Wednesday

Crazy in love with "The Lunar Chronicles"


Fairytales. Space. Cyborgs.

Come on. It was only a matter of time before I read The Lunar Chronicles, the sci-fi/YA series by Marissa Meyer

Cinder, a cyborg and mechanic, Scarlet, a tough farmer searching for her missing grandmother, and Cress, a gifted hacker held captive in a satellite, are reimagined versions of Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood and Rapunzel. Their stories seamlessly connect as they become allies in a fight to save a vulnerable and plague-ridden Earth from the power-hungry evil queen of the moon and her mind-control abilities. It's a little Once Upon A Time, a little Sailor Moon, a little Battlestar Galactica. Along with thrills, there are dashing and well-developed love interests, mad scientists, giggling androids and royal mysteries.


If it sounds a bit much, you have my reassurances. I do not jump on bandwagons easily. I get nervous about series and about YA because of the time commitment and because of the risk of cheesy or poorly written fiction. But I sped through this crazy addictive delight of a series during a handful of gloriously escapist days and found it well worth the page total. I don't even know what I'll do with myself from now until Winter, the final chapter, which will focus on Meyer's Snow White equivalent.

A few reasons why I'm a lunatic:

The creativity boggles the mind. The way Meyer incorporates key elements of familiar tales and gives them an unpredictable spin is so cool, like with Cinder's ill-fitting cyborg foot standing in for a glass slipper and with Scarlet piloting a ship of produce during her day job instead of carrying a basket of provisions. These spins can be tiny and clever or whiplash-inducing. Certain spoilery moments I won't reveal made me go, "I JUST GOT THAT!!!" Triple-exclamation point needed.

The worldbuilding is genius. Meyer should teach a college course in worldbuilding. I would go back to school anywhere in the country and take out a whole mess of loans just for that. Her post World War IV society is fully realized, with a rich history, nifty yet believable technology and complex politics and social issues (I'm not kidding — the series deals with illegal immigration, human rights, surveillance, health care). She's just thought of everything and it's all amazing.



Even her explanations about how the Lunars can control people's minds and make them see things that aren't really there fall within the limits of plausible suspension of disbelief. I'm excited to see more of Luna and how life on the former Earthen colony works in Winter.

The series pleases my feminist heart. We don't even have to talk about how Cinder can shoot tranquilizer darts from her index finger, has an Internet connection in her brain and a built-in blinking lie detector (although please, let's). I love how strong the core female characters are, and not just physically. They are so strong of spirit. Cinder is brave, smart and endlessly resourceful. Scarlet's fierce loyalty is matched by her undaunted opinions. Even Cress, the most stereotypically boy-focused distressed of the damsels, is quietly brave and has a fantastic imagination. I love how they all have kind of traditionally male professions, and it's not really made into a big thing. And I LOVE how there's an overarching theme, even with what little we've seen of Winter's character, that these women will be a team, since so many portrayals of women only focus on them tearing each other apart.



You have to love a series that questions why the princess can't just save herself and that includes lines like "You can help me pick out a tiara when we're done saving the world."

Bring in the boys. Of course, every fairytale, no matter how modern, is going to at least dabble in the romance. But the love interests are refreshingly real, as are the relationships. You can pretty much interchange any Disney princesses and princes and end up with the same dynamic, but you can't say the same for the Lunar Chronicles. Whether you're into instant chemistry, one character trying to win another's heart or a passion rooted in friendship, you'll find plenty of quotable swoon-worthiness here. Speaking of friendship, the series is great at portraying purely platonic friendships across the gender line. Although I would definitely be way more than friends if I could with the roguish and hilarious Captain Thorne. Even with the abundance of love interests, the books pass the Bechdel test so hard, they deserve a slow clap.

Yes! Diversity! Having characters from another planet in a book but depicting only North America and white people would be pretty ridiculous. So I think it's awesome that the series takes place across the world, starting with New Beijing, that Cinder is of mixed ethnicity and Winter is black (yup, a black Snow White. And she has curly hair. I'm so into it).

It's a NaNoWriMo success story. Meyer has said she wrote each of the first three books as a National Novel Writing Month project. This woman! I want to be friends with her. It makes me think about my own started and abandoned NaNoWriMo novel from a few years back and all the ideas I've had lately for major additions and subtractions, but that's for another blog post.

It's just fun. This series manages to deal with terrifying subject matter, have more action than a Marvel movie and keep me in frantic suspense, yet keep me laughing and full of childlike wonder. Please just go read them, right now.


The series

Cinder
Scarlet
Cress
Fairest (the evil queen's story, which is compelling and revealing yet guaranteed to give you the squicks)
Winter (you best BELIEVE I pre-ordered this already. This is not amateur hour).

Sunday

Fragrance review: Campfire Rebel by Pinrose



Fragrance lovers fantasize about a scent that is inextricably linked to us, evocative of who we are. We dream about a perfume that captures some snapshot of our souls, that when carried by a breeze will conjure intense memories of us. Everyone who loves to spritz wants a perfume that smells as if it were made just for us.

That's why the geniuses at Pinrose have the right idea about how they approach fragrance. It starts with a quickie personality quiz. Raise your hand if you grew up reading Seventeen magazine and the occasional Cosmopolitan pilfered from your mother and don't love taking personality quizzes. No hands? Moving on.

Next, Pinrose suggests fragrances it thinks would suit you based on what perfumes you already like, whether you love sweet, woody, spicy or powdery scents, even what photos or music clips resonate with you.

Then there's a profile to explore for each scent. Each has its own Pinterest board, a list of its scent notes, a description of the vibe the scent captures and even song selections.

Once you've made your picks, you can order reasonably priced samples. But you know those silly little vials you're used to getting as perfume samples? Pinrose doesn't play that game, son. If you aren't ready for a full-size bottle — or if you just love portability, like if you're frequently a mile high or scenting up after work and have a tiny little rat purse — you can order individually wrapped scent wipes.

I've ordered from Pinrose a few times and the standout scent for me, the one I continue to order sachets and could envision owning a full-size bottle of, is Campire Rebel. Described as "perfect for a quiet tumble under the stars," (meow!) Campfire Rebel starts out sharp, with top notes of whiskey and raspberry, with a middle note of burning oud wood and a base of vetiver and vanilla bourbon.

For me, once this scent settles — and even after a shower! — it is all burning wood. In a really, really good way. It's sweet, smoky and sexy as hell.

Smoke and whiskey scents tend to be very masculine, but Campfire Rebel feels feminine to me. Femme fatale. It's a woman who looks sexy even with smeared red lips and day-old black eyeliner. It's bedroom eyes in a dive bar where your lacy black dress commands every set of eyes and not even one eye-roll. It's sweet incense winding through your hair in the midst of bad decisions.

This one reminds me of Jo Malone's Pomegranate Noir, which is all tang and incense, but it's a little more subtle to my nose and has outer-space staying power where Jo's fragrances tend to poop out.

I'm curious over whether spraying this on would have a different effect from rubbing it on the skin. Because I love it so much, more than any other Pinrose scent I've tried, I'll eventually get around to getting the $50 spritzer and setting it lovingly on my fragrance and jewelry armoire, right next to my baby love Shalimar.

It isn't just hot. It's a slow, sweet burn that you want to roast marshmallows over.

Friday

First manicure of the season: Formula X in Solar Flare


My hands are finally beginning to recover from the effects of winter. Now that it no longer looks like I spent the past six months wearing gloves made out of sandpaper, I can see the point of painting my nails.

I wanted the happiest color imaginable, and Sephora's Formula X in Solar Flare from the Liquid Crystals line is beautifully distracting when I'm typing and under my clip-on reading light while I binge-read Marissa Meyer's Lunar Chronicles on my Kindle. It's a vibrant strawberry with an abundance of pink glitter in a smooth finish. 

This is technically my second manicure in the season. In the grand tradition of nail polish, this chipped on the second day. But I'm going to keep reapplying this color until it's past the point of ridiculous. It's so damn pretty.

Except maybe I'll have to stop back for Prismatic or Equinox.

Tuesday

Journey to curly, almost two years later


Almost two years have passed since I decided to stop relaxing my hair and let my natural curls, unseen since I was 8 years old, emerge. I put away the flat iron, bought a pack of Curlformers to blend my new curly roots and my pin-straight, chemically altered length, and started studying up.

Now my hair is full-on curly, the healthiest and bounciest I've ever seen it, and I've even had my first ever Deva cut, during which my hair was cut while dry and curly to give my hair the right shape.

Here are a few things I've learned so far during my walk on the kinky side.

Curls aren't cheap, but they're lots more fun. Relaxers were an expensive habit for me. Depending on the stylist, a relaxer would cost me $50 to $100. I'd get one about every three months. When I lived in Santa Fe, I'd drive an hour to Albuquerque for the service. Then I had to park my ass in a chair for hours while foul-smelling chemicals that burned my scalp and left little scabs sometimes were applied. And THEN, it's not like I could just wet it and forget it. I'd have to spend almost two hours blow-drying and flat-ironing it, and the chunks of hair I'd constantly have to sweep off my bathroom floor should have clued me in to how much damage I was doing.

Now, you can spend just as much money on products and cuts to maintain your curls as you could on relaxers. But it's my choice, and I'm not bound to any habits. I can spend $30 on a conditioner, or I can spend $3 on a conditioner. I can spend hours tinkering with my style, or I can just spray it with some lavender mist in the morning. And spending all day with a deep conditioner in my hair that smells like coconuts will always be more fun than spending all day with something on my head that can dissolve a soda can. And my bathroom floor? I can see it now.

Product instructions? More like suggestions. One of the first things I learned about curly hair care was that I could use conditioner to cleanse my hair, because shampoo is too drying. Then I got into the Curly Girl Method (avoiding sulfates and silicones, which I've come around to since I wrote that review) and experimenting with curl-specific products across vast price ranges.

But I've also learned recently that conditioner can double as a leave-in, and deep conditioner can double as a styler, and that you can skip a step by just not rinsing out all your conditioner. I've learned oil isn't just for frying eggs and that you can boil flax seeds to make a sensational hair gel. Right now, I'm experimenting with conditioning and detangling first with my cheap-o (and silicone-free!) VO5 conditioner, leaving it in, adding Deva Curl No Poo cleanser, rinsing, and then deep conditioning. I think leaving the conditioner in while washing gives the cleanser more slip, which means I can use less, because that stuff is expensive.

People want to touch it. My friends touching my hair doesn't bother me. If some random perv copped a feel, though, that would be a problem.

What I do have a problem with is my own chronic hand-in-hair syndrome. I can't help it. It feels so pretty. I'm constantly twirling it and pulling it so it bounces back, and I just know I look like such an airhead. So what happens? I frizz it up, and I give myself fairy knots, and then I have to stop what I'm doing and go hunt down a pair of scissors.

No day is the same. It doesn't matter if I wash my hair with the exact same products, use the exact same leave-ins, and do the same amount of manipulation. Curls have a mind of their own, and I might be able to get my hair to do 3 out of 4 things I want it to do, but it will always throw a surprise my way.

The shrinkage struggle is real. I'm fortunate that even though I've put my hair through hell, it's always grown super fast and been really thick. But curly hair shrinks up into itself. So even though I can pull a strand and have it touch my shoulder, it bounces back and is somewhere above my jaw. I don't necessarily have length goals, I just really hope my hair will grow down instead of just out after a while, because I do not love short hair.

Shape matters. For a while, I felt like I had a curly mullet. While I think the Deva Cut I got was too expensive to budget in regularly, getting a nice, rounded shape and some layers brought out my curls and made them flatter my face. My hope is that now that I have a basic, pretty shape going, I can do the trims myself. Maybe. We'll see.

Be ready for your hair to get all the attention. Sometimes I feel like I'm just my hair's secretary. My curls are the first thing people notice about me. It can just be too much sometimes, especially with my other defining feature, my big ol' emo glasses. My makeup routine and accessorizing have been toned down as a result. Boo.

Somehow, it just works. I look like a different person with curly hair. And that's OK. Not to get all deep, but I feel like I'm meeting this new side of myself that's been there all along, waiting to introduce herself. And she's a lot more fun, vivacious and carefree than the girl tethered to a salon chair who was afraid of walks in the rain.