Goodreads Review: Lola and the Boy Next Door.

Lola and the Boy Next Door (Anna and the French Kiss, #2)Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was, for me, probably about a 3-3.5 star book. However, it gets bumped up to four stars on the merits of Lola/fashion, which was my personal OTP.

The love triangle felt like a gender-swapped version of Anna and the French Kiss, which was amusing but make it extra predictable. Lola was basically the definition of a hot mess throughout most of the book (albeit with good reason some of the time). The narrative failed to make Max at all believable as a serious love interest, mostly only showing him in moments of jealously or anger despite how many times Lola says to the reader that she thinks he’s the one. I didn’t fall in love with the setting the same way I did with Paris.

Plus, I started keeping count on my progress updates of all the times the writing felt like it was making an unintentional pop culture reference. Seriously, Max drives a Chevy Impala from the 60’s (Hello there, Dean from Supernatural), Lola has similar ideas about fashion expression as Weetize Bat from Francesca Lia Block’s dream-like lyrical novels of L.A. fairy-tales, Lola talking about being empty vs full for being in a relationship reminded me of a lesser version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer saying she’s still cookie dough and not ready to be with someone until she’s warm gooey cookies… [EDIT: oh, I forgot one! The more over-protective of her gay dads was named Nathan, and I just kept picturing him as Nathan Fillion playing Richard Castle. Admittedly, that wasn’t so much the text as just how my brain works, but still! It totally fits.]

But despite all this little flaws and pet-peeves and moments of distracting reference, despite taking quite a while to warm up to Cricket (largely due to having imagined something much worse than was actually the case about what happened in the past), it was still a fun and enjoyable book, and I still ended up reading it in basically one day(ish). It was also pretty cool getting to see Anna and St Clair from the outside. All three books in this series are told first person, from the POV of a teenage girl falling in love, so the Unreliable Narrator trope is pretty much a given. It makes it extra interesting to see the same characters again in the other books, because it’s a perspective we’ll never get from another book.

But Lola and fashion! Half the reason I love the Weetzie Bat books so much is the whimsical creative daring fashion choices so lovingly described throughout, and here Lola doesn’t disappoint in doing the same. It makes me long to get a sewing machine and a workspace and wigs and go to thrift shops and start CREATING. I adore the way Lola commits to expressing herself through amazing bold fashion statements, and dream about the day I can do the same. It seriously makes up for not being another love letter to Paris (sorry Paris).

Anyway, it was an enjoyable book, and I’ll be rereading it once in a while, right along with the other two. But as Roux said in the movie version of Chocolat, “It’s good…but it’s not my favorite”.

View all my reviews

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The Tattoo.

Dear Cyber-Friends,

I have this tattoo. I have several, actually, but there’s this one in particular.

before

It was my second time going in to get tattooed. The first time, I had finished designs ready. The second time, I had what apparently looked like a finished design. It was a rough draft actually, but I went to the same artist as before, and he assumed it was finished like the others, and I was too shy and scared and intimidated by, basically, the world, and not in a good head-space for sticking up for myself at the time due to lots of screwed up things that had been happening in my life, and basically, well, I got the tattoo anyway, even though it wasn’t right.

Of course, this not-quite-right tattoo is the one everyone sees all the time; out of five tattoos, this one is the biggest and in the most visible location. People always comment on it, and every time they do, and every time I see it out of the corner of my eye or in the mirror, I’m reminded of that time, and how it isn’t what I wanted, and how I didn’t speak up about something so permanent and important. It’s a reminder of who I never want to be again.

In one week exactly, that tattoo is getting modified and expanded into something I do want. I’ve spent about five years (give or take a year) waiting for this moment — that’s how long it’s been since I got it in the first place, if I’m remembering correctly. I’ve spent all that time thinking about exactly what it was I wanted in the first place, and what I want now, and finding images and writing plans over and over so that I can get exactly the right thing this time.

Today I stopped by the tattoo shop with the best reviews, and talked to an artist there. We talked over the ideas I had, he sketched a few things out and took notes and pictures, and we kept discussing it until we both felt sure we were talking about the same thing and both getting excited about the concept. He has a week to design something beautiful, and will send me pictures to approve before my appointment.

That is the experience I should have had five (or so) years ago. That is the experience I wasn’t capable of having five years ago. The fact that I can do it now — even, especially, when I’ve been feeling depressed and anxious and lost and burnt out — proves how much I can and HAVE changed and grown. Even when I feel like I’ve gone backwards in my growth and stability, I’ve proved it’s not as far back as I think.

This new version of the tattoo will be a reminder of this lesson, a constant beautiful image that strength and growth can’t be taken away, even by ourselves. It will be a reminder that something amazing can come out of something unfortunate. It will be a reminder that mistakes don’t have to be forever, and they don’t have to define us.

Stay strong, even when it doesn’t feel like strength. Some day, it will.

Love,

GeGi.

Three-In-One: Black Eyeliner Looks.

Dear Cyber-Friends,

It’s DIY Friday! This time, I’m going to show off my homemade black eyeliner.

Today’s post will be a little different from previous some DIY, because I’m not going to do a step-by-step how-to. This is partly because (amazingly) I can actually give you the link to the original recipe I modified, and partly because I ended up taking a lot of pictures showing off several the ways this eyeliner can be used, and thought that might be more interesting.

I was specifically looking to make an eyeliner that didn’t use activated charcoal for the color — very common in DIY recipes, I’ve found. I have nothing against using it, I just never have and didn’t have any around.

However, I did have black iron oxide. I found this original recipe if you’re interested in trying it yourself. I basically just modified it for what ingredients I happened to actually have at the time.

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Those ingredients happened to be sunflower oil, beeswax, cocoa butter, clay, and of course, black iron oxide.

Obviously, this means my eyeliner came out a little different than the original… But I still followed the same basic steps, melting and adding in the double-boiler.

Here’s what it looked like when I was done:

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Very solid, and very black.

I was a little worried about how well I could use it with my small detail brush (stolen from my oil painting brushes before it ever got used), since it was so very solid. But I was worried for nothing!

Running the brush over the eyeliner several times quickly turns the bristles black, and it easily transfers to my skin. It looks like nothing is getting used because it takes very little to be effective — basically it means this tiny jar will last approximately forever.

Now, onto the looks!

First up is my eye with nothing on, for comparison purposes.

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And then with a simple thin line, very basic.

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I LOVE how much control and precision the brush gives me, and the homemade eyeliner is very cooperative.

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You can see there is just a little smudging onto the crease above my eye.

I’ve yet to use ANY eyeliner that doesn’t do this if I put it on too thick (I put on quite a few layers to make sure it’d show up on the camera). With the homemade stuff, though, mistakes come off super easily and cleanly, while still lasting quite a while where I want it. I can’t say as much for every store-bought eyeliner!

My second look really demonstrates how much fun you can have with homemade eyeliner and a good detail brush:

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Fairy makeup! I can’t resist it…

As mentioned, this cleans up very nicely! The beeswax base means it slides off super cleanly, with just a little warmth and/or oil to help if it gives you trouble.

I got look number three when removing the fairy makeup…

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The classic, ever-popular, smudgy smokey eye.

So there you have it: three quick and easy looks using only homemade eyeliner!

Be sure to come back for tomorrow’s post when I show off a little more of the mica powder looks…

Love,

GeGi.

Mythology and Secret Worlds.

Dear Cyber-Friends,

When I was young and impressionable my brother would read The Sandman comics, written by Neil Gaiman, to me. Our mum was not too pleased when she found out, due to the graphic violence depicted in some of the stories, but I don’t remember being bothered by it. I was too fascinated by the mythology, and by the concept of the secret lives and worlds happening within and alongside the everyday.

The first Neil Gaiman novel I read on my own was Neverwhere. The plot itself plays out a bit predictably, like a modern fairy tale, but that wasn’t what captivated me. It was the world itself; the way an ordinary thing in the everyday world could be turned into a realm of the strange and weird, the way it made the magic world fit within the mundane one and it made more sense than if it wasn’t there at all. Like the mythology and world-building within The Sandman, it felt like having a secret curtain pulled back just for me to glimpse behind.

When I read American Gods, it was like all those ideas from the earlier works had grown up. It was subtle and grounded, balancing both the macro focus of the world and the micro focus of the personal stories. Once again, I was being allowed into a secret world that made sense, that had rules and interactions with the familiar world; one that was still magical and strange and scary, yet as the same time felt utterly familiar because it was so deeply reflecting the ordinary.

These are the stories that shaped me. They formed and changed the way I thought, and the way I saw the world. They created a taste for fantasy that was grounded in reality, stories that revealed a hidden meaning behind the everyday, tales that brought out secret worlds within familiar spaces.

Not every story is an epic. Not every epic has to feel like one. The potential impact of the small tales about ordinary lives muddling through extraordinary things can be just as impressive. Neil Gaiman is a master at this kind of storytelling.

Within the pages there is an obvious love of language; poetry written into every sentence. There are dark and fantastical worlds, haunting images and emotions, characters who are familiar as old friends, and those who are taken from fairy-tales and nightmares. All of this is set within something accessible, stories that twist your mind and perception but never lose the sense of this could really be happening. They are reality blended seamlessly with dream, until you can no longer be sure of the edges, of what is reflection and what is solid.

Neil Gaiman, his words and his worlds, will live in my heart always. He created the stories which helped create who I am in life and in imagination. I’m drawn to dreamlike and fantastic worlds in all media forms now, because of the impact his writing had on me.

Since the very first, I’ve wanted to live in the worlds he created. My friend @TinyLionRoars recently called me “a PunkRock Pixie” — a description I love, by the way. To me, this shows that even my tastes in things such as fashion and make-up reflect his influence (among similar others); some of the colors I’ve dyed my hair would never had happened if I hadn’t fallen in love with Delirium’s ever-changing hair in The Sandman, for instance.

delirium hair

Whatever your tastes, I hope they’ve enriched your life as much. Keep dreaming…

Love,

GeGi.