Active Ingredients: Lactic Acid, Jojoba Oil Beads, and Mint.
Verdict: I’m a big fan of clay masks because having oily skin it’s the only type of mask that truly leaves my skin feeling refreshed and clean. I’ve been a recent fan of Kinship after falling in love with their Brightwave Eye Cream and I expected to love this product as well. This mask does an excellent job of unclogging and clearing pores – but also leaving one’s skin feeling refreshed but not dry. The mint really creates a pleasant sensation one that leaves skin feeling refreshed and invigorated. If you’ve been looking for a clay mask that will clear up your skin but not completely strip it away from its natural oils, then give this one a chance, you won’t regret it.
What It Does: Hydrates oily skin without clogging pores.
Active Ingredients: Green Tea, Rice, Algae, Leopard Lily, and Wild Rose.
Verdict: This cream has been hyped so much, and usually when there’s too much hype it goes in two ways, either it’s overrated or the product actually really is that good. Having oily skin, it’s always hard to find a moisturizer that isn’t heavy, but at the same time isn’t watery too. This hydrating cream, despite its name, isn’t watery at all. It actually is very hydrating and rich but in a non-oily or heavy way, which is perfect for all of us that deal with oily skin and breakouts. I use it at night and wake up with nourished, moisturized skin in the morning. I recommend it if you have oily to combo skin that’s prone to breakouts.
A whirlpool of darkness churns at the heart of a macabre ballet between two lonely young women in an internet chat room in the early 2000s—a darkness that threatens to forever transform them once they finally succumb to their most horrific desires.
A couple isolate themselves on a remote island in an attempt to recover from their teenage son’s death, when a mysterious young man knocks on their door during a storm…
And a man confronts his neighbour when he discovers a strange object in his back yard, only to be drawn into an ever-more dangerous game.
Three devastating, beautifully written horror stories from one of the genre’s most cutting-edge voices.
What have you done today to deserve your eyes?
I read the titular novella when it first came out and you can read my review of it here along with the author interview. This novella is what launched LaRocca’s writing career and with good merits, as it’s dark and seductive and with a bold ending.
The second story, “The Enchantment,” was absolutely riveting. A couple decides to live on a remote island after the death of their only son. One day they’re visited by a stranger and soon you’re left unsure whether he’s a harbinger of good or evil.
The third and final story, “You’ll Find It’s Like That All Over,” delves into the trouble one gets into when attempting to stay civil even when your gut tells you to leave because the circumstances feel so off. This was tense and very dark.
Overall, these tales explore the need for human connection in a way that is dark and fascinating but can also be deadly. I recommend this collection if you’re a reader of dark literature.
*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Titan Books for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!
Liz Rocher is coming home . . . reluctantly. As a Black woman, Liz doesn’t exactly have fond memories of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, a predominantly white town. But her best friend is getting married, so she braces herself for a weekend of awkward, passive-aggressive reunions. Liz has grown, though; she can handle whatever awaits her. But on the day of the wedding, somewhere between dancing and dessert, the couple’s daughter, Caroline, disappears—and the only thing left behind is a piece of white fabric covered in blood.
As a frantic search begins, with the police combing the trees for Caroline, Liz is the only one who notices a pattern: A summer night. A missing girl. A party in the woods. She’s seen this before. Keisha Woodson, the only other Black girl in Liz’s high school, walked into the woods with a mysterious man and was later found with her chest cavity ripped open and her heart removed. Liz shudders at the thought that it could have been her, and now, with Caroline missing, it can’t be a coincidence. As Liz starts to dig through the town’s history, she uncovers a horrifying secret about the place she once called home. Children have been going missing in these woods for years. All of them Black. All of them girls.
It’s your turn.
With the evil in the forest creeping closer, Liz knows what she must do: find Caroline, or be entirely consumed by the darkness.
I’ve always been wary of the forest – in fact, when we lived in Sardinia and our villa had a forest behind it, I always stayed out of it. Even at four years old I had a gut feeling that whatever noise I heard in the forest I should ignore it, and never investigate its origin. Liz returns to Johnstown for her best friend’s wedding, only for her goddaughter Caroline to go missing. But every year for thirty years young Black girls have gone missing – always in the same spot in the forest. This novel is rich with history, terror, and what it means to return home to a place that has never quite felt like your own. The writing is rich and the protagonist Liz is flawed but hopelessly determined. I love folklore and the author masterfully crafted a thriller mystery that weaves folklore with history in a way that you’re left racing through the pages attempting to escape the darkness and rush towards the light. I loved this book, there’s so much one can learn from this about race, class, and history. Read this book even if it scares you, actually read it because it will.
*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Bantam for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!
What It Does: Moisturizes and depuffs the eye area
Active Ingredients: Vitamin C
Verdict: This eye cream is lightweight but at the same time feels so satisfyingly rich. I love how refreshing this eye cream felt after a 12-hours flight. It has helped restore and reset my tired eyes, waking up to completely recharged skin that was line free and incredibly hydrated. I recommend this for all skin types, but especially if you’re on the dry side, it’ll be very beneficial. If you suffer from puffy eyes, this will work miracles on you too.
In a YA debut that’s Gossip Girl with a speculative twist, a Chinese American girl monetizes her strange new invisibility powers by discovering and selling her wealthy classmates’ most scandalous secrets.
Alice Sun has always felt invisible at her elite Beijing international boarding school, where she’s the only scholarship student among China’s most rich and influential teens. But then she starts uncontrollably turning invisible—actually invisible.
When her parents drop the news that they can no longer afford her tuition, even with the scholarship, Alice hatches a plan to monetize her strange new power—she’ll discover the scandalous secrets her classmates want to know, for a price.
But as the tasks escalate from petty scandals to actual crimes, Alice must decide if it’s worth losing her conscience—or even her life.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Ann Liang is an undergraduate at the University of Melbourne. Born in Beijing, she grew up traveling back and forth between China and Australia, but somehow ended up with an American accent. When she isn’t stressing out over her college assignments or writing, she can be found making over-ambitious to-do lists, binge-watching dramas, and having profound conversations with her pet labradoodle about who’s a good dog. This is her debut novel.
A woman is haunted by the Mexican folk demon La Llorona as she unravels the dark secrets of her family history in this ravishing and provocative horror novel.
Alejandra no longer knows who she is. To her husband, she is a wife, and to her children, a mother. To her own adoptive mother, she is a daughter. But they cannot see who Alejandra has become: a woman struggling with a darkness that threatens to consume her.
Nor can they see what Alejandra sees. In times of despair, a ghostly vision appears to her, the apparition of a crying woman in a ragged white gown.
When Alejandra visits a therapist, she begins exploring her family’s history, starting with the biological mother she never knew. As she goes deeper into the lives of the women in her family, she learns that heartbreak and tragedy are not the only things she has in common with her ancestors.
Because the crying woman was with them, too. She is La Llorona, the vengeful and murderous mother of Mexican legend. And she will not leave until Alejandra follows her mother, her grandmother, and all the women who came before her into the darkness.
But Alejandra has inherited more than just pain. She has inherited the strength and the courage of her foremothers—and she will have to summon everything they have given her to banish La Llorona forever.
Anyone living in Los Angeles is familiar with the lore of La Llorona, mostly because people claim that oftentimes at night, they can hear her crying. So of course when this novel popped up on my radar I knew that I simply HAD to read it. Castro’s novel is part Mexican lore and part generational curse and WOW anyone who’s a woman can relate to Alejandra’s plight as she tries to keep a happy exterior as marital pressures and her own dissatisfaction come to a head when La Llorona begins to haunt her. The novel explores the trials and tribulations that span across generations and how each woman has been affected by their encounter with La Llorona. The novel was both creepy and difficult read as women can easily see how often in marriages they’re expected to be mothers and wives first and foremost and to leave all sense of self behind. Alejandra finds herself at a crossroads when the haunting begins – she’s so unhappy with her life that death seems the only way out. I enjoyed learning more about the lore and Mexican history – that’s so rich, diverse, and oftentimes devastating. La Llorona was very terrifying in her descriptions that pale to any Hollywood version of her ever made. This book was riveting, terrifying, and utterly timely. I recommend it if you love your horror with a feminist edge.
*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Del Rey for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!
What It Does: With 31% pure pigment it cover and conceals imperfections.
Active Ingredients: Green Tea and Rose extract
Verdict: I wanted to love this product because the quality is excellent – however, it doesn’t perform the way I need a concealer to perform. Sure, this concealer perfectly blurs dark under eyes circles and blemishes but the formula is terribly unblendable, which means that it easily cracks when dry. I even tried to use a wet Beauty Blender to ease the blending process – but nope! Maybe if one only uses this for blemishes it can work for you, but it cracks and creases way too much to be placed under the eyes. Not to mention, that I always use an eye cream prior to putting concealer, and I’d hate to see someone try to use this without eye cream prior because it would completely dry the skin out. It’s a pity because the shade was a perfect match for me. C’est la vie.
Active Ingredients: Vitamin C, ferulic acid, and brightening banana flower extract.
Verdict: This jelly mask is meant to be put on for only ten minutes and then rinsed off. However, I left it on as an overnight mask. I liked how my skin felt the following day – smooth, soft, and supple. My only tiny gripe with this mask is that since it’s jelly, it’s incredibly watery, meaning that it’s difficult to grab hold of it to put on your skin. I’d like a mask that’s a bit firmer to grasp. But other than that, the ingredients are incredible for your skin.
Shawn is a scientist developing the formula for a drug that may cure blindness by stimulating another area of the brain that controls perception. When he surreptitiously tests the drug on himself, he accidentally accesses a neural pathway that appears to allow him to communicate with a complete stranger through telepathy instead. When Shawn finally discovers the significance of their connection and of the drug’s true effects, it is too late to stop the damage their intimate friendship has set in motion to unfold.
A genre-bending sci-fi horror that will have you turning pages into the night. Shawn is a scientist on the quest to cure blindness – he has invented a pill that should offer such a respite – and decides to be the guinea pig for his own invention. Slowly, Shawn begins to hear a voice – is it an auditory hallucination induced by the drug, a ghost, or something else? The mystery behind the voice and how the protagonist soon finds himself smitten by the female he can only hear in his head proves to be an interesting love story, albeit a strange one. The writing is fresh and evocative – with realistic dialogue, and a plot twist that will have you questioning everything you’ve read up to that point. You don’t want to miss this one out – especially if you love your spooky to come with a side of body horror.
Short Q & A with Author
What inspired this novella?
I’m not a fan of science fiction traditionally, but two things pushed me to write Optic Nerve. During the pandemic, I found that a number of my friends—all of them were my age: 40s and early 50s—discovered increased strains on their personal relationships. Some ended up separating from their partners. The isolation and the stress of lockdown acted like steroids in an already anxiety-prone time of their lives, middle age. Most of my characters tend to be in their thirties, or early forties at most; I wanted to write about someone middle-aged for Optic Nerve, to address that anxiety head-on. At the same time, I started to experience a marked decline in my eyesight, and that was, and still is, terrifying to me. I’m an English teacher by day and an editor and writer by night: my eyes are my most utilized tools, so the experience of losing them is a true horror.
You’re a very prolific writer, often appearing in various anthologies. How do you stay motivated as an author?
I used to think I was alone in this approach, but I am the kind of writer who doesn’t sit down and create something unless she hears a line of it in her head, and the line usually comes out of nowhere. The experience is as close to having a muse as I can imagine. When I talked about this in another interview, a few authors reached out to me to say they, too, function that way. I wish I could say that x, y, and z motivate me to write, but the truth is, when a sentence appears in my head, I go with it. Sometimes I go months without writing anything because the lines just don’t appear; other periods, I churn out story after story. Someday, the lines may stop appearing altogether. I hope that isn’t the case, but it’s certainly a possibility.
I think we’ve all had an unconventional crush like Shawn, and usually, these unconventional crushes don’t always result well in the end. Are you a fan of unconventional crushes and love stories?
As a general rule, I’m jaded about romantic storylines. I don’t know why that is. Maybe it’s because I’m a realist at heart and I think Hollywood too often idealizes relationships. Whenever I stumble upon a saccharine movie on television, I have to keep my eyes from rolling out of my head. On the other hand, when authors capture the high we feel when we do make that unique connection with someone, it’s poetry. I think unconventional love stories are often the most realistic. Zora Neale Hurston described falling in love as a “soul crawl[ing] out from its hiding place,” and I think that’s spot on, but I don’t think those moments are as ubiquitous as Hollywood presents them. Those moments are rare and precious, and maybe I’m jaded specifically because of the fiction that dumbs them down.
Tell us about any other projects you’re currently working on right now or will be releasing soon.
My weird horror boogeyman-centered novelette Shagging the Boss just dropped this summer, and I had a great time writing it; it’s still one of my favorite projects. I’m proud to have stories in upcoming anthologies releasing this fall, too, including Sinister Smile Press’ Institutionalized, Omnium Gatherum’s In Trouble (100% of proceeds benefit the National Network of Abortion Funds), and Night Terror Novels’ Nerve-Janglers. In early March, my next edited anthology American Cannibal releases; it’s historical horror fiction and the stories are flat-out phenomenal. It’s like nothing else out there right now, and readers are going to be blown away.
What’s the horror book you always find yourself recommending?
I find myself returning to Joyce Carol Oates’ The Doll-Master and Other Tales of Terror over and over. It’s creepy and hypnotic. I’m a fan of unreliable narrators and Oates does them like no one else. (laughs) And there isn’t one sentimental romantic tale in the bunch!