Friday, 29 September 2017

Artemis by Andy Weir- Book Review

Artemis | Andy Weir | Pub. Date: 14 Nov 2017


*Thank you to the publishers and Netgalley for giving me access to an advance reader copy of this book for my review*

Book cover image taken from https://www.goodreads.com/book/photo/34928122-artemis

I am a HUGE fan of the author's previous book, 'The Martian' (which was made into a pretty popular film of the same name, FYI), so I was so excited to see he had written another book.

In this book, it's again fairly near future and we follow a pretty bad ass lady living on an established colony on the Moon. The main character, Jazz, is an incredibly flawed heroine- she's selfish, reckless, drinks a lot and is involved in a LOT of illegal smuggling. But you know what? I loved her for it. I think it completely added to the story and plot, as we follow her through a whirldwind ride of lunar based corporate espionage, capering around on the moon's surface and winding through the corridors of the 'bubbles' that make up the Moon city that is Artemis. I was indeed surprised to see who had 'won' the space race (won't spoil that for you), how they handle currency on the moon, and how people deal with the moons difference in gravity!

There's the usual scientific accuracy in the descriptions that you can expect, which was also to be found in his previous book The Martian. This is great as though this book could technically be science fiction, a lot of it is so based in scientific fact it feels like you can almost touch it. Really, we probably can in about 60 or 70 years. Basically, I took from this that I need to start eating more vegetables and exercising so I can live to be an old lady living on Artemis!

Those who loved The Martian will, I think, love this as well though the tone is slightly different, that's just because we have a different character narrating. It's still rollicking good nerd fun and I would definitely recommend it!

You can pre order Artemis on Amazon here!
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Thursday, 28 September 2017

Xtava 5-in-1 Curling Wand* Review

* This product was sent to me for the purpose of my honest and unbiased review*


This being a beauty blog first (before the abundance of books, tech and subscription boxes!), I was really excited when I was offered the opportunity to try out the Xtava 5-in-1 Curling Wand.


You might have been looking for a curling wand in the past and not know which to buy- buy too chunky, and you can only have huge bouncy curls, buy too skinny, and you can only have little ringlets. Step in this fancy lil dude! You essentially get five curling wands in one- ranging from slimline and unassuming to large and in charge, and with clamps and without, you basically get to style any kind of curl you can think of. I've tested it, and managed to create teeny tiny tight coiled curls, big bouncy loose curls (basically waves, really), and inbetween a hollywood curl worthy of a movie star.





To attach, you simply attach the wand you want to the handle of the device, twist the locking clamp to make sure it's secure, and let it heat up using the digital display and buttons. Once it's heated, there is a heatproof glove included to keep you safe from accidental burns.





I love that you only have to buy one device to get so many different looks- it's incredibly cost effective, when the wand costs only £21.99. The only thing I would change about it would be to include some slightly more extensive instructions- they were quite brief, and didn't have any pictures/diagrams. That is literally my only criticism. This product does what it's meant to, and it does it well, which is what I ask for really.


If you would like to get your hands on one, you can find it on Amazon UK here.
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Saturday, 23 September 2017

Resmed S+ Sleep Tracker*: First Few Nights

*This product was received for the purpose of my honest and unbiased review*


For the past week, I've been testing the S+ Sleep Tracker, by Resmed. This cute little device, which sits on your beside table, has a big brain inside that little body. In this post I'm going to tell you about my first few nights using it, and a little bit about how it works!

Setup

Setup is easy. Just download the companion app to your smartphone from your corresponding app store, follow the simple instructions, and then turn on your device. You have to sign up for an account, confirm your email, and answer a fairly detailed questionnaire about your health and lifestyle. Once connected by Bluetooth, you're ready for that nights sleep. The only thing I found a bit difficult here was, that the bottom of the device needs to be above the top of your mattress. Since my mattress is one of those humongous thick ones (about 26cm I think!) this was a bit of a thinker for me. My bedside table is a bit low. My solution was to just put it on a few books at night, since I always have a couple by my bed. It's a bit annoying, but not a deal breaker.

First Night



So when it's time to go to sleep, you simply make sure your app is connected to the device, click the green 'sleep' button, and follow the instructions. You have a few options to choose from here, which is where the device starts to get really clever.


It has a little questionnaire about your day. Filling this in means that every time you sleep, the S+ can analyse what triggers affect your sleep. The more you track and fill this in, the more accurate and helpful your results will be.

The other options you can choose before you sleep:

Mind Clear: This is where, if you have something on your mind, you can record it on Mind Clear and feel relaxed in the knowledge that it can be put away until the next day. I haven't used this yet, but I think it's a great idea. You can record a voice memo, or a text memo.

Smart Alarm: If you want to wake up at a specific time the next day, set the time here and it will wake up gently and slowly the next day. If you're in light sleep it will be able to wake you very gently over up to 30 minutes- if you are not detected as in light sleep in this window, it will finally sound a proper alarm to make sure you're up. The sounds come through the app on your phone, not the device.

Relax to Sleep: This is by far my favourite sleep time option. Choose from a sound, for example crashing waves, and when you enter sleep tracking the sound will start. After a couple of minutes, as the tracker detectes your breathing it will start to synchronise the rhythm of the noise to your breathing. I was sceptical of this when I first saw it, but honestly the first night I tried it I was asleep in 9 minutes! There's something about following the sound along until your breathing slows- I think it's meant to train you to relax, and it really does!

Results- In The Morning




Here's a couple of example nights from my first week. As you can see, my score (out of 100) isn't fantastic, which is a reflection of the fact that I suffer from quite poor sleep. A mixture of anxiety, a noisy cat and bad acid reflux all combine to have me waking quite a lot and often waking very early too. What I have noticed though is that the sleep I do get seems to be ok quality. Not fantastic, but I have a good foundation to build on. Some of the tips the S+ tracker have given me so far are to drink less caffeine (eek!), and take a long walk during the day/before bed.

The above screenshots are of the 'hypnogram', which show the amount of Wake time, REM sleep, Light sleep, and Deep sleep you've got in the night. It has some tips at the bottom every day relevant to your night, and a graph showing at what times in the night you were having what kinds of sleep.

Thoughts so far

So far, I'm loving the tracker. I was sceptical of it, and yes it does have limitations, but it does a few things very well and really does give you useful insight into your sleep. Plus, the relax to sleep function is so useful and soothing. There are a few things I might change about it, but if a friend was looking for a sleep tracker, I would definitely still include this in my recommendations if they asked me.

There will be a final thoughts post in October, including:

  • Screenshots from my S+ tracking page on the main website- this is more detailed than the app and really interesting!
  • My pros and cons list of the device.
  • Whether I think the S+ has improved my sleep.
  • Answers to any of your questions- pop them below, on my Instagram post or tweet me and let me know what you'd like to know, and I'll answer it in my October post!

If you like what you hear and want to buy an S+ tracker, you can find them on their website, here!

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Friday, 15 September 2017

VOBEAUTY- September 2017 Review

VO Beauty Subscription Box September 2017

About the box
VOBEAUTY (which stands for Vegan and Organic Beauty) is a fairly new subscription which sends 5 travel or full sized vegan, organic and cruelty free products every month. You do not have to enter into any sort of rolling contract- you can simply prepay for each month that you want to receive a box.

Price
£15.95/month, plus £3.95 P&P

What I got

VE Cosmetics Only For Unicorns Highlighter Palette

VE Cosmetics Only For Unicorns Highlighter Palette

VE Cosmetics Only For Unicorns Highlighter Palette Swatches

The first item this month is AMAZING and I am so pleased about it! This is the VE Cosmetics Only For Unicorns Highlighter Palette (full size, £9.99). VE Cosmetics are cruelty free and by January 2018 aim to be 100% palm oil free. The palette has six shades, ranging from cool white, to golds, bronzes and a beautiful pink. I cannot wait to try this out on people and I am so excited to try other things from the VE Cosmetics range.

Beauty Without Cruelty Lip Defining Pencil in Morello

Beauty Without Cruelty Lip Defining Pencil in Morello Swatch

Uhh ohh, it's lip pencil time again. If there were such a thing as a lip pencil salon, I could open one by now. This is the Beauty Without Cruelty Lip Defining Pencil in Morello (full size, £4.95). It is a lovely deep red shade with a hint of pinky purple to it, and it draws on lovely and smooth and bold.

White Rabbit Skincare Sample Pack

White Rabbit Skincare Sample Pack

I don't normally like receiving tiny little samples, but when they send four of them at once and they're from White Rabbit Skincare, which is a cruelty free skincare brand I'm really fond of, it kind of softens the blow a bit. They have included the Rose and Frankincense Day Cream, Coconut and Rosehip Day Cream, It's All About M.E Night Cream, and Rosehip and Camellia Day Cream. That's a lot of moisturiser, so I think I'll pass a couple on to my mum, but they are really lovely and creamy and smell beautiful.

Medusa's Makeup Deluxe False Eyelashes Heavy

These are Medusa's Makeup Deluxe False Eyelashes (full size, £5.50), and you would either receive Heavy or Lite version this month. These are the heavy ones, which I presume just means a fuller, more fluttery sort of lash. I'm not great at false eyelashes but my sister and I have been wanting to practice using them so I will be taking these over to her house to have a go with! Medusa's Makeup are a cruelty free and vegan brand based in the USA.

Pure Skincare London Black Mask

Finally, there is the Pure Skincare London Black Mask (full size, £7.99). I've not really got into this whole charcoal face mask trend, but I'm willing to give it a proper try since I have a whole one and a brush to apply it with! It's meant to help with blackheads, acne and oily skin by purifying and rejuvenating.

Final thoughts
This was another solid box for VO Beauty- they are showing that they can send a good mix of products every month, each with great cruelty free credentials. And that highlighter is just beyond amazing, I really couldn't believe how enormous it was when I unboxed it!

If you would like to sign up to VO Beauty, their link is here.





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Thursday, 14 September 2017

Dollibox- September 2017 Review


About the box
Dollibox is a beauty subscription where you will receive five full sized or 'deluxe' sized beauty products every month from both well known brands and more niche ones. Everything is a surprise- unlike many subscription boxes they do not reveal any of the contents beforehand.

Price
£10/month, plus £3.90 P&P

What I got
So I accidentally skipped last month- August's- Dollibox, which I was really sad about as it looked amazing. But anyway, here I am with September's box, and it's not too shabby!

Foccallure Matte Lipstick in Cardinal

Foccallure Matte Lipstick in Cardinal

Foccallure Matte Lipstick in Cardinal Swatch

First up is my favourite item in the box, this Foccallure Matte Lipstick (full size, £10.00) in Cardinal 01. It comes in a chunky crayon sort of format, but it still applies incredibly smoothly and it really is a lovely deep red. There's a twist up function on the end to dispense more, and it's also a waterproof formula!

Fairypants Vegan Cosmetics Dry Skin Balm in Orange & Vanilla

#Fairypants Vegan Cosmetics Dry Skin Balm in Orange & Vanilla

Next is this Fairypants Vegan Cosmetics Dry Skin Balm in Orange & Vanilla (full size, 60g, £3.99). It doesn't actually smell of very much, just a very faint sweet smell, which was kind of disappointing. I thought it was going to be really hard but it's actually quite a squidgy soft formula, and once warmed up between your fingers it melts into a lovely soft balm (hence the name) and some of the sweet scent becomes very slightly more noticeable. Fairypants is a vegan cosmetics brand which sells makeup, skincare, perfume and accessories and is stocked internationally.

Anatomicals Lip Balm

I love Anatomicals, so was really pleased to see this 'Never Lose Your Cherry' Lip Balm (full size, 15ml, £2.49). I thought this was going to be cherry scented but it's actually more a generic fruit scent. It has an SPF 8, and is free from parabens.

Schwarzkopf Professional Micellar Cleansing Conditioner

This is the Schwarzkopf Professional Micellar Cleansing Conditioner (sample size, 50ml, £2.25). You've heard of micellar water for your face, now they're putting it in haircare! It's meant to be more gentle, as well as being sulphate free and leaving your hair with it's natural moisture intact. It also smells amazing!

Glitter Eyes Pressed Glitter

Glitter Eyes Pressed Glitter Swatch

Finally, this is the Glitter Eyes Pressed Glitter (full size, £5.99). This is both a pan of pressed glitter and the little holder/case for it, which is really useful as those teeny tiny round pans of glitter end up getting crunched up and lost on their own. I am kind of tired of being sent pressed glitter by now, but of all the pressed glitter I've been sent (and that's a lot), this chunky silver coloured stuff is actually the prettiest.

There was also a little bag of Joe & Sephs Coconut and Chia Popcorn which I think was more a tasty extra. I'm really not keen on sweet popcorn, so I'll probably pass this on.

Final thoughts
This was a pretty good box- all but one item was full size, and it was a really good variation of items. I think I will probably continue my Dollibox subscription for now, as it is quite a fun box for a beauty subscription.

If you would like to sign up for Dollibox, their link is here (this is a referral link).

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Wednesday, 13 September 2017

My 2017 Reading Challenge: A Few I've Read So Far

So this year I set my Goodreads reading challenge at 50, which was a bit more manageable than last year. I'm going to share a few I've read so far, although I'm currently at 38 books read, so don't worry, I'm not going to list them all!



Go Back To Where You Came From, Sasha Polakow-Suransky (*I was given access to an Advance Reader Copy of this book for the purpose of my unbiased and honest review- my thanks to the publisher and Netgalley*)

I had high hopes for this book- you guys know how I love a non fiction read- but whether it was my expectations differing from the actual content of the book, or something else, we just didn't gel. I was hoping there'd be more proper interviews, oral history type reporting, but a lot of it was more dry analysis and academic history. Whilst there is nothing wrong with this, it wasn't that accessible for me, coming from a non academic background in terms of history and sociology. The other thing I will say is that this book is extremely thorough, touching on Trump, Le Pen, and many different countries including Europe and America. If you want to read an extremely detailed analysis of why the public opinion is turning on immigrants in countries around the world, this would be a good book to start with.

Everything Everything, Nicola Yoon

Madeline is seventeen, and basically allergic to everything. She's never been out, she lives in a sterile environment and has no friends. Then one day, a boy moves in next door, and they become friends. And her life changes.

I loved this book, so so so much! I know lots of people have criticisms of some slight plot holes or strange behaviour on the part of the main character. But I just found it such an engrossing read that none of that mattered. It just sweeps you up, and next thing you know you've read it in a day. This has also been made into a film, which was out at the cinema this year and so I'm pretty sure will be out on DVD soon.


Goodbye Vitamin, Rachel Khong

This is a short but incredibly sweet and involving novel about a woman who moves back home to help out with her parents after her father is diagnosed with dementia. This was a bittersweet read for me, as whilst it was really funny in parts, I do have someone in my family suffering with dementia. I think if you also have this, it would be worth making sure you're in the right frame of mind before you read it. It's not a sad ending though, don't worry. Like I said, a bittersweet novel, and laugh out loud at times.


How To Murder Your Life, Cat Marnell

This is a memoir by Cat Marnell which details her life as a magazine beauty editor whilst battling drug addiction. Whilst it's hard not be exasperated by some of her actions at times, you also see through her writing that she is talented and really end up rooting for her- or at least I did. I also loved all the behind the scenes looks at what working on a beauty desk is like- having bags of high end makeup just lying around sounds amazing but probably the novelty wears off after a while. There are some really cringe-y and laugh out loud bits as well.


The Power, Naomi Alderman

Last by no means least, this is by far my favourite book of the year so far. In this book, women and girls all around the world develop something called a 'skein' which allows them to give an electric shock with just their hands, and so they can hurt and indeed kill with just a touch. The book is definitely largely a feminist one, which is amazing, but there's also sci-fi in there too. It's pretty much my version of an ideal book and I read it in about a day.

What have you been reading? Have you got a Goodreads reading challenge set?
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Xupo Key Finder & Item Locator Review & Giveaway! *

*The item in this post was sent to me free of charge for the purpose of my honest and unbiased review*


When I came across the opportunity to test and review Xupo, I was really excited as I wanted to start writing more about tech products on my blog, and here was my chance! After a couple of weeks of testing it, I'm ready to share with you what I think of this small but mighty gadget.

What is it?

Put simply, it is a little tracker. Using bluetooth technology and your smartphone, you can attach the little disc to whatever you think you might want to keep track of, and use the companion app to track it!


It's smaller than the palm of your hand, and has a little hole for threading a ribbon or chain through so you can attach it to your keys, handbag, rucksack, purse, and more. There's a little button, which you can actually use to reverse the process and call your phone/app! So not only can you track an item, you can theoretically find your smartphone when it's fallen down the back of the sofa.

How do I set it up?



Set up was surprisingly easy, which I was pleased about as there is nothing worse than a thirty step instruction sheet. Firstly, download the app from your corresponding app store- either the Apple Store for iPhones, or Google Play Store for Android phones. Then you make sure bluetooth is turned on on your device, open the app, and follow the very simple instructions. This simply involves pressing the button on the Xupo as the instructions tell you to.

After that, you can name each Xupo (yes, you can have lots of them if you want, each tracking different things from your app!) according to what they're tracking. Or you could just name them things like Bob and Jeremy, if that floats your boat.


Finally, choose where to put it. Obviously there's the main, obvious use for the Xupo- thread it onto your house keys. This is what I chose to do, mainly because I lose them- A LOT. But I had a think and put together a short list of what else you could track with your Xupo:

  • Slip it into a section of your wallet/purse.
  • Hang it from a handbag or rucksack strap.
  • Wear it on a necklace and track yourself (hmm, maybe not!)
  • Pop it in your laptop case or bag.
  • If you're going on holiday, put it in your passport case/holder.
These are just some of my ideas, but you can get really creative with your Xupo. It's so small and light, you can slip it into most bags and purses easily, so you can just try things out.

What are the main features?

The three features of the Xupo are: 'Find it', 'Call it', 'Map it'.



Find it is the main feature, in my opinion. When you are looking for what you are tracking, and it is within bluetooth range (this is usually about 10 meters I have found, but can vary), press the track button in the app, and listen out for the ring coming from your Xupo. Simple!



Call it is useful for when you have your Xupo, but not your phone. Press the little button on the Xupo, and listen for the ring from your phone. Basically, it's 'track it' in reverse.

Map it is sort of a back up, I would say, for when you want to find it but are out of bluetooth range of your Xupo. In the app, you can view the last seen location of your Xupo on the map. Hopefully, if you go to the marked spot, your Xupo- and item- will be there waiting for you.

There's also a function which seems to be less advertised, which is a selfie function. It's pretty much a way to use the Xupo as a camera remote control. Open the selfie page in the app, prop your camera up where you want it, then use the Xupo button to snap a picture. However, it does seem like you have to 'unlock' this feature by inviting friends first, which is a shame.

My thoughts?



While I haven't lost my keys in the couple of weeks I've been testing the Xupo, I've 'pretend lost' my keys by putting them under the bed and then 'looking' for them with the app. It all worked exactly as it should, and I love that you can reverse the function and call your phone too. I also love that the battery is replaceable in the Xupo. There are several find my keys type trackers out there, and a lot of them are one use, and once the battery is gone you have to throw them away, which I don't find very planet friendly. With this one, you simply replace the CR2016 battery (they look like this) as needed.

You can get a Xupo for yourself from Amazon UK for £20.00, and read more about it on Xupo's website.

Giveaway?!

Yep, that's right- you can win one for yourself! Just enter via the Gleam below. This giveaway is UK only and runs from 13th September- 13th October. Any question, do please email me at boxesandswatches(at)gmail(dot)com


Win a Xupo #1

Competition listed on The Prize Finder & Competition Database.
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Sunday, 10 September 2017

Secret Scent Box- September 2017 Review


About the box
Secret Scent is a fragrance subscription box for both men and women (you can select your preference of gender on the website). Every month you will receive three different surprise fragrances, a 30 day supply or 9ml, in total, along with an information card for each one.

Price
£15/month, free P&P.

What I got



This is the September edition of the Secret Scent box, with another three little trials of fragrance.

The first scent (top) was the Calvin Klein Contradiction For Her. The RRP of this is £70.00 but you can actually get it for £19.99 on The Perfume Shop website. It has a kind of spicy undertone to it, which I'm guessing is the sandalwood? It's not my favourite to be honest but I might wear it if I was in the mood.

Top notes: Pepper flower, Orchid, Eucalyptus
Middle notes: Jasmine, Lily of the Valley, Peony, Rose
Base notes: Sandalwood, Amboti Wood, Tonka Bean

The next scent (middle) was Armani Because It's You. I loved the Armani fragrance sent last month, and it seems I must love Armani scents as this one is my favourite this month too! It's smells so fruity and sweet but in a grown up sort of way, not in a sickly cake sort of way. This is available at The Perfume Shop at RRP for £47.

Top notes: Raspberry, Blackcurrant, Neroli essence
Middle notes: Violet, Rose, Jasmin Sambac Absolute
Base notes: Patchouli essence, Vanilla extract, Musks

The final scent (bottom) was Vera Wang Sheer Veil. It's not particularly striking to me, it smells really 'samey' and not much like anything unique. It's not really me to be honest. The RRP for this is £60 but you can get this for £18.95 from Fragrance Direct.

Top notes: Rose, Lavender
Middle notes: Violet
Base notes: Gardenia, Lily

Final thoughts
I have liked my little two month trial of this subscription, but I don't think I'll be continuing it. Not because this isn't a great service- it arrives quickly, posts right through the letterbox easily, and the samples are pretty generous. I think I just don't use fragrances often enough to justify it, and I'm incredibly fussy about scents too. If you're a fragrance lover who can't get enough this really is the go to subscription for you, and I can't fault their customer service and postage times.

If you would like to sign up to the Secret Scent Box, their link is here.


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