(five) books + a box

So remember when I disappeared from blog land because I remembered how much I love reading books? Yeah, well, I’m still there, BUT, I’m taking a break for a quick review post. The reason being I just got another free Influenster box in the mail and want to give it a review. Also, I need to tell you guys about my new favorite series of all time! We’ll start with the books:

In which I completely abandon all literature except young adult lit

I’ve told you all before that I tend to gravitate toward the younger audience when it comes to books. Sure, I love many of the classics and have a special fondness for historical fiction, but I just love an easy, entertaining read over something with deep, complicated layers of symbolism and poetry. (My English professor mom is probably considering disowning me right about now!) HOWEVER, I do expect that my books are well written. I’ve cracked open a few teen fluff novels and couldn’t make it through more than a few pages because of terrible and/or sappy writing.

Anyway, to the point! My cousin told me about this series, called the River of Time, that she swore she liked better than the Divergent or Hunger Games trilogies. This obviously caught my attention, so I ordered book one, Waterfall, online. Nary a day had passed that I texted her desperately to borrow the next books in the series, because my Amazon order for them wouldn’t get here fast enough. GUYS, I love these books.

Without spoiling the plot—because I hate that, and also because the plot itself isn’t what makes it so great—let me just say what I love about this series:

  1. It’s written the way a young girl with a moderate amount of intelligence talks. Pop culture references and slang, but still descriptive and eloquent.
  2. It’s got romance without being trashy. Totally clean enough for, say, my 13-year-old niece who is now as obsessed with these books as I am.
  3. SO FAR*, the books mostly end in a manner that doesn’t make me want to throw them angrily at the wall and scream, “Why???” to the universe.
  4. BONUS not loved part: The cover art. I’m sorry, but it’s so corny, and the guy characters are way hotter how I imagine them.

So anyway, if you’re looking for a light but gripping read, check out River of Time! And once you do, please tell all your friends to build more interest so someone will make a movie of these!!

* There are currently five books out (three full length; two novellas sold in one volume), and the author is working on the sixth to come out in July!

Mary Kay (MKGlam) VoxBox: The time I actually changed my mind about a brand

If you read my last Influenster review, you know the drill. I fill out a profile, complete some surveys, and if I meet the target demographics, I get selected for free boxes! In exchange, I promise at the very least to complete a final survey about my opinion of the products. But, as an extra thank you for the free stuff, I can post a review on my blog. So here I am. Let me begin by saying if you haven’t joined Influenster yet but want to, let me know! I can invite you! But onto the review.

This box arrived before I even saw any tracking, so I wasn’t expecting it. I knew it involved Mary Kay, but that’s it. My opinion of the Mary Kay brand prior to this box was basically this: I associated it with pushy sales-ladies/sort-of friends in your house, maybe a little sense of tackiness. (This is just my honest opinion here!) So I received this box with a bit of a try-to-wow-me mentality. And I have to admit, I was kind of wowed. Overall, everything felt way more high-end than I expected, and there were a few products I absolutely LOVE. Couple that with the fact I got everything for free, and I almost feel like shouting from the rooftops. Here’s the product rundown with my comments on each item and the list prices (all are Mary Kay products):

  1. Lash Love Mascara ($15.00): BEST. MASCARA. EVER. I kid you not. I thought Benefit had me committed for life, but I love love love this mascara. The handle/applicator has a great weight to it, and it feels so sturdy. Oh, and the stuff really works. Fave item in the box.
  2. Cream Eye Color – Apricot Twist ($14.00): I don’t typically wear eye shadow of any kind, but I love this stuff. It’s a perfect shiny neutral and goes on super smoothly, with no cakiness as the day goes on.
  3. Mineral Cheek Color – Shy Blush ($12.00): This is just fine. It’s blush. I don’t really wear blush.
  4. Translucent Loose Powder ($16.00): This was probably the item I was most excited about before trying but most disappointed in once I did try it. I like that it’s very light, but I didn’t feel it made enough of a difference.
  5. Gel Eyeliner with Expandable Brush Applicator ($18.00): Now this I like. Believe it or not, I’ve never actually worn gel eyeliner, but I’ve tried this stuff the past couple days and might be a convert!
  6. Bronzing Power ($18.00): I like this stuff. I don’t normally wear bronzer, and I could probably use a tutorial on how to wear it correctly, but I like the “sun-kissed glow” this gives.
  7. NouriShine Plus Lip Gloss – Mango Tango ($14.00): This stuff looked orange-y but actually goes on a really nice coral-red. I like it!
  8. Cream Eye Color/Concealer Brush ($10.00): I actually don’t own any makeup brushes, so this was a welcome item! Seems like good quality.
  9. Big powder brush (wasn’t listed on the info card, but I’d guess around $12-15): Yet another brush I will happily use! Worked well enough but didn’t feel life-changing.

In short, this was $120+ worth of free stuff, and I was actually super impressed with most of it. I think my main qualm with Mary Kay has been the sales method, but I’d be totally cool with buying this stuff online. Yay for discovering awesome new products and yay for free boxes!

{RoT image via}

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a book + a box

As promised, I am finally reviewing my recent read, The Interestings. Although, since I hate spoilers, I won’t be focusing on the plot as much as some thoughts it sparked in my mind. And since I also have a box to review (first ever!), I figured I’d combine them into one! I’m obviously not a pro box reviewer, but as this is the first box I’ve ever received for free, it deserves a little spotlight. But first….

The Interestings, by Meg Wolitzer: a (sort of) review

I heard about this book and read it as part A Beautiful Mess’s online book club in January.. but, as I mentioned on here, didn’t finish until February. The Interestings is a very honest, realistic, and occasionally a tad graphic (depending on your sensibilities) look at a few people who could really be anyone you know. The book follows the lives of a group of teens who meet at summer camp. They remain friends (for the most part), but their lives take very different turns. Wolitzer explores the roles wealth and envy can play in people’s lives, and she is super descriptive and insightful when it comes to the characters’ motivations, thoughts, and complexities.

In a big way, the book centers on a theme of classism. Some characters were born into money, others not; some were able to move up from the class they were born into, others are not. It dives into to the idea of finding happiness in your circumstances. These are a few of the big takeaways for me:

  1. Envying the wealth of others will only make you miserable and bitter.
  2. Having wealth is no guarantee of happiness in your life, even if it seems that way from a position of less wealth.
  3. Class still plays a huge role in our society and when it comes to who gets away with things and who doesn’t.
  4. The happiest people are those who don’t dwell too much on the money they do or don’t have but instead focus on enjoying the life they have.

All in all, I liked the book because it was such an interesting study in human behavior. At times I found myself annoyed with one of the main characters, but in a way I liked that fact because she felt so real. The verdict: I think it’s definitely worth the read. It’s not a gripping page-turner by any means, but the story was very compelling, and I saw so many people I know in the characters of the book.

J’Adore VoxBox from Influenster

And now for the box! Many of you have heard of Influenster or even received the J’Adore VoxBox, but if you haven’t, Influenster is an online community for learning and sharing about products and brands. You build your “influence” by completing surveys, writing reviews, and engaging on social media channels about various brands and products. If you fit certain demographics and complete the necessary surveys, you get selected for these VoxBoxes, which are packed with various types of goodies you can review and discuss on social media. Anyway, I got invited by a friend and joined Influenster in January, and I got the invite for the J’Adore VoxBox in February! It took forever to get to me (11 days), but it finally got here on Friday and I was so excited! The contents and my thoughts about each are as follows:

  • Boots Botanics Shine Away Ionic Clay Mask ($9.39): I have never actually done a clay mask. When I went to try this, tons of clay liquid came out and got everywhere, and I wasn’t sure if that just how it was. But then I squeezed it out and got the goopy clay. I loved popping out of the bathroom to try and scare Ben (he was, sadly, unfazed), and a few minutes later (there were no directions, so I waited about 5 min), I washed it all off. My skin didn’t feel *amazing*, but it felt smooth and squeaky clean. I liked it! We’ll see if I notice any big results as I try it more.
  • Hershey’s Kisses Milk Chocolates ($5.29): It’s chocolate! I guess this was just keeping with the Valentine’s theme. I don’t know a single person who hasn’t tried Hershey’s Kisses before, so I’m not sure what the goal was here, but I’ll take them! Always love chocolate, and Hershey’s is of course the classic American brand. I had a few of these and would love to use the rest to make the peanut butter-Kiss cookies we all know and love.
  • Frizz Ease 3-Day Straight Flat Iron Spray ($9.99): My hair is straight-ish, but gets wavy when I don’t style it. These days, I generally save hair straightening for Sundays or days I really dress up. I do it so hastily that it doesn’t do much, but I may have to ramp it up with this stuff! It reminds me of the first time I ever straightened my hair (11th grade) and how it lasted for days! It gives me an excuse to skip a hair wash, too.
  • KISS Looks So Natural Lashes ($3.99): I haven’t jumped on the falsies bandwagon yet, but part of me wants to try just to see if I’ll suddenly look transformed. The idea behind these is that they taper in width toward the ends, more closely resembling real eyelashes. I tested these out quickly, and they kind of make me look like I have a lot of eyeshadow on. These may be a good thing to keep on hand for a special occasion when I want to look different from my everyday me.
  • Red Rose Simply Indulgent Teas ($0.90): I don’t really drink tea, and definitely not black tea, but these flavors sound delish! Créme caramel and lemon chiffon. I will put these in the stack of other box teas I will be giving to some lucky friend who lets me know they love tea!
  • Vaseline Men Spray Lotion ($7.99): A gift for Ben! He was sort of excited. He doesn’t really wear lotion but tried this out, and he said he liked that it felt light on his skin and that he’ll probably use it more when we move. It had a nice manly but not too overwhelming scent to it.

Anyway, that’s it for my first reviews ever! I kind of like this and may consider it for boxes I get in the future!

p.s. If you want an invite to Influenster, let me know! I have five precious invites to give away. 🙂