Monday, 29 October 2012

Matte on Matte FOTD

Hmm, drop an E or two and that title might attract a different crowd....

Anyway, belated Becca Raspberry look, paired with an all-matte daytime smokey eye courtesy of my beloved Rouge Bunny Rouge...s. Rouge Bunnies Rouge?

Consisting of:
Automatic Pencil in Salome to line
Blackpepper Jay closest to the lashline,
Sweet Dust Seriema above that, fading into
Chestnut-Napped Apalis,
and edges blended with Bashful Flamingo 

With Becca Raspberry Beach Tint on lips and cheeks:

Other products: 
Burberry Sheer Concealer 01 under eyes
L'Oreal False Lash Telescopic WP mascara
Browlash EX Natural Brown pencil through brows

Note on Beach Tint application:
  1. Shake it like a polaroid picture.
  2. Squeeze out a risotto-rice-grain-sized blob onto each cheek, and on to centres of upper and lower lip.
  3. Do eye makeup.
  4. Blend out the cheek blobs with Illamasqua Highlighter brush, and either add a little extra dot as needed OR sheer out edges further with a clean synthetic foundation brush.
  5. Work the lip-blobs into the lips in an even, thin layer using any handy clean lipbrush. Allow to set without smooshing lips together. If needed, add another thin layer over the top of the first and/or clean up edges with concealer brush.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Holiday 2012 Swatches: Suqqu, Shu, Guerlain

Two coffrets, each containing a limited edition Blend Eyeshadow palette, a Mascara Volume Long N 01 (black, 4g) and travel sizes of Reset Cleansing Cream and Refining Foam. They are released on November 2nd in the UK and will retail for £58.

Makeup Kit A comes with a blingy silver pouch and a pinky-brown palette, EX-09 Momoawayuki 桃淡雪.

Makeup Kit B has a gold-toned pouch and palette, EX-10 Hikarikonayuki 光粉雪.

Both palettes are warm brown variations, and include five powder shadows:
          very pigmented satin liner (bottom left)
          pigmented metallic (top left)
          very pigmented shimmery metallic (top right)
          split pan with a lavender satin and an ivory matte (bottom right)
Overall they felt more opaque than Suqqu's usual shadows -- while imbued with the brand's signature ultrafine iridescent sparkle, these powders seemed to have a denser, heavier base. The rich, almost-creamy textures would appeal to fans of the newer Suqqu textures (showcased in quads 09-11).

EX-09 Momoawayuki

EX-10 Hikarikonayuki

Swatches with EX-09 on top and EX-10 on the bottom row. Each swatch was patted on with sponge applicators as usual onto bare skin, and I skipped the right sides of the split pans.
The first (natural light) picture is most colour-accurate -- there is a really interesting cool plum note in the deepest shade of EX-10 contrasting with the lush golds. The brighter pictures are to give a better idea of the textures.

While playing with the various Holiday collections today, I noticed a predominance of reddish, rusty brown tones and denser, heavier textures. One element on its own I can usually swing, in what is hopefully fetchingly consumptive fashion (ahem), but the two in combination tend to wear me. 
A makeupalley pal wondered whether Shu Uemura's Prestigious Bordeaux palette stood out enough from the velvet crowd, and my considered answer is, "Yes, yes, a million times yes". 

TOP: Prestigious Bordeaux, with the blush pan swatched above the shadows
MIDDLE: Guerlain Turandot quad
BOTTOM: Guelain Liu palette shadows 


These were very sheer and balmy -- my swatches are 3 layers each. They never 'set' and retained a glossy translucency even after a few hours on my hand.
Parisienne Pink, Celebrity Beige, Mon Shu Red, Luxe Burgundy

Aptly named Black Purple Satin, this felt creamier and more pigmented than the usual Shu Painting Liners. A rich neutral purple resting on a more reddened purple base, this has very fine warm red and copper microshimmer which is only visible with flash. Used to draw a fine line, this read as a dark purple (rather than black) satin on me.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Autumn/Winter 2012 Wardrobe: Purchases

To those...three(? I think?) of you who liked outfit pics, apologies for the recent lack. I no longer have the just-right expanse of evenly lit cream wall I did in Hong Kong.... Not that this will stop me from posting them >:D They will just be scrappier, so I thought it'd be an idea to show you the clothes in neutral facing-to-camera conditions. Also as a personal record thingy for me. Also, it's laundry day and I'm waiting for the tub to fill, so clicketysnap.

While I no longer stick strictly to a one-a-month clothes diet, doing so for years has so refined my closet (okay, it mainly reinforced my pickiness) that I now quite naturally apply a one-in-one-out system of replacement buying. Therefore, these do not in any way constitute a 'capsule' wardrobe.

Clarks black ankle boots are a straightforward swap for my clapped-out black Victoriana lace-up booties from 2008, while the Topshop Boutique leather jacket updates a much girlier collarless Armani version from twelve years ago. The tan riding boots are something I've been searching for for a few years -- I never expected it to be so difficult to find just the right pair of flat, mid-tone yellow-brown ones that weren't shapeless pull-ons, but weren't prissily fitted either -- eventually it was Duo Boots (good Italian leather, custom calf sizes and a local fitting room!) who came to my rescue.

Most of my bought-new clothing comes from high street shop COS, which is one of the few...actually pretty much the only one that offers natural fibres, clever design, quality construction and legit high-street prices [i.e. not £100+ Whistles blouses, lovely though they are]. This season, I chose a filmy, drapey, funnel-neck ivory silk shell, and a silk/cotton print shirt offsetting romantically murky tones with a boxy mannish shape and (signature COS this) small collar -- ridiculously versatile wardrobe staples both.
The navy spotted collared blouse comes from UK brand Oasis, which has been undergoing a wee renaissance in the last few seasons -- this is a great example (triple collar, whimsical print, gold buttons up the back) of their retro girly chic. It is 100% polyester, but a reasonably 'good' poly, which I'd take any day over a cheap silk or flimsy viscose. [It helps that Oasis have frequent -- it sometimes seems weekly -- offers of 20%-30% on a rotating selection of items, as well as the usual seasonal sales and discounts on asos et al. I don't think any of their stuff is worth full price, but slashed down to the lower end of the high street, they are very reasonable.]
Some designer bargains: I rescued this black, cowl-necked Nicole Farhi fine knit pullover from a Selfridges sold-as-seen bin for £19.99. Darned the tiny hole at the edge of the left cuff with some cobweb cashmere, and am now wearing it to death, sometimes back to front (there's a lovely crossover detail at the back). The wool midi skirt is by Celine(!) and a rare £25 charity shop steal [Londoners will know just how rare], in the most luxuriant tightly woven wool, lined in silk. It weighs more than anything else in my wardrobe, including coats, and is faultlessly sturdy -- I would eyeball this as early '90s(? do we think?) and the outside looks brand new.
The leather skirt is a proper indulgence, from T by Alexander Wang (well... Liberty's 20% off £a lot is still £a lot) but in exquisitely soft leather, and again exactly what I had been looking for to replace a burgundy pencil skirt that had finally given up the ghost after ten autumns.

The hardest part of a clothing diet for me has always been dresses. I treat shoes as primarily functional, always neglect jewellery, skimp on the skimpy lingerie thing, and my heart rate is entirely unaffected by bags... but my insatiable appetite for dresses pretty much cancels out any money I might have saved on the other fripperies combined.
I have been suspiciously restrained this year, which may yet end in a boxing day sale binge.... The long-sleeved silk print dress from Comptoir des Cotonniers was a sensible planned purchase to replace an embroidered tunic [technically kameez] from Pakistan which had developed an endearing habit of raining beads in its dotage.
The COS (again) ombre shift dress (a sheer layer over a more solid linen underdress, with a giant stonking white zip all the way up the back :D) recently went on sale and dragged me off the wagon. Some of you might remember my pinning this after trying it on in May, congratulating myself for not buying another dress XD

These pieces might seem entirely 'autumnal', because for colder winter days I just add more and thicker layers (silk slips, thermal polonecks and tanks from Uniqlo, merino tights) and having bought a coat last winter, won't need to shop for one again for a good few years. The rest, of course, is knitwear -- which I mostly make myself, of which more here.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Closer Look: Becca Lychee and Dragonfruit Beach Tint

So I succumbed to two of the three new Beach Tint shades... Lychee will replace Nars Gaiety and Dragonfruit the Sleek Pumpkin Blush by 3 trio in my wardrobe.
natural light, full sun *sob* 
Shown in context of some other Beach Tints here, this is how they sit against the other shades I own:
natural light

Don't they round things out nicely? :D Evidently I am a big fan of the Beach Tint formula (have been for years) -- while matte and genuinely waterproof/tenacious, they sit comfortably on my dry lips and cheeks, and the revolting synthetic fruity scents remain psychological irritants, never physical ones.

That said, Dragonfruit is a noticeable improvement on the formula of the other Beach Tints -- less watery, more pigmented and even more smoothly blendable [in practice -- for some reasons these are tricky to swatch in stripes]. I hope you can kind of tell by how well its blob holds together / clings to my arm, compared with the others above. It's also very much my kind of colour. Seriously:
Rouge Bunny Rouge Florita
Becca Watermelon
Becca Dragonfruit
Addiction Revenge Cheek Stick
Besamé Crimson Cream Rouge
Shu Uemura P Red 14 (2nd gen, discontinued)

On the other hand, Lychee is more of a departure -- I've swatched it against the two closest pinks in my stash, and it's so conspicuously different from both that I whacked on my other two Beach Tints (a light one and a cool one) to set off its lightness and coolness further.
Illamasqua Katie
Addiction Amazing Cheek Stick
Becca Lychee

Now, in practice on both lips and cheeks! Because I think I've just about spammed you with enough swatches while disclaiming that these don't swatch very well....



Eyes: lazy haze of Becca eyeshadows in Chiffon, Bouclé and Lamé. L'Oreal Telescopic False Lash Waterproof mascara.
Basics: Burberry Sheer Touch Concealer 01 under eyes, Browlash EX Natural Brown pencil through brows, Rouge Bunny Rouge Sea of Clouds to bedew.

Apologise for slightly fat lip....sometimes I wake up with those :/ The Mystery of the Sleepwalking Snacker.

For extrapolation, this is what some other Beach Tints look like on me: GuavaWatermelon (scroll down to looks 3/4) and Raspberry.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Prestigious Preview

The adjective is very much not mine, it's Karl Lagerfeld's. And the only thing to mar my latest, and favouritest, purchase: Shu Uemura Mon Shu Girl Prestigious Bordeaux Palette.

Proper swatches etc. to come as London smog is being very uncooperative at the moment. I just wanted to share the squee today, in my fading light :)
c'est Dora the Explorer Mon Shu Girl
natural light, setting sun
natural light, setting sun, intentional fuzziness
flash + fuzz

The texture of the top two shades in particular are simply divine -- intense, molten pigment. The middle two are silkier: one shimmer, one satin. Bottom left pan is a Glitter shade akin to the newer ones released this summer, and bottom right is a satiny-smooth, very pigmented blush [ignore the glitter, that's pollution].

For inquiring minds: this is what Mon Shu Girl looks like after dark

Er... so.... anyone depotted one of these Shu palettes? Any tips? 
DONE! Click for carnage.

The Shu Uemura x Karl Lagerfeld collection is out right now in the UK. Both palettes are limited edition and retail for £45 each.

Swatches at Rouge Deluxe and Beautyezine.

Some of my looks with this palette can be found here and here.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Skincare Old and New

I don't blog much about skincare because my routine doesn't change much; I've even dropped the monthly 'empties' posts which other bloggers do so well, since I tend to use up and repurchase the same old products over and over.

But since the last round-up in February (main routine // supplementary), I have actually replaced a few products with new loves, as well as reaffirming my devotion to other staples. So here goes:


During my Asia trip earlier this year, I tried out a few new new lotions (moisturising toners), hoping to find a replacement for the Hada-Labo Gokujyun Hyaluronic Acid Lotion [ingredients] which has been a daily staple for the last five years. Because with the growing popularity of Japanese beauty brands, it's so often out of stock on adambeauty (most reasonably-priced etailer for me) when I want to repurchase, and also because I'm stupid curious! like that.
The best of a meh-to-bad bunch (from GWP samples from RMK, Lunasol, Fancl etc. to drugstore brands like Naruko and Shiseido Senka):

  • Hada-Labo ES Lotion turned out to be far too watery (so difficult to apply with hands) and not moisturising enough, even for the humid Hong Kong summer. ES [Enjoy Skincare] is a new sub-brand from Rohto Hada-Labo, slightly cheaper [170ml retails for ¥1100 while my regular Hada-Labo lotion goes for ¥1260] and aimed at very sensitive skin; its products are free of fragrance, alcohol, mineral oil and parabens and did not irritate my skin at all. None of them impressed me either -- this is a good line to try for those with oily-normal skin and very minimal requirements.
  • White Formula Super Moist Toner is, despite the Japanese language packaging, from a Taiwanese brand made in Taiwan [forgot the retail, but definitely under £10 for 290ml]. Like many other Taiwanese toners, its has a viscous gel texture rather than the 'enriched water' of my regular Hada-Labo, which feels sticky going on (not a dealbreaker) and can also ball up under my other skincare/makeup layers (dealbreaker). Despite the stickier feel, it actually seems a bit less effective at hydrating my skin than old reliable; finally, a reminder that unscented =/= scent-free, this has a strong synthetic-metallic smell.
White Formula Super Moist Toner ingredients

2. OIL
As the very last step in my nighttime routine, I use a few drops of oil to seal in all the other layers. Left to my own devices, it would be a cheap health food store option like Desert Essence Jojoba (emptied) or a rosehip / almond / avocado variation. Sometimes I receive posher branded oils as presents (from friends not PR) like DHC Extra Virgin Olive Oil (emptied) for Christmas, which has a far nicer texture (genuinely dry/weightless -- even lighter than neat jojoba or rosehip in feel) and packaging, but wasn't so superior that I'd be tempted to repurchase for myself.
However, the REN Omega 3 Night Repair Serum (a birthday present I've been using for the last three months) leaves my skin so soft-glowy-happy in the mornings I'm seriously thinking of shelling out the £34 for another bottle of (fishyapricot-stinking) magic when I'm done. Note that this is much 'oilier' in feel than the DHC or most neat oils, and may not be suitable for the breakout-prone; it is marketed as plumping and barrier repair for dry/sensitive skin and surprisingly does exactly that for me.
REN Omega 3 Night Repair Serum ingredients

Finally -- and I mean after four years and a hundred others FINALLY -- I have found a replacement for the heinously expensive Sisley Sisleya Global Eye and Lip Contour Cream (UK retail £105; I usually purchase for £85ish at Duty Free). In fact, I like Korres Materia Herba Eye Cream (comparatively much more reasonable £30 for the same 15ml as Sisley) even better, as it visibly faded my hereditary undereye pigmentation, so that Burberry's light click pen is now all I need to cover the bruise-y sleep-deprivation-type circles, no separate corrector necessary. 
As for the rest of my eyecream requirements, Korres is on par with Sisley at: depuffing, keeping my very dry undereyes moisturised all day, being light enough to smooth on without tugging [my issue with some thicker balms], sinking in instantly, sitting beautiful under makeup, excess working well as a lip balm etc. 
I've been using this since May (onto my second tube now -- the first lasted about four months) but held off on the review until I could be sure the circle-fading thing wasn't just a quirk, and that it would still be rich enough for my skin in London. It isn't, and it is. LOVE.

After an entire tube of La Roche Posay Cicaplast Baume B-5 [ingredients], my first impressions were pretty much confirmed -- this is a waxier matte-finish cream which is harder to spread onto my dry skin than Avene's creamier Cicalfate [ingredients]. Even in East Asian summer humidity, the LRP wasn't sufficiently moisturising for me to wear overnight, and its drier feel didn't layer as easily as Avene would with additional products -- which made it a tricky proposition under makeup [again perhaps because I favour creamier textures there too]. Both products did speed up my skin's healing time, but I felt Avene addressed the flakiness that inevitably accompanies barrier-damage better.

Now let the angelic chorus swell once more, for I have finally found a zinc-based sunscreen that doesn't dry me out OR leave me tin-mannishly shiny to layer over my all-chemical Ducray Melascreen SPF50. High-maintenance, much? Yeah, but this was my bare face in June, right before I started layering; and here it is after five months of layering. Okay, freckles do darken in summer but I promise you many of the smaller ones, which I've had for years, have completely gone and the rest have faded significantly.
I recognise that wearing one sunscreen daily might be too much for some skins, let alone two -- but if you can find formulas to work for you (and whose filters don't interfere with each other) I would wholeheartedly recommend it, especially if, like me, you don't reapply sun protection every two hours throughout the day. The Ducray provides high-UVA chemical protection (from octinoxate, Tinsorbs M and S) while the BurnOut gives sustained physical protection (zinc is the most stable filter) -- neither on its own would be quite ideal, but together: Dream Team.

Burn-Out Ocean Tested SPF30+ ($17.99 for 100ml) contains 18.6% zinc oxide in a no-frills formula [ingredients] which is the most cosmetically elegant all-physical I've tried -- "cosmetically elegant" in sunscreen reviews often seems to mean "MATTE / oil-controlling" but as you all know, I love me some dew and I hate me some itching and flaking skin -- what I mean is that it is a light gel-cream texture that glides effortlessly over the skin, setting to a soft satiny finish with no rubbing in or waiting time required. Cosmetics layered over this do not ball up or 'stick', and I can take the cream right up to my lashline and around my mouth without any irritation, stinging, or interference with my fun: eyeshadow or lipstick.

BurnOut retails replaces Kiss Me Sunkiller Baby Milk SPF38, which has been reformulated and renamed as Kids UV SPF38 [ingredients and info]. The older version was my favourite Japanese milk sunscreen for years, a rare alcohol-free all-physical formula (zinc oxide and titanium dioxide) but I found the newer one too matte and too drying -- even without alcohol, and layered over a hefty coat of Ducray, I find physical filters quite drying -- my skin would start itching by lunchtime and flaking after a few days' sustained use. I also prefer the ease of cream/gel formulas to ultra-runny milks.

But some things one can only get in Asia. Sickeningly cute Bioderma Crealine set, anyone? :D

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Je Joue

Post title is le fromage. Sorry.

Jouer offers a new spin on the Laura Mercier / Trish McEvoy / Bobbi Brown / Burberry nexus of flattering, understated, polished makeup, but with this USP: superior textures. And another: lego packaging.

During the recent cultbeauty 25% off sale I acquired a Dahlia tint to slot onto the lonely Amaretto powder eyeshadow an American MUAer sent me last year.
nifty or nifty?

Amaretto is a pigmented-yet-delicate, silky smooth powder: it can be washed sheerly onto the lid with a fluffy brush as a subtle shimmer or built up on a densely packed paddle or liner brush for a more creamily metallic effect. The colour is a balanced taupey bronze with a cool plummy undercurrent -- a cooler, less-yellow version of Burberry Midnight Brown. Texturally it's closest to old-school (i.e. good) Stila -- digging in results in a little powder kick-up but no chalkiness once applied -- and its kind of delicate shimmer is as flattering as a Kanebo brand's on hooded or mature lids.

Dahlia is a clear berry in a gel-cream formula. I expected more of a stain from the name 'tint', but this formula turned out to be non-setting, dewy and semi-translucent one, more like a potted tinted balm (Fresh) or jelly lipstick (Guerlain Rouge Auto etc.) than either a liquid stain (Beauté) or conventional cream blush (Illamasqua, Becca, Bobbi Brown etc.) Like a tinted lipbalm, this needs touching up after drinks and meals on me, and wiped off easily with one swipe of a tissue. On my dry cheeks, it felt comfortable all day and while remaining dewy, didn't slide around or fade.

natural light
Dahlia sheered out (with fingers) and built up (Hakuhodo Misako lipbrush) // One swipe of Amaretto with Suqqu M brush.

As my skin is pretty good right now, I went base-free (except for a dab of Burberry concealer 01 under eyes) to play up the modern English rosiness of these colours and textures:
I swear there's no extra shading -- Amaretto is one of those catches-the-light differently shades which look more complex once worn on the contours of the eye.

Other products:
Browlash EX Natural Brown pencil through brows
RBR Automatic Eye Pencil Salome to line
GOSH White Kohl on waterline
last gasp of Fasio Ultra Curl Lock Volume mascara

So simple I'm embarrassed to show you close-ups
RBR Salome and Jouer Amaretto
Jouer Dahlia on lips -- no balm under or over, all the dewiness is its own 

It's not often my makeup takes under five minutes these days so I had time for some bonus shots, of my outfit -- the long sludgy cable jumper I made in April but recently re-buttoned, paired with a Markus Lupfer gold sequinned miniskirt (AW 2011).

Out of shot: lacy burgundy tights and my latest shoe love, these clumpy Clarks (apologies to MUAers who've seen these a bazillionty times already):

Matchy-matchy mani with Zoya Paloma, a clear berry jelly. And a closer look at the buttons :D They're wood and look like tiny tree trunk cross-sections... slightly cross-eyed ones. The buttons and me. I take this coordination thing very seriously.
washed-out bathroom lighting, sorry

Have you tried anything from Jouer? Thoughts and recommendations much appreciated :) I feel like this is a niche brand that was building buzz a few years ago but then faded away into the background.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Drivel In Brief: Before the Booker 2012

I mentioned a few weeks ago that an offline friend had challenged me to read more contemporary literary fiction. And a few folks had e-poked me to blog more bookish things, which I immediately and enthusiastically began putting off, and putting off... until now, about an hour before the announcement of the winner of the Booker prize 2012, which is my last chance to SPEW ALL THE THOUGHTS*.

*'thoughts' may be stretching it <---- artistic licence, yo.

So this is kind of cheating because the shortlist came out weeks ago, but even before the longlist was announced I was fairly sure I would be cheering for Hilary Mantel's Bring Up the Bodies.  For stars-aligned-ish reasons: she's one of my favourite novelists (one of the few whose entire varied backlog I've tracked down and devoured); historical fiction is one of my favourite genres and one she particularly excels in (my introduction to Mantel was her richly multifocal French Revolution novel, A Place of Greater Safety and Bring up the Bodies shares that completely unpretentious and consummately precise dense prose style); early modern English history was my academic ghetto; and rehabilitations of historical 'villains' -- especially the practical backroom machiavellian types who, y'know, get shit done -- are another particularly strong literary kink; this book is composed of all those things and it considers them too -- there's nothing I fall for more quickly and more deeply than genuinely profound meta, about stories and histories, and their telling (so metametameta, then :P)
Unfortunately, as a sequel that continues her 2009 Booker-winning Wolf Hall in every way [did I mention I have a soft spot for the middle books of trilogies too?] its literary-qualities-aside chances of winning are about 0.0000000001%. The concluding volume might have a shot in 2016? XD

*EDIT* Mantel WON! :D

My runner-up favourites, which didn't make the shortlist:

Nicola Barker, The Yips -- another favourite writer -- this woman does dialogue and dark comedy (with a capital c and a small c and many a chaotically expletive c) with barmy panache. If you aren't sure she's your thing [though if you can put up with my kind of drivel I suspect you will find her v. readable] Wide Open is probably the best balance of representative and accessible. For me, Darkmans remains her richest offering so far.

Ned Beauman, The Teleportation Accident -- another deranged manic-comic historico-science-fictional satire, with thankfully a bit more heart than I expected. Ware if you hate high style, broad farce and extravert postmodernity. The protagonist is called Loeser and introduced as 'a total prick,' refunds.

My favourite book which did make the shortlist but isn't Mantel's -- the kind of default reasoning that lies behind most Booker winners, as far as I can tell, so it has a proper shot :P -- is Alison Moore's The Lighthouse.
On the face of it, everything I steer clear of: a slim volume heavily freighted with portentous puff about hyumin-naychure-troofs-thereof on the back, whose action, such as it is, mostly consists of internal emotional involute-ish tangles, all in minimalist prose and a wide-spaced font. It is very much the typical lit fic piece I would never have bothered with were it not for Teh Challenge, and it's absolutely bloody brilliant. I finished it at 3am, emotionally shattered and philosophically shaken, and flipped right back to the beginning again. If there's one book you should try from this list, this is it. Especially if you like perfume.

The rest of the shortlist I would not back FOR REASONS:

Deborah Levy, Swimming Home -- this straddled Rachel Joyce's Harold Fry and Moore's Lighthouse and for me; while it highlighted the creaking of the plot and slightly hollow overreaching in the former, it was just totally outclassed by the latter, appearing slight and conventional in its turn. I did find all three about equally (and surprisingly) easy and pleasurable reads -- totally not taking 'difficulty' as a guarantee of depth here.

Which is why I can't really drivel about the current frontrunner, Will Self's Umbrella, the only book on this list I didn't finish. Because copious amounts of alcohol and a new lipstick were required to bribe me through the first 100 and the last 3 pages [personal rule] of this naked-imperial bollocks. At least I have a topical new example of 'not a book to be lightly tossed aside but flung with great force' (preferably via canon at end of ten-foot bargepole, aimed at deepest darkest crevasse on earth).

Jeet Thayil, Narcopolis -- a technically brilliant writing exercise (first novel from a poet), which is as much its weakness as strength for me -- too composed. Still worth it for the ride, even if heady hallucinatory underbelly trips aren't usually up your literary alley.

Tan Twan Eng, The Garden of Evening Mists was probably my biggest disappointment. I mean, I knew I hated Will Self going in, but I had heard such brilliant things about this writer and this book's setting (WWII to present day Malaya) and themes come only second to Thomas Cromwell in closeness to my heart. The contents are fascinating -- I've already recommended it to a few poco friends who've enjoyed it far more than I did; for most readers of this blog I think the diversions into the aesthetic discourses of Japanese gardens and tattooing would be v. appealing -- they were by far my favourite aspects of this book too. Sadly, the prose. It is clunky. Clunky like BL Gobsmacked is gloopy and Illamasqua powders are powdery: at times the tone-deafness achieves a kind of awe-inspiring platonic quintessence of clunk.

Rest of the longlisted-onlies: 

Michael Frayn, Skios -- because I'm a tricksy fox like that, here's a writer, a genre (farce) and settings (Greece, cultural institutions) I love....and a resounding meh of a book. There are mistaken identities and bed tricks and a plot that runs entirely on bad puns and two twin cab drivers called Spiros and Stavros. Sometimes even the lemoniest souffles will fall :(

Rachel Joyce, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry -- as mentioned above, likeable but just too slight, too neat, too Radio 4 (sorry, cheap shot -- and to be fair I can't do my makeup without R4 on). I have a feeling this might appeal to those who liked the concept of J.K. Rowling's Casual Vacancy but found it a bit...unremitting.

André Brink, Philida -- another book I would've read even without the litfic challenge, and would still recommend to most, but with some warnings I wish I'd've been given: while compelling and engaging and with some nice prosing, this is closer to The Help populism than to Coetzee-calibre artistry. And even the witty knitting metaphors (!) couldn't mask the sudden fizzling-out of story towards the end.

Sam Thompson, Communion Town has a totally-my-thing concept and a lot of good, just showoffy enough but not obnoxiouslyWillSelfish prose ventriloquism going on. But it aint no novel, it's most definitely a short story collection. In the longlist it sits closest to The Teleportation Accident, and despite the chaotic exuberance of that, it's Communion Town that left me (me!) calling for a bit more restraint. A bit more selective editing, perhaps? Good lord, this litfic stuff does broaden one's mind. But I maintain that many 'proper' (okay, marketed-as) spec-fic writers have done this kind of thing already, and done it better. In the 15 seconds before the winner announcement: Catherynne Valente, Jeff VanDerMeer, China Miéville, Michael Moorcook, Brian Aldiss....

Yeah, 'in brief' was really stretching it. Cookies for anyone who made it this far :D Have you read any of these or do you plan to? Any recs for more? (I'm about done with the Orange prize longlist now.) Or spiny fish you'd like to slap me with for dissing your homeboy Will. etc.