One Dead Drag Queen

As per my usual these days, I found this book at the library. The quirky title caught my eye and I was intrigued enough by the back jacket to give it a go.

Unwittingly, I picked up book eight in a series called The Tom and Scott Mysteries. One Dead Drag Queen finds Tom hospitalized after a series of bombings at the local women’s health facility, where Tom volunteers part-time. Tom’s partner, Scott, believes that the bombings may have been more personal; the couple becomes a potential target since Scott is the first openly gay professional baseball player. As Tom heals up, the threats to his safety become more numerous and so do the clues to the bomber’s identity.

One Dead Drag Queen (Tom Mason and Scott Carpenter, #8)

Image respectfully borrowed from Goodreads.com

 

I wanted to get into this novel so badly. I love that the protagonists are a successful gay couple and that they’re not stereotypes. But the story itself is poorly constructed and the writing runs itself in circles. The surprise ending wasn’t surprising because of quality storytelling but because it truly feels as though the writer tossed it in at the last-minute. Author, Mark Richard Zubro, really dropped the ball on this one.

*SPOILER ALERT*

For example, the title of this novel is One Dead Drag Queen and there is only one drag queen introduced in the novel. The subsequent murder of the drag queen–Myrtle Mae–should come as no shock to the reader, which is unfortunate for a novel claiming to be a mystery. Also troubling was that this murder is not the inciting incident or anywhere near the beginning; she’s murdered in the last fifty pages of the book!

One of the most irksome things to me was the constant reference to either of the central characters as the other’s lover. There are plenty of synonyms people! Partner. Boyfriend. Companion. Add some variety for goodness sake! The characters depicted as slightly homophobic would call Tom or Scott the other’s “Buddy”, but that’s the extent of verbal diversity in Zubro’s version of Chicago. It would be one thing if the couple referred to one another in a specific way but everyone else in the novel refers to them as lovers; it just came off like bad writing.

It’s a short novel but it was difficult to get through. For a story that is supposedly book eight in a series, the characters lack depth. Unnecessary repetition in the plot and conversations were had time and again. Pages would go by and Tom and Scott will still be having a circuitous conversation or disagreement with no additional mounting of tension.

Unfortunately, this book was one of the more disappointing reads I’ve had in a while.

I give One Dead Drag Queen 2 Book Bubbles–Nearly Burst Bubble.

Thanks for popping in!

November Favorites

Sorry this post is a bit late! But as I said in my Pile of Applications post, things are a bit hectic around here. Still, there were some products that managed to stand out from the PhD application craze and make it to my monthly favorites!

 

Quite by accident, my November favorites are color coordinated.

Quite by accident, my November favorites are color coordinated.

 

Too Faced Lip Insurance Lip Primer

IMG_3120

This is a sample size, but I cannot for the life of my remember how I received this sample since I don’t own many Too Faced products. I really enjoy this primer though. Only recently have I been concerned about lip primers in particular. Mostly because fall and winter are the seasons of darker, more matte shades and you want those lippies to stay put! Maybe it’s just me but I also think that this primer has helped seal some moisture into my lips. I notice less drying and chapped lips when I use this lip primer. A full size Lip Insurance primer retails for $19 and when this sample is up I may have to bite the bullet here.

The Balm’s Meet Matt(e) Palette

I got this palette awhile back from a Hautelook sale for $17, but it took me until November to really explore this palette properly. Honestly, having a Hautelook account is worth it for The Balm alone since this palette runs for $34.50 at Nordstroms.

All your matte needs in one.

All your matte needs in one.

All the shades are named after a Matt, which is cute. But the colors themselves are amazing. Buttery soft shadows that blend like a dream. The little brushes that come with the palette will do in a pinch but they’re nothing special.

Left to right: Matt Patel, Matt Schilling, Matt Smith, and Matt Gallagher.

Left to right: Matt Patel, Matt Schilling, Matt Smith, and Matt Gallagher.

The above photo shows some of my favorite shades from the palette. I love the smokey-taupe of Matt Patel, and the dusty emerald of Matt Schilling will be perfect for the upcoming holidays. You can barely see Matt Smith on my hand because it’s such a close match for my skin tone, which is great for those days you want to pretend you’re not wearing makeup. For similar reasons, Matt Gallagher is great crease shade.

Dr. Jart + Black Label Detox BB Beauty Balm

This tiny tube holds one amazing product!

This tiny tube holds one amazing product!

This wee sample came in my first Birchbox, which I did not do a review on because it came so late in the month. This BB cream has blown me away. Such a small amount covers my face and makes my skin look so much healthier. It helps conceal and combat blemishes and evens out skin tone. There is also a 25 SPF in this product, which is ideal for my lifestyle (I never walk out of the house without some level of sunblock on my face). Your skin will look velvety smooth. This balm comes in one universal shade–for my fair skin this blends out beautifully but darker skin tones would have a hard time matching up with this formula I think. A full-size .6 oz tube of this costs $36. Since I’ve gotten at least a half-dozen uses out of this tiny tube and it’s not empty yet, the price point for this BB cream is probably worth it.

Indie Lee Brightening Cleanser

Almost empty.

Almost empty.

As you can see, I am almost out of this sample sized cleanser, which came in an ipsy bag. Luckily, I already have a full-sized bottle of this from a previous PopSugar Must Have box since the product retails for $32. There’s a light strawberry scent to this cleanser that is invigorating. This cleanser is multi-purpose too: you can use it as a make-up remover (and it’s gentle on the eyes too), as a cleanser, or as an exfoliator. I have used this product all three ways and I will say each way is effective, but my favorite way to use it is as a cleanser. I just feel refreshed after using this cleanser.

Real Techniques Stippling Brush

The perfect brush.

The perfect brush.

Up until a year ago I was not that invested in makeup brushes. Boy, has that changed! My brush collection has grown, but my favorite brush is easily this Real Techniques stippling brush. It has a pleasant heft to it and the bristles are soft and densely packed. I use this most often for blush; this brush has cut down on heavy-handed application a.k.a. clown face. When I use this stippling brush it puts on just the right amount of color and gives a stunning airbrushed effect over the cheeks. For $9.99, you need this brush in your life.

And now for my other monthly favorites…

Favorite Film

It should come as no surprise that my favorite film for November is Interstellar. It’s been weeks, but I still return to the idea of that film and turn it around in my mind. A close runner-up though, would be Fury, another film I saw this month that blew me away.

Favorite Book

I think my favorite read from November would have to be The Book Thief.

That wraps up my November favorites. Hope you found something to enjoy!

Thanks for popping in!

Best New-To-Me-Authors of 2014

This week’s Broke and the Bookish weekly meme is all about the top ten authors that are new to me this year. 2014 has been a good year for discovering new books and new writers. I’ve consciously been expanding my horizons and have found some lovely books (and authors) as a result.

Some of these authors have been publishing for quite a while (hence the new-to-me part) but some of these authors are new to the book-blogging community as a whole. So let’s dive in and see who’s who…

*Links and pictures provided by Goodreads*

1. Markus Zusack

I fell in love with Zusack’s writing style and fantastic imagery when reading The Book Thief this year.

2. Diane Setterfield

Ms. Setterfield may not be the most prolific author on this list but she is a top quality writer. This year I have read both The Thirteenth Tale and Bellman & Black, which were both satisfying reads.

3. Marissa Meyer

If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say Marissa Meyer will be featured in many a Top Ten Tuesday post this week. Her Lunar Chronicles series is taking the YA market by storm right now and there is a darn good reason for it! I’ve only finished Cinder and I’m hooked.

4. Joan Didion

This year I read my first Joan Didion book–The Year of Magical Thinking–and it was one of the most profound experiences I have had with a book in a good long while. Not only did it greatly impact me on a personal level, but it effected this blog in a way that still mildly confounds me. I would highly recommend reaching out for a Joan Didion novel in your near future.

5. Emily Giffin

I received my first Emily Giffin novel–The One & Only— in my first PopSugar Must Have box and both were extremely satisfying events. Currently, I have another Giffin novel–Something Borrowed–in my to-read stack from the library. Not sure when I’ll get to it, but I’m excited to give Giffin another go.

6. M.D. Waters

I randomly picked up Archetype, Waters’ first novel, at an airport bookstore. And that one purchased has fueled an obsession. Watch out for Waters; she has some real potential to be a powerful voice in science fiction.

7. John Green

Once again, I would not be shocked if this man made it many people’s Top Ten Tuesday list this week. I read The Fault in Our Stars like nearly every other human this year and thoroughly enjoyed myself.

http://www.carlosruizzafon.com/

8. Carlos Ruiz Zafon

After a hearty recommendation from my friend, Clara, I picked up The Shadows of the Wind, which is the first novel of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books series. Solid storytelling, with a beautiful take on magical realism.

9. Chuck Klosterman

I’ve always wanted to read some of Klosterman’s essays and I finally got around to it this year! His most recent release, I Wear the Black Hat, was the piece I read from him and it definitely made me want to read more!

10. Michael Crichton

Crichton is an unbelievably prolific writer but 2014 was the first time I ever attempted any of his novels. I read the first Jurassic Park novel and enjoyed it as much as the film.

So that’s it. That’s my list of favorite new-to-me authors from 2014. Did any of them surprise you? Let me know in the comments below.

Thanks for popping in!

Mockingjay Part 1: A Rant With A Dash of Critique

I made a big mistake. I broke my own rules. I read the book first.

Finishing The Hunger Games trilogy was just too tempting. I read Mockingjay about three months ago and then saw the film the weekend it opened. I know the third book is a tad controversial for some readers because of how it ended the series, but I loved Mockingjay and could not wait for the movie to come out.

I won’t say I was disappointed in the movie, but perhaps I let my expectations get too high.

Image respectfully borrowed from moviepilot.com

 

For one thing, the movie started slow. At this point in the series, I am already invested in Katniss’ story but that does not mean I am willing to accept poor storytelling just to finish the series.

This is where reading the book first became a problem.

For the first half of the film, all I could see were missed opportunities. The novel takes time to build the tension between District 13’s President Coin and Katniss by showing the regimented nature of the District’s lifestyle. This tension is vital to the story. The pervasive schedule, the severe food rationing, and the methodical coldness of the underground fortress were lacking in the film. Most of these elements are not dealt with or discussed only in passing.

Katniss agrees to be the Mockingjay within fifteen–maybe twenty–minutes and for me that felt too soon. There needed to be more tension in so many of the relationships in The Mockingjay. There is tension between President Coin (Julianne Moore) and Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) but not enough for my liking, and I think that affects the dynamic of all the other interpersonal relationships in the movie.

For example, there is not enough push-and-pull between Katniss and Haymitch. When Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) first appears there are supposed to be rage there for Katniss, but nothing much happens. She’s supposed to hit him! Who doesn’t want to see Jennifer Lawrence sucker-punch Woody Harrelson, just for giggles?

Image respectfully borrowed from blackfilm.com

 

Another major problem for me was that there was not enough development between Katniss and Gale (Liam Hemsworth). The whole series is bracketed by the choice between Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) and Gale. This first half of the story is where we are supposed to see Katniss and Gale connect further as well as experience that budding friction of their relationship. Gale’s willingness to drink the District 13 Kool Aid is downplayed in the film, as is his growing responsibility within the District. Katniss has a brief line expressing her distaste for Gale’s closeness with President Coin, but it does not lead to anything significant story-wise.

Other, smaller issues bothered me too. The bonding between Finnick (Sam Clafin)  and Katniss was less present, as was Finnick’s clear struggle to hold onto sanity. Though I absolutely adored Elizabeth Banks’ performance as Effie in this film, I think the scene from the book where Katniss discovers her prep team starved and covered in filth is a much more powerful narrative play. Also there was not enough Boggs in this movie, goshdarnit!

This, my friends, is why I try to read the book after seeing the movie.

One thing Mockingjay Part 1 did perfectly was Peeta. The interviews with Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci) are powerful and well-done, as is the character’s swift mental and physical decline. Two gold stars for Josh Hutcherson!

Another reason expectations were so high is because of the film’s phenomenal marketing campaign. Image respectfully borrowed from variety.com

 

Part of the reason I’m a tad bit disappointed is that Suzanne Collins is attached to the film and gets a writing credit. When a writer is attached to the project, I hope for a stronger adaptation. The other two screenwriters, Peter Craig and Danny Strong, are signed on to do Part 2 but have not been with the franchise previously. I’m hoping my issues with the narrative do not extend to Mockingjay Part 2.

On the other hand, there were some absolutely stunning moments that the film offered that could not be found in the book due to the novel’s first person point of view. I loved seeing more of the district’s perspective on the rebellion. The sequences in Districts 5 and 7 gave necessary depth to the rebellion. And Katniss’ singing of The Hanging Tree is beautifully realized–plaintive and poignant all at once. The scene where the citizens of District 5 march towards the dam singing that song gave me chills.

I might have purchased The Hanging Tree on iTunes and I might have been listening to it non-stop.

Image respectfully borrowed from screenrant.com

 

Natalie Dormer as Cressida was also a brilliant casting choice. Cressida is an intriguing character in the novel and Dormer brings nuance to a character with little dialogue. Philip Seymour Hoffman continues to be the ideal Plutarch Heavensbee, though it is sad to see him on-screen now. Overall, there are some strong performances in The Mockingjay, my central issue is how the story itself is being handled.

Despite my problems with this film, I think The Mockingjay Part 1 does a great job of setting the audience up for Part 2. I think director, Francis Lawrence, ended the film in a smart way for maximum impact. I won’t say more than that because I have probably spoiled enough in my wee rant here.

My hope is that the second half of the story is better paced and takes the ample opportunities that Collins’ book provides.

As for The Mockingjay Part 1, I give it 3 Film Bubbles–Suitably Poppable. There may be problems with this movie but I still had a good time in the theater.

Thanks for popping in!

 

A Pile of Applications

Hello all!

I just wanted to write a little note here explaining my sparse posts of late. I am in the midst of applying to PhD programs. Twelve of them to be exact.

Last year I applied to ten programs and failed to get in anywhere. It was devastating. I had an overwhelming crisis of faith–faith in myself and my abilities.

I was the cocky kid that only applied to one college in high school because I knew that Ohio Northern was the place I needed to be. I applied to six graduate schools for my MA and got into Chapman University, Columbia University, and wait-listed at Emory. Chapman was my first choice then and I couldn’t have been happier with my decision.

All of these factors built up an overwhelming sense of confidence, and when I didn’t get into a program last year I found myself questioning my life choices. Am I doing the right thing? What if I wasn’t good enough for these programs?

We all end up facing rejection sooner or later, but I think it’s what we do with that rejection that has the power to make us better individuals. As long as I can remember I have wanted to write and to teach. I taught my first class after a few weeks after that final rejection letter came in the mail. I was guest lecturing for one of my professors on the film Halloween (1978); talking about female roles in horror films, comparing the empowered female victim with the female slasher.

Standing in front of those students, taking control of that room, and having an earnest discussion about film was a life changing experience. A shy young man came up to me after class, shook my hand, and told me it was one of the best classes he’s ever taken. I could have cried with happiness. Instead, I said thank you and gave him some movie recommendations. I may not know everything about teaching yet, but I can guess that you’re not supposed to cry on your students, even if it’s with joy.

That singular experience made me realize I was doing the right thing by pursuing teaching, and by extension my doctorate.

If you’re lucky in life, you find your way into a profession that makes you feel that alive everyday. So, this fall I have renewed my efforts for applying to PhD programs in order to better chase that dream.

I’m applying to twelve schools across the United States and so far it has been a hectic process. Yesterday I submitted my first four applications and today I’m allowing myself a brief break to recharge my intellectual batteries. But I have eight more applications to plow through before I will finally be done.

As a result of all this mind-numbing, glorious hard work, I haven’t been posting on the blog as much lately. But I’m still trying to get out a few posts a week. Things will likely pick up again after the holidays.

That being said, I am going to try to get a November Favorites post up this week.  Maybe more if I can manage.

Hope everyone has a pleasant holiday season and thanks for popping in!

Birchbox November 2014

Welcome to my first Birchbox review.

I’ve become a subscription box junkie; not sure when it happened but there’s no denying it! Birchbox is most often compared to ipsy because both boxes are $10 a month. Like ipsy, Birchbox has you take a style quiz before sending out five sample size products with the occasional extra.

This month, Birchbox partnered with RED, a charity that supports the awareness and wellness for AIDS patients. So for every picture of the RED shipper on social media using #shaRED, Birchbox will donate $1.  You can check out my Instagram photo here. I appreciated this as a theme for the box and of Birchbox as a company since November should be a month associated with giving (and not just of the subscription box variety).

November Samples

November Samples

Folle de Joie perfume (sample value $28.82)

A full size bottle of this perfume is 3.4 fl oz and is worth $98. Wow! This sample is about a third of the full size at 1.06 fl oz and has a little spray top.  At first, I wasn’t too impressed with this perfume but as it melded with the oils and chemistry of my skin, I was won over. The brand describes this perfume as a union of Southern California beaches with Parisian streets. I typically don’t care for citrusy scents which is why I wasn’t initially drawn to the perfume, but the notes that slowly come forth–the woodsy florals and hints of leather are more my speed. I couldn’t stop smelling my wrists so I probably looked like a nutcase.

The price of this perfume is a little extreme. So I would really have to save up but I think if I was really determined in the budgeting department, I would actually buy this perfume.

Dr. Brandt Pores No More Vacuum Cleaner (sample value $11.25)

My most consistent skin problem is blackheads. So I was excited about this product. The Dr. Brandt website says that this mask will take out dirt and oil, exfoliate and tighten, as well unclogging pores. You pop this mask on for 5-10 minutes until it turns ice blue and then you wash the product off. After a handful of uses, this mask is alright. It’s hard to say what the long-term effects of this mask would be since it’s a small sample. But the short-term effects are OK, not mind-blowing. The mask cleans out excess dirt well enough but it doesn’t eliminate blackheads all together. I feel as though I get the same effect from pore strips, which are cheaper.

A 1 oz., full size, Vacuum Cleaner mask costs $45, so I don’t think I will be buying a bigger version of this mask.

Fekkai Technician Color Care Luxe Color Masque (sample value $3.95)

I do color my hair, so the repairing qualities of this hair mask are extremely appreciated. Colored hair can go dry and brittle quickly, but this mask’s key ingredient is grapeseed oil which is very nourishing. Grapeseed is the overwhelming scent as well, but it lightly lingers in the hair for a few days, which is nice. I use this masque once a week and massage a dollop through my hair from my ears to the ends. My hair feels revitalized and soft. Very important for those of us who color our hair! A full size, 7 oz. masque will run you $26, which isn’t bad. This sample size is a little over 1.5 oz. so it ends up being a great size sample for a hair product.

I’m not sure if I would buy this but I’ve been happy with it as a sample.

Cynthia Rowley’s Lip Stain in Heartthrob(sample value $3.40)

I love a good red lip, so I was excited to see this in my box. In the tube Heartthrob is a vibrant red, but on the lips it comes off as a reddish pink. It’s still a lovely color, just not what I was expecting. The sample has a doe-foot applicator and the stain goes on evenly. In terms of staying power, this product needs a lip liner and will last for a few hours at full power. It fades gracefully though, which is important. Equally important, is that this product did not dry out my lips. Hurrah! A full size lip stain is valued at $20.

There are other, truer reds out there that I love more, so I don’t think I’ll be buying this lip stain anytime soon.

Mirenesse Secret Weapon iCurl 24Hr Mascara ($4.06)

I had to try this mascara out several times before I knew how to feel about it as a product. The first time it smudged under my eyes after running errands. But every time since, I haven’t had that problem. The curled shape of the wand is nice and helps me coat every lash. The formula dries on the lashes very quickly, but doesn’t clump up if you wanted to add an extra coat. A full size is worth $29: that is a luxury priced mascara, ladies and gents.

If I’m honest, I think I have drugstore mascaras that do the same or better as this Mirenesse, so I don’t think I’ll be buying this one.

Here's a better look at one of the shipper facts.

Here’s a better look at one of the shipper facts.

There was also a bonus product–a sample of Blood Orange Caramel Chocolate–and while it wasn’t for me taste wise I passed it on to my roommate, who said it was delicious.

Total box value $51.48. The high value of the perfume is what pushed this box over the edge. The perfume is also the product I’d be most likely to purchase myself, though it is going to take some saving! Overall, I’m pleased with this month’s Birchbox!

If you’d like to check out Birchbox, click my referral link here or on my referral links page.

Thanks for popping in!

November Ipsy Bag 2014

When I opened my GlamRoom this month, I was a touch disappointed. I just wasn’t that excited about many of my products in my November ipsy bag.  Some of these products were able to change my mind a bit, but others were total failures. After trying these products for a few weeks, here are my first impressions.

Do all girls like glitter? Highly debatable.

Do all girls like glitter? Highly debatable.

Not that big of a fan of the bag this month. It looks like the kind of thing that I used to receive as a young girl that would be filled with lip smackers. Not that those were bad days, but it’s not my style anymore. Oddly enough this bag was designed by Forever 21, which makes the disappointment more intense since I generally enjoy Forever 21 as a brand.

Be a Bombshell Eye Base in Submissive (*full size* $14)

This is one of the products I wasn’t excited about, but was sort of able to change my mind. Ipsy seems to have a Be a Bombshell product in their bags every month. I don’t always get the featured item, but some brand variety would be nice, which is part of why I wasn’t excited.

The color of the eye base is pretty: a light shimmery brown that builds up slightly. Submissive is a good one-shade look or a nice base for a brown-toned eye look, but it is not necessarily doing its job as a base. The formula is similar to Maybelline’s Color Tattoos or elf’s smudge pots, but Submissive does not have the staying power of either of these products. You need primer for this product to stay put, otherwise it will crease or smear. So while I can make it work for me, I would not purchase this again based on my sample experience.

Wonder Lip Paint by J. Cat Beauty in the shade Red Potion (*full size* $4.99)

Each of these little lip paints has a Wonderland theme. And on the J Cat website there seem to be a wide variety of colors. They definitely look like the famed OCC Lip Tars, but this product does not come with a lip brush. I’m lukewarm about this product. I enjoy the minty smell of the lip paint, unfortunately it’s not a smell that stays around. Red Potion is a really dark shade in the tube and can be built up to a deep berry or can read lighter depending on your application: I found this out the hard way.

My first attempt at using this was a disaster. I put a stain on underneath thinking that if the lip paint faded poorly, at least I’d have the stain, which turned out to be very useful. I applied a thick coat Red Potion with a lip brush and the color looked like crusted blood caked onto my lips. On top of that it faded patchy and stuck to any rough spots on my lips. I decided to be brave and give it a second go and the results were a bit better.

Attempt number two.

Attempt number two.

First of all, I used Laura Gellar’s Lip Spackle as a base, which seemed to make a big difference. Then, more importantly I applied the product with my finger and only used a dot of product as big as a grain of rice. This fully covered my lips and the shade came off more like a deep pink. There was less slipping and sliding with less product too. After a few hours there was fading but it looked much less patchy. I’m still not enamoured with this product, but I’m less mad at it. If you’d like to give the lip paints a shot you can get 25% off with code 25JCAT at checkout on their website.

Oil of Morocco Argan Oil Volume Shine Hairspray by Marc Anthony (sample value $1.38)

If someone were to use hairspray regularly, this product would be very exciting to receive and would likely be an ideal travel size item. I, however, do not typically use hairspray and have not cracked this thing open. I’m sure it’s lovely, but this does nothing for me. My hair is very fine and I tend not to do much to it, so there’s no call to use a lot of hairspray in my life. There’s nothing wrong with this, it’s just not for me. So it’s a bit of a letdown. A full size of this product (9 fl oz.) should run you about $8.29 at Walgreens. There was also no discount code for this product.

Starlooks Gem Eye pencil in Ultra Orchid (*full size* $17.00)

This was honestly the worst product in my bag. Which is surprising because Starlooks is a well-respected brand in the beauty world. When I went to swatch this product on my hand, the tip crumbled and fell off. When I went to use this product on my lid, the eyeliner crumbled further. I appreciate creaminess in my beauty products but not the point where they become unusable.

When I got this product onto my lids I was further disappointed. The beautiful, sparkly purple is so freaking creamy that it fails completely as an eyeliner. It smudges and slips even with primed lids. So all its prettiness is wasted. This is easily one of the most maddening products I’ve ever received in a subscription service. I certainly won’t be using this code, but if you’d like 20% off Starlooks use the code IPSY at checkout on their website.

TEMPTU Highlighter in Pink Pearl (sample value $2.75)

Of all the products in my ipsy bag this month, I would say this is the single product that fully won me over. I had never heard of TEMPTU before, but apparently their highlighters are well rated by makeup artists. I don’t use highlighters overmuch, but I think they’re fun to play with now and again. The Pink Pearl shade has a mother of pearl quality to it–the shifting accents of yellow, blue, pink, etc. The formula is slightly watery, which translates to a very subtle look on the sheeks. It’s not shimmery in the usual sense, but it catches the light in a way that makes your skin seem like it glows natuarally. A full size highlighter would run you $27.50 for 1 fl oz, so I don’t think I’ll be purchasing this one. But since it doesn’t take much to give my cheeks a pearlescent glow, I’ll still enjoy this product for a while. If you’d like a TEMPTU highlighter of your very own, use code IPSY at checkout for 25%.

From the top down: TEMPTU highlighter in Pink Pearl, Starlooks Ultra Orchid, Be a Bombshell in Submissive, and J Cat Red Potion.

From the top down: TEMPTU highlighter in Pink Pearl, Starlooks Ultra Orchid, Be a Bombshell in Submissive, and J Cat Red Potion.

You can see with this picture how easily the Starlooks liner smears as well as what a difference it makes blending out Red Potion.

On paper, I should have adored this bag: three full size products from reliable brands with a total November bag value of $40.12. But the quality of the products and how they work for me was just not present in this month’s bag.

I’m really disappointed in this month’s ipsy, and am hoping for a better bag next month.

Thanks for popping in!

My Winter TBR List

Tis that time again. Not only is it the weekly Broke and the Bookish meme time, but it is the annual dose of optimism that our to-be-read lists for the season imply.

I always mean to read my entire list, but it has yet to happen. Other books distract me from my goals or life gets in the way of my reading habits. But it is still fun to create these lists of wishful thinking!

This winter, I’m setting myself up for a certain degree of success by adding some things that are currently stacked up on my bedside table from the library. I say a certain degree because I have been foiled by due dates before. Still, onward with the list!

*Pictures and links sourced from Goodreads*

Wideacre  (The Wideacre Trilogy, #1)

1. Wideacre by Philippa Gregory

Philippa Gregory is one of my favorite novelists. Her books are often dense and rife with details. I have never quite gotten around to reading her Wideacre trilogy though. So I’m hoping to at least start the series this winter.

Unbecoming

2. Unbecoming by Rebecca Scherm

I actually received this book from a Goodreads giveaway, which is very exciting because I’ve never won one before! So I’m stoked to read and review this book for you. It’s Scherm’s debut novel and it promises to be an intriguing mystery.

Prototype: A Novel

3. Prototype by M.D. Waters

Sigh. This book was on my fall TBR list, but it was also the book that got away. I have about fourteen things checked out from the library at the moment and with such a hefty stack sometimes things get away from me. They come due and I haven’t read them yet. Back onto the wait list I go and I’ve got no one to blame but myself.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown

4. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

It’s a paranormal, post-apocalyptic novel. I’m so ready for this to be good. My library’s website is awesome and has a list section for new arrivals as well as for what my local librarians are reading. I found this book through the latter list and when book blogs started showing some love, it confirmed my suspicion that this book needed to be read.

Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin, #1)

5. Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

The internet made me do it. Every week on the Top Ten Tuesday post, someone manages to have this thing (or one of the other books in the series) on their list. So my curiosity is getting the better of me here. Very excited!

Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She's "Learned"

6. Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham

In the last year or so I’ve gone out of my way to read more female autobiographies: Betty White, Tina Fey, Mindy Kaling. Whether you love her or hate her, Lena Dunham’s story seems intriguing to me. Either way, I’m sure I’ll have a stronger opinion of her at the end of the book.

Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles, #2)

7. Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

I think this was in another of my Top Ten Tuesday posts, but I can’t remember what the topic was. Anyway, I’m ready to read this one and get more involved in Meyer’s world.

Kushiel's Dart (Phèdre's Trilogy, #1)

8. Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey

Of all the books on my winter TBR list, this one is probably the least likely to actually get read. I very much want to read this novel, I just keep prioritizing other books ahead of it. Fingers crossed I actually crack the spine on this one!

Yes Please

9. Yes, Please by Amy Poehler

I’d like to read this book for much the same reasons as the Lena Dunham piece. This book is actually in my possession and it has a glorious heaviness to it. The paper is glossy, the stock is thick, and I am beyond pumped to read this memoir!

The Cuckoo's Calling (Cormoran Strike, #1)

10. The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (a.k.a J.K. Rowling)

I’ve been meaning to pick up this mystery series for a while. And there’s something about cold weather that makes me want to snuggle down under the covers with a good mystery.

So without meaning to, I created a winter TBR exclusively written by women. Pretty cool! If I can actually make this happen and read them all, then it will be even cooler!

Thanks for popping in!

Heads in Beds

Perfect for late night reading.

Perfect for late night reading.

I have been wanting to read this book since it first came out in 2012.  This tempting piece of non-fiction has lingered on my Goodreads to-read shelf for years and I am happy to have finally read this one and crossed it off the list.

Heads in Beds follows Jacob Tomsky from his very beginnings as a valet at a hotel in New Orleans. After working up the proverbial food chain, Tomsky took a break from the hotel industry only to find himself right back in it, starting from scratch in New York. Without meaning to, the memoir quickly becomes a work of comparison between the hotels and lifestyles of two famous cities. One more laid-back, the other all business. You can take a guess at which is which.

If you’re expecting a salacious read about celebrity clientele and guest sexcapades, you’ll be sorely disappointed. There are moments of both in small doses, but the strength of this memoir is in the behind the scenes look at the mercenary approach to customer service.

Tomsky’s experience is based in the luxury hotel business, not your average Hilton or Doubletree. He breaks down the basic economics as quickly as he inserts lyrics from 50 Cent–both of which are valuable and hilarious additions to his narrative. Tomsky often has a tone that reads as a wisecracking uncle, schooling his nephews and nieces in the way of life. And learn, I did.

For instance, if I ever find myself in a luxury hotel or, hell, even the local Doubletree, I now plan on tipping. Turns out, tipping is the lifeblood of a hotel, and though it sounds naive now, I never really thought about tips as being all that important in the hotel industry. But they are. Not only for the people receiving the bills, but for you the overnight guest. Tomsky makes the value of under-the-table funds explicitly clear. Better service. Better rooms. Better experience.

Heads in Beds is a quick read and a solid piece of nonfiction. Part hotel tell-all, part guide to getting better customer service, Tomsky is witty and candid in his revelations of the hospitality industry.

Tomsky’s asides and observations prove a knack for storytelling that the reader will enjoy. You can expect laughter, lip-curling disgust, and possibly some guilt for being “that” guest. Heads in Beds is a page turner that just might make you a savvier traveler in the process.

Heads in Beds was a rather enjoyable read for me and I give it 3 Book Bubbles–Suitably Poppable.

Thanks for popping in!

November PopSugar Must Have Box 2014

I am beyond excited to show you this month’s PopSugar Must Have Box!

Quite possibly the best box yet. Or at the very least tied with April’s box. I just desperately want PopSugar to add more books to their rotation. Not every month, because I realize that’s not for everyone, but more often than once every six months. Maybe if I say it enough times the box editors will hear my plea!

Look at that beautiful box full of stuff!

Look at that beautiful box full of stuff!

PopSugar is the most expensive of my subscription boxes at $39.95 a month, but I have never felt an individual box fell under value. In a Must Have Box, you’ll get a wide array of items that have to do with different areas of your life. Certain things vary, but there is always a food item and there is always some kind of beauty product. The remaining items could fall under the categories of entertainment, lifestyle, wellness, fashion, etc.  If you’d like to give PopSugar a shot, here is my referral link.

Whale lotion! (Except not)

Whale lotion! (Except not)

No. 72 Ambergris Shea Butter Cream by K. Hall Designs ($22.00)

This is kind of an interesting product. The packaging emphasizes how much Queen Elizabeth I was known to adore ambergris, which is all well and good until you know what ambergris is. Ambergris is a solid, waxy substance that is a bi-product of a sperm whale’s digestive system. As it ages, ambergris is supposed to take on a sweet, musky scent. However the packaging also states that there are no animal components in this cream, so the ambergris scent is synthetic and not from the bowels of a whale. Phew! No parabens in this cream either.

For the past week or so, I’ve been using this as a hand cream. The texture is thick and rich, and it melts into the skin well. No greasy residue here. The scent is unlike anything I’ve worn in the past and every time I put this cream on, I debate whether I like it or not. There’s something slightly earthy and sensual about the ambergris scent but also sweet. I probably would not buy a $22 hand cream though, so I’m glad it got sent to me instead.

Cant wait to draw on a wine glass this holiday season!

Cant wait to draw on a wine glass this holiday season!

Wine Glass Writers  ($9.95)

This product is perfect for the approaching holiday season! The three shades in the kit are a silver, blue-green, and golden-khaki. These markers allow you to write on your wine glass for the duration of a party, but the nontoxic ink will come right off with some warm, soapy water. Love the concept! Haven’t tested them out yet though.

A feminine touch to my letters.

A feminine touch to my letters.

PopSugar Exclusive Stationary Set from Tiny Prints ($21.60)

If you want to really fall down a rabbit hole of personalized stationary, might I suggest tinyprints.com? Their products are a bit pricey but rather adorable. I’ve mentioned it in passing a few times before, But I’m trying to be a more active friend by sending out postcards and little notes. So these blank cards are a great addition to that effort! If I had one complaint, it’s that these specific cards are rather girly and have XOXO on the top, which is normally fine. But I also send cards out to plenty of male friends, so maybe something more gender neutral would have been appreciated. Nit-picky, I know, but I think about these things now.

Such a cute little bag!

Such a cute little bag!

Sorial Wallet on a Chain (*$48.00*)

Holy Cow! I cannot fathom paying that much for a little bag. That being said, this bag from Sorial is adorable and perfect for my needs of late. When I go out in the evening, sometimes I just don’t want to carry a purse or grasp at a clutch all night. So this little crossbody bag is lovely. PopSugar read my mind this moth! I really like the bright blue color and the inside has a leopard print liner, which will make it easier to find items. Does anyone else lose things in their bags with dark liners? I know I do every time! This little bag justifies the entire box based on its value.

What did I just eat???

What did I just eat???

G.H. Cretors Chicago Mix Popped Corn ($3.49)

At this moment I am full of regret because I scarfed this whole bag down in a matter of days. Oh, but it was good! So very good. If your wallet is so full that you can indulge, grab a bag of this. Specifically, the Chicago mix. For those of you not in the know (don’t worry I didn’t know this existed until a few months ago either) Chicago mix popcorn is caramel corn and cheddar cheese popcorn mixed to the delight of your taste buds. Sounds weird, but is delicious.*Originally I thought this popcorn was much more expensive and the price I had listed was from a 12 pack. Thanks to Laura A for helping me correct this error*

Books are always worth the box value.

Books are always worth the box value.

The Secret Recipes by Dominique Ansel ($35.00)

I saved the best for last. This is the latest cookbook from the man who made the cronut famous. Ansel also happens to be a multi-award winning pastry chef. His cookbook is beautiful. The heavy paper and glossy photos make this book something you would happily place out on the coffee table for guests to admire. But there is practical knowledge inside as well. Ansel has divided his book into beginner, intermediate, and advanced recipes, something this beginner greatly appreciates.

Again, I wish PopSugar would send more books. Not every month but maybe once every three or four months for variety’s sake. The last one they included was back in April and had a hardcover of Emily Giffin’s The One and Only, which I adored. So I’m very happy to see another book here! Especially because it’s a different type of book.

*I should note that usually PopSugar includes a card with the value of all the box products, but for some reason this month I did not get a card. All the values listed in this post are taken from retailers websites, or as in the case of the Sorial bag, estimated from the retailer’s website if the exact product couldn’t be found.*

The total value for my November PopSugar Must Have Box is $139.84. My calculations might be a bit off because I didn’t have a card to guide me, but they’re not going to be so off that the value of a $39.99 box isn’t obvious! I am very impressed with this month’s box and cannot wait to see what PopSugar does next!

Thanks for popping in!