Five Guilty Pleasures

When compared to other people, I’m not a horribly busy person, save for school days and weekends (ha!), but like anyone else, there are things that just make my silly heart happy. Some trendy, some not. Mostly not.

I absolutely love keeping up with Youtube channels I’m subscribed to.

My subscriptions have a wide range, too. I follow a few beauty vloggers, a few mom-based DIY channels, some home decor inspiration channels, and a few channels that made it big with “clean with me” videos. Yes, that’s totally a thing. And, though it sounds downright ridiculous, sometimes you learn things and sometimes it makes great background noise when the house is quiet and I have a job to do. I’ve always been one to stay busier if I know someone else is busy, too and those videos give the great illusion that you’re not alone in the tasks of a tired homemaker.I also follow a lot of crafting/sewing and gardening channels. Those are the ones I typically watch while I have my morning coffee. Or my third morning coffee. Whatever.

When I am alone, I like to browse Amazon for no reason at all and look at all the things I may or may not buy one day. I don’t think I’m the only person who does this. I try to check out the Daily Deals and look at different lists of collections. It may be weird, but nothing makes me smile more than looking at funny coffee mugs on Amazon.

Recently, I have discovered Grove Collaborative, a website which specializes in cleaning products. I’m a lazy person–I’d rather order than go to the store and buy. The cool thing is, there is typically some kind of a discount or a big list of freebies they send you when you make your first order. I got a ton of free stuff for spending only $20. I’ve received my first shipment and am surprisingly delighted at the array of products. Prices–mostly–are comparable to big name brands you can get at Wal-Mart or dollar stores. There is usually a sale or discount being offered on their website, too. I already have a few favorites that I plan on reordering. One, Mrs. Meyers Dish Soap in lavender. It’s really nice. Two, Method all-purpose cleaner in honeycrisp apple. It’s probably my absolute favorite thing ever. And, three, Method Glass + Surface cleaner in mint. It seriously smells like mint. *Disclaimer* I am not affiliated with Grove Collaborative, nor do they compensate me for this post. A lot of bloggers out there DO receive products from them for review, but I review books, not cleaning supplies. Though, one day I just might…

Weigh-in days have become my favorite days… For those who follow my blog or Facebook account, you will know I’ve been on a weight loss journey since June. I have lost over fifty pounds already, though I did take a diet break from Halloween through Christmas. I’m at it again and I’m loving my results. I have become half-mom, half-scientist because I now read a lot of health and fitness articles whereas I used to just not (ha ha). Weigh-in days have become much needed confidence booster days. I am enjoying my success to the fullest and I think I probably really deserve it. I’ve worked hard to come this far and failure is simply not an option.

Ibotta and Retail Me Not. Those are apps I keep on my phone. I just got Retail Me Not, so I’m not sure if I’ll continue to enjoy the coupons and discounts it finds for me, but as of right now I love it. And, as for Ibotta, who doesn’t like a rebate on things they’ve already purchased? Both of these apps save me money on just about everything. Both are easy to install, easy to navigate, and I like money–I’d like to keep as much of mine in the bank as I possibly can. After all, I have kids to raise and a family to feed. And cats. Those little buggers are expensive, too.

Obviously, reading is another guilty pleasure, but I didn’t list it because I feel like you probably already know that about me. I’m reading something awesome right now, as we speak. Review to come tomorrow! Until then, tell me what your own guilty pleasures are? I could have seriously listed ten more, but I probably would have lost you all after six or seven.

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A Writer Not Writing…

One of the hardest thing any writer could ever go through is not writing. I mean it. It’s ridiculous how sometimes words flow easily and sometimes they just sort of putter out, the flames of creativity are extinguished and the writer is left in an endless cycle of house chores and filling coffee cups. But, I think we all go through it.

A lot of writers and well known authors have said that when the block hits, you just have to keep going. Sit down. Type words. Guzzle the bean fuel. Repeat.

There is a lot of truth in that. Still, for the last two years, I haven’t written anything substantial of my own. No new books. No new short stories. Few blog posts of meaning, aside from reviews (which, in total honesty, I totally enjoy because my first love is reading). It feels like my brain has turned to mush and every time I sit down with characters bouncing around in my head (sounds painful, eh?) they just fizzle before I can make anything that makes sense.

I feel that one day I might actually write a book again. I might regain what I’ve lost. I might be able to work through the storm brewing in my head and turn it into a story. I feel like I’m close to meeting that goal. After all, I’m still writing things, just not stories. No new worlds to explore and no new characters to torture.

It makes me wonder what other writers do when they lose someone who took a piece of their heart with them when they left? Up until two years ago, I thought personal losses and heartbreaks were supposed to send writers into a writing frenzy as they drown their sorrows in a bottle of absinthe and bang out hundreds of thousands of words on their vintage type writers, which their agents will immediately declare a masterpiece. I don’t even have an agent. Nor do I have a bottle of absinthe. And, I haven’t owned a typewriter in many a dark moon.

Through the journey of deep loss, I have gained something. I have learned to see the beauty in things I used to take for granted, like the turning of seasons. Sometimes it hurts to know that I’m watching the leaves turn or the snow fall, but my daughter can’t. But, most of the time, the biggest part of me knows she would enjoy it and, more than that, she would want those of us she left shattered to enjoy it, too.

I’m going to make a promise to myself this year that I will at least begin a new novel. I miss magical realism and the thoughts I shift through while writing. I wrote an entire novel in three weeks once. I really want to bring that young, somewhat talented writer back. She is missed.

In the meantime, I have a whole slew of books to get reviews out for. I’m behind. The holidays really kicked my butt and I don’t like being behind. I hope my readers are of a forgiving mind. I’ve read some really great books to share with you lot and I have a few in queue that I believe are going to be hits with the hard case crime crowds.

Stay tuned. Stay warm. Look forward to watching the seasons change again. pexels-photo-573566.jpeg

Riverdale, Batman, and Other Things I’m Into Right Now

Right now, I’m into a lot of things that I wasn’t into before–times, they are a changin’ and me with them. But, I promise all of the recent changes I’ve made in my life are positive, or at least aren’t hurting anyone (myself included). As a matter of fact, I’m sure you’ve already seen the post about my diet, right? Well, there are other changes, too. Some big, some small, but all of them relevant to the speed at which life whirls by.

BatmanThe first change I’ll mention is that I’ve expanded my repertoire. Review repertoire, anyway. Now, I am reading a bigger balance in material. I did, after all, start out as a reader with comics. Coming sooner than you think (the 17th of this month) will be my review for Batman/The Flash: The Button Deluxe Edition. It’s available for pre-order right now, but Amazon is giving a teensy weensy sneak peak inside (as they do all books) if you’re antsy. I’ve already been diving in there and I can tell you this–it doesn’t disappoint and my review is going to post on the release date. But, not only have I been reading and reviewing more comics, returning to a first love, I’ve been reviewing more romances, too. I have missed the genre. I never left it, but sometimes I drift and, this time, I drifted into realism in every sort. That’s a story for another day, but stay tuned for those reviews, eh? I promise I’ll try my best to give you all the skinny on the newest releases in books other than hard case and sci-fi (although, I’ll have those, too).

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Don’t taunt me. I’ll cut you.

And, speaking of reviews–have you people been checking out Riverdale on CW (Netflix and Hulu also)? Because, geez, it’s like crack. I can’t stop watching! I was a bit under the weather one day and watched every stinkin’ episode of the first season and now I need the second season to just hurry up. I understand that I have to wait for the 11th for the season premier, but I’ve already got the DVR set to record it in case we have a natural disaster or some other satellite connection destroying catastrophe. It’s not exactly like the comics, though some elements are there, but it’s great TV, y’all. The CW finally got a hit, as far as I’m concerned because I don’t usually like teenager aimed television shows. I’m serious, people–don’t go messing around with my new favorite show. I’ll cut somebody.

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And, Cole Sprouse? The Cole Sprouse who is now 25 (LEGAL) years old and stars as Jughead Jones? **Whispers** Call me. 

I’m serious, folks. Riverdale is where it’s at. Also featured on the show are Josie and the Pussycats. Remember those ladies? They are fantastic. Each character is given more depth than any of the cartoons could have imagined and season 1 of Riverdale had me really pulling for Val and Archie to be more of a thing, but that didn’t happen, so…bummer, right? Right. 
PerryulrichFun fact: Both Luke Perry (90210) and Skeet Ulrich (Scream) were Teeny Bopper magazine cover frequenters in my day. All the girls loved them. And, both of them have roles in Riverdale. . . As parents! Because, if you didn’t feel old enough, you might need to know this. You’re welcome!

Moving right along.

I’ve recently dived into a task I have only, until now, kept in my head. I’m creating my own planner. I’m designing the pages on my laptop, printing them off, and collecting them in a three ring binder so that I can keep track of myself. Sounds a little too housewifey, but I really do need to keep a planner because I’m always forgetting things and losing information, like appointments. The planner I have now wasn’t anything fancy. I bought it at a dollar store. But, it has a monthly calendar and also pages that are week by week and allow you to go in depth with planning ahead or note keeping. I was thinking if I created my own planner, I could tailor it to my needs. I want to keep the function of a monthly calendar, but I would also like weekly pages that have a space already there to keep track of weight changes, the weather, a separate page for monthly book reviews, and maybe a place to write out my menu plans. Plus, I’m crafty and I have some cool images to put to good use. I’ll let you all know how this goes and maybe I’ll even share the pages I create with my blog readers.

If that’s something my readers would be interested in, just let me know in the comments. I’d be happy to share my planner pages with you (for FREE because people seriously charge for that crap….*eye roll*).

So, with fall activities my kids are doing at school and at home, crazy good fall TV, and some really great book reviews coming up, it looks as though I’m set for a cozy start to the cold weather season. If there are shows coming up or books you want to request I review, let me know. I’m open to a lot of different genres now and, frankly, I’m bored.

Until my next update post!
XOXO, Rhiannon M.

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Review and release coming October 10, 2017!

 

 

 

 

 

 

About my diet, plus some tips!

You-can-do-it1Since July 1 of this year, I’ve been on a pretty strict low-carb diet. People have been asking me about it since my weight loss has exceeded my usual six pounds, so I decided to just write a blog post. My whole life I’ve gone through cycles of losses and gains–each diet I go on (usually calorie counting) ends in a six pound loss, followed by a wild calorie binge. This time things have gone differently. That isn’t to say there haven’t been problems, but I’ve actually lost twenty-five pounds. I don’t know how good at math you folks are, but that’s a few more than my typical six.

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It hasn’t been easy. I’ve had some issues with the diet and I’ve fought through them. Some days I’ve wanted to give up. No. Most days I’ve wanted to give up. But, every single day, I wake up and keep going because the fruits of my labor will one day pay off and I won’t be the only one affected. My choices will also have a baring on my children’s lives and choices they make. I want them to see their mom succeed because I want them to know that they can do things, too. I want them to see that if you want a healthier lifestyle, you have to put in the work, but that it’s totally worth it. If I’m honest, they are the reason I keep going and try so hard. I don’t want them to think Mom is a quitter (ha!).

I am not a doctor and if you have some health or dietary issues, you should certainly see a real physician, perhaps even a dietitian, before you begin the low-carb lifestyle change (because it IS a lifestyle change). A lot of low carb options are also pretty high in cholesterol, so, depending on your health and your family history, you may want to keep that in mind when you shop or meal plan.

I follow guidelines to eat by. When I started out in July, I only allowed myself to have between 20-35 carbs/day so that my body would get used to not having them. I wanted to make sure I trained myself well since there is a lot to learn in the beginning. But, since I have quite a few pounds to lose, I also set myself a limit of 1200-1500 calories/day. I feel like that’s a reasonable amount. Usually I hit somewhere around 1300, but sometimes it’s less. It’s rarely more than that. I try to get my protein in, too. High protein is important for me because I never get enough protein. I am not a big meat eater. Also, I bought a bag of stevia and went sugar free. No pasta, no breads, no rice. I took into account that my family has an insane history for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and heart issues, so I try to stick with lean meats, light butters (if any), and instead of eating lots of bacon (as I’ve noticed a lot of low-carb eaters do), I eat turkey bacon. Also, I bought a book of heart healthy recipes and I’ve learned to change just a few ingredients in some really great recipes so that I can enjoy them too. th.jpeg

So, with my new lifestyle laid out for you, I’ll hurry up and get to my big tips.

  1. Eat breakfast. There is definitely something to the old saying that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
  2. Sit down and write out a plan. Sometimes just seeing something literally spelled out in front of you is a really great way to assure that it’s a permanent plan, that it will stick. Remember to include a reminder to drink plenty of water. Eight glasses (eight ounces each) of water a day is recommended, but honestly I hardly ever drink that much. If I hit four, I’m doing well. I strive for more, though. You can tailor your plan to fit your needs. Low-carb eating ranges from only limiting carbs to a full on Keto lifestyle (which I decided wasn’t for me). Some low-carb eaters set a limit, such as fifty, but will eat toast or bread so long as it fits under fifty carbs for that day. I have chosen to forgo the breads, pastas, and rices altogether.
  3. Do not weigh yourself every single day, but if you do not own a scale, I would recommend you buy one. Mine is digital and also measures bone mass and BMI. It’s more technologically advanced than I was prepared for, but I love it. I record my weight in my planner, but there are apps where you can track your weight, too.
  4. Track what you eat. Write it down, along with the carbs and calories. Or, you can get an app for that, too. I use Spark People, but a lot of people prefer My Fitness Pal. I didn’t like the latter, but most people do. Use whatever makes you comfortable.
  5. Create an exercise plan. If you have medical needs and see a doctor regularly, ask them for suggestions. If not, walking isn’t crowded and is a very heart healthy way to exercise if you don’t live anywhere near a gym or don’t want to pay for a membership. Also, on rainy days, you can check out Leslie Sansone’s Walk-A-Mile DVD’s.  I bought a pair of small weights to carry while I walk, too.
  6. Remember that you are human and humans sometimes make mistakes. You might cheat. And, if you do, you can always make up for it by starting over the very next day. If I have one too many carbs, I try to, at the very least, keep my calories where they need to be. I have only gone over with both once. And, I keep losing. I figured I’m losing about 2.5 lbs. / week. Slow and steady. Last week I lost less than that, but it’s okay because sometimes it goes that way. Even if you gain, it’s okay. Just keep going.
  7. Look for a support system. Spark People has a great online community. I’m in a low-carb group on Facebook, too, and those people are fantastic for sharing their own ups and downs, sharing recipes, and it’s nice to know that I have help if I need it.
  8. If you’re a milk drinker, try some unsweetened almond milk. I love that stuff. Buy some peanut butter (whichever kind you like) and keep it handy. Stock up on sugar free jello, Powerade zero, bottled waters, lean meats, cheeses you like, and veggies. Google and Pinterest will be your best friends for recipes. I may even share some of mine here, too.
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  9. Do not plan cheat meals. In fact, plan your meals ahead in order to avoid the cheat meals. A cheat may happen, but don’t plan them. If you eat out, usually you can find some kind of lean chicken and veggie meal. If you eat fast food out (which sometimes happens), you can always get a salad or a burger (and ditch the bun).
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If you’re interested in a low-carb lifestyle, just remember that if I can do it, you can too. I still have a long way to go, but every journey begins somewhere. Feel free to share your tips and tricks in comments. I’m always learning something new.

Dark Immolation by Christopher Husberg

husbergA new religion is rising, gathering followers drawn by rumors of prophetess Jane Oden. Her sister Cinzia—once a Cantic priestess—is by her side, but fears that Jane will lead them to ruin. For both the Church and the Nazaniin assassins are still on their trail, and much worse may come.
Knot, his true nature now revealed if not truly understood, is haunted by his memories, and is not the ally he once was. Astrid travels to Tinska to find answers for her friend, but the child-like vampire has old enemies who have been waiting for her return. And beyond the Blood Gate in the empire of Roden, a tiellan woman finds herself with a new protector. One who wants to use her extraordinary abilities for his own ends…

Here’s the thing, kids. I read the first book in this quintet and wasn’t impressed. I didn’t even mark a review or rating on Goodreads or Amazon because I was that unimpressed with the story. Husberg is a good author. I like his style and I like his characters, but the plot in his novel, Duskfall, I disliked. But, I always approach novels with an open mind, particularly when I know the writer behind it can actually write and can create very believable characters. Characters were never an issue for me in Duskfall, FYI. So, with this all being established, I’ll get on with the review for the subsequent novel (the second in a quintet, I’m told), Dark Immolation.

As was true in Duskfall, Dark Immolation’s characters were great. That’s always key in a good story. I can’t read a book if I really could care less what happens to the people (or creatures) in it. If I can’t imagine them, if their dialogue is vague and generic, or if I just really dislike them, I’m not going to keep reading. One of Christopher Husberg’s strongest writing abilities (in my opinion) is that he can flesh out characters with an insane amount of skill. I’d like to buy him coffee and discuss this, but I’m sure that would border on stalker behavior and maybe he has a blog instead.

I feel like Christopher Husberg’s storytelling has improved since Duskfall. I enjoyed the feeling of dipping your toes into the waters of theology throughout this story and I enjoyed questioning my own thoughts as I read. I also like that when reading anything he has written (applies to both Duskfall and Dark Immolation) there is a good balance in the writing. Not too much dialog, but just the right amount. Not too much description, but just enough. Not too much this, nor too much that…See what I mean? He never lost my interest due to over stimulation or under stimulation. That’s important for me.

I would recommend this book. Heck, I’ll recommend the entire quintet (though, as of right now, subsequent books are not available yet). Just because Duskfall didn’t do it for me doesn’t mean it won’t some of you.

If you’re interested in seeing for yourself, hop over to Amazon and check it out. Read more reviews, if you so wish to do.

Empire Of Time by Daniel Godfrey

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For fifteen years, the Romans of New Pompeii have kept the outside world at bay with the threat of using the Novus Particles device to alter time. Yet Decimus Horatius Pullus—once Nick Houghton—knows the real reason the Romans don’t use the device for their own ends: they can’t make it work without grisly consequences.
This fragile peace is threatened when an outsider promises to help the Romans use the technology. And there are those beyond Pompeii’s walls who are desperate to destroy a town where slavery flourishes. When his own name is found on an ancient artifact dug up at the real Pompeii, Nick knows that someone in the future has control of the device. The question is: whose side are they on?

This novel is the second in a series. I read the first and enjoyed it, but I think I prefer the second book to the first, which is something I rarely experience.

In this second book, we get to follow Nick Houghton as he has become Decimus Horatius Pollus, the ambassador for New Pompeii as he and other citizens of New Pompeii are faced with the Novus Particles device, which can alter time.

The novel is fast paced, nitty, gritty, and comes with the teasing promise of maybe a third book. As it appears the author knows what he is doing as far as creating great characters, I hope that he continues with this series and, in doing, sates my curiosity. I want to know just where Daniel Godfrey is going next. More direly, I want to know where Nick Houghton is going in the future. Is there a third book coming or are we to be left wondering? Perhaps the ending was sufficient for other readers, but not this one.

If you’d like to purchase a copy of this novel (and I would imagine you do because it’s fabulous), hop on over to Amazon and give them your money. But, buy New Pompeii first because it’s great, too. The link for that one is at the top of this review.

 

Forever And A Death by Donald E. Westlake

I’m going to give you a quick background on Donald E. Westlake. It’s a whopper. Ready? Here goes…

Westlake was a crime novelist hired by Hollywood producers working on James Bond movies to write a script. The story he came up with was about a Western businessman seeking revenge after being kicked out of Hong Kong when the island was returned to Chinese rule. For political reasons, the film was never made. But, Westlake held on to it like the absolute prize it is. And I’m thrilled that he did. It was published an entire decade after Donald E. Westlake’s death, so I feel sort of sad he didn’t get to enjoy the story’s success, but that is neither here nor there.

Honestly, if this book could be made into a film now, I would be pleased. But, onto my thoughts!

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I have absolutely nothing to be critical of here. There is no complaint to be expressed. This book was an absolute joy to read. Absolutely, positively, wonderful to escape into the pages and plot. Drama where drama need be, comedic relief (yes, I was shocked, too, but if you have an odd sense of humor like me, it’s there!) where comedic relief need be, and I expected nothing less from a man who was such a legend in his day.

If I could change any one thing about this book, I wouldn’t. I don’t get to say that often, either, so please photocopy this as a reference. Just kidding. Don’t do that.

If you’d like a copy of this gem, please do buy it at any book retailer, but for quick reference, here is the AMAZON LINK.