people over at Glossybox!

*GlossyBox - September 2018
The September box contains six items, five of which are full sizes items which is amazing! Subscription boxes in the past used to be filled with lots of sample sachets and I'm so glad that those days are behind us because it wasn't the best value for money as a customer but now it's fantastic. The brands in this months box range from Grow Gorgeous, Wet Ones and Bang Beauty to Daily Concepts, Model Co and Beauty Pro, only a couple of which I've tried.
*Grow Gorgeous Scalp Detox (£7.37, deluxe mini size)
Let's start with the product I used first and was most excited about! I have heard amazing things about this brand and this particular product sounded perfect for me as it is a vegan friendly, cruelty free scalp treatment that removes impurities that block your roots. My hair is fairly thick and coloured treated with dry ends and a fairly oily scalp so I thought it would be interesting to try out.

The products itself is similar to a face scrub cleanser and it has physical gritty particles within it as well as pomegranate enzymes and natural castor oil. The instructions state to use a generous amount which I did...which then acted as an almost glue in my hair. It wasn't a pleasant experience using this product at all however the results were fairly impressive. Overall, while I liked the results, the awful process of applying it and rinsing it out has definitely put me off using this product again sadly.
*Model Co X Karl Lagerfeld Lip Pencil in Rosewood (£25, full sized)
I love any product with the name 'rosewood' as I know that it's going to be a shade I'll love and the same goes for this product. The shade is just gorgeous and something I'd wear on a daily basis so I'm very happy with this product already. Also the price of it more than pays for the box alone! The lip pencil is fairly creamy, the pigmentation is good and I adore the shade.

*Daily Concepts Your Mini Facial Scrubber (£8.85, full sized)
Next up is a brand that I've tried from a different subscription box and loved - Daily Concepts. Their travel sized mini facial scrubber included in the box is the gentle option which my sensitive skin is grateful for. It would have been perfect for me to take on holiday last month! It is gentle but still feels like it, combined with my cleanser, deeply cleanses my skin.

*Beauty Pro Detoxifying Bubbling Mask with Activated Charcoal (£4.95, full sized)
One of my favourite things about the September box is how diverse the products are - from a travel sized facial scrubber to a lip pencil, scalp treatment, wipes and a mask. I'm very happy that there's only one skincare item in the box as typically I think that there are too many skincare items per box. This award winning mask claims to refine pores, reduce oil, clean away blackheads and detoxifying your skin - it sounds like a miracle and I can't wait to use it.
*Bang Beauty Eyebrow Cream (£16.80, full sized)
I have been looking for a new brow product to try recently so I was initially pleasantly surprised by this item but sadly the shade doesn't match my brows at all. Bang Beauty isn't a brand I've heard of but it looks great and I would have loved to try this eyebrow cream!

*Wet Ones Be Fresh Antibacterial Wipes (£1.19, full sized)
This box for me is a mix between items I've needed recently and a couple of disappointments and this product falls into the former category. Wipes are always something handy to have in your bag but I'm going to keep these in my car as I know they'll be used the most there. They are dermatologically tested and pH balanced so they can used on the the body, hands and childrens skin too.

Overall, my favourite products from this months box have to include the Daily Concepts facial scrubber, Wet Ones wipes and Model Co lip pencil. I really wish I could have tried the eyebrow cream as it sounds promising but the shade isn't quite right sadly. I liked this months box and I especially liked the variety of items included but it hasn't wowed me quite as much as previous boxes have done; however that's definitely going to change the next months box as the preview (which is always on the information leaflet) is very exciting!

What do you think of this months GlossyBox? Have you tried any of these products? 

August + September Lifestyle Favourites

Saturday, September 15, 2018
I stopped writing favourites posts for a couple of years but I've started monthly favourites again and I'm loving them! It's always nice to write about products I've been loving and the past couple of months have been great for new and exciting products. Today's post is all about the lifestyle items I've been using and loving throughout August and so far in September including supplements, exercise leggings, homeware, accessories and an amazing audiobook subscription service.

*Suck UK Book Rest Lamp from Red Candy (£32)
Let's start with my most recent favourite which you will have been on my Instagram Stories (I'm @ofbeautyand) earlier this week - follow me on Instagram to see all of my blogger mail and unboxings. Usually I wouldn't include an item that I've only had for such a short period of time but I love this lamp! I'm a huge bookworm and I always have a few books on the go so this lamp is absolutely perfect for me. It is such a cute little house shaped lamp that is the perfect size for a book rest while still providing enough light to read by or just as a warm toned bedside lamp. I will be including it in my upcoming early christmas gift guide so stay tuned for those posts!
*BookBeat Audiobook Subscription Service & App 
If you have been following my blog over the past year or so then you'll have already seen me rave about BookBeat which is a audiobook subscription service that allows you to listen to as many audiobooks in one month as you want - rather than paying per audiobook which makes it much cheaper and easier than other audiobook subscriptions out there. The app is so easy to use, the service itself is clear and simple and the range of audiobooks is fantastic. If you want to know about the books and audiobooks I'm currently listening to then follow me on Instagram (@ofbeautyand) and GoodReads. Use my link to get a one month trial for free!

*XLS Nutrition Shake - Chocolate (£19.99)
Next up is something I wouldn't pick up for myself but I was very kindly it sent it to review and I was pleasantly surprised by it. It's a vegetarian friendly, gluten free and non-GMO meal replacement shake which I've been using on and off since I came back from holiday. I only use it as a lunch or breakfast meal replacement shake, I couldn't use it to replace a bigger meal as I just love food but it works well as a filling, sweet and easy to prepare meal replacement shake. It has a lot of protein per serving which is fantastic for me as a vegetarian to make sure I'm getting enough protein per day.

I do like the chocolate flavour but you really have to make sure that you blend or shake it very well (I mix it with almond milk), otherwise it will taste very powdery, thick and awful - I recommend buying a specific shake bottle or maybe adding it to a blender such as a Nutribullet. If it sounds like something you'd want to try then give it a go!
*The Haze Shop Cloud Design Tote (£47.99)
I've been a vegetarian for over half of my life but I've also been on/off vegan for around four years and thankfully this adorable, autumnal tote bag from The Haze Shop is vegan friendly! It's made of neoprene, it's a perfect everyday size and it features a cute cloud print design (I think it is a little bit Aladdin-esque). I have quite a few bags but I don't have any with this tote or bucket bag style and I love it as it looks quite unique, it is able to store a fairly large amount within it without looking too bulky and it is very easy to get in/out of unlike some of my other bags.

I've been using it since I received it last week and I'm really liking it for this upcoming autumn season and it goes with so many of my casual outfits - black jeans, black heeled ankle boots and a cosy jumper (the one I'm wearing above is from H&M). The length of the strap is perfect for me which is unusual as typically I have to shorten the strap and it is very comfortable to wear. The only negative I have is the large metal feature on the front but other than that, I love it and I'd definitely recommend it. They currently offer free shipping and 10% off with the code: BACK2SCHOOL.
*Hunkemoller HKMX Branded Capri Sports Leggings (£25)
The final wearable item in todays favourites post is from one of my favourite loungewear, sportswear and lingerie brands, Hunkemoller. They have a fantastic range of sportswear from sports bras, accessories, tops and leggings - I really want to try their sports bras and the Xenia collection looks amazing! I was very kindly sent a pair of their sports leggings and I've been wearing them so much while using my at home cross-trainer recently as they are not only practical but they're so comfortable, the perfect length for me and the design is very simple. I also like that they are very opaque so they don't show any underwear and they are made of a cotton material so they're very soft. I have them in a size 'small' and they fit absolutely perfectly (I'm a UK 8 for reference) and I cannot recommend them enough!
*Bomb Cosmetics Cotton Fields Candle (£15.99)
Now onto a brand that I'm lucky enough to be an ambassador of sorts for, Bomb Cosmetics. I tried one of their christmas candles last year and adored it so I was very excited to try another. I love a range of candle scents from food, spicy and musky scents to fresh and clean scents - this one fits into the latter and it's gorgeous. I love the unique 'jelly' style of this candle! It contains patchouli and vetiver essential oils so it smells amazing, fresh and clean. I love this candle and I'd definitely recommend it along with their magical, glittery and adorable Christmas gifts which have just been released.

*Utmost Me Neurorest Supplements (£24)
Last but not least is a product, along with the Feather and Down Pillow Mist, that has been helping me drift off to sleep recently. It's another product that I've been using since I got back from holiday at the very beginning of the month. The supplements are a natural sleep aid and anxiety reliever containing lots of fruit extracts, magnesium, biotin, chamomile and more. It is a natural product, it's vegetarian and vegan friendly, gluten free and GMO free which is fantastic.

A lot of supplements tend to contain fish oil, collagen or something similar so they aren't vegetarian so I'm glad that these ones contain whole food and plant extracts. You can take one or two per night but I only take one as they are quite large tablets, in my opinion and I do struggle to take them, if I'm honest. I feel as though they have been helping, especially when combined with Lush bubble baths and the heavenly Feather and Down pillow mist which is another favourite of mine. I would recommend them if you are struggling with sleep or anxiety as a more natural option to try.

*Cicioni Almond and Cashew Vegan Cheese (£8.49)
Lastly, Cicioni have create a cashew and almond based cheese alternative that is organic, suitable for vegans and is lactose, gluten and dairy free. It is also free from additives, sugar and preservatives. Additionally, it is made using only four ingredients! I love the packaging and the ethos of the brand as well as the minimal ingredients. It is unlike any vegan cheese alternative I've tried which at first I really wasn't sure if I liked but it is definitely better when used as part of a dish rather than on it's own or as I've used it above. I think, for me, the best way to use it is by crumbling a little onto salad as on it's own, it's a bit too much. Overall, if you're interested in it then give it a go!

Have you tried any of these products? What are your favourite lifestyle products of the moment? 

*Tips For Selling Unwanted Items Online

Friday, September 14, 2018
Image from Fashionably Kay via Pinterest
I have been selling unwanted or extra items online for a while, especially since starting my blog as a fair amount of items, homeware and products have been replaced with newer blogger mail. However, selling items online isn't always straight forward, easy or stress free. Today's post is all about my basic tips to help you when you need to earn a little extra money and points to consider when selling online.

Choosing The Right Platform For You
Firstly, you need to choose which platform is right for the items you are selling. There are so many to choose from including Depop, eBay, Gumtree, Music Magpie and more. The platforms I've used the most include eBay and Music Magpie, I've used the latter so much over the past month or two. If you have tech, books or dvds to sell then I cannot recommend Music Magpie enough as it is so quick and easy to use with free delivery. Additionally, a car boot is another great option but be prepared to lower your prices and to haggle.

Research Prices 
Before selling larger or more expensive items, I always look on selling sites to see what others are selling similar items for so that I'm not asking too much or too little. Higher prices might lead to no sales but on the other hand you want to earn as much as you can. I check eBay mostly when I'm looking for prices to add to my items before selling online.

Great Photos + Honest, Informative Descriptions 
When I look through eBay I am always deterred from clicking on the items with awful, poorly lit or minimal photos. I try to make my photos and items look as attractive, clean and as new as possible because as a buyer, that's what I would want to see. Make sure you use a clean, plain background, a well lit area and take photos of various angles.

A through and informative description of the item is key as well but keep the tone informal, friendly and honest. I usually list the item specifications and information as a bullet pointed list which makes it easy and quick to read. I also always leave my email and delivery information so everything about the item, transaction and delivery is clear from the start.

Delivery Options
Last but not least is delivery. Royal Mail is a great option for international deliveries and for smaller, more inexpensive items such as books, sealed beauty products and homeware items but for larger items including furniture, it isn't the best option.

Shiply is a cheap furniture delivery option with which you can save up to 75% off standard rates! It's quick, easy and fuss free to get a quote - no phone calls required (which is amazing for me as even though I'm in my mid-twenties, I hate calling people on the phone!). All you have to do is request a quote, compare prices and choose the right quote for you. It's simple to use and perfect for the delivery of larger items you've sold or if you are moving home!

Do you have any tips for selling unwanted items online? 

*This is a sponsored post
*Image from Pinterest