Review: My Plain Jane - Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows

“If there was something strange in your neighborhood, you could, um, write the Society a letter, and they would promptly send an agent to take care of it.”

My Rating: ★★★★★

Genre(s): Fantasy, Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Retelling

Reading Challenge: 18 out of 35

Goodreads Synopsis —

You may think you know the story. After a miserable childhood, penniless orphan Jane Eyre embarks on a new life as a governess at Thornfield Hall. There, she meets one dark, brooding Mr. Rochester. Despite their significant age gap (!) and his uneven temper (!!), they fall in love—and, Reader, she marries him. (!!!)

Or does she?

Prepare for an adventure of Gothic proportions, in which all is not as it seems, a certain gentleman is hiding more than skeletons in his closets, and one orphan Jane Eyre, aspiring author Charlotte Brontë, and supernatural investigator Alexander Blackwood are about to be drawn together on the most epic ghost hunt this side of Wuthering Heights.

My Thoughts —

The Janies have released yet another retelling masterpiece. And reader, I loved it.

If you haven’t already read my review of My Lady Jane, which I posted last year, now would be a great time to do that! You can read that here.

Okay, onto the review! So, first thing to note is that you don’t need to read My Lady Jane before you read this book. In fact, you don’t need to read it at all - but you should! Because My Lady Jane was amazing and I love-love-loved it. But these books exist entirely on their own. The best way that I could explain the Lady Janies series is by comparing it to an anthology series like American Horror Story, where each season is about a different story and different characters. That’s what these books are. They’ve got a common thread (being about a Jane, whether fictional or historical) but they tell different stories and aren’t connected.

Unlike My Lady Jane, which was a historical retelling, My Plain Jane took on a fictional story - the Charlotte Brontë Gothic novel, Jane Eyre. Some literary purists would probably be really put off by a retelling of a classic, especially one that really changed the course of the novel, but personally, I thought it was so entertaining. The team of authors who jointly put together this book did such a fantastic job at creating a multi-faceted story that combined the original storyline of Jane Eyre with common Gothic era elements as well as contemporary ideas. In this book, just like in My Lady Jane, we saw previously overlooked female characters taking a stand for themselves which was so empowering and amazing.

Something I particularly enjoyed about this book was how Charlotte Brontë took a major part in not only the storytelling but also the plot. In My Plain Jane, Charlotte was a close friend of Jane’s from the beginning of the story and she became an integral part in the main character’s story. But, maintaining a bit of reality, Charlotte was constantly writing down notes about Jane’s life in a notebook to use for a novel, which would ultimately become Jane Eyre. On the whole, it made the story feel a whole lot personal.

And finally, just like in My Lady Jane, My Plain Jane had little author’s notes which was so funny and original. It felt like the authors were telling the reader a story in a more personal way, and that’s something I really love about their books!

All in all, an INCREDIBLE book. If you’re looking for some ghostly fun (maybe a good October read???), definitely check this out, especially if you’re into young adults novels. It’s well worth the 400-some-odd pages!

P.S. I have just found out from the Janies’ blog (here) that they will not only be releasing a third book of the Janies series, My Calamity Jane, but also another trilogy - the Marys!! Which will include a first book about my most favourite tragic lady in history, Mary, Queen of Scots! Can’t wait for her to get the justice she deserved.

Are you a fan of retellings?

Felicia x

Review: Dear Evan Hansen - Val Emmich

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“I looked up once more, at the whole world; it was beautiful, I knew it was, but I wasn’t a part of it. I was never going to be a part of it.”

My Rating: ★★★★

Genre(s): Young Adult, Contemporary, Fiction

Reading Challenge: 14 out of 35

Goodreads Synopsis —

Dear Evan Hansen,

Today's going to be an amazing day and here's why...


When a letter that was never meant to be seen by anyone draws high school senior Evan Hansen into a family's grief over the loss of their son, he is given the chance of a lifetime: to belong. He just has to stick to a lie he never meant to tell, that the notoriously troubled Connor Murphy was his secret best friend.

Suddenly, Evan isn't invisible anymore--even to the girl of his dreams. And Connor Murphy's parents, with their beautiful home on the other side of town, have taken him in like he was their own, desperate to know more about their enigmatic son from his closest friend. As Evan gets pulled deeper into their swirl of anger, regret, and confusion, he knows that what he's doing can't be right, but if he's helping people, how wrong can it be?

No longer tangled in his once-incapacitating anxiety, this new Evan has a purpose. And a website. He's confident. He's a viral phenomenon. Every day is amazing. Until everything is in danger of unraveling and he comes face to face with his greatest obstacle: himself.

A simple lie leads to complicated truths in this big-hearted coming-of-age story of grief, authenticity and the struggle to belong in an age of instant connectivity and profound isolation.

My Thoughts —

So, just a disclaimer right off the bat here that I’ve never seen the musical Dear Evan Hansen - yet. I’m seeing it on June 12 in Toronto, which I’m very excited about! My only knowledge of the musical going into this novel was the general plot and the soundtrack. With that in mind, this is a review only about the novel, Dear Evan Hansen, not the musical.

Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s jump right in!

I enjoyed this novel immensely. I thought it was a very well-crafted Young Adults novel that dealt with a very important contemporary issue that effects teens. Right off the bat, I connected to Evan Hansen. Although they don’t outright say it, Evan clearly suffers from very severe social anxiety which I also suffer from. I know what it’s like to feel isolated and alone because of mental illness. It’s an all-consuming restriction on your life, especially before you learn how to manage it, and this novel shows Evan really having a hard time coming to terms with his anxiety. I also thought it was cool that they normalized therapy. Yes, he was initially reluctant to try the methods of the therapist but coming from someone who went into therapy telling everyone who would listen that it wasn’t going to work for me, that was definitely something I could relate to. As the book progressed, I think he really learned how important it was to follow through with the methods his therapist was giving him to cope and manage his anxieties, which was great. I got a very similar feeling from Under Rose-Tainted Skies, which I reviewed last year.

I thought it was really interesting how the creators chose to have Evan deal with the death by suicide of his classmate. I think it’s really easy to see Evan pretending to be Connor Murphy’s friend and creating a web of lies, and think he’s just a massive jerk or that the authors dealt with subject insensitively. But I didn’t see it that way. I saw it instead as a kid with limited social skills just completely making a disaster of a situation. What’s interesting about that is that you don’t have to view Evan Hansen as an incredible hero with zero flaws. If all characters were built that way, books would be extremely boring. I liked that he made a massive mistake, I liked that he did the wrong thing. It’s important for people to see characters make the wrong choices so that we can learn a lesson from it. At least, that’s my personal opinion!

Lastly, I just want to say that the real villain of this story was Alana Beck. I won’t spoil the story, but her influence on The Connor Project in the second half of the book left me fuming. I hope to god she’s not that insufferable in the musical.

Have you read Dear Evan Hansen? Or have you seen the musical? What are your thoughts?

Felicia x

Review: Epcot’s Flower and Garden Festival | 2019

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Springtime is here y’all! The sun is out, the weather is warming up, flowers are a-bloomin’…

Well, at least, that’s true for Florida. Ontario hasn’t gotten the memo yet apparently.

I haven’t visited Epcot’s Flower and Garden Festival in 3 years. For me, that’s a long time! Considering I’m at the parks several times a year. It just so happened that I didn’t really have an opportunity to go. In the past, I would visit the Festival during March Break in high school or I would visit during the Cheerleading Worlds, like I did once when my boyfriend’s brother competed. But once I got to uni, I no longer had a March Break and school went to May. In first year, we visited New York City as our spring trip and then last year, we just stayed home until our summer trip to Orlando in June. But this year, we specifically planned a trip around the Festival because truth be told, we all missed it a lot! If you’ve never been, I would highly recommend it. It’s absolutely the loveliest.

While at the Festival this year, we tried quite a few treats. If you’ve ever been to an Epcot festival before, you’ll know how they set up numerous booths around the World Showcase which feature delectable treats from different countries around the globe. It’s a really great way to try some new food and experience the cultures of other nations. I’ve done multiple posts on the International Food and Wine Festival which I visit every year, including last year. So I thought I would review what I tried for the Flower and Garden Festival as well!

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Frozen Desert Violet Lemonade

I feel like it’s absolutely necessary that I start off this post with perhaps the most beloved of all the Flower and Garden treats - the violet lemonade. To this point, I had never tried the violet lemonade. The last time I visited the festival, the lemonade was either not offered or just wasn’t as popular as it is now. Obviously, it’s grown massively in popularity over the years, as this year they even had merchandise devoted to this sweet drink! So I figured I had to give it a try. I love lemonade and this was absolutely no exception. I was genuinely obsessed with this!! It was really refreshing and tasty, although it is quite sweet so if you’re not into sweet drinks this may not be for you! I had this on two separate occasions because I loved it so much. Also, it was quite lovely that they tell you where the flower on top of your drink came from!

You can find this at the Pineapple Promenade booth near the Refreshment Port!

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Watermelon Cucumber Slushy

Staying on the topic of drinks, my boyfriend and I shared one of these bad boys. I was actually quite nervous to try this! I’m not an adventurous person at all when it comes to food or drinks, and the idea of cucumber in a drink seemed like it wouldn’t really be my sort of thing. But I made it my goal to try new things on this trip! And I ended up loving this slushy! And so did my boyfriend, for that matter. The cucumber wasn’t overpowering at all and the bit of it that you could taste was really lovely and refreshing. I always love a good watermelon juice as well, so that part of it was definitely down my alley. I’m already trying to figure out how to make this on my own at home!

You can find this at the Florida Fresh booth between the France and Morocco pavilions!

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Beef Tenderloin Tips

One of our first stops on our first trip to the Festival this year was Canada. I’ve recently learned that it’s actually “proper” or whatever to follow the World Showcase by doing Mexico first and ending in Canada, but we’ve always done the opposite! I think that it’s because we’re Canadian, we are automatically drawn to our own pavilion. My boyfriend wanted to try the Beef Tenderloin Tips from the booth so we ended up sharing a plate and it was so delicious!! It felt sort of reminiscent of the Wild Mushroom Filet that is served during Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival during the fall, except this one didn’t have the creamy gravy/sauce on top. It was really tender and cooked well (which is a blessing as I can’t eat any meat that isn’t cooked well). And the mashed potatoes underneath were wonderful!

You can find this at the Northern Bloom booth at the Canada pavilion!

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Tri-Coloured Tortellini

First off, please take in how the pasta is literally almost falling out of the bowl smh. This is what happens when you try to take creative photos in ridiculous Florida heat and get a little dizzy lol. I’ve only recently gotten into tortellini as picky eater me thought it was weird. And even with dipping my toe in the tortellini world, I refused to eat multi-coloured tortellinis because I’m weird. However, we’re trying new things right?! So I tried this tri-coloured cheese tortellini and LOVED it. Like honestly this might have been my favourite dish at the festival. The sauce was a chicken veloute with sage butter which was really light and lovely, but oh-so-tasty. I’m already searching up how to cook this one at home, too!

You can find this at the Primavera Kitchen booth at the Italy pavilion!

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Toasted Pretzel Bread

Let me preface this by saying that I absolutely adore pretzel bread. I love bread as it is, but pretzel bread is even better. Soft pretzels just rock, don’t they? So when I saw that Germany was offering some sort of pretzel bread sandwich, I was all in. This pretzel bread was sort of in the shape of a roll and toasted with black forest ham and melted gruyere cheese. It was so melty and savoury and delicious! It sort of reminds me of the Croissant Jambon Fromage at Les Halles Boulangerie-Patisserie in the France pavilion - which is ham, cheese and bechamel in a croissant. It was really well done and I think it would be an excellent treat for if you wanted something more sustaining to get you through a long park day, as opposed to the sweeter options around the Festival!

You can find this at the Bauernmarkt at the Germany pavilion!

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Grilled Street Corn on the Cob

This was more so something that my boyfriend wanted to sample, and that I decided to try and ending up really enjoying! This corn on the cob is coated in a savoury garlic spread, which makes it absolutely so delicious that I can’t even put it into words. The corn itself was also very sweet which made it a really interesting mix of flavours - in the best way! I was sort of skeptical about just chomping down on a corn on the cob in the middle of a theme park but it was really tasty and I liked that they provided you with an aluminum foil covering at the bottom so you could hold the corn without touching it with your bare hands! Regardless, this was a super messy treat. The garlic spread got all over our faces lol so I would definitely recommend having plenty of napkins on hand if you decide to try this!

You can find this at the Trowel and Trellis booth near the Mexico pavilion!

Frushi

Lastly, we tried the famous Frushi. I’ve seen a ton of Instagrammers snacking on Frushi over the years at the Flower and Garden Festival, so I just had to know what was so great about it. I have NEVER eaten sushi before, in my life. I don’t even think I’ve seen anyone eat sushi in front of me before, unless maybe my dad did once upon a time. I’m not a seafood-eater at all so sushi isn’t in the cards for me. But fruit sushi is! Frushi is comprised of fresh pineapple, strawberry and melon rolled with raspberry coconut rice and sprinkled with toasted coconut, accompanied by whipped cream on the side (with some sort of raspberry sauce on it I think). I had no idea how to go about eating this lol my dad had to tell me to eat it in one bite which is hilarious because I only ever eat things in small bites. But it was good! I don’t know that I loved it, but it was refreshing and the fruit was so so tasty! I think the only thing that put me off might have been the raspberry coconut rice. But I’d try it again in the future!

You can find the frushi at the Hanami booth at the Japan pavilion!

And that’s a close on my 2019 Flower and Garden Festival adventures! It was so lovely to be back at this beautiful festival, enjoying the wonderful treats and sights. I love how they integrate flowers in their sweets and how they keep everything fresh and themed to the season. We tried sooo many things this year but there were still so many things I wish I had time to sample! If you tried anything that I didn’t feature in this post, let me know what it was and what you thought of it!

Felicia x

Review: Dumplin' - Julie Murphy

“I guess sometimes the perfection we perceive in others is made up of a whole bunch of tiny imperfections, because some days the damn dress just won’t zip.”

My Rating: ★★★★

Genre(s): Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Fiction

Reading Challenge: 3 out of 35

Goodreads Synopsis —

Self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson (dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom) has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked…until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back.

Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Clover City beauty pageant—along with several other unlikely candidates—to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any twiggy girl does. Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City—and maybe herself most of all.

With starry Texas nights, red candy suckers, Dolly Parton songs, and a wildly unforgettable heroine—Dumplin’ is guaranteed to steal your heart.

My Thoughts —

I’m a sucker for a good fluffy romance. (New drinking game: take a shot whenever I say that in a review).

Last December, I saw that the film adaptation of Dumplin’ had been put onto Netflix and because I have no impulse control, I watched it before reading the book. Big literary no-no, I know. But here we are. I really enjoyed the film but I had to wait until after final exams to read the book. So, finally, I got to read it and no shock, it’s SO much better than the film.

Dumplin’ has all the key elements of a great YA romance: an authentic female lead, a dreamy love interest, a complicated but enduring friendship, and of course, Dolly Parton, hero to all. To be honest, Dumplin’ really hit the mark for me. It pulled me in, got me invested in all the characters, and it just seemed authentic to me. I believed that these characters could be real teenagers, which I find is really difficult for some YA authors to capture perfectly. Being not so far off from a teen, I can still understand teen characters fairly well. Mind you, I feel like every day I feel less and less connected to teens these days lol.

I really liked how this book strayed from the reliance on stereotypes like a lot of YA novels do. Not only in terms of Willowdean, either. I thought it was really interesting that Bo could have easily been made into another mysterious, handsome, obnoxious private school kid. But instead, they made him into a multifaceted character. They also avoided having Willowdean desperately chase after Bo to the point that pining over him would be her only personality trait (I’m sure this sounds familiar). In fact, Bo actually chased Willowdean throughout the book. Willowdean is a strong, complex character with ambitions and goals, who happens to also have a crush on a boy. And I loved that about her.

Did you like the movie adaptation or the book better?

Felicia x

Review: The Sun Does Shine - Anthony Ray Hinton

“Everything, I realized, is a choice. And spending your days waiting to die is no way to live.”

My Rating: ★★★★★

Genre(s): Non-Fiction, Memoir, Biography, True Crime

Reading Challenge: 2 out of 35

Goodreads Synopsis —

Anthony Ray Hinton was poor and black when he was convicted of two murders he hadn't committed. For the next three decades he was trapped in solitary confinement in a tiny cell on death row, having to watch as - one by one - his fellow prisoners were taken past him to the execution room. Eventually his case was taken up by the award-winning lawyer, Bryan Stevenson, who managed to have him exonerated, though it took 15 years for this to happen. Since his release, other high-profile supporters have included Richard Branson, Mark Zuckerberg and Amal Clooney.

How did Hinton cope with the mental and emotional torture of his situation, and emerge full of compassion and forgiveness? The Sun Does Shine throws light not only on his remarkable personality but also on social deprivation and miscarriages of justice. Ultimately, though, it's a triumphant story of the resilience of the human spirit.

My Thoughts —

As soon as I heard about this book, I wanted to read it. I immediately added it to my TBR and then at my first chance, I went out to hunt for it in the shop. (I actually ended up getting it on sale, thanks Books-A-Million!).

I was shocked that it could be possible that someone could not only be wrongfully convicted, but put on death row for decades. Even more so, his positivity astonished me. If it were me, I would be miserable as I’m sure many others would be. But Anthony Ray Hinton managed to get through it with his head high and full of optimism. He spread light to the other prisoners and honestly made me completely reconsider my perception of the prison system.

I was completely inspired by Anthony Ray Hinton’s story. It made me really reconsider my own position in life and be grateful for my privileges. Ray was imprisoned simply because he was poor and black - we can’t let the world fail people like Ray anymore.

Felicia x

Review: Mary Queen of Scots (2018)

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I think I should preface this by saying that not only am I a huge history buff, but that Mary Queen of Scots is my favourite monarch in history. Is it weird to have a favourite royal? I don’t think so. Who knows, might just be a history nerd thing. I was first introduced to Mary’s story years ago through the CW teen drama, Reign, which I still binge-watch at least once every six months. However, it isn’t exactly… ahem… a historically accurate source haha. Not to say that it isn’t good! It’s very enjoyable and I highly recommend watching it, so long as you look elsewhere for your facts. Anyway, it set me off on a years-long search to gather as much info about the tragic Scottish Queen as I could.

For those not familiar with the history, lemme break it down real quick. Henry VIII had 3 children: Edward VI, Mary I, and Elizabeth I. The way succession worked in 16th century England, if Henry VIII had not had any kids, the line of succession would’ve been passed onto his oldest sister, Margaret Tudor. The same, however, went if his children did not have children. Which they didn’t. Long story short, Elizabeth I not having a kid meant that the Scottish Queen, Mary, was the next in line (this was due to her paternal grandmother and father being dead by the time she was a baby). This caused a lot of anxiety for Queen Elizabeth I, who worried that Mary would come along and try to take the throne from her, as her own grandfather did to King Richard III in the 1400s. This was especially problematic as a lot of people were against Elizabeth as she was a Protestant, and Mary was a Catholic. See how this could be an issue?

Okay, let’s get into things.

You can imagine that when I heard there would be a film adaptation about her life, I was pretty bloody ecstatic. My mum (also a MQoS fan) and I meant to see the film in theatres last December, but with my exam schedule it just didn’t work out. Luckily, it’s out on dvd and I finally got to see it! And I thought, what better way to revisit my love of Mary than through a film review on my blog.

Disclaimer: these are just the opinions of a 20-year-old history fan who makes no claim to be a professional historian or film critic. I just love me a good period piece and love a good rant even more!

Caution - major spoilers ahead!!

First off, the cast. When I heard that Queen Elizabeth I was to be played by Margot Robbie, my reaction looked a lot like this:

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All I could picture was yet another Cate Blanchett depiction of a very polished version of the English Queen. However, my worries were completely unfounded as Margot Robbie pulled off a fantastic Queen Elizabeth I. They even showed off her facial scarring that she got from smallpox. I was pleasantly surprised. Saoirse Ronan wasn’t exactly who I’d have imagined playing Mary, but I think she pulled it off quite well. There were also some great actors in this film such as Brendan Coyle, Joe Alwyn, and David Tennant (more on him in a sec).

The film was heavily based on John Guy’s biography of Mary Queen of Scots, which you can tell because Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie’s faces are plastered on the book’s cover in every book store right now. If you’re interested in getting a more in-depth factual look at Mary’s life, I definitely recommend reading his biography which is the one in the picture at the top of the review. It’s highly acclaimed and a reliable source. Just make sure to not buy the movie tie-in version!

Let’s start off with the good things/things I liked.

This was the most historically accurate depiction of Mary’s story I’ve seen. Not to say that it’s entirely historically accurate, as there was a bit of artistic license used in order to move the plot ahead or make it more dramatic. But it was a far-cry from Reign lol. As for the two Queens, I’ve obviously pointed out how on-point Elizabeth’s appearance was (even her nose was spot-on!). Mary was given red hair, which was a plus, however it was a bit lighter/more orange than portraits made it out to be.

My FAVOURITE part of this movie was whenever Saoirse Ronan spoke French!! She spoke it often, too!! By George, I think they’ve finally got it. It’s the most overlooked part of her life in the film and TV universe. Mary would have spoken French. A woman who spent her formative years in France, who married the French king, would have spoken the country’s native language. It’s just facts. Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk.

Moving on lol. David Tennant (see, told you we’d get to him!) was phenomenal in this film. I didn’t even initially recognize him when he came on the screen. It took me, however, 0.05 seconds to realize he was John Knox, the Protestant leader of the Scottish Reformation and overall woman-hater. In one sentence, he attacked the Pope and the female rulers of two kingdoms, so I was like aha that’s him. He did a great job at playing the villainous Scot and also reminded me why I hate Knox so much.

Onto the bad - as every movie, especially the period pieces, has its downfalls.

The omission of Mary’s early life made me sad. Yes, her time in Scotland is more “interesting,” but her time in France was equally as important. Her years there were relegated to a short blurb in conversation, whereas it was a huge part of her life. She spent a whopping 13 years in France, where as she spent a combined total of 11 in Scotland (5 of which she was a baby/toddler). None of her early years in French Court or her reign as Queen consort of France were depicted. And my poor heart couldn’t take that the only mention of her late husband, King Francis II was her offhandedly mentioning he was bad at sex. She loved him most of all!! How could they!! Toby Regbo did not die (twice) for this.

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The highly inaccurate face-to-face meeting of Mary and Elizabeth gave me major eye-rolls as well. Okay, so I know they included it because it’s anticlimactic to show two Queens writing letters to one another. But still. Especially that it was them meeting in a room of hanging sheets. The melodrama!! It was just not for me.

And her execution. Sigh. I thought that Adelaide Kane’s Mary execution in Reign was the most dramatized and fabricated version, because of how they gave her a grand total of maybe 5 grey hairs, propped her boobs up in a corset and hoped to God we’d believe her to be an ailing, malnourished 44-year-old woman. However, Saoirse Ronan didn’t even get that treatment. They just pulled her hair back. And then stripped her of her outer-garments to reveal crimson red underclothes, which was an over-exaggerated nod to the real Mary’s crimson sleeves representing martyrdom. There seems to be a trend in these adaptations of amplifying the execution scenes to make them seem far more dramatic and intense than they really were. The real Mary just stepped up to the block, forgave the executioner, and made a joke about stripping down in front of strange men. Classic.

All in all, it was a good film. It was (mostly) historically accurate, and the cast did a really good job. However, for me, there is only one Mary.

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Have you seen Mary Queen of Scots? What did you think of it?

Felicia x

Review: Beartown - Fredrik Backman

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“Everyone has a thousand wishes before a tragedy, but just one afterward.”

My Rating: ★★★★★

Genre(s): Fiction, Contemporary

Reading Challenge: 37 out of 50

Goodreads Synopsis —

People say Beartown is finished. A tiny community nestled deep in the forest, it is slowly losing ground to the ever encroaching trees. But down by the lake stands an old ice rink, built generations ago by the working men who founded this town. And in that ice rink is the reason people in Beartown believe tomorrow will be better than today. Their junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semi-finals, and they actually have a shot at winning. All the hopes and dreams of this place now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys.

Being responsible for the hopes of an entire town is a heavy burden, and the semi-final match is the catalyst for a violent act that will leave a young girl traumatized and a town in turmoil. Accusations are made and, like ripples on a pond, they travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected.

Beartown explores the hopes that bring a small community together, the secrets that tear it apart, and the courage it takes for an individual to go against the grain. In this story of a small forest town, Fredrik Backman has found the entire world.

My Thoughts —

It’s not very often that I give a book a 5-star review. I’m the type of person who can be a tad too generous with throwing around 5-stars, even if a book doesn’t fully deserve it, so I try to be a bit more critical and put more thought into my ratings these days. That being said, Beartown deserved every point on each and every one of these five stars - and more.

It’s pretty funny, in hindsight, how much I loved this book because when I bought it, I had the wrong idea about what it’s about. Like completely wrong. I thought it was just a feel-good novel about a small town that rallies together to help their local hockey team with the championship game. Yes, there’s a hockey team. Yes, they’re from a small town, that does support them fully. But that’s where the similarities end. There’s so much more of a complex storyline to this book that I couldn’t even begin to describe without giving away all the suspenseful bits that made it so enjoyable to read.

The writing is what initially gripped me. Fredrik Backman knows what he’s doing, that’s for certain. The first few pages completely engulfed me in intrigue and excitement. I wanted to know what would happen. I wanted to devour this book in a day. Unfortunately, it took me a month to read because of finals and Christmas events. I was constantly itching to get back to reading this novel. Apparently, it wasn’t even originally written in English. That just blows me away. Not a lot of novels translate well, but this one definitely did.

Honestly, if I were to only recommend one book that I read in 2018, it would be Beartown.

Have you read Beartown? Did you love it as much as I did?

Felicia x

Review: My Lady Jane - Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows

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“She delighted in the smell of the ink, the rough feel of the paper between her fingers, the rustle of sweet pages, the shapes of letters before her eyes.”

My Rating: ★★★★

Genre(s): Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult

Reading Challenge: 26 out of 50

Goodreads Synopsis —

Edward (long live the king) is the King of England. He’s also dying, which is inconvenient, as he’s only sixteen and he’d much rather be planning for his first kiss than considering who will inherit his crown…

Jane (reads too many books) is Edward’s cousin, and far more interested in books than romance. Unfortunately for Jane, Edward has arranged to marry her off to secure the line of succession. And there’s something a little odd about her intended…

Gifford (call him G) is a horse. That is, he’s an Eðian (eth-y-un, for the uninitiated). Every day at dawn he becomes a noble chestnut steed—but then he wakes at dusk with a mouthful of hay. It’s all very undignified.

The plot thickens as Edward, Jane, and G are drawn into a dangerous conspiracy. With the fate of the kingdom at stake, our heroes will have to engage in some conspiring of their own. But can they pull off their plan before it’s off with their heads?

My Thoughts —

First and foremost, let me start by saying that I love the Tudor era and everything about it. Which is ultimately why I decided to pick up this novel. Except this is no ordinary historical fiction. It tells the story of Lady Jane Grey, otherwise known as the Nine Days’ Queen. But this time around, it’s far less tragic and a lot more mystical.

If you’re unfamiliar with the history, here’s how it goes. Jane Grey was a teenaged English noblewoman who was married to Lord Guildford Dudley. When King Edward VI fell terminally ill, he wrote into his will that succession would fall to Lady Jane and her male heirs. But when Lady Jane took the throne, support grew in favour of Mary Tudor - a Roman Catholic - and eventually, Jane was deposed and executed for high treason. Yikes. This version of the story is a little different in that it includes humans that can turn into animals. And poisoning. The usual stuff.

This book was wild from start to finish, and I actually loved it. I thought the addition of fantasy elements, including the E∂ians (aka the animal-morphing humans), was quite exciting and ridiculously creative. I’ve not been huge on fantasy novels since my early teens, but this has definitely made me reconsider the genre. My Lady Jane was an extremely amusing and cleverly-written story, with enough real details to make you forget sometimes that people in the 1500s weren’t actually part-animal.

There were lots of twists and turns to this novel so, keeping with the spoiler-free promise of this review, I won’t reveal too much about the plot. But I did think it was interesting how they played out the Jane Grey vs. Mary Tudor situation. In real-life, Mary deposed of Jane and that was that. Jane’s existence was a threat because she was a Protestant queen. But in the case of this novel, I found it interesting how the role of religion paralleled the storyline of E∂ians and the Verities (aka the people who remain permanently human). The E∂ians being the Protestants, and the Verities being the Roman Catholics. There was definitely an interesting similarity there, that I’d really encourage you to look out for if you’re reading the book!

Most of all, what drew me into this book was Lady Jane herself. I loved Jane. I thought she was an incredible and complex character, the perfect bookish female lead. Books with a strong female lead always capture my heart and My Lady Jane was no exception. Jane showed undoubtable strength and defiance from the very start of the novel, constantly questioning decisions that she didn’t agree with or proving her intelligence by her extensive knowledge of life through reading. I think her relationship with Gifford was extremely interesting also because it forced her to come out of her world of just books and court, and apply her strength to real-life situations (i.e. the villagers early on in the novel). I was really rooting for the two lead characters and never more have I wanted a happily ever after in a novel!

After reading this, I’m so eager to read the follow-up book, My Plain Jane, which is a retelling of the classic Bronte novel, Jane Eyre. I think that these three women are spectacular authors and I would probably read anything that they published as a team. This is definitely the sort of young adults novel that I’d recommend to not only teens, but also adults!

Have you read My Lady Jane? Lend me your thoughts in the comments!

Felicia x

Review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

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Title: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Authors: Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows

Publisher: The Dial Press

Release Date: June 1st 2009

Pages: 248

My Rating: ★★★★ (4/5)

Goodreads | Amazon


"Perhaps there is some secret sort of homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers. How delightful if that were true."

By now, chances are you know how much I love historical fiction. I've said it before and I'll likely say it a million times more. I like how it puts you in the middle of all the action. And when a novel about the world wars comes around, then I'm really hooked. Especially when it's post-WW2 Britain. No wartime story shall go unread!

What immediately got me interested in this book was the title. Some might see The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society as a nuisance; I see it as a mystery, one I'm dying to uncover. What is this club? Who created it? What in the world is a potato peel pie - and why does it deserve a society? The fact that I hadn't even opened the book and I was already enthralled said a lot about what I was in for. 

TGLAPPPS picks up in 1946 as writer Juliet Ashton tries to get her life back on track in post-war London. Her home has been flattened by a bombing, there are rumours floating about her almost-marriage, and she's struggling to figure out what she should write about next. Her life is changed when she receives a letter from a man named Dawsey Adams who has in his possession a book that once belonged to Juliet. From there, they start up a whirlwind correspondence that introduces Juliet to a little Channel island, Guernsey, and the members who make up the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. 

I loved so many things about this book. First and foremost, I loved the characters. What an extraordinary and odd bunch of people. I felt an instant connection to all of these lovely people - except for Mark, but more on him later. Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows did an incredible job of making these people feel like friends to the reader. I loved how passionately they spoke about books and authors. I wanted nothing more than to be in the room with them during their book club meetings, talking about the Brontë sisters and Charles Lamb. 

For a mostly lighthearted book, TGLAPPPS deals with a lot of heavy topics. After all, it is set just after the second World War. War leaves it's mark on many things - marriage, families, businesses, children, towns, countries. Especially in Guernsey. For five years starting in 1940, the island was occupied by Germans. The people of Guernsey endured absolute horrors during WW2 - and I'm actually sad to say that I'd never heard of the island, or their part in the war. But what was so gripping about this book was how the characters found happiness, even in the hard times. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society began as a clever ruse eventually turned into a safe haven, a place for book lovers to come together and be a united front in the face of hostility. 

Overall, I just loved this book. Although it talks about serious topics such as war and death, it is still lighthearted. It focused on family - by blood and by circumstances - and the love we feel for one another. And above all, it spoke on bravery, especially in the character Elizabeth McKenna. Watching these characters pick up the pieces of their lives after the destruction was incredibly inspiring. 

Go buy this book! Read it a dozen times. Cry over it. Hold it close to your heart. Make your friends read it and then talk about it to your heart's content. Just fully devour it. It's divine. 

What wartime or post-war novels do you love? Let me know in the comments!

Goodreads Challenge: 24 out of 50

Felicia x

Review: Sharp Objects - Gillian Flynn

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“Sometimes if you let people do things to you, you’re really doing it to them.”

My Rating: ★★★★

Genre(s): Mystery, Fiction, Thriller

Reading Challenge: 23 out of 50

Goodreads Synopsis —

Fresh from a brief stay at a psych hospital, reporter Camille Preaker faces a troubling assignment: she must return to her tiny hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls. For years, Camille has hardly spoken to her neurotic, hypochondriac mother or to the half-sister she barely knows: a beautiful thirteen-year-old with an eerie grip on the town. Now, installed in her old bedroom in her family's Victorian mansion, Camille finds herself identifying with the young victims—a bit too strongly. Dogged by her own demons, she must unravel the psychological puzzle of her own past if she wants to get the story—and survive this homecoming.

My Thoughts —

I’ve never been big on horror before. Aside from “The Girl On The Train,” I’ve not really delved into the whole psychological-thriller genre. I’m more likely to steer towards light-hearted novels. But I’ve heard so much talk about “Sharp Objects” in the past year or so and I’ve always had an interest in reading a Gillian Flynn novel. Not to mention, it was 20% off at Target. So, why not?!

This book made me uncomfortable. And I think that’s exactly what it was supposed to do. It’s an unsettling story about people who have unhealthy relationships and lifestyles. The characters of this story are dark and complex. Everyone has secrets lurking beneath the surface. Everyone has a disturbing past, a trail of destruction that follows them wherever they go. Each character is dealing with their own personal nightmares - and that’s what makes them so compelling, individually. Most of all, the women in this book are multi-dimensional. Here they are, in this town that makes women out to be useless, disposable, weak. But no. These women are deep, complicated people. And they’re capable of horrors seemingly unimaginable to most.

I thought this book was extremely well-written and riveting. I was hooked right from the start and didn’t want to put the book down once I picked it up - something that hasn’t really happened to me in a long time. After reading this, I think I’ll be reconsidering the genre. I’m definitely sure I want to read another Gillian Flynn novel in the future. If you have any recommendations, let me know!

Have you read Sharp Objects? Did you like it?

Felicia x

Review: Crazy Rich Asians - Kevin Kwan

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“Just because some people actually work for their money doesn’t mean they are beneath you.”

My Rating: ★★★ 1/2

Genre(s): Fiction, Romance, Contemporary, Women’s Fiction

Reading Challenge: 22 out of 50

Goodreads Synopsis —

Crazy Rich Asians is the outrageously funny debut novel about three super-rich, pedigreed Chinese families and the gossip, backbiting, and scheming that occurs when the heir to one of the most massive fortunes in Asia brings home his ABC (American-born Chinese) girlfriend to the wedding of the season.

When Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, she envisions a humble family home, long drives to explore the island, and quality time with the man she might one day marry. What she doesn't know is that Nick's family home happens to look like a palace, that she'll ride in more private planes than cars, and that with one of Asia's most eligible bachelors on her arm, Rachel might as well have a target on her back.

Initiated into a world of dynastic splendor beyond imagination, Rachel meets Astrid, the It Girl of Singapore society; Eddie, whose family practically lives in the pages of the Hong Kong socialite magazines; and Eleanor, Nick's formidable mother, a woman who has very strong feelings about who her son should--and should not--marry. Uproarious, addictive, and filled with jaw-dropping opulence, Crazy Rich Asians is an insider's look at the Asian JetSet; a perfect depiction of the clash between old money and new money; between Overseas Chinese and Mainland Chinese; and a fabulous novel about what it means to be young, in love, and gloriously, crazily rich.

My Thoughts —

I’m sure that the majority of you guys have heard about Crazy Rich Asians before, either because of the hype surrounding the book or because of the movie adaptation. You can find it on just about every “Must Read” shelf or display table in any bookstore.

This had been on my TBR for a very long time before I actually got around to reading it. It was one of those books where I’d always pass it by in the store and think, “Aw, I’d love to read that” but then I go pick up something else, usually something not on my TBR lol. But when I heard that there was a film adaptation coming out this summer, I bumped it on my list because I insist on reading the book before seeing the film. #bookwormproblems

All in all, Crazy Rich Asians was a fun read. The characters are really interesting - Nick Young’s family is straight-up crazy. Nick and Rachel’s complicated love story is totally addicting. And there’s no denying that it’s well-researched and extremely detailed. But being someone who completely devoured books like the Gossip Girl series before, which deals with its own share of rich people drama, I thought I’d enjoy this more than I did.

I think the main reason that I wasn’t so big on this book is because it seemed like it dragged out for too long. If about 100 pages were chopped off, I think I would have enjoyed it more. There were a few scenes that just didn’t seem to add much to the plot that could’ve been cut without taking away from the plot. It just made the plot sort of slow, so I found it sort of hard to get really into. Of course, 90% of people say that they loved this novel to death so I’m probably in the minority here haha. So take my review with a grain of salt. I’ll still see the film though because the film nerd part of me can’t not give it a chance. (Update: the film was amazing and I loved it!).

Did you read Crazy Rich Asians? What did you think?

Felicia x

Review: Makeup Revolution Re-Loaded Palette - Iconic Fever

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The other day while poking around the new Ulta Beauty near my vacation home, I came across a fairly big section of makeup I didn't recognize called Makeup Revolution. It's probably something that people here in America or Europe would know (it's a British company), but it's not really familiar to me, being from Canada. I did a quick Google search and skimmed through a bunch of good reviews, so I decided to pick up a palette to try out. I ended up leaving with the Revolution Re-Loaded Palette in Iconic Fever, and I thought I'd do a little review of my thoughts on it!

The shadows

I really like this product. It's similar to typical drugstore palettes, like NYX or L'Oreal, but arguably at a better price (more on that later). The palette comes with 15 eyeshadows, with 10 matte and 5 shimmer shades in warm, burnt tones - sort of reminiscent of the Tartlette Toasted and the Urban Decay Naked Heat palettes. I've been really big on orange and red shades, ever since I started using the Too Faced Sweet Peach palette last year, and this was right up my alley.

Quality

The shades are actually pretty good quality, especially with taking the price into consideration. The matte neutrals are quite blendable and are very pigmented, but I should mention that the shimmer shades are a bit tricky - they don't show up as nicely with just a brush, you may need to use your finger or a dampened brush to get the shades to really pop. Though, I really can't complain much. The shadows look great on and don't fade or crease quickly either. 

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Price

Makeup Revolution is inexpensive af. That I learned pretty quickly, as this palette only set me back $7 usd ($9.21 cad)!! Honestly, that made me a bit skeptical. Seven bucks for 15 shades? Something had to be a bit shady there. But after giving the palette a try, I can honestly say that seven bucks is more than generous for the product. The quality of the shadows are really good and probably worth much more than seven dollars. So, frankly, this was a steal. 

Final thoughts

This is a great drugstore palette and I'd definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a warm neutrals palette on the cheaper side. It's a mostly hassle-free palette (aside from the shimmers but even then, not that big of a problem) and the shadows look amazing on. I think this would be a great dupe for the Urban Decay Naked Heat palette. I'm definitely going to buy from Makeup Revolution again in the future!! 

Have you tried Makeup Revolution? What did are your fav products?

Felicia x

You've Got A Friend In Me | Toy Story Land

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The wait is over! Toy Story Land has officially opened at Disney's Hollywood Studios. After what seemed like ages of waiting, I finally got my first peek inside this magical new area recently and today, I thought I'd share my thoughts and my experience with you guys! 

As a late 90s kid, the Toy Story films were huge when I was a kid. Growing up, they were a constant part of my movie line-up and the same goes for my boyfriend, who loves the movies even more than I do. So the fact that we can now walk into this world of toys is so incredibly cool!

My family, my boyfriend, and I decided to make our first trip out to Toy Story Land in the late afternoon, so that we would get to see the land in the daytime as well as the nighttime, to get the whole experience. We had a FastPass for Toy Story Mania at 9:15pm, which was literally the only ride that we were able to get FastPass for. Being able to see the park in the daytime was incredible because the details that the Imagineers included in this area are so well thought out and not to be missed. 

The whole concept of the land is that you're supposed to be shrunk down to toy-size, running around Andy's backyard with his other toys. And the Imagineers did an incredible job with keeping to the theme. Every small feature works together to add to the experience. Jumbo-sized toys and other nostalgic 90s memorabilia are scattered around the park, even sometimes used as benches or other structures which is so cool. Everywhere you turn, there's something new to look at - and it's all amazing. 

The area has two new rides - Slinky Dog Dash and Alien Swirling Saucers - in addition to the already popular Toy Story Mania. Personally, the Slinky Dog Dash looks a little bit more up my alley, as it's a proper family roller coaster with not-too-big drops but high-speed turns and other thrills - whereas the Alien Swirling Saucers is more of a Mad Tea Party spinning ride which I'm not a huge fan of.

Unfortunately though, neither of the new rides had any FastPasses available and the standby queues were quite lengthy, so we didn't get to try them out this time, but I'll definitely report back when I do! We did however get to ride Toy Story Mania which, although not completely new, has been altered to work better with the new land. The entrance has been moved from Pixar Place to Toy Story Land and the ride now has a new outdoor-indoor queue that fits perfectly with it's surroundings. 

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What might just be the best part of Toy Story Land though is the photo opportunities around the area. I've gotta say, it's one of the most photogenic areas in Hollywood Studios - which is saying a lot, because Hollywood Studios is a great park for taking photos! As I said before, there is no area brushed over in this park. Everything is meticulously crafted and created to match the movies and theming of the area. Even better, actual Toy Story characters like Buzz Lightyear, Woody and Jessie all walk around the park so you can take photos with them! 

The area is so spacious and well laid out in that the rides are kind of situated further back in the area so the queues don't make the main portion of the land congested. Also, I've heard that the queues are full of fun surprises and nods to the movies. There's also a ton of viewing areas of the rides so that you can still see them in motion as you cry over not getting a FastPass, haha!

All in all, Toy Story Land is so much fun and it's a great new addition to Hollywood Studios! And if this is any indication of what Galaxy's Edge will be, then we have a lot to look forward to! 

Have you guys been to Toy Story Land yet? Do you plan on going?

Felicia x

Review: Leah on the Offbeat - Becky Albertalli

“I swear, people can’t wrap their minds around the concept of a fat girl who doesn’t diet. Is it hard to believe I might actually like my body?”

My Rating: ★★★

Genre(s): Young Adult, Contemporary, LGBT, Romance

Reading Challenge: 18 out of 50

Goodreads Synopsis —

Leah Burke—girl-band drummer, master of deadpan, and Simon Spier’s best friend from the award-winning Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda—takes center stage in this novel of first love and senior-year angst.

When it comes to drumming, Leah Burke is usually on beat—but real life isn’t always so rhythmic. An anomaly in her friend group, she’s the only child of a young, single mom, and her life is decidedly less privileged. She loves to draw but is too self-conscious to show it. And even though her mom knows she’s bisexual, she hasn’t mustered the courage to tell her friends—not even her openly gay BFF, Simon.

So Leah really doesn’t know what to do when her rock-solid friend group starts to fracture in unexpected ways. With prom and college on the horizon, tensions are running high. It’s hard for Leah to strike the right note while the people she loves are fighting—especially when she realizes she might love one of them more than she ever intended.

My Thoughts —

Oh, look! Another Becky Albertalli book. Are you surprised at all? If you’ve been around awhile, you’ll remember my review of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda in which I sung Becky Albertalli’s praises like Julie Andrews on the hill in Austria. So, here we are again, but this time with the spin-off of Simon! Excited? Let’s dive in.

As much as I loved Simon, I wanted to love this book. I truly went into this book with the expectation that I’d love it. But I just didn’t.

In Simon, we didn’t really get a close-up, in-depth look at the personalities of the secondary character because obvs it was about Simon, his sexuality, and his super adorable quest for finding his one true love. Despite that, I liked Leah. I thought she was a complex character and a take-no-shit kind of gal which I respect. Unfortunately, when it came to this spin-off novel, I just didn’t like Leah Burke. At all. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m an extremely empathetic reader. I find the best in even the worst characters sometimes. But I don’t know… Leah was just mean. She treaty the majority of the characters pretty terribly, especially her mom - and for what reason? Her mom was really supportive and caring, despite the fact that she was majorly preoccupied with the fact that they were struggling financially and that she had to work so much to support Leah. But Leah was just really rotten to her.

Without giving away the plot, I gotta say I wasn’t huge on how picture-perfect everything seemed. Like, I found in Simon that I could really believe that these characters were actual teenagers living in Georgia and going to high school and living ordinary lives. But this just seemed to me like it followed a really idealistic storyline. Like it followed every book cliche ever. I guess that’s just not what I had expected or even wanted out of this book.

I think that maybe my point of view would’ve been entirely different if I hadn’t just read Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda before reading this one. Maybe I should re-read this in a few months or something to see if my opinion changes at all. I’ll keep you guys updated! All that being said, however, it has to be pointed out that this book does have a bisexual female character which is HUGELY important. Representation in novels is key my friends! So definitely check this book out and don’t let my bitterness over teen angst deter you from reading this!

Have you read both books? Did you like Leah on the Offbeat?

Felicia x

5 Holy Grail Beauty Products

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Hello everybody! Today, I thought I'd talk about five of my holy grail beauty products, mostly from drugstore brands. I've been using these products consistently for a very long time, some for a couple years now, and they have never failed me. These are pretty much my all-time favourite products, ones that I use pretty much on a daily basis!

Let's just jump right in then, shall we?

MAYBELLINE LASH SENSATIONAL MASCARA

I've heard many a beauty blogger rave about this bad boy and about a year ago, I decided to give it a shot. At first, I found it quite clumpy and heavy on the lashes, but I find it just takes some getting used to. If you apply it with a light hand, you should easily be able to get a clump-free look! I love this mascara in particular because it separates my lashes (again, light handedness necessary!!) and really darkens them. Personally, length isn't an issue for me as I have very long natural eyelashes, but I've found this makes them appear even longer.

MAYBELLINE SUPERSTAY BETTER SKIN CONCEALER

I've been a die-hard fan of the Better Skin concealer for some time now. I think it's a lovely, lightweight concealer for brightening and also covering up blemishes, without being too harsh and heavy on the skin. What I love best about it, however, is that it's considered safe for sensitive eyes and skin, both of which I have and dealing with them is a nightmare. I've def had far less of an issue with irritated eyes or skin whilst using this!

ANASTASIA BEVERLY HILLS GLOW KIT

This one is an oldie, but a goodie!! I actually first purchased this original ABH Glow Kit in my senior year of high school, as a bit of a post-exam treat for myself, and I immediately fell in love. I know it was sorta hyped up back when it came out, but it is a lovely product nonetheless. I love the shades in this kit, as they are more gold/pink, which is more up my alley than the white or metallic shades of other palettes. My personal fav is "Dripping in Gold" which I've sadly recently hit pan on :(

COLOURPOP ULTRA SATIN LIP

I love ColourPop. They're by far one of my favourite inexpensive makeup brands of all-time. And $6 is a small price to pay for their incredible liquid lippies. The formula of their Ultra Satin Lip is really quite nice. Personally, I don't find it very drying on the lips, and it's definitely long-lasting. Not to mention the shades are absolutely beautiful!!! I find that they have so many options, which makes this range so versatile.

MAYBELLINE FACESTUDIO MASTER PRIME FACE PRIMER BLUR + ILLUMINATE

This doubles as a highlighting product and a primer, which is pretty cool. If I want just a pop of highlight, I'll just blend in a spot of this on my cheekbones and on my brow bone. But if I want a really dewy overall look, I'll use this as a primer and apply it all over my face, before putting on my foundation. I think it gives the perfect amount of glow for a spring or summer makeup look, so I use this a lot during the summer season!

What are your favourite/holy grail products? 

Felicia x

March Favourites

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Hello everybody, and happy beginning of April!! Despite the fact that it's officially been spring for a while now, we're having the most horrid day out today, with blistering wind and snow - I repeat, SNOW... in April. Will the weather ever warm up??!! On a brighter note, I've got a handful of wonderful products to share with you that I was loving throughout March. I'll cut the rambling now, and jump right into it!

TOO FACED SWEET PEACH PALETTE

An oldie, but def a goodie. This past month, I've been really into pink and orange eye looks, so I've been reaching for this bad boy a lot. The shades in this palette are downright fab and so versatile. I've been able to create a bunch of different eye looks, using just this palette, for the past week or so without repeating any! So, I obvs had to give this a mention and perhaps inspire you guys to dig this one out of the bottom of your collection and show it some luv!!

E.L.F COSMETICS "CANDID CORAL" BLUSH

Continuing on with the pink and orange trend... I've been using this blush a LOT recently. It's a beautiful coral shade, which I imagine would be so gorgeous with a tan (if the sun ever does emerge!!). It really compliments my skin tone and I can imagine it would on really anyone's, for that matter. It's so simple and shimmery and beautiful.

EOS ORGANIC VANILLA BEAN LIP BALM

Recently, on a trip out to Costco, I picked up a mega pack of EOS lip balms as my lips have been feeling quite dry and sad lately. I love the scent of vanilla and so it's no surprise at all that this one was my favourite. I've kept this at my bedside this past month, so I can swipe on a coat before bed and it's been really doing wonders for improving my lip dryness!

ESSIE "PEACH SIDE BABE" NAIL POLISH

I recently picked up this gorg shade of Essie nail polish and I'm in love. This peachy, pink is the perf shade for spring. Essie is one of my fav brands of nail polish, second only to OPI. I can't wait to wear this throughout the spring and summer seasons!!

LOVE, SIMON

This month, I went out with my boyfriend on a date to see Love, Simon in theatres. I'm sure almost all of you have heard about this film, but if not, here's the gist - it's a teen rom-com about a boy named Simon who's hiding from everyone that he's gay, but he's secretly anonymously e-mailing another boy in school who's gay. Last month, I reviewed the book this was based on, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, for my blog and I seriously loved it. And honestly, the movie was soo good!! It was a really great adaptation and I'm so happy it exists bc LGBT representation in films is so rare, and this is a great step forward! It was adorable, and sweet, and charming, and funny, and heart-wrenching. Seriously GO SEE THIS MOVIE! :)

What products were you loving in March? 

Felicia x

5 Popular Books I Didn't Like

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I have always been a very ambitious reader. I will try mostly anything, especially books that have been well-received. And when I was younger, I was quick to jump on the bandwagon and read anything that had any hype surrounding it at the time - even if it didn't particularly strike my interest. Which has unsurprisingly lead to a lot of flops. However as a reader, and a writer as well, it's important to read books that you don't particularly love, because it helps you determine what books you want to read and what books you want to write, as well. Today, I'm going to share with you all a few of the books I've not really enjoyed reading over the years!

PAPER TOWNS by JOHN GREEN

I was so let down by this book. Before this, I'd read The Fault In Our Stars and Looking for Alaska, also by John Green, and although I didn't love either, I liked them both perfectly fine. But Paper Towns really didn't work for me. I thought the whole storyline was a little one-dimensional and pretty unrealistic. A boy is in love with a girl, does anything for said girl - including but not limited to taking revenge on her enemies - and then goes chasing her across the nation. And then the ending??? I also noticed that John Green was starting to have this trend in his novels of having a quirky but beautiful female lead with a ~unique~ name - which was, in this case, Margo Roth Spiegelman. The only thing I really liked about this book was the fact that it was set in Orlando, if I'm honest.

CITY OF BONES by CASSANDRA CLARE

So I made the somewhat fatal mistake of buying a four-book collection of The Moral Instruments several years ago, which were all the books available in the series at the time. I didn't even make it through the first book.... I just didn't enjoy it at all. I'm not usually one for fantasy novels anyway so I'm not sure what drew me towards this book except for maybe my friends were reading it at the time?? It was just kind of boring to me and didn't really grip me like other books do. It has since spawned a film adaptation and then later a television series, but after giving the film adaptation a try, I gave up the entire franchise cold turkey.

THE NOTEBOOK by NICHOLAS SPARKS

I so badly wanted to enjoy this book. I truly did. I tried reading it a couple of times, but I just couldn't force myself to like it. You probably already know from my previous book-related posts that I really hate saying that the film was better, but in this case... The film was so much better than the book. Sorry, Nicholas Sparks. I think what really irked me was the timeline of the book. If you've seen the film before, the book is like skipping the first half of the film right to the part where Allie goes to see Noah after he builds the house. They do flashbacks here and there to explain their teen romance, but that just didn't work for me. There was nothing that made me care about these two ex-lovers finding their way back to each other. There was no romantic build-up whatsoever. Nicholas Sparks just plops you down into the middle of a story without any direction.

TWILIGHT by STEPHANIE MEYER

Sigh. Twilight. There has been a decade-long debate on whether or not this series is any good. Back in the day, I'd fight to my last breath that this was the best book series EVER - but I was only 9 years old when I first read it. When I re-read the first book for the first time as a teenager, I was about 13 years old, and I couldn't believe that I'd ever enjoyed Twilight. For starters, Bella Swan is quite possibly the least animated character of all time (seriously, someone check for a pulse). The writing was simultaneously boring and over-the-top, with such lines as, "I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him". The purple prose was soo distracting. And the overall "romance" between Edward and Bella was so NOT something to idolize.

(NOTE: I've discovered a website that destructs the novel and analyzes it, and it is just wonderful. You can check that out here if you're interested.)

DIVERGENT by VERONICA ROTH

Another very popular YA series, and another let-down for me. When I started to read theDivergent series as part of my eighth grade curriculum, I was already over the whole "post-apocalyptic" trend. I'm sure you all remember those few years where every popular film or book was set in a futuristic dystopia. By grade eight, I'd already read the Hunger Games series and determined it wasn't really doing it for me, so Divergent and Insurgent - I didn't read the third book - didn't capture my interest at all. It wasn't so much a problem with the actually writing, it was more my own personal taste that made me dislike the series.

What books have you read that you didn't like or finish? 

Felicia x

Review: Rimmel Lasting Finish 25hr Breathable Foundation

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Hello everyone! Snowy weather has officially slithered its way back in southern Ontario. Whyyyyyyyyyyyy. I was almost certain that spring was near, or at least on its way, but now I'm thinking that it's a long way off. Last night, our power went off and back on five times, and this morning, our town is COVERED in snow. Warm weather, where you at? Today, I thought I'd do a little review of the Rimmel London Lasting Finish 25hr Breathable Foundation. Prior to this foundation, I have tried two other foundations by Rimmel. First, the Wake Me Up Foundation, which is very illuminating and dewy, and then more recently the Match Perfection Foundation, which is invisible coverage and with more of a matte finish. I was in the market for a fair foundation with medium to full coverage, and I came across this one so I thought I'd give it a shot!

This foundation is available in 15 different shades. I picked up the shade 101 Classic Ivory, which is one of the lightest shades in the range. It costs just under $10 at Walmart, and the same or a couple dollars more at drugstores.

According to the Rimmel London website, the Rimmel London Lasting Finish 25hr Breathable Foundation is:

"an ultra air light texture that lets your skin breathe. The unique air-light serum formula defies the expectations of long-wear foundation, delivering medium natural coverage with a soft to touch weightless feel that allows skin to breathe. The cushion applicator helps to gently tap on the non-transfer, humidity and sweat resistant formula to give your complexion an even and flawless finish for up to 25 hours."

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PACKAGING & APPLICATION

The packaging of this foundation is quite nice. The bottle is quite cute and the twist-on cap seems pretty tight so I won't have to worry about it spilling or leaking while I travel.

The application is interesting. As opposed to a pump, the Lasting Finish has a doe foot applicator. At first, I was really put off by it. I thought it was kinda weird to apply foundation that way. Although I've gotten used to it now, it's still not my favourite way to apply foundation.

FORMULA

The formula itself on the skin is nice. It is medium coverage, as they claim, which is exactly what I was looking for. It doesn't look caked on at all and with a bit of concealer, I can easily disguise any blemishes that need hiding. It's very lightweight and although I haven't been able to test the "humidity and sweat-proof" claims yet, it so far seems to be pretty transfer-proof plus it is quite long-lasting. Maybe not for 25 hours, but still for quite awhile. Lately, I've been pairing the Real Techniques Miracle Complexion Sponge with this foundation. I find that it does a good job of blending and dispersing the product evenly over my face. I haven't tried this foundation with a brush yet and I wonder if I'd get different results that way.

However, I find that the formula is quite watery. When you remove the applicator from the bottle, you have to be quite careful to wipe all excess makeup off on the rim or else it will literally drip all over the place. I didn't love that about this foundation, especially after the tester bottle in the store dripped watery foundation all over my boots.

All things considered, I think that this is a good foundation for the price. I love the natural, medium-coverage finish and how long-lasting it is. I think that if there wasn't a wand applicator and if the foundation was not so watery, it would be a fantastic drugstore foundation. Hopefully they will fix that up in the future!

Have you guys tried the Rimmel Lasting Finish 25hr foundation? What did you think?

Felicia x

Review: Where'd You Go, Bernadette - Maria Semple

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“Just because it’s complicated, just because you think you can’t ever know everything about another person, it doesn’t mean you can’t try.”

My Rating: ★★ 1/2

Genre(s): Fiction, Humor, Contemporary

Reading Challenge: 9 out of 50

Goodreads Synopsis —

When her daughter Bee claims a family trip to Antarctica as a reward for perfect grades, Bernadette, a fiercely intelligent shut-in, throws herself into preparations for the trip. But worn down by years of trying to live the Seattle life she never wanted, Ms. Fox is on the brink of a meltdown. And after a school fundraiser goes disastrously awry at her hands, she disappears, leaving her family to pick up the pieces--which is exactly what Bee does, weaving together an elaborate web of emails, invoices, and school memos that reveals a secret past Bernadette has been hiding for decades. Where'd You Go Bernadette is an ingenious and unabashedly entertaining novel about a family coming to terms with who they are and the power of a daughter's love for her mother. 

My Thoughts —

Overall, this book was just okay for me. The emails and such that were used to make up the novel made it interesting and the writing was quite good. Originally, I liked Bernadette. I kind of looked at her through the perspective of my own experiences with agoraphobia and as you might remember from my Under Rose-Tainted Skies review, I really like when I can connect to a character in that way. But Bernadette was kind of awful? She put down every woman around her, aside from her daughter who she viewed as a saint that could do no wrong. The fact that she was thought she was too good or whatever to hang with the other school mums was kind of annoying.

There’s really not much else I want to say about this one. There wasn’t any huge reason why I disliked it, other than that I just didn’t find it as great as everyone else has seemed to. Different strokes for different folks, I guess! But I won’t be re-reading this one, that’s for sure.

Have you read this? Did you like it?

Felicia x

Review: The Help - Kathryn Stockett

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“You is kind. You is smart. You is important.”

My Rating: ★★ 1/2

Genre(s): Fiction, Historical Fiction, Adult

Reading Challenge: 8 out of 50

Goodreads Synopsis —

Three ordinary women are about to take one extraordinary step.

Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.

Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.

Minny, Aibileen's best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody's business, but she can't mind her tongue, so she's lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.

Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.

In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women, mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends, view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don't.

My Thoughts —

I’m going to come out and say it right off the bat - I didn’t like this book. I was pretty shocked. I’d seen the movie a long time ago, back when it came out, and then a couple years later, and I remember enjoying it. But the book put a sour taste in my mouth, to say the least.

Unlike the majority of people who’ve read it, I didn’t read the book when it first came out. Reading it nearly a decade after the fact definitely has a huge impact on how you see it because the hype has died down and all. I got to see things with a clearer, less biased perspective. In the time since this book was published, a woman named Ablene Cooper came forward and actually sued Kathryn Stockett for damages, claiming that Stockett used her resemblance for the character Aibileen. Hearing about the lawsuit made me really think about the voices of black women and men, and how they’re drowned out by the voices of white people. In the novel, the black maids risk literally everything - their jobs, families, and even their lives - to share their stories, which are ultimately filtered through Skeeter, a white woman. And it seems like the only people who recognize the true sacrifice and heroism of Minny and Aibileen’s actions are other black people. Skeeter doesn’t get it, and maybe she can’t fully get it coming from a position of privilege.

Kind of on the same point, I felt like Skeeter’s story was given a lot more attention than the others’ in terms of the layout of the book. The story has a multi-narrative structure, alternating between Skeeter, Minny, and Aibileen. But it felt to me like the entire novel was focused on Skeeter, and that Aibileen and Minny’s stories were meant for background information. It’s almost like The Help was a coming-of-age novel focused on Skeeter, and that her writing the book was just a plot device. Idk it just seemed pretty off to me.

Something I did like about the book (since all I’ve done is talk negatively) was the relationship between Aibileen and Minny. I love seeing the unity between in books and in contrast to the toxic relationship between Hilly, Elizabeth, and Skeeter, the one between Aibileen and Minny was refreshing. I also thought the relationship between the Footes and Minny was pretty great.

I don’t know what else to say about this book, honestly. I struggled to finish it. I was hoping for a serious discussion on the Civil Rights Movement but was left quite disappointed. I think the lawsuit plus the privileged voice of the story put a bad taste in my mouth. If this book had been written by a POC, it would’ve been a lot better.

Have you read The Help? Do you agree?

Felicia x