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Next Level Basic by Stassi Schroeder

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Fairly recently, I discovered Vanderpump Rules and fell in love. Stassi Schroeder is my favorite character on the show, so when I saw she had written a book I knew I had to pick it up. Next Level Basic: The Definitive Basic Bitch Handbook is a tongue in cheek self help book meets autobiography.

From social media guidelines and the importance of your #OOTD, to relationships and friendships, Stassi talks you through the rules she has lived by in a variety of areas, sharing stories from both her childhood and Vanderpump. There were all sorts of fun things interspersed through the book as well, like a drink recipe, a musical theater playlist, and more!

I really adored this book. Yes, some of Stassi's "rules" were straight up ridiculous, but throughout the book she really emphasizes owning YOUR own breed of basic. Numerous times, she says that something isn't for her, but if you love it then go and rock it. So many people say you have to be this way or wear that thing, but Stassi gives readers permission to truly own their basic and whatever it is they are passionate about while explaining the rationale behind her own personal basic. While reading this, I discovered that I have so much in common with Stassi, like our shared love of Ranch dressing and fascination with true crime. I laughed a lot, related to her words, and appreciated the encouragement to truly be myself.

This was a fairly short book, and it really left me wanting more. It is the perfect book to read outside this summer with a nice cold glass of wine (which is exactly how I read it!). If you love books written by The Betches or Babe Walker, definitely pick this up!

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Verity by Colleen Hoover

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
Just like Christina Lauren, Colleen Hoover has been an author I've been avoiding because of the "romance" label. But after really enjoying one of Christina Lauren's books, and hearing that this read was super creepy, I decided to give Verity by Colleen Hoover a try - romance be damned. AND I LOVED IT. Definite trigger warning on this one though for the death of a child(ren).

Writer Lowen Ashleigh is taken aback when she is approached about helping finish a popular book series after the author, Verity Crawford, was in an accident. Lowen reluctantly accepts, desperate for money but shunning any attention she might get from undertaking this project. In the spirit of research, she is invited to the Crawford family home by Verity's handsome and charming husband Jeremy. Here she finds out much more than she bargained for, from the extent of Verity's condition to the desire Lowen is developing for Jeremy, and some sordid information about the family's tragic past that completely changes her perspective entirely. 

This book was incredible! I was legitimately terrified to the point that I couldn't read this book before bed. That so rarely happens to me that I'm completely shocked and impressed when it does, but I hate it because I want to keep reading but mentally have to wait until the day time. This story is told in different points of view, alternating between Lowen's thoughts and Verity's hidden autobiography manuscript. It was such a mind-F, and shocked me time and time again.

I do think Lowen was a pretty naive character, and I thought the ending was a bit hurried, but these things didn't bother me enough to knock off a star. Lowen's back story was very interesting and unique, and I honestly would have loved to know even more about it.

I believe this would make a fantastic movie if the raunchiness was reined in a little. It was a lot heavier on the romance than I tend to like, but somehow the creepy plot cancelled it out. Had it been less creepy, the level of smut probably would have been too much for me. Not sure if I'll read any more of Colleen Hoover's books for that reason, but I'm very glad I gave this one a try. If she does anything else along this thriller vein though, I will definitely pick it up! 

The hype around this book is absolutely real, so if you have debating picking it up I would definitely recommend going for it!

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Josh and Hazel's Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
So this is the first Christina Lauren book I've ever read. I know, I know...what have I been waiting for? I don't know, but now that I've read this book I am desperate to get my hands on more by this author duo. Josh and Hazel's Guide to Not Dating is an adorable contemporary romance that follows best friends Josh and Hazel and their riotous relationship as they navigate trying to hide that they have feelings for each other.

Josh and Hazel were friends in college, but had since drifted apart. But when Hazel finds out that Josh is actually her new best friend Emily's brother, the two rekindle their friendship and ultimately end up becoming roommates. The pair tries to set each other up on blind dates with friends of theirs, with each new date ending in disaster. Maybe strangers aren't who they should be dating after all.

I absolutely loved this story! It had me smiling and laughing the whole way through. It was told in alternating chapters between Josh and Hazel, giving the reader insight into each of their feelings and what they were thinking as the story progressed. I loved Hazel's zany personality and menagerie of pets, and I loved Josh's reserved yet playful demeanor. I actually think I was hesitating on reading this because it was labeled as a romance and I am not a fan of smut. Yes, there were a few sexy scenes in this book but it was much less than I thought it would be and did not at all deter from my overall enjoyment of the book. 

There were the perfect amount of side characters, and the plot was very easy to follow. I thought the epilogue was adorable, even though I've seen some people saying they weren't a fan of it. I could absolutely see this fantastic romantic comedy becoming a movie! And can we talk about how pretty this cover is?

Now that I know what Christina Lauren's books are like, I've already ordered My Favorite Half-Night Stand to try out next!

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Last Girl Lied To by L.E. Flynn

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
I usually can figure out YA thrillers pretty easily, but this one did manage to surprise me. Last Girl Lied To by L.E. Flynn follows Fiona after her best friend Trixie commits suicide. Only Fiona doesn't believe it was suicide. Teaming up with Jasper, Trixie's friend with benefits from before she died, Fiona tries to piece together clues that might give them an idea of what actually happened to Trixie, and if she is still alive. Maybe disappearing was what Trixie wanted all along.

I did enjoy how this was told in alternating chapters between past and present, and how this showed you glimpses of Fiona and Trixie's friendship. Trixie fit the manic pixie dream girl mold that all my readers know I adore so much. I enjoyed Fiona's side plots with Beau and her other friends. And like I mentioned previously, I actually didn't figure out the twist in this one when usually I can. 

That all being said, overall I was still not a fan of this book. Just because I didn't figure out the twist doesn't mean it was a good one, and I was not at all satisfied with the ending. There were a lot of times where it got really slow and it was hard for me to push through. I also thought it was unnecessarily long and took a decent amount of time to finish for a YA. Other than Trixie, I didn't really care about any of the characters, and honestly kept thinking that Fiona was an idiot for some of the choices she made. I feel like this book could have been so much better, but unfortunately it ultimately fell flat.

Overall Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars

Thanks so much to Imprint for an ARC of this read! Last Girl Lied To by L.E. Flynn is out now!

The Mother-In-Law by Sally Hepworth

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
I really enjoyed Sally Hepworth's last book, The Family Next Door, so I jumped at the chance to get to review this one. The Mother-In-Law is a mystery that opens with the death of Lucy's mother-in-law, Diana, then continues by alternating between the present and the past, detailing both the investigation and the events that led to Diana's passing. While Diana's death appears to be a suicide on the surface, things just aren't adding up. And if it wasn't a suicide, who is responsible? Why does everyone in the family suddenly have something to hide? I would put a trigger warning on this book for miscarriages/failed pregnancies.

I liked this book fine, although unfortunately not nearly as much as The Family Next Door. The plot was good but didn't grab me, and while the ending wasn't quite predictable per se, it wasn't at all surprising either. I just couldn't get invested in this one as much as I was expecting.

I did enjoy the alternating points of view of both Lucy and Diana, as well as how the book incorporated both present day and flashbacks to the past. This really made it clear that you don't always know a person's intentions, and they aren't always as malicious as you think. The characters were fine, but not really memorable, although Diana and her husband Tom completely reminded me of Emily and Richard, the grandparents from Gilmore Girls. Of course I have to mention how much I love the cover.

Overall it was a solid story and I'm glad I read it, but to me it just wasn't as good as Hepworth's last book. 

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Thanks so much to St. Martin's Press for a finished copy of this read! The Mother-In-Law by Sally Hepworth is out TODAY, April 23rd, so be sure to pick up a copy! 

Amy Cole Has It All Figured Out by Elizabeth McGivern

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
I've been a major reading slump lately, and this was the perfect book to pull me out of it. I've raved about the Amy Cole books by Elizabeth McGivern here on my blog before. Amy Cole Has Lost Her Mind and Amy Cole is Zen as F*uck are both hilarious stories with engaging plots that simultaneously tackle some taboo issues. I obviously jumped at the chance to read the third, and sadly last, installment in the Amy Cole series: Amy Cole Has It All Figured Out. With Elle recently diagnosed with cancer and Amy pregnant again, life is maintaining its regular chaos. Will these two best friends be able to weather the storm unphased, or will life's circumstances win out?

As with the other Amy Cole books, this read had me both laughing and crying. One scene had me doing both! The friendship that Amy and Elle have is so pure and genuine, and I hope that one day I'll develop a friendship like theirs. This book, like the other installments, definitely touches on some tough subjects, like cancer, mental illness, grief, and loss. 

One thing I wasn't a huge fan of in this book was the pacing. There were multiple times throughout this read where I felt like the story was coming to a natural end, only to have it start revving right back up again followed by another major event shortly after.

I liked how more characters were introduced in this story and expanded Amy's universe. You really saw a lot of growth from Amy throughout this book. I will say that by the end of this story, I was really not a fan of Ben anymore. I thought he could have done a lot more to support Amy and lend a hand rather than make things harder for her. Like come on, who gets a puppy for his wife right before she is about to give birth then expects her to care for it?! I thought this was an absolutely perfect ending to the Amy Cole series. Even though I am super sad to not get any more, I am very content with the way it wrapped up. 

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Thanks so much to the author, Elizabeth McGivern, for reaching out and asking if I wanted to review this read. Amy Cole Has It All Figured Out is out now, so be sure to grab a copy of not only this read, but the entire Amy Cole series!

Product Review: Function of Beauty

This is another product that I've seen a ton of ads for on Facebook and Instagram. Function of Beauty offers customized hair care products tailored to your own personal hair type and up to five hair goals. You can also pick the color and fragrance you want your products to be!

I went with a shampoo and conditioner set (8oz each). For my hair type, I selected straight + fine + normal. My goals were shine, volumize, anti-frizz, strengthen, and replenish hair. I picked Nude (P)each for the fragrance, and made my shampoo blue and my conditioner pink. Each bottle comes with a pump for ease of use, and they put your name right on the side of the bottle!
What I Liked:

I am a huge fan of customization, so the fact that these hair products really are personalized to you is a win. I loved getting to pick not only the formulation, but the colors and scent too! If you don't want colors and prefer unscented, they have that as an option as well. 

I have been using nothing but these products for the last 3 months to really see if they have made a difference, and I do think the products mostly delivered on my hair goals. They didn't weigh my hair down or leave it greasy. My hair definitely has more volume than it used to, and I can tell it has gotten healthier. It's way softer than it used to be! There is also a little bit of added shine, although not a ton. 

I received my set back around January 10th, and STILL have some product left! I am close to being out of shampoo, but have about a quarter of the conditioner remaining. How is it everyone always runs out of shampoo first?! I wash my hair probably 4-5 times a week, and my hair is almost down to my butt, so that's definitely saying something about how a little product really does go a long way. And I'm glad, because this was a bit of a splurge at $41 for the set.

What I Didn't Like:

I'm not sure if my shampoo formulation was extra thick because of the options I chose, or if the included pumps just sucked. The conditioner came out fine but it took way too much effort to pump the shampoo out. Since ordering, I have seen an announcement that the company has changed their pumps, so maybe it wasn't just me with this problem! Obviously the high price is a negative, but if hair care is really something you focus on (and I always have), it's a little less painful hitting the order button when you know the product is really good. 

The scent of my products was pleasant, but I wouldn't have called it peach, so that was a little bit misleading. I don't think the anti-frizz element did much, although that could just be that my hair is damaged and needs a trim vs anything the products could fix.

The Verdict:

I'm a Function of Beauty convert! I'm about to get some highlights for the spring, so I will be placing an order with the added hair goal of reducing brassiness soon! I'm very excited to try out the new pumps to see if they are better than the old ones. They have also recently come out with a personalized leave-in conditioner that I want to try out as well.

Have you ever tried out Function of Beauty? If you're interested in giving it a shot, head over to their website via my referral link! You will get $10 off your first purchase and I'll get a $10 credit!

My Keto Journey

If you follow me over on Twitter, you will have seen a fair amount of tweets over the last two months about keto. I just hit my two month mark on my keto journey and thought it was time to write a blog post about what I've experienced so far! If you are like I was, you are really curious about the diet, but also a little skeptical, so hopefully giving you some insight on my journey will help you decide whether or not you'd like to give keto a try!

The Basics

So the keto diet is based on a diet of very low carbs, high fat, and moderate protein. The idea is to kick your body into ketosis, a state where it burns fat for energy versus burning carbs. As someone who used to be addicted to things like pasta and bread, I was really hesitant to cut these things out of my life. I also realized quickly that sugar=carbs, so anything that had any kind of sugar was mostly off limits. Key foods on the keto diet include red meat, butter, olive oil, heavy whipping cream, avocado, etc.

You'll find a lot of mixed reviews on the internet when you look up the keto diet. I say take everything with a grain of salt. Just like all diets, it's level of effectiveness varies person to person. It does seem like for the majority of people, the diet stops being as effective after 3-4 months, and I do plan to transition off of it when I hit my goal weight. There aren't really any long-term studies on the diet yet since it is so new, but obviously if you eat nothing but bacon on this diet you will probably have some major heart and cholesterol problems down the road. 

My Experience

When I calculated my personal macros I found that I needed to stay under 16 grams of net carbs per day  (they say the average to get into ketosis is 20-30). Net carbs are total carbs minus fiber and sugar alcohols. One look at the nutrition on my coffee creamer that first morning was an eye opener...it had almost my entire day's worth of carbs in one serving! I ended up making a lot of food swaps: sugar to stevia, flavored coffee creamer to half and half, lean meats like chicken and ground turkey for fuller fat ground beef and steak. I also found that I had to limit my intake of vegetables (since veggies DO have some carbs!), and pretty much stayed away from fruit entirely. 

I did experience some small keto flu symptoms. The keto flu happens when your body transitions from burning carbs into ketosis, and you may experience symptoms like headaches, feeling extra tired, irratibility, brain fog, etc. known as the keto flu. This only lasted a few days for me, since I quickly learned to combat it with added electrolytes. I also had trouble sleeping at first, but the electrolytes helped with that a ton, as did saving a carb or two for a bedtime snack.

This diet actually becomes super intuitive very quickly. Like I mentioned before, sugar=carbs so if it has sugar it's probably out. Artificial sweeteners like aspartame and Splenda aren't recommended, and you should swap them for natural alternatives like stevia. Anything processed was also out for the most part. Obviously things like bread, pasta, potatoes, etc. were on the no list. You also shouldn't have beans or any veggie grown underground. I have mostly been eating dairy, nuts, meat, and veggies. There are some packaged keto products on the market that I've thrown into my diet as well, but you should limit those as they do still have some artificial ingredients. This is a diet that actually lets you have alcohol as long as you allocate for those carbs, but for some individuals alcohol makes them hold onto weight. As with any diet, drinking plenty of water is also important.

Once I was fully in ketosis, I noticed a huge spike in my energy. Normally I hit a slump mid afternoon and like to go to bed early, but I've had so much energy on this diet that the slump is gone and I'm staying up later. After the initial few days of sleep problems, I've also found myself sleeping really well at night!

One major, maybe TMI complaint I do have about this diet is that it really screwed with my period. I've been having basically 2 periods a month since I started, even though I'm on birth control, which really sucks. It looks like some women have issues with their cycle, but not everyone. 

I haven't felt deprived once during keto, which I love! My problem with other diets has always been that I have felt like I was missing out on good foods, but not this time. I eat flavorful cuts of meat, make amazing sauces, and can put butter on things without feeling guilty! You can even put butter in your coffee, although I haven't been brave enough to try that myself yet!

This is probably the easiest and most satisfying diet I've been on so far. Yes, it requires a lot of tracking, but as my results below will show, it's absolutely worth that effort.

My Results

I've been on keto for just over 8 weeks, and I have lost 13 pounds. I won't go into starting and current weight, because this will obviously be different for everyone and what people weigh can often be a trigger, but this was a considerable amount of weight for me. To put things in perspective, last year it took me an entire year to lose 10 pounds. I'd tried everything, from calorie counting/restricting, to intense exercise, to eating clean, but nothing was really making the scale move. Keto was almost a last ditch effort for me, and I'm so happy I gave it a try because it really was the kick start my body needed to drop that remaining extra weight. Plus the added benefits like sleeping well and having a ton of energy have been great!

While I'm not quite comfortable enough for full body shots yet, here's a little face-off comparison. While the first image was taken about a month and a half before I started keto, I was the exact same weight as when I began.

At my keto starting weight!

At my current keto weight! And I still get wine!

What I've Learned

More than anything, this journey has taught me to eat healthy! So much unhealthy, processed food is loaded with carbs, so it's been nice cutting all that junk out of my diet. When I do transition out of keto, I absolutely intend to keep up the healthy eating and avoid processed food. I recently tested out a small piece of cookie (yes I counted those carbs for the day!) and actually found that I've lost my taste for sugar, which I consider a win! 

I think one of the keys to being successful on keto is really being prepared. I track my macros in a free app called Carb Manager, and it's really helpful in figuring out what food I can have in a day. Knowing what I plan to eat has really helped me stay on track. If I know there is going to be food somewhere I can't eat, I can pack something that I know is keto friendly. Catching yourself with nothing you can eat will inevitably result in cheating! I'm very proud to say I haven't cheated once on this diet. There are also keto friendly snacks that you can have during this diet which have really been lifesavers for me. I've always been a huge snacker! I plan to do a post soon about my favorite keto snacks. 

Electrolyte supplements will absolutely help ward off the keto flu. I noticed the symptoms going away almost immediately after I began adding supplements. I use the Ultima Replenisher supplement in the Cherry Pomegranate flavor. I'll mix mine up to drink every night with dinner, and I'll put it in a wine glass if I'm feeling fancy!

If it hasn't been obvious already, I am so happy with my keto experience. Have you tried keto, or considered trying it out? Let me know if you have any questions!