LookFantastic x Neom Box

Tuesday, July 30, 2019
We all know by now how much I love the LookFantastic monthly beauty boxes but there's one thing I love more, their limited edition boxes. I've reviewed quite a few on the All Subscription Boxes site but I had to review their latest limited edition box on my blog too as it's just heavenly! The latest box is a collaboration with the brand Neom Organics which is a brand I've wanted to try for years so naturally I was extremely happy when this box arrived.

*LookFantastic x Neom Organics Box (worth £110, only £45)
The box is beautifully packaged (as though we would expect anything else from Neom) and it contains six items, all of which are from the sleep range. The items range from a pillow mist and candle to a hand balm, facial oil, cleansing balm and a body oil so there's a good variety of items within the box. There are a couple of mini sample sizes as well as a few full sized products and I think the value of the box is amazing. If you want to purchase this box for yourself or someone else then you'll have to be quick as it is limited edition so it might sell out quickly as they usually do.
*Neom Perfect Night's Sleep Cleansing Balm 
Let's start with the two facial skincare products in the box, the first of which is a full sized cleansing balm along with a 100% cotton cleansing cloth. The cleansing balm contains cherry blossom, rose, peony and elderflower extracts as well as pure essential oils to cleanse and nourish the skin. I personally love cleansing balms, especially as I do have dry skin. Using the balm alongside the cloth works really well and they leave my skin feeling soft, smooth and nourished.
*Neom Perfect Night's Sleep Facial Oil 
The second and final facial skincare product in the box is a mini sample of their facial oil. It contains vitamins, antioxidants and essential oils to nourish and restore the skin as you sleep. I like the texture of the oil, a little goes a long way and I think it's a great mini travel size. I'll probably save the rest of the bottle for holidays next year.

*Neom Nourish, Breathe and Sleep Hand Balm
Another mini sample is of the hand balm which contains shea butter, cocoa butter and essential oils. I don't have eczema on my hands anymore so hand cream isn't as much of an essential as it used to be but I still like to use hand creams once a day. This hand balm is the nicest smelling hand cream/balm I've ever tried. It smells incredibly relaxing and calming! It also leaves my skin feeling very soft and smooth.
*Neom Perfect Night's Sleep Body Oil
As well as the facial oil, there's also a body oil too. I love using facial oils but I don't tend to use body oils but this one is lovely! It has a gorgeous scent, it's 100% natural and a little goes long way as with the facial oil. I've been using the tiniest amount on drier areas such as my elbows and legs and it definitely moisturises and nourishes the skin in a way that lotions and creams can't.

*Neom Perfect Night's Sleep Pillow Mist
The penultimate item is a very luxurious pillow spray which contains lavender, patchouli and chamomile essential oils, among others. I love the glass bottle, it smells glorious and I have been using it constantly since I received the box - as a pillow mist and also as a room spray. I've tried quite a few pillow mists and I think this one might be my all time favourite!
*Neom Tranquility Scented Candle 
I've always wanted to try Neom's famous candles and I'm so glad that a full sized candle was included in the box, especially as it's the 'tranquility' candle. The fragrance is composed of lavender, sweet basil and jasmine so naturally it smells heavenly. If I was given the opportunity to create my perfect candle scent, I think this Neom candle would be pretty close to perfect!

Overall, I've been lucky enough to receive so many amazing LookFantastic monthly boxes as well as their incredible limited edition boxes but I think that the LFxNeom box is probably my favourite - very closely followed by the 2019 Valentines Day box. I adore every item in the box and I cannot recommend it enough especially for that price!

Have you tried anything from Neom? What do you think of the Lookfantastic x Neom box? 

*Gifted

June + July Summer Favourites

Monday, July 29, 2019
Today's post is a little overdue and it is going to be fairly long as well so grab a cup of tea or coffee as I'm going to be reviewing all of the beauty and lifestyle products I've been loving over the past two months. I've been lucky over the past couple of months that I've received so many fantastic new products from haircare and skincare to drinks and SPF as well as my current favourite t-shirt!

*Dr Botanicals Cocoa and Coconut Superfood Face Mask (£9)
Let's start with the travel mini's I've received recently and that I've been using (and loving) over the past couple of months. I have tried quite a few products from Dr Botanicals and I've loved all of them so I knew I'd like this mask too. The mini size is ideal for travelling or if you just want to try something from the brand before potentially buying a larger size.

The mask is designed to hydrate and revive the skin with a tonne of natural ingredients such as cacao butter and coconut oil. Even during the heatwave we have been suffering through in the UK, my skin can still be a little dry at times so a hydrating mask is perfect - especially after sun exposure. It is a quick, easy and fuss free mask that is very hydrating and nourishing.
*Collossol Eau De Lait Water Milk Makeup Remover (£9.50, 100ml)
Another skincare favourite is this makeup remover from Collossol which is a French skincare brand - it's a new brand to me but this product has been available in France since the 1950's. It seems to be a combination of a traditional micellar water and a cleansing milk as it has a milky look but on the skin it is non-existent. It is cruelty free and vegan which is fantastic!

I've been using it on a cotton pad to remove my makeup and sometimes in the morning as a quick and easy no-rinse cleanser. It has a very distinctive scent which is very floral and powdery with a hint of citrus that I find quite dated and if you don't like scented products then it might not be for you but I don't mind the scent overall. It removes my base makeup, brows and powders easily and gently but it doesn't seem to be able to fully remove my waterproof mascara sadly, otherwise it would be my new go-to easy cleanser.
*Arbonne RE9 Advanced Overnight Face Jelly (£36, 50ml)
My final skincare favourite is from a brand I haven't really tried before, Arbonne. I've noticed other bloggers reviewing and liking their products but this is my first experience of their skincare and I'm impressed. The Arbonne Overnight Face Jelly is a night moisturiser crossed with an overnight face mask and as with most of the products within today's post, it is cruelty free and vegan!

It has the same packaging design as the amazing Ark Skincare Age Defend Replenishing Moisturiser - I love the packaging! It has such a refreshing gel like texture and it leaves my skin feeling not only smooth and moisturised but also refreshed and soothed so it's ideal after sun exposure or if your skin is feeling a little dry, tight or uncomfortable and needs a little extra TLC this summer.
*Joico K-Pak Conditioner and Colour Therapy Treatment 
Joico is a brand I've wanted to try since I started blogging back in the carefree days of 2012 (which now seems like a lifetime ago) and luckily I've been sent a few of their products over the years. I have tried the K-Pak range previously and loved it so I knew I'd like using the conditioner and treatment, the latter I haven't tried before.

The conditioner is designed for damaged hair which after colouring mine for ten years is definitely the case, although it doesn't seem to be too much of a problem now. The conditioner is ideal for my dry, thick hair and it manages to make it smoother, less frizzy (the humidity is making my frizzy hair even worse!) and softer which is always a good thing! I've only tried the treatment once and so far it's a great product that provides the same benefits as the conditioner but on a deep level. I cannot recommend Joico products enough, from their K-Pak range to their incredible colour butters.
*Leighton Denny Summer Dream Hand and Nail Cream (£9)
Despite the heatwave we've been having in the UK recently, my hands are still quite dry although not as dry as they were when I had eczema on my hands - rather than using hand cream countless times per day, now I only need to use it once or twice. I've been a fan of Leighton Denny polishes for years, since my aunties first introduced me to the brand in my teens but I haven't tried anything other than the polishes.

The hand cream contains essential oils to leave the skin protected and supple without a greasy residue. The scent is very subtle and to me, it is very clean and fresh. I've been using up a couple of other hands creams I've had in my bag before using this one and now I don't want to use any others as this Leighton Denny hand cream is perfect. It absorbs almost instantly, there is no greasy feeling and it leaves my skin incredibly smooth and soft. If you're looking for a hand cream for the summer, definitely give this one a go.
*Lee Stafford Keep It Clean Pink Clay Dry Shampoo (£5.49, 200ml)
I've already reviewed the shampoo and conditioner from the Lee Stafford 'keep it clean' range within my Latest In Beauty post but today I'm recommending the dry shampoo from the same range. I love the packaging and appearance of the entire range and as far as I know, the dry shampoo (and potentially the rest of the range?) is cruelty free and vegan.

I've been using the dry shampoo during the heatwave we've been having as even though my hair tends to be relatively presentable for three days before it needs washing, I've need to use dry shampoo everyday to make my hair look a little less...horrific during the summer. Unlike my beloved Colab dry shampoo, this one does have a white tint to it but when massaged into the hair, it isn't noticeable, thankfully.

The dry shampoo works wonders on my hair and it might actually take over from Colab as my favourite dry shampoo as the effects are instant and I only need one application for my hair to look far less greasy, whereas I might need a couple of applications of the Colab dry shampoo to have the same effect. One thing I noticed on the bottle is that it suggests to apply the dry shampoo at night and sleep with it in your hair; I tried it and it worked so well!
*Vitage Skin Defence SPF 30 (£26, 100ml)
I have to admit that I'm not the most diligent when it comes to applying SPF, especially as I live in the UK and we rarely see the sun, particularly in Manchester. However, since getting more tattoos, I want to protect them from the sun as much as possible as sun damage is one of the main causes of tattoo fading. I tried a few products from Vitage last year and loved them, especially their eye cream so I had high hopes for their SPF.

I think one of the main reasons I put off using SPF is because of my childhood memories of suncream as being sticky, greasy and thoroughly unpleasant but thankfully the Vitage Skin Defence SPF isn't greasy or heavy on the skin. It also absorbs very quickly, it doesn't leave a white tint or residue and it has the traditional sun cream scent which I have to admit that I love!
*Pago Cloudy Apple Juice 
Now onto a couple of my lifestyle favourites from the past few weeks! First up is the perfect healthy heatwave drink from Pago. A couple of years ago I reviewed their rhubarb and pear juice which I loved and included within a mocktail recipe post which you can read for summer cocktail or mocktail ideas for picnics, summer parties or BBQ's.

I was kindly sent a crate of their delicious juice in the cloudy apple flavour and it's safe to say that they didn't last a week...they are so delicious! Each glass bottle contains 100% cloudy apple juice with vitamin C. It is directly pressed and unfiltered so it maintains the maximum amount of vitamins and nutrients. I love fruit juice so I knew I'd love these and they turned out to be the perfect refreshing heatwave drink!
*Jesmundo Vegan T-Shirt (£15.99)
Last but definitely not least is probably my new favourite t-shirt! I was kindly sent a slogan t-shirt from Jesmundo and naturally I had to choose their 'vegan' t-shirt which I chose in a size Medium. I'm generally a UK 8 to 10 and an XS or S in clothing but I chose a Medium for this t-shirt and I'm so glad that I did as the sizes definitely seem to run small. If you want this t-shirt, I'd recommend sizing up, especially as the t-shirt is more on the fitted size already.
The Medium was the perfect size for me and I'm so happy with the fit! I find it very difficult to shop for t-shirts as most white t-shirts are see-through or the t-shirt is too long on my petite frame but thankfully this one is perfect. I also like the quality which is much nicer than other slogan t-shirts I have. Additionally, the simple design fits my style and even though you might not be able to see from the photographs, the colour is an off-white which I think it more flattering than a stark white t-shirt.

I couldn't be happier with my t-shirt from Jesmundo and if you're looking for a unique, simple slogan t-shirt then I cannot recommend them enough. They have such a wide range of styles as well as colours and sizes to choose from. I also liked the social media inspired designs. You can use the code: 4FOR3 to get, you guessed it, four t-shirt for the price of three.

Have you tried any of the products I've reviewed? What have been your favourite beauty or lifestyle items from June or July? 

*Gifted

Ark Skincare: Age Defend Range

Saturday, July 27, 2019
If you've been following my blog for a while then you probably know that I suffer with eczema and I have done for over ten years but at the start of 2019 I switched to a fully vegan diet and my eczema has been almost non-existent on my hands and face since then with only a couple of extremely minor flare-ups due to anxiety within the last seven or so months.

My skin has become almost 'normal' which is incredible and something I never thought would ever happen! There are so many benefits to eczema free skin but one definitely has to be that I can now expand my skincare routine into products that aren't just for sensitive or eczema prone skin. I've been lucky over the past couple of months as I've been sent a range of new skincare products, all of which I like and I'll be reviewing them over the next few weeks. My first review is of a new skincare brand to me, Ark Skincare.

*Ark Skincare Age Defend Cleanser (£25, 200ml)
I was very kindly sent the Ark Skincare Age Defend Cleanser which is part of their 'age defend' range that is aimed at individuals aged between 30 to 40. I'm not within that age group, although I'm getting closer to my 30's now which is something I do not want to think about. I like the term 'age defend' rather than 'anti-ageing' or something similar. The range is vegan friendly and it isn't tested on animals.
The cleanser claims to help the skin's natural exfoliation to reveal radiant, clear skin and effectively removes makeup as well as boosting moisture levels, soothing the skin and helps improve the firmest and elasticity of the skin. It is packed with natural ingredients such as blue lotus flower, moringa oil, kiwi fruit oil, rosemary leaf oil, sage leaf oil and many more - check out their website for more information and the ingredients list.

I've been using the cleanser on and off for the past couple of weeks and I love it! I remove most of my makeup beforehand with either Bioderma on a cotton pad or with my Magnitone cleansing cloths then I'll use this cleanser to clean my skin as well as remove that last traces of makeup. It's a very gentle creamy cleanser, it doesn't irritate my skin at all and it does the job very well. If you're looking for a fuss free, easy and non-drying cleanser, definitely check out this option from Ark Skincare.
*Ark Skincare Age Defend Replenishing Moisturiser (£35, 50ml)
Next up is my favourite product of the two, the Ark Skincare Age Defend Replenishing Moisturiser which is also vegan friendly and contains a variety of natural ingredients such as shea butter, olive oil, passionfruit seed oil, orange peel oil and a selection of vitamins. Firstly, I love the packaging (for both products) as it looks sleek and the moisturiser has a pump dispenser built into it which is a packaging style I love. You can see what I mean in terms of the packaging from the images on the product page on their site.

As I said before, my skin doesn't really suffer with eczema at all anymore so it isn't nearly as dry as it once was so it's more towards the normal to dehydrated range but this moisturiser works perfectly for me. It feels rich and nourishing on the skin but it isn't oily or too heavy. As I'm used to applying tonnes of moisturiser to my skin because of eczema, I was using far too much of this moisturiser at first but now a little goes a long way and thankfully I think this tub will last a while.

I love the texture of the moisturiser and the way it leaves my skin looking and feeling so moisturised, smooth, soft and plump. It creates an ideal base for my makeup as all of the BB creams and concealers I've tried have worked perfectly on top of it with none of that awful pilling or greasiness. Overall, my first experience of Ark Skincare is a very positive one and I cannot really find any negatives with either product so I'd definitely recommend this range. I'm currently trying out their Skin Essential SPF 30 Primer which you'll be able to read a review of very soon.

Have you tried anything from Ark Skincare? 

*Gifted

Nordgreen Watch + Giving Back Program

Thursday, July 25, 2019
If you have been following my blog for a while then you might have seen this brand already as I reviewed a beautiful watch from Nordgreen a while ago but today I'm reviewing another watch and mentioning the fantastic 'giving back program'. Thanks so much to Nordgreen for the gorgeous watch!

*Nordgreen Infinity Gold Mesh Watch (£159) 
I was very kindly sent the Infinity Gold Mesh Watch which is part of their Infinity collection. All of their watches are designed by the world famous designer Jakob Wagner of Bang & Olufsen. It's based in Copenhagen (a beautiful city I visited a few years ago) and their designs are quintessentially Scandinavian which combines minimalism, practicality and quality. Check out their new Gold Collection!
The Infinity Gold Mesh Watch also comes in rose gold and silver as well as a wide variety of leather and also nylon options. All of the watch straps are interchangeable so you can alter it to suit your style as it evolves. I would usually opt for a rose gold watch but I love the look of gold jewellery and accessories during the summer months and I'm so glad I decided on the gold mesh option!

I have tattoos on my wrists which always puts me off wearing watches and they are usually a little uncomfortable but thankfully this watch is very comfortable, it doesn't pinch or feel too heavy/cumbersome on the wrist. I love the look of the almost shimmering gold mesh strap and the bright clear face - it looks perfect when paired with my Monica Vinader 'siren' ring.
I've been wearing the watch for the past week, even during the heatwave and it's been completely comfortable and ideal for my summer wardrobe - it makes a nice change from the leather watches I own. The clasp closure is perfect for my teeny tiny wrists which test watch straps by proving that they are almost always too big but this one can be moved depending on the size you need it to be.

I haven't even mentioned the gorgeous packaging that the watches comes in! It is presented in a lush sliding box with all of the instructions included so aesthetically it would make for a beautiful and luxe gift. As well as the watch, I also received a secondary strap for my watch. I chose the *Nordgreen Brown Leather Watch Strap - 32mm (£29) which is gorgeous and there are so many options to choose from. The nylon and mesh straps are their vegan options, if you wish to make that choice.
Lastly, I wanted to mention the 'giving back program' which is fantastic! If you purchase a watch, you can select a cause to choose from by entering your information, including the serial number of your watch. You aren't charged extra if you choose to take part in the program! The causes include: Water for Good (two months worth of clean water is donated to an individual in Central Africa), Pratham UK (two months education to a child in India) and Cool Earth (200 sqft of rainforest in Latin America is preserved).

With the current political climate and the evident environmental damage, it's refreshing and hopeful to see a company that donates to charity and one in which you can clearly see and chose which cause to support with your watch purchase.

If you choose to buy a watch, you can use the code BEAUTY15 to get 15% off!

What do you think of the Nordgreen Infinity Gold Mesh Watch? Will you be using the discount code above? 

*Gifted

Blog Tour: Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

Tuesday, July 23, 2019
I haven't taken part in a book blog tour for a while as to be honest, there weren't any books that I was very interested in and with a blog tour, I feel even more obliged to finish the book than if I was just sent it from a lovely publisher. So I'm quite selective about the blog tours I ask to join as I don't want to read a book I'm not fully interested in, I don't want to have to DNF a book I was kindly sent and I don't want a publisher to waste a book on someone who isn't excited about it. However, when the opportunity arose to take part in the Girls and Paper and Fire blog tour I was very excited as I actually had this book on my Amazon wish list!

*Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan (304 pages) ★★★★ 
Set in a magical fantasy world where there are various castes of people, we follow Lei who is part of the lowest caste, paper, as she is brutally ripped from her hard and unremarkable life with her father to join the group of paper girls who are to become the concubines to the cruel demon king. Lei stands out not only because she's the ninth paper girl when usually there are only eight but also because she has an unusual feature, especially for a paper girl (the caste of people without any magic), her mesmerising golden eyes.

What follows is a tale of not only courtly rituals, power play, caste differences and rebellion but also friendship, camaraderie and forbidden romance. I have read a fair amount of fantasy but I haven't read anything quite like this before especially in terms of the magical asian inspired world and the castes of people who have various animal features depending on their clan and caste. For example, girls with deer antlers, men with lizard scales and others with bull, boar, eagle or tiger features.
One of my favourite things about this read was the world as it managed to be simultaneously rich, detailed, vivid and filled with information but it never felt overly detailed, info-dumpy or confusing. It was an enchanting fantasy read with an easily imagined and wonderfully magical world, vivid characters and fantastic themes of friendship and feminism.

I managed to read exactly half of the book in one day as I didn't want to put it down as it's just so easily consumable, entertaining and absorbing, from the striking part-animal characters, the cruel world of the paper girls and the F/F romance. Even though the paperback I have has fairly small text (which is a pet peeve of mine) it read very quickly and I loved exploring it's exotic, unusual world.

My only negative is the kind of insta-love between Lei and Wren. Some might not view it as insta-love as the book does take place over a few months but because we only see snippets of that time, their relationship felt rushed and with less emotion, in my opinion. Despite that one negative, I would highly recommend this fantastic dark YA fantasy filled with feminism, magic and friendship.

Have you read Girls of Paper and Fire? 

*Gifted

Latest In Beauty Box: July Edit 2019

Monday, July 22, 2019
I've been lucky enough to review various boxes from Latest In Beauty previously and today's post is another review of their 'build your own' boxes but it's the July 2019 edition. If you aren't familiar with Latest In Beauty, they're a beauty subscription box with a difference - you can choose all of the items in your box. If you like the idea of a beauty subscription box but you don't want to spend money on items that you potentially won't use or that aren't suitable, then the Latest In Beauty boxes are the ideal solution.

*Latest In Beauty 'Beauty Enthusiast' Box (£22 - One Off Box) 
There are three boxes to choose from which differ in the number of items you can choose and the price accordingly. The first is their 'beauty novice box' which contains three items (£16), then the 'beauty enthusiast box' (£22) and lastly the 'beauty guru box' (£25), all of those prices are for one off boxes. You can choose from the same wide range of items for each box and the items can vary from hair accessories, nail polishes, skincare and makeup to bodycare, tanning products, toiletries/essentials, hand sanitisers and more.
One of the many things I love about the Latest In Beauty boxes is the vast range of items, not just in terms of the physical number of items you have to choose from but the category of items as well. The items aren't limited to just makeup or skincare but there is a great range of 'essentials' too, in my opinion. I also like the inclusion of a new item each day so if you have a few items in your box but you don't know what else to add then you can wait for a day, two or three to see the new items that are added.

I have the one off 'beauty enthusiast' box so I was able to choose six items to add to my box and as with the other boxes I've been very kindly sent, I try to choose a mix of items that I know I'll use (such as essentials) and some items that are either new to me or new products on the market. For example, I chose a full sized shampoo and conditioner for Lee Stafford as I know I'll use those products and a new micellar cleansing water from Garnier as it was a product I hadn't seen before.
Lee Stafford Keep It Clean Shampoo and Conditioner 
Let's start with the two items I've used the most since I received the box, the Lee Stafford haircare duo. Lee Stafford is a brand that I've loved since I was a teenager and I'm still loving their products. I love the packaging, the scent and the conditioner is the perfect combination of moisturising effects without being heavy, greasy or oily.

InvisiBobble Waver 
Sticking with the haircare theme as most of the products I opted for were haircare items. I have a few of the original InvisiBobbles but I found that they couldn't take the weight of my hair and they would fall out. However, I did want to try their new 'waver' which is a hair clip that is supposed to be comfortable, secure and traceless. I've tried it a couple of times and I like it but it is a bit tricky to use and it's only really useful for large sections of hair. However, I think it will be very handy when I'm curling my hair and need to keep sections secure before curling.

John Frieda Hairspray 
The penultimate haircare item is a hairspray from John Frieda. As with Lee Stafford products, John Frieda is such a nostalgic brand to me as I used their brunette and frizz ease range for years growing up. I use hairspray every so often when I use my GHDs to create curls and a little hairspray is all I need to hold them in place for most of the day.
Pureology Hydrate Shampoo 
The final haircare item is from Pureology which is a brand I've tried a couple of times and loved so I knew I had to pick up this mini shampoo. It's the 'colour care' shampoo which claims to gently cleanse without stripping the colour from your hair. I have been colouring my hair since I was around 14 years old but I've never really used any colour focused products...I probably should.

Garnier Micellar Milky Cleansing Water
I love the original Garnier micellar water, it's ideal for my dry and sensitive skin (although my skin is now more on the normal side) so I wanted to try this micellar milky cleansing water. It says new on the bottle and I haven't seen it before so I think it must be a new product to their range. I've only used it once so far and it is a nice product although it's very thin and runny - I thought it would be more of a gel like product but it isn't. So far, so good but it isn't fully blowing me away.
Sanctuary Spa Wet Skin Moisture Miracle 
Last but definitely not least is one of the more unusual products from the box and one that I was the most intrigued to try. I noticed this product on Instagram and wondered how it would work and I'm so glad that it appeared on the selection of products as I was going to buy it. The product is an after shower moisturiser that you use on wet skin, yes, wet skin. I've only ever used body moisturisers that you use on dry skin so I didn't know how this would work.

You shower as you normally would then before you dry off, you apply this lotion and then dry/dress as normal. I thought that it would feel strange...and it does at first but it doesn't leave my towels feeling like I've just applied a tonne of lotion to them and it also doesn't make my skin feel greasy. It's such an unusual product and one that's great for time limited or lazy people like me who always forget to use a body moisturiser.

Have you tried any of these products? What do you think of the 'build your own' boxes from Latest In Beauty? 

*Gifted

New In Homeware: House Planter From Red Candy

Saturday, July 20, 2019
We all know that autumn is my favourite season and while I do wish that it could be autumn all year round, I do like clear summery days (although if my hayfever could disappear, that would be great) and I love certain summer homeware items/styles. I'm not a fan of very bright, neon summery homeware or decor but I adore quirky homeware and that's what Red Candy stock in abundance.

*House Planter from Red Candy (£14.50)
I was very kindly sent this beautiful planter, that I chose, from Red Candy which is a site I've been lucky enough to work with previously. They stock such a wide range of very unusual and quirky homeware, decor, gifts, wall art, lighting and more so you're bound to find something very different for your own home or as a gift. I reviewed their floating/hidden book shelves years ago and I loved them, I think they're a great example of a practical, unusual and surprising home gift idea.
I like to look through their 'new in' section as there are always so many quirky items and one of the main categories I'm drawn to are planters as well as vases (I have an astronaut vase on my wish list). I am not naturally a gardening inclined person but I have been obtaining house plants over the past couple of years and now I have around nine in my office, bedroom and bathroom, all of which I love. I've only managed to kill one so far, hopefully that will be the last!

For all of my plants, I have them in plain white/peach plastic containers that were very cheap from the garden centre I bought them from (I bought mine from Gordon Riggs) and while I like how minimal they are, I do want something a little different. I noticed this beautiful and incredibly unique planter on Red Candy and instantly fell in love with not only the planter I was send but also the greenhouse version of it as well. The brand is House Of Disaster and I'll definitely be looking into this brand in the future.

I knew I'd love the planter when it arrived as it's beautiful online but I didn't know that it would come in the most adorable box ever - the box matches the design of the planter and it's gorgeous! For that reason alone it would make for a wonderful and stunning gift but the planter is also cute and very summery, in my opinion. The design brings to mind the cute rustic French apartment buildings/houses I've seen on holiday in Toulon and Nice. Overall, it's a great size for a medium sized house plant, it looks so unique and I think it would make a lovely and surprising gift.

What do you think of this planter? Do you have any house plants? 

*Gifted

*Top Tips To Destress Before An Important Event

Thursday, July 18, 2019
Stressful events, whatever they may be, can take their toll on your mental and physical health so it's always best to be well prepared for those events as well as making sure to relax and destress before/after too. I have minor surgery booked for the end of the month which is causing quite a lot of stress (so I'll be using some of these tips soon) but another extremely stressful event is moving house.

Happy Beds conducted a survey of 2,000 people and found out that the average person moves five times in their life and 71% of people have lost a night's sleep over the stress of moving. I personally haven't moved house as an adult but I can imagine that it is an extremely stressful event so hopefully these tips will help anyone who has a stressful event coming up.

Cleaning & Decluttering 
I find organising and decluttering to be extremely calming and it helps to take my mind off anything. I definitely agree with the saying about having a clear space leads to a clear mind as when my home office is messier, I tend to be less productive. Cleaning and decluttering is an essential task before moving home anyway so if you find it calming and depressing, as I do, then it's an ideal task before the move.

Pampering 
Pampering is something everyone enjoys, from using a fun Lush bath bomb to watching Netflix with a face mask on. Pampering might also be a great way of using up some of your pampering products and bath bombs so you don't have to move them all to your new home or apartment. For me, pampering is one of the easiest ways to destress and it means that I can try new products I've been sent or it gives me an excuse to use my heavenly bath bombs and candles.

Reading 
Reading is something I started to get back into in 2017 and since then I've become more and more obsessed. I think my time during college and university when I had to read so many journal articles temporarily ruined my love of reading but now I rarely go a day without reading. Whether it's a fantasy, non-fiction or YA or anything in-between, reading is a fantastic way of escaping real life for a short period of time. Also you could sell some of your books after reading them and put the money towards new homeware or essentials. If you want to know what I'm reading and my ratings, follow me on GoodReads.

Have you moved house? If so, do you have any moving tips or tips to destress? 

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*Using Duct Tape to Decorate Your Home

Tuesday, July 16, 2019
Image from Pinterest
If you’re looking for easy craft projects that you can use to decorate your home, you’ll definitely need some patterned tape. Many people are turning to crafts as a way to express their creativity and making your own home décor will be a truly rewarding pastime that will allow you to inject your personality throughout your home. You’re probably wondering how tape can be transferred into an element of your interior design? Below are some ideas…

Wall decals make a great addition to any home interior, especially in a bedroom. For example, if you have a daughter that’s keen on unicorns, you can use a unicorn template to draw the shape on the back of your tape. Cut out the shapes and stick them to the walls in your daughter’s bedroom; she’s sure to love it and the decals will look great with the rest of the unicorn décor she probably has dotted around. What’s more, it’s unlikely that the adhesive will damage the paint work should you wish to peel it off in the future.

You don’t just have to stick duck tape to your walls; it can also be stuck to vases, photo frames and jars, to name but a few. The tape is strong, resilient and super sticky, so it can be used for anything you put your mind to and will last for years to come. It’s just a fantastic way to add a splash of colour to any room and will probably help you save a bit of cash. Sometimes all it takes is a little inspiration when it comes to things like decorating your home. If you need some more ideas, you might want to set up a Pinterest account where you’ll find plenty of little creations that you can replicate with your own spin.

Do you have any ideas or upcycling tips using duck tape or washi tape? 

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*Learner Driver Experiences + Insurance

Monday, July 15, 2019
Image from Pinterest
Today's post is all about my experiences of learning to drive, being a learner driver and some of the main points I've experienced as someone who learned to drive fairly recently in the UK. This time of the year reminds me of learning to drive as three years ago during the summer I was learning to drive so I'm always reminded of the anxiety and nervousness that I experienced as a learner driver during the summer months.

Finding An Instructor & First Lesson 
Firstly, before you start looking for an instructor or driving school, you need to pass your theory test which in the UK is a multiple choice test and to be honest, I found it to be incredible easy and I passed first time - if your test is coming up or if you're planning it, don't worry! After you have passed, you'll need to research for the best driving instructor in your area and while online reviews are great, I think that word of mouth and personal reviews are best.

I went to the same instructor as a friend of mine and it turned out to be the best option for me as he was quite firm but fair and if you're in the Greater Manchester area and you'd like my instructor recommendation then email me (heathernixon4@gmail.com). My instructor threw me into the deep end for my first lesson which I wasn't expecting but it took away a lot of my initial nervousness - I drove home on my first lesson!

Top Tips: Personal recommendations for driving instructors are so useful and if you don't like your instructor then don't be worried to switch! Also I would personally recommend a crash course as I had all of my lessons within eight days which I found to be very effective.

Failing 
I failed my first practical driving test with six minors which wasn't too bad and thankfully I didn't feel upset about it as I knew that passing first time round isn't very common. Out of my family and friends who can drive, only my dad passed on his first test so I think remembering that helped me feel less upset and disappointed. Also, I failed because I drove down a side street I shouldn't have but the sign was partly obscured by trees so I felt as though it wasn't fully my fault...excuses, excuses.

Top Tips: Don't put too much pressure on yourself to be the best driver imaginable and don't think that you NEED to pass first time round as it isn't very common to pass on your first try.

Insurance & Practicing
After failing my test I started the process of looking for another test which took SO much longer than I thought it would so I ended up buying four months of learner driver insurance while I was waiting for the right time slot to come up for myself and my instructor. I was lucky enough to be able to practice for months in my dads little Renault Clio (which was the perfect learner driver car) and I think that the experience of practicing with learner insurance definitely helped me to become a better driver and more confident in my abilities.

Top Tips: Practicing with learner driver insurance is a fantastic way of becoming more confident, practicing the necessary manoeuvres and thankfully it isn't very expensive. Unlike other forms of insurance, learner driver insurance is quite flexible in terms of the time frame which is ideal if you are practicing while waiting for a test slot to come up, as I was.

Can you drive? If so, do you have any learner driver tips? 

*gifted

Review: Make My Blinds

Sunday, July 14, 2019
Over there past year we've been upgrading and renovating our home, from both bathrooms and the kitchen to painting and reupholstering worn out furniture, we have also been updating our old decor most of which has been around for quite a number of years so I was very excited to work with Make My Blinds. You know when you're old because you get excited about new homeware...

*Make My Blinds - Kerry Pearl River Vertical Blackout Blinds (£51.29)
I was very kindly sent my choice of blind from the lovely people over at Make My Blinds which offers such an incredible range of blinds for any room, any style and any size. The style of blinds varies from roman blinds, vertical, blackout, wooden, aluminium and patterned to roller, Venetian, skylight blinds and many more. As there is so much choice, they also offer free samples of many of their blinds.
I chose the *Kerry Pearl River Vertical Blackout Blind which I wanted for the living room as the blind we have there already is about ten years old so it is time to replace it. I also wanted to change that blind as it doesn't fully match out current decor which we changed last year. The grey and silver tones in the new blind match perfectly with our decor and colour scheme which is based about greys and neutral tones.

I was a little worried that the colour would be a little too dark as colours online may differ very slightly to how it will look in your home; however, I didn't need to worry as the shade isn't too dark at all and the images online gave a very accurate depiction of the shade. I am impressed with the shade range for the blinds on offer as there's pretty much every shade you could want, including a variety of neutrals.
The main selling point for me about this blind in particular was the blackout aspect which is something we have with few of our other blinds and it is quite dramatic the difference they can make. The blackout feature is very effective and it is ideal for the very hot and sunny days we've been having recently in the UK as have when the blinds are closed they tend to make the room a little cooler. We're all very impressed with the blackout feature as well as the colour and quality of the blind.

In terms of the fitting, we did it ourselves and it was fairly quick and easy with only a couple of hiccups along the way but I think that most people would be able to fit them without too much effort or time. It also came packaged well and while there was a problem with the blind initially, the problem was sorted out my Make My Blinds very quickly so I cannot recommend them enough!

Have you heard of Make My Blinds? What do you think of their range? 

*Gifted

*Great Places To Find Fashion Inspiration

Friday, July 12, 2019
Image from Pinterest
The alarm goes off early in the morning, and you slowly roll out of bed. As you shuffle over to your wardrobe that familiar panic washes over you - Knowing that you have nothing to wear. There’s nothing worse than having no fashion inspiration. Although you probably have plenty of clothes in your bedroom, that is useless when you have no idea how to style them. The good news is that you’re far from alone. With that in mind, here are six great places to find fashion inspiration.

Celebrities
Celebrities pay thousands every year for a stylist to choose their clothes. The only ones that don’t are those that already have a pretty good fashion sense. This means that simply looking up their outfits online gives you expert advice, without having to pay the huge fee. Whether they’re strutting down the catwalk or casually heading to the store, you’re sure to find an idea or two.

Magazines
The huge fashion spreads in magazines like ELLE, Cosmopolitan, and Vogue are there for a reason. Rather than just reading the articles in these mags, you should take a pair of scissors and clip out any looks that you like. You might not have the funds to purchase the exact products, but there’s no reason why you can’t recreate the look with clothes found on the high street.

Lookbooks
In the most basic definitions, an online lookbook is a collection of pictures existing to promote a product line. To you, however, it can be a huge source of inspiration. Depending on the sites you visit, you can find outfit options for every body type, style, and country out there. You will have thousands of photographs to look at, which means that there is sure to be outfits that you like.

Blogs
To be able to write so much about fashion, you must have a pretty good fashion sense. This is why style bloggers can be so helpful to you. What separates this source of inspiration from others, however, if that style bloggers are real people. They don’t often have a makeup team or airbrushing to make them look perfect, so the images that you see are much more realistic.

Catalogues
When looking at fashion magazines, you usually have to try to recreate the expensive looks that are shown. If you flick through high street catalogues instead, you know that the clothes you’re looking at are within your price range. This makes it much easier to purchase an exact outfit. Every time you head to a store, therefore, you should pick up any catalogues that you find.

Movies 
From Oscar winners to period pieces, movies are a wonderful place to find outfit inspiration. Production teams have spent thousands on designing all of the outfits that you see, so you can be sure that they directly reflect the personalities of the characters on screen. TV shows go one step further, giving you new ideas with every single episode that airs. If you’re stuck for fashion inspiration, hopefully, you can find some from one of the sources above.

Where do you think fashion inspiration? 

*Collaborative post (check out my disclaimer for more information) 

*Tips For Your First Cruise Holiday

Thursday, July 11, 2019
It's that time of the year when we're all thinking about the summer holidays we have planned or we're experiencing wanderlust (I'm the latter) so I thought that now would be the ideal time to write about my experience of cruise holidays and some of my general tips which I hope will be useful for individuals going on their first cruise or if you want to plan a cruise in the future.

I've been lucky enough to have been on seven cruises all around Europe, from Russia, Scandinavia and Estonia to the Mediterranean, Baltic and everywhere in-between. My experiences are based on European cruises with European and North American cruise companies as well as cruises involving flights and cruises from UK ports. If you have any questions, let me know in the comments below!

Booking & Planning
Firstly, planning and booking your cruise which can be a bit of a daunting experience, especially if it's your first cruise and the terms are a little confusing. My first tip would be to look at all of the major cruise companies to not only compare prices but to become more familiar with what cruise holidays can offer and to shop for deals.

Cruise holidays are personally some of the very best I've been lucky enough to experience, for so many reasons. For example, you are able to experience so many countries/locations within one holiday, it's a safe and convenient travel option and the excursions offered are always fantastic! In terms of the excursions, they are another aspect of a cruise holiday that you'll have to plan for and sometimes book in advance as certain excursions can sell out before the cruise even begins. Planning your cruise, transportation to the ship or airport and various excursions or packages, all needs to be taken into consideration.

Top Tips: Shop around for the best price (usually within school time), look for last minute deals and be sure to book packages and excursions beforehand to avoid disappointment.

Location, Location, Location
As with any holiday, the location is one of the most important aspects and thankfully with cruise holidays, you're able to visit many locations within one holiday. For example, a couple of years ago, we visited four locations within Norway and a few years ago we were able to visit five or so locations around the Mediterranean. Cruise destinations vary so much, therefore you're bound to find an itinerary that suit you, whether it's a polar regions, European, Caribbean or South American cruises to a North American, Middle Eastern or an Atlantic islands cruise.

Top Tip: Before deciding on the locations, make sure you look through the excursions as sometimes there will be excursions outside of the city or region you are visiting. For example, when I went on a Russian/Scandinavian cruise, one of the excursions for Saint Petersburg was to visit Moscow.

Excursions 
Excursions are some of the best parts of a cruise holiday, even though the ships are always incredible, so it's essential to fully look through the excursions available for each location. There are typically between three to ten excursion options to choose from which vary in terms of the time, location, activities and price. Some of the best excursions I've been on have to be the walking tours (as long as the weather is ok!) and they tend to be some of the cheapest as well. Even if you don't want to pay for an excursion, sometimes you might have to pay for transport into the city, depending on where your ship is located in the port so it's best to put aside a little extra money for additional fees. I would personally always choose to go on an excursion as you are covered if you arrive to the ship late - if you are on your own (rather than with a booked excursion), the ship could leave without you (I have actually seen this happen!).

Top Tips: Save extra money for the best excursions, book in advance and take extras with you on the excursion as well as spending money, a power bank and weather appropriate accessories/clothing. We were caught out in the rain in Finland but our walking tour excursion still went ahead so I'm glad we dressed for the weather and bought umbrellas.

My Favourites Cruises & Cruise Destinations 
There have been so many incredible destinations and cruise experiences over the past ten or so years but I think the best cruise holidays I've been on have to include: waking up to the beautiful Norwegian fjords as well as the sunrise over Mount Vesuvius and entering the magical city of Venice on the ship. Some of my must see locations have to be Venice (Italy), Flam and Olden (Norway), Rome (Italy), Saint Petersburg (Russia) and Ajaccio (Corsica).

I am lucky in that my parents began family cruise holidays for us when I was about 17 so I've been to a far amount of gorgeous European cities and I cannot recommend cruise holidays enough, especially if you are like me and you want to see as many sites as you can and to have the peace of mind of everything you need in one place - a beautiful, state of the art, luxury cruise ship.

Have you been on a cruise holiday? If not, would you in the future? 

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Green People Cruelty Free Makeup

Tuesday, July 09, 2019
If you've been following my blog for a while then you might know that I have been on/off vegan for the past four or so years but since the beginning of 2019 I've switched my diet to a fully vegan diet. The switch in terms of my diet has been very easy and instant but changing my skincare, bodycare, haircare and makeup to cruelty free options has been a slower process. Also sometimes it can be a little difficult to find out if a certain product or a brand is vegan or cruelty free.
*Green People Velvet Matte Lipstick - Berry Nude (£17)
Thankfully one brand that is very clear when it comes to which products are vegan or not is Green People. You can easily see on their product pages whether a product is vegan or not which makes shopping so much easier! For example, this beautiful lipstick is vegetarian and cruelty free but sadly it isn't vegan (as it contains beeswax). I was kindly sent the Berry Nude shade which is a gorgeous natural rose, berry shade that would be ideal for everyday.
*Green People High Definition Eyeliner - Carbon Black (£14.50)
Another item from their newly expanded cruelty free makeup range is their High Definition Eyeliner in Carbon Black which thankfully is vegan and cruelty free. I used to wear eyeliner, in all of it's forms (liquid, pencil and gel) constantly growing up and throughout university but I haven't recently. However, this liner is so quick and easy to use and my favourite way of using it is to apply a little along my upper and lower lash lines and smudge it for definition. If you're looking for an easily blendable, vegan liner then check it out.

I've tried a few Green People products and I love their skincare, I cannot recommend their sensitive skincare enough! I'd also recommend this gorgeous liner, especially if you're a little lazy with liner and makeup in the summer as I am. If you're looking for cruelty free makeup then definitely check out their makeup range as it ranges from eyeliner, lipsticks, mascara and powder to blush, tinted moisturisers and more.

Have you tried any of their makeup or skincare products? 

*gifted

June Reading Wrap-up 2019

Sunday, July 07, 2019
2019 has been great in terms of my reading so I wanted to keep up the momentum and continue the streak of great books. Thankfully June was another fantastic reading month with an overall higher than average number of pages read and quite a few amazing books. I managed to read 18 books in the month of June which included a good number of non-fiction reads. I'm very happy with the amount of non-fiction I've been picking up this year! My favourite books of the month include: Good Omens, From Here To Eternity and Lady Killers.

*Gather The Fortunes by Bryan Camp (599 pages) ★★★
I was very kindly sent this book to review from the lovely people at Titan Books - just look at how beautiful that cover is! I will admit that the cover was part of the reason I wanted to request a copy of this book but the blurb was also very intriguing as it involves formidable magic, mythology and supernatural creatures.

We follow Renai, a psychopomp who has been brought back from the dead to ferry the recently deceased into the underworld. One day she is presented with a deal to find someone who has escaped death and it takes her on an adventure into the underworld to not only uncover the mystery of the missing boy but to find her missing memories as well.

I'll start with the positives and the main one for me (along with the stunningly beautiful cover) is the setting of New Orleans which is a location I haven't read about before. I adored the atmosphere and description of the setting as well as the mythical gods, magic and the underworld aspects of this book.  While it was a long book, one of the longest I've read for a while, it didn't fully feel like a 600 page read. Overall, I found it to be entertaining and I liked the character of Sal, however...

I did feel as though the story was massively drawn out and I think it definitely could have been shortened as it felt like a slog at the mid point! Also I didn't like the repetitive nature of the book and the repetition of a certain phrase 'Renai kissed her teeth' which occurred so often and frustrated me more than it should have, if I'm honest. Sadly I was a little disappointed but I would recommend it if it sounds like something you'd like.

Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman (416 pages) ★★★★ 
One book I have had on my shelves for a while is Good Omens which is co-written by two of my favourite authors and I think that was the reason I was putting off reading it for so long as I didn't want to be disappointed. However, I didn't need to worry as naturally I adored this book which I should have guessed would happen as Terry Pratchett in particular is one of my all time favourite authors - I cannot recommend his Discworld series enough.

We follow Crowley (a demon) and Aziraphale (an angel) on opposing sides as the world is about to end and the antichrist has been...misplaced. Although in true Terry Pratchett style, we follow numerous storylines at the same time (including a descendant of a witch finder, a Stranger Things style gang of children and the four horsemen of the apocalypse) so if you aren't used to his writing then you might find the switching storylines/timelines a little confusing but I am very familiar with his writing and love it!

Some of the same positives I loved about this book were the same as the positives I attributed to Gaiman's and Pratchett's previous books in terms of the darkly comic and sarcastic writing, magical elements, vivid characters and intelligent humour with a throughly eccentric feel to it. It felt at times (up to the 25-30% mark) that so many characters were being introduced and there were too many lines to follow but naturally everything comes cleverly together in the end. However, despite a couple of negatives, I adored this read and I equally adored the TV show.
*The True History Of Chocolate by Sophie D. Coe and Michael D. Coe (280 pages)
★★★ (3.5) 
We all know by now how much I love the publisher Thames and Hudson for their niche and quirky as well as beautifully published non-fiction reads and this one is no different. I was kindly sent it to include within my previous Easter Gift Guide but I'm finally getting round to it now. As the title would suggest, it's all about the history of chocolate from its South American origins to the mass produced luxury we all enjoy today.

Can we take a moment to appreciate the stunningly beautiful cover and how I should always match my nails to my books. Despite the in-depth information within this book, it was an easy to follow read and contained so much information that was completely new to me! I personally liked the latter half of the book the most, I loved the illustrations/photographs throughout and overall, it was an interesting niche non-fiction read that I think many will find fascinating. My only negative is that it seems to focus on the mesoamerican history, conflicts and politics more than I wanted/expected and it was a teeny bit bogged down at times, especially the first third or so of the book. However, if you love chocolate or food history then I cannot recommend this beautifully designed and well researched book enough.

*The Forgotten Past by Andrew Vinken (232 pages) ★★★ 
The first book I finished in June was an e-arc which was released recently and focuses on aspects of history that are often forgotten such as the true inventor of flight (years before the Wright brothers), an audacious conman and Hermann Goring's brother who was such an incredible person (unlike his brother) to the most decorated solider of the first world war who was an extremely brave stretcher bearer, strange coincidences throughout history, the practice of grave robbing royal tombs and much more.

If you've read my previous book reviews and wrap-ups then you might know that history centric non-fiction reads that focus on a very specific or niche topic are some of my favourite books to read and this one from Andrew Vinken ticks so many boxes. I loved the quick, short chapters each looking at a different event/individual/topic and the easy writing style, although I think it was a little too casual at times. I thought it would be a little more academic or formal in it's tone which was disappointing but I would recommend it as an easy and unusual non-fiction read.

*Speed Read Tour de France by Wilcockson (160 pages) ★★★ (3.5)
You might not know this about me but I love watching the Tour de France, especially over the past four or five years as I've watched it religiously. I adore the scenery and I am in awe of the physical abilities of the riders so I naturally had to request this e-book on Netgalley. The book is split up into tiny sections with various facts about individual riders, the origin of the Tour de France, the technology involved, crashes and more, all of which was very interesting and had me screenshotting facts to read to others. It explained terms well (even if you aren't very familiar with the tour) and provides so many interesting facts that I had no idea about. If you're looking for an easy but comprehensive book about the largest cycling race in the world then definitely pick up this book, especially as the tour starts soon.

Ricochet Joe by Dean Koontz (95 pages) ★★ 
Yet another Kindle In Motion ebook and it's a short novella by Dean Koontz in which we follow a rather bizarre young man who has a strange experience and his intuition causes him to stop numerous crimes around his small town. He is followed by a newly found friend, Portia, who explains that there's another reality involving a cosmic entity that controls humans. It definitely isn't my usual read and if I'm honest, I didn't love this book but what I did love were the moving illustrations throughout it. Thankfully the ebook was very short at less than 100 pages but sadly the story was just too bizarre and abstract for me to enjoy it. I think that if you like sci-fi/alternative reality stories then you might like this but it definitely wasn't for me.
From Here To Eternity by Caitlin Doughty (238 pages) ★★★★ 
My favourite non-fiction book of last year was Smoke Gets In Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty so I had to purchase her second book which focuses on death and burial practices around the world. Firstly, I love the cover as well as all of the illustrations throughout the book! As with her first book, this one has her unique personality throughout it which I love and she always manages to discuss difficult or darker topics with humour and an academic interest but also respect.

I personally didn't really know about different burial, cremation or death practices around the world so it was a very interesting and eye opening read that managed to combine an explanation of a certain cultural or societal practices with facts, interest and as little bias as anyone could. I found so many sections of this book to be moving, especially the way the Indonesian people cared for their dead and the Japanese view of suicide and death.

I'm not one to cry at books but certain aspects and sentences within this read definitely struck a cord with me and had me close to tears. I adore all of the books she has published, as well as her Youtube videos and I will continue to buy her books in the future as they're very well written with the perfect blend of compassion, information and personality. I cannot recommend this read enough, along with her first book, Smoke Gets In Your Eyes which was one of my favourite books of last year. Each book I read about this industry, the more I want to work within it, which might be another post for another day.

*A Garden Miscellany by Suzanne Staubach (220 pages) ★★★ 
Yet another non-fiction read for the month of June and it's an A-Z guide to all things garden related, from the structures you find in gardens to gardening terms and more. I am personally not the best gardener but I do have numerous houseplants and I'm starting to care for them as well as I can so I thought this book would be ideal for a beginner.

Firstly, the cover is beautiful but somehow the interior illustrations aren't quite so - perhaps that's because it is an ARC copy rather than the finished book. I found the information within the book to be interesting and quite specific but at times it was a little repetitive. I would definitely recommend it for gardening beginners as there is so much useful information and I think it is something I'll need to keep going back to.

Consorting With Dragons by Sera Trevor (306 pages) ★★★
My favourite book genre is definitely fantasy and it's even better if it contains LGBT characters, magic, dragons and an easy storyline which is exactly what I got with Consorting With Dragons. We follow Lord Jansen as he's taken to the capital city to take part in the annual courtly ritual of finding a wife/husband. What follows is a very sweet romance with the king, court intrigue, power play and best of all, dragons. I need to read more books with dragons! I loved this book, it's the book equivalent of candy as it's sweet and quick with an easy, entertaining (if a little cheesy) story. Books like this are a bit of a guilty pleasure for me, it is just thoroughly entertaining, quick and escapist.

Lady Killers by Tori Teller (327 pages) ★★★★
Another non-fiction read I finished in June is one that I've been meaning to read for a while and how could I not want it read it with a title like that! The book focuses on various women throughout history and the brutal crimes and murders they committed or had others commit for them. Historic figures such as the infamous Erzbsebet Bathory to more modern day female serial killers are explored, most of which I hadn't heard of before.

The author doesn't just look at each individual and their crimes but also how they were perceived, how they are viewed now and the general view of female killers in the media. I loved the writing style as it was engaging, comprehensive and interesting without being bogged down in details or repetitive. I finished it in record speed and found pretty much every second of it to be throughly interesting, entertaining and well written as well as disturbing and shocking. I'd heard of a couple of women within this book but most of them were new to me and I also liked the discussion around how female killers are viewed as sexual, evil or are given excuses for their behaviour because of their gender. I cannot recommend this book enough!
*The Colorado Kid by Stephen King (208 pages) ★★★ 
Another book I was sent to review is a newly illustrated edition of a previously published short story from Stephen King. We follow a couple of reporters and a forensic student as they are trying to piece together the mystery of a body washed up on the coast of Maine. From that premise, I expected a gritty detective/crime focused short story but it's actually a retelling of the crime from two older journals to their protege. It wasn't what I expected at all but it was an extremely quick read with full page illustrations throughout. While there are aspects about this republished short story that I loved such as the cover, illustrations, quick and easy writing and the overall story...it was just boring, in my opinion. I loved Stephen King's Carrie but this one just wasn't as amazing as I'd hoped it would be. I would recommend it overall but it doesn't seem to be one of his best books. I cannot wait to read his more famous novels though!

Widdershins by Jordan Hawk (224 pages) ★★★ 
Another ebook I finished in June was a supernatural, slightly Frankensteinesque novel with LGBT characters. We follow Whyborne, a reclusive and awkward archeologist and Griffin, an ex-detective as they try to uncover the mystery behind a series of robberies from the museum, a cult-like group and mysterious resurrected creatures. I loved the Frankenstein and Egyptian archaeology aspects of this book along with the darker topics, the easy writing and adventure. However, there were numerous cringy sections of dialogue, I can't stand insta-love and it was more than a little cheesy at times. I enjoyed it overall but I won't carry on with the series.

The Pied Piper by Harold Schechter (69 pages) ★★★ 
Within June I started Amazon Prime so I thought I'd check out some of the non-fiction books on Prime Reading and there are so many of these short non-fiction true crime books from Harold Schechter available. Each book within his series focuses on a series of crimes and their famous perpetrators. I haven't read many books at all concerning true crime so I think these short reads are a great introduction to the genre.

The Pied Piper follows the crimes of Charlie Schmid in the US during the 1960s in which he killed three women. I personally hadn't ever heard of these crimes or of Charlie Schmid so it was interesting to read about that time period within an easy to follow, illustrated and quick read. It's part of the 'kindle in motion' series so the cover illustrations move which is something I haven't come across before and I think it looks amazing. I'd definitely recommend this super short non-fiction true crime read for fans of the genre.

The Pirate by Harold Schechter (54 pages) ★★★ 
Another Harold Schechter true crime ebook I read follows the crimes of Albert Hicks (which happens to be the name of one of my ancestors...) who looted and murdered during the 1800's. As with the previous book, it's a Kindle In Motion read so the cover moves and it contains numerous photographs. It's a very quick, easy read about a rather horrific crime and an individual that I had never heard of! Again, if you like true crime then check out these super short ebooks.

Cloaked In Shadow by Ben Alderson (330 pages) ★★★ (3.5)
One of the quickest 'average length' books I read in June was the very enjoyable Cloaked In Shadow by Ben Alderson. It was another ebook from the Kindle Unlimited/Prime Reading free selection and it sounded fantastic so I had to check it out for pride month. We follow Zac as along with other elves from his village are taken to the capital for royal celebrations but what happens involves royal subterfuge, attacks, military training, an uncovering of magical abilities and an unexpected romance with the prince.

I read it in record speed, the writing was very quick and easy and the story moved at a great pace. I loved the magical fantasy world, the relationship between Zac and Hadrien and I always love the trope of a character discovering their magical abilities! It was an entertaining, very quick fantasy read with a M/M romance. It's the first book in a series and all three are free to read on Kindle Unlimited so I might carry on with the other two books.
*Crowfall by Ed McDonald (464 pages) ★★★ 
Next up is the third book in the Raven's Mark series, the first two of which I read last year. I rated Blackwing four stars and Ravensmark three stars. Crowfall follows on from the events of the previous book and we find Ryhalt in a bit of a dire situation in Misery. I don't really want to say more than that as I don't want to spoil the first two books but I'll say that it has the same gritty, grimdark and unusual content as the others...however, it's on another level!

I personally love the world that Ed McDonald has created as it's incredibly vivid, wonderfully dark, grotesquely unique and unlike any other series I've read! I like the writing, the setting and various characters, in particular, Ryhalt and Maldon but I didn't love this third book nearly as much as the others sadly. The first book will forever be my favourite in the series, closely followed by the second and Crowfall comes in last unfortunately. Compared to the other books in the series, it felt very abstract and repetitive which isn't a style I'm a fan of. Overall, I cannot recommend the first book enough and if you like it then maybe carry on with the series.

The Sleep Tight Motel by Lisa Unger (48 pages) ★★★ 
A couple of years ago I read Ink and Bone by this author and liked it so when I came across this Amazon Original novella by her, I had to read it, especially as it's incredibly short. We follow Eve, a women trying to escape a violent lover, as she arrives at an empty motel. I did enjoy the quick pace, easy writing and the eerie (almost claustrophobic) tone of the book but it felt very rushed and a little throwaway sadly. If you have Amazon Prime then maybe check it out as it is free to read.

Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them: Illustrated Edition (160 pages) ★★★ 
Another Kindle in Motion book I read was one that I have wanted to read for a while as it's all about the magical creatures within the Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find them world. I loved the first film and I love anything Harry Potter related so I read this in one day. I thoroughly enjoyed this very short and easy read which was massively enhanced by the amazing moving illustrations throughout the book. Unlike the previous Kindle in Motion ebooks I've read this month, the moving illustrations aren't just on the cover but on every few pages of the book. I think the Kindle in Motion books are amazing and I cannot recommend them enough.


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*Gifted