Book Reviews: February 2015

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Station-Eleven Finally, finally, I got a chance to read this book! It was another one that I really wanted to read last year. There was a lot of praise and it was shortlisted for the National Book Award, so I was expecting a lot. I’d call this book speculative fiction- it explores what happens when a pandemic wipes out 99% of the population on Earth. It follows a few different characters and over time, you see how each of these characters is connected to the other. I don’t think it’s easy to weave together different narratives, but the author does it really well here. After the pandemic, there’s a group of actors and musicians who travel around performing Shakespeare plays. Their motto is “survival is insufficient.” To survive the pandemic is not enough- they want to keep sharing their art with what’s left of the world. A few other themes throughout the book are memory, society, artifacts, and celebrity.

I really enjoyed this. I thought Mandel’s writing was excellent and the whole premise really made me think. The great pandemic is just on the edge of plausible and I found myself wondering if I would survive if something like that happened. Also, I thought she was really skillful at jumping around in time and from character to character. I feel like it’s really easy to lose the reader when you have a non-linear narrative, but that wasn’t the case here. I’d definitely recommend this book and I’m looking forward to reading what she writes next. Out of curiosity, what do you think are your chances of survival if life on Earth as we know it ended?

The-Secret-Lives For Black History Month, I was participating in a project called #ReadSoulLit. My family is Nigerian so I thought it would be interesting to read more works by Nigerian writers. I wanted to pick authors that are lesser-known (so not Adichie or Achebe) and I heard about this book while I was looking for titles that fit into this category.

Baba Segi is a wealthy businessman in Nigeria and he’s married to four different women. At first I was really annoyed with this book. Baba Segi’s attitude towards women is from the Dark Ages- he believes that his wives only exist to serve him and cater to his every whim. I was having trouble understanding why any of the women would want to be married to someone who has multiple wives. However, as you keep reading, you get to know each of the characters a little better and you find out how they’ve come to where they are now. Each of them is in this situation for a different reason and once you hear about their backgrounds, it kind of makes sense. As the title says, everyone has secrets and those secrets bring tragedy and misery. In the end, I thought it was interesting to read a story that takes place in a different setting. It was good to read about a different life experience and I appreciate the way my opinion of that lifestyle choice changed as I was reading the book. I’m not saying I support polygamy, but I understood why the women chose that path.

Oil-on-Water This is another book set in Nigeria. When I went to the bookstore, I was actually looking for a different book by this author. They didn’t have the one I was looking for though, so I picked up this one instead. I feel like I lucked out because not only was it a good read, but I absolutely love the cover of this one.

In this novel, the wife of a wealthy oil executive is kidnapped. Now kidnappings are a regular occurrence in this part of Nigeria and there’s a procedure to follow. The husband pays a few journalists to meet with the kidnappers and confirm that his wife is alive. One of these journalists is our main character, Rufus, who’s young and idealistic and is hoping that this will be his first big story. He’s also working with another reporter named Zaq, who used to be really famous and is one of Rufus’s idols. The two of them take off in search of this woman, but the routine kidnapping goes awry.

Again, it’s really nice to read something that’s set in a different part of the world. One of the main issues in this book is the way that the oil industry is affecting the lives of the people in nearby villages. The oil ruins the environment and these villages collapse because they can’t sustain themselves anymore. I also liked the discussion of the role of journalists. Rufus comments that it’s his job to observe and report the truth, because if he doesn’t, it’s very possible that no one else will.

I thought it was an interesting and easy read, not just because it’s a short book and there’s a lot of dialogue, but also because the writing felt very natural and accessible. If you’re at all curious about books set in Nigeria, I would definitely recommend this one.

Dracula I’m surprised that I’ve never read Dracula before, considering that I’m totally into vampire novels (and TV shows). The story begins with the journal of Jonathan Harker, a young lawyer who travels to Transylvania to meet with his client, the one and only Count Dracula. Some very strange things begin to happen and Jonathan records them all in his journal. Slowly Jonathan realizes that Count Dracula is not exactly what he seems…

I thought this was great. I was delightfully surprised by the humor in this book. Maybe it’s because I’ve absorbed the story of Dracula through pop culture over the years, but when Jonathan’s like, “*How strange, this man never seems to eat or sleep and he has no reflection!” (*I’m paraphrasing here, these are not actual lines from the book), I’m like, “Hahaha, that’s because he’s a vampire!” I don’t know if that quite makes sense, but there’s a certain humor in knowing more than the characters in the novel do. There are also journal entries and letters from other characters, who eventually band together to hunt down Dracula. Like with most classics, it took me a bit to settle into the writing style, but once I focused my energies on this book, I read big chunks of it at a time.

Beauty Wish List 02.

bare minerals complexion rescue, nars satin lip pencil, origins drink up mask, benefit roller lash NARS Satin Lip Pencil in Palais Royal– I have the Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in the color Dragon Girl and it was my go-to red for a while. I’ve only tried that one color from the line, but I do find the matte pencil a little bit drying. I’ve always wanted to try the Satin version and this deep berry color looks really pretty online.

Bare Minerals Complexion Rescue– This has been popping up everywhere lately, so naturally I became curious. I don’t really wear foundation or anything at the moment, but I’ve been thinking about getting a lightweight base for days when I want to look a little more polished. I want something that looks natural and feels like you’re barely wearing anything. I haven’t tried any products from Bare Minerals before, but I’ve heard good things about the brand. Kim also did a review on this recently. When I saw how glowy and great her skin looked, this product moved a few spots up on my wish list.

Origins Drink Up Intensive Overnight Mask– For the past couple of weeks, I’ve incorporated a face mask into my weekly Sunday routine. My skin continues to suffer from the winter weather, so I’ve been trying to be better about moisturizing daily. Ashley tweeted about this Origins mask a little while ago and she said it’s been saving her skin. With a rave review like that, I knew I had to add it to the list.

Benefit Roller Lash– This is another product that’s all over place- I guess you can tell that I can get sucked into the hype. However, I really like Benefit’s They’re Real and I trust them when it comes to mascara. People are saying that Roller Lash is just as good. Mascara has become the one product I always put on before I’m heading out the door (well, usually that and a bit of eyeliner). So far I’ve mostly dabbled in drugstore mascaras (Maybelline is my go-to brand), but if this is as good as people are saying, I might be willing to splurge.

Let me know if you’ve tried any of these products!

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California Winter

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As I was cleaning up my computer, I realized that I had one more outfit post from my trip to California over the holidays. Yesterday, the temperature cracked 40 degrees here in NYC. For a brief moment, we remembered what warmth was.

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This was my favorite outfit that we took pictures of while I was home. I really like the way my gray sweater pairs with the navy skirt. Also, this skirt is one of the best things I bought in 2014 (I’m still kicking myself for not picking it up in black when I had the chance). I’m at that stage where I’m totally sick of winter. I’m tired of everything in my closet and I’m tired of having to wear a gajillion layers all the time. The 40-degree weather was a step in the right direction. Do you hear that weather gods?

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I’ve been coping by doing a lot of online browsing recently. All of the spring clothes have started to arrive in stores. Although it’s not warm enough to actually wear these things yet, a girl can dream.

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It was pretty quiet around here this weekend. As I mentioned, we got new internet installed (which is a vast improvement already) and we also got cable, which means I was actually able to watch the Oscars yesterday. On my best-dressed list, there’s Lupita in thousands of pearls, Rosamund Pike in red (best she’s looked all season, though I wish she’d had a brighter lip), and I thought Zoe Saldana looked gorgeous in a blush dress. Looking back at pictures, there were a lot of safe choices and not that many stand-outs. Who are your picks for best-dressed?

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Outfit Details: Gap gray sweater, J. Crew navy skirt, H&M floral scarf, Topshop chelsea boots | Nails- Sally Hansen Complete Salon Manicure Wedding Glitters | photos- my sister

4 Things to Do When You’re Feeling Overwhelmed

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A couple weeks ago, I had a bit of a reality check. A coworker dropped by my cube to chat and she said, “How are you? Stressed?” I was so surprised by that question! I think of myself as a pretty mellow person and I don’t think I get stressed easily. However, when she said that, I took a step back and realized that I was a bit stressed. As much as you’d like to think you have it all under control, sometimes that to do list is overwhelming. I think it’s natural for everyone to feel stressed from time to time and it was good for me to admit it to myself. There are a few things that I like to do when I’m feeling like it’s all a bit too much:

Get organized. I’m a total nerd about organization. When thoughts are going a million miles a minute in my head, it helps me to get them out on paper. I love making lists and I like to see exactly what I need to tackle. Once I’ve made my list, sometimes it’s good to just start at the top and work my way down. If I keep staring at the number of things on the list, I may never get started, so sometimes it’s useful to just start at the top or pick one task that I know that I can easily accomplish. At other times, there are tasks that are time-sensitive or are much more important, so I’ll prioritize those.

– Get a manicure. And by get, I really mean give. Giving myself an at-home manicure is part of my weekly Sunday ritual. I find the process so soothing and when I have freshly painted nails, I feel like I’m much more capable. It doesn’t have to be a manicure, but the idea here is to do something for yourself that makes you feel good. Then, when you’re a bit more relaxed, you can get back to checking off that list.

– Escape for a bit. Through a book, through TV, by talking a walk outside- whatever works for you. When I want to turn my brain off, I usually pull up one of my TV shows and watch a couple episodes. Sometimes it gets to the point where worrying about the things you have to do is actually making you less productive, so it’s good to switch focus for a bit and give your mind a little rest.

– Call your person. One of my favorite things about the show Grey’s Anatomy was the friendship between Meredith and Cristina. If you don’t watch the show, Meredith and Cristina are BFFs and they’re there for each other no matter what. They’ve had their ups and downs, but they’ve stuck together through the best and worst of times. The point is, sometimes you need to call that one person who knows you really well and can offer you good advice and/or tough love, if necessary. I usually like to keep things to myself and mull them over, but every once in a while I do need to talk things out and get them off my chest. Your person may not really be able to help, but sometimes all you need is a sympathetic ear.

I’d love to hear about what you like to do when you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed. As always, I’m looking forward to the weekend. We’re supposed to be getting faster Internet installed (fingers crossed that they actually show up when they say they’re going to) and I can’t wait for that. It will make blogging (and life in general) a lot easier. I hope you all have a great weekend!

(image via. I couldn’t find the original source for this one- let me know if you know it!)