I'm a Canadian grad student in Scotland who previously worked in cosmetics for three years. I started this blog when I realized that instead of wishing for the makeup blog of my dreams, I could create it myself. My aim is to write thorough, well-researched posts and to never lose sight of my feminist perspective and my own (rambly) voice.
I take a laissez-faire approach to shaving my legs. I don’t feel all that much social pressure to remove my relatively sparse hair, which I acknowledge is largely a privilege born of whiteness. Particularly during the winter, I can happily go weeks without shaving. However, due to my keratosis pilaris I do enjoy the feeling of smoothness, or as close to smoothness as I can get. There is nothing more satisfying when you have KP than taking the time to shave, exfoliate, and moisturize and just sitting there rubbing your legs together. This must be how normal people feel all the time!!!
However, the mainstream shaving industry is pretty underwhelming. Nothing is made to last, the prices are ridiculous, and the pink tax makes me see red. If you don’t want to be stuck using cheap disposable razors forever (bad quality! terrible for the environment!), you are looking at spending $35 or more on a pack of replacement blades, at least here in Canada. That is just not cost-effective and not something I want to spend the rest of my life doing. That’s not even mentioning the fact that most readily-available razors, even the non-disposable ones, are made of plastic and in my experience still feel relatively flimsy.
So I started looking into alternatives, and after doing extensive research (read: watching a lot of comparison videos on YouTube), I settled on Dollar Shave Club as the best-quality and most cost-effective solution.
I went for Dollar Shave Club’s “Executive” package, which includes a metal handle and and four six-blade (!) cartridges for $9.50 Canadian. Oh, and did I mention shipping is free? I mean… considering how much cartridges cost at the drugstore, I really felt like I was getting away with murder.
Dollar Shave Club operates on a subscription box model, meaning they ship you four new cartridges a month. You get the handle for free your first month – so, my cartridges, which are the most expensive, cost $10 a month. (Looks like the price just went up by $0.50, but for what you get compared to other brands I’m hardly complaining…) You could be paying as little as $4 monthly for a pack of five twin-blade cartridges. You can also have the replacement cartridges shipped every other month and skip shipments whenever you want, with no penalty. I like this, because I’m not a daily shaver and I don’t have that much to remove, so I don’t need to switch out my cartridges every week. (I mean, does anyone actually do that? I feel like this is another “rule” like throwing your mascara out every three months that no real humans are actually sticking to.)
As for the razor itself, I absolutely love it. The handle is solid and heavy and makes guiding the blade a piece of cake. I’m not totally sure if a six-blade razor is a gimmick or if it actually makes a difference, but I definitely get the smoothest, closest shave I’ve ever had with this razor. It glides over my skin absolutely effortlessly, even when I have several weeks of regrowth. Plus, I’ve yet to experience any of the knicks that are practically unavoidable with cheap disposable razors. I actually get a tiny thrill when I shave my legs and feel how smoothly the razor slides across my skin – it’s the little things, you know?
The fancy razor market seems to be expanding lately, with brands like Harry’s and Billie offering similar products. I obviously can’t speak to how the quality of Dollar Shave Club compares to them, but in the two months I’ve been using my Executive razor I’ve been really impressed with the quality of the product and the price point. I’m more than happy to remain a Dollar Shave Club customer and I’m really happy with this change.
I was convinced that my reading had slowed significantly in April, but I ended up reading 10 books for a total of 39 this year. If I could read 11 in May for an even 50 by the end of the month, I’d be really happy.
Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler
In a world ravaged by environmental disaster, Lauren Olamina lives in relative affluence with her family within a walled community. But when she loses her family, she is forced to leave home. Lauren, whose father is a preacher, has long since rejected the religion she was raised in, in favour of one of her own making. As she journeys north in search of safety and stability, she finds recruits for Earthseed, her religion. There are a lot of interesting political implications in this novel (environmentalism, anti-capitalism), and I really enjoy that the narrator is a young Black woman. Dystopian fiction tends to be very overwhelmingly white, and racism is explicitly addressed in the narrative. However, this definitely felt like the first book in the series, with a bare-bones plot that leaves a lot of loose ends. I think I’ve probably exhausted my teenage interest in dystopian fiction, but this would be a great read for someone who’s really into the genre.
The Fifth Season by NK Jemisin
Another world suffering from environmental disasters – specifically, frequent earthquakes which regularly wipe out small towns. A small group of people with special powers, Orogenes, can affect seismic activity, and for decades Orogene children have been raised in a special military facility in order to control and harness their powers. This is an interesting fantasy world that avoids a lot of the tropes the male-dominated, white-dominated fantasy canon often indulges in. Jemisin normalizes same-sex relationships, trans people, and non-normative family structures and offers a cast of well-developed Black characters. The themes of oppression, discrimination, and self-determination are well-rendered. This is a complex world, and it took me a while to get my bearings; there was a lot of (necessary) exposition used to set the tone for the action to come later in the series, which made it a promising but not entirely interesting standalone novel. Fantasy isn’t really my genre, so I probably won’t continue on with this series, but I think fantasy fans (especially those who are tired of the same old) will enjoy this.
Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante
This ended up being my favourite book in the Neapolitan series; the political commentary is absolutely searing, and it feels like the first two novels were truly building to this point. Ferrante exposes the hypocrisy of the educated upper middle class’s socialist activism excluding and even harming those they claim to liberate. As Elena struggles to live up to the hype of her first book in the wake of motherhood and domestic duty, she develops a true political awareness not based on regurgitating others’ opinions; meanwhile, Lila is bursting with true class consciousness, though it is almost impossible for her to act on this. This series has always brilliantly explored how women’s minds are so often wasted, nowhere more explicitly than in this novel. There were so many lines that just stopped me in my tracks, brimming with acidic clarity. For example, on the subject of male domination of academic and creative spaces: The solitude of women’s minds is regrettable, I said to myself, it’s a waste to be separated from each other, without procedures, without tradition.
The Woman Who Died A Lot by Jasper Fforde
The most recent novel in Fforde’s expansive Thursday Next universe, our heroine Thursday has taken a new job and uncovered a new conspiracy meant to further the interests of the evil Goliath corporation. The alternate early 2000s Britain is as clever, quirky, and endearing as ever, though I do miss Thursday’s adventures inside the Bookworld. That said, when you’re looking for something light, you really can’t go wrong with a book involving time travel, clones, and a pet dodo. I’m happily anticipating the next book in the series!
The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz
The first novel in the reboot of the late Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series is pretty obviously a cash-grab. The writing in the original trilogy was not exactly an exemplar of the craft, but there was a venom and compulsive readability that made the descriptions of every food item Lisbeth ingested worth it. The plot of the first book especially was clever and twist-y. This book just fell flat. There was very little tension; the plot was simplistic; the book lacked the original series’ focus on misogyny. (The Swedish series is literally called “Men Who Hate Women”!) This novel is more to the point than Larsson’s often meandering prose, but it’s just not as interesting.
The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante
The conclusion of Ferrante’s ambitious, sweeping Neopolitan novels is every bit as angry and depressing as the previous book. Lila and Elena continue to grow together and apart as they settle into middle age. There is hardly ever any relief offered in the accounts of our protagonists’ lives in their working class Naples neighbourhood, and the writing is simply unrelenting in its precision. I found the first two books in the series a bit hard to get into, but the last two were utterly compelling. I get the hype now – there’s something uncanny, jarring, unforgettable about this story.
Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi
The body of Ada, a baby born in Nigeria, houses several spirits born of a snake god. She moves to the US for university and, when she experiences sexual trauma, the spirits begin to emerge. It’s never clear if this a metaphysical novel – that the spirits truly do exist – or if this is a metaphorical exploration of mental illness. Perhaps it’s both. I just couldn’t help but feel that this novel was a perfect example of style over substance. I found the prose a bit too much and the depth of the story a bit too little. It’s strange to say that, because there’s a lot going on: fractured families, diaspora, sexual assault, self-harm – I just never fully felt anything about any of it. There was very little in the way of character development, which is bizarre in what you might imagine would have to be a character-driven novel. (This is a story about multiple consciousnesses inhabiting one body!) This didn’t feel plot-driven (because there isn’t much plot), or character-driven, or literary. It was just, like, some themes that weren’t particularly thoroughly explored.
A Mind Spread Out On the Ground by Alicia Elliott
Haudenosaunee writer Alicia Elliott’s insightful, compassionate essays primarily focus on the lingering effects of her childhood: raised in poverty on the Six Nations reservation by an abusive father and bipolar mother. She explores contemporary Indigeneity and the intersections between mental illness, poverty, nutrition, family dysfunction, racism, colonialism, and more. At times I wished the writing itself had been pushed just a little bit further; there are parts that feel a bit social justice academia jargon-y, which tends to give the impression of an underdeveloped and unoriginal style. However, the ideas presented in these essays are thought-provoking and necessary.
My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh
In 2000 in New York, a privileged, mid-twenties narrator decides to spend a year sleeping. Her cold, unloving parents died in quick succession when she was in college, and her only “assets” in life are a clingy, status-obsessed friend, a much-older on/off boyfriend who truly sucks, and a poorly-paid job at an art gallery. The worst psychiatrist in the world prescribes her an endless supply of sleeping pills, and she spends months doing nothing but sleeping, watching movies, and hating every second she spends with her friend Reva. Seriously, that is what makes up the bulk of this novel. I really like the idea of a female narrator who is gross and shallow and unlikeable and a complete nonentity emotionally, and I found it interesting how disinterested the narrator is in her own life. But it was so difficult to connect with anybody that I never fully found myself absorbed in the narrative, which, as I said, is very repetitive. The writing is deadpan and funny, but not quite as sharp as I’d hoped for. I think a novel like this which lacks much in the way of both narrative and character needs brilliant, precise writing, and this fell short of that for me. I think Moshfegh is talented, but I won’t exaggerate and say that she’s amazing. She’s a good writer, better than many. But I wanted this to affect me emotionally, to make me think. I wanted to love it or at least to find something to sink my teeth into, but it ended up just being an easy read with an ending that managed to be both cheap and predictable.
My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
Damn, I love this dustjacket.
Korede, a straight-laced nurse, and Ayoola, who is selfish, impulsive, and beautiful, are sisters living in Lagos. Their relationship is strained, which is not helped by the fact that Ayoola has a habit of killing her boyfriends. She claims she has only killed in self-defense, but Korede isn’t sure – yet she is always there to clean up after Ayoola (literally). This is a great concept with a somewhat lacklustre execution. I found it really exciting to see this novel set in Nigeria, since popular genre novels seem to revolve around the Western world. There’s more going on this novel than the title implies; it’s actually not very violent, nor is it a thriller. It’s fast-paced, but the story and ending are something different and surprising, and it’s primarily about interpersonal relationships. The bond between the sisters is fraught: their personalities are very different, but they are loyal to each other due to their shared abusive childhood.
I wish the characters had been more developed. Korede is a jealous, bitter wet blanket whose main personality trait is that she cleans a lot. Well, that’s a bit of an exaggeration: she’s the more interesting of the sisters because she’s very self-righteous but such an enabler. Ayoola, on the other hand, feels underdeveloped, and forget about any depth in the auxiliary characters.
I did enjoy the fast pace: it made for a breezy read (this could easily be read in one sitting), and I think it was perfect for the tone and plot. However, it does feel a bit disjointed and sometimes lacked flow between its very short chapters. There was an interesting backstory that I wish had been expanded on more, but maybe that would have bogged down the pace.
I think this book is well worth a read if the premise interests you, but it’s not exactly a literary masterpiece.
My favourites this month were definitely the last two books in the Neopolitan series as well as A Mind Spread Out on the Ground. Otherwise a pretty middling pack, once again.
I read 12 books this month, which I’m obviously really happy with. I’ve now read 29 books this year. My goal of 50 is a foregone conclusion, and 100 seems doable, though still a stretch. I’d be happy if I hit the 80 mark. So here’s what I read in March…
His Bloody Project: Documents Relating to the Case of Roderick Macrae by Graeme Macrae Burnet
In the mid-19th century, a triple homicide leaves a village in the Scottish highlands reeling. There is no doubt that the murderer is a teenage boy named Roderick Macrae; the central question is rather whether the murders are in any way justifiable. The bulk of the story is Roderick’s (alleged) first-person account of the murders and the climate leading up to them, and there is a rather satisfying use of the unreliable narrator trope. As such, the reader is positioned as the jury, having to decide what to believe based on incomplete, contradictory evidence. There’s a very interesting exploration of poor rural life and the corrupting influence of power; the political climate of the village of Culduie is tense and believable. That said, this book simply isn’t a page turner, and there’s something lacking in the premise. The introduction of the novel positions it at as a work of nonfiction, but how much historical nonfiction simply presents a collection of documents without any sort of authorial mediation? This framing device doesn’t quite work, and it’s not exactly a thrilling novel, but it’s still thought-provoking.
Son by Lois Lowry
This is the last book in Lowry’s The Giver series. It starts by taking us to the community from the original book, where we meet a fourteen-year-old girl named Claire who is chosen to be a “Birthmother”, i.e. an incubator whose child is reassigned to a “perfect” nuclear family. Claire’s medical trauma and her deep attachment to her son are incredibly compelling, but the book moves in a direction that ultimately lost me. A cool premise gives way to what feels like an excuse to tie up all the loose ends of the series. I’m sure this will be a satisfying conclusion for middle grade readers, but as an adult I can’t say it lives up to my memories of The Giver. (I definitely still own my copy of that book!)
We by Yevgeny Zamyatin
Considered one of the earliest dystopian novels, We portrays an orderly, mathematical society where everything is made of glass. The male protagonist meets a woman who opens his eyes to the oppression they face under their totalitarian authority and becomes obsessed with the idea of a different way of life. George Orwell was very much inspired by We, and while the world of 1984 is more robust, Orwell’s Julia is nowhere near as interesting as Zamyatin’s I-330. It’s hard to evaluate this novel from my standpoint, since the dystopian genre has developed so much in the last 95 years, but I can’t help but feel that there’s a lack of urgency given the situation. The narrator gets away with a lot for a very long time without any real sense of consequence. That said, I can see why this is a classic and it’s a great read for those who are into dystopian fiction.
The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood
Three middle-aged women are haunted by their former friend turned traitor, the monstrous Zenia, who stole their husbands, their money, and their happiness. It’s not exactly plot-driven, but I can’t help but find Margaret Atwood’s writing absolutely spellbinding. She writes the ennui and hardship of childhood absolutely brilliantly. (See Cat’s Eye for another example.) This is a retelling of a fairytale, so I think the possibility of the supernatural must be examined. Zenia’s apparent resurrection is an obvious sign that she is something more than human, as is the way she adapts to each women’s vulnerability seamlessly. She’s a shapeshifter, and this makes the novel more compelling than the idea that she is simply motivelessly evil.
When we watched Rosemary’s Baby in a class I took on horror during undergrad, my professor said something that stuck with me: that even if you remove the supernatural and allegorical elements from the film, it’s still terrifying, because it’s about a woman’s complete loss of bodily autonomy. I think the same is true for this book: take Zenia out of the picture, and it’s still bleak and disturbing. It’s a book about women struggling to shed their broken childhoods, whose relationships with men are by and large unhealthy – these things are true regardless of Zenia’s (possibly demonic) influence. This book is certainly a slow burner, but I tend to love Atwood at her wordiest, when she teases apart social and familial relations with terrifying clarity.
Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg
This semi-autobiographical novel tells the story of Jess Goldberg, a butch lesbian who comes of age in the Buffalo of the 1960s. As a teenager, Jess begins going to gay bars before the pride movement takes off and suffers tremendously at the hands of the police and other institutions. The complex interplay between gender and sexuality are fully-realized in Jess’s rich inner life. The writing and narrative style lack sophistication and grace, but the heart and authenticity of the story solidify this book’s place as a classic of lesbian fiction.
The Sparsholt Affair by Alan Hollinghurst
In the 1940s, a group of Oxford students are inexplicably drawn to a young undergraduate named David Sparsholt. The novel unfolds over three generations as Sparsholt and his family maintain their connection with the well-to-do men from the Oxford days. Sparsholt has made a successful career as an engineer, but he is haunted by a scandal which is never fully explained. The bulk of the novel focuses more on his son Jonathan, a hedonistic gay portraitist who struggles to shed the connotations of his name. Hollinghurst writes so well about the British upper class and particularly about interlopers in those circles. There’s a focus on portraiture which implicitly frames the book as a portrait of the potraitist (or perhaps of his disgraced father). There’s also an emphasis on the difficulty of intergenerational communication, or perhaps of communication in general. Yet the social dynamics just didn’t interest me as much as I wanted them to; Hollinghurst’s Man Booker winner The Line of Beauty is simply meatier. (Well, of course, the young gay working class aesthete subsumed into the family of a Conservative MP in the 80s is inherently a more interesting premise.) So much of the action takes place implicitly, yet this book is still 450 pages long. The narrative felt jumpy, and while Hollinghurst’s writing is impeccable, the novel as a whole just wasn’t terribly compelling.
The Friend by Sigrid Nunez
This book plays with a lot of ideas: about grief, about suicide, about writing and the people who do it, about humanity’s bond with animals. It is so rich in ideas that the further I got into it the greater my sense that this was not really a novel at all, or not primarily a novel. Certainly Nunez takes great liberties with the form of the novel; there is little in the way of narrative (or, indeed, character). The interesting parts are almost exclusively our nameless narrator’s musings on various topics, with gratuitous references to great writers and thinkers as well as contemporary films. The writing is precise, compassionate, and insightful, but I couldn’t help but feel that there was something flimsy about this book. The narrator spends so much time thinking about writing and authorial responsibility that of course the novel itself must be read as a commentary on the genre. I think it is a smart book that works through a lot of interesting ideas with refreshing clarity. But it also purports to be a novel about a woman who adopts the dog left behind in the wake of her close friend’s suicide, and it falls flat there. The friend is unlikeable, perhaps deliberately: an archetypal established older male writer who laments the rise of political correctness. There is no real sense of who he is other than a cranky womanizer. Of course a good novel does more than simply tell a story, but I can’t help but feel that the premise of this novel was conceived as an alibi for what makes it actually interesting, which is not contingent on the narrative at all. A potentially interesting narrative is almost completely sacrificed for some higher intellectual purpose. The premise is incredibly compelling, but there’s no follow-through. I would read this as the novel it purports to be and I would read it if the fictional parts were excised and it was left as nonfiction, an exploration of various ideas that could stand on their own without being propped up by a thin “novel”. But as it stands, it isn’t quite hitting the mark for me as either one of those things.
Jailbird by Kurt Vonnegut
A little-known Watergate co-conspirator is released from prison and finds himself a high-level executive in a conglomerate that owns nearly every company in the world. From early on in the novel, we know this: then, slowly, the dots are connected. This is one of Vonnegut’s least absurdist works. Instead, it takes a fairly straightforward approach to idea of corporate greed and the importance of labour movements, as well as elucidating Vonnegut’s omnipresent idea that kindness is indispensable. I found the second half of the book incredibly touching, but the first half was a slog in a way Vonnegut’s characteristic style almost precludes. This is one I think I’ll keep returning to in thought, but it’s in the bottom half of my Vonnegut rankings. (And now I only have his last two novels to read!)
Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer
I think a part of me always knew I wouldn’t like this book, and that’s why I avoided reading it right when it came out. I loved Foer’s first two novels, but I had a suspicion that he would one day turn into the type of male writer we all like to make fun of. Here’s the thing: the story of a loving but dysfunctional family falling apart is not inherently interesting. That’s not to say it can’t be made interesting in the right hands, but as it stands this a story of two flawed but ultimately good people who can’t make their marriage work. They are good parents. They love their children. They just aren’t compatible anymore. And it’s not that interesting! So what does Foer do? He adds a complex geopolitical conflict that could potentially result in the end of Israel! Okay. So now we have the obvious parallel between the destruction of Israel and the destruction of an American Jewish family. But then we have this whole other issue of the literal fictional destruction of Israel while the novel avoids taking an actual political stance beyond the implication that younger Jewish Americans feel less connected to Israel, which is… not exactly a hot take. And the writing itself wasn’t even that good! So, no. I knew it, didn’t I?
The Story of Another Name by Elena Ferrante
It took me some time to get into My Brilliant Friend, and I had the same experience with the second book in the series. But once I get sucked in, boy am I sucked in. Here the dynamics between childhood best friends Lila and Elena deepen as they grow apart and back together in their teen years and early twenties. Lila, at sixteen, has married a wealthy merchant, but she is immediately unhappy in her marriage; meanwhile, Elena continues to throw herself into her studies, though she doesn’t believe that she is anywhere near as smart as Lila. Neighbourhood melodrama abounds as the unpredictable, headstrong Lila does whatever the hell she wants and Elena tries to pick up the pieces. Ferrante has such a skill for picking apart absolutely anything with such unnerving skill and insight. Lila is a tragic character, a symbol for all women whose vast potential for creativity has been stifled by patriarchy. I’m definitely going to continue on with this series; I think it’s so well-written. That said, I can’t help but feel that I’m missing something slightly. Perhaps it’s because of the slow pace and standard structure of the novel, but people’s assertions that these books are electrifying, unlike anything else, etc. don’t quite compute for me! They’re very good – but revolutionary? I’m not so sure.
The Age of Sex Crime by Jane Caputi
Written in the 1980s as her PhD dissertation, Caputi’s basic premise is that the rise in serial killings is simply a specialized expression of patriarchy particularly adapted to current social conditions. Positioning Jack the Ripper as the archetypal sex criminal, Caputi argues that these crimes are not aberrations but rather reflections of patriarchal social order. She draws parallels between the current era of sex crime and the witch craze and situates the current climate within technological modernity, paying special attention to nuclear war and the role of still and moving image in proliferating violent misogyny. She also analyses pop culture – books, films, ads – to argue that the cultural obsession with sexually-motivated murder reflects societal norms (rather than that these texts provoke crime). In this way she much more effectively articulates what Alice Bolin skirts around in her 2018 book Dead Girls. (How incredible that Bolin doesn’t even cite Caputi in her shallow, self-indulgent book…) I often find when reading second-wave feminist texts that the conditions they describe are still completely unchanged, which is discouraging to say the least. In fact, the fact that this book is depressing is the only fault I can find in it; it’s sharp, meticulous, and thoroughly convincing.
The Girls by Emma Cline
Maybe a fitting follow-up to Caputi’s book: a fictionalized account of the Manson Family and Tate murders narrated by a lonely fourteen-year-old girl who gets sucked into a cult in late 60s Northern California. The occasional prescient feminist-lite insights are unfortunately bogged down by majorly overworked prose and a lack of immediacy. There is so little tension leading up to the murders, and everything is told rather than shown. The cult leader is apparently charismatic, but I never got that from the text, nor did I feel the escalating tension between the leader and a minor musical celebrity. The worldbuilding is lacking; nothing especially situates this novel in either time or place. Everything feels superficial, an idea that was never fully developed. You’d be better off reading Sharon Tate’s Wikipedia page, honestly.
I’m getting pickier the more I read, so I did feel lukewarm about quite a few in this batch. My favourites were The Robber Bride, The Story of Another Name, and The Age of Sex Crime. I’m slowly pegging away at my to-read list, so maybe there’ll be some gems in there for me to share next month.
I feel like this round of garbage accumulated very slowly and then very suddenly. I ran out of a bunch of staple products within a few weeks, which made my wallet sad but which was nonetheless satisfying. I note that I have not used up any haircare products over the last three months, but there is a lot of skincare in here.
The Body Shop Coconut Body Butter x2: A very classic Clem move is buying three tubs of Coconut Body Butter at the beginning of winter when The Body Shop is doing 3 for $30 or buy 2 get 1. This is the only body butter I use, because the coconut oil makes it better than all the other ones. I go through it pretty quickly; I’ll probably polish off the third tub within the next month, at which point hopefully the weather will be more conducive to some lighter body creams. Obviously I will repurchase when November rolls around.
The Chemistry Brand Hyaluronic Concentrate: This was better in the fall when I first started using it; by deepest winter it was very necessary to layer it with something heavier. At $30, it’s pretty pricey for a hydrating body gel, especially when you’re me and have dry, scaly legs and arms. I won’t repurchase.
La Roche-Posay Respectissime Waterproof Eye Makeup Remover: Look, I tried to cut corners and bought the Marcelle eye makeup remover when I used this up, and I regret it. It is not as good and it irritates my eyes. I will never stray from LRP again.
Biotherm Biosource Total Renew Oil: I love a good oil cleanser. This was a good oil cleanser. It’s also $37 for 200ml. I would rather pay $19 for The Body Shop’s 200ml cleansing oil. (Just kidding, you know I never pay full price for anything at The Body Shop, nor should you.)
Marcelle Ultra Gentle Cleansing Gel: I have been very loyal to this cleanser for a few years now. It’s gentle, it’s effective, and it’s cheap. I now have two of these in my bathroom: one on the counter and one in the shower. That’s how you know it’s very real between us.
La Roche-Posay Toleriane Caring Wash: Another gentle gel cleanser. I liked this a lot, but it’s $22 for 200ml to Marcelle’s $13 for 350ml, hence why Marcelle has replaced it in my shower.
Vichy Idélia Serum: This is leftover gratis from literally two years ago. That’s the way it is when you work in cosmetics. Anyway, this serum felt nice and gave my skin an instant glow, but the plant-based antioxidant ingredients aren’t really worth the high price tag.
NIOD Multi-Molecular Hyaluronic Complex: Okay, this product also has a high price tag, but I love it so much. It has ten times as much hyaluronic acid as The Ordinary’s HA + B5, and the texture is far superior. It has made such a difference to my skin this winter – I’ve been only slightly dry, with absolutely no flakey patches. I’m eventually going to investigate if Hylamide’s hyaluronic acid serum is a reasonable middle ground (and at $18 a lot more affordable), but I admit I’ve already cracked into a new bottle of MMHC.
The Ordinary 100% Plant-Based Squalane: A nice lightweight facial oil, but not my favourite since it doesn’t have the added benefits a lot of other oils do besides surface hydration. Last spring I travelled with squalane as my only facial moisturizer, and it worked well under makeup and gave me sufficient overnight hydration. I ended up using up most of this bottle on my arms and legs, because I’m not really using oils in my facial skincare routine these days.
The Ordinary “B” Oil: I used this up on my arms and legs, too. I think this oil blend is a nice idea for the indecisive, but I’d rather receive the full benefits of one oil. I’m pretty happy with my oil-less face routine, but marula will be the next one I try when I want to change things up.
The Ordinary Lactic Acid 10% + HA: I’ve gone through a few bottles of this now! I really like LA as an effective but gentle alternative to glycolic. I have very tolerant skin that does fine with glycolic, but lactic is a little more dry-skin friendly. I don’t like to have too many actives in my routine so I’ve retired this in favour of a vitamin C for the time being, but I’m sure I’ll go back to it at some point!
NIOD Survival 30: Dude, this is by far the best facial sunscreen I’ve ever tried. I was very much on the Vichy and La Roche-Posay train for a while, but Survival sits way better under my makeup. The pump tends to get clogged and spray product out a little aggressively, which is a bummer, and it’s obviously not cheap. But I’m firmly on this bandwagon. The texture is second to none (at least none that are readily-available in Canada), and I love that it’s packed with antioxidants for well-rounded protection.
NIOD Hydration Vaccine: This is a silicone-based barrier meant to prevent moisture loss from the skin. Supposedly it can be used AM and PM, but I don’t think this would sit nicely under makeup. I used it pretty much every night in the winter and I think it helped a bit – but I have so many hydrating products in my routine that I think I would have been fine without it. I probably won’t repurchase this one, but it was fun to try.
La Roche-Posay Toleriane Ultra Fluide: You can probably see that I have transitioned much of my skincare over to Deciem, but I’ve never been a fan of the Natural Moisturizing Factors. I am sticking with the LRP Toleriane line! I’ve tried every moisturizer in this line (I think), although when I bought this I definitely meant to get the regular Ultra. As a daytime moisturizer I think Toleriane Ultra is absolutely fantastic; this lighter version is nice, but I could have done with richer hydration during the coldest months. Totally my fault, and still a great product.
La Roche-Posay Toleriane Sensitive Riche (sample): This moisturizer brought me into the Toleriane world, and I am so grateful for it. This is great for very dry, sensitive skin. I find the Toleriane Ultra works a bit better with makeup, but I am still a huge fan of this one.
Abnomaly Petrowhat? in Milk: This is a squalane-based alternative to petroleum jelly ointments. Unfortunately, I really did not care for it, and ended up using it up on my elbows, where I’m not sure it did any more than it did for my lips. However, you can see I did my best to not waste a drop of it.
CoverGirl The Super Sizer Mascara (Waterproof): I have now embarked on a doomed journey to replace my beloved discontinued Clarins Truly Waterproof. This mascara held a curl and built volume nicely, but it didn’t give me the ultra-long feathery effect I crave. It also smudged a bit under my eyes, which makes me wonder why I put myself through all the pitfalls of a waterproof mascara anyway.
Bare Minerals Prime Time Foundation Primer (deluxe sample): This is a very standard silicone-based primer, which is to say it did absolutely nothing for me and I had no thoughts on it.
Glossier Priming Moisturizer (sample): I guess this belongs in the skincare category, but I put it here to round out this sad little offering. My brief impression of this product is that it’s pretty hydrating and sits well under makeup, but there are a lot of moisturizers that tick those boxes and I’d rather stick with one I don’t have to specially order.
Orly Nail Lacquer in After Party: This is a very fun nail polish with black, navy, and purple microglitter. I distinctly remember ordering it to my first year dorm room, which means it’s at least six years old. I’ve used it a lot and now it’s very gummy and gross and it’s time to say goodbye. It was gorgeous, though.
Sally Hansen Gem Crush Nail Color in Lady Luck: I honestly don’t know how this survived the great nail polish declutter of 2017, because it is gaudy as hell in a way that does not appeal to me. (I mean, I love some gaudy things, just not this.) It’s also completely dried up and gross. Bye.
Sally Hansen Diamond Shine Base and Top Coat: Not as good as my trusty Sally Hansen Miracle Gel top coat, the subject of one of my earliest blog posts. (Please see the first image in this blog post for evidence that I indulge my love for gaudy things frequently. That hideous ring cost me $0.37 at H&M.) I have since corrected this error in judgment.
Quo Blending Sponge: This used to be my favourite blending sponge, but they have definitely reformulated it. It has way less give and it soaks up a tonne of product. I’m currently using another one which I bought simply to ensure that this one wasn’t just a dud (it was not), and then I’ll have to find something else.
Now I’m going to throw this all in the recycling bin and start anew!
Okay, more book reviews! This month I read 9 books, taking the 2019 total up to 17. There was quite a bit this month that underwhelmed me, but there were some winners too.
Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins
A 10th-century Bohemian king wishing to escape death flees to India in search of immortality. He and his wife spend hundreds of years living their best lives and concocting an incredible perfume. In the late 20th century, the perfume in its original bottle has made its way to a divorced waitress in Seattle via her adoptive mother who runs a perfumery in New Orleans. The king, who has been separated from his wife for centuries, believes the key to reunion lies in finding the bottle. This is a darkly funny novel, sort of in the style of Vonnegut if Vonnegut were prone to overwrought metaphors and Orientalism and overt sexualization of women of colour. The immortal king prizes individualism, which is ironic given both his extreme attachment to his wife and the fact that the novel depends on the interconnectedness of people throughout a thousand years of history. There were parts of this book that I found enjoyable, and I thought it came together well at the end. It’s clever and amusing (a “romp”, some might call it), and I get the appeal. But it took me a long time to read for a 350-page novel, and I didn’t fully connect with Robbins’ writing style.
Against Interpretation and Other Essays by Susan Sontag
Reading this book, I realized that I like Sontag’s writing style more than I like her ideas. Some of her essays knock my socks off; I still think Illness as Metaphor / AIDS and its Metaphors is wonderful, and some of the more generalized essays in this collection were interesting. But a lot of her more specific art criticism is tedious, and I often found myself taking a slightly different critical position. “Notes on ‘Camp'” remains a thorn in my side; she articulates the aesthetics of camp so clearly and brilliantly, but, well, I didn’t spend a large portion of my master’s dissertation vigourously refuting her central claims in that essay for nothing. (Camp is political!) I don’t know if I should be irritated by her obsession with the art of European men or happy that she directs so much scorn towards them. She wrote some amazing zingers directed at men, which almost makes the whole thing worth it.
Lanark: A Life In Four Books by Alasdair Gray
A landmark in Scottish literature, Lanark is made up of four books presented out of order. The first and last concern the titular character as he attempts to navigate a surreal, dystopian afterlife which is probably hell; the middle books follow Glaswegian Duncan Thaw from childhood to his postwar life in art school. These sections are naturalistic and brilliantly-rendered. I think I’m a sucker for coming-of-age stories about artists, and the Glaswegian content was glorious. Thaw’s afterlife was so genuinely bleak and disturbing in a way that I haven’t often encountered – and not because anything so terrible happens but because it’s characterized by endless bureaucracy, which is holding Lanark back from taking any real action while simultaneously being the only thing moving him forward. I haven’t read a book this atmospheric in a long time. There is such a playfulness with the form of literature, especially in the epilogue (which is slotted in three chapters before the end of the book). There’s definitely a permeating misogyny running through this one, and it’s hard to tell if that’s because of the author or a function of Lanark/Thaw’s rather unsympathetic character. I’m inclined to say it’s the latter, as the male characters in the book are uniformly terrible in a very deliberate way. There are a lot of themes in this one that I’ve noticed some earlier Scottish literature: the idea of doubling of the self, the suggestion of the devil’s presence, the ambivalent grappling with morality. (I’m mostly thinking of Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner.) This is a long, dense one, but I found it enchanting (in a very disturbing way) and I’d highly recommend it.
Final Girls by Riley Sager
In her sophomore year of college, Quincy Carpenter was the sole survivor of a violent attack on her group of friends. The media named her a “Final Girl”, alongside two other women who survived similar massacres. I was really excited to finally get to this one, because I’ve been known to enjoy a female-fronted thriller and because the premise is so delicious. I’m a huge baby about horror films, but I still find them absolutely fascinating. They’re so ripe for interpretation, and some of the best film criticism concerns the genre. (I took a class on horror during undergrad and I still think of it very fondly.) I thought this book was going to subvert horror tropes in an interesting way. I should have known from the beginning that Sager’s understanding of the horror genre is shallow at best; Quincy explains that the “final girl” is a trope used by “film geeks”, when in fact it was actually coined in an academic context by Carol Clover in the book Men, Women, and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film. (I mean, film buffs use it too, but there’s a lot more to it than that.) (By the way, last year I was talking about the final girl trope with this guy who was trying to refute it as if I were making it up on the spot, and I was like, “No, it’s a real thing, I took a class on horror in undergrad,” and he didn’t believe me until another guy backed me up and that’s basically what I imagine the majority of horror buffs to be like.)
In general I found basically nothing to redeem this book. I wasn’t expecting it to be a work of literary genius, but I thought it would be fun. But it wasn’t! While it was very trope-laden, there was no element of subversion. Here is an incomplete list of horror tropes that this book partakes in unironically: the final girl (morally pure, “not like other girls”, not reliant on men, unisex name), the cabin in the woods, the hard-partying sexually-active girl dying first, the mysterious stranger arriving out of thin air… Yet this book has no sense of the irony, humour, or intelligence required to make it a successful satire. It only has cardboard characters and a few unsatisfying cheap twists. Quincy is the blandest character in the world and no amount of repetitive Xanax abuse could make her interesting, nor could the constant insistence that she survived a massacre because she was somehow special or morally-superior. The pacing was far too slow for this book to be thrilling or even a bit tense. It was just flat and stupid, and the ending was infuriating. A twist only works if it’s been set up carefully. When it’s conjured out of thin air, it’s just garbage.
God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater by Kurt Vonnegut
In the mid-60s, eccentric alcoholic Eliot Rosewater feels (rightfully) guilty about the massive fortune he is set to inherit and dedicates his life to extravagant philanthropy lavished on a small town in Indiana. Meanwhile, a young lawyer assigned to help manage the Rosewater Foundation’s vast wealth sees opportunity in having Eliot declared legally insane and transferring his wealth to his distant cousin, a working class insurance salesman in Rhode Island. This appears to be Vonnegut’s most overtly political book in that he very clearly takes the stance that extreme wealth is unethical. (Well, I guess the anti-war message of Slaughterhouse-Five is up there, too.) Central to the novel is the idea that some people have no use (meaning they do not generate wealth) but that they deserve help and love anyway. As always, there is so much humanity in Vonnegut’s dark humour and absurdism. The ending of this one is hilariously satisfying in a way Vonnegut so rarely is. This is top tier for me – and now I only have three Vonnegut novels left to read. I’m hoping to knock those off before the year is out!
The New Fuck You: Adventures in Lesbian Reading, edited by Eileen Myles and Liz Kotz
I thought this would be a lot more angry and political, but it turned out to be experimental and touchy-feely and kind of crunchy, which I guess is the other side of the 90s lesbian coin. There were some pieces in this book that were extremely well-written and resonant, but a lot of it felt tedious. I’ll admit that I have never gotten into poetry (which is possibly a strange and nonsensical thing to say, but it is what it is), so there is that, but I really don’t think that experimental crunchy touchy-feely 90s lesbian poetry was ever going to be what got me into the genre. I was ready to be mad and political, so this just left me disappointed.
The Idiot by Elif Batuman
In the mid 1990s, a precocious eighteen-year-old named Selin begins her studies at Harvard. In her Russian class, she makes two Eastern-European friends: Svetlana, who is larger-than-life and charismatic, and mathematician Ivan, who is withdrawn and mysterious. Selin is drawn to Ivan and begins a bizarre email correspondence with him. My stance on books generally is that if too much time is dedicated to handwringing over men I’m not a fan. However, things are a bit different when the book meticulously picks apart a certain type of male pretension and self-aggrandizement at the expense of women. Selin is such an interesting character; in less capable hands I think she would have been unbearable, but there’s an earnestness to her pretentiousness that makes her endearing rather than grating. Selin’s anxiety that she has no opinions echoes some of my own insecurities at the beginning of my undergraduate career. Batuman’s thoughts on language are fascinating: how it shapes our perspectives, how it fails us, how we struggle to articulate ourselves in languages that are not our own. This is a funny, touching, wonderfully-articulated novel that somehow manages to fully realize its ambitious scope.
Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn
The cover is the best part of this book.
In Montego Bay, thirty-year-old Margot works at a hotel (and as an escort) to make ends meet. She wants to send her fifteen-year-old sister Thandi to medical school so that she may have a better life than Margot and her mother. Thandi, however, is more preoccupied with the boy she has a crush on and with her attempts to lighten her skin; she wants to be an artist, and though she’s a conscientious student, she finds the mounting pressure to make something of herself stifling. Margot, whose family does not know that she is a sex worker, is also hiding the fact that she is in love with a middle class woman who lives in their neighbourhood. When a new resort threatens to displace the community, Margot sees opportunity. The premise of this novel is great, but unfortunately I had a lot of problems with the execution. The characters are so unsympathetic it’s hard to care what happens to them; Margot especially does some truly terrible things while maintaining a martyr complex. There are a lot of themes here that interest me: colourism, same-sex relationships in extremely homophobic societies, intergenerational/inherited trauma, tourism as neocolonialism, sex tourism. I just didn’t feel that any of these topics was engaged with successfully; no meaningful conclusions were reached. The primary story was the dynamic between the two sisters, so when the novel shifted perspectives my attention wandered. This novel was set in the mid-90s, but the setting didn’t seem particularly developed, unlike The Idiot (which is unquestionably set in the 90s). The writing felt to me like it was trying very hard to be lyrical, but to its detriment that effort was very visible. In general it felt underdeveloped, and I found very little I liked. Marlon James’ A Brief History of Seven Killings (though much longer) way more successfully works through themes related to Jamaican history and identity; Jamaica Kincaid’s A Small Place is an excellent longform essay on the Caribbean tourism industry as neocolonialism. This book failed to come close to either of those.
Swing Time by Zadie Smith
After adoring Zadie Smith’s first novel, White Teeth, I have been trying in vain to find another one of her novels that fully realizes that potential. Swing Time is the closest I’ve found, though it seems to have generally received lukewarm reviews. An unnamed narrator takes us through her childhood in council flats in North London, a period marked by her ambitious, idealistic mother’s activism and her fraught friendship with a talented dancer named Tracey. As an adult, the narrator becomes the personal assistant to the philanthropic yet wrongheaded Australian mononymous pop star Aimee. The narrative moves between the narrator’s childhood in the 1980s to her career in the aughts as she helps Aimee construct a school for girls in a West African village. (The consequences of this foreign aid venture are explored quite believably, I think.) There’s a lot going on here, and I’ll admit that I didn’t necessarily think the village storyline meshed with what I thought was a captivating account of working class childhood. There aren’t really any likeable characters here, but I really enjoyed how the narrator was consistently drawn to difficult women: her mother, the charismatic yet cruel Tracey, Aimee. The shifting dynamics between the narrator and Tracey were rendered brilliantly, and I thought the complicated relationship between mother and child was touching. I really enjoyed the structure of the plot: because it moves back and forth, we are often told about an event in passing before it is shown. (I think the title is a reference to this, though of course it also refers to the film of the same name and the recurring theme of dance more generally.) Zadie Smith can turn a phrase like no one else; I consistently admire her writing, though her storytelling isn’t always perfect. The ending of the book felt like a bit of a letdown, like the whole novel was building to something that turned out to be fairly tame. (Also how I felt about the ending of NW.) Though Smith didn’t quite stick the landing for me, I enjoyed this book a lot more than NW and On Beauty, and this has given me hope that her upcoming novel might be the masterpiece I believe she has in her.
This month I would say my favourites were God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, The Idiot, and Swing Time. Some real misses in here, but next month we can start afresh and hope for more hits.
With the Oscars around the corner, here’s another batch of reviews of some films I’ve seen recently in my quest to be a knowledgeable Oscar viewer for once. The films I’ve seen in 2019 have generally been a lot more enjoyable than the ones I watched in the fall, though I have criticisms of most of them!
Mary Queen of Scots, dir. Josie Rourke
This film was a mess. It could have been far more enjoyable if it had leaned into its messiness, but instead it was a strange, hollow narrative with some great performances from Saoirse Ronan (with a slightly-questionable Scottish accent) and Margot Robbie (who did a valiant job of pretending she was ugly). The political drama at the centre of the film was not particularly well-realized. There were hints of a camp consciousness that I really wished the film had explored further, particularly in Robbie’s Elizabeth. There was so much promise in her increasingly bizarre appearance coupled with the scene in which she makes paper crafts while drinking wine as her nemesis has a baby. However, the film as a whole never lived up to that potential. It was still kind of enjoyable in its messiness, particularly in the absurdity of Ronan’s Mary being cast as a gay ally. Also the part where Elizabeth snatches her own wig. I saw this one with my coworker and her roommate, and when it was over we sat in silence for a moment before saying, “I don’t know what just happened.” It was simultaneously insane and boring. (Really, it was mostly boring with some insane moments.)
If Beale Street Could Talk, dir. Barry Jenkins
This was my Oscar pick until it was snubbed quite thoroughly, but I will not dwell on that! (Though it really is terrible.) Screen adaptations are always a tricky beast, and I imagine the pressure of adapting James Baldwin’s work must be immense. I probably would have side-eyed this project had it been done by anyone but Barry Jenkins, who managed to capture the tenderness of the novel while staying faithful to the particular advantages of film. (The cinematography was absolutely beautiful, and the use of colour symbolism was a gorgeous touch. The costume design was just wonderful! Oh, and the score – so lush and evocative.) The love story at the heart of the film is as touching and fully-realized as in the novel, but Jenkins engages with the political aspects of the story a bit more overtly. In particular, the film mixes in archival photographs of police brutality and Black prisoners over Tish’s narration in order to situate the story of Fonny’s unjust incarceration within the climate of systemic racism. It’s hard not to speculate that this political message (and exclusive focus on complex Black characters, of course) might have prevented this wonderful film from reaching the mainstream success one would expect of a project directed by a man who just won the Oscar for Best Picture two years ago… Anyway, please go see this one. It’s just beautiful.
Vice, dir. Adam McKay
While Vice definitely verges on self-impressed at times, the outstanding performances by Christian Bale and Amy Adams make it hard not to enjoy. Bale is obviously transformative, literally unrecognizable in this role. Amy Adams’ performance is subtle and nuanced; she plays Lynne Cheney as a sweet, agreeable woman with a venomous hunger for power lurking just below the surface. Some of the other performances, while enjoyable, are a bit broad (Sam Rockwell’s George W. Bush in particular, though the resemblance is uncanny). I won’t spoil it, but the reveal of the narrator’s identity feels forced for the sake of cleverness. (Indeed, this is a fictional invention on McKay’s part.) The scope of the film is ambitious, which leads to an erratic feeling. There’s Cheney’s personal life (especially the friction between his political ambitions and the fact that his daughter Mary is a lesbian), there’s his ascent to power, there’s the wider historical context. It’s trying to do so much that it fails to fully realize any of its aspirations. The ultimate political message of the film, delivered in a direct address monologue, is that if Dick Cheney abused his power while in office, the American people wanted it. It’s a tempting idea: that decades of democratically-elected politicians chipping away at civil liberties with the full knowledge of the people have delivered us to this point in history. But the reality of the Bush-Cheney White House, as well as the current administration (which the film certainly wants us to draw parallels to), is not so cut and dry. The blame for the political climate cannot be placed squarely on the shoulders of the American people. What about the imperialism that created America in the first place, the capitalism at the heart of the political system? It’s a film that plays around with form and that asks a lot of big questions, but ultimately I found it ambivalent in making any truly interesting points. That said, it’s still enjoyable – if you can get past its smugness.
The Favourite, dir. Yorgos Lanthimos
This is the over-the-top period drama I wanted Mary Queen of Scots to be. The performances are uniformly wonderful. Olivia Colman as Queen Anne is bubbling with overblown emotion while displaying more subtle affect; Rachel Weisz’s brusque Lady Marlborough is simply brimming with ambition, and her fall from grace is rendered brilliantly. (Emma Stone is great, too, but since she’s nominated in the same category as Weisz I’d have to take her out of the running.) The cinematography is inspired, with fisheye shots suggesting emotional isolation. (I’ve discussed this before when writing about Alias Grace, but I love when historical films draw attention to the fact that they are films through their cinematography, suggesting anachronism in the use of technology.) You could get lost in the extravagant mise-en-scène. I loved the costume design: the delightful anachronisms (the prints! the denim dresses! redbottoms!), the colour symbolism (Abigail and Sarah switch colour palettes as their power dynamics shift), the naturalism of the women’s appearances contrasted with the extravagance of the male characters. We can really see the facial expressions of the women, whereas the men’s emotional depth is precluded by the layers of makeup and enormous wigs. Speaking of the male characters, none of them are particularly important narratively; Masham functions only as a way for Abigail to get closer to the Queen, which is a delightful inversion of the usual power dynamics. The men posture and preen with no real potency. In the world of this film, men are basically irrelevant – they aren’t even needed sexually. The Favourite is hilarious, richly textured, and completely enjoyable. I’d love to watch it again – there’s just so much going on visually and thematically, I think it invites a repeat viewing.
(ALSO Rachel Weisz in breeches is everything. We are so lucky.)
Roma, dir. Alfonso Cuarón
I went into Roma knowing the following things: 1) It’s a co-production between Mexico and the US (and it’s in Spanish); 2) It’s a Netflix original (though it was also released in select theatres I assume to make it Oscar-eligible); 3) It is highly favoured to win Best Picture; 4) It’s in black and white. 1) and 2) combined to make the prospect of 3) appealing; the Oscars are so blatantly stuck in the past that I’m excited by the possibility of a foreign-language streaming service original winning the top prize, though one could argue that the Academy’s historic ambivalence towards both foreign films and non-traditionally-distributed content points to its increasing obsolescence in today’s media landscape. Anyway, I was ready to end up thinking 4) was a cheap signifier of artistic merit, which is how I viewed the artsy shots in Beautiful Boy.
It very quickly became evident to me that Roma is a deliberate nod to Italian neorealism of the 1940s: its focus on the everyday life of the working class, its heavy use of children, the non-professional actors. (Speaking of which, Yalitza Aparicio was so phenomenally expressive in the leading role of Cleo.) The black and white is then excusable, but I’ve talked to a few people who aren’t familiar with Italian cinematic history who still find the choice strange. It’s a clever nod (and the film is certainly a stellar modern take on the genre), but to fully work it requires specialized knowledge. That’s nothing new for the Academy, which has for decades generally gone for arty films over popular offerings. (See this year’s controversy over the proposed Best Popular Picture category…) Not every film has to be accessible, but I can’t really blame people who aren’t film buffs for not quite getting some of the artistic choices here.
That said, if we can get past the black and white issue, this is a stirring, stunningly-shot film that is at its core about women’s resilience in the face of men’s betrayal. The class difference between live-in housekeeper/nanny Cleo and her mistress Sofía is blatant both visually and behaviourally; their dynamic is fascinating because Sofía does genuinely love the vulnerable and emotional Cleo while never quite treating her like a family member. (At the beginning of the film, Cleo has just settled in to watch TV with the family when Sofía asks her to get her husband a cup of tea.) Yet there is a bond and solidarity between them that transcends these boundaries. Sofía is incredibly supportive of Cleo’s pregnancy, even when the father wants nothing to do with her or the baby, and thanks to Cleo’s loving care of Sofía’s four children, they remain basically carefree even when their father leaves his family for another woman. Sofía tells Cleo that women are always alone, but this is not true, and the film knows it: women have one another.
In my cynicism I think the Academy will probably prove the betting people right and give Roma best picture, partially because it’s a beautiful, well-constructed film, but partially because they’re going to have to acknowledge Netflix sooner or later or risk irrelevance, and it’s relatively on brand to reward a film that makes slightly esoteric nods to film history written and directed by a guy who’s already won an Oscar. I’m not saying Roma doesn’t deserve the award, but the Oscars are entirely political and I’d wager there’s a lot going on behind the scenes when it comes to a foreign-language Netflix original being so heavily favoured to win the most coveted prize in the film industry.
Anyway, my pick out of all the Best Picture nominees has to be The Favourite, but I’d be happy if Roma won. Best Supporting Actress is an incredibly stacked category and realistically anyone could deservedly win, but I’m hoping for either Regina King (to make up for If Beale Street Could Talk being snubbed!!) or Amy Adams (because SHE DESERVES AN OSCAR!!!). Glenn Close is a shoe-in for Best Actress, but The Favourite‘s recent success at the BAFTAs makes me hope for an Olivia Colman upset. The Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor categories are pretty bad, so I’m just hoping A Star Is Born/Bradley Cooper win as little as possible. Yes, I am petty and bitter. What else is new?
While my aesthetic isn’t quite as minimalistic as Glossier’s, I think my own personal approach to makeup is more in line with the brand than with mid-2010s Instagram looks. And though Glossier has been shipping to Canada for a year and a half now, I’ve been reluctant to dip my toes into the water. I’ve learned from various ill-fated ColourPop orders that it’s best not to buy makeup sight unseen, and Glossier’s marketing has always felt a bit self-congratulatory to me even if the products themselves appeal. All this to explain why I’m embarrassingly late on this bandwagon. Although my usual strategy is to be behind the curve so other people can do the hard work of trying things out and telling me what’s good, in which case a) this is par for the course, and b) I’m not sure why I have a beauty blog.
Now, I won a stick of Haloscope in Quartz from a giveaway on Renee’s blog back in 2016, so I was already aware that there was at least one Glossier product that I love an ungodly amount. (I still use Haloscope basically every day.) So I guess this was a slightly lower-risk enterprise than my numerous ColourPop hauls. Anyway, I picked up the much-hyped Lash Slick mascara on the recommendation of the entire internet but specifically Alison and Auxiliary Beauty, as well as the Lidstar in Fawn thanks to reviews from the same people. I’ve been trying them both out for about a month now, so I can give a proper review in case you really needed my opinion on two products that have been out for like forty-six years.
Glossier Lash Slick Mascara
As always, my biggest mascara-related issues are that everything seems to smudge on my lower eyelid and that nothing holds a curl. Except waterproof mascara. But waterproof mascara is hard to take off and it still smudges, which seems like a very garbage combination of qualities. There has to be a better way! I was promised (promised, I tell you) by multiple bloggers that Lash Slick does not smudge. I was also promised by Glossier (a less trustworthy source, I understand) that it “curls and sculpts as it lengthens, enhancing the look of your natural lashes instead of clumping them together”. I tend to get on pretty well with fibre mascaras, so this seemed promising.
My actual stance on Lash Slick is that it’s okay. Here’s what I like about it: first, it absolutely does not smudge. I have heard of it smudging on other people, but it does not smudge on me, which I’m sure you’ll agree is what actually matters here. It’s not the least bit clumpy, which is definitely great, although that does mean that it gives a subtler overall look. Ideally my eyelashes would look very long and defined without being thick and clumpy, and Lash Slick does fall short of that, although that’s to be expected from Glossier and the actual subtler look is certainly nice.
My biggest issue is that this mascara doesn’t hold a curl on me despite Glossier’s promise, which is a huge bummer. It’s like, what’s the point of my eyelashes looking nice if they’re pointing downwards and nobody can see they look nice? If lashes look nice in a forest but nobody sees them, is a $20 mascara really worth it?
I think this a good mascara and it would be ideally-suited for someone who doesn’t struggle with downward-pointing, curl-resistant lashes and who likes a more natural look. Honestly, even though it’s a bit more subtle than I usually go for, I could be convinced to keep buying it for the smudge-resistant factor alone if only it held a damn curl. But that’s always a dealbreaker.
Anyway, here’s the plastic brush on Lash Slick, which is usually not my favourite type of applicator but does a fine job in this case:
And here’s how my lashes look without and with a few coats of Lash Slick:
I’m sure you can agree that things would be a lot better for all of us if my lashes were curled more than a millimetre. Also if I hadn’t smudged mascara on my eyelid, but that’s real life around these parts.
Glossier Lidstar in Fawn
I’ve been dabbling in the world of liquid eyeshadows for about two years now; between the various Stila offerings and the never-talked-about Urban Decay Liquid Moondust eyeshadows, I’ve been pretty satisfied. But why not try another formula, especially when Glossier makes Fawn, an irresistible cool taupe? Ugh, I can’t say no to a true taupe, and my collection actually lacks this type of colour in powder or liquid form.
The elephant in the room is obviously that the packaging of the Lidstars, which cost $22, looks like cheap shit. I’ve heard the caps are prone to cracking, as well, which I have not yet experienced but which I will eagerly anticipate. Anyway, packaging notwithstanding, I really like this product.
I have not felt any desire to do complex eyeshadow looks for months now, and this is the perfect lazy day eyeshadow. I can dot a bit onto each lid and blend it out with my finger and be done with things. This is undoubtedly a sheer, thin formula, although it can be built up without any disaster. (I’ve tried some liquid eyeshadows that feel gummy and crease horribly when layered too much.) I find it sets fairly quickly, so quick response time is necessary when blending it out. It’s smooth as butter to blend, though. Departing slightly from the glowing reviews I’ve read of the Lidstars, I do find the most minimal creasing at the end of a full day of wear. (This doesn’t bother me, but I thought I’d point it out for the sake of thoroughness.)
Here’s how two layers, blended out, looks on my eyes:
I told you that I always smudge mascara on my eyelid!!!
Obviously, this is by no means an impactful visual statement, but that absolutely has a place in my life.
Here’s what the doefoot applicator looks like:
It’s quite small, which I appreciate greatly as I do not have large swaths of eyelid space.
And here’s a comparison to some other liquid eyeshadows:
L-R: Glossier Lidstar in Fawn blended out; Fawn built up and unblended; Stila Shimmer and Glow Liquid Eyeshadow in Jezebel; Urban Decay Liquid Moondust in Solstice
Stila is the most opaque and metallic; UD is semi-sheer but still more opaque than Glossier, and it has more densely-packed glitter particles. I always think of liquid eyeshadows as high-impact and high-shine, but Glossier has blessed us with a formula that’s super quick and easy to apply and that makes for a subtle but still gorgeous look.
Obviously, I’m a big fan of the Lidstar in Fawn and a little more lukewarm on Lash Slick. Lash Slick is a bummer because it was so close to being incredible, but I’m glad it fulfils that niche for other people. And, you know, at least I have my still unbroken tube of Lidstar (and my Haloscope).
I’m going to experiment with doing these posts monthly, since I’ve read quite a bit this month and my book posts can get long quickly. This month I read 8 books – with my goal of 50 this year, I’m obviously really happy with this number.
Hunger: A Memoir of My Body by Roxane Gay
While this is certainly a book about what it means to be fat, it’s so much more than that. Running through the heart of the memoir is Roxane Gay’s childhood rape, and how that violation of her body is inextricably tied up in the way she treats her body in adulthood. Gay’s writing is accessible yet clearly intelligent, her insight sharp: most enlightening to me were her descriptions of how basic infrastructure does not accommodate her body. The title refers most obviously to an appetite for food, but Gay hungers for so much more: love, (self-)acceptance, resolution. Most profoundly moving about this book is the futility of longing for closure, the idea that working through trauma is a lifelong process that reflects in the mind, the body, and life as a whole.
Seven Fallen Feathers by Tanya Talaga
Indigenous journalist Tanya Talaga tells the story of seven northern Indigenous high school students who died in Thunder Bay, Ontario between 2000 and 2011. All seven students were from remote communities and moved to Thunder Bay without their families for their high school educations. Of course, this story is not just about the lives and deaths of these teenagers but also about the legacy of the residential school system and the thriving culture of racism and neocolonialism that persists to this day. The indifference of the police in pursuing these cases is chilling; even after an eight-month inquest many of the deaths are of “inconclusive” cause due to sloppy police work which can never be remedied. I struggle to believe that five able-bodied teenagers who all happened to be from northern Indigenous communities accidentally drowned in the river over the span of a decade. The current Canadian government likes to talk a big game about reconciliation, but their promises are clearly hollow. (Just ask the water defenders at Unist’ot’en Camp how much support Justin Trudeau is giving their cause…) Talaga’s writing is searing and urgent: Canada has purposefully failed Indigenous people, a series of broken systems doing nothing to mitigate the serious harm neocolonialism continues to reproduce.
The Break by Katherena Vermette
Four generations of Indigenous women living in Winnipeg’s North End come together in the face of a brutal assault on one of their own. Each character struggles with letting their pasts go, but the love this matriarchal family has for each other is powerful. They display such resilience and strength. An overarching theme that I loved was women believing other women’s experiences of sexual assault and harassment, never diminishing, never questioning. My biggest issue with this novel was that one of the POV characters was a Métis police officer, whose perspective I just didn’t think added anything to the text. He was supposed to show the near-irreconcilability of Indigenous identity and law enforcement, but ultimately his storyline took away from what was otherwise a stirring narrative of bonds between women.
The Overstory by Richard Powers
Stunning cover design, if nothing else.
This is a novel about the necessity of trees in sustaining life on planet Earth and about how all living things are delicately interconnected. There was a lot that I liked about it: multiple narratives and magical realism are fast-track tickets straight to my heart. Powers skilfully enshrouded nonfictional information into a work of fiction. Even before the characters are drawn together, there are connections between them, most notably in their traumas and losses that cause them to disconnect from humanity and seek solace in something larger. One loner character becomes a dendrologist; one becomes a wealthy video game designer; another is a reclusive artist. The descriptive passages are extremely well-rendered and lovely to read.
So, here’s the thing. It is time to stop putting up with bullshit from male authors who cannot help but sexualize a young female manic pixie dream girl character to the point that her much-older boyfriend gets turned on by watching her pee. I mean, no. It’s 2019, we are not doing this anymore.
That isn’t my only issue with this novel, but I must be very clear: sometimes female characters are so blatantly written by men that it is a substantial enough problem to knock off two stars from a rating. My other substantial problem with The Overstory is how poorly-integrated the political content was. Look, this is a polemical novel, and it’s not trying not to be. Obviously, Richard Powers is an environmentalist, and that is fine, and probably why he wrote this novel. But his opinions are put into the mouths of his characters in the form of monologues, and that just lacks finesse. We don’t need to be hit over the head with the message. These characters are radical environmental activists, for God’s sake. There’s no need to write literal pages of a speech telling us how amazing trees are. By the time we’ve made it four hundred pages into this book, we are all very aware. There’s just not a lot of subtlety or subtext here, though the book is so beautifully-written that you could be fooled into thinking there is.
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
Okay, let’s get this out of the way: despite its apparent dark subject matter, this is a fluffy novel. Moriarty’s characters are charming and well-conceived; everyone is fleshed-out and likeable despite their flaws. I went into this knowing absolutely nothing about the plot, but given the hype both the book and HBO series have engendered I expected a bit more. It was juicy and dramatic, but I think I was expecting it to be more artistically-complex given HBO’s highbrow inclinations. And I expected more twists! I enjoy a thriller here and there, and most of the joy in one is seeing how all the pieces that you missed come together. I never quite felt that with Big Little Lies; there was a lack of intricacy to the plot. (And I did figure out who died!) While the domestic abuse plot was handled sensitively in isolation, I do feel a bit iffy about the overall tone of the book (funny, juicy, generally lighthearted) with that particular theme. I’ve since watched the HBO adaptation, and that’s more in line with what I was expecting of the book, though I still didn’t love it. However, I’d say it’s worth a watch just for Nicole Kidman’s outstanding performance. This would be the perfect book to read on vacation, but it’s not exactly a masterpiece.
(By the way, I just want to say that Liane Moriarty’s younger sister Jaclyn wrote some of the best young adult novels of all time and I genuinely think I have read The Year of Secret Assignments more than any other book on this planet. I can actually see similarities in both authors’ senses of humour, too.)
Insurrecto by Gina Apostol
The plot summary for this book does it no justice. Ostensibly, it’s about a Philippines-born translator hired by a white American filmmaker writing a screenplay about a massacre that happened in the Philippines at the turn of the century. The filmmaker’s father made his own war film in the Philippines in the 70s (think Apocalypse Now) before dying under slightly mysterious circumstances; his daughter Chiara struggles to move on, personally and artistically, from the shadow his work, life, and death have cast on her. Magsalin, the translator, struggles with Chiara’s privilege and the cultural imperialism inherent in her project, and decides to rewrite her screenplay. We see the tense interactions between the two women as well as their respective stories – though, interestingly, they are presented as novelistic prose, not as screenplays.
This is a really fascinating premise, but the book itself is structured unusually. Its chapters are numbered out of order, and there’s a lot of metafiction happening. (For instance, it is suggested that Chiara is actually just the protagonist of a mystery novel that Magsalin is writing.) Obviously, the exploration of film as an artistic discipline and cultural force was interesting to my personal interests, and I really enjoyed the way film terminology was woven into the text.
There is so much going on here: explorations of semiotics and the poetics of photography and film; the idea of history as a colonial construction, with blurred lines between history and art suggesting that history is subjective and adaptable; a fascination with appropriation and alternate readings of Western celebrity; a meditation on filmic mediation of the past. The prose is dense and quite academic at points, so it is a lot to digest and certainly begs a second reading. It’s clear that Gina Apostol is an extremely intelligent woman, and while there are passages that can be difficult to digest, the ambition and scope of the novel are admirable.
The Last Painting of Sara de Vos by Dominic Smith
Sara de Vos is a little-known (fictional) painter from the Dutch Golden Age, whose only known surviving painting has been passed down through the de Groot family for centuries. In the late 1950s, wealthy New Yorker Marty de Groot finds that the painting has been stolen from his home and replaced with a convincing forgery. The Last Painting of Sara de Vos is told from three perspectives: those of Sara, Marty, and the art history PhD student and forger extraordinaire Ellie Shipley. Over forty years later, Ellie is curating a show in her native Australia and discovers that both the original painting and the forgery are on their way, threatening to unravel her successful career. I’m a big fan of novels about art heists (I’m one of the only people I know who actually liked The Goldfinch…), and Smith’s prose is very strong. As someone with a graduate degree in film I’m very aware of the difficulties of trying to describe one medium using another, but Smith’s descriptions of de Vos’s paintings are vivid and rich. The forgery plot and interpersonal relationships are interesting and well-explored.
However, I didn’t feel that the historical context of the Netherlands in the 1630s was as developed as it could have been. I read Jessie Burton’s The Miniaturist last year, and its 17th century Netherlands was much more richly-described. While Sara’s story was engaging, it felt like it was part of another novel. In Burton’s second novel, The Muse, the provenance of the painting at the centre of the mystery is integral to the plot, so the flashbacks illuminate the main story. In this novel, however, Sara’s life has little bearing on the forgery plot. It’s not that it isn’t nice to plump up the story with some historical context, but I wish that Smith’s imagining of this era had been a little more robust. If you’re going to go there, go there, you know? This was still an interesting, well-written book with a compelling plot, and I’d recommend it to people who share my interest in art-related intrigue in fiction.
The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst
The marketing of this book is actually bewildering; based on the summary on the back I was wondering why I’d added it to my to read shelf on Goodreads a year ago. Apparently, it’s about a recent university graduate who goes to live with a rich conservative MP in Thatcherite Britain. Except Nick, our protagonist, is gay, and this is essential to the text. (That’s where my interest comes from, obviously…) Having grown up in a working class family, Nick finds himself on the fringes of high society – invited to fancy parties and dinners with politicians, he is always an outsider, a fact underscored by his gayness. It is something that he believes his hosts “tolerate”, although they never talk about his sexuality or relationships despite the fact that he is out. Nick’s isolation and loneliness are partially because he’s pathologically pretentious, with esoteric interests and a condescending manner, but he also struggles to relate to his straight friends, and that particular form of isolation is believable and familiar. There are a lot of 80s tropes here: adulation of Margaret Thatcher; AIDS; lots of cocaine. It all feels fitting and inevitable, though. It’s like, you can’t have high society British people in the 80s without Thatcher. You can’t have a young gay man in the 80s without some mention of AIDS. (Well, there’s more than just a mention, and I like this handling of the topic, which I can be quite picky about being depicted properly.) And you just can’t have parties in the 80s without coke.
There’s not much plot to this novel (though it does get juicy at the end), and it’s longer than it strictly needs to be in a fairly self-indulgent way. But I guess I couldn’t be the one to be too disparaging about a self-indulgent, verbose gay writer, and anyway the prose was enjoyable enough that I didn’t mind. (I feel the same way about Donna Tartt, and though this book is nowhere near as long as The Goldfinch I think if you struggled to tolerate that you might not love this one.) It’s more of an extended character study and a rather searing interrogation into the hypocrisy and false superiority of the British upper class. Nick is not an easy character: his loneliness and desire for love make him sympathetic, but he’s so hedonistic and, despite his complicated doctoral work, rather shallow. There’s an emptiness to him that’s not the result of poor character development but of his own relentless pursuit of pleasure. The ending is incredibly satisfying in the way it wraps up every element of Nick’s character and relationships with others. I really enjoyed this one and I’d heartily recommend it, but you certainly have to be comfortable with a long-ish novel that’s not in the least bit plot-driven.
Overall a pretty good batch of books this month! Both non-fiction books were standouts; in terms of fiction, my favourites were Insurrecto and The Line of Beauty. I currently have a hefty stack of 11 books to get through, plus a few on my Kindle, so I should be good through March if I stay on this pace.
2017 was year zero of tracking my beauty spending, and I hoped to reduce both dollars spent and products acquired in 2018. In a broad sense, I managed to do both. I didn’t set myself a budget for the realms of haircare, bodycare, or skincare, since I don’t tend to overspend in those categories, but at the end of 2017 I gave myself $400 to spend on makeup, nails, and brushes. I easily stuck to that budget, with $268.93 spent in those categories and $769.61 spent overall. This year I spent a lot more on skincare: $271.89, to be exact, which is more than I spent on makeup, nails, and brushes combined. That indicates two things: 1) I obviously became more interested in skincare in 2018, and 2) I transferred some of my desire to spend to that category, although my overall spending was down from 2017.
Here’s a breakdown of my spending per category, with “Misc” made up exclusively of cotton pads:
And since I saved a lot of money through gifts, gratis, sales, PC Optimum points, and my employee discount, here’s the value of what I bought ($1813.58 total) broken down by category.
The most eye-opening thing these charts show me is that while 43% of what crossed the threshold of my home in 2018 was makeup, only 25% of my spending was in the makeup category. While I still love makeup, it’s no longer a spending priority – 10 of my 19 makeup purchases in 2018 were replacements, with nearly all of the new products being gifts or bought with Optimum points. I still like makeup, and I like to try new products, but I prefer not to spend real money on makeup these days.
This year a total of 107 products entered my life, with 57 purchased by me (whether full price or at a discount) and the remaining 50 being gifts or gratis. 36 of those products were replacements; the remaining 71 did not directly replace anything already in my routine.
And here’s the inventory for this year; you can read 2017’s inventory post for a little insight as to why I’ve set up my spreadsheet this way.
As you can see from that last row, I reduced the size of my makeup collection as compared to last year, but it’s still larger than it was when I first started making yearly inventories in 2015. My makeup consumption has naturally gone down as my interest in purchasing in that particular category has waned, so I’m hoping I can continue to pare down my collection in 2019 and really enjoy everything I have. There is a lot I want to write about consumerism in general, and I’m sure I will in due time, so for now I’ll just say that I will be buying less this year.
Slightly belatedly, here’s the last bit of stuff I used up in 2018. Unsurpisingly, there are a lot of staples in this batch, but there’s some newer stuff too.
Bath and Body
As always, I am a shining example of refinement in my refusal to clean off gross globby residue before photographing my garbage for the internet.
A-Derma Exomega Emollient Lotion and Emollient Balm: A-Derma bodycare is always good. I prefer the Emollient Balm because I have dry lizard skin year-round; I used the Lotion up during the summer and switched to the Balm when the weather turned. The 200mL tube goes very quickly!
The Chemistry Brand Hyaluronic Body Mist: I really enjoyed this mist during the summer to quickly top up my hydration without having to commit to rubbing lotion in. It’s too bad it’s been discontinued!
Marc Anthony Nourishing Argan Oil of Morocco Extra Hydrating Shampoo with Keratin: This was my first shampoo purchase post-blonde, and I liked it. I don’t think it’s particularly better than all of the other hydrating shampoos on the market, but it worked and I enjoyed the scent and texture. It is a bit on the thicker side so if you have fine hair you might not like this.
Olaplex Hair Perfector Number 3: Olaplex literally saved my hair’s life. After a certain point it didn’t particularly help anymore, but I used it as a treatment about once a week just to encourage my hair to continue getting healthier. I think it’s best as a short-term treatment to repair severely damaged hair (or, you know, as a preventative step when used in conjunction with the salon-only Number 1 and Number 2). All I can say is that my before and after pictures truly speak for themselves.
La Roche-Posay Micellar Water Ultra: I really enjoy the LRP Micellar Waters. However, I have literally five 500mL bottles of Bioderma in my cupboard, so I won’t be repurchasing any time soon.
Avène 3-in-1 Make-up Remover: I didn’t like this – it left a major residue on my face and wasn’t particularly effective compared to my favourite gel cleanser, which is by Marcelle. Glad this was gratis from my old job, because I would not be happy to have spent money on this!
Lancôme Bi-Facil Double Action Eye Makeup Remover: Still a great product for stubborn waterproof eye makeup, still way overpriced compared to the La Roche-Posay version. Now and then a bottle of Bi-Facil will come into my life and I’ll use it because it is good, but I will certainly not be purchasing it ever again.
The Ordinary Marine Hyaluronics: I thought I would prefer this to the original Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 since it’s much more lightweight, but that wasn’t the case. It’s so thin and watery that I found it tricky to apply. It worked just fine, but the HA 2% is a bit more user-friendly, in my opinion.
Nuxe Rêve de Miel Ultra-Nourishing Lip Balm: Standard. This is the fourth one I’ve gone through (and I’m well into my fifth), so you know it’s serious.
StriVection Active Infusion Youth Serum: This is an overpriced serum. The pump stopped dispensing product pretty soon after I started using it, so I had to screw off the lid and tip the serum out. That’s a pretty major flaw for a $100 serum! I didn’t particularly notice any results. (I got this as gratis from my old job.)
La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo: I did enjoy this salicylic acid-based spot treatment, but I’ve switched to The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% since it’s far more cost-effective.
Strivectin Multi-Action Stress Defense Hydrating Water Gel: This is an overpriced gel moisturizer. It was fine, but it was only workable because I used it during the summer. I shudder to think how flaky my skin would be in the winter if I used this! This was old gratis as well.
NIOD Photography Fluid 12% sample x3: After going through four sample packets of this glowy primer, I ended up getting the full size. It made my 2018 favourites list, so obviously I like it. It’s definitely on the pricey side, but I love the effect it gives my skin.
The Ordinary High-Spreadability Fluid Primer: I have never found a silicone-based primer that I have felt does anything. I used this up to use it up. All I really need is a good illuminating primer!
IT Cosmetics Your Skin But Better CC+ Colour Correcting Coverage Cream*: Ugh, I told myself I wasn’t going to buy another tube of this because the shade range is so terrible, but I really miss it. I absolutely love the coverage, finish, and wear of this foundation, but I do hesitate to support a brand that really lacks inclusivity. I’m on the market for a similar product that I feel a bit better buying!
The Ordinary Colours Serum Foundation in 1.1N: I liked this foundation a lot in the summer and less in the winter. I wish it was a bit more seasonally versatile, because the lightweight feel and coverage and skinlike finish were great. I’ve gone back to my MUFE Ultra HD because that one is a lot easier to work with (even in the winter). However, for $6.70 I think I got my money’s worth out of this foundation and I’m happy to have tried it.
Bourjois Radiance Reveal Concealer: I loved everything about this truly radiant, brightening concealer except the fact that the lightest shade was just a bit too dark to be workable. I ended up using it up by mixing it in with a lighter concealer, but that’s just too much work for me to continue doing daily. Luckily I now have my First Aid Beauty concealer, which is a great colour match.
Annabelle Skinny Brow Liner in Universal Taupe: I liked the waxy consistency and fine tip of this brow pencil, but the colour was a hair too warm for me. It’s nice to have a brow pencil on hand for lazy days, but ultimately I’ve been loyal to brow pomade for over five years now.
L’Oreal Brow Sylist Boost & Set Brow Gel in Clear: I never hear anyone talking about this brow gel, but I’ve been through several tubes now. It has the perfect amount of hold without making the brow hairs feel stiff or crispy. It’s a bit expensive for what it is at full price, but I try to buy it when it goes on sale for 40% off.
Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner: I went through SO MANY of these pens. I was devoted to the cause for years and years. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with this liner in my opinion. It’s just that I’ve found something much cheaper that works just as well.
NYX Epic Ink Liner: Yeah, this is my go-to liner now. It does everything the Stila does for 1/3 of the price. My only gripe is that it’s not sold at Shoppers, so I have to go to the NYX store for it. I tend to just buy one when I’m at the mall so I’m not left liner-less.
Clarins Truly Waterproof Mascara: Listen, I have never found a better mascara. This holds a curl and creates the most beautiful fluttery, defined, lengthened lashes. I am in denial that this has been discontinued.
The only proper conclusion for this post is to beg for non-smudging mascara recommendations for people with stubbornly straight eyelashes. (I’m currently trying out Glossier Lash Slick and liking but not loving it, so I’m open to suggestions!)