Book Review: The Winter Sister by Megan Collins

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“The green and flowering land was icebound and lifeless because Persephone had disappeared.”

Release Date: February 5, 2019

Purchase on Amazon

Price: $17.10 (hardcover)

Publisher: Atria Books

Plot Summary:

Sixteen years ago, Sylvie’s sister Persephone never came home. Out too late with the boyfriend, she was forbidden to see, Persephone was missing for three days before her body was found—and years later, her murder remains unsolved.

In the present day, Sylvie returns home to care for her estranged mother, Annie, as she undergoes treatment for cancer. Prone to unexplained “Dark Days” even before Persephone’s death, Annie’s once-close bond with Sylvie dissolved in the weeks after their loss, making for an uncomfortable reunion all these years later. Worse, Persephone’s former boyfriend, Ben, is now a nurse at the cancer center where Annie is being treated. Sylvie’s always believed Ben was responsible for the murder—but she carries her own guilt about that night, guilt that traps her in the past while the world goes on around her.

As she navigates the complicated relationship with her mother, Sylvie begins to uncover the secrets that fill their house—and what really happened the night Persephone died. As it turns out, the truth will set you free, once you can bear to look at it.

Grade: A

Review:

The Winter Sister is a lush, atmospheric mystery thriller that will delve under your skin. I don’t know what it is about winter or Christmas, (maybe it’s due to utter isolation of The Shining or Dario Argento’s Deep Red with the creepy Christmas carol being sung before someone gets stabbed to death), but I always find books or movies in the horror or thriller genre to be that much more effective when placed in a cold environment.

There’s something utterly haunting in the book when you think about Persephone, the murdered sister, lying in a bed of snow, her red coat a stark contrast to the stillness of the night. From the very beginning of the novel, I was sucked into the story. And I know that some reviewers have complained that the plot isn’t original (dead sister, alcoholic grieving mother, troubled traumatized adult sister), but I think one can easily cast that aside with this book, as it’s not truly plot-driven, but rather more of a character study of what grief causes to a family (much like in The Lovely Bones) and since I found the characters likable in their own ways and most genuine and real, I couldn’t help but want to know more about what had happened, and who could’ve possibly have done Persephone harm.

The writing lingers with melancholy and for this piece, it works perfectly well. I truly enjoyed delving into the mystery and honestly, if I didn’t have so much going on in my personal life (ya know, work, editing a short story, keeping up with my blog, and promoting my new book) I probably would’ve finished this much sooner, cause it was THAT GOOD. The Winter Sister is the perfect read for a cold, wintery evening in which you can curl up with this delicious thriller as your snuggled with your warmest Sherpa.

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

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Book Review: Lord of the Butterflies by Andrea Gibson

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That night when you kissed me, I left a poem in your mouth.

Release Date: November 27, 2018

Order On Amazon

Price: $13.01 (paperback)

Publisher: Button Poetry

Plot Summary:

Andrea Gibson’s latest collection is a masterful showcase from the poet whose writing and performances have captured the hearts of millions. With artful and nuanced looks at gender, romance, loss, and family, Lord of the Butterflies is a new peak in Gibson’s career. Each emotion here is deft and delicate, resting inside of imagery heavy enough to sink the heart while giving the body wings to soar.

Grade: A

Review:

Andrea Gibson has been one of the most potent voices in poetry for the LGBTQ community at large. Although since this genre of poetry (spoken poetry) is best consumed if heard live (or watching a video of one of their readings), I suggest that in conjunction to reading this book that you also see them live, because they’re a force to be reckoned with. The poetry comes alive in ways that wouldn’t be able to on print, making you feel just how raw, visceral, and gut-wrenching this experience can truly be.

Many of the topics they explore are things that society is still dealing with such as gender identity, gun control, homophobia, and mental illness. I’m usually not a huge fan of contemporary poets as for someone who majored in Classics, I’ve got a penchant for the likes of Charles Baudelaire, Poe, John Keats, and William Blake. However, much like Sylvia Plath in her days, Andrea Gibson has the courage to shed her skin and allow us to see what’s inside and challenging us to do the same.

I recommend this book if you’re okay with having to nurse a cracked heart afterward because Gibson’s poems cut deep.

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

 

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Review: Tarte – Lights, Camera, Lashes Mascara

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It was my birthday recently (January 8 like the awesome David Bowie & Elvis), and so I stopped by Sephora to get my free birthday gift. While I was there I saw this new Tarte mascara and since I’ve liked other mascaras from Tarte in the past, I decided to give this one a go. Especially since this one promised that it was the “wonder-bra of mascaras.” With that kind of promise, how could I NOT want to have the Pamela Anderson of lashes, right?

What It Is: 4-in-1 Mascara

What It Does: Lengthens, curls, volumizes, and conditions

Active Ingredients: Plant Waxes, Rice Bran, and Olive Esters

Verdict: All right, my only real gripe with this product isn’t the product per se, but the packaging. I’m not a fan of mascara wands that are bulky, cause it makes for a difficult application, I prefer sleeker packaging. And this packaging is way too bulky for my tastes. Apart from the packaging, this mascara is AMAZING. It truly does help with creating longer and curlier lashes. This mascara doesn’t dry your lashes out, probably cause of the olive esters that help condition the lashes. Even if you have puny lashes, this product will pump them up like you wouldn’t know! What I love about this mascara most, is that it really amps up your lashes, it gives you that false lashes look without having to wear falsies! I truly recommend in checking this one out if you get the chance. It’s easily become one of my favourite mascaras.

Price: $23

Where To Buy It: Sephora

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Lashes using the Tarte Mascara, no primer, just the mascara

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Book Review: A Danger To Herself & Others by Alyssa Sheinmel

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Four walls. One window. No way to escape.

Release Date: February 5, 2019

Pre-Order on Amazon

Price: $17.99 (for hardcover)

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Plot Summary:

Hannah knows there’s been a mistake, She doesn’t need to be institutionalized. What happened to her roommate at that summer program was an accident. As soon as the doctor and judge figure out that she isn’t a danger to herself or others, she can go home to start her senior year. Those college applications aren’t going to write themselves. Until then, she’s determined to win over the staff and earn some privileges so she doesn’t lose her mind to boredom.
Then Lucy arrives. Lucy has her own baggage, and she’s the perfect project to keep Hannah’s focus off all she is missing at home. But Lucy may be the one person who can get Hannah to confront the secrets she’s avoiding-and the dangerous games that landed her in confinement in the first place.

Grade: A

Review:

It’s been a recent trend lately where the female protagonists are named Hannah (think Thirteen Reasons Why, Pretty Little Liars, Hanna Fell From The Sky) in novels, and both films and shows haven’t been immune to this phenomenon either (think Girls, Hanna, and recently The Exorcism of Hannah Grace). So when I started reading this novel I noticed that the protagonist’s name was Hannah, I somewhat groaned. I hope you five me, but I’ve overdosed on Hannahs as of late.

On the upside though, is that the author writes with such clarity and poise that I could forgive her naming the protagonist Hannah. And it helped that the story was narrated in the first person, meaning that the name would be used even less.

Apart from my dislike of the name choice, I really, really, REALLY enjoyed this book immensely. I don’t know what it says about me that I LOVE books that take place in any sort of mental institution whether it be contemporary fiction, nonfiction, or historical. I really enjoyed having the story being told by Hannah’s point of view. She’s smart, sarcastic, and somewhat manipulative. This is probably why the reader initially may believe Hannah into thinking that she has no place being in the mental institution, after all, her best friend Agnes falling out of the window could’ve been an accident, right? The majority of the book focuses on Hannah being stuck in the institute and finding a way to get out (but not as in breaking out but proving to the doctor that she’s sane). The reader receives hints and flashbacks and those are compelling enough to make one want to know what exactly happened the night that Agnes fell. Was Hannah to blame or has she been placed in the institute by mistake?

Some of the twists in the book I suspected, while others completely took me by surprise. It was one intense wild ride. If you’re into books about mental illness, asylums, deception, and unreliable narrators, then this book is right up your alley.

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

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Review: Etude House Zero Sebum Drying Powder

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Oily skin has been the bane of existence since I hit puberty, and although many people assure me that having oily skin means that my skin will age slower (since essentially your skin is hydrated 24/7 and thus means fewer wrinkles will appear), trying to battle acne due to oily skin well into adulthood can be rather annoying. Not to mention that without any primers, any makeup I wear essentially melts off within three hours or so and if someone craves glowy skin, mine is like J.Lo’s glow phase times ten (meaning more an oil-slick than glow). So I’ve always been on the search for powder or cream that could help me keep my oily skin under control.

What It Is: Oil Control Sebum Powder

What It Does: Controls the production of oil on your skin.

Verdict: This product is what Urban Decay’s DeSlick wish it were. The thing is this powder WORKS. Even on uber oily skin as my own. The downfall? Well, apparently keeping the oil in check also means that my skin doesn’t breathe, so it actually broke me out more in areas of my face where I don’t usually breakout at. However, I may have used too much of the product, so I stopped using it for a week till my skin stopped freaking out and reused it again afterward using only a tiny amount and no breaking out occurred AND it kept my oil in check. So essentially if you’re looking for a powder that will help you curb your oiliness, then this is the way to go. Prior to this, I haven’t found one that actually works and I’ve used a billion others from various brands that provided no true results on the oil spill that is my skin. So, I’d recommend this product, however, use sparingly as it may break you out, but it DOES work on keeping oily skin at bay.

Price: $6.85

Where To Buy It: Amazon

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Review: Patchology Flashpatch Rejuvenating Eye Gels

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Not only do these under-eye masks look extremely glamorous (they’re glittery) but they actually work in terms of hydrating your under-eyes. I know many people have claimed that it has also eliminated their dark circles, but since I’ve been cursed with hereditary dark circles, I didn’t see much difference there. But maybe if your dark circles are due to late nights, then maybe it can help you out.

What It Is: Hydrating Under-Eye Mask

What It Does: Hydrates, smooths fine lines and helps diminish the look of dark circles

Verdict: These gels were truly very comfortable and fast working. I kept them on for twenty minutes or so because they just radiated a relaxing, soothing feeling. Once I removed them my skin felt very hydrated and soft. I like that these gel masks didn’t slide off your face so you weren’t obligated to lie down whilst having them on. You could easily attach these under your eyes and pass the time doing something else. I’ve heard that some people have used these as sleep masks for the eye, and maybe they work if left overnight, but I’m unsure about falling asleep with masks on (it seems like it would be a bit difficult if you’re someone who moves around, which sometimes I do).

Price: $15 for five pairs

Where To Buy It: http://www.anthropologie.com

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Book Review: The Fade by Demitria Lunetta

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The Others meets The Cellar in this scary ghost story thriller from the author of BAD BLOOD.

Release Date: December 11, 2018

Order On Amazon

Price: $12.32

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Plot Summary:

We don’t want to disappear.
We want to be found.

Something terrible happened in her basement. Haley can feel it.

Four girls went missing several years ago, and the police never solved the case. But Haley knows the missing girls were murdered. How else can she explain the hostile presence in her house?

The ghostly girls need something from her. And unless Haley can figure out what they want…she might be next.

Grade: A

Review:

Creepy haunted house in a small town? Check. Missing girls that are possibly dead and haunting said house? Check. Creepy little boy, that sees dead people? Check. Basically, this book has all the things that a good ghost story murder mystery should have. I liked that the book started right off the bat with creepy events, it wasn’t a slow burn. And I like that some of the minor characters were right on board with the belief of ghosts, cause sometimes it gets kinda taxing to have characters go back and forth about whether or not the existence of ghosts is possible.

The mystery of what happened to the missing girls is what had me hooked, to be honest. I really wanted to know what happened to the girls, how they were murdered, where, and why. I also wanted to know who had murdered them. That mystery was the most interesting aspect of the book. I also enjoyed that the book didn’t try to force romantic relationships, or rather they were more casual, rather than insta-love. There are some events that take you by surprise, so it isn’t one of those predictable books, instead it keeps you wanting to read because I really had no idea where it was going to take me. But it was a fun, yet creepy ride!

The writing flowed very well, and if you’re a fan of YA and ghost stories, then this book will be right up your alley.

Short Q & A With the Author:

Why do you think that books about missing girls are so popular?

I think that the mystery is what really gets people. WHAT HAPPENED?! Then when it’s a young person, when there’s an expectation of care, it’s even more important to figure out WHAT HAPPENED?!

What inspired you to write your current book?

I moved into a new house and was at the top of the basement stairs thinking, “This is such a murder basement.” And the idea for THE FADE was born!

The Fade isn’t only a thriller mystery but it has a paranormal twist to it with the ghosts. What makes ghost stories and haunted homes so frightening?

Ghost stories are terrifying because they’re all about the unknown. Unexplainable phenomenon is terrifying! When reading/watching ghost stories I always think about the point of when I would leave the haunted house. It’s usually pretty soon. I could get a new house. And new stuff. And a new husband. I’d be so gone at the first spine prickle of a ghost.

Your book kind of reminded me of The Sixth Sense in the way that Haley is tasked with trying to help the ghosts she encounters. What movies do you think influenced or inspired you with the writing of this book?

Yes! Haley’s name is inspired by Haley Joel Osment from the Sixth Sense! I loved the creepiness of that movie but also the revelation that the ghosts just want help.

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

ENTER FOR A CHANCE TO WIN A SIGNED ARC OF THE FADE BY CLICKING THIS LINK!
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Review: Kocostar Rose Lip Mask

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Sheet and face masks have been all the rage lately, and it’s no different with lips masks. In the age of Instagram and selfies, lip masks are one of the most coveted masks there are, but this lip mask is more than a mere photo prop. This mask truly leaves your lips feeling smooth and ultra-hydrated, and the best part of it all is that it smells like you’ve got a bed of roses resting upon your lips. Some say that this lip mask forces you to lie down, but it actually didn’t slip off on me, so sitting up was possible.

What It Is: Hydrating Lip Mask

What It Does: Smooth, hydrates, and plumps lips

Verdict: To say I loved this lip mask is an understatement. This lip mask was utterly amazing! Not only does this lip mask smell like you’re walking in Marie Antoinette’s rose garden, but it truly hydrated and plumped my lips in ways no other lip mask has ever done before! Another bonus is that this lip mask is free of parabens and pthalates (chemicals you probably shouldn’t have near your mouth anyhow). This mask can be used any time of day, even before a night going out, since the serum doesn’t leave your lips drenched, however, it sinks into your lips and once the mask is off, there’s no sticky residue, meaning that you can easily wear lipstick on top without wiping off any excess beforehand. Out of the many lip masks, I’ve tried, this is hands down my favourite one.

Price: $38 for 20

Where To Buy It: www.anthropologie.com

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Review: Medusa’s Makeup Witch Lash Mascara Bebe Travel Size

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It’s no secret that mascara is one of my fave beauty products and also one where I’m willing to try out any new one that comes out (reason why you’ll notice way more mascara reviews on this blog than any other beauty product). One of my favourite mascara products is Medusa’s Makeup Witch Lash Mascara, so when they included a travel size in November’s Beauty Box, I was thrilled.

What It Is: Super thickening waterproof mascara with a fuller bristle brush

What It Does: This mascara helps thicken and define lashes.

Verdict: If you’re looking for a mascara that can offer lift and volume in one easy swipe, then this isn’t the one, purely because it takes multiple swipes to achieve the look. That’s not saying that the mascara isn’t good, quite the contrary. Just like the other Witch Lash, this version’s brush is simply smaller meaning that it won’t fit your whole eye in one sweep, BUT the small size allows it to reach the usually difficult nooks and crannies (such as the inner corner and outer corner of the eye). But unlike the previous Witch Lash, these bristles differ (the others are more rigid which helps separate lashes, whilst these create more of a feathery lash look). One of the major pros of this product though is the size. You can pop this small mascara in your handbag, pocket, or even phone carrier! You’ll never have an excuse to not have amazing lashes with this product on your hands! It’s a mini-miracle worker (step aside ), creating length and volume on even the thinnest and smallest lashes. I absolutely recommend this product if you’re into the whole lash extension look (without the damaging effects that actual extensions cause). And for just $10, it’s definitely worth a try!

Price: $10

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

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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.

 

kaira

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*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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