What I Read In March

After reading so many great books in February, March had a tough act to follow. Whilst I didn't find a series I like as much as I like Penryn and the End of Days, I did manage to find a series I read just as quickly, and very nearly liked just as much as Penryn and the End of Days. Read on to find out what it was!

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black 
After watching both her parents murdered, Jude is whisked away to live her life in Faerie - life there is difficult, made even more so by the cruel prince Cardan 

Holly Black is an author I've been aware of for a while due to her connection with Cassandra Clare, who wrote The Mortal Instruments, one of my favourite series ever. I'd seen The Cruel Prince, the first novel in a new trilogy, floating around on social media and it was this that I finally settled on after finishing the Penryn and the End of Days trilogy.

I feel a bit sorry for this book, because I'm pretty sure Penryn and the End of Days will be the best, if not one of the best, series I read in 2018. Because I enjoyed this series so much, it took me ages to get into The Cruel Prince and I didn't enjoy it as much as I think I might have done had I not read something so phenomenal beforehand.

Unfortunately it took me quite a while to get into The Cruel Prince. I found Jude absolutely insufferable, I couldn't get onboard with the way the novel is paced and I really couldn't figure out what the plot line was supposed to be. Eventually, about 75% of the way through, I finally started getting interested in what was happening. I always endeavour to NOT spoil things in these mini reviews, so it's hard for me to explain how I felt by the end but Jude really surprised me and the ending had me desperate to see how things pan out after all.

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
Alina has lived all her life feeling unremarkable - just a plain oprhan girl with a future in the army ahead of her - but when she is plunged into a life or death situation, her powers are revealed and her life will never be the same again 

For some reason, until I actually downloaded this book, I'd never actually heard of it before, which is weird, because it is so incredibly up my street. I actually discovered it because I'd stumbled across The Language of Thorns, another book by Leigh Bardugo, and my research into this book made me realise I might appreciate The Language of Thorns more if I read Shadow and Bone first.

I am so glad I decided to read Shadow and Bone because it was awesome. From the very first page I was completely gripped. I found Alina so relatable and human. Whilst I often like the characters in Young Adult (YA) fiction, I rarely see elements of myself in them, but Alina felt like someone who had similar thought processes, emotions and fears to me.

Brilliant characters aside, I also loved the twists and turns in the plot of this novel. There were a lot of things I just didn't see coming, the romance was believable and the ending had me desperate for more.

Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo 
The second book in the Shadow and Bone trilogy

After finishing Shadow and Bone, I naturally launched right into the sequel, Siege and Storm. Like its prequel, I was instantly hooked. The introduction of new characters was really well done, and I soon found some new favourites. Again, the plot kept me on my toes and I found myself surprised and wondering how certain relationships were going to pan out. I also really liked the way that even though Alina narrates the story, she still keeps her secrets so you don't see some of her plans and schemes until she actually executes them.

My only tiny niggle with the novel was that I would have done certain things that Alina didn't. But I think that's more of a reflection of who I am as a person rather than a genuine issue with the story...

Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo 
The final book in the Shadow and Bone trilogy

Just as I did with Penryn and the End of Days, I finished Siege and Storm on a Friday evening on the way home from work and when I got home, I sat and read Ruin and Rising in one go.

What an epic conclusion to the series.

I loved the way the novel starts quite slow and than BAM - the action begins and it doesn't really stop until the end. There are some brutal scenes in the final book of the trilogy and some fantastic adventurous journeys. I was well and truly hooked.

I was, I must admit, slightly disappointed with the ending - it's not the way I wanted it to go - but, it was very well done and certainly in keeping with the cheesy ending I've come to know and love in YA fantasy fiction.

Did you read anything fantastic this month?

2018 Reading Challenge

2018 Reading Challenge
Emily Jane has
read 13 books toward
her goal of
52 books.

What I Watched In March

After failing to watch much of anything in February, I made up for that in March with a few bingewatching sessions. Sadly nothing I watched was spectacular, but I don't really watch TV to be wowed anymore - it's more when I need to switch my brain off for a few hours and some of the things I've been watching recently are perfect for this purpose. 

Friends, Seasons 1-6
Come on, do I really have to introduce Friends to you?

Like everyone else in the UK, I immediately decided to watch the entire thing in order and from the beginning after the amazing announcement that Friends would be coming to Netflix in its entirety. Whilst I have seen the vast majority of Friends episodes before, I have never seen them in order and as my rewatch has proved, there are a few episodes I definitely haven't seen before. I initially really, really enjoyed my rewatch but I'm taking a break for now because it does get very, very repetitive. However, Friends is perfect for occasions where I need a short episode while I eat a meal and don't want to use too much brain power.

Don't Trust The Bitch In Apartment 23 
June moves to New York to start her dream job and live in her dream apartment, but disaster strikes when the company bankrolling her move goes bankrupt and she's forced to move in with Chloe, aka the bitch in apartment 23

As I was flicking through Netflix in an attempt to find something that wasn't Friends to watch, I stumbled on Don't Trust the Bitch in Apartment 23. I spotted Krysten Ritter and that was it, my decision to watch was made. 

At first, I really didn't get it. One of the main characters is some actor from Dawson's Creek who plays himself and...well, it's weird. I never watched Dawson's Creek so I was left a bit baffled. A lot of the humour in this show is also a little on the uncomfortable side.

That being said, this is perfect brain holiday TV, and I did find myself laughing out loud on many occasions. It was nice to get a New York fix and there's only two seasons, so it doesn't take over your life.

Jessica Jones, Season 2 
The second series of the TV show about "superhero" Jessica Jones, a woman with super strength

I'm actually quite surprised I decided to watch season 2 of Jessica Jones, because, if I'm honest, I don't think season 1 was all that good. I think it was hyped up a lot so when I got round to watching it, it was slightly disappointing. However, I clearly felt like continuing to Krysten Ritter phase I appear to be going through and managed to get through Jessica Jones season 2 over the course of one weekend.

I'm actually very glad I gave it a chance because I really, really liked this. It should have been difficult to go from watching short 22 minute long episodes that require no attention to hour long episodes that need all your attention, but I found my attention span quickly returned because I was invested in the story. Season 2 is much more of an exploration of how Jessica became the way she is, and I love a good back story. There were enough twists and turns to keep me on my toes and I found myself sad when it had ended.

The Good Place, Season 1 
Eleanor wakes up in the afterlife and luckily for her, she's in "The Good Place" - a place reserved for the top percentage of those who have lived their lives caring for and helping others. There's just one problem - Eleanor was not a good person. 

After Jessica Jones, it was time for me to go back to short, easy episodes that required minimal brain power again. I'd seen a lot of chatter on social media about The Good Place and Netflix had forced the trailer on me at some point so I decided to try it out.

Unfortunately the trailer made it look much funnier than it actually is - I only really laugh about once per episode. That being said, it's not terrible TV. I am quite impressed with how season one ended because I was stumped as to how they could continue this story line for more than one season and they actually have pulled that off quite well. I will be watching season 2 eventually, but I've got some other things I want to watch in the mean time.

Have you watched any good TV recently?

The Body Shop Matte Clay Foundation [Product Review]

As much as I love the Urban Decay All Nighter Foundation, at nearly £30 a pop, it's not a foundation I can keep repurchasing every time it runs out. I'm also unsure how I feel about Urban Decay being owned by Loreal and their website isn't very transparent about which products are vegan. So, my hunt for the perfect foundation began anew.

Discovering one that met my new cruelty free and vegan requirements was actually not that difficult. Every single time I logged onto Facebook, I was confronted by an ad from The Body Shop that featured their Matte Clay Foundation. In the ad, all the women featured looked slightly like they were wearing masks which should have put me off, but in fact, it was their mask like faces that got me interested in this foundation. Mask like = full coverage!

I was shocked to discover that this foundation was just £10. The Body Shop isn't really somewhere I've shopped before and I had it in my head that it was super expensive. The tube looks quite small, but it's actually got the same amount of product inside as my beloved UD foundation and being a tube, it means I can cut it open and get every last drop out.

Unfortunately, I am slightly disappointed by this foundation. You have to build up a few layers and use a lot of product to get full coverage. It also wears off in around four hours - but not evenly. I am forever catching sight of myself in the mirror at work and being horrified at my naked chin and nose, whilst the rest of my makeup is immaculate still. That being said, even the UD foundation didn't last well on my nose. I'm sure other regular glasses wearers can empathise with this problem!

However, the foundation isn't all bad. Once you get the hang of applying it in layers, the coverage is very nice. It really evens out my skin tone, hides my acne scarring and mostly masks the redness of any new breakouts - see the photo above, there's a brand new spot on my chin! There's no strong smell to the foundation and it doesn't break me out. With the exception of my chin and my nose, my base tends to last all day.

To get around the disappearing chin coverage, I've bought myself a little concealer and powder from The Body Shop, so I can touch it up during the day. Because there's a workaround, I will be repurchasing this foundation when it runs out, so it's obviously not too bad!

What To Do If Your Year Didn't Get Off To The Best Start

We are now nearly a quarter of the way through 2018! After what felt like the longest January ever, February went super quickly and March is heading the same way. I'm incredibly thankful that this year, I feel like I am achieving things and moving forwards. However, for the past few years, by the time March came rolling around, I felt like I was a failure, that I was never going to hit my goals and that yet another year of my life was going to be a complete write off.

If your year didn't get off to the best start, or you've yet to make any progression on your aspirations for the year, DON'T WORRY! There's still over 75% of the year left to make things happen. Here are some ideas on what you can do to ensure the rest of 2018 is your best year yet.

Assess where you are right now 
Why do you feel like 2018 hasn't been good to you so far? Have you experienced a personal tragedy? Were you unprepared when the clock struck midnight on the 31st December? Have you hit an unexpected bump in the road?

Set aside some time to look at where your life is now, and where you want your life to be. How different are these to each other? Until you have a clear idea of the gap between where you are and where you want to be, it can be hard to work out your next steps.

List your ideas about the way you want 2018 to go
Write a list about all the things you think you might like to do in 2018 - you don't have to do everything you write on this list, this is more an exercise to help you realise what might be possible this year. For example, my own list of goals for 2018 started off as a very vague list of ideas:

  • Eat healthier
  • Get more exercise
  • Learn to drive
  • Blog more
  • Travel more
  • Choose happiness

Turn your list into concrete goals 
Now that you have a vague idea of the type of year you'd like to have, it's time to start turning your ideas into goals. Good goals are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timebound. In short, your goals need to be realistic, you need to be able to tell when you've achieved them and you need to set a deadline for them.

For example, if your goal is to eat healthier, you might set yourself the SMART goal of ensuring you eat at least one portion of fruit or veg with every meal and snack you eat each day by 1st June 2018.

Start taking action
Earlier this year, I blogged a lot about the importance of going out and actually living your life, rather than falling into the trap of always planning but never actually bringing those plans to life. A good plan is a good foundation for achievement, but you can't forget to actually do the things you need to do to get where you want to be.

Accept that life will never be perfect
One of my biggest downfalls is that the second anything goes wrong in my life, for example I have a day where my mood is very low or I get a cold so I can't do the things I'd planned to do that day, I assume that this is it, this is the end, my life is over. I'm a bit of a perfectionist, and I feel like I've failed if things aren't good for me all the time. There's a very annoying belief in my head that one day, I will be happy and I will never be unhappy again - but obviously, this will never be the case because that's not the way life works.

Overcoming the idea of perfect is one I imagine I will be working on for the rest of my life, but the older I get, the more I'm learning to deal with it and not give in when things go wrong or unexpectedly.

These are just a few of the things I do when I feel like I've hit a brick wall in my personal development and need to reset. If you're reading this post the day it goes live, or 75% of the way through the year, I hope it can help you get going again.

Do I Have To Be Accomplished?

I don't know about you, but every time I log onto social media, I am confronted by the idea of the "Girl Boss". All around me, fellow women are "killing it". There are bloggers landing book deals, working with amazing brands and pushing out great content on a daily basis. This places huge emphasis on accomplishment and achievement and I've been constantly asking myself: "do we have to be accomplished?"

Don't get me wrong, I love seeing other people doing well and achieving their dreams. I will never not clap for the people I love when they're absolutely smashing it, but I think this current obsession with "bossing it" can get unhealthy. Everybody needs a break sometimes for the sake of both their mental and physical health. 

I have dreams. I have goals. I want to be successful - but my definition of success is likely very different to your version of success. To me success isn't owning my own business, earning millions, driving a fast car or living in a house that's far too big. I consider myself successful when my basic human needs are taken care of, I can afford to treat myself and I'm happy.

Some of us are much happier just doing enough to put a roof over our heads and food on our table. When I finish work for the day, I have finished work. I'd rather use my free time to pursue the things I enjoy, instead of relentlessly trying to achieve things for the sake of looking accomplished.

We don't have to be girl bosses. We don't all need to hustle 24/7. It's OK if your job is just a job rather than a career that others aspire to. It's absolutely fine if you spend your spare time watching TV or curled up with a novel. You don't have to be working towards a goal every minute, every hour, every day.

I guess the message I am trying to get across is you do you. If "you" is constantly outdoing yourself, then carry on. If you is living a slower, calmer life where you quietly pursue the things you want to pursue, then continue to live your life. You are not any less of a human being if your accomplishments are different the accomplishments of other people. 

Makeup Revolution New-trals vs. Neutrals Eyeshadow Palette [Product Review]

My favourite colour in the whole wide world is pink, and I just love pink eyeshadow. Sadly, until recently, finding an eyeshadow palette with mostly pink shades in it was very difficult. When I first spotted the Makeup Revolution New-trals vs. Neutrals Eyeshadow Palette, I was drawn to the large number of pink tones in it. At just £6.99, it was a no brainer, I had to have it.

As you can probably see from the pictures, the lettering on the palette does not stand up to the test of time. However, when a palette costs less than a tenner, I'm really not that bothered about the packaging remaining pristine.

I suppose what's important is how the product inside performs.

In terms of performance, each shade is a bit hit and miss. Generally, the lighter shades of the palette are not as good as the darker shades. They lack pigment and it requires a lot more product to build up to the colour you want. However, I really, really like the darker shades. You barely need to use any product at all to get a really deep, intense colour.

The shade range is really versatile. You can great soft, subtle and delicate looks, or go seriously grungy and smoky. This means I get a lot of wear out of it.

The Makeup Revolution New-trals vs. Neutrals Eyeshadow Palette is a really great little buy and although it's not quite as good as my Urban Decay and Too Faced palettes, it's also a fraction of the price and the shade range was exactly what I was looking for when I bought it. Recommended!

Vintage Clothing Haul

A few months ago, I spotted an advert on my Facebook feed for a "Preloved Kilo" event. At this point, I'd never heard of a vintage kilo sale in my life and was intrigued by the idea. Basically, at a vintage kilo sale, you are given a bag and access to a room full of clothing. You then fill the bag with clothing you like and pay a fixed price per kilogram of clothing you pick up. At the Preloved Kilo event, the price per kilo was just £15.

The event was way back in September now, but I wear everything I picked up on a regular basis and I just had to share my bargains with the world. Preloved Kilo hold regular events all across the UK so it's worth checking out their Facebook page to see if there's one near you soon. Other organisations also hold these types of sale, so it's well worth a Google.

Here's what I picked up:

There was a whole stand of massive, cosy looking jumpers to root through and when I saw this funky 80s patterned one in my favourite colours, pink and black, obviously I had to have it. Jumpers are of course a risky choice when you're paying for things by weight, but I still paid way less than I would have done at somewhere like Topshop.

Next point of call was the dress rail, which was super long! It took me a good long time to work my way through it. I picked up a lot of dresses, but in the end, it was only this pink and black number that came home with me. I tried others on but the fit wasn't right or I wasn't sure how I would work it into my wardrobe. It doesn't matter though because the dress I did take home is now one of my favourite outfits ever. I was so lucky that it fits so well and it makes me feel really cute. The only annoying thing about it is it requires a lot ironing - it seems to crease just as soon as I look at it.

After dresses, it was time to stock up on blouses. During uni I was known for my collection of shirts and blouses, but after putting on weight in the past few years (and growing a set of boobs, at last, hooray!), none of my blouses from that part of my life fit me anymore. Blouses are super light, so at £15 a kilogram, I knew this was the perfect time to restock my wardrobe with my signature item.

I think the blouse selection my favourite part of the day. It was a seriously hard task trying to limit myself to a sensible number that I would actually wear on a regular basis. Naturally, all but one of the ones that made the cut were pink. The black and white polka dot one however, is super cute.

I also looked at skirts, but unfortunately none of the ones I liked were the right size for me. That's just the luck of the draw with this kind of event! All in all, my sack of clothes was under 2kg, and I paid around £26 for it. I couldn't be happier with my little haul!

Here are some mirror pictures of the outfits I've created with my buys (I regularly share the outfits I wear over on my Instagram stories):

Preloved Kilo is coming to Reading again in April, just in time to stock up on clothes for my USA trip. I can't wait!

What I Learnt During Veganuary

Like thousands of other people, I decided to adopt a vegan diet during January this year. I amazed myself by sticking to it for 29 out of 31 days. Generally, when I try to eat a certain way, I crack during the first day, so this was really quite the achievement for me.

I've since decided to eat vegan 99% of the time - only buying vegan food from the supermarkets and preparing vegan food at home. When eating out with friends, I will treat myself to something non-vegan if I really don't fancy any of the vegan options on the menu or there aren't any available. I know many hardcore vegans will see this as a cop out but hey, I'm just doing what I can to contribute to a better planet for us all.

During my Veganuary, I learnt a lot of things about being vegan - some I was expecting from reading the experience of other vegans, some I wasn't.

There is hidden milk in EVERYTHING
OK, not quite everything, but a surprising amount of products have milk in. I was actually caught out twice by this, I came home from the supermarket with bread rolls that contained milk (despite deliberately avoiding my usual brioche burger buns!!!) and it was also in the coconut milk powder I like to use, much to my horror. Milk also manages to sneak its way into crisps and even dark chocolate!

You spend six times longer in the supermarket
After getting caught out by surprise milk for the second time, I decided that was not going to happen again and started reading labels obsessively whilst I was doing my shopping. I used to be in and out of the supermarket in 10 minutes max thanks to my shopping lists which I write in the order that I go round the shop but now, because I have to stop and double check labels, I tend to spend about an hour in there.

Vegan cheese tastes better cooked
Vegan mozzarella on a pizza is great. Vegan parmesan stirred into your pasta sauce is great. Violife slices melted onto your burger and into your quesadillas are great.

Violife slices in a sandwich you haven't toasted? NO THANK YOU. Blergh.  I recommend you don't smell the vegan cheese either before you cook it.

There are no replacements for feta
Believe me, I tried. I found a recipe for homemade vegan feta made from tofu and that was terrible. I tried Sainsbury's Free From version of feta, that was awful. I tried the Sheese version. That was sadly a nope. I think that really solidified the point that vegan cheese is better cooked.

I much prefer plant milks 
I've never been a massive milk fan. In fact it was only a few years ago that I stopped crying if milk happened to touch me. Yeah, seriously. I've never ever eaten it on cereal or had it as a drink in its own right, but I would have a tiny, tiny drop of it in my tea, that's all.

Plant milks are another story. I LOVE almond milk, and I've recently developed a fondness for coconut milk. I also tried oat milk during January and whilst it isn't one of my favourites, it's also like a million times better than dairy milk.

Even if the rest of my vegan lifestyle falls apart, I'm not ever going back to cow's milk.

I don't need cheese and chocolate as much as I thought I did 
Before embarking on Veganuary, I literally ate cheese and milk chocolate every single day. I wish I was exaggerating, but I'm not. I was convinced that I would be utterly miserable without those two things in my life. The funny thing is, I was consistently happy throughout the entirety of January. Clearly, I do not need cheese and chocolate. Sure, I dabbled in vegan alternatives (Vego chocolate bars are insanely delicious, highly recommended), but I've finally managed to change my mindset to view chocolate as a treat, not a daily staple. I'm also much better at planning meals that don't require cheese for them to feel complete.

The best thing is, I've had a massive craving for brie for the past fortnight, and I've yet to give in. I'm so much stronger than I thought I was.

How inexpensive veganism is depends on your approach
I'm really not sure where the idea that veganism is super expensive has come from. Unless you live in a food desert, the healthiest vegan foods, e.g. fresh veggies and wholegrains, are actually the cheapest foods to buy.

Of course, I personally think that the transition to a vegan diet is much easier if you adapt the meals you already eat into vegan versions and a lot of the time, this is easiest if you use meat and cheese substitutes. Foods like Violife, Quorn and Linda McCartney items are not cheap, but they're also not much more expensive than buying meat and cheese, if at all. If you're already eating a varied diet, with lots of different meats and cheeses in the meals you cook from scratch, then you can afford to go vegan.

For January, my food shopping expenditure was round about the same as it was when I was eating meat, but the overall amount of money I spent on food in January was so much lower because I wasn't having takeaways anymore - I was way more interested in home cooked vegan food.

During February, the amount I spent on food was significantly lower than it was when I was eating meat, because I started batch cooking my meals on a Sunday night as well as continuing my vegan diet.

If you've been thinking about going vegan, do your research first 
I think one of the reasons I was so successful during Veganuary was because I actually decided I was going to do it about four months before I actually did it. A lot of my family members are vegan and I noticed an increasing number of other bloggers were adopting the lifestyle as well and this is what increased my awareness of how brutal the dairy industry actually is. I had been considering the health benefits of veganism for a much, much longer time - the ethical side was something that only came into my consciousness more recently.

I decided to research everything to do with being vegan. The potential health benefits, the cruelty involved in animal farming and most importantly, I sat down and meticulously planned what I was going to replace the things I would be removing from my diet with.

If I hadn't spent literally months planning how I was going to make going vegan work in my life, I never, ever would have managed to do as well as I am doing.

If you are considering going vegan yourself, I'd be happy to have a chat with you. I am not a perfect vegan, nor am I an expert but I am honest about my experiences with it and I won't judge you. I also really recommend signing up to receive emails from Veganuary - their daily emails in January kept me motivated and enlightened me on lots of issues.

The Things I'm Glad I Grew Out Of

As we get older, we all grow out of things. We get too big for our clothes, we get bored of playing with Barbie dolls and we stop crying for our mummies when something slightly inconvenient happens.

We grow out of other things too, some of which, I am particularly glad about. I will admit there are days where I wish I could go back to playing in the park and cuddling Cheezer (see the picture above!) for comfort, but here are some things that I am so glad I grew out of.

The idea that someone has to know every single song off by heart, including obscure, unreleased songs, if they're gonna wear a band tshirt 
I recently noticed that Primark has started selling band tshirts, like Guns N Roses and AC/DC. In fact, there was a Nirvana one a few months ago that I really regret not buying.

The thing is, just a few years ago, this would have infuriated me because it inevitably leads to people who wear these tshirts as a fashion statement, rather than people wearing the shirts because they really like the band.

Now that I'm a bit older, and I hope a bit wiser, I've realised that in the grand scheme of things, this is a really petty and silly thing to get annoyed about. Who cares if someone wears a Guns N Roses tshirts when the only song they've heard is Sweet Child O Mine?  It literally has no impact on my life.

Assuming I'm being copied if someone else likes the same obscure bands as me 
In my early/mid teens, I finally started to develop my own music taste that wasn't based on what my friends or my brother were listening to. I was incredibly proud of my discoveries, which often consisted of bands that were not very well known at all in the circles I ran in. However, rather than being excited when two girls at school started showing up wearing the same band shirts as me, I immediately got very defensive. They were my bands, how DARE these girls copy me?! There's noooo way they could have discovered them by themselves, they were clearly obsessed with me.

I'm super embarrassed that this was my mindset now and these days, if I spot someone in a Sleater-Kinney top or a Murderdolls hoodie, I go crazy and desperately try to think of non-creepy ways to approach them and make friends with them.

Drinking alcohol that tastes gross 
When I first started getting drunk, I would drink whatever I could get my hands on for the sake of getting drunk, even if it was something that is absolutely vile like vodka and energy drink, blergh. Like most..erm, young adults, when it came to alcohol, it was being drunk that counted, not drinking alcohol because you enjoyed the taste.

I'm pleased to say that now, even on the nights where I genuinely do want to be SMASHED, I make sure I do it drinking only drinks I really love. No more vodka for me! Just pink moscato wine, rum cocktails and fruity cider for me please.

Being obnoxious in public 
I don't know about you, but as a teenager, I was loud and obnoxious in public. I distinctly remember getting on the train to Manchester one day with a group of friends and loudly declaring how disgusting and selfish it was when lone travellers sat at the tables of four on the train. Multiple people offered to let me and my friends sit at the table they were on, and I declined with a sickeningly fake smile on my face saying no no it's quite alright despite my outburst which everyone on the train - not just that carriage - will have heard. WHY was I like that?!

Did you have any embarrassing or just plain awful habits when you were a little younger? What are you glad you grew out of?

MUA Undress Your Skin Highlighter [Product Review]

Long gone are the days where the only makeup I wore was foundation, eyeshadow, eyeliner and mascara. Yep, I'm cringing too just thinking about the fact that there was a time where the idea of blusher and lipstick horrified me. As for highlighter, well, back then I didn't even know it existed.

Now, highlighter is one of my favourite makeup items. I love a decent bit of shimmer and on special occasions I like to shine bright enough to guide ships into harbour.

I decided to pick up these two MUA Undress Your Skin Highlighters in Pearlescent Sheen and Iridescent Gold after going to Benidorm with my sister last year. At the time I'd recently donated most of my makeup collection to my sisters in a bid to minimise the ridiculous number of possessions I had and I only had one highlighter left that I didn't even like that much. As we were getting ready for our first evening out, I noticed how great her highlight looked and asked if I could borrow some. She handed me the MUA Highlighter in Iridescent Gold.

After using my sister's highlighter every day during our holiday, I decided it was probably time to pick my own up once we were back in the UK. While in Superdrug, I picked up the Iridescent Gold shade my sister uses, but also noticed that I really liked the look of Pearlescent Sheen as well.

So, did I still like the highlighter now I had one of my own?

The answer is yes! For just £3 each, these are great highlighters. The packaging is a bit flimsy (I've broken the fastening on one of the lids), but other than that I have no complaints. The highlighters look pretty in the pan and on the skin. You can create any look you like, from a subtle glow to seriously sparkly. Iridescent Gold is perfect for parties, whilst Pearlescent Sheen is great if you want to look ethereal. Both shades have really good lasting power - they're still there when I get home from work. Pearlescent Sheen is slightly more pigmented than Iridescent Gold, but it's barely noticeable.

I'd recommend these highlighters to anyone on a budget.

Blog Props Haul

Last year, to ensure I actually wrote some blog posts, I made the decision to invest in some stock images. This allowed me to post much more regularly than I would have done had I not done this, and gave me the opportunity to really focus on my writing, which is why I started blogging in the first place.

However, as 2017 went on, I realised I felt like my blog was losing a bit of its personality. After all, there are some many blogs out there nowadays, that everyone's USP (unique selling point) is themselves, and I was out there not even using images I'd taken myself. In fact, the website where I obtained my stock photos was very good one, which also meant it was very popular, and I noticed a few bloggers I was following had clearly made the same investment.

I decided it was time to start taking my own photos again.

What was holding me back, was my lack of pretty things to include in flatlays. I knew if I was going to reignite my interest in photography and get my blog looking the way I wanted it to again, I needed to invest in some props. I didn't want to go mad and buy things for the sake of buying things, but I wanted enough things to create my own little stock image library. I wanted to buy props I'd both use in real life and be able to use to create a set of images that would be easily recognisable as mine.

Naturally the theme was going to be pink, and I set out to buy things I like to see in other people's photography. My first point of call was eBay and Wilkos for artificial flowers. As nice as it would be to use fresh flowers in all my photographs, I don't have money to buy a fresh set every time I need new photos!

I bought the pink and white rose bunch from Wilkos, whereas my lillies, peonies and rose petals are all eBay.

Primark was another obvious destination for me. Here I picked up an affordable white fleece throw to use as a backdrop because I knew I wanted a relatively plain backdrop so the props would be the obvious focus of the photo. Primark is also where I bought my sets of fairy lights. Completely by accident, I also noticed that Primark has a great selection of very pretty notebooks, so I picked up three of these.

I've also started including things I already had lying around at home. Jewellery, trinkets and old photographs for example. I hope you're enjoying my new photography, I know I am!

What I Read in February

It would seem I have replaced my bingewatching habit with reading instead! I didn't finish a single series during February, but I did read five books, three of which have made their way into my favourites. Reading has well and truly reclaimed the top spot on my list of hobbies.

Here's what I got through this month:

The Witchfinder's Sister by Beth Underdown 
Loosely based on real life events. Alice is the sister of famous witch finder, Matthew Hopkins. She returns home to Essex widowed and with child to find her brother consumed in the pursuit of witches. 

With my America trip looming ever closer, I'm on a mission to save money. I could just go the library and get books there, but that takes more effort. Instead, I've been finding myself scouring the 99p section of the Kindle store which is how I came across the Witchfinder's Sister.

Unfortunately, this was the weakest book of the bunch this month. I picked it because I fancied a change from all the Young Adult (YA) I've been reading recently, and it certainly satisfied my need for something different. It was also gripping enough to get me through to the end quite quickly.

However, I felt like the story couldn't make its mind up - there were elements of the supernatural in there that never quite developed properly and it felt like the climax was always coming but never quite made it.

Bonfire by Krysten Ritter 
Abby Williams left her small town Indiana home 10 years ago and has been trying to erase her past ever since, but when her job takes her back home, she's forced to confront the things she's been trying to forget 

I'm normally very sceptical when people famous for one job, switch to another, models turned actresses, actresses turned singers etc. However, I really like Krysten Ritter and her first novel sounded like exactly the type of book I used to love before my YA obsession started so I thought I'd give it a go.

I really enjoyed this book, a definite page turner. I loved the Indiana setting, the very real depiction of the lasting impact high school can have on you and the mystery was revealed at exactly the right pace.

I found some of the story line slightly far fetched, and a lot of what Abby did felt brushed under the rug by the end, but overall a really good book. I hope Krysten Ritter writes more!

Angelfall by Susan EE
It's not long since the angels came to Earth and destroyed everything, but life will already never be the same again. When Penryn's sister Paige is snatched by a vengeful angel, Penryn is forced to team up with another angel to try and rescue her disabled sister. 

After taking a short break from YA, I was ready to jump right back in. I carefully researched and planned a reading list, which I saved on my Goodreads account, just to spot Angelfall on sale for 99p in the Kindle Store. It has more of an apocalyptic vibe to it than other YA novels I've read, and since I really enjoyed apocalyptic TV show Van Helsing recently, I thought I might enjoy that kinda thing in book form too.

What I didn't bet on was just how much I'd enjoy this book!

Straight away, I found myself incredibly invested in Penryn as a person. As someone who has three younger sisters, it was incredibly easy to empathise with Penryn's pain when Paige is taken, and understand why she'd risk so much to try and rescue her.

The world in which the novel takes place is also convincing - it takes place just weeks after angels invade Earth and whilst there are no detailed descriptions of everything that happened, there is just enough information that I felt satisfied. The fact that it's never fully explained just adds to the element of confusion and not knowing that the people in the book are feeling.

Perhaps most surprisingly in the novel is I even felt convinced by the romance. YA is notorious for Instalove that develops far too quickly, and intensely, and has me like "NOOOOOO ONE feels like that about anyone in real life!" - but here, the romance is secondary to the plot line as a whole, it develops very slowly, and it's not dreamy - it's befitting of the setting in which it takes place.

I wholeheartedly recommend this book to fans of YA with a dystopian, apocalyptic, fantastical vibe with a dash of teenage sexual yearning thrown in for good measure.

World After by Susan EE 
The second in the Penryn and the End of Days trilogy, of which Angelfall is the first 

After enjoying Angelfall so much, I couldn't wait to get stuck into the second novel in the series, World After. Unfortunately, I'd only give World After 4 out of 5 stars as opposed to 5/5. This is simply because there wasn't as much Raffe in it and I'm still in a mood about that!

Pettiness aside, I still really enjoyed this novel. It was great to get a bit more insight about why the angels had come to Earth and further explore the themes of family and whether it's worth being blindly loyal to someone just because they're the same species as you.

End of Days by Susan EE
The third and final novel in the Penryn and the End of Days trilogy (crying face...)

I finished World After on the bus home from work on a Friday night, and when I get home, I brought all my snacks into my bedroom, downloaded End of Days, and sat and read it all in one sitting. Part of me thinks I should have dragged it out longer because I was enjoying the series so much, part of me understands that was never going to happen.

After only giving World After 4 of 5 stars, I'm giving End of Days 5 stars.

I loved everything about it: the amount of Penryn and Raffe together was just right, there were scenes between the two of them that nearly KILLED me and although I predicted the general idea of the ending, I didn't predict exactly how the ending would come about and it really didn't disappoint.

I really hope they make these books into a TV show or a film, I want more!

What have you been reading recently?

2018 Reading Challenge

2018 Reading Challenge
Emily Jane has
read 9 books toward
her goal of
52 books.

What I Watched In February

This must be a first since I first started writing my monthly roundups of the TV shows I've been watching, but this month, I haven't finished a single TV show. Sure, I've been keeping up with my weeklies (Riverdale, Lucifer) and I've had Friends on in the background a lot, but binge watching is something I've lost interest in.

So, instead of writing a round up of the things I watched this month, I thought I'd share some of the TV shows I loved during my time off blogging last year.

A man uproots his entire family and moves them into the Missouri Ozarks after promising to launder millions for a cartel 

When I first saw the trailer to this, I thought it had a kinda Breaking Bad vibe to it - you know, father going to extreme lengths to provide for his family. I also thought Ozark seemed quite funny, so I added it to my to watch list.

Despite being wrong - it is not like Breaking Bad, and whilst the show certainly has funny moments, it's also pretty damn dark in places, I am so glad I watched this TV show. It's got a great story, a range of different and interesting characters and it has somehow added to add yet another destination to my bucket list.

I really recommend this show and I can't wait for the next season. Just don't watch it on a train like I did. I apologise to everyone who was on that train and confronted by unexpected boobs.

Santa Clarita Diet
A Santa Clarita family is turned upside down when a mysterious vomiting bug leaves Mom craving human flesh 

First thing's first, Drew Barrymore's hair in this show is INSANE. It's so long, it's the perfect colour, and I spent a lot of time distracted by how jealous her hair makes me.

If you can get past the beauty of Drew, Santa Clarita Diet is a great show. It's got quite short episodes which I actually quite like these days as it's good for after work viewing. Despite the obvious violence that comes alongside a show about people eating people, Santa Clarita Diet is a very bright, sunny and funny TV show. I really enjoyed the juxtaposition between the, if you really think about it, horrifying story line, and the comedy.

I'm looking forward to the turn it will take in season two.

The Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling! A group of interesting women sign up to be a part of a new wrestling show - based on a real life wrestling show! 

Definitely not a show for you if you don't like silly, often controversial, humour. Another one with quite short episodes, so it's great if you're strapped for time. I liked the different range of characters in this show and it was nice to watch some light hearted and human for a change.

Alias Grace
Based on a true story and a book by Margaret Atwood. A young girl is imprisoned after the inhabitants of the house she was a maid at are all brutally murdered - the twist is, she's not quite sure whether she was responsible or not 

I sat down and watched this entire mini series in a day. I did this because I was desperate to know the truth of what happened. If you like to have a definitive answer, don't watch this show...!

Sadly, the problem with TV shows based on real life mysteries that were never solved is that the ending of the TV show is always going to feel like a cop out.

That being said, I did really enjoy Alias Grace. I found it very engaging and the Grace/Mary scene towards the end was INCREDIBLE.

The Mist
Based on the Stephen King novel of the same name - The Mist is a horror series about a town that falls into chaos when an unnatural mist falls 

I've never actually read a Stephen King book before, but I have seen the film adaptation of The Mist before. The ending of that film was one of the most frustrating and heartbreaking things I'd seen at the time, so I was expecting something similar for the TV show.

However, I found the vibe of the TV adaptation had a very, very different vibe to it. Having not read the book, I don't know if the TV show was a closer adaptation or not. The TV show is definitely creepier and more sinister. I was expecting to find it a bit too much for me, but I am actually really disappointed to find out the show has been cancelled after just one season.

Orphan Black
A young woman watches her doppelganger commit suicide and assumes her life, inadvertently finding herself in the middle of a massive conspiracy 

Orphan Black is hands down one of the best TV shows I have EVER watched. I cannot believe it took me so long to get round to it. I binged all of it in an incredibly short amount of time because I just couldn't get enough of it.

Whilst the story line is truly fantastic, what I liked best about Orphan Black was Tatiana Maslany's performance. She plays multiple characters in the TV show and I was truly blown away by how she managed to make all these characters seem like completely different people. It got to the point where I kept trying to Google who was playing the clones because I would genuinely forget they were all Tatiana. I've never seen anything like it.

Do you have any recommendations of binge-worthy TV shows?

Barry M Matte Me Up Metallic Liquid Lip Kits [Product Review]

I first tried a liquid lipstick a few years ago and I haven't looked back since. I find them to be much more long lasting than traditional lipsticks, and when they say matte, they actually mean matte.

But unfortunately, super matte and super matte alone gets boring after a while, so when I saw metallic liquid lipsticks growing in popularity, I knew I had to get my hands on some.

The obvious choice was the Matte Me Up Metallic Lip Kits by Barry M. These kits are vegan and cruelty free, available on the high street and really affordable - exactly what I look for in my makeup. The shades I went for were Avant Garde (purple), Couture (rose gold) and Allure (deep pink).

Each kit comes in a cute metallic box that matches the shade of the product inside. As you'd expect in a lip kit, there's a liquid lipstick in the box with a matching lipliner.

Unfortunately, I don't think the lip liners are that great. I never bother using the Couture lip liner, because it's so pale, I don't feel like there's any point. The other two have a lot more pigment to them, but unlike some other lip liners I own, they're very hard and it can be difficult to draw a smooth, accurate line with them. On warmer days they're a bit easier to work with.

The lipsticks themselves however have become my fast favourites. Couture is a lovely, shimmery nude pink with golden shine running through it that I wear almost daily. You don't need much product to get an opaque layer on the lips. Of the three shades I bought, unfortunately, Couture is the least long lasting but I find this is the case with all lighter shades of lipstick, no matter what the brand is.

Allure is the next most worn lipstick I own, a deeper, more fuschia based metallic pink. When I'm not wearing Couture for work, it's usually this one that I'm wearing instead. Providing I don't need eat or drink an excessive amount, I can get a good six hours wear out of this lipstick before it needs a top up.

I get fewer opportunities to wear Avant Garde, but I try to take the opportunity whenever it arises! Being such a dark purple, it's a little harder to work with. The lip liner is essential here to keep the lipstick in check! I find Avant Garde slightly less metallic than Couture and Allure, but there's still a definite hint of shimmer to it. The best thing about Avant Garde is it last all day (or all night!), even if you're eating and drinking.

As a trio, I'm very happy with these lipsticks. I like the formula a lot, I love the shades I picked and the lasting power is pretty decent. I also think the price point they come in at is affordable and well worth it.

Have you tried the Barry M lip kits? I'm thinking of picking up some matte shades next.

Afternoon Florals

Outfit Details:
Dress, Belt and Shoes: Primark

Photos by Lauren of Blonde Vision

I recently made the decision to unfollow Primark on Instagram. Why did I come to this decision? I was fed up of seeing clothes on there that aren't actually available in UK stores! Without fail, every single time they posted something I would have liked to buy, it wasn't available here. One such item was the dress featured in today's post, so imagine my excitement when I saw it popping up on the Instagrams of a few UK bloggers! I quickly rushed to my own local Primark, just to be disappointed that I couldn't find it. Eventually, I went home to Yorkshire for Christmas, and was lucky enough to find it in the giant Leeds Primark. Hooray!

I love this dress so much that even though it's quite extravagant, I've already managed to wear it three times: Christmas, Boxing Day and for Afternoon Tea. Every time I wear it, I feel much more sophisticated and put together than I actually am. Maxi dresses aren't really something I've embraced in the past, but this is actually my second lace maxi dress and I think because they're sheer and I can wear a short dress underneath, I've finally found a way to make longer dresses work for me. 

Unfortunately, at 5 foot 2, this dress is incredibly long on me and it actually drags along the floor. Whilst this wasn't such an issue wearing it around the house over Christmas, I knew it was going to drive me mad when it got its first outing outside of the house. I'm sadly not handy with a needle and thread, so altering it wan't an option, and I've now completely given up heels that are more than an inch in height, so what was I to do?!

Eventually, it finally clicked that I could wear a waist belt and tuck the excess dress into that. I already owned three waist belts, so I tried them all on and sent pictures to my sister. I wasn't really sold on any of them, especially the one she said looked the best. 

A few days later, I was in Primark when I found myself in the belt section. There was an entire stand dedicated to reduced belts at £1-4ish each, around half of which were waist belts! As soon as I saw this velvet, corset style belt for just a quid, with just one size (my size!) left, I knew I'd found the one. I ran home and showed my sister, and she agreed! 

At first I was quite miffed about having to wear a belt with it, but now I'm happy, and it also makes it look like I put thought into my outfit rather than just throwing a dress on!

Do you have any dresses that just make you feel GREAT? What are they like?

Afternoon Tea at Ham Yard Hotel

A few weeks ago, I hopped on the train to London feeling very excited because I was on my way to my first ever afternoon tea. Despite being born in Britain, and living here my whole life, I'd somehow managed to go nearly 27 years without ever participating in this Great British tradition.

The chosen venue was the Ham Yard Hotel, tucked down a small side street close to Leicester Square tube station. I was lucky enough to share my my first ever afternoon tea experience with my fave blogger babes, Lauren, Nirvana, Jenny, Justine and Tanya.

Before heading to the hotel, me and Lauren headed into Kensington to take some outfit photos. Although very mild for a January day, it was still very cold once we took our coats off to get the shots we wanted so this didn't take as long as expected! As a result, we ended up at the venue very early but they were more than happy to seat us then and there while we waited for the rest of our group to arrive.

While we waited, the service was very attentive and friendly, and we were given nice glasses of iced water to keep us going while we chatted and browsed the menu.

Once everyone had arrived, a waitress explained to us how everything works and asked if any of us had any dietary requirements or allergies. One of us has a nut allergy and they were happy to work around that. We were also given a selection of drinks to choose from: besides a selection of teas, we were offered coffee and hot chocolate as well. I personally went with a mint tea. 

Our food then arrived shortly afterwards. There was a separate nut-free stand, a stand to serve two people and a stand to serve three people. Each stand had a lovely selection of extravagant desserts, cute little sandwiches and of course, scones! Our waitress explained what everything was and left us to dig in. 

Now here's a little disclaimer: although I am now eating a mainly vegan diet now, I deliberately did not ask for the vegan menu. The reason for this being that although the Ham Yard website says a vegan afternoon tea can be created if notice is given when booking, there is no indicator of what a vegan afternoon tea would actually include. In fact, there's very little information about the standard afternoon tea available beyond "a selection of sandwiches, cakes and scones" which you know, is obvious. Me and the girls all agreed we much prefer to see exactly what's on offer before we go out for food. 

Now, grumbling aside, I have no regrets about ditching the vegan diet for this day. I tried every sandwich except the ones with egg and they were great, which is weird, because I'm not a huge sandwich fan. There was a lovely pesto and mozzarella one, but I liked the chicken and salmon ones a lot too. The scones were still warm from the oven and the coffee and walnut macarons are the kind of dessert I dream of. I would have liked to see more chocolate-based desserts, but in all honesty, I was so stuffed on scones, sandwiches and macarons that it wasn't too much of a loss! 

All in all, I had a really good time at my first ever afternoon tea. I enjoyed the food and the lovely little conservatory full of quirky decor really added to the atmosphere. At just £22 each as well, I feel it was very affordable for central London, particularly because we ended up taking food home with us because there was too much to eat then and there! We were given little boxes and hotel branded bags to take our leftovers in as well, which really added to the positive experience. 

If you're ever looking for an afternoon tea in London that doesn't break the bank but still takes place in a cool location with tasty goodies, I'd recommend the Ham Yard Hotel.