150 Book Challenge: Part I

15 Jan

One of my goals this year is to actually discuss all the books I read on Lipstick & Libraries! Doing books one-by-one was not working for me in 2014, so this year I’ll be doing posts 1) when I finish a series 2) for the books I have individually named on the reading list, and 3) bigger overviews for chunks of books I’ve read. Well, we’ll see: who knows how I might break it up. BUT for this first book roundup, it’s the books I’ve read that don’t fall into categories 1 or 2! Plus we’ve got a thematic link–I’m on another Japan kick, which happens at least once a year.

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An Artist of the Floating World, by Kazuo Ishiguro (Book 4)

Shockingly, this is the only Kazuo Ishiguro book I haven’t read. I know! I’ll be honest, I was saving it so I’d still have something of his to read… but he has a book coming out this year (!!!), so I decided to dive into this one. I feel like you can group Ishiguro’s books into staunchly British (Remains of the Day, Nocturnes, Never Let Me Go) and staunchly Japanese (A Pale View of the Hills, An Artist of the Floating World) with my favorite (The Unconsoled) very much in between (not location-wise, but thematically).

While reading this book, I was enchanted by the fact that it’s essentially a companion novel to The Remains of the Day. Both are set in post-WWII, both feature an older male protagonist whose time has past, the main narrative is structured out of memories, and both tie into the darker sides of the war. They feature regret and introspection: neither is very plot-based, but rather paced slowly and featuring a highly conversational tone. Many people seem annoyed that these books are so similar–like it’s somehow less valid to write two books that have mirrored plots. But I feel like these two are Ishiguro’s way of reflecting on both sides of his history: British and Japanese. They are certainly companion books, but I don’t think that devalues either one of them.

Rating

Lipstick Rating 4 Full

 

 

 

 

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South of the Border, West of the Sun by Haruki Murakami (Book 5)

I love Murakami. Like, top 5 favorite authors love him. This year I want to read the handful of his works that I haven’t touched before (all the short story collections, After Dark, the first two in the Rat series, IQ84). It may not seem like a small amount, but I’ve adored everything else of his that I’ve read… except for Sputnik Sweetheart. And sadly, this was kind of like SS for me. I wasn’t as absorbed in the story as I usually am.

It’s a simple plot: a married man meets a girl from his childhood and ends up torn between two women. I think this is the first Murakami protagonist I’ve come across who is decidedly bad—he’s not morally grey, he’s a bad person, and admits this several times. And I don’t need to feel sympathy for a character to like them, so I was intrigued by this. But something… is missing. It’s got all the Murakami ingredients: middle-age male protagonist drifting through life, cats, jazz, a girl with a strange past or feature, that odd focus on earlobes, that perfectly melancholy portrait of Japan he paints. And the language is, as always, stunning. It’s even got the classic “not all the strings are tied up” open ending! But somehow… I wasn’t as enchanted as I usually am.

I can’t even name what it is that I didn’t love. I mean, I enjoyed it, and it certainly left me thinking. But like Sputnik, I found it not very memorable. I know a few months from now I’ll be struggling to remember certain details. It’s an ephemeral book, without the emotional weight of his others. But the writing is so gorgeous I can’t dislike it.

Rating

Lipstick Rating 3 Full

 

 

 

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Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman by Haruki Murakami (Book 6)

While I have read many of his novels, I’ve never touched Murakami’s short fiction. Probably because people usually say that you like one or the other, so I went in assuming it wouldn’t be as good as his other works. I was, however, pleasantly surprised! It did take me a few stories to get the hang of this abbreviated writing style, but there are 24 in total and I enjoyed the vast majority of them.

One of Murakami’s most distinctive writing quirks is how he nests stories in stories like Russian dolls. Almost all of his novels have stories in them: some work with the plot, others are injected solely for mood or thematic purposes. But many of his notable “scenes” are merely one character telling another a particularly bizarre tale (the Ferris Wheel scene from Sputnik Sweetheart comes to mind).

His short stories are really more of the same: quick, brief, utterly odd, without meaning until you really think about them. And some even evolved into books–”Man-Eating Cats” has a nearly word-for-word story from Sputnik, and a character and scene identical to parts of South of the Border. It’s hard to choose one favorite, but I adored the irreverent humor in “Dabchick” and the almost hallucinatory feel of “Hanalei Bay.”

Rating

Lipstick Rating 4 Full

 

 

 

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Quicksand, by Junichiro Tanizaki (Book 7)

Can you believe this is my first Tanizaki book? Shameful, I know, given my love of Japanese literature. But I’ve finally picked up a few of his works and am (surprise!) in love. Quicksand is the story of an unhappy marriage: Sonoko does not love her husband, and ends up falling in love with another woman in her art class named Mitsuko. Sounds like a tragic love story, right? Wrong. Very wrong.

The genre of this is hard to pin down, but I’d go with psychological thriller. There are twists upon twists and the characters at the heart of the game are completely insane. The plot eventually becomes absurd, but this is clearly not meant to be a story of reality. Like quicksand, it pulls you in slowly and then all of a sudden there’s sand up your nose and you have no idea what is going on.

There is one quibble I have with both the book description and the reviews: this is not a lesbian love story. Both female characters appear to be bisexual: Mitsuko definitely is.

Rating

Lipstick Rating 4 Full

 

 

 

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Some Prefer Nettles, Junichiro Tanizaki (Book 8)

After Quicksand I was dying to read another of his works. Some Prefer Nettles is in many ways a similar book: the themes of marriage, infidelity, and the modernization of Japan are all there. But while Quicksand is a tense thriller, Some Prefer Nettles is more traditionally literary. Kaname and Misako are in an unhappy marriage, but in 1920′s Japan divorce is not a simple option.

Though this is a slim novel, there are two overlapping stories: the first is the marriage of Kaname and Misako, disintegrating to the point of no return. The second involves Kaname’s relationship with his father-in-law, who is staunchly traditional. Kaname is a modern man, but Misako’s father slowly sucks him into an increasingly traditional world that focuses on amazingly descriptive Bunrako puppet plays.

It is a hard book to describe. It’s slowly paced, and honestly not much happens in the way of plot. But it’s an engaging and striking glimpse at Japan’s struggle to combine modern and traditional influences without losing its soul and heart.

Rating

Lipstick Rating 4 Full

Alchimia Apothecary’s Wayward Son & A Wizard’s Fable Collections

10 Jan

There seem to be mixed opinions on fandom related collections from indie brands (both makeup and perfume). Some people love them, some think it’s a ploy to get people to buy scents & colors they wouldn’t normally. And I’m certainly not going to argue that fandom collections don’t make me buy weird things, but I love them anyway! Especially anything Supernatural or Harry Potter related: and despite the popularity of those two, you see very little from them and it’s almost all perfume from companies I’m not overly familiar with. So when I found Alchimia’s Wayward Son and A Wizard’s Fable collections, I jumped on them as quickly as I could. Were the worth the hype? Will I ever even wear a scent that smells like Dean’s car? Let’s find out!

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The Wayward Son Collection

(note: Roadhouse is missing in the shot because I lent it out for some other people to test!)

Baby (hot black metal, leather, oil, & old black licorice): In the vial this is mostly leather, but it totally transforms on my skin. It’s definitely… car-like. Metallic and oily with only hints of that previously dominant leather note. There are undertones of licorice and while it’s something I usually hate in perfume, it works here. I don’t know if this is an entirely “wearable” scent–unless you like smelling like the inside of a hot, but very expensive, car–but it fits the show so well. I can’t help but think of the Impala when I sniff this!

Roadhouse (tobacco, bourbon, stout, musty floorboards): Another shifter! This is a gourmand in the vial, I swear. Buttery and creamy almost (maybe that’s the alcohol notes?), but it changes right away when applied. At first it’s VERY strong tobacco, like when you walk into a bar and are hit with that first waft of smoke. It dries down to a more complex scent, with hints of bourbon and dust and leather. It smells, well, like a bar! Full of manly men doing manly things, like fighting demons and stuff. After a few hours of wear it mellows down to an extremely pleasant and wearable tobacco & sweet bourbon mixture, with hints of spice.

Ripped from Perdition (grave dirt, grass, dandelion, clover, woodsmoke): Dirt, grass, dandelion & clovers are some of my absolute favorite perfume notes, and I’ve been really digging smokey scents recently so this was basically made for me. Plus it’s Cas’s scent, so how can I not love it? Dirt is strong in the vial, but it’s quite subtle when applied. Grass was the dominant note on me, with only the barest hints of florals at first. Grass… and woodsmoke! Kind of an odd combination but they work SO well, I feel like I’m in the forest on an autumn day. On the drydown the clover and dandelion peeks out, making it a more and more “green” scent as it ages on my skin.

Ghost Facer (frozen metal, ozone, rock salt): This is a very “cold” smelling perfume. I was worried it would be similar to Baby, but it’s actually quite different and leans feminine which I was not expecting. It’s icy without being minty, aquatic without being murky or beachy. I swear there’s a floral in there–some light, soft purple or white floral. It’s also got an almost-chemical note: not an unpleasant one, but something about it makes me think of an empty factory by the ocean in winter. I’m kind of getting carried away with scent descriptions for this collection, huh? All the scents evoke SUCH strong moods, it’s wonderful.

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The Wizard’s Fable Collection

The Burrow (fudge, cakes, mincemeat pie, strawberry ice cream, balsam, woodsmoke, bread): This reminds me of Solstice Scents’ Witch’s Cottage, which is basically the highest compliment I can give (WC being in my top-10 scents). It’s cakey and gourmand with hints of fresh fruit and chocolate, but there’s layers of sweet herbs and smoke to mellow it out. This is a sophisticated gourmand, for when you want to smell like a bakery but also a little fancy. My favorite from the HP collection.

Forbidden (black woods, mossy florals, earthy greens, musk, burning timber): This scent is VERY heavy on vetiver and smoke. Thankfully I adore vetiver! It’s a dry woodsy scent, and uncommon combination. It definitely feels woodsy (or at least like you’re in a place made of wood–if that makes sense), but not in the usual lush green way. There’s something resinous about it too, and I swear there’s leather. Honestly, it’s not at ALL what I expected from the description but I do like it. Just not as much as I thought I would–I generally prefer “cool” scents to “warm” ones when it comes to nature-inspired blends. *note: I think this is actually Restricted Section, my labels may be mixed up

Restricted Section (leather-bound books, olibanum, clearwood, ink, smokey lamps): Before I describe this one, I think the labels on Forbidden and Restricted Section might have gotten mixed up because there is no way this is a perfume meant to smell like books and the indoors. This smells like branches stripped of their bark, that strange green sappy smell we all know from childhood. It’s dark and murky and mossy, with distinctly wet feel to it. There’s also just a bit of smoke in the background, but it’s barely detectible. I love those “almost gross” forest scents that are heavy on mud/moss/heavy air, so this is a winner for me.

Second Task (water, lily pads, gillyweed): I expected this to be a strong, murky aquatic: the kind most people don’t like, but I love. Looking at you, BPAL’s Shanghai Tunnel. Well, this scent really surprised me! It’s very soft and subdued. It smells like a cool lake and water lilies! There’s nothing wrong with it exactly, but it didn’t wow me. I was expecting more mud and brackish water for a Second Task scent, I think.

Butterbeer (butterscotch, bourbon, stout, allspice, clove, cinnamon): Basically exactly what you would expect–warm, creamy butterscotch that’s lightly spiced. It’s not too heavy on the clove/cinnamon/allspice, they’re definitely just compliments to the butterscotch. There’s something almost… bubbly about it? Like it’s carbonated. I know that does not make much sense, and it might be the bourbon & stout, but it is just such a HAPPY scent. Exactly like I expect real Butterbeer to taste like. If you like gourmands, you will adore this.

I also got a bonus sample called Violet Me, which does not appear to be on the website. Despite the name I didn’t get any violet from it (which is sad, because I LOVE violets), it’s more of a watery floral with undertones of something sweet (caramel)? However, I think there’s lilies in here because it dried down quite powdery and gave me a headache. Lily is one of my death notes regrettably, and it morphs awfully on my skin. It smells quite nice in the vial, though!

Overall, I ended up loving basically all of these scents. Of course not all of them were “me” but I expected that buying full collections: I love the nostalgic feelings they bring up, and I’m fine relegating some of these to the “sniffing” pile. Honestly (and embarrassingly), I have so many scents that I’ve become comfortable with some of them being, essentially, collectibles rather than wearables. Which is not to say that that I won’t wear any of these: some of them, like Ripped from Perdition, Butterbeer, and The Burrow I ADORE. Especially Ripped from Perdition, which I could probably bathe in. Even though it should be called Raised from Perdition.

On a related note, Alchimia’s scents last an insanely long time on my skin. With most oils I get a few hours of wear, and then I have to either reapply or switch up my scent. I’ve got more perfume than I can use in my lifetime so usually it doesn’t bother me, but I am so thrilled to have a formula that goes 10+ hours on my skin. Seriously, I put on Roadhouse at 7pm and it was still lingering when I woke up late in the afternoon. They also had a super-fast TAT: I ordered on December 31st (was this a drunk New Years purchase? yes) and received my perfumes on January 8th, even though their stated TAT is 12-14 days!

52 Book Challenge 2015 And Moving Forward

6 Jan

Even a cursory glance at my homepage shows that I kind of petered off towards the last third of the year. There are many reasons, but the main one is that I fell so far behind on my reading challenge updates that it became overwhelming. First it was just 2 books and it put it off, but the list slowly climbed to 10… 25… 50. I just got to a point where it was way too much and I couldn’t think of where to start tackling it. I ended up reading 160 books on the nose, and if you’re curious about them you can check out my challenge here!

As for makeup and perfume, I was hit with some pretty severe blogging malaise. I actually have two perfume posts written but not shot (Solstice Scents Fall, AlchemicMuse Winter) and two shadow posts shot but not written (Kiss My Sass, Parlo Cosmetics). I was essentially very unhappy with how the pictures turned out in the latter two, but I really need to go and redo the post because they’re certainly salvageable.

In short, I was a lazy lazy blogger in 2014. My goal for 2015 is to actually post frequently. Get off my ass and just do it. Because when I actually put in the effort, I love it! As for my 2015 reading challenge, I’m shooting to read 150 books. I also have some pretty specific goals!

Series Challenge

Last year this was one of my challenges as well, but I had so many that it kind of got lost. I read 30 books that belonged to series, but I only finished a handful of complete series which is what I really wanted to do. So for 2015, I have a pretty specific list:

Malazan Empire, Dresden Files, Mistborn Trilogy+ Alloy of Law, Hyperion Cantos, Gentleman Bastards, Kingkiller Chronicles, Memory, Sorrow & Thorn, Void Trilogy, and The First Law.

I also want to read Big Books I’ve Been Putting Off:

Lolita, Rebecca, Gravity’s Rainbow, Ulysses, Infinite Jest, and 100 Years of Solitude

I’m also doing a pages challenge (45,000 pages) and an I Spy Challenge. You can check out my 2015 Book Challenge Thread if you’re interested in details!

To make this all approachable for blogging, I’m going to post series when I’m finished with them and in one post, instead of splitting them all up. Single books will get their own post, though I may consider grouping some together by theme.

As for makeup and perfume goals, I want to start doing swatches by color family and perfumes by scent family. Basically, swatch everything I own! Along with more detailed collection posts, Project Pan and other fun things. Let’s see how it goes!

Notoriously Morbid’s Grisly Grimoires

7 Nov

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Nobody does creepy holiday sets like Notoriously Morbid. I missed a few of them in the past (Sealed Judgment, siiigh) so there was NO way I was passing up on this one. Especially since the theme was mystical, evil tomes from both history and fiction.

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For a mere $25 you got 6 fullsized shadows, a mini blush, an exclusive Coffin Kisser, and a Hand of Fate charm–essentially a little skeleton hand clutching a gem! I got in on the pre-orders, which also included a mini COTM shade, and Carrie snuck in a peek of Black Friday 2014 as well!

The Coffin Kisser, Splendor Soils, smells exactly like the bottom of your candy bag after a night of trick-or-treating. Smarties, taffy, lolipops and melted sugar. So nostalgic.

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Of course I was most excited about the shadows. While Notoriously Morbid gets a lot of love, I rarely see people talk a lot about their insane duochromes: honestly, some of them rival Femme Fatale. This collection is literally nothing *but* duochromes so I was excited as hell.

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Uhnf, color shift you can see in the jar. Come to momma. The shades are:

Book of Honorius, the oldest medieval grimoire, full of necromantic knowledge: olive green with a strong red shift

Clavicule of Solomon, aka the Key of Solomon (though it was decidedly not written by King Solomon), a book of pentacles and summoning circle: blush pink with a violet, red & gold shimmer

Necronomicon, the infamous tome of madness that appears in Lovecraft’s stories: a deep black packed with gold sparkles & a strong purple shift

Magus, a word for priest or sorceress, also a work of mind-bending fiction by John Fowles: sky blue with a soft pink & red shift

Dragon Rouge, a modern esoteric magical order: bright coral with a pink-to-gold shift

Book of Shadows, a name for any Wiccan book of spells: grey shot through with pale purple with a otherworldly green shift

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Book of Shadows is probably the strangest and most undefinable shade in the line. It’s sometimes-grey-sometimes-purple-sometimes-pink with a strong hit of green throughout.

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The CoTM was Creepy Green Light, which is a vivid chartreuse with green shimmer. It’s basically the color of, you guessed it, creepy green light in horror & scifi movies.

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The mini blush is Grand Oracle, a gorgeous plummy mauve with a matte finish.

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From bottom to top we’ve got Magus, Book of Shadows, Necronomicon, Dragon Rouge, Clavicule of Solomon, Book of Honorius, and Creepy Green Light. Oh, and the top one? That’s Nothing is Trivial, the Black Friday preview. Does this mean… The Crow theme?! It’s a really shocking color, a creamy blue base with a shift from pale sliver to warm gold.

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As you can see, the shift on all of them is ridiculously prominent. Magus is probably the most “subtle” because the shift to red is quite soft from most angles, but it’s definitely there. And as you can see, Book of Shadows looks different from pretty much every angle!

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An out of focus glitter shot so you can really see the color changes. Necronomicon is so sparkle-packed, it’s stunning in person.

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Grand Oracle is a gorgeous and unique blush. Not quite mauve, not quite pink, with hints of purple. It is a big stainer, though (the heavy swatch lingered on my arm for 2 days!) and is SUPER saturated so use a verry light hand when applying it.

Sadly this set is out of stock now, but it was an insane value with gorgeous shades. Plus, it has me super excited for Black Friday…

52 Book Challenge: The Three by Sarah Lotz

1 Oct

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{Proceed with caution, light spoilers all up in this bitch}

If you’ve read The Three, or seen it in stores, you might notice that the final version has a slightly different cover. Which, I think, is really a shame: it immediately gives a darker, more ominous vibe to the book and also kind of contains a spoiler (that you’ll only realize part of the way in, but still). My version, which I definitely downloaded legally and it wasn’t a pre-release copy or anything, comes with the cover you see above: a bit creepy, a bit strange, but not an in-your-face “this is a horror novel!” cover. Which is more accurate because The Three dips its toes into horror, but also plays in lots of other genres: alternate histories, speculative fiction, mystery, thriller.

The base of the plot is simple: at the exact same time, four planes crash simultaneously around the world. On three of the planes, there is one survivor each: a young child. Everyone else dies. The planes do not crash due to terrorism and, in fact, each crash was caused by a different event or malfunction.

The Three is a “book in a book.” It’s a journalistic novel on what happened after the crash, told in epistolary format. We get letters, recordings, interviews, chat logs, and first-hand accounts from people involved either with the crash or with the three children who survived… aka “The Three” the book is named after. The “book in a book” aspect is only really relevant toward the very last chapters, after the “book” ends and we get to see the aftermath its publication had–which was wildly inventive and very clever.

There are a lot of great things going on in The Three. The atmosphere is tense, strange. I mean, there must be something going on here… right? Four planes don’t just crash at once. Each country deals with their survivor child differently: the boy in Japan achieves a sort of stardom, a girl in England seems to be driving her uncle crazy, an American boy is curing diseases. And, of course, there’s a crazy Christian cult based off of both the accidents and the survivors.

There are a few things that keep this from being a truly riveting book. First, it’s too long. Some sections could be trimmed significantly. I feel like there was a bit too much “fluff” around the eerie meat at the core of the book. And then… the end. I was not at all happy with it. Very little explanation, and it goes totally off the rails in terms of what we know about the events so far. Still, as an experimental piece of fiction I’d definitely chalk it up as a success. Pieces of it, especially the stories in Japan’s suicide forest, still keep me up at night. I just wish the whole thing was a bit more polished.

Rating

Book 58 The Three

Lipstick Rating 3 And 1 Half

 

Haus of Gloi’s Halloween 2014 Scents

28 Aug

I have been looking forward to Haus of Gloi’s fall collection for, oh, 8 months or so now. I got into indie perfume RIGHT after the Fall 2013 collections, and since that’s my favorite seasonal scent category I had to see review after review of tantalizing goodies. Ghost Puffs and Samhain have been lingering in my mind for a looong time now. Of course HoG’s releases are an absolute madhouse, but I was prepared and got everything I wanted… from round 1. Oh yes, I will be buying more.

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Ghost Puffs (buttery popcorn and marshmallow goo): Things I love: gourmand blends, butter, marshmallows. This blend was MADE for me. It’s sticky-sweet, teeth-rotting, “oh god I want to chew my arm off” good. Like the goop at the bottom of your pillow case after a night of trick-or-treating. The butter makes it “sweet but not to sweet” and I seriously want to drink this. But I won’t. Not because it would be gross, but because then I couldn’t slather it all over myself.

Pumpkin Eater (cream, glowing pumpkin, rich vanilla bean and the tiniest touch of nutmeg butter): I waffled for about 30 seconds before deciding on the full size of this rather than a sample. Cream, pumpkin, nutmeg. I LOVE ALL THESE THINGS. This is definitely not a pumpkin pie blend, though, which I am thankful for: it’s unique, and has a candy-like edge. I make a mean pumpkin fudge for Thanksgiving every year using actual pumpkin, and this smells EXACTLY like that. Super creamy and smooth thanks to the vanilla and cream, and the nutmeg elevates this to “oh godddddddd I need to bathe in this” levels.

Samhain 2013 Vintage (turned earth, wet leaves, and a cool specter ridden wind): I was insanely excited for this. I mean, dirt! I’m the queen of dirt blends! But this smells like…. licorice. Headache-inducing licorice. It’s definitely a wet blend, but more like “accidentally stepping in a pile of soggy leaves” than “wet leaves on a forest floor.” The drydown is actually very nice, a soft earthy scent that’s just on the edge of not being there at all. Countrycide‘s darker cousin. But I’m not sure of the “oh god licorice I can feel the migraine coming” is worth it, and I’m still incredibly disappointed in the lack of dirtiness. Samhain, I waited so long for you and you let me down!

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Old Cider Haus (oak, sweet drying hay fields, crushed apple pulp and vanilla husks): I don’t like fruit scents, especially fake apple smells, so my rational  brain beat out my ”I LOVE CIDER” brain and I didn’t buy a full bottle of this. Damn you, rational brain, because this is FANTASTIC. The apple scent is very fresh and crisp, and I swear I smell cinnamon. I mean, it is cider. So you need some spices in there. The vanilla adds a nice sweetness and this is pretty much fall in a bottle. Definitely getting a full size when the restock happens!

Pumpkin Queen (hay pillows, pumpkin, ripe peaches dusted with clove and nutmeg, dried summer herbs and lastly, a lovely crown of amber): The peach note here scared me a bit, but I have to try every scent in the lineup. For reasons. Thankfully, I don’t get any peach! This is much more “pumpkin pie” than Pumpkin Eater, featuring heavier spices and whiffs of herbs from the kitchen. The amber adds a soft, almost powdery note that works quite well. I’m usually not a powdery amber lover but this blend… it’s fantastic! Almost makes me want to try Queen Mother, the only blend I DIDN’T try (because that pricetag, ouch)

Spider Silk (delicate water mint, wispy grey musk, crystalline webs of amber, oakmoss, torchwood, copaiba resin, and a touch of withered violet leaf): This is probably the blend I was least excited about (aside from the fruit ones), but I am SO IN LOVE. A soft, floaty, watery floral. It has a juiciness to it, like melon without the fruit aspects. There’s heady musk and oakmoss and at the tail end of the sniff, a stunning wisp of violet. An aquatic floral unlike any other I’ve tried. Definitely need a full bottle!

The Horseman (forest and wood, distant fire, smooth saddle leather, brown musk and the lingering scent of a dark gentleman’s cologne on a black woolen coat): Smokey leather and cedar. This is a gorgeous masculine fragrance with a heavy musk that I am so in love with. One of my absolute favorites from this set! I am really into truly male scents and they can be hard to find in the indie world, but this really hits all the right notes.

Persephone’s Descent (pomegranate, pale musk, narcissus blossom and black amber): Fruit! I knew I wouldn’t like this, even though pomegranates are my food passion. This is fruit & florals on me, very Bath & Body Works. But probably pretty nice if fruits are your jam.

Tobac (tobacco, a wisp of smoke, bourbon vanilla and two cedarwoods): Super masculine, with gorgeously strong notes of smokey tobacco that fade into cedar and vanilla. I imagine a manly woodcutter helping his mom make pies, maybe spilling a little vanilla on his flannel shirt. Delicious. More “feminine” than The Horseman, but both are decidedly on the male side of unisex.

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Lavender Pumpkin: Lavender pumpkin usually means “lavender with pumpkin spices” which is what I expected, but this is more “lavender with pumpkin flesh.” Unique, girlie, refreshing. I have to admit that I do wish there was more spice, but this is definitely an interesting spin on what even I must admit is a kind of played-out combination.

Hazelnut Mocha Latte: Nutty, chocolatey coffee. Three things that belong together, now on my lips. I ADORE HoG’s balm formula, and it was insanely hard to pick only two flavors for my first order. But man, this is a winner!

52 Book Challenge: The Girl In The Road by Monica Byrne

26 Aug

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{This is going to be structured differently than usual: the first half will be things I like, completely spoiler free! The second half, under the cut, will deal with problematic issues of the book, and will have appropriate spoiler & trigger warnings}

Rarely does a book leave me feeling as conflicted as The Girl In The Road. And, sadly, not in a good way, though there are a lot of things about this book to love. It features two female main characters, one African and one Indian. There’s a great and brutally honest representation of untreated mental illness. There are, for all intents and purposes, no white main characters. There is a transgender character who is treated with immense respect. And the book takes place in Africa and India, drawing upon the rich cultural and mythological background of both locations. Basically, it’s the opposite of your usual “Medieval England fantasy.” Though, to be honest, this is not really fantasy though many people have dubbed it so: this is pretty much straight scifi, set a few dozen years in the future.

I’ve read a lot of reviews that struggle with the story. Not in a “I don’t get it way” since its spiral structure is laid clear by the end. But The Girl In The Road uses a lot of imagery that probably isn’t familiar to the casual reader. When you read a book that draws upon traditional Western mythology, you know the meaning of the imagery even if you don’t know the exact details behind it: we’re all familiar with the Wild Hunt, Odin’s time as the hanged man, Jesus’ death and resurrection. Even if you don’t know the specifics, the underlying meanings are clear. But TGITR deals with Hinduism, Santeria, Buddhism, and a host of other mythological references. I believe that if you don’t get something while reading, take the time to look it up! But, you know, since I already did it for this book, here’s a quick rundown of some of the rich mythology Byrne drew from.

  • Both main characters are named after a religious figure. One is compared to Mary (self explanatory), and the other to Meenakshi Devi. Meenakshi’s body is divided into two colors, which is particularly relevant since our heroine is heavily implied to be bipolar. She is often referenced in poems dealing with children/early childhood.
  • Each of our heroines has a “protector” figure. One is Yemaya, an alternate spelling of Yemaja–the Santeria goddess of the sea. She is the embodiment of the ocean, a representation of motherhood and a protector of children. The other protector figure is Mohini, the only female variation of Vishnu. She represents sexual and gender fluidity.
  • Snakes are a prominent theme. There is, of course, the snake in the Garden of Eden: temptation. But in other Abrahamic religions, snakes represent sexuality. In Hinduism, they are coiled desire. In Buddhism, they are protector figures. And in the medicinal world, the snake is a double-edged blade: producing both poison and medicine.
  • 5 is a prominent number in the book. We’ve got the 5 wounds of Jesus on the cross, but also 5 as a symbol of divine grace, harmony, and balance.
  • Towards the end of the book, Meena meets the Lotus Eaters, an Odyssey reference. There’s a clear Hero’s Journey going on here, though the trials along the way are more similar to Hercules and Ulysses than what you’d expect from an Eastern-centered work.

So we’ve got awesome mythology, strong female characters, a inventive plot structure, well-explained futuristic technology, an immersive world… what went wrong? Well that is going to require a whole lot of trigger warnings, so my “why god WHYY” rant is under the jump.

[...]

52 Book Challenge: Suffer the Children by Craig DiLouie

25 Aug

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{Proceed with caution, light spoilers all up in this bitch}

This is a book I’ve been anticipating for a long time. There was a lot of hype surrounding it, and it was on my “to read” list for months before the release. I mean, the idea is just so insidiously deviant: all the children of the world die, at once, and are revived several days later… but they aren’t the same. In fact, the only way they can be kept alive is by ingesting blood, which they beg their parents for.

Suffer the Children is a slow burn horror. In fact, the resurrection only happens about halfway through. The first few chapters introduce us to the main players we’ll be following: a family with two happy children, a single mother, and a doctor & his wife who lost their only son several years ago. The family dynamics are quickly set up, and Craig DiLouie does a wonderful job at making well-rounded, flawed but likeable characters.

Then, the death. I was not expecting such emotional impact from these scenes. I suppose it’s because, well, the plot involves them coming back… but the parents do not know this. All of the scenes involving the deaths of the children, and the subsequent news coverage, were devastating. The mourning of the parents was just as horrific as any of the “true” horror in this book.

Of course, things get more and more twisted once the children “come back.” I say that in quotes, because… well, they are a little off until their parents figure out how to cure them. And a “feeding” only keeps them alive for a while. There are many directions DiLouie could have gone with this, since it’s a worldwide event, but we’re kept in the orbit of the previous three families in this small town.

The horror is slow, slow, but always mounting. Two thirds of the way in the tension is impossibly high. In fact, most of this book is pure emotional horror: there’s very little blood or violence until the last few chapters. And it has one of the most well-executed endings I’ve ever seen in a horror. Really, this is pretty much the epitome of a good horror novel: amazing plot, fascinating characters, and events that play out with frightening reality. You could see this happening in your town. You can feel the grief and terror. It’s horrible. It’s brilliant. Craig DiLouie is my new hero.

Rating

Book 57 Suffer the Children Lipstick Rating5 Full

 

AlchemicMuse’s Fall 2014 Scents

24 Aug

Finally, finally, it is time for fall perfume lines to start coming out. Fall is my favorite time of year: the changing leaves, sweater weather, bright sunshine and cool breeze. Apple cider and pumpkins and Halloween. All things cozy and creepy fit into fall’s domain, so of course it’s my jam. And it also signals the end of my least-favorite season (summer-hot, so hot, and fruity perfume. no love for summer).

AlchemicMuse was one of the first indie perfume companies I got into, so I have a few of their fall releases from the tail end of last year. But of course I had to round out the set, because I have a nagging completionalist streak and/or I am a perfume shopaholic.

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Countrycide (sweet, earthy autumn leaves with top notes green fig, bergamot, golden hay, and dried flowers masks a darkened heart of musky clover, caramelized benzoin, beeswax, and black vanilla absolute. At the center is a corrupted foundation of bitter almond, tonka bean, gaiacwood and sandalwood): This is possibly the longest list of scent notes I’ve seen. Scratch that, BPAL’s got to have a scent with one twice as long. But really! It’s intimidating. Yet Countrycide is a sweet, light, airy scent: it’s leaves on fall air. That’s the only way I can describe it. I have had this for ages and I think it might have been my first AM purchase. I use it for layering constantly, whenever I want a scent to have a little extra “oomph” or mystery. On its own, it makes me smell like I rolled in a pile of leaves. Delicious.

Phantasm (aged roses and white lilies shrouded in an ethereal mist of cool earth, wet stone, and faint incense with a lingering base of soft, smoky musk): I love rose blends, but it tends to be a really dominant note on my skin. And here it amps like crazy: it’s almost all rose, with hints of musk and a faintly wet backdrop. I was kind of expecting a “graveyard rose” type of blend but this is more of an… antique rose sort of smell? Not old lady, but like old money rose. A rich lady’s rose. I feel so very fancy wearing it.

Samhain (blood orange rests atop a heart of roasted walnuts, brown sugar, and hazelnut java fused with black anise seed, earthy patchouli, and black vanilla winding down to a rich musk base): Strong, deep, chewy roasted walnuts are the first and boldest scent in the mix. It’s a very cozy “fall” smell, reminiscent of those autumn coffee blends. Not, like, a pumpkin spice latte or anything. Just strong spiced coffee and a walnut danish. That’s what I imagine I’m eating when I put this on.

ZomBee (sickly-sweet honey and warm beeswax over a layer of aged patchouli, crushed clove, and darkened vanilla pods): Patchouli and honey! Honey can be a hit-or-miss note for a lot of people and I’ve definitely had honey from companies that has that cat-pee vibe, but thankfully AlchemicMuse’s stays true to life on me. This is super sweet but also earthy and kind of devious. Like the cute little kid in a horror movie you just know is going to kill everyone.

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Bad Wolf (freshly-picked berries and sweet cream fused with a shady forest brew of mahogany, apple wood, and blood cedar to round out the darker, more sensuous base of patchouli, tonka bean, oakmoss, and vanilla bourbon): Berries, my nemesis, meet cream, my true love. I was hoping the long list of other notes, all of which I love, would drown out the fruit… but this is, indeed, a berry-heavy blend. Which is probably awesome if you like berries. The cream makes it almost candy-sweet, and the earthy background notes are lovely. But I really, really hate berries. Sob.

Bloodlust (dragon’s blood resin, heady incense, and iron distilled patchouli saturated with blood orange and thickened with amber and myrrh): This is like walking into a head shop on Halloween. Incense, incense, and more incense with thick resin and hints of citrus and spice. This was my free sample, and I honestly thought I wouldn’t like it much… but it’s so fun! Very seasonal, and somehow it doesn’t come off “Christmas” smelling.

Bonfire (crisp fall air, mulled cider, burning maple leaves, and a crackling bonfire): I was expecting this to be a bit like Sugar & Spite’s Grimoire, but it’s all apple cider! Well, not *all*-there is a distinct smokey background, so you get that “sitting around the fire drinking cider” kind of feel. It’s a cozy blend, and probably the most traditionally “autumn” one in this lineup.

Vanilla Oak (bergamot, camphor, cassia root lead to a heart of smoky vanilla-tobacco and warm spice grounded with aged oak, soft amber, and frankincense): I was expecting a more masculine scent, but the vanilla in this is warm and feminine. It does lean unisex, but it’s so much softer and danity than I was assuming! I guess I was expecting something along the lines of TF’s Tobacco Vanille or SS Cedar Magus, but this is kind of a girlie version of those. Warm wood and sweet vanilla with hints of bergamot and resin. Really lovely!

Wicked (english ivy, forest berries, and bergamot refined with and enchanting forest brew of tenacious greens and precious woods): I have had a sample of this for… oh, probably 6 months. Perhaps longer. The berry note has terrified me, because fruit = no bueno in my book. And I was scared it would turn out like Bad Wold. I am really sorry I neglected it for so long because it essentially smells like a forest! Tall pine trees, crunchy leaves, the sharp snap of vines. It’s a very unisex blend and I could see this working SO well on a guy. Sadly, my boyfriend refuses to be a test subject because he knows there’s no turning back once he opens that door.

*note: Wicked is not in the picture because I may or may not be a spazz who dropped it under the bed*

Overall, I think this is a really diverse fall lineup. A little something for everyone! Like crisp outdoor scents? Candy-sweet Halloween treats? More traditional cider blends? Fruity ones? Or resinous autumn treats? Yup, there’s probably a blend for you here. Unless you like pumpkin… but for that they have Lovecraft, part of the regular lineup and also my absolute favorite of their perfumes (and also my favorite pumpkin scent!).

All of these scents are available as perfume oil, soap, lotion and more right here.

A Brief Sugar & Spite Halloween 2014 Review

23 Aug

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I have very fond memories associated with Sugar & Spite. Their Valentine scent introduced me to what is now a passionate love of leather scents, and my first experience with gourmand blends was with their delicious Brewster. I was really looking forward to their fall line this year since, well, dark & eerie is kind of their thing but when it went up I was only able to spring for one scent. That didn’t stop them from going all out on the packaging. I mean seriously, it’s amazing.

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I took this in the dark with my ipod, apologies for the worst photo quality ever

I know, right? Wax seal on the perfume, beautiful business cards that are basically mini art prints, a handmarked sample, and a toffee lollipop. Sugar & Spite is serious about Halloween guys.

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The lolipop was salted toffee. SO GOOD.

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Packaging on the full-sized perfume. Reminds me of fancy lipstick!

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Grimoire (ancient dusty spices, fire, smoke, charred wood, and turned earth): Every scent in this blend called out to me. Fire? Smoke? Wood? Earth? That’s right, this is a dirt blend. And oh, is it dirty. The turned earth hits you first, and it actually might be the best dirt note I’ve come across. And I’m kind of an expert. Smoke and ash waft in after, heating up slowly on the skin. I was a bit worried that “dusty spices” would equal cinnamon but oh man this is ALL CLOVE. This is, like, me in a bottle. I am SO IN LOVE. Also, the bottle has a little dropper in it. It’s so precious.

Diabolique (orange blossoms dripping with sticky black honey, warm gingerbread, 3 vanillas, tea leaves and aloeswood): This is the scent I put in my cart and took out 3 times before I placed my order. Either they are psychic or, you know, there’s only like 3 other scents it could have been so it was like a 25% chance. This is the opposite of Grimoire: creamy, sweet, comforting. All gingerbread and vanilla and tea, the treat after the trick. These two layer together really fabulously, which I found out accidentally (because I am a clutz).

So basically, it’s fall and I love fall scents and I love Sugar & Spite. Grimoire is my jam. I feel like I should buy a million bottles… but I also want to try out the other scents. And grab some Bone Daddy soap. And, like, a million lip balms. I really might have a problem.