This book review is going to be a bit different from my typical reviews. In addition to reading and reviewing the book, I was asked by the publisher to create a makeup look inspired by the novel. There will also be a giveaway at the end!

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By: Anna Banks
Published Year: 2016
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Pages: 368

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This book was given to me in exchange for an honest review. This in no way shape or form influenced my opinion.

Summary (Provided by Goodreads): Princess Sepora of Serubel is the last Forger in all the five kingdoms. The spectorium she creates provides energy for all, but now her father has found a way to weaponize it, and his intentions to incite war force her to flee from his grasp. She escapes across enemy lines into the kingdom of Theoria, but her plans to hide are thwarted when she is captured and placed in the young king's servitude.

Tarik has just taken over rulership of Theoria, and must now face a new plague sweeping through his kingdom and killing his citizens. The last thing he needs is a troublesome servant vying for his attention. But mistress Sepora will not be ignored. When the two finally meet face-to-face, they form an unlikely bond that complicates life in ways neither of them could have imagined.

Sepora's gift could save Tarik's kingdom from the Quiet Plague. But should she trust her growing feelings for her nemesis, or should she hide her gifts at all costs?

                                                                               What I thought

Nemesis follows Princess Sepora and King Tarik through alternating chapter. Sepora is the princess of the Kingdom of Serubel while King Tarik is the new boy king of the Kingdom of Theoria. There are an additional 3 kingdoms in this Egyptian inspired universe that the reader hears about through the main characters, but are not visited in this story. At the beginning of the story, Tarik has lost his father and is newly made King while Sepora has fled her kingdom for freedom from her father. In addition to their family troubles, Tarik has to deal with a new plague taking over his kingdom with no cure on the horizion while Sepora has to deal with her tyrant father and his desire for war with Theoria.

I know this all sounds completely confusing. To be honest, after reading the first chapter I was completely confused and very put-off. The unique names of everything made finding my footing in this fantasy world very difficult. However, after Tarik’s first chapter (the second chapter in the novel) pieces started falling into place. It was definitely a bit like being dropped into the middle of an unknown world and having to learn your surroundings, but that little bit of disorientation at the beginning is completely worth it.

In addition to the initial confusion with the worlds, the character have powers that are referred to as Favors. Sepora is a Forger, meaning that her body produces an element that is living and full of energy called spectorum. Tarik is a Lingot, meaning that he can tell when someone is lying as well as speak and understand any language instantly. I imagined spectorum to be similar to oil in that it is used to power everything and has become essential to a lot of the kingdoms for survival. Because Sepora is the only Forger, Serubel is the only kingdom that is able to trade spectorum. Her father abuses this power and prompts her to run away. When she leaves, she leaves his kingdom without their greatest trade. As a result, Theoria, who relies heavily on the power of spectorum, starts to experience a shortage. Not only is King Tarik concerned with regaining more to keep his people happy, but it turns out it could hold the cure to the plague ravishing his city.

Still with me? This is easily one of the best fantasy novels I’ve read in a while. The world is unique but familiar without being too familiar. I also greatly appreciated how Banks created and molded the relationship between Tarik and Sepora. There is no instalove and there is no love triangle. It is a realistic relationship of two people who meet, have their differences, but also find what they have in common. The slow burn is done so wonderfully.

Sepora is a strong female character who makes decisions based on what is best for her. She doesn’t whine and she doesn’t waffle. She knows what she needs to do and she does it. I also appreciated that Tarik is a strong male, but he has a bit of a sensitive side.

After the initial confusion, this book sucked me in. I feel immediately back into the world and loved each of the characters.

                                                                        What Inspired My Look

From the moment that Sepora’s eyes were described as silver (something that is a result of her being a Forger), I knew I wanted to create a look with silver eyeshadow. Her makeup is also described (and shown on the cover) as being artistic and elaborate. Since the fun eyeliner shapes were also common in ancient Egypt, I was inspired to incorporate those elements into my look. I also added just a hint of blue in my eyeliner on the bottom lash line as blue is the color of Theoria. For my hair, I made a crown braid as the Sepora is always wearing braids.

My look is definitely a toned down version of what Sepora is wearing on the cover. I wanted to do something that was a bit easier to recreate. I also didn't want to create a copy-cat look, but you can build on what I did as much as you like! I also picked a red-orange lip because if I were to be a princess I would pick a red as my power color. It is also the color of the Serubelan country, so I thought it was a fun way to tie it in.

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I created my look with Maybelline Color Tattoo Concentrated Crayon in Charcoal Chrome, L’oreal Infallible Eyeshadow in Silver Sky, NARS Larger Than Life Eyeliner in Black (for my eyebrows), Eyeko London Fat Liquid Eyeliner in Black, Sumita Beauty Eyeliner in Midnight Blue, and Top Shop Lipstick in Rio Rio.

The beauty style of the characters in this book is very ornate. The King is always mentioned as being decorated in gold paint while Sepora is decorated in silver. If you are looking to create a Nemesis inspired look, I recommend using those colors. Have fun with your designs around your eye! They are meant to be unique to your personality. I really ended up loving this look! If I end up with a reason to pull it back out for Halloween I definitely will be!

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I cannot wait until book two comes out! I will admit I was a bit hesitant to read this book as I was a bit put off by the cover and the description, but it blew me away! The characters are wonderfully thought out and so three dimensional. The story is complex but still easy to follow along. I have some ideas as to where it’s going to go, but I can’t wait to see what actually happens. I would recommend this book to (obviously) fans of fantasy, but also to those who have only ever dabbled in fantasy or are looking to try it for the first time. It doesn’t come across as over the top fantasy, which I think is why I enjoyed it so much. I am not personally a huge fantasy reader, but this was just the perfect balance.

                                                           Giveaway time!

The publisher is generously offering a giveaway of a $25 Ulta gift card and a finished copy of Nemesis! If you are a book and beauty lover like me, this is one not to pass up.

You must be 18 years or older to enter and reside in the US in order to enter this giveaway. The giveaway will be closed at 12 AM CST on Saturday October 1st 2016.

In addition to the above giveaway, the winner will be entered to win one of two book tour-wide prizes including an Egyptian bib collar necklace and a silver Serpen (a snake like creature with wings) armband.

Good luck everyone!

 
 
Play! By Sephora is a monthly subscription box by Sephora. It costs $10 a month and you received 5 beauty and skincare samples plus a perfume sample each month. Previously, you needed to put yourself onto a wait-list and wait to receive an email before you could subscribe, as they were rolling it out to limited quantities.

In addition to the products, Sephora includes a booklet that includes information about the product, the brand, and then tips of how to use the products. Also at the back of the book is a Play! PASS. This Pass gives you a complimentary one-on-one session with a Sephora artist as well as an extra 50 Beauty Insider points when you scan the pass at the register with any purchase. If you have the Sephora app, you can also scan the images of the products to learn more about them.

The past couple of months, the boxes were not personalized and everyone who signed up for the subscription received the same products. This is the second month, they sent out two different boxes which had similar products but for different skin and hair types. The theme for this month was The Unbasic Basics

As a heads up, the boxes are a little bit larger and will not fit into a small apartment sized mailbox. For reference, a Birchbox box is able to fit almost perfectly into my mailbox, but this one has no chance. Therefore, I’ve had to go to the post office both months to pick up my box.

This month the products I received were as follows:

Sephora Collection Rouge Shine Lipstick in Love Spell (Full-size $12.50)
This lipstick is a moisturizing formula made with shea butter. The color is absolutely beautiful and felt really smooth on my hand. Unfortunately, this color is way too pale for me so I didn’t even bother trying it on my lips. It doesn’t feel as though it would have a lot of staying power as it is a glossy formula, but it feels like it would be nice to reapply.
Anastasia Clear Brow Gel (Full-price $22)
From everything that I’ve heard, Anastasia Brow products are the holy grail of all brow products. I’m terrible about my brows and I literally do nothing with them. However, I’m a little curious to try this out and see how it works. It’s meant to hold you brows in place without adding any color. Supposedly, it also includes chamomile that is said to condition your eyebrow hairs.

Kat Von D Tattoo Liner in Trooper (Full-size $20)
This is another product I have heard so much about! Everyone that has mentioned this liner has raved about it. I’ve only recently gotten into liquid liners, so I think this will take some practice. It has a soft brush tip but the color is super dark and is waterproof.

Dr. Jart+ Water Drop Hydrating Moisturizer (Full-size $36)
This is a moisturizer meant for all skin types. It is water-based but also includes hyaluronic acid which is meant to even complexion. It says that is bursts into liquid droplets while rubbing it in and that you pat those into the skin to absorb. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to test it because I’ve already misplaced it! I swear I put it right back into the bag after taking my pictures, but it’s not there. So weird. I’ll definitely have to go on the hunt because this is the product I’m most excited about trying.

Living Proof Perfect Hair Day Night Cap Overnight Perfector (Full-size $28)
Another overnight hair mask. This particular one is meant to enhance shine and manageability and claims that results will last all week. It also says that you don’t HAVE to wash is out the next morning. This means it might be one of the few overnight hair masks I actually try. I am a night time shower person, so I’ve never actually tried any of the other masks. I’ve had some good luck recently with Living Proof products, so I’m curious about how this works. I will see if it leaves my hair heavy and greasy the next morning.

Tory Burch Jolie Fleur Verte (Full-size $95)
The Tory Burch fragrance has notes of Lilly of the Valley, Jasmine, Mandarin, Neroli Oil, Green Accord, Cedarwood, Sandalwood, and Musk.  I love the balance of the sweet and floral with the musky scents. It’s a really pleasant scent and I enjoy it a lot. Unfortunately, I didn’t find it to have much staying power. I currently own the Tory Buch Absolu and I find similar results with that. I love the scent, but I wish the staying power was a bit longer, especially for the price.

 
 
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By: Emma Mills
Published Year: 2015
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co
Pages: 267

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Summary (Provided by Goodreads): Devon Tennyson wouldn't change a thing. She's happy watching Friday night games from the bleachers, silently crushing on best friend Cas, and blissfully ignoring the future after high school. But the universe has other plans. It delivers Devon's cousin Foster, an unrepentant social outlier with a surprising talent for football, and the obnoxiously superior and maddeningly attractive star running back, Ezra, right where she doesn't want them: first into her P.E. class and then into every other aspect of her life.

Pride and Prejudice meets Friday Night Lights in this contemporary novel about falling in love with the unexpected boy, with a new brother, and with yourself

                                                                           First Impressions

I have to admit I was a bit torn by this cover. I like the colors and that definitely caught my eye, but the actual cover which is kind of like tear drops or rain drops didn’t grab me right away. The summary and the marketing for this book were what drew me in. I saw it advertised as a modern day Pride & Prejudice with high school football. Pretty much anything with football I am immediately sold, add in Pride & Prejudice and it becomes a no brainer.

                                                                            What I thought

I loved this book! Everything about this book is a Lindsey book and I enjoyed it. I read it all in one day in pretty much one sitting.

Devon is starting her senior year of high school. Her cousin Foster is a freshman and just moved from California to live with Devon and her family. Devon’s best friend Cas plays for the varsity football team, so Devon has spent a lot of time at football games and going to football after parties. Ezra is the star, All-American football player who moved to the high school in his junior year. He is aloof and a lot of people assume that he is a conceited jerk. Devon is the same until she begins to get to know him.

I loved all of the complexities with the relationships. Each relationship had more to it than what it seemed. For example, without giving anything away, Devon has had a crush on Cas for years. It was fun to read about two characters and their relationship and then find out that there was another layer to it. Devon is a bit closed off so you don’t get a huge insight into all of the characters, but definitely enough that you can form opinions about them and form attachments.

Football plays a pretty big part in this story. Ezra, Cas, and even Foster are involved with the team so by association Devon is involved with the team. A lot of the setting of the story occur at football games or football practices. It’s not overly heavy on actual football play references, more the atmosphere of the football life. I am a huge college football fan, but enjoy reading about football at any level so I loved the feeling that these settings gave me.

This book was really easy to read and while there were complexities to the story line, it moved quickly and easily. I would say that the big story line is relatively predictable (it even states it’s similar to Pride & Prejudice), but the nuances of the story were not. There were some twists and turns within the stories and relationships that I did not predict.

I’ve been in a bit of a reading funk lately and this one was just so refreshing and enjoyable to read. This is Mills’ debut novel and I am truly excited to read books from her in the future. Part of me does wish that she would write a sequel to this one as it ends just where parts of the story start, but at the same time it’s refreshing to have a story end on a happy note and allow my imagination to run with what happens after.

I loved so many aspects of this book. The relationships, the characters, the romance, it was all great. It’s not often that I have a book that I finish in one sitting and this one captured me. If you enjoy football I would highly recommend this book. I wouldn’t put too much emphasis on the similarities between this and Pride & Prejudice as it’s very loose. I would definitely read this book again and have already recommended it to friends. I can’t wait until Mills comes out with her next novel!

 
 
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By: Byrony Fraser
Published Year: 2016
Publisher: Avon
Pages: 400

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This in no way shape or form influenced my opinion.

Summary (Provided by Goodreads):  It’s Zoe and Jack’s first wedding anniversary party. They’ve got an announcement! They’re getting divorced.

Marriage isn’t for everyone – something that Zoe and Jack discovered only after they’d walked down the aisle. Bad timing, huh?

So now they’re stuck together in their once harmonious marital home, neither one of them willing to move out of their lovely house.

With Zoe’s three sisters always wanting a say, and Jack’s best friend trying his best to fix things between them, misunderstandings arise. Tempers flare. ‘Accidents’ happen…

Zoe and Jack are going to be lucky if they’re still alive when the twelve months are up. But maybe things aren’t quite as final as they seem?

                                                                                   First Impressions

This cover caught my eye while scrolling through NetGalley. It looked so cute! I read the summary and it sounded interesting and different from anything I had read lately. I was super excited to get a chance to read and review this story!

                                                                                    What I thought

Zoe and Jack are celebrating their one year wedding anniversary. At their anniversary party they announce that they are getting a divorce.

The story starts with their announcement at the party and then immediately goes back to their wedding day. From there, the chapters alternate between their present day marriage moving forward and the relationship before the marriage moving forward towards the wedding day. It sounds a bit confusing but it’s almost like reading two relationships simultaneously moving forward from their beginnings.

I expected the story of these two characters to be a happy first few months of marriage with something happening in the middle and then leading to a divorce. That is definitely not the way that this story moves. From the very beginning it is clear that Zoe does not want to be married. Not because she doesn’t love Jack, but because she abhors the idea and construct of marriage. She has never wanted to be married or believed in marriage, yet she finds herself married. There are troubles with the relationship from day one of the marriage. There is no honeymoon period and talk of the divorce comes up quickly. This is not a story of a happy couple who slowly dissolves into a divorce. It is about a couple who immediately falls into disrepair and has to deal with the next year of being technically married until they can file for divorce.

I was a bit surprised by Zoe and how immediately their relationship falls apart after they are legally married. It seems as though she completely turns into a different person from the moment the ink dries on their marriage certificate. This part seemed a bit unbelievable to me and I wish that somehow the beginning of the marriage had a bit more of a honeymoon period than it really did. As the story moves forward, it makes a lot more sense but it’s a bit hard to grasp right off the bat. I felt as though it made Zoe a little unlikeable and not relatable.

I don’t think there are many stories that have been told like this one. I feel like if someone doesn’t believe in marriage it’s always the male and I think it is refreshing to read a story where the woman is the one who doesn’t want to get married. There will be a lot of readers who relate to this story and I think it’s great that it’s out there.

I also truly enjoyed that there were alternating chapters that told the story of their relationship from the very beginning. It’s hard to root for a couple when they are made to seem so wrong for each other from the very beginning. My biggest issue was that it seemed a bit unbelievable that someone would change so drastically so instantaneously. It felt to me that Zoe knew she didn’t want to be married, did it anyway, and then never gave it a chance. I wish that she had maybe given it a few weeks before going a bit crazy, but maybe that’s be being unrealistic.

I think this is going to be a love/hate type of book. I can see many people being so annoyed with Zoe that they stop reading it. She’s not a likeable character at the beginning, but if you continue you will grow to understand her. I did enjoy the book and was curious to see how everything was going to play out since we already knew the ending. I wouldn’t read it again, but I would recommend it if it sounds lie a book you’d enjoy.

 
 
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By: Juliet Blackwell
Published Year: 2016
Publisher: Berkley
Pages: 384

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This in no way shape or form influenced my opinion.

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Summary (Provided by Goodreads): After surviving the accident that took her mother’s life, Claire Broussard worked hard to escape her small Louisiana hometown. But these days she feels something lacking. Abruptly leaving her lucrative job in Chicago, Claire returns home to care for her ailing grandmother. There, she unearths a beautiful sculpture that her great-grandfather sent home from Paris after World War II.

At her grandmother’s urging, Claire travels to Paris to track down the centuries old mask-making atelier where the sculpture, known only as “L’inconnue”—or the Unknown Woman—was created. With the help of a passionate sculptor, Claire discovers a cache of letters that offer insight into the life of the Belle Epoque woman immortalized in the work of art.

As Claire uncovers the unknown woman’s tragic fate, she begins to discover secrets—and a new love—of her own.
         
                                                        First Impressions


The title made me a little wary as I’ve has some bad experiences with Paris books in the past, but the cover was so pretty I knew I had to give it a chance. I read the summary and while I wasn’t immediately drawn in, in combination with the cover I was convinced to give this book a try.

                                                                            What I thought

I am so glad my first impressions were wrong! Finally a book set in Paris that I thoroughly enjoyed!

Claire grew up in a Parish in Louisiana and escaped to Chicago for college. She has been living there for years only keeping vague contact with her Mammaw who raised her. When she finds out her Mammaw is sick, she heads back to the Parish. While there, she discovers a mask that she talked to when she was a small child and feeling lonely. Combined with a mysterious word of encouragement from her Mammaw on her deathbed, Claire heads to Pairs to discover more about the mask and where it came from in hopes of also finding herself. The story alternates chapters with historical chapters from the late 1800s following a young French girl who just moved from the countryside to the big city.

I definitely preferred the present day chapters to the past ones, but I think that’s because I was very interested in Claire’s chapters and stories. I found her past fascinating and was curious to see what she was going to find out about the mask and that history.

Claire’s backstory wasn’t completely unique, but had some twists to it that made it its own. I loved that she came from a Parish in Louisiana and therefore spoke Creole, so she was able to communicate with the French in Paris. I had never read a story about a character from Louisiana before, so that definitely piqued my interest. I also appreciated that her past played enough of a part that you could tell it was what fueled her, but it didn’t come up every other paragraph in Paris.

As expected with a story that takes place in Paris, there is a little bit of a love story. I don’t think this was a strong part, but it was a fun part. The relationship happened a bit quick for my tastes, but I liked that there was a bit of slower growth. I think that the ending occurred a bit quickly as well. Everything seemed to wrap up within the final 20 pages and considering the rest of the book was a slow burn, I wish it had moved a bit slower.

While I didn’t find myself looking forward to the historical chapters (because I wanted to read Claire’s perspective instead), I loved the historical aspect of the book. It is a historical fiction without being heavy or hard to read. I know that the history of the mask is complete fiction written by Blackwell, but I wish it was true!

This book sucked me in from the minute I started to read it. The world of Pairs was made magical to me for the first time in this story. Claire is a sweet character who has issues but is never obnoxious or annoying. I also appreciated that Blackwell never created any of the cliché miscommunications between relationships. I would gladly read a book of Claire’s past, a book taking place in the Parish with any of Claire’s cousins, a book of the Lombardi family (past or present), or honestly anything to do with any of these characters. I definitely recommend this book if you enjoy stories that play with history and love. It’s very sweet and is an easy read. I can’t wait to check out more by Blackwell!

 
 
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By: Amy Schumer
Published Year: 2016
Publisher: Gallery Books
Pages: 323

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Summary (Provided by Goodreads): The Emmy Award-winning comedian, actress, writer, and star of Inside Amy Schumer and the acclaimed film Trainwreck has taken the entertainment world by storm with her winning blend of smart, satirical humor. Now, Amy Schumer has written a refreshingly candid and uproariously funny collection of (extremely) personal and observational essays.

In The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo, Amy mines her past for stories about her teenage years, her family, relationships, and sex and shares the experiences that have shaped who she is—a woman with the courage to bare her soul to stand up for what she believes in, all while making us laugh.

Ranging from the raucous to the romantic, the heartfelt to the harrowing, this highly entertaining and universally appealing collection is the literary equivalent of a night out with your best friend—an unforgettable and fun adventure that you wish could last forever. Whether she’s experiencing lust-at-first-sight while in the airport security line, sharing her own views on love and marriage, admitting to being an introvert, or discovering her cross-fit instructor’s secret bad habit, Amy Schumer proves to be a bighearted, brave, and thoughtful storyteller that will leave you nodding your head in recognition, laughing out loud, and sobbing uncontrollably—but only because it’s over.

                                                                              First Impressions

I find Amy Schumer interesting, even if I don’t always find her funny, but I was immediately curious wen I found out she was writing a book. I thought the title and cover were eye catching and do stand out from some other celebrity memoirs. Although, with so many coming out, I guess that’s kind of the point.

                                                                              What I thought

If you are not a fan of Amy Schumer’s humor, you will not enjoy this book. At times, it was a bit raunchy for my tastes (as that’s not my sense of humor), but the rest of her personality I really enjoyed.

One of the aspects I liked most about this book is that I didn’t feel like she was writing it to try to make me laugh. I felt like she was just telling me stories about her life while adding a bit of humor. One of my favorite segments that she had were her old journal entries. Amy has been journaling since she was 13, so she picked out a few entries between 13 and her 20s and put them into the book. She then included current day footnotes commenting on her writing from years ago. I loved that!

While it wasn’t’ my absolute favorite celebrity memoir and didn’t make me laugh out loud, it was very enjoyable. She had a lot of valid and fascinating perspectives. I enjoyed that she was able to go from joking about sex and food one chapter and then talk seriously about domestic abuse in the next chapter. This book, while not converting me to a fan of her comedy, made me a fan of Amy Schumer the person. She is a smart woman with a lot to say and I absolutely loved reading about it. I appreciated her no-nonsense honesty and truly feel we could use some more people like her in the world. She is unapologetic about who we are and states over and over that everyone should try to live their lives that way.

While I understand that it’s her persona, part of me wishes this book wasn’t as raunchy because I would then recommend it for young girls. There are some great feminist messages in it but occasionally it just crosses a bit of a line (in my opinion). It’s just the unnecessary jokes and references that bothered e. When they had a point I understood it.

I enjoyed the book and felt like there were a lot of good messages in it. I don’t think this book will be for everyone, as Amy Schumer’s sense of humor isn’t for everyone. I would recommend it to people who enjoy her comedy as well as to girls in high school and college. I think she is extremely relatable ad says a lot of what needs to be said but that people don’t say. Like I said, this book didn’t make me laugh out loud or turn me into a fan of her comedy, so I wouldn’t give it a higher star rating, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it. If you have been debating picking this book up, I would definitely say give it a chance!

 
 
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By: Katy Regan
Published Year: 2013
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Ltd
Pages: 449

Summary (Provided by Goodreads): There are some people you can’t imagine life without.

Liv Jenkins had been meticulously planning her ultimate to-do list – from the outrageous to sensible – of everything she longed to do before her dreaded thirtieth birthday, but when tragedy struck she never got the chance…

Two years later, Liv’s five closest friends have come together on the anniversary of her death and have made a pact: they will complete Liv’s to-do list in tribute to her memory.

Over the next year, before what would’ve been Liv’s thirtieth birthday, her friends set out to complete the tasks. But along the way deeply buried secrets, silent guilt, unrequited love and years of lies, rise to the surface rocking their friendships.

When they reach the end of Liv’s list the final task shakes the group to their core and they realize that they must face their futures and the consequences of their pasts, and with Liv’s help, live the lives they have always dreamed of.

                                                                                  First Impressions

I first heard of this book on a list of chick lit for book clubs. The cover immediately caught my eye and then the summary immediately made me put it on my to-read list. I really wanted to pick it as a book club read since it’s all about a group of friends, but unfortunately it is not available in the US. But that didn’t stop me from getting it for myself!

                                                                                     What I thought

This book was not quite what I expected it to be, but was still enjoyable and would definitely have made a great book club read.

Liv, Fraser, Melody, Norm, Mia, and Anna are a group of best friends that came together in University. Melody and Norm are the perfect couple and shortly after graduation, Liv and Fraser started dating. On one of their group vacations to Ibiza, Liv dies at age 27 (I think), causing the group to fall apart. Two years after her death, Norm finds a list that Liv wrote of things she wanted to do before 30. Since Liv will never be able to accomplish these tasks, Mia decides that they should complete the list for her. The story follows the group of friends as they work towards completing the list as well as coming to terms with the facts that they’re growing older, their lives are changing, and the death of their closest friend.

I think what threw me off about this book is that when I initially read the summary I didn’t realize it was a group of both male and female friends. As a result, I didn’t realize that romance was going to play such a large part in the story. I expected the story to be a bit more about a group of friends completing a list of activities together and becoming closer while dealing with their grief. Instead, it’s more about a group of friends coming to terms with the fact that their relationships are changing as they get older.

This book is an interesting take on friendship. Most books that I read that focus on friendship are with high schoolers. Since these characters are closer to my age than high schoolers are (eek!) it was a different experience. They also deal with a lot of different issues than high school friends do. Specifically, they are questioning being grown-ups and whether they are at a place in their lives that their younger selves either imagined them being in or would be proud of them being in. I completely understand the struggle of being a certain age and wondering if where you are in life is where you should be; especially when you start to compare yourself to other people who are the same age as you.

Like I mentioned, romantic relationships do take a big part of this book. Melody and Norm were the perfect couple, but now after 3 years of marriage things are rocky. Mia has a young baby (under a year old) and is trying to figure out her relationship with the baby’s father. Fraser is still coming to terms with the fact that his girlfriend died. He is dealing with whether or not he can be in a relationship. There is also some tension between Fraser and Mia that they refuse to deal with.

Because of all of the relationships and all of the issues they have to deal with, this would be a great book club book. There are so many great discussion points. The story is told from Mia and Fraser’s perspectives with occasional input from Norm and Melody. I do wish there had been some more of Anna in the story as I felt like she got very left out. Other than that, I felt like the balance between the friends worked very well. The pace of the book also worked really well for me and I never felt like it was dragging.

I will say that the list itself is not as big of a plot point as the summary made it seem. It is more of a catalyst for certain events, but is not a central point in which the characters revolve around. I think I’d still like to read a book more similar to what I thought this book was going to be, but I still appreciate this story for what it was.


I can’t say enough that this would make a wonderful book club read, especially if your book club is a group of good friends. I really enjoyed the relationships between the characters and all of the struggles and growth they went through. I don’t think I would’ve appreciated this book if I had read it when I was younger, so I think I’d recommend it to people who are in their mid-twenties and up. I have already purchased this book (as it was the only way I could get my hands on it) and I’m glad to have it in my collection to share with other readers.

 
 
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By: Natalie Blitt
Published Year: 2016
Publisher: HarperCollins
Pages: 352

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Summary (Provided by Goodreads): Seventeen-year old Abby has only one goal for her summer: to make sure she is fluent in French—well, that, and to get as far away from baseball and her Cubs-obsessed family as possible. A summer of culture and language, with no sports in sight.

That turns out to be impossible, though, because her French partner is the exact kind of boy she was hoping to avoid. Eight weeks. 120 hours of class. 80 hours of conversation practice with someone who seems to exclusively wear baseball caps and jerseys.

But Zeke in French is a different person than Zeke in English. And Abby can’t help but fall for him, hard. As Abby begins to suspect that Zeke is hiding something, she has to decide if bridging the gap between the distance between who she is and who he is, is worth the risk.

                                                                              First Impressions

This book was put on my radar through the Debut Author Challenge hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. The cover and the title immediately caught my eye. When I saw this book was about a girl whose family was huge Cubs fans I knew I needed to read this book. I haven’t read many books about Cubs fans, so I was intrigued and excited as a native Chicagoan and Cubs fan myself.

                                                                              What I thought

Everything I expected and wanted this book to be it was.

Abby is spending the summer in New Hampshire away from her Cubs/baseball obsessed family in Chicago. She hates baseball and has found her passion in speaking French. Abby’s goal is to attend a high school program in France for her final semester of her senior year of high school and from there go to a French university. As a way to get there, she decides to spend her summer at an 8 week French intensive course at a university. Zeke looks like a stereotypical jock, but also turns out to be a part of the French program as well. Since they are the only two high schoolers taking the course, the French professor tells them that she would like them to be partners throughout the course. From there, French sparks begin to fly.

It’s not very often that books are set in college, or even freshman year of college. While this one isn’t exactly set in college, it gives that feel of being at college for the first time. By doing so, Blitt was able to include some very real problems and life issues that occur in college that don’t’ occur during other points of your life. One of the characters mentions that a day in their life is more like a week back in their lives back home as they are surrounded by each other all day every day with nothing else going on. This so perfectly captures what college, especially freshman year, feels like and I connected with that.

I enjoyed the setting a lot and appreciated that the story focused around the two main characters and one secondary character. There are more characters that are a part of the story, but I enjoyed that they never got in the way. This wasn’t the type of story where outside people caused any issues or difficulties in their relationship.

Abby is a really sweet character to read about. I really liked her and even though she had her issues, she never got on my nerves. I loved her passion for the French language and it was fascinating to watch it develop. I also think that Blitt does a wonderful job with writing the French and the French conversations. From someone who doesn’t understand French at all (I took Spanish in high school), I never felt lost or frustrated. It was a unique twist on the story that the characters almost 100% communicated in a language other than English.

Zeke is also totally swoon-worthy. He comes off as sweet and thoughtful but still masculine. While he has his moments where he does stupid things (like all college boys), he’s never unlikeable. I would be really curious to read this entire story again from his perspective. As the story goes on, his side becomes very interesting and I would love to learn more.

In addition to not speaking French, I am a very informal baseball fan. I enjoy going to Cubs games for the event and environment, but I don’t follow it hard core. Even though I am not hugely into baseball, it was written in a way that I was able to enjoy it. It both was and was not a large part of the story and I think Blitt did a nice job balancing it within the story.

I think one of the things that I enjoyed the most is that while the story isn’t wholly unique, it never feels cliché or overly predictable. This is one of those few books that I wish the story was longer because I want more! Like I mentioned, I would gladly read a story from Zeke’s point of view, but I would also love to read a sequel.


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This book was very cute and enjoyable. A wonderfully strong debut from Blitt that I’m so glad I got to read. Zeke and Abby are adorable both individually and together and their setting and details of their story are different and refreshing to read. I have already purchased this book (the e-version) and I could see myself picking it back up again over the summer in a year or two. If you are looking for a fun, light summer read I would highly recommend this. I also think that if you have gone through the college experience you will appreciate a lot of aspects about this book. I hope that Blitt writes more soon as I can’t wait to read more!

That Artsy Reader Girl
 
 
Books

Little Women By: Louisa May Alcott (Book Club Review)

Truly Madly Guilty By: Liane Moriarty (Review)

Can I See You Again? By: Allison Morgan (Review)

How We Met By: Katy Regan

A Study in Charlotte By: Brittany Cavallaro

The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo By: Amy Schumer

First & Then By: Emma Mills


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Favorite Book I Read This Month

My favorite book this month was First & Then. At first I worried it was my favorite since it was the most recent book I read, but I really enjoyed it. I finished it in one sitting and would pick it up again soon! It revolves heavily around high school football which I loved. It is Mills' debut book and she does an amazing job. I can't wait to read what else she writes and post my review!




Beauty


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Photo courtesy of esteelauder.com
Estee Lauder Nutritious Radiant Vitality 2-in-1 Foaming Cleanser ($30)

I have a few deluxe samples of this cleanser and it tends to be the one I grab when I go on trips. However, I have never used it for more than 3-4 days at a time. This trip, I used it for a little over 2 weeks and my skin loved it! It has pomegranate in it and it smells really nice. I will warn that you don’t want to get this one in your eyes as it will burn. I’m glad that I have a few more samples of these and I might end up using them for my everyday facewash now!

Dior Diorshow Color and Contour Eyeshadow and Liner Duo

I bought this at the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale and I love it! The color is a beautiful pale lilac and the eyeliner is a pretty dark purple. Both sides are really smooth and creamy and don’t budge once you put them on. The cream shadow doesn’t dry out throughout the day or crease. It definitely stays better if you use a primer, but you don’t have to use one. Unfortunately, this was a limited edition product and is no longer available. However, if they come out with another one around the holidays or at any other time, I highly recommend checking them out.

Buys

Blowfish Granola Fisherman Sandals (Price varies depending on color)

Towards the end of the school year, one of my coworkers bought these sandals in black. I thought they were super cute and she said they were really comfortable. I have been looking for a pair of strappy brown sandals forever, so I decided to copy her (no worries as we do it all the time) and buy a pair in brown. Oh my goodness they are so comfortable! I will say they run pretty true to size. I’m usually between a 6 and a 7 in shoes, but a 6.5-7 in sandals. I bought these in a 7 and they fit perfectly. The leather on the straps is really soft and doesn’t rub at all. The bottoms are also very comfortable and thicker than a lot of other sandals I own. I wore these for entire days of lots of walking on the trip and had no issues. Highly recommend them if you are looking for new sandals. They come in a bunch of different colors too!
Ray-Ban Sunglasses
I have been wanting a pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses for a long time but I've always been reluctant to pay for them. My husband recently decided to treat me to a pair as he wanted me to have a pair of sunglasses that were polarized. The lucky thing at the time was that if you purchased any pair of polarized sunglasses at Sunglass Hut you got a second pair for $75 off. Even though I swore I didn't need a second pair, the first pair I had fallen in love with were not polarized so my wonderful husband bought me two pairs. I'm a lucky girl. I have been wearing both pairs non-stop. I brought both pairs on my trip and rotated them. The top pair is brown and is a small version of the Wayfarer style. I can't remember the name of the style of the black pair.

Miscellaneous


Traveling

I spent 16 days traveling the UK and Ireland with one of my best friends, hence the absence of posts on the blog. It was so much fun and it was the trip of a lifetime. We traveled all over and saw so many things. It was one of those trips where I fell in love with everywhere we went, but we did so much that if I can’t get back there, I won’t feel unfulfilled.

Olympics

Who hasn’t loved the Olympics? I got back to the states right as the Olympics were starting and became obsessed. I watched pretty much all day and then the primetime at night. There have been so many historical occurrences in this Olympics and I’ve been loving it. The only thing I haven’t been loving is how NBC has been covering the Olympics, but I have issues with that every year and I won’t let that take away from my enjoyment of the games themselves.


 
 
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By: Liane Moriarty
Published Year: 2016
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Pages: 415

Amazon Barnes and Noble

Summary (Provided by Goodreads): Six responsible adults. Three cute kids. One small dog. It’s just a normal weekend. What could possibly go wrong?

Sam and Clementine have a wonderful, albeit, busy life: they have two little girls, Sam has just started a new dream job, and Clementine, a cellist, is busy preparing for the audition of a lifetime. If there’s anything they can count on, it’s each other.

Clementine and Erika are each other’s oldest friends. A single look between them can convey an entire conversation. But theirs is a complicated relationship, so when Erika mentions a last minute invitation to a barbecue with her neighbors, Tiffany and Vid, Clementine and Sam don’t hesitate. Having Tiffany and Vid’s larger than life personalities there will be a welcome respite.

Two months later, it won’t stop raining, and Clementine and Sam can’t stop asking themselves the question: What if we hadn’t gone?

                                                             First Impressions

Yay! Another book by Liane Moriarty! I have enjoyed the other three books of hers that I have read and every time I pick one up I find that I can’t put it down. I was really excited that she had a new one coming out and couldn’t wait to read it. I will admit that he cover of this one is the least exciting of the other ones. I think I still prefer, and would be drawn to first, the Big Little Lies cover.

                                                              What I thought

Liane Moriarty’s books are a little formulaic, but not in a bad way. They all start at the end of some big tragic event and then work backwards with flashbacks. Yet it always works! This set up makes these stories un-put-downable.

In Truly, Madly, Guilty, some event occurred at a barbecue a bunch of weeks back that changed everyone’s lives. Clementine and Erika have been “friends” since childhood. Their relationship is and always has been complicated. The day of the barbecue, Clementine and her husband Sam were supposed to go to afternoon tea at Erika and her husband Oliver’s house with their little girls. However, Erika and Oliver’s neighbors Vid and Tiffany invited them to an impromptu barbecue that morning, so the plans changed. Clementine, Sam, Erika, and Oliver don’t know Vid and Tiffany well, but they go and decide to have a good time.

In present day, Clementine and Sam are having marital problems, Erika is struggling with her mother, and Vid and Tiffany are having difficulties with their daughter Dakota.

Clementine and Erika’s friendship is completely different from anything else that I’ve read. Clementine’s mother encouraged/forced Clementine to become friends with Erika when they were kids. Because of that, even though she hasn’t loved the friendship, she feels obligated to continue being friends with Erika. Their friendship is definitely a love/hate relationship with some deep seeded issues.

I also didn’t really like Clementine. I don’t know if I was necessarily supposed to, but I found her to be a bit pretentious and annoying. I actually found myself liking Erika a little bit more, which, I don’t know that what says about me. I think I appreciated that she is a very black and white personality, so she pretty much said exactly what she felt which was refreshing.

Unlike Moriarty’s other books, I was able to predict what the big event was. I don’t know if that’s because this is now her 4th book that I have read, or if it just wasn’t as creative as some of the other ones. I still found myself unable to put this book down (finished in just over 24 hours) wanting to know if what I though was going to happen would happen and how exactly things went down.

I think the greatest part of this book wasn’t the mystery, but the relationships between all of the characters. There are so many layers to each relationship and so many issues that I haven’t seen dealt with before. I truly enjoyed reading every characters’ perspective as they were so completely different and gave the reader insight to so many different things.


I honestly couldn’t put this book down. The only reason I took a pause at one point in time was to watch the Women’s Olympic Gymnastics All-Around competition. If it wasn’t for that, I would’ve spent the entire day racing to finish this book. Not a lot of books can make me do that and I really enjoyed it. Looking back on it, there are some issues and I don’t think it’s my favorite Moriarty book, but it’s still so enjoyable. If you have read her books and enjoyed them, you will like this one as well. If you haven’t picked up one of her books before, I think I’d still recommend What Alice Forgot or Big Little Lies before this one, but it’s still so good!