Review: Glam Glow Bright Eyes

What It Is: Hydrating Eye Cream

What It Does: Brightens dark circles, hydrates, lessens the appearance of fine lines.

Active Ingredients: Illuminating Spheres, Caffeine, and Hyaluronic Acid

Verdict: I love skincare, and eye creams are one of my favourite skincare products there are. I have hereditary undereye dark circles so no amount of sleep really does the trick to eliminate them (and why I’ve been wearing concealer since the age of 12!). I use this eye cream in the morning and I love that it’s very rich and moisturizing. Has it helped with the dark circles? Well, since I apply this before I put on concealer, I don’t know about immediate effects, and like I mentioned, I have hereditary undereye dark circles, so there’s not going anywhere, but at least they don’t look as dark as they used to. Should you try this product? Absolutely! It’s very rich and hydrating feels amazing. And for those of you that don’t have hereditary undereye dark circles, you can probably notice brighter eyes faster than me.

Price: $39

Where To Buy It: https://www.glamglow.com

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Book Review: The Project by Courtney Summers

Welcome to The Unity Project.

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Release Date: February 2, 2021

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Price: $18.99 (hardcover)

Plot Summary:

“The Unity Project saved my life.”

Lo Denham is used to being on her own. After her parents died, Lo’s sister, Bea, joined The Unity Project, leaving Lo in the care of their great aunt. Thanks to its extensive charitable work and community outreach, The Unity Project has won the hearts and minds of most in the Upstate New York region, but Lo knows there’s more to the group than meets the eye. She’s spent the last six years of her life trying—and failing—to prove it.

“The Unity Project murdered my son.”

When a man shows up at the magazine Lo works for claiming The Unity Project killed his son, Lo sees the perfect opportunity to expose the group and reunite with Bea once and for all. When her investigation puts her in the direct path of its charismatic and mysterious leader, Lev Warren, he proposes a deal: if she can prove the worst of her suspicions about The Unity Project, she may expose them. If she can’t, she must finally leave them alone. But as Lo delves deeper into The Project, the lives of its members, and spends more time with Lev, it upends everything she thought she knew about her sister, herself, cults, and the world around her—to the point she can no longer tell what’s real or true. Lo never thought she could afford to believe in Lev Warren . . . but now she doesn’t know if she can afford not to.

Grade: A

Review:

The new publishing trend for 2021 must be cults, as a lot of novels with this theme are going to be released next year. But no one will deliver you a more chilling experience than Courtney Summers. This author is notorious for never having a happy ending and pulling all the punches. When you read a Courtney Summers novel you know you’re going into it with the notion that you will be emotionally wrecked once you get to the end. The Unity Project is much on par on delivering exactly that.

Lo has lost her sister, Bea, to the cult of The Unity Project headed by a very charismatic Lev Warren. Lo lost her parents due to a car accident, in which she was also a passenger in. Bea is convinced that Lev brought Lo back to life, and this begins her fascination and loyalty to the man and his visions. Lo, blames Lev for taking her sister away from her when she needed her most, and is hellbent on exposing The Unity Project for what they really are. But what if Lo is wrong?

This novel will have you question whether Lev is really the evil mastermind that Lo is convinced he is, mostly because from the moment we meet him, he’s described with very Jesus-like qualities of acceptance and compassion. But this being a Courtney Summers novel, we know that the horror will come, and when it will, it’ll be brutal. Without being spoiler-y, this novel is an emotional rollercoaster where you begin to question who to trust. If you’re going to read one book about cults, make it this one, as it had everything I’ve wanted and expected from a book about cults, a charismatic leader and some very disturbing scenes, but also perfectly depicting how anyone, even intelligent people can get sucked into cults.

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Wednesday Books for Young Readers for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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Review: Glossier – Balm Dotcom

What It Is: Lipbalm

What It Does: Moisturizes and conditions lips.

Active Ingredients: Castor Oil, Beeswax, and Lanolin

Verdict: I’m a lipbalm addict and that means that nothing excites me more than to try out new lipbalms. What it also means is that I’m very picky when it comes to lipbalms. From previous blog posts you’ll notice that I’ve tried out other products from Glossier and for the most part have enjoyed them very much. This is probably why it’s taken me awhile before I decided to try their lipbalms, because I was certain that I was going to love it and feared that it’d be yet another product of theirs that I wouldn’t be able to live without. But Black Friday sales meant that I was tempted to give this product a spin, and I do love the way this balm feels on my lips. It’s like being hugged by an ultra soft pillow. If you’re incredibly pale-lipped as myself, then the cherry version that I selected will offer you a hint of colour. The balm is rich and leaves lips feeling very, very soft. It also doesn’t dry up right away (meaning it’ll feel soft on your lips for a few hours so you don’t have to constantly reapply). Right now with So-Cal Saint Ana winds making the weather be extra dry, this lipbalm has been a restorative godsend. If you live in cold climates you might want to make this your staple lipbalm, at least during the winter months. The only downfall of this incredibly amazing lipbalm is its retail price. But hey, no one is perfect.

Price: $12

Where To Buy It: https://www.glossier.com/

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Film Review: Antebellum

The past never stays in the past…..

I went into watching this film with a bit of misguidance, as I was convinced that the movie was based off of Octavia E. Butler’s novel, Kindred. In Butler’s novel, the protagonist Dana, a writer, time travels from her present in Los Angeles, to a slavery era Maryland. Antebellum, much like Butler’s novel, depicts the protagonist Veronica to also be a writer and who also finds herself living during the slavery era South (Louisiana in this case). The plots are very similar, that it’s a honest mistake that I thought Antebellum was an adaptation of Butler’s novel.

The movie’s twist, though, is much more chilling than time travel. And that’s all I can say without landing in the *spoilers* realm.

First of all, let me say what I liked about this movie, because I was left with very conflicting feelings. This was Janelle Monae’s first lead role, and to say that she rocked it, is an understatement. Her performance was very emotional and you can’t help but to root for her character, Veronica (but who is also referred to as Eden by the slave owners). I also loved seeing Gabourey Sidibe being her sassy classy self in the role of Veronica’s best friend, Bridget. I would’ve loved to have seen more scenes with her, as she’s always been a favourite of mine since AHS:Coven. The third standout role went to Jena Malone. I’ve always liked her and she’s always proved to be very talented, but lately, she’s really upping her game in these new villainous roles. In Neon Demon she was absolutely evil, but here in Antebellum she isn’t only evil, but incredibly chilling. I kid you not, anytime she was in a scene she managed to create more unease in the viewer and feeling of anxiousness than if a typical Hollywood monster or Boogie man had been in her place. Yes, I’m totally saying that Jena Malone will scare the fuck out of you more than Michael Meyers ever could.

Now, I know the movie was directed by an interracial gay couple, so theoretically both guys could’ve been capable of giving characters of both races (black and white) a more nuanced edge to their characters. But sometimes, they failed. As much as I love Gabourey Sidibe, her character Bridget was very stereotypical “loud Black woman.” Which isn’t bad per se, but in a movie that heavily deals with racism, then showing stereotypical Black characters we’ve seen again and again in both film and novels, wasn’t a bit of a let down. My second issue with the film is that yes, it’s a horror movie, but the horror portrayed in the film was mostly based around Black suffering, pain, and traumas, and to parade that pain for entertainment purposes without a true message or call to action at the end, well, then it just leaves you feeling uneasy (especially when the images of violence are very disturbing).

Overall, the film could’ve been better executed and I would’ve liked the world building surrounding the plot to have been more so, because once the twist takes place, then you’re left questioning the motives and actions of everyone involved.

Watch this movie if you want, I checked it out because I was curious and because I erroneously thought it was based on Butler’s novel.

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Review: Dermelect Self Esteem Beauty Sleep Serum

What It Is: Highly concentrated multi-tasking exfloliator.

What It Does: Unclogs pores, diminishes the appearance of fine lines and lightens up dark spots.

Active Ingredients: Salicylic Acid, Glycolic Acid, Hyaluronic Acid, and Vitamin C

Verdict: I love how this serum works, it feels very soft when I put it on and it has helped control the amount of oiliness I have in my skin. My mother also used it and was very happy with the effects (she says it helped with dark spots, I can’t really say since I don’t have any). But overall, I did notice that my skin felt healthier overall. The only thing that both my mum and I weren’t a fan of, is the product’s scent. For some reason it smells like putting on rubbing alcohol on your face, it’s very potent, but luckily it dies down. I would’ve preferred this if it were scentless, but since it does work overall, I can’t be too mad.

Price: $43

Where To Buy It: https://dermelect.com/

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Book Review: Those Who Prey by Jennifer Moffett

Be careful of who you befriend….

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Release Date: November 10, 2020

Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Price: $16.39 (hardcover)

Plot Summary:

College life isn’t what Emily expected. She expected to spend freshman year strolling through the ivy-covered campus with new friends, finally feeling like she belonged. Instead, she walks the campus alone, still not having found her place or her people so far away from home. But then the Kingdom finds her.

The Kingdom, an exclusive on-campus group, offers everything Emily expected out of college and more: acceptance, friends, a potential boyfriend, and a chance to spend the summer on a mission trip to Italy. But the trip is not what she thought it would be. Emily and the others are stripped of their passports and money. They’re cut off from their families back home. The Kingdom’s practices become increasingly manipulative and dangerous…

And someone ends up dead.

Grade: B-

Review:

The first half of the novel had me really captivated and interested in wanting to know exactly how someone gets sucked into a cult without knowing it until it’s too late. Emily is lonely, and it isn’t until she meets members of the Kingdom, does she finally feels like she belongs. I know a lot of people mention the fact that the other half of the book takes place in Italy as being interesting, but honestly, the characters barely come into contact with any Italians and stay cooped up in an old villa the whole time, that they might as well have been anywhere in the world, the location didn’t really matter.

Now, for the cult leader, we only got to meet him once and we don’t know much about him at all. In fact, we don’t even know if he’s the one spinning the lies or if it’s his followers as we never see him again. Secondly, two people end up dead in this novel and we don’t ever get full closure about them as their deaths are classified as accidental (yet the circumstances are so fishy that the reader knows it was murder but we can only suspect who it is but never get a definite answer).

The last portion of the book was the least interesting to me. Without the cult and the cult members with her, Emily was a dull character.

I do appreciate the book for being a cautionary message to teenagers facing living alone for the very first time and trying to fit in and thus should be wary of the people they befriend. I remember seeing a lot of Christian based groups in college trying to recruit more members (and maybe some of these groups are cults) but I never got involved as I try to steer clear of people who seem unhinged when it comes to religion.

I do recommend the book and maybe you may enjoy it more than I did, but I was left with a bitter taste since none of my questions never got answered and I don’t know if that was due to the author trying to keep it a mystery or if was due to lazy writing. Either way, it didn’t bond well with me.

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Atheneum Books for Young Readers for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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Poetry: Insomniac

Some nights I wish I could simply sleep soundly

Clutching nothing but your photo

But some nights

The fact that you’re only a photograph for me

Now

Is enough to keep me up all night.

Did you enjoy this poem? You can find this poem and many others in Lost Girls Go Everywhere: Poetry & Prose on Amazon!

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Book Review: The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix

“Let me tell you something….there’s nothing nice about Southern ladies.”

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Release Date: April 7, 2020

Publisher: Quirk Books

Price: $15.29 (hardcover)

Plot Summary:

Patricia Campbell’s life has never felt smaller. Her husband is a workaholic, her teenage kids have their own lives, her senile mother-in-law needs constant care, and she’s always a step behind on her endless to-do list. The only thing keeping her sane is her book club, a close-knit group of Charleston women united by their love of true crime. At these meetings they’re as likely to talk about the Manson family as they are about their own families.

One evening after book club, Patricia is viciously attacked by an elderly neighbor, bringing the neighbor’s handsome nephew, James Harris, into her life. James is well traveled and well read, and he makes Patricia feel things she hasn’t felt in years. But when children on the other side of town go missing, their deaths written off by local police, Patricia has reason to believe James Harris is more of a Bundy than a Brad Pitt. The real problem? James is a monster of a different kind—and Patricia has already invited him in. 
 
Little by little, James will insinuate himself into Patricia’s life and try to take everything she took for granted—including the book club—but she won’t surrender without a fight in this blood-soaked tale of neighborly kindness gone wrong.

Grade: B+

Review:

Vampires are hands down, my favourite undead creature there are. But because they’re my favourite, I also tend to be very picky when it comes to books or films that feature them. If I hadn’t previously read Grady Hendrix before and thoroughly enjoyed his books, I probably wouldn’t have given this one a chance, simply because I am that picky with the vampire genre. However, I am glad that I dove into this vampire novel, as I loved the crazy journey. The horror doesn’t immediately begin, and James Harris is a very enigmatic but handsome vampire. Perhaps it’s because the novel begins in the 80’s but I got a very Fright Night vibe from it. I do like the protagonist Patricia, a housewife and voracious reader of true crime novels. I know a lot of people have complained about the women in the novel being housewives and that Hendrix shouldn’t have written them as though it were the 1950’s. But…having grown up in the 80’s, I can only think of one mother I knew of what worked, all of my other friends’ mothers were housewives as well as my own mother. So for me, that part didn’t seem that far-fetched from reality.

If you’re read other Hendrix novels, then you’ll know he’s got a morbid fetish with rats causing havoc and blood. The book spans many years (it ends in the late 90’s). My only issue with it, is that the vampire per se, isn’t very visible. Sure, the protagonist obsesses about him (she’s convinced he’s a vampire but knows how absurd that notion is to share with her family and friends), but after the initial introduction, we rarely have moments with James Harris, and that’s a shame, because in the very beginning he was charming and interesting and I would’ve liked to have known more about him.

The only downfall the novel had was when the women banded together to take down the vampire. In some regards, the vampire appeared almost a weakling that the reader can’t help but think, if it was THAT easy to take him down, why didn’t they do it before?

Apart from that, the novel provided an interesting take of the genre, but I can’t say it’s my favourite vampire novel.

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On hiatus!

For the past three years I’ve dedicated two weekly posts to this blog, and I’ve enjoyed seeing my readership growing over time. I wish to thank all of my readers for taking the time to read and like my posts, it means a lot to me that you read what I write. But during these three years I’ve never taken a break from this blog, and I think that now has come the time for me to take a little break!

Don’t fear, I’m not taking a break because I’ve run out of of ideas or have writer’s block, but rather because I have so many projects that I’m currently working on that I wish to focus my attention on that, rather than struggle to work on those and write sub-par posts for the blog. I don’t want any of my creative endeavors to have to suffer because of having too much on my plate.

SO, I shall be taking a mini-hiatus from posting. What this means is that The Inkblotters will return TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 24 with new posts. In the meantime, I wish each and every one of you to stay safe, stay healthy, and take time for self-care.

Oh and if you’re in the U.S. make sure to go out and VOTE!

See you in three weeks!

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Book Review & Author Interview: The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed

“First a memory: the hillside set ablaze….”

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Release Date: August 4, 2020

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Price: $15.05 (hardback)

Plot Summary:

Los Angeles, 1992

Ashley Bennett and her friends are living the charmed life. It’s the end of senior year and they’re spending more time at the beach than in the classroom. They can already feel the sunny days and endless possibilities of summer.

Everything changes one afternoon in April, when four LAPD officers are acquitted after beating a black man named Rodney King half to death. Suddenly, Ashley’s not just one of the girls. She’s one of the black kids.

As violent protests engulf LA and the city burns, Ashley tries to continue on as if life were normal. Even as her self-destructive sister gets dangerously involved in the riots. Even as the model black family façade her wealthy and prominent parents have built starts to crumble. Even as her best friends help spread a rumor that could completely derail the future of her classmate and fellow black kid, LaShawn Johnson.

With her world splintering around her, Ashley, along with the rest of LA, is left to question who is the us? And who is the them?

Grade: A-

Review:

The Black Kids is a timely read that spares no emotional punches. Ashley is a sassy, funny, rich girl who has always attended private school with her rich white friends. She doesn’t know exactly what reality less fortunate black people actually live through day in and day out. Sure, she sometimes has dealt with racism, if even subtle by her own friends, but she’s never had to live in dire circumstances like her own cousins. But when the Rodney King riots set the city of Los Angeles ablaze, Ashley can no longer ignore the flames of injustice. For the first time in her life, she has to confront her past, what it means to be a black girl, and figure out who her true friends are. I enjoyed this book because Ashley’s POV was no only blunt but hella funny. I like that Ashley’s character isn’t free of faults, she does some pretty questionable things within the course of the novel but ultimately she tries to make amends where she can and where it counts.

I don’t know if the author has intentions of writing a sequel, but I wouldn’t be against one. Especially if we were to get a book written in LaShawn’s POV (he’s a secondary character in the novel, a black kid who attends the rich kids’ private school because of his sports scholarship). Out of all the characters in the book, he was ultimately the star (much to Ashley’s dismay, since in the beginning of the novel she kinda resents the fact that he’s both smart and charismatic and is going to her dream college).

Pick up this book for timely issues and 90’s nostalgia, you won’t be disappointed.

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

Photo by: Elizabeth T. Nguyen

Short Q&A With Author:

I read that you started writing the novel The Black Kids five years ago. How does it feel that the subject matter of the book is now more timely than ever?

So it’s funny, I actually originally started thinking of the idea for The Black Kids as a thesis film when I was in grad school back in 2010, and ultimately decided against it. When I took a break from screenwriting in 2016, I decided to return to my first love of writing fiction and the short story version of The Black Kids just poured out of me. It felt more imperative than ever given the rise of Black Lives Matter and the fact that smartphones had made it such that we were seeing the effects of unequal policing first hand, literally in our hands and on our televisions. I had no idea that it would feel as timely as it does 2020, which is frustrating, but I also take comfort in the fact that now more than before, non-Black people seem to be trying to seek out and understand Black voices, and to actually be not just passive allies, but advocates for change in meaningful ways.

Female friendships are sometimes difficult. Ashley and Kimberly were childhood friends, but many times we outgrow out childhood friends. Do you think women are more likely to feel an obligated sense of loyalty towards a childhood friend despite not having anything in common with them anyone as they grow older?

I do think women are more likely to push to maintain friendships because women are more likely to have actively nurtured those friendships for years and years. Plus female friendships are so powerful when you’re younger, there’s an almost romantic fervor to them that’s only intensified by the fact that you’re experiencing all these major life changes together in such a relatively short time. When you write “best friends forever” in gel pens in a yearbook, or across each other’s arms in marker, you mean it, and many of us actively work to maintain that promise even when those friendships are toxic, or no longer serve us.

Music played a major role in the novel (or at least Ashley was always listening to songs in many scenes). Were you listening to any artist in particular when working on The Black Kids?

Almost all of the songs that made it into the book were songs that I was listening to as I was writing to transport myself back to the era. Also, randomly, I was listening to a lot of Frank Ocean, especially the songs “Super Rich Kids” and “Sweet Life” which I think are really evocative of the first few chapters before the riots begin. I was also listening to a lot of SZA and Lorde to get myself in the headspace of what it feels like to be a teenager/young woman. A lot of Hole and N.W.A. to capture Jo’s defiance in my head. Also, randomly a lot of Bowie, and Seu Jorge’s Bowie covers. In my head, they actually speak to Ashley’s feelings of not quite fitting in or feeling unmoored in some ways throughout the book. Each character definitely has their own soundscape.

Your novel sheds a light on racism, what lesson do you hope your young readers will take away from reading this novel?

I really view this novel first and foremost as a coming-of age-novel. It’s about Ashley making huge mistakes and learning from them how to be a good daughter, friend, sister, and person. I purposefully wrote her to be super flawed because I think that’s important for young readers and adults alike, especially, when it comes to issues around race. It’s ok if we don’t have all the answers immediately, if we do or say the wrong things, so long as we learn and grow from those mistakes and resolve to move through the world being better, more thoughtful, and more empathetic.

What books do you recommend to your readers if they’re wanting to support Black authors?

First and foremost, I would say that Black authors are authors, period. There are Black authors doing great work across genres, some of which engage with questions of race, some of which don’t. So to those of my readers who are non-Black, diversifying your reading really means just stepping outside your comfort zone within your particular genres of interest to make space for other voices. Don’t dismiss something as written by an author of color as something you won’t relate to. Most of us aren’t women in 19th century Britain in love with a brute with his mad wife in the attic. And yet, people don’t use that to dismiss Jane Eyre. Also, to paraphrase what my friend Nic said in an article – don’t only read books about Black people being oppressed, but also read about our joy.

All that said, Queenie by Candice Carty Williams is really great if you’re looking for something literary, but really funny. It also packs an unexpected emotional punch and delves into mental health issues. Luster has gotten a lot of deserved attention for putting a fresh spin on the struggling millennial in New York story. I really love Zone One by Colson Whitehead, and The Devil in Silver by Victor LaValle. Zone One is a literary zombie apocalypse book and The Devil in Silver is slow burn literary horror that takes place in an insane asylum. Both are nerve-wracking. Lot by Bryan Washington is a beautiful collection of short stories by a queer young Black man from Texas. We Love You Charlie Freeman by Kaitlyn Greenridge, is a not easily characterized, but it’s a coming of age story involving a family and a chimp in an institution in Massachusetts, and explores scientific experimenting in the recent past as it relates to historical scientific experimenting on Black bodies. The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson is an amazing non-fiction work about the Great Migration. The middle grade book The Only Black Girls in Town, I think actually shares a lot in common with my novel. And YA right now is an absolute treasure trove of Black voices across sexual orientation, religious and gender identities.

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