Review: Bokksu Okukirishima Tea

Using the finest sencha leaves from Kirishima in Kagoshima Prefecture, this tea has subtle sweet notes and a rich, full-bodied silky mouthfeel. It has an elegant flavor profile and would be well-suited for both fancy occasions or your morning cuppa. 

– Bokksu

At first sip, I was immediately hit with the Okukirishima’s deep, rich taste, the green tea flavor evident but not quite bitter. As mentioned in its description, the flavor would pair well with a savory breakfast or sweet pastry on a spring/summer morning. There’s a nutty, woodsy undertone to the tea that gives it this lasting dimension, pleasantly lingering on the tongue after each gulp. If you like woodsy green teas, I’d definitely give this unoffensive blend a try.

Ingredients

Sencha green tea leaves

Skincare Review: Youth to the People – Adaptogen Deep Moisture Cream

A deeply hydrating moisturizer with superior plant extracts and a pro-grade peptide complex formulated for dry, reactive, and sensitive skin. This fragrance-free formula is made with an intelligent hydration trio of Squalane, Jojoba + Shea butter for long-lasting deep hydration that won’t clog pores.

Youth to the People

I had been eyeing this moisturizer for a while, drawn by its ingredients but deterred by its high price tag ($58!). Due to the power of carless online shopping, I bought this on a whim, ready to sate my curiosity. Youth to the People’s Adaptogen moisturizer may be small, but when it comes to its contents, a little goes a long way. The stylish glass container holds a mousse-like cream that spreads across and absorbs into the skin with ease. I was delighted to find application to be light and easy, and saw that my skin stayed plump and moisturized even if it was the only product I applied before going to bed. A month or so later, I’ve made quite a dent in the container, but not so much so to warrant concerns over the amount given for the price.

Ingredient Pros and Cons

Ingredients: Water/Aqua/Eau, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Oil, Octyl Palmitate, Glyceryl Stearate, Propanediol, Stearic Acid, Rhodiola Rosea (Arctic Root) Extract, Ocimum Tenuiflorum (Holy Basil) Extract, Withania Somnifera (Ashwagandha) Extract, Ganoderma Lucidum (Reishi Mushroom) Extract, Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe Vera) Leaf Juice, Glyceryl Laurate, Squalane, Phenoxyethanol, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Pentapeptide-59, Hydrogenated Lecithin, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, Phenethyl Alcohol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Maltodextrin, Carbomer, Mixed Tocopherols, Ethylhexylglycerin, Allantoin, Panthenol, Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil, Borago Officinalis (Borage) Oil, Caramel, Xanthan Gum

Significant Pros

  • Sunflower Oil (moisturizing)
  • Propanediol (moisturizing)
  • Rhodiola Rosea (Arctic Root) Extract (calming, protects against UV rays, stimulates collagen production)
  • Ocimum Tenuiflorum (Holy Basil) Extract (anti-inflammatory, antibacterial)
  • Withania Somnifera (Ashwagandha) Extract (calming)
  • Ganoderma Lucidum (Reishi Mushroom) Extract (calming, anti-inflammation, antioxidant)
  • Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe Vera) Leaf Juice (moisturizing)

Significant Cons

  • Fungal acne triggers for those who are sensitive

The Takeaway

This is a great night moisturizer – it keeps your skin smooth without irritating any acne spots and does so with interesting, compelling ingredients. I probably won’t continue to use this moisturizer based on price alone, however, if you’re the type of person who only buys 3-4 skincare products for their routine, this could be a worthy splurge.

July Books

Ya’ll . . . I must admit I’m in a bit of a reading slump. Amongst a variety of responsibilities (including making an interactive visual novel), my head just hasn’t been in reading mode. Hopefully, I’ll get back into my rhythm next month, but for now, I only have a few lovely reads to talk about.

All Photos Courtesy of Goodreads

The Intimacy Experiment by Rosie Danan

“You taught me that the bravest, hardest work anyone can take on is facing their own shit. Challenging all the lies we tell ourselves. Admitting when we’re wrong. Cleaning up our own mess. You’re the queen of all that stuff.”

Short Description: Business-owner and ex-sex worker Naomi teams up cinnamon roll Ethan the rabbi to teach new synagogue attendants the ways of modern intimacy, soon finding themselves falling for each other in the process.

Critic Quote: “The romance between Naomi and Ethan felt very…full to me, if that makes sense? They are two well-rendered characters who seem to connect in a profound and multidimensional way. They have great banter, deep conversations, can fully let their guards down together, and have incredible chemistry.” –Smart Bitches Trashy Books

My Verdict: First 2/3 was awesome! I loved Naomi and Ethan! Chemistry was great! . . . and then things dragged, romantic declarations got cheesy, loose ends tied up too easily, and I stopped caring . . . I still overall enjoyed this book, but I’m hoping Danan will write a smoother ending in her next book.


Show Me a Sign
by Ann Clare LeZotte

Silence. I’m sure that many hearing people, especially those who don’t know the deaf, imagine our lives are filled with silence. That’s not true. If my mind and heart are full of energy and fun, and I’m looking ahead with excitement, I don’t feel silent at all. I buzz like a bee in good times. Only in bad times, when I am numb and full of sadness, does everything turn silent. Like our house with just Mama and me in it.

Short Description: In 19th century United States, a deaf 11-year-old girl named Mary navigates the up-and-downs of her nearly entirely deaf community, a community that is soon forever changed by the arrival of an English stranger.

Critic Quote: “A vivid depiction of Deaf community along with an exciting plot and beautiful prose make this a must-read.” –Kirkus Reviews

My Verdict: The beginning was a bit slow, but once I got into the story, I really enjoyed it! Kudos to LeZotte for tackling so many serious subject matters and doing so artfully. If you’re looking for a Middle Grade book with some bite, definitely pick this up!


Of Women and Salt
by Gabriel Garcia

We are more than we think we are. There was always more.

Short Description: A multi-generational tale of two families of Cuban women and their struggles to endure and find meaning in their lives.

Critic Quote: “. . . this is also a true poet’s novel: a painstaking attentiveness to rhythm and metaphor allows Garcia to sketch complicated, thorny parallels between mothers and daughters. . .” –LA Review of Books

My Verdict: An excellent, beautifully written novel with memorable characters and messages that strike just the right emotional balance. I’m stunned that this is a debut novel and I’ll be on the lookout for Garcia’s next work.

Teas for a Bad Day

Some days just suck. And when those sucky days rise up, a good cup of tea can help you settle down and feel grounded. Below, I’ve listed some of my recommendations for when you need a hug in a cup (with links to their full reviews in the titles).

David’s Tea Sweet Potato Pie

A sweet, cozy tea perfect for autumn or slightly chilly days. This blend can be customized to your own taste – sugar-wise – making it a popular choice!

Adagio Tea-Tox

A healthy and delicious tea with a woodsy, honey flavor bound to put you in a good mood. If you’re new to herbal teas, this is a great place to start!

Agni Organic Tulsi Cinnamon Tea

An organic tea that also boasts of relaxing health benefits, Agni’s Organic Tulsi Cinnamon Tea contains a bevy of delicious, restorative ingredients that I’ve found to be effective in calming me over time. If you’re willing to dish out a bit more for a quality tea, this is a wonderful blend to try!

Review: Good (Skin) Days A New Leaf Cleanser

Turn over a new leaf in your daily cleansing routine. Leafy greens are great for you both inside and out! This creamy, soft cleanser is expertly formulated with a blend of fermented green tea, spinach, celery, and broccoli to nourish, protect, and hydrate your skin. 

Sokoglam

Pack it up everybody, because this cleanser can’t be beat. Part of Sokoglam’s original skincare line, the New Leaf cleanser has a powerful mix of plant extracts and chemical ingredients to create a soothing but thorough wash. The tube is of substantial size, and even if you take more than recommended usage amount (a pea-sized amount – ha!), it will still last you over a month – which is great considering its pricing ($16). The product itself is a light gel-like substance with tiny beads peppered throughout. It spreads easily across the skin and creates a satisfying lather that’s also easy to wash off. And of course – it leaves the skin clean but not dry!

Ingredient Pros and Cons

Ingredients: Aqua (Water, Eau), Glycerin, Potassium Cocoyl Glycinate, Lauramidopropyl Betaine, Hydroxypropyl Starch Phosphate, Acrylates Copolymer, Artemisia Capillaris Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Powder, Apium Graveolens (Celery) Stem Extract, Coptis Japonica Extract, Artemisia Princeps Leaf Powder, Brassica Oleracea Acephala Leaf Extract, Cichorium Intybus (Chicory) Leaf Extract, Brassica Oleracea Italica (Broccoli) Extract, Citric Acid, Potassium Cocoate, Sodium Chloride, Hydroxyacetophenone, Dipropylene Glycol, Caprylyl Glycol, Butylene Glycol, Gardenia Florida Fruit Extract, Maltodextrin, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, 1,2-Hexanediol. 

Significant Pros

  • Glycerin (moisturizing)
  • Artemisia Capillaris Extract (soothing, anti-acne, brightening)
  • Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract / Camellia Sinensis Leaf Powder (soothing, anti-inflammation)
  • Apium Graveolens (Celery) Stem Extract (antioxidant)
  • Coptis Japonica Extract (anti-aging, antioxidant)
  • Artemisia Princeps Leaf Powder (soothing, moisturizing, anti-inflammation, antioxidant)
  • Brassica Oleracea Acephala Leaf Extract (antioxidant, anti-hyperpigmentation, soothing)
  • Cichorium Intybus (Chicory) Leaf Extract (antioxidant, soothing)
  • Brassica Oleracea Italica (Broccoli) Extract (antioxidant, fights UV damage, evens skin tone)

Significant Cons

  • All beautiful and amazing and I’m crying

The Takeaway

This is, without-a-doubt, now a staple product for me. Effective ingredients, enjoyable application, and a non-drying after-effect all wrapped up in an affordable package? This is it folks. I’d probably recommend it over Krave Beauty’s Matcha Hemp Cleanser too, if I dare say. Whether you have dry, oily, or combo skin, I’d definitely recommend trying this cleanser out!

June Reads

Another up and down month for me . . . I got a new job which has been great but also time-consuming, hence why I’ve read less this month (and this will probably be my new pace moving forward). Still, I’m still happy that I’ve had the chance to read such a wide breadth of books and hopefully I’ll have time to finish a few new texts this July.

All photos courtesy of Goodreads

Shut Up, You’re Pretty by Tea Mutonji

I tried not to make everything about sex, every act of kindness, every well-wish, every hello. But you go through life being touched, you go through life being looked at, you go through life with an uncle commenting on your breasts, or your brother’s friend giving you a condom for your birthday then denying it, you go through life being called a cunt on public transportation, you go through life being followed at midnight, you go through life being told you’re pretty, you’re pretty, you’re so f*cking pretty – it gets complicated.

Short Description: A collection of short stories focused on a young woman navigating her racial, sexual, and gender identity.

Critic Quote: “The stories are vivid and unsettling in their detail. . .Mutonji writes with grit and quick-witted humor. The ease with which these stories unfold is a facet of the author’s craft: the prose holds its emotion in the same way the characters hold their pain. ” –Quill and Quire

My Verdict: Beautiful writing, though the plots of the stories eluded me. Talk into consideration your own writing styles tastes when picking this up.

Ace: What Asexuality Reveals about Desire, Society, and the Meaning of Sex by Angela Chen

The ace world is not an obligation. Nobody needs to identify, nobody is trapped, nobody needs to stay forever and pledge allegiance. The words are gifts. If you know which terms to search, you know how to find others who might have something to teach.

Short Description: A thorough look at asexuality, examining the many was acephobia permeates through society and how ace people find their identities amongst a sex-obsessed public.

Critic Quote: “ Chen argues, through a fantastic blend of nuanced and clear-eyed reporting, research, and personal reflection, that true liberation requires the dismantling of compulsory sexuality.” –Them

My Verdict: An intensive and well-needed study that is both insightful and enjoyable to read.

Read Full Review Here

The Times I Knew I Was Gay by Eleanor Crewes

People might think that everyone starts out in a closet until they’re ready to ‘come out.’ The closet could be dark and scary or quite roomy and resemble more of a clothes rail. But what’s funny for me is that I didn’t even know that there was a closet—or that I was very much stuck inside it.

Short Description: A graphic novelist’s adolescent coming-out story.

Critic Quote: “A heartwarming, delightful memoir of self-discovery.” –Kirkus Reviews

My Verdict: Short and cute, though not particularly memorable.

You Exist Too Much by Zaina Arafat

But did it count as deception if it was done in the name of self-protection? Withholding vulnerable information was a habit born of survival. I’d been lulled into letting my guard down before, only to later regret it, the admissions used against me as I bore her wrath.

Short Description: A Palestinian-American woman reconciles her familial and romantic relationships.

Critic Quote: “At once complicated and engaging, this is the kind of debut novel that announces the arrival of a powerful new author who, besides writing beautifully, has a lot to say.” –NPR

My Verdict: A book with great potential, but ultimately flounders due to constant romantic relationship drama with little depth to ground it.

Naturally Tan by Tan France

So many times, I think we do things because we don’t want to cause an issue. I wish I had spoken up earlier, instead of going along with something because I thought it was what was expected of me. All I can say is speak up; ask questions. Explain your concerns. It’s the first step in feeling empowered to push forward with your own agenda. There is no reason to stifle yourself! Because as a wise man once told me: the best moments are the ones where you’re you.

Short Description: The memoir of Netflix’s Queer Eye‘s fashion expert, Tan France.

Critic Quote: “France’s charming anecdotes and candid opinions exhibit no shortage of humor, and fans of the TV personality will revel in the peek into his colorful history.” –Publisher’s Weekly

My Verdict: A great book for fans of Tan, which you’ll need to be in order to enjoy the sometimes distracted, fragmented writing style.

The Portrait of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

You will always be fond of me. I represent to you all the sins you never had the courage to commit.

Short Description: A young man’s psychological descent after becoming obsessed with a portrait of himself.

Critic Quote: “Oscar Wilde has created an amusing tale that does not end very happily but ends beautifully with our easy-going Lord Henry still chirping.” –ThoughtCo

My Verdict: An engrossing, contemplative story that, for me at least, drowns in overly flowery language.

She’s Too Pretty to Burn by Wendy Heard

That girl? That’s a girl on the edge. Give her a push, and she’s going over.

Short Description: Three Californian teens find their lives intertwined after one photo lights up on social media, causing all to question their personal relationships and artistic aspirations.

Critic Quote: “A wild and satisfying romp.” –Kirkus Reviews

My Verdict: A fun, stylish mystery with messy characters and addicting writing.

Read Full Review Here

Her Body and Other Stories by Carmen Maria Machado

I have heard all of the stories about girls like me, and I am unafraid to make more of them.

Short Description: A collection of short stories that mix genres in order to give voice to a mixture of female voices.

Critic Quote: “ . . . an abrupt, original, and wild collection of stories, full of outlandish myths that somehow catch at familiar, unspoken truths about being women in the world that more straightforward or realist writing wouldn’t.” –NPR

My Verdict: Though I enjoyed the first story, the following pieces, were unfortunately forgettable and generally uninteresting to me. Consider your own tastes before picking up.

Post Schedule Adjustment . . .

Hi, everyone! I recently started a new job that, while enjoyable, has quickly proved to be more demanding than I had originally anticipated. For this reason, there won’t be a post today or tomorrow, and in the future, I’m planning on adjusting my post schedule to once a week on Saturdays (with alternating subjects). Though I really wish I could continue posting at the same frequency as in the past, I can’t keep up with work, personal projects, and exercise simultaneously at my current pace. Thank you for your patience and I look forward to posting again next Saturday!

Review: Clevr Rose Cacao Super Latte

This is not your mama’s hot chocolate! It’s a velvety, floral, dark chocolate elixir designed to brighten your mood and lift your spirits.

Clevr

Woaaaaah! This blend is right up there with the Tumeric Latte as one of my all-time favorite healthy drinks. Like Clevr advertises, this drink tastes like a dark hot chocolate, smooth and rich and accented with a light floral flavor. Heavenly with almond milk (just make sure not to add too much, otherwise it’ll cause the flavor to thin), though this is a limited edition blend, I really hope Clevr decides to keep it long term (or at least have it return). This frothy, luxurious drink perfectly mimics (if not improves) the classic hot chocolate sweetness while still, incredibly, managing to make the latte healthy. I’d definitely recommend others to try it out (just keep in mind that this blend is caffeinated!).

Ingredients

Oatmilk Powder*, Monk Fruit* (Erythritol, Monk Fruit), Organic Coconut Cream Powder, Organic Cacao, Organic Rose Petals, Organic MCT Oil,  Organic Lucuma, Mucuna Pruriens, Organic Ashwagandha,  Organic Reishi, Himalayan Pink Salt, Organic Cinnamon, Organic Cardamom,  Sunflower Lecithin*, Bacillus coagulans GBI 30-6086 Probiotic

Review: Good (Skin) Days C’s The Day Serum

Brighter skin days are within reach with this concentrated, stable vitamin C serum. Not only is it formulated with 10% pure vitamin C (ascorbic acid), but it also contains skin brightening licorice root extract and niacinamide (vitamin B3) to diminish dullness, improve tone, and minimize the appearance of pores and fine lines.

Sokoglam

I was quite excited to try Sokoglam’s unique and affordable Vitamin C, hopeful that its many powerful ingredients would help the low overall Vitamin C percentage dissolve away all my hyperpigmentation. The container and dropper are easy to use and safely keep the serum from contamination – I’ve yet to have any problems with application or maintenance! The serum is thin, light, and easily absorbs into the skin, making it a simple addition to any skincare routine. Unfortunately for me though, I did not get any results with this product, at least not in comparison to other Vitamin C serums I’ve tried.

Ingredient Pros and Cons

Ingredients: Aqua (Water, Eau), Butylene Glycol, Ascorbic Acid, Glycerin, 1,2-Hexanediol, Sodium Bicarbonate, Myrciaria Dubia Fruit Extract, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Niacinamide, MagMagnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Arbutin, Tocopheryl Acetate, Coptis Japonica Extract, Panax Ginseng Berry Extract, Crocus Sativus Flower Extract, Tuber Magnatum Extract, Hibiscus Sabdariffa Flower Extract, Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Extract, Glycereth-25 PCA Isostearate, Hydroxydecyl Ubiquinone, Sodium Metabisulfite, Xanthan Gum, Ethylhexylglycerin, Adenosine, Dextrin, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Cetyl Ethylhexanoate, Hydrogenated Lecithin

Significant Pros

  • Butylene Glycol (moisturizing)
  • Myrciaria Dubia Fruit Extract (Vitamin C, brightening)
  • Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C, brightening)
  • Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract (fights hyperpigmentation, brightening)
  • Niacinamide (fights hyperpigmentation, anti-acne, brightening)
  • Arbutin (fights hyperpigmentation)
  • Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate (Vitamin C, brightening)
  • Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E, Moisturtizing)

Significant Cons

  • Everything’s good in my book

The Takeaway

There really is nothing to complain about with this product, it just didn’t work for me. Perhaps, after being using to a higher percentage (15%) of Vitamin C, my skin just needs a bit more oomph to reap any benefits. If you’re new to Vitamin C, this is a great serum to start with – the admirable reviews, incredible ingredients, and decent pricing being evidence of this. For me though, I’ll probably stick to my Paula’s Choice serum.

Review: She’s Too Pretty to Burn by Wendy Heard

This couldn’t be good. The layers of lies and secrets were piling up fast now, like dirt being shoveled into a grave.

She’s Too Pretty To Burn

Summary and Thoughts

The summer is winding down in San Diego. Veronica is bored, caustically charismatic, and uninspired in her photography. Nico is insatiable, subversive, and obsessed with chaotic performance art. They’re artists first, best friends second. But that was before Mick. Delicate, lonely, magnetic Mick: the perfect subject, and Veronica’s dream girl. The days are long and hot―full of adventure―and soon they are falling in love. Falling so hard, they never imagine what comes next. One fire. Two murders. Three drowning bodies. One suspect . . . one stalker. This is a summer they won’t survive.

Inspired by The Picture of Dorian Gray, this sexy psychological thriller explores the intersections of love, art, danger, and power.

Goodreads

I read The Picture of Dorian Gray specifically so I could read this book and I have to say . . . I’m not mad about it. She’s Too Pretty To Burn markets itself as a sexy YA psychological thriller, and I’d say that description is spot-on. With addicting writing, an intriguing mystery, and messy, messy, MESSY lovely characters, the story can easily be read in one sitting. I really enjoyed Heard’s inclusion and analysis of the art world, identity, and privacy and appreciated the way in which she took reference to Dorian Gray without directly retelling it. As much as I loved the way the novel concludes, I do think the “villain” of the tale gets off a bit easy and wish there were more consequences to the characters’ actions. Moreover, I wouldn’t have minded even more callbacks to Dorian Gray as well (which seems to be the common complaint of many reviewers). Still, I’d definitely recommend this book to those looking for an exciting YA novel with a unique perspective and flawed characters. I want more!

Photo Courtesy of Goodreads

Notable Reviews

For Those Who Enjoyed

Star Rating

3.7/5