Stalkers, Crazy Exes, Murderers, General Creepiness? Yes Please! My Best Books of 2013.

So at the beginning of this year I got the opportunity to read and review books for the fabulous Novelicious. These books were mainly romantic women's fiction - chicklit I suppose you'd say. Now, I do like reading these types of books, but I also love other genres, in particular thrillers - and I found reading and reviewing the books for Novelicious quite time consuming, in the sense that I didn't then really get any time to read other books that caught my eye, or - most importantly - spend time working on my own budding novel. So, after six months with Novelicious I bid farewell, and dove back into my own kindle selection. Here is a round up of my favourites....

Forward Slash by Mark Edwards and Louise Voss

Internet dating is a great idea, right? Err....wrong. How do you know that stuff posted on social networking sites is genuine? How do you know it's actually posted by who you think it is? Well, you don't, is the answer. I absolutely loved this modern, fast paced thriller. The subject matter is bang up to date and the story, although gripping and, in parts, chilling, doesn't actually seem that far-fetched. A brilliant read.

The Wicked Girls by Alex Marwood

After twenty-five years, two women cross paths during the investigation into some horrific murders in a seaside town. They weren't expecting to ever see each other again - especially under these circumstances - and the terrible secret they both held all these years was deeply buried. Until now. There's great suspense in this book - some of the details are really disturbing yet I had to read on to find out what happened next. I had no idea how the story would - or could - end. I really recommend this book.

Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes

This was actually published in 2011, but I only discovered it this year. It's a story of domestic violence; a disturbing, chilling story that really illustrates how the main character, Catherine's experiences have changed her as a person. I love how the book starts with a transcript from the court case which ultimately takes place following Catherine's abuse. We then learn how Catherine and her former partner Lee met, and the series of events that lead to the time of the court transcript. This was Elizabeth Haynes debut novel and I've since read two more of her books and can't wait for more. Fantastic

Passion For Life by Joan Collins

A bit of a change in genre :) I absolutely love both Jackie and Joan Collins. (Read about my tea with Jackie at the Dorchester here). I saw Joan talking about this book on a chat show and knew I had to get it. Due to the amount of fabulous pictures in this book (and me having an old-style kindle), I ordered the hardback and I was so glad I did. The book chronicles Joan's life: her career, relationships and famous friends. There's nothing new in here in terms of gossip, but I loved the gorgeous photos that accompany each stage of her story. In particular one B.EAUTIFUL shot of Joan and Warren Beatty from the early sixties. The glamour!

So that's my book round up. I've read literally dozens of books this year but these ones really stand out for me. I can't wait to read more next year!

What have been your standout books of 2013? Let me know if there's something you'd recommend!

L xx

Sephora Primal Instincts Eyeshadow Palette - My New Fave :)

I've read loads of reviews raving about the Urban Decay Naked 3 palette, and I did consider buying it, since I tend to wear taupey/nudey/brown shadows most days. Then I remembered that I'd asked my mam to pick up this on her recent trip to New York, so I thought I'd wait and see how I got on with this set before buying any more.

I've had one of these Sephora palettes before and loved it. This one is the Primal Instincts Limited Edition version and contains 14 eyeshadows - 12 shimmery shades ranging from a pale neutral to a deep plum, plus a matte black and very dark brown colour. Each of the shadows are totally wearable, and I think would suit various skin tones. I'll get plenty of wear out of the beige, sand and apricot colours by day, and am looking forward to experimenting with the plums and purples for a night out. Bets of all, these shadows are so soft - they blend amazingly well. I usually find with eye palettes that there are one or two shades that I use a lot, whilst the others are untouched. I think everything in this palette will be used. A lot!

If I had a criticism it's be that I'd have liked a lighter matte brown shadow in here for brows - in my other Sephora palette there are two matte brown shades - both lighter than the one here - which I use to fill in my brows pretty much every day. Also, obviously, these palettes are only available from Sephora, and I can't see them on the French site. So, for anyone wanting to try these, it's a case of finding someone (ANYONE!) who is taking a trip to the US in the near future and can swing by Sephora and grab one of these! Totally worth it.

Have you tried any of the Sephora palettes? What do you think?

L xx

I Heart the North East - Rothbury

Occasionally the Husband and I like to trot off to the countryside so we can get away from the hustle and bustle, enjoy bracing walks in the fresh air (him) and dress top-to-toe in Joules (me).

Since we're in that odd not-quite-Christmas, not-quite-New-Year period, we thought this weekend might be a nice time to visit Rothbury, a small market town in Northumberland, around 30 miles North of where we live. Rothbury is a really pretty place with lots to do if your an outdoorsy type of person - walking, cycling, fishing, plus the National Trust property Cragside, which was the first house in the world to be lit by hydroelectricity, is very close by. The river Coquet runs through the centre, and there are lots of quaint, pretty buildings that look like they haven't changed much since the 1800s.

 We had intended to have a (short) walk in the surrounding hills but when we arrived it was so cold (yes, I know; December, Northumberland = obviously freezing), that we decided a few drinks in a cosy, warm pub would be a better idea. Rothbury is a really small place with only a handful of shops along the main street - some are quaint, local businesses selling arty things, toys or local produce, but there's also a Co-Op, an outdoor shop and - oh yes - a Boots. It's only a tiny pharmacy Boots, yet walking past I noticed the unmistakable pink and red of Soap and Glory's logo, and peering through the window I saw they had a few gift sets in the half price sale. Now, I've resisted actually going to any sales so far this Christmas, ordering stuff online instead. I actually ordered a fair bit from on Christmas Eve, but these were there, in front of me. So, I bought one of everything they had: a large Ted Baker smellies set down from £20 to £10, a smaller Ted Baker box reduced to a fiver, and a Soap and Glory kit for eight quid. For presents, I insisted to the Husband. (For myself, I added silently).

Rothbury's main street

A couple of doors down I noticed an Otterburn Mill store, so we nipped in there for a look. Ten minutes later we emerged with the Husband having bought me the softest, warmest pure cashmere scarf reduced from £60 to £12.50. Bargain! Also, it's purple check, and I'm totally having a purple moment right now.

Even in a tiny Northumberland market town, I have the urge to shop

The Husband was determined to buy a mince pie to bring home for Sunday lunch, so we popped into Tully's to pick up some yummy local produce including black pudding (which I think is yuk, but never mind).

Needing fuel after all that hard shopping, we stopped for a cuppa and huge slice of chocolate cake at Tomlinsons which is a friendly café in the centre of town.

Finally we made it to the Newcastle House pub where we had a few drinks before venturing outside and over the river to the Coquetvale Hotel, a grand nineteenth century house, where we were staying the night. We were in a loft room, right at the top of the hotel which was nice and modern, although there did appear to be a ghost operating the dvd player who seemed insistent that we watch the movie Evan Almighty (the dvd turned itself on and wouldn't turn off). We had dinner in the hotel which was lovely, and a few glasses of wine which made me very, very sleepy, so off to bed we went.

Coquetvale Hotel

This morning we had a hearty Northumbrian breakfast in the hotel before leaving to drive the 40 minute journey home in time for lunch. When we got home I was thoroughly exhausted from all that  - ermm, shopping, eating and drinking in the countryside -  I love the outdoors, especially around Northumberland, there are some truly beautiful places. I'll just gear myself up for the next visit. Maybe when it warms up a bit, though. Until then, it's on with the pjs and a repeat of Scandal on the V+ player.

L xx

Follow">">Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Origins Ginger Body Gloss

I just love the smell of ginger, especially at Christmas - to me it just smells so warm and cosy. I've tried a few Origins products before and, although I liked them, I just wasn't wowed. Then I tried this.

This body gloss goes on so smoothly the only way I can describe it is like liquid silk. It's literally divine. I applied it to damp skin after a shower and it feels so soft! I mentioned the amazing smell, and the bonus with this is that it lasts - I sat watching tv movies for - ahem - a few hours yesterday and kept getting gorgeous whiffs of fresh, gingery loveliness...which I then realized was me! Love it.

If you haven't tried this already I can highly recommend it - I can't wait to try it out on bare legs in the summer as I imagine it will give a beautiful sheen to my (albeit fake) bronzed pins. (The tan will be fake, not the legs - just to clarify).

Orgins Ginger Body Gloss is £17.

Have you tried any Origins products? Anything you'd recommend?

Marc Jacobs Lash Lifter Gel Volume Mascara

I got this for Christmas and thought I'd do a little review, as I couldn't find much info on the product online. So, here goes....

- The packaging. I absolutely LOVE the packaging on this mascara! It comes in a glossy black tube with rounded edges, with the simple Marc Jacobs logo along the side. Might not be to everyone's taste but I think this looks super stylish
- This mascara is black. I mean BLACK. Not greyish black, like some other mascaras claiming to be black, but a true, glossy black. So, yes, totally black. I'll stop saying 'black' now.
- It's a gel formula, which goes on really smoothly with no grittiness. It also gives a sort of glossy effect to the lashes.
- It gives definite length and curl. This must be down to the E-lash tic lash technology that MJ say the product contains. Whatever it is, I like it!
- it doesn't smudge, yet it's easy to remove. I usually find that the less smudgy a mascara, the more of a pain it is to get off at the end of the day. For example, Benefit's They're Real is great for staying power, but I find REALLY difficult to take off. For that reason, I don't use it all the time. This gel formulation just seems to slide off which is a big plus for me.

- as far as I can see, this product (and indeed the whole MJ beauty collection) can only be bought in the US. Booo! It's $26 on Marc Jacobs site and also on Sephora, neither of which currently ship to the UK. *sad face*. On the plus side, if you can get ahold of this, it makes it that little bit more special.

So all in all, I LOVE this so far. It's such a shame that it's not readily available in the UK though as I'd love to try more from the range.

Have you tried any Marc Jacobs Beauty products? If so what did you think?

Feeling Festive at Edinburgh Christmas Market

There's nothing that makes me feel more Christmassy than a festive Market, and Edinburgh's has to be one of the best. Myself and the Husband took a day trip up on the train to grab a few last minute gifts, and when we got there it was FREEZING. Now I know it's December, it's winter, yada yada...but the weather has been pretty mild so far this year overall so it was a bit of a shock to the system! Of course I was completely inappropriately dressed for such Baltic conditions in just a jumper, mac and light scarf :-S

Anyway, it was also raining when we arrived, so we headed straight up to The Dome to check out their amazing Christmas decorations and have an early lunch. If you haven't tried The Dome I would totally recommend it if you're visiting Edinburgh, especially at Christmas time. The whole place is sparkling with lights and glitter and the smell of cinnamon hits you as soon as you walk in. Of course, the food is lovely too - I had fish and chips and the Husband had a haggis burger which was so big even he couldn't finish it (which is unheard of).


By the time we'd left The Dome it had stopped raining so we headed down to the market to browse the stalls and ended up buying three (THREE!) Christmassy Russian dolls a well as some of those yummy chocolate covered waffle type things with the white fondant inside...I have  no idea what they are called but they are delish.

We then had a stroll around the shops on Princes Street and beyond, where I bought myself a fab matching hat and scarf for half price in the sale at Radley, then popped into Harvey Nichols as I needed a new powder compact. I had my eye on this Tom Ford one but just couldn't justify the price, much as I LOVE it and it's BEAUTIFUL (sob). So instead I went for this YSL one, as I loved the packaging (and I admit, that is the first thing I look for in a compact!) and the powder itself feels so smooth and silky, as well as giving a very subtle glow to the skin.

After grabbing a few last minute presents for the family, we caught the train home where the first thing I did was jump into a hot Philosophy Cherry Christmas bubble-filled bath - bliss!

So that's me done with all my gift shopping now - phew - much as I love shopping, I hate crowds, and queues, so Christmas is not my favourite time to hit the high street. I will, however be on the look out for fabulous sale bargains in a few days time, of course :)

So, MERRY CHRISTMAS everyone, I hope you have a fabulous time whatever you are up to. Leave me a comment to let me know what your plans are!

All the best, L xx

Early Christmas Surprise - Icy Cups & Best of Benefit!

It seems my team at work know me so well, as this week I received a lovely surprise early Christmas gift from them in the shape of a tub of Icy Cups (utterly amazing childhood sweets) and this Best of Benefit kit.... 
The kit is in a gorge pink box with a ribbon to pull out the tray containing the goodies: 6 Benefit minis including 2 shades of Boi-ing concealer and the best selling They're Real Mascara which I already have in full size, so this'll be perfect for my handbag. There's also a voucher in there for a makeover at my nearest Boots Benefit counter...although I think I've mentioned my phobia of having my makeup done in shops previously (given that I used to do it myself) so I'm not sure I'll use that yet.
I do love the branding of Benefit but I find some of the products a bit 'blah'. I don't find the cheekstain anything to write home about and I only used the That Gal primer for one day as it made my face look like I'd smeared it in butter. On the other hand, I've become increasingly addicted to The Porefessional, and the Big, Beautiful Eyes kit has been in staple in my cosmetic case since I got it.
I * think* this kit was exclusive to Boots, and it doesn't look like it's available anymore, boo :(  However I have noticed quite a few other fabulous Benefit gift sets which I'm hoping might go on sale after Christmas so I can try out a few more products.
What are your fave Benefit bits? Anything you'd recommend?
L xx

Illamasqua Cream Blush in Dixie

Anyone who knows me; knows that I LOVE blusher. For me, it really sets a look and wakes up my entire face. As I’m quite pale, I like to go for something that’s not too bright but still noticeable, and although I love my powder blushes (current fave is shade 002 by Dainty Doll, a light pink), I find they don’t tend to last very long and I need to reapply at lunch time to avoid looking corpse-like at my desk in the pm.
So, I’ve been searching for the perfect cream blush for literally years now: something pinky but natural, peachy but not orange, glowy but not shiny, long lasting...the list goes on. (I’m a very picky blusher-buyer).
I spotted this on ASOS curing one of their recent 25% off days and thought, for the bargain price of £11.25, it was worth a try. I’ve not used any Illamasqua products before but have heard amazing things about them so was really excited to try it.
The first thing I noticed was the pretty packaging, which I think has a luxe feel. The little claspy bit to open it can be a bit awkward to open if you don’t have long nails, but I find that with a lot of compact products. Anyway, the cream itself looks quite pinky in the pan, but goes on as more of a warm peach colour. It’s really smooth and easy to blend, and best of all, I wore it to my work Christmas party last weekend and it stayed put all night! Think this one’s a keeper.
I’m really excited to try more of Illamasqua’s range and I’ll be checking out their other products next time I’m in Debenhams.
Have you tried Illamasqua, and if so what products would you recommend? Also, what are your favourite blush products?  
L xx

Christmas Shopping in York!

York is one of my favourite cities (after my hometown of Newcastle, obvs), particularly for shopping. Myself and the Husband visit a few times a year, and always just before Christmas. One of the places we always like to visit is the York Designer Outlet just outside the city centre. It has lots of shirt and jacket type outlet shops which pleases the Husband, and for me a Joules, Coast, Kurt Geiger and a Cosmetics Co Store which I always head for. They tend to stock lots of discontinued products such as MAC’s Archie’s Girls collection (they actually had tons of MAC stuff this time) plus current stock that’s sometimes a fair bit cheaper than other places – brands like Estee Lauder, Bobbi Brown, Bumble & Bumble, Clinique, Ojon, etc etc. I also noticed this time that they’ve started to stock some Smashbox goodies, which pleases me greatly. I was being very well behaved and resisted buying loads, instead just choosing a Smashbox kit which the Husband dutifully purchased and hid away for Christmas for me. Of course, on the train home I was kicking myself for not clearing out the shop’s stock of my favourite (discontinued! Sob) Clinique mascara, but ho hum.
Also in the designer Outlet I picked up these amazing LK Bennett beauties which I A.D.O.R.E. OK so it’s winter, it’s freezing, and these are lemon yellow and practically singing ‘SUMMER!’ but I don’t care. I just had to have them. They’re also a size 4, and I’m a 5, so I do have to curl my toes up slightly to get them on but I’ll worry about that when I actually want to wear them outside. Until then I will just place them on my wardrobe shelf and gaze at them whenever I need cheering up. Oh – I haven’t even told you the best part yet – they were TWENTY QUID in the sample sale. Enough said.
Aside from the outlets, I also love The Shambles in York city centre: part of a winding network of tiny cobbled streets housing some quirky  shops selling lovely gifty things. Along nearby lanes you will also find a Mulberry  outlet store which of course I HAVE to visit every time, just on the off chance that they’ll have some sort of mega-bargain waiting for me (and one time they did! I managed to bag a Grape Leopard Mitzy Hobo for £225). Of course, at this point in the day I realise that I came shopping for gifts for family and friends, and have so far only bought presents for myself. Good job York also has Brown’s department store. I also always like a little mooch around the Minster:
Any trip to York wouldn’t be complete for me without a cake from Betty’s, but as I hate queues (and at Betty’s the queues are permanent) I steer clear of the cafe part and just do take-out. I love getting home after a long day of shopping and enjoying my Betty’s treat with a cuppa J
Where do you love to shop?

New bag courtesy of Shopcade & Cosmopolitan Magazine

I've never been a particularly lucky person, so I was thrilled when, after entering a competition on Twitter, I received an email from a lovely lady at to say I'd won this Kris-Ana bag, which I'd 'liked' on the site:

It arrived a couple of days ago, and had it's first outing yesterday. It's actually not the sort of bag I'd normally choose - for a start it's HUGE, and I'm of the opinion that the bigger your handbag, the more cr*p you will carry around with you. Also it's faux-leather, and I generally go for the real thing. But the style is a little bit Mulberry, (I LOVE Mulberry, having a couple of their bags already) and the colour is a nice punchy mustard yellow, which I like. Oh, and also, it was free. Big plus.

After using it for work, I found that I really like having a big, slouchy bag that I could throw everything into and not worry about it. Although I did worry about finding my keys - there are no inner pockets on the bag so it took me a good five minutes to locate my car keys from the bottom on the way home. See a totally glamorous shot of me in the office canteen below:

I'll definitely use the bag again - probably for work or shopping, but I don't think it's a contender to replace my every-day bag, my East West Bayswater.

If you've not tried Shopcade then you might want to take a look - you can search for pretty much any fashion brand you like and add products to your own personal lists. Shopcade can then let you know when deals are available on your chosen items. It's highly addictive though, so be warned!

So, handbags - what's your preference? Big and slouchy or small and neat?


Festive Beauty Favourites

Ok so it's that time of year when there are some totally lustworthy beauty gifts knocking about - I don't know what it is, but put anything on a nice box with ribbon on and I have to have it! I'm *hoping* Santa might leave me a few lovely surprises on the big day but until then the following have been keeping me entertained.....

Ciate Mini Mani Month £42

OK so we're more than half way through the month, I know, but to be totally honest with you, I had every door on this open within the first week of having it (I closed them all again, of course, but not before testing out the products behind each one). This is, like, THE best Advent Calendar EVER. (Although, possibly superseded by the Selfridges offering, which I didn't even get a sniff of before it sold out, sadly (for me - not for my purse). So this is the best Advent Calendar I could get. And it is pretty good. It has 20 nail polishes (all minis bar one full size bottle on Christmas Eve), plus a few glitters and caviar pots. Some of the colours are right up my street - Kiss Chase, a candy pink, and Sugar Plum, a pale lilac (pictured) are my faves. If I had any criticism about this set it would be that there are quite a few 'samey' colours in here - two or three orangey-reddy colours and lots of glittery polishes (which can be a NIGHTMARE to remove, so I usually avoid, to be honest, although they are very purdy). I've read that different retailers hold slightly different versions of this, so maybe other versions contained more variety.

Granted, it may be a little late to buy an advent calendar for this year now, but I'd imagine any remaining Mini Mani Month kits will more than likely go on sale after Christmas anyway, so you might even be able to get a bargain ready for next year - you can thank me later :)

Liz Earle Limited Edition Cleanse and Polish Hot Cloth Cleanser

I know that pretty much everyone has tried this and loves it, and I'm sure I've mentioned it on my blog before, but Liz Earle's cleanser is the nicest I think I've ever used. It smells so fresh and clean, and the muslin cloths really do help you feel like you're sweeping all of the day's makeup and grime away. Best of all, this limited edition version comes in a lovely presentation tube with two cloths, and looks really festive on my shelf. Love it!

What are your favourite festive products? :)

L xx

Follow">">Follow my blog with Bloglovin