Books read: October to December 2017

Posted on January 15, 2018 under Books

I read all of this quarter’s books on my Kindle!

I didn’t read too many books in the last quarter of 2017, but luckily I had planned for that eventuality and still made my goal of 50 (with one to spare). Here’s what I read in the last few months of 2017.

RuPaul’s Drag Race and the Shifting Visibility of Drag Culture: The Boundaries of Reality TV, edited by Niall Brennan

My undergraduate degree was basically in pop culture, and now that I’m in film & TV I still find myself much more drawn to mass culture – I seem to always want to write essays about Jurassic Park and reality TV. I just find the exploration of these types of cultural texts so much more compelling than analyses of high culture. The first essay that made me fall in love with the field of Cultural Studies was Janice Radway’s study of female romance novel readers. Her attention to the importance of the transformative function of this supposedly meritless cultural form inspired me and fuelled my interest in the academic study of popular culture. So of course I will always jump at the chance to read a book about a mass cultural phenomenon! This book came out in 2017 and is about an admittedly niche topic, so I was very excited to find that my university’s library had the e-book. As with most anthologies, I found some of the essays more interesting than others, but overall I thought it was full of fascinating insights on the campy, complicated, and often contradictory nature of Drag Race.

First Among Sequels and One Of Our Thursdays Is Missing by Jasper Fforde

These are the first two books in Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next reboot, which takes place sixteen years after Something Rotten. While the books are undoubtedly still clever, I find that something of the magic of the original series is lost. These two seem a bit more formulaic and lack the same joy. I’ll keep reading them, but the first series was definitely better.

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

Generally I avoid historical fiction, but Margaret Atwood can make me read anything. Alias Grace is a fictionalized account of the real-life maid Grace Marks, an Irish immigrant to Toronto who was convicted of murdering her employer and his housekeeper in 1843. Atwood doesn’t change any of the known details about Grace, but she takes creative liberties in fleshing out her story. Whether or not Grace really did kill Nancy Mongtomery and Thomas Kinnear, I don’t know – but Atwood turns Grace into a compelling, sympathetic, and complex character regardless. I’m excited to get to the Netflix series now that I’ve read the novel!

Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape by Jenna Miscavige Hill

I have watched both the documentary Going Clear and Leah Remini’s television exposé on the abuses of Scientology, so when this book came up as a suggestion on my Kindle, I was happy to fork over $1.99. Jenna Miscavige Hill is the niece of David Miscavige, the current leader of Scientology, and was raised in the religion from the age of two. “Harrowing” is about right! As a toddler, Hill saw her parents – who were high-ranking members of the Sea Org – for only a few hours a week, and was raised at what is essentially a cross between boarding school and a work camp. She had to perform hard labour as a small child seven days a week, and was emotionally and psychologically manipulated and abused into adulthood. As someone who has avidly consumed media related to Scientology over the past few years, her story is not unfamiliar to me – but it still gives me goosebumps to think of what so many go through under David Miscavige’s leadership. It’s a comprehensive account of life under Scientology, doubly chilling because of the detailed, extended account of what can only be described as child abuse. Though this book is not very well-written, it’s extremely interesting and I’d definitely recommend it to anyone interested in this subject.

Final Girls by Mira Grant

Though I’m not a huge horror/sci fi fan, I still love Mira Grant’s work. She always approaches common tropes from a totally different angle, and this novella is no exception. Dr. Jennifer Webb has developed a virtual reality-based therapy which heals clients by putting them in horror movie simulations. Her star clients are a pair of estranged sisters who grew inseparable after undergoing this therapy and learning to work together as a team. Journalist Esther Hoffmann, whose father’s life was ruined by regression therapy, is invited to write a story on Dr. Webb’s technology, and sets out to thoroughly debunk it. Dr. Webb invites Esther to experience the VR technology herself, and Esther reluctantly agrees. Of course, things go terribly wrong. It’s a thrilling read, a take on zombies, VR, and government conspiracies that I haven’t seen before, and the perfect length. I don’t often read novellas and short stories, but this is a short, adrenaline-filled burst that perfectly complements the premise.

Total books: 51
Fiction: 43
Non-fiction: 8
Books written by women: 30 (and one anthology)
Books written by people of colour: 5
Books written by LGBTQ people: 6
Canadian books: 10

Clearly I gravitate more towards books written by women, but I would like to read more diversely – those numbers aren’t great! I read a lot based on other people’s recommendations, so I’m going to seek out book blogs/YouTube channels run by people of colour and LGBTQ people this year.

As I mentioned earlier, my goal for 2018 is 30 books. This year I’ve already read four, but two were quite short and I know my pace will slow as the semester gets busier. But I think 30 should be doable – and with decent time management I might even manage to read a bit more than that.

2017 Makeup Inventory

Posted on January 12, 2018 under Inventory

I haven’t been totally happy with the way I’ve done my makeup inventories for the last few years. Comparing the total number of products with the total from a year ago only tells some of the story. This year I’ve made a chart that tracks these numbers as well as how many products I used up and destashed for a more holistic look at my consumption habits over the past year. I’ll have to evaluate how this is working for me later on, but there’s no harm in trying something new!

In my inventories I don’t count skincare or haircare products, only makeup and tools. I also haven’t counted backups in my total count. There’s no real reason for this, but I never have, so I don’t want to throw off the counts by starting now. I only have a few backups, anyway – for products I know I will go through.

Here’s my inventory for 2017:

Face

I increased my stash of face products by 4 products, or 13.79%, this year. Honestly, I don’t think a 4-product increase is bad at all! Most of this expansion happened in the cream/liquid highlighter category. I also acquired 3 primers, whereas this time last year I had none. I’m still not sure I totally believe in the absolute necessity of primer, and I’m guessing that I will not have 3 in a year’s time. I got a lot of foundations in 2017 but decluttered quite a few too, so I ended up with 3, the same as last year’s total. Otherwise not all that much changed – I tend not to hoard things like concealer and powder, just swapping out old products when necessary, and I haven’t bought blush in over a year.

Eyes

I have 3 fewer eye products now, which equals a 5.66% reduction. This category was a bit hard to judge accurately as I depotted a few Wet n Wild palettes into a MUFE magnetic palette – this means that my palette count went down but single eyeshadow count went up, though I didn’t actually keep the majority of the shadows in the depotted palettes. I got rid of a lot of my pencil liners this year because I rarely use them. I generally don’t see this category increasing or decreasing too much in this coming year – there’s not much fat to trim anymore, but I’m also not particularly interested in buying any new eye products (other than staple replacements).

Lips

Of course lips are my weak spot, and there was an overall increase of 9 lip products in 2017, which equals a 16.07% increase. I would have liked this to be lower since obviously lipstick is my biggest overall makeup category and I want to know I’m getting use out of everything. However, you will note that I gained 35 lip products in 2017 and only decluttered or used up 43, so I can’t be too hard on myself – more went out than came in. I still don’t really know how the hell I managed to acquire 35 products (more than 50% of my entire stash) in one year – that’s almost three products a month! (Although, actually, I have already added three lipsticks to my stash this month, so I guess I can see how that would be possible…) By the end of 2018 I would really like to see an overall reduction in this category.

Tools/Etc

This is a pretty vague category, which I increased by 25 products or 49.02%. Most of this increase came in the form of brushes. I bought duplicates of several of my favourite/most-used brushes, so I feel okay about the increase. I genuinely use almost all the brushes I bought daily. I’m feeling pretty good about the state of my brush collection at the moment, so I doubt I will add much to this in 2018.

Overall, I have a total of 224 products. I acquired 117 products in 2017 and decluttered or used up 125. My collection increased by 35 products, or 18.52%, which is down from last year’s increase of 24.4%. In last year’s inventory post I did say that I wanted to decrease my collection by the end of 2017, which clearly didn’t happen. I’m setting that goal again for myself this year, and I think this time I’ll probably actually follow through!

2017 recap + 2018 goals

Posted on January 03, 2018 under Life

Chihuly exhibition at the ROM, Hank, The Big Apple

2017 was a very rough year from a big picture perspective, for reasons that require no explanation. On a personal level, though, it was a lot better for me than 2016. Nobody I know died this year, which is a lot better than 2016’s total of four deaths. Therefore, I have nothing to complain about. This year also marked some achievements for me: I got my driver’s license, I moved to another country, and I started grad school, which has been a goal since I was 19. I had a bit of performance anxiety since I had been out of school for a year and a half before starting my Master’s, but I’m happy to report that I killed my first semester.

So, let’s take a look at how I did with my 2017 goals.

Lemon cheesecake with raspberry topping (made by me!), posing in front of a bakery in Kentucky, fika at Karelia Kitchen in Toronto
  • Blog at least five times a month: I told myself that if I missed a single month I’d fail the goal, which means I definitely failed. However, I’m okay with this – I posted more than five times in June, July, and August, and overall I posted pretty consistently. I fell off the wagon a bit at the end of the year because I got busy with school. At the end of the day, blogging is a hobby, so I’m not going to stress too much about it. And hey, I have a semester of straight As to show for letting blogging fall by the wayside…
  • Read 50 books: This was a stretch goal and I totally made it, reading a total of 51 books in 2017. (I do wish I’d read one more for an average of one a week, but oh well.) I have very strong time management skills, so I managed to read 45 books before I started grad school, which made it much easier to finish this goal in the last bit of the year.
    This was my most prolific year as a reader since 2012!
  • The Royal Cinema, a flower in my backyard, Cassius and Wally enjoying the sunshine
  • Be tidier: I’m still not a neat freak by any means, but I do think that I am slowly improving upon my natural messiness. I was worried that living by myself for the first time in my life would encourage me to be completely slobby since I didn’t have to think about anyone else, but I’ve been maintaining my flat quite well! I have actually become a person who can’t go to bed until everything is passably tidy, which will come as a shock to anybody who knows me in real life.
  • Declutter: This was kind of a freebie since I didn’t have much choice but to get rid of a lot of stuff before I moved. I did, however, manage to considerably declutter my clothes, makeup, books, and other possessions.
  • Mural on Queen St. West, walking Jet, officiating my friends’ wedding in July
  • Be mindful about new purchases: I made some impulse buys that didn’t entirely work out, but mindful consumption is a process, not an end goal. I think I’m moving in the right direction.

So… looks like I actually did a really good job with my goals this year, which is shocking. Either I set the bar low or I actually rose to the occasion. I’ll leave you to decide.

Me and my friend Katie, view from the Lachine Canal in Montreal, learning to drive

And my goals for 2018…

  • Finish my MA with an A average. I come from a university known for grade deflation, where a TA once said “Great job, Clementine!” as she handed me back an assignment I got 7/10 on, so I almost feel cocky setting this goal. However, I got all As this semester so I think this is doable. By the way – in the UK MA programmes are one year long, so I have one more semester of classes and then I’ll write my dissertation over the summer. I’ll have my degree by this time next year!
  • Complete all my readings and screenings before messing around on the internet. I always have a more productive day overall if I complete my routine schoolwork prior to checking social media. Last semester I did well keeping up with readings and screenings, but this semester I want to form a stronger habit that truly prioritizes school.
  • Neighbours’ plants, hanging out in the hammock with Jet, a building in Glasgow
  • Get fitter. Ugh, I know, I’m being that person this year. I always neatly avoid setting this goal for myself, but I think it’s finally time, guys. I’ve always been a walker (and currently walk about 5km round trip each day), but I think I should step up my game. I’m not out here to run a marathon or anything, but I’d like to raise my level of fitness just for my daily life.
  • Read 30 books. Adjusted the reading goal downwards again because grad school = very little desire to read for fun. 30 might actually be pushing it, but I might as well challenge myself a little. I just picked up four books today with a Chapters gift card,
    so that will help me start the year right!
  • Trixie Mattel performing in October, being a tourist in Lewes, pretty steps in Glasgow
  • Keep to my beauty budget, consume mindfully, and enjoy using what I have. Self-explanatory! I’ve been doing pretty well with mindful consumption over the past few years since I really started to think about it, and I want to do even better this year!

Nothing special here, really, and no blogging goals. I’ll keep posting as regularly as my schedule and interest allows, but I don’t want to hold myself to a posting schedule and feel guilty when I inevitably fail to meet it.

Happy 2018, everyone! I hope this year is a little kinder to the world…

Scenes from Prague, Christmas tree