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.

When the subscription first started, it seemed as though everyone received the same box. Lately, it seems as though they have a handful of box varieties that everyone receives based on the survey you fill out at the beginning and their theme. This month’s theme is The Glam Team.

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 started having it shipped to my parent’s house so I don’t have to go to the Post Office.
This month the products I received were as follows:
GlamGlow Gloswstarter Mega Illuminating Moisturizer (Full-size $49)

I’ve tried a few of the GlamGlow masks before, but I haven’t tried their moisturizers. This moisturizer is slightly tinted with a pearl effect that is meant to give your skin a healthy glow. It also is made with hyaluronic acid, vitamins, and green tea to energize skin and help reduce redness. I’m curious to see how it sits on my skin. Will it make me look sweaty? Or just give a healthy glow? Will the tint make me too pale? So many questions!

Josie Maran Surreal Skin Argan Finishing Balm (Full-size $36)

When I first saw this product, I asked myself “what is a finishing balm?” I have never heard of this type of product but I didn’t know what it’s for. Apparently, it is a bit like a makeup primer but it can also be put on top of your makeup to create a smooth finish. I don’t know if I would put it on top of my makeup, but I’m curious to see how it works as a primer. Again, it has a pearlized finish that you can see in the tub. The product is white but has some pink iridescence. I’m not crazy about the scent, which is a bit medicinal, but hopefully it won’t linger on the skin.

Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector in Opal (Full-size $41)

Becca is the queen of highlighting products. I have always wanted to try these infamous products but since they’re so expensive, I’ve only ever tried them in store. This highlighter is a very pretty pinky/nude color and the shimmer is strong! I am so excited to use this. While I wouldn’t add it on top of the other products from this box (as it might be too much shimmer), I have a wedding coming up that this is going to be perfect for!

Urban Decay Vice Lipstick in Big Bang Metallic Finish (Full-size $17)

This lipstick is a beautiful fuschia shade that is packed with glitter. While the color itself is 100% up my alley, the glitter is a bit much. Now, if I was 21 and going out partying every night I would rock this lipstick hard! However, in my current life style it’s going to be hard to find moments to use this. I will say that the formula is surprisingly comfortable with no graininess. The glitter (not surprisingly) has major staying power, even after I wiped the lipstick off. 

Vice Ghost Oil (Full-size $14)

This hair oil is made up of moringa seed oil, bamboo extract, vitamin F, and hydrolyzed soy protein. It is meant to moisturize, detangle, strengthen, and smooth hair. It is also said to help reduce frizz. It smells similar to other hair oils with that yummy warm scent. I’m curious to see how it works on my frizz since I’ve seen a lot of oils that just end up making my hair look greasy without taking away frizz.

Atelier Cologne in Clementine California (Full-size $75-195)

Atelier Cologne is a perfume brand that has been around for a long time and is known to create scents that are strong, long-lasting, and fresh. Their scents are also all non-gender specific which is nice. With the two samples that I have used, I will say that they are quite possible the strongest and most long-lasting scents I have ever tried. This particular scent has notes of clementine, mandarin, juniper berries, star anise, Sichuan pepper, basilica, vetiver, sandalwood, and cypress. I think that citrus notes are very strong but the pepper and sandalwood give it a nice balance with warmth. While I enjoyed the scent, my husband thought that it smelled like soap.

After the last few boxes leaving me feeling a little meh, this one knocked it out of the park! I am so excited to try all of these products. While I think they could’ve balanced the glow a little more with items that could work together a little better, I love each one individually and am excited to use them.

 
 
This month was my book club choice. I’ve been wanting to read The Life intended for at least a year but haven’t gotten around to it. I figured by choosing to read it for book club that it would push me to read it.
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By: Kriten Harmel
Published Year: 2014
Publisher: Gallery Books
Pages: 341

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Summary (Provided by Goodreads): After her husband's sudden death over ten years ago, Kate Waithman never expected to be lucky enough to find another love of her life. But now she's planning her second walk down the aisle to a perfectly nice man. So why isn't she more excited?

At first, Kate blames her lack of sleep on stress. But when she starts seeing Patrick, her late husband, in her dreams, she begins to wonder if she's really ready to move on. Is Patrick trying to tell her something? Attempting to navigate between dreams and reality, Kate must uncover her husband's hidden message. Her quest leads her to a sign language class and into the New York City foster system, where she finds rewards greater than she could have imagined. 

                                               What I thought

Kate’s first husband died suddenly at the age of 29. 12 years later, Kate becomes engaged. The night of her engagement, she has a realistic dream wherein her first husband never died. The dream takes place in present day, showing Kate an alternative timeline as to where he life would be if she had never lost her first husband. What she sees in this dream carries over to her everyday life.

I finished this book in two days. I loved Kate’s story. I’m trying to write this review without giving much away, which is making it kind of difficult. Kate lost her soulmate at the age of 28 and her entire life fell apart. Since Patrick’s death, she has been coasting through her life. She is in a long-term relationship and she is a successful music therapist, but she still mourns for Patrick every day.

I enjoyed how the story showed how different characters dealt with the death of a spouse. Three different characters had lost their spouse, and they each moved on in different ways. While Kate was the one who had moved on the least, it felt very realistic to me.

The biggest issue that I can see people having with this book is the dream world/reality crossovers. For example, in one of the early dreams Kate cuts her finger in the dream, and then she wakes up to her finger bleeding. It’s a big part of the story as it is a catalyst for a lot of the actions and I can see it being a part that people take issue with. I personally believe that dreams can show us things that we wouldn’t see/realize in our real life. I’d also like to believe that there are people out there who have passed who are watching over us and that they can reach out to use when we need them. So while it didn’t bother me, I could see it being a problem for some readers. 


                                             What Book Club Thought


Definitely an overall agreement on enjoying this book! There was also an agreement that some of the dream/real-life crossover was a bit much. I think there was a general range of how much parts of it bothered each book club member though. So, like I mentioned above, it might not be for certain readers. While it was a good book and I think we all enjoyed it, it didn't produce the greatest book club discussion. I think that was due in part to our mood (we had just taken a fencing class so we were a bit tired), but just something to think about. 

 
 
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By: Susan Meissner
Published Year: 2017
Publisher: Berkley Books
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): February, 1946. World War Two is over, but the recovery from the most intimate of its horrors has only just begun for Annaliese Lange, a German ballerina desperate to escape her past, and Simone Deveraux, the wronged daughter of a French Resistance spy.

Now the two women are joining hundreds of other European war brides aboard the renowned RMS Queen Mary to cross the Atlantic and be reunited with their American husbands. Their new lives in the United States brightly beckon until their tightly-held secrets are laid bare in their shared stateroom. When the voyage ends at New York Harbor, only one of them will disembark... 

Present day. Facing a crossroads in her own life, Brette Caslake visits the famously haunted Queen Mary at the request of an old friend. What she finds will set her on a course to solve a seventy-year-old tragedy that will draw her into the heartaches and triumphs of the courageous war brides and will ultimately lead her to reconsider what she has to sacrifice to achieve her own deepest longings. 

                                                     First Impressions

Apparently, I’m a sucker for covers that have women in period dress looking pretty? I really like the cover of this book and it definitely made me want to read the summary. When I finally did read, what this was about I was curious and accepted the chance to review this book. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you might’ve picked up on the fact that I enjoy books set in WW2 so it should come as no surprise that this book piqued my interest.

                                                      What I thought

The summary for this book is so wrong. While it didn’t bother me, I feel like it could blind side a lot of people and therefore make them dislike this book for no other reason than the fact that they feel like they were tricked.

The Bridge Across the Ocean follows three different women; Simone, Annalise and Brette. Annalise and Simone’s story lines take place in the mid-1940s in Germany and France respectively. Brette’s storyline takes place in the present in California. Brette’s family has had the gift of Sight, which means that she can see ghosts. However, she has always fought this ability and his it from all but her parents and her husband. The stories jump around from character to character and are seemingly unconnected, but they do make sense over time.

While I am not crazy about ghost stories, it is one of the paranormal subjects that I can handle. Meissner does a great job making Brette’s ability seem believable. I appreciated that while she has the Sight, she is not something that she uses. This is not a story about a woman who is searching for a ghost to help. She kind of stumbles into that situation, but it’s not even the core of the story. I do think it is important to know that there is a ghost storyline though because I know that that will influence a lot of readers, either for the good or the bad.

While I did enjoy Brette’s storyline, it wasn’t my favorite. I really enjoyed reading about Simone and Annalise. I loved being able to see two different perspectives from right around the same time. They are both so different yet every time one of their chapters came up I was immediately immersed.

I also felt that the mystery of the story was well done. While it was, obviously, the center for the story to revolve around, it never seemed as though I was just reading about Brette trying to figure out what happened. In between Brette solving the mystery the reader gets to learn about the two character who the mystery revolves around. I haven’t read a lot of books in this format and I found it enjoyable. I also was taken by surprise with the ending.


I know I’ve said it a few times but, this book was so enjoyable! I finished it in a little over a day and it was a pleasant experience from beginning to end. It was light a refreshing but with some substance with the WW2 content. If you enjoy historical fiction I would highly recommend this book. Don’t let the fact that there is a ghost element put you off of this story; give it a chance! 

 
 
I recently received a Mrs. Meyer’s Hand Soap and Hand Lotion in the Basil scent for review thanks to Crowdtap. I have seen the Mrs. Meyer’s brand in Target, pretty much every time that I go, and am always drawn in by the packaging. It is simple but colorful and I love the way it looks. However, I have never purchased their products before as I typically but Bath and Bodyworks hand soap. When given the opportunity to review these items, I was really excited because now I was finally going to get a chance to try them!

The big appeal of the Mrs. Meyer’s brand is that they are an organic and earth friendly brand. All of their scents are inspired by the garden so that when you are cleaning, you do not have to deal with harsh chemical smells. Because they do not contain harsh chemicals and are organic, they are gentler on your hands. 

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Set up next to my kitchen sink- The perfect kitchen scent
Starting with the hand soap, it comes in an individual 12.5 oz bottle and is only $3.99. They do have soap refills, which are 33 oz and only $6.99. There is no additional die and the scent, while strong, doesn’t linger for a long time. The soap is relatively light, and doesn’t leave any residue after washing. While I haven’t been using it for an exceptionally long time, I haven’t noticed it drying out my hands when I use it which is a big plus in the winter.

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The lotion at its home on my desk at work
The hand lotion is 12oz and costs $4.99. It comes in the same pump tube as the soap, which I find as a bit of a downside. I don’t like hand lotions in pumps for two main reasons. The first, is the amount of product that you get with the pump. I find that I don’t have as much control in the amount of product I get when I use a pump and, therefore, always end up with more than I need. The second is that when you get towards the end of a product, it becomes increasingly difficult to get out every drop and I feel like I end up wasting a lot. I think they would benefit from having it in a tube instead of the pump style.

The consistency of the lotion is thinner than I thought it was going to be. I was a bit disappointed at first because I thought this meant that it wouldn’t moisturize my hands as well as some of the thicker hand creams I’ve been using. I was pleasantly surprised and found that this lotion works just as well as some of my thicker creams! It doesn’t leave an oily residue and it massages in quite nicely. Again, the scent is very strong, but it doesn’t follow you around for the entire day.

I am very impressed by these products! I love that there is an organic cleaning product that isn’t only effective but inexpensive. I can’t wait to try some of their other products, like their laundry detergent and other household cleaning products. I’ve always leaned towards the organic/less chemical cleaning products so I’m excited that my options are expanding. While I’m not crazy about the basil scent (which truly smells of basil) I think that if you enjoy that scent you will enjoy these products. I love that there is a range of scents both from flowers and vegetables.

Have you tried any Mrs. Meyers Products?

 
 
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By: Meik Wiking
Published Year: 2017
Pages: 288
Publisher: Penguin UK

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Summary (Provided by Goodreads): Denmark is often said to be the happiest country in the world. That's down to one thing: hygge.

'Hygge has been translated as everything from the art of creating intimacy to cosiness of the soul to taking pleasure from the presence of soothing things. My personal favourite is cocoa by candlelight...'

You know hygge when you feel it. It is when you are cuddled up on a sofa with a loved one, or sharing comfort food with your closest friends. It is those crisp blue mornings when the light through your window is just right.

Who better than Meik Wiking to be your guide to all things hygge? Meik is CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen and has spent years studying the magic of Danish life. In this beautiful, inspiring book he will help you be more hygge: from picking the right lighting and planning a dinner party through to creating an emergency hygge kit and even how to dress.

Meik Wiking is the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen. He is committed to finding out what makes people happy and has concluded that hygge is the magic ingredient that makes Danes the happiest nation in the world.

                                                   First Impressions

My husband and I visited Denmark on our honeymoon and around that time I heard about Hygge. When I saw there was a book coming out that discussed exactly what it was and how to incorporate it in your life, I immediately knew I had to read it. Plus, how cute is that cover!
                
                                                    What I thought


This book came to me at just the time that I needed it in my life. Living in Chicago always leans towards ending up in a winter funk. Add to that being sick and anyone would be looking for a pick-me-up. Hygge is a Danish way of life and is said to be the biggest contribution to why they are the happiest country in the world.

This book breaks down what the word hygge means to the Danes and all of the ways that they find it. I loved being able to look into a different culture and see how to apply parts of that to my life. In short, hygge means comfort and coziness, but when you read the book it means a lot more.

I’ve never reviewed a book like this before, so it’s a bit hard to know where to start. What I found interesting about this book is that it allowed me a new perspective on things I do or see every day. I loved that this book not only explained what hygge is, but talked about ways to incorporate hygge into your life. I could easily see this book becoming a part of my collection as a reference book for moments when I feel a bit down.


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Copenhagen at Christmas- a picture from our honeymoon I felt was pure hygge
I think this is a book that everyone should check out. In a world where we are surrounded by so many different cultures, any book that can give you insight into the way another culture sees the world is beneficial. Plus, who doesn’t need a book on happiness from the happiest country in the world? If you’ve been feeling like you’re in a funk or just want a new perspective on life, I would definitely recommend checking out this book. 

 
 
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By: Chelsea Sedoti
Published Year: 2017
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Pages: 398

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Summary (Provided by Goodreads): A teenage misfit named Hawthorn Creely inserts herself in the investigation of missing person Lizzie Lovett, who disappeared mysteriously while camping with her boyfriend. Hawthorn doesn't mean to interfere, but she has a pretty crazy theory about what happened to Lizzie. In order to prove it, she decides to immerse herself in Lizzie's life. That includes taking her job... and her boyfriend. It's a huge risk — but it's just what Hawthorn needs to find her own place in the world.




                                                   First Impressions

Honestly, the cover didn’t do much for me when I saw it on the lists of books for the Debut Author’s challenge (which I am participating in once again this year). The title piqued my curiosity enough to make me read the summary which then did make an impression on me. I don’t think I would have picked this book up based on cover and summary alone if it hadn’t been for it being a part of the DAC, but it’s always interesting to go a little outside your comfort zone.

                                                   What I thought

I don’t do well with books that have unlikeable protagonists and Hawthorn was very unlikeable. I think she’s meant to be different and unique in a relatable loner way, but to me she just came across as a terrible person. She’s mean, petty, and self-centered with no redeeming qualities until the very end of the story.

Hawthorn becomes obsessed with Lizzie Lovett after she finds out that she has gone missing. Lizzie is 21 years old, the same age as Hawthorn’s older brother Rush. When Hawthorn was a freshman, Lizzie was a senior and Hawthorn started to hate her because she was perfect. While holding onto this animosity for years, Hawthorn initially acts like she doesn’t care about Lizzie being gone, but then she can’t stop thinking about her and what happened to her. She inserts her into Lizzie’s life by working at the diner she used to work at and, eventually, talking to Lizzie’s boyfriend who was the last person to see her before she went missing.

I understand being interested or even obsessed with a person from afar when you’re a teenager. I remember imagining scenarios with all types of people that I never knew or that I barely knew when I was in high school. However, there’s a difference between playing out a scenario in your head or even talking about it with someone, and then actually following through with it. Hawthorn almost tries to become Lizzie and feels like she needs to figure out what happened to Lizzie and who Lizzie became after high school because somehow it will allow Hawthorn to figure out who she is.

For a debut novel, the writing is solid. I found myself drawn into the mystery of Lizzie Lovett and needed to know what happened to her. The story is different from anything that I have read and it brings up a lot of interesting discussion points. I did appreciate that it’s a different point of view of high school than readers normally see as well. Hawthorn hates high school, but in a very real way. In a lot of YA novels, the protagonist hates high school but has one or two friends that make it ok. Hawthorn really had no one and deals with a lot of bullying. She doesn’t have a special talent that she can turn to that makes life worth living and she doesn’t have a magical perspective that everything will get better for her after high school. While I didn’t like Hawthorn or even reading about her, I appreciated that this is a very important type of character to teenagers to read and have for other teenagers to relate to.


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While I didn’t love the characters, the story itself was interesting and well written. Depending on the summary, I would gladly pick up another book written by Sedoti. I never found the story to be predictable and it kept me interested from the first page. If you enjoy YA with a unique take on a mysterious disappearance, I would recommend this book. I will warn you that it’s a bit of an odd story and that it isn’t going to be one that everyone is going to like. 

That Artsy Reader Girl
 
 
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By: Margaret George
Published Year: 2017
Publisher: Berkley Books
Pages: 528

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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): Built on the backs of those who fell before it, Julius Caesar's imperial dynasty is only as strong as the next person who seeks to control it. In the Roman Empire no one is safe from the sting of betrayal: man, woman or child.

As a boy, Nero's royal heritage becomes a threat to his very life, first when the mad emperor Caligula tries to drown him, then when his great aunt attempts to secure her own son's inheritance. Faced with shocking acts of treachery, young Nero is dealt a harsh lesson: it is better to be cruel than dead.

While Nero idealizes the artistic and athletic principles of Greece, his very survival rests on his ability to navigate the sea of vipers that is Rome. The most lethal of all is his own mother, a cold-blooded woman whose singular goal is to control the empire. With cunning and poison, the obstacles fall one by one. But as Agrippina's machinations earn her son a title he is both tempted and terrified to assume, Nero's determination to escape her thrall will shape him into the man he was fated to become, an Emperor who became legendary.

                                                         First Impressions

The cover is a great historical fiction cover. I was definitely drawn in, even though I had no idea who Nero was. The summary however was a bit iffy for me. I don’t know anything about Roman history and have never had any interest in it. I ended up accepting this book for review because I’ve been in a bit of a book rut and wanted to try something drastically different from what I’ve been reading lately. Also, I had heard good things about George and if I could find another historical fiction author who I like that would be a plus!
 
                                                          What I thought

Even though I knew nothing about Nero going into this story, George’s writing drew me in.

Confessions of Young Nero starts when Nero is four years old. His father has been recently killed and his mother exiled by his Uncle Caligula, the Emperor. The story follows Nero on his own journey to become emperor of Rome. This is part 1 of his story, so it doesn’t follow his entire life, but I imagine that part 2 will follow him to his eventual death.

After reading this book, I found myself curious about the real Nero and not just the historical fiction version. Which, I guess would mean that George did her job! Unfortunately, it seems that after a bit of research that George fluffed Nero up a little bit. From what I’ve read, he was a terrible person. The historical sites and facts that I read pretty much gave him no redeeming qualities. While I understand that that would make for a difficult book to read, I would’ve thought that he would’ve come off a little more unlikeable in the story.

George portrays Nero as a victim of his family and misfortune. Someone who really has no choice but to become the terrible person that he becomes. While he does have a lot of hardships (I mean… his own Uncle tries to murder him and his mother murders the only father figures that he has ever had) I don’t find that that excuses him from being judged as a terrible person.

At times, the book felt a bit long. Nero doesn’t become emperor until almost halfway through the book. His childhood is a bit drawn out and seems to drag a little, but overall is still interesting. Once he becomes emperor, things move a little quicker but the amount of descriptions is still overwhelming. I think this book could’ve been significantly shorter if some of the descriptions had been cut out. Granted, I know that a lot of historical fiction novels use lengthy descriptions, it just seemed a bit tedious. 


While Nero isn’t a character that I find myself in love with, and therefore won’t pick up the rest of his story, the writing was interesting and kept my attention even though I didn’t care much for the main character. I will definitely check George’s other novels out to see if she has some books written on other historical figures that I have a greater interest in. If you are interested in Roman history, then I would recommend this book. I will warn that you might be frustrated at the light that Nero is painted in, but it is still an interesting and entertaining read.

 
 
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.

Previously, everyone received the same exact box. They had a few months where they had two different boxes that went out, and this month it seems like they have a variety of different boxes that went out following their theme of The Soft Side.

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 started having it shipped to my parent’s house so I don’t have to go to the Post Office.

Also, sorry for the bit of delay. My box came a little late this month so I didn’t have time to get the review up in a shortened month.

The products I received this month were as follows:
Clinique Pep-Start Hydroblur Moisturizer (Full-Size $29.50)

This is a lightweight moisturizer that is oil-free. It is also said to work as a primer, which to me means it must have some sort of silicone in it. When I tested it on my hand it did have the feeling of a silicone/primer. I prefer cream moisturizers, but I’m sure I’ll use this one and see how it works. Hopefully it won’t clog my pores as some of these types of products tend to do.

Origins GinZing Refreshing Eye Cream (Full-Size $30) 

This eye cream is infused with coffee beans, ginseng, and magnolia extract and includes a brightening property. I have been wanting to try this eye cream out for so long so I feel like I’ve heard a lot of good things about it. I will warn that it’s a bit shiny so it definitely gives you that illuminating look under your eyes. I’m curious to see how this works under concealer, or if it’s one that I’ll just end up using at night.

Marc Jacobs Divine Decadence (Full-Size $97) 

This perfume came out right around the time of my wedding. I remember smelling it when I was trying to find my wedding day fragrance and not liking it. I decided to try it again and see if I was remembering it incorrectly or maybe my scent preference had changed. Nope. I still do not like this. It smells a bit masculine for my tastes. The notes are described as champagne extract, orange blossom, bergamot, gardenia, hydrangea, honeysuckle, amber, vanilla, and saffrod.

Sephora Collection Lashcraft Length & Volume Mascara (Full-Size $12) 

The unique selling point for this mascara is that the brush is flat on two sides. It is said that this brush shape helps to create more drama for your lashes. It is also formulated to be easy to take off. I’m a little curious about this because the notes say that you can remove it with just warm water. How will a mascara like that last in the summer? My eyes are also a bit sensitive to mascaras, so I wonder whether the easy to remove formulation will irritate my eyes or if they will actually respond better!

Nars Velvet Lip Glide in Bound (Full-Size $26) 

I absolutely love Nars. It is my favorite high-end brand and I always find myself going back to them. These liquid lipsticks are so nice! The formulation is really smooth and creamy; definitely lives up to the name of velvet. The color is the dusty rose shade that I always go for that, unfortunately, never shows up on my lips. However, I think this shade is ever so slightly darker than similar colors and it does give me a little “your lips but better” look. If I wanted a lipstick that didn’t look like I was wearing anything but just makes my make-up look a little more polished, this would be the one I pick.

Too Faced Lip Injection Glossy in Milkshake (Full-Size $22) 

This gloss is a lip-plumping formula that is also hydrating and softening. The notes say that if you apply it every day for a month, that you should notice an improvement in the softness of your lips. In theory, this seems like a cool product, but in application I’m not crazy about it. It’s a clear/gold color that is glossy and glittery. I’m not into wearing gloss everyday as a clear look. I like glossy lip colors, but I wouldn’t put on a clear gloss instead of a chapstick. To me, this feels a bit more like a product targeted towards teenagers, so I will be passing this on.
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Top Swatch: Too Faced Bottom Swatch: Nars

Overall, I'm a bit on the fence with this box. I'm curious about the mascara and excited about the Nars gloss and the eye cream. I'm meh about the Too Faced gloss and the moisturizer and not crazy about the perfume. It's not the worst box I've received, but definitely not up there as one of the best.
 

I See You

02/27/2017

1 Comment

 
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By: Clare Mackintosh
Published Year: 2017
Publisher: Berkley Books
Pages: 384

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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): Every morning and evening, Zoe Walker takes the same route to the train station, waits at a certain place on the platform, finds her favorite spot in the car, never suspecting that someone is watching her...

It all starts with a classified ad. During her commute home one night, while glancing through her local paper, Zoe sees her own face staring back at her; a grainy photo along with a phone number and a listing for a website called FindTheOne.com. 

Other women begin appearing in the same ad, a different one every day, and Zoe realizes they’ve become the victims of increasingly violent crimes—including murder. With the help of a determined cop, she uncovers the ad’s twisted purpose...A discovery that turns her paranoia into full-blown panic. Zoe is sure that someone close to her has set her up as the next target. 

And now that man on the train—the one smiling at Zoe from across the car—could be more than just a friendly stranger. He could be someone who has deliberately chosen her and is ready to make his next move…

                                                              First Impressions

Last year I received Mackintosh’s debut novel I Let You Go for review. While I wasn’t crazy about it, I saw potential in her writing and knew I was going to check out her future books. When I was offered the chance to review her sophomore novel I jumped on it! The cover is intriguing and the summary sounded so interesting. I also liked that this one wasn’t being compared to Gone Girl or other similar novels.

                                                               What I thought

This novel was so good! If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know my biggest issue with mystery/thrillers is predictability. I’ve mentioned that I have a bit of a gift in predicting the endings so it takes a special novel to surprise me. While this one didn’t shock me 100%, there were parts that I did not predict and the parts that I did get right, I didn’t guess until pretty far into the book!

Zoe is a 40-year-old woman living and working in London. One day on her commute home she sees her own picture in an ad for an escort agency. The next day, she notices a different woman in the ad and shortly after that, the woman is found dead. Obviously scared for her own life, Zoe informs police inspector Kelly Swift of the connection which leads the police down a path to discover where these ads came from and who the next victim is going to be.

I See You alternates between chapters from Zoe’s perspective, PI Kelly Swift’s perspective, and anonymous inputs from the person who placed the advertisements. This alternating perspective formula was used by Mackintosh in her first novel, but it worked better for me in this one. Maybe it was because I liked Swift better than the other police officer, but it flowed better for me. If she had her own series, I would definitely continue reading them.

I would also classify this story as more of a police mystery than a thriller. It focuses around an investigation and Zoe is very much a part of it. I liked that Zoe wasn’t ignorant and knew immediately that something was up and did something about it. A lot of the time it seems like the women who are having troubles in stories like these either don’t go to the police, or when they do they aren’t taken seriously. I greatly appreciated that Zoe had a good head on her shoulders and that the police were presented in a good light as well.

I don’t want to give too much away because I feel like the less you know about these types of stories the better, but it felt like everything that didn’t work for me in the last book worked for me in this one. The story itself was fascinating because it had ties into a lot of society. The use of technology in this book was done well, and while if broken down it may not be completely plausible, the way that Mackintosh wrote about it made it seem like it could be happening right now.

Any book that can surprise me definitely gets a bit of a rating bump. I enjoyed every bit of this book and couldn’t put it down. I think that over time Mackintosh is going to continue to polish her mystery writing and her books with just continue to get better. I hope that she realizes what a good thing she has in Swift and decides to write more with her as a main character. If you enjoy police novels and mysteries, I’d highly recommend checking this out. 

 
 
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By: Amor Towles
Published Year: 2016
Publisher: Viking
Pages: 462

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Summary (Provided by Goodreads): A Gentleman in Moscow immerses us in another elegantly drawn era with the story of Count Alexander Rostov. When, in 1922, he is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, the count is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life, and must now live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history are unfolding outside the hotel’s doors. Unexpectedly, his reduced circumstances provide him a doorway into a much larger world of emotional discovery.

Brimming with humor, a glittering cast of characters, and one beautifully rendered scene after another, this singular novel casts a spell as it relates the count’s endeavor to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be a man of purpose. 

                                                First Impressions

The cover of this book caught my eye on Goodreads. It is a bit mysterious and piqued my curiosity. The summary drew me in completely. I was fascinated by the idea of a story about a man who is jailed to live in a hotel room for the rest of his days. I feel like this is one of the first books in a while that completely drew me in by the cover without me knowing or hearing anything about it first.

                                                 What I thought

This book was so different from anything else I have read.

A Gentleman in Moscow ranges from 1922, when Count Alexander Rostov is sentenced to live his days at the Metropol hotel, to the mid-late 1950s. Once the Count is sentenced to never step foot out of the Metropol hotel, the reader is brought through his life and the history of Russia. Alexander has a unique perspective because while he cannot go outside the hotel and experience what is happening, a lot of the diplomats from Russia and other countries come to stay at the Metropol as well as hold meetings in the ballroom.

I was fascinated by the movement of the historical events and how the Count experienced them. That was what piqued my interest when I read the summary and it was what held me in while I was reading. I have never read a historical fiction novel that took place in Russia, so all of the historical nuances were new to me.

The writing style does take a little while to get used to and is very slow moving. Towles occasionally addresses the reader about pieces of history that won’t be directly addressed in the story, or about characters who will not be coming back into the story and a little bit about what happens to them/why they are not coming back. I also felt like the first 100-200 pages weren’t so much about Alexander and his life at the Metropol as what was going on around him and almost a setting of the stage.

Once I got into the second half of the book I was much more interested. The Count and his life had become so much more a part of the hotel by that point and I enjoyed reading about his life more than just him witnessing certain events.  Unfortunately, I was a bit disappointed in the ending. I thought that it was going to wrap up nicely, but instead it’s a bit confusing and left open ended. After spending 400+ pages with Towles’ writing, I won’t say that I was surprised that that is how he chose to end the story, but it was still a little frustrating.


While this book was slow to start, once it picked up I enjoyed it a lot. I think this book could make a fascinating TV show or mini-series or something. They could do a lot with the history of Russia and how it all has to occur within the confines of one space that would make it so interesting to watch. If you are interested in historical fiction or in Russia, I would recommend this book. I wouldn’t read it again, as it is a bit slow for my preferred re-reads. I think it will be helpful going into this book to know that while it is slow to start, it picks up and you will fall in love with all of the characters.*

*This is one of those interesting books where I only rated it 3 stars upon finishing, but looking back I probably would've given it 4. It has stuck with me since originally reading it and I often think about it at random times. While it may be a slightly more difficult book to get through because of the pacing, I highly recommend making your way through as in the end, you own't regret it.