Lockdown Empties

Thursday, July 09, 2020
Lockdown has been difficult in many ways but for me, there have been a couple of positives including having more time for relaxing, reading and pampering which has been necessary for stopping my anxiety from taking over! So during lockdown I decided to try and read as much as I can and use up some of the plethora of face masks, hair masks, bath bombs, samples and the many half-used products I have. 

Thankfully I was able to use up a lot of products that I'd half finished as well as samples; some of the products were surprising favourites and others were more than a little disappointing unfortunately. When I first started my blog, I used to write regular empties posts as I think they're much more valuable and thorough compared to mini reviews or initial impressions. I will be posting a summer empties post at the end of September and I might make it a seasonal series! 
Skincare 
I'll begin with the category I have the most empties from and that's skincare! I didn't realise how many skincare products I'd used up until I started gathering them together to photograph all of my empties. From May to April I used up five face masks, one face mist, one moisturiser and two serums, although I think I did throw away a few products before I started collecting my empties at the end of May. 

I won't go through all of my skincare empties individually but my favourite products have include: the First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream (a gorgeous gentle moisturiser), First Aid Beauty Radiance Pads (instantly smooth and exfoliated skin in a tub) and the Shangpree Aroma Blend Calming Mask (a heavenly Korean sheet mask). I will be buying all of three items in the future as my skin adored them all! 

I also used up a few sample sizes from Glamglow and Kiehls which were part of a limited edition box from Latest In Beauty: the Kiehls Rare Earth Deep Pore Cleansing Mask (which my currently blemish prone and congested skin loved) and the Glamglow BerryGlow Mask (which was ideal for helping my skin look a little less...awful due to the stress of lockdown). If you're looking for a great value for money beauty box then I cannot recommend the Latest In Beauty boxes enough. 

Last but not least I wanted to mention the Beauty Laundrette Sheet Mask which was a great post-sun skincare treat to add hydration and soothe the skin. During lockdown I've been using up not only my half-finished products but the mountain of sheet masks I have too and this mask was one of my favourites. I've finally jumped onto the sheet mask bandwagon and I'm not getting off. 
Bath & Body 
I was surprised by how few body products I'd used up in during lockdown as I only have two! First up, the gorgeous Molton Brown Ylang Ylang Body Scrub which has to be one of the most effective and heavenly scented body scrubs I've ever used. I'm a huge fan of Molton Brown products and I've loved every single one but this body scrub is at the top of the list so far. The second and final body product was the FFS Post-Shave Balm which I loved to soothe and hydrate my skin after shaving. 

Lush Empties
Within April I started to have pampering Sundays as I've been feeling quite anxious and it was also an opportunity to use the Lush bath bombs I needed to use up before they were too old. The first bath bomb I finished was one of my favourites, Twilight, as it smells absolutely heavenly! I also used up Intergalactic which I used to love but now I can't stand bath bombs that contains tonnes of glitter as it just means more cleaning up afterwards. 

My final bath bomb is by far the worst Lush bath bomb I've ever used and others might agree with me as it doesn't seem to be on the website anymore. What is this bath bomb I hear you frustratingly ask? It was the Lush Dark Arts Jelly Bomb. It was my first jelly bomb and I think it's safe to say that the concept of jelly bombs kind of...bombed as there's only one on the website. I do still have the Snow Fairy Jelly Bomb to use but sadly I don't have high hopes for it now. 

As well as bath bombs I also used up my Lush Olive Branch Naked Shower Gel which has quickly become one of my favourite products from Lush as it not only smells lovely but it lathers well, leaves my skin feeling moisturised and it doubles up as a shaving cream too. I will definitely be buying another naked shower gel from Lush as soon as I can. 
Haircare 
The next category is haircare and I'm not surprised that I only have three items as I tend to be quite fickle with my haircare products and it usually takes me a while to finish products, especially full sized items. My favourite haircare product from lockdown was the Schwarzkopf Color Expert Dye in Dark Brown which is another item I received as part of a Latest In Beauty box - I told you they were fantastic boxes! The dye was one of the easiest, quickest and fuss-free dyes I've ever used and the grey coverage was great. 

I also used up two mini hair masks recently and my favourite of the two was the Living Proof Restore Mask which was a fantastic, effective and deeply nourishing hair mask that my tangle-prone and dry hair seemed to love. Sadly I didn't quite love the Wella Nutri-Enrich Mask as it was just quite average, in my opinion. 
Home Fragrance
Home fragrance, whether in the form of candles and wax melts or room sprays, are some of my favourite items to buy and use as I love a clean and fresh smelling home. I used up the lovely Feather and Down Candle during lockdown and while I loved the scent, it wasn't as strong as I would have liked it to be unfortunately. 

Thankfully I have more than a few room sprays that were very strong including the: Puressential Rest & Relax Spray (one of the strongest room spray I've used), the wonderful Feather and Down Pillow Mist (which I spray at every opportunity) and the Mio Liquid Yoga Spray (a relaxing room spray). I would highly recommend both the Feather and Down as well as the Puressential sprays!
Makeup 
Lastly, the makeup items and I have not one, not two but three brow pencils within my lockdown empties stash! I didn't know that I used up brow pencils so frequently but I do fill in my brows almost everyday so I think I'm quite the brow pencil expert by now! I think all three brow pencils are fantastic and I've bought them multiple times over the past year or so and I'd recommend them all. 

The Maybelline Total Temptation Brow Pencil is ideal for those just starting out using brow pencils or those who want a subtle, natural effect. The Barry M Brow Wand is pretty much the opposite as it's fantastic for very bold, thick and unruly brows. Lastly the Maybelline Brow Precise is a great balance between the previous two as it can be built up for dark, bold brows but it can also be brushed out for more natural but precise brows too. 

The final makeup item I finished during lockdown is the Kat Von D Go Big Or Go Home Mascara which is a mascara I've raved about on my blog previously (it was yet again an item I've loved from a Latest In Beauty box). I have started to get into the habit of throwing away makeup when it is quite old which I think is a good habit to get into and something I should have been doing years ago...oops. 

Have you tried any of these products? What have you used up during lockdown? 

June Beauty Favourites 2020

Tuesday, July 07, 2020
I've starting loving writing my monthly or bi-monthly favourites posts as well as a lockdown empties post (that's coming soon) so today's post is a short and sweet review of some of my favourite products from the month of June. I could have included many more products but you'll hear about some of them in my lockdown empties posts and my very long overdue winter and spring favourites post. I hope you all like reading about favourite products, empties and mini reviews as there are quite a few coming soon on my blog. You can always get a sneak peek of what I'm using, loving and receiving on my Instagram stories (@ofbeautyand). 
I am very lucky to receive lots of lovely products from the amazing people over at Bubble T Cosmetics and I recently received their new hand sanitisers in the post. I have four of the six that are available including: gin and tonic, lemon, pina colada and mango, all of which have the cutest packaging design. The Bubble T Cosmetics hand sanitisers contain 70% alcohol with a fruity scent. As with their other products, the sanitisers are cruelty free which is fantastic!

I've been using the gin and tonic option the most as they are perfect sizes to keep in my handbag or the car and they have a pleasant scent unlike some of the other hand sanitisers we've been using during lockdown. Over the past couple of weeks I have developed little eczema again on my fingers (maybe due to stress) but thankfully it isn't too bad and if I avoid using the sanitiser on those tiny areas then I have no irritation. I think they're fantastic little hand sanitisers that I definitely prefer them over all of the others I've used since lockdown began. 
*COSRX Clear Fit Master Patch (£4.80)
As well as a little eczema on my fingers, I've also been having trouble with my skin as I've now developed a few areas of many spots and redness on my cheeks which have annoyingly been a constant on my face for the past couple of months. I've never really experienced spots or blemishes before (probably because I had eczema over half of my face for more than ten years until January 2019) so I haven't known what to use. Thankfully I was very kindly sent a couple of spot and acne patches from the Korean brand COSRX which as far as I know is cruelty free and vegan friendly!

The Clear Fit Master Patch set comes with 18 small patches that are a great size for smaller or individual spots. They are 'invisible' and absorb impurities as well as oil throughout the day. The patches also provide a barrier against external irritants as well as makeup. I find that they are relatively 'invisible' and not very noticeable from a distance but they become apparent if you look closer or from a certain angle. I've been loving using these little patches and after keeping a couple of patches on my spots overnight, I do notice that they are flatter in the morning. 

*COSRX AC Collection Acne Patch (£7) 
As much as I love using the previous patches from COSRX, my favourite set of the two has to be the acne patches. I don't think that the collection of persistent spots I have is acne but these patches have been the most effective out of the two sets for my skin. The patches act as a protective barrier, they absorb oil and impurities and they are formulated with Centella Asiatica extract which is a well known medicinal plant that is used to treat small wounds, burns and psoriasis. 

The set comes with 26 patches in small, medium and large sizes and they are much more noticeable compared to the others so I've only been wearing them overnight or in the evening. I've been using the largest patches to cover a larger area of spots and my skin is significantly better the next day although I find that I have to use them consistently to get the benefits. If you're looking for effective spot patches from a cruelty free and vegan friendly brand then I cannot recommend these from COSRX enough. 
Last but not least is my current razor and holder from Estrid that I've previously reviewed on my blog so check out that post for more in-depth information about the kit. The razor and wall mounted holder from Estrid is just so convenient, from the super handy holder to the comfortable handle and the lovely moisturising strips, it's one of the most convenient, easy and fuss free razors I've ever used. I get a very clean and close shave each time without having to use shave gels. What could make the razor even better? It is vegan friendly, what more could you ask for! 

Have you tried any of these products? What items have you been loving throughout the month of June? 

Mid-Year Reading Update

Mid-Year Reading Update

Sunday, July 05, 2020
How are we half way through the year already! It has felt like no time has passed and we've all been stuck in March for a while but the one positive of lockdown has been more time for reading. Whenever I post my reading wrap-ups, I aways receive comments about how much I am able to read and where do I find the time so I'll let you in on a couple of secrets: always take a book or audiobook wherever you go, make time for reading instead of watching TV (for example) and DNF books if you're not enjoying them to make time for other reads you may love. 

Statistics
As of the 5th July, I've managed to read 67 books and as I passed by 50 book target a month or so ago, I have upped it to 100. Currently I'm 17 books ahead of my target so I'm very happy with my statistics for the year so far. I'm also happy with the number of LGBT books I've finished in the first half of the year which was definitely helped by pride in June. The only general reading number I'm not overly happy with is the low number of classics and longer books I've finished which is something I need to change for the second half of 2020. 

Best Books
I'll start by mentioning a few of my favourite books of the year which are a mixture of non-fiction, translated fiction and fantasy, three of my current favourite genres. My favourites are listed below but I also wanted to give an honourable mention to a few other great reads: Heartstopper (Volume 3), Floriography, The Scottish Boy, The Life of Leonardo da Vinci and The Guest List, all of which I'd recommend. 

  • City of Light, City of Poison by Holly Tucker
  • The Black Hawks by David Wragg 
  • The Poppy War by R.F Kuang 
  • Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs by Caitlin Doughty 
  • Battle Royale by Koushun Takami 

Disappointing Books
Moving onto the not so pleasant task of listing some of the books that I was sadly disappointed by this year. Here are a few more disappointing reads: The Seven - The Lost Tale of Dellerin, Halloween Tales and Pure by Andrew Miller. I have read quite a few good books as well as average reads in 2020 but thankfully there aren't too many that I DNF'd or were disappointing. 

  • Pines by Blake Crouch 
  • Ghosts of the Citadel by Jen Williams
  • The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett
  • Queer: A Graphic History by Meg-John Barker
  • The House of the Vampire by George Viereck 

Reading Goals & TBR
My reading goals for the second half of the year are to meet my goal of finishing 100 books and to read more classics as well as longer reads over 500 pages. I have quite a few books I want to get to such as Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett and quite a few reads by Stephen King that I'm saving until the autumn months. 

Follow me on GoodReads (Heather Nixon) for all of my book ratings, TBR and reading progress!

Have you read any of the books I've mentioned? Do you have any favourite books of 2020 so far? 

Renovate With Ironmongery During Lockdown

Friday, July 03, 2020

This is a sponsored post (AD)
Image from Pinterest

If your love for all things DIY has made you turn your house upside down during the lockdown, you might want some other renovation projects to add to the list. I mean, you will either need to continue to keep busy or relax over a good cup of tea and a book. Or perhaps one thing after the other, and if you ask me, that is the best way to do things.

You might have read the title and been a bit intrigued… how to renovate my house with ironmongery? Or even questioned, what is ironmongery? As Ironmongery Experts explain in their the importance of architectural ironmongery article, ironmongery is everything from door handles to door hinges and door locks.

Ironmongery plays a functional role in our homes and offices but that doesn’t mean that these pieces of hardware need to be an eyesore. For the contrary, ironmongery can make or break your design and can tie-in your house’s style. Have I made you start looking at your door handles or kitchen cabinet knobs in another light? Sorry, but not sorry.

As Fashion Mommy says on a latest blog post, ironmongery can either be pretty or pretty ugly, so you need to give it some thought, and she couldn’t be more right. Even small details will have an impact on the overall décor of your home, so if your door handles, cabinet handles or even door hooks are not working properly or not bringing you joy – it’s time for an upgrade, but where to start?

Entrance door
Your front door is one of the most important parts of your home. It offers security, privacy and it’s the first thing you and your guests see when they arrive at your house. This article on Janine Huldie recommends looking “at all the fixings (door hinges, door locks, door bolts, keyhole covers, door viewers, etc) and see what should be replaced.”

Interiors
If you’ve recently painted your kitchen cabinets deep blue or your bedroom wardrobe deep green, replacing your standard handles for stunning knurled brass handles would be a great choice. Or perhaps you’ve recently renovated your bathroom and added matte back hardware all around but then kept your old towel hooks because they work, go a step further and get some matte black hooks or perhaps some rose gold towel hooks. Simply have a look around and see what could be replaced, and most importantly, have fun!

How are you going to renovate your house during lockdown? 

This article was written by Carolina Neves, lead copywriter at magento ecommerce agency AD Lab.

Latest In Beauty - Do Good Feel Good Box

Thursday, July 02, 2020

We all know by now how much I utterly adore the monthly boxes from Latest In Beauty but I perhaps love the limited edition boxes even more! I am lucky enough to work with Latest In Beauty and review their boxes; however I'm always grateful to receive one each month, especially the amazing value for money limited edition boxes, such as this one. If you want to see my bloggermail and unboxings before I publish my review posts then follow me on Instagram (@ofbeautyand) to see sneak peeks. 

Today's review is of the amazing 'do good, feel good' box which is worth over £112! The box is split into two variations, the 'renew' edit and the 'repair' edit and I have the latter. The only difference between the boxes is which Clinique moisturiser you want; either the moisturiser for compromised skin (green) or for pores and uneven skin tone (blue). Both boxes contain eleven products from ten different brands and a whopping six of the items are full sized, including the Clinique moisturiser. 
*Clinique iD Dramatically Different Hydrating Jelly + Active Cartridge Concentrate for Compromised Skin 
I'll start with the item I was most interested in, the Clinique hydrating jelly and the cartridge as it's something I haven't seen before. I used to use the Clinique three step system as a teenager and liked it but I haven't really tried any of their skincare range since then but this pick 'n' mix style of skincare is very intriguing. I have the repair box so the cartridge I have is the option designed for 'compromised' skin which includes sensitive and irritated skin. 

The hydration jelly can be combined with any of the cartridges, depending on your skin type and you can also purchase a different base to add to your cartridge (such as a moisturising lotion, BB cream etc), so it's a very customisable approach to skincare. I have only been using it for a few days so I can only give you my initial thoughts and so far...I'm loving it. I do think that the jelly and cartridge could have been pre-combined to save on the amount of packaging but other than that it is a refreshing, soothing and light weight moisturiser that is ideal for the summer months. 
*Elizabeth Arden Advanced Ceramide Capsules Serum 
Sticking with the skincare theme, there are two samples sizes from Elizabeth Arden in the box, both of which are new to me. First up, the serum which comes in little capsules and is designed for maintaining healthy and youthful looking skin. I personally don't have to deal with any anti-ageing concerns currently (although I am approaching my 30's far quicker than I would like) so I think I'll pass these onto my mum to get her opinion. 

*Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream - Original 
The second and final Elizabeth Arden product is probably her most famous creation, the cult classic Eight Hour Cream. It is a cream that can be used as a lip balm, on the cuticles, to tame unruly brows, to add a shine over lipsticks and to highlight the cheekbones, just to name a few uses. I have tried the lip balm version of this product and loved it so I'm interested to try the much loved original cream! 
*Emma Hardie Moringa Cleansing Balm 
As well as the Clinique moisturiser, the Emma Hardie cleansing balm was another product I was looking forward to trying out as it is one of the blogging and beauty worlds skincare favourites. The balm claims to remove all makeup (including eye makeup) and deeply cleanse pores, all while hydrating and balancing all skin types - it sounds very impressive! I haven't tried this mini yet but I can't wait to, especially as I've heard nothing but incredible things about it. 
*Balance Me Balancing Face Moisturiser 
The final skincare item in the box is from Balance Me which is a brand that is regularly included in subscription boxes so I've been able to try a few of their samples sizes and I've liked everything so far. The balancing moisturiser has a light, fresh and gel-like texture which makes it perfect for the warmer months when my skin is a little oily. If you've been following my blog for a while then you may know that since my early teens, I suffered with horrendous eczema on my face and hands but since around February 2019 I haven't had any eczema on my face (which is almost unbelievable). However, since lockdown started, my skin has been breaking out like it is trying to punish me so any products that are targeted towards blemish prone skin are very welcome in my skincare routine right now - for the first time ever. 
*Rimmel Jelly Blush in Berry Bounce
I am sadly not a blush wearer, unless it's Nars Douceur or NYX Taupe (both of which are great contour blush shades for pale skin), as I've spent most of my life trying to cover up any redness and pink undertones within my skin. I probably won't be trying out this blush although the Berry Bounce shade is very pretty and I'd love it as a lipstick shade. It has an unusual and moveable jelly consistency that can be built up to give a juicy flush to the skin or a most impactful blush. 

*Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick in Rich Girl Red
You really can't go wrong with a classic red lip and this shade for Revlon is utterly beautiful. I have been wearing more red and bolder shades this year as I think they look particularly gorgeous in contrast with very pale skin tones (although I think this shade would look incredible on everyone). The lipstick doesn't feel very heavy or drying on the lips and the finish is very flattering. 
*Eylure C-Lash False Lashes (Naturals) 
Next up is an item that fits the theme of the box perfectly; these beautiful Eylure lashes were created specifically for lash replacement for those who have lost their natural lashes due to cancer treatments. The wonderful woman behind the c-lash is Codilia Gapare who was diagnosed with breast cancer and wanted to create a line of false lashes that can be worn by those who had lost their natural lashes. The strip lash has a clear self-adhesive band (or you can use the gentle glue included) that makes for easier application. 

*Morphe 3B Pure Nude Eyeshadow Palette 
The next eye makeup item is an eyeshadow trio from Morphe in the shade '3B Pure Nude'. The palette is very warm toned with a trio of browns that would be great for everyday wear. I personally don't think that very warm toned shadows suit my pale skin but it does look like a pretty palette and I will be trying out these shadows as I've heard great things about Morphe palettes. 
*Benefit They're Real Mascara 
I've gone through a few mini sizes of this fantastic mascara from Benefit and I can definitely recommend it. For me, I always want black lashes with a fluttery and volumised finish but on days when I'm at home, I just want a quick and easy mascara so They're Real is perfect. The mascara leaves my lashes lengthened, defined and intensely black. 

*Look Good Feel Better Angled Blending Brush
Last but not least is the brand and charity that the box is focused around, Look Good Feel Better. The cancer supporting charity helps people going through cancer treatments so it's such an important organisation to support. With every 'Do Good, Feel Good' box a donation will be made to Look Good Feel Good which is fantastic so you receive an amazing value box filled with beauty goodies and you'll also have made a donation to a very worthy cause too! 

Have you tried any of these products? Will you be picking up a Look Good Feel Good box from Latest In Beauty? 

Pride Month Reading Wrap-Up 2020

Tuesday, June 30, 2020
June was pride month so I wanted to focus on LGBT+ books in June! I read ten books and seven of them were LGBT+ in someway. It wasn't my best reading month by far but I did really enjoy some of the books I read; however I did feel like a reading slump was about to start towards the end of the month. My favourite books from the month of June include: The Scottish Boy, Heartstopper (volume three) and Floriography. 

The Scottish Boy by Alex de Campi (564 pages) ★★★★ Historical Fiction (Gay)
The first book I started for my pride month TBR which was also my longer read as it was over 550 pages and it is a new release too. We follow Harry, a newly made lord, as he returns home after arriving late to a battle between his fellow Englishmen and the Scots. As well as his new title, he also acquires a wild Scottish prisoner, Iain, as his new squire. What follows is: training for tournaments, Harrys developing relationship with Iain, training for battle, jousts, court politics and the tense relations between the countries of England, Scotland and France.

I haven't read many books, if any, set in this time period of the mid-1300s and now I need to read more. I also haven't read any books that were as graphically sexual and explicit as this one! We switch between court politics, fighting, tournaments and the struggles of managing a manor to intense sex scenes between Harry and Iain, his feisty Scottish squire. This book is definitely not for those under 18!

Overall, there were so many aspects of this book that I loved from the time period, the setting, the jousts and the hate to love relationship between Harry and Iain but there was such a cloud of sadness around the book because of the politics around who Iain is and their relationship which is viewed, at this time in history, as illegal and a sin (something Harry struggles to deal with). I also found it quite predictable as I knew who Iain was from the beginning of the book whereas it is only 'revealed' towards the end when, I b believe, it is meant to be shocking. I did enjoy the book and it has made me want to read much more historical fiction but it definitely will not be for everyone!

*Yellow Jessamine by Caitlin Starling (131 pages) ★★★ (3.5) Horror (Lesbian)
The first book I finished in June was an LGBT horror novella from Netgalley, although the LGBT elements were extremely minimal and reserved until the conclusion of the book so I feel as though they were added in *potentially* just to tick the LGBT+ box unfortunately. We follow Evelyn, in mourning for her dead brothers and parents, as she tries to run her estate and survive in the paranoid and struggling city of Delphinium, when one of her supply ships docks bringing with it a mysterious plague.

I adored the setting of this book as well as the mysterious, paranoid and shady tone. I also loved the mystery surrounding not only this new plague but Evelyn herself who holds many deadly secrets including her knowledge of poisons. It was definitely an intriguing and very creepy story at times that I'd recommend if you like darker reads.

*Lore by Aaron Mahnke (300 pages) ★★★ 
The next book I'm reviewing is one that I've been reading off and on since the beginning of March...it's been a bit of a slog to get through, if I'm honest. Lore focuses on various myths, legends, monsters, paranormal creatures, 'sightings', case studies and the history of all kinds of supernatural topics and creatures. I've read a couple of books like this so a large portion of the information was familiar to me which spoiled my reading experience somewhat so I think I would only recommend this book if you haven't read or watched much on the topic otherwise it will be repetitive, as it was for me. I did like the illustrations and some of the information, in particular the lesser known myths and creatures, but it was just disappointing overall.

The Intoxicating Mr Lavelle by Neil Blackmore (320 pages) ★★★ Historical Fiction (Gay)
After reading The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue, I wanted to read more books involving 'the grand tour' which was a European gap year of sorts filled with culture, travelling and more than a little debauchery. Within The Intoxicating Mr Lavelle, we follow the Bowen brothers as they begin their grand tour of Europe after a lifetime of learning, restriction and instruction from their parents. The grand tour isn't what it seems with deceiving aristocrats, foreign culture, prejudice and the rather maddening Mr Lavelle. Benjamin Bowen falls hopelessly under the beguiling spell of Mr Lavelle and his secrets, revolutionary ideas and his rash disregard for the opinion of others. 

As I said, I hoped this book would have some likeness to The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue and it did in terms of the European travel and culture but sadly the humour was entirely void from this read and was instead replaced with tragic obsession, fractured relationships, family secrets, abuse, homophobia, self revelations and utter heartbreak. Why do so many novels involving gay characters have to be so utterly tragic! There were aspects of this book that I loved but it was such a melancholy read that even with some rays of hope and raw emotion, it left an emptiness and pulled me into a reading slump. Also as with a couple of books I read this month, it is not suitable for those under 18 or so because of the sexual content. I would recommend this read but it's one of those books you have to be in the right frame of mind to read and I will say that, as with The Scottish Boy, it won't be for everyone. 

Heartstopper Volume Two by Alice Oseman (320 pages) ★★★ Graphic Novel (Gay/Lesbian/Trans)
I almost fell into a reading slump within June but thankfully I found the next two books in the Heartstopper graphic novel series from Alice Oseman online for free (on her Tumblr, check out the link to read the first three graphic novels for free). I bought and read the first volume back in March and loved how incredibly sweet it was so I wanted to read the other two books so I was very happy I found them for free online - I'll probably buy the series in paperback soon to support the author. 

The second volume carries on from the first as we follow Nick and Charlie as they are navigating their new relationship and all of the ups and downs that come along with it. We also learn more about both Nick and Charlie as well as their friends. I liked this one as much as the first but it definitely wasn't as memorable, for me, as the first and third books in the series. Although I highly recommend it especially for teens. 

Heartstopper Volume Three by Alice Oseman (384 pages) ★★★ (3.5) Graphic Novel (Gay/Lesbian/Trans)
As with the first and second volumes, I loved this one too and I think it was my favourite of the three so far (I think the fourth volume is going to be released next year). I adore the art style in all three, the whole series is just so heart warningly cute and I particularly liked the setting of this read as they travel to Paris! I liked the trans representation in the book as well as showing the negatives LGBT individuals face. The author never seems to shy away from difficult but important topics and she always seems to be so respectful in terms of her language. There were trigger warnings in the online version on Tumblr and those include: eating disorders, difficult family relationships, coming out, self harm and bullying. I think this series is really important especially for teens (and adults alike) to show different kinds of relationships and the struggles individuals can face in terms of their sexuality as well as other mental health issues. I wish I'd had books and graphic novels like this growing up in the 90's and early 00's! 

Before You Say I Do by Clare Lydon (292 pages) ★★★ Romance (Lesbian) 
Moving onto a female/female contemporary romance which isn't my genre at all but it was a super quick and entertaining (if very predictable and cheesy) read. We follow bride-to-be Abby as she is introduced to her wedding PA and professional bridesmaid, paid for by her soon to be husband, Marcus. The two women become closer as they plan the final arrangements for the wedding and closer still during the hen party. It was definitely predictable and so cheesy at times but it was a quick, easy and entertaining read with a happy ending. 

The Lady's Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite (336 pages) ★★★ Historial Fiction Romance (Lesbian) 
Another historical fiction read but with a female/female romance and the struggles of women being viewed as scientific equals to men. We follow Lucy, assistant to her late father's scientific work and Countless Catherine St Day, widow to an eminent but volatile academic. They try to help each other in their work and become closer in the process. I haven't read anything else by this author and I didn't know what to expect but sadly this read was just a bit boring and very unmemorable for me unfortunately. 

A History Of Death in 17th Century England by Ben Norman (208 pages) ★★★
It wouldn't be a reading wrap-up from me without a book about disease, crime or death and my morbid pick for the month of June was an upcoming release that should be available at the end of the year. A History of Death in 17th Century England is fairly self explanatory as it explores various aspects of death, from funeral rites, illness and mortality rates to the role of religion, inheritance and much more. I found most of this book thoroughly fascinating, particularly the first half or so of the book and the views of illness, disease and death at this time in English history which is very different to our own distanced view of death and modern scientific explanations of disease. 

While I found the information interesting and much of it was new to me, I didn't like the structure of the book as even though it was separated into distinct chapters, the information within each chapter felt very 'cut and paste' rather than explained in-depth or fully examined. I did find the individual contemporary accounts fascinating but the book felt like a stitched together collection of quotes, in my opinion. I did enjoy this read (however much you can enjoy a book of this nature) and I would recommend it but I think the structure and presentation of the information could have been more reader friendly and fluid, in my opinion. 

*Floriography: An Illustrated Guide to the Victorian Language of Flowers by Jessica Roux (224 pages) ★★★★
The final non-fiction read I finished was one of the most beautifully illustrated non-fiction read I've read for a while! Floriography is as the title suggests is a gorgeously illustrated read focusing on plants and flowers and their relationship to the Victorian expression of emotion. I adored the illustrations and learning about what emotions and meanings the victorians ascribed to various plants and flowers as well as the origins of the plant names, history, uses and which flowers to pair with each other. I also liked the bouquet suggests at the end of the book. Overall, I think I'll buy a copy of this book when it is released as it is so beautifully illustrated and interesting. 

Have you read any of these books?