Friday, September 21, 2012

The Myth of You and Me

Once a month, a local used bookstore has a "free book day." I went there last month on Free Book Day, hoping to find "The Girl Who Chased the Moon" by Sarah Addison Allen. It had been there two days before - but alas, it wasn't there on Free Book Day.

Thwarted, I wandered the aisles looking for another book. It had to be as good as I expected "The Girl Who Chased the Moon" would be. When I saw the cover of Leah Stewart's "The Myth of You and Me" I was drawn in.

I know. A book shouldn't be judged by its cover. But I did judge it and found it intriguing. I picked up the book and read the first chapter - it's a short one. I knew right then and there I had to know how the story ended.

I had a lot of trouble putting this book down - the story is well-told and the characters - though flawed - are genuine and likeable.

The story itself centers on the friendship of two women who met at age 14 - Cameron, who is new to Clovis, and Sonia, who's lived in Clovis all her life. From those first joyous moments of realizing that friendship has gelled to the first pangs of jealousy because it's threatened (by a boyfriend, by a new friend), it strikes a chord of belief as the story of this friendship unfolds to reveal how this type of love can be tenuous and fragile.

More than just a fluff story about friendship, it's about how secrets can hold people together and also tear them apart. It's about loving someone even when it's not easy to do so. It's about gain, loss, and redemption.

The story is so beautifully told, yet doesn't hold back. It shines a light on how our memories of a situation are not always truthful. There are times in the story when Cameron realizes a hard truth about something, but still rationalizes away her behavior - or someone else's. It's something we all do - and can relate to.

This is the first time I've read a novel by Leah Stewart - her writing is simply beautiful.

I just happened to read this during International Book Week, and of course, seemingly everyone on Facebook was posting the "Go to page 52 of the book you're reading..." meme.This book had no page 52 - well, it did, but it was blank. So I went to page 51, and followed the instructions of the meme - and found a perfect example of Leah Stewart's beautiful prose: "To belong nowhere is a blessing and a curse, like any other kind of freedom."

I would encourage all women to pick up this book. It speaks to the heart of women's friendships, of the twists and turns and roadblocks that exist in friendship - and in relationships of all kinds.

Like me, I think you'll find this is a book that was hard to close the cover on and say good-bye to. It's one of the few books I've read that will stay with me for a very long time to come.

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Thursday, September 20, 2012

September 2012 Birchbox

Ah... have I mentioned that I have a hate/hate relationship with Birchbox? Okay... maybe hate is a strong word, but once again they managed to disappoint.

When I signed up, I filled out a beauty profile. You would never know it, though, based on what is sent to me. It's as if my beauty profile exists only in my mind, and not in their system. Or maybe it is there, but they just choose to ignore it. Or can't find it. Or spilled coffee on it.

Still, Birchbox has the best rewards program out there, and their customer service is pretty dang good. So for now, I stay... at least until Kara's Way gets back up and running.

Without further ado, here is the September box I received:

The products:

1) Two samples from Benefit Cosmetics: Foamingly Clean Facial Wash and Refined Finish Facial Polish. The samples are very small, and probably only good for one use. That is disappointing. But I do admit that I love Benefit, and am happy to try two "new to me" products of theirs.
Retail price: FCFW=$21 for 4.5 oz./RFFP - $22 for 4.5 oz.

2) Vinexpert Firming Serum from Caudalie (.2 fl. oz.). I'll get about a week's worth of use out of this sample; maybe more, depending on the viscosity & absorption. This serum is supposed to combat aging with the use of grape-derived antioxidants. I think the card should say "combat the signs of aging" because let's face it, it can't prevent you from getting old - although for the price, it probably should!
Retail price: $88 for 30 ml

3) Color Club Nail Polish in Status Uptade {sic} (dark grey). This would probably be one of the best products in the box - that is, if it was in a color I'd actually use. This is a prime example that shows BB doesn't pay attention to profiles. Then again, looking at the available colors, there wasn't a color that would have fit into my profile. (By the way, the label on the product says Status Uptade, but according to Birchbox, the color is Status Update - there's something wrong when a company doesn't bother to spellcheck their labeling!)
Retail price: $8 per bottle

4) Dr. Jart+ Water Fuse Beauty Balm SPF 25+ (.1 fl. oz.) - My favorite BB so far is Maybelline's Dream Fresh. I will admit I'm looking forward to trying this one, though. I've heard good things about Dr. Jart+ products - this will be my first one to try. This appears to only have one color, though, and since I'm fair, I'm sure it'll be fine for me - but what about for women who have darker skin tones?
Retail price: $32 for 1.7 fl. oz.

5) twistband Hair Tie - I received a hideous orange one, and as I also received one in my very first Birchbox, this is a repeat product for me. I do like my first twistband (thankfully in black), but I've found that though it claims not to leave a crease in the hair, it does - at least, on me.
Retail price: $18 for a 12-pack.

Two Lifestyle Extras and a Giftcard:

1) One tili bag. I know people have been receiving these for a while, and I admit I was hoping I'd get one sooner or later. It's cute, but not sure how reusable it really is - it seems just like a decorative Ziplock bag. I will say it's darling and I want to do something better with it than stick my lunch in it!
Retail price: $8.49 for 12 bags

2) Birchbox Digital Download from Tristan Prettyman. Uh... pass. I know all the hip kids like these digital downloads, so I'm sure most subscribers are happy. As for me, I couldn't care less.

3) A $25 Giftcard - good only with a purchase of $75 or more at Madewell. This is something I won't use, but you might! Code: FBB8AD8A3

Nitpicks: Nothing in this box wowed me, but when I look at each product individually, I have to admit I'm eager to try most of them. Just not the nail polish - look for it in a giveaway soon!

Lasting Impression: The box was packaged beautifully - probably one of the prettiest packages I've received from them in ages.

Interested in joining Birchbox? It's just $10 a month - and that includes shipping! Plus, this subscription box has the best rewards program around - and right now, they don't have a waiting list!

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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Whipped Sugar Scrub - Selma Valentine

In the August 2012 Green Grab Bag, I received a sample of Selma Valentine's Whipped Sugar Scrub in Summer Breeze.

I have to admit: I'm not a big fan of sugar scrubs. In fact, I'm not sure I understand the appeal. The way I understand it from many articles I've read in women's magazines, sugar can cause yeast infections if it comes in contact with that very special sensitive female area. Why would a woman WANT to use a product that could potentially cause an uncomfortable situation that would need to be remedied with medication?

Now I know what you're gonna say: You don't scrub THAT area, silly. Yes, that's true. But still, while rinsing the scrub off, it's bound to find its way down to that area. So yes, I am hesitant to use sugar scrubs because yeast infections ARE NOT fun.

But... throwing caution aside, I tried the scrub with mixed results. No, I didn't get an infection (you're saying "Of course you didn't, silly!"). While the scrub performed well and left my skin feeling clean and tight, I have to admit I was not a big fan of the scent.

The scent is what I call "perfumey" meaning that it smells more like perfume than an actual, identifiable and recognizable scent. It's strong. But after using the product, I did not feel as if I smelled of Summer Breeze. I simply felt clean and smelled... regular.

The product retails for $15 on the Selma Valentine site.  The price seems right for this product. Would I buy it? No. When buying a scrub, I turn to salt scrubs, like Bliss Hot Salt Scrub (my favorite - I can get lucky sometimes and find this at TJ Maxx!).

Nitpicks: The scent - it reminded me of something my grandmother would have loved.

Lasting impression: This product left my skin feeling great for hours after use!

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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Goldengrove - Audio

Audiobooks are hit and miss with me. The story could be the greatest one ever told, and still be ruined by the narrator. This is not the case with the audiobook version of Goldengrove.

The book was written by Francine Prose, and the narration is from Mamie Gummer. Before Goldengrove, I had heard of neither. Now I feel that I won't be able to get enough of them!

The story takes place in the summer on Mirror Lake. Two sisters are in a boat, but only one sister makes it back to shore alive. 

There are two main characters: the narrator of the story, Nico, and her dead sister, Margaret. Nico is thirteen the year her sister died. She processes the loss maturely in many ways, and of course, immaturely in others. In other words, she acts exactly how one might expect a 13-year-old might act if they lost their sister.

The author has an amazing way of telling the story - her descriptions are wonderful and elegant and painful and honest. It is rare that I come across an author with the ability to paint a picture with words, while at the same time not being overly wordy.

As with all my book reviews, I do not want to give too much of the story away. Suffice it to say that in many ways, the book is both a coming-of-age story and a story of survival and growth. It's about connections and navigating the sometimes treacherous waters of relationships. And of course it's also about loss.

If you've ever lost a loved one, you'll recognize - and perhaps relive - many of the feelings expressed by the author. If you haven't lost a loved one, you'll get a very real look into what that loss is like.

The narrator's voice is wonderful and the nuance and emphasis is always spot on. You could always read it the old fashioned way - with your eyes, but you'll be missing out on the added depth this narration gives to the story.

Lasting impression: This book will stay with me for a long time, and I heartily recommend it as your next read.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Announcing New Giveaway!

Are you feeling like you need some extra oomph? Then enter my contest below to win beauty samples that will rev you up and leave you feeling gorgeous!

If you win, you'll receive:

1) Two sample packets of Rare Elements Pure Shampoo

2) One packet of Rare Elements Essential Conditioner

3) One sample of Tangerine Lip Exfoliant from The All Natural Face

Good luck!

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Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Clairvoyant Beauty

I had not heard of Clairvoyant Beauty until I received my March 2012 Goodebox. In that box, I received two samples from Clairvoyant Beauty: Depuffing Cucumber & Cranberry Eye Gel and Balancing Rosehip Oil & HibiscusFacial Serum. That particular box contained a lot of fabulous goodies, but the Clairvoyant products piqued my interest the most.

The next day during my morning routine, I tried both products and instantly fell in love. I felt the eye gel work almost immediately. The gel felt cool to my skin, and my under eye area seemed to tighten up after use.

The Balancing Rosehip Oil & Hibiscus Facial Serum smells wonderful, and I admit to wondering if the product would perform as well as it smelled. It does. I now use it regularly underneath my tinted moisturizer – and on non-make-up days, I use it alone. Using this product lends me a feeling of luxury – I admit it’s been very few times in my life that I can say I’ve used a facial product that boosted my mood. For about 15 minutes after using, I can smell the product (and I realize this may be a con for those who are scent-sensitive). It has an uplifting fragrance, and puts an immediate smile on my face.

The products themselves are out of my price range ($32 for .5 oz. and $69 for 1 oz., respectively), however I learned something really interesting when I signed up for their email list: The company offers some great product bundles, at an enormous reduction in price. Additionally, they sometimes have a fantastic sale: for Labor Day, they offered 65% off your whole order.

It was also through the email that I discovered their fragrance: Clairvoyant. They offered anyone interested a free sample vial. I sent away for it, and was first blown away by how it came to me. It was in a padded envelope, but when I opened it, I found the product to be carefully wrapped in bubble wrap. When I unpeeled the bubble wrap, I found the perfume sample wrapped up in tissue paper with a beautiful sticker on it. Inside was the vial of perfume, and a thank you note from Lexie Masterson, the founder of Clairvoyant Beauty.

When I tried the perfume, I instantly fell in love with it. The website describes the scent thusly: “Crisp floral-green top notes of bergamot and lime leads you into an exploration. Bulgarian rose middle notes blend with jasmine and ylang ylang to relax the senses and enhance your own natural harmony and beauty. Warm, lush, inviting base notes of tobacco, fir and green cognac suggest a subtle sexiness; the mystery and possibility of being a Clairvoyant woman.

I describe it simply as “wonderful.”

I know that scent is subjective, so what I like you may not. I found this scent to be somewhat earthy yet provocative. It’s heady and summery at the same time. It reminds me of my youth: hippie stores, the then “new” natural scents, and a store my mom used to frequent called “Home and Garden.”  

I’ve found many natural scents do not last very long – but this one passed that test as well. When I took a sniff of my wrists about 6 hours after application, I could still smell the scent on me. That sold me - I wanted this fragrance pretty badly, but it was out of my price range – that is, until this weekend! I used the 65% off code, and got it at an immense discount!

Another Clairvoyant product I love is the Refreshing Cucumber Facial Toner. Thanks to the May 2012 Green Grab Bag, I received a full size bottle of this product. I use it almost daily – it’s gentle and effective and the scent is absolutely refreshing for summer use. I admit, the next one I want to try is the Simply Rosewater Toner. However, as I have a full size toner to still get through, it will be a while before I am able to try (and review) that product!

Are you interested in Clairvoyant products and don’t want to spend a bundle? I would suggest trying this great bundle they’re offering right now:  The End of Summer Collection. It includes:
  • Fabulous Facial Cleanser (4 fl oz)
  • Lavender and Sea Minerals Facial Toner (8 fl oz)
  • Exfoliating AHA Scrub (4 fl oz)
  • Skin Firming DMAE & MSM Cream (2 fl oz)
  • Skin Firming DMAE & MSM Serum (1 fl oz)
  • Gentle and Healing Rosewater Eye Cream (0.5 fl oz) -- all for just $30 (while supplies last)
See what I mean about savings? This company has great products, a founder who sends personal notes, AND offers their customers great savings.

I can’t say enough good things about Clairvoyant – I just know that I’m thankful to have discovered them, thanks to Goodebox and Green Grab Bag!