books, fun stuff, Illumicrate, lifestyle boxes, reviews

Illumicrate #10 Rise Up!

My lovely local Hermes courier braved the freezing weather and snow to deliver my Illumicrate, bless her.

This is a big box, so big it doesn’t have the usual logo on it – but it is packed full of books and bookish treats.

The theme is Rise Up! and the items are all about rebellion.

The book is Blood and Sand by C.V. Wyck – a female centred retelling of Spartacus, which really intrigues me as a premise. I look forward to reading this and sharing my thoughts later. There’s also an exclusive bookmark, pin and temporary tattoo.

There’s also an ARC of Sally Green’s The Smoke Thieves. I read Half Bad and thought it was interesting so I’m curious about her new series, of which this is the first book.

Now we have the box exclusives.

Fight the Darkness cushion cover by @stellabookishart – my copy of Ember in the Ashes is somewhere in my flat – until it turns up I will console myself with this bright and cheerful cover.

A Rebel’s Command List by @howstoreofficial – handy for making my lists of what books to read next.

Inimitable mug by @abbieimagine – I haven’t read the box this is inspired by but I like the design.

Daggermark by @rdashjackdotcom – this is a nice quirky bookmark but too bulky for my preferred bookmark so I’ll add it to my collection. Yes, I collect bookmarks and have done for years (I have the Brownie badge to prove it 😁).

Lunar Lip Balm by @lovely_lip_balm – a minty pot of lip balm, perfect for the current cold snap’s effect on my lips.

Phoenix magnet by @hannahhitchmanart – as I’m not a Potter fan I’ll be passing this on but it’s nice and colourful.

Bonus items are from Shatter Me, The Truth and Lies of Ella Black, Strange the Dreamer, Witchsign, Clean, The Hazel Wood – all either recently published or upcoming books.

I think that this was a nice mix of items from different rebellion themed novels/fandoms. Nothing really leaped out at me this time.

The books both look interesting but I might not have picked them up in a bookshop.

A solid box but not the best one I’ve had so far.

beauty, cruelty free, make up, reviews, skincare

Sey-Beaute Naturelle Lipsticks*

Sey-Beaute is an independent, cruelty free, vegan beauty range designed by an incredibly talented lady called Meghan who was inspired to start her line while studying in China and struggling with her hair health. Hailing originally from the Seychelles, but now based in the UK, Meghan went back to basics – coconut butter and other natural ingredients that have been used for years.

I was gifted a selection of gorgeous soy based lipsticks to test as well as a tub of delicious smelling watermelon body butter.

Sey-Chic is a gorgeous purple-pink, a warm toned lipstick that brings a pop of colour to my pale winter skin.

Sey-Shea is already a favourite, a rich golden nude that I wasn’t sure would work on my skintone at first, but imparts a slight shimmer in place of my more usual matte nudes.

I also have three of the Sey-slick lipsticks in purple, brown/red and dark pink. All rich, but not overwhelming shades, and you know I love a dramatic lip.

The use of shea and coconut oils mean these lipsticks are moisturising as well as pretty, taking care of my lips while looking good.

The watermelon body butter smells like summer and is made of all natural ingredients that my thirsty skin loves.

The use of natural ingredients and the cruelty free nature of these gorgeous products mean I can see Sey-Beaute becoming a firm favourite and one more people should be aware of.

Currently you can only purchase products directly from Sey-Beaute but I’m sure that will soon change and you’ll see these beauties stocked on the high street.

*this post contains gifted or sponsored items but all words and opinions are my own.

homewares, lifestyle boxes, reviews

Box of Little Lovelies*

As you probably know by now I’m a sucker for cute homewares, especially when they’re in a subscription box.

Little Lovelies is an online shop selling a selection of cute trinkets and decorative items.

The team have curated a monthly box comprising a selection of items from the shop.

At £10 this is a reasonable price considering the individual cost of the contents. The box I was sent contains 5 items.

A bone China mug


Scented candle

Glass jewellery box

Magnet (that matches the design of the mug)

This is a lovely box and would make a good gift too. The boxes can be purchased as a one off or as a monthly subscription.

*this post contains gifted or sponsored items but all words and opinions are my own.

food, reviews

Product Review: Global Gourmet Water Urn*

This might seem like a slightly random item to review but bear with me.

I have over the years organised and hosted dozens of events from parties and lunches to corporate events and fundraisers. One of the best things to remember is to always keep people fed and watered.

And being British tea is pretty important to keep people happy.

That’s where a hot water urn comes in. This one holds quite a lot of hot water – 8.8 litres, about 35 cups.

It has safety handles and nozzle so you don’t scald yourself which is definitely an improvement on some of the dodgy old ones I’ve come across in the past and some handy indicators so you don’t have to open the lid to check the water’s hot.

I think this would be perfect for events like a charity coffee morning or to keep spectators warm at a sports event. It’s not too heavy or bulky to transport and even full isn’t too much for one person to carry or move.

All you need is some cups, tea bags or coffee and the all important milk and sugar in order to keep a crowd happy. Just don’t forget the biscuits.

*This post contains gifted or sponsored items but all words and opinions are my own.

food, recipes

Celebrating St David’s Day with British Leeks*

Happy St David’s Day to any Welsh followers I may have.

While I’m not Welsh myself my godmother is and I have lots of happy memories of trips to visit her in Cardiff (although she’s originally from North Wales) and having her try to teach me a little Welsh.

I’m sure you all know that the national flower of Wales is a daffodil and the national vegetable is the humble leek.

There’s probably some ancient recipe for cooking with daffodils (although they might be poisonous) but today I’m whipping up a little dinner from the British Leeks’ cookbook.

Leeks make a great ingredient, we like them covered in cheese, grilled with a roast dinner or added to a lettuce gratin. They’re part of the same family as garlic and onions, and like their cousins are great in loads of dishes.

So for dinner tonight we’re having a delicious dish of pan roast chicken with leeks, chorizo and cider.

Serves 4 (or 2 hungry people)

You will need;

4 chicken breasts

100g chopped chorizo

400g leeks, trimmed and sliced

1 chopped clove of garlic

2 handfuls of chopped parsley

2tsp dried thyme

1 tbsp flour

100ml chicken stock

350ml cider

Salt and pepper

Pre-heat your oven to 190°c

Heat a little oil in a frying pan and fry the chicken breasts till golden brown and then do the same on the other side. Then place in an oven dish.

Add the chorizo to pan and fry for a few minutes till golden. Add the leeks, garlic, thyme and parsley and fry for 10 minutes till softened. Add the flour and stir.

Stir in the stock and cider and bring to the boil. Season and simmer.

Pour the sauce over the chicken and place in the oven for 20-25 minutes until the chicken was cooked through.

Serve with your choice of potatoes (boiled, mashed etc) or some nice crusty bread to soak up the sauce.

Cook’s tips: if you don’t drink, swap out the cider for cloudy apple juice, remember to taste as you season and adjust as you see fit.

The resulting dish is aromatic and deeply tasty, the leeks are soft and buttery, contrasting with the peppery chorizo and the warm chicken.

What’s your favourite way to use leeks? Are you celebrating St David’s Day? Let me know in the comments.

hapus Dydd Gŵyl Dewi

*this post contains items that have been gifted or sponsored but all words and opinions are my own.

books, reviews

Book Review: Driven – Dane Cobain

This is the first book about private detective James Leipfold and his tech savvy assistant Maile O’Hara.

A young woman is killed by a car, a car that doesn’t appear to have had a driver. So who killed her?

Leipfold is a down at heel gumshoe, picking up this case on a whim, no client needed. Along the way he recruits an “intern” to complement his old school methods with newer ones. But is he going to solve the case or end up a casualty of it?

I wasn’t sure about this at first, while the initial set up was intriguing, it wasn’t until the plot picked up pace and the case began to unravel that I really got into it.

The characters are interesting – I am looking forward to book 2 and hopefully more back story about the team that now comprises Leipfold Detectives, especially computer genius but enigma Maile.

I love the little details like the way Maile and Leipfold complete crosswords without speaking, and Leipfold’s relationship with police detective Jack Cholmondley (pronounced Chumley fyi).

The London setting is of course familiar to me – from the run down cafe, endless miles of Underground and leafy suburbs around its edges.

The author, Dane Cobain, is something of a literary polymath, having written novels, poetry, non-fiction and edited anthologies, although this seems to be his first detective novel.

Driven is available now.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: The Devil’s Poetry – Louise Cole

Today I’m hosting a review stop on the blog tour for Louise Cole’s The Devil’s Poetry.

Questions are dangerous but answers can be deadly.

Callie’s world will be lost to war – unless she can unlock the magic of an ancient manuscript. She and her friends will be sent to the front line. Many of them won’t come back.

When a secret order tells her she can bring peace by reading from a book, it seems an easy solution – too easy. Callie soon finds herself hunted, trapped between desperate allies and diabolical enemies.

The Order is every bit as ruthless as the paranormal Cadaveri.Callie can only trust two people – her best friend and her ex-marine bodyguard. And they are on different sides.

She must decide: how far will she go to stop a war?Dare she read this book? What’s the price – and who pays it?

Commended in the Yeovil Prize 2016, this is an action-packed blend of adventure, fantasy and love story.



Louise Cole has spent her life reading and writing. And very occasionally gardening. Sometimes she reads as she gardens. She can be seen walking her dogs around North Yorkshire – she’s the one with a couple of cocker spaniels and a Kindle. She read English at Oxford – read being the operative word – and hasn’t stopped reading since.

In her day-job she is an award-winning journalist, a former business magazine editor and director of a media agency. She writes about business but mainly the business of moving things around: transport, logistics, trucks, ships, and people.

Her fiction includes short stories, young adult thrillers, and other stuff which is still cooking.

Her YA and kids’ fiction is represented by Greenhouse Literary Agency and she is also published on Amazon as one of the Marisa Hayworth triumvirate.

My thoughts: I wasn’t too sure about this book when I started it, ending wars with poetry is something I can get behind but also know it doesn’t work (see the WW1 poetry and the almost non-existent effect it had).

But this book ramps up the action from the moment two teenage girls blow up a barn to escape the creepy Cadavari.

A lot happens very quickly and the writing is pacy and plotting neat.

I liked the routing the more fantastical elements in reality, from the North Yorkshire setting of much of the story to the pop culture references. It made it much more relatable and easier to connect to the characters, especially Callie and Amber.

The sequel On Holy Ground is also out now, which hopefully will explain a bit more about the background of the Order and the sinister Cadavari.