Travel Post – New York (Part 2)

A Souvenir from the Robert McKee Genre Fest

A souvenir from the Robert McKee Genre Fest 

The first day in McKee’s genre fest was dedicated to horror. Ask me five years ago if I’d be writing my own tales about the darker side of life and I would have told you you’re mad. Nowadays I see the beauty in plumbing the dank, dreary depths of the human condition. Fear is a powerful force. It tears off the mask we wear for social acceptance and sinks its claws right into our subconscious. Horror is the one genre that has the potential to reveal our true selves: the good, the bad and the repulsive. It’s also a powerful medium for society’s response to polarizing topics like war, political corruption, and racism. Take the film Get Out for instance. Try to reframe that story as a simple family drama and see if it makes the same impact. Mr. McKee’s presentation had a lineup of film clips that demonstrated superb examples of spooky cinematography tricks, scare tactics and underlying themes in horror: eternal damnation, the monster within, and not so surprisingly, sex.

Since sex is such an anxiety-inducing topic for many Americans, it makes sense that this would be a core element in most U.S. horror films. And it was soon after Mr. McKee made this point that I observed a relevant example of this from the audience around me; a distinct difference in how horror affects us depending on our gender. Now I must take a small detour down a dark and thorny path. The especially squeamish may want to skip the next paragraph.

Out of all the horrific imagery of bizarre gore and gratuitous violence seen that day, do you know what elicited an audible groan from the men in the audience? The scene that made them most uncomfortable? A small, infamous snippet from the 1978 film, I Spit On Your Grave. Without getting too graphic, it involves a woman murdering a man out of revenge by cutting off his “ahem” and locking him in the bathroom to bleed out in a bathtub. Absolutely vile and cringe-worthy? Of course. But speaking from a female-identifying perspective, where the sexual violation and abuse of women is sadly a historical norm, this kind of sexual violence against a human body seems almost run-of-the-mill.

The fact that it happened to a man, however, is not.

It was a jarring example of how removed from empathy a majority of men are when considering the trauma many women live through every day. I don’t necessarily fault men for this, but consider how many countless films depict the sexual violation of women. How often do you see men squirming in their seats or averting their eyes at such a scene? It’s a dark, twisted perpetuation of human behavior that the patriarchal society shrugs at because, well, that’s just how it’s always been. The terrible truth is that most women will suffer some form(s) of physical abuse in their life because of their sex, especially in minority and trans communities. I’m in no way devaluing the experiences of male-identifying individuals who have suffered similar abuse. I only aim to point out an observation that a strong majority of the male population don’t seem quite as affected by the representation of violence against a person’s sex…until it’s their own. As gender fluidity increases in society, it is my hope that we’ll empathize beyond our own corporal boundaries and realize that harm to any“body” is intolerable.

I’ll step down from my soapbox now.

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Autumn in New York

The following seminars were just as eye-opening. Every day Mr. McKee broke down a film scene by scene, pointing out all the key genre elements that made it a successful story. I hadn’t seen Bridges of Madison County before this seminar and let me tell you, I cried like I had just seen a parade of dead puppies. It was very embarrassing to be sobbing and sopping snot from my nose in front of fellow colleagues. Good stories are supposed to move us, whether it’s wetting our seat in fear or doubling over in a fit of silent laughter…you know the kind where your face is frozen in an ugly-cry expression, your nostrils flare and you can’t breathe. A good story gives us a memorable experience and binds us together because of it.

For any budding writers out there, I can say whole-heartedly that Mr. McKee’s seminars are worth every penny. (No, I’m not being paid to write this.) I’ve dedicated most of my free time outside of writing to study great works in film, television, and literature and I like to think I have a pretty solid foundation of what makes a good story tick. I even expose myself to some pretty terrible material to understand why it’s so bad. But Mr. McKee’s complete and thorough understanding of successful story structure made me realize I still had more to learn. And I was most impressed by his genuine love of sharing this knowledge. He engaged us in thought-provoking debates and on every break throughout the day he made himself available for one-on-one questions, conversation and book signings. Nothing about his presentation felt mechanical. I can only imagine how many times he’s given these same lectures and been asked the same questions, yet he approached each day’s lecture with the enthusiasm of a passionate, seasoned professor. I left these seminars invigorated and inspired, eager to bring new energy and a critical eye to my works in progress.

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Veteran’s Day Parade preparations 

On the final morning of my stay, the city was buzzing with more activity than usual. It was Monday, November 11th and the streets around Madison Square Park were clogged with motorcyclists, floats and hundreds of uniformed men and women for the annual Veteran’s Day parade. I found myself surrounded by military faces easily 15+ years younger than me. Kids, really; each one with an air of discipline beyond their years. I had to leave before the parade kicked off but the celebration of honor and gratitude for all these service members lifted my spirits for the trip back home. I’m glad I gave myself permission to enjoy this little sidetrack. Sometimes being a responsible adult means making time for that little kid inside you that tugs your sleeve, points to your heart’s desires and says, “Let’s do that!”

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Veteran’s Day Parade

By: Erica Ruhe

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6 Things I’m Thankful For

First and foremost, Happy Thanksgiving!! I hope that you’re all having a wonderful Thanksgiving if you’re celebrating, but while we stuff our faces with all the ham, sweet potatoes, and pies, I just wanted to take the time to give things to the things I have in my life.

HEALTH

This is something that we all take a little bit for granted when we’ve got good health. It’s only when you have bad health is when you’re thinking about what you took for granted. I’m lucky to be healthy with functioning limbs. So I want to give thanks for having good health.

FAMILY & FRIENDS

Family can sometimes drive you crazy, but I do love my family very much. I also love my friends very much too. Many of them I’ve been friends with since my teens. But I’ve been lucky also with the new friends I’ve encountered in my adult life. One thing I know for certain is that I can always rely on my family and friends for support and that makes getting through life a little easier.

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Halloween 2015, we had only been dating for 3 months.

LOVE

I’m kind of private when it comes to my personal life (or at least sharing it online). But I feel blessed that a few years ago I finally met my soulmate (we’re currently engaged!). I spent my early twenties dealing with terrible relationships that I kind of associated love with pain. But it doesn’t have to be that way! True love will uplift you and not hurt you. True love allows the best part of you to shine, and I feel that I’m truly my best now with my fiance.

PASSION

Life would be quite dull for me without my passion for writing. I am thankful for my passion because it gives me a purpose and it also fills me with happiness.

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One of my pups, Nico

PETS

Even on a bad day, I love my pups who are always excited to see me. They instantly lift my spirits and are always so silly that they make me laugh even on the worst of days. I am thankful that they came into my life (I didn’t go to a rescue to find them, I literally found them on the streets).

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My book Bleed Like Me at The Ripped Bodice bookstore in Culver City, California

READERS

If you’re reading my books or you read my blog, THANK YOU. I appreciate my readers and am thankful that out of all the authors and bloggers out there you chose to read my work. An artist can’t exist in a vacuum without an audience and I am very appreciative of mine.

What are a few things that you are thankful for?

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Travel Post – New York City (Part 1)

Bow Bridge, Central Park

Bow Bridge Central Park 

A few months ago I found out Robert McKee would be in New York City in November to host a week of his famous story seminars. It would kick off on Monday with the marketing workshop “Storynomics” and the genre days would follow: horror, action, romance and comedy. The genre fest immediately snared my full interest. I’ve been trying to do the whole “responsible adult thing”, keeping my expenditures in a moderate budget, holding myself back from another travel adventure. But as soon as I saw this opportunity, my miserly conscious ripped open the purse strings and said, “This is a business trip and an investment in your writing career!” Who was I to argue with that totally legitimate and tantalizing rationalization? I booked my travel, giving myself a day and a half of city exploration, and the rest of the time I would dutifully plant myself in a theater seat for the seminars.

Central Park Rowboats

Central Park

There is something quite magical about New York in the fall. And it’s not just a sentiment drummed up from the multitude of romantic films set in the city. The trees are aflame in gold leaves; window displays and building exteriors emit the first twinkle of holiday lights; and the cooler weather tamps down the odors of mysterious biological evacuations that stripe and splotch the pavement. Ah yes, New York City. It’s kinda like a toddler: a noisy, smelly, temperamental stain-factory that still manages to capture your heart. I had three things I wanted to check off my must-do list: stroll the High Line, wander aimlessly through Central Park and make a pilgrimage to pay homage to The Stonewall Inn.

The Stonewall Inn

The Stonewall Inn

I’d visited NYC last summer on the heels of PRIDE week and one of the most memorable sights I’d ever seen was the night sky lit up by the rainbow glow of the Empire State Building. It seriously brought tears to my eyes. The tragedies and triumphs of the LGBTQ+ community occupy a big, special place in my heart and I have a great appreciation for their culture and bigger-than-life approach to love. I’d arrived at The Stonewall Inn during off-hours but enjoyed a few moments of quiet contemplation at the site. I spent part of the afternoon walking the streets of the neighborhood reflecting on the history made there; the heroes that were unwittingly born from the riots in ’69; the change that would unfold over the years; the representation of PRIDE in the world today. I would’ve loved to have attended a drag show while I was there but I normally work overnights and resetting my schedule back to daylight hours completely body-slammed me face first in my hotel pillow by sundown. Next time…

The High Line

The High Line

The High Line is truly a gem in the city and another shining example of a popular amenity that wouldn’t be around without the history and efforts of the gay community. Partially opened in 2009, it’s an abandoned elevated train line turned linear pedestrian park full of green spaces, art installations and unique, cinematic shots of west side Manhattan. Instead of its original destiny of demolition, Friends of the High Line and the surrounding neighborhoods rallied for its preservation and thus, the infrastructure was repurposed as a popular new park spanning nearly one and half miles from the Meatpacking District, through Chelsea, up to 34th Street. At the end of this lovely trek was one of those ubiquitous food stands and the smell of fresh French fries. It was like crossing a rainbow bridge to the fried pot of gold at the end.

The High Line - Window Overlook at 10th Ave. & 17th St.

The geniality I encounter in this city always amazes me. Living in Florida for almost twenty years has given me an unfair impression of New Yorkers. Here, I have only been witness to a rather rude and discontented variety which led me to believe all New Yorkers were like this. Yet in my explorations of the city streets, whenever someone needed assistance (myself included) there was always an eager expression on a nearby face and a helpful prompt.

At the Bus Depot: “Whatcha looking for, sweetie?”

On a street corner: “Need some help, buddy?”

At a construction site: “Careful, guys! Watch your arms, hands, legs, feets and bunions!”

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Even getting an order of fries from the guy at the food stand was like chatting with a long lost friend of the family whose sole focus in that moment was genuinely enjoying his conversation with you while making sure you get the best damn fries in all of New York.

“This sauce is special. It’s my own recipe, from my grandmother; a secret marinade with garlic, some sherry and a little bit of mint. Promise you, these are the best fries in New York.”

And yes, they were the best damn fries I’d had in all of New York.

Central Park was just as fantastic as I imagined it would be. Get a few paces in to that walkway through the trees and the sounds of the city just disappear. The sky was clear, the temperature was mild. Herds of families enjoyed an afternoon stroll, musicians played to tourists for tips, friends laughed in rowboats on the lake. I could have spent hours on a bench people-watching but the daylight was short and my stomach demanded more sustenance.

Bethesda Terrace, Central Park (1)

I settled in for dinner at a newfound favorite: P.S. Kitchen. I’d had the privilege to enjoy a few of its vegan delicacies last year and knew I had to come back on this trip. The food is phenomenal and the service is excellent. The ambiance is like dining in one of those cozy Pinterest-meets-Etsy photos full of cream and eggshell tones, warm lighting and weathered, exposed brick walls. It’s the perfect oasis to escape the fall cold and city buzz.

The Holiday Season Approaches

The Holiday Season 

Vegan Caesar salads and French fries are my crude measuring stick of a culinary experience when I explore a new U.S. destination. Not very exquisite, I know, but it brings my little plant-based heart joy. So far only one rivals the vegan Caesar served at Darbster’s in Lake Worth, Florida and that’s P.S. Kitchen’s. As I was enjoying it I was actually struck with a moment of horror, thinking, “Okay, this is way too rich to be vegan. Did I order the wrong salad?!” But no, it was just that good. Then came the creamy Colombian potato soup, poured into the bowl right at the table. (Ooh, la la.) Followed by a maple roasted honeynut squash sandwich with herbed almond ricotta and pecan pesto on a crispy-soft focaccia bread. (Hold me.) And the non-alcoholic specialty drink called “The Pumpkin Patch” was swoon-worthy. (No kidding. Nearly fell right out of my seat after the first sip.) It was like a farmer had just milked a fresh pumpkin pie, shook that up to get a nice frothy head and then poured it on ice…I…I really don’t know how else to describe it. The Dutch like to portray this experience as an angel peeing on your tongue and, oddly, it seems a fitting analogy because the whole meal left me throwing my hands up in praise. (Which the staff kindly asked me to stop because I was making other patrons uncomfortable.) Plus, when dining here the warm and fuzzies are doubled knowing that the restaurant’s profits are donated to charity.

I merged in to the stream of foot traffic, admiring the city’s colorful transition from day to night, and hoofed my way back to my hotel on 24th. After a hot shower, I lay curled up in bed exhausted and content. It was only day one but I was already grateful I’d seized this opportunity. There really is no place quite like New York City.

The Lake at Central Park

Lake at Central Park

By: Erica Ruhe

Stay tuned for Part II next week!

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Throwback Thursday: Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

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I was 9 years old when I first came across Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Being a fan of horror, I was incredibly excited about this anthology as it documented various stories that derived from urban legends, folklore, or myths. I was completely hooked. I used the book as a means to inspire my own “scary stories sharing” escapades (which happened often during sleepovers or late summer nights hanging out with friends).

Apart from the stories themselves, what really set this book apart was the illustrations by Stephen Gammell. Often times, for a seasoned horror connoisseur as myself, the stories alone weren’t terrifying enough. But those illustrations! Boy were they ever the nightmare-inducing high that I was searching for.

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I have yet to see the movie from Guillermo Del Toro inspired by the anthology, but being a fan of his past work, I’m certain that he remained faithful to the vision of the illustrations (at least that’s what I could tell from the trailers).

Recently, I decided to reread the stories (my original copies are stashed away in boxes somewhere in my garage in Sicily) so I had to repurchase the books. Luckily, these new editions haven’t strayed from the original, as I heard that for awhile they had done away with Gammell’s illustrations and replaced them with a more kid-friendly version. (Bah!)

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Upon rereading the stories, I realized that I still enjoy them and that I have a damn good memory as decades later I’m still capable of remembering how each of the stories would end. As far as the illustrations go, they’re just as deliciously terrifying today as I thought they were when I was a mere nugget of 9.

But if you’re never read this horror classic, I highly suggest that you do. It’s equal parts campy and horrifying. I still can’t get over the story of the girl that has spiders protruding from her cheek (which I’m sure the movie The Believers capitalized on for a certain scene). Body horror has always been more frightening to me than a million clowns ever could be.

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Book Review: It’s My Life by Stacie Ramey

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If she wants a future with him, she’ll have to make peace with her past.

Release Date: January 7, 2020

Pre-Order on Amazon

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Price: $10.99 (paperback)

Plot Summary:

Jenna’s never let her cerebral palsy get her down. But when she discovers that her condition was actually caused by an injury at birth, she’s furious with her parents, who withheld the truth. And as they push her to get yet another difficult procedure, Jenna feels her control over her life starting to slip.
Enter Julian, Jenna’s childhood crush. He’s just moved back to town, and he’s struggling in school, so Jenna reaches out to him―anonymously―to help. Soon, their conversations are about so much more than class. She’s falling for him all over again, hard and fast. But would Julian still be interested in her if he knew who she really was? And can she find a way to take back her own narrative before she pushes away everyone she loves?

Grade: B

Review:

I really appreciated this book in regard of enlightening teens on what it means to live with a chronic illness. The tone of the book, although it illustrates how it feels to live with cerebral palsy, is still a light one in the way any rom-com would be. In a way, this book is still a rom-com since the main focus of the book is how Jenna loves Julian (a childhood friend who moved away but has returned to town and is now in her English class). She’s trying to be a normal teen by getting to know him on a more intimate level through texting, but at the same time keeps her identity concealed because she feels that no boy could possibly fall in love with her damaged body.

I really liked Jenna, so reading the story from her perspective was fun, plus there were a lot of likable side characters as well, such as her best friend Ben and sister Rena. The flirting between Jenna and Julian was totally adorable and appropriate for their age.

I know that some of the premises in the book may seem unreasonable (such as Jenna wanting to legally emancipate herself from her family so that she could make her own decisions in regards to her health when it comes to surgeries and tests). But since the rest of the book was good I could overlook that minor lapse of judgment.

I recommend this book for anyone who’s wanting to learn more about living with a chronic illness and if you’re in the mood for a quick light romantic read.

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

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Comic-Con LA – Get Your Nerd On!

This was my second year attending Comic-Con LA (thank you for the Press Passes!), so I kinda had an idea of what to expect this time around. But what I didn’t expect was for the crowds to be even bigger than last year. Again, I attended only Saturday, as it seemed like the day with the most interesting panels.

One of the things that I simply love about Comic-Con is getting to see all the amazing and creative cosplays. I may have a soft spot for those who cosplay horror characters, so you may see more horror related characters than any others. In fact, one of the first booths I stopped by was that for Crypt TV. Last year, they had the LookSee creature, but this year they had one of my favourite creatures, The Birch! Not only did they have a Photo Op with the awesome Birch Forest but it was a way to promote the new series inspired by the original short. I even had a chance to attend The Birch panel and viewing of three episodes. If you’re into creepy woods, witchcraft, and a creature who gets rid of bullies, then I suggest you hope on over to Facebook Watch and check the series out. The panel followed with a short Q&A session with the creators, producers, and actors. Since my favourite character from the series The Birch was the seemingly complex bully, Thurston, after the panel was done I had a chance to chat with the actor, Dempsey Byrk who portrays him. He was really nice and I wish I hadn’t been popping cough drops like no tomorrow to keep a cough attack coming, so I wasn’t as talkative as I probably would’ve been in better spirits.

Afterwards, I attended the panel for Zombieland: Double Tap. The fans were promised a surprise and everyone thought that that meant that Billy Murray would show up. I knew that would be too good to be true, so had joked that most likely we’d be graced by Jesse Eisenberg presence instead. And well, let’s just say that Jesse Eisenberg did show up, but so did Zoey Deutch and (probably this was the surprise) Rosario Dawson. The panel was fun and some lucky peeps got to win tickets to the premiere that was happening that same night.

Once the panels I was interested in were done, I went comic book browsing. I was looking for some vintage horror comics but like always, most of the ones that were awesome were way too expensive. But I did find some vintage Archie Comics and even Joe Hill’s Tales from the Darkside. I was a little disappointed that there weren’t many new horror comic books there this year as there were last year. But all in all it was still a very fun experience. I love getting to check out all the vendors (there are so many talented artists!) and getting the chance to try out new food items (I tried this vegan ice cream from Nice Pops that was really good, and being lactose-intolerant it was a plus to have ice cream and not deal with a stomach ache afterwards). These pops are handcrafted and made from Cashew Milk. I got the chocolate one but they had other flavours too and they cost $5 a pop.

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With tired feet and famished, I was ready to call it a night once 6pm rolled around. But as always, Comic Con LA didn’t disappoint. It was a fun way to spend a Saturday in the company of creative people and getting the chance to check out new things in the world of horror and comics. If you’ve never been to Comic Con LA, I highly suggest that you book your ticket for next year (which it’ll be in late September) because I have a feeling that with each coming year, it’s only going to get bigger and better every time.

Photos by: David Hanger

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Book Review: Scars Like Wings by Erin Stewart

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Before, I was a million things. Now I’m only one. The Burned Girl.

Release Date: October 1, 2019

Order on Amazon

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Price: $16.99 (hardcover)

Plot Summary

Ava Lee has lost everything there is to lose: Her parents. Her best friend. Her home. Even her face. She doesn’t need a mirror to know what she looks like–she can see her reflection in the eyes of everyone around her.

A year after the fire that destroyed her world, her aunt and uncle have decided she should go back to high school. Be “normal” again. Whatever that is. Ava knows better. There is no normal for someone like her. And forget making friends–no one wants to be seen with the Burned Girl, now or ever.

But when Ava meets a fellow survivor named Piper, she begins to feel like maybe she doesn’t have to face the nightmare alone. Sarcastic and blunt, Piper isn’t afraid to push Ava out of her comfort zone. Piper introduces Ava to Asad, a boy who loves theater just as much as she does, and slowly, Ava tries to create a life again. Yet Piper is fighting her own battle, and soon Ava must decide if she’s going to fade back into her scars . . . or let the people by her side help her fly.

Grade: A+

Review:

Ava’s story is both heartbreaking and uplifting. After becoming severely disfigured by a house fire, she not only has lost both of her parents and cousin but also her face. Or at least what her face used to be. For months, Ava fights for her life as she undergoes surgery after surgery but once she’s deemed healthy enough to leave the hospital, her aunt and uncle think it’s time to transition back into high school. But Ava doesn’t think she can survive high school with the face she has. That is until she meets Piper, a fellow survivor with a spitfire personality.

It’s rare when the characters in a book feel so real to me. But Ava and Piper were incredibly real, and the situations they found themselves in were also real for their circumstances. There were so many heartbreaking moments in the book, but it was also very hopeful. It wasn’t all about despair, as it easily could have been considering the topic. Instead, Ava realized that she could either wallow in misery her whole life and not live or decide to live again and find purpose in her new life with her new friends and support group.

I loved how each character was their own person, and that even the so-called “mean girls” of the school ultimately had a soul and reached a growth of their own by the end.

I suppose this was the sort of book that I wish it hadn’t ended because I still wanted to read more about Ava and Piper. It’s probably why after completing the book I took a break from the novel-reading and instead focused on reading poetry books instead. Because a part of me still wanted to hold on to Ava and her strong spirit. This book is a must-read for readers of any age, but especially teenagers so that they can learn how you can overcome the worst in life if you have the right people standing by you.

 

Short Q & A With The Author

Why did you select fire as the source of Ava’s disfigurement?

SCARS LIKE WINGS was actually inspired by Marius, a friend of mine, was burned and severely scarred by a house fire as a child in Romania. Now 20, Marius’ story has always inspired and intrigued me, not only because of the power of his tragedy but because he chooses every single day not to let it define him. He has had children run screaming from him. He has had bullies call him Freddy Krueger. I wanted to write a story that would go to these dark, lonely parts of tragedies like his, but also to the beautiful, hopeful parts. As Marius has told me, the only way he survived was because every time he wanted to give up, someone was there, helping him choose to live. I hope Ava’s story can show readers that we all have a choice after a life-changing event: We can choose to be alone, isolated and angry that our normal is gone, or we can let people in and find a new normal, together.

Reading Scars Like Wings it looks like you did a lot of research in burn victims when it comes to the healing process and medical work needed. Did you speak to professionals that help burn victims or did you solely rely on books about the topic?

Oh, definitely! As I wrote this book, I felt heavily the burden of presenting an accurate, respectful representation of the burn survivor community. I spent a lot of time speaking with survivors, reading their stories, talking to doctors about wound care and recovery, and generally immersing myself in the terrible/wonderful/inspirational/reality of being a burn survivor. Learning about the physical and emotional pain of burns was gut-wrenching at times, but I wanted to preset a story that went beyond stereotypes and pity to the reality of what it’s like to live with physical and emotional scars like Ava’s.

I know that Ava hates seeing herself as a survivor, but she is a very inspiring character. The reader can’t help but want to root for her the whole time. When did Ava’s story first come to you (as in inspiration)?

Well, like I mentioned, Marius originally sparked the idea for this story, but the character of Ava took shape slowly as I started researching and drafting. She has some qualities just like Marius, like her thumbs on her hands instead of fingers, and then pieces of other stories that survivors have shared with me. The more I thought about her and wrote about her, the more she became a fully-formed character with interests like Broadway musicals and a personality all her own. I’d love for readers to see Ava this way by the end of the book, as a smart, funny, talented teenager who just happens to also have scars.

As much as Ava is wonderful, Piper is a true scene-stealer. I feel like everyone needs a Piper in their life. Was Piper inspired by someone in particular?

Not really, but I knew from the beginning that Ava needed someone like Piper to draw her out of her shell and remind her that she has a lot of living and loving left to do. Piper’s loud, out-there attitude is a great counterbalance to Ava’s initial belief that her life is over after the fire. Like a lot of people, though, Piper’s bravado is hiding her own pain and struggles. And when she starts to push Ava away, too, we start to see how deep her pain runs. Both girls finally realize that they can have full, happy lives after their trauma, but they can’t ignore the pain, either.

So many YA novels lately are being made into movies or TV series, which actress would you like to see bring Ava to life?

Oh, wouldn’t that be amazing! If I’m being honest, I’d love to see the role of Ava go to a burn survivor. I think it would be so wonderful to see someone who has actually lived a similar storyline portray this recovery journey!

(Editor’s note: I LOVE Erin’s idea of a burn survivor being the one to portray Ava, although if I had to choose an actress, I think Joey King would tackle Ava’s journey well.)

*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: Huda Beauty – Liquid Lipstick

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What It Is: Long-lasting liquid lipstick

Verdict: Ever since I’ve started using liquid lipsticks back in 2016, I haven’t been able to go back to a bullet tube anymore. There’s something about liquid lipsticks that just hits the spot for me. They’re smudge-free, don’t bleed, and incredibly long-lasting. What’s not to love? I know some people have issues with their lips drying out but that isn’t something that I’ve had to deal with. So, in the past three years, I’ve tried my fair share of liquid lipsticks. When Allure’s Beauty Box centered on Huda Beauty, I was intrigued. Mostly because I hadn’t tried any of their products up to that point. But I know how much people rave about Huda’s products and how life-changing some of them have been. For this particular Allure Beauty Box, Huda Kattan made a special liquid lipstick hue specifically for this occasion, creating an orange-red shade appropriately named Allure.

Now, I have no qualms over the quality of the liquid lipstick. It is worth all the hype her liquid lipsticks have garnered. It’s long-lasting and it doesn’t bleed. So those are two things that I look for when determining the success factor of a liquid lipstick. However, the shade Allure is terrible for anyone who’s as pale as I am. It isn’t a universal red as I thought it might be. Instead, it’s more of a bold bright orange than red. It’s not very flattering for pale skins, but feel it would be an excellent shade for those who have darker skin and want a red that isn’t on the classic side.

So the product was good but the shade wasn’t. Can’t win them all!

Price: $18

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

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Throwback Thursday: Travel Post – Sicily

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At the piazza in Taormina, Sicily

This month’s Throwback Thursday series is going to be a little different. Usually, in my past ones I revisited old movies or songs, but this time I thought that revisiting a location I hadn’t been to for a while was enough for me to write about it for this series.

I usually try to make it out to Sicily, Italy every two years, but this time I hadn’t been back since 2016. I was in much need of relaxation and to get away for a while, so I took four weeks off of work to head out to Sicily. During my first week there, I met up with fellow Inkblotter, Phoebe who was staying in Catania. We stopped at one of my favourite bars, Prestipino (espresso and baba’ for me and Coke Zero for her).

My second week was spent going to the beach in Giardini Naxos and hanging out in Taormina with my cousin and some friends. During that time I also ate lots of thing that I don’t usually eat in California, such as gelato (sorry, just never have been a fan of American ice cream) and lots and lots of fish.

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View from my bedroom.

In between my third and second week, I decided to spend a few days at my apartment in Catania, where I just decided to sleep and relax. My usual week, while I’m in California, is always jam-packed that I’m always driving seven days a week and I never have time to sleep in, so sleeping in till 10 a.m. was an absolute luxury. Taking a break from driving and traffic felt very liberating and I also decided to unplug during my stay in Catania (no cell phone or internet for almost a week). I spent my days taking walks, eating lots of fresh fruit, vegetables, and fish. At night I would relax with various face masks. It was a very relaxing and nourishing moment for my skin, mind, body, and soul.

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My final week was spent back in Taormina for a few final days of beach and shopping. I didn’t do a whole lot in regards to going out at night, although I occasionally did, I mostly wanted my stay in Sicily to be about recharging, spending time with my family and friends, and above all taking a moment to appreciate the little things in life. Like befriending a couple of feral kitties, or savouring all my favourite dishes.

I really enjoyed my stay in Sicily, and can’t wait to go back. Because as all Sicilians know, no one ever leaves Sicily forever. It’s always a ‘See you later,’ never a farewell.

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Review: Erno Laszlo New York – Multi Task Eye Serum Mask

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Eye-catching instant results!

A silky, all-in-one hydrogel eye patch formulated with a powerhouse of ingredients to tackle major signs of under eye dark circles, fine lines, and wrinkles.

This multi-tasking eye patch is a high-powered serum infused with algae extract, vitamin B3, and allantoin to deliver immediate results under the eye area.

What It Is: A hydrating eye serum gel mask

What It Does: Hydrates and nourishes the eye area, diminishing dark circles and fine lines

Verdict: It’s not always easy to find an eye mask the truly delivers. Most feel like a waste of time. Others tend to slip off, but this gel mask stays put meaning that you don’t necessarily have to lie down in order to keep it on you. I decided to pop this eye mask in the freezer for a few minutes prior to using it. I think that that truly added an element of extra relaxation. I really loved how the mask felt on my eye area. I left it on for about 30 minutes so all the serum had time to soak into my skin. I really loved how the serum felt on my skin while I had it on. It just felt very soothing and relaxing. When I removed the mask, my under eye area felt incredibly smooth and hydrated. I have hereditary dark under eyes, and this mask truly helped reduce the appearance of it. I used this mask before going to sleep, but I can see how it could also be used to prep the eye for makeup in the morning. This serum would truly make the perfect eye primer for concealer. I suggest you try out this eye mask if you want to pamper under your eyes and reduce the appearance of wrinkles and stress.

Price: $35 (pack of 6)

Where To Buy It: www.ernolaszlo.com

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