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We are, quite rightly, hearing lots about the environment lately, with massive protests being held in London and world leaders talking about climate change at summits. It is great news that many people across the world are becoming more conscious of their impact on the environment. Being more environmentally aware will not only help you contribute to a more sustainable environment, but it can even help to save you money in the long run.
One of the best ways to do this is by looking at your home and garden. There are so many ways that you can make a huge difference - some easy, some not so.  Read on to find out more.  


Consider your water consumption
Water is one thing that many of us take for granted. We know that two-thirds of the planet is covered in water, that the ice caps are melting (thus creating more water) and then, we look out of the window and see the rain, and it is too easy to think that there is more than enough water to go around. However, it is vital that remember that water is not an inexhaustible source and that one day, we will run out.
The first thing you should do is to fix any leaks. These are a massive waste of money because you are quite literally paying for water to go down the drain. You can also install low-flow showerheads, and low flush toilet systems, both of which will save a significant amount of water - and therefore money - over the course of a year.

Insulate
One of the best ways to make your home more eco-friendly AND save you a tonne of money is to make sure that you are using as little energy as possible. Investing in good quality insulation is the easiest way to do this.  If you have proper insulation, you won't need to burn energy to heat your home all of the time, saving you both precious energy and money.  If you don't already have double glazing, this is definitely something you need to be putting in, as the amount of heat that escapes through draughty, single glazed panels is insane!  

Swap to natural cleaning products
Using chemicals to clean is exceptionally harmful to the environment - and can also have a negative impact on our health. When you wash them away, these chemicals are then entering our water supply, which is terrible for aquatic life and also means that the water will have to undergo more purification before it is safe to use again. Of course, we are not suggesting you ditch cleaning altogether, but you don't need bottles and tubs of harsh chemicals to have a clean and hygienic home. For most tasks, natural products such as citrus fruits, bicarbonate of soda and white vinegar can be used in place of damaging chemicals. 

Create your own compost bin
Food waste is an ever-growing problem. We generally buy way too much food and end up throwing a lot away.  The most obvious solution is to buy and cook only what you need, but let's face it, that can be a lot easier said than done. 
What you can do is to make your own compost bin for peelings and food scraps. All you need is a domestic compost bin in your garden and pop bits in there. When it breaks down, you can use the resulting compost to fertilize the growth of new plants in your garden.
Having a visual reminder of how much food you throw away can also be eye-opening and encourage you to make changes.

Be smart in the kitchen.
It is easy to make smart choices in the kitchen, which can lead to a much more eco-friendly home and save you money. For example, get out of that habit of opening the oven door while you are cooking. Even if the oven is only open for a short time, it will then need to use energy to heat back up. If you have access to a slow cooker or a halogen oven, use that where possible as it uses significantly less energy. 

These are just a few of the many things that you can do to help make your home a little more eco-friendly. Try some of them today and rest easy knowing that not only are you possibly saving yourself money, but you are doing your bit to keep our world great for future generations. 
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Your home is the place that you live your day to day life, but it's more than that as well. In fact, for homeowners, it is likely to be one of the most significant investments they ever make. Of course, that means that not only is it worth investing in your home to make it the best place to live in, but doing so can also help it to retain and increase its value as well. Something you can read more about in the post below. Add an extension Space is something that is nearly always at a premium in UK properties. What that means is, if you want to add value, adding square footage is always a smart idea. Of course, you can choose to DIY this or get the professionals in to help. Although, it is well worth thinking carefully about the additional rooms you will add before you invest in an extension as you will also want them to work well for your life now as well. To that end, most people go for either extra bedrooms or extend their kitchens. Although adding a conservatory or sunroom is also a popular choice. Update the outside Don't forget that when it comes to adding value, you need the exterior of your home to look as good as the inside. Luckily, there are many things you can do to boost the look of the outside of your house, including repainting the walls, or if you have exposed brick or stone power washing them, so they look as clean as possible. It's also wise to pay special attention to the entryway of the home, as not only is the focal point for anyone looking from the outside but as it's also the transitional space that all visitors will walk through as well. With that in mind, the front door needs to be picked with care not only to be secure but attractive, looking as well. Something that makes UPVC Doors a good option here. Also, don't forget that you can dress the entrance of your home as well by adding potted plants, and even signs or house numbers to complete the look. Modernise the interior There are two ways that you can modernise the inside of your home. One is primarily focused on the decor, which although very easy to change can make a massive difference when you come to sell your property. In fact, minimalist interiors mainly decorated in white with as little clutter are the most desirable at the moment in this regard. The second way that you can modernise your home to boost its value is to install up to date conveniences. What we mean here are things like a smart hub and the associated appliances that can be controlled from it, including heating, lighting, security, and even fridge freezers and washing machines. In fact not only can installing items like these in your home make your life much more comfortable, but it can really help to raise the overall value of the property should you ever wish to put it on the market. 
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Having read and loved Shadow of the Fox with its unique world building and fantastic storyline, you can imagine how much I was looking forward to reading the second book in the series Soul in the Sword and I'm very happy to say it didn't dissappoint.
REVIEW


We were almost straight back in to where we had left off from the epic ending in Shadow of the Fox and I was quickly reminded of my love for Yumeko once again and her inability to understand metaphors which I find so endearing. Julia really is excellent at creating such an immersive and mesmerising world that no sooner had I started reading this, it was the end all too quickly.
The character development, relationships, friendships and the good and the bad were all fantastic. I don't know how Julia does it but each character we meet plays a key role in the overall story and we get introduced to even more yokai and demons - not all of them ones you want to meet!
Just like in Shadow of the Fox, you literally have no way of telling which way the book is going to go. Our main characters get themselves into all kinds of peril and you just have no idea how they are going to get out of it. 
If you loved the first book you are definitely going to like this one. I would say it was just as good as the first if a little darker, which was to be expected, but I now cannot wait until the third book. I need to know what happens.

Part of the Soul of Sword Blog Tour


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Delighted to be on the blog tour today for this awesome book, Almost Adults with my glowing review. Honestly are you in your twenties? You seriously need to read this book; it's funny too!

REVIEW

Finally someone wrote a book about the actual realities of being in your twenties in the 21st Century. I can still remember when I was 15 and having a conversation with a friend saying how by the time we were 22 we would have this super amazing job, be married with at least one kid - haha how naive of us! Cue me turning 30 this year and I still don't have my sh*t together and the same is true for a lot of us. Almost Adults sums up what it's really like to be a twenty-something in the 21st Century and I loved every page.
In Almost Adults we follow four friends, Mackie, Edele (who I almost spelt as Adele and would annoy the hell out of her) Alex and NAT, the MEAN girls. All in their late twenties and all in very different but typical stages of those in that age group. The struggle really is real, but at least they have each other.
I literally loved these girls and was envious of their friendship and support for one another. Together they are hilarious and this really added to the book. It's actually quite rare that a book can make me laugh, but despite their hardships, this had a true sense of humour and reality. 
This was a funny, lighthearted and so true to those of us in our twenties today.  I hope to meet the MEAN girls again.

Almost Adults is out on 8 August


Part of the Almost Adults Blog Tour

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If you are lucky enough to be in a situation where you can even consider owning another home, then you must acknowledge the realities of doing so. It can be one of the most difficult things in the world if you’re not already a estate agent mogul who can afford to hire others to get the job done for you. And it’s likely you just want to buy out another place as a summer home, office or somewhere to rent out occasionally.
You want to be able to bulk out your lifestyle and live the way you want to, with the four walls around you you’ve always dreamed of. You want to invest your money and open up a portfolio, and find success in the way you spend and the returns you make. All in all, you just want to be healthier and happier, and having an advantage with real estate is one sure fire way to do that. 
It’s going to be a hard thing to take on, and hard to pay for, but it’s not an impossible idea to tackle. If you’ve got your eyes already set on a place you think would be a good fit for your family, career, and life goals, let’s think about just how practical your plans are. After all, you can do what you want with your money, but you should always want to do the smart thing with it! 



Firstly, Would it Be Worth it? 
When you think about it, there’s a lot of benefits to owning a second home. You’ve got a place to take a holiday every now and then, at little to no extra cost to yourself. You’ve got a place you can rent out and make money off of for every month you have a tenant living in it. And ultimately, you’ve got a lot of assets to your name; you’ve got two homes, an income strong enough to take them both on, and that can grant you a lot of power in the economic climate. 
But before we get too far into dreaming about owning more than just the place you currently live in, it’s time to stop and think for a moment: would it actually be worth the time, money, and energy to invest in another house? Do you have the income to buy, renovate, pay for the upkeep, or to sell on again? Do you have the time to take trips out to it every so often, just to check on the second property to your name? Can you even get another mortgage? 
That last question alone is going to be very bulky to try and answer; mortgages are the best way to afford a home, and when you’re already paying for one (and will be for another 5 to 10 years at least), it can be hard to face another one. The bank themselves are going to point this out to you, and depending on your payment history with the loan they’ve already handed over to you, they’re going to say yes or no. 
And if you’re looking to get a holiday home that’s abroad, you’re still going to need to look into your loan options. For example, using something such as a housing loan calculator singapore, you can try to ascertain the average interest rates for Asian countries. Thankfully, your options open up a little here, and you might be able to use a foreign lender to secure the right funds. But once again, would it be worth it to owe two different credit lines to two different institutions in two different countries? 
Secondly, How Far Away Are You? 
Your regular availability, and how flexible it can be, is also going to determine just how well you’ll be able to look after more than one home. Homes need cleaning out, bedding down, and repairing from time to time, and you’ve got to be there to make sure these tasks are carried out. So if you’re looking to invest in a second home that’s miles and miles away from you, even separated by an ocean or two, how often will you be able to get there? 
Sure, if you invest somewhere that’s far away, you can get the tenants you take on to do the bulk of the work. But if you’re not interested in renting the place out, and you can’t afford a plane or boat or train trips on a monthly basis, the state of this second property is going to drop. The value might even go down, and if you’re thinking of reselling at some point, this isn’t the best way to start out in your house flipping side hustle!
You could use a local housing or homeowners association to help you out here, of course, but you’ve got to be able to pinpoint where the best associations are. The real estate market can be a very fickle place, and you might have to wait years for a property to become available with a nearby HOA. And the comes the fee to be a part of one of these, which can be astronomical when you’re investing within a city; thousands can be spent each year, and even tens of thousands for anyone with a property in a capital city. They’ll take very good care of the home you can’t afford to visit on a regular basis, and they’ll uphold the integrity and value of the property for the future, but it’s definitely going to cost you. 
So, can you look after more than one home? Depending on your personal circumstances, such as the responsibilities already in your life and the amount of money you currently make each year, it might be more hassle than it’s worth. It’s not something you want to jump into, especially if you’ve got a family to take care of, so make sure you give it a lot of thought. 
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You don't have to live in a mansion to have a gallery in your home these days. In fact, a gallery wall is a very popular way of showing off your favourite artworks, photos, and images. Sadly, putting up a gallery wall can be a challenging experience, and I don't mean just getting all the frames to sit straight (although that does help!). You don't need to panic though, as you can find out all about the challenges you will face when hanging a gallery wall, and how to solve them in our step by step guide below. Read on to find out more.



your guide to creating a gallery wall



Choosing a wall to use The first thing that you need to get right when creating a gallery wall is the actual wall that you will use. This is because not every surface in your home will be a suitable home to show off your artwork and pictures. In fact, if you already have things like floating shelves and wall mounted light fittings on a wall, it could be quickly overwhelmed if you add a whole bunch of framed pictures as well. It's best, therefore, to pick a clean wall where there isn't much going on. Additionally, if you are planning in hanging your pictures on a wall that your furniture leans against, you will need to be careful. This is because you will need to leave space between the item, such as the top of your sofa and the start of your gallery. About 6-7 inches should do the trick.
Picking the images Once you have decided on a space to hang your gallery wall, it's time to pick out the images that you will use. Sadly, as many people have found out collecting a whole bunch of photos and artwork they like isn't quite enough to make a gallery wall work in a room. Instead, the images all need to be tied together by a particular theme. One that is especially popular is colour. This is where the images are all monochrome, pastels, or even infused with bright and bold hues. Alternatively, you may pick subject as the theme that brings everything together, popular ones being places you have travelled to, family pictures and portraits, and landscapes, and even retro or kitsch.
Finding the right frames
Once you have a group of images that work well together, it's time to find frames that will show them off. If you are looking for calmer feel, or you have bright images to display it is often a smart move to go for frames of all the same style and colour, just in different sizes. Alternatively, if you have a very cohesive theme, or you are looking to create texture, or an eclectic or vintage look mixing up many different styles of frames such as the one you can find at like Best4Frames is a smart idea. You can even get frames custom made for images that aren't a regular size, something that means you won't have to face the frustration of leaving out any of your favourite images when creating your gallery wall.
Make a plan Next, and this really is the key to the whole project, it's time to plan out how you will hang each individual image and how they will look when arranged together. Happily, instead of spending hours holding pictures up on the wall, and still not being able to see them properly there is a better way, and it to use wrapping paper that has the faint squares printed on the back.

Avoid the higgly-piggly look by planning your wall first.
In fact, all you need to do is roll out the paper on the floor, and the arrange the picture on it until you find a visage you like. Then trace around the picture frame using the squares and add whereabouts the hanger will go.

Putting them up Don’t worry if DIY isn't your strong suit either, as this next step will make thing so much easier too. It's sticking the paper on the wall and then hanging the pictures over the top to get them in the perfect position. Of course, it's always wise to use a spirit level to check how straight they are as you go.
Finally, once all of the pictures are hung, you remove them from the wall and take down the paper guide. Then you put the pictures back up, and they should all be in the right position and look fantastic! In fact, making your gallery wall this way will not only ensure it looks great first time around but that the hassle you experience when putting up is significantly reduced as well.


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REVIEW
Claire Allan is fast becoming one of my top thriller writers. Forget Me Not is Claire's third book and I was just as hooked with this one as her first two. 
As with all Claire's thrillers, this one also starts off with a bang and the pace never lets up. Elizabeth doesn't like to venture out much, but it's not fair on her dog to not go out at least once a day. That particular day, Elizabeth wishes she had gone with her gut and stayed indoors. She finds a woman in a horrific state, barely alive and her last words 'Warn them'. This is only the beginning of the sinister goings on, but the question is, who is doing this and why.
Claire does dual narrative well - she has used this storytelling in all three of her books now and it works so well every time. As with her other books, you know the two characters are linked, but she keeps you guessing right up to the end as to how.
With the tension continuing to mount as you read and your mind desperately trying to figure out who it could be, you are in for a fast paced, hooking read and then another brilliant twist! I hope Claire continues to keep writing these fantastic thrillers of hers and I just want more and more.
Gripping from start to finish, a thriller writer you should have on your TBR pile.

Forget Me Not is out now

Part of the Forget Me Not Blog Tour


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Alice's debut Sometimes I Lie still remains one of my all time favourite thrillers, so I was excited but a little bit nervous to read her next book as I was desperate for it to be just as good, if not better - I needn't have worried - I Know Who You Are was just as dark, twisted and exceedingly brilliant Sometimes I Lie.
Aimee is about to catch her big break in acting but then her husband goes missing, leaving his keys, phone and wallet behind. The police become instantly suspicious of Aimee, especially as she is so obviously hiding something from them. As the investigation goes on, more and more evidence is being planted on her even though she is adamant she had nothing to do with the disappearance of husband. As we get further into the story and the plot begins to thicken we realise that people are really not who they seem.
Alice really does like to go dark with her thrillers! Just like with Sometimes I Lie there will be a few scenes to make you wince. No punches are pulled, but that's part of the reason I liked this so much. 
With constant curveballs and twists that will 100% throw you off the finale, this was another fantastic thriller from Alice Feeney. 
Terrifying, page turning goodness. I am now even more excited for what she has in store for us next.

I Know Who You are is out now


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Today I am one of three bloggers kicking off the blog tour for Kingsbane by Claire Legrand, who I keep wanting to call Claire Legend and how striking do the covers look? As part of my stop on the tour, Claire is sharing with us how she (re) built the world in the Empirium Trilogy.



guestpost

(Re)Building the World of the Empirium Trilogy

by Claire Legrand

The world of the Empirium Trilogy wasn’t always what it is now. Originally, the story took place not in the fictional world of Avitas, but rather in our own world. Rielle Dardenne—one of the story’s protagonists—existed in a forgotten past, her era concealed from historical record by various dark forces. Empirium’s other protagonist, Eliana Ferracora, lived in a futuristic, post-apocalyptic version of the southern United States and grew up in the city of New Orleans.

As the years went on, while my original vision for the story remained essentially the same, the world in which it took place evolved. Several years into working on the trilogy, and three versions into the book that would become Furyborn, I followed the sound advice of my agent at the time and decided the trilogy should be a second-world fantasy—that is, a fantasy story that takes place in a world that’s not our own. (Think Middle-earth, rather than the wizarding society of the Harry Potter universe.)

Suddenly, the work I’d done to build the world of the Empirium Trilogy needed to be thrown out and re-engineered. Certain elements remained the same—the nature of the empirium itself, for example—but now I had to construct an entirely new world for Eliana’s side of the story in particular. Gone were the streets of the French Quarter, the mansions outside Charleston, South Carolina, and the dusty paths of Providence Canyon near Eufaula, Georgia (where a pivotal scene from the book that would become Kingsbane took place).

Instead, New Orleans became Orline. The Charlestonian mansions became the glittering coastal city of Festival, in the kingdom of Meridian (a location readers will first see in Kingsbane). And Providence Canyon became a wooded field outside the fictional city of Karlaine, also in a country called Meridian. New Orleans’s Garden District became Orline’s Garden Quarter. A cult of fanatics in the nuclear wastelands of Missisippi, led by a tyrannical woman named Mama Goody, became the fanatical angel-loving cult called Fidelia.

Spooky, right? The story felt so different back then, even though the actual plot points were largely the same, simply because the world was so different.

Something that helped me refocus my vision for the trilogy was spending a lot of time on Tumblr and, later, on Pinterest, searching for illustrations and fantasy art that struck a creative chord with me. When I found an image I liked, I jotted down notes about why I liked it and to what part of this slowly forming new world it might belong. I’m slowly revealing some of these images on my Empirium Trilogy Pinterest board, if you’re interested in following along.

Another thing that was hugely important as I began the mammoth task of rethinking my story world was allowing myself plenty of time to play and explore. Beginning this process almost felt like being dropped down in the middle of a faraway, unfamiliar land, and having to stumble through the painstaking process of mapping it. I made pages upon pages of notes that ended up

getting scrapped, which was okay (though occasionally frustrating at the time), because every scrapped page brought me one step closer to realizing how I wanted this world to look and feel.

If you are also a writer, and find yourself having to rethink the world of the story you’re writing, try not to despair. Take your time to redesign your world with intention and curiosity. Listen to music. Browse images. Revisit beloved books featuring world building you admire (one of these, for me, is Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials; another is Libba Bray’s The Diviners).

In real life, the best way to become acquainted with a new place is to explore it at your own pace, while paying attention to the food, the customs, the clothing, the quirks and oddities. It’s the same when you’re getting to know a story world. And for me, allowing myself years to explore and experiment made it possible for the Empirium Trilogy to be reborn as a smarter, sleeker, more purposeful version of itself.


Part of the Kingsbane Blog Tour


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Another day another sleep related book, this time more because the protagonist can't sleep. If you are a C.L.Taylor fan like me, you are going to want to add this one to your ever growing to be read pile! Read on for my full review.
Review
Don't you just love it when you get a favourite writer and they release a new book every year. C.L Taylor is such a writer for me and I always get really excited when I hear she has a new book coming out. This year brought us Sleep. This is all Anna wants to do but she is crippled with anxiety and insomnia of the night that it all went wrong. To try and escape her guilt, she disappears to a remote Scottish island where she takes up a position in a hotel. When seven guests turn up, each with a secret of their own and little does Anna know that one of them is a murderer and they have their sights set on Anna.
Sleep is a book you can quickly get your teeth into. By pure coincidence I was reading this as the same time as a friend on holiday and I thoroughly enjoyed discussing with her which of the seven guests we suspected and trying to figure it out between us. I'm pleased to say that we both guessed wrong and couldn't have been further from the mark. 
The theme of guilt is a constant throughout this and how we deal with it. I felt like Anna in this respect, wanting to run away and shut myself off from familiar surroundings. With our seven suspects, this reminded me a tiny bit of board game Cluedo as every incident that leads up to the big finale has you doing exactly what the game gets you - it was Mrs White in the billiard room with the spanner - but obviously a lot more serious than that - I just love a mystery.
C.L.Taylor has all the perfect elements of a thriller, pacy, keeps you guessing, that need to read on and completely throwing you off the scent. I can't wait for the next book C.L. Taylor has in store for us.
Sleep is out now

Part of the Sleep blog tour

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