beauty, beauty boxes, birchbox, reviews, Uncategorized

Birchbox x Vogue

Underwhelming. That’s all I can think of to describe this box. 

From the rather ‘meh’ design (I couldn’t decide between the two rubbish designs so let Birchbox decide) – it’s y’know, pink. 

Then there’s the unoriginal content. Which considering that it’s in collab with a magazine at which there have been some big chances in line up and ideas, I expected more from. 

Inside is just not exciting me. 

Shall we…

In haircare, Bumble and bumble Prep (RRP £18)- not even remotely sure what I’m prepping for…oh it’s expensive leave-in conditioner. 

Then there’s Klorane’s dry shampoo (RRP £8) – could not be more excited *eyeroll emoji here*

Onto make up and first up it’s Benefit’s Hoola (RRP £24.50) a bronzer that makes it look like I haven’t washed my face (that’s all bronzers fyi – I am really pale). 

Now skincare – L’Occitane’s Shea Butter Hand Cream  (RRP £8 and up) which ok, I do actually like but good grief this sample is tiny. 

Finally, and in case you don’t believe that beauty boxes copy each other, a brush cleaner (Birchbox branded £5) just like last month’s Glossybox. Wow. This is the only full size item – I got mine for 99p on eBay. 

Next month we get to choose a lipstick shade but for 2018 I think I’m going to be choosing a new beauty box. 

If I were Vogue’s Lifestyle and Beauty Editor I’d be tidying up my CV right about now. If someone could direct Edward Enninful or Anna Wintour my way, that’d be dandy *wink emoji here* 

Now where’s my intern?? 


Goodbye Glamour

I remember the first time I saw a copy of Glamour magazine. It was on the floor of my cousin’s bedroom, I was 14. Not exactly the target audience but something clicked. 

For years Glamour was the magazine I bought. I collected every issue and stacked them by my bed (they got thrown out by my dad when I went to uni). 

The first ever UK edition – April 2001
I continued to buy it, and not just when there was a freebie stuck to the cover. Two quid a month was reasonable and I preferred it to the other options. 

Women’s magazines seem to be dying out – there used to be dozens, now there’s about four.  

And Glamour won’t be among them monthly anymore. An announcement that “Britain’s No 1 Women’s Magazine” is going to only be published biannually has stirred up the internet. Even it’s own columnists (Juno Dawson, Dawn O’Porter among them) have spoken out in sadness. 

Magazines are weird – basically disposable books (recycle them please) that come out monthly and cover fashion, beauty, feminism, world events, culture, books, films, TV, interviews, celebrity news and gossip – it’s a lot to pack in. 

I kind of understand the thinking – as we move everything online people aren’t buying magazines any more. You can get similar content online instantly, not in monthly chunks. So a twice yearly release plus a “digital first” policy sort of makes sense. 

But it is sad. October’s issue (actually November’s because of the weird way magazines date themselves) a special 200th edition, is sat next to me, along with the other magazines I read (Blogosphere, Bust, Bitch, Rock n Roll Bride). 

The current issue – November 2017
Glamour is the only mainstream publication I still buy – the others listed above are all indie publications and for the most part, quite specialised. 

Part of me wishes I still had my Glamour archive, it would be quite impressive now. Especially as now it’s going to be a rare purchase but those long ago copies are definitely now recirculating as recycled paper products. 

I don’t keep my copies anymore – the loss of my original 50 or so put me off. But Glamour will still always mean something to me, just as that early copy on my cousin’s floor did. 


Book Preview: A Season of Spells – Sylvia Hunter

And so we come to the end of the Midnight Queen trilogy, with Sophie and Gray returning to London after their adventures in Din Edin (see Lady of Magick). 
Of course more adventures await them and their family and friends. As Roland and Lucia form a bond, the country is plunged into chaos by escaped prisoners and the threat of war against the self-titled Emperor of Gaul. 

While there is a lot of plot in this book, I didn’t enjoy it as much as the previous two. I think it could have done with being split in two so it didn’t feel so rushed in places. I wasn’t enamoured of the ending at all.

This book will be published on 19th October so there’s plenty of time to read the first two and place an order at your preferred retailer. 


Book Tour – Ashael Rising by Shona Kinsells 

Today I’m hosting a stop on the book tour for this new fantasy novel. Read on to find out more.

Ashael is a hunter-gatherer woman, apprenticed to Bhearra, the healer and spiritual leader of their tribe. 
The Zanthar are invaders from another world who extend their own lives by stealing the life-force of everything around them. They were last seen on KalaDene 200 years ago. They have returned, looking for The Vessel, a being prophesied to hold the life-force of the land.

Iwan is a slave to the Zanthar, descendant of the folk that were taken as slaves the last time the Zanthar visited this world. He is sent out as a spy, while his mother is held hostage to ensure his compliance.

When Iwan and Ashael meet and she invites him to stay in Oak Cam, neither of them realise that she is the one the Zanthar seek.  The fate of KalaDene and all of its people rests on Ashael’s shoulders.

Author details

Shona Kinsella is a fantasy author who lives near the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond, in the west of Scotland. She is a member of the British Fantasy Society where she writes reviews of indie books. Shona has a degree in Law from the University of Strathclyde where she learned a lot about narrative structure.; everyone loves a story. 
Shona enjoys spending time outdoors and much of her writing is inspired by the environment that she lives in, at the edge of Scotland’s first national park. When she is not writing, she enjoys geocaching with her husband and children and reading as many books as she can get her hands on.

You can find out more about the book and Shona at the following places. 

Unbound  Facebook Author website

 Twitter Instagram

Just to get you in the mood to read the book, here’s an extract to get you going. Enjoy. 

“All-Mother, you who gave birth to the world, watch over this woman and her child, Bhearra prayed silently. She had lost the thread of the baby’s consciousness and was deeply worried. Soraya screamed as another contraction struck. Ashael wiped the pregnant woman’s face with a cloth dipped in cool water. Bres paced the room. It was mid-afternoon and Soraya was exhausted.

‘We’re almost there now, Soraya. Get ready to push.’ Bhearra squeezed Soraya’s hand, keeping her voice calm, trying not to show her concern. The poor woman was frightened enough. As the next contraction arrived, Soraya pushed as hard as she could, gripping Bhearra’s hands hard enough to press the old bones together, and the top of the baby’s head appeared.

‘I can’t. I can’t push anymore.’

‘One more and the head will be out, and then I can help you,’ Bhearra replied with a soothing voice. She pushed a little of her own energy into the woman before her. She had been doing this for some time now and did not have much more to spare. With the next contraction, the baby’s head was out, face white and lips blue. Bhearra soon saw why: the umbilical cord was wrapped around the baby’s neck. Another contraction pushed a shoulder out while Soraya screamed, and Bhearra was able to get her fingers under the cord, pulling it slightly away from the baby’s neck. With quick, sure movements, Bhearra took the foraging knife attached to her belt and cut the cord, pulling the baby the rest of the way out with the next contraction. 

The baby had not yet taken a breath. Bhearra moved her out of view. She blew into the baby’s face then slapped her bottom. Still nothing. 

‘What’s happening? Is my baby alright?’ Soraya asked, gasping in exhaustion.

‘Ashael can help you with the afterbirth,’ answered Bhearra. ‘I’m just going to get the little one cleaned up.’ 

Bhearra moved towards the doorway as she spoke, Bres close behind. Speaking in a low voice, she told him what had happened. Bres looked back at his mate and began to weep silent tears.

‘Hush now. All is not lost.’ Bhearra held the baby before her then closed her eyes, once more stretching her senses out beyond her own body, searching for the lingering spirit of the baby. Nothing. Nothing… There! A spark of life floated nearby. The filidh breathed this spark in and then blew it gently toward the baby’s face. Nothing happened. Please, All-Mother.

The baby gasped and let out a great cry.

Bres fell to his knees and Soraya burst into tears. Bhearra gave a small smile, letting out a shaky breath as she moved over to Soraya and handed the baby to her.

‘You have a beautiful baby girl. What will you name her?’

‘Bhearrael. For the woman who brought her to us,’ Alayne answered.

‘Sirion bless you. You saved her life,’ Bres said. ‘How can we ever thank you?’

‘Nonsense; I didn’t save her. I just showed her the way home. She did the rest herself.” 

And as if that wasn’t enough – you could win a £20 Amazon giftcard and a copy of the book. All you have to do is click here.


Ignorance on the internet

TW/CW: rape, sexual violence, domestic abuse 

I try to avoid debating certain topics online but sometimes you just get dragged in. 

A blogger had posted a twitter poll about rape – whether it was always a violent act. I pointed out that by definition (legal and literal) it always is. 

The original poster and some random jumped on this, insisting it isn’t.  I used to work for a charity that supports rape victims, I’ve had training, spoken to survivors and read around the subject. I do know a lot about this topic.  None of it is cheering. 

The law is very slow when it comes to sexual and domestic violence. Rape in marriage has only been illegal since 1992 in the UK. Rape convictions are ridiculously low and the government’s endless cuts often end with victim services disappearing.  

Coercion is something that is only just being added to the statute books. This includes forcing someone to have sex with you with threats. 

Which is violence – pure and simple. Whether it is a threat to the person themselves, their children, other family members or even something like saying they’ll burn the house down- the spectre of violence is there. 

Saying, oh rape isn’t always violent, it can be – what, gentle?? Is ignorance, bordering on rape apology. 

It’s a bit like saying murder doesn’t always leave a dead body. It’s willfully ignorant.  

Then they (Twitter persons) said but the victims might not see it as rape so somehow that makes it ok?? Now that is rape apology. 

A victim may not immediately know they’ve been raped but they usually do know something wasn’t right. And even if they don’t seek help straightaway most do eventually. 

Rape isn’t about sex – it’s about power and control – having sex with someone without their consent is rape. Full stop. Even if they consented earlier, but withdrew it, even if you’re married to them, even if they’re drunk or wearing a short skirt. 

There is no way to claim rape isn’t an act of violence – there really isn’t.  Someone is violated (from the same root word) and their consent taken away. 

There are a lot of books written around the subject, a lot of research undertaken, and none of that ever suggests or states anything else. 

Basically if you think you want to discuss this topic, or any other, educate yourself first, do some actual research and not just ask Twitter. 


Suicide Prevention Day 

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. 

I am someone who has attempted suicide, I am someone who is fighting every day to stay alive. 

At the moment I decided I didn’t want to be here anymore I wasn’t being selfish, I genuinely thought the world and the people I love would be better off without me. 

I was in so much pain, my heart felt like it had broken, I couldn’t cope with the weight of my emotions, my depression, my anxiety anymore. I just wanted to be free from that. 

When you call someone who has attempted suicide selfish or attention seeking you miss the point entirely. 

Mental illness causes pain and terror, just like physical illness can, and has no cure. Yes you can manage your condition but you’ll never be entirely free from it. 

Walking through the Tube station I spotted posters telling people to speak out if they’re having suicidal thoughts but that’s easier said than done. 

I’ve been told to ‘walk it off’ after an anxiety attack that left me unable to breathe or stop shaking. I’ve been told to stop being so dramatic, to do some exercise, to eat healthier, to just relax. 

You don’t say anything after a while, you get tired of dealing with people’s responses, with the unhelpful things they say. You’re already dealing with the voices of disappointment and self-loathing that sound just like yours, you don’t need to hear theirs. 

For the time being I’m still here – but I’m not predicting anything. I know that this darkness swirls inside me, kept just at bay by meds and support. I cannot guarantee that it won’t ever reach up and drag me with it. But for now I’m alive. 

If you feel like you can’t cope anymore, please know you’re not alone, there are others who feel the same. There is help, if you feel able to ask for it, please do. 

#stayalive is one of the hashtags related to World Suicide Prevention Day and if you want to share your story – please use it so we can support others in their journey and let them know they’re not alone. 



July’s Look Fantastic box is here and it’s all about Summer. Perfect for this week’s heatwave. 

This Works in Transit Camera Close-Up – this is a primer, moisturiser and mask in one- use after cleansing and let it sink in. It banishes signs of fatigue and boosts radiance. 

Benefit Goof Proof Eyebrow Pencil – Benefit’s new brow range is everywhere at the moment, including in this box. Designed to fill in any gaps from overzealous plucking or thinning, while offering 12 hours waterproof wear – perfect forcwhen you’re sweating on the Underground. 

Nuxe Huile Prodigeuese Or – this shimmery dry oil infuses skin with moisture while giving off a subtle glow. Highlighting your tan or tricking the eye into believing you’re not that pale.
Kebelo Silk Anti-Frizz Cream Serum – frizz, it ruins your ‘do and possibly your day. This contains skin friendly ingredients to calm and smooth a hot barnet. 

Bellapierre Lip and Cheek Stain – oil free so no clogged pores and a lasting finish, which hopefully endures as the rest of your make up slides off your face (just me?)

Miti Bobbles – similar to other no tear bobbles, these little elastic plastics are designed to not pull or dent your hair, sweeping it off your face so you can avoid that woman fell into a box of hair aesthetic (unless that’s what you were going for, if so, work it!)

Hopefully these things will help me look less frazzled and smeary during this ridiculous heatwave nonsense. 


Book Review x 2

There’s a reason I’m reviewing these books together, eagle eyed readers of the first book will hopefully know why. 

Love, Nina – Nina Stibbe 

Recently turned into a Friday evening comedy by the Beeb, Stibbe’s memoir of her time as a nanny in the late 70s/early 80s, told through the letters she wrote to her sister Vic, back home in Leicestershire, from literary London, are very funny. Several well known literary figures frequent number 55 and live in the street, including Alan Bennett, who joins the household for dinner most days. 

Stibbe doesn’t know anything about being a nanny but neither her employer or charges seem that bothered, and in fact S&W (as she calls the boys she looks after) seem to relish her inexperience. She’s quite a quirky type, with a habit of not wearing shoes, but so it seems are the people around her. 

I enjoyed this, definitely more than the TV version – where Bennett is replaced with a random grouch called Malcolm. It is funny, touching and warm. 

The Lady in the Van – Alan Bennett

This slim volume contains Bennett’s record of the years Mrs Shepherd lived in a dirty van on his driveway. Recently made into a film with Maggie Smith, who also played the role on stage, it’s also humorous and Mrs S is eccentric to say the least. 

The link is a single reference made to Bennett’s driveway occupant in Love, Nina, where she tells her sister that Bennett has the only drive in the street but it’s occupied. 

Both offer a slice of London life among the literati during the reign of Mrs Thatcher, and I think, compliment each other quite nicely. 

Have you read either of these books? What did you think? Let me know in the comments. 


Anxiety takes the night watch

It’s 1am, I have to be up in a few hours, I can’t sleep. Anxiety is having a field day in my tired but still switched on brain.

Anxiety says, what about those debts you can’t pay, or those job interviews you’ll probably screw up, or the flat you haven’t cleaned, hmmm, let’s dig up several years of stuff that you still don’t know how to resolve, let’s go over all of those things till you want to scream.


#MyPillStory PCOS & the Pill

On Twitter there’s a thread sharing stories about women’s experiences on the pill, under the hashtag #MyPillStory.

Here’s mine.

I was diagnosed with PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) when I was 16, joy. It’s a wretched condition with horrid, embarrassing and sometimes painful side effects, coupled with colitis, it’s a complete arse.

Basically my body rejected the concept of procreation early on, and cysts form in clusters on my ovaries, stopping them from working. I had periods normally for two years, that then just stopped.

It took ages for the doctor to decide what was wrong with me. Symptoms include sudden weight gain, loss of periods, excess facial and body hair (just what every teenage girl needs), stomach pains.

There is however only one thing worse than having to sit in the waiting room of the maternity building at the hospital aged 16, with a full bladder, waiting for the ultrasound to confirm the diagnosis, being silently judged by a bunch of old women who think you’re pregnant.

That’s being trapped in the lift in the maternity building aged 16, which only goes up to the birthing suites and the screaming, then back to the floor you came from, when you’re desperate for a wee, a creepy male gynaecologist asked you if you were “a good girl” in your appointment and you have to get the bus home because your mum had a meeting and skipped the appointment.

My mum is a nurse and midwife, at that point I needed her to decode the doctor jargon for me. Mostly because being told that the condition you’ve just been diagnosed with could potentially kill you, tends to stop your brain from attempting to decipher anything else.

There seem to be two main ways of treating it – regular ultrasound scans and finger crossing, or hormones in the form of the Pill.

Many women take various contraceptive pills to prevent pregnancy, as my uterus wouldn’t bother with that left to its own devices (without extra oestrogen my periods stop, the cysts return and I risk one bursting and at the very worst, killing me), I take it to treat a syndrome that affects thousands of women.

Everyone’s PCOS is unique, because we’re all unique, and this is only what I know from my experience.

I have tried four or five different pills, with varying results.

Dianette – no longer prescribed for PCOS according to my GP, it gave me crippling period pain and horrific mood swings. Stopped taking it after a particularly bad day.

Progesterone only – you don’t have periods on this type of pill and take it continuously. Not really recommended as PCOS sufferers require oestrogen which this doesn’t contain. Gave me recurrent thrush which drove me crazy.

Microgynon – a really popular brand, my best friend was taking this one and seemed to be doing well, so I asked my Dr for it. Period pain worse than ever, couldn’t walk for crying and curling up.

Yasmin – my current pill pal. So far, three years into taking it, no horrid side effects. I do still get really bad cramps but at least I can stagger around. Does interfere with my gut issues, which is fun, but out of the mix this has been the best for me.

Every woman is different, and every experience unique. For more stories check out the hashtag and maybe share your own experiences.