DegustaBox - April 2020

Tuesday, April 28, 2020
It's that time of the month again for my DegustaBox review! If you've been following my blog for the past week or so then you may have read my previous post all about subscription boxes that can help you get through lockdown and I think that DegustaBox is a great option if you're looking for a monthly subscription box filled with snacks, drinks and cooking ingredients.

*DegustaBox - April 2020 (£7.99 with the code DTPL4)
Each DegustaBox contains a plethora of amazing items from well known and smaller brands as well as a variety of items for numerous dietary requirements. The box theme varies each month and the April theme is 'UK vs international' which I'm not entirely sure about but it does contain a few fantastic items. The brands included range from Very Lazy (which I love), Terrys and Tilda to lesser known options such as Sxollie, Remedy, Growers Garden and more.
*Terrys Chocolate Orange Minis - Popping Candy
I'll start with the sweet treats and the first is from Terrys but it is a variation on their original and well known chocolate orange as they now have a popping candy flavour. The change was made for Easter, although I don't think many people were able to celebrate with friends or family this year; however I hope you all received or bought some chocolatey goodies anyway! There are two bags of the popping candy mini chocolate orange segments in the box to share.
*Bynmor Flapjack (£1.29)
The second sweet treats are flapjacks from a British company I haven't heard of before! There are two bars in the box in the following flavours: caramel fudge and apple & raspberry. The apple and raspberry option is vegan and the other is vegetarian. I have tried the apple and raspberry flapjack and I love it - I knew I would as I used to eat flapjack bars either as part of my lunch in secondary school or as a treat from my aunties.
*Percy's Caramel Chocolate Shortbread Sticks (£3)
Another sweet treat that would have been perfect for Easter to share were these adorably packaged caramel chocolate shortbread sticks from another brand I haven't heard of. Sadly, they aren't vegan but if they were I think I would have loved them as I adore the combination of biscuits, chocolate and gooey caramel.
*Remedy Kombucha (£1.85 each)
I've tried a few different flavours and brands of kombucha and while I don't hate it, I haven't found a flavour that I would want to buy again, until now. There are two flavours within the box: raspberry lemonade and cherry plum. Out of the two flavours, the raspberry lemonade sounds like it would be perfect for me but it didn't have much of a flavour aside from being quite bitter but thankfully I loved the cherry plum flavour - I would buy it in the future.
*Sxollie Cider (£1.80)
Sticking with the drinks included in the box is a rather unique alcoholic drink as it is award winning, vegan and gluten free cider. Also, the apples are all sourced from the Elgin Valley in South Africa. I don't drink very often but when I do, the easy option is always cider as I know that I'll probably like it; however it's a little difficult knowing if any item is vegan (unless it is specifically mentioned on the label) so I'm glad this one is clearly labelled as vegan. Additionally, on the bottle, it states that every purchase helps empower women in South Africa which is fantastic!
*Tilda Peri Peri Microwave Rice (£1.59)
I personally can't stand microwave rice as they all taste like plastic to me but there's one that is the exception to my rule - the Tilda lemon and herb microwave rice which I adore! I hoped I would like this one too (it is suitable for vegans) and I do, thankfully. I think these packets are perfect for a super quick and easy lunch with veggies.

*Growers Garden Fresh Broccoli Crisps (£1.99)
This brand and product has been included within a previous DegustaBox and I'm glad it has returned, in my favourite flavour, as I really liked them. The flavour is sour cream and onion which is the best crisp flavour ever, don't argue with me. They are so addictive and I cannot recommend them enough although I think it will be a bit of a love it or hate it product.
*Very Lazy Pastes (£1.85 each)
The penultimate items are two of the pastes from Very Lazy which is a brand I already love and buy from. I currently have their garlic in the fridge so I'm very happy to try more. I've only used the ginger paste so far but it is fantastic. I love to cook but I hate cleaning up and I also hate having to chop up ingredients like garlic and ginger as it can be a little fiddly and tedious so these pre-made pastes are very convenient - I can't recommend them enough.
*Peppadew Sweet Piquante Peppers (£3)
The final product is one of the international items (four of the items in the box were International and the remaining six were from brands in the UK) and it is an ingredient I haven't tried before, sweet piquante peppers. The peppers are apparently great to add onto pizza, pastas, salads, wraps and burgers, among other meals so I'm interested to try them!

Don't forget to use the code: DTPL4 to get your first box for only £7.99!

Have you tried any of these products or a DegustaBox


Latest In Beauty: April 2020 Edit

Sunday, April 26, 2020
Today's post is all about the April edition of the Latest In Beauty box, which you can still purchase, and it's one of the best ever! As some of you may know, if you have been following my blog for a while, I am lucky enough to review the Latest In Beauty boxes each month. I am sent the *Latest In Beauty Beauty Guru Box (£22, one off box) and it contains six items, although there are two other box options to choose from if you want more or less products within your box. 

There are so many aspects about the Latest In Beauty boxes and the subscription in general such as the wide range of products each month, the packaging, the brands included and the flexibility that I love but one of my favourite things is the monthly theme and daily product additions to the monthly selection. At the start of each month, there's a sneak peek of all the items in the box so you can see what will be included. I had my eye on a couple of products I waited to order so my review of the April box is a little late, oops! 
*Oh K! Three Step Sheet Mask 
I'll start with the one skincare item I added to my box for April and it's a Korean sheet mask from Oh K! I have tried masks from this brand before and loved them so I was interested to try another especially as it's unlike any other mask I've tried before. I have tried a two step mask but this one contains not one, not two but three steps. Firstly, you use the detoxifying cleanser, followed by the anti-pollution sheet mask then the soothing serum. I cannot wait to try this mask!
*Schwarzkopf Colour Expert Permanent Hair Dye - Dark Brown
I'm always so intrigued by the items included within each months selection because they can be so varied and I think my April box is a great example of the range on offer as I was able to add a makeup item, shampoo, Korean sheet mask, makeup sponge cleanser, luxe body care products and a hair dye in my box. Where else you you receive such a wide variety of products in one subscription box!

As we are currently in lockdown, I wanted to choose items that would be useful for the next few weeks so I had to choose a hair dye as the greys are getting too out of hand! I am in my late twenties but I have had to dye my hair since I was around 22 because of grey hairs so I think hair dye is a lockdown essential for me! I haven't tried the dye yet but I will be very soon especially as it claims to provide long lasting colour and 100% grey coverage that also protects the hair from damage.
*System Professional Inessence Shampoo (50ml)
The second haircare item I added was a mini shampoo from System Professional which is a brand I haven't heard of before. The shampoo claims to reduce frizz (which is something my hair has in abundance), improve manageability and provide instant refreshment. It has a very salon-like scent which I love and I can't wait to give it a go as I'm not loving the shampoo I'm currently using.
*Molton Brown Heavenly Gingerlily Shower Gel and Body Lotion
Every month there will be a Hall Of Fame product (or in this case, two products), that are the highlights of the box. I'm always very happy with the Hall Of Fame products and I typically choose them to be included in my box and when I noticed that the April products were from Molton Brown...I was very excited. Molton Brown is one of my favourite luxury body care brands and I love all of their scents so I knew these two products would be heavenly, as the name suggests.

Typically the Hall Of Fame product is one item but the April box contains both the 100ml shower gel as well as the 100ml body lotion, in the same scent. The scent is so perfect for spring as it is very floral, fresh and uplifting to match the glorious sunny weather we've been having. I'm very happy with both Hall Of Fame products this month and I can't wait to see what next months selection brings.
*Sponge Clean Cleanser 
There are new products added to the selection each month but a few remain for a while and one item I've been intrigued by is this beauty sponge cleanser. It comes in a 250ml bottle and claims to wash beauty sponges (such as a Beauty Blender) easily and effectively so they are like-new after washing. I haven't tried the sponge cleanser yet but I'm interested to see how it differs from just using soap and water. It has a lovely summery scent and I hope I'll be able to use it on my makeup brushes too.
*Evalina Beauty Shimmer Shadow Stick - Stardust 
Last but not least is a makeup item and I typically don't choose the makeup items from the Latest In Beauty selection as they tend to come in a randomly selected shade but thankfully for this beautiful eyeshadow stick, I loved all of the three shades on offer. I received the shade 'stardust' which is a gorgeous and very summery peachy pink shade that looks so pretty on the eyes as a single wash of colour for a quick, easy makeup look. I've only tried it once so far and I love the shade as well as the formula but it creases almost instantly on my fairly deep set eyes so I will have to try it with a primer in the future and hope that it prevents creasing.

I recently published a new post all about my subscription box recommendations for self isolation and those in quarantine, if you want more subscription box reviews. 

Have you tried any of these products? What do you think of the April selection? 


*Get Your Skin Ready For Summer

Thursday, April 23, 2020
Image from Pinterest
*This is a sponsored post 
As summer approaches, there are loads of companies out there pushing exercise regimes, diet plans and products all aimed at getting you ‘beach body ready’. Whilst you’re so busy focusing on your physique, it’s easy to forget about one of the most important parts of your body: your skin. Your skin is a prominent feature no matter what you’re wearing, but especially in the summer when you’re wearing fewer clothes and keen to show off your dewy, sun kissed complexion. With this in mind, here are some of the ways you can prepare your skin for the summer, so that you look as fresh and ready for the sun as you feel.

Learn About Your Skin Type 
The first step to changing any part of your skincare regime is to learn about your skin type, if you don’t know it already. If you’re using the wrong type of product for your skin, then it simply won’t work, or could even exacerbate any problems you may have. As well as the type of skin you have, consider any allergies you have and any past experiences you’ve had with certain products or ingredients. This will save you a lot of time and effort finding the skincare solutions that will work for you.

Exfoliate Properly For Smooth Skin 
Before you start slathering on expensive skincare products and face masks to get your skin ready for the summer, it’s important that you exfoliate. When done properly, exfoliation can get rid of all of the grime and dead skin cells on your body and leave the surface primed and ready for your skincare regime. Don’t just exfoliate your face: your entire body needs to be scrubbed clean before you start using products and techniques to improve the look and feel of your skin.

Clear Out Your Makeup Bag 
While you’re out there spending time and money on a flawless skincare regime, the makeup you put on every day could be sabotaging your efforts. If your makeup is old and your tools are unclean, then you’ll be covering your face in germs and dirt everyday. Check the expiry dates on your makeup, and if in doubt, throw it out. It’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to the makeup you use, as poor quality, dirty or expired products could be having a detrimental long-term effect on not only the appearance of your skin, but also its health. Your skin is the biggest organ on your body, so it’s important that you take good care of it, even if that means sacrificing your favourite, out-of-date eyeshadow palette.

Rejuvenate Your Face 
A harsh winter and months of hard living can leave your face looking worse for wear. To get it back in peak condition in time for the summer, work with the aesthetic treatment specialists at Clinetix. From Botox to non-surgical facelifts and beyond, the team has the experience to help you find the treatment that will suit your face and give you the visage you desire.

The Food You Eat Can Affect Your Skin 
Your skincare regime shouldn’t just revolve around the products you put on your skin: you also need to think about the food you put into your body. Some foods will help your skin to rejuvenate and look great in time for the summer, so try to incorporate them into your diet to get the best skin you can in time for the warmer weather. Following these tips will help you to achieve the glistening, tanned summer skin you’ve always dreamed of. Once summer arrives, remember to protect your skin with sun cream. Healthy skin looks and feels beautiful, so it’s important that you use these tips to keep your skin looking great in the run-up to summer and beyond.

Do you have any summer skincare tips, advice or product recommendations? 

Subscription Boxes To Help You Get Through Lockdown

Wednesday, April 22, 2020
If you've been following my blog or my reviews on for a while then you'll know just how much I love subscription boxes. I've bought many over the years, from the first Glossybox and Birchbox to My Little Box (which was one of my all time favourites) and My Geek Box as well as many others, all of which I am lucky enough to be sent for review.

With the current lockdown across the UK, it has been difficult for everyone to obtain groceries and other essentials so subscription boxes might be a great way to either treat yourself (I've wanted to comfort shop a lot recently) or to buy basics such as toiletries, hygiene items, food, snacks, books or treats. If you're looking for a subscription box to treat yourself (or someone else) to or if you want to purchase a subscription box filled with basics or essentials then hopefully you'll find some inspiration in today's post.
Shower Supplies: *Bubble T Soapscription (£4.99 per month)
I have mentioned Bubble T on my blog previously within my gift guides and I cannot recommend their products enough as they look so cute and the bath bombs I've tried have been fantastic. As well as their individual products and gifts, they also have a shower gel subscription box in which you'll receive two shower gels each month which come in a cardboard box that can fit through a letterbox so you don't need to be home or answer to door for it to be delivered.

I think the price is great and you can get your first box for free! You can choose when you want your box delivered as well as the two shower gel fragrances included. I've tried so many of their scents and they are genuinely heavenly and quite unusual, compared to generic shower gels. I also adore the packaging and I think it would make a lovely little practical treat for a loved one during this rather difficult time.
Hair Removal: *Friction Free Shaving (from £9)
Another subscription containing items that may be considered basics or essentials is the Friction Free Shaving box which depending on the items you want to add to your box, contains at least a sturdy metal razor handle and a set of four blades for your new razor. The razor blade head contains a vitamin infused strip and the razor features six diamond-coated steel blades each: this basic package is £9 but you can add the shave cream, wax strips, deodorant or lip balm to your box as well if you want to pay for extras.
In addition, to the extras you can add to your box, you can also have the metal handle engraved with a name or word of your choice. I've been using it on and off for the past couple of weeks and I love it as it's easy to use, I love the rose gold handle (although the new spring collection is very pretty too) and I like using the extras, especially the natural deodorant in the rosemary and bergamot scent. The deodorant smells heavenly, it is 100% natural and it is very effective.

I've been looking for a more sustainable hair removal option and this one is ideal as the metal handle can be re-used, they have a blade recycling scheme (although I believe that it is currently on hold), the packaging is recyclable and their products are cruelty free, what more could you ask for! I cannot recommend it enough especially if you are looking to make a few sustainable and more eco-friendly choices.
Beauty Treats: *LookFantastic Box (£15 per month)
Moving onto a few beauty treat boxes, the first is one of my favourite subscription boxes, LookFantastic. I think LookFantastic is one of the best beauty boxes out there, alongside the Latest In Beauty boxes, as they always have a great range of items and brands within their monthly selections. I have discovered so many fantastic products from their boxes over the years including my most recent favourite, the StarSkin 100% Camellia Sheet Mask which was part of the April box and I utterly adored it. It is the first sheet mask I've actually noticed results from and I will be purchasing it in the future!
*Latest In Beauty (from £16)
If you are looking for a beauty treat but you want to have flexibility in not only the price and number of items you'll receive but also the individual items themselves then look no further than the amazing boxes from Latest In Beauty. I am lucky enough to receive them each month to review on my blog as well as their unbelievably good value limited edition boxes. The monthly selection is always fantastic and contains a great mix of luxury items, makeup, skincare, body care and more including toiletries, hygiene items, tea and beauty tools so I'm sure you'll find a few treats as well as a few 'essential' items too.
Food, Snacking & Drinks 
*DegustaBox (£12.99 - £7.99 with the code DTPL4)

Last but not least, the only food subscription box on today's list and with the code DTPL4 you can get your first box for only £7.99 which is great value! I'm a DegustaBox ambassador so I'm lucky enough to receive their boxes to review but I genuinely cannot recommend them enough as they contain such a wide range products each month, from cooking ingredients, drinks and snacks to vegan options, sweet treats and more. I think it's a great box for everyone but especially families or house mates to share.

More subscription services & boxes recommendations:

I have reviewed so many subscription boxes on my blog so if you are still looking for more recommendations or reviews check them out! I think for our current situation and shortages, subscription boxes for essentials and basics are a great alternative. Do make sure to recycle the packaging, wash packaging if needed and wash your hands after opening any parcels!

Have you tried any of these subscription boxes? 


Spring TBR + New Bookcase

Monday, April 20, 2020
With the lockdown in the UK being extended for at least another three weeks, I find it brings a mix of anxiety (thanks to far less work than I would normally have at this time of the year) and the excitement around having extra time to devote to something new, whether it is DIY jobs around the house, sorting out freelance admin or trying to meet some of the reading goals I've had in mind for a while.

The anxiety and bizarre nature of our current global situation has allowed me to find comfort in reading again as for the past few months and at the end of 2019, I found myself in a reading slump most of the time but now I'm excited to read again. I don't know if it's because I have more time so there is less pressure to read or if the glorious weather is helping my mood but whatever the reason, I'm loving reading again and it has been helping my anxiety immensely!
*Shamus Bookcase from Wayfair (£56.99)
Within today's post I wanted to share some of the books that are on my current TBR (to be read) list as well as my new bookcase from Wayfair which I adore! I was very kindly sent this minimal ladder-style bookcase by Hashtag Home on Wayfair and I couldn't be happier with it, in terms of how easy it was to put together, the minimal design, how well it fits into an awkward narrow space in my bedroom and how it has allowed me to organise my books, especially my TBR books, into a better order.

I've wanted a ladder-style bookcase like this for at least a year but I haven't found one that has the narrow size I'd need as well as the colour, number of shelves and price point I was looking for but I found everything I wanted in this bookcase. It was very quick and easy to put together and I think it is an ideal storage or display solution for those narrow awkward places in the home around other furniture. I'm currently using it for books but it would be great for plants in the kitchen, pamper products in the bathroom or decor in the living room.
If you've been following my Instagram (@ofbeautyand) then you'll have seen my bookcases and how I organise my books already as they were the main background of my blog and social media photos up until recently but I have wanted to switch up my book organisation a little. I personally organise the books on my main bookcases in our home office by colour but I wanted to separate the books I'm most interested in reading from my main collection.

I've added all of the physical books that I'd love to prioritise and read over the spring and summer months to my new bookcase and it has definitely added to my excitement to get to these books, including a range of famous fantasy, non-fiction and classics. My physical TBR isn't too overwhelming but adding in my ebooks and arcs from publishers and it gets a little out of hand so it's great to have a bookcase dedicated to books I'm excited about so they don't get forgotten about on my main bookcases.

Here are just a few of the books I'd love to read in my spring months:

  • The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas (classic)
  • 100 Nasty Women of History by Hannah Jewell (non-fiction)
  • The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss (fantasy)
  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (classic) 
  • The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (sci-fi)
  • Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch (fantasy)

I have many more books on my current TBR and it is only going to expand especially as there are quite a few new releases coming out in the next few months that I'm interested in. If you are a book blogger then definitely check out Netgalley as you may be able to receive free books before they are published to review.

Have you been reading more during lockdown? Are you following my on GoodReads? What do you think of my new bookcase? 


Latest In Beauty Style Beauty Awards 2020 Box

Friday, April 17, 2020
Today's post is very exciting as it contains a limited edition subscription box, that isn't available now unfortunately, that features so many incredible products and I was lucky enough to not only receive the box for free to review but I was quick enough to choose all of the products I wanted, including the heavenly Lisa Eldridge lipstick in Velvet Ribbon and the much coveted Urban Decay setting spray!

*Latest In Beauty Style Awards 2020 Box (£30)
Latest In Beauty is tied as my favourite beauty subscription box as not only are their monthly boxes amazing value for money and you can choose every item within the box but their limited edition boxes are absolutely incredible, in terms of the value of the items, the saving and the higher end brands included. I've reviewed the monthly boxes and a few of the limited edition boxes previously on my blog but I think this one is probably my favourite.
*Lisa Eldridge Lipstick in Velvet Ribbon 
I'll start with the product I wanted the most from the amazing selection, the Lisa Eldridge lipstick in the shade 'velvet ribbon'. When Lisa Eldridge launched her second range of lipstick shades last year I bought the shade 'velvet muse' and I absolutely adore it but I wish that I'd bought more so I was squealing with excitement when I saw that a Lisa Eldridge lipstick was going to be included in the second wave of products released for this collection.

I feel very lucky that I was able to review the box and that I was able to get all of the products I wanted but especially this lipstick (the ordering process was quite stressful but the amazing people behind Latest In Beauty were fantastic as always and never deserve the negative comments they received). The packaging, formula and finish is the same as my 'velvet muse' shade so I knew I'd love it but the shade is even more beautiful than I thought it would be! The 'velvet ribbon' shade is the most perfect classic red that feels comfortable on the lips and is very easy to apply even for such a vibrant shade. The longevity is great, even though it does transfer and when it does fade, it is even. I cannot wait for Lisa Eldridge to release more shades in the future!
*Urban Decay All Nighter Setting Spray 
One of the most coveted products on the list and one of the items that sold out first is this famous setting spray from Urban Decay. I used to love their eyeshadow palettes but I haven't tried anything from them for so long! I've only been able to try this product once as I received my box of goodies this morning (you can see all of my blogger mail and unboxings on my Instagram - @ofbeautyand) but my first impressions are very positive.

I used the spray over my regular makeup routine including the incredible It Cosmetics CC Cream (which lasts well anyway) and it somehow made my makeup look even more fresh and like-new all day. I have normal to dry skin and it worked well for me today in the lovely sunny weather we've been having but I'm not sure how effectively it would work on very oily skin types.
*Josh Wood Tinted Dry Shampoo in Darker Brown
As with the monthly Latest In Beauty boxes, I like to choose items that I will use everyday so I had to choose a tinted dry shampoo as I hoped it would tackle my two main hair issues: second day greasiness and grey hair....yes, I have far too many grey hairs for some under thirty! I've used this dry shampoo today on second day hair and it works well for helping my hair look and feel less greasy and the tint is significant enough to reduce the look of greys, especially when spray on directly and not brushed through. The tint does transfer to my hands when I touch my hair, which isn't ideal but I will be trying it out more over the next couple of weeks.
*Garnier Hair Food Banana and Coconut Shampoo & Conditioner 
Another essential set of products I added to my basket was this new shampoo and conditioner duo from Garnier. The products contain a vegan formula, the bottle is composed of 50% recycled plastic and the bottle is 100% recyclable which is fantastic. Additionally, the shampoo and conditioner both contain 98% natural origin ingredients such as banana fruit juice and coconut oil.

I love the packaging and I adore the scent of both products as they smell like those foam banana sweets from my childhood (I need to find out if they are vegan and if they are...I'll be buying a small mountain of them). I haven't tried either yet but I can't wait to as I love the scent and there are many positive reviews online already.
*Sally Hansen Insta Dri Nail Polish in 253 Petal To The Metal 
Last but not least is a product I don't think I would have addd to my basket if I hadn't been absolutely loving the range already. I bought a couple of the neutral shades and the accompanying top coat from the Salley Hansen Insta Dri range a couple of months ago and they are the only polishes I've been using since - I could throw away all of my others. The brush is the perfect size, the polishes dry very quickly as does the top coat and the shades last for at least a week on me before I need to remove them and reapply, which is always such a quick and fuss free process.

Have you tried any of these products? Did you managed to purchase one of the Style Awards 2020 boxes? 


March Reading Wrap-Up 2020

Wednesday, April 15, 2020
March was a bit of a strange reading month as for the first half of the month I was in a reading slump and the second half involved a lockdown and almost no work so there was plenty of time for reading. I managed to read 11 books in March but annoyingly I failed on my monthly goal of reading one book over 500 pages. However, my favourite books from the month include: The Black Hawks and The Oldest House In London.

*The Empress Of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo (112 pages) ★★★
I've discovered a few interesting novellas recently and the first was an arc from Netgalley - I love the novellas! I mentioned in last months wrap-up that I was a little obsessed with South East Asia, especially Japan, China and South Korea and that has carried on into March. I've read a few books that are either set in South East Asia or inspired by those countries including this novella by Nghi Vo.

We follow the life of an empress, through the stories of one of her now elderly handmaidens. The novella confused me a little initially as the story is being told to a traveller who is non-binary (which I wasn't expecting) and the magical realism/fantasy elements were also a little confusing as I thought it was a historical fiction - that's my fault for not fully reading reviews beforehand. After the initial confusion, it was an interesting mix of an Asian period drama or historical fiction with fantasy elements and female friendships. I didn't connect or love it as I hoped I would but I will definitely be looking out for more from this author.

The Black Hawks by David Wragg (429 pages) ★★★★
Next up is a debut fantasy read with comparisons to Nicholas Eames and Scott Lynch, the latter is one of my favourite fantasy authors so naturally I had to buy it. We follow Chel, knight and step-nephew to a lord, as he escapes an attack on the kingdom and is now in service to the young and bratty Prince Tarfel. Chel and Prince Tarfel find themselves kidnapped by a rag-tag group of meranceies and fighters, The Black Hawks, and what follows is a thoroughly enjoyable read with banter, camaraderie, fighting, politics and much more.

My initial thoughts were positive and I loved how quick and easy to book was but I didn't love it until The Black Hawks became involved as the banter, dialogue and interactions between them were perfect and reminded me of the dark humour and friendships in The Lies of Locke Lamora and Kings of The Wyld. I also loved the action, fight scenes and the characters of Chel and Lemon, in particular. Overall, I absolutely loved this read and my only negative was the start was a little slow and it became a bit drawn out in a couple of sections throughout the book but I highly recommend it and I can't wait for the next in the series.

The Oldest House In London by Fiona Rule (288 pages) ★★★
We all know by now that I adore niche history books and this one is no exception! I've read a fair few books around various aspects of the history of London, from crime and the beginnings of the police force to medical history, Bethlem and the Thames so there were many facts and stories throughout the book that weren't new to me but it still contained fascinating information not only about the specific house and the surrounding area but the people who owned the house and their lives as well as English history in general.

It was a quick, easy to follow and enjoyable read about so many aspects of British history and how it relates to the house and its surroundings, from the history of the buildings, the plague and riots to religious persecution, the demolition of historic buildings and the future of the oldest house in London. If you're looking for a niche and interesting non-fiction read, check out this book, especially as it is currently free on Kindle Unlimited.

*The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water by Zen Cho (176 pages) ★★★
The second novella I read in March was The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water that is also an Asian fantasy read - it seems to be a genre I am a little obsessed with now. We follow Guet Imm, as she joins a group of thieves to protect a sacred object but she gets more than she bargained for! I haven't read anything by this author before but I've heard great things and I think this novella was a good, quick and easy introduction to her writing. I loved the premise of the story and the camaraderie between the bandits as well as the action scenes and exploration of gender and gender roles but it wasn't as engaging as I'd hoped it would be sadly.

*The Gold Eater (Undertaker #1) by Xavier Dorison (66 pages) ★★★
Throughout late 2019 and early 2020, I read quite a few manga and graphic novels but I only managed to read one recently. We follow Jonas Crow, an undertaker, as he is asked to transport the body of a recently deceased man who made his millions in mining but shortly before his death he swallowed all of his gold which leads to fights, a race to reach the body and unrest in the mining town. I loved the Wild West setting, the art style and how unusual the premise is but as with a couple of the other short reads I finished in March, it just wasn't as great or memorable as I wanted it to be.

Sweetest Thing by Natasha West (235 pages) ★★★
My typical reading genres include fantasy, non-fiction and mysteries but I thought I'd give this contemporary female/female romance a go in March as it was free on Kindle Unlimited. We follow Robyn and Jodie as they are both selected to take part in a baking tv show. What follows is rivalry, relationship issues, a hate to love 'romance' and Bake Off-like judges. It was definitely a very cheesy, corny read but it was a good escape and a very quick/easy read. Although I don't think I'll be reading many more contemporary romance reads any time soon, it's just not a genre I really enjoy.

Pure by Andrew Miller (346 pages) ★★★
March has been a bit of a strange month for everyone and for me, one of the best forms of escapism and something that also massively helps with my anxiety and constantly worrying mind is reading. The end of March was basically a readathon for me as I tried to read as much as I could, including this title which has been on my bookshelves for so long! Set around the time of the French Revolution, we follow a young and ambitious engineer as he is set the daunting task of demolishing a church within the heart of Paris. What the engineer finds, along with the bones of long dead Parisians, are new found (if eccentric) friends, superstition, love and a noxious scent that lingers over the graveyard.

I loved the time period, the setting of Paris, the eerie premise of the book and the very visceral and vivid characters. You can probably deduce from the premise that it is quite a bleak book focusing on more than a few macabre topics but thankfully it did have a few rays of hope throughout it; although probably not the most appropriate or uplifting read for our current global pandemic...I didn't like the book as much as I'd hoped but it was a quick read and I will be looking out for more books from this author in the future.

Horrorstor Grady Hendrix (240 pages) ★★★
In the month of February, I read my first book by Grady Hendrix and fell in love, sadly not fully with the story itself, but with the raw and gritty writing style as well as the macabre and dark topics so I had to read another of his books. Horrorstor is unlike any other book I've read as it is a contemporary horror novel set in a version of Ikea...yes, Ikea. The cover looks like an Ikea catalog and within the book there are various product pages and descriptions of the store as you imagine an Ikea store to be structured.

The bizarre nature of the book doesn't stop there, as you'll find zombie like creatures, fear, claustrophobia, bugs, trapped spirits and more. At times it was a little slow but other moments were filled with shock and almost a sense of claustrophobia that was more than a little unsettling! While I didn't love the main character or the ending on the whole, I did completely love the Ikea-like setting and the entirely bizarre and horror filled nature of the book. I will be reading more from Grady Hendrix soon.

Air Awakens by Elise Kova (342 pages) ★★★ (3.5)
I haven't been fully loving most of the books I read in March, apart from The Black Hawks, so I went back to my faithful fantasy reads with another Kindle Unlimited book. In Air Awakens we follow library apprentice Vhalla as she unknowingly saves the life of the crown prince and unlocks her rare and feared magical abilities as a sorcerer. I adore books that feature magic of any kind and particularly when the main character learns that they have magical abilities (cough, Harry Potter, cough) so I already knew I'd like the read from the premise.

There were so many things I loved about this book from the very quick and easy writing style, the page turning pace, the magic and the relationship between Vhalla and the prince. It was a very enjoyable, fast paced fantasy read that was a fantastic escape. My only negative was the predictable story line and the common YA fantasy tropes. However, I loved the book overall and it was one of my favourite books of the month but I'm not sure if I'll carry on with the series. Although that being said, I will read more from this author especially as most of her books are free on Kindle Unlimited.

The Queen Of Spades by Alexander Pushkin (47 pages) ★★★
For the first time in months I finished a classic book, even if it was an incredibly short read! A couple of years ago Penguin released their Penguin Little Black Classics series and I bought a few but never got round to reading them. One of the 'little black classics' was this novella by the famous Russian author Alexander Pushkin. We follow a young officer as he learns about a secret that could lead him to wealth and riches but it comes at a cost. I've only read a couple of Russian classics, including War and Peace, and they tend to have fairly strong moral messages within them and this read is the same. It focuses on greed, obsession, treachery and the folly of gambling. It was an extremely quick but surprisingly easy to follow read that I'd definitely recommend.

Halloween Tales Volume One by Olivier Boiscommun (53 pages) ★★
The final book I read in March was a very quick halloween themed comic book that initially intrigued me as the cover looks amazing and it looked a little reminiscent of Ray Bradbury's famous The Halloween Tree (which I adored). Sadly, despite being a super quick, easy read and having a very unusual art style, it wasn't what I expected or wanted, if I'm honest. It contained themes of grief, loss and struggling to cope, if that's something you're trying to avoid. I would recommend checking out the appealing but bizarre art style, only if you have Kindle Unlimited as it is currently free if you have a trial or subscription.

Have you read any of these books? Are you, like me, reading much more during lockdown?


*How To Make Your Garden Summer Ready

Monday, April 13, 2020
Images from Sky-Line Design
This is a sponsored post
Happy bank holiday Monday! The weather has been utterly glorious in northern England recently (obviously it would take a nation wide lockdown and quarantine for the English weather to be this nice) so I've been spending much more time in the garden reading and 'helping' to tidy the garden (note: 'help' in this context means running away from bugs and eating vegan ice cream).

There are some aspects of our garden that I love such as our very impressive and beautiful cherry blossom tree (you may be seeing quite a lot of it over on my Instagram stories this spring - @ofbeautyand) and our summer house but there are other areas that I would like to improve while I'm currently working from home with either new garden furniture, plants, paint or outdoor lights.
Outdoor Lighting 
If you have been following my blog or social media for a while then you might have noticed that I love fairy lights and unique lighting. I would love to add fairy lights that are suitable for outdoor use in the garden, especially around the cherry blossom tree or summer house. I think lanterns with fake candles, solar lights along the driveway or even LED planters would make a great addition to the garden!

We have a few pieces of outdoor furniture but they are now spider infested plastic monstrosities that I can't be near without almost hyperventilating about bugs so I would love to update the furniture to either wooden benches at the front of the house or rattan furniture in the back garden. I personally love the look of the 'Brando Seashell' and 'Flexx' collections from Skyline Design as well as the selection of outdoor poof stools.

Skyline Design offers a wide range of premium quality all weather outdoor furniture as well as outdoor lighting, accessories, parasols, statues and more. With over 32 years of experience designing and manufacturing natural rattan garden furniture, you'll be sure to find something to refresh and update your garden for the upcoming summer months.

New Plants 
The cherry blossom tree is my favourite aspect of the garden especially when it is in bloom but I would love to add even more flowers and colour into the garden as it is so uplifting and makes the garden look even more inviting while also adding more to habitats and food sources for the birds, bees and occasional hedgehogs that visit our garden in the spring and summer months. New plants, outdoor lightning and new comfortable furniture would make an ideal outdoor working space for me during our current lockdown - I can't wait to update the garden!

Are you spending more time in your garden during the lockdown? 

Easter Lunch + Decor Ideas with Wayfair

Saturday, April 11, 2020
Happy Easter weekend everyone! Even though this years Mother's Day and Easter plans have been derailed slightly due to the corona virus, we are still going to be celebrating with family this year! I've passed on Easter gifts to my family that live close to us this morning and I'm baking some Easter treats for us today as well. I'm planning on a very relaxed Easter Sunday with plenty of time for eating and reading!

Easter has been something my family have always celebrated with lots of food, meeting up with cousins and receiving Easter eggs or other small gifts. However, I think an Easter lunch (a belated one or a lunch via Skype/Facetime with family and friends) would be a lovely idea to stay connected to each other and celebrate with good food and company.
*Tea, Coffee and Sugar Jar Set from Three Posts via Wayfair (£55.99)
I was very kindly allowed to choose a few items from Wayfair to create my Easter lunch table this year and I'm so happy with every item I chose, especially this gorgeous tea, coffee and sugar jar set. The set contains cute ceramic jars for tea, coffee and sugar as well as a stand and small wooden drawers beneath the jars. I absolutely adore the design of not only the cute jars with their metal labels and the materials used but the farmhouse style look of the set - it fits perfectly with our modern but rustic kitchen decor.

Tea is a quintessential British drink and it wouldn't be lunch (or breakfast...or anytime of the day) without a cup of tea so it has to feature as part of my Easter lunch, particually when the set looks so gorgeous as this one does. I personally love herbal, mint and floral tea blends so this set is ideal for storing a couple of different tea varieties within the jars and drawers so there's something for everyone this Easter.
*Wooden Tea Box from Borough Wharf via Wayfair (£18.99)
Another option for storing tea (or hot chocolate sachets, if you prefer) is this cute and rustic looking tea box that would be ideal as part of a Easter lunch table as everyone can help themselves to a variety of tea flavours. I have quite a lot of tea, from Teapigs and Clipper to Twinnings and Whittards but they are all in open boxes so this storage and presentation solution is fantastic. I've wanted a new way to store all of the loose teabags I have for a while so the timing is perfect and I couldn't be happier with the way it looks in our kitchen.
*Ornamental Lily Stems (£18.93, for three stems)
There's nothing more spring-like than beautiful and freshly bloomed flowers but sadly it isn't very easy to pick up fresh flowers from your local store or supermarket currently (although ordering online from independent stores is a great option to help smaller local business); although artificial flowers might be a great alternative. I adore flowers, whether they are fresh or artificial, as they can make any room of the house look instantly more inviting, fresh and brighter.

However, the cheap artificial flowers I've tried in the past haven't been great in terms of their quality and how realistic they look but thankfully this set of three artificial lily stems from The Seasonal Aisle via Wayfair are the nicest artificial flowers I've tried. I love the colours as they suit my decor very well, they look so pretty in photographs (I always try to use flowers in my blog photos) and they look relatively realistic as far as artificial flowers can. They'd make a nice spring addition to any room but especially as a centrepiece for an Easter lunch.
*Wrendale Designs Wooden Cutting Board from Royal Worcester via Wayfair (£19.99 - sale)
As well as chocolate eggs and getting together with my family, Easter has always been about food, cooking and baking. I love to cook but since switching to a vegan diet in January 2019, I have been baking nearly as much but I'm planning to change that this Easter weekend with some delicious (hopefully) vegan baked goodies. I have my eye on a few recipes including vegan brownies (which I keep failing at but I will try again as I do love gooey brownies) and freshly baked flat bread.

I have a few cheap plastic cutting boards but this one is so beautiful and looks gorgeous in the kitchen. I have been using it as a cutting board since I received it earlier in the week (check out my Instagram stories for blogger mail and unboxings - @ofbeautyand) but I think it would also look very spring-appropriate and cute as a wooden serving board as part of an Easter lunch or Easter afternoon tea.
*Cristian Chevron Flannel Fleece Throw from August Grove via Wayfair (£21.99 - sale)
The weather in England for the past few weeks has been pretty glorious, naturally we would have rare lovely weather in England during a lockdown when we are all confined to our homes! Although it can be a little chilly in the evenings, particularly when we are sitting in the summerhouse so a cute and warm throw is the ideal addition to an Easter lunch in the garden, balcony or summerhouse, if you are lucky enough to have them.

I love anything related to hygge at all times of the year so candles, cooking items and cosy homeware are instant buys for me. I probably own far too many throws and blankets but I can always make room for one more, especially a throw that is a very uplifting and spring-like yellow colour! You may have noticed from my Instagram colour scheme lately that brighter spring colours are not so slowly taking over and I'm loving it! Brighter and fresh colours definitely help to improve my mood!
I couldn't be happier with the items I was very kindly sent from Wayfair to create my own little Easter lunch table at home and just in time for Easter Sunday tomorrow! I cannot recommend all of the items enough (particularly the gorgeous tea, coffee and sugar jar set) as well as the process of shopping on Wayfair as it was very easy to narrow down the items I wanted via the filters and there is so much choice!

I think that shopping online is a much safer choice compared to going to physical shops currently so I think that if you're looking to update your home this spring, redecorate, buy home-related Easter gifts or to buy homeware essentials (such as cooking pans, DIY items, indoor/outdoor furniture or redecorating supplies), Wayfair is a great option to choose from with lots of choice, fast delivery options for certain items and so many offers, daily deals and outlet items.

For more ideas on how to decorate your table for an Easter lunch check out the Wayfair blog as well as their post on Easter crafting ideas!

Have you bought anything from Wayfair? What do you think of the items I've chosen for my Easter lunch table?