Let’s Talk About Books Baby!

In the past I’ve kept this blog’s main focus on the beauty industry. While that is and will always be my first love; I love a lot of other things. Some of you may know that I got my Bachelor of Arts in English. I have always been enamored with a great story and a continued passion for writing. With that being stated, I am going to help this blog continue to flourish writing about what I view as beautiful. From my perspective writing is an art form and novels, poems, and short stories are the expression. I initially chose beautybymbell as my blog name because of my trade and my obsession with beauty products, but as we all know this is a highly saturated blogging market. I need to set myself apart and be true to myself so I am not changing the name but I’m shifting the focus of this blog to more lifestyle related content including the books I’m reading.

So far this month has been one of dramas for me when it comes to novel genres. I’m currently in the middle of reading a series by Lisa Gardner featuring a snappy female police sergeant named D. D. Warren. I actually started reading the books out of order until I figured out they were a series. I started with the fourth book Live to Tell and was hooked. Then I figured out I could get more D.D. by picking up the others so I went back to the beginning. Now I have finished the sixth book plus the novella in between books six and seven. The novella, aptly titled 7th Month tells a short story featuring a bored D.D. on desk duty at the precinct in the seventh month of her pregnancy. A bit of luck shows D.D. favor when a bumbling movie producer stops in looking for a consultant for his film.

D.D. initially accuses him of being a serial killer after he insults her rank by assuming she’s the receptionist. After the unpleasant exchange D.D. discovers that the guy is looking for a police consultant for his film and it pays a generous amount. She quickly decides to take on the role thinking of nursery money for her new born. She ends up getting a lot more than she bargained for when the previous consultant is bludgeoned to death and her team is assigned to the investigation. Shenanigans ensue from there as D.D. tries to catch a killer in the midst of a bunch of wanna-be famous actors.

This was overall enjoyable for a short look into D.D.’s pregnancy. Some other personal facts about the protagonist are revealed in this story that I don’t know if the next book will glaze over or not. However, I didn’t like how shaky the plot in this one felt when it came to the crimes committed and by whom. It just did not feel as authentic as Gardner’s previous full length novels. I guess I shouldn’t have had high expectations for a condensed D.D. book. In terms of characterization Gardner shines as she always does with well developed main and sub characters carrying out this loose plot line about a killer on a movie set. I give this one a B-. I enjoyed reading it but I don’t know that it’s pertinent to the course of events in book seven, entitled Catch Me.

When I am not reading the D.D. Warren books I often listen to audio books on the Overdrive app on my iPhone. If you haven’t used that app check it out! It’s a great one that easily connects you to audio and e-books from your local library. All you need is a library card and you’ll have access to some amazing titles. While I was waiting for 7th Month to arrive from Amazon; I randomly selected a book under the mystery/drama section. I had never heard of the author but before I read one of Lisa Gardner’s books I’d never heard of her either. The book was titled Among the Missing by Morag Joss. The novel is set in Scotland, U.K. as that is where the writer is from. Each of the narrators had a heavy accent, but were not difficult to understand. The book’s limited summary does not give any of the mystery of the story away, in fact it is almost misleading because there is a lot more going on that it reveals.

The story is told from three viewpoints, the first being Ron’s who has just been released from prison for negligent homicide. His former occupation was a school bus driver, until he fell asleep at the wheel one afternoon, killing six children and a pregnant teacher. Ron is a nomad with no place to call home. Despite that event being an accident even his sister will not take him in. She sends money which Ron takes to buy an old Land Rover which he drives around picking up hitch hikers to help himself regain some shred of humanity.

Silva and her husband Stephan are illegal immigrants. They have left a small village in a country that is not named to live in Scotland with their toddler, Anna. They live shrouded in secrecy in a trailer with a leaky roof.  They live in squalor with only hopes for a better life and fear that people will find out they do not belong. Stephan has plans that Silva deems extreme for establishing a new life.

The other female character, who’s real name the author does not reveal, is on a vacation with her new husband. They are staying in a hotel near the town Silva and Stephan live it. It is just across a large bridge. Although she is in her forties, she is newly pregnant. When she tells her husband, Cullen he is not happy at all and gives her an ultimatum. Either she can have a life with him or she can have the child but not both. Tortured at the thought of abortion she contemplates what her next move is. When the aforementioned bridge collapses one day, each of the main characters’ live intertwine. Each of them having a secret unspoken to the other. Assumptions and accusations flare as these three people struggle to figure out how to be whole again in the middle of a horrific event.

Without giving too much away from the novel I will say these things: it starts off slow so you have to stay with it to get to the better parts, you’ll be annoyed at the pregnant character who is given a fake name of Annabelle throughout the story, you will be furious with Silva at some point for being so hateful, and lastly you will be bewildered at the unanswered questions by the end of this book. Overall I give it a B+ for the eloquent switches of point of view, the descriptive nature of the novel itself, and the well developed characters that you will feel an attachment to.  Not an A for the frustrating ending and the subtle undertones that suggest women are weak creatures with no control over emotions.

 

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Koh Gen Do Update

Disclaimer: I do not own or claim any rights to this image.

I am a Hautelook shopper. It is truly one of my favorite flash sale websites. With that being said, it’s no surprise that I receive email updates on  arriving beauty products. I opened an email this morning stating Hautelook would be featuring Koh Gen Do in the Beauty section of the site this week.

Immediately I thought I would have to discontinue my Hautelook membership as you know I have not been a fan of Koh Gen Do (evident in my last post). However, low and behold something fabulous happened! Hautelook, a subsidiary of Nordstrom, a brand who celebrates diversity; is carrying the Koh Gen Do Moisture foundation in two deeper shades! This is something up until this point I couldn’t even find on the Koh Gen Do home site.

Needless to say I am more than pleased that Hautelook is selling a larger variety of shades! If you feel as though you have been missing out check out the site. The sale ends in 1 day and 23 hours.

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Calling Out Koh Gen Do

Disclaimer: I do not own/claim any rights to the photo above.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you are a beauty enthusiast like myself, then you have probably heard the recent buzz around Japan based brand, Koh Gen Do Cosmetics. YouTube is saturated with reviews and tutorials praising their Aqua Foundation. Big names like Jaclyn Hill, Carli Bybel, and Nicole Guerriero have all featured products in haul videos. Naturally I wanted to see what the this brand and their foundation is all about.

What I found was it is nearly impossible to find a shade in any of their foundations if you are any deeper in skin tone than the lovely Chrissy Teigan. So why the color chart above that clearly contains deeper shades? Admittedly I hunted for the image and evidence that this brand was not intentionally excluding deeper skin tones. The chart above is the 12 shade range for Koh Gen Do’s Moisture Foundation . However, these shades either no longer exist or are available outside of the scope of the average consumer. They do not appear on the North American Koh Gen Do website.

Upon further investigation I also discovered that Koh Gen Do only has a 7 shade range available in their ever popular Aqua Foundation. Big box retailer Sephora only carries 8 of the 12 shades available in the Moisture Foundation. Do I even need to mention what shades are excluded? Not even upscale Nordstrom has any of the deeper shade range available.

So the question I dare to ask is: in a society where many who are not black seem to believe that there are no longer color lines; how do they explain this blatant exclusion? Furthermore, how can anyone support a brand that is clearly not culturally conscience? As a person who does not like to make claims without foundation I went to Koh Gen Do’s Japan and Korea webpages to view their offerings, and their official North American Instagram page. As both Japan and Korea are 98% ethnically homogeneous nations, I was not stunned that neither Koh Gen Do site carried deeper shades.

Koh Gen Do’s Instagram feed features several people of various nationalities, but very few people of a deeper skin tone. Now I don’t have any resounding proof that the brand is discriminatory, and it isn’t my intent to prove them as such. I am simply shining a light on an issue of great importance. In the days before many of us were born our Black, Puerto Rican,  Dominican, Brazilian, Indian sisters could not simply go into a drugstore and find a foundation that matched their skin. Many brands have made strides against this, like L’Oreal who is responsible for one of the most widely known color ranges in North America, True Match.

With that fact being stated, how can anyone support a brand that doesn’t recognize that skin ranges in the most perfect of porcelains to the most even of ebonies?

 

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Hourglass Ambient Lighting Edit Review

Hourglass Edit

Today I am feeling inspired and lately that hasn’t been the case. If you didn’t already notice, there has been a lack of updated content! Anywho…I am not writing to discuss my personal life or recent resurgence of said “social” life, but rather the controversial item in the photo above. That little baby is the new Hourglass Ambient Lighting Edit.

Hourglass compiled some of it’s best and brightest powders, blushes, and one bronzer to make up this palette. There are six pans total: (Left to Right) Dim Light, Iridescent Strobe Light, Diffused Light, Mood Exposure, Luminous Flush, and Luminous Bronze Light. Each pan is approximately the size of an old school NYX powder blush if you can remember the square packaging. I saw mixed reviews on Sephora.com; many negative reviews citing the size of the pans as the palette’s downfall. A number of shoppers even went as far to say that they could not fit brushes into one pan without picking up product from another.

Other reasons for dislike or return were the price ($80), and value. After reading these reviews I admit I became a skeptic, but I waited for it to arrive before making any decision. When it came I was pleasantly surprised that many consumers over exaggerated about the size and value of the product. The pans are big enough for me to fit my E.L.F. tapered brush, Sigma angled contour brush, and Morphe M501 brush inside. I do not find it difficult to use and the actual powders are just as high quality as any other Hourglass product I own.

The intent of the Ambient Light Edit was to give Hourglass customers and newbies to the brand a chance to try six products in one palette. If purchased separately each powder would cost $35, a total of $210. I don’t know about you but I am not interested in dropping that kind of cash! The powders are light weight, not chalky, and give a beautiful lit from within appearance. The bronzer does have shimmer as it is mixed with lighting powder, so if a Matte shade is your preference this may not be your cup of tea. The pans offer plenty of product for occasional use, which is about how often most of us use these types of powders with many options in our collection! Overall, I find the palette worth the $80 price tag, and if you’re into Hourglass powders you’ll want to pick this one up for sure!

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E.L.F Matte Lip Color

ELF Matte

I recently posted a photo of myself on my Instagram wearing a bright berry lip that garnered lots of attention. (See Below) I was surprised at the amount of buzz I was getting wearing a $3 product! If only my higher end lippies got that much love. When a friend asked what I was wearing I didn’t hesitate to share my bargain beauty find. “You won’t believe that it’s an E.L.F. matte lip color, ” I boasted. “And it was only three bucks!” I have a total of four of these fabulous finds now: Berry Sorbet, Praline, Coral, and Tea Rose.

The formula of this product is smooth and glides on easily despite its matte finish. The pointed tip makes application a breeze even in those hard to reach corners of the mouth; it can even be used to line the lips so you can mix and match colors for a cool ombre look! There is no unusual smell to these babies, so if you are sensitive to what goes below your sniffer no worries E.L.F. has that covered. All in all there is nothing bad I can say about this product. It is lost cost and high quality that most matte lip lovers will flock to.

Of course you can still find E.L.F products in your neighborhood Target and at their website eyeslipsface.com but E.L.F. has also expanded their market into actual drugstores. I found my Coral lip color just last week in my local CVS and have seen several new displays in my Walgreens housing their products. They have even popped up in Wal*Mart! Needless to say if you want to find this product or another by E.L.F look no further than your usual drugstore haunts. Happy shopping!

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Me wearing Berry Sorbet
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Review: NYX Highlight & Contour Pro Palette

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Long awaited…review on this product I have had for months! I think I have talked about this on my channel for the last six weeks, but I am just now getting around to posting this review. There is a lot of hype surrounding highlight and contour palettes right now. Frankly they are all the rage! Just about every major cosmetics label has one out right now: be it a duo, trio, six-pan, cream, or powder. The most notable of the high-end brands are Anastasia Beverly Hills and the Kat Von D Shade and Light. While I have tried a contour pan by Anastasia, I have not tried or purchased the palette by Kat Von D. I merely swatched the palette the last time I went into Sephora.

I was all set to shell out my $46 to purchase the Kat Von D palette until I saw a review of the NYX palette on Lustre Lux’s channel. At $25.99 the NYX palette was a fraction of the cost and NYX has a reputation of being a higher quality affordable brand. I purchased mine directly from the NYX website. It took entirely too long to get here, but when it arrived all eight of the pans were intact. I tried it out the next day, and one thing I quickly figured out is that the powders go on much better with a natural fiber (or natural fiber feel) brush as opposed to a synthetic brush. I use a natural fiber contour brush that I got in a set from Sephora.

When using a synthetic brush the color does not deposit on to the brush well; therefore the power is not as pigmented. When using a natural fiber brush the colors are pigmented and very blend able. The palette contains four highlight colors and four contour colors. I would say that this palette is great for all skin tones, but especially friendly for those of us with a bit more pigmentation than others! Which is my book is a win, however, if you are of a very fair porcelain skin tone I would steer clear of this as a contour palette. The colors may come off muddy on a very fair skin tone. I would also discourage anyone with a very deep skin tone from purchasing this palette. If your shade is an NC 55 or higher even the deepest shade may not give you the desired results for contour. Also the palette’s pans pop out to be replaced which is an extremely cool feature for a drugstore priced product!

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Overall I would give this palette a rating of 4 out of 5 stars. Minus a star simply because you cannot use a variety of brushes with the palette. Many makeup lovers have synthetic as well as natural fiber brushes in our collections. Only being able to use a natural fiber brush with this palette is extremely limiting. Check out the swatches below!

Swatched with the Flash On

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Highlighters

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Contour Powders

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*Gorge Products Review

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I was recently sent a few samples from a company called *Gorge. I first encountered them on Instagram. Some of my favorite bloggers were buzzing about their hair products. Of course I had to investigate for myself. I went to their website to find out what all of the fuss was about. Needless to say, as a beauty vlogger/blogger I signed up as an “influencer” and landed some freebies.

Upon first use I honestly did not notice much of a difference other than my hair being a bit more volumized. I went back to the site to find out what hair types the product targeted. I found there was no type, but the claim was all hair types could use *Gorge’s products. Initially I was skeptical, as an ethnic person I often have a hard time with that statement.

I used the sulfate free shampoo, conditioner, and the leave-in spray. Each has a cute name like: I’ll Make you look Amazing, and No More Bad Hair Days. They also have sleek black packaging with colored, light reflective lettering. The packaging is awfully cute, but it’s what is inside that counts and let me be the first to tell you that what is inside is ahhhmazing!

The second time that I used the product. I had just added violet streaks to the front and a peek-a-boo highlight to the back of my head. After pre-lightning my hair with bleach and then dying it again I expected my hair to feel and look fried. Not thanks to *Gorge! My hair was smooth and silky like it always is and it may have even looked healthier than the first time.

I admit when it comes to hair products I am a picky creature of habit and I don’t like to try new things. However, this time I am glad I took the plunge and did not miss out on a fabulous product. *Gorge has definitely made a believer out of me and I will definitely be ordering full size product soon.

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2nd Wash

 

 

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Disclaimer: I am not a hair care professional or licensed cosmetologist. I also have thick, curly hair and only wash it once every ten days. Everyone has different hair texture so what works for me may not work for you.

 

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Beauty on a Budget: NYC Lip Lacquer Review

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I guess I figured I would do some actually blogging today! More seriously, one of my New Year’s Resolutions for 2015 is to take my blog more serious. Writing has always been therapeutic for me and I definitely need some therapy at the moment! High school teaching is not living the dream…you heard it here first!

If you’ve been trolling your local drugstore like I often do (seriously they know me at my CVS) then you may have noticed the plethora of NEW! signs plastered in the cosmetics section. I am a sucker for those signs so naturally I followed the glossy, colored paper toward a new lip product. I always peruse all of the brands in cosmetics, but I must say it is rare that I pick up anything NYC.

Don’t get me wrong, there are things in their line that are fantastic, but it isn’t the first place I gravitate to. On this particular CVS trip the new NYC lip lacquers caught my eye. I am usually not a fan of lacquers or liquid lipsticks because I find them to be quite drying. However, I’ve been dying to try the Stila Stay All Day liquid lipstick since I saw them on Elba Navarro’s channel. Those bad boys are $23 a pop!

Since I am working on a Teacher’s salary and paydays are once a month; I wanted to explore a less expensive option first. I picked up an NYC lip lacquer in Coney Island Cotton Candy, which in true NYC style, was named after an iconic landmark in New York. It is a bright fabulous pink with a blue based undertone, a true Barbie pink. I wore it the next day thinking at only $3.99 it wouldn’t last long.

Imagine my surprise when I looked in the mirror at the end of a 7 hour school day and there was still color on my lips. It wasn’t as flawless as when I applied it at 6:30 AM, but it still looked presentable. My lips didn’t peel because they were dry, the color wasn’t patchy, and I didn’t feel like I wanted to scrub my lips to remove a sticky film.

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At the end of my day

NYC’s website describes their latest innovation as: rich lip color, high coverage, long wearing, light weight texture, hydrating/moisturizing, comfortable all day, non sticky, and doesn’t dry lips. Of the bulk of claims I particularly agree with the statements that the product is long wearing, comfortable, hydrating, and rich in color. I don’t think it’s a high coverage product seeing that I had to apply a few swipes to get the full color as it appears in the container. However, the colors are gorgeous so well worth the work. Overall I would say this product is worth a try and certainly worth the tiny price tag of $3.99. I purchased three of them!

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