“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” – Marcel Proust


I’ve been wanting to do a giveaway for a little bit now and there’s no time like the present. You guys have been showing ReadBetweenTheEyeliner a lot of love lately and I wanted to celebrate getting over 100 dedicated followers. I’ve been really enjoying blogging this year and I really appreciate those of you who take the time to read, comment, and “like” my posts.

I’ve decided to give away a little bit of makeup, skincare, and literature- everything my blog is about!

I’m giving away:

I included these two novels because the Bildungsroman (a coming of age novel) is my favourite literary genre and these two are a fine, fine, example of the genre. I chose ‘Purple Hibiscus’ partly because Chimamanda is one of my favourite authors and partly because I believe more people should be reading African literature. ‘I Capture The Castle’ is a classic that made me fall in love with Bildungsromane and it’s superbly written by Dodie Smith (of ‘101 Dalmations’ fame).

How to enter:

1. Follow ReadBetweenTheEyeliner, if you haven’t already, either here on WordPress or via Bloglovin’

2. “Like” my brand new Facebook page

2. Leave a comment below telling me either your holy grail makeup product or your all-time favourite book (along with your name and e-mail address).

This giveaway is open internationally to persons over 18 years of age and no entries will be considered after  June 30th. One entry per person only. One lucky person will win everything so good luck!

Hope you all have an excellent week and I can’t wait to read all your entries.

Nana Adomah

ETA: Congratulations Ericca! I really enjoyed reading all your entries so look out for another giveaway soon.

The Girl On The Train: A Review

‘There’s something comforting about the sight of strangers safe at home.’ – Paula Hawkins

The Girl On The Train Review

Unfortunately, I no longer have the opportunity to take public transport but I’m sure that if I was still living in London I’d have seen numerous copies of The Girl On The Train’ on my morning commute. This books has been everywhere this year.

If ‘Gone Girl’ and ‘Before I Go To Sleep’ had a baby, ‘The Girl On The Train’ would be the mewling result. It’s hard to avoid comparisons to ‘Gone Girl’ (which I loved despite it’s maddening ending) but ‘The Girl On The Train’ (TGOTT) definitely stands on its own. Gillian Flynn is the better writer, in my opinion, but Paula Hawkins gives us a nicely plotted novel.

TGOTT tells the story of Rachel, the titular “girl on the train”- an alcoholic divorcée, who’s having trouble moving on from her failed marriage, Anna- the woman who is now married to Rachel’s ex-husband, and Megan- whose disappearance is the catalyst for the events described in the novel.

On her daily commute to London, Rachel develops an attachment to a young couple she observes through a kitchen window. Her train stops at the same signal each day and she grows fond of the young, loving couple she’s named “Jess” and “Jason”. They are a symbol of the life she had before her divorce and she grows ever more attached to them until one day she sees something that truly shocks her.

When Megan Hipwell (“Jess’s” real name) goes missing, Rachel finds herself in the middle of the investigation. Did she run away or was she murdered? Was her perfect life all it seemed to be?

It’s difficult to get into the plot without risking spoilers but this was an enjoyable and quick read. It’s a thriller that leaves you guessing till  well into the novel (or maybe I’m just slow) and Paula Hawkins does a good job of giving us plenty of insight into all the primary characters. However, all of the people in the book are generally terrible people. I don’t have a problem with unsympathetic characters but my gosh were these people awful. Rachel is the most unreliable of narrators and all of the characters are sufficiently bad enough for you to believe them capable of myriad horrible crimes.

I did like how Hawkins was able to describe the mindset of an alcoholic and I found myself rooting for Rachel despite neither trusting her nor feeling sorry for her.You find yourself trying to piece together the mystery whilst not even trusting the person presenting to you the evidence.

“I have lost control over everything, even the places in my head.”

Although I found the beginning a little slow-going, this is a tightly plotted novel that was a lot of fun to read. It’s thematically most similar to S.J. Watson’s ‘Before I Go To Sleep’ and I think it’ll appeal to fans of mystery with a sprinkling of psychological thriller. The ending felt a little flat for me but it didn’t really ruin my general enjoyment of the novel. I definitely recommend this for those of you looking for an engrossing, quick read this Summer.

“Life is not a paragraph, and death is no parenthesis.”

Nana Adomah

“You never know what worse luck your bad luck has saved you from”: No Country For Old Men- A Review

I set all these lofty goals for myself in regards to my reading this year and I’ve failed spectacularly already. However, I’m not one to stay down for long and I decided to attempt to reverse my failures with Cormac McCarthy’s No Country For Old Men.

I rarely read a book after I’ve seen the film but I loved the film adaptation of this book so much that this was a no-brainer. I’ve never read any of McCarthy’s books and this is said to be pulpier fare than his usual but I enjoyed it immensely. I would describe No Country For Old Men as a suspenseful noir Western and although McCarthy’s style of writing and narration is laconic and almost terse, his characters really come alive.

The novel tells the story of Llewelyn Moss, a welder, who comes across $2.4 million dollars in a bag after stumbling onto the scene of a drug deal gone wrong. Surrounded by dead and dying bodies, Moss decides to take the bag and an impulsive decision to bring one of the dying drug dealers some water to drink sets off a chain of events that take the reader on a thrilling chase across Texas and Mexico.

“Somewhere out there is a true and living prophet of destruction…”

Sociopathic hit-man Anton Chigurh is hired to retrieve the money from Moss and the characterisation of this relentless, evil, killer is one of the highlights of the novel. Chigurh leaves murder and destruction in his wake and he’s truly terrifying. He doesn’t kill indiscriminately but I was left holding my breath every time he came into contact with a new character.

“It takes very little to govern good people. Very Little. And bad people can’t be governed at all. Or if they could I never heard of it.”

Influenced by the movie adaptation, I initially thought that Llewelyn Moss was our main protagonist but I would say that the honour belongs to Sheriff Ed Tom Bell. The Sheriff is tasked with leading the investigation into the drug deals/ murders and he’s our moral compass of the novel. Sheriff Bell is emblematic of the “good old days” and the reader truly understands his despair at failing to prevent many of the horrific events that occur in the novel.

The primary protagonists are so well drawn that you truly feel as though you understand these men and their motivations. The novel is fast-paced and even the secondary characters such as Llewelyn’s young wife Carla Jean are well fleshed-out. Themes of chance, fate, and the inherent destructive nature of man are all well-explored.

My only negatives are that McCarthy’s style most definitely requires a small period of acclimatisation. Punctuation seems to be non-existent and although I eventually got used to it, it was initially extremely jarring. I would also have liked to see a larger role for the female characters but this did not take away from my enjoyment of the novel. Additionally, the last third of the novel was slightly disappointing in comparison to the heights reached in the earlier chapters. A main character’s death is treated almost as an afterthought and I felt slightly cheated after spending so much time invested in their actions.

However, these complaints are relatively minor and I cannot recommend this novel enough. If you haven’t seen the fantastic adaptation from the Coen Brothers starring Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, and Javier Bardem, I highly recommend that also. It is extremely faithful to the source material and it is an excellent companion to the book.

Nana Adomah

“The half-life of love is forever”- This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz

This is How You Lose Her Review

This book holds a very special place in my heart because it introduced me to my future baby daddy and literary crush Junot Diaz. I was browsing the shelves of my local library back in 2012 and I noticed the book on a display highlighting new books. The cover spoke to me for some reason and I took it home. This was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made and it seems that yes, you can judge a book by its cover. I devoured the book that same day and I then went back to read Diaz’s first ever collection of short stories Drown, followed by his novel, the Pulitzer Prize winning The Brief Wondrous LIfe of Oscar Wao, which I’d had in my possession for years but had completely ignored as my “to be read list” was embarrassingly long. I’ve since developed a mild obsession with Diaz and I still kick myself for not paying attention to him sooner. I feel like there are those who adore him and those who can’t stand him (the latter have no place in my life :-p) but his work has had an undeniable impact. Now on to the review….

This Is How You Lose Her is a collection of short stories which all (bar one) have the protagonist Yunior in common. On the surface, the unifying theme of the book is love and infidelity, but Diaz’s writing goes so much deeper than that. This is also a book about masculinity, patriarchy, grief, relationships, and yes, as cliched as it is, “the immigrant experience”.

Yunior, the nearest thing we have to a protagonist, is really quite an unlikeable character but by the end of the book you can’t help but fall a little bit in love with him. Diaz’s writing made me feel as if I’d truly lived with these characters and I found them incredibly realistic. The book starts off with ‘The Sun, The Moon, The Stars’, a story about a holiday a couple takes in a last-ditch attempt to save their relationship. Diaz’s writing is startlingly authentic and his use of slang, both English and Spanish, does not come across as forced in any way. His writing is littered with expletives and obscenities but you really feel as though they add to the texture of his stories.  Diaz has a poet’s ear and his writing is utterly sublime. He manages to sum up the exact moment when you know a relationship is on the downward slope perfectly:
‘And that’s when I know it’s over. As soon as you start thinking about the beginning, it’s the end.’

Diaz just hooks you and keeps reeling you in. Yunior is the narrator of the remaining stories aside from ‘Otravida, Otravez’, which gives us a story from a woman’s perspective. Critics of Diaz often lament his hyper masculine characterization and the fact that we only get one story from a female perspective seems to support that but I don’t agree with the criticism at all. Diaz is writing what he knows and if real life in the Dominican-American community is hyper masculine, why pretend otherwise? Real life isn’t sanitary, nor is it all flowers and ponies so I appreciate an attempt for realism in the literature I read.

My personal favourite story in the collection is ‘The Cheater’s Guide To Love’ and I found it an exhilarating read. It’s a story about cheating, heartbreak, and its consequences and it stays with you long after you turn the final page. In fact, I was so loathe to leave Yunior and his family behind that I immediately started Drown, Diaz’s first short story collection published in 1996 which also has Yunior as its protagonist, straight after. I’ve been told that I should have have read Diaz’s books in chronological order as they all have Yunior as the narrator but I didn’t feel as though I missed out on anything major by reading Diaz’s work in the way I did.

I could go on about this book forever but this has already gone on longer than I intended it to. I’ll leave you with a short passage from which we get the title of the book. Yunior has just been caught cheating (for the nth time) from his girlfriend reading his journal:

“Instead of lowering your head and copping to it like a man, you pick up the journal as one might hold a baby’s beshatted diaper, as one might pinch a recently benutted condom. You glance at the offending passages. Then you look at her and smile a smile your dissembling face will remember until the day you die. Baby, you say, baby, this is part of my novel.
This is how you lose her.”
Junot Diaz

Clearly I can’t recommend this book highly enough and I urge you all to read it. Also, check out interviews with Junot Diaz as well as he’s refreshingly honest and hilarious. Any fellow fans of Junot Diaz out there? Let me know!

Nana Adomah

“Real life was something happening in her peripheral vision”: ‘Fangirl’ by Rainbow Rowell

Fangirling over Fangirl by Rainbow RowellHappy endings are underrated. I think I’ve become so accustomed to reading novels with ambiguous or bittersweet endings that a wholly joyous ending has become something of a novelty. Fangirl was the third Rainbow Rowell novel I read in under two weeks and it left me in a happiness bubble that even Atlanta traffic failed to burst.

I’d heard a lot about Rainbow Rowell all of last year and I absent-mindedly added her books to my horrifyingly long “to-read” list knowing that the likelihood of me finally getting around to reading anything by her was slim to none. However, I accidentally clicked on Attachments on my e-reader one day and I gorged myself on all three of her novels (reviews to come).

Fangirl is her latest novel and it tells the story of identical twin sisters Cath and Wren who have just left home for the first time to attend the University of Nebraska. Used to doing everything together with Wren, Cath’s world is turned upside down when Wren decides not to share a room with Cath their freshman year. Cath actively tries to avoid any social interactions and decides to focus on writing her fan fiction about Simon Snow (a clear stand-in for the Harry Potter series). Saddled with an upperclassman roommate who refuses to allow her to be a total recluse, Cath also builds a fledgling friendship with the popular and outgoing Levi. While Wren is off making the most of her first year of college, Cath immerses herself in the world of Simon Snow and appoints herself as the protector of her single father.

“So why aren’t you living with your sister?”

“She wanted to meet new people,” Cath said.

“You make it sound like she broke up with you.” 

– Rainbow Rowell, Fangirl

Rainbow Rowell’s characterisation is fantastic and as cliched as it sounds, her characters seem like real people. They are as imperfect as you and me and you’ll be able to recognise somebody you know in each and every one of them. I also loved the fact that she was unafraid to have a character like Levi who didn’t have a dark and terrible past, family issues, and who didn’t fit the usual “heartthrob” mould. Sometimes people really are just “normal” and “good” and it was refreshing to see a character like Levi in an ostensibly YA novel. So many newer YA novels have male characters who are damaged and need “saving” or who are borderline emotionally abusive to the female protagonists that it was a wonderful surprise to have such an uncomplicated character.

Having said this, I hesitate to class Fangirl as a Young Adult novel. Yes, it has characters that fit this demographic but it’s in the more in the vein of a classic Bildungsroman. Rowell addresses many of the fears of young adults and introduces quite heavy themes without beating the reader over the head with them. I guess it really does fit into the “New Adult” category.

Although I’m not a huge fan of the whole fan fiction phenomenon, I like that Rowell introduced the sub-genre in a non-judgmental and fun way. It’s an opportunity to address some of the issues people have with fan-fiction and it was very neatly done. The only negative I can think of about the books is that Rowell intersperses real Simon Snow fan fiction into the novel and while it was perfectly enjoyable for the majority of the time, some pieces just ran on for far too long in my opinion. 

I immensely enjoyed my time with these characters and I finished the novel feeling genuinely happy. You can’t ask for much more than that can you?

Rating: 9/10