• Reigniting my passion for reading with Audible

    Audible caught me by surprise because when I was younger I was a proper bookworm, my nose was in a book and always was, up till I was about 25 and the internet really took off. I ended up working so hard and doing so much in my spare time I didn’t have time to read anymore.

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    Over the last 10 years or so I read a couple of books a year but never as much as I wanted or could really get back in to.

    However, a year ago I decided to trial Audible.

    The main reason to trial it was to download and listen to Harry Potter. Although I had seen the movies I had never read the books and everyone told me they were excellent. I felt like I had missed out as I knew it would have been something I really enjoyed. Also, Stephen Fry, that wonderful man, was the narrator.

    My second reason for the trial was starting a new job, 1 hour from home. With 2 hours a day to kill in the car and not always wanting to listen to music I thought it would be a good way to bring my mood up in the morning and help me to de-stress on the way home.

    After I finished the first book I was hooked. I decided to pay the £7.99 which allows you 1 credit per month. This credit can be exchanged for any book at any price. The thing is, audio books are expensive. At least 3 x the price of a book. Sometimes they have deals on where you can purchase 2 for 1 in a certain selection and that credit will still be applied for the two, which I have done twice now.

    You also get the option to purchase more credits if you would like. 3 additional credits costs £18 so £6 a book. Still a fantastic discount and really, new books cost about £6.99 on the whole (if physical books) so I feel the cost is justified.

    What makes listening so much better than reading

    The number 1 thing about listening to a story being read is the voice of the narrator. Every book so far I have listened to, the narrator has been great at differentiating the characters with their voice, whether it’s an accent change or an adjustment in tone. I do this in my own head anyway so it’s nice to hear it realistically.

    The second pro is it means I get to listen to books I wouldn’t have picked up to read usually. By this I mean there are stories which I struggle, linguistically or the subject to get my head in to, however I have listened to more things other than just my usual chick-lit that used to devour my bookshelf.

    My initial foray in to listening to audio books was when a friend lent me a CD audio book, The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga. A book I would never have picked up. The setting, the storyline, everything about the book would not have drawn me to it. However, it still is to this day one of the best books I have ‘read’. I found the story so enthralling, willing the characters all the time and loving the descriptions of the areas which I found myself. Yet still, if in a bookshop, I wouldn’t pick anything like it up.

    The practicality of listening to books is what makes it great for me. As I said I have 2 hours in my car (that’s a minimum too) every week day. I like being entertained. I also believe that book reading or listening is important for broadening language. My job and my hobby (this blog) both include writing. Who wouldn’t want to enhance their skills this way?

    Why I chose audible?

    Audible is part of Amazon and I felt that it lead the way in terms of audio books. Most of the official audio books are on the list. I have yet to come across any books which have not been featured on here. It’s not to say it won’t happen but it’s definitely not been a struggle so far.

    I know this isn’t a free service but I think they have the balance right in how many credits you get per month. Although I started with one credit per month I am moving towards two credits which is £14.99 per month.

    I did once (a long time ago) download an app that had free audio books on but the narrators were really bad, not easy to listen to, almost digital voices.

    In summary

    I have to say my passion for reading has been reignited because of audio books and I would highly recommend to anyone giving it a try. Believe it or not I am not affiliated to or have been asked to write anything, this is completely my own experience.

    They do have a free trial so if you did want to give it a go you have 30 days to change your mind.

    I will be reviewing books and giving you an update on what I’m listening each month (check out my last post) so keep an eye out for those.

    Do you have an account already?

    Would you try one?



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    Joining the National Trust – Joint membership and why we chose to join

    Living in the heart of Derbyshire we have a huge choice of National Trust options and although we have been to some of the grounds we have never taken the plunge and looked in to membership. Until today!

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    We are off to the Cotswolds soon with Rupert (our dog) to spend some time relaxing and just generally taking some time away together.  Near the village we’re staying in is a number of National Trust parks so we might end up going to one with the pup. We will take a picnic and just meander round enjoying the outdoors.

    Obviously, with Claire’s health issues we have to go slow but I am hoping that by joining the National Trust it will encourage us to visit more places and will help us with our weight loss and health in general.

    I love the countryside, it’s one of the reason I love Britain as a whole.

    For a small Island we have some outstanding places to visit and we would be fulfilling one of my lifetime goals, to visit as many places in the UK as possible.  It’s not that I don’t like travelling outside of the UK but when I do I yearn for our green landscapes and picturesque views.  There is something so spectacular about seeing 100 shades of green by standing in one point and looking round.

    I also love the heritage that goes alongside this wonderful country. The landscape is littered with historical events and the National Trust has been keeping those alive.

    Our decision to join the National Trust was based on all the above.

    A few places near us I would love to visit

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    Once we have done these we would look further afield so we could choose some areas to spend weekends away.

    Do you have a National Trust membership?

    What are your favourite National Trust places to visit?


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    What I am listening to September 2018 – Music, Podcasts and Audio Books

    Although most people that know me know I am a big talker, I love to listen too and now I have a minimum of 2 hours to drive to my place of work every day, it means I have time to listen to a plethora of music, podcasts and audio books. Each month I want to let you know what I am listening to and every month I will try and review at least one of those things.

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    Listening to in September – Music

    This month I have been listening to a Musicals playlist Claire and I collaboratively put together on Spotify. I have been paying for Spotify for as long as I can remember and enjoy the freedom it gives me to listen to whatever I want, when I want. My favourite tracks are those from Rent (I am a dedicated Renthead), the News Boys (or Newsies as it’s know in America) and Dear Evan Hansen which I hope comes to the West End as it’s been critically acclaimed, with the music being as uplifting and catchy as the Greatest Showman was.

    Listening to in September – Podcasts

    I got back in to the Archers this month. Up until 2 years ago I used to listen to the omnibus every single week, without fail. There is something so luring about Ambridge, the farming community and the story lines that I re-joined (after doing a catch up of the story line since I left it) and listened once again. I have not been disappointed and found it really easy to get back in to. 1hr and 15 minutes of cute village escapism.

    I also have been enjoying recently the Guilty Feminist Podcast. I don’t know how I found this but I sure it was just through searching popular podcosts on spotify or maybe even audible.  Once I had listened to 1 episode, which is around 1hr long, and I was hooked. They do live recordings and I hope to get to one in the future. The premise of this podcast, as it starts with the presenters saying ‘I’m a feminist, but…’ giving scenarios that we probably all have used or thought or done at one point but still flying the feminist flag. I like this style, it’s filled with culture and comedy and it’s balanced really well for me.

    Listening to in September – Books

    I love a trashy novel. We start off being read fairy tales and some of us continue reading the same sort of thing growing up. I have always loved that story where a girl might have some sort of tragedy or a big change happens, she meets a guy, she hates guy, she ends up in some sort of scenario where said guy comes to rescue and she miraculously realises she was in love with him the whole time. It’s predictable, mostly, but I do enjoy it.

    I did however download Dawn O’ Porters book the Cows. I really enjoyed this novel. Had great twists and turns and I laughed hard at some points and was totally shocked at others. Definitely one I would recommend.

    Another book I listened to, as I had been thinking about it a while but wasn’t sure, was Gail Honeyman’s first book, Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine. I will be doing a separate review on this as it really deserves a full write up.

    I listened to it in a few days as I would have it on whilst cooking or in the bath.

    Other books listened to this month were:

    You can see a bit of a theme in the books I have mentioned but it’s just they are easy to dip in and out of if I find something I want to get stuck in to.

    I also have a Stephen Fry – Mythos to get in to – although it’s beenhard going so far. I will keep trying. And Sister Noon by Karen Joy Fowler, the author of one of my favourite books, We are all completely beside ourselves.

    My credit starts again on the 25th of the month so any recommendations would be great appreciated. I would love to broaden my horizons on book front.

    I’m always looking for new things to listen to so please do jot a comment below if you have anything?



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    Update: The past 12 months – Where have I been?

    If you’re reading this, thank you. I don’t know if I need to explain but I feel like I have to.

    I’ve not been around for around 12 months, away from the blog, YouTube, Social media and I feel quite liberated having given myself a break.

    I have had Leah XL as a blog (in various guises) since 2010 and have enjoyed the process of either reviewing something and giving my opinion or sharing how I feel to people who enjoy what I have to say.

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    You may have noticed that I have been on hiatus and I wanted to update you on what’s been happening.

    October 2017

    • I started a new job. A job that I have done before but in a different sector and an hour away from home. The job is high pressured (which I really enjoy) and is deadline driven. I needed to focus my energy in this job to get to know the business and get settled in.
    • Claire, my wife, had a serious change in her health. One morning she woke up and fell to the floor. She was signed off for two months and the final diagnosis was prolapsed discs in her back, one of which is pushing on to the sciatic nerve causing not only pain but debilitating numbness.
    • Rupert (our dog) diagnosed with early stage kidney failure (don’t worry – it’s controlled very well by diet and he will live forever)

    December 2018

    • A very busy time at work, many late nights and time away from home

    March 2018

    • Due to the health issues Claire changes jobs from an industry she has been in since leaving university. An easier job but with less money

    April 2018

    • Claire and I start an online retail business to help subsidise the gap in earnings.

    May 2018

    • My mum, who is on dialysis because of Kidney failure, has been taken off the donor list due to some other issues. Lots of worry and stress

    July 2018

    • Mum given diagnosis that heart isn’t working well and will need an operation

    August 2018

    • No operation date yet, many delays in the pre-op prepping and procedures.
    • Claire and I decide to join Weight Watchers to help with taking the pressure off her back.

    And here we are in September.

    These aren’t excuses but I am in a good place (although there is still stuff happening with mum) but I needed the break. Not only from my blog but also from social media and YouTube.

    I thought I could maybe turn my blog in to a full time business but I actually think there is warrant in me doing this as a release, as a hobby, as a place for me to take to when I need to. Mainly as I already work in a high pressured environment, why make my blog somewhere high pressure too?

    I also fell out of love with Makeup. I have sold so much and decluttered it out of my life (don’t get me wrong there is still so much) but I needed to reevaluate the balance of buying makeup that wasn’t being used for review purposes and saving money as a family. Of course my family comes first.

    So what’s next?

    LeahXL Blog:

    I am coming back. I am coming back with a blog that is more personal. Less review focused and is thoughtful and eclectic.

    I want to talk about married life, owning a gorgeous pup, making lifestyle changes, health in general, family, work and all the things inbetween.

    Leah XL Youtube:

    This is being shut down. I know, I know. It’s got a good following but it’s no longer who I am. Fear not though – I still do some live videos on a new channel to do with Ebay (not massively regular but some times) so if you want to find it and learn more about our business then please check it out here.

    Social Media:

    • Instagram – I have changed this back to a personal account. I don’t need it to be business and I am just not great at a stylised, perfectly lit feed. I can’t do it. It’s not natural to me. Instead it will be filled with fun things and life.
    • Twitter – Used for interactions but not as frequently as I used to and not promoting every single post constantly. I want it to be organic not mechanic.
    • Facebook – I know it seems outdated but I still use facebook and I will continue to post my posts to there. It’s a great place that people still use so I will carry on.
    • Snapchat – Not happening – It just drains my battery. I just can’t. (ANYONE ELSE?)
    • Others – Any others that have surpassed my 37 year old brain will just fall in to the metaphoric Social Media bin.

    I see this post as a new start. A turning point in my life and there will definitely be some changes happening (good and bad) during the course of my time writing.

    If you have any questions please comment below. If you want to know more and want me to do future posts about general life updates then again, comment below.

    My email, twitter inbox and facebook messenger is always open so please get in touch if you want to chat.




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    How To Feel Beautiful Without Make-up*

    Going make-up free can be scary for many of us – putting on make-up can become a morning ritual that helps us to feel beautiful and complete. Feeling comfortable with your natural appearance involves learning to love yourself for who you are. If you want to cut down on your cosmetics, here are some ways in which you can wear less makeup and still feel beautiful.

    Look after your skin

    You don’t have to let go of all skin products – cleansers and moisturisers are essential for preserving your skin’s natural beauty. Get rid of spots by washing your face daily and using products such as tea tree and witch hazel. Applying moisturiser each day will meanwhile reduce the likeliness of getting wrinkles later on in life whilst giving your skin more of a natural rosy glow. There are other habits worth adopting if you want to look after your skin such as avoiding sunburn, drinking lots of water, lowering your sugar intake and quitting bad habits like smoking.

    Find the right hairstyle

    Find a hairstyle that helps to frame your face right – there are many online guides that can help you to achieve this. Resist the urge to go wild with dyes and extensions just to make up for your lack of make-up and use your natural hair to its advantage. That said, you may be able to subtle colouring that brings out the colour of your eyes or complements your skin better.

    Make a statement with accessories

    You can also use accessories to help accentuate your natural beauty. This could include anything from glasses to nose rings. If you like to regularly switch up your make-up in order to feel different, you could do the same with accessories and still give yourself that feeling of keeping your looks new and fresh.

    Bring out your natural tones with colour coordination

    As stated with hairstyles, you can use colour to bring out your eye colour – the same can be done with clothing. For example, you could wear a blue top or a blue dress if you want to bring out the blueness in your eyes. You can also contrast clothing to your skin tone – this could include wearing lighter clothing to contrast darker skin, or wearing blue tones to bring out the rosy redness in your skin.

    Smile more

    Smiling is the simplest way that you can bring out your natural beauty. A smile instantly endears people to you helping you to seem more enthusiastic at a job interview, more attractive on a date and more approachable at a party. It can also release endorphins that can make you feel better about yourself. Start loving your smile and you’ll immediately feel prettier.


    *Collaborative post


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