Saturday, March 25, 2017

A Bit More About Usborne Books and More

I mentioned this last week, but I thought it deserved it's very own post. A friend of mine inspired me to ALSO start selling for Usborne Books and More. I've always seen people becoming a consultant for a variety of companies, and while I sometimes liked the products, I never really thought I'd be one of them. However, I LOVE these books. We all know that I'm a big book person in general, but I'm a strong proponent of literacy and getting kids reading young. I'm always giving my nieces and nephew books for their birthdays and Christmas. They love them, and that makes me really happy! In fact, I bought a book from this company for my niece's upcoming birthday. I think she'll love it.

Anyway, if you're curious about the books, please feel free to use my shop here. If you want to buy something, that would be amazing. I can also make a wish list for you if you are looking for certain types of books - I'd just need the age/gender and any preferences and the wish list will help narrow things down for you! These wish lists are actually attached to the store, so when I send you the link, it will allow you to click on the titles and learn more and even buy right there if you want!

Beyond that, since I'm just starting out, I'm really looking for people to do a Facebook party with me! You don't have to do too much work beyond inviting people. Plus, if enough sales are generated during your party, you can win lots of free and awesome books! Definitely think about hosting! I'll had to add you on Facebook for party purposes, but you're welcome to de-friend me after the party is over if you don't like adding people from the internet! I won't be offended; I know everyone uses social media different! There isn't really a precedent for Twitter parties, but I'm willing to do one if you think that would be better for you!

Since Easter is fast approaching, I'll just leave you with this graphic of some great Easter book suggestions. Books make the best gifts! I'm also planning on reviewing some of the books I buy from the company too to help give you a better look at the titles, so look out for those!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Fair Chance by Josh Lanyon + The Otto Digmore Difference by Brent Hartinger

Fair Chance by Josh Lanyon

Review by Lauren

source: copy from Netgalley; all opinions are my own

Official SummaryEx–FBI agent Elliot Mills thought he was done with the most brutal case of his career. The Sculptor, the serial killer he spent years hunting, is finally in jail. But Elliot's hope dies when he learns the murderer wasn't acting alone. Now everyone is at risk once again—thanks to a madman determined to finish his partner's gruesome mission.  
When the lead agent on the case, Special Agent Tucker Lance, goes missing, Elliot knows it's the killer at work. After all, abducting the love of his life is the quickest way to hurt him.  
The chances of finding Tucker are all but impossible without the help of the Sculptor—but the Sculptor is in no position to talk. Critically injured in a prison fight, he lies comatose and dying while the clock ticks down. Elliot has no choice but to play this killer's twisted game and hope he can find Tucker in time.
Review: This is the third book in the All's Fair series. For whatever reason, I must not have realized this when I requested the book from Netgalley as I have not read the previous two. Regardless, I think you can read Fair Chance on its own and still follow the story just fine. I might have to go back and read the first two at some point though, as I really do like Josh Lanyon's writing.

Anyway, back to Fair Chance! Elliot Mills is an Ex-FBI agent who is still stuck in the midst of a case as the serial killer he helped catch, while in jail now, is still toying with him. The Sculptor won't talk to anyone but Elliot, and when Elliot goes to visit him in jail, he's given information that may or may not be true, but if it is true? It changes the game...and not in any way the FBI is happy about.

Special Agent Tucker Lance is Elliot's partner and none too thrilled that Elliot is still involved in the case. He wants him to be separate from all of this. However, when Tucker ends up going missing, Elliot is determined to do everything he can to figure out just where Tucker went and if it's at all connected to The Sculptor.

This was an exciting read with plenty of suspense and mystery. I thought I had an idea of what was happening, but then new information was revealed and things change again. I love this in a good mystery! It keeps the reader on their toes and that's never a bad thing. I thought the characters were well-rounded and wonderfully written. It was easy to get into Elliot's head and feel his fears and emotions, especially when Tucker goes missing.

While this book is mostly a mystery, there is a bit of romance and it all balances itself out well. Definitely recommended!

Want to read? I'm an amazon affiliate; I get a small percent of any sale. Check out Fair Chance in print or as an e-copy.

The Otto Digmore Difference by Brent Hartinger 

Review by Lauren

source: copy from author; all opinions are my own

Official Summary“Road trip!” 

Otto Digmore is a 26-year-old gay guy with dreams of being a successful actor, and he’s finally getting some attention as a result of his supporting role on a struggling sitcom. But he’s also a burn survivor with scars on half his face, and all indications are that he’s just too different to ever find real Hollywood success. 

Now he’s up for an amazing new role that could change everything. Problem is, he and his best friend Russel Middlebrook have to drive all the way across the country in order to get to the audition on time. 

It’s hard to say which is worse: the fact that so many things go wrong, or that Russel, an aspiring screenwriter, keeps comparing their experiences to some kind of road trip movie. 

There’s also the fact that Otto and Russel were once boyfriends, and Otto is starting to realize that he still might have romantic feelings for his best friend. 

Just how far will Otto go to get the role, and maybe the guy, of his dreams? 

Review: I read all of the YA Russel Middlebrook series - which began with Geography Club - and I was equally thrilled when the author brought Russel into his twenties in the more new adult trilogy. Now, Brent Hartinger is back with a series of books following Otto Digmore, one of Russel's high school boyfriends and current best friend. To ease the transition between Russel and Otto, The Otto Digmore Difference actually features a lot of both. For those that never read about Otto before, be assured that it's fine to just start here. You get enough background information on Otto and Russel to understand their relationship. For the sake of this review, though, I'll mention that Otto was a burn victim at the age of seven and has severe burns on half of his face as well as elsewhere on his body. Him and Russel met as camp counselors during high school and started a relationship, which ended up being long-distance when camp ended. The two drifted apart for awhile until they both landed in California - Russel for screenwriting and Otto for acting. The two became fast friends once again, except when The Otto Digmore Difference starts, Russel has just recently married his husband Kevin. Now, on to the book!

Otto has had fairly quick success on a TV show called Hammered but bad news suddenly feels like all Otto is getting. People are harassing him online about his looks, the person he was seeing ghosted him (just stopped talking to him), and now his best friend Russel is happily married without realizing that Otto still harbors feelings for him. Now before you worry - there is no cheating whatsoever in this book. Neither character would do that. That doesn't mean that Otto isn't jealous of Russel's happiness or feeling a bit hurt because he wasn't the guy that Russel - or anyone else - chooses. The main narrative of this book is Otto and Russel going on a road trip together so that Otto can meet the director of a film that he really wants to star in. He's read the script, he auditioned for other people on the film, and they all agree he would be great. Unfortunately, the director had a family emergency and so Otto decides to go to him - with the director's permission of course - to see if he could land this dream role and use his scars for something other than a Freddy Krueger remake. 

The book is full of road trip cliches, and I say this lovingly, because it's something that Russel constantly brings up and thinks is wonderful. He's a screenwriter, after all. While not all the cliches are great - they do allow the two friends to get to know each other at these new stages in their lives. They aren't high school kids anymore, after all. I liked all that Russel and Otto experienced because while the road trip metaphor is one of adventure and self-discovery, that's exactly what I hope to find in most contemporary novels! Otto is a great character. It's easy to feel bad for the things he has to deal with in his life, but at the same time, it's made known that Otto isn't always perfect. He can mess up too and has to be called out on it. 

The Otto Digmore Difference is a quick, fun read, and I really can't wait to read more about Otto in the next book! I was given a copy of this book to read/review by the author, but all opinions are my own. I am working with the author on getting reviews for this novel so if you're interested, we'd love to hear from you! E-books only, I'm afraid, but you don't have to be a strict book blogger to ask for a copy! We just ask that you review it on your blog at the very least, and Goodreads and Amazon if you cross-post. 

Want your own copy? I'm an affiliate for amazon, so if you use my links, I get a small percent. Check the paperback copy here and the e-book copy here

Thursday, March 23, 2017

A Film Review: Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast Film Review by Lauren

I purchased the ticket to see the film; all opinions are my own

To be honest, Beauty and the Beast has never been one of my favorite Disney animated films. I always related to Belle and her love of books though. When I heard the film was going to be turned into a live-action movie and that Emma Watson would be playing Belle, I immediately knew I had to see it! This past Saturday I was finally able to watch the movie, after what seemed like years of waiting, with my mom and sister. By the time the credits rolled - and they are really cool looking credits - all three of us knew that we'd fallen in love with the story of Beauty and her Beast. I thought the acting was done well, and I loved all the songs. I'm a big musical fan so it was exciting to see mostly real people sing these beloved songs, including a few new ones that really added to the film! I especially loved the song that the Beast sings alone. It really makes you feel for the guy beneath the rough exterior. Dan Stevens did a great job as the Beast. It can't be easy to play that role, and I know he had to do a lot to bring the character to life, such as learning to use stilts. As for Emma, I thought she made a lovely Belle. She was smart and eccentric, and always a genuinely nice person. I thought her singing was lovely and I liked that it sounded like her - it made her seem young and approachable, like Beauty should be in my opinion.

The sets were just breath taking and I love that they actually created these rooms. I'm sure it really helped bring the whole world to life for the actors. The costumes were wonderful - matching the animated film without being corny. As for the secondary characters, I thought everyone was perfectly cast. Luke Evans was a handsome, yet overly irritating (in all the right ways) Gaston and his companion, LeFou was wonderfully played by Josh Gad (the voice of Olaf). If you heard any of the press surrounding the film, then you already know that LeFou was going to be shown as openly gay in the film and that this upset a lot of people. I thought it was great that Disney was going to finally have an openly gay character, but I understand the criticism that LeFou wasn't "one of the good guys" so to speak or that he was a stereotypical gay man. I can't speak for everyone, of course, but after seeing the movie, I believe that Josh and the film's creators did the character of LeFou well and made his character - gay or otherwise - one to rejoice! 

Finally, I have to mention the castle's inhabitants. In an animated film, it's easy to have a singing/talking tea pot and candlestick, but when bringing these elements in a live-action film, it's easy to see it being done wrong or coming across as corny. However, I think Beauty and the Beast did a great job. All of these characters felt and seemed like people, yet still containing their distinct look of a clock or dresser drawers. The voices for these characters were also fantastic additions to the cast and who included many people I love like Emma Thompson and Ewan McGregor. 

Beauty and the Beast was a fantastic addition to the Disney canon and it's one I'll definitely buy on DVD for my personal collection! 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

I Love Cincinnati: What's Community Mean To You?

Community comes in many different forms, and it can be something you find where you live or something you create online. Throughout my life, I've been part of different communities and I do believe in the value of finding your own. These days, I'd say I'm in the community of bloggers, I'm in a community with the people that I work with, and on a much larger scale, I'm in the community of my city of Cincinnati, Ohio. This city has afforded me many opportunities to find communities within the city too, like the Geek Girl Brunch of Cincinnati where area females that love all things geeky come together every other month. There is also GLSEN Cincinnati where I try and find time to volunteer for when I can because I believe in LGBT+ rights for everyone, and being part of that group allows to take part in the community of other people that identify as LGBT+.

Because of my strong belief in Cincinnati, I believe in the important work that Cincinnati Bell is doing. They do a lot to give back to the place that they call home, especially with their "Home" Campaign. A limited edition t-shirt was created and fellow Cincinnati-ans can buy it, with Cincinnati Bell giving proceeds to some amazing charities: CancerFree KIDS, The Dragonfly Foundation, USO of Central and Southern Ohio, and SPCA Cincinnati. If you live in the area or simply want to help support these great causes, then visit the CincyGive page to purchase this awesome shirt for only $20.

Another way that Cincinnati Bell is giving back to their community is by the creation of Connect Cincinnati. This is an amazing app that keeps the community of Cincinnati connected to each other and all things Cincy. By downloading the app, you are provided with FREE Wi-Fi at various hotspots across the city, location-based recommendations, wonderful deals, and even some fun chances to win prizes! Cincinnati Bell created this app to connect the city and it shows their dedication to serving the city they love!

Along with all of these extra initiatives, Cincinnati Bell has invested time and money in Fioptics for years to make sure that their customers receive the best television and the fastest internet services. I've been a customer with Cincinnati Bell and I've always had wonderful service. I couldn't be the blogger that I am without fast internet service, and as I focus so much on entertainment, all of the service that Cincinnati Bell provides is important for me - and my family too! All our devices are supported at the same, we can easily stream Netflix, and when it comes to television - they offer a variety of great programming packages so you can pay for the channels YOU want and nothing else! Everything is quick, reliable, and easy to use and that's just what I need in my busy life, whether I'm doing business or relaxing!

Because Cincinnati Bell allows me to save time, especially when using the internet, I can put more time and effort into the things that I love. This includes my blog, side businesses, and keeping in touch with friends and family! Saved time means a happier me!

If you'd like to know more about Cincinnati Bell and their services/initiatives, please visit the following links - Cincinnati Bell information page, CincyGive - where you can buy a great t-shirt that gives back, and Connect Cincinnati - the awesome app that brings the community to you!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Weight Loss With Lauren: An Introduction

I'm starting my new series today called Weight Loss With Lauren. I hope to have at least one post a month, but it may be more depending on what ideas I come up with, or what questions you all ask me! A lot of you have already heard me talk about my weight loss journey, but for those that aren't aware, I'll use this post to explain what I'm doing!

(please use the following image to Pin!)

Weight Loss Program: This program is through my local hospital. I'm not in the medical field, so anything I share here is based on my own experience and you should never overhaul your diet or health without medical supervision. For me, I started out by seeing a doctor who decided to put me on the Low Calorie Diet (about 1,000 calories a day). There is also a Very Low Calorie Diet. Mine is where I have two meal replacements a day along with one regular meal and any snacks I include. Once I was ready, I saw a dietitian every week to get weighed and discuss how things were going. About a month in, I started seeing a dietitian every other week. The week I didn't see them, I went to a class that was hosted by a dietitian, so I still get weighed every week and can ask questions if I want.

What Are Meal Replacements?: Like I said above, I get two meal replacements which I tend to use as breakfast and lunch, so I can eat an actual dinner, but you're allowed to switch this around and I have before. The brand of the replacement is called New Direction, which always makes me think of Glee. The meal replacement options are soup, beverages, and pudding. I tried one of the soups and it made me feel really sick, so that was out. I didn't try any of the pudding because I've never liked pudding. That means I get two beverages as my replacements. It took about a week before I found the flavors that I liked and those are Mocha and Vanilla. I like mocha the best, but vanilla isn't too bad. You can add a little extract to change the flavor if you want - I've done orange, but I'd like to try something else soon and see what it tastes like.

What About Dinner?: Since I typically save my actual meal for dinner, it's been interesting trying to find what I can actually eat. Veggies are a big one, except I've never really loved veggies, so if anyone has ideas of how to cook them, let me know! At any rate, I've eaten a lot of pork chops when I want something relatively easy. I've tried various recipes though too - some I've gotten from the hospital and others I have found online through the Diabetes website, etc. I even got a couple cookbooks that I hope to use soon. All of these recipes have to have exchanges listed though, as it makes it much easier for me to figure out what I'm eating.

Exchanges: These are typically called Diabetic Exchanges, so you're likely to find them in Diabetic cookbooks, etc. My exchanges everyday are the following:

Starch: 2
Meat: 4
Veggies: 2
Fruit: 2
Milk: 0
Fat: 1

I have a binder that I got when I first joined the program that breaks down various food and sizes to let you know how much equals one exchange. For example, 14 tiny pretzels is 1 starch. If you eat a 4 oz piece of meat, that's 4 exchanges (for meat, try and keep it at very lean or lean). Peanut butter is a fat, so you only get 2 teaspoons before you've reached 1 fat. I tend to keep my fats for a dessert because I like apples and peanut butter. A large apple is 2 fruits, so that snack/dessert takes your fruit and your fat. It was a bit hard to follow at first, but I've gotten better at it and I have an idea of what most things fall under now. At any rate, having the exchanges listed on a recipe helps me figure out which ones are suitable for me and my current diet.

What Now?: As you read this, I'll be on my 8th week. I've lost almost 19 pounds so far which is amazing. I can tell a little bit, but it's still not terribly noticeable to me. Certain things are fitting better though and that's always a sure sign that something is going right!

I'll stop now because I don't want this to be too long of a post. I have one recipe that I hope to share sometime in the future, and I have a few ideas for other posts to include too, but please let me know if you have questions about this program or anything else I've discussed. I'd love to answer them in a future post!

I'm linking up today with Ashley and Erika for Tuesday Talk - where you talk about anything and everything!

Friday, March 17, 2017

Friday Favorites: Usborne Books, Beauty and the Beast, and More!

Happy St. Patrick's Day! I'm back today sharing five things that I've been doing/loving in the past couple weeks! I'll be including some amazon links; I'm an affiliate, so if you purchase from them, I get a small percent.

Number 1: Beauty and the Beast (and giveaway)

I didn't do a Friday Favorites post last week because I shared a GIANT giveaway for Beauty and the Beast that I'm part of and I want to make sure you all get a shot to enter. You have one more week! This is also one of my favorites this week because I've been waiting for this movie for SUCH a long time and I can't wait to finally see it this weekend. Anyone else planning to see it this weekend?

Some items you may be interested in:

Beauty and the Beast: 25th Anniversary Edition DVD
Beauty and the Beast Live-Action Movie Soundtrack
Belle's Library: A Collection of Literary Quotes and Inspirational Musings

Number 2: I'm Selling for Usborne Books and More

If you haven't heard of Usborne Books and More, then I'm here to introduce you. They sell books for kids aged birth to middle school and there are a variety of fun titles - fiction, nonfiction, etc. We even have books called Shine-A-Light and each one is a nonfiction title but if your child shines a flashlight or the light on your phone over the pages, a secret image will appear! I LOVE this. There are also some cute additional items like sticker books, coloring books, stuffed animals, backpacks, etc. I'm having my launch party this Sunday at 8 p.m. EST on Facebook - if you want an invite, let me know and we can get that rolling!

If you can't make it Sunday or you want to do your own party, get in touch! I'd LOVE to help set up a party for you - don't worry, it's all done on Facebook so no having to get out of your PJ's. I know so many of us love to read and I think these books are awesome, so I really hope you'll want to host a party or buy books. And if you don't like friending people on Facebook that you don't know in person, you can always defriend me after your party. I won't be offended!

You can browse or buy books by visiting this link.

Number 3: Flea Market Flip Obsessed

If you don't know this show, it's where two teams of two go up against each other at Flea Markets. They attend and are given 1 hour and $500 to find at least three items to complete three types of projects. Then they get one day and another $100 to help enhance/flip their finds. Finally, they go to the same flea market another day and have to sell all of their new pieces. Based on how much they spent on an item and how much it sold for, their money is added up and whoever made the most wins! Whew - summary over!

Basically, my mom and I spend hours every Friday night watching this show. Yes, I'm secretly an old lady, but it's SO good. I love seeing what they can turn these things into like a bar bicycle? Or using old ladders to make a really awesome shelf? Good stuff here people!

Number 4: Out of Print Clothing Celebrates Women!

For Women's History Month, the awesome Out of Print clothing (they sell more than just clothes - but it's all book themed) has created items based around four awesome authors/books. If you are interested in buying anything from them, use this link and we'll both save money! I personally want that Agatha Christie shirt!

Number 5: All the Twitter Giveaways!

If you're on Twitter, I am kindly asking you to follow me. Why, you may ask? Well, one of the things that I really like to post is giveaways that are happening via Twitter. Usually the entries are simple like follow and RT, so if you'd like to find these giveaways, follow me! Also, I've been doing some random giveaways lately on Twitter and I think I'll have a new one up soon. Once I reach 3k, I'll do a slightly bigger giveaway - what would you like to win?!

Follow me on Twitter here.

That's it for me! I hope you enjoyed my Top 5 of the past week! I'm linking up to the following blogs:

Friday Favorites-
High Five for Friday-
Friday Favorites- 
Oh Hey, Friday-
Five on Friday-

Thursday, March 16, 2017

California Dreamin': Cass Elliot Before The Mamas the Papas by Penelope Bagieu

California Dreamin': Cass Elliot Before The Mamas and the Papas by Penelope Bagieu

Review by Lauren

source: copy from publisher; all opinions are my own

Official SummaryBefore she became the legendary Mama Cass—one quarter of the mega-huge folk group The Mamas and the Papas—Cass Eliot was a girl from Baltimore trying to make it in the big city. After losing parts to stars like Barbra Streisand on the Broadway circuit, Cass found her place in the music world with an unlikely group of cohorts.

The Mamas and the Papas released five studio albums in their three years of existence. It was at once one of the most productive (and profitable) three years any band has ever had, and also one of the most bizarre and dysfunctional groups of people to ever come together to make music. Through it all, Cass struggled to keep sight of her dreams—and her very identity.

Review: I knew of The Mamas and the Papas, but I didn't know anything specific about the band members. This graphic novel brings you through the life of Cass Elliot, from young child to burgeoning stardom. It was definitely a fascinating book and I really like graphic novels that are also biographies, because you learn a lot about the people but in a fun, easy-to-read medium.

One of my favorite aspects of this book is that each chapter is told in a different point of view, therefore they are all named after a person. This was almost like an oral history of Cass in that respect. Obviously the writer/artist didn't talk to these people - she got her information from other biographies, etc. - but it still really worked. It gave the book a unique spin as well!

The illustrations are really well done. They are all in black and white, which worked well since it takes place in the past. While most pages follow the classic comic style with panels, there are some chapters that break away from that a bit and it's definitely a cool addition to the book! It makes those moments feel more free-flowing. Definitely a good one, all in all!

Want to read? Check it out here! I'm an amazon affiliate - I get a small percent of any sale!