Dispatch: Series One -“On the Run” Mystery Box

Okay so let’ start kick off this first post since forever with a huge apology to my readers and the wonderful folks who send me boxes to review.  It’s been oh so quiet here, because I’ve been oh so overwhelmed.  I started my great new job, but my days are super long and I haven’t quite yet figured out how to juggle them with this blog. (If you’ve got tips, I’d love to hear them in the comments!) Meanwhile, I’m working on it  and I hope to be able to find a good balance.

Now let’s get to the reason why you show up – the box reviews.  And today I’ve got one of the most unique I’ve ever featured: a monthly mystery box.  I know, you’re thinking “you have mystery boxes all the time”, but this isn’t the kind with surprise gifts.  Instead, you get to channel your inner Sherlock and solve a mystery.  Intrigued? I was too.

The folks at Breakout, who came up with those funky escape room games, started a monthly subscription box called Dispatch.  The boxes chronicle a mystery and send you a box of clues that lead you to online resources that can help you solve the crime.  Each mystery lasts less than a year and each box costs $24.99.

Series One is called “On the Run” and is described as follows:
“Murder, romance, scandal—this story has it all. Once you open your delivery, you’ll find yourself entangled in the strange disappearance of your closest childhood friend, who also happens to be suspected of killing his wife, a well-known heiress.”

 I’ve gotten two boxes in this mystery series.

BOX #1
Box #1 introduces us to the mystery.  Our childhood best friend is accused of murdering his wealthy wife on their honeymoon.
We’ve got a notebook, lots of cool little details like magazine clippings, a napkin with a handwritten note and a set of invitations.  You can follow the clues to Instagram accounts, websites and you can even RSVP for the wedding reception using the info on the invite.
  We’ve also been given a resource, “The Bailey Detective Agency” that we can contact for help.  Pretty cool, right?

BOX #2
 
For our second box brings us more clues that focuses on the deceased’s wealthy family’s interest in a mine and it’s subsequent mysterious collapse We’ve got letters, autopsy reports, a mysterious token and lots of paper shreds.

The materials even have details like coffee and blood stains.

Verdict: Hit!
I love the care that went into putting this subscription together.  A real handwritten napkin, Instagram accounts and websites, letters, email responses and a helpline.  There’s so much detail that makes this fun.  I think this might be a great gift for that retiree who loves mystery books or even a teen who enjoys puzzles.  The one thing I do wish, is that the mystery was more group friendly.  You have to read a long notebook and lots of lengthy materials, so it just doesn’t lend itself well to working with a group. Maybe in addition to the notebook, we could get a link to a online vlog that discusses the contents.  I think that would open this up to being a fun family or group activity. It could be a different spin on a murder mystery dinner party.  Unfortunately, as currently constructed, I feel like it works best as a solo activity.

How would you feel about solving a mystery via a sub box?
Fun? Or not worth the hassle?

BACKSTORY
Dispatch is a monthly subscription-based mystery that tests your detective skills each month with a new delivery of clues.

After subscribing to Dispatch, you will receive your first package in the mail. These physical items serve as an introduction to the story and draw you into this online/offline mystery. After that, you will receive an additional box each month with more items that further explain the story.

Your first box will be shipped immediately. Your 2nd box will be shipped one month later and future boxes around that same date each month.

Each story lasts for less than a year before a new story begins. You can cancel at any time.

COST: $24.99 per month

July 2017 Orangeglad & 10% off Coupon Code!

To kick off my last week before I head back to the old/new grind, I thought I’d focus on something sweet with my July review of Orangeglad, a monthly artisan dessert subscription.

If you’d like to try out one for yourself use my code ST10 for 10% off your order.

Lovely packaging as usual:

CC Made – Berkley, California
About the Company:
“’As a currency trader, brokers took us to the most amazing restaurants.  It opened up a whole new world for me.’  Cassandra Chen recalls. ‘ I realized that, even though my family’s expectation was that I would stay in my successful professional career, it just wasn’t for me.  On a whim, and wearing a skirt and heels, Cassandra walked into Vertigo Restaurant and asked for a job in the kitchen.  She w shored on the spot and told to ‘stage’ (kitchen lingo for ‘trail after the cook and work the line’). She had found her calling.  Manuel was born to Peruvian/American parents.  When he was 22, he worked at the Highlands Bar and Grill, where he learned about gourmet food and fell in love with wine.  With Kermit Lynch’s encourage, he moved out to California and worked for josh Jensen at Calera Wines deepening his love for the art of winemaking.  Later, under the tutelage of master sommelier Larry Stone, Manuel passed his level 1 exam.  In 1997, Cassandra and Manuel’s paths crossed.  They were both working for Traci des Jardis at the newly opened restaurant Jardiniere.  Through moving on from the restaurant, getting married, and having kids, their love for food never waned.  With Cassandra’s experience in the pastry kitchens, they started a line of caramel product and thus CC made was born.
Toasted Sesame Seeds with Nori Sea Salt Brittle

(2 oz Bag: $3.50)
Description: “Roasted organic sesame seeds with bright sea taste of nori and sea salt dusted on top,, this brittle will bring a whole new meaning to reinvented snacks.
Verdict: Nice!
Brittles aren’t really my favorite treats, but this had an appealing flavor that wasn’t overly sweet.  The sesame/nori addition made it feel sophisticated.  I think it would be an interesting addition to a fruit/cheese/nut dessert plate.

Potato Chips with Cracked Salt Pepper Brittle
(2 oz Bag: $3.50)
Description: “Potato chip combined with buttery brittle and topped with cracked black pepper, the perfect harmony of savory and sweet will make your taste buds dance.”
Verdict:
Not for me
The pepper on these treats came through quite clearly and they are much more savory than you’d anticipate in a brittle.  I just didn’t like the chip aspect, which is purely subjective.  I’m sure someone else would probably love these.
Classic Artisanal Popcorn
(3 oz Bag: $5.00)
Description: “Handcrafted to perfection, Cassandra and Manuel wanted to make something that was hard to find on the market – a really flavorful and quality caramel.  What they learned was that to develop a deep rich flavor form the simple ingredients of just sugar and water required an open flame, patience, and perfect timing.  This is the reason why mass manufactured caramels lacked the depth of flavor that they were craving, so they had to create ones that satisfy their standards for gourmet popcorn.
Verdict: Love!
I adore caramel popcorn and this one had a lovely, deep caramel flavor and a really nice texture.  The caramel wasn’t too thick or thin and the popcorn had a nice crunch.  My favorite item in the box!

McTavish Shortbread – Portland, Oregon
About the Company:
“McTavish Shortbread is baked daily in Portland, Oregon using old world techniques and recipes handed down through generations.  They use only all natural ingredients with no added preservatives.  They are a family owned company that takes pride in producing consistent, high quality melt-in-your-mouth, tastes like your Scottish Grandmother baked it-SHORTBREAD!  Their promise is to deliver handmade goodness to cookie lovers everywhere because everyone deserves a really good cookie!
Scottie Dog Shortbread
(Estimated Retail: $1.32)
Ice Cream Sprinkle Shortbread
(Estimated Retail: $1.32)

Description: “Using an age-old Scottish recipe, McTavish Shortbread bakes deliciously rich, traditional shortbread, perfect for summer!”

Verdict:
Hit!
This sub *really* loves to include shortbread cookies.  Typically, I like them but they aren’t my favorite cookie or dessert and not something I actively seek out.  However, these were delicious and probably some of the best shortbread I’ve had.  I couldn’t find these exact cookies on the McTavish site, nor can you buy them individually so I estimated the price based on the cost of a dozen of their seasonal shortbread.

OVERALL
Verdict: Great products, not great value
Let’s start with the good stuff.  I thought this box was well curated and the treats all felt like sophisticated spins on classics.  As usual, they were packed really nicely and even though not everything was to my taste, I could tell they were excellent quality.  Now the bad part, the value is just too low for a monthly sub.  I receive this box free in order to review it, but if I’d paid for it, it would have cost $25. After doing the math, I come up with an estimated value of only $14.64 for the included items.  That includes my estimate on the individual cookies and without shipping and packaging.  I appreciate that these treats would be pricey for us to purchase and have shipped individually, but I feel like we need to be closer to the $20 value mark to justify this as a monthly box.  Right now, with this price point and value, I’d say that this is a sub more suited for gift giving.  It’s great for folks you don’t know super well or who don’t need anything else taking up space in their house.  As a gift, paying a little more isn’t quite as daunting as shelling it out every month just for yourself.

What type of value do you expect from a sub box versus what you paid for it?

THE BACKSTORY
Orangeglad is an “artisan dessert box that sends handcrafted, unique and exclusive desserts each month. Eat delicious treats created by local artisan chefs throughout the country, and learn about the amazing people behind each item.”

Single Portion Box: 5 Deluxe Sized Treats
Curated from around the country
Makes 1-2 people happy
Cost: $25 per month (shipping included)

Double Portion Box: 10 Deluxe Sized Treats
Curated from around the country
Makes 3-4 people happy
Cost: $40 per month (shipping included)

Managing your account is easy. If you want a break, you can cancel or skip at anytime, with absolutely no hassle.

Coupon Codes: Use code ST10 for 10% off your orders

Save

Orglamix Glam Box: July 2017 – Beat the Heat + 25% Off

So yesterday I spent my day making my 70s bathroom wallpaper my bitch.   I managed to get it all off and only burn myself *once*.  I call that a win.  So today, before I head out to paint my basement bar a gorgeous shade of blue, I’ve got a review of one of my favorite subscriptions.

The July Orglamix Glam Box had a “Beat the Heat” theme, which is kind of ironic, considering I’m posting this in November and it’s been stupidly hot lately, so it’s still appropriate.

Here’s how Orglamix describes the box: “Don’t sweat your summer look. These beauty products will keep you sexy when it’s scorching outside.  We like it when things get a little seamy, but sticky is another story.  It’s hard to feel flirty when your guy can see his reflection on your forehead and your mascara’s creeping toward your chin.  So we talked to some glamorous real women and found solutions to keep you as gorgeous during the dog days of summer as you are during the rest of the year.  With these items, your look will have no problem surviving the heat…or another hot encounter.”
If you’d like to try out a box of vegan, cruelty free natural beauty products for yourself use the coupon code VEGAN to save 25%.

Hyaluronic Acid Serum
(Estimated Retail: $32.00)
Description: ”Hyaluronic acid is an essential in any healthy skincare regimen (especially as you get older) – and we deliver it in a simple, silky formula.
Verdict:
Serums are a great way to give your skin a little extra treatment.  I’ve used Orglamix’s serums in the past and I’ve found them to be hydrating and they never irritate my skin. I like that this focuses a bit on anti-aging and that this doubles as a primer.

Neroli Floral Essence Setting Spray
(Estimated Retail: $15.00)
Description: “This mist helps keep your makeup from creasing, caking, fading, or sliding around for 12 hours.  Orange Blossom is soothing and toning.  It balances oil and brightens the skin…A few spritzes instantly revives and refreshes makeup, giving skin a much-needed pick-me-up during a steamy day.”
Verdict: Hit!
Setting sprays are perfect fit for a summer box.  I always worry about what types of ingredients are in some of them, so I love this natural option that includes orange blossom ( a favorite scent of mine).

Healthy Bronze Glow Bronzer
(Estimated Retail: $18.00)
Description: “The ideal illuminator is a cross between a blush and a highlighter. You want something subtle that adds warmth to your skin but isn’t overly sparkly.”
Verdict: Too glittery for me
For bronzers, I prefer more matte finishes.  This one is definitely glittery.  I’ll pass this along to a friend who will probably use it more than I will.

Heat Wave – Natural Eyeshadow
(Estimated Retail: $12.50)
Description: The biggest eye makeup trend of Summer 2017 = Red. For a fresh-faced look, keep the color on your upper lids only so that it’s concentrated along the crease and gradually softens as it reaches your brow bone. Or make it smokey. And for something that’s a little more sultry, try a crimson shade on top, and bring it along the lower lashline to frame the eyes completely.”
Verdict: Love!
This is one of those natural shades that looks like you’re just in awesome lighting. I can see using this in a variety of ways and it’s my favorite item in the box.

Citrus Splash Sugar Balm Body Scrub
(Estimated Retail: $12.00)
Description: Don’t let a little scaly skin distract from how cute your new bathing suit is. Instead, stock your shower with a body scrub to remove those pesky dead cells before you hit the beach. (Insider tip: the exfoliator is a self-tan fanatic’s secret weapon for sloughing off flaky skin so that body bronzers sink in evenly.) But not just any handful of granules will do.  Buff away dead and dehydrated skin with Sugar Balm Body Scrub. A little bit sultry, a little bit sweet, the latest scent oozes glamour. Apricot, mandarin, grapefruit and freesia mingle with rose, grapefruit flower and jasmine notes, with a base of musk, sandalwood and cashmeran.”
Verdict: Hit!
Between the hard water at my house and the fact that I spend a lot of time covered in paint, this scrub is perfect.  I’m a huge fan of citrus scents and I think a body scrub fits the theme perfectly.

OVERALL

Verdict:
Hit!
I receive this for free in order to review it, but the regular cost is $29 and the estimated retail value came out to $89.50.  To start, I think Orglamix nailed the theme.  These were practical, but sexy items that were all great for summer.  Even though I won’t use the bronzer, I’m still really happy with the box and it’s value.  I think $29 for a serum, setting spray, eyeshadow and scrub that are all natural, vegan and cruelty free is amazing. I love the creativity and the fun that is always in my Orglamix box.  You can really tell they enjoy making these products and putting these boxes together.

How important is it to you that your makeup is natural and cruelty free?

I’ve got Orglamix pics for my latest box coming up on Instagram, so be sure to follow me there!

 THE BACKSTORY
Orglamix delivers healthy beauty delivered to your door every month.

Healthy, natural beauty, doesn’t have to be boring! When you sign up for Orglamix, every month you will receive a 4-6 expertly curated, healthy beauty products, non-toxic cosmetics, natural & sustainable, cruelty-free goods + a $10.00 Gift Card to orglamix.com. For every box sold, we donate a meal to orphaned children in need.

Cost:
Month to Month: $29.00
6 Month Prepay: $169.00
12 Month Prepay: $289.00

Coupons: USE CODE VEGAN – FOR 25% OFF YOUR FIRST BOX
Each Month comes with a $10 gift card for the Orlgamix.com site.

Save

Play by Sephora: July 2017

We’re continuing the push through my backlog of reviews with my July Play by Sephora subscription.  I do post lots of sneak peeks on my Instagram, so follow me there if you want to see the boxes before I post my review.

July’s theme was “Beauty Staycation” – which is actually sort of where I’m at right now since my break before my new job starts.  Of course, the “beauty” part is more about my house than me, but it still works.
Now to the box!

Bobbi BrownEye Opening Mascara
(Full Size: $30.00)
Description: “Long-wearing mascara visibly thickness, curls, and lifts lashes with a carbon-black formula.”
Verdict: Anti-climactic
So many black mascaras, so little time.  I didn’t find anything extraordinary about this mascara although I did like the brush, which was on the larger side. Still, there’s nothing about this mascara that would be worth $30.  I also don’t think it fits in a “beauty staycation”.  That implies different treatments and pampering, and mascara is not in that category.

Fresh Rose Face Mask
(1 oz: $25.00)
Description: “Hydrating and toning gel mask refreshes tired, dull skin with a calming infusion of pure rosewater and rose petals.
Verdict: Love!
I’ve always liked the Fresh brand and a rose mask sounds perfect for a “beauty staycation”.  I’m excited to try this one out once I’m not covered in paint.

Briogeo Rosarco Milk™ Reparative Leave-In Conditioning Spray
(Full Size: $20.00)
Description: “Ultra-light leave-in conditioning spray delivers non-greasy moisture without weighing down hair.”
Verdict: Like
I’ve tried Briogeo products before and haven’t been blown away, but haven’t disliked them either.  My hair is a wreck thanks to the hard water we have at the new house, so I’m happy to try any hair treatment that might help.

Tarte Color Splash Lipstick – Rainforest of the Sea™ in “Set Sail”
(Full Size: $21.00)
Description: “Long-lasting yet moisture-rich lipstick softens and smooths lips while providing full-coverage color.”
Verdict: Love!
They describe this shade as a “dark nude” and it is lovely.  It’s a great every day color for when you want to look put together, but not like you’re wearing too much makeup.  The consistency did seem a little softer than most lipsticks, which is a bit of a problem with this small tube, but I’m sure it’s not an issue with the normal size.

CaudalieVine[Activ] Glow Activating Anti-Wrinkle Serum
(1 oz: $52.00)
Description:”Highly concentrated pollution protection serum reveals a youthful glow while helping to visibly smooth fine lines.”
Verdict: Like
Caudalie is a great brand and since it costs $52 for an ounce, I’m happy to be able to try it out.  I also like that you can use it under your makeup.

This Month’s Perfume Pick:
CLEAN Reserve Sueded Oud
(3.4 oz $95.00)
Description: “This creamy and sophisticated scent puts a new twist on a traditional heavy oud fragrance with its light, fresh notes.
Verdict: Not for me
Definitely appreciate the idea of a lighter fresher floral, but this is still too strong for me.

OVERALL
Verdict: Hit!
I loved the lipstick and the rose mask, and except for the perfume,(which I always write off anyway) I’ll use everything in this box.  I loved the theme of a “beauty staycation” but I felt like they didn’t really embrace it. Rather than lipstick and mascara which are more for going out, I think we should have seen more treatments and masks.  Still, for only $10.69, I think this was a great box.  If you’re looking for a budget friendly beauty box, Sephora is at the top of my list.

Have you ever had a “beauty staycation”?
What did you do?

THE BACKSTORY
Each month Play by Sephora, will send you 5 deluxe samples handpicked from their shelves (plus a fragrance bonus) – all in a collectible bag.
Cost: $10 per month (plus any applicable tax)
Bonus:  Each month you’ll get an included card that you can bring to Sephora for an extra 50 bonus points for any Purchase.  These points are part of Sephora’s VIB program and can be traded in for an assortment of samples.

 

Save

Popsugar: July 2017 Must Have + November & Neiman Marcus LE Box Spoilers!

Happy Halloween!  The scariest thing I have going on today is how far behind I am in my boxes.  As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve got the next few weeks to catch up on my blogging, so today, we’re going back a bit to my July Popsugar review, but I’ve also got a bunch of great spoilers for November and for the uber luxe Neiman Marcus box. Before we get to the goods, I wanted to mention a new feature Popsugar has added.  Subscribers now have the option of adding on additional items at a discount from featured brands.  They’ve included makeup from Smith & Cult and accessories like socks.  Next month, I’ll actually remember to get more details to share.

Now enough chatter, let’s get to the boxes!

MUST HAVE X NEIMAN MARCUS BOX SPOILERS
Must Have x Neiman Marcus
Description: “We’ve teamed up with Neiman Marcus to give you a covetable box filled with treats ideal for gifting or for keeping all to yourself. This box is filled with over $750 worth of luxurious items you need for the holidays from sparkling home decor to beauty gifts that will make you glow.   Select between gold or silver hues to get a box shining with your preferred color delivered right to your door. Each box will contain all of the same items, but the color of 5 of the 9 products will vary based on your metallic preference.“
Cost: $250.00
Boxes will be shipped by November 27.

We’ve got two spoilers and both seem worthy of such a high priced box.  This time around, Popsugar is letting you choose between silver and gold themes for your fancy pants Neiman Marcus box.  YSL is a lovely makeup brand that feels luxurious and I like that the jewelry sets are both glamorous and understated.  You can easily wear them year-round.  Currently, my budget is a bit too tight for this box, but if you have the funds, you may want to give it a chance.

NOVEMBER MUST HAVE SPOILERS
NOVEMBER BOX

So we’ve got Anna Faris’ new book showing up in our November boxes.  I’m not quite sure how I feel about that.  I’m not much of nonfiction reader, and celebrity memoir/self-help type things are usually at the bottom of my book pile.  Still, I’ll try to keep an open mind.

JULY MUST HAVE BOX
Ocean Tribe by Turkish-T Kilim Towel

(Suggested Retail: $49.00)
Description: “Whether you’re enjoying a concert or having a picnic, this chic towel will become one of your most used accessories. It’s made of 100% Turkish cotton, so you and your loved ones can enjoy the sun-filled forecast comfortably.”
Verdict: Love!
Popsugar has given towels like this out in the past and they are so lovely.  This one is a perfect match for the little blue bathroom in my new house.

Supergoop!® Super Power Sunscreen Mousse SPF 50
(Suggested Retail: $19.00)
Description: Don’t forget to stay protected while soaking up the sun! This new whipped formula from Supergoop! is filled with moisturizing ingredients and antioxidant-packed blue sea kale and has SPF 50 so your skin will stay safe and hydrated.”
Verdict:
Like
I’m not a big fan of Supergoop!, however I do need a high spdf and I’ve never tried a “mousse” sunblock before so I’m happy to test this one out.

ban.dō Sip Sip Tumbler
(Suggested Retail: $14.00)
Description: ”’ Consider sipping on your favorite fruity drink (or cocktail) with a brightly hued tumbler adorned with a cute saying: “free refills.” Hydrating while unwinding on your new Turkish-T towel guarantees a great mood.”
Verdict: Gift
I have so many different kinds of water bottles and reusable cups thanks to my subscription box addiction so I’m going to gift this to a friend.

Tarte Cosmetics Lights, Camera, Splashes™ Waterproof Mascara
(Suggested Retail: $23.00)
Description:  “Ensure that your lashes stay volumized and lengthened through your active schedule with an incredible mascara that won’t budge.”
Verdict: Anti-climactic
If you subscribe to beauty and lifestyle boxes, you will get plenty of black mascara so this is pretty “eh” on the interesting scale, however Tarte is a good, sturdy brand and waterproof mascara is perfect for a July box.  I think what would have been more interesting is if we’d seen a blue mascara.

SISTERS OF LOS ANGELES California Fireplace Matchesa
(Suggested Retail: $10.00)
Description: “A warm night around a BBQ or a bonfire is a sure way to make lasting memories. These superlong matches come in a colorful case to match your stylish decor and make late-night gathering for feasting on s’mores even easier.”
Verdict: Hit!
I’ve got two fireplaces so these will definitely come in handy.

Snyder’s of Hanover® Wholey Cheese! Smoked Gouda
(Suggested Retail: $3.69)
Description: Pass around this bag of baked crackers and prepared to be wowed! The crackers taste like gouda and are made without artificial flavors. It’s obvious these crackers were baked with cheesy passion and love! Share with friends, or keep them all to yourself (we won’t judge).”
Verdict: Like
These crackers were tasty and a nice alternative to fried snacks.

OVERALL:
Verdict: Like
Now this wasn’t the most exciting box, since reusable cups/bottles and mascara are sub box staples, but I thought it fit the July theme really well.  The estimated retail on this came out a little low at $118.69.  I paid $42.70, and I loved the towel and will use nearly all the other items, but I do feel like, the box could have used a little something else to round it out.  Maybe a smores related treat to tie into the summer and the matches?  Or perhaps a spf lip balm? In any case, I’m not disappointed, but I’d like to see more creativity and a slightly higher value in future boxes.

I’ve got lots more box reviews coming up including a mystery game box!

If you want sneak previews of the box contents, be sure to follow me on Instagram!

What were your fave items from your summer boxes?

THE BACKSTORY
Popsugar is a women’s lifestyle subscription that delivers a monthly box of fun, full-size products hand-selected by Popsugar editors.

In addition to Popsugar’s monthly must have boxes, they have some seasonal special edition boxes that contain uber luxe items.  The price tag on these boxes is higher, but the products you receive are high end.

They also have featured monthly products at a discount that are available as add-ons to your box.

Popsugar Must Have Pricing:
Monthly – $39.95
3 Months – $109.85
6 Months – $214.70
12 Months – $404.40

Coupon Codes:  REFER5 = $5 off site wide
POPSUGAR10 = $10 off a 3 month subscription to Must Have

Save

Play by Sephora: June 2017

Okay folks, I know it’s been awhile, but so much has been going on this year and so much to catch you up on.  I got a new day job!  One that is more money, has better benefits, windows, less stress and an opportunity for advancement! Unfortunately, I’m still finishing out my old one with hardcore deadlines and crazy business that all happens at the end of September/beginning of October.  Soon, I’ll be free and that will give me more time to get you all caught up on cool stuff like a Kbeauty haul, a mystery game sub box, house renovations, and so much more.  I do post lots of sneak peeks on my Instagram, so you can see what’s in my sub boxes in real time.

I’ve also been promoting my debut novel, The Ice Maiden’s Tale.  I’ve gotten some really fabulous blog reviews and just had an awesome interview with Julie Whitley on her blog.  If you’ve read the book or just love fairy tale stories, I’d love to chat with you.

So now I’m just going to dive into the enormous backlog of boxes and go with my June Play by Sephora subscription.
June’s theme was “Summer Starters” (which is totally appropriate since it’s like 80 degrees today in NYC) – “Whether you’re sweating in the city or cooling by the pool, kick off your season of sunshine with these warm weather must-haves.”

Benefit CosmeticsThe POREfessional Face Prime
(Full Size: $31.00)
Description: “Silky, lightweight face primer minimizes pores and smooth s skin for a flawless soft-focus finish.”
Verdict: Anti-climactic
I lost count long ago of how many times I’ve gotten this as a sample.  It’s a nice product, but I’ve tried it a ton of times already.

First Aid BeautyHello FAB Coconut Skin Smoothie Priming Moisturizer
(1.7 oz: $28.00)
Description: “Ultra-hydrating priming moisturizer features electrolyte-packed coconut water plus micro-pearls for a subtle dewy glow.
Verdict: Love!
I love the First Aid beauty brand so I’m always up for trying a new product from them.

Ouai Rose Hair & Body Oil
(Full Size: $32.00)
Description: “Quick-absorbing blend of nutrient-rich oils from around the world replenishes hair and skin plus adds moisture and illuminates.”
Verdict: Hit!
Ouai is a brand that I’ve gotten in boxes before and I’ve really enjoyed their products.  I’m going to use this to try to tame some of my frizz.  Hopefully it will work!

Kat Von DEverlasting Liquid Lipstick in K-Dub
(Full Size: $20.00)
Description: “Long-lasting, high-pigment liquid lipstick with a creamy formula glides on smoothly like gloss but leaves a matte finish.”
Verdict: Like
If this had been another shade it would have been a love.  I adore Kat Von D’s eyeliner and I own and use some of her eyeshadows.  I’m not sure if I can pull off this bright fuchsia shade, but I’m happy to get a chance to test out the formula.

IGK Rich Kid Coconut Oil Gel
(5 oz: $29.00)
Description:”Lightweight coconut oil—infused hair styling gel softens and hydrates hair for effortless undone looks.”
Verdict: Hope you’re not allergic to coconut
This is the second coconut product in this bag and I’m thinking maybe having two products with similar ingredients in the same month might not be the best idea. In any case, I like getting new hair products because I have no idea how to style my hair and can use all the help I can get.  We’ll see if this helps me look less like I just rolled out of bed and stuck my finger in an electrical socket.

This Month’s Perfume Pick:
Yves Saint Laurent – Black Opium
(1.6 oz $91.00)
Description: “A modern and intoxicating scent with rich notes of coffee, sweet vanilla, and delicate white flowers.”
(Sorry I’m missing a pic, but for some reason the ones I took were all blurry.)
Verdict: Perfect if I want to knock out myself and take an elevator full of people with me.
I appreciate it when a perfume gives itself a name that makes it obvious it will simply kill people who are sensitive to scents (remember Dior’s “Poison”?).  You hear the words “Black Opium” and you know what you’re getting.  It smells like a migraine, the kind where you lock yourself in a dark room for days, put ice on your head, and hope not to puke on your sheets. Sniff at your own risk.

OVERALL
Verdict:
Hit!
Despite the boring POREfessional primer and the death by perfume, I really enjoyed this box.  It had a lot of great brands that and gave me a chance to try out some new offerings.  The only real fault I found was it having two coconut products, but that shouldn’t be a problem for most folks.

If you’re looking to try out some high end beauty but don’t want to commit to the high price tags, consider the Sephora sub. For only $10 a month, you get a good amount of product and a nice variety.

How do you feel about the “coconut oil” beauty trend?
Is it a great natural inclusion or has it become an over-used beauty buzzword?

THE BACKSTORY
Each month Play by Sephora, will send you 5 deluxe samples handpicked from their shelves (plus a fragrance bonus) – all in a collectible bag.

Cost: $10 per month (plus any applicable tax)
Bonus:  Each month you’ll get an included card that you can bring to Sephora for an extra 50 bonus points for any Purchase.  These points are part of Sephora’s VIB program and can be traded in for an assortment of samples.

Save

June 2017 Orangeglad & 10% off Coupon Code!

To celebrate Foodie Friday, I’m focusing on sweet treats with my June review of Orangeglad, a monthly artisan dessert subscription.

If you’d like to try out one for yourself use my code ST10 for 10% off your order.
Lovely packaging as usual.

Carolina Girl Cooks – South Carolina
About the Company:
“The first time Jennifer experienced the captivating flavor of lavender, she was having dessert during a night out with a group of girlfriends.  She fell in love with the flavor and immediately began experimenting with recipes of her own.  Oddly enough, the fragrant flower kept finding its way into sweet delicious cookies and from there, Carolina Girl Cooks Tea Cookies were born.  Creating the perfect packaging meant the most because soon Jennifer learned that the meaning of lavender when given as a gift ‘the promise of new adventure’…Jennifer’s sincerest hope is that each artfully crafted  cookie tin will serve a sa reminder that small passions can turn into wild adventures in the most unexpected and thrilling ways, just as lavender has for her.”
Rose Tea Cookies
($9.00 for 8 to 10 cookies)
Description: “Subtle yet elegant, the Rose Tea Cookies are made with the finest dried, edible rose petals and delicate rose water.  One bite is like a stroll through a summer garden.”
Orange Cardamom Cookies
($9.00 for 8 to 10 cookies)
Description: “Orange Cardamom is a light butter cookie balancing the delicate floral flavor of ground cardamom with the brightness of citrus zest.”
Verdict:
Pretty, but not my favorites
These type of crumbly tea cookies just aren’t my favorite.  I did think that the rose cookies in a June box were an inspired choice.  The packaging on these is gorgeous and made me immediately think of wedding favors (particularly the Rose Tea Cookies).  While these wouldn’t be my personal favorites, they were lovely cookies and perfect for June.

Unna Bakery – Harlem, New York
About the Company:
“…Unna’s gourmet cookies are made using her traditional recipes passed down through generations.  To offer uncompromised quality, they use only the best ingredients like organic butter, organic locally milled flour and handmade jam with berries from the Hudson Valley.  Treat yourself their tasty cookies while enjoying the old Swedish tradition of taking a ‘fika’ (a little break).”
Raspberry Cave Shortbread
(3.4 oz: $7.99)
Description: “A buttery, rich , golden cookie with Raspberry Jam from award-winning Maya’s Jam”
Farmer’s Cookie’s
(3.4 oz: $7.99)
Description: “A traditional Swedish, crispy, light and nutty cookie with browned butter and almonds.”
Verdict: Hit!
I love jam cookies so the Raspberry Cave Shortbread cookies were my favorite dessert in the box. The Farmer’s cookies were also lovely.  Apologies for the spastic photos on the Farmer’s cookies – sometimes my camera has a mind of it’s own.

Shotwell Candy
About the Company:
“A corporate lawyer and father of three at the time, Jerrod spend this nights learning the science and art behind cooking caramel, testing several different ingredient combinations and eventually developing what he thought to be the best tasting caramel possible.  With the help and encouragement of his wife and close friends, Jerrod officially launched Shotwell Candy (named after Jerrod’s great grandfather), in December 2012.  Although the attention to detail process and classic caramel making process has not changed one bit, Shotwell Candy has since grown well beyond Jerrod’s home kitchen become one of the South’s great confectioners, even earning a food award form Southern Living Magazine in 2015 for ‘Best Sweet’.”
Craft Beer & Pretzel Caramels
(2.5 oz Bag: $5.95)
Description: “Other than their glorious caramels, beer is one of the Shotwell Candy’s grat passions.  Especially some of the locally made versions available in Memphis.  They combine their buttery soft caramel with a healthy dose of shot River Brewing’s Golden Ale and finish it off with nice sized chunks of hand-crushed salty pretzels.  It makes a perfect malty, caramelly, crunchy and salty bite!
Verdict:
Misfit
I didn’t think this product fit in with this box.  We’d actually received the same exact one in the February box.  It also doesn’t feel appropriate for June or match up with the Rose tea biscuit feel this one had going.  Another fruit related dessert or something with a summery feel would have been a much better fit.  My camera was apparently having a bad day so apologies for another off pic.

OVERALL
Verdict: Some good ideas, but overall a mess
Let’s start with the value.  I receive this box free in order to review it, but if I’d paid for it, it would have cost $25. After doing the math, I come up with an estimated value of only $13.30 for the included items.  Now that value doesn’t include shipping, but that’s just far too low a return on the investment, especially considering there is a repeat item in this box.  I feel like we need a total value closer to $18.  Shipping each item would be expensive, but for $25 you could get more of your favorite item, have it shipped to you, and still probably end up under $25.  The value issue could be solved by upping the quantity of some items.  Carolina Girl Cooks offers tea cookies in lovely tins.  One tin of cookies instead of the two tiny packs, would have added a lot of value and appeal to the box.

I thought the Rose Tea Cookies were a great idea for a June box and the Unna Bakery’s Swedish offerings paired with them to create a sort of summer tea party vibe.  Unfortunately, the beer caramels were like inviting your football watching uncle to a garden party instead of the Sunday game.  If I was curating, I’d have replaced the caramels with a fruity bar of some kind or dainty chocolate truffles.  There was a lot of potential with this box, but the overall value was just too low to justify the misstep with the caramels.

What type of value do you expect from a sub box versus what you paid for it?

THE BACKSTORY
Orangeglad is an “artisan dessert box that sends handcrafted, unique and exclusive desserts each month. Eat delicious treats created by local artisan chefs throughout the country, and learn about the amazing people behind each item.”

Single Portion Box: 5 Deluxe Sized Treats
Curated from around the country
Makes 1-2 people happy
Cost: $25 per month (shipping included)

Double Portion Box: 10 Deluxe Sized Treats
Curated from around the country
Makes 3-4 people happy
Cost: $40 per month (shipping included)

Managing your account is easy. If you want a break, you can cancel or skip at anytime, with absolutely no hassle.

Coupon Codes: Use code ST10 for 10% off your orders

Orglamix Glam Box: June 2017 – I’d Rather Be a Mermaid + 25% Off

So, it’s been a bit of a rough week.  I somehow managed to manage to fracture my tooth by doing absolutely nothing.  My dentist thinks I did it my sleep, so apparently when the lights go out I’m doing some kind of unconscious Three Stooges routine.  So after a tooth pulling, a bone graft, some stitches, antibiotics and a touch of Percocet, I’m back in business.  On a related note, tooth implants are expensive, so please buy my awesome book “The Ice Maiden’s Tale” so maybe my next royalty check can cover some floss.

I’m determined to kick off my Friday on a brighter note, so I’ve got one of my fave boxes to review.

The June Orglamix Glam Box had a “I’d Rather Be a Mermaid” theme. “This month we rounded up five finds for your inner mermaid.  You can float on like an underwater goddess with these mermaid-inspired beauty products.  From sparkling blue eyeshadow to iridescent highlighters, you’ll feel like you’re back in the ocean and swimming with the fishes without leaving home.  Channel your own inner mermaid.”


SHUT THE HELL UP!  Maybe it’s the red hair, but mermaid products will win me every single time.  My favorite box theme of the year!

If you’d like to try out a box of vegan, cruelty free natural beauty products for yourself use the coupon code VEGAN to save 25%.

Rainbow Fish Contour Makeup Brush
(Estimated Retail: $16.99)
Description: ”Our magical rainbow fish brush is the perfect catch. It’s designed with soft, synthetic bristles and features a versatile, kabuki-inspired design to easily sweep on allover cheek color.  The easy-grip handle can be tilted down at an angle to sculpt and slip the contours of the face.”
Verdict: I don’t know how I could love this more
It’s a pretty shiny brush that looks like a fish’s tail! I’ve been lusting after all the funky Storybook Cosmetics brushes so this is right up my alley.  It’s going to find a prominent place on my makeup vanity.

Mermaid Hair Don’t Care – Nourishing Hair Mask
(Estimated Retail: $16.00)
Description: A luxurious, deep conditioning treatment for hair’s total restoration. For ultimate repair & deep conditioning, the Nourishing Hair Mask directly penetrates the surface of the hair. Used weekly, this fortifying hydrator infuses locks with extra moisture while sealing split ends—resulting in total hair recovery & restoration. The at-home salon treatment is lightweight enough for all hair types and is designed to provide nourishment, shine, & improved elasticity.” 
Verdict: LOVE!
I’m actually always on the lookout for new hair masks, so automatically that’s a win.  Throw in a mermaid theme and I’m sold.

Mermaid Kisses – Organic Lip Scrub
(Estimated Retail: $12.50)
Description: “Lip Scrub is enriched with a soothing combination of natural ingredients to moisturize, exfoliate, and prep your lips. Unlike many exfoliators, it is very gentle and moisturizing.  ”
Verdict: Like
I’m not huge on lip scrubs, but hits one is pretty adorable.

   Mermaid Tears – Natural Eyeshadow
(Estimated Retail: $12.50)
Description: ”Blue eyeshadow is officially the beauty move of the summer. Toss your preconceived notions of graphic liner aside: It doesn’t have to be all neat and precise to look cool. To create an impressionistic swoop, use a slanted angle brush. All you have to do is make one swiping motion along the creases and along the outer corners.”
Verdict: Why is a Mermaid’s sadness so beautiful?
My second box product called “Mermaid Tears”. (The other was from NCLA and in my June Popsugar Box).  I probably should feel bad, like, it’s implying I’m using a mermaid’s grief for my own gain, but it’s so damn pretty.  Sorry, Ariel.

Mermaid Vibes – Holographic Trio
(Estimated Retail: $19.00)
Description: An eye, lip, and face transformer palette with three holographic shades. Revamp your makeup looks with this innovative palette. It’s perfect for achieving a spectrum of radiant, special effects by layering shades over eyeshadow and lipstick. Each of the shades within catches the light from every angle for a spectrum of luminizing special effects—perfect for customizing finishes and exploring your artistic expression.”
Verdict: The legend continues…
Okay, I know the swatch is like mostly useless, because these products are on the subtle side, but I still love them.  I’ll have to experiment with this palette because I think it can add a lot of interest to tons of products.  It gives a little bit of iridescence without adding glitter – which is my favorite type of highlighter.  A unique, fun addition to the box.

OVERALL
Verdict:
Who wouldn’t rather be a mermaid?
I receive this for free in order to review it, but the regular cost is $29 and the estimated retail value came out to $76.99.  I think it’s obvious by now that I loved the box theme.  Even putting that aside, I loved all the products. I would have snapped these up these if I’d seen them in a shop. This box included a nice variety of items and lots of unique additions, like the funky contour brush and the holographic trio.  This was an amazing summer box and probably my favorite curation of 2017.  Orglamix never disappoints.

Are you as addicted to “Mermaid” themed products or am I the only one?

I’ve got lots more Orglamix and other box reviews coming up.  To see box spoilers as soon as I get them, follow me on Instagram.

Popsugar: June 2017 Must Have + September Spoiler & Fall Limited Edition Spoilers!

So I’m still recovering from Labor Day, which was aptly named since it was my day of manual labor.  It was like an episode of “This Old House” where I paint all the dirty white things, bright new white.  Not the most riveting of renovations, which is probably why I don’t have my own HGTV show yet.  But eventually, (as God is my witness), I will have some cool renovation posts for you.  In the meantime, it’s time for some fun with boxes.  Today I’ve got my June Popsugar review and a hell of a lot of spoilers for their September Must Have box and their Fall Limited Edition.

Let’s jump right in.

FALL LIMITED EDITION SPOILERS
Fashion:
Skincare:

Jewelry:
Limited Edition Fall
Description: “Ready to change up and revitalize your routine? This box is filled of over $450 worth of luxurious items that will have you feeling stylish and cozy all Fall long. Prepare to channel your inner street style star with cutting-edge products for every part of your life.”
Cost: $100.00
Quantities are limited, so don’t delay! Boxes will be shipped by Sept. 21.

This box is still available so if you’re loving all the spoilers, you can still nab one for yourself.  Unfortunately I’m on a tight budget so I’m just sticking to my monthly must have subscription.

SEPTEMBER MUST HAVE SPOILERS
Theme
Makeup
SEPTEMBER BOX
Based on the theme I’m thinking we’re going to see some cool weather accessories.  I’m super super psyched for the lipstick queen cheek stain.  I’m a huge fan of their products and it seems like something fun to try out.  I’m also happy to try out a new primer since it’s a fairly recent edition to my makeup bag and I’m still experimenting with different brands and types.

Now onto the main attraction…

JUNE MUST HAVE BOX


Billabong Aloha Forever Trucker Hat
(Suggested Retail: $17.95)
Description: “Keep your face out of the harmful rays while trying out the easy-to-wear trucker hat trend. This sporty cap will have you saying “Aloha” to even more oceanside activities.”
Verdict: Gift
I love hats, but I’m not a baseball hat type of girl.  I passed this along to a friend who I thought would enjoy it.

Captain Blankenship Mermaid Sea Salt Hair Spray
(Suggested Retail: $24.00)
Description: Effortlessly style your hair with a sea salt spray that will add waves so gorgeous even a mermaid would be jealous. The organic ingredients like aloe vera and sea kelp extract will nourish your locks naturally without feeling crunchy.”
Verdict:
LOVE!
I’ve received a small bottle of this in a long ago Birchbox and I adored it.  It’s my favorite sea salt spray and one of my favorite hair products ever.  Definitely the highlight of my box.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo: A Novel by Taylor Jenkins Reid
(Suggested Retail: $15.04)
Description: ”’ There’s nothing better than a juicy beach read. Taylor Jenkins Reid’s latest novel is full of intrigue, emotional twists, and Hollywood glamour, making it easy to get lost in while soaking up the rays.”
Verdict: Like
Sorry, for some reason I’m missing my pic of this one.  This book is going to fit one of my 2017 Popsugar Book Challenge categories (the “A book that takes place over a character’s life span slot”, for those interested), so I’m happy with the inclusion.

ALOHA Collection Mid-Size Ocean Coco Palms Pouch
(Suggested Retail: $36.00)
Description: Pack your waterside essentials in this splash-proof zip pouch. The print will encourage you to get on island time and will protect your snacks, sea salt spray, and hat. You can also use it to store your wetsuit, dirty gym clothes, or other essentials as you run around town.”
Verdict: Gift
I think this is a great addition for a summer box, but I just don’t go to the beach or the pool regularly so this will be wasted on me. I have a friend going on a lovely Caribbean trip, so I’ll pass this along to her.

NCLA So Rich — Mermaid Tears
(Suggested Retail: $18.00)
Description: “Keep your nails from getting dried out on sandy and chlorine-filled days with this azure-hued cuticle oil that smells like honeysuckle. The vitamin E extract blended with sunflower seed oil will bring tears of joy to your tips.”
Verdict: Love!
First let’s give some props to the NCLA marketing team, because who doesn’t want a treatment called “mermaid tears”.  Putting that aside, you know that I’m a polish hoarder, er collector, so this is right up my alley. NCLA is a great brand and a bit spendy for me at the moment, so I’m very happy to have this in my box.  It’s also nice that even subscribers who aren’t nail polish aficionados can use this cuticle oil treatment.

Belgian Boys ® Mini Cookie Stash
(Suggested Retail: .99)
Description: “While sporting your new trucker hat, channel your inner class clown by taking selfies with these adorable (and extremely delicious) mustache cookies. They’re a fun-filled and portable snack to take with you on your sunny-day adventures.”
Verdict: Okay
These cookies were tasty enough. No super awesome taste sensations or anything, but perfectly satisfactory.

Meri Meri Blue and White Party Straws
(Suggested Retail: 3.95)
Description: “Sip your Frappuccino® and other summery concoctions through festive straws that add the perfect final touch to any outdoor festivity. Cheers!”
Verdict: Hit!
I love getting party supplies.  When I finally finish painting my bar, I can use them for some cute drinks.

SPECIAL EXTRA

Starbucks® Frappuccino® Chilled Coffee Drink
(Suggested Retail: $7.99)
Description: Cool off and indulge in the sweet taste of a Frappuccino® chilled coffee drink, made with the quality Starbucks® coffee you already love. The delectable drink will be the perfect pairing with your day of fun in the sun. Also available in 13.7 oz. Flavor may vary.”
Verdict: Hit!
I’m not a Starbucks addict, but I really like the bottled Starbucks drinks as an occasionally treat. I actually tend to like them better than the real deal from the store. (I know, I know, I’m just crazy that way.)

OVERALL:
Verdict:
Hit!
Even though I ended up giving away a couple items in this box, I still think it was well put together.  It had a nice beachy summer feel, cohesive selections and items that should appeal to most subscribers.  I paid $42.70 for this box, and got a retail value of approximately $120.12. (The retail value is based on the current price of the hardcover novel.)  I pretty much got my money back with just the hair and nail products so I’ll call this one a win. I’m excited to see what starts popping up as we move toward the Fall.

I’ve got lots more box reviews coming up plus a huge KBeauty Haul.

If you want sneak previews of the box contents, be sure to follow me on Instagram!

What were your fave items from your summer boxes?

THE BACKSTORY
Popsugar is a women’s lifestyle subscription that delivers a monthly box of fun, full-size products hand-selected by Popsugar editors.

In addition to Popsugar’s monthly must have boxes, they have some seasonal special edition boxes that contain uber luxe items.  The price tag on these boxes is higher, but the products you receive are high end.

Popsugar Must Have Pricing:
Monthly – $39.95
3 Months – $109.85
6 Months – $214.70
12 Months – $404.40

Coupon Codes:  REFER5 = $5 off site wide
POPSUGAR10 = $10 off a 3 month subscription to Must Have

WRITER’S SHELF: The Popsugar Reading Challenge 2017 – Books 6 – 10

It has been an exhausting year, but no worries, I’ve been keeping up with my reading for my 2017 Popsugar Reading Challenge.  If you want to follow along, there’s even a handy dandy downloadable list for the book categories.  Head over here to check out my first five book reviews.

If you have some great book suggestions or want to see what’s coming up, head over to my Goodreads page and my 2017 List.

And if you’re working through the challenge and want to fill categories like a “A book that is a story within a story” or “A book that’s published in 2017”, consider picking up my book, “The Ice Maiden’s Tale”.
It’s available on Kindle Unlimited and digital copies are also on sale on right now for $3.03. (Not sure why, but hey palindromes are cool, right?).
Print copies are also available online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Book #6
Popsugar Slot: “A book recommended by a Librarian”
The Doll-Master and Other Tales of Terror
by Joyce Carol Oates
When I went into the library, I noticed a display with suggestions from the Librarians.  Included with the books was “The Doll-Mater and Other Tales of Terror” by Joyce Carol Oates.  As is often the case with short stories, I found the different stories to be uneven.  The Doll-Master was by far the best story in the book and was particularly compelling.  The narrator draws you in and makes you empathize with him, then slowly unravels.  The progression leaves you unsettled and the story stays with you long after you’ve finished it.  I only wish all the other “tales of terror” were at the same level. The Gun Accident felt particularly uninspired. Overall, Oates is a skillful writer and this collection is definitely worth a read, even if not every story is up to par.
QUOTES:
“All your life, you yearn to return to what has been.  You yearn to return to those you have lost.  You will do terrible things to return, which no one else can understand.”
WRITER’S LESSON:
A very simple story can be given so much depth by giving the narrator a unique perspective.
BOOK SUGGESTION:
You’ll have to ask a Librarian!

Book #7
Popsugar Slot: “A book where the main character is a different ethnicity than you”
The Steep and Thorny Way
by Cat Winters
I was so intrigued by this book that was a retelling of Hamlet, but set in 1920s Oregon.  Our protagonist, Hanalee Denney is the daughter of a white woman and an African-American man.  You follow her story as she deals with the KKK, the mysterious death of her father, and her friendship with the boy convicted of killing her father.  I found “The Steep and Thorny Way” to be well-written and particularly relevant as the US currently deals with the rise of the white supremacist movement.  Hanalee’s struggles were touching and the setting was rich and mysterious.  The novel did a beautiful job of addressing the difficulties in being a homosexual during that time period.  Definitely give this book a chance.
QUOTES:
“I believe that ‘love’ and ‘wrong’ are two deeply unrelated words that should never be thrown into the same sentence together. Like ‘dessert’ and ‘broccoli.’”
WRITER’S LESSON:
A character’s ethnicity is always part of the story – in one way or another.
BOOK SUGGESTION:
For a good book, by a character that is not my ethnicity, try Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros.

Book #8
Popsugar Slot: “A book that’s been on your TBR list for way too long”
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
by Betty Smith
This is one of those books I know I should have read a long time ago and never got around to.  It took me a while to get through, but it’s another one that seems a perfect fit for our current climate in the US.  This story takes us to the turn of the century, where we follow Francie as she grows up with her poor family in Brooklyn.  It was amazing to me that a whole century later, so many working people are still struggling just as much as the characters in this book. With all of our money and technological advancement, there are still people working multiple jobs and struggling to put food on the table.  This book should be required reading for all of our government representatives.
QUOTES:
“A lie was something you told because you were mean or a coward.  A story was something you made up out of something that might have happened. Only you didn’t tell it like it was, you told it like you thought it should have been.”
WRITER’S LESSON:
Some stories are less about what happens and more about taking us to a different time and place and learning what it means to live there.
BOOK SUGGESTION:
You’ll have to figure this one out for yourself.

Book #9
Popsugar Slot: “A book by an author from a country you’ve never visited”
This Is Where It Ends
by Marieke Nijkamp
The author of “This is Where it Ends” is from The Netherlands, where I have sadly never visited.  This story takes us straight into YA territory, where we experience a school shooting along with teenagers at Opportunity High School in Alabama.  Moving from to student to student, the book gives life to different voices as the events unfold. Not only is there the anxiousness of what will happen to these teens, but the underlying mystery of why this shooter is driven to murder.  The topic of a school shooting could have easily become cliché and maudlin, but it’s handled deftly and with respect.  This was a page turner, and a must read if you enjoy the YA genre.
QUOTES:
“Dad always told me there are more stories in the universe than stars in the sky. And in every story, there’s the light of hope.”
WRITER’S LESSON:
When you are utilizing multiple perspectives of the same events, you really need each voice to be unique and each one to give a different insight into what’s happening.
BOOK SUGGESTION:
I’ve also never been to the UK, so I’ll recommend “Neverwhere” by Neil Gaiman.

Book #10
Popsugar Slot: “A book that’s becoming a movie in 2017”
Before I Fall
by Lauren Oliver
Okay so “Before I Fall” is like Groundhog’s Day, but without humor, fun and cleverness.  The main character, Samantha, is supposed to start off unlikable and then grow and change from her mean girl persona, as she learns a lesson by living the worst day of her life over and over again. Unfortunately, she never becomes a character I really like, identify with or even care all that much what happens to. There are some lovely sections of prose, but they often feel overdramatic. It all culminated in an ending that to me, didn’t quite fit the story.  It felt like the author wanted to go for something unexpected and forced a conclusion that wasn’t earned.   For me, it just didn’t work.  This story was a good concept that was poorly executed.
QUOTES:
“That’s when I realized that certain moments go on forever. Even after they’re over they still go on, even after you’re dead and buried, those moments are lasting still, backward and forward, on into infinity. They are everything and everywhere all at once.”
WRITER’S LESSON:
You can’t force an ending just because you want to be clever or edgy.  It has to fit the story.
BOOK SUGGESTION:
It looks like an amazing movie and the source material is wonderful, so go with the classic “Murder on the Orient Express” by Agatha Christie.


Thanks to the library and my long commute, I’m making excellent progress on my list and I’m determined to hit every category this year—including the “Advanced” ones.

What’s currently on your bookshelf?