Review: Traditional Medicinals Organic Spearmint

This organic spearmint tea is both healthy and refreshing.

Traditional Medicinals

A simple, straightforward spearmint tea that delivers exactly the flavor it advertises. Not much to say about it except that it’s a decent, inoffensive herbal tea that I would recommend mainly for health benefits rather than flavor (not because the flavor isn’t good, it just isn’t interesting). The spearmint is powerful whether the blend is served hot or cold, so feel free to experiment if you decide to purchase this!

Ingredients

Organic spearmint tea

Review: MakeP:Rem UV Defense Sun Fluid SPF50+

Combining both completely safe chemical and physical blockers, this sun block makes sure that your skin receives comprehensive coverage from the sun’s UV rays.

Amazon

Seeing this product hyped up by other skincare experts, I was excited to try out MakeP:rem’s sunscreen, noting its unique combination of chemical and mineral filters. This is a full body + face sunscreen, so the container is large, and so far I’ve found it perfectly appropriate for about 3-5 months of use (if used daily and repeatedly, though I will admit I rarely apply sunscreen every 2 hours as is recommended – though I also don’t get outside much anyways, haha). The liquid is runny and spreads across the body quickly, absorbing into the skin after a few gentle rubs. On the body, the sunscreen is transparent and sinks in easily. On the face, the sunscreen leaves a slight white-cast than turns into a slight orange-yellow crust after a few hours – so definitely wear this under make-up.

Ingredient Pros and Cons

Ingredients: Water, Dibutyl Adipate, Propanediol, Titanium Dioxide, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Benzotriazolyl Dodecyl p-Cresol, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, Diethylamino Hydroxybenzoyl Hexyl Benzoate, Ethylhexyl Triazone, Glycerin, Methyl Trimethicone, Diethylhexyl Butamido Triazone, 1,2-Hexanediol, Pentylene Glycol, Moringa Oleifera Seed Extract, Lespedeza Capitata Leaf/Stem Extract, Cardiospermum Halicacabum Flower/Leaf/Vine Extract, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Nymphaea Alba Flower Extract, Bambusa Vulgaris Water, Ribes Nigrum (Black Currant) Seed Oil, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Sodium Hyaluronate, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil Unsaponifiables, Biosaccharide Gum-4, Fructan, Pyrus Communis (Pear) Fruit Extract, Prunus Persica (Peach) Fruit Extract, Cucumis Melo (Melon) Fruit Extract, Ficus Carica (Fig) Fruit Extract, Centella Asiatica Extract, Hedera Helix (Ivy) Leaf/Stem Extract, Rosa Damascena Flower Water, Jasminum Officinale (Jasmine) Flower Water, Hydrogenated Lecithin, Dimethicone/Vinyl Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Polymethylsilsesquioxane, Polyhydroxystearic Acid, Dimethiconol, Trisiloxane, Alumina, Stearic Acid, Polyacrylate Crosspolymer-6, Butylene Glycol, Cetyl Alcohol, AmmoniuAcryloyldimethyltaurate/VP Copolymer, Hydroxypropyl Methylcellulose Stearoxy Ether, Xanthan Gum, Ethylhexylglycerin, Sodium Polyacrylate, Polyether-1, t-Butyl Alcohol, Ceramide NP, Beta-Glucan, Octyldodecanol, Dipropylene Glycol, Tocopherol, Maltodextrin, Sodium Palmitoyl Proline

Significant Pros

  • Propanediol (moisturizing)
  • Glycerin (moisturizing)
  • Moringa Oleifera Seed Extract (antioxidant, protects skin barrier)
  • Lessedeza Capitata Leaf/Steam Extract (hydrating)
  • Cardiospermum Halicacabum Flower Extract (anti-inflammatory, soothing, moisturizing)

Significant Cons

  • May trigger fungal acne for those who are sensitive to it
  • May clog pores for those who are sensitive to silicones

The Takeaway

There are so many wonderful ingredients in this sunscreen and its massive container makes it so tempting to repurchase . . . but that white-cast just isn’t what I’m looking for. If you’re fine with a bit of white-cast and don’t have easily clogged skin, then this sunscreen may be a DREAM for you, but as for me, I’m going to keep looking.

LGBTQ+ Visual Novel Recommendations

Hi all! This week has been pretty rough for me, and while I had intended to publish a review, I’ve had so much on my plate that I didn’t think I’d have it done in time. So for this week I’d like to instead recommend 10 LGBTQ+ visual novels to play/read! I love visual novels (and am currently creating one myself) and how diversity can flourish through the creative works of indie developers. Below are five examples to check out:

Butterfly Soup

LGBTQ+ asian high schoolers playing baseball, figuring out their identities, and telling rad jokes!

One Night, Hot Springs

A Japanese trans woman endures social anxiety from visiting a hot spring.

Black Closet

A strategic dark academia story about a class president and her council solving misdemeanors and larger conspiracies at their school.

Summer at Marisol Bay

Play as newcomer Kyro Ivanovski at the Marisol Bay and decide how he navigates his work and memories at the Resort.

Syrup and the Ultimate Sweet

A cute story about a gruff candy shop owner and a candy girl’s search for the ultimate sweet!

Generic Nonbinary Game

A short conversation with a date as a nonbinary person with 2 possible endings.

Ace in Space

A sci-fi dating sim with an asexual protagonist! And robots!!!!

When The Night Comes

An epic supernatural visual novel with action, adventure, and a customizable romance with two polyamorous options.

Violeta

Play as Mo, the cat, and help guide two friends as they navigate their identities and friendship.

I’m a Love Interest in My Childhood Friend’s Reverse Harem!!!

A twist on the classic anime cliche! You play as one of the love interests for a generic main character . . . but maybe you’ll end up dating one of the boys instead of her?

Review: The Tea Goblin – The Sanguine Strawberry

Savor strawberry sweetness as ripe and bright as summer sunshine cutting across a meadow. This green tea blend will bewitch you, hot or iced.

Sips By

A unique, refreshing tea with a powerful strawberry flavor, The Tea Goblin’s Sanguine Strawberry is perfect for those who want a sweet, fruity green tea. Personally, I think the flavor is most potent when served hot, so I’d recommend brewing a warm cup in the morning alongside breakfast (the blend is caffeinated, so evening use is discouraged). Drinking this, I definitely appreciated the way the green tea, though subtle, adds dimension to the strawberry centerpiece, the surrounding flavors (raspberry, safflower) mostly falling to the background, if even detectable. While I can definitely see myself sipping this in the future, I can’t say this is one of my favorite blends (I just don’t think I’m a fruity-tea kinda gal). Still, I recommend others give this tea a try if they’re able!

Ingredients

Green Tea, Strawberry Pieces, Raspberry Pieces, Natural Flavoring, Safflower Petals

Reviews: Good (Skin) Days On The Bright Side Moisturizer

Give skin a boost of probiotic-packed hydration with this nourishing lightweight facial moisturizer. 

Sokoglam

I had been eyeing Sokoglam’s brand Good Skin Days for a while, and since I was running out of my previous moisturizer, I thought now was the best time to take the plunge. I was especially excited for this moisturizer due to its focus on rice (sake) in its ingredient list, though I questioned whether it would be moisturizing enough for me (for both day and night). Application is easy and simple – the moisturizer comes out like as a light lotion that absorbs quickly into the sky. During the day, it caused no oiliness, and every night I wore it I woke up the next morning still soft and smooth.

Ingredient Pros and Cons

Ingredients: Rice Ferment Filtrate (Sake), Butylene Glycol, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Squalane, 1,2-Hexanediol, Cetyl Alcohol, Stearyl Alcohol, Lactobacillus Ferment Lysate, Isopentyldiol, Water, Ceramide NP, Propanediol, Glycerin, Bifida Ferment Lysate, Streptococcus Thermophilus Ferment, Madecassoside, Ammonium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/VP Copolymer, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Ethylhexylglycerin.

Significant Pros

  • Rice Ferment Filtrate (Sake) (evens skin tone, moisturizing, anti-aging, anti-inflammation)
  • Butylene Glycol (moistuzing)
  • Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride (helps skin retain moisture)
  • Squalane (moistuzing)
  • Lactobacillus Ferment Lysate (Pro-biotic, reinforce skin barrier, anti-microbial)

Significant Cons

  • Might trigger fungal acne for those who sensitive

The Takeaway

This is a really solid moisturizer with a lot of benefits (unless of course, you are sensitive to fungal acne). Though the tube is small, the contents pack a punch, providing enough moisture for both day and night use. If you’re curious about Sokoglam’s brand or are interested in trying out a new moisturizer, I’d definitely recommend picking this up.

Review: Ace: What Asexuality Reveals about Desire, Society, and the Meaning of Sex

Normal is often treated as a moral judgment, when it is often simply a statistical matter. The question of what everyone else is doing is less important than the question of what works for the two people in the actual relationship. It matters that everyone’s needs are carefully considered and respected, not that everyone is doing the same thing.

Ace

Summary and Thoughts

What exactly is sexual attraction and what is it like to go through the world not experiencing it? What does asexuality reveal about consent, about compromise, about the structures of society? This exceedingly accessible guide to asexuality shows that the issues that aces face—confusion around sexual activity, the intersection of sexuality and identity, navigating different needs in relationships—are conflicts that all of us need to address as we move through the world.

Through interviews, cultural criticism, and memoir, ACE invites all readers to consider big-picture issues through the lens of asexuality, because every place that sexuality touches our world, asexuality does too.

Journalist Angela Chen uses her own journey of self-discovery as an asexual person to unpretentiously educate and vulnerably connect with readers, effortlessly weaving analysis of sexuality and societally imposed norms with interviews of ace people. Among those included are the woman who had blood tests done because she was convinced that “not wanting sex” was a sign of serious illness, and the man who grew up in an evangelical household and did everything “right,” only to realize after marriage that his experience of sexuality had never been the same as that of others. Also represented are disabled aces, aces of color, non-gender-conforming aces questioning whether their asexuality is a reaction against stereotypes, and aces who don’t want romantic relationships asking how our society can make room for them.

Goodreads

A long-awaited read, Ace by Angela Chen provides an ambitious introduction to asexuality, covering the history of discrimination, issues of consent, intersectionality with race, gender, and disability, and what these topics reveal about our society’s focus on romance and sex. I really appreciated the subjects Chen chose to analyze and I definitely learned a lot, despite the sometimes wordy explanations. It’s inevitable that such a short book on such an expansive topic isn’t able to cover everything under the sun, but the text serves as a great starting point for those who want to be exposed to how strange our society is for over-valuing sex/romance. For the most part, I enjoyed how Chen interwove her personal experiences with larger analyses (though some areas could have been edited/expanded upon), and I found her interviewees illuminating. All in all, Ace is an insightful edition to LGBTQAI+ studies and I’d definitely recommend picking it up!

Photo Courtesy of Goodreads

Notable Reviews

For Those Who Enjoyed

Star Rating

4/5

Review: Sips By Rocky Mountain SereniTea – Berry Honeysuckle

This organic blend of berries and honeysuckle makes a great refreshing cup, hot or iced.

Sips Tea

A sweet berry tea with powerful hibiscus and honeysuckle flavors, Rocky Mountain SereniTea’s Berry Honeysuckle blend is a simple but refreshing tea perfect for hot summer days. Delicious both hot and cold, the tea is able to provide the perfect amount of sweetness, without veering into the artificial. I’d definitely recommend trying this blend if you enjoy (or are new to) herbal teas.

Ingredients

Organic Elderberry, Organic Currant, Organic Hibiscus petal, Honeysuckle

My Favorite Skincare Ingredients!

Hi all! Before my next review I thought it might be nice to take a moment to highlight some of my favorite ingredients. Many of below listed target acne, hyper-pigmentation, uneven skin tone, and sensitivity.

Willow Bark Extract / Salicylic Acid: Both Willow Bark Extract and Salicylic Acid work well to minimize acne and oil excess and gently exfoliate the skin (though Salicylic Acid is more powerful). These ingredients are pretty popular in the skincare world, so you’ll likely come across them at some point.

Niacinamide: Another popular skincare ingredient famous for its anti-acne and anti-hyperpigmentation effects. Though Niacinamide doesn’t combine well with all ingredients, I generally try to always include it in my routine at some point. An easy-win ingredient, definitely start with Niacinamide for your anti-hyperpigmentation needs.

Tranexamic Acid: A new and popular chemical treatment for hyper-pigmentation and acne scars, Tranexamic Acid has quickly become one of my favorite ingredients. Though it’s definitely a bit harder to find, it’s safe for all skin types (but of course, consider your own needs/allergies, etc.) and definitely worth trying out alongside Niacinamide.

Rice Bran Extract: Gently exfoliating your skin for even skin tone, Rice Bran Extract is an all-around great ingredient to compliment the above listed chemicals, because it also has Vitamin E and Ferulic Acid to calm and hydrate the skin as well. Anti-inflammatory, calming, and safe for sensitive skin, it seems as though there’s nothing this ingredient can’t do. A must-have in my routine.

Green Tea / Matcha: Anti-inflammatory, soothing, anti-acne, and skin tone-evening, Green Tea or Matcha is another great ingredient to implement in your routine, especially if you’re dealing with angry acne bumps that demand a gentle touch. If your skin is feeling particularly irritated, look for a product with this ingredient.

Honey / Propolis: Like Green Tea, Honey / Propolis also has anti-inflammatory, soothing, anti-acne properties, however it’s also shown to reverse UV damage and heal skin as well. I’ve mainly used Propolis to keep acne at bay without drying out my skin, so if you struggle with this balance, I’d definitely recommend implementing Honey / Propolis into your routine.

Vitamin C: And of course, the commonly praised Vitamin C – the star of hyper-pigmentation fighting ingredients. This antioxidant is a well-known part many people’s routines, and for good reason. Thickening the skin and protected it from UV damage (although, remember to wear sunscreen on top!), Vitamin C is most powerful when combined with Vitamin E and Ferulic Acid, so try to find a product that has all three (like Paula’s Choice).

May Reads

With #AsianReadaThon now complete, I’m happy with the books I’ve read this past month, though I do wish I was able to read even half as many as last year. Still, each piece had its own unique tale to tell and I’d definitely recommend giving them all a try (if they suit your own personal tastes).

All Photos Courtesy of Goodreads

The Magical Language of Others by E.J. Koh

Once a week, a letter came. I heard her voice, closer than it felt over the phone. I read them in my room, sitting at the desk, standing in the doorway, lying on the bed. I folded the letter and slipped it into its envelope. I placed it on my nightstand. I kept her close. I read a letter once or twice. Moving my lips, I read it again. Each time, I hoped to see something new, a word that I had missed. When I put it away, a panic returned. I took out the same letter and, with no thought to what I had read before, started over. 

Short Description: A poetic memoir of a young woman’s adolescence and her relationship with her late mother.

Critic Quote: “Through writing, Koh learns to wield language not to further isolate herself, but as a way to connect with others. The result is this beautiful, scorching memoir.” –Chicago Review of Books

My Verdict: Though it took me some time to get into this memoir, when I finally found my groove, I thoroughly enjoyed the story. E.J. Koh is an artful writer, her language poetic and nuanced, her scenes following into each other with ease. Listening to her reconcile with her own struggles as well as the history of her mother and grandmother was a unique experience, the pain and longing evident in each vignette. The ending delivered quite a gut punch too.

Read Full Review Here

Serena Singh Flips the Script by Sonya Lalli

I’d been so obsessed with proving myself to her and my team that I hadn’t even considered that she was going through a difficult time transitioning away from being the company’s creative face, taking a backseat to, well, me.

Short Description:  Serena Singh is a successful businesswoman, creative and determined to reach her career goals, but deeply lonely and lost when it comes to connecting with her family and friends, especially as her sister grows distant with her oncoming wedding. Perhaps a new friendship and a new (old?) love can help her face a painful past so she can design the future of her dreams.

Critic Quote: Serena Singh Flips The Script was definitely an interesting book that had a sweet and tender message wrapped into the story.” –Harlequin Junkie

My Verdict: Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I connected with Serena as a character and I liked her friendship with Ainsley (and how this relationship was such a main focus in the novel). Unlike others, I actually found the plot pacing and romance well-structured. My only qualms happened towards the end, but even so, I’d definitely recommend this book to others looking for a character-study-based romance.

Full Review Here

Tokyo Ueno Station by Miri Yu

 But life is nothing like a story in a book. There may be words, and the pages may be numbered, but there is no plot. There may be an ending, but there is no end.

Short Description: The ghost who watches over Tokyo Ueno Station recounts his life and the changes within with Japan.

Critic Quote: “But while Yu’s writing is unsparing, never letting the reader forget the enormities of poverty and loss, it’s also quite beautiful.” –NPR

My Verdict: Though there is certainly a lot of beautiful language and complex, deep themes, ultimately this book simply wasn’t suited to my tastes. Still, I understand the praise and would recommend others interested in translated literature to check it out.

Say Hello by Carly Findlay

There are very few stories where the character that looks different is the hero of the story … I’ve been the hero of my story – telling it on my own terms, proud about my facial difference and disability, not wanting a cure for my rare, severe and sometimes confronting skin condition, and knowing that I am beautiful even though I don’t have beauty privilege

Short Description: Australian writer and disability Activist Carly Findlay describes her life as a woman with Ichthyosis and what she’s learned about herself, the world, and the future of disability activism through her experiences.

Critic Quote: “There is little doubt that Carly is a leader in the space of disability, diversity and difference. She is a person to be reckoned with, even if purely for her clarity of thinking and reasoning. There are many lessons to be learnt for all of us from reading Say Hello.” –Independent Australia

My Verdict: Insightful and accessible, though a bit over-written (by the way, did you know May is also Ichthyosis Awareness month?).

Betraying Big Brother by Leta Hong Fincher

On the inside ‘everything was black and white,’ she said. ‘I knew that I was innocent and done nothing wrong, so I just needed to survive the experience and get out.’

Now, in the outside world, she had to face the heartbreak and disappointment of losing the support of so many she had relied on in the past.

Short Description: Sociologist Leta Hong Fincher details the rise of the modern feminist movement in China.

Critic Quote: “This is a fascinating and earnest book.” –Publisher’s Weekly

My Verdict: Leta Hong Fincher has done it again! A PERFECTLY executed book – striking insights, impeccable structure, and an overall thorough examination of the feminist movement in China. Highly recommend!

Read Full Review Here

Butterfly Yellow by Thanhha Lai

The gray guilt had grown heavy, refusing to pause its relentless infusion into her joints and marrow. After all, it was her fault her brother was taken.

Short Description: A YA historical novel following a young woman’s journey to reunite with her lost brother in the United States following their separation in Vietnam.

Critic Quote: “Masterfully conjures grace, beauty, and humor out of the tragic wake of the Vietnam War.” –Kirkus Reviews

My Verdict: Unfortunately the mix of slice-of-life and historical trauma didn’t quite coalesce for me. Consider your own tastes before picking up.

I Remember Abbu by Humayun Azad

The word “liberation” confuses us. There are different kinds of liberation, but there can be only one independence.

Short Description: The story of a young girl’s recollections of her late father, taken from her during the violence of partition and following independence of Bangladesh.

Critic Quote: “If you are starting out or are generally interested about partition and the incidents in 1971, this would be a perfect read, from the perspective of someone who has lived through the war and died for it, in a very easy flowing and lyrical literature in just about a 100 pages.” –Ample Amalgams

My Verdict: A short book that provides a sensitive portrayal of loss and Bengali history. Though for me, the writing was too simplistic for the emotional impact of the narrative to really hit hard, I still appreciated the story and would recommend others give it a try.

The Golden Legend by Nadeem Aslam

She thought of Imran and Helen and was suddenly filled with blind rage. A feeling of contempt rose in her for the lands in which they were born, these places ruled by the wicked who didn’t recognise and honour their youth and brightness and purity, their intelligence and abilities.

Short Description: A widow with a secret, a runaway with a dark past, and a Christian servant girl must join together when political intrigue and religious turmoil collide in a torn Pakistan.

Critic Quote: “Realism and fable combine in Nadeem Aslam’s tale of terrorism, tragedy and romance across religious divides.” –The Guardian

My Verdict: Though the core of the story was strong, I ultimately found the writing too meandering to connect with the characters and their journeys. Consider your own tastes before picking up.

Read Full Review Here

Once Upon an Eid Edited/Collected by S.K. Ali and Aisha Saeed

There are a lot of ways to show our faith and love to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. You pick the ones that are right for who you are right now.

Short Description: A Middle Grade collection of short stories following a variety of Muslim families as they celebrate Eid.

Critic Quote: “This thoughtful and uplifting volume will keep readers turning pages year-round; here’s to many more.” –Kirkus Reviews

My Verdict: So sweet and wholesome. 100000% recommend if you want to have a good time.

Review: Adagio Masters Collection – Wuyi Da Hong Pao Oolong Tea

Da Hong Pao is an oolong tea from the WuYi Mountains in the Fujian province of China. It grows defiantly in the gaps of the mountain boulders, which endow it with the highly prized ‘yan yun’ or mineral ‘rock taste.’ Our premium-grade Wuyi Da Hong Pao offers rich aromas of roasted vegetables, sweet honey, and wet stones. The liquor is equally intriguing, colored as warm peach brandy. Delicately spicy, robust and rounded texture, with pit-fruit flavors and subtle ripe peach juiciness. A truly thought-provoking cup.

Adagio

A classic oolong tea with an earthy, fruity undertone, the Wuyi Da Hong Pao tea is perfect for those who enjoy the simplicity of oolong but are looking for something unique. Though the description mentions a “delicate spicy” taste, in my opinion, there’s more of a light sweetness (courtesy of the honey and peach) to the leaves, complimenting the deep, rich flavor of the oolong. Enjoyable both cold and hot (though it is somewhat caffeinated, so be sure to take this earlier in the day), the Wuyi Da Hong Pao tea is definitely a blend I’d recommend checking out.

Ingredients

Oolong Tea from WuYi Mountains