Literary Ladies or the Women of the Written Word Who Continually Inspire

Though oftentimes there are complaints about the dearth of complex, empowering women in film, literature has long been the champion of heroines. This week’s Broke and the Bookish Top Ten Tuesday post celebrates the heroines that have inspired us as readers. There was also an option to choose women of film and television, but books are where it all started for me so that’s what I’m focusing on.

*As usual, all following links lead to Goodreads*

1. Alanna of Trebond from The Song of the Lioness series: Alanna a.k.a The Lioness a.k.a The Woman Who Rides Like a Man a.k.a. The Lady Knight was and still is my hero. I found this series when I was a pre-teen and it was a really empowering series to read as a young girl. I still go back and re-read these books from time to time because I still connect with them.

2. Hermione Granger from The Harry Potter series: What can I say? Hermione showed a generation of young girls that is was OK to be brainy–better than OK, she made it noble and necessary. But she didn’t stop at book-learning either, Hermione followed her friends into the proverbial fire and often saved them from it too.

3. Anita Blake from the Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series: She raises zombies, she executes vampires, and she wields sarcasm like a gun. Better yet, Anita is a character that struggles with her sense of morality and faith in the midst of temptation and fear. I have always appreciated her flaws as a character as much as her strengths, which is the hallmark of a powerful heroine.

4. Skye O’Malley from The O’Malley Saga: Bertrice Small was one of the first romance writers that I gravitated towards, and Skye O’Malley is arguably one of her finest characters. Skye creates an empire and revels in her independence, plus she has some serious seductive powers. Long before hashtags were a thing, Skye O’Malley was winning.

5. Mary Boleyn from The Other Boleyn Girl: The Other Boleyn Girl is one of my favorite historical novels. I’ve always been fascinated by the Tudor era, so I knew about Mary in passing, but Phillipa Gregory brought Mary to life in a vibrant and vulnerable way.

6. Diana Bishop from the All Souls Trilogy: I immediately connected with Diana in The Discovery of Witches because of her passion for archival research, which I was also doing at the time. Diana becomes quite a bit more than an academic throughout the series, but that will always be one of the principle reasons I love her.

7. Lisbeth Salander from the Millennium series: Lisbeth is one of the most bad-ass literary characters I’ve encountered, female or male. She’s troubled yet competent, secretive yet sexually open: the Millennium series is really her story.

8. Claire Randall from the Outlander series: One of Claire’s biggest strengths is her compassion and capacity to love. The time traveling thing is also great, but so many of her actions are defined by her kindness that cannot be mistaken for weakness.

9. Diana Mayo from The Sheik: E.L. James would be nothing without E.M. Hull. The original romance novel, Hull’s book created a whole market (don’t get me wrong it has some serious flaws a la Fifty Shades but is a much better read). Diana Mayo is headstrong and fiercely independent, which makes her an infinitely more interesting character.

10. Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice: Lizzie Bennet has been a role-model for generations in large part because of her flaws–her biting wit, her stubbornness, and her, well, pride. Her flaws are precisely why Elizabeth Bennet is compelling and lovable, which makes for one hell of a heroine.

There you have it! My top ten notable heroines. With the exception of Stieg Larsson, all of these characters were written by women as well. I’m not sure if that says more about female writers or about my personal preferences, but it’s an interesting coincidence nevertheless.

Who were your favorite femmes?

Thanks for popping in!

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Oscar Predictions 2015

It’s a few hours before the Oscars go live, and my roommates and I are hosting a small party. The best part (in my opinion) about award show parties are taking bets about who will win. I say “bets” but there is absolutely no money involved, just the pride of getting it right!

So here is a breakdown of who I want to win in each category vs. who I think might actually come home with a statuette. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen every nominated film, but I try my best every year. So some of my predictions are based on having seen the film and others are based on keeping up with media reception. We’ll see how this pans out for me…

Best Picture

There are some real stunners in this year’s best picture round. Some years I have scoffed at what gets nominated and counted among the best, but there are several deserving films this year that I’d be thrilled if they won. However–

Caitlin’s Choice: Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance). I loved this film. It blew me away in so many categories. And I just can’t stop thinking about it.

Academy’s Choice: Boyhood. Honestly it could be a toss-up between Boyhood and Whiplash, but a lot of people could not stop talking about the bold choice of filming over more than a decade to produce Boyhood. Sometimes the Academy rewards these daring choices, particularly when a well-respected director such as Linklater is at the helm.

Best Actor

Caitlin’s Choice: Michael Keaton for Birdman. A major part of the reason Birdman is so memorable for me is because of Keaton’s meta performance that was at once brilliant and brutal.

Academy’s Choice: Steve Carell for Foxcatcher. Now, I haven’t seen Foxcatcher but Carell’s performance is apparently a stunning transformation for the happy-go-lucky comedian we’re used to seeing. Again, I often think the Academy rewards these bold choices, particularly when an actor might go unrecognized thereafter (not a very comedy heavy roster at the Oscars).

Best Actress

Caitlin’s Choice: Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl. For a film that got largely snubbed this year, Gone Girl could not have a better representative that Rosamund Pike. Her performance in that film is next level crazy and altogether riveting.

Academy’s Choice: Julianne Moore in Still Alice. Honestly, I think Moore is due for an Oscar. Sometimes it feels like the Academy gives awards to actors and directors for a film because they recognize they dropped the ball on other nominations. Not that Moore’s performance in Still Alice isn’t worthy of this particular nomination (because it is) but there are more factors in play here that a single film.

Best Supporting Actor

Caitlin’s Choice: Edward Norton in Birdman. Norton nearly stole the show in every scene of the film. He shines in Birdman, and his character seemed to force the other players to keep up or be left in the dust. Give the man an Oscar.

Academy’s Choice: Edward Norton in Birdman. Perhaps this is wishful thinking on my part, but I’m really hoping this is true. Norton just seems like the right choice–J.K. Simmons won a Golden Globe for his role in Whiplash, so I’m not counting him out, but sometimes that’s how awards season works.

Best Supporting Actress

Caitlin’s Choice: Emma Stone in Birdman. If you’re sensing a pattern with my choices, then you would be correct. This is also probably why the Oscars are not decided by me as it would be incredibly one-sided. I’m also going to admit to a huge bias towards Emma Stone in general; she is one of my favorite actresses and Birdman was a great dramatic role for her.

Academy’s Choice: Laura Dern in Wild. I honestly cannot explain why I think this will be. It’s just a gut feeling, which would be horribly misplaced but that’s who I’m going with nevertheless.

Best Animated Feature Film

Caitlin’s Choice: Big Hero 6. I’m a sucker for a Disney film, but Big Hero 6 is also a well-balanced film that could easily garner the win.

Academy’s Choice: The Tale of the Princess Kaguya. Again, I have no logic to back this up, just a knee-jerk reaction when looking at the nominees.

Best Director

Caitlin’s Choice: Alejandro G. Inarritu for Birdman. I think Inarritu was innovative in his storytelling and pulled phenomenal performances from his actors. I’d love to see this man win the Oscar but he did win a Golden Globe so it might not happen. Sometimes the two awards do overlap, but it always seems unlikely.

Academy’s Choice: Richard Linklater for Boyhood. I just think this is the likely winner, as much for the films he wasn’t nominated for as for this particular film.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Caitlin’s Choice: The Theory of Everything screenplay by Anthony McCarten. If you’re adapting Steven Hawking you’re bound to be a winner, right? I’d like to see this film win for something, even though it is nominated quite a bit, I suspect it might get overlooked in favor of other films.

Academy’s Choice: Whiplash screenplay by Damien Chazelle. This film is a heavy contender in many categories but I think this is one of the moments when it will be rewarded by the Academy.

Best Original Screenplay

Caitlin’s Choice: The Grand Budapest Hotel screenplay by Wes Anderson, story by Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness. I don’t anticipate many wins for this film, though I appreciate that it got nominated in a few categories. Best original script would be a good thing to see Budapest take home though.

Academy’s Choice: Foxcatcher written by E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman. Another one of my gut feelings.

There are several other categories including Best Song and Cinematography, but with the remaining categories I either didn’t see enough of the films or don’t have strong feelings about them one way or the other. However this is where I stand on the heavy hitting categories, and I hope you enjoyed reading my predictions. Who are you rooting for tonight?

Thanks for popping in!

Bookish People Problems

Ever feel your eye twitch when someone interrupts you while reading? Or does your gag reflex engage when someone tells you that they’ve seen the movie and that’s the same as reading the book? Then this post is for you!

This week’s Broke and the Bookish Top Ten Tuesday post is all about the book related problems I wrestle with. Maybe you struggle with the same bookish people problems that I do. If so, fear not. This is a safe space. And we can commiserate in the comments.

1. Shelf Space

Every reader out there probably has this problem. So many books to covet but such limited room. Making the tough purchasing decisions can be kind of painful. Choosing a book at a bookstore can be its own poignant agony, and then deciding whether or not to keep said book after reading it is a whole other kind of anxiety for me. I try to only keep the books that I would re-read and am a big believer in used bookstores for the books that I cannot justify keeping. I assuage my guilt of getting rid of a book with a “pay it forward” mentality.

2. Incapable of Finishing a TBR List

Seriously though. TBR posts are very common on Top Ten Tuesday and I have never fully completed one. My to-read list on my Goodreads account is currently stocked at 139 and it continues to grow. I get too sidetracked by other books, or, you know, life events to truly finish all the books I say I’m going to read. Which leads to…

3. Never Enough Time

Closely related to item number two, I sometimes find myself stricken by anxiety at the idea that I will never get to read all the books I’d like to read. Sometimes the idea gives me chest pains. I’m not kidding. I have given myself panic attacks about my inability to read everything I want to read in a lifetime. Priorities have never been so painful!

4. Resisting the Hype

I refused to read Harry Potter for two years after its initial release. The Harry Potter series are some of my all-time favorite books and I resisted them for TWO YEARS because I was annoyed by the hype. I think there is a glitch in my brain that stubbornly denies the appeal of popular opinion until said opinion has moved on. I do this with movies and TV shows as well. It’s a genuine problem.

5. Keeping Up With Trends

Closely tied in with problem number four is a burgeoning curiosity about trends. I want to know what’s going on in the book-world, so that I can resist it, and then scramble to keep up with it. I realize this is nuts. But it’s how I roll.

6. Wandering in Bookstores

I’m a methodical bookstore wanderer. I have to make a circle of the whole dang store. HAVE TO. Lord, help me if there are multiple floors. It’s not that I look at every book or every shelf precisely, but I don’t want to miss anything I might want to read. This isn’t a problem for me when I have leisure time but if I’m with people and I can’t complete the circuit I feel let down. Not to the point that I need to tell my friends that I need to look at the whole store, but close.

7. Airport Bookstores are my Drug of Choice

In the last five years I can count on one hand the times I have walked out of an airport without at least one book. It has become compulsory for me to look at the books in airport bookstores–the little kiosks with touristy junk, Cheetos, and three narrow shelves of books. It’s a drug and I’m all about it.

8. Movie ≠ Book

If you tell me you’re just not a reader, I have to accept that because people are different and differences are great. But if you try to tell me that watching the movie is the same as reading the book, I am trying really hard not to shake you. Movies and books are different creatures: like a house cat and a lion on the Serengeti. They may have some genetic traits in common but they’re wildly different animals. Capiche?

9. Fantasy, Always Fantasy

I have been reading romance novels since I was about twelve. Now I don’t have unrealistic expectations about reality in the bedroom department or even the physicality department (I mean it would be nice if a ruggedly handsome biker with a heart of gold turned out to be my soul mate but I’m not banking on it). Nope, my problem is that in romance novels there is a moment where you’re swept off your feet closely followed by a deep emotionally transparent conversation. I don’t expect that, per se, but fantasizing over it definitely a thing that I do. *Sigh*

10. Just One More Chapter

Every bibliophile has told themselves this potent lie more times than they would like to admit. I haven’t gone to bed before midnight in weeks for this very reason. I can’t truly call this a “problem” because I love doing it, but it does have some ramifications on my intellectual presence the next day.

I realize for many of these bookish problems, I am not alone. Some of them, I might be on my own, but personal quirks aside I think these are fairly typical. Tell me all about your best and worst problems in the comments!

Thanks for popping in!

5 Tries: NYX Stay Matte Not Flat Powder Foundation

It’s been a while since I’ve done a 5 Tries post, so let me reintroduce the concept. I take an underutilized product from my makeup collection and use it for five days and if possible in five different ways. These posts allow me to use a bit of product up as well as review something that I haven’t touched on recently.

Today’s post is about NYX’s Stay Matte Not Flat Powder Foundation.

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Please excuse the mess on the packaging; the powder tends to get all over the outer rim but the product itself isn’t messy or hard to apply.

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This also comes with a circular makeup sponge, which I like for application but you can also use a brush or beauty blender if that’s your preference.

I’m in the shade 04 Creamy Natural. According to the description Creamy Natural is a shade for porcelain skin with peachy undertones. Personally, I think that’s a great description for my skin tone. The Stay Matte But Not Flat Powder Foundation comes in twenty different shades, so the variety with this line is a definite plus.

Here are five different photos of me using the NYX powder foundation.

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As you can see from my five tries, this foundation is well and truly matte. Any shine you see I put there with highlighter. It’s a medium coverage, well milled powder that doesn’t linger in my smile lines.

I think Creamy Natural is a good shade for my skin, particularly in the cooler months. I don’t tan much, but in the realm of foundations a little bit of sun goes a long way.

I don’t find this powder to be cakey if used on your full face, unless you have acne prone skin. This product does not irritate my skin, but if I already have a few blemishes, the powder clings in a way that draws attention instead of masking the problem areas.

This would be a great compact to keep in your purse (preferably in a makeup bag since the compact is a bit messy) for touch-ups since it takes all the shine and oil out of your skin. I primarily use it as a base and enjoy a fair amount of wear time with this powder.

Price wise, this powder foundation retails for $9.50 on NYX’s website, which for a decent powder foundation is not bad at all.

Pros:

True matte powder–staying powder is decent (5-6 hours)

Can use as a base or as a touch-ups

Soft texture

Under $10

Variety of colors to suit array of skin tones

Cons:

Messy compact

Not great for blemishes–can cake up over blemishes

Personally, I do not own many powder foundations but I have found myself reaching for the Stay Matte Not Flat powder more often after this five tries post. This is a great drugstore powder foundation and I reach for it over my high-end powder from Clinique.

I give the NYX Stay Matte Not Flat Powder Foundation 3 Beauty Bubbles: Suitably Poppable.

Thanks for popping in!

Surprisingly Un-Read

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is all about the books in “x genre” that you can’t believe you haven’t read yet. Since starting the weekly memes at The Broke and the Bookish, I have been reading more YA in part because there are so many bloggers who champion the genre through their linkups. So this week, my TTT is about the YA books I can’t believe I haven’t read.

*As usual, links and pictures sourced from Goodreads*

Every Day (Every Day #1)

1. Every Day by David Levithan

This book has been on my Goodreads TBR list for years.I have no idea why I haven’t cracked this open. I still want to read it, so maybe some day?

Divergent (Divergent, #1)

2. Divergent by Veronica Roth

I’m a bit stunned that I haven’t read Roth’s über famous YA novel. There is no good reason why this hasn’t happened. Must read soon.

Stolen Songbird (The Malediction Trilogy, #1)

3. Stolen Songbird by Danielle L Jensen

I don’t actually know much about this series–The Malediction Series–but I found it on Goodreads and was intrigued enough by the description to add it to my TBR.

Half Bad (Half Bad, #1)

4. Half Bad by Sally Green

The cover of this novel is so eye-catching! I’m also a big fan of paranormal tales no matter if they’re YA or more “adult.” So this one should be a win for me once I finally get around to reading it.

My Ex From Hell (The Blooming Goddess Trilogy, #1)

5. My Ex From Hell by Tellulah Darling

I’ve heard so much about The Blooming Goddess series and I just need to start this thing! I’ve always been a sucker for mythology, so I’m excited to take on Darling’s version of the Greek gods.

How to Build a Girl

6. How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran

This is another novel that has been cropping up on other bloggers’ TTT lists. It’s been on my radar for a while now but I haven’t ever picked it up. Maybe that will change soon? Plus we have the same first name. Spelling solidarity.

Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass, #1)

7. Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Another epic series that I haven’t even started yet. This book and its sequels get so much love from the blogging community but I’ve never cracked the spine on one of these books. I’d certainly like to though.

Matched (Matched, #1)

8. Matched by Ally Condie

Societal dystopias are extremely popular right now in YA and take many different forms. The idea of society picking your perfect mate is somewhat tempting if you’ve ever struggled in the dating world (a.k.a. all of us), but then again perfect is an awfully tricky concept to nail down.

Stardust

9. Stardust by Neil Gaiman

This one I own but have never opened. I also adore the film, so I have high hopes for this one.

City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments, #1)

10. City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

Last but certainly not least is the first novel in The Mortal Instruments series. It sounds like the kind of book I would adore, so I’m not at all clear on why I haven’t picked this up.

Since I’ve only recently started exploring the world of YA again this list could probably go on for much longer and include some other heavy hitters. For now these are the Top Ten Books I’m most shocked to have not read in the YA genre, but I’ll likely fix some of these soon.

Thanks for popping in!

Prototype Plays With Sci-Fi

Guys! I finally did it! I finally read M.D. Waters’ Prototype!

If you’re a regular reader of this blog–specifically my book posts–you know that I have mentioned Prototype or its predecessor, Archetype, in nearly every Top Ten Tuesday post for the better part of a year. I’m sure that was ever so fun to see the excessive repeats on my lists, but now I have actually read the darn thing and can give you a review.

For reference, here’s what I thought of the first novel in this two-part series, Archetype.

Prototype (Archetype #2)

Image respectfully borrowed from Goodreads.com

Emma Wade’s story picks up with her searching for her parents, both of whom were former members of the resistance. Shortly after making contact with someone who might help her, a worldwide broadcast reveals that not only is Emma’s ex, Declan Burke, alive but offering a pricey reward for her return. With everyone chasing after her, Emma has no choice but to return to resistance headquarters and to her former husband, Noah.

Back in the underground facility, Emma receives a less than warm welcome: no one trusts her or thinks of her as human, and Noah has been raising their daughter with Dr. Sonya. As Emma struggles to regain her sense of belonging, she continues to search for her parents while looking for a way to take down Declan Burke once and for all.

Once again with this series, I feel like I cannot fully describe the plot without giving too much away, and the little subtleties are what make the story enjoyable.

Personally, I much preferred Archetype, which I think is slightly unusual. With books, oftentimes the sequels are able to build upon or surpass the original novel (unlike films where often the sequel is nowhere near as good).

In general, I’m disappointed with Prototype. Not catastrophically so, but I thought this story was going to be more about Emma discovering herself instead of it being a drawn out reunion between her and Nate. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t great or validating for a woman to find satisfaction in family and love, because it is both great and validating. I just felt that the Emma-Nate romance dominated the novel in a way that made Emma’s character arc slightly unsatisfactory.

Also the sci-fi elements were not as fully realized as they could be. I made a similar critique of the first book, but I found the lack of description/exploration of science more problematic in Prototype than I did in Archetype. For goodness sake, the first novel set us up for clones! Prototype minimizes the science and doesn’t really tell you much, which is particularly frustrating as something starts going wrong with the other clones and the explanation is sparse.

As a read, Prototype is quick and light, which would make it ideal for a future beach read or perhaps a more seasonally appropriate mountain-retreat read. I give M.D. Waters’ Prototype 2 Book Bubbles: Nearly Burst Bubble. I’m glad I read the book more for closure reasons than story satisfaction, and I’ll definitely keep an eye out for Waters in the future, but it wasn’t my favorite thing that I’ve read recently.

Thanks for popping in!

My Space on the Sidewalk

Last Thursday morning dawned like any other day with its myriad of small irritations and moments worth smiling over. What made Thursday particularly significant to me was that I had a job interview at a chic lifestyle boutique.

I wanted to look competent and classy and avoid looking overdone. I chose a blue-and white maxi dress from my closet and tossed a loose cardigan over my shoulders; something I hoped would say, “I belong in your store. I could fit in here.”

Then I took special care with my makeup, going for soft, neutral colors. I wanted to look like the best version of me as if I did indeed wake-up like this.

I got to my interview a little too early, so I walked down the street towards a CVS to kill time. The sky was a crisp blue and the morning sunshine was warm on my back. My nervous energy was starting to dissipate, instead I was picturing what it would be like to work in this neighborhood.

Then, on an empty sidewalk in LA (that in and of itself being a small miracle) a tall man in black crowded into my personal space and muttered, ” ‘Sup beautiful?”

Society at large tells me that this is a compliment, that I should be flattered. Didn’t I just tell you I was trying to look good for my interview? However, in moments such as these I feel dirty, devalued, and most importantly inhuman.

There is a way and a tone to compliment another person on the street and then there is street harassment. I have had women and men alike tell me they like my outfit or that I look nice. They have made eye contact, smiled pleasantly, and, pivotally, have given me personal space.

In my experience, a large part of what makes street harassment street harassment is either the violation of personal space or the tone of the words that manage to invalidate the recipient’s personhood. We hear it often enough, but it is objectification.

Put another way, on that sunny Los Angeles sidewalk, I no longer felt like a human being. I felt about as valued and appreciated as the latest video game on a sale rack: you want the video game, stare at it openly in the store, and might go so far as to pick it up and touch it. The game has no say in whether or not it is purchased, played, and possibly broken. And that is what street harassment feels like. Granted, that is an imperfect metaphor, but it is incredibly difficult to articulate this feeling of having temporarily being denied your humanity.

I am not a thing to covet. That random man on the street treated me as though my physical appearance gave him the right to crowd my space. He made a conscious effort to get close to me, loom over me, and make me vulnerable. These efforts are in no way complimentary to me as an individual.

Was I wearing makeup? Yes

Was I wearing a dress? Yes

Do either of these answers validate a stranger’s behavior? Absolutely not.

I spent the rest of the day feeling as though that man had left his fingerprints on me somehow.

This specific man did not touch me, but in the past I have been groped, whistled at, catcalled, and followed in cars. These instances started happening when I was thirteen and walking home from school. Ask your mother, your sister, your girlfriend, your gay best friend, even, and I guarantee they will have examples of similar negative behavior at the ready.

At my interview, I smiled and answered questions and hopefully put my best foot forward. But I came home that night feeling awful, shaken, and teary-eyed. Not simply because of this one interaction but precisely because this is one anecdote in a long series of anecdotes. Why does this keep happening to me? To us?

I am not writing this post in the hopes of seeking answers. I am writing this post with the hope that if we keep speaking out about these instances of sexual and street harassment then we keep the dialogue open and active to better prove that what is happening out there is wrong.

I write from the perspective of a heterosexual woman, because that is the life I am living. But my perspective is not the only one that can speak to street harassment. Whether it’s a woman, a gay man, a lesbian, a transgendered individual, or, yes, even a man, street harassment and sexual harassment is never acceptable. That is the attitude we need to take together.

If you feel comfortable, please share your stories or participate in a discussion here with me. All I ask is that you be respectful.

Thank you for listening.

What My Book Club Would Read (If I Had One)

Part of the reason I love The Broke and the Bookish weekly Top Ten Tuesday meme is because I adore getting book recommendations from other readers. And book clubs are another great source for challenging or unexpected reads. This week’s TTT topic is about the top ten books you would have in your book club line up, if you had a book club that is.

I do participate in two book clubs through Goodreads–Bookworm Bitches and The Life of a Book Addict–but I use these online book clubs primarily to keep up with what’s new and exciting in the book world. I rarely read the books when I’m supposed to, but I also enjoy the list challenges these groups have on the discussion boards (i.e. I’m participating in the A-Z title challenge right now).

But if I were in charge of my own book club, here’s what it might look like…

*As usual, all links and pictures are sourced from Goodreads*

Don't Breathe a Word

1. Don’t Breathe a Word by Jennifer McMahon

All of the books on this list will be books I haven’t read yet, because that’s what I think book clubs are all about–new and exciting reads. Don’t Breathe a Word has elements of a thriller and the paranormal, which I think would appeal to a diverse group of readers and lead to an engaging discussion.

Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek

2. Popular by Maya Van Wagenen

I think every book club should try to tackle at least one work of non-fiction. This memoir follows Maya as she tries to survive high school by following a 1950’s popularity guide written by a former teen model. There’s a lot to be said about the perils of high school, beauty standards, and the modern woman even without reading this book, so I think it would be a rich read for a book club.

Damned (Damned #1)

3. Damned by Chuck Palahniuk

Palahniuk is one of those modern authors that you should read at least once just to have an opinion. His novels are often odd and slightly dark but manage to reveal much about humanity in the midst of his own ridiculous scenarios. In Damned, a thirteen year old girl finds herself in hell. Without knowing how long her stay will be, she decides to make the best of her situation.

Havisham

4. Havisham by Ronald Frame

This novel is supposed to be a prequel of sorts to Dickens’ Great Expectations as it explores the trauma that creates the tattered, Gothic figure of Miss Havisham. I think these classic-adjacent novels that have become increasingly popular are great reads for a book club since you get to look at parallels between the two books.

Cloud Atlas

5. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

This book’s premise seems complex and I think that’s what makes it a good book club read. Others might catch details you missed or connect threads in an intriguing way. Some books are just better to read with group effort, and I suspect Cloud Atlas would be one of those books.

Gone with the Wind

6. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Book clubs are also great for tackling classics; as much for motivational reasons as discussion reasons. I’ve always wanted to read this dense classic and think a book club would be a great place to make it happen.

Man in the Empty Suit

7. Man in the Empty Suit by Sean Ferrell

A man with the ability to time travel spends his birthday every year with various versions of himself. When his forty-year old self turns up at the party dead, the younger versions implore the thirty-nine year old man to figure out what happens before it’s too late for all of them.

Fangirl

8. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

I wanted to include at least one YA novel on this list because I think book clubs should cover a little bit of everything. I liked Attachments and would like to read more of Rowell. Fangirl would be a light and fun addition to a book club roster.

Bad Feminist: Essays

9. Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

This is a collection of essays that covers everything from politics to pop culture to, yes, feminism. It would be another chance to really have some personal and deep discussions with a group of friends, which is what would make it a great book club selection.

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

10. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

A mysterious bookstore owned by a mysterious man; let’s face it, if you’re in a book club, you’re up for reading a book about books. This particular novel sounds quirky and enjoyable, particularly if you’re a book lover.

There you have it: my reading list for my hypothetical book club. What do you think?

Thanks for popping in!

Favorite Face of 2014

Yes, I do realize it’s 2015 now. But it’s also a great time to reflect on last year’s favorites before diving in and finding the favorites of the new year.

Instead of a straight forward list for this favorites post, I’m going to do a full makeup look and walk you through my favorite products and how I use them: just to do something a little different.

All my favorites on my face.

All my favorites on my face.

So here is the completed look. In 2014, I gravitated more towards warm tones on my eyes and nude or pink shades on my lips. Keep reading to see which products I used where.

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The first thing I do when applying makeup is slather on my Mongongo Lip Conditioner by Jersey Shore Suns. This lip balm claims to be anti-aging and while I can’t confirm or deny its anti-aging powers, I will say that it keeps my lips super hydrated. I like to put this lip balm on first so it has time to soak into my lips.

After that I apply primer. I started using primer regularly in 2014, and while there have been several good ones my favorite is L’Oreal’s Revitalift Miracle Blur Instant Skin Smoother. It has a lush, thick texture that my skin just soaks up. The Miracle Blur minimizes and, well, blurs my pores. I also love that it has SPF 30–living in California sunscreen is a must all year round.

I also apply a small dot of Smashbox’s Photo Finish Hydrating Under Eye Primer under both of my eyes. Typically, I don’t put much makeup under my eyes except for some concealer, so I’m really using this to keep the delicate skin under my eyes hydrated.

Choosing a favorite foundation for 2014 was hard. But when I want my skin to look natural and fresh I turn to Dr. Jart + Black Label Detox BB Beauty Balm. Again, it’s a product with SPF 25, so my skin is doubly protected. This BB cream hides skin imperfections and evens out skin tone in a way that makes you look naturally flawless. It’s a medium coverage product and I find that it lasts all day. It doesn’t crease or cake up on me either. You really don’t need much to cover your whole face so this tiny tube has lasted me a while.

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After foundation, I apply a bit of concealer and my favorite is the Maybelline Instant Age Rewind Eraser for Dark Circles. I believe I use the shade Fair. Essentially everyone who talks about beauty products loves this concealer, so I won’t claim to be reinventing the wheel here by listing it as a favorite. I dab it under my eyes and on any blemishes I may have at the moment. Sometimes I also dab it down the center of my nose to tone down my freckles. I would recommend removing the sponge tip that this concealer comes with–even though it’s super soft, I feel I get better application with my clean fingertips and waste less product.

I don’t set my face with powder everyday, but if I know I’ll be out long or have a special event, I reach for NYX’s HD Studio Photogenic Finishing Powder. It’s a white powder that does a great job at setting whatever foundation or concealer you choose. For this look, I gently patted this finishing powder under my eyes to set the Instant Age Rewind concealer.

Blush was another tough category to choose from, but in the end I went with L’Oreal’s Visible Lift Blush in the shade Rose Gold Lift. It’s a beautiful rosey pink creme blush with a subtle gold micro-shimmer. You can use a stippling brush for a light look like I did here, or you can apply with clean fingertips for a more pigmented cheek.

Bronzer isn’t typically part of my everyday beauty routine, but I promised you a full face. I typically reach for this Boots No 7 Perfectly Bronzed Bronzing Pearls when I want to warm up my face a bit. I try to use a light hand with bronzer since my skin is naturally very fair. Here I just dusted my brush over my forehead, cheeks, and jaw line using the E & 3 method.

I also added a very small amount of highlighter over my cheekbones, for which I used The Balm’s Mary-Lou Manizer. This is another product that gets a lot of love, so I won’t gush but it’s a high-impact champagne colored highlight. For a more diffused effect, I recommend using a small stippling brush.

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So my favorite eye primer is Smashbox’s Photo Finish Lid Primer. It keeps my oily lids in check and also acts a perfect base. If I’m in a hurry, I smack this on and then run a matte shade through my crease. But that is obviously not what happened today…

Before I head into describing the specifics of my eye-look I want to mention my favorite brow product–Clinique’s SuperFine Liner for Brows in the shade Soft Blonde. I usually put my eye primer on and then focus briefly on my brows to give the primer time to set. This soft blonde shade matches my natural brow color perfectly.

I have mentioned this next product in several posts so this shouldn’t surprise anyone, but I blended NYX’s Hot Singles Eye Shadow in Velvet into my crease. Velvet is my go-to crease shade and has been for months. It’s a warm matte brown that works on its own or is an ideal transition shade. I couldn’t do a favorite eye look without it!

Another product that HAD to be mentioned in this post is a ColourPop eye shadow. I had a hard time just picking one, but I went with the shimmery copper shade called Sequin. I patted Sequin all over my lid for this look. ColourPop has been one of my favorite brands for 2014 and I expect that to keep going in 2015.

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My favorite palette of 2014 couldn’t be ignored for this post: The Balm’s Nude ‘tude palette is a go-to for me. Using a very fluffy brush I lightly blended the blackened-red shimmery shade, Silly into my outer v. I also put Sultry into the crease to deepen the look. These shadows are all stunningly pigmented and buttery. It just feels good to put these things on my eyelids.

I also took Stila’s Eye Crayon in Kitten and placed it in my inner corner for a hint of shimmer.

Up close with my eyelid.

Up close with my eyelid.

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For eyeliner I used Jesse’s Girl Cosmetics Liquid Eyeliner in Black on my top lash line and Rimmel’s ScandalEyes Kohl Eyeliner in Nude for my lower waterline. I love the Jesse’s Girl Liquid Eyeliner for smooth application and a matte black finish, while the Nude Rimmel liner is perfect for a subtle widening effect when used on the lower waterline.

Then for a favorite mascara, the easy choice was Benefit’s They’re Real! Mascara. I love that Benefit makes these travel sized tubes available for purchase. This mascara gives me great length and volume with minimal clumping. I will say it’s a tough one to get off, but the formula doesn’t end up on your under eyes either, so it’s a bit of a trade-off.

Swatches from Top to Bottom: NYX's Velvet, ColourPop's Sequin, Silly from the Nude 'tude palette, Seductive from the Nude 'tude palette, Stila's Kitten, Rimmel's ScandalEyes liner in Nude, and Jesse's Girl eye liner

Swatches from Top to Bottom: NYX’s Velvet, ColourPop’s Sequin, Silly from the Nude ‘tude palette, Sultry from the Nude ‘tude palette, Stila’s Kitten, Rimmel’s ScandalEyes liner in Nude, and Jesse’s Girl eye liner.

Here are some better swatches of the products I used on my eyes. Almost to the end here, so stick with me!

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Like I said before, primers were a big part of my 2014, and Too Faced’s Lip Insurance made a noticable difference with my lip products. It helps keep lipsticks in place and it’s become a must have in my daily routine.

Another Rimmel product that is a fabulous basic to have in your arsenal is the Exaggerate Full Colour Lip Liner in Eastend Snob. I can and have worn this shade by itself as a perfect rosy matte lip color. I love how precise this lip liner is and how good it feels on my lips. Big fan.

And finally, the last product is my Revlon Colorburst Balm Stain in Honey. The mint smell is great, as is the staining power of this formula. But I also can count on this product to not dry out my lips. This kind of rose-toned pink has dominated my lip product selection in the past year, and it will be interesting to see if I stick with it for 2015.

A shot in natural lighting of the full look.

A shot in natural lighting of the full look.

Phew! I know that was a long post but thanks for sticking it out with me. I usually don’t wear this much makeup on a day-to-day basis, but it’s always fun to play with your favorite products. Hope you enjoyed my roundup of my favorite beauty products for 2014!

Thanks for popping in!

Happy Haulidays Part 2

If you tuned in for my first Happy Haulidays post, you saw all my fabulous drugstore finds from December. And now I bring you my high-end Hauliday post.

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I was super excited to snag this holiday set from Sephora! Fresh Sugar lip balms are some of the absolute best (but pricey) balms on the market, so these little minis are worth every penny. So far the cherry shade gives a really great red stain and the berry is a toned down purple-pink. Each of these has SPF in it too, which is lovely. So often I forget about needing SPF on my lips but it’s equally important as the rest of your skin!

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This is a new to me product that I received at Christmas, but if you couldn’t tell from above, I’m a big fan of lip balms. The Lip Slip by Sara Happ is beautifully packaged but also light on the lips. I need to play with it more to speak properly to how well it hydrates but I’m excited about this new lip balm!

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I have been pining away for this palette since its release and finally caved when Ulta was having their 20% off sale in December. It felt like a victory to get this palette for less than its retail price. But I love the smokey grays and purples in this Too Faced palette.

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This was an impulse buy in the winding checkout aisle at Sephora (you know that aisle has gotten to you too). I’m a big fan of Dr. Jart + products. I have another of their BB creams in the black bottle. One is a radiance cream and the other is labeled Multi-Action skincare, so we’ll see how these go. But again, hurrah for SPF!

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This was a repurchase for me. I already had a mini Benefit They’re Real mascara that I adore but it’s nearing its end. My lashes get such great volume and shape from this mascara. It’s tricky to get off but that doesn’t bother me for the results I get.

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I bought a couple of Sephora brand products as well. The eye shadow on the left is the shade Hold Me Tight and the cream eye shadow on the right is called Plum Velour. I’ve always been a little intimidated by the red-toned pinks or deep reddish-purple shades because they can make your eyes look bruised if you’re not careful. But since Marsala is the color of the year, I’m giving these shades a chance.

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This is also a Sephora brand lipstick and all I can find on the packaging is Sephora Rouge Shine No 11, so I’m assuming this shade doesn’t have an official name. But it’s a pinky-brown creme lipstick with a hint of glossiness on the lips. A good all year shade.

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The final two items of my Haulidays posts are the Bare Minerals BB 5 in 1 eye shadow in Soft Linen. I got a sample of another shade months ago from ipsy and these eye shadows are amazing. They stay all day with no creasing or fading and provide an excellent base for various eye looks. I wanted a softer toned shade than the one I got in my subscription box and this pale beige is the perfect base for everyday, natural makeup.

The other item is a Sephora eye liner in a sparkly black called Galaxy. What made this shimmer stand out is that it’s blue-green micro-glitter, and it glides on smooth without pulling or scratching. I’m a big fan of the Sephora brand and while it’s pricier than the drugstore it also has a wonderful variety of trendy or classic shades throughout their product ranges, so they’re worth trying out.

There you have it my high-end Haulidays are complete. I hope you all had a pleasant New Year and are already finding new products to love. Let me know if you’d like a review on any of these products in the comments below.

Thanks for popping in!