February favourites – book club, Balea, and the beauty box I won

It’s time to tell you what I’ve been enjoying this month. Let me know in the comments if you’ve tried any of these things, and if you’ve done a blog or video about what you’ve been enjoying this month, feel free to share it in the comments too.

1. I won a Glossybox – yay!

Do you know about Jamie Gourdon’s Youtube channel? If not, go and check her out! She’s really generous and does subscription box giveaways on her channel! I was lucky enough to win the January Glossybox. Inside there was

  1. Apicia cream blush – this was the thing that excited me the most, as anyone who’s been with me for a while knows that I love cream make-up. I hadn’t seen a blush in a tube before. Neither had I used anything from Apicia. It blends in nicely and it contains bee pollen to nourish the skin.
  2. Green tea primer from Iona Cosmetics – I can’t believe I never used to use a primer! I’ve got a little collection going now. This one absorbs quickly. It doesn’t have that silicone feel like the Porefessional, and it’s not watery, like some of the others I’ve tried recently. It creates a smooth canvas for make-up and contains moisturising ingredients such as green tea and avocado oil. I’ll definitely be using it.
  3. A nail and cuticle energiser from Nail Medic – this is an oil that you paint on with a little brush, which I find easier than the similar products where you have a little pipette thing on the end! I get very dry cuticles, which I then bite and make them worse, so I’ve been enjoying using this blend of oils and plant extracts to strengthen my nails and moisturise the skin around them.
  4. Dr Botanicals superfood facial oil – this is fantastic value and is designed to keep your skin protected and hydrated. It’s infused with Moroccan rose oil which contains vitamins A and C.
  5. Beauty beneath supplements by Boots – I haven’t tried these yet as I’m finishing up some others, but they contain vitamins C and E, as well as nutrients that help produce collagen and reduce fine lines. So it’s looking after your skin from the inside.

After this, I decided to sign up for Glossybox to try it out for myself. If you want to give it a go and get 20% off your first box, you can use my code KIRSTY-RGE when you place your first order on the Glossybox site.

2. Summer is coming – pineapple lip care

This tropical pineapple lip balm from Burt’s Bees was selling out really fast when I got mine! It’s from the flavour crystals range and 100%natural. I was already a fan of Burt’s Bees lip products – I love the mango and grapefruit ones. This range comes in pineapple, orange, and raspberry. They are not as glossy as some lip balms, but I find they need to be reapplied less often and although it’s not why we buy them … it tastes amazing!

3. Grapefruit shower foam

Do you remember my swapbox with Sazzy and Joanie? Well they got me some grapefruit shower foam from Balea and it smells good enough to eat! So fresh and fruity! I hadn’t tried this brand before. I don’t think you can get it in the UK, but if anyone outside of the UK can get Balea products, this is a good one!

4. Online book club

I like the idea of a book club, but having looked around online, there’s not much in my area. In any event, I think I like the idea of an online one more – you can meet more people, and it doesn’t have to interfere with your other commitments because you can just chat about the books online. We haven’t had our February discussion yet, but there are different book-related threads in the book which you can join in with. The actual discussion is set up as a Facebook event and you can take part over a 24-hour period. There will be a different book every month. February’s book was “The husband’s secret” – you can find out what I thought about it in the February round-up.

If that sounds like your kind of thing, visit the online book club on Facebook!

5. Did you know that coffee and sesame seeds go well together?

No? Neither did I until I tried the new dessert from Wagamama! I don’t usually have dessert. If I do, it’s the sorbet, but seriously, if you love coffee, the Wagamama Vietnamese coffee icecream is sooo good!

6. Body Shop pomegranate eye roll-on

This refreshing eye roll-on from the Body Shop is really nice because it massages your skin as you apply it. It’s from the pomegranate range, which is aimed at mature skin, but I think it’s good for anyone who wants to firm up the area around their eyes and reduce fine lines. It has a little button that releases the eye cream onto the ball, and then you massage it in with the ball at the end of the container. It’s a bit thicker than the Garnier one that I tried before, and I think the Body Shop one is more nourishing. It doesn’t leave a sticky finish, and another thing I like is that you don’t get too much at a time as you can with some tubes.

7. Ren Beauty shot

I got a little one of these in my advent calendar and I really enjoyed using it. You can get the Ren Beauty shot here. It’s a very lightweight serum that absorbs quickly. It says you can apply it over make-up, although I didn’t. I put it under my moisturiser as you would with any other serum and I loved the way it made my skin so soft. It firms and lifts the skin and claims to give short- and long-term hydration. An expensive treat because it’s Ren, but a lovely product that I enjoyed pampering myself with!

8. New primer

I know I’ve already talked about a primer, but I heard on the Full Coverage podcast (check it out if you love all things beauty and skincare!) that the Maybelline pore eraser primer is just like the Benefit Porefessional, but at about a quarter of the price! So I decided to get some and was not disappointed. I do like the Benefit one, but it is expensive. So if you’re looking for a more budget-friendly option, I’d recommend this pore eraser one at around a quarter of the price.

How about you? What have you been trying out this month?

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The books that I read in January

This is another new feature on my blog – the monthly book review.

Every month I plan to write about the books that I’ve read, what I thought of them, and I’d love to know if any of you have read these books too.

Don’t expect to see pictures of my books because I read them all as audio or ebooks on my phone, but I’ll try to provide links to where you can get them or read more about them – both as printed and audio books. Also, I sometimes read books in German, so in those cases I’ll try to find an English translation to link to as well.

If I hated a book, it probably won’t end up here because I don’t make myself complete books if I’m not enjoying them! There are too many wonderful books out there to waste time on one that’s not fun to read!

I don’t have a yearly challenge in terms of the number of books I want to read. When some are 50 hours and others are 10, the number doesn’t seem to mean much. However I am trying to broaden my horizons in terms of the type of books that I read, although I doubt I’ll ever be able to get excited by horror or detective novels!

1. After you

Author: Jojo Moyes
Available on Amazon in a range of print and audio formats. I bought it as an audio book from iTunes.

I got this on Christmas Day when I was downloading some other books that I’d been given for Christmas. One of my blogger friends Sophie Laetitia had been talking about it because it’s the sequel to “Me before you”, which was also made into a film.

If you haven’t read the first book in the series, I’d recommend that you first read that – but not on the train coming home from work like I did. The end is very sad, irrespective of where you stand on the question of euthanasia.

Following the death of the man that she loved, Lou has to decide what to do with her life,, made complicated by a stranger she meets after an unexpected accident, and someone from her partner’s past.

I don’t want to give spoilers, but this is an easy read and I finished it quite quickly. Having said that, I like the way the author makes relatable characters, even if they frustrate you sometimes! I wasn’t happy with the ending, but I guess a happy ending to the second book makes a bad trilogy! Maybe the idea of moving to New York doesn’t have the same attraction for me but still – you only get one chance at life – is it really worth risking everything in pursuit of something else if you think you already have a chance of happiness? It’s one of those books that take you through a range of emotions – happiness, sadness, wondering what will happen next. Ideal for the Christmas break!

2. Oathbringer

Author: Brandon Sanderson
Available as a printed book, Kindle or Audible book from Amazon.

This is book 3 of the Stormlight Archive series, so if you’re interested, again I would recommend adding the first two before starting this one. We got it as one of our monthly subscription books from Audible and S and I read it together.

Before meeting S, I never read any fantasy books. However he introduced me to this genre a few years ago and I think one of the fascinating things for me is the way they explore different cultures and the way that different societies work. For example, in this culture, the men mainly fight, and it’s the women who can read and have the education to understand how things work and develop new items to improve their lives. If you want something to be read, you have to go and find a woman to do it for you. Interesting social concept!

There’s also love, magic, fighting, and soul-searching questions about the right thing to do.

The basis is that humanity is facing desolation by the Voidbringers, assisted by the previously subservient parshmen, who had been enslaved by men.

There is not one main character, which makes the book more interesting. There’s ~Dalinar Kholin, with his violent past that prevents some of his allies from believing he wants to do good. Shallan Davar, who is exploring and developing her illusion abilities, whilst at the same time trying to keep a lid on a secret from her past and stay true to the man she’s going to marry whilst keeping in check her attraction to another. Then we see the world through the eyes of some of the Parshendi, whose take on past events is very different from what the humans have been taught.

It’s kind of complicated, but boils down to people with a range of abilities trying to work together to prevent the end of civilisation as they know it!

3. The deed of Paxanarian

Author: Elizabeth Moon
Available from Amazon in various formats and as an audio book on iTunes.

This is the first of a trilogy that I got for Christmas.

According to iTunes: “Refusing to marry a pig farmer and joining the army, even if it means never seeing her family again, Paksenarrion begins an adventure that enables her to restore an overthrown ruler.”

There is quite a lot in this book about fighting, but it helps you to understand what life was like in this kingdom for the common soldier. Ok, this character becomes powerful later, but everyone has to start somewhere, and I think this book did a good job of setting the scene for her.

Also, it’s a fantasy book, so magic, elves, dwarves all exist, but most of the ordinary people don’t get to see magic at work. In the ordinary towns, life goes on and the farmers or traders are at the mercy of the people around them with the biggest army, or maybe the most powerful magic.

It was good to see a strong female in a world where usually it’s the men who control what will happen next. For anyone who plays Dungeons and Dragons, it’s like when you have a really low-level character – but low-level characters have backstories too and sometimes the things that happen to them later only really make sense if you know where they came from.

4. Horse dancer

Author: Jojo Moyes
Available from Amazon as paperback, kindle edition and audio book.

This was my Audible subscription book for January.

This is the kind of book that filled my shelves when I was a teenager – because one of the main characters was a big horse called Boo! Having read After You, I wanted to try out something else from Jojo Moyes.

What happens when a young girl’s life is torn apart by her Granddad falling ill, and all she has to cling on to is her horse. Who can she turn to when even he isn’t safe from a man who is always used to getting what he wants? How do two people in the middle of a messy divorce cope when they find themselves living under the same roof again with a teenager who won’t open up and who keeps disappearing?

Parts of this book were a little far-fetched – but I loved the way that the relationship between horse and rider was described, and the lengths people would go to in order to protect their best friend! Overall it’s a positive book, but it does explore the way that life can spiral out of control when you feel there’s nowhere to turn, and I think this series of events was described in a believable way.

5. Divided allegiance

Author: Elizabeth Moon
Available in paperback, Kindle edition or as an audio book from Amazon or audio book from iTunes.

This is the second part in the Paksenarrion saga and according to iTunes: “Paksenarrion, once a sheepfarmer’s daughter, now a veteran warrior, meets new challenges as she breaks up a robber gang, dispells an ancient evil possessing an elvish shrine, and is accepted for training at an academy for knights. Clearly, a high destiny awaits her.”

But life isn’t all that it seems – after so much goes well for Paks, it seems like nothing will stop her. That’s not real life though. Nobody is invincible, and when the thing that is most precious is taken away, what will Paks do, and will she survive?

I actually enjoyed this book more than the first – a bit less fighting and more time spent developing the characters, discovering what life is like for the different races, and how people in authority don’t always know best.

6. Die Zwerge

Author: Markus Heitz

This book was originally written in German, and I read the original, but it’s also available in English. Apparently there’s going to be a video game too.

The Dwarves – available as a paperback or Kindle version from Amazon or an audio book from iTunes. I borrowed it from the library.

This book was recommended by one of my blogger friends from The Cozy Den. S said he’d also read it, so I decided to give it a go. I usually have a book going in German because it’s good for my German language skills, and I’ve read so many German books now that it doesn’t feel like a language exercise any more.

According to iTunes: “For countless millennia, the dwarves of the Fifthling Kingdom have defended the stone gateway into Girdlegard. Many and varied foes have hurled themselves against the portal and died attempting to breach it. No man or beast has ever succeeded. Until now… Abandoned as a child, Tungdil the blacksmith labors contentedly in the Kingdom of Fifthling the only dwarf in a kingdom of men. Although he does not want for friends, Tungdil is very much aware that he is alone – indeed, he has not so much as set eyes on another dwarf. But all that is about to change. Sent out into the world to deliver a message and reacquaint himself with his people, the young foundling finds himself thrust into a battle for which he has not been trained. Not only his own safety, but the life of every man, woman and child in Girdlegard depends upon his ability to embrace his heritage. Although he has many unanswered questions, Tungdil is certain of one thing: no matter where he was raised, he is a true dwarf. And no one has ever questioned the courage of the Dwarves.”

How do you lead an unlikely team, some of whom hate each other, and convince them all to focus on your common goal? How do you relate to a culture that you belong to, but which you’ve never experienced? These are some of the questions that Tungdil has to answer. Whom can he trust? Can people be your friend, even if they look like your enemy?

I thought there would probably be a happy ending to this book, but it’s not what I had expected. I use German most days at work, but it’s also been good for me to learn some new fantasy-fiction-related vocabulary!

How about you?

So, have you read any of these books? What have you been reading this month? Let me know in the comments!

Your chance to get a free audio book from Audible

If you’re in the UK or Germany, you can get a free ebook if you sign up for an Audible subscription. Whether or not you continue with the monthly subscription, you get to keep your audio book, and you can choose from 200,000 titles on a wide range of subjects. You can then download the Audible app on your phone and take your book with you wherever you go! (Books have to be purchased on the website – you can’t do it on the app).

Link for the UK
Link for Germany

1. This offer is open to people in Germany and the UK. Remember to use the correct link for your country.
2. You are eligible if you haven’t had a free audio book from Audible in the last year.
3. If you don’t want to pay, you must remember to cancel your subscription within the first month. You will still be able to keep your free book.
4. If you like the service, you will continue to receive a credit each month, which can be used to buy a book. Buying books on subscription is often cheaper than buying them individually.

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What subscriptions do you have?

I talk about our subscriptions for beauty, food, and entertainment.

What subscriptions do you have?

When I started thinking about this post and adding up the subscriptions that we have, I was a little surprised. However we do use all of them. One is very new, so we’ll have to see whether we’re going to keep it.

The beauty ones are definitely mine, but the rest are ours as a household. Maybe there are some here that you didn’t know about.

Beauty

I have two beauty subscriptions. The first is Latest in Beauty. The great thing about Latest in Beauty is that you make your own box. You might not love everything you pick – that’s just the way it goes with trying new products – but you make the decisions about what goes into your box, so if there are types of products that you’ll never use, you never have to get them.

There are build-your-own boxes and curated boxes. If you build your own, you can get 3, 6 or 9 products. The more products you get, the cheaper they become. I look through the list once my payment is taken and select the things that I want. First I look for new and exciting things, then I look for things that I need, then I look for things that I’ve had before and really enjoyed. Some months it’s really hard to choose because there are so many things that I would like. Other months it’s a bit harder, like a couple of months ago when there were a lot of nail varnishes and tanning products, neither of which really interest me. But I’ve discovered a lot of cool stuff this way!

My second beauty box is Lovelula – the natural and cruelty-free beauty box. You can sign up for the monthly boxes (there are different pricing structures, so if you’re interested, check them out here.)

I like Lovelula because I want to use more natural and cruelty-free products, and this is a good way to try some new types of product and new brands in a way that’s cheaper than buying them full-price. There are sometimes one or two things in the box that I wouldn’t use, but I don’t feel that these are wasted because they go into swap boxes with other bloggers, into a blog prize draw, or I use them as gifts. If it got to the point where I was using only one or two of the products, that would be a problem, but as it is, I use most of them.

The other good thing about Lovelula is that you get a discount on the brands in the box each month, and if you really like something, you can buy it in the shop. This is different from Latest in Beauty because they have rolling stock, which means once something has sold out, it’s gone unless they bring it back again.

Both boxes provide a range of full-size and sample-size products, and particularly as someone who loves to try new things, they both work well for me.

Entertainment

We hardly ever watch TV in our house. If we watch anything, it’s usually Netflix, Prime video or a DVD. Oh and then there are all the beauty videos on Youtube, but fortunately they’re free!

At the beginning of last year, we weren’t sure whether to go for Netflix or Amazon Prime. Both of them were offering one month for free, so we tried them both out and continued both subscriptions, but for different reasons!

I’d say that we use Netflix more in terms of watching things – either together or on our own. There are some things that S watches that drive me crazy, and I’m sure he feels the same about some of my choices. You can set up individual profiles, so that the suggestions are based on what you actually like, rather than some random thing that another member of the household was watching. The number of people who can watch at any one time is based on the payment plan that you choose.

I usually just listen on my phone because I don’t need a screen. I really like the way that you can filter by audio described content, which is content that has an additional sound track for explaining to blind people what’s happening on the screen. When I’m watching on my own, I’m usually only interested in this type of content, and it’s nice that it can be pulled out into a separate list. I wouldn’t say we’re really heavy users of the service, but it’s nice to have it.

We do watch a few things on Amazon Prime, but there is less audio-described content on there and you can’t filter it as you can on Netflix. If Prime only had the option of Amazon Video, it probably wouldn’t be worth our while, but it gives you a number of other benefits too, which we definitely use:

  • Free next day delivery. This isn’t just cool because it’s quicker, although that is cool! It helps me to plan when the deliveries are coming so that they don’t arrive on a day when I have back-to-back meetings.
  • Free magazines – every month there is a range of magazines that offer one issue for free. You buy them for £0 on your Amazon account and then you can read them on the Kindle app, or presumably on your kindle (I don’t have one!) This doesn’t work if you want to read the same magazine every month, but if you have a more general interest, such as beauty or travel, you can usually find something to read.
  • Amazon music – most of the time I prefer listening to my own music – I haven’t really got on board with the stream on demand thing, but there are times when it’s good to put on someone else’s playlist, such as when I go running and want some upbeat, motivational music.
  • Extra free books on Audible – we’ll come to Audible in a minute, but when I signed up, being an Amazon Prime member gave me an extra 2 books for free.
  • Share with your household – I’m the Amazon Prime account holder, but S gets all of these benefits too because I linked both of our accounts to our household.

If you want to try out Amazon Prime free for a month, you can sign up here.

Finally we have Audible – a service for audio books. I love audio books! I used to read Braille books, but you can’t take a huge volume of Braille on the train with you, so in my commuter days I read a lot of audio books! They’re also good when you want to relax. S likes them too, so we often listen to books together as a change to watching films.

S bought me an Audible subscription last Christmas. I decided to continue it after the gift ran out, and then I got 3 more books because I’m an Amazon Prime member. Now I pay for them, but I think it’s worth it. I tend to go for longer books, so I can have several nights of entertainment for a similar price to, for example, a trip to the cinema.

You have to buy the books on the Audible site and then you can listen to them on the Audible app. You can’t buy books on the app. There are over 200,000 books to choose from, and the player lets you speed them up if that’s your thing!

If you sign up to the service, you are eligible to get one book for free, as long as you haven’t had a free book from Audible in the last year (3 free books if you’re an Amazon Prime member). If you like it, you keep the subscription going and you will be charged for a new credit each month. The credit is used to buy your next book. If you just want the free book, you can cancel your subscription within the first month – you won’t be charged, and you get to keep your book.

If you’re interested, you can use my Audible free trial link (If you are based in Germany, use my German link.

Food

And finally we come to food. We get a weekly organic fruit and vegetable box. There are a number of different options to suit different households and preferences, but you can read about our first three boxes here. I like the way that you don’t have to get anything that you don’t like, but you are introduced to seasonal produce and you might also have to find recipies for things you’ve never tried before, which keeps things interesting.

The other food subscription is the Spicebox. You can read a review about it here. Basically you are sent a box every month with little bags of spices and a recipe for a delicious curry. You have to buy the main ingredients in edition, but all the rare things are measured out for you, so you only buy what you need for the dish, the spice blends are already mixed, and you don’t have to trek round looking for things that aren’t sold in the supermarket.

S and I always cook and enjoy these together – a kind of date night in! You get one a month, and there’s usually an extra sachet with spices for another dish. You can find out more about the company on The Spicery’s web page.

How about you

What subscriptions do you have, and which are your favourites? Let me know in the comments!

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This post contains some affiliate links ß specificallz for Amayon Prime and Audible.