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

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!

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


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.


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!

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!

The Book Thief

Lately, I’ve been making a concentrated effort to read more YA literature. In my teens and early college years I judged what was then only just being officially labeled as YA as being too juvenile, but I’m here today to recant my former snobbery.

The library has been my greatest ally in exploring all kinds of new literature. A recent trip had me picking up Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief. Once again, I found myself wanting to know what all the hype was about, providing that the hype had died down a bit, of course.

The Book Thief

The Book Thief

The Book Thief is actually a perfect example of my previous dismissive habits regarding YA lit. Debuting in 2005, The Book Thief rocketed to the number one spot on the New York Times’ bestseller list. I was fifteen and it seemed that everywhere I looked someone was carting around a copy of this novel. Naturally, my snobbish impulse was to ignore its presence.

Yet if anyone is emblematic of the power of YA, it is Zusack. His writing coaxed laughter, anxiety, and tears out of me with ease. Perhaps Zusack’s greatest skill is that feeling, that illusion, of naturalness: you often forget that someone must have labored over these words while reading this novel and instead find yourself wrapped up in the storytelling rather than the storyteller.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. You’ve come this far, you should at least get a summary.

The Book Thief is about an unlikely family struggling to survive and thrive in the midst of Nazi Germany. Liesel Meminger’s stint as The Book Thief begins with the tragic death of her little brother and the fateful book found in the snow, The Grave Digger’s Handbook. Thrust into a new life,  Liesel finds solace in her stolen book and its complex words as her kind-eyed foster-father teaches Liesel to read. Soon enough, Liesel is itching to steal again: at the Nazi book-burnings, the mayor’s library, or wherever else she can manage. But Liesel’s theivery isn’t the only secret in their household. The family is hiding a Jew in their basement, and Liesel finds her world torn apart and put right all at once as the war reaches a fever pitch.

On the surface, the concept of this novel should be rather difficult: making a slew of characters in Nazi Germany not only sympathetic but heroic and loveable. That is not to say that The Book Thief applies rose-colored glasses–there are a fair number of unpleasant folk in this novel–but that the book suggests that the culpability of a country is not as black and white as history books often portray it.

There’s Rudy Steiner, the blonde boy-next-door whose greatest idol is Jesse Owens. Hans Hubberman, Liesel’s foster-father, whose deep well of kindness often gets him into trouble. And of course, Liesel herself is an undeniably compelling character with her select but firm moral compass that allows her to steal and give tremendously by turns. My favorite character, however, is Death.

Death is the most marvelous and considerate narrator. The boldface asides and mild tangents about humanity are beautifully executed. And there is perhaps no better use of an omnipotent narrator in WW II than Death. As a result, we get to see the fate of characters we may never have known about had the story been told from Liesel’s perspective solely.

In many ways, we are drawn to Liesel as readers because Death is drawn to her. Death’s compulsory love and admiration for Liesel is what allows us to care for her so quickly and in spite of her sometimes morally ambiguous behavior.

Zusack has a way with manipulating language that speaks to the heart of a person. Each turn of the page reveals a clever phrase or a profound image. Most often I’d find myself stunned by Death’s or Liesel’s description of the weather, so casually rendered on the page, but so moving.

“The sky was like soup, boiling and stirring. In some places, it was burned. There were black crumbs, and pepper, streaked across the redness.” (12)

Imagery is clearly one of the author’s strong suits.

I’ve yet to read any of Markus Zusack’s other books, but based on The Book Thief, I’d like to read more. I’d give this novel 4 Book Bubbles–A Popping Good Time.

The Blind Assassin

Another library find, Margaret Atwood’s 2001 Booker Prize winner, The Blind Assassin. What initially drew me to this book was its cover. The vintage appeal, the oval face and softly muted colors of the classic prints I have so admired in antique stores since childhood. Then the all important flip to the first page which reads, “Ten days after the war ended, my sister Laura drove a car off a bridge.” Consider me sold.

The Blind Assassin

Image respectfully borrowed from Goodreads.

The Bind Assassin is largely told from the perspective of Iris Chase, now in her eighties, as she recounts her past with her sister, Laura, who very much dominates her thoughts. The once great Chase fortune has been diminished and what remains is Laura’s legacy after Iris posthumously published Laura’s writings. The mystery and scandal around the Chase family pulls the reader forward through the twists and turns of the story.

I also thoroughly enjoyed the setting of the novel, Port Ticonderoga, Canada, because the location seemed so innocuous for all the mystery swirling around the Chase family. The setting is vividly brought to life in both the past and present, and the societal divide between the previous century and the new millennium as described by Iris is fascinating.

The novel is broken up into fifteen parts, each containing an unspecified number of chapters. Each part focuses on a different aspect of the story and they alternate one after the other. For example, Iris’ present and her flashbacks would be in one section and Laura’s novel and news clippings from the past would be in another section.

One of the best parts of this book is that you get the feeling of being a detective. Which details are relevant? Which sister is telling the truth? Atwood teases her readers with little clues that are expertly wrought. As fact and fiction blur you cannot help but get caught up in the mystery.

Even when you feel you have pinned down a detail or plot point, Atwood is a compelling enough writer to make you believe you haven’t fully figured it out. That small nugget of ‘what if’ propels you through The Blind Assassin.

Atwood truly is an amazing storyteller whose poetic musings make any of her novels more impactful. One of my favorite lines was a random bit that felt like an incantation, “I was sand, I was snow–written on, rewritten, smoothed over.” Gives me chills. The whole novel is littered with this gorgeous debris of language that made me pause to contemplate a sentence. As a reader, that’s one of the most powerful sensations–the urge to stop and contemplate rather than forge ahead.

My one complaint, if any, is that at times the story felt a bit slow. Especially in the beginning, when Iris flashes back to the early points of childhood. But as you churn through the pages, you get the sense that every detail is connected, which further builds the tension.

One of my favorite novels of all time is John Irving’s A Prayer For Owen Meany. In many ways I think Irving and Atwood’s novels are kindred spirits. Both have a narrator whose life is defined by a small, strange family member or friend that they feel compelled to help. These narrators are the survivors who must write down their trials. The subjects–Owen and Laura–are both lit from within by their conceptions of religion, and no one truly understands them until it is too late. These are large-scale comparisons but if you are a fan of A Prayer For Owen Meany, I would highly recommend Atwood’s The Blind Assassin. And vice versa if you haven’t read the John Irving novel.

I find myself being deliberately vague with this review when describing the plot because I do not want to spoil the mystery in any way. I will say that a discerning reader will quickly pick up on the subtext Atwood weaves throughout The Blind Assassin, and the ending was slightly disappointing because I thought Atwood would round things off more. Still a great read though.

I’d give Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin 4 book bubbles.

Thanks for popping in!

Book Review: The Year of Magical Thinking

I’ve always wanted to read some Joan Didion. Her name seemed to come up often in intellectual circles as this high standard for women writers. Me being me, I wanted to know what all the fuss was about.

Artsy cover shot.

Artsy cover shot.

Every ounce of praise for Didion’s writing is deserved.

I picked up a battered copy of The Year of Magical Thinking at my local library on a whim. It was there. I had the inclination to read. This is how literary love affairs start.

The Year of Magical Thinking is a memoir told in a reconstructed stream of consciousness about the emotional trials Didion faced in the year after her husband, author John Dunne, died suddenly at the dinner table. Throughout the year Didion also finds herself facing the potential of her daughter’s death through illness and the slow dissolution of her denial.

Heavy stuff.  Yet without knowing it, I picked up the Didion book that I most needed to read.

Need is such a funny thing in the context of grief, because “need” loses all logic. Didion expertly explores this chasm, this limbo where the living must continue on when a loved one has passed. I needed to read this book because in January of 2013, my father died, and I have spent so much time closing myself off to that reality.

I was set to board a plane for Sundance for a class when I was woken by a banging on my door at 4 AM. It was my great-uncle, who told me that I needed to call my Grandmother. My father has been admitted to the hospital a few days before, his fever and pain likely symptomatic of his kidney stones. He was also a type two diabetic with kidney failure, but he had texted me to tell me that he was 100% OK and not to worry. He said today was not THE day.

But when someone tells you to call family at four in the morning, the news is never good.

I knew before my grandmother picked up what she would say but the news of my father’s death still felt like a ripping. He had a stroke, suddenly in the night, after being told the previous day that he was making a strong recovery. In crisis, sometimes you know exactly how many minutes you have before you fall apart. I knew I had five. I used those five minutes to call my professor and my boss to tell them I would not be making it to Sundance. Then I curled up in a ball on my tile floor and screamed and cried.

Didion points out that we often use the word “suddenly” when talking about death. Her husband suddenly died at the dinner table. My father suddenly had a stroke. She quite honestly, if brutally, points out that there is often nothing sudden about these sorts of events. Her husband has known about his heart problems for twenty-plus years. My father had been a diabetic since he was eighteen, and his kidneys had begun to fail when I was in high school. The use of “suddenly” is a blanket we, the survivors, wrap around ourselves because we wanted to believe all was well.

Over the years, I’ve learned that my preferred method with grief of any kind is a cultivated numbness. A bottling away of pain and a good, quiet presentation of a happy face. Reading The Year of Magical Thinking and writing this post have been breakthroughs of sorts into that cultivated numbness. It has been roughly a year and half. I am still grieving. And that is OK.

My father wasn’t perfect, nor was our relationship, but perfection has no place in death. In the past year and a half I have often felt haunted by my father. Not in the literal ghost sense, but in the sense of echoing memories. Every comic book movie, every mention of military history, every surviving trinket holds more weight because these were things he loved and his love of these things was passed on to me.

Things and places haunt us as readily as the idea of people. Joan Didion’s prose is in itself haunting and flows effortlessly from the factual to the poetic. This is a woman who has taken comfort in research and knowledge: she writes from the intersection  where information ceases to be a balm and grief demands its due.

She is often startled by objects and their inherent meaning. Woven throughout each memory and interaction is the familiar, surreal desire that perhaps John will return. As if he were merely lost instead of a loss.

Didion’s use of repetition carries an ethereal element and a sense of numbness that resonated with me.  Lines of verse intermingle with memories and medical definitions that give the memoir a dream-like quality. Here was someone that understood.

There are certain books that should be doled out at various moments in a person’s life. Because some books need to be read. For me, I believe girls should be issued a copy of He’s Just Not That Into You by Greg Behrendt when they hit junior high (gentlemen, you’ll have to let me know if there is a male equivalent). And now I believe The Year of Magical Thinking ought to be delivered, wrapped  in plain brown paper, when a loved one has died with instructions not to read it until at least a year has passed.

Because sometimes you need that year to be in denial, to grieve, to mourn, or whatever it is that you do in order to gain perspective.

Any one punctured by grief will find a kind of catharsis or at least a kindred spirit in Didion. As you read it your own grief, your own stories will well up so that The Year of Magical Thinking becomes as much your story as it is Didion’s. To me, that’s the truly magical part of this piece.

It’s a short book at 227 pages, but it took me about two weeks to finish because I often needed to put it down and walk away. This book will hurt. But it helps.

I would highly recommend The Year of Magical Thinking to anyone who has struggled with loss. I give it 3.5 book bubbles.

Thank you for listening.

Book Review: Live and Let Die

One of the best parts of moving is getting a new library card. Or at least for me that’s one of the best parts. On my inaugrual visit to my local library I wandered around the shelves and discovered an “in the movies” display, that held, among other things, about ten Ian Fleming books.

These James Bond novels were recently (c. 2008) rebound for Fleming’s 100th birthday and the covers have this great retro, ’60’s vibe to them. Having never read any of the 007 novels, I decided to give them a shot. Unfortunately, the first in the series, Casino Royale, was checked out by another. So I went with the second book, Live and Let Die.


Bond is just as suave and debonair in print as he is on the screen. Reading this novel, you can really see why this series has been such fertile material for film. It’s a slim, trim book at just 229 pages. But those pages are full of well paced action and adventure. Well-paced gets used often in book or movie reviews, and in this case I mean it does a good job of giving you breathers between covert operations while still giving you salient information.

One of the great things about this series constantly being revamped on film is that it gives you more freedom to imagine Bond however you’d like because so many men have already filled the 007 shoes. For whatever reason I kept picturing Cary Grant as Bond, even though he has never played Bond. The way that Fleming writes Bond’s dialogue and thought process just reminds me of Grant in North By Northwest, although certainly more effective at the spy game. But I digress.

There isn’t a great deal of surprise with this book–you know Bond will be put in multiple life-and-death situations, you know Bond will survive, you know Bond will get the girl–but Fleming still keeps your attention. I didn’t find my mind wandering at all while reading this novel. Except for this one thing…

Holy Racism, Batman (wait, wrong action hero)! I realize that this book was originally published in 1954, over a decade before the major civil rights movement in 1965-1969, but whoa. Sometimes as a reader when you’re faced with writing from previous decades or centuries,  you end up struggling with accepting things like blatant racism or sexism as just another part of the story. It’ll catch you off guard and hit you right in the gut. When this happens you can either stop reading the book altogether or you can chalk it up to the context of time when the book was written.  I opted for the latter.

Still, there were moments when I felt my eyes widen in surprise at the level of casual racism. For instance, there is a scene in a nightclub where Bond listens to a conversation between a black couple that’s written in a dialect style. This conversation is irrelevant to the larger plot; it does nothing for our understanding of character or events. It goes on for two pages and it’s horrible on so many levels.

And all of the villains are black. The only two redeemable characters who are black, Fleming takes the time to mention that they look to be of mixed race. These were the moments when I struggled with this novel the most.

Vodoo is also a central to the plot, and it’s interesting in how superstitious the portrayal of that religion comes off. And it still is shown that way in many mediums. But the use of Vodoo didn’t bother me as much because the villain, Mr. Big (take that Carrie Bradshaw!), utilizes the superstitions as how he controls his power base, which fit within his character.

I could have used a bit more of Mr. Big in this novel. He’s always in the background as the looming threat but he was a complex bit of evil that I would have liked more info on.

Also this novel amped up my fear of deep water. I appreciated that Bond was likewise concerned about sharks and barracudas because the man has to have a chink in his armor somewhere. Some of the most poetic writing from Fleming came from the scenes where he discusses the great unknown of the ocean, which was beautiful and terrifying to read. I’m not a large body of water person, so I felt on the edge of my seat whenever Bond had to use rudimentary scuba gear.

One of the things I liked most about this book and this character was when Bond talks to himself about “his stars.” Bond considers his stars a guide and a powerful force in his life. I myself am rather star obsessed. I have two tattoos that have to do with stars, so I connected with that part of Bond’s character.

Overall, I liked Live and Let Die and Fleming’s sense of character. I did struggle with the social context of the novel, particularly considering what has been happening lately in the US with Ferguson. But I would be interested in reading other Bond novels in the future.

Archetype Almost Breaks the Mold

When I first picked this novel up it was all about the cover. I was at LAX and the bright blue and red color blocking just called to me. And the back jacket did it’s job of intriguing me with story.  A few weeks later I picked up the book to actually read it and not just be a pretty face on my book shelf.

Archetype: A Novel (Archetype, #1)

Image respectfully borrowed from Goodreads

So after some frantic page turning and late nights here is my review of M.D. Waters’ Archetype.

Emma has lost her memory in some kind of freak accident. All she knows is that she wants to please her husband, Declan, and that she has an inner voice that tells her everything is not what it seems. Guided by that pesky inner voice–who seems separate from herself–Emma begins to remember fragments of an extremely different life with an extremely different man, the angry and enigmatic Noah. Set in a future where fertile women are a commodity, Emma must figure out which future she wants to live out–her present as an adoring wife or her past as a member of the rebellion.

That is an abbreviated summary to say the least, but I’m trying not to spoil everything in this review. Part of the fun of reading this novel is figuring out the details with Emma. I’ll get into some major spoilers down below, but I also wanted there to be enough info for you if you were trying to avoid the spoilers.

The book’s back cover quote references Archetype as a kind of heir to The Handmaid’s Tale, and while I can see the parallels I don’t necessarily agree. They’re in the same genre, certainly. But Archetype is more Alias-esque than Ofred-esque. Which is still a great middle ground for the novel to occupy.

If you’re a fan of TV shows such as “Alias” or “Orphan Black” then I would definitely recommend Archetype. The pace of the novel is light and quick without lacking in substance. Episodic style chapters make the read easy but it’s also great for finding a stopping place if you want to draw out the reading experience. This would be such a great book for traveling. It’s not too long and you can devour it on the plane or at the beach.

If you’re looking for deep philosophical meaning in your sci-fi, this is not the book for you. Waters doesn’t explain the science and implications on humanity enough for that kind of reader to be satisfied. But if you’re looking for an enjoyable weekend read, give this book a shot.


*Spoiler Alert*
**Seriously, I’m about to discuss the ending right now**


My favorite thing about this novel is that we have a female character who falls in love and then leaves the guy(s) in the end for HER well being and happiness. For that reason alone I would recommend Archetype.It’s just something you don’t see that often in NA. Not that Emma doesn’t love Noah (or Declan). There is definitely a love story there, but Emma leaves because she realizes how unhealthy staying is.

That said, I would be shocked if the second book, Prototype, wasn’t about Emma struggling to get back to Noah and prove to him that she’s still the same woman he married in spite of being a clone. And I’d still like to read that story. But I am thrilled that Waters did not wrap her novel up in a prepackaged bow.

I’m not going to do Emma Wade the disservice of labeling her a strong female character because that phrase gets thrown around far too much for it to have meaning. Emma has moments of weakness and willfully lives in denial for a large chunk of the book, but these flaws take the story to some really interesting places. Her denial also makes Emma more realistic as a character.

I liked this book but my personal rating system has been revolving around whether or not I would physically keep the book. Storage in my life right now is at such a premium. The potential to re-read is also a strong factor. So I enjoyed Archetype and would love to read its sequel, but I think this one may get passed on to a friend or the local used bookstore. The only thing that might sway me is the cover. I might keep this book for the cover because I love the graphics so much.

Anyone else read Archetype? Tell me what you think in the comments!

Orange Is the New Black Book Review

It’s time to talk about the true story behind the hit TV series  Orange is the New Black. I’ve never seen the show, but it’s definitely on my watch list. As for the book, Orange is the New Black was a Christmas present from my cousin’s lovely girlfriend, Kelsey. This book was languishing on my Goodreads want to read list until Kelsey gifted it to me and got me to read the darn thing. I cannot thank her enough for the motivation because Orange is the New Black has been one of the most satisfying reads thus far in 2014.

Orange Is the New Black

Image above borrowed from Goodreads

Sometimes the buzz around shows and movies bring to light books that I would never have picked up if left to my own devices. What I loved about the memoir was its approach to its serious content. Author Piper Kerman is not asking to be taken as a victim. She takes responsibility for her actions and uses the opportunity to point out the injustices within the justice system that make her purview more about others’ experience than strictly her own. Each chapter has a smaller level theme that builds to illustrate the flaws in the system of women’s prisons.

These pockets of stories reveal a larger narrative that keep you reading late into the night. Or at least I did. I got sucked into this book and finished it over a weekend. It’s really perfect for a trip or even a beach day. Plus I always feel super intelligent reading nonfiction in public, so it’s an ego perk.

You occasionally hear the media or maybe some political friends talking about how easy prisoners have it these days. Piper’s every page shows how inaccurate that is. For example, it is said multiple times in the book that the worst thing you can be in prison is sick because the health care is minimal.  Or how the prison provided inadequate rehabilitation services for inmates being sent back out into the “real world.” But there are also touching stories about how people connect with one another when they need it most. You’ll laugh. You’ll cringe. And you’ll find yourself involved with this memoir.

I’ve heard that many viewers find Piper to be whiny in the TV series, but in the book Piper doesn’t come off as whiny. She’s hyper aware of the privileges she has in life that made prison easier (being white, gainfully employed, and well off with a well-appointed lawyer), but she also learned a lot about others in a way that molded the woman who decided to take pen to paper. Since leaving the hands of the criminal justice system, she has become better informed and an activist for changes in the way the system runs. Every once in a while she gets up on her soapbox to illustrate how foolish some of the legislation is or how unjust the treatment is for women with minor offenses. It’s an informative narrative but it is not lecturing at you, which is an important balance for me as a reader.

This memoir is such a specific experience, but I wish she would write another book. Piper is such a compelling writer and conveys character so well. Short of another stint in prison, I cannot really see Piper writing again. But I really hope I’m wrong. In any event, Orange is the New Black is worth your reading time and not just your screen time.

May Favorites

I had to think long and hard about my favorites for May.  There were so many amazing products I’ve tried this month but these six really stand out. Some are old favorites and some are new finds. Let’s get to it!

Everyone on the internet loves this thing.

Everyone on the internet loves this thing.


Maybelline Instant Age Rewind Eraser Dark Circles Treatment Concealer ($8.99):

First of all, why do these products need to have lengthier names than the size of the darn packaging? Labels aside this concealer earns every bit of hype the internet has given.  I’ve had this product for several months and hadn’t really used it that often because of the sponge. The sponge was cute, it was soft, but it had to go. The application with the sponge was more difficult for me and clogged up easily. So I ripped the darn thing off this month and it changed the way I use this concealer. I just turn the dial and use my pinky to apply product under my eyes. This Maybelline Instant Age Rewind concealer is better than any high-end product I’ve tried thus far and it’s phenomenal for contouring. I use the shade fair and have hardly gone a day without using this lil’ guy. Somewhere along the line I lost the proper cap, so I snapped on a cap from a travel size hairspray bottle in order to preserve the illusion of cleanliness. Classy, I know, but it’s the best I can do at the moment.

A new find from my old stash

A new find from my old stash


Clinique Color Surge Eyeshadow Duo in Starstruck/ Golden Lynx ($20):

Now this duo no longer exists in it’s current form since I got it a few years ago. That being said, I highly recommend Clinique shadows. They’re finely milled shadows that have a great color payoff. I recently picked up the Starstruck/Golden Lynx combo from my newly organized makeup stash and fell in love all over again. I’ve used this duo for the last week and a half solid. It’s perfect for a natural look with the light shade on the lid and the warm brown shade blended into the crease. You definitely need a primer with these shadows though. They’ll stay all day if you use a primer but tend to fade by themselves. Right now, Clinique has comparable shades on their site and the closest seems to be Like Mink. These duos are so easy to throw on, so they’re worth investing in.

Sample sizes are so much fun.

Sample sizes are so much fun.


Hey Honey Take it Off Exfoliating Honey Peel Off Mask ($35):

I have been on a major mask kick lately, and this is hands down my favorite. I got this sample of Hey Honey in my May ipsy bag and have been using it weekly ever since. You lightly moisturize your face before application and then lightly moisturize after you peel the mask off. My skin feels so happy and clean after I use this product. A full size retails for $35 and since I’m still working through the sample three weeks later, the price is probably worth the amount you would get. It doesn’t take much of this clear gel to cover your face. I use this maybe once a week and use a different mask as well, but Hey Honey has been a valuable addition to my routine.

Newest Obsession

Newest Obsession

Ulta Extreme Wear Mousse Blush in Peach Glow ($8.00):

Until this product, I had never tried a cream or mousse blush and I am now a convert. This formula is so silky with a hint of a shimmer, but dries to matte. Applying it with your finger is easy and the finished look has the appearance of a natural flush. The range has four colors which would work for a variety of skin tones. I also have the Nude Glow and love that as well. I tend to use the Peach more often with my fair skin, but the Nude is great for sunny days. The staying power with this is also great–your blush will still be there at the end of the day. Such a fan!

Don't judge. Just love.

Don’t judge. Just love.


Completely Bare Bikini Bump Blaster ($9.00):

Ladies, you know summer can be cruel to your bikini line.  No matter what your hair removal strategy is, the skin on your inner thighs is sensitive and prone to irritation. I cannot recommend this product enough. Now, it doesn’t eliminate all your problems, but as someone who has struggled with bumps and redness for years this is a lovely solution. Suggested use is for everyday, and I’d say I use it every other day. I’m still seeing positive results though. You might have a bit of a sting at application if you just shaved/waxed/whatevered but other than that no pain or lingering discomfort. I’m already feeling more confident as bikini season approaches. You get fifty pads for just under $10.00, which is so worth while for the result.  I got my Bump Blasters at and will definitely keep up with using this for months.

Finally found my brush cleaner.

Finally found my brush cleaner.


BH Studio Pro Makeup Brush Cleaner ($14.95)

I clean my brushes thoroughly about once or twice a month with a DIY method, but have been looking for a good in between uses brush cleaner. FOUND IT! I grabbed it at the BH Cosmetics website, and right now they’re having a bit of a sale, so you can get this big ole’ bottle for $9.95 here. I keep a towel near my makeup and spray the fabric 3-4 times then gently swirl the dirty brushes on the towel. The excess product comes right out and leaves my brushes with a faint, fresh citrus scent. Then let the brushes air dry and you’re ready to use again. This cleaner even works wonders on my foundation brushes where I use my liquid foundations. Even though the suggested use is the 3-4 sprays, a little bit goes a long way here. So happy with this brush cleaner!


There are my beauty favorites for May. Hope you enjoyed and be on the lookout for my May empties post.