52 Book Challenge: Sleep Donation by Karen Russell

12 Jul

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{Proceed with caution, mid-level spoilers all up in this bitch}

Novellas are great. I love them… usually. It is a nice format: more meat than a short story, but with less filling than a novel. You can execute amazing things in a novella. Just look at At The Mountains of Madness. That’s right, a whole plot can fit into a novella. But I think someone forgot to tell Karen Russell that.

Sleep Donation starts out with an amazing amount of promise. It’s in a near-dystopian future where chronic insomnia has become a rampant disorder, plaguing thousands of people and eventually leading to death of not treated. No drugs work. The only thing that does work is a dream infusion–basically like a blood infusion, but with fresh, sweet dreams. And like blood, someone has to donate those dreams.

Our main character, Trish, is a woman who works at a sleep donation center. Her sister was one of the disease’s first victims, and she uses this story to woo potential donors into becoming real donors. This is the backdrop, but the plot is driven by two opposing forces: one good, and one bad.

The good: Trish has found a miracle child. Baby A has sleep so pure, a single infusion of hers can completely cure victims of this fatal insomnia. The bad: a man managed to sneak through the rigorous testing pre-donation and is spreading a nightmare so horrible people are rejecting donations: they would rather not sleep than face the terror within.

But neither of these are as good or evil as they sound. The baby has to be milked to the extreme for sleep. The man is not a villain at all, but was unaware of his nightmare. It’s a race to get Baby A’s dreams to as many victims of the nightmare as possible before they die, voluntarily, of insomnia.

And… that’s it. Things reach a crescendo, and it ends. Just. Ends. We never find out what exactly the nightmare was. Character development comes to an awkward halt. Sleep Donation reads like half of a novel, not like a novella. It’s unfinished, and brutally so, because it was really fucking good. And I’m kind of mad that I’ll never find out the actual ending.

Rating

Book 52 Sleep Donation

Lipstick Rating 3 Full

June 2014 Beauty Favorites

11 Jul

Finished

So, it’s almost the middle of July. I seem to be very late on this one! But hey, it’s still July, so technically I am on time. Technically.

Caolion Pore Mool Pool Deep Cleansing: This was one of the items in my Memebox Mini #2, and I have fallen utterly in love. It’s a bizarre combo cleanser/makeup remover, but unlike any one I’ve tried before. Usually makeup removers are heavy on the oil (and I’ll be honest, I often use straight-up Vaseline for removing stubborn cat eyes), but this is an oil-free blend that leaves you feeling so refreshed.

Solstice Scents Cameo: Yes, I’ve finally obtained a full size of this after raving about it in the Spring Collection post. Cameo is everything. Cameo is life. Almond, rose, cream… it’s like a perfect afternoon tea party.

MAC Pure Heroine Lipstick: I’m pretty sure no one has noticed, but the purple for both my header font and the lipstick ratings is identical to MAC’s Heroine. Yes, there are a few makeup-themed Easter eggs in the design! Purple lipstick is basically my favorite thing on earth so I jumped on Pure Heroine insanely fast. It’s really only slightly darker than the original but the brightness is toned down significantly, leaving a perfect rich purple for a vampy look. It’s summer, but I will rock fall makeup if I want to!

Shiro Cosmetics’ Chinchillin’: When I was a little girl, I begged my dad for a pet chinchilla. It never happened. But at least now I own this amazing eyeshadow! It’s a highly shimmery grey-purple combo… I wouldn’t say that it is a duochrome, but depending on the light it can lean more neutral or very bright. It’s one of those lovely shadows that is perfect for a one-shadow look… or with a little bit of Dammit Moon Moon in the crease!

ELF Ariel Collection Surf’s Up Bronzer: I went a little crazy trying to find this, hitting up 3 Walgreens in the city before an amazing saleswoman looked up where it was still in stock for me. And behold, it’s all mine! This isn’t really in my favorites because I like to use it… it’s actually a really gorgeous golden bronzer, but it’s SO PRETTY I don’t want to ruin it. I’ll just hold it and pretend it’s part of my underwater treasure trove.

52 Book Challenge: The Wicked We Have Done by Sarah Harian

4 Jul

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{Proceed with caution, mid-level spoilers all up in this bitch}

[Trigger Warning for school/mass shootings. No graphic descriptions, but if it is a sensitive topic for you please proceed with caution!]

I am convinced that for some reason, someone out there wants me to believe that just because you are a murderer, it doesn’t mean you are a bad person! Let me tell you something: it does. Unless it was self defense. And then it’s no longer murder. But between The Enchanted, In The Miso Soup, and this book, I’m tearing my hair out about all the “poor little murderer” plotlines I’ve come across this year.

The Wicked We Have Done is yet another Hunger Games clone that the market has birthed. But this time it’s The Hunger Games… with murderers! Literally. Well, not “literally” because they aren’t supposed to kill each other. But this is a Hunger Games fanfic so of course they do.

The Plot: ten murderers are put in the Compass Room, a new high-tech thingy (yes, thingy, it’s not explained at all) that will test their morality and see if any of them are innocent. If they pass, they are free. If they don’t pass, they’re put on death row. Or killed instantly. I kind of don’t remember and am NOT going back to check. Let me just say that I HATE random super-advanced technology that is not explained at all in an otherwise normal society. Are we in the future? Are there robots? Because the Compass Room can do things like create highly realistic holograms and explode people. But it isn’t even questioned.

The Compass Room is actually (act surprised) in a forest! Where they have to go do moral things. The convicted rapist was the first to die–the Compass Room presents him with one of his victims, and he doesn’t apologize so it kills him. This was about the only thing in the book that I liked. But it kind of made no sense–that’s all it takes to say you are worthy of death? Did it see into his mind? Did it know if he was just faking to look cool in front of all the other murderers? Who knows. The author sure doesn’t seem to.

Of course we have a group of “good murderers” who are totes innocent and/or have a valid explanation for their crime. Like a girl who was driving and hit a family and didn’t mean to. If that was true, and it was really an accident, why would she be in jail? On death row? Who knows! The boy who becomes the ~wuv interest~ killed his abusive father after years of being beaten by him and watching his mother being beaten. Yes, that is a boy who certainly would be sent STRAIGHT TO HARDCORE JAIL. I mean, it’s laughable. The “good guys” have “crimes” that aren’t crimes and would barely land them in a low-security jail, let alone the monolith of a prison we’re presented with.

Except… for our heroine. Who was involved in a school shooting where dozens died. We get some backstory here: her friend’s crazy boyfriend made her do it by threatening to kill said friend. But… she just goes and kill people? She doesn’t try to kill the boyfriend? Or herself? She literally shoots a teacher in the head and feels nothing about it. Our heroine is a very bad person. It’s so, so hard to feel sorry for her. We are clearly meant to, but she is emotionless. Oh and surprise surprise, bad boyfriend killed the friend anyway (because she could back up the “I was forced into it” story) so waaah poor heroine had to go to jail for shooting people! Totes unfair! She does not deserve a second chance because she killed people.

Of course we get a group of “bad murderers” that the “good murderers” have to defend themselves from. Which makes sense, right? I mean they’re all here for another shot at life so the first thing they’d do would be to… start killing each other? Wait, that doesn’t make any sense! Like everything else in this book! Such as the crazy high-tech hologram “tests” that push the morality of the contestants. Or the “glitching out” of the Compass Room that involves strange flashes in the sky in the shape of a dome (sound familiar?). Or the TWO romance plots and all the sex we get after these people have known each other for a week.

I honestly thought the Compass Room would turn out to be all in their heads. Like literally all a hologram, which would make sense. Because people kept dying in insane, gory ways. But no, it was real. So it’s legal in this universe to just… blow up criminals? Burn them to death? What is this technology even? Do they live on the moon? There’s no back story, no fleshing out of the world. It’s horrible. The whole thing is horrible.

Rating

Book 53 The Wicked We Have Done

LipstickRating1Full

Shiro Collection, Part 2: The Darks

3 Jul

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Though I have very few occasions to wear them, I have a magpie-like affinity for sparkle-dense dark shades. Those ones that make you look in the jar and go OOH PRETTY THAT SURE DOES LOOK LIKE A GALAXY but days later you think “hmm, how am I ever going to actually pull this off with an everyday look?” But I mean Shiro samples are a dollar so who even cares right?

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We’re continuing the Shiro swatch-a-thon today with the darks I depotted! For info on jar size and availability, see this post. Most of these jars contain one sample, though a few (the ones stuffed to the very top) have two… which is more than I will ever use, probably. Unless I do Gengar-themed eyeliner for a year straight or something.

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I remembered how to swatch in a straight line wow go me

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Yes there’s friggin CAT FUR stuck to Colonel oy my life

From bottom to top we’ve got:

Diggy Diggy Hole, a deep brown with moss green shimmer

You Dropped Your Rod, a black base loaded with gold glitter that comes out insanely sheer what is going on here? (I swatched this three times to make sure I wasn’t spazzing out, it’s just this sheer)

Beyond the Fence, a moss green with gold that also comes out disappointingly sheer

Pumpkin King, a super dark black with orange and gold glitter all up in your business

Two Faced, a blackened lavender that becomes darker the more you blend it in

Colonel, a navy blue that appears sheer at first but is loaded with brilliant gold

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Why is one at a different angle? I have no clue

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Send help I forgot how to swatch the heat is killing me

Haha, so many purples. I think I like purples. This time we’ve got, from bottom to top:

Shinigami, a glittery blurple that’s unfortunately sheer

Fullmetal, a charcoal base that doesn’t look like a purple in the jar but oh look at that glitter, it’s purple after all!

Not Very Effective, (aka GENGARRRR) a black doused in deep purple and red sparkles

Star-Crossed, a black with gold shift, similar to You Dropped Your Rod (only you know… it shows up on my skin…)

Equivalent Exchange, a dark silver-lavender with an almost metallic finish

Are You Shear You Wanna Enchant That?, a black with rainbow glitter (one of those “galaxy in a jar” types)

Unlike round 1, the darks were swatched over glitter glue because they are quite unruly. And, unlike the lights, there were some disappointments. I find Shiro’s darks to be lacking in pigmentation far more often than the pales & neutrals, which is really where they excel. The real standout here for me is Pumpkin King (which is sadly limited edition) and, of course, Not Very Effective (which I really wish hadn’t gotten a name change). But with a little mixing fluid these all make really fun liners!

52 Book Challenge: This Is Not A Test & Sparrow Rock

2 Jul

In the past, when I do posts with multiple books they are from the same author. But this time I’m breaking the rules a little. I read these books back-to-back and they feature VERY similar premises (a group of teenagers trapped together at the end of the world) but play out in very different ways. I feel like they belong together, at least for this discussion.

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{Proceed with caution, mid-level spoilers all up in this bitch}

This Is Not A Test is a book that I fully admit to picking up because of the cool cover and name. Plus, you know, apocalypse books are my jam. This was a very fast read, but it actually took me a long time to get into it: it wasn’t until the last third that I even liked This Is Not A Test.

Let’s take a step back: our main character, Sloane, spends the opening paragraphs contemplating suicide. We get a glimpse of her back story. Essentially, her father is abusive in some way and her older sister, who she worshiped, left a few months ago after promising that they would flee together. And then… the world ends! This is a zombie book, but to be honest the choice of apocalypse is really secondary to the drama of the characters. Which usually I would hate, but by the end it’s very effective.

We flash forward a bit to Sloane and five other students, who are holed up in their highschool. While we don’t get a whole lot of physical descriptions there’s a sense of racial diversity based on naming choices, which is always nice to see in a book filled with teens. There’s tension between the characters that is swiftly and skillfully fleshed out: a set of twins (that Sloane used to be friends with) lost their parents on the way to the highschool and blame Cary, the group’s current leader. There are two other students as well: Harrison, the school crybaby, and Rhys, a quieter boy who sides with Cary. Sloane has ties with both “sides”: Grace, one of the twins, was her only real friend. And Cary was in love with her sister. They are simple connections, but having them overlap gives a nice sense of reality.

Things slowly fall apart, as you would expect in an end-of-the-world scenario. And it’s not really because of the zombies: emotional tension peaks and roars around the characters, swallowing them. It almost felt too angsty at times, but since this is a book I think falls into the YA genre I’ll give it a break on that one.

I do have one very big issue with This Is Not A Test. For most of the book, there are very strong hints that Sloane & her sister were sexually abused by her father. We have flashbacks to him shoving her face into the floor. Snippets of conversations where Sloane is told no one can ever find out “what he does to them.” It turns out Sloane’s sister was highly promiscuous. While it’s certainly an issue addressed in many YA books already, since it’s a reality for thousands of teenagers I always appreciate it handled skillfully and in an empathetic way. If it can make it easier for peers to understand trauma, that’s a really big step. But Summers puts on the breaks towards the end and suddenly, it’s just physical abuse. Which does not line up at all with flashbacks. I was annoyed that she decided not to “go there” because it sends the message of “oh no, that’s too icky, we don’t talk about that.” Which is bullshit. Trauma happens. Abuse happens. Don’t pussyfoot around it.

Ahem. That aside, and you know… me not really being drawn into the first two thirds of the book, I was taken aback by the last few chapters. They were packed with emotional bombs: not the trite, annoying romantic ones that many YAs try to pull off, but serious scenes of loss. I was a bit shocked at how much I felt for these characters, considering how annoyed I was by their whining only chapters earlier. It was an impressive bit of writing, and while This Is Not A Test certainly could have been more polished I am really looking forward to more of Courtney Summers’ books.

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Sparrow Rock is a book I actually downloaded for last year’s 52 Book Challenge and just never got around to reading. But after This Is Not A Test I remembered that I had another “teens in the apocalypse” book waiting in the wings so I dug it up.

The apocalypse here is very different, but funnily enough the male/female ratio is identical: four guys, two girls. This time we have a close group of friends and a much more serious apocalypse. It’s a nuclear one, with several warheads going off just in their immediate vicinity, and later on we get gross mutant animals. Of course no one would survive out in the open like that, but these teens happen to be in a bomb shelter hanging out at the time. Of course it seems improbable, but if something like that DOES happen, there will be at least a few groups of people chillin out somewhere protected. So, it’s unlikely but I cut the author some slack. And we do get a better explanation down the line.

Sparrow Rock is pretty much the opposite of TINAT. The characters are flat, there’s some drama between them but it feels forced. The focus, instead, is on the apocalypse. The nuclear fallout was designed to turn animals into monsters. Mostly insects. If you are easily grossed out, this is not the book for you. It has some gag-inducing scenes, including cutting a guy’s leg open and ants spilling out of the infected wound. And that’s one of the “lighter” bug incidents. No spiders though, thankfully, so I could stomach it all quite easily.

I think there was a huge emphasis on shock factor here. Nate Kenyon definitely wants his audience to go “ewww, gross!” And he succeeds at that. However, I think a lot of other things suffer because of it. Like the plot. There’s no plot. Teens stuck in a bunker. That’s it. Compare this to TINAT, where the plot is “what happens when one of the few survivors of the apocalypse doesn’t actually want to be alive?” Now that’s a question I want answered. The only question we get here is “how many gross things can we do with radioactive bugs?” And really, I think they could have done more. I mean, centipedes are totally neglected and we get a botfly teaser but no actual botflies. Come on.

There is also a twist at the end you can see coming from a mile away, which is kind of annoying. I wish it had been more subtle, or rather… not there at all. It really adds nothing to the plot beside more pages.

However, Sparrow Rock addressed some apocalypse-genre concerns that are constantly annoying me. Like girls’ periods! I know so many people are all “eww gross, I don’t want to think about that!” But come on, it happens to 50% of the population. How the everliving fuck do you deal with that at the end of the world? It also addressed a question I always have: what happens to people on psychotropic medication? There are a lot of us (mine are for depression and anxiety: I definitely want them around when the world ends). That’s something I think Kenyon handled artfully: one character’s slow descent into madness was the one thing that really saved this book for me. And the nuclear mosquitoes, they were pretty badass.

Rating

Book 61 This Is Not A Test

Lipstick Rating 3 And 1 Half

 

 

Book 62 Sparrow Rock

Lipstick Rating 2 And 1 Half

Shiro Collection, Part 1: The Lights

1 Jul

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One of the biggest problems about having a lot of makeup is actually storing it all properly. It can be very hard to find what you’re looking for, and easy to forget small purchases. For me, indie samples are the worst! I buy them with the promise of pressing & depotting, but these tend to end with “forgotten in a drawer” or depotted into an opaque jar and I can never remember what color they are. Enter this amazing blog post, which offers up a super cheap storage method for baggie samples that actually lets you see the colors and create mini palettes! Of course like an idiot I only ordered 5 and they took a month to get to me and 5 is definitely not enough, but I am really happy with the ones I have so far. Though it does mean I have to start, you know, actually taking pictures of some of my shadows…

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Here is a size comparison with a mini jar from Dreamworld Hermetica! The one on the right is from the BuyInCoins “palette” filled with one Shiro sample. If you’re determined you can fit two samples in there and stuff it to the brim, and it’s basically as much material as you’d get in a mini from other indie stores.

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I have a lot of Shiro samples so my first idea for my shiny new storage was to make two Shiro palettes–one of lights, one of darks! I have enough samples for 2 or 3 more Shiro-only palettes but that’s for another day. Today, pastels! And neutrals! So pretty.

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Wow swatching skills

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Was I drunk when I did these? No, but I might as well have been!

Yes, I know they’re the worst swatches ever, don’t judge me. It was like 90 degrees in the living room okay I promise the rest aren’t this bad. From bottom to top we have:

Smell Ya Later, a vibrant cool purple

Angry Cuccos, a sheer white with a very strong pink shift

Maiden Queen, a bold shimmery seafoam green

Finkelstein, a pale almost sickly white with a strong blue & green shift

Wildflowers, a rosy pink with a satin finish

Baker’s Boy, a classic warm gold

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Okay, that is a little better

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Still, not exactly my shining moment for swatching

Well I don’t know what to tell you aside from “I guess I forgot how to hand eye coordinate but at least this batch looks better?” Again, from bottom to top we’ve got:

I Loved A Maid, a rusty brown with a green-yellow shift

Cake, a sheer white-gold with a soft red shift (similar to Angry Cuccos, but warmer)

Master of Whispers, a pale lavender with a pink shift (looks suspiciously similar to Cake here because of the strong shift, much more subtle in person!)

Diamonds!, a very sheer teal-bordering-on-green with tons of glitter

Mother of Dragons, a gorgeous deep purple with a taupe-pink shift

Alkahestry, a sheer glitterbomb of aqua and lilac

All swatches done on dry skin with a wet brush. As you’d expect, the glitter-dense shades went on rather sheer (I’m looking at you, Diamonds!) but some applied more consistently. Alkahestry gets a lot of flack for how sheer the base is but it’s my favorite of the bunch! Then again, I love all of them so much. I am all about sheer highlights, bright pops of color and soft pink-purple pastels so this is pretty much my dream palette from Shiro.

52 Book Challenge: The Girl With All The Gifts by M.R. Carey

28 Jun

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{There are basically no spoilers at all here. Seriously.}

This is a hard review for me to write. For the first 10% of this book, I was in love. It was dark, eerie, disturbing and fascinating. The premise is very bare-bones: we are in the head of a little girl named Melanie who lives in a cell. Every morning she is strapped into a wheelchair (arms, legs, head and all), and wheeled through and underground bunker into a classroom with many other children like her. In the classroom, they learn many things. And their “handlers” are terrified of them.

The elements of mystery ratchet up the tension immensely: it’s hard to pin down exactly what genre this portion of the book is in. Part mystery, part psychological thriller, part horror. It’s great. Just enough is given away that you can *almost* put the pieces together, but it’s still very unsettling.

Then we start getting first-person perspective from some of the other characters. Melanie’s favorite teacher. A doctor at the base. A member of the military. And the mystery is cracked wide open fairly early into the book. This wouldn’t be a problem if the tone remained the same, but The Girl With All the Gifts goes from super-creepy horror to gory survival horror in about half a chapter.

It’s a huge tone shift, and a huge disappointment. Soon the focus is far more on the other characters, and we start getting less and less of Melanie. Once the curtain on her “condition” has been raised, it’s just a run-of-the-mill horror book, and not even a very good one. The “twist” is fairly predictable, and there is a very annoying deus ex machina.

I really, really wanted to love this book. I put a lot of effort into loving the other 90% of it. But honestly, without the first few chapters I probably would have given up on it fairly early. The characters are paper cutouts without any real depth, the enemies never seem that dangerous… it’s just bland, and has been done a million times before. I’d like to see another author take the premise and run with it in a more disturbing direction.

Rating

Book 60 The Girl With All The Gifts

Lipstick Rating 2 Full

Ipsy June 2014

27 Jun

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This month’s Ipsy bag was kind of a slow burn for me. When I first peeked in my Glam Room I thought it would be another disaster like last month where I really only liked the bag. And I mean, the bag is awesome. Retro pineapples? Yes please. I actually got two bags this month (why? it’s a mystery!) and I want to swipe my mom’s. Don’t worry, I’m not really a thief, I’d totally trade her something. In fact, we did trade this month! I gave her the lotion and sunscreen from May in exchange for her eyeliner. Which, you know, I forgot to put a review in for here.

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I think that this is a really practical bag, much like my June Birchbox. Nothing that immediately makes you go “oh wow, I’m so excited for this!” but a few things that I will use pretty constantly. Or, well, two–I’m thinking of doing a giveaway for the extras in my mystery double bag!

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Nyx Butter Gloss in Creme Brulee (full size/$4.99): I love NYX. I don’t love lipgloss. But I actually have a few shades of this formula already (Tiramisu and Vanilla Cream Pie) and enjoy them, so this is probably the item I was most excited for. It’s a soft pinky-nude and it smells like cupcakes. Plus it’s not overly tacky and it’s pretty hydrating.

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Be a Bombshell Lash Out Mascara (fullsize/$15): This mascara has gotten some complaints, and for good reasons. It smells really weird. But Ipsy has assured everyone that it’s safe to use and so far my eyes haven’t exploded so I trust them on that one. To be frank, most mascara works well on me: I have long lashes that curl on their own, so I’m not at all picky. This works really well as a “no makeup makeup” mascara for me, it’s very natural looking which is pretty hard to achieve usually. Most brands make me look like I have falsies on, which is nice… but not what I want every day. So I’m a happy camper.

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Marc Anhony Dream Waves Beach Spray (45ml/$3.15): This is the 3rd beach spray I’ve gotten from a beauty box. They usually work pretty well with my hair, but I hate doing stuff to my hair. I’m hoping this is a “spray it in and leave it” sort of thing, which is right up my alley. Low maintenance haircare is about all I’m willing to do with my crazy mane.

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Realtree Perfume for Her (5ml/$1): Apparently this company makes camo prom dresses, so I wasn’t expecting anything spectacular. It’s a little floral, a little… um… okay, so it’s a mush of notes. It kind of smells like Axe for girls. But it makes a really nice sheet spray, oddly enough! I’m not going to put it on my body but it makes my pillow smell like a camo’d up flower. My mom got the other perfume option and it is sooo much nicer. Ipsy, why? This was such an odd choice.

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Ofra Universal Eyebrow Pencil (fullsize/$13): Let’s get one thing clear, there’s no such think as a “universal” eyebrow pencil. This is a dark, rich brown. Guess what color my brows are? Dark, rich brown! And I hate shelling out for brow items for some reason (I only want to spend money on things that are sparkly or smell nice), so this is a godsend for me. Very natural looking, since I kind of have natural power brows I only need to fill in juuuust a little. And, you know, I’ve got two of these puppies so they’ll probably last me the rest of my life.

Total Box Value: $37.14

At first I was very “meh” about this box. But a fullsize mascara and a brow pencil that matches me perfectly, plus a lovely shade of NYX gloss? I became happier and happier with this bag the more I realized how very practical it was. Even the hairspray will get a lot of use, and while there is one total throwaway item (Realtree perfume) I find it totally hilarious to own a scent from a company that makes camo prom dresses. Definitely a conversation starter.

If you want to sign up for Ipsy, please feel free to use my referral link!

52 Book Challenge: The Housekeeper and the Professor & Revenge

26 Jun

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

I was not really wowed by the first two Yoko Ogawa books I read. Her style was unique and intriguing, but the subject matter and execution left me wanting. However, I had two other books by her downloaded and I’m trying to actually read all the stuff I pick out this year so I took a chance and plowed through them. I am so, so thankful that I did because I adored both of them

We’ll start with The Housekeeper and the Professor, a charming tale that is really unlike her other books. The premise and plot are deceptively simple: it is the story of a housekeeper who comes to work for a mathematician with amnesia. Unlike Before I Go To Sleep, the amnesia here is realistic: he has no short-term memory at all. Every day he forgets the last, so essentially the housekeeper has to re-introduce herself each morning. And if she leaves for chores, well… he retains things for only 4 hours. However, the re-introduction scenes are kept brief, cheerful and sweet, so they never really get dull or worn out.

The professor keeps notes pinned all over his suit to remind him of things. One is a small drawing of the housekeeper, and eventually next to that he makes a drawing of her son. Like in many of Ogawa’s other works we do not get names for the characters: there is simply the professor, the housekeeper, and her son, who the professor nicknames “Root” (based on square roots, because his head is flat).

This is a slow, languorous book and there is honestly not much happening in the way of plot. This is a story about interactions, memory, and connections. Also a whole lot of math. In some ways it is simple: just the story of three people bonding over a shared space. But given the professor’s condition, there are webs and webs of complexity. I found myself very touched by so many scenes in The Housekeeper and the Professor: it reminded me very much of a Miyazaki film. If a Miyazaki film took out a few dozen minutes to explain complicated mathematical concepts to you.

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Revenge is a set of short stories (…kind of), and I was worried it would end up like The Diving Pool: no endings, no satisfying conclusion. And the first two stories threw me completely. They’re just so strange. Two teenagers are walking along a road, talking, until they come along an abandoned post office… filled with kiwis. A woman grows carrots that look like hands.

But every story has a thread that connects to another one: not exactly chronologically, but none of these stories are separate. Characters, events, and items overlap in brilliantly subtle ways. Those kiwis in the post office? You find out how they got there only a story later. And the person who put them there pops up again toward the end of the book.

I said Revenge was “kind of” a book of short stories because it is really a novel: it reminded me strongly of David Mitchell’s Ghostwritten, which is high praise since that is one of my favorite books. Figuring out all the connections and untying the knots between them was so deeply satisfying.

It also employs one of my favorite writing tricks: book-within-a-book. Some of the “stories” are written by characters in the stories, yet they connect to things that happen in the ‘real world’ of the book. Revenge is a strange, almost hallucinogenic ride–impossible to predict, impossible to put down. I read the entire thing in one sitting, which is honestly pretty rare for me.

Ratings

Book 43 The Housekeeper and The Professor Lipstick Rating 4 Full

 

 

Book 44 RevengeLipstick Rating5 Full

Birchbox June 2014

25 Jun

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I know many people have a love-hate relationship with Birchbox, but I fall pretty firmly on the “love” side and I think this month is a perfect example of why! So come with me on a magical journey of looking at tiny samples. And one really, really big one.

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Davines All in One Milk, Love Smoothing Shampoo & Conditioner (combined value $9.70): Why, oh why do I always get tiny conditioner packets. This is not enough for my hair. But holy crap, the shampoo! It’s massive. I get so many conditioner/shampoo samples from beauty boxes, Sephora/Ulta orders and other assorted freebies that I honestly haven’t purchased either in over… 6 months? So while some people might complain about yet another friggin shampoo I just think “aw yeah, another few days without having to buy shampoo!” In some ways I am very frugal. It’s because I want to spend all my money on makeup.

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Caudalie Polyphenol C15 Anti-Wrinkle Defense Serum (2ml/$4.12): Serum, another thing I get so damn much of. It’s one of those things I would never buy for myself (too expensive, overhyped) but I actually have so many samples I mix a serum with my moisturizer every morning. And Caudalie is pretty fancy, so I was happy to add this to the ever-growing pile of “things I like to use but am too cheap to buy” pile.

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Benefit They’re Real! Mascara (0.1oz/$7.67): Another thing I don’t buy anymore: mascara. Are you sensing a trend? There’s definitely a trend with this box. I live off of mini mascara samples and They’re Real is one of my absolute favorites, so I was a bit giddy to find this in my box.

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Perlier Body Cream (10z/$4.06): Do you know how much lotion I have? I will give you a hint: more than my shampoos, mini mascaras and serums combined. Because, you know, I both buy a ton (Body Shop body butters are my weakness) and I get a ton in beauty boxes. But I never get tired of them. This one smells like marzipan so I can pretend that I’m a cookie when I put it on. Not, you know, that I do weird stuff like that. It’s purely hypothetical.

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Catherine Malandrino Style de Paris (2ml/$2.20): I’d like to break the obvious flow going here and say “I really DON’T have a whole lot of perfume samples” but anyone who does even a small amount of online makeup shopping knows that would be a lie. I have many, many fancy perfume samples… and that’s ignoring the hundreds of indie ones that are taking over my life. But I like perfume and this is a pleasant, vaguely citrusy if a bit fruity for my taste scent that I’ll probably use up this summer. It’s bright and smells like the niece of a fancy rich old lady. That was a great description, right? Just picture it in your mind.

Total Box Value: $27.75

If you lost count, I got 7 samples in this box… and yes, they let me review all of them! Meaning I technically only paid $3 for all this stuff (I redeem my points frequently and with wild abandon so those 70 will get used quickly). Sure, it’s all staple-type stuff, but… I like not paying for staple-type stuff! I feel like this is a box that might disappoint a lot of people but I was really pleased with it.

If you want to sign up for a Birchbox of your own, please feel free to use my referral link!