Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Beauty Favorites

My beauty addiction is a problem, but as a result of it I do act as a guinea pig for friends when it comes to trying new makeup products. I test it so you don't have to waste your money! I thought I'd compile a list of the products I tried and loved this year - some new releases, some just new to me. So if you're looking for something new to sample as you start off 2016, here is a list of things I think are worth dropping your hard-earned cash on.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Some 2015 reads

Although earlier this year I spent quite a bit of a time going down a literary wormhole that I'm not all that proud of, I have read a few other books I've enjoyed this year that I'm less embarrassed to name, and I thought I'd write a bit about of them. If like me you're always looking for a new good read, and you have liked some of my previous recommendations, perhaps you'll find something to add to your list. As per usual, my list leans heavily toward YA. My favorites are in bold.
  • Carry On by Rainbow Rowell. This is the first Rainbow Rowell book I've read where I didn't feel like the characters were part of my extended group of friends. Which is not saying I didn't enjoy it, just that it is quite different from anything else I've read by her. She's kind of written fanfiction of her own work - taking characters from the clearly Harry Potter-inspired fantasy series in her book Fangirl, and giving them their own story. It was a fast, fun read, but I wasn't inspired to start my own Tumblr blog on it or anything.
  • Me Before You and it's follow-up After You by JoJo Moyes. These were a "let me read the book before the movie comes out so I can act all holier-than-thou about how the movie didn't get things right" kind of read. The short plot summary, cash strapped girl from small town forms an unlikely bond with wealthy paralyzed man she's taking care of, might make it sound a little Nicholas Sparks-esque, but trust that they are A LOT less eye-roll inducing. I did enjoy both - despite the soap opera-esque story lines. 
  • The Girl You Left Behind by JoJo Moyes. Since I enjoyed Me Before You, I kept going down the JoJo path. (Just writing that made me think of the singer JoJo, and this song popped into my head.) It was a good path to go down - I enjoyed this one even more than the other two thanks to the history elements.
  • To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han. Sweet yet grounded YA book, full of characters that felt real, with relatable issues. Really enjoyed this one.
  • How to Be Bad by Lauren Myracle, E. Lockhart, Sarah Mlynowski - I have to be honest, I completely forgot the plot of this book about a week after reading it. I picked it up because I so loved E. Lockhart's We Were Liars last year, but obviously this one did not stay with me in the same way. I didn't hate it, it was fine, but didn't find it gripping or memorable. 
  • Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen. This is YA I loved. I mean, I've mentioned in the past my weakness for a good coming of age tale, and about finding one's place in the world, and this delivered on all fronts. Teared up. Related. Added other books by the author to my "to read" list. I give this one all the stars. 
  • You Deserve a Drink: Boozy Misadventures and Tales of Debauchery by Mamrie Hart. I've been a big fan of Mamrie Hart's YouTube series, so I had good feeling about this one, and it did not disappoint. Raunchy. Hilarious. The book I have most recommended to people not in my family this year. I quite literally laughed out loud reading it. And it has some great cocktail recipes to boot. :)
  • An Untamed State by Roxane Gay. Ms Gay not only wrote some of my favorite online reviews/recaps of Magic Mike XXL and the Outlander TV show, she also wrote one of my favorite books this year, which is thoroughly different in tone than her hilarious recaps. This book is fantastic, if incredibly hard to read. Very violent and emotionally draining, but so well written and kind of beautiful. This one has stayed with me all year.
  • Graceling by Kristin Cashore. YA fantasy that's actually NOT set in a post-apocalyptic world,   with a strong female lead, intrigue, adventure, and some romance. Really enjoyed this one.
  • The Paper Magician series by Charlie N. Holmberg. I was so charmed by the magical fantasy of the first book, I promptly followed with The Glass Magician and The Master Magician, and read all three in about a week. YA coming of age with magic and romance. Didn't enjoy the two follow-up books quite as much as the first one, but still liked the series overall. 
  • Finding Fraser by kc dyer. Cute book, reminded me of Austenland, but for the Outlander fanatic. Although predictable, still a fun read. Helped me get through the many long months of waiting for new episodes of the TV series. 
I feel like my list this year is quite a bit shorter than it has been in the past - probably because of all the trashy novels I've read that I would rather not name check, because most were pretty forgettable. There are many other books I bought or was gifted that I haven't gotten around to reading yet, (Mindy Kaling's Why Not Me?, Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Felicia Day's You're Never Weird on the Internet) but I'm hoping 2016 will be a better read year. 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Is it worth the $$?

Over the years, I have spent A LOT of money on beauty products. I've shopped online, in duty free, in drugstores, department stores, beauty retailers, outlets, home shopping channels, and even from infomercials. Although the grand total over the last 20 or so years is probably some ridiculously embarrassing amount, individually, I have lines in the sand on how much I'm willing to spend on a product. I refuse to spend more than $10 on a nail polish, so there are brands I have never tried. $30+ dollars for a mascara seems ridiculous when there are fantastic options for a third of the price in drugstores. And there is no way in hell I would spend $90 on a lipstick. (Especially considering my ridiculously large existing collection, partially highlighted in the pic below.)

Monday, December 21, 2015

2015 Movies

I didn't set a movie goal again this year - a good thing considering I haven't really seen all that many, and given all the time I dedicated to falling down the bad romance novel wormhole.

That said, I have seen a handful of new movies, and even had the opportunity to see a screening of one I really liked and actually participate in a brief Q&A with some of the cast, Of course, having learned that it is based on a book I actually did not read before seeing the movie, I then felt I had to go back and do more book reading. More on that in another post. Here's a list of 2015 movies I've seen, and my thoughts on them. (My favorites are in bold.)
  • McFarland, USA: Reminded me of my years working with an AmeriCorps program that did outreach with farmworkers. I had some issues with it, but glad Disney decided to make it, and wish more people had seen it. It was better than expected, and yes, in keeping with my reputation as a weeper, tears were shed.
  • Woman in Gold: Helen Mirren is awesome and I bet the real Randy wishes he looked like Ryan Reynolds. It's an OK movie, but I will say that I left the theater really wanting to see a Klimt exhibition in person.
  • Far From the Madding Crowd: The design and cinematography of this movie are beautiful, but the plot was frustrating. I mean, the right choice of suitors was clear from the get-go...but I guess we all at one point make stupid decisions when it comes to a pretty boy. (Although in this case all her choices are easy on the eyes.)
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron: Entertaining effects-heavy set up for future Avengers movies. 
  • The Age of Adaline: beautiful costuming. Michiel Huisman is very easy on the eyes. The voice over exposition was annoying, and the plot was weak.
  • Pitch Perfect 2: I'm going to go ahead and say it: I kind of loved Das Sound Machine, and feel that they were robbed. This was silly, but also a ton of fun.
  • Ex Machina: Wouldn't a being with artificial intelligence know better than to go into the woods with high heels on? Interesting movie, but obviously written by a man. (Also, you'd think I'm a huge fan of Domhnall Gleeson or something, since it's one of three movies I saw him featured in this year.)
  • Tomorrowland: where a smart girl with a dream can change the world, yet somehow all those in charge are still old white men. Despite my frustration with the plot, I might have still shed a few tears with this one.
  • Kingsman: The Secret Service: I love Colin Firth. Turns out I love him even more as kick-ass spy. My favorite of the spy movies I saw this year, surprising in that I saw multiple spy movies this year, and they are not typically my preferred genre.
  • The Duff: OK teen movie, made watchable because Mae Whitman just can't help but be great in everything.
  • Me and Earl and The Dying Girl: was lucky enough to attend a screening with two of the leads and the director of this very funny (and sad - it's in the title) little movie. Unexpectedly one of my favs of the year.
  • Spy: I love Melissa McCarthy, and turns out pairing her with Jason Statham playing a parody of the characters he usually plays in movies was comedy gold.
  • The Man from U.N.C.L.E.: enjoyable. Henry Cavill is sure easy to look at. That said, I would be hard pressed to remember the plot of this movie, and it's only been a few months since I saw it.
  • Magic Mike XXL: dare I say it - I enjoyed it more than the first. Maybe even more enjoyable than the film is Roxane Gay's spoilery and hilarious recap of it. 
  • Inside Out: another Pixar movie that made me tear up. Funny and sweet, and I loved it, but it felt more like a kids movie for adults than for actual kids. 
  • Paper Towns  I read the book, and it falls into my coming of age dramas sweet spot, but I felt kind of lukewarm towards this movie. 
  • The Martian: The science in it may be kind of wonky, but I enjoyed it, and any movie soundtrack that includes ABBA automatically goes up a star in my book.
  • Trainwreck: hilarious raunchy take on a romantic comedy. Amy Schumer has become one of my favorite comedians. 
  • Spectre this one confirmed to me that I'm really not a fan of James Bond in general. Not that it was bad, it's just not my cup of tea. 
  • Spotlight: an engaging movie on a difficult subject, that did a great job showing what I fear will soon be the lost art of investigative journalism. One of my favs of the year.
  • Brooklyn: was beautifully styled, but I felt it lacked something. I liked it, but I kept focusing on the costumes instead of characters -given the subject matter and my leaky eyes, I expected some tears, but surprisingly there were none. I did walk away wondering how Saoirse Ronan managed not to get burnt to a crisp in the days before sunscreen, and wanting her green coat. (Domhnall Gleeson feature #2.)
  • The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2: Again, surprisingly no tears from me, which is shocking given how I ugly cried reading a certain scene in the book. The one thing I walked out of the theater thinking was how did those 2 parents produce such a giant baby? 
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens: I walked out with many questions, but I enjoyed the ride. I really took a shine to most of the new characters too. That's all I feel I can say without being too spoilery for people waiting to see it. (Domhnall Gleeson feature #3 - and my least favorite of his appearances. I liked the movie, but not so much him in it.)
  • Sisters: I'm a big fan of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, and although I would love to be friends with them in real life, I wouldn't be friends with their characters here. The movie was pretty formulaic, but also a lot of fun. And for some reason after seeing both this and Trainwreck, I now want a big bear hug from John Cena.
Overall, a lot less tears shed than last year. Not sure if that's a good thing. Once again I hope to squeeze in a few more movies before the end of the year in order to be better prepared to give my opinion come awards show season.

Any movies you would recommend seeing?