Friday, September 15, 2017

Review: Wolves at the Door by Veronica Blade @VeronicaBlade

Wolves at the Door 
Pages: 395
Publisher: Crush Publishing
Genre: Paranormal Romance YA
#2 in Series
Source: Purchased
Autumn’s just learned she’s a shape-shifter — something her parents should’ve told her long ago. Unless they adopted her and didn’t know she wasn’t human. Either way, learning the truth has the same outcome: her parents lied. Zack is the only one she can count on, but he’s a werewolf and the king’s decree forbids contact between the species, let alone love. Zack’s planning to leave after graduation, but letting him go isn’t an option. He’s becoming more a part of her every day, a part she would fight for, give up everything for — even kill for. If she’s not killed first.

If Zack’s experience with his own kind has taught him anything, it’s that werewolves can’t be trusted. He’d rather die free than live in a pack under the rule of the werewolf king. So, instead of preparing for college like any other senior, he’s planning to go on the run after graduation. Escaping won’t be easy with the werewolves guarding him. But until that day comes, Zack knows he’s endangering Autumn every moment he’s around her. If it’s this difficult staying away from her now, how hard will it be to leave her behind in just a few weeks?
Review

I'll admit, I'm at a bit of an impasse with myself about this book. When I was in the height of my blogging a few years back, I was obsessed with Veronica's books. Couldn't put them down! In fact, Veronica herself sent me her entire published works, signed, at one point because I was just such a fan. Fast forward quite a few years, and I'm no longer the young high school girl--I've graduated college and have been "adulting" for quite some time. These last few years, I haven't read any YA, so I knew jumping back into it might be jarring. Reading about teenagers felt right because I was a teenager--I wondered if it would be so different now as an adult? (Not that I even feel like an adult, but I digress.)

I figured if I started with an author I knew I loved, I couldn't go wrong, right? I was partially right. I'll explain.

Wolves at the Door was good. It wasn't as earth-shatteringly great as my younger-self thought Blade's other books were, but I wasn't unhappy with it. I thought the writing was unique, as always, and I really enjoy the further exploration of the werewolf/shapeshifter mythology in this book. There were certainly some steamy moments, yet nothing over a PG-13 rating, if you get my meaning.

I just felt like the book was so long, and it could have been edited down to be more concise. In terms of the plot, there was a lot of circling around that didn't need to happen. Characters went to the same places, did the same things, spoke basically the same dialogue at least a few times in the novel, and it got repetitive. While I understand that Veronica's books are focused primarily on the romance, I felt even that aspect suffered from the repetition. There's only so many times I can read make-out scenes that always have the exact same ending before they lose their tingle-enducing charm.

I wish I loved this book, because I know my teenage self would've been over the moon with it, but I do have to be honest and say it didn't wow me. I'm still intrigued about what will happen next, and do plan on finishing the series, but it's not a priority at the moment. Still, I'm glad I read it. I think you should certainly read it and decide for yourself if you feel more enthusiastic about it than I do.

Wolves at the Door is available on Amazon for $3.99 for the Kindle version, and $14.60 for the paperback version.

About the Author
Brain candy. Cleansing your reading palate one book at a time.

Veronica Blade lives in Southern California with her husband and children. By day she runs the family business, but each night she slips away to spin her tales. She writes stories about young adults to relive her own childhood and to live vicariously through her characters. Except her heroes and heroines lead far more interesting lives — and they are always way hotter.
Website | Twitter | Facebook
This book was purchased with my own money for personal consumption. All views expressed above are solely my own.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

#GIVEAWAY + Review: To Win a Demon's Love by Nadine Mutas @nadinemutas

To Win a Demon's Love 
Pages: 326
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services
Genre: Adult Urban Fantasy
#2 in Series
Source: Purchased
He'll show her that the dark side has more to offer than just cookies...
An attack with mysterious dark magic turns young witch Lily Murray into the very being she’s been fighting all her life--a demon. While struggling with her new dark instincts--and desperately trying not to kill her loved ones--she unwittingly earns the protection of a male of her demon species. He’s more than happy to help her out and show her the ropes. He’s also decidedly too gorgeous to handle.

Alek Kuznetsov has finally found the perfect mate: beautiful, smart, funny, and of course a pranagraha demon like him. The only problem: She wants to become a witch again, and if she does, they can’t mate. Solution: While he offers her help in finding the reversion spell, he in fact sets out to convince her that staying on the dark side has more perks than just cookies.
Review

After reading and reviewing To Seduce a Witch's Heart, I immediately downloaded To Win a Demon's Love and set to work devouring it whole. I lost sleep reading this book because I just couldn't put it down. As much as I loved To Seduce a Witch's Heart, I loved To Win a Demon's Love even more.

It's serious people. I literally just became aware of Nadine Mutas and her exceptional urban fantasy romance novels and I'm already obsessed. Full disclosure: at the time of writing this review, I've actually read every book she's released so far.... because I read them all one after the other back to back. Yeah.

This book was steamy and sexy, so enjoyable to read and entirely engrossing. One thing I admit I was a bit apprehensive about was the possibility of Lily and Alek following to closely in the footsteps of Merle and Rhun in terms of plot and personality. However, very quickly those fears were put to rest. In Lily we have a smart and powerful protagonist who is unafraid to go for what she wants and do what needs to be done--similar to Merle, of course--but the nuances of who she was were wholly unique to her. I, of course, have absolutely no issue with a book series that populated with an ensemble of kick ass, intelligent women, but it's also really nice to see each protagonist grace their own stories with different personalities.

Alek was just.... mmmm. Smoking hot. I think I honestly loved the chemistry between him and Lily more than I liked the chemistry between Merle and Rhun (and that's saying  a lot). He was a delightfully complex character as well, which is one of my favorite things so far about Mutas' writing style--her male protagonists are not just panty-dropping sexy, they have substance and are actually enjoyable to read even when there's nothing sexual happening. I've found that to be quite rare in most romance novels, honestly, and it's so refreshing to read not once, but twice in Mutas' novels.

I will say that it's not entirely necessary to have read the first book to dive into this one, as I think the story can stand alone even without the context of the first novel. Although, I heartily recommend you read everything Nadine Mutas has written, because  you'll thank yourself for it. For real.

Because I freaking loved this book so much, I'm giving away a Kindle copy! You can find details on that below. But, if you don't want to try your luck with a giveaway and want to be sure you have this deliciousness to read immediately, you can find To Win a Demon's Love on Amazon--Kindle edition is $3.99 and the paperback is $11.99!

About the Author
Polyglot Nadine Mutas has always loved tangling with words, whether in her native tongue German or in any of the other languages she’s acquired over the years. The more challenging, the better, she thought, and thus she studied the languages of South Asia and Japan. She worked at a translation agency for a short while, putting to use her knowledge of English, French, Spanish, Japanese, and Hindi.
Before long, though, her lifelong passion for books and words eventually drove her to give voice to those story ideas floating around in her brain (which have kept her up at night and absent-minded at inopportune times). She now writes paranormal romances with wickedly sensual heroes and the fiery heroines who tame them. Her debut novel, Blood, Pain, and Pleasure, has won several awards for excellence in unpublished romance, and she’s furiously working on the next installments in the Tales of Blood and Magic series.
She currently resides in Oregon with her college sweetheart, beloved little demon spawn, and two black cats hellbent on cuddling her to death (Clarification: Both her husband and kid prefer her alive. The cats, she’s not so sure about.).

Website | Twitter | Facebook
This book was purchased by me with my own money for personal use. All views expressed above are solely my own.

GIVEAWAY
No purchase necessary!
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Monday, September 4, 2017

Fitness Review: Women's Best BCAAs in Strawberry Kiwi @womensbest

Women's Best BCAAs in Strawberry Kiwi 

Are you curious what would give your muscles that extra kick? Try it with a BCAA the next time you hit the gym! Well known as BCAA (Branched-Chain Amino Acids) stands in summary for the amino acids leucine, valine and isoleucine. Being a special part of proteins, they are involved directly in building muscle mass. They are extremely important for great results after workout. They belong to the essential amino acids, which the human body is unable to produce itself. So they must be in our diet – or directly in our BCAA powder!

Make the most of your sit-ups, squats & co. and support your body with BCAA1 Thanks to the easy powder texture, our supplement is a super-flexible fitness companion: One scoop mixed with water is enough for a delicious shake. Our BCAA is available in four lovely flavors: You like coke or ice tea taste? No problem! You can get our shake as Cola Lime or Ice Tea Peach flavor! If you’re looking for a fruity fresh taste go with Green Apple or Strawberry Kiwi

Extra tip: Use your BCAA drink as a thirst quencher while working out! That way you deliver your working muscles valuable amino acids and can enjoy at the same time! AND: Our BCAA is completely vegan!
Review

I recently reviewed the Women's Best Whey Protein Isolate, which I really liked, and wanted to share my thoughts on the Women's Best BCAAs that I had purchased along with the protein. I purchased the BCAAs in the flavor Strawberry Kiwi, because I feel like that's a safe flavor choice to go with--supplements in general are notorious for tasting weird, so I always go with flavors that seem "fail proof." A lot of the hype around Women's Best lies in the fact that their products actually taste good, which is part of what drew me to the brand.

Pros:
My order came in record time, in three days after I had placed my order. Keep in mind, I live in the US and Women's Best products ship from Germany. So I give major points to the company for their quick and efficient service. I personally love the packaging for the Women's Best products, but I may be biased because I love pink. But they do add a bright spot to my kitchen, shining beside the dark, plain containers of my other fitness supplements that aren't aimed at women.

As for the actual supplement, and its quality. First and foremost, the taste it great. It honestly tastes like kiwi strawberry juice, and is very easy to mix with water. No clumps. In that regard, I'm incredibly happy with these BCAAs, because I could drink them all the time, or if I wanted to drink something sweet they satisfied my cravings.

It has the 2:1:1 ratio that's commonly recommended as the best configuration for amino acid absorption, so no issues there. It does what it should do--supply you with amino acids to stimulate protein synthesis. It's had a good effect with lessening the severity of my DOMS, and giving me energy boosts for my workouts and recovery. I'm happy with its performance and effects on my body.

Not Really a Con, just me nitpicking:
It's not really a bad thing, because at the end of the day it's a BCAA product, and it provides what it says it will nutritionally. With each serving, you get a proper dose of a 2:1:1
ratio of BCAAs, which is really what we're asking for when we buy a BCAA product, right? However, that's the bare bones on a BCAA, and there are plenty of BCAA products out there that offer more supplemental value--such as adding extra ingredients like glutamine, creatine, various vitamins, and other supplements that could be beneficial. And while $21.99 isn't an outrageous price point for a BCAA product--it's right around average, and a good value for the size of this product--there are other supplements at that price that offer more in terms of actual supplementation.

However, I think as a BCAA product, it's a good basic product to have in your supplement collection. If I had to rate it on a star scale, I'd give it 4 out of 5.

If you'd like to purchase the Women's Best BCAA's, you can find them here for $21.99!

Nutritional Value

Ingredients:
Amino Acids (L-Leucine, L-Valine, L-Isoleucine) Inuline, Acidifiers (Malic Acid, Citric Acid) Flavoring Agents, Sodiumbicarbonate, Sweeteners (Sucralose, Acesulfam-K) Colorant (Beet Root Powder);

Nutritional value per 100g:
Energy: 1129 kJ / 270 kcal
Fat: 0g
- of which are saturated fats: 0.1 g
Carbohydrate: 3.9 g
- of which is sugar: 0g
Dietary fiber: 0.4 g
Protein: 52 g
Salt: 0.3g
 BCAA 2:1:1 (Leucin, Valin, Isoleucin) 52g


This product was purchased by me with my own money for personal use. I was not compensated in any way nor am I affiliated with Women's Best. All views expressed above are solely my own.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Book Review: To Seduce a Witch's Heart by Nadine Mutas @NadineMutas

To Seduce a Witch's Heart by Nadine Mutas 
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services
Genre: Adult Paranormal Romance
#1 in Series
Source: Purchased on Amazon
When seduction weaves a spell more powerful than magic...
Desperate to save her demon-abducted sister, witch Merle MacKenna breaks the law of her Elders. As a last resort to track down the kidnapper, she unleashes another demon, Rhun, from the magical prison of the Shadows. Determined to bind him again after he helps her, Merle vows to keep him tightly controlled. Easier said than done when her own personal demon is hellbent on charming his way into her pants – and her heart.

After twenty years in the Shadows, bound for a crime he didn’t commit, Rhun is past caring about anyone but himself. The plan: Seduce the sexy witch, steal her powers, break the magical leash to her, and then be on his merry way. But when a heinous betrayal in the ranks of the witches forces Merle and Rhun to work even closer together, Rhun’s plan backfires – and the witch he meant to play gets under his skin. With his unbidden feelings for Merle vying with his need for freedom, he struggles with a bitter realization: Being a selfish bastard is a lot harder when love is involved.

Warning: Includes lots of witty banter and snarky humor, as well as a charmingly disrespectful demon hero who's hot enough to melt panties with a look.
Review

It's actually been a few years since I forayed into adult paranormal romance, and I'm incredibly glad that To Seduce a Witch's Heart was my first reintroduction to the genre. I happened upon the book by chance through an ad on Facebook, and since I now have a 45 minute train ride commute to and from work, I figured it would be something good to occupy my time. However, my plan backfired... I read the entire book within two hours of downloading it.

Where to begin? I suppose we'll start with the obvious--the romance. Now, I'll be honest and say that the trope I really never liked in romance novels was insta-love; actually knowing the time and effort it takes to truly fall in love with someone makes me want to yell "NO YOU DON'T" when the characters undoubtedly say they love each other after a couple days of knowing each other. However, I can honestly say that I didn't have this issue with To Seduce a Witch's Heart--even though there was some slight insta-love. I think it stems from the fact that Mutas is one hell of a romance writer, and from the start created some of the best character chemistry I've ever read. I believed in Rhun and Merle's love because of its intensity and the masterful way Mutas crafts her stories to create such a deep relationship even in a short amount of time. I count that as an incredible win for this book, because I truly enjoyed every minute of Merle and Rhun's steamy interactions, and I was so invested in their romance as those feelings developed.

One thing I'm a total sucker for is good lore in an urban fantasy novel. While I don't think Mutas was able to really flesh out the magical aspect of her book's reality, and instead opted for fleshing out the romance more, I was definitely impressed by the groundwork laid and am looking forward to the hopeful expansion of the urban magical world in the future books in the series.

I love love loved Mutas' writing style. It was witty and very descriptive without ever venturing into the territory of "purple prose", and the characters she created were all very fun to read. When it comes to sex scenes, there's a way to do them well and a way to do them completely cringe-worthy. I am so happy to report that Nadine Mutas is a master at writing steamy scenes that will definitely having you feeling some good tingles. No awkward sex scenes to be found here.

Do I recommend this book? To that I respond with a resounding heck yeah. If you're 18+ in age, snap this book up!

Amazon: Paperback | Kindle

About the Author
Polyglot Nadine Mutas has always loved tangling with words, whether in her native tongue German or in any of the other languages she’s acquired over the years. The more challenging, the better, she thought, and thus she studied the languages of South Asia and Japan. She worked at a translation agency for a short while, putting to use her knowledge of English, French, Spanish, Japanese, and Hindi.
Before long, though, her lifelong passion for books and words eventually drove her to give voice to those story ideas floating around in her brain (which have kept her up at night and absent-minded at inopportune times). She now writes paranormal romances with wickedly sensual heroes and the fiery heroines who tame them. Her debut novel, Blood, Pain, and Pleasure, has won several awards for excellence in unpublished romance, and she’s furiously working on the next installments in the Tales of Blood and Magic series.
She currently resides in Oregon with her college sweetheart, beloved little demon spawn, and two black cats hellbent on cuddling her to death (Clarification: Both her husband and kid prefer her alive. The cats, she’s not so sure about.).

Website | Twitter | Facebook
This book was purchased by me with my own money for personal use. All views expressed above are solely my own.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Fitness Review: BPI Sports Best Aminos BCAAs in Fruit Punch @bpi_sports

BPI Sports Best Aminos BCAA + Glutamine

Best BCAA is a branched chain amino acid (BCAA) supplement that utilizes Oligopeptide-Enzymatic Technology. This is a bonded chain of three key amino acids: leucine, isoleucine and valine, which may act as a better transport vehicle for optimal absorption. Best BCAA supports lean muscle growth, recovery and helps prevent muscle catabolism. Take one scoop before your workout to help improve performance, one scoop during your workout to help burn fat and preserve muscle, and/or one scoop after your workout to accelerate recovery. If the benefits aren’t enough to convince you, Best BCAA has also received the ChromaDex Quality Verified Seal, an easy-to-spot emblem on the label that signifies the rigorous, third-party testing each bottle goes through to ensure it is of the highest quality possible.
Review

I stumbled on BPI Sports Best Aminos BCAAs with Glutamine truly by chance one day. It was on sale at my local Walgreens, and I was running low on my other BCAAs, so I thought I might as well grab it and give it a shot. It's been about a month of me drinking these BCAAs daily, and I've used it all but maybe a scoop or two, so I think I've tested it thoroughly to give a good review.


Pros:

A look at the nutritional breakdown of the Best Aminos BCAAs shows the three essential branched chain amino acids in a 2-1-1 ratio, which is commonly recommended as the optimum ration of absorption and protein synthesis in the body. So, seeing those on the supplement label is no surprise, as that's what we're paying for, right?


I did some research on the benefits of the other ingredients in the CLA Matrix, and here's a quick breakdown:
So overall, it's looking like BPI Sports packed some pretty good energy boosters and supplementary ingredients for their consumers. Of course, do your own research and if for any reason you have an allergy to a listed ingredient it's important you fully inspect the ingredient list.


I take my BCAAs first thing in the morning to help me wake up, because I can't stand coffee and I've found that in general, BCAAs do give me a nice energy boost. Most people take BCAAs as an intra-workout, or post-workout, but it's always worked best taking them first thing in the morning for me. I do think that BPI's Best Aminos helped give me energy in the morning, and on days after lifting, it helped eliminated DOMS. The purpose of BCAAs is to encourage protein synthesis, and I certainly feel that my muscles have been growing efficiently and easily--however, I've been taking protein supplements are other things like creatine, so while I can't quite give these BCAAs the credit, I can say that they've worked well together with the other supplements in my arsenal to keep these gains coming fast.


    Cons:
    Here's the tough part of this review. These Best Aminos aren't quite the "best" at everything. One thing that I truly had trouble with the flavor. I opted for Fruit Punch because that's usually safe flavor for me, and I just really love fruit punch in general. However, there's a very strong chemical taste to this product, it tastes almost like cough syrup to me. I played around with different levels of dilution with water, adding more, using less, and the result was always the same. It was this very strong artificially sweet flavor. And here's the thing--my dad was a candy salesman almost my entire life--I can handle sweetness. But this flavor wasn't a good kind. I suspect the culprit is one of the artificial sweetners, possibly the Acesulfame-K. Now, for me, this flavor wasn't absolutely unbearable, but it did make me have to chug my BCAAs rather quickly and get them down in just a few gulps. Normally, I like to sip on these in the morning while I get settled in at work, but I really couldn't do that with these.


    Another small gripe I had with these was a slight clumpiness. I tried both methods of putting the powder into a cup already filled with water, and then conversely putting the water into a cup already filled with the BCAA powder. Both methods lead to little powder clumps that float around and even with vigorous shaking of my blender bottle, I'd sometimes have to grab a spoon and press the clumps out.


    Last last issue I had was more of a personal nitpick, but I really hate FD&C Red No. 40 dye. Firstly, I don't quite understand its purpose in this particular product because I don't think it needs to be any certain color. I get it, red makes you think of fruit punch so it's a color coordination thing. But there are other, better ways to get red color as well. If I could make a formula change, I'd immediately eliminate the Red No. 40.


    Final Verdict: I'm not unhappy with the BPI Sports Best Aminos BCAAs, but I wasn't too impressed either. I'm open to trying their other flavors, but I will heavily research and make sure the tastes of the other flavors isn't so chemical-y.


    If you'd like to give this product a try and see how you like it for yourself, you can purchase BPI Sports Best Aminos BCAAs with Glutamine here on Amazon for $15.92!



    Ingredients
    Oligopeptide-Enzymatic Technology (Potassium Hydroxide, Stearic Acid, Carboxymethyl Cellulose Sodium, Crospovidone, Natural Waxes, Carboxylic Acids, Polyethylene Glycol, Dicalcium Phosphate), Maltodextrin, Citric Acid, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Malic Acid, Silica, Fiber Blend (Cellulose Gum, Xanthan Gum, Carrageenan Gum), Sucralose, Acesulfame-K, And FD&C Red No. 40


    Directions
    Take one (1) serving (1 scoop) blended into 8oz of ice cold water, either before, during, or after workout, or as directed by a qualified healthcare practitioner. On non-training days, take one (1) serving (1 scoop) first thing in the morning, on an empty stomach, or as directed by a qualified healthcare practitioner.


    I purchased this product with my own money for personal use. I was not compensated in any way nor am I affiliated with BPI sports. I do receive a small commission if you purchase something with the Amazon referral link posted in this article.

    Thursday, August 24, 2017

    Book Review: The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls by Emilie Autumn EBOOK

    The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls 
    Pages: 374
    Publisher: The Asylum Emporium
    Genre: Fantasy, Thriller, Auto-biography, Fiction
    Source: Personal purchase
    Two young women, living one hundred-fifty years apart, both accused of madness, communicate across time to fight a common enemy . . . their doctors.

    Emilie Autumn's underground gothic phenomenon is born again in a completely re-imagined new version. If you were lucky enough to get your hands on the limited edition illustrated hardcover original, then you may think you know the whole story, but this...this is very, very different. With new characters, new chapters, new secrets, and new songs, the Asylum is back, and is admitting readers all over the world.

    This beautifully designed eBook version doubles as a treasure hunt, containing dozens of interactive elements including new illustrations, hidden links to additional writings and character backgrounds, atmospheric audio tracks to read along with, secret ways to get in contact with the Asylum's inmates yourself, and, if you're clever enough to find the key, exclusive access to never-before-heard songs from The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls: The Musical. Far from being second best to a print version, Emilie has packed this eBook with mysteries a printed book could never contain.

    ABOUT THE STORY:

    "It was the dog who found me."

    Such is the stark confession launching the harrowing scene that begins The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls as Emilie Autumn, a young musician on the verge of a bright career, attempts suicide by overdosing on the antipsychotics prescribed to treat her bipolar disorder. Upon being discovered, Emilie is revived and immediately incarcerated in a maximum-security psych ward, despite her protestations that she is not crazy, and can provide valid reasons for her actions if someone would only listen.

    Treated as a criminal, heavily medicated, and stripped of all freedoms, Emilie is denied communication with the outside world, and falls prey to the unwelcome attentions of Dr. Sharp, head of the hospital's psychiatry department. As Dr. Sharp grows more predatory by the day, Emilie begins a secret diary to document her terrifying experience, and to maintain her sanity in this environment that could surely drive anyone mad. But when Emilie opens her notebook to find a desperate letter from a young woman imprisoned within an insane asylum in Victorian England, and bearing her own name and description, a portal to another world is blasted wide open.

    As these letters from the past continue to appear, Emilie escapes further into this mysterious alternate reality where sisterhoods are formed, romance between female inmates blossoms, striped wallpaper writhes with ghosts, and highly intellectual rats talk.

    But is it real? Or is Emilie truly as mad as she is constantly told she is?

    The Asylum For Wayward Victorian Girls blurs harsh reality and magical historical fantasy whilst issuing a scathing critique of society's treatment of women and the mental health care industry's treatment of its patients, showing in the process that little has changed throughout the ages.

    Welcome to the Asylum. Are you committed?
    Review



    There is quite a myriad of thoughts and feelings about this book on the interwebz, given that this is about the 4th(?) edition to be released by EA and the story has gone through quite a few changes.

    Full disclosure: I own and have read the first edition. I've been listening to Emilie's music for very many years. I even had her personally read excerpts of the book to me and a few other fans before one of her concerts the year before the 1st edition was released. You could say I'm familiar with the Asylum.

    However, none of the above will deter me from providing a completely truthful and unbiased (well, as much as one can be) review of the ebook. In fact, I think the prior context will help me describe where this book excels and where it may not.

    I read this ebook in about a day, mostly because I had the free time. My visceral first thought: i actually quite enjoyed it. In some ways moreso than the original, and in some ways less. One of my original criticisms of the first edition was the "purple prose" EA so enjoys employing. Now, as a personal preference I don't particularly mind purple prose, but I will say that the first edition sounded quite amateur at worst. I'm happy to report however that I feel EA went through this edition with a sharper eye and cleaned up a lot, making things more concise. Her writing style--whether in poetry, lyrics, and now literature--has always been one of... extravagance, and that certainly hasn't changed. But the stories both flowed better and the rhythm of the words was far smoother.

    One thing I am sad to have lost is how truly personal EA went with the first edition. In this ebook, she cut a majority of the "suicide diary" which went into more detail of what her life was like leading up to her eventual suicide attempt. We got some smidgens of that back with the "Confiscated files" at the end of the ebook, but even that was heavily edited and more stream of consciousness than actual chronicling of daily life. It's a give and take, I suppose. Many people decried her verboseness in the original, so perhaps she felt a need to cut things she didn't think were entirely pertinent. I do admit that perhaps I'm only missing it because I knew it was there to begin with, and a fresh reader with no such context will probably find the ebook as is to be incredibly personal and enough for them. So, I'm not counting this as a mark for or against the book, but just an observation.

    Now, onto the meat and bones. Let's begin first with the hospital diaries. They're largely unchanged in the beginning, but they too were cut down from original size and were even added to (which I will admit bothers me just a smidgen since EA has advertised this book previously as a totally accurate transposition of her diaries from her stay in the psych ward). In terms of content, I felt that they were mostly honest in their portrayal of the current health care system. I've also seen a lot of criticism levied against her for exaggerating the conditions, but just take a moment to think about it. Mental illnesses, specifically PTSD and depression, are incredibly pervasive in my life (won't go into further detail than that.) One thing that I know for certain is true across the board for anyone dealing with a mental illness is the absolute **necessity** to have a safe space. For instance, if someone with PTSD is ever made to feel truly unsafe--even in their own home--it triggers the fight or flight response into their brain and they have a panic attack. Putting someone like that in a cold and austere environment with virtually no support and only a constant stream of drugs is absolutely unsafe. I can absolutely understand why EA felt the psych ward was a horrible experience, because there was no safety and no actual help. However, I believe that's as far as I'll grant. Do I feel, from her own descriptions, that she was actively *mistreated*? No, I don't think she was. Not from the information she gave us, anyway. Keep in mind, I'm not trying to invalidate whatever experience EA may have had. It seems like the health care system is ill equipped to provide safe places for those who need it, and that can cause massive stress and trauma. But my point is that I don't think any of it was done on *purpose*. My only real issue with the hospital entries is that they too became small snippets of thoughts as the book went on, instead of actual depicting of life in the psych ward. If EA was aiming for an "accurate portrayal of life in an asylum" then I would've liked to see more of actual life in the hospital. However--the reason for that may lie in the fact that this book wasn't actually written about just one hospital stay. If you're curious about what I mean by that, do some sleuthing and you'll figure it out.

    To branch off from the above a little bit, there have also been criticisms against EA in terms of the veracity of her chronicling. Here is a truth: she's lied about several things before. Most notably, her family being dead when her mother and sisters are actually quite alive and well. But I suppose she has her reasons for that and I've personally never judged her for it. When it comes to the book, I do think she's telling the truth as she knows it--which is just as valid as anyone else's truth. The whole "never know another person's mind" argument, and all that philosophical goodness. If there's one thing I put stock in it's that EA told a story that's incredibly important to her and she was as honest as she could be. I'm going to interject a truly personal opinion here and say that accusing an abuse victim of lying or "making it up for attention" plays into the *exact* culture that normalizes the abuse and seeks to delegitimize women that speak out against it. Don't fall into that trap.

    The Asylum story is very well written and certainly kept my rapt interest. Among her many other talents, I truly think Emilie is great at crafting a fantasy world and populating it with her motley cast of characters. I would've honestly loved a "full length" Asylum novel, that told the story exclusively and gave us even more of the the Captain and Veronica and the other inmates. Of course I understand the point is that they're "letters from another dimension" and I liked the effect that had as well. I also thought the small modifications to the Asylum story were for the best. Overall, I feel the Asylum part is something you'll have to read for yourself to form an opinion on. I enjoyed the crafted elements of it and the way things fit together even without being explicitly stated--you'll understand that after you read it.

    While I think saying this book is "the best account of bipolar disorder ever penned" (I'm slightly paraphrasing) is a bold and not quite true statement, I do think this was an interesting look into EA's mind in a way wholly unlike we get to see with her other work. Interestingly, I don't think this is the "rawest" version of her we've seen--I felt that her old journal entries on the forum she used to host were sometimes a bit more unedited and "real"--please take great care to notice the scare quotes I put around 'real' because I don't think the EA we see in this book is fake by any measure. Just a more polished presentation of her thoughts than what she had previously shown us online.

    There are quite a few interactive elements to this novel which were fun. Admittedly I didn't really focus on the hidden songs, and the ones I did manage to crack the code for were already released songs, so that's a feature I'll probably go back to. The treasure hunt hidden in the novel also seems fun, but I don't know if I want to try solving it. I tried my hand at the Enchant puzzle, which has been out in the world and unsolved for well over a decade, so if I'm honest I'm a *bit* skeptical about EA's puzzle making. But I do wish luck to all those who do attempt it!

    I think TAFWG is worth a read. I truly do. Will everyone like it? Probably not. It can be a polarizing book (please believe me when I say that is *not* a pun and none is intended) and there are a lot of things in the hospital diaries that I can see people taking the wrong way. Not to say that everyone EA writes is pristine, because she, like every other human on this planet, still has some problematic ideas about the world and prejudices that will come through in her work. But I also think she's speaking from a very personal place, and women in pain need to be heard. One of the most important things I believe is that people need to listen to women about their experiences--really listen, without the intention of responding, but just understanding. You don't have to agree with everything or even anything Emilie says, but I do think if you take the chance to read some of her innermost thoughts that you'll realize you're reading the story of a woman who is sharing her experiences and it's NOT your job to tell her they didn't happen or that she shouldn't feel a certain way about it. That's what I'll leave with.

    About the Author
    Emilie Autumn grew up by the sea in California where she mastered the classical violin before going on to travel the world as a singing theatrical performer and author. Globally known for her genre-bending album Fight Like A Girl, Emilie has also appeared as an actress, starring in Darren Lynn Bousman's musical fantasy films The Devil's Carnival and Alleluia! The Devil's Carnival.

    Emilie’s academic career ended abruptly at the age of ten when she was removed from school to allow her the time to perfect her musical craft, yet, despite her near-complete absence of formal education, her debut self-published novel (the early editions of The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls) seems to demonstrate some understanding of proper spelling and grammar, and has been cited in text-books used as part of the psychology curriculum at Oxford University in London.

    Upon the release of her 2007 Shakespearean-themed concept album, Opheliac, Emilie found herself an overnight star in Germany's industrial rock scene, and began touring extensively. With her Victorian burlesque-themed stage show and signature heart painted on her cheek (a unifying symbol devotedly replicated by her international fan base known as "Plague Rats"), Emilie fast became a sensation throughout Europe and the United Kingdom before touring in America, South America, Canada, and Russia.

    Diagnosed first with major depression in her early 20s and later with bipolar disorder, Emilie’s first novel (The Asylum…) was culled from the very real pages of the secret journal she kept whilst incarcerated in a mental hospital. She hopes that her future writings will not require such dramatic circumstances in order to be published.

    Since its fully-illustrated first edition hardcover release in 2008, The Asylum... continues to increase in popularity as Plague Rats around the globe cover themselves in tattoos from its elaborate art, cosplay as its eccentric characters (both human and animal), write their own fan-fiction, put on their own stage plays taking place in the "Asylum" world, arrange group tea party meet-ups, and incorporate Emilie's story into their own lives in virtually every imaginable way, beginning with the knowledge that what makes them different makes them magical and ought to be celebrated, not concealed.

    Emilie is presently composing and developing the Broadway musical and film versions of The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls. To follow her progress, join her on Twitter as @emilieautumn, on Instagram and Facebook as @emilieautumnofficial, and at her websites www.emilieautumn.com, www.theasylumforwaywardvictoriangirls.com, and www.theasylumemporium.com.
    Website
    This kindle edition was purchased by me for personal use. I was not compensated for this review, nor am I affiliated with Emilie Autumn in any way.

    Wednesday, August 23, 2017

    Review: Women's Best Whey Isolate Protein in Vanilla

    Women's Best Whey Isolate Vanilla Protein Powder
    FROM WOMEN'S BEST'S WEBSITE:
    "The right amount of protein is essential for muscular growth and maintenance.
    Our Whey Protein supplies a well-balanced combination of ingredients, supporting your workout and diet at the best possible rate. Essential amino acids help you to recover after a hard workout, maintain muscle mass and support your diet in the most delicious way."
    HOW TO USE
    Mix 33g (2 one level scoops) of powder with 200ml of milk. Fill your shaker with milk first and then add the powder. Shake well for about 10 seconds. You find the scoop inside the can. Drink one shake preferably after workout or for snack (1 - 3 shakes per day).

    Review

    There is a lot of hype around Women's Best products on social media, since it seems they've positioned themselves perfectly with the booty fitness girls on Instagram to get endless exposure in all the best selfies. I admit, I was swayed by the pictures myself, since a lot of my favorite instagram fitness trainers and models are Women's Best Ambassadors, so I jumped on the bandwagon and ordered the whey protein, their BCAAs (of which there will be a review coming soon), and got a free bottle of their multivitamins to boot.

    My exercise routine is fairly straight forward. I lift weights, mostly focusing on the lower body, three times a week--on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Occasionally I'll throw in an extra session if I'm feeling up for it, but that's the basic outline. A lot of what I do is modeled after Bret Contreras' ideology, and if you haven't read his book Strong Curves, I highly recommend it (in depth review of that book is coming soon.) Essentially, the idea is to strengthen your glutes primarily as the base for the rest of your body, and I've been loving the results. When I first started exercising about a year ago, I wouldn't take any protein powder after my workouts. All the powders I'd gotten samples of just tasted horrible, I couldn't stand to drink them once, much less multiple times a week. So when I kept reading about how tasty Women's Best products were, I admit I got curious. About 2 months ago, I ordered the Women's Best Whey Isolate Protein in Vanilla, and I've been drinking it consistently after my workouts.


    Firstly, 25g of protein per serving is pretty good. One serving is two scoops, and I tend to overflow my scoops a bit so I'm probably getting slightly more than 25g in each shake I make. The flavor is perfectly sweet for me, a nice vanilla flavor that doesn't taste powdery or chalky like other powders. I usually just mix it with water and after shaking the blender bottle a few times, all the clumps disappear. Overall I have no complaints about the texture or flavor, and in fact quite enjoy it.
    I do think it's helped make a difference in my muscle growth and strength. Before I started taking protein, I could only exercise maybe twice a week, because I'd have DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) for days afterwards. I was doing similar workouts of the same intensity that I do now, I was just getting so sore. I've noticed that I don't get nearly as sore now after drinking the protein shakes post-workout, and I'm ready to go for my next workout a couple days later.


    The shake also has a nice list of vitamins in it, so an added bonus is not having to take my multivitamins on the days I workout because the protein has me covered. This has made my vitamins last way longer, and has saved me a bit of money. Also, I like the fact that it's a whey isolate, since isolates have the highest amount of protein and absorb the quickest in your body.


    Overall, I can certainly recommend the Women's Best Whey Protein Isolate. I'm interested in trying the other flavors they have, such as Cookie's and Cream, and also some of the other protein products they have.
    Nutritional Value (Taken from the WB website)

    Ingredients:
    Whey Protein Concentrate, Whey Protein Isolate, Aroma, Thickening Agent Xanthan, Emulsifier: Soy Lecithin, Papain, Salt, Beta-Carotene, Zinc (Gluconate), Sucralose And Acesulfame K (Sweetener), Iron (II)-Sulfate, Vitamin A (Retinylacetat), Vitamin B12 (Cyanocobalamin), Copper (Sulphate), Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine Hydrochloride), Vitamin D3 (Cholecalciferol), Vitamin B1 (Thiamin Hydrochloride), Folic Acid (Pteroylmonoglutamic Acid), D-Biotin;

    Nutritional Value per Shake:
    Energy: 128kcal
    Protein: 25.2g
    Carbohydrate: 2.5g
    - of which is Sugar: 1.3g
    Fat: 1.9g
    - of which are saturated: 1.0g
    Dietary fiber: less than 0.1g Salt: 0.3g

    Vitamins and Minerals:
     Papain: 50mg
    Zinc: 2.49mg
    Iron: 3.5mg
    Vitamin A: 0.19mg
    Vitamin B12: 1.25μg
    Copper: 0.24mg
    Vitamin B6: 0.7mg
    Vitamin D3: 5μg
    Vitamin B1: 0.55mg
    Vitamin B9: 0.09mg
    Bition: 25μg    




    You can find Women's Best Whey Isolate Protein here on Women's Best's website.
    I purchased this product with my own money for personal use. I was not compensated in any way for this review, nor am I affiliated with Women's Best in any fashion. All views expressed above are solely my own.

    Tuesday, May 23, 2017

    The Ultimate Guide: How to Save Money on Makeup & How to Buy Good Makeup on a Budget

    Makeup is one of my great loves. It's also one of my greatly expensive loves. The price tags didn't bother me when I was younger and had my mom funding my life (can I go back to simpler times?). But now that I'm all on my lonesome and supporting myself, paying so much money for what's essentially glorified face paint just isn't in my budget (I still love you, makeup!)

    So, a girl thinks of ways to beat the system. And a girl succeeds.

    For the record, I am NOT being sponsored by anyone to write this post. Anything I recommend is purely because I've tried it myself and had a great experience.

    Part One: How to Save Money on Makeup

    1. Swap with friends: Go through your makeup collection and ask a few friends to do the same. Pull out the things that you rarely ever use and swap them with your friends! They might just have an eyeshadow color that you've been dying to have. Of course, don't swap things that can't be sanitized, such as liquid eyeliners or mascaras.

    2. Know what to splurge on: While I love designer makeup as much as the next girl, having an arsenal of it isn't economical for my broke college kid budget. So I figured out which products I prefer to have high end–mostly face products, like foundation and concealer–and which ones I'd be fine with just using drugstore products, like eyeshadow and lipstick. I still treat myself from time to time to those expensive Urban Decay and MAC products, but those are few and far in between. My everyday makeup is relatively cheap and, guess what, still gets the job done!

    3. Find dupes: I know, I know, MAC eyeshadows are beautiful. Urban Decay comes out with some of the most gorgeous and pigmented shadows. Too Faced has the cutest collections! Here's the thing: so many of these higher end shadows have a low priced drugstore twin that's identical in color and pretty comparable in quality. A lot of the time with higher end makeup, you're paying for the name and the packaging. (Which is fine by me because I love Too Faced's packaging.) Plenty of Youtube beauty gurus make videos listing all the dupes they find for higher end makeup. If there's a certain color or palette you just have to have but can't afford, do some research!

    4. Use what your have first: It's so easy to get sucked into the "ooh that's so pretty! I need it!" trap when makeup shopping. Trust me, I know. That's how I ended up with over 50 eyeshadow palettes that I know I'll probably never use up as long as I live. To stop myself, I've set a rule that I can only buy a new palette after I've completely finished one I already own. This works as a great deterrent because a) it's pretty hard to totally finish a palette and b) by the time I actually can buy the new palette I wanted, the urge has usually passed and I don't want it anymore. Bam, money saved. As a side bonus, with all those palettes that I own that have some stranger and more outrageous colors, it forces me to put together interesting looks that I probably wouldn't do

    5. Look for multi-use products: I learned this trick from some makeup tutorials on youtube, but you can use one item of makeup for multiple purposes. For example, a shade of red or pink lipstick can also work as a cream blush. Certain matte eyeshadows can work as contours or cheek rouges. Mascara can even work as liquid eyeliner if you use an eyeliner brush and dip it into the mascara. If you really want to keep your makeup collection as minimal and cheap as possible, think of ways that certain products can be used in different ways.

    6. Read/watch reviews: If you're planning on buying a high end expensive product, definitely take some time to read or watch reviews of the product. Look for swatches. Get some opinions, because that palette might not be what it's cracked up to be and you might end up wasting money on something you're never going to use. There are always reviews going up even before the release of some products, so it's a good idea to get some information before you buy.


    Part Two: How to Buy Good Makeup on a Budget

    1. elf cosmetics: I can't recommend elf enough. The prices are so cheap, and the makeup is actually quite good quality! I've heard some of their eyeshadows are actually dupes for MAC eyeshadows, although I personally haven't tested that theory. And elf is cruelty free! There's an elf cosmetics store here in NYC so every once in awhile I walk in there and load up. I think when elf first came out there was a stigma against the company for being cheap--not just in price but in quality and in brand association. But elf has really built itself up and I think it's just as good as any of the higher end brands, it's definitely better quality than a lot of the drugstore cosmetics that are actually more expensive! Some products I recommend: e.l.f. Cream Eyeliner, e.l.f. Contour Palette, and e.l.f. Blush Palette.




    Some of H&M's store brand makeup--how cute is that?
    2. Fashion Outlets: This might sound weird, and I might lose you for a second on this one, but you should definitely try makeup shopping at some popular fashion outlets like H&M and Forever 21. You're probably like, what? But go with me on this. Those stores usually carry either their own brand of makeup, like H&M, or some smaller and not well known cosmetic companies like Forever 21 does. You can get some cool stuff for dirt cheap! I know H&M always has makeup on sale, so you could raid the sale bin and come out with super cute lipsticks for $1 a pop! And while the makeup isn't always the best quality ever, it's not the worst.

    3. Glambot.com: I get it–you want high end stuff! Trust me, girl (or guy, makeup is totally for everyone) I do too. This is where you go to get it. No, glambot is not sponsoring me or anything. I'm just really obsessed with it. Glambot is where you go to buy designer makeup for a discount–sometimes a pretty major discount! Basically people send in their new or very gently used makeup to Glambot, GB buys it off of them, cleans it up and makes sure it's sanitized, and then sells it for much cheaper than if you were to buy it in Sephora or from the brand directly. They don't carry every brand, but they carry quite an extensive list.

    4. Make good use of rewards programs for higher end products: If you shop at Sephora with any kind of regularity, you should be part of the Beauty Insider program. It's free to sign up, and you get points with every purchase you make. You can save up points for free gifts that are usually pretty great–I've gotten mini-lipsticks, an exclusive Too Faced eyeshadow palette, some awesome hair serums. There's literally no reason not to have it. And on your birthday, you get a free gift! I think it changes from year to year, because from what I remember the last two years I've gotten a Makeup Forever sample kit, and a Nars lipstick duo. So, so worth it.

    5. Shop the sales!: This sounds obvious, but stock up when sales come around! One of my favorite times of the year is the Victoria's Secret Semi-annual sale. Not just because I go crazy buying bras, but because VS also deeply discounts their makeup products. I'm talking well over 60-70% discounts. And the Victoria's Secret makeup line is pretty good–the eyeshadows aren't always the most pigmented, but they're glittery and pretty, so it's okay. Last year my mom and I walked into VS with the intention of buying practically one of everything, and that's pretty much what we did. We got dozens of makeup products for under $80. I'm serious. It's also a good idea to stock up around the holiday time, when stores like Sephora who don't normally offer sales are giving holiday packages and deals.


    There it is! My guide to saving money on makeup, and knowing where to buy it so you don't break the bank. Let me know in the comments if you're going to try any of these tricks, or if you have any more ideas for how to be a makeup lover on a budget!

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