Book Review: The Favorite Daughter By Kaira Rouda

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The perfect home. The perfect family. The perfect lie.

Release date: May 21, 2019

Pre-Order on Amazon

Price: $26.99

Publisher: Graydon House

Plot Summary:

Jane Harris lives in a sparkling home in an oceanfront gated community in Orange County. It’s a place that seems too beautiful to be touched by sadness. But exactly one year ago, Jane’s oldest daughter, Mary, died in a tragic accident and Jane has been grief-stricken ever since. Lost in a haze of anti-depressants, she’s barely even left the house. Now that’s all about to change.

It’s time for Jane to reclaim her life and her family. Jane’s husband, David, has planned a memorial service for Mary and three days later, their youngest daughter, Betsy, graduates high school. Yet as Jane reemerges into the world, it’s clear her family has changed without her. Her husband has been working long days—and nights—at the office. Her daughter seems distant, even secretive. And her beloved Mary was always such a good girl—dutiful and loving. But does someone know more about Mary, and about her last day, than they’ve revealed?

The bonds between mothers and daughters, and husbands and wives should never be broken. But you never know how far someone will go to keep a family together…

Grade: B-

Review:

I’ll admit that I really struggled reading this book for the first 45 pages or so. The main reason is that I really couldn’t stand the protagonist of the novel, Jane. She was the typical vapid bitch that one would imagine a rich Orange County housewife to be. I know that the author was trying to vividly depict a narcissist who’s also an unreliable narrator, but I suppose I like my narcissists to be more charming than annoying.

Jane is a total control freak who can’t stand that her daughters don’t follow her rules, especially her biological daughter Betsy, whom she keeps referring to being the lesser daughter, and going on about how her deceased daughter Mary was her favourite because she was beautiful, smart, talented, and above all popular.

Maybe it’s a personal pet peeve but I really dislike protagonists (especially those that are written in the first person) who are prone to criticize other women and pretty much be the sort of mean girl you try to avoid in real life. Honestly, there’s a reason why I avoid those reality shows like the Real Lives of (insert city) Housewives, cause all those women are shallow, manipulative, and just plain horrid human beings.

Now you’re wondering, what made you continue to read if you hated the protagonist so much? Well, the writing itself was flowing and easy going (although it lacked the descriptive writing I’m more of a fan of) and I did want to find out if my hunch on what had really happened was true.

Spoiler alert: I was right, so the grand twist was no true twist. I don’t know if this book was the best representation of a psychological thriller, but it was entertaining. I just wish that the other characters in the book were a bit more likable, as I would’ve actually felt some compassion for the terrible things that were happening to them. But ironically, as much as I disliked Jane, I kinda sided with her, cause her family members truly treated her poorly that they kinda deserved her ire.

I think women’s book clubs and fans of cozy mysteries would actually be the best fans for this novel. There’s not much gore or thrill, so fans of thrillers seeking a chilling tale won’t find it in this book, but if you’re hoping to be entertained and spend the afternoon with a delusional rich housewife and laugh at her expense, then you’re at the right place.

 

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Follow Kaira Rouda on Instagram!

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Graydon House for the digital ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review!

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Art Museum – Candytopia: The Sweetest Escape

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Entrance to Candytopia

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to live in a real-life CandyLand or did you ever envy those kids who got to visit Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory? Well, Candytopia is the answer to all your childhood confectionary dreams!

 

 

I visited this new pop-up museum in Santa Monica with my boyfriend and high school friend (fellow Inkblotter) Phoebe Jane.

 

Not only are all the painting replicas and art installations made entirely of candy, but every room allows you to have a piece of candy before you go (but c’mon, ya know that my sugar addict self may have taken four or six each from every station, don’t judge me, I’m also a hoarder).

 

The funnest portion of the museum is of course, the marshmallow pit (not made out of real marshmallows, sadly) but still just as fun. The other rooms weren’t timed, but because of the popularity of this particular room, I think that we were given a mere fifteen minutes to bask in the bliss of a fluffy heaven.

 

So was the trip worth the $30? Well, if reliving the stupor and amusement of your 8 yrs.-old self could come with a price tag, then yes, I say it’s definitely worth it. And although going solo might be just as fun, I would recommend to bring some friends along (after all, you do need to have victims to pelt with marshmallows once you’re in that pit!).

Check out the Candytopia website for dates and future locations!

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Review: Jeffree Star Cosmetics – Velour Liquid Lipstick Summer Collection 2018

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Ever since Jeffree Star launched his cosmetics line, I’ve been a mega-fan! I love how bold his lipstick colour choices are and the fierce packaging, but apart from the looks what I absolutely LOVE about his velour liquid lipsticks is the formula, so far the best I’ve encountered out of the liquid lipsticks I’ve tried in the past year or so.

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Swatch of Cherry Wet.

What It Is: Liquid Lipstick

Important Detail: Cruelty-free and Vegan

Shade: Cherry Wet

Verdict: The moment Jeffree Star announced his Summer Collection 2018 on his youtube channel, I knew that I had to have the shade Cherry Wet as I’m a HUGE fan of cherry red lips. This red shade is a very summery shade as it’s a hybrid between red and hot pink. I absolutely LOVE this colour, and the formula is the same as the other Jeffree Star Velour Liquid Lipstick Mattes, meaning that the pigmentation is HIGH, the power-stay is over 10+hrs. without bleeding/and or smudging, and the product feels absolutely light-weight on your lips, making you feel as though you’re not wearing anything! As all the previous Jeffree Star products I’ve used, I’m very pleased with this one, and do truly recommend it, because although you may find a dupe colour-wise for a cheaper option, what makes me return back and back again to Star’s products aren’t just the colours, but for the top-notch formulas that just can’t be beat!

Tip: If you have particularly dry lips, I recommend that you apply a light coat of lip balm, let it sink into your lips for 5-10mins. and then apply the liquid lipstick.

Price: $18

Where To Buy It: https://jeffreestarcosmetics.com/collections/summer-collection

Pictured above: Me wearing Cherry Wet.

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Review: Too Cool For School All-In-One Egg Mellow Cream

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If you follow my blog, then you’ll know that I swear by Vitamin A for having good skin. Having said that, one of the key ingredients in this moisturizer is egg yolk (which is rich in Vitamin A and proteins that nourish the skin). The nutrients found in eggs not only help nourish dull skin but it also brightens it. It also gets rid of acne (again, because of the Vitamin A) and because it also contains a natural antibacterial that fights acne. Since egg yolk is mostly made up of water and fats, it actually helps lock moisture into your skin cells, leaving skin feeling incredibly soft and supple. What more could you ask from a single ingredient?

What It Is: Firming Moisturizer

What It Does: This moisturizer is supposed to work as a serum, priming moisturizer, eye cream, neck cream, and sleep mask. It also targets dryness, dullness and uneven texture, and firmness.

Active Ingredients: Egg yolk, Collagen (great for anti-aging), albumen (egg white), Niacinamide, and omega oil for proper hydration that visibly plumps the skin.

Verdict: As you can tell, I have quite an obsession for overnight masks (you can check out more here), mostly because I suck at waiting out the 15-20 minutes required for face masks and who doesn’t want to wake up to amazing skin? This moisturizer (that also acts as an overnight mask) has fives uses and is packed with multiple benefits in one convenient package. I mostly use this on my face and neck, but it could also be used for the eyes. This cream has a pleasant scent (anyone who has ever used egg on their face knows how sticky and smelly it can be!). What can I say? The moment you apply this cream, your skin will look visibly plumper and will be insanely soft. But don’t worry, the effects last until the following morning. I woke up to softer skin and with no sign of redness or inflammation whatsoever (which can sometimes be the case for us acne-prone skin types). This moisturizer is a godsend to those of you that have dry or flaky skin, but it’s light enough that even those of us with extremely oily skin (as myself) can reap the benefits and won’t clog your pores!

Price: $36

Where To Buy It: Sephora.com

By: Azzurra Nox

Film Review: The Shape of Water

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Anyone who knows me well, knows that I’m a sucker for fairy-tales (the Grimm variety or Oscar Wilde, not Disney) and impossible loves (think Edward Scissorhands and Kim), so of course I’d fall in love with Guillermo Del Toro’s lush fairy-tale of a love story, The Shape of Water.

The movie opens with the audience getting to meet Elisa (Sally Hawkins), a mute woman who lives in a tiny apartment alone above a theatre house, next door to the lonely artist Giles (Richard Jenkins). Due to working as a cleaning lady for a government laboratory in Baltimore, Elisa’s “day” begins at night, working the so-called “graveyard shift” with co-worker Zelda (Octavia Spencer).

Most of her days are the same, until one night a new test subject is brought into the lab, a revered River God from South America dubbed the “Amphibian Man” (Doug Jones) for being a cross between a man and sea creature. Elisa feels compassion for the Amphibian Man and is saddened that the creature’s handler Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon) has no interest in getting to know the creature and instead, tortures it daily without mercy

Elisa feels drawn to the Amphibian Man because, like her, he is different. She also feels compelled to him because they’re both lonely, invisible beings to society, and decides to initiate a friendship with the creature through egg lunches and sharing of jazz music. But when learns that the government is only interested in killing the Amphibian Man rather than trying to learn more about him, she’s overcome with grief and hatches a plan to get him out of the heavily surveyed government lab with the help of Giles and Zelda.

The beauty of the film is that it brought together four characters that represented “invisible” and alienated people. Elisa is invisible for being mute, Zelda is invisible for being a woman of color in 1962, Giles is invisible for being a gay starving artist, and the Amphibian Man is invisible because he isn’t even deemed as human. All four characters suffer from loneliness and are aching for some kind of human contact that will make them feel alive again and complete. Before meeting the Amphibian Man, Elisa was merely existing, but once her feelings for him begin to blossom and are reciprocated, that’s when she begins to truly live.

Del Toro’s visually stunning movie ignited the bleak atmosphere of the Cold War and cruelty with the spark of love and how colourful everything begins to be when one is in love. He also masterfully reminded us that sometimes it’s the lesser important people who become the heroes of the story when they feel they have a purpose.

The Shape of Water is a touching love story of how two very radically different people (they’re not even the same species!) are brought together and how their love overcomes all the obstacles. This movie is truly a celebration of the Latin quote, Amor vincit omnia (Love conquers all). And in today’s complacent, superficial modern society where everything is disposable, even love, it’s refreshing to be reminded that some things are worth fighting for.

By: Azzurra Nox

Review: L’Oreal Voluminous Superstar X Fiber Mascara

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It’s no secret that one of my longest standing go-to mascara favourites is L’Oreal Voluminous Mascara, so when I noticed that L’Oreal came out with a new and improved version of it, I couldn’t wait to check it out.

What It Is: Super-Volumized, Super-Extended, X-Treme Superstar Lashes

What It Does: The Black Primer portion of the mascara delivers extreme volume and depth, whilst the Fiber Infused Mascara portion create extreme length.

Distinguishing Factors: Primer and mascara. Primer creates a black lash base whilst the fiber mascara helps with extending the length of your lashes.

Verdict: What I love about this mascara is that you have both primer and mascara in one handy wand! The primer that comes with mascara is black, rather than white, which helps cut down on the waiting time (cause I usually wait for the white primers to dry up a little before adding the mascara). This black primer is created so that there is no wait time, and it helps prepare the lashes for the fiber mascara. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about the fiber mascara formula. Fiber mascara means that there are little tiny fibers in the mascara that attach to the lashes and thus helps with creating a lengthening look to each individual lash. This mascara DOES deliver in helping with length if that’s your concern but it also helps with volume if that’s what you seek. I also love that this mascara was neither clumpy nor did it ever feel heavy. Bonus, there’s no flaking, smudging, or fall-out all day! Instead, what you do get is defined, extra-voluminous, and long lashes without the hassle of falsies or extensions! A definite win/win in my book.

Price: $10.99

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

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By: Azzurra Nox

 

Review: Honest The Younger Eye Cream

It seems like every celebrity out there lately has a beauty brand (think Drew Barrymore, Salma Hayek, and Rihanna just to name a few), so of course, Jessica Alba decided to expand her Honest brand to include a makeup line. The unique aspect of her brand is that she prides on using natural ingredients and that it celebrates diverse beauties. Plus, since many of the products were Best of Beauty winners by Allure since their launch, I decided to check it out.

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Packaging: I love that it’s both simple, yet sleek and sophisticated.

What It Is: Hydrating eye cream

Active Ingredients: Hyaluronic Acid, Chamomile, and Calendula

Verdict: Now you know that I have a certain love/obsession for eye creams (you can check out some of my faves here). The skin around the eye area is the thinnest, meaning that it’s one of the first places to show any signs of aging. Plus, it feels rather refreshing whenever I keep my eyes hydrated. One of the things that set this cream apart from others, is that not only does it have hyaluronic acid (which zaps wrinkles!) but it also features barbary fig and baobab fruit, which are both rich in essential fatty acids. I know a lot of eye creams out there claim to work, but the difference between all those others and this one is that THIS ONE WORKS! Not only does it work, it works FAST. I love how it leaves my eye feeling both hydrated and soothed. Plus, I love how rich the cream feels but at the same time it is lightweight. I’ve actually used this on my forehead as well and noticed that it has tightened up the skin there and the faint expression line I had basically VANISHED. This cream will have you looking younger and rested in no time. So do yourself a favor, and treat yourself to this luxurious cream that won’t break the bank, but will leave you looking like a million bucks!

Price: $28

Where To Buy It: Target or https://www.honestbeauty.com

By: Azzurra Nox

Peels: Why does your skin need them?

 

IMG_0882With so many skincare products floating around nowadays (masks, serums, moisturizers, etc.) it’s no wonder that a gal (or even guy!) may feel stumped as to where to begin and why they even need a certain product in the first place. But have no fear! My aim is to make this journey easier for you, and today the focus is on one of my favourite skincare products: PEELS.

What are Peels?

It’s another form of mask (usually one you can leave for up to 30-minutes to overnight) that allows for deep exfoliation of the skin. Facial peels will remove the top layer of skin, meaning that it’ll get rid of any dullness or imperfections by exposing the newer skin to the surface.

Chemical peels are the most potent, and depending on the strength of the acid is how deep your skin will be exfoliated. The higher dose of acid, the greater chances of getting fantastic results.

What are Peels best for?

If your skin concerns are: aging, acne scars, melasma, and hyperpigmentation, then chemical peels are the best thing that could happen to your skin. The only downside? Do NOT sunbathe up to a week before or after a peel, and don’t forget your sunscreen!

Which Chemical Peels are best for you?

Oily skin – Salicylic acid based peel

Aging skin – Glycolic acid based peel

Dry skin – Mandelic acid based peel

Recommended Peel: Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Peel Original Formula

This peel visibly transforms your skin in just THREE days!

Benefits of this peel are:

  • firmer, smoother skin
  • smaller, tighter pores
  • a radiant, more even complexion

Key Ingredients: Glyconic Acid, Lactic Acid, Malic Acid, Salicylic Acid, Retinol, Resveratrol, Genistein, Chamomile, Green Tea, Phospholipids, Ubiquinone, and Vitamins A, C, E

Verdict: Dr. Dennis Gross’ peels come in two steps. The first step is a surface refiner, meaning that you apply this one to prepare your skin. You leave the product on for two minutes before applying step two, which is the deeper treatment. The deeper treatment is targeted to penetrate deeper into the pores, exfoliating and removing the top layer of skin. I usually use peels at night, so I can keep them on overnight, and wake up the following morning to brighter, smoother, and supple skin. If you’re in search of having the softest skin ever without blemishes, then I truly recommend a peel! And this one, in particular, is one of my favourites because it targets the majority of skin concerns: aging, dullness, and acne! So do your skin a favour, and treat yourself to a peel!

Price: $27.98 (5-count on amazon.com)

Frequency of Use: It’s usually recommended to do a peel at least once a week if you have problematic skin, but if you don’t, then even twice a month or once a month is enough to reveal brighter softer skin.

By: Azzurra Nox

Review: Dior Diorshow Mascara

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I was very excited when I received this product in Allure’s December Beauty Box! I’ve always wanted to try out Dior mascaras, since many people rave about how amazing they are and how much better your lashes will look. But I also never was willing to shell-out the money needed because, what if it was just all hype ya know?

What It Is: Lenghtening/Voluminizing Mascara

Distinguishing Factors: It was specifically designed to grab the right amount of mascara product from the tube and position it on the bristles in a way that each and every lash gets coated with the same amount of product. Absolutely no clumping!

Verdict: This mascara DOES deliver, there’s no doubt about it. And I can see why many celebrities and beauty gurus swear by it. However, as much as I do love it, for the price, I don’t think it’s that amazing. The mascara does lengthen lashes and give them volume (always a bonus!). And the brush itself is the shangri-la of mascara brushes (no clumps and perfect product distribution throughout the lashes). But I don’t know if the mascara itself (meaning the actual black goop) is that revolutionary or radically different from a drugstore brand. All in all though, I would recommend this product and am enjoying it very much.

Price: 28.50

Where To Buy It: Dior.com

By: Azzurra Nox

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Review: Origins Clear Improvement

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Masks have always been my so-called beauty crack (meaning that I could never have too many stashed away!). Although face masks are all the rage lately, I still prefer clay masks overall (mostly because apparently I am extremely impatient and can’t seem to wait 10-15 minutes without doing nothing at all). At least with clay masks I can still do other beauty regimens (like painting my nails!). I’m all about multi-tasking. I may also love clay masks more because I have naturally oily skin, and always feel like this sort of mask truly combats in soaking up some of my natural oils without drying out my skin.

What It Is: Active charcoal mask to clear pores.

What It Does: Unclogs and clears pores.

Active Ingredient: China clay and Charcoal

Verdict: As I mentioned above, I simply love clay masks because they always leave my skin ultra-clean and refreshed. I’ve always been a fan of Origins products, so was very psyched to receive this product in my Sephora Play monthly subscription for November. This mask is simply A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! It will make your skin feel brighter and smoother in less than ten minutes! This mask is especially effective for those who like me have oily to combination skin, but it’s gentle enough for even sensitive or dry skins to use as well as this mask (unlike some other clay masks) doesn’t leave my skin ultra-dried out but rather it leaves it feeling supple, hydrated, but not oily. In other words, it’s the equivalent of drinking a tall glass of crisp cucumber-lime water. A more effective way of using this product is to first use a warm, wet towel pressed against your skin to help open up the pores and then to apply a thin layer of the mask all over your face, concentrating mostly on your T-zone. This mask is gentle enough to use twice a week or you can use it on trouble spots more times throughout the week.

Price: $27

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

By: Azzurra Nox