Recent Reads

I am happy with how my ’50 Book Challenge’ is progressing so far, having completed more than the necessary average of books per week so far this year. Here are some mini reviews of the books that I have read so far in 2011. (note: My copy of The Collector by John Fowles is not pictured, as I have leant it to a friend to read).

American Subversive by David Goodwillie
I picked this book up at a bookshop and was lured in by the interesting cover art. Thankfully it wasn’t too much of a let down (as it can sometimes be when you judge a book by it’s cover) and I did enjoy the book as a whole. The concept of the book seemed really interesting to me, but in my opinion the execution didn’t really live up to the storyline. The basic plot is that in a post 9/11 New York City a bomb is detonated in a building, and the media immediately assumes and points the finger at a middle eastern extremist group. A political blogger receives an email with an attached picture of a caucasian woman crossing the street in front of the bombed building, and the message “This is Paige Roderick, she is the one responsible.” I like the character development in the book, but found the lack of action quite boring and at times frustrating.

The Collector by John Fowles
I initially read this book in my highschool English Literature class, and had re-read it over the years, but for some reason I picked up a lot more about the story during this re-read than ever before. For one thing, I had always thought that the book took place in modern day Australia, but it’s in fact set in London in the 1960’s. I also found the story and theme of the book far more chilling than I ever did before. The story is split narrative between a middle aged sociopathic man and the 20 year old girl that he becomes obsessed with, and later kidnaps. I really enjoyed this book and got through it rather quickly (I think I finished it in 2-3 days) and the ending was as haunting as always.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusac
The immediate front-runner for my favourite book of 2011, The Book Thief was so incredible that I now count it amoung my favourite books of all time. (ALL TIME! …Okay, pipe down Kanye) I don’t think I’ve ever been as emotionally wrecked by a story as I was by The Book Thief, except perhaps while reading The Road by Cormac McCarthy, which was another emotionally gruelling literary adventure. The character development in this story was second to none, and it was probably due to my attachment to the characters that I felt so shattered at the end of the book. The Book Thief is narrated by death (if that doesn’t draw you in immediately, I’m not sure what will) and revolves around a young girl called Liesel and her life in Germany during WW2. I absolutely loved this book, and would recommend it to all who are in the market for a good read.

Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank
I purchased this book as it was on one of the “top apocalyptic fiction” lists that I found online, and I’d read quite a few good reviews of the story on different book blogs. It’s set in the US in the 1950’s in a post-apocalyptic scenario that occurs after a nuclear war between Russia and the United States. As with most pre-21st century apocalyptic fiction, it wasn’t as exciting as I’d hoped, and dealt more with the coping mechanisms of the small country town than anything else. Having said that, it did a good job to translate the era difference despite the constant reminders as to how pathetic women are (thanks, 1950’s mentality) and the subject of segregation which is something I have a hard time relating to in this day and age. The ending was quite poignant and tied everything together nicely for me.

What are you reading at the moment? Any good book suggestions for me?

Product Review: Benefit “Love It Up” Set

In case you were wondering, Valentine’s Day is coming up soon… Yep, that gloriously cheesy and often depressing hallmark holiday that I love so much (not as much as Christmas though). To celebrate, Benefit is releasing “Love It Up”, which is a limited edition collectible set of their Lookin’ To Rock Rita eau de toilette & a complementing silk scented body lotion. The packaging is absolutely amazing, and when I received the package in the mail the scent of the products had permeated all of the packaging making everything smell absolutely delicious. How gorgeous is the box that it comes in?

I think the packaging alone would be impressive as a present, is that weird? (don’t answer that.) The fragrance is not something I would have chosen for myself, it’s very ‘green’ and fruity though and is a lovely scent for summer. It warms up after the initial application like most fragrances, and grows muskier throughout the day and I like the scent most after a couple of hours of wearing it. The scent doesn’t have incredible staying power, it’s more of a weekend sort of fragrance for me, with a couple of sprays lasting for around 5 hours before the scent wears off. Wearing it in combination with the body lotion helps the scent maintain it’s strength for a lot longer, but I would only suggest doing this if you absolutely love the smell as it is very strong and could be overpowering. The Benefit “Love It Up” set is due for release on January 29th 2011, and retails for $59.00 AUD. Check your local Benefit counter for the set, or call (02) 8353 5000 for stockist information. (note: I was sent this product for consideration for review.)

Product Review: MAC Blushcreme in Ladyblush

As you can probably tell by the picture above, I have used my MAC Blushcreme in Ladyblush to near death. This was the first MAC product that I ever purchased, and has been my go-to blush from the very first day I received it. The blushcreme applies evenly and has great staying power. I think the shade is gorgeous on pale skin, when blended it shows up as a beautiful dusky pink shade on a fair complexion. (apologies for how grubby the compact is, I think my overuse of the product has beaten it to death)

Looking at the swatch it seems to show up similar to the NARS Penny Lane Cream Blush, which I’ve tried in the past and didn’t like. In reality it shows up very different on the skin. The MAC blush is more of a dusty pink rose colour than a muddy brown pink like the NARS. I absolutely love this blush, and can definitely see myself repurchasing it in the future. It retails for $40 AUD on the Australian MAC website. (note: apparently this is a discontinued line, so stock up while you can!)

Product Review: Neutrogena Oil-Free Face Wash (pink grapefruit)

After my giant bottle of Dermalogica Special Cleansing Gel ran out, I decided I wanted to try out a more ‘cheap and cheerful’ cleanser option instead of forking out the $70 for my holy grail of cleansers. (which I will be repurchasing again in the future despite the hefty price tag, don’t get me wrong – I love the stuff) As I’d had success with Neutrogena in the past, I decided to give the new Pink Grapefruit cleanser a try as I’d seen it mentioned in quite a few beauty blogger haul posts at the start of summer. At first I loved the smell, it’s punchy and fruity and is the perfect pick me up in the morning. It does get overwhelming after a while though, and after a few weeks of use it’s starting to smell more sickly-sweet than delightful. As a cleanser, it works well for my skin and the only complaint I have is that it is slightly too drying for me. It has kept breakouts at bay though, which is really all I look for in a cleanser. I won’t be repurchasing in the future, because I discovered (via a comment left on my blog, so thank you to the courteous reader who let me know) that Neutrogena’s parent company Johnson&Johnson partake in animal testing on their products. If you do still wish to purchase the product, the Oil-Free Face Wash (Pink Grapefruit) retails for $14.99 AUD and can be purchased from leading supermarkets and pharmacies throughout the country.