Sunday, September 11, 2011

I've moved!

Hello readers!

In case you haven't noticed the lack of updates, its not because I've lost my love of books or beauty products...I've just moved over to Wordpress!

Please go to my new blog site to read more about exciting new books and lots of beauty news!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Big Spend

Cosmetics are expensive, whether you shop at Mecca Cosmetica or Priceline ($45 just for two lipglosses on my last trip there!). For the sake of my wallet, I have had to search for cheaper means to feed my addiction. This either means going online or occasionally buying duty free when I fly overseas. I also pick up make up in other countries the way people pick up souvenirs. 

However, I know there are some of you who are hesitant about shelling out for a luxury make up item without actually seeing it first. Here are a few ways to take advantage of online shopping without being totally in the dark about your purchases:

1. Go fantasy shopping. All this means is going to your local department store/make up store and trying out the oh-so-expensive make up you want to buy. Make sure you write down the brand, name and shade of the product you want. This is especially important for brands like Shu Uemura and Lancome, where shades are assigned numbers rather than names. 

2. See the swatch. If you're lusting after something, chances are that someone else has too and they've kindly posted a picture of it on the Internet. Usually typing your product name followed by the word 'swatch' into Google should be enough to get you some photos. If you want some high-quality photos plus reviews, then check out Temptalia (especially her extensive swatch gallery for comparisons with similar products), and KarlaSugar, who's byline says it all - 'The Next Best Thing To Going Shopping!' Seeing swatches is especially useful when you're considering buying a product that isn't sold locally. 

3. Read the reviews. Almost every cosmetic item in the world has been reviewed by someone. Some reviews are harder to find than others (depending on how local/obscure the product is). Many online sellers offer customer reviews, but I usually take these with a pinch of salt. It's rare to see a negative comment on the site that's trying to sell the product. Try a third party site for a more accurate review. I highly recommend Makeup Alley and the Vogue Australia Forums.

All purchased online!

I hope these tips help some of you more hesitant make up junkies to take the online shopping plunge with confidence!


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Marie Antoinette: The Journey (2001)

The feather-plumed hat, the towering coiffure, the tiered pastry stand laden with macarons…just some of the whirlwind of images that come to mind at the mention of this most (in)famous royal. Marie Antoinette spent centuries as a reviled figurehead of the ancien régime, a femme fatale whose machinations brought about a revolution. Antonia Fraser cuts through the myths to discover the real woman behind all the legends – Marie Antoinette, last anointed Queen of France.

Genre: History, Biography

In 1755, Marie Antoinette was born to Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, the fifteenth child pawn to be used by her mother in the political mêlée of Europe. At age 15, she was sent away from Austria to marry the Dauphin, Louis Auguste. At age 19, she was Queen of France. At 38, she was dead.

Despite a lavish and sheltered childhood and a gilded adolescence, the young princess was forever trapped in a power struggle between opposing political factions. As a foreigner, she was constantly blamed for the financial woes of the country. As a woman, she was constantly accused of influencing her husband’s poor decision-making. Throughout her time at the French court, she was a popular subject of the anti-royalist propaganda machine. Her person was used as a symbol for all the profligacy and debauchery of the French nobility.

With the popularity of the monarchy declining, Marie Antoinette retreated into a world of her own where she could make believe she was a simple farmwife. She also spent much of her time on her children, happy in the motherly role, as she had never been in role of Queen. As the Revolution gathered momentum, she tried in vain to ameliorate her public image, but it was too late.

I have a great love of Lady Antonia Fraser’s writings (six fat volumes currently sit on my desk). Even her biographies about men primarily deal with women, and there’s a reason why. She depicts great women who were often overlooked and undervalued in their own lifetimes, but who (sometimes by accident of birth, sometimes by strength of character) have shaped the future.

This biography deals painstakingly with the details of her birth and childhood, which are very important, as they set the scene for a woefully undereducated and unprepared girl to enter the cutthroat arena of French court life. Reading about the life of a young woman, it is impossible for me as a young woman myself, to not put myself in her position. It seems astounding that a mere child could be expected to bear children to a husband she barely knows, while performing a balancing act between pushing her mother’s political agenda without stepping out of the bounds of her role as submissive wife. Furthermore, she had to deal with some incredible slander, including tales of cannibalism, necrophilia, lesbianism and incest.

Antonia Fraser portrays a sensitive, indulgent, compassionate and motherly woman. Far from being the callous harlot she was painted, she is shown to be pious (the word ‘prudish’ also comes to mind) and conservative. She was the ultimate victim of misogyny and xenophobia. Her story is amazing and dramatic, even more so because it is perfectly true. In her short lifetime, she made a lasting impression that is still around us today. This book is an entertaining and eye-opening read, and will change your mind about the most famous royal lady of all time.

PS. Sofia Coppola’s film, while beautiful and poignant, is a poor substitute for Fraser’s book. Marie Antoinette: The Journey provides a rich context to the life of the Queen, and deals with the most trying time of her life, which the film does not show. If you have enjoyed the film, I entreat you to try the book. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.

Branching Out

Due to some minor technical difficulties and some major laziness difficulties, I've been neglecting both reading and blogging. Now, although this blog is about my love of books, I consider myself a multi-faceted girl with many loves. The only other things I spend vast quantities of time and money on are cosmetics. Therefore, from time to time, there may be a post or two about this great love.

However, the book posts will continue - including an upcoming feature of fantasy authors!!! Dragons and quests and fairies, oh my!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Summer Reading List

Well, for some of you October 31 means Hallowe'en, but for me (and most other students in Australia) it means exam crunch time. So unfortunately its time to take a hiatus from reading enjoyable literature and start reading and re-reading boring, uninteresting lecture notes.

Just to keep you interested, here's a non-exhaustive list of what I intend to read this summer. Some of these are new reads, some are favourites that are needing some TLC. Making this list gives me something to look forward to doing in all that free time that used to be taken up with procrastination study :)

Mary Queen of Scots - Antonia Fraser
The Lost Symbol - Dan Brown
The Gathering Storm - Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
Dune - Frank Herbert
The Audacity of Hope - Barack Obama
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Stieg Larsson
The Red Queen/The White Queen - Philippa Gregory
The Namesake - Jhumpi Lahiri
Lady Chatterley's Lover - D.H. Lawrence
Watership Down - Richard Adams

Hope all of you out there are finding exam preparation bearable - just hold out for summer!!! And if you're in the northern hemisphere, I hope you have a great holiday season! See you in a few weeks!


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Virgin's Lover - Philippa Gregory (2004)

The Virgin’s Lover is the third in a series of books about the Tudor monarchs. It follows on from the success of Gregory’s The Other Boleyn Girl detailing the relationship between Anne Boleyn and her sister Mary. This novel deals Anne’s daughter Elizabeth I, the Virgin Queen and her eponymous lover Robert Dudley. Breaking away from the classroom history lesson, Gregory delivers a story filled with real characters and a vivid insight into 16th century politics.

Genre: Historical Fiction/Romance/Politics

The year is 1558 and twenty-five year old Elizabeth I has been crowned Queen of England. For her, this is the fruit of years of uncertainty and neglect and her moment to finally rise to glory. For her followers it is their chance to redeem themselves after the persecution of the old queen. Among them is Robert Dudley, son of a disgraced courtier. Dudley is handsome, captivating, sexually alluring to the young Queen…and married.

In the countryside, Dudley’s wife Amy awaits him with all the love and adoration of a newly married bride. She desires above all a quiet country life with him as her constant companion. Far from returning her love, Dudley soon begins to see her as a nuisance and burden. As his intimacy with the Queen grows, he begins to dream about the ultimate prize – being the husband of Elizabeth and King of England.

Everyone learns about Elizabeth I at school, but what we don’t learn is the person behind the name. Philippa Gregory brings the queen to life, and brings a whole host of interesting characters along with her. The Virgin’s Lover is definitely not a history book, although the main characters are all real. It is a re-imagining of a time long past, building a rich background to fit the facts.

The characterization throughout is splendid – Gregory shows the good, the bad, and the ugly of all her players. Elizabeth is a complicated mix of naivety, ruthlessness, youth and political animal. She is realistically shown as being torn between her love for an unsuitable man, and her destiny to be a powerful Queen. By far, she is the most fascinating character in the book. Her rival Amy Dudley comes in a poor second. Although the loving yet betrayed wife should get some automatic sympathy, Amy becomes more irritating as the story progresses. This is partly due to her constant bewailing and partly because the reader wishes she would eventually punch her unfaithful husband in the face.

The Virgin’s Lover has a great political edge to it. The time spent on Amy’s perspective can feel dragged on due to the lack of action. However, the action occurring back at court is so fraught with sexual and political tension that the reader is compelled to keep reading on. This book is especially interesting when you consider that Elizabethan England was still very much a man’s world, and the new queen was constantly threatened by opposing political factions. At the centre of the story is the question of her marriage – who will be her consort and the ‘real’ ruler of England?

Although much more can be said about this book, the real point of the review is to rank its readability. I would say this is a must-read if you already enjoy politics and/or history. Be warned though, this is not a textbook (there are multiple historical inaccuracies that the author has ignored in order to create a more interesting story). If not, this may not be the book for you. It does have a crime/suspense element to it, but I feel that some people may find it daunting and arduous to complete. And if you enjoy this one – check out the rest of the Tudor series at

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Temple - Matthew Reilly (1999)

Author Matthew Reilly is a homegrown Australian who couldn’t catch a break with publishing his first novel Contest at age 19. He took a gamble and self-published it – and man, did it pay off! Now, Reilly has more than ten novels under his belt and movie deals in the works. Temple is one, if not the best, of the bunch. My boyfriend handed me this book with the surety that it would not appeal to a feminine person such as myself. Well the joke’s on him! Turns out archaelogy, science fiction, military and a large helping of gore are just my cup to tea…

Genre:            Science Fiction/Techno-Thriller/Historical Fiction

Mild-mannered professor of languages, William Race, gets made an offer he can’t refuse when the US Army comes knocking at his door. He is given the chance to translate an ancient and zealously guarded text that tells the location of an Incan temple. Within that temple is an ancient idol with the potential destructive power of a thousand nuclear weapons. The Army wants that idol very badly. Unfortunately, they aren’t the only ones after it.

Race is drawn into the story of the Incan prince Renco and his mission to protect the mighty idol from the Spanish Conquistadors. As the situation in Peru becomes more and more dangerous, Race must rely on Renco’s story in order to survive. Surrounded by enemies who want the idol for their own purposes, Race must cast off the professor and become the unlikely hero.

If a book could be a person, this one would be Indiana Jones but with the Terminator’s arsenal of weapons. Although well written, Temple is hardly high literature. It has a boyish, video game feel to it that makes it incredibly entertaining but not incredibly satisfying. In fact, I could easily see this becoming a successful box office hit à la Raiders of the Lost Ark. Reilly tries hard to make the characters multi-faceted and dynamic, but doesn’t approach the fluidity and realism of Dan Brown (whose character Robert Langdon is a near-composite of William Race, although Temple precedes Angels and Demons). Reilly also links the past and present to make a parallel between the modern professor and the Incan prince. At times, the intense action and incredible amount of violence take away from the actual story (hence the video game feel) but the interweaving of the two stories is skillfully done. A definite plus of this story is its unpredictability – there are more twists and turns than Space Mountain. It makes it a book that is hard to put down.

Read this if you enjoy the action, adventure type of novels (and movies!) or if you’re a Dan Brown fan. Matthew Reilly is known for writing fast-paced adventure novels, and Temple is no exception. Don’t be put off by the thickness of the book – it’ll be so gripping that you’ll be asking for more.  If this isn’t your thing, I encourage you to try something new and just read the first chapter. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.