Inventory: Blush

Posted on April 18, 2017 under Inventory

I wonder if any of you can relate to the consumerist cycle I often find myself in. Once upon a time, my big makeup vice was lipstick. I’d still consider myself first and foremost a lipstick lover, but I hit a certain point where I had so much lipstick that my acquisition really tapered off. Then, my attention naturally shifted towards blush, and I began to accumulate a lot of that. I’ve cycled through a few product categories that get all my attention (and dollars). It’s like I need something to be interested in makeup-wise, and when I max out one category I naturally meander on over to another. I’ve gone through all the interesting categories and I’ve wound up at foundation, currently. But let’s talk about blush today instead, because I love blush a lot more than foundation.

Clearly, when it comes to blush I am a brand snob. At this point I only own two drugstore blush products, and both are from Sleek. I do really enjoy blush, but at this point I don’t feel the need to bring more into my life. The last time I purchased a new blush was 11 months ago and I haven’t felt any urge to expand my collection since then. A gal can only go through so many blushes in her lifetime, and let’s be honest – once they’re on our faces, a lot of the apparent differences all but disappear.

I’ve arranged these by colour family, and I did this by using the very scientific process of “sort according to the colour in the pan”. You’ll see that some of these straddle multiple categories or might fit better in a different one than I’ve put it in, but I think we will survive my shortcomings.

By the way, I’ve slightly underexposed the swatch photos because I think the colour accuracy is a bit better when I do that.

First up, some of my peachy blushes!

Sleek Blush by 3 Palette in Lace

Sleek blushes are very, very nice, and if you live in a place where you can saunter on down to the drugstore and buy one then you should consider yourself very lucky. Some of us have to have to order them online like savages.

The Blush by 3 palette was a Christmas 2013 present from Aisling. I requested it because I was in a phase where I only watched British YouTubers and everyone talked about Sleek all the time. (Uh, does that really obviously date that phase in my life to 2013?) I use the middle shade in the palette, Guipure, the most. Actually, it’s the only shade I really use at all. I don’t normally go for shimmery blush, but this one gives a beautiful glow: just check out the swatch below! The two matte shades are so pigmented that they easily verge on clownish on my skintone, and I definitely would not normally wear straight up orange blush anyway. I take a pretty firm anti-orange stance on most things, generally.

Chanel Sunkiss Ribbon Harmonie de Blush

This late 2015/early 2016 LE blush was one of my absurd Optimum points luxury purchases. You know how it is, or maybe you don’t because you’re a better person than me. I’m not really sure what compelled me to buy it, because I’ve never been interested in Chanel makeup and prefer cool-toned makeup most of the time. As with most multi-tone products, I apply this by swirling my brush around the entire pan, which generally gives me a peachy glow. Sometimes it leans pinker and sometimes it leans more orange depending on what exactly my brush picks up. It’s quite sheer, which I find delightfully user-friendly, and the end result is always pretty. But is it worth $70 CAD? Absolutely not!

Hourglass Ambient Lighting Blush in Luminous Flush

It’s funny, swatched next to all of these blushes Luminous Flush appears quite pink, but on my cheeks it definitely reads as peach. This is easily my second favourite of my Hourglass blushes, which, as you may know, are my all-time favourite blush formula. In the summer I probably use this blush 2-3 times a week, which is pretty high proportionally.

L-R: Sleek Crochet, Sleek Guipure, Sleek Chantilly, Chanel Sunkiss Ribbon, Hourglass Luminous Flush

These are my two neutral, go-to blushes appropriate for pretty much any occasion.

Benefit Boxed Powder in Hervana

Benefit seems to be a rather polarizing brand: I know people who swear by the line as a whole and who love the kitschy aesthetic, but I’ve read a lot of backlash against the brand for having subpar products masked by cute packaging. Personally I’m not wowed by Benefit overall, but other than my arch-nemesis They’re Real! mascara (which I’ve mentioned so many times that I’m sure you are all aware of how much I despise it) I’ve never had a dud product from the brand. I’ve had several Benefit blushes in the past, but destashed most due to the bulky packaging. I kept Hervana only because it’s the perfect natural blush for me. Swirled together, on me it reads as a soft, slightly warm brownish pink. It’s truly one of those products that goes with everything. Sometimes I forget I have it because it’s not very exciting, but I’m currently going through a phase with it. It’s hard to mess it up, really! I just wish it were more travel-friendly, because I could easily get through a month-long trip with this as my one and only blush.

Hourglass Ambient Lighting Blush in Mood Exposure

You may remember that Mood Exposure is my favourite of the ALBs, and probably my favourite blush of all time. If you were to simply look at it in the pan, you’d probably wonder how something so dull could possibly be somebody’s favourite. But on the skin it transforms: it’s an incredibly brightening, flattering mixture of plum and brown with the healthiest luminosity. If I lost all my blushes this is the one I would repurchase immediately. Because Hervana is so bulky, Mood Exposure is the blush I always take travelling with me. For a weekend trip I need a minimum of five lip colour options, but I can get through ten days with just Mood Exposure, easy.

L-R: Benefit Hervana, Hourglass Mood Exposure

Bright blushes! Yay!

Hourglass Ambient Lighting Blush in Diffused Heat

This was my very first ALB, a hand-me-down from Aisling because she found the hot red-coral too intense for her tastes. I’m so glad she passed it on to me, because I don’t know that I would have discovered this formula otherwise – it’s surprisingly unhyped on ye olde internette. Generally I like to apply this with a stipple brush, and it’s more of a summer shade for me, but it’s stunning. It’d look great on darker skin too.

Hourglass Ambient Lighting Blush in Radiant Magenta

I think Radiant Magenta was a bit of a mistake of a purchase on my part. There’s nothing wrong with it: it’s just as finely-milled, glowy, and long-wearing as my other three ALBs. But it’s pretty similar to Diffused Heat (although Diffused Heat ironically appears more magenta on the skin – the tan swirls in Radiant Magenta tone it down significantly), and I don’t think I really need both. As I’ve said, that’s my sole gripe with the ALB line. It’s not extensive, and many of the shades are quite similar. I don’t know if I can bear to part with Radiant Magenta, even so, because I paid a pretty penny for it and I just love the ALBs in general.

Tarte Amazonian Clay Blush in Natural Beauty

I first laughed when I saw that the name of this bright pink-red blush was Natural Beauty, but applied lightly it actually does make me look how I naturally do when I’ve just come out of the cold. This formula isn’t my favourite; it’s rather stiff, and I prefer something softer and more finely-milled. However, I like that it’s not too pigmented (with a colour like this that would be a real killer), and the colour is one of my favourites.

L-R: Hourglass Diffused Heat, Hourglass Radiant Magenta, Tarte Natural Beauty

Finally, plums and purples and berries, a category which I love maybe a little too much…

ColourPop Super Shock Cheek in Rain

You know, I bought this to see if I would actually wear lavender/lilac blush, and the answer is no, not often. (Don’t be fooled by the pan you see. This is the result of perhaps five applications.) However, I have on several occasions been very happy to have this on hand, as when I go out with my friends I usually do pretty funky makeup and enjoy applying this with a very heavy hand all the way up to my temples. It’s a fun product! But I’m not going to upgrade it for a more expensive lavender blush, probably.

Sleek Blush in Flushed

This was another Aisling hand-me-down, and it’s one of my favourites for fall and winter. It’s a warm berry shade with a satin finish and very subtle gold flecks running through it. It looks absolutely beautiful and glowing. I think this would look even better on deeper skintones that can take more colour. You’ll see in the swatch that it does come off warmer than it looks in the pan, but that’s also because it really doesn’t photograph true-to-colour. That’s been one of my ongoing struggles with this product! If you’re in the market for an affordable, warm-toned plummy blush… this may be the one!

Guerlain Rose Aux Joes Blush in Wonder Violette

Another absolutely wild Optimum points purchase! This is a soft, warm pinky plum. It’s another one which appears warmer on my skin than it does in the pan. I do not think it’s worth $60 and will not buy another Guerlain blush, with Optimum points or otherwise. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with it: the formula is nice and I like the colour, but there’s better stuff out there for cheaper. Speaking of which…

NARS Blush in Sin

Personally, I think NARS blushes are a little overrated formula-wise, but some of the colours are to die for. Sin is the colour of a bruise, which sounds very unappealing but which I adore. I have nothing else like this and I rarely see anything similar on the market. This blush doesn’t go with every makeup look, but I love having it on hand. I doubt I’ll become a NARS blush collector, but if any of the colours call my name I’d be willing to buy another one. (And yes, I felt like I truly belonged in the makeup community when I bought this. I mean, are you a real beauty blogger if you don’t own a NARS blush?!)

L-R: ColourPop Rain, Sleek Flushed, Guerlain Wonder Violettes, NARS Sin

And that, my friends, is the extent of my blush collection. Fourteen total if I count the shades in the Sleek palette separately, twelve actual products. I think that’s pretty manageable, and I don’t think I could realistically trim it down much. I genuinely use and like everything I have here. I can also easily list every product in my blush collection off the top of my head, which I think is a pretty good benchmark.

Next time shall I do a more boring category? I don’t want to exhaust all the interesting ones too early on…

Quarter 1 Beauty Product Consumption Accountability Checkin

Posted on April 08, 2017 under Thoughts

Whew, that’s a mouthful. I’m so bad at being concise, everyone. Anyway, since one of my goals this year was to be more mindful of my beauty product consumption, I thought I’d check in here. I’ve been dutifully cataloguing everything that’s come into my possession this year in two separate lists. I’m using one list to track the products I’ve purchased myself and one to include gratis from work, PR samples, gifts, GWP, and other things of that nature. I’m going to share those lists with you along with the dollar value of each product. Some products will have a second price listed in brackets which will reflect what I actually paid for the product after my 30% employee discount. I’ve also been converting anything purchased in USD to CAD. Because the dollar value fluctuates, those values may not be accurate as of right now, but they reflect how much I paid in CAD at the time of purchase.

Products purchased in between January 1, 2017 and March 31, 2017

  1. 01/02: Kevyn Aucoin Sculpting Powder – Light – $53 – $30 gift card used. Replaced my previous contour product, which was about two and a half years old.
  2. 01/02: Anastasia Beverly Hills Modern Renaissance Palette – $55. I had been attempting to buy this palette since mid-June, so I feel justified in the purchase.
  3. 01/11: The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 – $6.80.
  4. 01/11: Nuxe Rêve de Miel Lip Balm – $17 ($11.90). Replacement.
  5. 01/15: Maybelline Fit Me Foundation – Matte and Poreless – 110 Porcelain – $5.99. This was an impulse buy because it was on deep sale. (Normal price in Canada is about $12.99.) It’s okay, but I didn’t need it and I don’t love it. I never used to be the kind of person who would impulse buy foundation of all things. :(
  6. 01/23: L’Oreal Brow Stylist Plumper Brow Gel Mascara – Transparent – $5. Replacement for my Essence brow gel.
  7. 01/23: TreSemmé Colour Revitalize Shampoo – $4. I bought this when I went red thinking it was a great deal: a mere four bucks for nearly a litre of shampoo! Of course, now that I’m blonde I’m back on the purple shampoo bandwagon, so I won’t need this anymore. It was a good deal at the time, though…
  8. 02/01: La Roche-Posay Toleriane Riche Moisturizer Set – $31 ($21.70). This was a replacement. I bought it in a set because it was the same price and I got some minis that I can bring travelling.
  9. 02/01: Quo Blending Sponge – $7 ($4.90). Replacement for my very crusty and old blending sponge.
  10. 02/01: Essence Gel Top Coat – $4.49 ($3.14). I bought this because I needed a new top coat and didn’t want to splurge for Sally Hansen, but I ended up buying Sally two months later because this one isn’t as good. Lesson learned.
  11. 02/01: L’Oreal Voluminous Lash Primer – $10.49 ($7.34): I bought this to use as a primer under coloured mascaras so they’ll show up better on my lashes. Not a totally necessary purchase, but it does do what I wanted it to.
  12. 02/08: ColourPop Super Shock Shadows – Stereo, Paradox, Animal, Boy Band – $5 USD or $6.53 CAD each = $20 USD or $26.12 CAD total. I’ll review these at some point and get into my reasoning behind purchasing them, I promise!
  13. 02/08: ColourPop Lippie Pencil – Contempo, Nevermind, Heart On – $5 USD or $6.53 CAD each = $15 USD or $19.59 CAD total.
  14. 02/08: ColourPop Ultra Matte Lips – Dr. M, Lychee, Tuesday – $6 USD or $7.84 CAD each = $18 USD or $23.52 CAD total.
  15. 02/14: MUFE Ultra HD Foundation – Y215 – $52. Technically this was a replacement for my used up bottle of Ultra HD, but since I already had two foundations on the go I’m not sure this counts as a replacement… In my notes I’ve marked it as such, so obviously I was in a cheating mood that day.
  16. 02/21: La Roche-Posay Respectissime Eye Makeup Remover – $19.50 ($13.65). Replacement for the same product, which I used up.
  17. 03/14: Ice Cream Restructuring Mask With Keratin – $14.99 ($10.49). I had a very serious love affair with another Ice Cream hair mask, so when I saw that they had this one with keratin I went for it without second thought. I did need a new deep conditioner. So far so good!
  18. 03/17: Olaplex Step 3 – $30.70. Not a replacement, but a necessary purchase as after I went back to blonde my hair was in terrible condition. It’s made a huge difference already and it’s only been a few weeks!

Total value (CAD): $405.18
Total spent (CAD): $334.84

Honestly, I’ve never tracked my beauty spending before so I’m not sure how to feel about this number! For the most part, I don’t think it’s bad, considering I’ve included skincare, bodycare, hair products, and nail products in this and not just makeup. I did make a few frivolous and/or impulse purchases, but if you take the ColourPop order and Maybelline foundation out of the equation, almost all of it was either a) a replacement, b) necessary though not a replacement, or c) something I thought about for a long time before buying. The dollar value might seem a little high, but I don’t regret most of these purchases. By the way, if you’re American hopefully you’ll see our shitty dollar value reflected in these prices: if you convert my total spent into USD it’d be less than $250. HOWEVER I did get to use my employee discount on a lot of these items, so as you can see the actual dollar value is obviously higher if the average consumer were to buy all this stuff. I’m not mad about what I bought this quarter, but I still think I can trim the fat a bit next time!

Products received at no cost between January 1, 2017 and March 31, 2017

  1. 01/18: Marc Jacobs Style Eye Con No 7 Plush Eyeshadow Palette in The Lolita – $71 – Gift. My friend Kristin got me this for Christmas (and of course we had our gift swap almost a month after Christmas).
  2. 01/28: Bite Beauty Lip Liners – 020 and 044 – $20 each ($40 value) – PR. Received from Influenster.
  3. 01/28: Bite Beauty Amuse Bouche Lipstick – Honeycomb and Whiskey – Deluxe Samples – $30 full size – $10 sample value ($20 for both) – PR. Received from Influenster.
  4. 02/14: Briogeo Don’t Despair, Repair Hair Mask – Deluxe Sample – $46 full size – $5.75 sample value. Used Sephora points.
  5. 02/25: Reversa Antioxidant Booster Serum – $49 – Gratis. I completed an online Reversa training and received this as gratis.
  6. 02/28: StriVectin Active Infustion Youth Serum – $99 – Gratis. Received at a brand school.
  7. 02/28: StriVectin All Smooth Starter Trio (Haircare Deluxe Sample Kit) – $30 – Gratis. Received at a brand school.
  8. 02/28: StriVectin Silver Peel-Off Purifier – Deluxe Sample – $72 full size – $7.20 sample value – Gratis. Received at a brand school.
  9. 03/15: Maybelline Creamy Matte Lipstick – Burgundy Blush – $10.99 – Work. Occasionally my boss puts out a bag full of discontinued products for us to pick through. This was in one of those bags. I couldn’t resist it since I know I adore the Maybelline Creamy Matte formula.
  10. 03/29: Avène YsthéAL Intense – $55 – Gratis. Received at a brand school.
  11. 03/29: Avène Eau Thermale – $16.50 – Gratis. Received at a brand school.
  12. 03/29: Avène TriXera Nutri-Fluid Lotion – $30 – Gratis. Received at a brand school.
  13. 03/29: A-Derma Exomega 2-in-1 Shower Gel – $25 – Gratis. Received at a brand school.
  14. 03/29: Ducray Anaphase+ Strengthening Conditioner – $26 – Gratis. Received at a brand school.

Total value: $485.44

So, this is the area where I think I struggle the most. In the cosmetics world spring and fall are when you go to brand training schools, aka sit in a hotel conference room with stale pastries for 4 hours learning about the new launches so that you can walk away with a generous swag bag. You’ll see more of my training school hauls reflected in my next check-in post as well. I give away quite a bit of the stuff I receive without even opening it, but even so I end up with a lot of skincare goodies. I try to only keep things I’ll use, but I don’t like to have too much open at one time, so inevitably some of it goes in the backup drawer. I really do try to limit the products I own, but at the same time part of my job is trying a lot of products so I can give good recommendations to customers. So I don’t know…

All in all, a lot of stuff came into my possession this quarter. In terms of what I bought, I feel good about most of it, though I did somewhat succumb to impulse. I think the gratis category is kind of a lost cause at this time of year because I’m being plied with products left, right, and centre. But I think I’m doing okay, all things considered!

(Jeez, 38 new products in 3 months does seem like a lot though.)

Books read, January-March 2017

Posted on April 04, 2017 under Books

I’m happy to say that I’m working my way through books at a much quicker pace than last year! In the first quarter of 2017, I read 16 books, which puts me firmly on pace for my goal of 50 this year. According to Goodreads, I’m actually 4 ahead of schedule. I’d like to continue with this as I know the last quarter of the year will be eaten up with grad school! I’ll try to keep these reviews brief since I have more books to feature in this post than usual.

Wonder Women by Sam Maggs

This is a non-fiction book which profiles various lesser-known female historical figures and their contributions to medicine, science, espionage, and social causes. I’d say it’s more suitable for a younger audience (think tweens to young teens) as it’s written in a very casual, chatty style and is full of pop culture references. I’m a bit outside of its ideal demographic, but I think it’s great for what it is. There’s a wonderful diversity to the women featured and Maggs is really devoted deconstructing both patriarchy and colonialism/white supremacy.

Illness as Metaphor and AIDS and its Metaphors by Susan Sontag

I’ve been developing quite an interest in metaphorical portrayals of AIDS in film and television and so Sontag’s seminal essays on the metaphors of illness seemed like a must-read. Her comparisons between the metaphorical treatment of tuberculosis, cancer, and AIDS are insightful and sharp, and though she was undoubtedly a great thinker, her writing is clear and devoid of academic jargon.

After Dark by Haruki Murakami

Having now read two Murakami novels (including the daunting and interminable 1Q84) I can’t say I fully understand the hype. After Dark takes part over the course of one night when two strangers meet in a Denny’s in Tokyo. There were parts of this novel that I really enjoyed; Murakami is great at exposing little horrors in apparent banality, and his writing is quite evocative. However, I found the dialogue stiff, and there were too many loose ends to make the novel fully satisfying.

The Diviners by Margaret Laurence

This book reminded me in a lot of ways of a book by another Canadian Margaret, Cat’s Eye by the inimitable Ms. Atwood. The Diviners is the story of Morag Gunn, a forty-seven-year-old writer, as she reflects on her life. That may sound a bit dreary, but her coming-of-age in the 1940s and 1950s is extremely compelling. Laurence’s writing is beautiful and lush and Morag is a fiercely independent character. Like Cat’s Eye, I felt fully immersed in this book, at times painfully so. The exploration of complicated relationships is absolutely stunning. Canada has produced some really incredible feminist novelists. Margaret Laurence is certainly less well-known on the international stage, but I highly recommend The Diviners.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

I’ve found that books that I loved prior to about age 15 or 16 haven’t held up well over time, but works that I connected to right around the halfway-through-high-school mark are still enjoyable to me now. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close was one of my favourites when I was about 15, and luckily it’s held up for me. Nine-year-old Oskar’s voice is so clear without being gimmicky, and his quest to find the secret behind the key that his father left behind when he died in the 9/11 attacks is very moving. I also loved the interlocking stories of his estranged grandparents, German immigrants and survivors of the Dresden bombing. Jonathan Safran Foer’s highly stylized writing isn’t for everyone, but I really connect with it. (I haven’t read his newest novel yet, though!)

End of Watch by Stephen King

This is the last book in a trilogy that I have not read, which I picked up out of boredom at work. I probably would have benefited from reading the first two books, but they’re not imperative for understanding this one. I don’t think this series will become as iconic as some of King’s other work, but it’s solid for what it is. I don’t think his writing is incredible in a general sense, but he gets the job done when writing a police thriller. The characters are distinct and reasonably likeable though not particularly well-developed. It’s an enjoyable quick read, but the plot isn’t anything special and I find the “technology turning people into mindless zombies” schtick overdone.

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi

Man, apparently I’m really into graphic memoirs, because I loved this. I’m not sure why it took me so long to get around to reading Marjane Satrapi’s memoir about growing up raised by Marxists in Tehran, Iran during the Islamic Revolution. It’s funny, heartbreaking, and beautifully-illustrated. I’d love to watch the film version as well.

A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews

A Complicated Kindness is the story of Nomi Nickel, a very lost sixteen-year-old girl raised in a Mennonite town in Manitoba. Her mother and sister have already been excommunicated and she doesn’t know where they are; she lives with her father Ray, who loves her but doesn’t know how to parent her, and sees herself as essentially futureless. This is a book which is quietly heartbreaking. Nomi’s narrative voice is incredibly clear and compelling, and her feeling of stagnation and hopelessness became mine as I was reading it. I’m definitely going to pick up more of Miariam Toews’ books, because I was incredibly impressed with this one.

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Another book about the harmful effects of raising children in strict religious circumstances, Purple Hibiscus is narrated by fifteen-year-old Kambili, who lives with her parents and brother Jaja in Enugu, Nigeria. Her parents are incredibly well-off, but her father is fanatically religious, strict, and abusive towards his wife and children. Kambili finally gets a taste of another world when she and Jaja go to stay with her lower middle class aunt and cousins in Nsukka in the wake of a military coup. Kambili isn’t exactly what you’d call a strong character; she’s very timid and lacks self confidence, which is exactly what you’d expect of someone in her position. I found her development extremely touching and realistic, and loved her relationships with her mother, cousins, aunt, and brother. I think I enjoyed Half of a Yellow Sun a bit more, but now that I’ve finished all of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novels I can confidently say that she is an absolutely excellent novelist.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

I first read this book when I was 17, and the time seemed right to pick it up again. It’s even more poignant this time around; Atwood’s predictions about the future of patriarchal, religious America are eerily prescient. (I mean, it’s not like the US is Gilead right now, but so much of what is happening echoes the early stages she portrays.) I loved this book the first time but it took me awhile to get through, but I devoured it this time. There isn’t that much that really happens until the very end, but the worldbuilding is so realistic and terrifying that I think it’s compulsively readable in the eeriest way. Really looking forward to the TV series, too!

The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood

This is Atwood’s first novel and I can see why it established her as a prominent voice. I’d say that for me it ranks below both The Handmaid’s Tale and Cat’s Eye (which is a brutal read for entirely different reasons), but I still thought it was excellent. You can tell when reading Atwood’s prose that she’s a poet as well, but her writing isn’t too flowery (like another Canadian poet/novelist, Michael Ondaatje, whose prose I find unbearable). This book reminded me a lot of Todd Haynes’ first feature film Safe, in that both narratives follow women who are pigeonholed into subservient, boring female roles and who develop mysterious conditions which can most obviously be read as psychosomatic reactions to their lack of autonomy under patriarchy. Anyone who’s interested in feminist fiction would probably really enjoy this one. I personally also loved the descriptions of Toronto: I particularly delighted in Marian’s visit to the ROM, where I have spent countless hours myself.

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

I’ve never read Eugenides’ more iconic works, but I found a copy of The Marriage Plot in my house and decided to bring it on a 10-hour Megabus round trip to pass the time. It did pass the time, but I can’t say I enjoyed it. The main characters are as follows: 1) A bland female sex fantasy who constantly needs men to explain things to her. 2) A shallowly religious loser who fancies himself a good person for going on a fleeting voluntourism trip to India and who, predictably, is unhealthily obsessed with the woman. 3) The woman’s manic-depressive, emotionally abusive, and deeply misogynistic boyfriend. Not a very sympathetic lot, all in all. Of course, this isn’t all there is to the book. There are also endless references to semiotic theory and second-wave feminism (both topics which I enjoy) which are explored in the most surface way. (The explicitly feminist character’s presence in the novel is brief and she is portrayed as shrill and unrelenting.) The main female character, Madeleine, was so blatantly written by a man and she enjoys absolutely no inner life that isn’t related to thinking about her boyfriend and male friend. This book certainly doesn’t inspire me to pick up anything else by Jeffrey Eugenides!

Griffin and Sabine, Sabine’s Notebook, and The Golden Mean by Nick Bantock

I first read these short epistolary books as a tween, and I was rather obsessed with them although they predictably went over my head somewhat. They’re quick reads which are composed of letters between an artist named Griffin Moss, who lives in London, and Sabine Strohem, a woman who lives in the fictional Sicmon Islands in the South Pacific. Since she was a teenager, Sabine has been able to see Griffin’s art as he creates it, and finally reaches out to him at the age of twenty-eight, beginning a correspondence between them. I think the books are very interesting and the artwork is wonderful to look at. It’s a unique and fascinating – if slightly disturbing – series. The books are quite short and fast-paced and I would have liked to linger in this strange world for longer, but that’s my only complaint.

Here’s To Us by Elin Hilderbrand

This is my first exposure to the so-called queen of beach reads. I picked this one up at work and ended up paying $15 for the e-book because we sold the last copy before I could finish it. Here’s To Us is about the death of celebrity chef Deacon Thorpe and focuses on one weekend as his three wives (who he was married to at different times, to be clear), his children, and his best friend/agent gather in Nantucket one last time to honour him. Obviously, this is a premise which invites drama and tears. Though the prose is nothing to write home about and the ending is ultimately predictable, it’s a very heartfelt novel and I really enjoyed all of the characters. Hilderbrand did a great job of really bringing to life Deacon’s three wives, all of whom are spirited, strong women in entirely different ways. If I’m ever in the market for a lighthearted but still enjoyable novel, I’ll check out her back catalogue!

And that is January to March in books!