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2016 in Books


{Some of the books I read last year. Follow along on Instagram @alisongenevieve to check out my current reads!}

Happy World Book Day to you all! I thought it would be a fitting day to finally get around to posting my review of all the books I read in 2016. So, here you go!

TOP 5

I read so many good books this year that it was hard to narrow it down to just five, but if I had to, these would be my picks (in alphabetical order):

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
I’m usually wary of books that have a lot of hype attached, as so often I’ve come away feeling underwhelmed. This novel, however, winner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, deserved its status as an it book, I felt. Set during the Second World War, it follows the parallel lives of a blind French girl and a German orphan and was surprisingly page-turning, with nail-biting suspense and cliffhangers galore. It left me with a huge longing to visit the French town of Saint-Malo, where the bulk of the action is set.

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
I read Gone Girl a few years ago and liked it ok, but I liked this book, published three years before Flynn’s bestselling novel, a whole lot better — it’s even darker, creepier and more page-turning. Narrated by Libby Day, whose mother and two sisters were allegedly murdered by her brother 25 years earlier, it follows her mission to uncover what really happened — totally unputdownable.

The History of Miss Betsy Thoughtless by Eliza Haywood
This book was recommended to me by my sister Claudia, who read it for an English class at university. It’s the story of a sassy teenage coquette in 17th-century London who, as her name would suggest, is selfish, reckless, and, well, thoughtless, but nevertheless manages to be completely charming and likeable. For a book written 300 years ago, it’s incredibly funny and engaging.

The Lost Girls by Jennifer Baggett, Holly Corbett & Amanda Pressner
The memoir of three women who embark on a year-long, round-the-world trip on the eve of their 30th birthdays. Initially I was worried that it would be another cheesy book about finding yourself while playing the role of white saviour in third-world countries, but I found myself enjoying it, and it gave me a serious case of wanderlust.

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
The first in the four-novel Neapolitan series by reclusive Italian author Elena Ferrante, this is a weirdly engaging book about two girls growing up in in Naples of the 1950s. Elena and Lila have a complicated relationship — their intense friendship is more of a rivalry as they constantly try to outperform each other — but they nevertheless have each other’s backs as they grow up in a crime-ridden, impoverished community. Slow-paced but gripping in its own strange way.

ALSO RECOMMENDED:

Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
Having only read the bleak Tess of the d’Urbervilles and the even bleaker Jude the Obscure, I didn’t realise Hardy was capable of writing anything remotely uplifting, but this book, although having its share of typically Hardian unfortunate events, manages to conclude with a satisfying ending.

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
Walls’ memoir of her dysfunctional childhood in small town America is depressing as hell of course, but also engaging and full of dark humour.

Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford
An unconventional love story set in England between the wars, full of wit and satire. The beautiful Polly Hampton thwarts her mother’s plans to marry her off well and the ensuing drama is highly entertaining.

My Ántonia by Willa Cather
Set against the backdrop of 19th-century Nebraska, this American classic, the tale of Bohemian immigrant Ántonia Shimerda, is poignant and captivating.

Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
On the eve of the 60th anniversary of the Vel d’Hiv Roundup, in which thousands of French Jews were arrested, an American journalist in Paris researches the fate of Sarah Starzynski, one of the children involved. Heartbreaking, but with an unexpectedly gratifying ending.

A BIT DISAPPOINTING:

Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín
The story of a young Irish immigrant in 1950s New York, this, for me, was a rare case of liking the movie more than the book (which I read after seeing the 2016 film starring Saoirse Ronan). I found it a little too dour and slow-moving and I wasn’t completely satisfied with the ending.

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
The premise of this debut novel sounded promising: a young woman in 17th-century Amsterdam sets about furnishing a miniature replica of her house with the help of an anonymous miniaturist, but things take a creepy turn when the objects delivered bear an uncanny resemblance to the people and events in her life. While I enjoyed the atmospheric setting of the book, I thought the plot fell flat midway through.

Shopaholic to the Rescue by Sophie Kinsella
I read the first few Shopaholic books about a decade ago and thoroughly enjoyed them, and ever since then I’ve read every subsequent book in the series. This latest instalment, in which Becky finds herself in Las Vegas, was reasonably fun, but nowhere near as good as the first books.

LEAST FAVOURITE:

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
I’ve never seen the film version, but I’d heard great things about this book — it’s frequently cited as a favourite in those ‘Books that Changed My Life’ interviews. The premise sounded good (a guy who can time travel!) but I found it surprisingly draining and pretentious and the central characters, Henry and Claire (the time traveler and his wife), were totally unlikeable.

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Leather and Lace

While I love colour, there are times when I’m more in the mood for a crisp, monochrome outfit — and this combination of a leather jacket, lacy top, and black skinny jeans fits the bill nicely when I want to wear something that’s casual but still reasonably put-together. One of the perks of a black and white ensemble is that it’s a seasonless look that looks equally appropriate for spring as it does for autumn; the only thing that I’ve changed up a bit is my make-up: bright orangey-red lips instead of berry, and fresh, pale pink nails instead of black.

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Leather jacket — River Island
Lace top — Forever 21
Jeans — Gap
Heels — My DIY Louboutins (Fergalicious shoes with a Rosso Solini stick-on red sole)
Sunglasses — Givenchy
Rings — Forever 21
Lipstick — Heat Wave by NARS
Nail polish — Minimalistic by Essie

 

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Lipstick of the Week: Claudia by NARS

This beautiful lipstick was a birthday treat from my mama, and it’s the perfect colour for spring. I love a dark, moody lip shade during the winter months, but now that the weather is warming up and I’ve shed my heavy brocades and wools in favour of bright florals and crisp whites, I need my make-up to follow suit, and this little beauty is the perfect accompaniment to my warm-weather clothes. The cool, blue-based tone makes teeth look whiter, and the creamy texture is moisturizing with just a little bit of a sheen to it which makes for a nice change from my usual matte lipstick.

As I’ve mentioned before, NARS is not the cheapest brand on the market, but the quality of their stuff is fantastic — definitely a worthwhile investment!

The Lowdown on Claudia
Brand: NARS
Product Type: Audacious Lipstick
Shade: 
“Cool pink”
Price Range: 
$32 / $$$
Vibe: 
Girly and fun

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Lipstick of the Week: Pink Pout by Revlon

I consider myself a bit of a make-up snob in that I tend to favour products from MAC and Sephora over their drugstore equivalents (this does not apply to mascara, however — I always go budget on that). Having said that, I’m not completely averse to the odd Revlon or Rimmel lipstick, and, in fact, some of my very favourite lipsticks have been by more affordable brands. (When my sister Claudia was in New Zealand, she was shocked to see that Revlon is considered a pretty high-end brand over there, price-wise; the average Revlon lipstick was roughly $20+ Canadian!)

I’ve had this little lipstick, Pink Pout, for I want to say maybe 5 years (!) and it’s still going strong (you can forget what they say about tossing your lipsticks after a year or whatever). It’s a chalky, slightly matte shade that works really well with a smoky silvery eye, and (for me at least), makes for a refreshing change from my usually loud lipstick colours.

The Lowdown on Pink Pout
Brand: Revlon
Product Type: Matte Lipstick
Shade:
Pale pink
Price Range: 
$10 (roughly) / $
Vibe: 
Demure and ladylike, with a kind of ’60s vibe going on

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Lipstick of the Week: Velvet Teddy by MAC

While I am clearly a fan of bright, eye-catching colours when it comes to lipstick, I equally appreciate those more subtle nude tones that you can just swipe on without worrying whether they’ll clash with your outfit. My current favourite nude shade (introduced to me by my sister Claudia) is MAC’s Velvet Teddy, a gorgeous pinky-beige shade with a hint of a ’90s vibe going on.

I have to be careful with neutral shades as I can easily look washed out since I’m so pale, but this one is warm enough to prevent me from looking ghostly. It’s also an incredibly versatile shade, looking great for daytime with nothing more than a slick of mascara and a touch of bronzer, in addition to being the perfect complement to an intense, smoky eye.

The Lowdown on Velvet Teddy
Brand: MAC
Product Type: Matte Lipstick
Shade: 
“Deep-tone beige”
Price Range: 
$21 / $$
Vibe:
Quietly chic and subtle; slightly ’90s (in a cool way 😉 )
Celebrity Fans: Kylie Jenner

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Oscars 2016: The Best & Worst of the Red Carpet

January to March may be my least favourite stretch of the year, but there is one perk to this otherwise dreary time: Awards Season! I’m not the biggest movie buff, but I love love love the Red Carpet coverage. Here were some of the best, worst, and, uh, most interesting looks of the night in my opinion. What were your thoughts on the fashion this year? I’d love to know!

BEST

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My mum thought it was “too over-the-top,” but I thought Cate Blanchett slayed it in this seafoam Armani Privé gown. The fit was perfection, and the colour beautifully complemented her fair skin.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

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Of course I have to give my homegirl Saoirse a nod in her shimmery mermaidesque Calvin Klein Collection dress. While I didn’t 100% love it (I felt there was something a bit off about the fit), it happened to be both my sisters’ number one pick of the night — plus she wore emerald green as a tribute to Ireland…awww!


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I’m not very familiar with Olivia Munn as an actress…but I thought she looked slick in this vibrant Stella McCartney number. Loved the matching lipstick, too.

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I don’t usually like Rooney Mara’s sartorial choices, and I initially thought this Givenchy Haute Couture by Riccardo Tsici dress was a bit too colourless for my taste, but overall I thought she really pulled it off and looked pretty sleek (and l loved the pairing of the burgundy lipstick).

WORST

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At best, Kate Winslet plays it safe on the red carpet in some nondescript navy thing…at worst, well, she does this — basically show up in a shiny black garbage bag (albeit one by Ralph Lauren).

MOST WTF

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Heidi Klum in Marchesa definitely got my vote for the red carpet’s weirdest dress of the night. THAT SLEEVE.

MOST BORING

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I swear Reese Witherspoon has worn some iteration of this basic af Oscar de la Renta gown to every single red carpet she’s ever walked.

MOST PROM QUEEN 

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I think Brie seems like a nice person (fun fact: her surname actually isn’t Larson but she took it as a stage name because her favourite American Girl was Kirsten Larson…aww, mine too!), but her Gucci dress was way too Midwestern prom princess for my liking. That belt! Those ruffles! Even the cobalt blue colour, which I usually like, felt a bit dated.

BEST HAIR & MAKE-UP

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I didn’t like her dress, but I loved J. Law’s icy blonde lob and natural make-up.

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I hated her dress and the accompanying choker, but I liked the braided coronet thing Olivia Wilde had going on.

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I thought her dress was ok, but the best part of Naomi Watt’s ensemble for me was the pairing of a classic red lip with her platinum lob.

MOST COVETABLE SKIN TONE

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Not to be creepy or anything, but my sisters and I are obsessed with Alicia Vikander’s gleaming, caramel-coloured skin. I was on the fence about her Louis Vuitton dress, but with that complexion, she could really pull off any colour.

Image Credits: All full-length dress shots from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/fashion/events/oscars-2016-best-dresses-and-style-misses-on-the-red-carpet/
Hair & Make-up: Jennifer Lawrence: https://www.popsugar.com/beauty/Jennifer-Lawrence-Hair-Makeup-2016-Oscars-40372280
Olivia Wilde: http://fashioniseverywhere.com
Naomi Watts: http://www.glamour.com/lipstick/blogs/girls-in-the-beauty-department/2016/02/oscars-2016-red-carpet-biggest-hair-makeup-trends
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Lipstick of the Week: Lingonberry by BITE

It seems like all I post these days are Lipstick of the Weeks, but it just so happens that they’re the quickest and easiest posts to put together, and these past few weeks have been particularly busy for me. (I am working on some more content-heavy travel, recipe, and fashion posts, however, so stay tuned!)

This week’s lipstick is by one of my new favourite brands, BITE, a Toronto-based company available at Sephora who does the most beautiful, richly pigmented shades (I’ve featured them before on the blog with my post on Violet). This shade, Lingonberry, was part of a two-in-one, $15 tube that was unfortunately a limited edition from a year or so ago, but if you’re looking for a very similar colour, check out BITE’s Dragonfruit. Like Lingonberry, it’s a gorgeous, rich magenta-pink colour — what I consider a “wintry” pink as it’s almost got a berry vibe going on that seems to suit this time of year. (Though, obviously, it would look fantastic in summer, too.)

The Lowdown on Lingonberry/Dragonfruit

Brand: BITE Beauty
Product Type:
Amuse Bouche Lipstick
Shade: 
“Magenta violet”
Price Range: 
$30 / $$$
Vibe: 
Vibrant, girly, and fun


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Lipstick of the Week: Schiap by NARS

Today I’m featuring one of my favourite lipsticks of all time: Schiap by NARS. Pronounced “skap,” and named for the Italian fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli (whose signature colour was hot pink), it’s a beautiful blue-based, semi-matte pink. While it’s certainly bright, I find it’s actually a pretty wearable colour. It seems to go with most of my clothes (I especially love it with neutrals — think black, white, navy, grey, and camel), and the blue tones make teeth look nice and white.

The Lowdown on Schiap
Brand: 
NARS
Product Type: 
Semi Matte Lipstick
Shade: 
“Shocking pink”
Price Range: 
$35 / $$$
Vibe:
Sophisticated, but fun and energetic
Celebrity Fans: Katy Perry, Zooey Deschanel, Blake Lively

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Lipstick of the Week: Winterberry by Aveda

First off, a bit of a disclaimer: this is not usually the type of lip product I would normally buy for myself (it’s a glossy “rehydrating lip glaze” and I’m more of a dehydrating matte lipstick kind of girl, plus Aveda had never been on my radar as a destination for make-up), but it was stuffed in my stocking one Christmas, so of course I had to give it a go. And you know what?! I really liked it! I had a bit of a prejudice against glosses because they reminded me of the early ’00s and I always felt they had too much of a “high maintenance” chihuahua-in-handbag vibe about them, but this one is definitely more of a sophisticated, grown-up gloss that is perfect for this time of year, both colour-wise (a rich, plum-y wine), and in terms of texture (it actually does keep your lips hydrated!) Added to that, it has the most divine minty smell/taste!

I had a look at Aveda’s website, and apparently this shade has been renamed “Wineberry” (it seems to be the same colour as my Winterberry, though). Additionally, they have 15 other luscious-looking shades in this finish that I am most definitely coveting right now…

The Lowdown on Winterberry/Wineberry
Brand:
Aveda
Product Type:
Rehydrating Lip Glaze
Shade:
“Shimmery plum with shine”
Price Range:
$18 / $$
Vibe:
Polished and subtly glam

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Lipstick of the Week: Red Lizard by NARS

This garnet-coloured beauty has been one of my favourite lipsticks this past winter. I love that it’s got a slight bit of edginess to it, but still feels appropriate (if a little dramatic) for everyday wear. And, while NARS’ lip products are definitely that bit pricier than those of other brands, the pay-off is worth it in my opinion. Not only do they last forever (one of my old favourites, Schiap, is still going strong after 3 years), they have gorgeous pigmentation and last extremely well throughout the day, requiring very minimal touch-ups.

The Lowdown on Red Lizard
Brand: NARS
Product Type: Semi Matte Lipstick
Shade: “Full-powered red”
Price Range: $27 / $$
Vibe: Classic with an edge
Celebrity Fans: Kate Bosworth, Lena Dunham

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