This book was given to me by a friend after we had been talking about another Lisa Jewell book that we had both read. I settled down and read it in my lunch break in work and at home in the evenings. I finished it in just under a week.
You live on a picturesque communal garden square, an oasis in urban London where your children run free, in and out of other people’s houses.
You’ve known your neighbours for years and you trust them. Implicitly.
You think your children are safe.
But are they really?
Midsummer night: a thirteen-year-old girl is found unconscious in a dark corner of the garden square. What really happened to her? And who is responsible?
This book focuses on the lives of two sisters and their mother who have come to live in an area of London after actions their father made caused the family home to burn down. The father is no longer on the scene and it is just the mother and her two daughters, living in a flat that shares a common green with their neighbours. The girls make friends and the story follows them and the people they meet along the way. One night something awful happens to one of the girls and we are taken down a path to discover who could have done this horrible thing.
I loved this book from the very first page. It is written in such a way that all of the characters feel like they are hiding things and it compels you to keep reading until you find out what has happened. The youngest daughter writes letters to her sick father which add extra information to the storyline and allow the reader to understand the thoughts that she has about the situations and people that she meets.
I am a huge fan of Lisa Jewell and really don’t want to say too much about the book and spoil it for any others who want to read it. It really is a page-turner and hard to put down.
Have you read this book? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!
I’ve added another item to my Mental Health Toolkit in the form of these Stress Less Cards. I stumbled on these cards when perusing Amazon one evening around a month ago and decided to add them to my basket before checking out. I was drawn to the idea of having a set of cards that I could carry around and use when I felt my stress and anxiety start to kick in as, even though I have had mindfulness classes and have other things I can use to bring my stress and anxiety back down, I was finding that I would forget them if I got too stressed out. Having something written down that I could follow had a really big appeal.
As these cards are roughly the size and shape of a deck of playing cards they fit into my pocket or into my bag without taking up much space at all. There are 50 cards in the pack and have various mindfulness exercises printed on one side of the card and the Stress Less Cards name and mandala print on the reverse. The cards are numbered at the bottom of the exercise side so you can work your way through the exercises from 1 to 50, or, like I prefer, take one out of the pack at random when you want to use them.
The exercises only take a few moments out of your day and are designed to help lessen the anxiety and stress you are feeling. The cards can be used anywhere, the size makes them perfect to use in work as they are small and not very noticeable. I have used them in work and at home and feel that they really do help me to stress less, I have also found that they can really help with my concentration levels, which, at times can be sketchy at best.
I’m not sure how well the cards will survive in the card box that they come in or the cards themselves with repeated use. I would love the box to have been made of something sturdier (a metal tin would have been perfect) and perhaps having the cards laminated would help them to be a bit longer wearing, but for the moment I am happy with them, though I may transfer them to another container soon.
Overall, I am really happy that I found and purchased these Stress Less Cards.
What things do you have to help you when your stress and anxiety starts to rise?
I bought this book when visiting the William Morris Red House where there was a little outbuilding full of donated books that you could buy for as little as 30p, the proceeds going towards the upkeep of the house. This book caught my eye with the bright yellow cover with bold black font and upon picking it up and reading the back of it, I decided to purchase it to read on my journey home even though I had another book in my bag to read.
The blurb on the back reads
Darren hasn’t had an easy year. His parents divorced, his brother left for college, and his best friend moved state. Also, he still doesn’t have a girlfriend.
Then his dad shows up at 6am with a glazed chocolate donut and a pretty world-shaking revelation. In full freak-out mode, Darren ditches school and jumps on a bus to visit his brother, Nate, at college. But someone weird / amazing comes along for the ride.
Told entirely in lists, this hilarious novel perfectly captures why having anything to do with anyone is:
3. ridiculously complicated
4. possibly, hopefully, the right thing after all.
The book is part of the Young Adult category and is a meaty 646 pages long, though it was an easy read as the book, instead of being broken up into chapters was set out in a series of lists which flowed together to tell the story of Darren, a 15 going on 16-year-old boy, his life and family.
The book was really interesting, not only as it was set out as a series of lists, but because I felt that it covered the sort of life a teenage boy would live, covering worries about himself, his family and developing relationships with girls. The way Todd Hasak-Lowy writes, it makes you feel like you are part of the story and that you are experiencing everything in an intimate way.
I started reading this book on Monday 17th June on my w2ay home from London, then continued to read in my lunch break of half an hour in work through the rest of the week and had finished it by Friday, so, despite its size you can see that it was a really easy read. The list set up meant that you could pick it up and put it down with ease.
I recently became an owner of a Series 4 Apple Watch through a scheme run in my workplace that offers electrical goods that you can pay monthly to purchase. I needed a new laptop as my main one wasn’t holding a charge anymore and was too big to lug around with me so I decided to get a laptop as well as an Apple Watch as I had been looking at them for a long time but had never been able to justify the cost in one go.
I chose the Series 4, with a 40mm screen, in a rose gold tone with a sand sports loop strap and so far I am pretty impressed. I had originally wanted one so that I could see texts and calls at a glance and so that I could add and see items in my calendar. The other big draw for me was that I could monitor my activity throughout the day and not have to wear a fitness tracker and watch together.
I have been pretty impressed with my watch so far. I really like that you can choose your watch face and customise the colours and what apps are shown on waking the device. I like that the screen is neither too big or small, I had been worried that I wouldn’t be able to read the screen or that the apps would be difficult to use or get used to.
I was easily able to pair the watch with my phone, a simple QR code looking thing came up on the watch face and all that was needed was for me to open the Apple Watch App on my phone and scan the watch face using my phone’s camera. Once that was done the watch was paired and ready to go!
I can not only read texts and WhatsApp messages but can also reply using pre-programmed responses, or I can write more detailed replies by writing on the screen with my finger. I can view photos that I have favourited on my phone which was another unexpected thing!
The watch comes with an app called Breathe which lets you take a minute out of your day to focus on your breath, a bit like a short mindfulness moment. I have been using this when I can feel my stress and anxiety levels start to rise and have found it to be really helpful.
The best thing for me is the Activity app. This app can count your steps but offers more in-depth insights. The app measures calories burned through activity called “Move”, it measures minutes spent exercising, you can either start an exercise which is timed or it will add exercise minutes automatically once your heart rate is increased for a period of time. There is also a part that encourages you to stand and move for a minute each hour which is really useful when you work in an environment like I do where I don’t really stand or move from one hour to the next. I have enjoyed finding ways to close all the rings each day and so far I have succeeded. The app has really made me more aware of how little I actually move around, with the other trackers that I have used in the past, it has been easy to achieve between 8,000 and 10,000 steps a day but these were usually achieved in one go but this app helps you to focus on not just your steps but other things too.
There is so much more I could say about my watch, I love that there is a heart rate monitor on it, that it is shower proof, you can play music on it, you can view the weather, use it as a remote shutter for your phone camera (and view what your phone camera can see on the watch face) but I think I may save them for another post further down the line!
Do you have a smartwatch? What is your favourite thing about it? Let me know in the comments!!!
I have been wanting to do more reviews on the blog and today I have decided to give you all a review of Alberto Balsam Energise 24hr Fragrance Shampoo and Conditioner that I bought in the fragrance Tropical Peach and Mango.
I can remember being in secondary school and always using the Sunkissed Raspberry Shampoo and Conditioner to wash my hair, there was something about the price (it was super purse-friendly) and the scent which I always loved but, as I have grown older I have found other products that have suited my hair better but I knew when I saw these on the shelf, and running low on my regular shampoo and conditioner that I should give them a try, if not for the product’s sake but as a trip down memory lane!
I can’t find the product on the Alberto Balsam website itself but have found it on the Asda webpage which is where I bought the shampoo and conditioner from a few months ago which I am assuming is because both the shampoo and conditioner are marked as “New” at the top of the tubes.
A bit about my hair…
My hair is short-ish at the moment, it is bob length and has been bleached far too many times to mention. On top of the bleaching I also regularly colour my hair with non-permanent hair colours, so as far as hair goes it takes a fair amount of abuse at my own hand. It is fairly dry due to the bleaching but I do tend to suffer from greasy roots and rely on dry shampoo to get me from one day to the next between washes.
About the Product…
The shampoo is marketed towards “normal to greasy hair” and the packaging states that
24hr Fragrance Gives all day fragrance bursts for touchably soft hair that smells gorgeous too.
Energise is a fruity blend of tropical peach & mango scents to help you feel revived & refreshed, starting with your hair.
For normal to greasy hair. This gentle formula leaves your hair refreshed and volumised, healthy-looking and beautiful.
The conditioner, being part of the same family of fragrance is also marketed towards “normal to greasy hair. The packaging states the same as the shampoo.
The shampoo and conditioner both come in squeezy tubes which remind me of paint tubes that artists have in their kit. The black lid features a click lid on a hinge opening with a hole through which to reach the product. The tubes are a pink and white colour with the brand in a black rectangle, there are silver parts that highlight other text. On closer inspection of the design, there are peach and mango illustrations on the front as well though these don’t jump out at you on first glance.
I have been using this product for the last month and there is still so much of it left, it feels really cliche to say that a little goes a long way when reviewing a product, but I found that this is so true! The shampoo is almost syrupy in consistency, and from experience with other shampoos of this type of appearance, I really was not expecting it to spread through my hair particularly well. I was pleasantly surprised! Not only did I need a small amount of product but it spread and lathered up really nicely. The scent was really fresh and did smell exactly like freshly cut mango and peach. I found that it was really easy and quick to rinse out too! The conditioner was on the runny side, though in all honesty, I had been expecting a much thicker product to come out of the tube. However, that said, I was again surprised at how little I really needed. On the back of the tube it says to leave in for 1 – 2 minutes before rinsing though, I did leave it in for a while longer as my hair can always do with as much moisture as it can get! Sometimes when I buy shampoo and the matching conditioner I am disappointed with the lack of scent that the conditioner has compared to the shampoo however, this did not disappoint! It smelled exactly the same as the shampoo. I applied it as I normally do with any conditioner, squeeze a small amount onto my palm and work through from root to tip, comb through with my fingers and assess whether I need to add any more product to my hair. This spread easily and, just with the shampoo, I only needed a small amount. After having a five-minute sing in the shower I rinsed, sometimes this can be a bit of a battle as some conditioner seems to cling to my hair and feels like it never wants to leave, this rinsed out fairly easily.
I have left my hair to dry naturally and blow it dry with a hairdryer, which can sometimes strip any scent out of my hair but 2 days later I could still smell this in my hair. I even got my friend to do a sniff test, albeit begrudgingly after I’d half ran, half skipped down the carpark after work one day screeching “Smell my hair!!!” in my best Alan Partridge voice…and they agreed, my hair, in their words “smells fruity, like yoghurt or something…”
So, that’s my honest opinion of these Alberto Balsam products (which were purchased by me, and I have not received any payment or anything for this review!) For £2.95 per product, I don’t really think you can go far wrong if you are looking for something cheap that work well!
I stumbled upon A Box Of Stories one evening back in December when I was looking for quirky book gift ideas. The site says that you get a surprise selection of books, spanning 20 genres, selected from over 250 titles and sent to you for the princely sum of £9.99 (+ p & p). The great thing about this company is that 50% of the profits goes to support The World Literacy Foundation which is even better. The only thing I am sad about is that the company won’t be around forever…once their stocks have gone, that’s it…
I chose the Adult box. Payment was really simple – paypal is always the easiest for on-line purchases! Once payment had been made I eagerly awaited my delivery. The company emailed to say that they had received my order pretty much as soon as I had made the payment and I recieved an email on 5th January to say that the order had shipped with Royal Mail and provided me with a tracking number. The parcel was posted second class. I received my order on the 8th January.
Here’s a look at what I received…
The books came in a plain cardboard box (I have removed my name and address), and it was sealed shut across the edge with sellotape and was pretty secure.
Inside was a sheet of brown paper protection stuff (I have no idea of the technical name for this!)
Underneath were the books…
Here are the 5 I received….There is a pretty good selection!
A Summer Scandal – Kat French
“When Violet inherits a Victorian pier on Swallow Beach from her mysterious grandparents, she falls in love immediately. All she wants is to make it popular again, and when she meets hunky Calvin, inspiration strikes. What if she turned the pier into an adult-themed arcade full of artisan shops?
But not everyone in Swallow Beach is happy with the idea. As tensions worsen and the heat between her and Calvin begins to grow, Violet must make a choice – stay and fight, or turn and run. Can she find her happy ending before the swallows fly North for the winter?”
An Orphan’s War – Molly Green
“Liverpool, 1940. When her childhood sweetheart is killed in action, Maxine Grey loses more than her husband – she loses her best friend. desperate to make a difference in this awful war, she takes a nursing job at London’s St Thomas’ Hospital.
A Broken Heart. Maxine takes comfort in the attentions of a handsome surgeon, but Edwin Blake might not be all he seems. As the Blitz descends on the capital, Maxine returns to Liverpool heartbroken and surrounded by the threat of scandal.
A Brave Spirit. When offered a job at a Dr Barnardo’s orphanage, Maxine hopes this is the second chance she has been looking for. And one little boy in particular helps her to realise that she needs the orphans just as much as they need her.”
True Lies – Ross Slater with Douglas Wight
“When ex-Paratrooper and policemanRoss Slater took on a close protection security job for Greenpeace he got more than he bargained for. Soon he found himself a double agent, spying on his eco-warrior paymasters for Special Branch and ultimately a government twitchy about any kind of protest activity on British soil.
During five explosive years as an insider, Slater immersed himself in the radical lifestyle of the environmental activist, blurring truth and lies and battling to stay straight while drug-taking and a free love spirit took hold around him. In that time he was taken hostage, caught plotting an attack on a nuclear power station and nearly arrested outside No 10 Downing Street. But all the while he provided UK law enforcement with the most comprehensive breakdown it has ever received of the organisation’s global hierarchy.
The role of undercover police officers in environmental groups has been bought into sharp focus in recent times and now Slater gives a unique perspective on what it takes to be an undercover agent and how our government spies on green groups.”
The Lie – C.L.Taylor
“Jane Hughes has a loving partner, a job in an animal sanctuary and a tiny cottage in rural Wales. She’s happier than she’s ever been but her life is a lie. jane Hughes does not really exist.
Five years earlier Jane and her best friends went on holiday but what should have been the trip of a lifetime rapidly descended into a nightmare that claimed the lives of two of the women.
Jane has tried to put the past behind her but someone knows the truth about what happened. Someone who won’t stop until they’ve destroyed Jane and everything she loves…”
Nobody’s Child – Michael Seed with Noel Botham
” ‘Sometimes today I still cry for the lonely, frightened little boy I was then – so unhappy and so longing for love – and marvel at not only surviving the brutality and other appalling abuse but also, in the end, triumphing over it all.’
Abused by those who were supposed to love and cherish him, Michael Seed had to fight for survival against his violent and emotionally deranged father in a broken home.
Born into a life of poverty, Michael was starved, beaten, and sexually abused by his father from the age of five. After losing his mother to suicide, a haunting depression grew inside the young boy and he long considered following in her footsteps. Yet, even in the midst of such tragedy and brutality, he always found that his desire to live outweighed his wish to end it all.
Anchored by his faith, Michael overcame his horrific childhood to become an inspiration and a guide to help others, both in the church and the secular community. Rather than dwell on the past, he has used it to change lives for the better.
Nobody’s Child is a poignant, at times agonising, tale of abuse and loneliness that no child should ever have to endure. Above all, Michael’s words provide a lesson for us all in courage and the power of hope and forgiveness.”
I’m pretty pleased with the selection that I received and, aside from one (The Lie, C.L.Taylor) I have not read any of them but they would be something I would pick up and read. Once I have started to read them I will post my reviews of each book!
What are you reading at the moment? What books would you recommend?