Beauty Review: Boscia Luminizing Black Mask

This is a peel-off mask with activated charcoal that is supposed to make your skin look gorgeous, basically. It’s supposed to purify and minimize your pores, get rid of access oil, and gently exfoliate. How does it really work?

Actually, I was super impressed with this product. Getting it on was a challenge, because it’s INCREDIBLY sticky and trying to tame the baby wispy hairs around my face is impossible, so things got a little messy. It didn’t hurt too much as it dried, but I felt it noticeably tighten my skin. Even my husband commented on how great my skin looked afterwards, and without even telling him what I used and what it was supposed to do, said that my pores looked a lot smaller and less noticeable.

I’m not sure if this would be a regular purchase for me, however. At $34 for 2.8 oz, it’s on the fairly expensive side. It doesn’t help that it’s sticky and thick and you use pretty much half the bottle for one use, so while I think it works well, for those on a budget, there might be something similar that’s more reasonably priced. I’ll update with suggestions if I find anything.

A few tips if using this:

DO NOT under any circumstances use it if you have any scrapes or wounds on your face. This stuff is sticky and it peels off. You don’t want it peeling off a scab, causing a scar. It got a lot of my peach fuzz, so I can’t imagine would it would do to a healing scratch.

Also, it has a warning that says don’t get it near your eyes. Stay well away from your eyes with this! First, you don’t want it catching any stray eyebrow hairs. Also, the skin under your eyes is super sensitive and delicate and does NOT need a peel-off mask to help clarify it. Basically, just imagine large slices of cucumbers were around your eyes and go from there. Be very careful!

Book Review: My Bridges of Hope by Livia Bitton-Jackson

Title: My Bridges of Hope
Author: Livia Bitton-Jackson
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Paperback: 378 pages
Source: Chicago Public Library
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

In 1945, after surviving a harrowing year in Auschwitz, fourteen-year-old Elli returns, along with her mother and brother, to the family home, now part of Slovakia, where they try to find a way to rebuild their shattered lives.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

I went into this book not really knowing what to expect — I’m not sure how it ended up on my family’s shelves, but I noticed it one day and added it to my to-read list for the future. Now, I have no idea where my copy of this book is, but luckily, the library had a copy. This is a memoir about a teenage girl’s coming of age after she survives the Holocaust and struggles to make a life for herself and make sense of the world after what she suffered, and after the turmoil that her country is put in post-World War II. It’s written in a very easy-to-read manner, so I can see this being a great introduction to older children and middle-graders as to what different people had to deal with during this time. It’s also a pretty quick read and told in short segments, so it would be easy to include in a Holocaust curriculum, at least in part.

This is apparently book 2 in a series, and I love that it follows the aftermath of the Holocaust, which I don’t think is talked about quite as much — or at least, my teachers never focused on it as much as the Holocaust itself. I’ve never read much about what happened to Slovakia after the war, so I enjoyed this book for giving me that perspective and teaching me more about all the different countries and people who were affected by the Holocaust, and how the surrender of Germany didn’t lead to immediately fixing anti-Semitism. Livia tells her story with painstaking honesty, and it hurt to see how roughly Jewish people were treated even after the war, and how hard it was for them to reunite with family members who had already emigrated to the United States or other countries. For some, it was even impossible.

Overall, I recommend this for someone who’s looking to learn more about this time period and what people had to deal with. In a way, it was heartening to read, because the community came together for each other and all supported one other so that they could make a better life for themselves. It’s still horrifying that any people were ever treated the way Jewish people were treated during this time, but reading about someone overcoming that hate and being an integral part in building up her community was heartwarming.

Beauty Review: Fresh Soy Face Cleanser

I love trying new cleansers and skin care products, because I’m finally in a place where I can afford to occasionally spend just a bit more than my normal Neutrogena cleanser. The problem is that I don’t want to invest in anything that my skin is going to react to (as mentioned in previous beauty reviews, my skin is quite sensitive), so I’m working off product samples from regular make-up purchases at Sephora.

The Fresh Soy Face Cleanser is supposed to be a great makeup remover/cleanser that is good for all skin types and especially helps improve the dryness and firmness/elasticity of your skin. I used it after a date night out, which meant I had a fair amount of makeup on my face.

For the makeup remover side: it got most of the makeup. It did an amazing job getting rid of my face makeup (foundation, blush) and eyeshadow with no residue left behind (that I could see). It completely failed for the more heavy-duty makeup (waterproof gel eyeliner and waterproof mascara) that I generally have to use eye make-up remover or a makeup remover facial cloth.

But as a cleanser, it worked beautifully. My skin was slightly dried out from it, but not as much as a regular cream cleanser usually dries it out. Some moisturizer fixed it quickly. What I was most impressed with was how it really did seem to cleanse away everything. I didn’t feel or see any residue, and the next day, my skin looked gorgeous — smooth, soft and very healthy looking. Definitely not what I was expecting after wearing makeup and walking out in the frigid temperatures in the city the previous night. Though I didn’t like the Fresh Rose Face Mask, this soy face cleanser is a winner!

Romance is in the Air Giveaway Hop – ARC of One Paris Summer by Denise Grover Swank

 

We’ve joined another giveaway hop hosted by BookHounds! This time, we’re featuring a giveaway for an ARC of One Paris Summer by Denise Grover Swank. US only, please!

This is a cute YA romance featuring Paris! Just use the Rafflecopter form below to enter and hop onto the next stop! Thanks for entering!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Book Review: One Paris Summer by Denise Grover Swank

Title: One Paris Summer
Author: Denise Grover Swank
Publisher: Blink
Paperback: 272 pages
Source: BEA 2016
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

Most teens dream of visiting the City of Lights, but it feels more like a nightmare for Sophie Brooks. She and her brother are sent to Paris to spend the summer with their father, who left home a year ago without any explanation. As if his sudden abandonment weren’t betrayal enough, he’s about to remarry, and they’re expected to play nice with his soon-to-be wife and stepdaughter. The stepdaughter, Camille, agrees to show them around the city, but she makes it clear that she will do everything in her power to make Sophie miserable.

Sophie could deal with all the pain and humiliation if only she could practice piano. Her dream is to become a pianist, and she was supposed to spend the summer preparing for a scholarship competition. Even though her father moved to Paris to pursue his own dream, he clearly doesn’t support hers. His promise to provide her with a piano goes unfulfilled.

Still, no one is immune to Paris’s charm. After a few encounters with a gorgeous French boy, Sophie finds herself warming to the city, particularly when she discovers that he can help her practice piano. There’s just one hitch—he’s a friend of Camille’s, and Camille hates Sophie. While the summer Sophie dreaded promises to become best summer of her life, one person could ruin it all.

*I received a free copy of this book from the publisher from BEA 2016.*

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5

When I went to BEA with my husband this past year, my main goal was to find great young adult books that his high school students could fall in love with. So when I saw this cute, fluffy romance book set in Paris, I went for it.

This is a cute book about two teenagers who go to Paris to reconnect with their dad, who left them just about a year before and who is now marrying another woman in Paris — Sophie and her brother, Eric, are sent to Paris to celebrate the wedding and meet their new stepmom and stepsister. Their stepsister is awful to them, and gets Sophie into all sorts of trouble by playing games and manipulating things. So, it becomes really complicated when Sophie ends up falling for Camille’s friend, Mathieu. Hijinks ensue.

One Paris Summer is pretty much what I was expecting. It’s a fast read and it’s fun. Sophie at first got on my nerves, but it made sense within the context of the story and her character evened out within the first few chapters, thank goodness, so I actually ended up enjoying her character and looking forward to reading about her adventures in Paris. My favorite parts were her interactions with her brother and her crush, Mathieu. It was nice to see Sophie realizing that people didn’t hate her and cared about her. My main problems with a lot of this book had to do with logic and drama. Characters’ reactions to things didn’t seem to fit with their personalities and seemed only to serve the purpose of creating conflict that felt melodramatic and fake.

However, aside from that, the romance and Paris aspect were really fun. This is a book you don’t want to think too much about — what I like to think of a beach read. Just breeze through it and enjoy the fun, cute parts. Because of that, this took me very little time to finish once I started focusing on it, and overall, I enjoyed it. I think younger teens would enjoy this a lot, but there isn’t a lot of crossover appeal for older readers simply because what I said earlier about the conflicts feeling overly dramatic.

Side note: I loved that we got some French words thrown in here, so readers might be able to learn a couple of phrases. Nice touch!

Perpetual Series Starter: Why My To-Read List NEVER ENDS

Normally, I’d post a beauty review on Fridays, but it’s been too cold to go outside and I’ve been too tired to just wear makeup around the house, so I’m going to talk to you all about a recent discovery I just made. I’ve taken it upon myself to do a better job tracking my reading (some of y’all have such fun stats at the end of the year, I want to play too!), so I also started tracking how many series books I have going on and how many I still need to read.

It might have been a mistake, and I suddenly see why I can never seem to make a dent in my to-read list. You guys, I have 153 series ongoing.

ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY THREE SERIES, not books — SERIES. (Can I get a confirmation that series is, in fact, the plural of series? Is it not?)

Yes, some of them are duologies or trilogies and are close to being finished, but that is way, way too many. I’m probably going to start a couple more this week. It’s neverending! Why do I do this to myself? Is it just me? What’s normal, or average, you think? At least among people who read an insane amount?

Are there any challenges for people who have this problem and encourage us to finish the series we’ve started a decade ago? That would be super helpful right about now.

Book Review: Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Title: Pachinko
Author: Min Jin Lee
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Hardcover: 496 pages
Source: BEA 2016
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

Buy from the Book Depository!

A new tour de force from the bestselling author of Free Food for Millionaires, for readers of The Kite Runner and Cutting for Stone.

PACHINKO follows one Korean family through the generations, beginning in early 1900s Korea with Sunja, the prized daughter of a poor yet proud family, whose unplanned pregnancy threatens to shame them all. Deserted by her lover, Sunja is saved when a young tubercular minister offers to marry and bring her to Japan.

So begins a sweeping saga of an exceptional family in exile from its homeland and caught in the indifferent arc of history. Through desperate struggles and hard-won triumphs, its members are bound together by deep roots as they face enduring questions of faith, family, and identity.

*I received a free copy of this book from the publisher from BEA 2016.*

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

When Andrew and I went to BEA 2016, this cover really stood out to us. There were only a few copies available and it was a fairly thick book, so we only picked up a copy for ourselves instead of also getting another copy for his classroom. I am SO glad we decided on grabbing it, because it’s been one of my favorite reads this year and I can’t wait to see how it’ll be received by everyone when it comes out.

Pachinko is a story that follows the life of Sunja, the daughter of a Korean couple who own a boardinghouse by the sea. It starts off by detailing her father’s life, then goes through the generations starting with Sunja herself, and then her son’s life, and finally her grandon’s life. It’s told through multiple perspectives, though it tends to focus more on Sunja’s family.

This is a story about what it meant to be Korean living under the shadow of Japan during World War II, what it meant to be Korean in the aftermath of World War II, and the sacrifices people make to ensure the survival and happiness of their future family members.

Pachinko is well developed and complex in its details of how these characters would have lived their lives during this time. I feel like the story of how Korea and its people lived under the rule of Japan around the time of World War II is largely untold and untaught — at least, it is in American public schools. While it is devastating in its bleakness, I enjoyed learning at least a little bit about this country and I feel as though I have a slightly deeper view of the world during World War II because of this book. Lee did an amazing job with her research in being able to trace how Japan acted towards Korea across these decades and showing it within the context of her story.

I was surprised by the pacing in this book. Usually, I find sagas to be just a tad on the slow side, and was a little worried when I saw that this story spanned generations, but while it’s comprehensive, the story moves steadily along, hitting the important parts and then skipping over the years when it needs to progress.

Given the different characters and the length of time this novel spans, I wonder if it wouldn’t have been better as a short story cycle. It almost had that feel to it, and I think there were moments that would have been heightened had it been written in such a format. I don’t think that the story significantly suffers from it being written as a novel, but I do think that the way its constructed is almost an in-between novel and short story cycle, which sometimes took me out of the story a little bit to try to figure out what sort of format this is. Not a huge complaint or anything — just a thought.

For me, the first part of the book was the strongest and most compelling. My favorite part was reading about how much Sunja would sacrifice and how hard she would work to give her family the best chance possible. I would recommend this to anyone with an interest in historical fiction. The characters and the writing itself are beautiful, and as I’ve said, it provides an interesting look at a culture that I don’t think we often get to learn about.

Beauty Review: Peter Thomas Roth Cucumber Gel Mask

I became a fan of Peter Thomas Roth products after using his face wash and using this gel mask. It’s another hydrating face mask that is super gentle and can be used daily (although I usually use it 2-3 times a week), much like the Fresh Rose Mask that I reviewed last week.

I said in my review last week that the Fresh Rose Mask just wasn’t for me, especially considering the cost ($62 for 100 ml), but this mask is more my style. It feels super hydrating going on and I love how healthy and rejuvenated my skin looks and feels after using it. This is my go-to post-plane mask. I fly a fair amount and hate how it damages my skin, but this perks it right back up. The best part? $52 for 150 ml. Cheaper and I feel like it works so much better! Love it!

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Book Review: Ann Veronica by HG Wells

Title: Ann Veronica
Author: HG Wells
Publisher: Penguin Books Limited
Paperback: 352 pages
Source: Own
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

Twenty-one, passionate and headstrong, Ann Veronica Stanley is determined to live her own life. When her father forbids her attending a fashionable ball, she decides she has no choice but to leave her family home and make a fresh start in London. There, she finds a world of intellectuals, socialists and suffragettes — a place where, as a student in biology at Imperial College, she can be truly free. But when she meets the brilliant Capes, a married academic, and quickly falls in love, she soon finds that freedom comes at a price.

A fascinating description of the women’s suffrage movement, Ann Veronica offers an optimistic depiction of one woman’s sexual awakening and search for independence.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

I had serious doubts about this book when I first started it, not only is it not science fiction, but a ROMANCE, from HG Wells? Yeah, okay. I was thinking it was going to be ridiculous, but once I started reading it, I realized it was completely different from what I had first thought — it’s an early book about feminism. And you know what? It’s done rather splendidly.

Ann Veronica is the youngest of a fairly well-to-do family. She’s not your typical turn-of-the-20th-century girl — she studies biology at a college (with her father’s permission) and enjoys talking about her intellectual interests with others. Her close friends are burgeoning suffragists, so she often joins their discussions about how women aren’t free to do what they want and how they’re caged up in society because men keep them imprisoned, basically. So, when her father literally locks her in her bedroom to prevent her from going to a ball, she runs away to the city to make it on her own. She quickly finds out that there’s not a great way for women to make a lot of money, and renting out an apartment in London actually costs quite a lot. Basically, she has to face harder truths than she realized were out there and more fully understands the plight of women because of her decision to not live under her father’s roof.

What I love about this story is how it covers everything and doesn’t sugarcoat anything. It gives a clear, honest look at exactly what the situation of women was for that time period — hardly any job prospects (and any available were drudgery for pennies), no respect, and no vote. Their lives were at the mercy of the men in their lives and they weren’t taught anything about how to survive or live in the world. Ann Veronica even gets herself into a misunderstanding with a man and it’s sad how much that particular “misunderstanding” can still be seen in today’s world. They talk as if they’re friends, and they go out to lunch together as friends, and then he locks her in a room with him “to make love” because of course she had to know that they weren’t really friends and he wanted her, and deserved her after all that he’d given her. (Isn’t it creepy how familiar that sounds?) HG Wells does a tremendous job in outlining the various difficulties that women faced when they fought for equal rights and equal opportunities in London and really hits, if not all, then at least most of the points.

The first half was wonderful, but it does start to drag a bit as the book goes on. I think the first half of the book is perfect and it would have been 5 stars if it had continued in that vein, but then Ann Veronica falls in love and the whole story sort of starts to fall apart and get into themes that don’t make sense for where the book started. Alas. Basically, I would recommend this to anyone who has an interest in feminism, its roots, or even how it was viewed during this time. I was blown away by how insightful this story was and a little saddened by how true those themes remain. If not a great story, it’s interesting to see the thoughts and themes of feminism from a male author born in the 19th century.

Beauty Review: Fresh Rose Face Mask

$62 at Sephora

I received the Fresh Rose Face Mask from Sephora as a birthday present and was super excited to see how this would help my skin. Chicago gets super cold and dry during the winter, and I fly a lot, so my skin goes through a lot of trauma and is frequently dry. The sample was large enough to try for quite a while, so I was able to see how it affects my skin long-term.

My skin is prone to redness, dryness, and a little bit of acne if it gets too irritated. I have combination skin, so I have to fight the constant battle between my face being too oily and too dry. As a result, I look for skin products that are super hydrating while still being light and not creating too much shine. This face mask seemed to be perfect for those requirements (it’s gentle enough for every day use!) and was especially great for getting rid of my redness.

This mask smells amazing and is super gentle on the skin. When I put it on, I could feel it cooling and soothing, so it’s great for getting rid of redness and inflammation. However, it doesn’t do very much to hydrate my skin. Aside from getting rid of redness, I saw no noticeable difference in how hydrated my skin looked or felt, even after using it for 10 days. With the price, I’m not sure it’s really worth the money just to get rid of redness (other toners do that just fine). I wanted to love it, because it was a nice part of my day to have my skin smell like roses (my husband loved it!), but it simply didn’t work for me.

However, there are others who RAVE about it on Sephora, so it might be that it’s just not good for my skin type.