Right about now is a fine time to be snuggling up beneath the blankets and escaping from Melbourne’s brisk weather with a book. This is made all the better if you’re wearing flannelette or lacy smalls (both are good in equal measure), have slathered on some luxurious body treatments and make use of a fragrant candle to set the mood of calm. In the second of our Beauty and the Book blogs, (see the first one here), Ruby Assembly match the best of books and beauty so that you’re improving both mind and body in one neat package. Treat yo’self!

Beauty: Do you have a smell that reminds you of someone, somewhere? My Baba Dana had a candle that lived in my Mum’s huge desk when I was little, I think it was red and it had a delicious incens-y smell which was spicy and very sweet. I’ve been searching for this same smell since then, and when I opened this candle from Salus Body I discovered it again. The fragrance is ylang ylang, and this soy and coconut oil candle perfectly embodies it sensual headiness. Made solely from essential oil and natural waxes, these Salus Body candles help you breathe deep and feel good.
Book: Imagine iconic British TV drama The Bill. Now mix in a good splash of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series with a touch of Dr. Who. Distill through the mind of author and screenwriter Ben Aaronovitch, and you have the Rivers of London series – the tale of a young Metropolitan Policeman called Peter Grant who discovers he has a knack for the uncanny and finds himself in a small branch of the Met that deals with magic and the supernatural. Lyrical, very VERY funny and easy to read without being insulting, this series has you carousing with carnies, peeking at London’s River Goddesses and journeying through the supernatural. Pictured above is the second in the Rivers of London series – the first is so good it’s currently doing the round of my friends.
Beauty: A face mask of a Thursday evening is a fine thing (that’s the night I put mine on, usually). Effective or otherwise, thickly spreading a cooling cream onto my face and letting it set feels like I’m doing something out-of-the-ordinary and good for my skin. Lush’s freshly-concocted face creams have a use-by date which makes them feel both more natural, and gives me a reason to indulge in using one more often! The Sacred Truth Fresh Face Mask has anti-aging qualities courtesy of antioxidants, wheatgrass, papaya, ginseng and green tea. It is pong-ey, which I interpret as being testament to its effective nature. After using it, my face feels cool, plump and moisturised. A good one for winter, spread it on thick and let it do its thing.
Book: Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood is one of the most chilling, compulsive books you will ever read. Fuelled by a heady mix of journalistic reportage which segues into novella, the tale features its own author as a character, and reader as a voyeuristic accomplice of sorts. It focuses on the 1959 murders of a family of farmers in Kansas, Capote’s denouement of their country town and his relationship with their killers. Regarded widely as the best of its genre (true crime… but something else, too), it was originally published in four installments for The New Yorker. I’d recommend you read this book in conjunction with something lighter, as the momentum vortex of Capote’s writing makes you feel sullied by his pawing over real people and real tragedy. A difficult but essential read.
Beauty: Call me paranoid, but I don’t think applying aluminium-based deodorants is good for the health. I noticed I began to develop hard lumps under my arms from pore blockage which were really sore – and for around a year I’ve been using natural deodorant. It’s hard to get used to at first and I think your body sweats more than it normally would. It’s also hard to find natural deodorants that a) don’t make you smell like a tea-tree oil plantation mixed with the third day at Splendour In The Grass and b) actually work. Lush has sent me two natural deodorants to try, both of which are pleasant-smelling and pretty to look at: this one is called T’eo  and is suitable for sporty types who sweat as a matter of course. Featuring juniper, tea tree, lemon and sodium bicarbonate, reapply a couple of times to smell sweet sans aluminium. I also tried Lush’s Aromaco deodorant (pictured below) which is a milky bar, fragranced lightly with patchouli (a scent favoured by the Victorians, apparently which goes on creamily and is highly effective.
Book: The Bronte Sisters would have used some kind of deodorant out on the moors. Maybe they didn’t sweat much due to the cold and the guttering candlelight by which they wrote. In any case, Wuthering Heights is a ghost story to make you sweat, heavy with paranoia, claustrophobia, ghostly apparitions, inclement weather and inappropriate familial relationships. I last read it in Year 12 and am revisiting it currently. It is funnier than I recall, but the sense of foreboding is still there. Meaty and good for your mind, read a classic this month.
Beauty: Other natural products the Sisters Bronte would have been excited to use are Lush’s Toothy Tabs. Preservative free and very travel friendly, I was chuffed to try their Chou Chou – I Love You Toothy Tabs which promise to make your breath beautiful with the romantic scent of roses. Strange at first but also fun and effective, the Toothy Tabs must be nibbled before you pop your toothbrush in and scrub away. With flavours like ‘The Breath of God’, these must be tried at least once!
Beauty: Lust-worthy and little short of magnificent, Benefit’s ‘They’re Real’ range of mascara, gel-liner and remover are a trio that will fancy up your makeup bag (and your face, more importantly) no end. With their super-cute retro packaging, Benefit are a brand whose products match the quality of their gorgeous marketing. I usually buy pharmacy-brand mascara, and wasn’t sure how much difference the ‘They’re Real’ mascara would really make to my look. Reader, I scoffed too early. This mascara thickens, separates and curls your lashes – making them long and defined. Multiple people have asked what I use on my eyes since having used ‘They’re Real’ – and no matter how much you put on, you never get a cakey, flakey result. The matching new gel-liner in the range creates a soft, dark line which is very easy to apply and also long-wearing. I’m used to black liquid liner which creates a stronger, sharper line – but for daytime wear and sheer ease of application this is a game-changer for those who avoid liquid liners. I found it sometimes a little dry in application, and it transferred onto my upper eyelids occasionally – but all makeup products have their foibles. It might not transfer on your skin type. A moisturising ‘They’re Real’ makeup remover is a must with these products, as they’re so long-lasting you need something dedicated to remove them from your face.
Book: A flight of fancy into a dust-bowl mid-America that never was, The Inheritance of Ivorie Hammer  is a beautifully-written novella by local Victorian author Edwina Preston. Rich with vibrant, curious characters – this book is easy reading and best thought of as a series of slightly-kooky vignettes. It focuses on two generations of carnival folk living in the towns of Canyon and Pitch, our heroine a feisty, clever and resourceful lady-orphan who seeks to learn who her mother is. A highly enjoyable light read that has much more integrity than chick-lit.
Beauty: Spas, shmars. Salus Body eradicate the need for a visit by making your own home a refuge of luxury. Nourished with botanical elements, my dry skin became smooth courtesy of their Eucalyptus and Rosemary Purifying Body Scrub. With a zingy-zing-zing scent, my bathroom smelled fresh and my skin felt plump and scrubbed clean by the aloe, pumice and bamboo enriched gel. Afterwards, slather your body in their famous Patchouli and Rose Ultra Moisture Body Oil – good for bathing in or using for massage, too. This is my favourite product of the range, which is gently fragranced, deeply moisturising and the perfect treat before you pop yourself into bed. Try Salus Body’s Lavender and Mandarin Hand and Cuticle Cream on for size also – with a fresh scent and a texture that moisturises without being greasy. Australian-made with packaging that reflects the brand’s botanical focus, it instantly provides your bathroom with a level-up in style and quality.
Book:  Jon Ronson is like a mixture of Louis Theroux and John Safran – a geeky type whose relentless pursuit and discovery of humanity’s vagaries takes him to the extremes of our society. In his book The Psychopath Test, Ronson explores the ‘industry of madness’, looking at the traits which would diagnose one as a psychopath according to the Hare Psychopathy Checklist. Having worked in corporate environments, the psychopathic traits Hare identifies seem almost prerequisite for certain kind of cookie-cutter ruthlessness in a war to please the shareholders. Ronson makes connections between corporate behaviours that are rewarded and their similarity to psychopathy in a way that will give you great dinner-party-starter-conversations for years to come. Compulsively readable, shocking and funny in equal amounts, you won’t be able to put this book down.
Disclosure: All beauty products in this review were gifted to Ruby Assembly.