Monday, 31 August 2020

August Book Round-Up

I sort of slowed down reading wise during August. If a book is marked * I've very kindly received it free of charge from netgalley or direct from the publisher. Here's what I've been reading in August:

Sight Unseen by Sandra Ireland* - this is the first book in the Sarah Sutherland series. I took part in the blog tour - see my review HERE. Great start to a new series.

The Suspect by Fiona BartonTwo, eighteen year old girls, Alex and Rosie go missing on their gap year in Thailand. Understandably their parents are frantic with worry. Journo, Kate Waters is the first on the scene to scoop the story for her paper. It also makes her think of her own son Jake, who is in Thailand too.

When the devastating news breaks Kate gets on the families sides in order to gain her exclusive. What she doesn't know is that her own life is also going to change dramatically when they arrive in Thailand....

Meanwhile, DI Bob Sparkes sets up his own investigation into the crimes with the help of his colleague which take them to the heart of the case.

A twisty read with interesting characters, full of secrets, lies and half-truths. I was totally engrossed in the story. Would recommend (I didn't realise this was part of a series, it's perfectly fine to read as a standalone - although I will go back and start at the beginning!)

The Scented Candle Workshop by Niko Dafkos & Paul Firmin - I received this book at Christmas and finally got round to reading it! (I've recently started dabbling in making my own wax melts so a lot of this book made more sense than when I looked at it after Christmas). 

Hugely informative with lots of ideas, tried and tested information, scent structure, wicks, wax and vessels as well as formulations and step-by-step guides to creating your own candles. Would recommend.

*Resurrection Men (Sooty Feathers #1) by David Craig - this was a large book with 424 pages. I found myself totally engrossed in the story quite early on which is set in supernatural 19th century Glasgow and the West of Scotland. 

University student, Wilton Hunt joins forces with local Pharmacist, Tam Foley to make some extra cash on the side as body snatchers for a local Professor at the Uni. When one such job goes wrong they uncover something which is bigger and more complex than they'd ever imagine. A fast paced and compelling fantasy read with interesting characters and lots of twists and turns. Would very highly recommend.

*Lost Cause (DI Kelly Porter #8) by Rachel LynchI'm always excited to pick up a new DI Kelly Porter tale and this latest one is jam packed with twists and turns. A body is found in a wheelie bin and Kelly and the team wonder if it could be connected to the recent spate of missing women.

There's a new team member Dan Houghton, who seems to think exactly like Kelly, in fact he wanted to join her team and work with her and he seems to be slotting in just fine.

What is the connection with the holiday let business, which despite being the middle of winter is full to capacity and what is misfit Kevin Flint hiding which could be crucial to the case?

As ever, we meet up once again with Ted, Johnny and Josie. With things having moved up a notch Johnny and his daughter are moving in. Something she's excited about but nervous about too. As ever, the story gripped me until I turned the very last page. I just so recommend this book and series. I just love Kelly Porter. Roll on book #9.

From last month (awaiting publication):

What Red Was by Rosie Price*Kate and Max met in the first week of Uni and have been platonic friends ever since even though they come from different walks of life. Working class Kate lives with her single mum (when not at Uni) and Max is a Rippon - posh but grounded and who comes from a very wealthy family.

Her life changes in a split second at Max's party when she's raped in his parent's bedroom. She can't let Max know and her life spirals out of control. She begins drinking too much, looses all confidence, has panic attacks and begins to self-harm.

She fears seeing him again as Max and his sister Nicole moves in the same circles. She can't confide in anyone until Max's mother takes her into her confidence. Zara is a famous film director who likes Kate and wants to help her.. At the film premier she's shocked how true to her experience the film is and feels betrayed.

I felt the author made us the reader feel everything that Kate's going through and we are there awaiting for her to come out the other side. Something kept me reading so I guess I'd recommend it.

What have you been reading this month?

August: Lately I've Been Loving

If an item is marked * I've been very generously gifted it for review. Can't believe that's us at the end of August! Here's my August loves:

Having taken part in the Blog Tour for the fabulous The Strange Book of Jacob Boyce by Tom Gillespie* in July I was over the moon and then some to receive a signed copy of the book, with my quote inside the front cover! Day was made. See my review HERE.

Discovering my little work plant was seemingly healthy enough after a few months away from the office (thanks to a colleague for watering it intermittently over that period). It seems to be thriving again though it'll need re-potted. It's nice also, but a bit strange to be back in the office!

I picked up this really cute eco-friendly soap dish from Love Lula from Poapoa which is upcycled from coconut shells. Neat! It featured also in my recent August buys.

Lovely Petra sent me this wonderful stack of books (only one in there is already in my stash). I'm working my way through them. So kind and thoughtful. It made me smile.

I'd given my dad some tomato seeds via their Romaine Calm food parcel early in lockdown. This is the first Piccolo Seeds San Marzano Nano tomato which was great to see last weekend!

A little buy of Red Delicious Apple Little Melts from Olfactory. These are beautiful - they smell just like juicy red apples. Gorgeous!

More melts! I adore these two scents from Paper & Wax - Cool Citrus Basil & The Library. I have to say I ordered these on Thursday and picked them up at the Post Office on Saturday - super speedy delivery and of course, lovely strong melts! 

What have you been loving this month?

Sunday, 30 August 2020

*Happy Planet Box - Summer 2020

*giftedbox I was very pleased to try and review the summer edition of the Happy Planet Box* which costs £20 plus p&p). Inside is an array of useful and gorgeous products scented with fruity and zesty scents - the true essence of summer! The eco friendly and sustainable contents which are carefully curated will make any green beauty lover very happy indeed. I think the contents are just great - useful as well as being in the treat category. Inside the box is a very handy information sheet which contains information about the products and the makers.

So now for a closer look..

From Heavenly Organics is their Organic Orange & Grapefruit Face Oil (£10.50 - 50ml) which is a very summery addition to the box. It's scented with zesty Organic Orange & Grapefruit Oils (this is summer in a bottle!). Formulated with a blend of sunflower and jojoba which provides your skin with natural antioxidant Vitamin A and E. It'll also help with cell regeneration, reduce large pores, firm and hydrate. This is lovely - expect a review soon. Glass bottle packaging is easily recyclable or re-usable (I received their foot balm in my one-off The Natural Beauty Box - see HERE). It's definitely a brand I'd like to explore more.

I'd first tried Cosy Cottage via my June 2018 Skin Organics Clean Beauty Box so it was nice to revisit. The texture of the Mango & Lemon Foot Balm 30ml (£7) seems to have been reformulated since I last used it as I found it smooth and silky. This is a beautiful foot balm which has a lovely fruity and zesty scent (makes a nice change from the usual peppermint!). LOVE! (again easily recyclable/reusable glass jar).

The next two products (which are new to me brands) are designed to be used together - Suma's Alter/Native Handmade Grapefruit & Mandarin Soap (£2.50 - 95g) which has a zesty fragrance which refreshes the skin. The bar is infused with calendula petals which soothe. The soap is 100% natural and palm oil free. The box is easily recyclable. 

Use it with zero-waste friendly Naturally Evergreen's Exfoliating Soap Bag (£4) a really clever invention! Pop your soap in the bag and use in the bath or shower for an exfoliating treat. It's also perfect for holding all the little end pieces of soap (you always seem to be left with - with this bag you'll use up every last drop!)

The final item are 3 x single use plastic free fairtrade Clipper Teas Organic Pure Green Tea which bring a moment of calm to a busy life. 

So there you have it, a great SUMMER box. Sign up HERE (I'll definitely be checking out the AUTUMN Happy Planet Box when it launches as I've really loved the carefully curated contents within SUMMER). Are you a subscriber?

Friday, 28 August 2020

Top Products 2020: May to August

Way back in April I posted my Top Products 2020 for the period January-April - see HERE. These are my top picks for May-August (marked * I've very generously been gifted for review):

I fell totally head-over-heels for Antipodes BAPTISE H20 Ultra-Hydrating Water Gel. See my review HERE.

nknaturals season specific skincare is just the best. I adored the couple of products I tried from their SPRING range and when founder and formulator, Nicola sent me the whole SUMMER collection* - I couldn't quite believe it. So, so generous and of course the range is stunning - see my review HERE. I'm looking forward to buying some of the AUTUMN range when it launches on the 22nd September for the autumn equinox. Check out the shop HERE.

I was invited to try a "my" skin specific range* of products from Typology in May which I absolutely adored. See my reviews HERE and HERE

I discovered DESAVERY as a Beauty Shortlist Judge and fell totally in love with the range, packaging, concept and scents (see my top picks for the 2020 Awards HERE). I was kindly sent two new-to-me products in May - see my review HERE. Absolutely love DESAVERY - they are first on my list (especially STELLAR Daily Serum) to replenish when my stash reduces a bit! 

I first tried Ecooking as a Latest in Beauty pick (REVIEW) and then as a Beauty Shortlist Judge - see HERE. In June I tried their Fragrance Free Cleansing Scrub* - REVIEW - in my post I said "this is one of the best scrubs I've ever used". I just love this brand! 

During lockdown I had scalp issues and this little bar of goodness totally cleared them up! I just love Earthkind's Shampoo Bar for Improved Scalp Health* see my review HERE (Latest in Beauty had this as a pick recently so I stocked up!)

I'm a huge, huge fan of the Micheline Arcier Aromatherapie range which really are the creme de la creme of aromatherapy products and are totally timeless. I've loved everything I've tried from them - the products are luxurious, aromatic, a pleasure to use as well as being therapeutic (and good for the soul). See my review of their Richesse D'Or Bath & Shower Crystals* and Body Oil* HERE.

I received Ooh! Oils of Heaven Organic Plum Conditioning Face Oil* in my June Love Lula Beauty Box*. I fell totally head-over-heels (and then some, for it). See my review HERE.

I received Absolution's Le Gommage Corps Body Scrub in Naturisimo's Summer Vibes Discovery Box - I can never resist their discovery boxes. This scrub is one of the nicest I've ever used. See my review HERE.

I've really enjoyed Terre Verdi's award winning NeroliPom Moisturiser*. See my review HERE. I'm a sucker for the luxe packaging as well as the beautifully scented, silky product within.

Of course, my Ffern Organic Small Batch Perfume just has to be there (I've just heard the notes within the Autumn batch - excitement much, it'll arrive in time for the autumn equinox) Summer20 was simply stunning - I totally fell in love with it. See my review HERE.

I love this de-stress duo from Sanctuary Spa - see my review HERE. I've found both the De-Stress Warming Body Balm and Calming CBD Oil very effective and I'd buy both again.

I was recently very generously sent EVOLVE Organic Beauty's 360 Smoothing Body Contour* which is absolutely dreamy. See my review HERE.

Magic Cocoa* from ZOJO Beauty Elixirs is absolutely fantastic. I very generously received it free of charge for review as a Love Lula Accredited Blogger. See my review HERE.

CiTY SURViVOR was another brand I discovered as a Beauty Shortlist Judge (I loved Immune Support and gave it top marks). Founder, Daisy very kindly sent me the trio* to try together. See my review HERE (I've since replenished NIGHT SUPPORT).

Just this month I reviewed Awake Organics new Natural Vegan Shampoo* which comes in powder form (and eco-friendly packaging). See my review HERE

Do any of my picks make your top products for 2020?

Thursday, 27 August 2020

Blog Tour: The Mountains Sing by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai

Today I'm on the blog tour for The Mountains Sing by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai and I've the pleasure of sharing an extract.

Set against the backdrop of the Việt Nam War, The Mountains Sing is the enveloping, multi-generational tale of the Trần family, perfect for fans of Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko or Yaa Gyasi's Homegoing.

Hà Nội, 1972. Hương and her grandmother, Trần Diệu Lan, cling to one another in their improvised shelter as American bombs fall around them. Her father and mother have already left to fight in a war that is tearing not just her country but her family apart. For Trần Diệu Lan, forced to flee the family farm with her six children decades earlier as the Communist government rose to power in the North, this experience is horribly familiar. Seen through the eyes of these two unforgettable women, The Mountains Sing captures their defiance and determination, hope and unexpected joy.
Vivid, gripping, and steeped in the language and traditions of Việt Nam, celebrated Vietnamese poet Nguyễn's richly lyrical debut weaves between the lives of grandmother and granddaughter to paint a unique picture of the country's turbulent twentieth-century history. This is the story of a people pushed to breaking point, and a family who refuse to give in.
About the author:

Born in Vietnam in 1973, Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai grew up in the aftermath of the war and witnessed its devastation on her country. She worked as a street seller and rice farmer before winning a scholarship to attend university in Australia. She is the author of eight books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction published in Vietnamese, and her writing has been translated and published in more than 10 countries, most recently in Norton’s Inheriting the War anthology. She has been honored with many awards, including the Poetry of the Year 2010 Award from the Hà Nội Writers Association. She lives with her family in Jakarta.
Red on the White Grains
Hà Nội, 1972–1973
Grandma is holding my hand as we walk to school. The sun is a large egg yolk peeking through a row of tin-roofed houses. The sky is as blue as my mother’s favorite shirt. I wonder where my mother is. Has she found my father?
I clutch my jacket’s collar as the wind rips through the air, swirling up a dust cloud. Grandma bends, putting her handkerchief against my nose. My school bag dangles on her arm as she cups her palm against her face.
We resume walking as soon as the dust settles. I strain my ears but hear no bird. I search, but there isn’t a single flower along our path. No grass around us, just piles of broken bricks and twisted metal.
“Guava, be careful.” Grandma pulls me away from a bomb crater. She calls me by my nickname to guard me from evil spirits she believes hover above the earth, looking for beautiful children to kid- nap. She said that my real name, Hương, which means “fragrance,” would attract them.
“When you come home today, you’ll get our favorite food, Guava,” Grandma tells me. “Phở noodle soup?” Happiness makes me skip a step. “Yes. . . . The bomb raids have stopped me from cooking. But it’s been quiet, so let’s celebrate.”
Before I can answer, a siren shatters our moments of peace. A female voice blares from a loudspeaker tethered to a tree: “Attention citizens! Attention citizens! American bombers are approaching Hà Nội. One hundred kilometers away.”
“Ôi trời đất ơi!”  
Grandma cries for Heaven and Earth. She runs, pulling me along. Streams of people pour out of their homes, like ants from broken nests. Far away, from the top of the Hà Nội Opera House, sirens wail. 
“Over there.” Grandma rushes toward a bomb shelter dug into the roadside. She pulls up the heavy concrete lid. “No room,” a voice shouts out from down below. Inside the round pit just big enough for one person, a man half kneels, half stands. Muddy water rises to his chest.
Grandma hurries to close the lid. She pulls me toward another shelter. “Attention citizens! Attention citizens! American bombers are approaching Hà Nội. Sixty kilometers away. Armed forces get ready to fight back.” The female voice becomes more urgent. The sirens are deafening.
Shelter after shelter is full. People dart in front of us like birds with broken wings, abandoning bicycles, carts, shoulder bags. A small girl stands alone, screaming for her parents. “Attention citizens! Attention citizens! American bombers are approaching Hà Nội. Thirty kilometers away.”
Clumsy with fear, I trip and fall. Grandma pulls me up. She throws my school bag to the roadside, bending down for me to jump onto her back. She runs, her hands wrapping around my legs. Thundering noise approaches. Explosions ring from afar. I hold on to Grandma’s shoulders with sweaty hands, burying my face in her body.
“Attention citizens! Attention citizens! More American bombers are approaching Hà Nội. One hundred kilometers away.”  
“Run to the school. They won’t bomb the school,” Grandma shouts to a group of women lugging young children in their arms and on their backs. At fifty-two years of age, Grandma is strong. She dashes past the women, catching up with those ahead of us. Bounced up and down, I press my face against her long, black hair that smells like my mother’s. As long as I can inhale her scent, I will be safe.
“Hương, run with me.” Grandma has squatted down in front of my school, panting. She pulls me into the schoolyard. Next to a classroom, she flings herself down a vacant shelter. As I slide down next to her, water rises to my waist, gripping me with icy hands. It’s so cold. The beginning of winter. Grandma reaches up, closing the lid. She hugs me, the drum of her heart throbbing through my blood. I thank Buddha for the gift of this shelter, large enough to fit us both. I fear for my parents on the battle- fields.
When will they come back? Have they seen Uncle Đạt, Uncle Thuận, and Uncle Sáng?

Tuesday, 25 August 2020

Wax Melt Subscriptions: The Ghost Family Haunts, Balneaves & Little Bo's Melts

As you'll know I've gone crazily daft with wax melts lately! I've been trying lots and lots of different vendors - some I go back to again and again (it's nice dipping in and trying new ones too). As you'll know I recently started my love affair with The Ghost Family Haunts. See my initial musings HERE. Feast your eyes on my first Subscription Box... amazing isn't it. Sign up HERE (£18.60 per month). 

As well as wax melts you get lots of other treats including prints, stickers and badges.  It really is the box with the wow factor. So much care and attention to detail it really makes my heart sing! 

Balneaves Monthly Subscription Box (is excellent value at £14 inc p&p). See my review of their JUNE box HERE. I signed back up again for August after taking a break for my holidays in July! I'm slowly working my way through them and so far I'd buy Coco & Sandalwood, Sandy Shores, Mango & Starfruit and Sapphire Watermint again. 

My final sub box is by Little Bo's Melts (Instagram). This is my second order from Becca. Her melts are lovely and strong and the range is fab. I picked her smaller sub box which costs a fiver plus p&p. August's theme is Oh I do like to be beside the sea side and inside are seaside inspired scents which all smell gorgeous (I love the cute little package of melts I received and the care and attention to detail in the presentation). In no particular order inside the package is mini snap bars of: rock salt & driftwood, marine, beach walk, sea marine, catch a wave and sun & sand. It's the perfect small monthly treat (or it'd make a great gift). Looking forward to seeing what next month brings! (contact Becca via her Facebook group or on Instagram).

Do you have any wax melt subscriptions?

Monday, 24 August 2020

*Love Lula: Madara Organic Skincare: Time Miracle Hydra Firm Hyaluron Concentrate Jelly

*generously sent to me free of charge as a member of the Love Lula Accredited Blogger Program for review. 

Madara's Time Miracle Hydra Firm Hyaluron Concentrate Jelly 75ml (£30)* has been on my wishlist a while (I currently have a slight obsession with jelly textured skincare products!)

The fragrance free jelly absorbs instantly and feels slightly cooling on the skin. Formulated with a superdose of multi-molecular Hyaluronic Acid, the oil free jelly quenches and hydrates the skin almost instantly as well as firming, plumping and replenishing. Birch Water delivers amino acids and antioxidants to the skin. 

Great for mature, dry and problem prone skins and is unisex (if you can bare to share, that is!) I've been really impressed with the product - I've found it's perfect for summer time use as it injects an extra shot of hydration to the skin.

To use: apply to cleansed face, neck and decolletage AM and PM before following with moisturiser or night cream.

Sunday, 23 August 2020

Zing Organics Subscription Club: August: Protect

I previously was a member Zing Organics's fabulous monthly Subscription Club - see my previous posts HEREHEREHEREHERE and HERE

I decided to dip my toes in again and sign back up! It costs £29.50 a month including p&p and is always has a minimum retail value of at least £45 (a minimum 3 month subscription is requested although you are not bound to any contract). Perks for members include a personal 25% discount code for items dispatched the same time as your hamper (I also like that Kirsty re-uses packaging including boxes). August's theme is PROTECT and here's what's inside:

As I'd already tried the travel candle included this month (Purification) I was allowed to swap for another (from a selection of two) and chose Celtic Rain Forest Candle in travel size (12hrs - £17.50) which is inspired by the ancient Celtic Rain Forests of Wild Argyll. It's hand crafted with GMO free Soy Wax and scented with pure essential oils of Scottish Highland Pine, Absolute of Oak Moss and Cedarwood. It has a lush fresh green scent with earthy notes and I can't wait to burn it! 

The second item is a Special Edition of well loved Velveteen Facial Serum in Frankincense, Patchouli & Lime (15ml - £27.50) which has unrefined organic Apricot Kernel Oil added to the formula which "provides enhanced slip and a light waxy texture which provides augmented protection from pollution and the elements" as well as giving the serum a marzipan-y aroma. I'm a huge fan of the usual Velveteen so looking forward to putting it to the test (I have of course already had a wee try and loved it).

The final item is the sweetest - a little specially commissioned laser cut heart with the inscription "You my darling are loved by so many x" which a friend said to Kirsty which reassured and comforted her after the passing of her father last year. It's also perfect for these strange times we live in.

I think it's a great subscription, it truly lifts my spirit and brings so much joy. Are you a subscriber? What do you think of August's contents?

Saturday, 22 August 2020

*Shopping My Stash #116

*means I've generously received the product free of charge as part of the Love Lula Accredited Blogger Program. All brands in the post are available to buy at Love Lula (they've got a summer sale on right now. Check it out HERE). Here's what I've been reaching for:

I love that you can choose 5 samples/trial sizes with a purchase of £10+ for a nominal cost. The Organic Pharmacy's Peppermint Facial Wash 20ml* trial size costs £6.50 and it's perfect for try-me or holidays and there's enough product inside to really get a feel if you'd like it/it suits your skin (full size is 100ml and costs £35). The wash is gently antibacterial, unisex and is also good for teen skin. Eucalyptus & Peppermint purify while Lavender & Tea Tree are antiseptics. The wash has a slight lather and a pleasant herbal/minty scent. I like to use it in my morning shower. Full size is now on the wishlist!

As now hand sanitisers are the new norm (I've got one in my desk at work, one in each of my handbags and a few at home). I really rate Alteya Organics's one. See my review HERE.

I've only really dabbled with SOiL's essential oils before but it turns out they've got a nice range of remedy rollers and massage oils. Their REVIVE remedy roller 11ml is the perfect size to pop in a pocket or handbag for use on the go. I've found it really does revive! The rollerball contains geranium & grapefruit to balance while rosemary & basil refresh the mind and boost energy (blended in a base of organic soy and sesame oils). Simply roll onto pulse points as needed.

This actual John Masters Organics's mini Leave-In Conditioning Mist with Green Tea & Calendula came in a discovery box but you can buy the full size at Love Lula (I'll definitely be replenishing). This lightweight nutrient rich mist conditions and detangles and leaves the hair feeling soft and looking shiny. Love!

My final pick is my favourite Ooh! Oils of Heaven Organic Plum Conditioning Face Oil 30ml* which I received in my JUNE Love Lula Beauty Box. I totally fell in love with it. See my review HERE. This one's nearly finished (but I stocked up during the recent offer!) It truly is sublime.  

What have you been reaching for lately?

Friday, 21 August 2020

Isle of Skye Seaweed Co - Wild Seaweed & Mango Butter Body Balm

I've had the Isle of Skye Seaweed Co's Wild Seaweed & Mango Butter Hand & Body Balm (£17 - 70ml) for a few months now. I love the quirky packaging and recyclable tin as well as how moisturising the hand & body balm is. Wild seaweed is cut on the shores on the Isle of Skye and after harvesting is infused in coconut oil before being combined with butters and waxes. The Hand & Body Balm is unscented making it ideal to share (I would however love a scented version!)

The range was founded and is formulated by Ben Oakes (who was born and brought up on Skye) who only moved away to attend University before returning and launching the brand in 2017. 

Use this deeply nourishing and quickly absorbing balm on hands, body and sparingly on the face (I've also used it on my feet and for flyaways - I adore a multi-purpose product) and this one ticks all the boxes. It's formulated with coconut oil, seaweed, mango butter and beeswax. Pick yours up HERE.