Wednesday, January 28, 2015

What I Read Wednesday

Saint Odd: An Odd Thomas Novel
I feel like I've been reading the Odd Thomas series for my whole life, but it turns out the first was released in 2008. Still, a long time. Odd Thomas is a man who has many supernatural powers, such as the ability to sense when deaths will take place. He uses his powers to try and interfere, but he is often times too late. Saint Odd was the last book of the series and came from full circle from the beginning. What I enjoy about this series is that although it's a continuation and builds, each novel can kind of stand alone and has enough filler information that I didn't feel like I was totally lost.

A Deadly Wandering: A Tale of Tragedy and Redemption in the Age of Attention
This book was fascinating. It interweaves the story of the first texting and driving manslaughter case alongside scientific studies and personal stories. It makes a case that technology splits our brain so much that we're unable to fully focus. Even if you aren't texting and driving, your brain might be wandering still from sending a text at a stop light. Or maybe you hear your phone and your attention is now split wondering what the text you received was, and it takes a full 10-15 seconds to fully return your attention to the road. It also brings up just how much time kids are spending with technology, an interesting and somewhat frightening number, considering how many kids are now using one-on-one devices in schools. For a non-fiction book, this was anything but dry and I would recommend everyone read it.

See How Small: A Novel
This is a book that people will either love or hate because it's written in a unique prose and that can be dividing. One evening after closing up the ice cream shop at which they work, three girls are attacked by two men and mercilessly abused at gunpoint, after which the shop is lit on fire and the girls die. This story is told from the survivors and from the three girls, often hovering just at the edge of their loved ones' vision. The whole truth behind their murders is left untold, but what is told is haunting.

The Secret Wisdom of the Earth
After the death of his brother, 14 year old Kevin and his mom go to live with his grandpa in coal country. This novel encompasses a lot: coming of age, environmental issues, human rights issues and the complexity of life after tragedy. At times, it seemed a reach in a few areas, but it was overall an absolutely engaging read. I loved most of the characters and I liked that it maintained a realistic tone of life through the end.

Black River
Wes returns to Black River with two things: an urn of his wife's ashes and a letter from the parole board, stating that the inmate who trapped and tortured Wes for almost two days is up for parole. He arrives to a town that is both changed and unchanged and to a stepson with whom he still cannot relate. Throughout the pages, he feels out his role in his stepson's life and tries to make amends but can't quite let go of the past. He struggles with the belief that people are born a certain way or made a certain way and cannot change, despite what they say. This is one of those reads that leaves you equally sad and happy all at once. Wes' story is powerful and dark but not without hope.

What are you reading?

Monday, January 26, 2015

Golden Tote January Mystery Tote

I said I wasn't going to buy a Golden Tote in January because post-Christmas budget and all that, but then Golden Tote announced that they were doing a special mystery tote that was only $60. I had a few referral credits (thank you!) that pretty much paid for the tote, so how was I to resist?

The mystery tote was a little different than the norm. For $60, you received four items, one of which was a special Priddy item made just for the mystery totes and one of which would be a previous chosen item from 2014. The catch was that, unlike usual months, your comments and style profile would not be read and you just had to choose one size (in the past, they've followed my comments to size up on skirts--this would not happen this month). It was a true mystery grab bag of clothing, but with the Facebook trading community, I figured it was a pretty safe gamble.

Fortunately, I loved everything in my tote, so I didn't even have to try to trade or sell.
As always, everything came packed in a tote and tied with an elastic ribbon.
My eyes went to the pop of color first, and I was in love as soon as I pulled it out of the tote. Unfortunately, I live in the Midwest, so you won't see me wearing this until May (if we're lucky), but it's a gorgeous halter tie maxi with POCKETS. I love pockets in dresses. Although I have a lot of maxi dresses, I don't have any with this neckline or with pockets, so this is a win.
Next was the Flying Tomato cardigan. I do not wear dolman sleeves as a general rule, but since this is a cardigan, I felt like it worked a little better. It's a perfect layering piece for my [very cold] workplace and super soft.
Next was a very flowy tank top. Again, you won't see me wearing this without layers until the summer, but it ended up being very easy to dress up and make work appropriate. I love clothes that I can carry throughout the seasons.
And finally, the Priddy top. Everyone received a variation of this in either solid or stripes. It is very soft and forgiving, but I was disappointed that it wasn't long enough on me to wear as a tunic. Most people in the Facebook community modeled it as a tunic, but alas… I have too long of a torso. Still, it's very basic and again, nice to wear to work. 
There are still mystery Golden Totes left in XS and S, but the February sale launches next week. As always, you can buy a $49 tote with one chosen item and one to two surprises or you can purchase a $149 tote with two chosen items and four to six surprises. After recently window shopping at Anthropologie and seeing many of the same brands I get via Golden Tote in the store, I realized what a good deal I'm getting on these brands. One of the dresses I have was almost the same cost as a whole tote! I'm definitely enjoying my closet more lately.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

What I Read Wednesday

I'll Drink to That: A Life in Style, with a Twist
86 year old Betty Halbreich has spent her life styling other people. This book tells the story of her beginnings and how she ended up with the job she has now. This was an interesting memoir. I do think it would be fascinating to make your living essentially shopping for other people and helping them find the right clothes. There were some moments where it was hard to relate to Betty. She lived a pretty charmed life, but she also seems to take it all in stride. I enjoyed her little side comments about fashion and what people today consider as fashion or etiquette. It was an interesting read.

Golden Son: Book II of the Red Rising Trilogy
Book 2 of the Red Rising trilogy. I had to refresh my memory of Red Rising, but I enjoyed this continuation. Red Rising set up a world on Mars where everyone list in a color designated caste system: the lowest being Red, the highest being Gold. The Reds toil in mines beneath Mars, believing the planet isn't yet ready for life and they're doing the noble task of preparing it. This is, unfortunately, a lie told to the Reds by those above them. One Red, Darrow, learns the truth and sets forth to fight the system and all those that define people by the mere life into which they are born. I thought this was definitely a more exciting continuation to the story and to the world that is displayed in these books. I can't wait for the conclusion!

Codex Born: (Magic Ex Libris: Book Two)
The sequel to Libriomancer. The cover was actually more embarrassing, so I read it at home. Isaac is still a libriomancer, one who possesses the ability to pull items from books. In this book, he and his girlfriend Lena (a dryad, of course) are threatened by one who wishes to use Lena's powers for evil. Again, a very enjoyable, fast and fun read. Nothing serious, but I like these books because I don't have to think much.

What are you reading?

Thursday, January 15, 2015

What I Read Wednesday

On Thursday! I had a horrible migraine Tuesday night and retreated to bed early, then I didn't get home until 8 last night. So I'm a day late. I hope you all survived somehow.

The Ask and the Answer (Reissue with bonus short story): Chaos Walking: Book Two
Monsters of Men (Reissue with bonus short story): Chaos Walking: Book Three
These are the final two books to the Chaos Walking trilogy. This is an excellent dystopia about life on a planet where men's thoughts can be heard by all, but women don't have the "noise." The ending made me cry! I really enjoyed this trilogy and the characters.

Libriomancer: (Magic Ex Libris Book 1)
The cover of this book was kind of embarrassing, but it was a good, quick fantasy read, nonetheless. The main character is a librarian. He is also a libriomancer, one who can use books to make magic--drawing objects from the books and making them real. In a world where Ponce de Leon and Johannes Guttenberg still live on, Isaac is caught in a dangerous situation where it seems a libriomancer is out of control and no one is able to stop or find him.

The Boston Girl: A Novel
I love a period piece done right and this was. Addie Baum is a first generation Yiddish immigrant. Born to strict, devout parents, she is torn between her older sisters: one who bucks societal norms, the other who quietly follows them no matter how painful it may be. The story is being told by 85 year old Addie to her granddaughter, as a reflective look back upon her life and her struggles and triumphs. This was a beautifully woven story.

The Strange Library
This was a very beautiful both, in both an artistic and a literary manner. The flaps of this book fold back and throw the reader into a lonely, dark world where a boy looking for a library book ends up locked in a jail cell by a man in the basement of the library. A man who would wish the boy to fill his brain with knowledge, so the man can feast on it. This was a very surreal story. Very short, with a lot of layers. I loved it.

Untamed: The Wildest Woman in America and the Fight for Cumberland Island
I've never heard of Cumberland Island, a national park off the coast of Georgia, so I was intrigued by this book and the wild woman who lives there. Carol has been fighting for years with Carnegie heirs who own homes on the island, as well as the National Park Service, to leave Cumberland Island the refuge it is. Housing sea turtles (whose numbers are rapidly declining) and other diverse, beautiful creatures, Cumberland is and should be a protected refuge. This is something between a biography and an informational book, but I loved the story of Carol and her devotion not only to animals, but to protecting and loving the natural world. Although at times she seemed a little out there, it's easy to respect someone with such strong principles.

What are you reading?

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

What I Read Wednesday

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
I checked this out and read it, then a coworker asked if I could check it out for her because her library doesn't have it. So basically, the librarians think I'm crazy. Anyway, this somewhat reminded me of The Circle but with a broader perspective. This book is narrated from three characters: Leila, Leo and Mark. Leila is doing humanitarian work in Myanmar when she stumbles into some sort of government conspiracy. Leo is the trust fund child of a board game family who descends into a drug and alcohol induced craziness. Mark is the celebrated author of a self-help book who admittedly plagiarized most of his work from other sources and is being sourced by the evil conglomerate ready to take over the world with all the data floating around out there. The three come together in the end to either take over or become part of the new data-driven world… it isn't quite clear. While I loved most of the book itself, the ending unravelled slightly and lost me. I could see this being great with 50 more pages or with a sequel, but I have mixed feelings on it at this point.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Is it really sad that I hadn't read this until now? I kind of feel that way. If you haven't read it, you need to read it. This book is written in letter form. Charlie, a high school freshman, writes letters to an unknown person. As he navigates his freshman year of high school, Charlie is befriended by two seniors: Samantha and Patrick. This book explores the struggles with drugs, sex, alcohol and gender identification with teenagers. I loved it. So much.

The Knife of Never Letting Go (Reissue with bonus short story): Chaos Walking: Book One
Book one of the Chaos Walking trilogy. Someone recommended this to me, and I loved it. Todd lives in a world where there are 13 months in a year and there are no women and men can read each other's thoughts. There is no escape from the noise caused by these thoughts, until one day, Todd and his dog Manchee find the quiet in the swamp. This sets his life into a frenzied motion, as he shortly thereafter discovers a girl. A real live girl. From this point forward, he, Manchee and the girl are on the run from those in his town who wish to control everything through lies and forced power. I especially loved the voice of the dog in this book--I fell in love with Manchee. I can't wait to read the rest!

Debbie Doesn't Do It Anymore: A Novel
Debbie is a porn star. Until one day, her husband is found dead in the bathtub, in a compromising position with an underage girl. And the… Debbie doesn't do it anymore. She decides she wants out, that she wants more to life than the life she's been leading all these years. Rather, she decides to live the life the underage girl who died with her husband was never able to live. What follows is a quirky, poignant story that is almost like a coming of age for Debbie. I loved this book so much. Debbie's voice is great and the characters are well-developed and fun.

What are you reading?

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Younique 3D Fiber Lash Mascara [review]

I love mascara. I keep a tube of it in my desk at work in case I forget to put it on in the morning before work (or in case I'm so sad about going to work that I cry it all off before I get there). I just feel naked without it. I am pretty loyal to DiorShow or Clinique High Impact, but my friend Ally just started selling Younique and asked me to review their 3D Fiber Lashes. One thing that drew me in was learning that it's all natural with no talc or added parabans.



That said, I was a little nervous when I first received it because it did seem like a bit of a process for mascara. First you put on your regular mascara, let it dry, then apply the Younique transplanting gel, followed by the fibers, then finish off with a layer of the transplanting gel. One eye at a time. What I loved about it immediately was that it comes in its own little case! I love ways that I can keep my makeup easily together, especially while traveling.

After a few tries, I found that it actually wasn't as time consuming as I thought. The first time I used it, I was all over the place and ended up with fibers stuck to my cheek. That was not cute. But then, I got the hang of it and learned to hold both mascaras uncapped in my hand so I could quickly apply.

I found a few things: one, it does give my normally pitiful lashes a huge oomph. It is very dramatic! I loved it. It does not drift off or rub off throughout the day, which is a huge bonus. If I put on mascara, it's for the long haul. It also washes off very easily, although sometimes I ended up with fibers still clinging to my lashes. And finally, I learned that it is REALLY DIFFICULT to take pictures of your lashes. How do people do it? You can't see the full view here, but I think I at least illustrated the difference between just mascara and the 3D fiber lashes.

Although it is lengthening, it does not cause spider lashes. And if it does, you can easily tackle it with a lash comb.

Will I continue using it after these tubes are gone? I will! I really liked the lengthened lashes, plus the chance to play it up really dramatic if I ever go anywhere fancy (HA). If you're interested in trying the mascara (or any Younique products) and supporting my friend Ally, I do have a party set up. Or if you have any product questions, feel free to ask them here and I will pass them along to Ally!

What's your favorite beauty product that you cannot live without? Obviously it's mascara for me, but I am also very partial to cheek shimmer. I like to glow.

Ally provided the mascara but all opinions are mine

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

What I Read Wednesday

It's Wednesday! I almost forgot.

Lucky Us: A Novel
When Eva's father's wife dies, Eva learns that her father has a whole life separate from her. Mainly that he doesn't travel for business, instead he spends his time with his other wife and his other daughter. Tired of being a mom, Eva's mom drops her at her father's, where Eva quickly bonds with her sister Iris. Disappointed by the man who is their father, Eva and Iris strike off on their own, heading to California--even though Eva should still be in school. Iris's plan to be a movie star seems to be on track, until she's derailed by a scandal. Their father swoops in to rescue them, and the two leave on a new adventure. This was a lovely, beautiful book full of rich details and adventures. I fell in love with the characters and didn't want it to end.

Belzhar
After the loss of her boyfriend Reeve, Jam ends up at the Wooden Barn--a boarding school for kids with issues. Jam finds herself signed up for a special topics English class, focusing entirely on the works and life of Sylvia Plath. Part of the assignment is to write in a journal--only Jam and her classmates quickly discover that there is something magical about the journals, something that transports them to the person or life or feeling they've lost. Many of the reviews discuss the surprise ending, and I will be honest… I figured it out about halfway through the book, which changed things slightly for me. Still, I was engaged with the stories and losses of Jam's classmates, who I felt were well developed.

Gilead: A Novel
This is by the same author of Lila and features the Rev John Ames, a major character in Lila. I will be honest--I went into this book with high expectations because it was critically acclaimed and had tons of rave reviews on Amazon. Was it a good book? Yes. But it didn't strike a chord with me as I thought it might. Written from the voice of John Ames, in a series of letters to his young son, this book discusses life, memories and the fear of aging and dying. The plot of Lila actually pre-dates this book somewhat, so it was interesting to make those connections. The prose was absolutely stunning, but it is not the kind of read that you can't put down. At least not for me.

Shotgun Lovesongs: A Novel
When I posted about books on Facebook (which culminated in a bunch of people telling me they never read and I have too much time on my hands--oh, Facebook), Corrin said this was her favorite of the year. The narrative is shared by five characters: Ronny, Lee, Kip and Henry and Henry's wife, Beth, take turns narrating and sharing their stories and perspectives while centered around their small hometown of Little Wing, WI. Having grown up in a small town (cue John Mellencamp) and moving to an even smaller town, there is much in here that I found relatable. Ronny was a rodeo store, until one night he fell while drunk and damaged his brain. Lee is the local boy who made it big, a rock star dating a movie star. Kip left the small town for the big city but returned with a plan to make the small town successful again. Henry never left and lives the simple life of every farmer, alongside his wife Beth. In the midst of the novel, drama and heartbreak occur among the characters with a few twists and turns. I flew through this book because I loved it. I loved the men and the women pretreated in these pages, and I loved the town.