Can you believe we're already a week into 2021? While we're all rushing to forget about last year, I thought I'd take one last look back at some of my favourite products and new discoveries of 2020. Instead of liting off loads of favourites like I usually do, I thought I'd keep this short and sweet with 1 favourite from each category (with some honourable mentions of course!) to give you my ultimate top 5 favourites of 2020! 

Book Pick: My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell

This was probably the hardest category to narrow down as I've read some fantastic books this year. I'd definitely suggest you check out my post where I share my thoughts all my 2020 5 star reads for some more recommendations. 

When I asked my friend for some help deciding, she said "which are you most likely to recommend to someone else?" and I think it would have to be My Dark Vanessa. While it definitely comes with trigger warnings, it's such a thought-provoking read that is so well-written I can't believe it's a debut novel! It looks at the psychological impact of the relationship young girl Vanessa has with her English teacher and the effect this has on her both in the moment as a naive student and years after as she's navigating through adult life. I highly recommend picking it up if you haven't before! 

Honourable mentions: Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender, Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

TV pick: The Queen's Gambit

I feel I consumed so much TV this year that I can't remember half of what I watched but the Queen's Gambit is definitely one I do remember. I absolutely loved it and was so invested in the storyline. While you can say it's a show about Chess, it doesn't feel like just that. It shows chess as a real sport that requires real skill and is so tense to watch! It had such a great cast and I loved how everything was filmed from start to end. There's no doubt this was a top pick of 2020! 

Honourable mentions: Normal People, Bridgerton, His Dark Materials. 

Beauty Pick: Revolution Conceal & Define Concealer

The year that I wore the least make up I have in years, I discovered some great cruelty-free brands, finally got my hands on more Glossier products which I love, I still can't but go back to my trust Revolution Concealer. I'd wear this every day going in the office or out and about along with my other makeup and then when working from home it was perfect if I needed a little coverage. 

It's such a great all-round concealer that I can't help but mention again. For more beauty favourites from this year, check out my glossier review as well as past everyday makeup routines

Music Pick: The Band Camino

While they might not have topped my Spotify Wrapped artists of the year, they had a great presence across all my playlists last year. They quickly became a regular feat. on my working playlists and even more when I started working from home. There's not a mood where there isn't a The Band Camino song that fits perfectly. They have such a great sound that I'm still loving in 2021 and I can't wait to hear any new tracks they release. 

Honourable mentions: Dermot Kennedy, Halsey, Stormzy, LAUV, Sam Fender

Fashion Pick: Monki High Relaxed Jeans

This year, I focussed a lot on reducing the number of new pieces I bought and focussed on giving my current wardrobe some love. With this, I discovered some great staples which includes my love for the Monki high relaxed jeans. I've shared my love for these a few times including in my wardrobe staples post. They are such a lovely fit for short-legged, thick-thighed me. They are such great quality and they go with almost everything in my wardrobe. 

Honourable mentions: Veja Trainers, Vegan Leather Dr Martens. 

What were your favourite things of 2020? Any new discoveries? 
Thanks for reading, 
Sarah x

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There are so many amazing books released every year and, of course, 2021 is no different. I had a great reading year in 2020 and one thing I want to do to improve this year is to read more new releases and specifically make more of an effort to pre-order books. Why? It actually helps authors out a lot, especially new authors release debut novels; it's just another way of supporting your favourite authors as well as new and upcoming writers. It also is a great surprise when you forget you ordered it in the first place (I do this all too often!). So, today I thought I'd share just a few of the exciting releases I already have on my TBR for 2021 that you might want to pre-order too! 

Where available, I've included links to pre-order the books from - a great website that gives a percentage of the money from your purchase to an independent book shop of your choice. With the high street struggling now more than even, Hive is one way you can keep your book shops open, ready for your return! 

Luster by Raven Leilani

This debut novel from Leilani is our at the end of January so there's still time to pre-order it and start your reading year off right away! This story follows Edie - working in a dead-end job, making the wrong decisions but the only thing always right in her life is her love for painting. She meets Eric - archivist, suburban husband and father to his adopted black daughter who has no one to show her how to do her hair. Edie ends up intertwined in Eric's home and family in this story exploring sexual and racial politics. 

Such a Fun Age was a book I loved last year and I think this may follow similar ideas to be an honest and eye-opening read. It's also been likened to Normal People so I'm really intrigued to see how it is!

My Year Abroad by Chang-Rae Lee

If you're lucky enough to be in the US, you should already be able to get your hands on this one but for the UK folks, don't worry it's only 2 months away from being released! It may not be a debut novel but it's definitely worth pre-ordering from the synopsis alone. 

Tiller is an American college student who has no real passion while Pong-Lou is a creative entrepreneur who sees some potential in Tiller. Pong takes Tiller on a trip across Asia where Tiller somehow becomes a child protege as he experiences some truly eye-opening events that change how he views the world around him. 

This plot really intrigues me and the vagueness of the blurb only wants to make me read it more. I can't wait to give this a read! 

Love is a Revolution by Renee Watson

This is probably one of my most anticipated of 2021. While I've not read any of Renee Watson's earlier books, I love the sound of this YA plot that reminds me both of the activism found in T.H.U.G and also the exploration of self-love and relationships in Get a Life, Chloe Brown. 

When Nala says yes to an invitation to an open-mic night, she did not expect to fall instantly in love with the MC, Tye. While Nala would prefer to spend her summer curled up watching movies, Tye is an activist spending his time putting on community events. To impress Tye, Nala drops in a few lies and here and there which soon become harder to keep up with as they become close. 

Any YA book about self-love is a hit for me, I can't wait to read this when it's released in February. 

All Girls by Emily Layden

At an all-girls school in Connecticut, the students are smart and driven, progressive thinkers and feminist intellects. When they arrive back at school for the fall term, they are met with the news of a claim of sexual assault against an unnamed teacher. As weeks pass and over the next year at school, we see the stories of a diverse range of interconnected characters as they work through this strange year of school, questions if the staff really have their best interests at heart, while also navigating the life of a normal teenager growing up. 

This is another that I just have to read - the plot seems poignant and a necessary read. After reading My Dark Vanessa last year, I think this a great follow-on book to explore a similar topic more through reading this year. 

Happily Ever Afters by Elise Bryant

When I saw this likened To All The Boys I Loved Before and for fans of the amazing romance author Jasmine Guillory, I knew this debut novel ould have to be added to my 2021 TBR. 

Tessa hates that she only reads love stories with characters like her in her own writing that she shares with her number 1 fan and best friend, Caroline. When Tessa is accepted into a creative writing workshop she's struck with a case of writer's block. Caroline suggests remedying this by finding a new source of inspiration by having her own real-life love story. Cue Nico, the perfect brooding artist to play the Prince Charming in her next story. But, is this really the love she wants? 

While this one is only just being released in the US (January 5th!), I'll be waiting eagerly to get my hands on a copy on an ebook in the UK soon! 

The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris

This is said to be "Get Out meets Devil Wears Prada" - I'm Sold! This is the debut novel from Zakiya and the synopsis sounds amazing. 

Working for a publishing house, Nella is an editorial assistant who is tired of her micro-aggressive colleagues and being the only black employee at the company. When Hazel joins the team, she is delighted to have her in the company and her cubical buddy. But, just as they are getting to know each other, tensions start to rise between them when Hazel becomes the office darling and Nella public enemy number 1. After Nella receives a note telling her to quit, she becomes obsessed with finding answers and realises that more than just her job is on the line. 

This is labelled a thriller with sly social commentary that I can't wait to pick up in June when it's released. 

Whether it's a new release or a book that's been on your TBR for a while, what book are you most excited to pick up in 2021? 

Thanks for reading, 
Sarah x

I can't quite believe that it's been 8 years since I set up my blog. While my blog is definitely not in the same place as when I started, every year it's taught me something new and has become a lovely little part of my life. I shared not too long ago why it is I still blog and I thought I'd follow on from that and share some lessons that my blog has taught me - not just about blogging but about myself as well. 

1. Not everyone will understand, but that's OK! 

I remember sharing a post years ago "Yes, I have a blog". It was when I was still in school, my blog was still very much my own space. As a few people started to discover it, it became hard to really hide it and I didn't really want to anymore - I wanted to tell people! 

There were definitely some people who didn't get it (some of which later have messaged me to ask for help with their own social media), some that were just curious ("so are you, like, Zoella?"), some who just didn't care and those who embraced it and I grew to be fine with all of this! There are still times where my little hobby is the wrong end of a joke but I laugh it off and carry on as I always have. I also think part of it has been growing up and being in a space where it's quite normal to do what I do and I'm happy to be open about my blog. 

2. Writing, SEO, marketing and more! 

I'm yet to really share I whole post about this but I very much believe that I wouldn't be in the position I am now, professionally, without my blog. From blogging to writing articles for others to writing freelance articles to landing my internship and onto my full-time role of SEO exec, my blog has given my opportunities and experience that has allowed me to work in marketing like I always wanted. 

It's taught me so many skills that my degree did not and that even a marketing degree couldn't have given me. I'm so happy I've carried on bloggers for 8 years as it's become like an online portfolio of not just my writing and a place I can almost showcase myself!

3. The best inspiration comes from those around you

This kind of draws on something from #1. Now more than ever, I'm surrounded by people who not only just get me but also inspire me and a lot of the time, without even knowing it! Whether it's seeing them starting up their own side hustle, having conversations that spark an idea or letting me share ideas for feedback. I have some truly fantastic friends and people that are definitely one of the biggest sources of inspiration for what I've created. So, if you're reading this - thank you!! 

4. There are people just like you

Whether it's people going through similar things, having the same difficulties, there's always going to be someone out there that can relate. The blogging community on Twitter and now Instagram was a blessing to discover. For supplying inspiration but having people who understand blogging problems. A lack of inspiration, motivation, perhaps a technical issue. The blogging community has definitely had it's low moments but there's a great community to support you and chat to whenever you need. 

5. Find time for things you love

Not only just finding time to blog but this expands to other hobbies as well. Finding time to do what makes you happen can offer even more inspiration but really it gives you a break to do something else in between other commitments. Blogging gave me an outlet away from studying and something completely different to focus on and I was so glad I had that to step away from the stress and do something I enjoy each week. 

6. It's not all about the money

To be completely honest, there was definitely a point where I did care too much about the money that blogging gave me. It was when I was lacking focus, motivation to be creative and I just wanted some form of positive reinforcement to keep me sharing posts. After there being a point where I was getting regular sponsored posts, when that dwindled out I actually didn't mind in the end. The pressure of needing money had gone with my job and it allowed me to find my creativity again and let it flourish! That dry-spell of sponsorships really put into perspective why I personally still blog and what I wanted out of it and, for me right now, it's not the money. 

7. Take breaks is a good thing

I can't stress this one enough! I always felt guilty during uni when I did have to prioritise my studies and also my part-time job at the time but, looking back at it, not pressuring myself allowed me to produce content that I only really wanted to. It let me take a step back, think of new ideas and come back to it with a fresh head of ideas. My breaks have never been intentional. It's usually I have too much going on and something has to give and it's usually this. I've learnt that that's okay and actually the best thing for myself and my blog. 

8. You really don't need a niche

I remember back around 2015 when I was posting more regularly, every post someone shared around starting a blog, how to get rich from blogging, blogging tips you must follow all said the same thing - "find your niche" and it's probably the biggest piece of advice I disagree with. While yes, it offers you focus, it gives you a place in the blogosphere, is it really what you want your blog to me. Take me for example, I want to blog about books, productivity, self-care, sometimes fashion and beauty - where does that sit? Lifestyle is usually the answer and I go with that but I don't let that stop me sharing any of the content I do. 

My main piece of advice is if you don't want to stick to one niche forever, then don't feel you have to, to have a voice in this space. Just be you! 

I'd love to hear what you think of these. 
Thanks for reading, 
Sarah x 

When I had the idea to write this post, for the first time ever I'm thankful that I'm not someone who manages to read 100 books in a year because this would be a very long post! I've also never been a liberal 5-star giver, saving the top score for this life-altering reads but this year I realised how stupid that is. A book doesn't have to be life-changing to deserve the 5 stars. This year I've read some really great books and while not all of them were life-changing, it would be wrong to not shout about how their beautifully written, amazing reads that I will be recommending to everyone I know. 

If you're looking to 2021 and starting to put together your TBR, if you haven't read any of these I definitely urge you to add them to next year's TBR. So without further ado, enjoy this post of my 5-star reviews of my favourite books of the year! 

My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell

My Dark Vanessa is a 2020 fave for so many people and it's easy to see why. This debut novel from Kate Elizabeth Russell is a hard read and it sure leaves a lasting impression. A truly interesting and worthy read. I recommended this one for people who also loved Normal People

We follow the stories of Vanessa in 2000 - a bright student who becomes entangled with her English teacher - and Vanessa in 2017 at a time where allegations of powerful men taking advantage of women are all over the news. We see Vanessa toying with the facts and questioning her relationship with her professor. Such heavy topics tackled in a way that is so unique and so rememberable. 

Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Renni Eddo-Lodge

2020 has been an educational year for many and the Black Lives Matter movement has been at the forefront of many people's minds. This was the most informative and necessary book I read this year. While many like to believe racism doesn't exist in the UK or that "it isn't as bad as the US", this book shed light on those who believe this and how wrong they are. It explores the ongoing racism that goes beyond race and looks further at the role of gender. This gave me an introduction to black feminism that I've been wanting to read ever since my sociology lessons at college skipped over this strong of feminism and I'm ready to learn even more in 2021 on this topic. 

Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender

What a beautiful, emotional and just all-round great YA read. Felix Love is a teen living in New York, fully aware of the irony in his name when he says he has never been in love. When Felix receives anonymous transphobic comments from a fellow student, Felix sets out on a mission to find out who it is and in doing so, ends up in a complicated love triangle. 

This is a book exploring identity, self-discovery and acceptance. Such a lovely read that I recommend anyone to pick up.

The Muse by Jessie Burton

This was an unexpected favourite that I picked up on a bit of a whim earlier this year. Historical fiction is definitely not an area I thought I would enjoy but I was happily mistaken with this one! 2 stories intertwined over time - the story of Odelle, a newly appointed typist for Marjorie Quick at Skelton Gallery. The other is the story of Olivia Schloss, the daughter of a famous art dealer, and her relationship with Isaac Robles and Teresa who become part of the Schloss family. When a mysterious painting arrives for Quick in 1967, it's the story of Olivia that starts to piece together the secret history of the painting. 

I loved Jessie Burton's writing style and how these stories interweave. This was probably my most shocking 5-star of the year!

If you’re a Pisces, this book might just be for you! Check out a book recommendation based on your zodiac sign.

Heart Stopper Vol.1 by Alice Oseman

Such a sweet, heart-warming graphic novel! Charlie is a shy student and Nick is a friendly, rugby player. They both attend the same all-boys grammar school but it's not until they are put in the same tutor group that their friendship blossoms, or is it something more? 

This whole series of graphic novels is so adorable and this is such a comforting graphic novel. If you're looking for a graphic novel to up in 2021, I suggest starting with this one! 

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

Last but certainly not least is my final 5 star of the year. This is another one that really pushed me out of my reading comfort zone but after reading the synopsis I was very intrigued and I ended up loving it! 

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is searching for a door he doesn't know he's looking for. After picking up a random, unknown book in his college library which strangely tells him a story from his own childhood, it sets him on a path that he could never have thought possible. 

Erin Morgenstern is a story-telling genius. She not only tells us one story within this novel but it has so many layers! Beautifully written, so intriguing and so worth the read. It sounds vague but this is a book-lovers dream and I assume if you're reading this then that's probably the case - aha! This is definitely one to read if you haven't already and is a fantastic winter read. It has definitely opened my eyes to new genres I wouldn't have thought I would be reading heading into next year. 

And that's it! 6 5 star reads of 2020. I've read so many fantastic books this year, I can't wait to see what stories I'll discover in 2021. 

What was your favourite book of 2020 (if you can choose!)? Any I should add to my TBR for 2021? 
Hope you're doing great, 
Sarah x

There is no doubt that this year has been tough and this winter will be like no other we’ve had before. This year has been challenging for many reasons but taking some time to celebrate and support your friends and family is one way we can try and stay positive this winter. Here are just some ways you can do this.

Support small and local businesses

Businesses have truly been hit by this year’s events as well as more people relying on their side hustle to bring in an income. It’s the perfect time to shop small - whether it’s a family friend or someone you’ve just seen online, why not buy your presents from them this year? Buy your Christmas cards from an Etsy seller, had an IG account bookmarked that you've been meaning to buy from? Now is the time! 

This year has hit everyone so if aren't able to buy their products, even just liking their posts and photos on social media, sharing their site with friends, they will truly appreciate it this year more than ever.

Extend your Christmas card list this year

Whether they are a close friend, an old friend, someone you’ve lost touch with, I’m sure they will appreciate the card to let them know you’re thinking of them - I know they will love this. If you’re not usually one to send cards, maybe this year is the year!

Keep on zooming! 

It can be exhausting and it can get old but winter opens up a whole host of new things you can do on zoom! Stream a festive film together, host a Christmas quiz, play an online game together (Pictionary is a fab one!). It's a great way to keep in contact and for those who live alone, they will be thankful that you took the time to chat.

Be charitable and help the vulnerable

Buy your wrapping paper from a charity (Oxfam are always great for cards, paper and even more!) donate to Crisis to buy a Christmas dinner to the homeless, donate items for Christmas presents or donate food to your local food bank. These small acts will be making someone’s year!

I'm actually hosting a fundraiser in support of Macmillan Cancer Support at the moment. If you have a spare pound or two, I would love your support! I have some fun things you can buy for your donation as well. Head to my JustGiving page for more details. 

Be kind to yourself! 

Don't pressure yourself to do too much, take things slow, do what you enjoy and remember to take time for yourself. Whether it's watching your favourite film, going for a walk or having those extra few hours in bed, make sure you're looking after yourself!

Hope you're doing great, 
Sarah x