Book Review: The Agathas by Kathleen Glasgow & Liz Lawson

Who killed Brooke Donovan?

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Release Date: May 3, 2022

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Price: $17.99 (hardcover)

PLOT SUMMARY:

Last summer, Alice Ogilvie’s basketball-star boyfriend Steve dumped her. Then she disappeared for five days. She’s not talking, so where she went and what happened to her is the biggest mystery in Castle Cove. Or it was, at least. But now, another one of Steve’s girlfriends has vanished: Brooke Donovan, Alice’s ex–best friend. And it doesn’t look like Brooke will be coming back. . .
 
Enter Iris Adams, Alice’s tutor. Iris has her own reasons for wanting to disappear, though unlike Alice, she doesn’t have the money or the means. That could be changed by the hefty reward Brooke’s grandmother is offering to anyone who can share information about her granddaughter’s whereabouts. The police are convinced Steve is the culprit, but Alice isn’t so sure, and with Iris on her side, she just might be able to prove her theory.
 
In order to get the reward and prove Steve’s innocence, they need to figure out who killed Brooke Donovan. And luckily Alice has exactly what they need—the complete works of Agatha Christie. If there’s anyone that can teach the girls how to solve a mystery it’s the master herself. But the town of Castle Cove holds many secrets, and Alice and Iris have no idea how much danger they’re about to walk into. 

GRADE: A

REVIEW:

Fans of Agatha Christie will rejoice at rookie detectives Alice and Iris. Last summer Alice went missing for five days much like her favourite author – after she finds out that her ex-boyfriend and ex-bestfriend become a couple. Halloween night – Alice’s former bestfriend Brookes goes missing. Alice with a penchant for mystery decides to join forces with her tutor Iris and convinces her that they can solve this mystery. Much like an Agatha Christie novel, the twists and turns this novel takes are outrageous – almost too preposterous – however it’s a fun wild ride and I loved the unlikely duo, Alice and Iris are perfect teen protagonists.

I don’t know if this will be a series, but the ending pretty much alludes that there might be a sequel and I am here for it.

Check this one out if you love Agatha Christie and her oddball characters Miss Marple and Poirot.

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Delacorte Press for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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Review: Shani Darden Retinol Reform

What It Is: Retinol Serum

Active Ingredients:

  • Encapsulated Retinol contains a more gentle slow-release retinol that helps reduce visible signs of aging.
  • Lactic Acid exfoliates to smooth and brighten for immediate results.
  • Pyrus Malus (Apple) Fruit Extract provides antioxidant defense against visible sun damage and pollution.

Verdict: For many this is dubbed the holy grail of retinols. I’ve tried various ones in the past and for me, the majority of them have been far too harsh. This one performs well especially under a moisturizer. It zaps away fine lines like you wouldn’t believe and hyperpigmentation is a thing of the past. You can start seeing results by the third week, one of the fastest working retinols there are! I highly recommend this if you’re looking to invest in a retinol that will give you results and dramatically change your skin’s look and texture.

Price: $88

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

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Review: The Twilight Effect Podcast/YouTube Series

In November 2008 two phenomena happened: Obama became the first Black American President, and Twilight was released and began a billion-dollar franchise and vampire obsession unseen since Interview with the Vampire. Unless you were living under a rock, everyone knew about Twilight whether or not you watched the movies.

I’ll admit that I didn’t check the film out until 2010, stuck in bed with a gnarly fever and wondering what the hype was all about. Sure, the film was campy AF, and the vampires weren’t your typical vamps (no fangs, no killing, sparkles galore), but it had a killer soundtrack hot blokes, and an epic love story, so it was entertaining.

Ashley Greene as Alice Cullen (2008)

Now, 14 years later, Ashley Greene (the quirky Alice Cullen) is trying to figure out how this film has affected both her costars and fans in her new Podcast/YouTube series, The Twilight Effect with her best friend and Twihard fan, Melanie Howe.

The Podcast/YouTube series is part film commentary, part trivia, and part reminiscing. For those who are hardcore fans, they will love this series, however, even people who weren’t as hardcore fans can find this Podcast fun as the two hosts are funny and charming. Ashley Greene has a knack for keeping the convo going that would make her an excellent candidate for having her own talk show someday.

The episodes are a little chaotic, but the chemistry between Ashley and Melanie makes for a fun dynamic to listen/watch.

Listening to this podcast is like having a conversation with old friends, meaning you’ll be laughing along with the two hosts and in a time when we need more laughter in our lives, this is a welcomed source of levity.

You can check out the series both on YouTube and anywhere you love to listen to podcasts on! New episodes are up every Tuesday.

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Placebo: Never Let Me Go

Placebo are back with an explosion of melancholy and broken dreams.

When Placebo first entered the music scene, they were a novelty with their glam outsider looks trying to leave their mark in a scene dominated by Brit-pop ala Oasis and heavy masculinity. Today, Placebo are just as ambiguous as they were in 1996, and in a time when social media dominates our lives, frontman Brian Molko refuses to even have an Instagram or Twitter, and the band’s social media accounts are usually run by bassist, Stefan Osdal (the running joke being that you can always tell when it’s Molko posting on social media cause he’s like your tech-impaired uncle who texts in CAPS).

The world is very different from when Placebo left it nine years ago with their album Loud Like Love. Even Placebo are very different from when they left us, they’re no longer a three-member band, but they’re down to two members, and at this late in their career, maybe both Molko and Osdal don’t feel like anyone else can truly capture the essence of Placebo quite like they do. Never Let Me Go is a very different album from Loud Like Love. Musically, it has touches of their debut album, reminding me of their early songs like Come Home, Hang On To Your IQ, or Swallow. It also reminds me a lot of their B-Side instrumentals like Hug Bubble or Oxygen Thief.

Beautiful James is classic Placebo both musically and lyrically speaking, and although it’s the easiest song to recall because of the infectious hook, there are many other songs on the album that capture more fraught emotions. Forever Chemicals beautifully captures the uneasiness we’ve all been feeling these past few years. Musically the sounds are distorted and lyrically we have a Molko who’s been stuck in his own head for too long that it verges on the unhealthy.

The Prodigal begins with an enchanting harmony of strings, luring us into hopeful territory until the lyrics quickly remind us of our own mortality and the sadness of learning lessons towards the end, but with the hope of there being a light at the end of the tunnel. Went Missing is presented in spoken verse that almost feels like an intimate confessional of why someone would deliberately remove themselves from society, too disillusioned with it that the protagonist finds himself simply running away.

The majority of the album seeps with a yearning for lost youth but yet, has the wisdom to know that trying to live as you did in your youth probably wouldn’t have allowed you to still be alive. Although both musically and lyrically, Molko isn’t certain if being alive right now during these dire times is actually anything he bargained for, especially in songs like This Is What You Wanted, where he realises that everything he wanted didn’t make him happy, but rather left him feeling frustrated and empty.

Placebo are back, and like the rest of us, have grown disenchanted with modern society, and yet…there’s a twinkle of hope, and that’s what we can all hold on to, to keep on dreaming.

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Book Review: Jagged Little Pill by Eric Smith, Diablo Cody, and Glen Ballard

Swallow it down, what a jagged little pill….

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Release Date: April 26, 2022

Publisher: Amulet Books

Price: $19.99 (hardcover)

PLOT SUMMARY:

Adopted Frankie struggles to see eye-to-eye with her mother—who would rather ignore a problem and preserve their “perfect” life than stand up for what’s right. Jo just wants her mom to accept her queer identity—and is totally crushed when Frankie, the only person who really gets her, finds herself infatuated with someone new. Phoenix tries to find his place at the new school and balance wanting to spend time with Frankie but knowing he also has to help out with his sick sister at home. Bella wants to enjoy the end of high school and just head off to college without a hitch. Everyone expects Frankie’s brother Nick to be the golden boy, but even though he just got into his dream school, he’s not even sure he’s a good person. Each of their stories intersects when Bella is sexually assaulted at a party, and it looks like the perpetrator might get away with it.

Moving, heartfelt, and raw, Jagged Little Pill: The Novel draws on the musical’s story and gives readers deeper glimpses of the characters. It’s a story about the power of voicing your pain, standing up for what’s right, and finding healing and connection.

GRADE: B

REVIEW:

If you grew up in the 90’s then you can’t help but have listened to Alanis Morrissette’s breakthrough album Jagged Little Pill. It recently became a musical too, and now there’s a book based on the musical. I wasn’t sure what to expect when it came to a book based off of a musical written around a 90’s album. Let’s just say that the story takes place in contemporary times and NOT the 90’s and it’s very woke riding high on the #METOO movement.

I enjoyed the various POV’s in the novel, as it gave a better sense of what happened when Bella, gets raped during a party. The book focuses on the downfall of trying to keep up appearances and how that often leads one to bury secrets about themselves that should’ve been dealt with instead.

As much as I enjoyed the overall story, I was also expecting a little bit more. I can’t quite explain. I liked the characters but they kinda felt forced at times.

I recommend this novel if you’re a fan of the musical or just want to check out what a novel based on such an iconic album could be like.

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

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Review: Tula Signature Glow Refreshing & Brightening Face Mist

What It Is: Refreshing & Brightening Face Mist

Active Ingredients:

Probiotics: Help lock in the moisture & calm the look of irritation

Prebiotics (beet root): Helps balance skin

Hyaluronic Acid & Kiwi Fruit Water: Help hydrate & brighten the appearance of skin

Ligonberry: Helps protect from the damaging effects of pollution and blue light.

Verdict: When it comes to face mists, there are only a few that I truly enjoy and think are actually doing something for my skin. This one from Tula is absolutely amazing. First of all, it smells delicious and instantly relaxes you, secondly the fine spray delicately distributes the mist on your face without it feeling like it’s hosing you down or not splattering water on you unevenly (this has happened with various face mists). This face mist can be used before and after makeup. Personally, I love using this after my nightly skincare routine because the scent is so relaxing that it helps me wind down after a very busy day. But I also find that the ingredients in this face mist also help nourish my skin and that’s a win/win.

Price: $34

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

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Book Review: I’m the Girl by Courtney Summers

Come to Aspera, when you’re old enough….

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Release Date: September 13, 2022

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press (Wednesday Books)

Price: $18.99 (hardcover)

PLOT SUMMARY:

When sixteen-year-old Georgia Avis discovers the dead body of thirteen-year-old Ashley James, she teams up with Ashley’s older sister, Nora, to find and bring the killer to justice before he strikes again. But their investigation throws Georgia into a world of unimaginable privilege and wealth, without conscience or consequence, and as Ashley’s killer closes in, Georgia will discover when money, power and beauty rule, it might not be a matter of who is guilty―but who is guiltiest.

A spiritual successor to the breakout hit SadieI’m the Girl is a masterfully written, bold, and unflinching account of how one young woman feels in her body as she struggles to navigate a deadly and predatory power structure while asking readers one question: if this is the way the world is, do you accept it?

GRADE: A

REVIEW:

As a reader, I always know that going into a Courtney Summers book means that there will be no happy ending, in fact, you will be utterly devastated by the end of the journey. Now, does this make me back away from reading them? No. Maybe I’m a masochist or maybe I prefer unhappy endings in art (what can I say? Watching Romeo & Juliet at 4 has fucked up my expectations).

Georgia Avis has grand expectations for herself and she’s convinced that working at the exclusive resort Aspera will bring her in close contact with people who matter and will help her kickstart her dreams. Although life for her takes a dark turn when she stumbles upon the dead body of 13-years old Ashley James and the killer is still on the loose and has stolen Georgia’s modeling photos. In order to repay her brother back of the $4k she stole to pay for her modeling photos, Georgia gets a job at Aspera, but is sad when she’s not offered to become an “Apera girl” but rather is left to work in an office alone.

Georgia yearns for the life of the rich and famous, thinking that it will save her from her boring existence, but she doesn’t know the price one truly has to pay to sometimes get the things they want. There’s a particular scene in the book that is equal parts disturbing and horrifying as you see how a man in power manages to expertly manipulate Georgia into thinking that she actually has the power, while in reality she never did.

The thriller/murder mystery aspect of the novel was expertly executed and I loved how everything fell into place without feeling like it came out of the left field for the sake of a twist.

The ending will leave you feeling both frustrated and helpless, but knowing that in the circumstances Georgia was in, it was going to be a given that she’d never had the upper hand.

Another deliciously binge-worthy read that will have you flipping the pages as you get immersed in the decadent world of Aspera while leaving you with a serious case of FOMO like Georgia as she wonders what is going on the executive floor.

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press & Wednesday Books for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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Concert Review: Nick Cave & Warren Ellis at the Shrine Auditorium Los Angeles

Nick Cave is the sort of musician that easily has both men and women swooning in a matter of seconds. With his deep, sultry voice and lyrical music, it doesn’t take long for one to be transported into the darkest depths of human emotion. Most of the songs he performed that night were from 2019’s Ghosteen and some of the Bad Seed classics (I don’t know why I had a feeling he would play a song from the Murder Ballads and when the first notes of Henry Lee filled the venue, I was in musical heaven).

The energy was palpable and when Cave covered Cosmic Dancer (one of my fave songs from T.Rex) you could tell that magic was in the air (black magic in this case?).

Not being one to disappoint, Cave not only had an encore but TWO and during his second one, he was joined by a very special guest, Flea from The Red Hot Chili Peppers. All in all, it was an amazing show and one which you can only fully appreciate if you had been there.


SETLIST: NICK CAVE & WARREN ELLIS @ SHRINE AUDITORIUM, 3/9/2022
Spinning Song
Bright Horses
Night Raid
Carnage
White Elephant
Ghosteen
Lavender Fields
Waiting for You
I Need You
Cosmic Dancer
God Is in the House
Hand of God
Shattered Ground
Galleon Ship
Leviathan
Balcony Man
Encore:
Hollywood
Henry Lee
Encore 2:
We No Who U R
Into My Arms
Ghosteen Speaks



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Book Review: Daughter by Kate McLaughlin

If only Scarlet knew the truth about her father….

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Release Date: March 8, 2022

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press (Wednesday Books)

Price: $17.09 (hardcover)

PLOT SUMMARY:

Scarlet’s life is pretty average. Overly protective mom. Great friends. Cute boy she’s interested in. And a father she’s never known – until she does.

When the FBI show up at Scarlet’s door, she is shocked to learn her father is infamous serial killer Jeffrey Robert Lake. And now, he’s dying and will only give the names and locations of his remaining victims to the one person, the daughter he hasn’t seen since she was a baby.

Scarlet’s mother has tried to protect her from Lake’s horrifying legacy, but there’s no way they can escape the media firestorm that erupts when they come out of hiding. Or the people who blame Scarlet for her father’s choices. When trying to do the right thing puts her life in danger, Scarlet is faced with a choice – go back into hiding or make the world see her as more than a monster’s daughter.

GRADE: A

REVIEW:

I’m usually not a fan of serial killer books (either real or fictional) but I absolutely LOVED how the focus was shifted from the killer and the spotlight was placed upon the daughter of a serial killer and how finding out what her father had done affects her and how she perceives herself and the victims. This book was unflinchingly realistic and I loved it. Then I realized that this is the same author that gave us What Unbreakable Looks Like and I understood why we had such a kickass protagonist in Scarlet.

I loved that Scarlet refused to be damaged goods because of her psychopathic father, and instead tried to create something positive from the experience of getting to know him, by recording a web series that highlighted the lives of the victims and allowed people to get to know them rather than focus on her father’s hideous crimes.

This is both a chilling read and a realistic look into how a murder affects those who loved the victim and how to move on from that.

This book is perfect for fans of true crime and serial killers. You won’t be disappointed!

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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Review: Dr. Brandt Microdermabrasion Age Defying Exfoliator

What It Is: An age-defying exfoliator that gently polishes, smooths the look of skin, and buffs away dead surface skin cells for a smoother, brighter complexion in minutes.

Active Ingredients: Lactic Acid

Skin Types: Normal, Dry, Combination, and Oily

Skincare Concerns: Dullness and Uneven Texture, Fine Lines and Wrinkles, and Acne and Blemishes

Verdict: This very well might be the holy grail of exfoliators. I’m usually not a huge fan of exfoliating creams/cleansers because many tend to be harsh and create actual lesions/cuts on the skin (I’m looking at you St. Ives), however, these exfoliating beads are so minuscule and so delicate that it manages to rid your skin of dead skin cells AND be gentle enough for sensitive skin. I was pleasantly surprised by this exfoliator because I’m usually not a fan of exfoliators, but this one really does what it promises to do. It leaves your skin feeling smooth like silk and incredibly soft. I recommend this if you’re looking to amp up your skincare routine.

Price: $79

Where To Buy It: Ulta or Sephora

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