adventures in post, books, Illumicrate, lifestyle boxes, reviews

#Illumicrate12 Oh So Criminal

August’s Illumicrate is all about the bad guys, the villains, the anti-heroes.

Kicking off the box is the book – Catwoman: Soulstealer by Sarah J. Maas. This is part of DC’s relaunch of their female heroines, following on from the Wonder Woman book last year. Without getting into all the debate around Maas and whether she’s too rude for YA, this book intrigues me. Catwoman is someone I remember from the reruns of the old 60s Batman series with Adam West, then the Dark Knight’s scene stealing Anne Hathaway version. So I’m interested to see what Maas has done with Selina Kyle.

I love a canvas bag, they’re ever so useful and I have hundreds. This Villains are my Bag number from @kdpletters will be added into the mix.

I’m not a HP fan so this Sirius coaster doesn’t really do it for me. I’m sure however that one of my book club will love it. @katieabey designed it exclusively for Illumicrate.

Darkdawn was one of my favourite books of 2018 so far so this handy little nail file designed by @heyatlascreative is going straight into my bag.

I don’t wear a lanyard to work as I work at home but if I did then I’d be upgrading to this one from @fableandblack to rep the crew from Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo.

This necklace makes me smile – we’re all the protagonists of our own stories but are we also the antagonists in someone else’s? @down_the_rabbithole allows you to play both sides.

I love a good candle and this one will set the atmosphere for my next caper meeting. @elvenwickcandles has made this sparkly number which smells delicious.

A mirror is a handy tool to see who’s following you when carrying out the plan and this one from @reverieandink features a quote from Holly Black.

This art print card by @jamilamehio of Catwoman, Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn round off the box.

There are also a few goodies from different upcoming books but sadly no bonus ARC this time.

I’ve enjoyed the themed boxes we’ve had recently, it brings everything together nicely. This box has a decent mix of bits and bobs which I can see myself making use of.

beauty, beauty boxes, haircare, latest in beauty, make up, reviews

Latest in Beauty Build Your Own Box*

9 items Beauty Guru £18 a month or £25 one off (+ P&P)

A little while ago the lovely team at Latest in Beauty invited me to create my own Beauty Guru box from their line up of beauty goodies, with new additions coming regularly I can see why this would make a great monthly subscription.

I think a lot of people’s issues with subscription boxes revolve around the lack of choice and being unable to decide what items you receive. LiB have worked out how to change this. There are three levels of subscription from 3 items to 9 – prices ranging from £9 to £18, cancel anytime. Or you can opt for the slightly pricier one off option if you’re not sure about making the commitment.

The items in my box are a mix of sample and full size, and high street to high end, online only brands.

As a natural blonde summer is when my hair comes into its own, picking up extra radiance from the sun and shining in a way it struggles to do in winter. However it does need a bit of TLC, swimming pools turn it green, and it can end up bleached and dry. So I chose Charles Worthington’s Colourplex Enhancing & Restoring Blonde shampoo and conditioner (full size). Sulphate and paraben free, not tested on animals, ticking all the boxes. It contains honey and lemon, two things blonde hair loves too.

I am always in search for my perfect red lip, and to help keep it on my lips and not on my teeth I picked a little tube of original Lipcote (fullsize) With vegetarian and cruelty free ingredients, this is one handbag stalwart that has more than earned its legacy.

Merci Handy is a brand I know from their scented hand gels, but this Refreshing Face Mist is designed to refresh tired and overheated skin, with a gentle, cruelty free formula. I keep something similar in my bag, but since it’s almost used up, this is very much essential.

This Works Sleep + hair elixir is my current night time go-to. I credit it for helping me sleep and giving me happier hair (although that might be some other haircare changes, but whatevs) so another item from this range was always going to please me. The Trouble Shooter is designed to “help reclaim sleep and de-age skin” and is recommended for trouble spots like knees and elbows. Now my knees are not looking their best, a tumble up some concrete stairs a while ago has left me with some very slow healing bruises, so maybe this will be the key to getting them up to scratch.

I am a sucker for a palette, seriously who needs so many eyeshadow options, I have one pair of eyelids! Well, clearly I don’t agree with myself, as yes, I picked another palette. But this is a dinky handbag, great for jazzing up your day look on your way to dinner or drinks, palette. With a mix of glittery gold shimmer and matte tones, Sleek have created a clever tiny pocket sized fix. There’s no brush, because let’s be honest who actually uses the palette brush, but there is an all important mirror.

Amie Morning Dew Matte-Finish Moisturiser is one of those products that I keep meaning to buy but never remember to. It’s a great daily moisturiser, designed for sensitive skin like mine, with natural extracts, it smells inoffensive, it dries matte, why don’t I buy this regularly, I just don’t know.

Occasionally I like to try new products, ones I can’t entirely say I know much about, and Bali Balm falls firmly into this category. I picked it by scent from two options – this ones contains bergamot, a citrus fruit whose scent really appeals to me and pops up in several of my favourite go to products.

A lip balm in possibly the fanciest packaging for this kind of product, this vegan and natural ingredient new kid on the block comes in four varieties and is £20 to buy, which seems a little pricey for such a small product in a somewhat overflowing market.

Finally, I have never really stopped being a glitter queen and this little pot of eco-glitter from Glitterlution in Superfly Unicorn speaks directly to the girl who owned every shade of Barry M’s dazzle dust back in the day. The only downside is that this has leaked all over the inside of the box and over the other products, so I’m not exactly getting every flake (it’s also all over my laptop now). I am really pleased to see more and more ecologically designed glitter, as it’s not normally biodegradable and I don’t want my habit of making things sparkle to make sealife sick.

The box itself was a bit of a surprise, in that there isn’t a separate box inside the packaging, so if you like to keep the box to store your bits and bobs in you will be disappointed, however the packaging is all recyclable being paper and cardboard (but do check local restrictions), which is good news.

Overall I think this is a great idea, I managed to pick all cruelty free products (which is very important to me) and items I will actually use, as opposed to the contents of other beauty boxes, which vary so wildly. They were dispatched super quickly too, and arrived intact, which I’ve also had a moan about with some of the boxes I’ve received before. If I was going to sign up to a new monthly box, this one would definitely be high on my list. You can check it out for yourself here along with LiB’s other pre-selected boxes.

*This item was gifted to me in exchange for a review but all words and opinions are my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Book Review: Anarchy – Megan DeVos

(Running a bit behind the blog tour due to illness – sorry)

Originally written as Wattpad fan fiction, this is the first in a four part series set in a post-apocalyptic world where rival factions are fighting for survival.

I would say it’s definitely more in the adult part of Young Adult, with some quite strong sex scenes, and it reminds me of The 100 or Sword of Shannara, between the camps in the woods and the rivalry; but closer in time to the apocalyptic events that led there as it’s still in living memory.

Occasionally the syntax is a little naive, but it’s certainly very readable. I’m not sure I’ll be rushing out for the next in the series but I can certainly see it appealing to fans of similar titles.

There’s a romance plotline as well as violence and some rather sweet scenes with one of the few children around. The world building is a bit vague, up until the bonus chapter, which fleshes it out more fully. Hopefully as the series progresses then the full events leading to the camps and the crisis situation will be more developed and explained.

Overall it’s an ok book, maybe just not my cup of chai. If it is something that you’re into its available in paperback now.

blog tour, books, giveaway, reviews

Blog tour; Valentina by Cristina Hodgson

Today is the last stop on the blog tour for Valentina by Cristina Hodgson. You may remember I opened the tour with this post and I’m closing it too. Please enjoy an excerpt from chapter 22.

I manoeuvred the car to one side of the road and stopped the engine. I stepped out onto the dusty tarmac. The sun was high in the sky, reflecting harsh light around, the rays beating down at their midday peak, shortening the shadows around. The mooing of the cows filled the air, and they kicked up dust as they went. I started to wonder if the road sign I’d seen a while back was not the right turning I needed and now instead of heading south to San Rafael, I was heading into deep gaucho territory. As if on cue, I heard a shrill whooping sound coming from behind. If I hadn’t known any better I would have sworn it was an Indian war cry and heading right in my direction. I now found myself and the rental car, swimming in a sea of four-legged, rather whiffy, mooing beasts. There wasn’t much for it, because I really didn’t have a choice, but to stand my ground and take a few selfies of the situation to Instagram later.
With a clatter of hooves I suddenly found myself face-to-face with a deeply-tanned, strongly-chiselled, masculine face. Smouldering eyes looked me over. Tammy, at this point, having been startled awake, was squeezing herself out of the car window. She had done this manoeuvre before, down by a river bed we had inadvertently driven into the day we met her now boyfriend Ray and his best friend Robbie – my Robbie (well, not really “my” Robbie, at least not any more, or perhaps ever). That first attempt at body coordination and hyper-mobility had ended with both Tammy and me covered in mud from head to foot. She had managed to get stuck in the car window and popped out like a champagne cork as I yanked her in an attempt to save her from the submerging car. We had both been bowled over and covered in gooey muck.
Despite the mud bath it had all ended quite positively, at least for Tammy and Ray. But I didn’t think you should tempt fate twice.
“Keep still!” I cried out to Tammy over the roaring noise the cows were making. “You’ll get trampled on.”
“English?” came a startled, heavily-accented, voice from the gaucho, who now quickly moved his horse over to cover Tammy and protect her getting squashed and stampeded on. I have no idea why he had sounded startled to hear us speak in English. After all, I doubted any local would have got themselves in the mix we had, so it should have come as no surprise that we were Gringos. By this point Tammy was truly stuck, half-in-half-out of the car, and I observed, once again, how she could, under any circumstance, revert to her combined fluttering eyelashes, flushed cheek number. Damsel In Distress had been called into action, and she did not fail. Thinking about it, despite not being quite the superpower that I would personally strive for, I had to admit it got Tammy out of almost every possible awkward or hazardous situation.
“Oh, gracias, Señor,” came Tammy’s pitiful voice as she allowed him to take hold of her hand and steady her as she slipped from the car window and somehow ended sitting behind him on his horse. I certainly wasn’t going to take a picture of this manoeuvre and Instagram it. I couldn’t afford to get myself in trouble with Ray. I needed him on my side in this venture. I’d told him I would look after Tammy, who was after all still recovering from her own concussion. I didn’t think riding behind some good-looking Argentinian cowboy was quite the image that Ray would wish to see as proof of her recovery.

If you enjoyed that don’t forget you can buy the book here.

And enter the giveaway for Cristina’s book Simply Anna.

Check out the rest of the tour and enjoy your Sunday afternoon.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Valentina – Cristina Hodgson

Today I’m hosting a stop on the blog tour of new book Valentina by Cristina Hodgson.

Chantelle Rose is back. She has lived a fairytale. But will she ever get her Happy Ever After?
To find true happiness, she must discover who Robbie and Lionel really are. Their past holds the key to her future.
Her quest follows a trail that takes her to the depths of the Pampas lands of Argentina.
There, the beautiful Valentina awaits – and holds the key.
But who is Valentina? What is the mystery surrounding her?
And why is she so important to both Robbie and Lionel?
Will Chantelle discover the truth? And, more importantly, will she discover her destiny and the fidelity in her own heart?

My thoughts:

I haven’t read book one, but this works fairly well on it’s own merits. It’s a bit of an adventure story where the heroine, Chantelle Rose, must undertake a search into her past and also find out about some mysterious figures, including the titular Valentina.

Currently only available as an e-book, this isn’t a hard or overly long read, meaning you could happily read it on your daily commutes.

I enjoyed it, it was refreshing to read an adventure by a woman.

About the author:

Cristina Hodgson, mother of two, born in Wimbledon, London, currently lives in southern Spain. Cristina had a long career in sport, reaching national and international level and still actively participates in Triathlon races and enjoys outdoor activities. In her spare time she also enjoys reading and writing. She won a sports scholarship to Boston College. After a period in Boston, she returned to the UK and graduated from Loughborough University with a degree in PE and Sports Science.

For more updates from Cristina Hodgson, follow her:

Facebook

Twitter

website

Get Fit with Cris; reading and running fun

Newsletter

Get the book:

VALENTINA: (Book II of the Chantelle Rose Series)

A LITTLE OF CHANTELLE ROSE(Book 1 of the Chantelle Rose Series)

SIMPLY ANNA

Giveaway:

Win a signed copy of Cristina’s Simply Anna.

Check out the rest of the tour:

blog tour, books, reviews

Book Review: The Hidden Bones by Nicola Ford

9780749023621 hidden bones hb wb

Written by a real life archaeologist this crime novel takes place at a dig in the fictional town of Hungerbourne. After the death of Dr Gerald Hart, who began the dig back in the 70s, two archeologists, Dr David Barbrook and Clare Hills, go through his archive and revive the dig, but have they revived an unnamed killer?

After a series of accidents and deaths, Clare starts looking for the person behind all the tragedy, but are they willing to go to any lengths to close the dig?

This was really interesting to read, I actually find archeology really interesting, growing up my friend’s mum is a doctor of archeology and often had interesting pots and things in their house she was cataloguing for various museums. I would always ask about her work and she took us on trips to see projects she’d worked on on display.

So a combination of crime thriller and Bronze Age dig is right up my alley. Ford (aka Dr Nick Shashall) manages to get the balance between fictional crime and real scientific information right. I loved the behind the scenes at the British Museum, a place I love and would really enjoy delving behind the displays.

It also taps into the history of cursed archeological explorations, even referencing the Cartwright Tutankhamum curse. I’m also fascinated by English folklore and mythology, which this particular “curse” references.

Altogether, this is a really great first novel, and I look forward to the next in the series.

If you’d like to know more or see what other readers think, my review was part of the book tour below.

HB blog tour banner.png

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog tour: Goose Road – Rowena House

In 1916, in France, Angelique is making Hay on her family’s farm when the postman delivers news – her father is dead. Angelique is not sorry – he was a cruel, drunkard of a man – but she is deeply relieved her brother, Pascal, is still alive. She makes a promise – then and there – that the farm will remain exactly the same until he beloved brother returns home. She hopes, desperately, that if nothing changes at home, he won’t either.

Of course, nothing goes to plan. The harvest is ruined by a storm, her mother falls ill and the bailiffs arrive, ready to repossess the farm after her father has gambled it away. Angelique sets off with her treasured flock of Toulouse geese to sell them to make enough money to save her family home and await her brother’s return…….

About the author;

Rowena studied journalism at LSE and spent several years on Fleet Street, reporting for various news agencies. She has lived and worked in France, Africa and Belgium as a Reuter’s foreign correspondent and covered the fall of Addis Ababa at the end of Ethiopia’s 30-year civil war. She now lives in Devon and works as a freelance journalist. In 2013, Rowena won a competition run by Andersen Press, which published her winning entry, “The Marshalling of Angélique’s Geese” in War Girls, a collection of short stories about WWI as seen through the eyes of young women. The Goose Road is her novelization of that story.

Here Rowena shares her thoughts on historical fiction:

Why I love (some) historical fiction

As a reader, when I say that I love historical fiction what I mostly mean is that of all the novels I’ve ever read, my favourites tend to be set in the past.

That doesn’t mean I only read historical fiction. I like detective stories as well. Sherlock Holmes and Raymond Chandler, especially, which just happen to be set in the past.

I like some Sci-Fi and fantasy writers, too: Larry Niven, Tolkien, Terry Pratchett.

So I find it odd when someone assures me they don’t like historical fiction as if it’s all one and the same. How do they know beforehand what book will capture their imagination or speak to something in their souls?

Personally, I won’t ever say ‘I like this’ if it carries the implication ‘I don’t like that’.

As a writer, however, I can say with a hand on my heart that I absolutely love historical fiction. I love the research, and the honest attempt at resurrecting the past by uniting insight and imagination with that research.

Historians when faced with gaps in their knowledge must rely on evidence that meets defined standards of academic rigour, ‘facts’ which they then sift and prioritize, and speculate upon, and rearrange to suit their own logic and reason – and prejudices. In that way, all histories are constructed. Fiction is just further along that line.

In particular, storytellers aren’t restricted by written records from their chosen period, with all the limitations that typically implies about the wealth, power and gender of those who did the writing.

For The Goose Road I read many books about rich, powerful men in the First World War, but I was free to write about a poor, semi-literate girl from a peasant underclass, even though I never once found a first-hand account from such a person despite months of research.

Instead I made up her life from snatches and scraps I found here and there, fleshed out with practical, personal experiments with scything hay and watching the behaviour of geese, combined with memories from my time as a journalist when I meet African girl farmers, working the hard soil by main strength with crude, manual tools.

So one thing I loved most about writing the book was giving my protagonist her strong, independent voice.

Another thing I love about historical research is the way it primes the mind for time travel. The heat and dirt, strange towns, exotic scents, hungry crowds, the fear and excitement. The ‘other’. Let me give you an example of what I mean.

When I went with my family to the labyrinthine medinas of the ancient Moroccan city of Fez, donkey trains shoved us aside in narrow streets crowded with shoppers and hawkers with their baskets of wares.

Cages of ducks, chickens and pigeons spilt out from the butcher’s shops. There were spices on stalls, fabrics, and leather goods from the stinking tanneries, their dye-pits gaudy with reds, yellows, orange and green.

The noise was constant, the faces fascinating.

Squint, and the occasional wrist watch or smart phone would disappear. Stop for sweet mint tea or mud-thick coffee, and it took no effort at all to imagine a slight alteration in clothing, a sword or a dagger worn at the belt…

Stories of the crusades sprang to mind and the tales of Scheherazade. The place felt familiar, but also more confident than I’d ever imagined: busier, buzzing, and entirely caught up with itself. The place belonged to the people. But their time was also ours, and what felt old and distant was suddenly here and now.

I experienced a similar sensation of time collapsing when exploring the muddy back-streets of the French Channel port of Étaples for The Goose Road.

A 1913 map I found in the local library showed that the old town’s layout – even the names of its twisting lanes – hadn’t changed from the days when British Empire troops and nurses walked there, and veiled widows slipped by in the shadows, and the great military trains of the First World War rattled past, carrying infantrymen to the Western Front, and the wounded to hospital.

Only ghosts from that war walk there now, but I felt them brush past me all the same.

I found the book really interesting, I’m fascinated by stories about ordinary people during extraordinary times, like this. Angelique is a farmer’s daughter who defies the odds to do something unusual and quite unprecedented.

This book has a lot of sad moments, some really tragic points, but Angelique is a strong heroine and one filled with determination, like my childhood literary hero Anne of Green Gables, stubborn and headstrong. Wartime France is not a safe place for a teenage girl and a flock of geese, including her pet gosling Armandine, travelling at times alone on trains with dodgy men or through encampments of striking munitions workers.

The writing is good, it keeps you interested and the characters are well defined. I know this isn’t written for young adult readers but I think it would appeal to any teens interested in history, especially if you enjoyed Michelle Magorian’s war books like Goodnight Mister Tom and A Little Love Song.