May 2015 Wrapup: Week 2

18 May

Week 2 of May has come and gone! In fact, I’m a little behind on this: I mean, better than the months-behind I was only a short while ago, but it still counts! I had some computer issues this past week that caused this to get pushed back a bit, but I’m back on track now.

Week 2 of May was decent: better than week 1 for sure. I read one less book,  but enjoyed all of them a lot more.

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Fool Moon, by Jim Butcher: Finished May 10th. There’s a theme this week (and probably this whole month). I’m actually on-track to read half the Dresden Files series in May, which is pretty awesome! This was a definite improvement over Storm Front: the pacing was more solid, and I adored the depth of the werewolf mythology. There were at least 4 different kinds: 5, if you count Terra West, who I am convinced is a Skinwalker.

While I’m early on in the series, I’d like to address an issue that seems to pop up in a lot of reviews: Harry Dresden is a bit of a misogynist. For some reason, people seem to think this makes Jim Butcher a misogynist. I think Harry’s hypocrisy comes through loud and clear: it’s not intended for us to think “wow, women sure are dumb and need saving!” but rather “man, Harry sure can be a moron.” Author intent and author belief are not one and the same.

Lipstick Rating 3 And 1 Half

 

 

 

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Grave Peril, by Jim Butcher: Finished May 13th. I’ve heard, over and over, that this series is a slow trek uphill in terms of quality and it hits its stride around the middle. However, I liked Fool Moon more than Grave Peril: maybe because I’m a slut for mythology, and the werewolf stuff in FM was amazing, whereas the ghost aspect of GP didn’t really bring anything new to the table. GP also brings us new characters (Michael & Lea), but unlike those in FM (Tera and Billy & the werewolves) I only liked one. I’ll admit that while everyone seems to love Michael, and even I admit that the idea of the Knights is very cool, I’m not a fan. Though the dialogue we get from Harry because of his “zomg no cursing! God is listening!” deal is pretty great.

Lea (short for Leanan Sidhe, one of my all time favorite fae), though… man, this gives us a great taste of the next book. Which is so much better. I feel like Grave Peril pretty much just exists to set up things for the future.

Lipstick Rating 3 Full

 

 

 

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All The Rage, by Courtney Summers: Finished May 13th. This is the highest rating I’ve given a book this month. Before you go diving in, there is a HUGE trigger warning for rape. It’s at the core of this book, and while this is a young adult novel it’s brutal: it does not shy away from the realities of being a survivor, from the trauma and the horror of just trying to live your life after being broken like that. But this is an amazingly important and beautifully written book. It manages to be tasteful while also being brutally honest: it is real and dreamlike, horrible but amazing. If you feel like you are in a place where this would not trigger you in a harmful way, I suggest you read it. I really wish everyone would: it really gets to the core of what that act of violence really, truly means.

Lipstick Rating5 Full

 

 

 

 

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Summer Knight, by Jim Butcher: Finished May 16th. FAERIES! Definitely my favorite so far, and I can see why so many people say that this is where the series gets “serious.” There’s a lot of heavy mythology and worldbuilding like the previous books, along with the witty dialogue and action scenes you’d expect (although confession, I don’t love action scenes and tend to skim them) but here we finally get… serious character development! A look at the White Council! Serious peeks into Harry’s past! Lots of things that were hinted at in books 1-3 are actually brought to the table here.

And man, let’s just talk about how Butcher handles the Fae. He doesn’t go for cute/sexy, like so many people, but makes them truly alien and unpredictable. Or at least for the most part: I guessed the “bad guy” pretty easily based on how unpredictable the whole thing was (though that’s not really a fault, exactly). I loved all the courts, and I know that the Queens are seriously important in the rest of the books so I am really looking forward to that.

A last note: I really enjoy this series, but I don’t love it. I’m really hoping I do (since I’ve basically committed myself to 16+ books), but at this point I am 1/4 of the way through and the “I LOVE THIS SO MUCH!” has yet to kick in. They’re still just light, enjoyable reads for me. I’m hoping for more wham-moments and real character depth in the future.

Lipstick Rating 3 And 1 Half

150 Book Challenge: April 2015 Wrapup

13 May

I know I have already started posting updates for May, but I kind of missed a month in between that and March, didn’t I? And once I finish this, I’ll be all caught up! Except for, you know, February and most of January… but oh well! April was my birthday month, but sadly not the greatest of reading months. I accomplished a decent amount (14 books finished), but aside from the main series I picked and a few outliers, there was nothing particularly spectacular. I’m really selling you on reading this post, huh? Like the March roundup, this is going to be a long one, so you can find all the details after the jump!

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May 2015 Wrapup: Week 1

9 May

Can you believe the first week in May is already over? It seems like it flew right on by! I had what I can only describe as a mediocre reading week: 5 books, but they ranged from “just okay” to “terrible.” So let’s jump right in!

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Vanishing Girls, by Lauren Oliver: Finished May 1st. I like Lauren Oliver, and I feel like she has come far as a writer. Her last two books, Panic and Rooms, were head and shoulders above the Delirium trilogy. Sadly, the streak did not continue. Vanishing Girls is about, you guessed it, some girls who vanish! Actually, it’s mainly about two sisters (Dara and Nick, once again with the quirky names) who used to be very close, but were in a horrific car accident several months ago that broke their friendship. A young girl in town goes missing, and the “smart” sister (the other is, surprise, the “slutty” one) gets drawn into it.

Before I get into my main issue with this book, I’d like to discuss a common and unfortunate trope in young adult/new adult. Young women are so often shamed in books for wearing makeup, like it somehow makes them less of a woman or it marks them as insecure/a slut. Dara, the “bad” sister, wears a lot of makeup. Her sister points this out CONSTANTLY, more than any other trait. Dara drinks, does drugs, but we’re more likely to hear about her false lashes than any actual transgressions. Nick also makes sure to tell us if older women are wearing makeup, because god forbid someone over 40 wear lipstick. It’s an odd conundrum: makeup is bad on young people, bad on old people. “Real girls” wear nothing but chapstick and mascara. I mean, this is a makeup & book blog so I’m sure you all know how I feel about this trope. It’s bad, it shames girls for something totally normal, and it deserves to die. I was so disappointed to see Lauren Oliver relying on it so heavily.

But that’s not the main issue here. The main issue… is that the plot of this book is totally and completely stolen from another book. Spoilers for both, because if you’ve read one the twist for the other is going to be revealed: Vanishing Girls is plot-point for plot-point a version of Nocte (only with two sisters instead of a sister/brother). I hated Nocte, hated the plot, so of course even if Vanishing Girls was unique I wouldn’t like it. It’s contrived and unoriginal, and I really wish I’d skipped this because I’m not sure how to feel about the whole thing. I really  hope it’s coincidence (that two books published a year apart in the same genre have identical plots?).

LipstickRating1Full

 

 

 

 

 

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Suicide Forest, by Jeremy Bates: Finished May 3rd. Aokigahara is a real location in Japan. It’s dubbed the Suicide Forest because every year, hundreds of people head there to die (mostly by hanging). Intensely creepy, right? So a horror novel set there has to be good. Well, no, obviously not. But I’ll be honest: if I see a horror novel that takes place in the woods, I’m reading it. I’ve been chasing the feeling of The Ritual for a long time, but no woods book comes anywhere close. I need to give up this hunt: nothing will ever be like The Ritual, the most perfectly terrifying woods-themed horror of all time. Go read it.

So anyway, Suicide Forest. It’s your typical “people go camping, spooky stuff happens” type of book. There’s little in the way of actual scares, and the characters are awful. They’re basically walking horror movie tropes (“the jock” “the nerdy guy” “the comic relief” etc), and they act in ways that are just beyond irrational. This book is also filled to the gills with misinformation. I won’t touch on the woefully innacurate portrayal of Japanese culture because that would fill a very long post, but there’s really basic stuff here that is flat-out wrong. Things like Japan having the highest suicide rate in 1st world countries (wrong: Japan is 7th), fire ants being the #1 predator to kill humans (wrong: humans are the #1 killer of humans. For non-human animals, it’s snakes), India having a much higher rate of violence and sexual assault towards women than America (so wrong, and stats are very easy to find online). It’s like the author tried to write a book without doing any research.

This was almost saved by the reveal of what’s actually happening, but honestly nothing could save it from mediocrity. I’ve learned my lesson when it comes to “books with spooky forest covers.” Until the next time I pick one up, that is.

Lipstick Rating 2 Full

 

 

 

 

 

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Storm Front, by Jim Butcher: Finished May 6th. My series for this month is the Dresden Files (though it is over 14 books long, so it may be my May-June series). I’ve heard that it does not get really good until book 3 (or 4, or 6, depending on who you ask) so I was not expecting much from this. And indeed, it is nothing really spectacular. Your run of the mill urban fantasy in terms of plot, and the pacing is all over the place.

But one thing does shine through: the characters. I love me some witty banter, and it’s here in droves. The foundation was set for some really awesome future worldbuilding, so while I didn’t love this book I am looking forward to continuing the series.

Lipstick Rating 3 Full

 

 

 

 

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Within These Walls, by Ania Ahlborn: Finished May 7th. Imagine that you are reading a book about a carnival. Or at least, it’s supposed to be a book about a carnival–it says so right on the back! Through the whole thing characters are constantly talking about the carnival. They discuss the rides and when they are going to go. We get the history of the carnival. But not once does anyone actually visit said carnival: in fact, the carnival closes down before the book even ends!

That was pretty much what it felt like to read Within These Walls. Ania Ahlborn is an odd author: I adore some of her books, but she wrote one that was so painfully bad (The Shuddering) that I cringe thinking of it. This book falls into the “oh god why” category. It’s unoriginal, not at all scary, and has “twists” you can see coming from a mile away. Add in mediocre characters and stiff, un-atmospheric writing and you’ve got kind of a mess.

There’s one high point: some very interesting things are done with names. Names we are born with, nicknames, names we chose for ourselves… this was such a great thread, and I wish more of the book had been dedicated to it rather than “ooh spooky serial killer!”

Lipstick Rating 2 Full

 

 

 

 

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Trigger Warning, by Neil Gaiman: Finished May 8th.  think if you’re going to use something as loaded as “trigger warning” as a title and then mention very specifically that it’s full of “disturbances” it should probably be, well… disturbing. Or so one would think. I admit that I have a pretty high tolerance for what I’d classify as disturbing (I’m thinking Angel Dust Apocalypse and Blake Butler here), but there is really nothing disturbing here. Like, not even a little. Okay, there’s one dead cat, but that’s a personal thing for me–cat dies? I’m gonna cry. But this cat was dead for a long time, so… yeah. Not scary. Maybe a little creepy.

I also find Gaiman, as a person, incredibly pretentious. The entire introduction is filled with enough name-dropping to kill a horse. It’s hard to separate those feelings from the actual writing, though his pretentiousness definitely seeps through. The stories are a total mixed bag: some good, some bad, some awkward, and a very few great ones. In fact, I only really enjoyed one story: “Black Dog”, which is a sequel of sorts to American Gods. Which is odd, because I didn’t particularly like American Gods, but here we are. There’s a retelling of Sleeping Beauty that shines with creativity, and there are bits and pieces in other stories that truly are great (especially a set of 12 mini-vignettes based on the months of the calendar). But overall I just was not a fan of this at all, especially the stories where he tried to veer into the New Weird genre and missed… a lot.

Lipstick Rating 3 Full

150 Book Challenge: March 2015 Wrapup

7 May

I haven’t been doing well with my goal of actually reviewing every book I read, have I? No. Not at all. I set a pretty reasonable goal for myself, but when you read a book every 1 or 2 days (and sometimes 2 in 1 day) it’s nearly impossible to keep up with that volume of reviews in full format. So, I’ve decided to take a hint from Booktube and switch to roundups! Monthly at the moment, possibly weekly after April because that seems more reasonable length-wise.

Because this is going to be rather lengthy it’s after the jump, so hit it and let’s get started!

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Alchimia Apothecary’s Spring 2015 Collection

5 May

Spring is easily my favorite season for perfume. Creamy florals, crisp greens, fresh aquatics. Sure, fall is nice with its heavy gourmands and I love the chilly scents of winter, but I am all about spring. Which means of course I spend way too much on new releases! This year I was particularly swayed by Alchimia’s spring lineup: every single scent in it was one I wanted on my body immediately. My initial cart was scarily massive, but I managed to cut it down to 5 samples (there are 4 in the picture because I’m a spazz and Dapper King is missing at the moment). I already own Red Rover and I got a bonus sample of the one spring scent I passed up, so happily I ended up with the entire regular collection and one of the Blossom scents!

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Fleur de tilleul (linden blossom, rosewood, green tea, honey): I really wanted to get the full floral collection but narrowed it down to just this one. Because of the tea & honey, I’m not going to lie. This is a very soft, ladylike floral. Linden blossom is a definite white floral, but it’s light and almost dainty, definitely not heavy/cloying like some white florals can be. The honey and rosewood are hanging out in the background, accenting the linden blossom nicely without stealing the show. It’s no surprise that the floral aspect is the leading note here, but for some reason I was expecting more of a “sipping tea next to a vase of flowers” kind of feel.

Petrichor (grass, ozone, earth, alfalfa): This starts off with a sharp burst of ozone. It’s bright and lasts a surprisingly long time–ozone is a note that fades pretty quickly, but it hangs around a while in this blend. This is followed by concrete–you know that smell it gets when it’s wet? Like damp stone, only a bit more… artificial. As it dries down a bit the earth starts to peek out, but it’s not really a scent that screams “dirt” to me. Throughout there’s a hay/floral thing going on in the background, I’d guess from the alfalfa. But the ozone really dominates everything else, and it gets stuck in my nose with that almost sparkling effect like air before a storm.

BONUS ROUND Petrichor vs sixteen92′s Supercell (ozone, grass, asphalt, petrichor, hay, damp florals, stems, earth, branches): Supercell has a very long list of notes, but the hay and grass really dominate for me. It’s a little aquatic, very damp feeling, but it’s more like the air during rain while Petrichor is the air before rain. As such, they pair really beautifully. Nether is my ideal rain scent, but together… perfection! You get the before, during, after rain effect all at once with wet grass and super sharp ozone. It’s a gorgeous summer storm.

Lilaq (lilac, green wood, grass, earth): Given the name (and notes) I was expecting this to be straight-up floral. And in a way it is, but it’s not the overpowering WOW IT’S LILAC scent I was expecting. Have you ever been in the back lot behind a flower shop? There was one around the corner from me as a kid and the ground was always littered with carnation stems crushed into the ground and stray petals. That’s what this smells like–brisk, almost bitter stems and leaves, a hint of dirt, and soft flowers. It’s ever-so-slightly powdery, but in the way you expect from lilac blossoms. This was such a pleasant surprise, since I was expecting just flowers but got a whole experience.

Lion’s Tooth (dandelion, milky sap, stems, grass, dry wood): This is green green green! It’s not aquatic, not floral, just straight-up spring greenery all over your wrist. Grass is the most prominent note, that wonderfully sweet scent of a just-cut lawn. It’s followed by dandelion… not the flower exactly, but the bitter stem and leaves. This reminds me so much of childhood, summers spent rolling around on the lawn and getting covered in grass stains. I originally almost blind-bought a full bottle of this, and I really wish I had!

The Dapper King (fougere, juniper, rosemary, dandelion): I was expecting this to be a kind of herbal version of Lion’s Tooth, given the shared dandelion note, but they are really different. This came out super floral on my skin, bordering on powdery. It’s also quite masculine due to the juniper/ferns… yes, a powdery, masculine floral. Those are two genres I like on their own, but I’m not sure how I feel about the combination.

Red Rover (clover, honey, grass): I’ve reviewed this one before, and I still adore it. Bright, happy green! This is the slightly sweeter cousin of Lion’s Tooth: there’s no bitter greenery, just smooth soft and sweet clover. This and Maedwe are the essence of spring to me, just happy and bright. This is also great for layering, it goes well with simpler florals and gives them a lot of depth.

Sex on the Lawn (lilac, ferns, ivy, sandalwood, grass, dirt): The notes of this seem very similar to Lilaq, but they’re quite different both in the vial and on my skin. The dirt is much heavier here, and the lilac is waaay in the background. Like, just a hint at the very tail end. This is more green than floral, but a deep green (I’m always describing scents in color, is that even helpful to anyone??). The ferns and ivy really deepen it, and it seems like more of a “woodsy green” than a “grass green.” Like early spring woods, when everything is just starting to bud!

If you like grass, lemme tell you, this is the collection for you. Dirty grass! Sweet grass! Dandelion grass! Just all the grasses. Unsurprisingly, I loved all the grass scents and only had one miss (Dapper King) and one just-okay (Fleur de tilleul)–both of which had no grass. I guess I’m really just in the mood to roll around on the lawn?

Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab’s Plagues of Egypt

4 May

Perfume and makeup, especially of the indie variety, are one of those interests where you’re likely to get spillover from all your other hobbies. There are enough fandom themed collections to please almost anyone, and I think we’ve all fallen prey to the “oh my god I love this book/movie/show, therefor I must buy all the things!” But I never thought I’d be sitting at the computer, lusting after perfume based on… the biblical plagues of Egypt. I’m a mythology geek and Egypt is one of my areas of interest, so of course I absolutely had to have some. Thankfully, my rational brain kicked in before I ordered a full set and I managed to narrow it down to three scents. And instead of getting decants I just jumped on full sizes, because I like to live dangerously (and, you know, I’ve never blind-bought a BPAL scent and been disappointed).

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Smite All Thy Borders with Frogges (Amphibious green musk with bog moss, benzoin, Mountain sage, Brazilian vetiver, tomato leaf, cucumber pulp, and unripe squash): I have a thing for wet, dirty scents, so I knew that if I only got one bottle, this would be it. I mean, the name alone was worth the purchase. Frogges! I was hoping for something similar to their Shanghai Tunnel, one of my favorite dirt scents. And this is definitely in that same family: less wet for sure, as the only aquatic element here is from the green musk. That might be my favorite BPAL note, and it’s used so infrequently that I get giddy when I see it on a list. Frogges smells like someone dumped Laughter of Loki on a vegetable garden: cucumber and squash are the first thing you smell, very green and fresh but with that tart, unripe edge. On drydown the vetiver and musk peek through, adding a lot of depth and that “dirty” smoke feeling that vetiver often adds. This is a smokey, musky green scent, different from anything I’ve tried so far, and I love it. Obviously this is not a scent for everyone, but if you like vegetal notes or enjoy BPAL’s other Frog-themed scents, this is an absolute must-have.

They Shall Eate the Residue of that which is Escaped (Dry vanilla mint with rosewood, balsam, green sandalwood, green mate absolute, and sage): This is the bottle I almost didn’t get, mostly because the notes seem pretty tame compared to everything else I was interested in. But mint + vanilla is one of my favorite combinations, so I had to test it out. At first this is deliciously sweet and edible-tasting: if you’ve tried any of their Lick It perfumes, it’s very similar at first sniff. Almost candy-like, but after a quick drydown the wood and herbal elements come into play. It mellows down into a beautifully sophisticated woody vanilla scent, with the mint more of a background note. There’s a hint of spice too (cinnamon? nutmeg?) that blends perfectly. I think this is the best-mixed of the Plagues I tried, it’s sophisticated and bold without being in-your-face, and very wearable.

Fire Mingled with the Haile (Fields smashed by torrential rain, seared by gouts of celestial fire): Given the insanely vague description, this was definitely a gamble of a scent. Fire? Rain? I had no idea what to expect. In the bottle it’s bizarrely sweet, almost buttery, but it morphs on application. The sweetness lingers, but it’s faint and in the background. This is a very hard scent to describe, but the word that fits it most is “cold.” My nose tingles if I sniff it for too long. It’s not minty, the note usually used to make things seem chilly, but just… cold and sharp. Numbing. Like you just got smacked in the face with a brisk winter breeze. There’s something almost soapy that hits you after the chill, but in a pleasant way–not the usual powdery thing some notes do, but a damp, clean ocean note. It becomes more and more aquatic as it dries down, leaving a salty, ashy finish. Absolutely bizarre, but that’s kind of what you want from a Plagues line.

Though I only got 3 scents, this is everything I want from a Plague line: bizarre, wearable, and one that’s absolutely conceptual. Of course now I want to grab a few more (especially A Grievous Swarm), but I’m content with the scents I selected. Especially They Shall Eate, which I honestly thought would be my least-favorite of the three. Not… that I have a least-favorite. I love them all!

The Plagues of Egypt line can be found here, and will be live until June 4th–plenty of time to smite all your collection with frogges.

 

OHWTO’s Winter Scent Collection

22 Feb

One Hand Washes The Other is one of the first indie shops I purchased from, and I’ve gone back to them time and time again. I know the owner has stirred up some controversy, but I’m just too in love with the brand to think about cutting myself off. And I honestly don’t know how I could live without the Black Magic scrub, which saves my face on a daily basis. I’ve held off on fall/Halloween reviews because most of their scents were old releases, but they had a ton of new blends up for this holiday! And at the moment almost all of them are discounted in their shop, which makes it the perfect timing for a review.

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Snowbound (Blue Spruce, Cypress, Berries, Snow, Fir Needle, Birch, and Wood): This is an interesting scent. In the vial it’s very fruity, but it’s totally different once you apply it. Cool and crisp: there’s definitely a snow/winter element going on here that may be mint in part. But it definitely feels cold! The berries are subdued and fresh, more like not-quite-ripe berry skin (maybe cranberry?), and there’s a blooming background of firs. It’s basically winter in a bottle.

Noel (rich vanilla and peppermint, dusted with sugar and splashed with warm milk): I got this as a sample originally and just HAD to have a full size. Peppermint and vanilla is a simple combination, but it’s both bright and seasonal while being insanely comforting. Putting this on is like wrapping up in a big, comfy blanket. This is probably my favorite OHWTO scent.

Krampus Klaus (Cracked leather, covered in chimney soot. Sticky silver Fir resin, glowing Amber eyes, and a polished wooden sleigh): OHWTO is great at manly leather scents, and this is definitely one of them. The leather is at the forefront, and it’s a note that tends to amp up on me so it’s rather dominant. The fir in the background makes this a more “holiday” kind of masculine blend, which is pretty unique among my leather-based scent collection.

Twinkling Lights (Champagne, Balsam trees, Fruitcakes, Oakmoss): I have this in solid and oil form, and it smells a bit different each way. The oil is more heavy on the champagne, especially in the bottle, while the solid leans more towards the balsam. Oakmoss is nicely balanced in both, and this is a nice light bubbly winter blend. It’s pretty hard to find scents with a really good carbonation smell, but this hits it dead on.

Cookies for Santa (Spicy gingerbread cookies, sweet faces drawn on them with vanilla icing, and a mug of warmed milk): When you ask for OHWTO scent recommendations, most people will probably tell you about their amazing gourmands. But I have almost none from them because… well, I guess other things just catch my eye first. So this is really my first bakery/gourmand from them, and it’s as great as they’re hyped up to be! Super-strong cookie scent, like they’re fresh out of the oven and in your face.

Good Tidings (Warm, buttered oats, caramel cream, and honey): CARAMEL! This is the most realistic caramel scent I’ve tried, it’s so warm and creamy. I think part of that is the fact that it’s got caramel, cream and butter, which make for a really realistic warm, melty caramel smell. It’s hard not to lick my wrists when I have this on, it’s so delicious.

The Airing of Grievances (Fir boughs, musky sandalwood, vanilla, woodland moss, pine needles, ozone, frozen air, and holiday fruits): This reminds me a bit of Snowbound. It’s icy and cold without being overly minty, and the pine is right in the center. But this is more “perfumey” and complex with all the secondary notes like sandalwood and vanilla. Like a fancy woman walking through a pine forest.

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Bonus Reviews

Haterade (lime, cucumber, light floral and musk notes): How could I not buy a Gatorade-themed perfume? Especially since this is the lime/cucumber one. I will admit that I ordered this because of nostalgia/hilarity, but it smells SO GOOD. Refreshing without being a “typical” lime/cucumber fresh scent. It’s bright and cheerful with a lovely complex floral background. This is going to be so perfect for spring!

Scarlett (Neroli, Cilantro, rhubarb, raspberry, citrus zests, and blood orange): I expected something brightly citrus from the notes, but it’s quite different on my skin. I think the neroli and raspberry dominate, making this floral, sweet, and a bit powdery. I’m not sure how I feel about it since it’s so far from what I anticipated… honestly, I thought it’d be like Haus of Gloi’s Tonic #4 with blood orange instead of yuzu. Instead, it’s so girlie! There is a definite citrus undertone though.

On a customer service related note, their shipping times have improved dramatically in the past few months. If you’ve purchased from them before you’ll know that the TAT is about a month, which is worth it for what you get, but my last two orders from them shipped out less than 5 days after making them.

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!