Golden State of Mind

I was super quiet on this blog for a while recently, but that's because I was in California! My husband and I flew out to the Golden State for a little over a week to experience some of the things we've heard so much about.

Pixar Pier and Pixar Pal-A-Roundl
Our first stop was 4 days at Disneyland. As a former cast member, I love all things Disney, but had never made it out to the original park. We stayed at the Paradise Pier hotel on property, and had park hopper tickets to both Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure. I was pretty amazed at how much they have crammed into such a small space here. They have multiple attractions that WDW doesn't have that I really enjoyed, like an Alice in Wonderland ride and a Monsters, Inc. ride. The Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout ride is my new favorite Disney ride by far. It was so much fun! I wasn't sure how I would feel about it since I love the original Tower of Terror, but I was pleasantly surprised. I finally got to see World of Color, which I have been hearing about for ages, and it really was as beautiful as everyone says.

I absolutely loved the Pixar Pier area and was super impressed by Cars Land. I do think a few areas of the parks were underutilized, but I find that to be pretty true with most theme parks. I was pretty disappointed because Sleeping Beauty Castle was still undergoing refurbishment. This had been going on since January and I had really been hoping the walls would be down by the time we got there, but no such luck. Overall we had a fantastic time, but I still have to say I think I like Walt Disney World better than Disneyland! #sorrynotsorry

The Queen Mary
After Disneyland, we spent a night aboard the haunted Queen Mary ocean liner docked in Long Beach. I was actually a little disappointed by this piece of the trip unfortunately. The ship was cool, and there were some areas where I definitely felt wrong and super spooked, like the isolation ward and the engine room, but I had hoped for more than what it ended up being. Also, the walls between rooms are super thin, and people were moving furniture in the restaurant above our room all night long. There wasn't much to do, and a lot of areas were closed off for a conference happening on board.

The gorgeous Hollywood Roosevelt
Finally, we headed to LA for a few days, where we stayed at The Hollywood Roosevelt. This hotel was everything old Hollywood glamour should be. The pool area was absolutely gorgeous, and we had a room with a balcony overlooking it. There was surprisingly less to do in LA than we realized, and actually flew through our list of must-dos pretty quickly! We did the Santa Monica Pier, Rodeo Drive, Griffith Observatory/The Hollywood Sign, the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and saw Marilyn Monroe's grave. We also went to two amazing themed bars: Scum and Villainy Cantina (a Star Wars bar) and Beetle House (a Tim Burton bar) which were some of my favorite parts of the trip. On our last night, the cast of Criminal Minds actually had their series wrap party at our hotel, so it was fun getting to watch all of that happening from our balcony.

Mr. Mayor inside Beetle House
We also ate a lot of incredible food on our trip (yes, I did throw Keto out the window while we were away, but I'm back on it now!) and had a really amazing time. It was so nice to get away from real life for a while, even if we had to adjust to a new time zone to do it! Now we're looking forward to our next upcoming adventures, and I can't wait to share them with you here! Any guesses where we're going next?

Spices and Seasons by Rinku Bhattacharya

As I've gotten older, I've started to fall more and more in love with cooking. Especially doing keto, I eat 90% of my meals at home, so I love experimenting and tweaking recipes to keep things interesting. Because of that, I obviously had to jump at the chance to be part of the blog tour for an exciting cookbook! 


Cover Art Courtesy of
Rachel's Random Resources
Rinku Bhattacharya combines her two great loves―Indian cooking and sustainable living―to give readers a simple, accessible way to cook seasonally, locally, and flavorfully. Inspired by the bounty of local produce, mostly from her own backyard, Rinku set out to create recipes for busy, time-strapped home cooks who want to blend Indian flavors into nutritious family meals. Arranged in chapters from appetizers through desserts, the cookbook includes everything from small bites, soups, seafood, meat and poultry, and vegetables, to condiments, breads, and sweets. You’ll find recipes for tempting fare like “Mango and Goat Cheese Mini Crisps,” “Roasted Red Pepper Chutney,” “Crisped Okra with Dry Spice Rub,” “Smoky Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Puree,” and “Red Harvest Masala Cornish Hens,” to name a few. As exotic and enticing as these recipes sound, the ingredients are easily found and the instructions are simple. Rinku encourages readers to explore the bounty of their local farms and markets, and embrace the rich flavors of India to cook food that is nutritious, healthy, seasonal and most importantly, delicious.

My Review

The book itself is high quality and full of glossy pictures that just make your mouth water! There is a wide variety of recipes that fit a ton of different occasions, ranging from super simple to elaborate. I love that the book also codes each recipe, allowing for those with dietary restrictions to easily find recipes that work for them. It has a fantastic introduction section that helps you learn the basic concepts of Indian cooking as well.

This past weekend, I tried the recipe for the Herb and Spice Roasted Chicken. Instead of roasting it in the oven however, we wrapped the chicken in foil packets and stuck it on the grill to reduce the cooking time. It was absolutely delicious and incredibly simple to make! I didn't even have time to take a picture of it before we dove right in. I can't wait to try out more recipes in this fantastic cookbook. My only reason for taking off a star is that some of the ingredients are a little obscure, and some recipes require just a tiny amount of an expensive ingredient that has to be bought in large quantities.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

About the Author

Photo Courtesy of
Rachel's Random Resources
Rinku Bhattacharya ( was born in India, and now lives in a house with a vibrant backyard in Hudson Valley, New York with her husband, an avid gardener, and their two children. Rinku’s simple, sustainable approach to Indian cooking is showcased on her blog, Spice Chronicles, and in her Journal News column “Spices and Seasons.”

Rinku has been teaching recreational cooking classes for the past nine years, and works extensively with local area farmer’s markets on seasonal demonstrations and discussions. Rinku is also the author of The Bengali Five Spice Chronicles (Hippocrene Books, 2012), winner of the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards 2013 for Best Indian Cuisine. She writes for the Poughkeepsie Journal, the Journal News, and several online sites, and is a frequent guest on CT Style TV.

Thanks so much to Rachel's Random Resources for a copy of this beautiful cookbook, and for allowing me to be part of this blog tour! You can purchase Spices and Seasons here (US) and here (UK).

Next Level Basic by Stassi Schroeder

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
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!