Sunday, 31 October 2021

October Book Round-Up

Here's what I've been reading in October. If a book is marked * I've very kindly received it complimentary from the publisher via Netgalley or directly. 

Dear Reader: The Comfort and Joy of Books by Cathy Rentzenbrink - this is the book you need to read - it's an absolute gem. The author tells us her life story and her love of books. I found myself nodding in agreement at a lot of her book memories and have now added a whole bunch of books to my TBR pile! Cathy has always had her nose in a book and books kept her going when she tragically lost her brother. We read about her fascinating life as a bookseller and later a writer and also as a wife and mother. A must read.

Cut Off:Quick Reads by Mark Billingham - ooh this was a creepy short read. Louise looses her phone in the local cafe and is beside herself with worry. Her whole life is on that phone. So when a stranger gets in touch offering to give it back to her she jumps at the chance. Is meeting a stranger on a quiet stretch of the beach really a good idea... A great little memorable if sometimes scary read.

Darkness Rising (Harry Virdee #0.5) by A A Dhand - is a great short read and introduction to the Harry Virdee series. DI Virdee doesn't play by the rules but he always gets the results. It looks like East/West Bradford drugs wars are escalating and who is the ex-con dealer trying to make his mark? We also meet Harry's bubbly pregnant wife Saima, a character I'm looking forward to reading more about. They broke the rules and married for love. Saima is Muslim and Harry, Sikh. Their families sadly have disowned them. Would recommend as a taster to the series.

*Burnt Out - The exhausted person's six-step guide to thriving in a fast-paced world by Selina Barker - I took part in the Blog Tour Celebration in connection with the Cheltenham Literary Festival. See my review HERE. A great read!

Streets of Darkness (Harry Virdee #1) by A A Dhand - after having loved Darkness Rising it was straight into book 1 of the Harry Virdee series! I've since bought the rest (books 2-4). Detective Harry Virdee is suspended when he comes across the body of a prominent local man. He's itching to be part of the team investigating the murder.

His heavily pregnant wife gives him her blessing to work undercover for his boss in tracing ex-con Lucas Dwight, former BNP Leader who incited the riots of 2001. He's always worked a case his way and when he finds Lucas he finds out all is not as it seems.

When he hears that his wife Saima is in danger he'll stop at nothing to make sure that she and their unborn baby are safe. The race is also on to make sure the city he loves doesn't burn...

An absolutely heart-in-the-mouth read which made my heart pound!  I absolutely loved it.

*A Woman made of Snow by Elisabeth Gifford - I took part in the blog tour for this captivating read. See my review HERE.

*The Whisting by Rebecca Netley - I found the story gripping as well as eerie. Elspeth Swansome is alone in the world and takes a position as a nanny on Skelthsea, a remote Scottish Island. Her charge, Mary hasn't spoken since her twin brother's tragic death.

All is not well in the crumbling old house with its creaks, whistling noises and ghosts. Elspeth's employer, Miss Gillies who is Mary's aunt is distant and cold. She suffered a sad disfigurement in her youth. 

As Autumn turns to Winter the island turns into a desolate place and Elspeth makes it her mission to find out who is singing the lullabies and where the whistling noises are coming from. Who can she trust and who is desperate that she fails.. 

Super creepy and spooky. A great read.

*Femlandia by Christina Dalcher - I took part in the blog tour. See my review HERE.

Awaiting Publication:

*Lying Ways - DI Kelly Porter #9 by Rachel LynchYet another series with a lead character I adore. This time the story revolves around rural Highton Prison and it inmates and those who work there.

Two recently released prisoners are found dead and Kelly and the Team can see they've been tortured over a period of time. Their investigations also take them inside the walls of the prison. An officer and friend of Kelly's gets stuck in the prison during a riot and my heart was in my mouth during these scenes.

Kelly's personal life implodes when she and Johnny, who's been stay at home dad for their baby daughter disagree on something imperative to the case....

A great read (even though it made me slightly sad) and as ever I highly recommend.

*The Midwife's Secret by Emily GunnisI absolutely loved the story and devoured it in two sittings, it was always one more chapter!

It's told over different timelines and totally draws the reader in. It opens in 1969, with a New Year's Eve party at Yew Tree Manor. The Hilton family are getting ready for the party of the year. Tempers are frayed and their little daughter Alice disappears after going out to play in the snow. Her brother claims that local farmhand, Bobby James who lives at the Vicarage with his dad and sister is to blame as he was the last person to see her.

In the past we read about Tessa James, the midwife would help anyone in distress, even taking them to the safety of her secret place at home. When she's made the scapegoat for the local doctor's mistake the family realise their lives will never be the same again. This bring true heartache and grief to the family (and to the reader).

In the present day, Willow James is working as an Architect on the new development at Yew Tree. She feels that her boss and Leo Hilton are keeping secrets from her and she decides to delve into the past on the quiet as she feels that some things aren't quite right.. When another child goes missing Willow finds herself instrumental to finding her rather than letting history repeat itself...

I found the interwoven and intertwined stories fascinating and sometimes heartbreaking with plenty of intrigue and mystery. So highly recommend. It's one of my favourite reads this year.

What have you been reading lately?

Friday, 29 October 2021

*Blog Tour: Femlandia by Christina Dalcher

Today I'm on the blog tour for Femlandia by Christina Dalcher*. I received an ecopy directly from the publisher to enable me to take part in the tour.

Miranda Reynolds has lost her home, her job and her husband – all thanks to an economic collapse that has brought America to its knees.

The shops are empty; the streets no longer safe. Miranda and her daughter Emma have nowhere left to turn.

There is one final hope, a self-sufficient haven for women who want to live a life free from men. Femlandia.

For Miranda, the secluded Femlandia is a last resort. Life outside the gates is fraught with danger, but there’s something just as sinister going on within.

My thoughts?

Having loved Vox and Q I couldn't wait to read the author's latest dystopian novel which is set in the United States in the not so distant future.

The world has suffered a huge economic crash and before long life is not as the main characters Miranda and her daughter Emma know it. They managed to survive for a little while before the baliffs came, then the shops had no food left and the electricity is cut off at home. It's not safe being outside now but with little supplies left and despite Miranda not wishing to ask her estranged mother for help they decide to head for Femlandia.

On the way they have a run in with a pack of men and without her mother's help Emma would have been brutally attacked. Shaken they carry on to Femlandia, a woman only haven run by Miranda's mother and sidekick Jen. Once inside Miranda quickly realises all is not well and I found some of the storylines quite disturbing.
In the epilogue we have a glimpse at what happened afterwards and I thought it gave the story closure of sorts.

Wednesday, 27 October 2021

*Counter Culture Beauty Campaign: #JustOneSwitch

*Productsamples AD Counter Culture, a sustainable beauty & wellbeing online store, who champion female founders and boutique brands contacted me to see if I'd like to take part in their #JustOneSwitch campaign. They are encouraging shoppers to make eco-friendly and sustainable beauty switches such as swapping plastic shampoo bottles for bars or picking a natural deodorant in easily recyclable packaging.

The range of products is vast (with lots of new-to-me brands). I was invited to select a few to review. They all have easily recyclable or reusable packaging.

Lovely zero waste Wildefruit is a brand I was aware of but hadn't tried before. I love their simplicity and the fact that they formulate using upcycled waste ingredients such as ugly and wild harvested fruit. Change your face oil or moisturiser in the plastic bottle or jar for one which has carefully selected ingredients and eco friendly packaging. Award winning, Wildefruit Bright Spark Enzyme Oil 30ml (£15)* will balance oily and combo skins, reduce breakouts, sooth irritation, brighten and nourish. The oil absorbs quickly and is lightweight with a natural oils scent. 

Formulated with British Hemp Seed Oil which is high in linoleic acid and will help to soothe and balance, enzymes from upcycled Papaya seeds reduce breakouts and brighten while Strawberry and Blackcurrant seeds, upcycled from jam and juice production nourish and support the skin's barrier which helps to reduce any inflammation as well as leaving the skin with a healthy glow. This is the product which keeps on giving - also inside is Watermelon Seed oil which balances, wild harvested Cacay which brightens and Tamanu which is anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and will help to fight acne and reduce blemishes. I love that you can use it alone or add a few drops to your moisturiser "to power up your routine". 

Bunch Skin & Hair Care is also a known to me brand but I've never tried anything from the range, until now, that is! It's easy to switch out the plastic tub of body cream for this sumptuous and silky Award winner, Moisture Organic Body Oil 30ml (£24)* which is a blend of botanical and essential oils - you'll also find a little goes a long way. It'll uplift your mood and deeply nourish your skin.

This lightweight body oil is scented with Mandarin and Vanilla essential oils in a blend of skin loving oils including Sweet Almond, Grape Seed, Jojoba, Rice Bran, Argan and Sunflower oils. The packaging is easily recyclable or reusable. It's one of the nicest and most effective body oils I've used in a while.

My third pick is a totally new to me brand - Amor Sui, who formulate a luxurious range of natural products (they also offer plastic free refills). I chose their Amethyst Sleep Mist 50ml (£14)* which contains Amethyst crystals to enhance the high quality pure essential oils the mist contains. Scented with calming and sleep inducing oils of Lavender which will aid sleep and calm, Frankincense which will clear the mind and soothing Vetiver. Spritz your bedlinen and space before sleep - switch out your plastic bottled mist for this instantly calming, eco friendly and luxe alternative. 

#JustOneSwitch is all it takes. Pick up your eco friendly alternative today. Check out the shop HERE.

Tuesday, 26 October 2021

October: Lately I've been Loving

So many October loves..

ILIA Beauty's Lip Wrap Hydrating Mask had been on my wishlist. I was delighted to see a mini 4ml in the recent Naturisimo x Get the Gloss Exclusive Discovery Box REVIEW. It exfoliates, smoothes, plumps and hydrates + I'm totally smitten! I'll be buying full size as soon as I use this one up.

I recently discovered Strong Words Magazine via a booky friend and am totally hooked. I picked up the most recent ones at Pics & Ink - the place to go for indie mags online.

A new do at Bau Hair - really pleased with the cut 'n' colour (my 2nd visit).

My dad's homegrown tomatoes under good old Scottish sun. Delicious they were.

A lovely new-to-me find gorgeous the organic alchemist. I selected their Deep Relax Bath Salts. A review soon, they're sublime.

We looked after one of my boss's dog for a few nights. It was lovely to have a furry friend again for a wee while.

Fresh flowers really cheer the soul!

I love spotting interesting things when out and about locally. Just love these plump and juicy looking rosehips.

Rounding off my October loves is a beautiful Portobello sunrise. Those early morning dog walks are sometimes so worth it! What have you been loving this month?

Monday, 25 October 2021

October Empties

Here's what I've used up in October. If a product is marked * I was kindly given it to review. Not many this month!

Evolve Tropical Blossom Body Butter 30ml - I revisited this lush scented body product over summer. It's deeply nourishing with an exotic aroma. Sure to buy again at some point.

I adore Nudge Boutique's Whipped Body Butter with May Chang & Pink Grapefruit. See my review HERE. I've just opened a new one. Absolutely love it!

Old favourite Therapie Roques O'Neil Himalayan Detox Salts 100g - huge fan and must stock up again. These are one of the first bath salts I tried and still the best.

CiTY SURViVOR Pollution Protection Daily Multi-Vitamin with Antioxidants 60 caps* are fantastic. See my review HERE. Sure to buy again at some point.

Rounding up my October empties is rahua's Enchanted Island Salt Spray 124ml* - a fantastic salt mist which I reviewed HERE. On the wishlist!

What have you been using up this month?

Saturday, 23 October 2021

Top Reads 2021: July - September

Here are my 10 top reads for the July to September period. If a book is marked * I very kindly received it from the publisher via netgalley. Over this period I read 18 books. 

Critical Incidents by Lucie Whitehouse - I took part in the blog tour for Risk of Harm not realising it was the 2nd in the series. I quickly bought Critical Incidents to get the background story. See my review HERE. Looking forward to book #3.

Truth or Dare - DI Helen Grace #10 by M J Arlidge - how I love Helen Grace and this series! See my review HERE.

*Little Bones - DI Lottie Parker #10 by Patricia GibneyAlways such a joy to read a new Lottie Parker book and book #10 doesn't disappoint. It's twisty and fast paced and had me guessing throughout.

A young mother is found brutally murdered by her mother and she's clutching something in her hand. Detective Lottie Parker and the Team are instantly on the scene. Another woman goes missing and her young son is abducted. Are the cases connected? Do these woman know each other?

Lottie and the team need to delve back into the pasts of these woman who seem to be connected in more ways than one. We also meet up with the Parker family again and find out that Boyd's got a secret..
I found the story absolutely gripping. Highly recommend. Can't wait for book #11.

*The Killing Tide - A Rhona Macleod Thriller book #16 by Lin Anderson - I adore Rhona and this series. I took part in the blog tour. Catch my review HERE.

*Finding Suzy by David Videcette - Fascinating and a must read. See my review HERE.

*The Fair Botanists by Sara Sheridan - I read this back in March and shared my review near to when it published - see HERE. Simply adored this meticulously researched story.

*Lying Ways - DI Kelly Porter #9 by Rachel Lynch - Yet another series and lead character I adore. This time the story revolves around rural Highton Prison and it inmates and those who work there.

Two recently released prisoners are found dead and Kelly and the Team can see they've been tortured over a period of time. Their investigations also take them inside the walls of the prison. An officer and friend of Kelly's gets stuck in the prison during a riot and my heart was in my mouth during these scenes.

Kelly's personal life implodes when she and Johnny who's been stay at home dad for their baby daughter disagree on something imperative to the case....

A great read (even though it made me slightly sad) and as ever I highly recommend.

The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave - I loved this story. See my review HERE.

*Make yourself at Home by Ciara Geraghty - again another story I loved with great characters. See my review HERE.

Rounding up my top 10 is a fantastic novel by Emily Gunnis. I just loved *The Midwife's Secret! It doesn't publish until the 28th October (I'll share my glowing review at the end of the month!)

Do we share any favourite reads?

Thursday, 21 October 2021

Naturisimo: The October Edit Exclusive Discovery Box

As you know I can rarely resist a Naturisimo Discovery Box. October's edit is absolutely fantastic! It costs £22 and is worth £94 and contains 7 items with some full size.

I'd been desperate to try Aurelia London's Balance & Purity Citrus Cleanser and inside is a deluxe 30ml size worth £8 which will clean, balance and brighten the skin. 

I'm a huge fan already of Kiki Health's Magnesium Oil/Spray and inside the box is a full size 125ml and worth £12.50. See my mini review HERE.

I adore Plenaire's Rose Jelly (REVIEW) and am excited to try something else from the range. Inside the box is their 3-in-1 Tripler in a deluxe 30ml size and worth £18. This multi-tasking exfoliating clay can be used as a mask, exfoliator and cleanser. 

There's a full size 30ml worth £18 of Weleda's Almond Soothing Face Cream which is perfect for sensitive and dry skins. Its fragrance free and works wonders to calm and replenish.

I've not tried much from Inlight and inside is their Night Balm in a deluxe 7ml pot. This is worth £16. This 100% organic intensive balm will hydrate and nourish while you sleep. It's scented with lavender and bitter orange.  Pai Skincare's Bioregenerate Rosehip Oil 10ml is also worth £16. I've used this lovely product before and it'll firm, nourish and give the skin back it's glow!

Rounding up the edit is a mini tin 10g of The Natural Deodorant Co's Clean Deodorant in Lemon & Geranium which is worth £4. It's an effective natural deo with a gorgeous scent.

Another fab box. Did you pick one up?

Wednesday, 20 October 2021

*Love Lula: AUTUMN Beauty

*sent to me complimentary as a Love Lula Accredited Blogger for an honest review. As you'll know I've been theming my Love Lula picks this year.

January - SLEEP,  February LOVEMarch - AWAKENApril - BLOSSOMMay - FORAGE

June GROW, July - PLASTIC FREE JULY, AugustCBD, SeptemberOrganic September

This month I chose Autumn as my theme thinking of pumpkins, blackberries and apples. It is great to discover a new facial oil which I've fallen hard for, enjoy a deliciously berry scented sugar scrub and autumnal lips need lip balm.

Hero Facial Oil* By Sarah London (30ml - £33) was originally formulated for Sarah's sister, Lauren to restore her fragile skin after treatment for leukaemia. It's "the original, the hero, the inspiration". Cold pressed organic plant oils of pumpkin seed, sweet almond, apricot, argan, evening primrose and vitamin e. The soothing oil is unfragranced and a nourishing powerhouse for happy healthy skin (I've since bought two others from the range which are equally fantastic - Balancer Oil-to-Milk Cleanser + Reviver Hydrating Mist - reviews soon!)

To use: massage a few drops over face and neck both AM and PM.

I can't believe its taken me so long to try this fantastic range. Hero Facial Oil is an absolute dream and makes for healthy and glowing skin. One of my fav products this year.

Lovely and affordable Bloomtown - I chose their deliciously scented The Hedgerow Blackberry & Honeysuckle Sugar Scrub* (60ml - £7). Who hasn't gone blackberry picking? There's nothing quite like getting a bundle of tasty sweet and juicy berries for free. Bloomtown have paired them with fruity, heady and warm honeysuckle along with nourishing oils of sweet almond, coconut oil and shea butter with British sugar.

To use: apply to damp skin in circular movements before rinsing

A gorgeous scrub (which comes in a 250ml size too!)

My final pick this month with a nod to apples is super moisturising Hurraw! Ahiflower Apple Lip Balm* (4.3g - £4.99). Ahiflower is grown in the UK. The seeds are pressed to produce a delicate oil with a higher quantity of omegas than any other seed on the planet. It's been paired with golden apple flavour (I don't get an apple scent, it seems unfragranced to me). I like to use it best at night and wake up with soft and nourished lips.

To use: apply as often as needed

Although I'm not so keen on the scent, or lack of it, it does deeply moisturise the lips (best to use at bedtime). What are your Autumn essentials?

Tuesday, 19 October 2021

*Blog Tour: A Woman Made of Snow by Elisabeth Gifford

Today I'm on the blog tour for the fantastic A Woman Made of Snow by Elisabeth Gifford*. I very kindly received a proof copy from the publisher to enable me to take part in the blog tour. 

A gorgeous, haunting and captivating novel of a century-long family mystery in the wilds of Scotland, and one woman's hunt for the truth.

Scotland, 1949: Caroline Gillan and her new husband Alasdair have moved back to Kelly Castle, his dilapidated family estate in the middle of nowhere. Stuck caring for their tiny baby, and trying to find her way with an opinionated mother-in-law, Caroline feels adrift, alone and unwelcome.

But when she is tasked with sorting out the family archives, Caroline discovers a century-old mystery that sparks her back to life. There is one Gillan bride who is completely unknown - no photos exist, no records have been kept - the only thing that is certain is that she had a legitimate child. Alasdair's grandmother.

As Caroline uncovers a strange story that stretches as far as the Arctic circle, her desire to find the truth turns obsessive. And when a body is found in the grounds of the castle, her hunt becomes more than just a case of curiosity. What happened all those years ago? Who was the bride? And who is the body...?

Elisabeth Gifford grew up in a vicarage in the industrial Midlands. She studied French literature and world religions at Leeds University. She has a diploma in Creative Writing from Oxford OUDCE and an MA in Creative Writing from Royal Holloway. She is married with three children and lives in Kingston upon Thames. A Woman Made of Snow is her fifth novel.

My thoughts?

I absolutely devoured this meticulously researched story which was set in dual timelines. In 1949 we meet Caro & Alasdair who are leaving the bright lights of London to settle in Scotland with their new baby, Felicity and are staying at Alasdair's family pile - Kelly Castle - although they'll be staying in the cottage in the grounds. His mother, Martha is over-bearing, difficult and believes her way is the right way. She's always suggesting ways Caro can do things better.

Having been an independent woman during the war, her mother-in-law truly annoys her and when there is a flood at the cottage and they need to move in with Martha, it really is the last straw. Alasdair seems to be seeing more of his ex Diana which also worries her.

When Martha offers her a historical job looking and deciphering the family archive Caro feels more useful as well as sparking her back to life. She discovers something which she can't let go of until she knows the truth..

In the dual timeline in the 19th century we meet Oliver, Alasdair's grandfather, who had a very demanding mother. We also learn about the Jute factories in Dundee and whaling in the Arctic Circle. It's also where we meet Charlotte, Louisa and Mary. Oliver makes a rash decision when the girl he's always loved refuses to marry him and it sees him set sail on an Arctic whaling voyage. He meets the love of his life quite unexpectedly and things are not at all well when he bring his little family home to Kelly.

I loved how the stories so easily intertwine and inside these stories there were characters I grew to love. I really so recommend the book, as it's just so good.

Sunday, 17 October 2021

*Cheltenham Literature Festival: Blog Tour Celebration - Lifestyle - Is this Working? - 17 October 10.00 - 11.30am, The Daffodil

I'm taking part in the blog tour for the Cheltenham Literature Festival which rounds up today. Is this Working? is Chaired by Sarah Raphael and features Elizabeth Uviebinene (The Reset), Grace Beverly (Working hard, Hardly working) and Selina Barker (Burnt Out) to discuss the paradox of the modern working world. Catch them at The Dafodil, 10.00-11.30am this morning. Tickets cost £22 and include brunch. Find out more HERE.

"We all know the pressure of feeling like we should be at it 24/7 while simultaneously being told to make time for ourselves, like we somehow have to decide between success and sanity. But in today's complex working world, where every hobby can be a hustle and our desks are in our bedrooms finding both balance and success can seem impossible".  The panel will be sharing their expert advice on how to achieve more, stress less and feel fulfilled in our careers.

I was very kindly sent a copy of Selina Barker's Burnt Out (the exhausted person's six step guide to thriving in a fast-paced world)* which I found absolutely fascinating. I was nodding my head to a lot of things within it's pages.

It's the perfect book to read cover to cover and to dip in and out afterwards. There's a lot of information and it all makes perfect sense. I identified with nearly all the symptoms of burnout (oh dear!) Selina helps you to "take action" suggesting ways to take time out, explains why you can't cope anymore and what you can do to thrive and love your life again.

The book is well laid out and easy to follow. The thought of having a digital detox made me gasp in horror but it's a bit like doing Dry January or Sober October - it gives you so much freedom to do other things. I found the chapter on designing a life you love inspiring and definitely doable. A great read which I'd have been unlikely to pick up but found it was just what I needed right now.

Thanks to the author and Midas PR for the copy of the book and the place on the Tour.

Saturday, 16 October 2021

*Kiss the Moon: GLOW Night-Time Body Cream

*ProductSample - AD I've been testing out Kiss the Moon's latest launch which is truly sublime - GLOW Night-Time Body Cream 200g (£36) which comes in a large recyclable pot and is 100% natural, cruelty free and suitable for Vegans. The award winning beauty sleep brand have also just launched their Christmas goodies if you want a wee peek.

The night-time body cream is truly sumptuous with the texture of lightly whipped cream and is totally dreamy. Formulated with Shea and Mango Butters which are whipped with rehydrating Orange Blossom Water along with KTM's signature GLOW blend of aromatherapy oils - Orange, Geranium, Litsea and Myrrh which will "revive the spirit at bedtime and bring skin beautifully back to life while you are sleeping".

To use: slather over the body at night time and awaken beautifully rested and with silky soft skin.

It's really a beautiful product which absorbs quickly leaving the skin soft, hydrated and delicately scented. It really does help you to sleep well.

Thursday, 14 October 2021

DISCIPLE Skincare: Juicy Mist

DISCIPLE Skincare's Juicy Mist (50ml - £15) came in Cult Beauty's recent The Cult Conscious Edit. The brand is fairly new-to-me. Founder Charlotte Ferguson, a psychotherapist created the range to care for stressed out skins. Her adaptogen-rich formulas work not only on the surface but internally too, helping the body react better to stress and to rebalance hormones. Hand blended in small batches using the best raw ingredients including prebiotics which nourish good bacteria on the skin and linoleic acid to balance sebum and minimise breakouts.

The products are presented in green glass which is easily recyclable (as well as being aesthetically pleasing). Juicy Mist is formulated with orange blossom which rejuvenates, skin plumping aloe vera and moisture magnet hyaluronic acid. It'll revive dry and lacklustre skin. Use as a toner, makeup refresher or refreshing mist. It'll balance, give the skin "a generous dose of dew" and hydrate.

To use: mist over the face and neck patting gently into the skin for plump and dewy skin.

My skin's been loving the Juicy Mist. It's perfect to give the skin an extra boost. Definitely a buy again for me. Pick yours up HERE. I've also got my eye on their CBD Miracle Patch and the R&R Retinyl Body Oil. What are your favs from the range?