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February 24, 2017

Me and My Other Interests: Graphic Novels

Okay first up I have to vent how annoyed I am that I actually recorded a twenty six minute video for this post but har har, I've not managed to get it exported and uploaded in time due to the program I used to edit it being pretty shitty. So now that I've vented about wasting so much of my time - let's get into the important stuff: the graphic novels!

You've probably noticed by now that I bloody love a good graphic novel or hundred. If you've been reading NB for a while, you will have seen me mention one or two graphic novels in my book review posts but I figured I do a post that's exclusively dedicated to them and also tell you some of my favourites which are a mix of old and new comics that I've read or I'm in the process of reading. So I guess really I need to start by telling you guys why I think graphic novels are so great and why everyone should read them. I've always enjoyed comics. When I was younger I used to love what I would label as "proper comics" so things like X-Men, Batman, Green Lantern - you know the drill. As I got older though I discovered graphic novels and realised they were more my jam. Graphic novels are exactly what the seem to be; they're novels with pictures. I love reading them because they always cover such varied and sometimes tough topics in such a great way and make the whole story (whatever that story may be) visually stimulating which always adds to a good story.

So, what are my go-to graphic novels then? Well like I said, I've kind of moved away from the traditional superhero type comics and now read a wide range of stories/genres but they mostly follow my general book interests anyway. There's often an element of crime running throughout many of the novels I like and they will often have a heavy fairytale, sci-fi, or horror vibe (or sometimes, that all mixed together in one big ol' delectable mess). Rather than just prattle on about why I read them, I figured this post would benefit from an insight into some of my favourites. Some of these comics are things I have read for years, some are completed and finished series, some are only first volumes but have already made a huge impact on me. So here we go!

Fables by Bill Willingham
Okay it just wouldn't be right if I didn't mention my absolute favourite of them all first. Fables is one of the first and the best graphic novel series I've ever read. Willingham has such a gift with his storytelling, the artwork both inside and outside the novel is beautiful and fits the genre of story and I cannot recommend the series enough. No matter what you're into, Fables is a great place to start because it has so many different aspects going on I'd be really surprised if anyone said they didn't rate it. The series follows a whole host of fairytale characters (the likes you'll all be familiar with from Brothers' Grimm, Disney, nursery rhymes etc.) living in New York City after having to leave the fairytale/mythological world they all lived in. They live along side us humans - the mundane or "mundys" because you know, we're not magical folk - and just follows various characters lives in this situation and what is also going on back in their fairytale realm. It sounds very Once Upon a Time but add in a little bit of the TV show Grimm and you've kind of got it - it can be quite a dark comic with a lot of more adult content going on so don't let my very brief description fool you. If you've heard of or played The Wolf Among Us game by Telltale Games, that whole game is based on many of the main characters from this series so if you enjoyed that you will *love* this. This series is still ongoing and I myself am not up to date with it, so if you're looking for something to really sink your teeth into and get lost in, this is the best one for that. You can buy the hardback first volume, here.

Preacher by Garth Ennis
So whilst we're talking about ultimate favourites, I need to talk about Preacher. Recently made into a great TV series which Seth Rogen is involved with behind the scenes, Preacher is very different to Fables but it's also one of the best things I've ever read. Garth Ennis has such a knack for writing very over the top, dramatic characters and plots yet makes them completely relatable and enjoyable to read. He unfortunately passed away a few months ago and I was genuinely gutted when I found out. Preacher is a story about yep, you guessed it, a Preacher (a very stereotyped small-town Texan preacher to be exact) who begins to lose his faith in God a little whilst also developing the power of "the word" - an ability to command people to do things. Whilst in the possession of this new power, preacher Jesse Custer goes rampaging around America pissed off that the world has so much bad happening in it. He has a criminal girlfriend at his side and an Irish vampire best pal along for the ride too (I know that sounds bat-shit insane but Cassidy is one of the best characters in anything ever). The story is so gripping and absolutely hilarious at times. The TV show isn't exactly the same as the comics so please don't watch it and think you know what the story is about, but I would highly recommend both - especially the graphic novel obviously. You can pick up book one of nine here.

Blacksad by Juan Diaz Canales
One of the best things about graphic novels is without a doubt the mix of artwork with a great story. Appealing artwork is something I look for in any graphic novel I read and I have genuinely put down or picked up certain comics just based on the art style. Blacksad is one that I definitely picked up because of the gorgeous artwork and I've never looked back. I won't go into too much detail here as I've already talked about this in detail in a previous book club post but I just had to give it a quick mention again here. The watercolour style artwork in this Spanish comic is just beautiful to look at and this is one of the few graphic novels that has made me really study each panel of the comic before turning each page. The story centres around Blacksad a black cat/panther private investigator and yes, all of the characters are animals but living very human/relatable lives. This story somehow manages to cover things like infidelity, the KKK, and domestic violence in such a serious and insightful way whilst also having characters who are dogs, owls, aligators, you name it. I can't wait to read more once it's been translated to English. You can pick up a hardback of the first book here.

Y: The Last Man by Brian K Vaughan
This graphic novel has been rumoured to be made into a movie starring Shia LeBouf for what must be several long years now and I'm still disappointed it hasn't happened yet. This series has won multiple awards and is a fantastic read again, no matter what kind of genre you are into. Whereas a lot of my choices tend to have a crime thriller element to them, Y: The Last Man is totally different is more of a post-apocalyptic almost Mad Max style of story. It follows Yorick Brown - the last surviving man on earth - who somehow manages to survive a global plague that kills off every male mammal with the Y chromosome. He and his pet monkey Ampersand go off searching the world to try and work out why on earth he managed to survive and what that means for humankind. The story is so fantastically written and the art style is gorgeous to look at too. The comic has an almost feminist vibe to it as the women step it up because all of the men have gone and this naturally leads to some hilarious and gripping developments in the story. If you want a comic that makes you feel like you're watching a really great movie or TV series, this is it. Pick it up here.

Sandman by Neil Gaiman
The last graphic novel I'm going to mention in detail probably won't be a surprise to those of you who regularly read graphic novels/comics because of course what sort of reader would I be if I didn't mention Gaiman's classic Sandman series? Although Fables is my recommendation for everyone, I'd also highly recommend Sandman even though it's not my favourite. If you're a fan of Neil Gaiman as an author anyway, you should totally branch out and read his graphic novel because boy oh boy, is it good. I won't lie, Sandman isn't the smoothest sailing graphic novels series to read - like a lot of readers I find the first volumes kind of just okay and definitely not reflective of Gaiman's sensational writing ability - but I guess that's to be expected when someone is stepping out of their comfort zone! I'm not going to even attempt to explain the story because it would take an essay so for a more detailed breakdown of it, head to Wikipedia, but the story basically follows a variety of characters (namely Dream/Morpheus) and mixes up mythology, horror, fantasy, and history in a really interesting, uniquely Gaiman way. Sandman is one of the "classic" comics alongside stuff like Watchmen and Maus and is something non-comic readers will often know about. So if you want something that's seen as a classic and something that you can absolutely get lost in, Sandman is great just be wary of the first few volumes - they're not the best of Gaiman's writing! (You can by the first volume here.


Now I could go on and on in detail about hundreds of more graphic novels, but I don't want to bombard you all with too many recommendations so I've purposefully highlighted two of my top favourites and then two others that I think are well worth a read no matter what your personal tastes are. I can't leave it just there though so here's some other brilliant graphic novels and comics that I've read, fell in love with, and that I'm currently reading and loving (in no particular order but with a little bit of info on the genre of each):

- Injection by Warren Ellis (horror, paranormal, sci-fi, crime, thriller - it's got it all! Full review here)
- Manifest Destiny by Chris Dingess (1800s American Frontier but with monsters!)
- V for Vendetta by Alan Moore (a "classic" in my eyes. Y'all know the story!)
- Wytches by Scott Snyder (straight up horror which will give you the willies - Read the full review here)
- Maus by Art Spiegelman (another "classic" narrating what it was like to be a Jew during the Holocaust)
- Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (now a movie, this quite feminist story talks about daily life in Iran and the contrasting lives women live in public and in private)
- Descender by Jeff Lemire (a good one for Mass Effect fans. Sci fi, Stars Wars political style adventure - read my full review here!)
- Saga by Brian K Vaughan (an almost Romeo and Juliet style story but with actual love and lots of fantasy/mytholgoy/sci fi elements)
- Sky Doll by Alessandro Barbucci & Barbara Canepa (sci fi and futuristic but with a whole lot of pink and girliness. One of the first graphic novels I read and still a firm fave)
- Fairest by Bill Willingham (Fables spin off focusing more on the princesses stories)

So before you all fall asleep, I think I'll rap up this lengthy post here! At the moment I'm reading Low by Rick Remender and have my eye on 5 or 20 more to work my way through. Hopefully you might be thinking "these graphic novels sound like a good shout" and I've given you some decent recommendations to get stuck into. Reading will always be a joy and calming pastime for me but graphic novels just always step it up that little bit further and allow me to get fully submerged in another reality. Happy reading!

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February 17, 2017

Real Talk: Please Date Yourself

This might seem like an odd suggestion from someone who is planning to go and look at a wedding venue in two days time, but I'm a firm believer in the best person to date is yourself. As we've just had Valentine's Day a couple of days ago it really got me thinking - how many of us have hang ups and issues with ourselves and therefore don't learn how to love ourselves yet we seek out others to do that exact thing we can bring ourselves to do?

I am 100% guilty of not loving myself in the past - I've always had an issue with my body, my appearance, my personality... It has all come under fire from my own negative mind and it has taken its toll on my confidence and self-assurance over the years. In the last couple of years though I've tried my absolute hardest to turn that around and I urge everyone who ever feels remotely similar to do the same. Don't get me wrong, it's extremely difficult and pretty much impossible to just turn around and think "right, I'm going to start loving myself tomorrow" because that's not how these things work, but gradually altering your mindset to be comfortable with who you are and being confident in at least some aspects that make you you is does work if you stick at it. So I'm going to suggest some ways in which you might be able to be a little more sassy in yourself and be happier with what you see in the mirror and deal with everyday in your own mind.

- Take yourself on a date or twenty. I can't stress enough how great I think solo dates are. The thought of doing something like going for a meal alone or going to the cinema alone would have sounded like the saddest idea to me as an eighteen year old but now I think they're so important. You may be a bundle of nerves to begin with (especially if you get bad anxiety having to eat in front of strangers like I do!) but it gets easier and most importantly, it becomes enjoyable. Sitting in a coffee shop with a good book for an hour, going shopping alone and trying lots of new clothes on, taking a look around the local art gallery or museum or simply going for a long walk or hike, it all makes me feel fantastic and makes me feel more comfortable with myself. Lots of people struggle with spending time alone but I personally thrive in those conditions. Even if you do struggle with it, doing it now and again can give you space to think with just "me myself and I" to consider which can be a breath of fresh air when you have stuff on your mind.

- Treat yo'self. Okay so this one will sound pretty obvious and it's something pretty much all of us do (some of us - I mean myself - do this a little too often) but treating yourself can be a great positive mood changer and can also make us feel sassy af when we do it. When you're in a relationship, you tend to want to show the other person you care about them and love them in numerous ways and sometimes that will involve extravagant gifts or small tokens of appreciation. Showing that level of care and consideration for yourself is vital. Often people put others first and put treating themselves on the back burner on the priority list but sometimes it should be top of that list. If you've worked your butt off all month, buy that book you've been desperate to read. If you've being feel really insecure about your body, buy that pair of shoes you saw in the sale. You don't always need an excuse to do it and it doesn't need to be so frequent that you don't treat it as a surprise thing any more, but treating yourself how you treat others will always be a sure-fire way to show yourself a bit of self love and appreciation.

- Get to know your body and love your body. If you're someone with low confidence and self esteem, the whole event of having sex with someone or being remotely romantically involved with another person can be daunting and become a huge big debacle. Learning to know what you like and what you don't like is not only a bonus for any sexual relationships you have in the future, but it can also make you feel a little bit more confident in yourself. You know what your limits are. You know what your kinks are. And mostly importantly, you will know yourself on the most intimate level. You need to be your own best friend and looking after yourself on an intimate level is a great way to start. Being sexually active should never be something anyone should be ashamed or embarrassed about and being happy with yourself in those instances can be very rewarding for the mind. Plus let's face it, orgasms are *great* for a mood boost and to get rid of those pesky headaches.

- Take all the selfies you want. I am an individual who is so pro-selfie it hurts. Seeing any one of you upload a photo on Instagram or Twitter when you're *feeling myself* makes me tap that heart icon quicker than I can say "work it, buddy". Of course we all have days when what we see in the mirror is just not floating our boats and unfortunately that feeling is more frequent for some of us more than others but the important thing is to document when we're not feeling like that. I vote you take all the selfies. You take them and you keep them somewhere on your phone or your iPad or your laptop... Just keep them so you can go back to them. Hell, print them out into hard paper copies and stick them around your mirror. Take photos of the parts of you you like. Your eyes, the shape of your nose, your hands; whatever it is, work it. Be proud of it. Spend time in the morning really looking at yourself. I know a lot of us plonk ourselves down every morning in front of the mirror for at least half an hour whilst we do our hair and paint our faces for the day but how often do you really pay attention to your face? To your body? I used to spend as little time as possible looking at my body/face in the mirror unless it was to apply my makeup but now I make a conscious effort to have a good hard look at what my mama gave me. Sure, because of it, I now know what I definitely see as my body hang ups but strangely it's made me feel kind of okay with them. It's like I'm in control of them and therefore they're no longer a worry. I don't worry so much about another person thinking "wow her tummy is looking bigger than normal" or "she really needs braces" because I've accepted those flaws and thought "yeah I'd like to change them over time but they're *my* hang ups and therefore *my* concern not yours". I no longer see them as setbacks I need to hide but I wear them all with pride because as cliché as it is to say, no one is perfect.

(Photos of me: Grime and Glamour)

I could carry on prattling on about self-love until the cows come home, but all I really wanted to say is that we should all have the capability and comfort to be independent and love ourselves and not rely on others to fill that void. Sure, it's an amazing feeling to know someone else finds you funny, intelligent, attractive, and wants to treat you well, but if you don't treat yourself well to begin with, you're not setting much of a bar for another person to meet and exceed. Toxic relationships, mental health, and the media amongst a million other things can make self-love a bit of a rollercoaster ride to try and tame, but I find if you get into a routine of dating yourself, you get into a routine of treating yourself how you'd like a potential someone else to treat you in your future, then you are setting yourself up for success no matter what. When I was a teenager, I had a best friend who once said to me "you need to love yourself. The person who will spend the rest of their life with you is you no matter what so you need to be happy with yourself and be your own best friend" and despite the fact that we had happily drank our way through a bottle of vodka and were lying in a field in the hot summer sun, I've held onto that piece of wisdom and will always vow to follow through with it in my day to day life.

So Amyleigh, here's to many more future dates full of humour, love, confidence building, and improving yourself, always.

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February 10, 2017

January in Review

Happy Friday everyone and also, happy February! This month's review post is coming to you a little late in the month (and the day for that matter) but giiirl I've been super busy with my work life/personal life so I just haven't had a chance to get my head around all of January's happenings until now!

The Personal
So unlike December, January was work work and more work. It was my first month back to my job after a joyous Christmas break but it wasn't all bad. I've successfully ticked off a couple of small accomplishments that I wanted to start working towards on my goals for 2017 list and I'm in high spirits that I'll be able to keep it up. I've been reading a lot more and spending a lot less so win win on two of my goals thus far!

A little like December, January was the month of films for me. When it's cold and drab outside, there's nothing better than curling up with something new and interesting and there's definitely been a huge variety of movies in my life this past month and there's been a great deal of goodies in the mix. First off I obviously need to mention that I went to see Rogue One on New Year's Day (start as good as you mean to go on, ey?). For the first 30 minutes of it I've got to be honest, I wasn't too sure if I liked it or not but by the end of it I had audibly laughed out loud and almost cried a couple of times too. It was a brilliant addition to the Star Wars franchise and if you somehow haven't seen it yet, I would highly recommend it. I still preferred The Force Awakens as I feel I instantly connected with the characters better, but some of the characters from Rogue One - I'm looking at you Chirrut and Baze with ya cute bromance - definitely won my heart and fandom.

Now let's talk about my two faves from this month: Room and Bone Tomahawk. Room is based on the brilliant book by Emma Donoghue which I read last year and fell in love with. I put off watching the movie version for so long because I enjoyed the book so much, it was the first book I was worried wouldn't work as well and translate as well onto the screen. But one gloomy weekend afternoon Matthew & I sat down to watch it and balled our eyes out. The story is basically about a young mother and her five year old son, Jack, who live in Room. Room is a self-contained well, room, and Jack has never seen the outside world. He's only ever existed in room. I won't say anything more in case this story has passed you by and you want to read/watch it but despite some slight differences to the book, I found the film incredibly interesting and gripping to watch and would definitely recommend it. So let's throw in some contrast with Bone Tomahawk. As the name suggests, this is a western-set movie talking all about the stereotypical story of the cowboys vs Indians and as much as I love that stuff, I was just a bit "meh" about it when we put it on but boy oh boy was this a gripping on. The story basically follows a sheriff and a rag-tag group that go searching for the wife of a group member as the Indians have kidnapped her. I didn't think much of it a first but if you're not a fan of gore, this ain't a one for you. This movie gets such a high rating from me and I can genuinely pin it on one particular scene. The Indians are you "stereotypical native American Indians" in this story as they're cannibalistic, almost alien in their practices, people but that's what made the story fascinating. I won't say anything more but if you like a bit of violence in your films - this is for you.

Lastly I've just got to give a quick mention to the most polar-opposite film I watched this month which is Sausage Party. I'll be honest, since I first saw the trailer for this, I thought it looked so ridiculous I needed to watch it. If you haven't seen anything about it, it's basically Seth Rogen letting his weed-blinded mind run riot with immature jokes that border on racist, sexist etc etc etc (you get the jist). The story follows food from a grocery store that think being bought by humans means you're going to a better life - kind of like heaven. Except when they get out there they find out we actually eat food and therefore to fellow food, it looks like we're torturing a bag of crisps when we pull them open and eat their contents. Like I said, this film is typical cheap laughs humour but there was some absolutely hilarious parts in it and was that sort of thing that everyone wants to laugh at now and again but is bound to offend many. If you hate comedians like the likes of Frankie Boyle, you miiight want to skip this one.

There's been some cracking TV watched this past month and my top picks have been animated. First off can we talk about Trollhunters? If you have not watched this yet please stop what you're doing and get on Netflix right this second. This Dreamworks studio production is fan-bloody-tastic and I'm delighted to see that season 2 was announced yesterday. The wonderful director Guillermo del Toro (who created the likes of Pan's Labyrinth and The Book of Life) is responsible for this TV joy so I already fell a little bit in love before I'd even watched it properly. It's a show following a normal high-schooler called Jim who discovers there's a vast secret civilisation of trolls living right underneath his town and he gets heavily involved with them and all the shenanigans you can hazard a guess that will follow. I really enjoyed the first season and laughed so much as the great sly sarcastic humour of some of the characters and also had a wee cry or several at certain points of the show. This is a great one for any age but honestly, check it out now.

Second show I definitely need to mention is one of the latest anime instalments on Netflix, Ajin: Demi-Human. I am a big fan of anime but I tend to like the dark, slightly sinister, slightly gory anime rather than the cutesy annoying stuff (unless we're talking about Shirokuma Café then the sass of the panda slays my entire existence,) so you can imagine what this anime might entail. If you've watched the likes of Tokyo Ghoul and Knights of Sidonia then you are bound to like this one. This story centres around Kei, a high schooler who discovers (there seems to be a trend with my choices for January) who basically finds out he's an Ajin - a human who can't die. Ajins can produce IBM (invisible dark matter) which forms into this super-human, super-powerful "ghost". Now as these very human looking people can't die, you can imagine that the rest of the human race don't treat them too fairly so the story is full of high energy, high drama action and I really enjoyed it. Matt & I blitzed our way through every episode currently on Netflix and I found myself shouting in terror and anger multiple times. It's a good'un.

Music in January was pretty darn good too. I'll try to keep this list a little shorter so this post isn't the length of the Bible, but there's been some gems released in the alst 30 days or so. First off let's talk about the chilled delights of Zooey's latest drop, The Drifters. Zooey are a great bad to listen to when you're getting on with other stuff - cleaning, reading, working - they've got a great chilled vibe and The Drifters is a nice new edition to my chilled out choices. They always remind me a little bit of The Postal Service with a more upbeat sound. If you need something even more chilled out and instrumental but still incredibly electronic, Bonobo's Migration is another fantastic release this past month. Some of the songs have a strangely Final Fantasy feel to me which I'm all thumbs up about, but I'm a Bonobo lover no matter what. The guy can do no wrong.

So one of the most exciting releases in January for me was without a doubt "I See You" by The XX. The last release from these guys was years ago so this has been a highly-anticipated album for me and it lived up to every expectation. It's a great electronic album and I know it's going to be played a hell of a lot throughout the coming months. Another album that I was ecstatic to see released but wasn't expecting was Priests - Nothing Feels Natural. These guys always remind me of the early days of Blondie and remind me a great deal of some of the angsty lady-lead bands I loved as a teen. I think I still prefer their Bodies and Control and Money and Power album, but this new drop is certainly growing on me! If you need a recommendation that's reminiscent of early Bowie and soundtracks to any movies set in the 60s and 70s, then you've got to give Foxygen - Hang a good listen. These guys are new on my radar but I'm really enjoying their vibes that sound like my favourite era.

Now just a quick mention to some of my "heavier" choices. AFI were my jam when I 14 and looked like more of a trash tormentor than a raccoon with the amount of liner I wore, so when I finally remembered they had released a new album, AFI (The Blood Album), I was hyped. It is very very AFI, their sound hasn't changed at all, but I've got to be honest it's just an okay album. It's not bad but it didn't wow me either. Nothing's going to top their old stuff and I guess that's not necessarily a bad thing. Code Orange had a new release this January titled Forever and I've got to be honest, I really kind of like it. I've always had a love hate relationship with this band because the actual melodies and instrumentals of the band are the bees knees but their style of screaming is the kind I hate (the deep throat screaming that kind of sounds like a pig/boar snuffling around) so I never quite know if I like their songs or not. Forever seems to be a winner with me though so maybe I'm coming round to the deep screams of these guys!

Video Games
Surprise surprise, if you're here looking for some wee game reviews again this month, I'm going to have to disappoint you once again. I just haven't had a chance to so much as pick up a mobile app game nevermind an actual console game! However can we please talk about the insane Mass Effect Andromeda trailers that were released in January?! Guys, I am shook. I know I'm a huge Mass Effect super nerd but I honestly think this game looks so amazing a multitude of people are going to love it once it's released. I'm excited for a fresh set of characters (although y'all know Garrus better cameo in this game somewhere otherwise every fan will die a little bit inside) and the gameplay/large free-roam map areas look insane. I love the idea that it's a more customisable game as it's more of a scavenger hunt for your equipment etc. but ugh, it's just going to look gorgeous too. I'll definitely be doing a full blog post review once I get playing in March but for now, watching the trailers will have to do.

Another game that I've been loving watching others play is Resident Evil 7. I haven't played it myself yet because all the reviews and gameplay I've seen proves that the game is actually terrifying and as much as love Resident Evil, I'm also a massive girl pants and you know, Res now looks realistic and is no longer PS1 pixel cubes of gore and horror. Still though, I will build up the courage to play through it eventually but for now I'm just going to admire others managing to pay through it in record timing on the hardest difficulty with only a knife?! (like honestly what. Talent. So much talent).

So that was my January folks! There's been so much going on and changing in February already so I'm already looking forward to writing next month's review post.

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February 03, 2017

Man Time: Big Smokes

It's been a long long time since the last "Man Time" post over here on on NB so it's high-time we change that. Back in September, Matthew wrote a post all about some of his latest beer sampling and it was a pretty big hit with you guys. So I managed to rope him into writing a post again and this time, he's talking all about vaping which seems to have taken the world by storm in trends over the last couple of years. So if you're interested in getting an in-depth review of some products and the chance to win some giveaway vape items, then keep on reading!


I’ve been a smoker for 15 years and have been trying, on and off, to quit for two-thirds of that time. I’ve tried cutting down, I’ve tried cold turkey and I’ve tried nicotine gum, all to the same result. I quit for a bit, sometimes six months, but soon end up with a pocket full of rolling tobacco and papers again.

The only thing that has managed to keep me off the ciggies consistently is vaping. I bought a Kanger Subox Mini Kit in October of 2015 and fell in love with it. It’s easy to use, great for beginners and gives good flavour. Unfortunately, after a year’s worth of daily use it’s starting to look a bit battered and so when eCigarette Direct got in touch to see if I wanted to review some of the products they stock, it seemed like a great opportunity to upgrade my vape to something a little more beefy.

Aspire Cleito 120 - £26.99
This tank is a serious bit of kit. Capable of running at 120 watts, if you’ve ever wanted to perfect your Smaug impression, then this is the tank for you. To put 120w into some context, I normally run my Kanger at 12w. In the pictures, I’m only running the Cleito 120 at 60w and still able to give Falkor a run for his money. I found this jump in power quite daunting to start with, and was running the tank at a much lower rating, which caused me some issues. A word of warning - If you’re using the stock coils, don’t try and use the Cleito at a low wattage – you’ll end up with an empty tank and a pocket full of juice. At low wattage, the coils aren’t capable of burning off the juice fast enough and so the chamber will flood. This happened to me a couple of times, but stopped as soon as I ramped the power up to the mid 50w range.

Unsurprisingly, as a tank that runs at a higher wattage, it is a thirsty beast and I’m finding myself having to refill it several times a day. Thankfully, Aspire have designed the Cleito 120 so you can fill it from the top, which means it’s much easier, and less messy, to fill than many other tanks I’ve seen. You simply unscrew the drip tip and top up your tank through the hole in the top hardware. I have found that the two top pieces sometimes stick together, making them difficult to unscrew from each other, and as of yet I’ve not figured out why this happens. I may be overtightening the drip tip or condensation between the two pieces may be causing a vacuum or suction effect to occur. Either way, it’s irritating, but not the end of the world. The whole tank has been made to be as simple to use and clean as possible, comprising just four main parts, making it a doddle to disassemble. These pieces fit snuggly together to form a sleek tank that has a large, 4ml capacity and yet doesn’t appear to be too much larger than many of the smaller capacity tanks on the market.

The tank comes with two coils in the box and so you’re ready to get vaping straight away. These coils come with extra-large wicking holes, which means more juice hits the coil to give you big clouds and flavour, and for a pre-built coil, they’re surprisingly good. Aspire have even gone so far as to add small fins of metal to the inside of the chimney, which minimises any spit-back that might occur. This quality does come at a cost though, and a replacement coil is going to set you back about four quid. Each coil has lasted me about a week, and so the cost isn’t going to run too high, but it’s something to keep in mind.

Innokin Coolfire IV TC100 - £59.99
The Innokin Coolfire IV can kick out up to 100w of power, making it a perfect partner for the Cleito 120. It comes in a range of colours, but of course, being engaged to Amy (with her emo leanings), I just had to get this in black. Plus, in black it matches the Cleito tank, making for a much more sleek overall impression.

The box boasts a long-lasting battery and while this is a bit of a nothing statement (how long’s a piece of string?) it’s certainly covering my needs. Even using a power-hungry tank like the Cleito, a single charge overnight will last me the whole of the next day, even with moderate use. Unlike many mods which require you to purchase additional batteries the Coolfire IV has a built in 3300 mAh battery which gets rid of that additional cost and hassle. Charged through a mini-USB port, it’s a case of just plugging it into a device and waiting for it to charge. You can vape while charging, too, for extra convenience. The one obvious drawback to having a built-in battery is that if you’re out and about, and not able to charge it, you can’t just pop in a fresh battery and so I can see some people being caught short.

Another nice little feature of the Coolfire, especially for those people that use RTAs (Rebuildable Tank Atomisers) is that you can specify the type of wire you’re using, giving you more precision with your temperature control. If I’m honest, this is all a bit beyond me and when I do get an RTA for the Cleito 120, I’ll likely stick to the basic, wattage control. It’s good to know that the option’s there though, should I need it in future.

All of the temperature and power information is well laid out on a crystal-clear OLED screen, making the Coolfire simple to use. A very minor feature, but one that’s a nice, added touch is that the glow of the power button changes from green to orange and eventually red, to give you a visual guide of how much battery life you have left, without needing to check the screen.

This is a brilliant little mod that has the potential to be good for both experienced and new vapers, and at £60 isn’t going to break the bank.

Raspberry Crush//Spearmint Breeze – Halo - £3.99 each (10ml)
I’ve not tried the Halo liquids before, but as someone that’s a sucker for a good raspberry, I couldn’t resist giving the Raspberry Crush a go. I’m a big fan of sweet juices and this one certainly falls into that category. It’s got a pleasant raspberry taste, that reminds me of a raspberry coolie, but without the sharp, acid notes. So far it’s definitely the best of the raspberry juices that I’ve tried.

Spearmint Breeze is a straight forward spearmint juice that puts me in mind of the spearmint Softmints that I used to eat when I was younger. It’s quite mellow in flavour and not at all overpowering, like some mint juices can be.

Both of these juices had quite a harsh, menthol-feeling throat hit, but in their defence, I was using the .6 nicotine strength, as it was the lowest one available, when I’m used to using .3. Despite this, the flavour of both juices is vibrant and refreshing, and I’ll definitely buy them again, if I can find them with a lower nicotine content.


Wowee, that was a long one from Matt but hopefully it gave you more than a good insight into vaping and if you're a fan of it, maybe it's given you a couple of recommendations to try out. If you're keep to try but don't want to buy though, eCigarette Direct have been kind enough to do a wee giveaway alongside this post! All you have to do to enter is listed down below and there are multiple ways to be involved. The closing date is 21st February and the winner will be announced and contacted directly. Best of luck!

Win an e-cigarette kit worth £100 #12

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