Paper Towns | Book Review

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I've always been a strong believer that a good book is good regardless of its genre, and that it appeals to any age group. I have found that to be particularly true with YA novels: think about Harry Potter, or The Hunger Games, or The Fault in Our Stars—all of those appeal to a wide audience, despite being written for young adults. They are masterfully written, carry important messages, encourage questions, and challenge their readers' world views. Why am I bringing this up? Because after a great experience reading The Fault in Our Stars (you can check out my review here), I couldn't wait to be challenged by another highly-praised John Green book.

Paper Towns is about Quentin Jackobsen, better known as Q, who has seen Margo Roth Spiegelman as the perfect unattainable girl ever since they were children. To him, she is an enigma and a promise of an exciting adventure. One night, at the end of their senior year of high school, Margo climbs through his window and challenges him to join her on a night of revenge. Of course, Q accepts this quest, and after a crazy night out with Margo he feels like they can finally be friends. The problem arrises the next day, when he comes to school and finds out that she has disappeared. Paper Towns is a book dedicated to Q's search for Margo, both in a literal and personal sense, as he starts realizing she may not be the person he thought she was.

The story is told from Q's perspective, and that means there is a lot of teenage boy drama and nonsense that go along with it. This may be a realistic depiction of how teenage boys are (I wouldn't know, I've never been one), but wow, this was annoying. I thought I may hurt myself with all of the eye rolling that kept happening—I just didn't care, I couldn't relate to it. At the same time, I had to appreciate the writing: John Green has a great writing style that I really enjoy, but I almost felt like it was being wasted on these ridiculous boys. Of course, if his goal WAS to show how ridiculous these boys with their #FirstWorldProblems were, then I applaud him for succeeding. I really couldn't stand Margo either—every single character in this book was completely self-absorbed. Speaking of which, I nearly bursted out laughing when Q lashed out at Ben for being self-absorbed—it was a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black. 

Despite the absurd teenage drama, I still found the plot engaging at points. I particularly enjoyed the mystery solving parts—the actual search for Margo. There even were a couple of moments that were surprisingly tense. It was almost as if Paper Towns was a fluffier, teen-apropriate version of Gone Girl. Obviously, they are very different novels, and I'm in no way suggesting that one author borrowed another author's idea, but there are some similarities. To avoid spoilers, I'm not going to go into exactly what those are. I will say that Paper Towns has a very important message for the YA audience, which has to do with seeing people for who they really are. Very often it's easy for people to idolize someone they don't know very well, to fill the artificial air of mystery with positive qualities, to let the imagination run wild and fall in love with an idea of a person, rather than the reality. Here is a quote from the book that's a perfect example:

"The fundamental mistake I had always made—and that she had, in fairness, always led me to make—was this: Margo was not a miracle. She was not an adventure. She was not a fine and precious thing. She was a girl."

The main message of this book was its redeeming quality for me. It's a simple one, something we all learn sooner or later, but it's a trap most of us fall into during our teenage years. I think I would have enjoyed Paper Towns more if I read it about 10 years ago. This brings me back to my original point: thought this is a good book, it's not one that translates well beyond the age group it's intended for. I definitely felt as if I was too old to enjoy this. My experience with Paper Towns is also the reason I am not likely to read another John Green book: I originally was planning to read Looking for Alaska after this, {C}but after reading the premise and looking through the first few pages, I realized it seemed very similar. Maybe one of his future books will grab my attention?

All this being said, I think fans of John Green's writing would enjoy this book a lot. Clearly it has been doing well, as it has a lot of rave reviews. I just don't think this is something an audience that doesn't read YA would care for.

Have you read Paper Towns? What's your favorite book by John Green?

Inspired by... The Scorch Trials and The Death Cure

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Since a lot of you enjoyed my last Inspired by... post, I thought I should do these more often. Today, I present to you: cover inspiration from the second and third books in The Maze Runner trilogy—The Scorch Trials and The Death Cure. If you have read these books or are considering them—I have a review attached at the end of this post, but for now, let's look at these gorgeous covers. There wasn't really a character look I could do based on the story, because of the setting (I'm pretty sure nobody has time for makeup in THAT predicament). However, I knew I had the PERFECT makeup and nail polish to match up with these colorful covers, so I thought I would share those things with you.

First up, The Scorch Trials cover shows an area devastated by the heat and sun flares, turned into a desert. Orange and brown are the main colors here and I could not pass up the opportunity to break out Butter London's Silly Billy—my October favorite from last year. I also decided to add a bit of flare (no pun intended) with Julep's Diamond Theory—a copper glitter top coat. I think my improvised manicure goes perfectly with this scorched land on the cover.

The Death Cure presents an entirely different landscape and color scheme: it looks like a snowstorm hitting the mountains, covering the trees, and coloring the sky a menacing blue gray. The eyeshadows I used are all from MACSteamy—a shimmery teal that I applied all over the lid, Strike a Pose—a gray-toned blue I blended into the outer corner and dragged into the crease, and Crystal Avalanche—a shimmery white I applied in the inner corner and blended towards the middle of the eyelid. I also used MAC's eye pencil in Industry, a metallic dark gray, to line my upper lash line.

Do you ever get inspired by book covers?

If you would like to hear more about the book, check out the video below!

Cover FX Blemish Banishing Line: Review + Swatches

Press samples

You guys probably already know how much I love Cover FX—I talk about their CC Cream all the time, so when a month an a half ago they kindly sent me some new blemish banishing products to try, I was very excited. It was also perfect timing, because my skin was having some issues. I have been testing them out for a bit over a month now and I thought it was about time I shared my experience with you. I have four things to talk about: the BB Gel, the Blemish Treatment Concealer, the Calming Primer, and the Blemish Treatment Primer. Overall, I found them to be effective, but because of my skin type I had an issue with the BB Gel—more on that in a minute.

Let's talk about the BB Gel first (the shade I have is N Light). This is a mattifying anti-blemish treatment with buildable coverage (light, but can be built up to medium). It contains 1% Salicylic Acid and Thyme Extract to treat breakouts, as well as antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. It definitely did a good job calming my skin down and preventing new breakouts. It's VERY liquid, so when it says to shake well, you better give it a good shake, and the best way I I found to apply it is with my fingers. If I'm trying to build up the coverage a bit, I like to apply it in layers and blend with a sponge. The product is very lightweight and I find that buffing it in with a brush leaves streaks. 

As you can see in the photos above, the shade definitely changes as it gets blended: when it first comes out of the tube it's quite a bit darker and looks orange, but as soon as I start blending it, it turns much lighter. This is one of those products that you absolutely HAVE to try on your face before buying. The BB Gel does a good job filling in pores and sets into an almost matte finish. Here is where I had an issue: it says it's meant for normal to oily skin, but on my normal/combination skin it settled around any area that was even a little dry, and didn't sit well on breakouts that were already dried out and in the process of healing (looks perfect on my t-zone though). You can even tell how on my dry hand the texture of my skin suddenly becomes more visible. So, the verdict for this one is: it works, but unless your skin is actually oily, it will not look as smooth as you would want.

Next up is the Blemish Treatment Concealer (again in N Light), which also contains 1% Salicylic Acid. This is a full coverage concealer and I love it for covering up breakouts! As you can see in the photo, it's pigmented and goes on smoothly. It's also easy to blend. I tried using a brush to apply it, which is useful if you're covering up a small spot, but I am once again a fan of finger application here—I think it's easier and warming up the concealer on my finger makes it creamier. It doesn't aggravate my breakouts (which regular concealers do), so they can heal faster. The only "issue" here is that I can't use this concealer on my under eye area: it's not a place where you want Salicylic Acid, but even without it the texture of this concealer is definitely not meant for under eyes—it's a little too thick for that. It's worth noting that this concealer also has a matte finish, so it stays put very well, and I don't really need to set it with powder.

Onto the primers. The Calming Primer isn't going to treat breakouts, since it doesn't contain Salicylic Acid, but it still has a calming and soothing effect. Now, I'm not big on primers in general—they're a step I normally skip, but I actually like this one when my skin is freaking out. It also has none of that silicone texture that I hate—it actually feels moisturizing and slightly cooling. I did notice that at the end of the day my skin looked calmer and the breakouts didn't look as "angry" as before—I'm definitely a fan. With this primer my biggest tip is to let it set before applying foundation. This sounds like a basic tip, but let's be honest: when we are slapping on makeup in a hurry, are we really going to give things enough time to set? Have some coffee, or do your eyebrows, but give it a minute—it makes a difference in how smooth your foundation will go on afterwards. 

Finally, the Blemish Treatment Primer isn't something I would actually call a primer—it's more of a straight-up treatment. I don't particularly like using it under makeup—if I'm applying anything over it, there is a slight difference in texture. However, as a treatment this works great: it's packed with Lactic Acid, 0.5% Salicylic Acid, Tea Tree, Thyme, Rosemary, and Lemon Peel Extracts, Witch Hazel, Aloe Vera, and Algae. If all that doesn't scare your blemishes away, I don't know what will. On my skin, this works fast: I apply it a few times a day directly to the spots, and by the end of the day there is a lot of improvement. It's a great overnight treatment as well.

In my opinion, those blemish banishing products are a hit. The only one that doesn't work for me is the BB Gel because it's simply not right for my skin type—I'll stick to my CC Cream. Other than that, I will definitely keep using this line in times of skin crisis. Have you tried anything from this line yet? What's your go-to treatment when your skin is breaking out?

What's in My Julep Maven Box | October 2014

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As you guys probably already know, I love my subscription boxes. I am, however, very fickle when it comes to them—I like to keep things fresh, so I like to pick and choose which one I want to receive each month. This time around, I just could not pass on the October Julep Maven box that featured their new Black Magic Collection. All of the nail polishes in this one are stunning, but the ones I ended up getting are the "It Girl" set: Ledi, Shailene, and Dana. I also decided to throw in an additional polish called Casper solely because this shade glows in the dark. I mean, come on, it's a glow in the dark nail polish—how could I say "no" to that? Julep also threw in a pack of candy corn just because Halloween is coming up—isn't that sweet? (no pun intended)

Left to right: LediShaileneDana, and Casper

I am very happy with the nail polish selection I got and I'm loving that Julep has been exploring "special effects" formulas. There are so many nail polish choices out there these days, and it's just nice when a company tries something different. I'm not going to do any swatches in this post because I will eventually get to showing all of these individually, when I can actually tell you more about the wear and formula, but I still wanted to give you a quick overview of what I got.

First up is Ledi—a black, slightly pearlescent shade. I can see the subtle shimmer when I'm looking at it closely, but it generally just looks like a nice black nail polish. This is totally fine by me, since I've been wanting to add a black to my collection, but for someone who is expecting an easily visible shimmer, this may not be the one to get. Next, I have Shailene—a dark purple with a ton of gold shimmer. I'm a big fan of this shade and you can see it up close in my Top 5 Fall Nail Polishes video at the end of this post. The only downside of this is that the formula is quite thick, especially for Julep. On the other hand, this shade only needs one coat to be opaque.

The last polish included with the "It Girl" box is Dana, which is actually a black light reactive polish. In the photo it may look like the white is a bit off and that's because the shade has a subtle blue sheen to it (you can see it if you look closely). Now, I don't have a black light handy to test it, but I trust what it says. Finally, I decided to add a very Halloween-appropriate shade called Casper—a simple white pearl shimmer that glows in the dark. And yes, I've tested it, it does glow. This looks great on its own or as a top coat. I will definitely be posting about this shade in more detail!

So that's it for my October Julep Maven box! Don't forget to check out the video below for a closer look at Shailene, and to find out my other fall nail polish favorites. Do you have any special effects nail polishes in your collection?

Gone Girl (2014) | Movie vs. Book Differences

Yesterday le husband and I went to check out Gone Girl, which is a movie I have been excited for pretty much ever since I heard it was in the works. I read the book back in 2012, and really enjoyed it (you can read my review here), but when I heard David Fincher was directing and Ben Affleck was attached as Nick Dunne, I knew this was going to be an amazing film. Needless to say, I loved the movie, and if you want to hear more about that, watch my video below. However, in this post I wanted to talk about the few differences between the book and the movie, so if you've seen the film or read the book, and are curious about how the two compare—keep reading!

I always say there are sacrifices that need to be made when a book is being adapted to screen, but in this case I felt like it was the closest adaptation I've seen thus far. Imagine my surprise when I kept seeing people say "whoa, different ending!"—I thought I was losing my mind. Apparently, people are sensitive to details. Let me put your mind at ease: the ending is the same, it's just presented a little differently (and honestly, I think the movie presentation of it made more sense, as far as tying up the story goes). Here are some small changes, in no particular order, that did stick out to me as I was watching the film:

Obviously, massive spoilers ahead

  1. Amy's "fear of blood": In the book, Amy invents this massive fear of blood so that she isn't suspected to have cut herself after she has gone missing. This is really a small change, but it's emphasized quite a bit in the book showing how far she has thought her plan through.
  2. Nick and Andie's breakup: In the movie Nick tells Andie he won't see her until it's safe, and some time later she randomly goes on record apologizing for the affair with a married man. In the book this makes a bit more sense: as per his lawyer's strong suggestion, Nick breaks up with Andie, to which she responds by biting him. Clearly, a mature individual.
  3. Desi's death: I have to give this one to the movie, where this scene was a lot more brutal and disturbing. In the book, Amy killing Desi is described after the fact: she drugs him and kills him—moving on. In the film we are given one of the most disturbing sex scenes that ends in a pool of blood.
  4. The missing clue: There is one more clue that comes up in the book, which was probably sacrificed for time purposes. Book readers will remember Nick's trip to Hannibal, Missouri, where he coincidentally took both Amy and Andie. 
  5. The interview at The Bar: Something that has been entirely cut from the movie is Nick's interview with Rebecca—a blogger, who catches him at The Bar and ends up getting a regretful husband speech. This ultimately helps Nick, because the interview influences the public opinion and sways it in his favor.

As you can see, all of these are small details that really didn't change the story or the outcome. There are also a lot of small nuances missing when it comes to Amy's elaborate lies, but I'm pretty sure everyone got the picture of what kind of person she was. Was there anything else that really stood out to you? Did any of the changes bother you?

Laura Mercier Mini Caviar Stick Eye Colour Quartet: Review + Swatches

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It's definitely too early talk about the holiday season, and I actually find holiday commercials and displays appalling at this time of year, but clearly beauty brands get this stuff in early. So, let's talk about a potential holiday set, because let's face it: if I wait until December to talk about this, it will most likely be sold out. To be fair, the packaging or name of this set does not scream "holiday season", so maybe we can pretend it's just a random limited edition release? I am, of course, talking about the Laura Mercier Mini Caviar Stick Eye Colour Quartet. I didn't buy last year's version and deeply regretted that decision, which means as soon as I saw this available at Sephora, I ordered it without hesitation.

Top to bottom: CocoaMoonlightAmethyst, and Rosegold

The set includes four mini versions of the famous Caviar Sticks in RosegoldAmethystMoonlight, and Cocoa. You still get a very reasonable amount of product with these: they are 1 g / 0.03 oz each, as opposed to the full size of 1.64 g / 0.05 oz. I have never owned any of the Caviar Sticks before, so I am thoroughly impressed by the quality. These stick eyeshadows are really soft and buttery, very pigmented, but also really easy to blend. When I first applied them, I could sheer them out into a faint layer of shimmer, if I wanted to, but once they set (and they set pretty quickly, so I had to work fast) they are there to stay. They do not move and I don't even need to use an eyeshadow primer. All four shades are shimmery, but the shimmer itself is very fine—no tacky glitter here.

As far as the actual shade selection, I actually prefer this set to last year's. I love that the set includes a dark brown (Cocoa) this time—I can actually do a complete look with these (let me know if that's something you would like to see a tutorial on). Coincidentally, Cocoa is the least shimmery of the bunch: there is still shimmer, which comes through more when this shade is blended out, but it's not as obvious as it is in the other three shades. I have to say, Moonlight is probably my favorite one of the bunch—I love a good shimmery taupe and I've been using it all over the lid as a wash of color. The swatches above were done in one swipe, so you can tell how pigmented these sticks are—I don't need to use very much product at all and these will last me a long time.

Overall, I think $38 for the Laura Mercier Mini Caviar Stick Eye Colour Quartet is a great deal! Whether you're looking for a gift, or thinking about treating yourself, this is an excellent option. I'm very happy I got my hands on this set!

Have you tried the Laura Mercier Caviar Sticks? Do you have a favorite shade?

Inspired by... We Were Liars

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E. Lockhart's We Were Liars has been one of the most hyped up books this year and that means I had to read it. You already know I post book reviews on this blog from time to time, but today I thought I would throw a makeup look inspired by the main character into the mix. Cady comes from your stereotypical dysfunctional rich family: stiff upper lip, emotions hidden behind a facade, a trust fund, small private island to spend your summer at... the whole nine yards. She wants to be good, but she is disconnected from the reality of anyone below her in social status—she just don't get it. Of course, she is also emotional and in love, but something is off: there has been an accident and we don't know what it was. 

I wanted to create a simple, but pretty look. In my mind, Cady doesn't wear a lot of makeup—just enough to emphasize her features. I used a shimmery champagne eyeshadow all over my eyelids and in the inner corners of my eyes. Then I roughly lined my top lash line with Rimmel Scandaleyes Eye Shadow Stick in Guilty Grey, which is a dark shimmery gray, and then smudged and blended it with my fingers. I added some more in the outer corners and also smudge a bit of the gray on my lower lash line before applying mascara. For my cheeks, I went with a bright pink cream blush to achieve a natural flushed look—I used the Revlon Photo Ready Cream Blush in Flushed and just blended it with my fingers. Finally, I dabbed on some everyday pink lipstick for a touch of color—I went with Fig from Bite Beauty.

If you would like to hear more about the book, check out the video below!

Have you read We Were Liars? Do you plan to?