Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Christmas in July Giveaway Hop! (Open internationally)

The Christmas in July Giveaway Hop, hosted by I Am a Reader, Not a Writer and Laurie Here, works like this: each participating blog hosts a giveaway and then we link up together allowing our followers to hop easily from one giveaway to another. For followers, it means lots of chances to win free books. For blogs hosting giveaways, it means lots of new visitors and followers. It's a win-win! The Christmas in July Giveaway Hop is scheduled from July 22nd at 12.01 AM until July 31st at 11:59 PM (EST).


The Prizes


One lucky follower will win their choice of ANY book from their wishlist. Any book you want!


The catch? Your choice of book MUST be Christmas or holiday-themed!

As always, winner gets to choose between eBook or print. 

What would you choose if you won?

And yes, we'll have ANOTHER winner for this amazing set of eBooks:

That's two winners total! Woohoo!!!!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Letter from Paris by Thérèse Giveaway! (US only)

Letter from Paris
Thérèse

Page Count: 240
Release Date: June 10th, 2014
Publisher: The Story Plant
Genre: Women's Fiction, Travel, France

India Butler's journey to America put her life on a new track. Now a trip to Paris threatens to derail her—or to to make things all they are supposed to be. With a new friend, a new job, a new lover... and an old lover, India is dealing with nearly as much as she can handle. But that's only the beginning.

The infectious sequel to India's Summer, Letter from Paris is witty, glamorous, incisive, and refreshingly real.

About the Author


Thérèse taught English and Drama at Grade school in the UK before establishing her publicity and events consultancy.

Events ranged from receptions for HRH Prince Charles at St. James's Palace to international high profile telethons.

She managed her husband'ss career and received the title "Lady" from Queen Elizabeth when they were honored for his work in education.

She has two grown children and lives in Los Angeles in a house, and in Paris in her imagination.


Giveaway!

Books à la Mode is giving away one print copy of Letter from Paris to one lucky reader—yay!!

To enter, all you have to do is tell me:
What city in the world do you have a "dream home" in?
Please make your comment MEANINGFUL. Comments solely consisting of stock responses or irrelevant fluff like "Thanks for the giveaway!" will not be considered for entry. Thérèse and I really want to hear from you guys! :)

Don't forget the entry eligibility terms and conditions!
Sponsored wholly by the publisher—a huge thank you to The Story Plant!
Giveaway ends August 4th at 11.59 PM (your time).
Open to US residents only. Sorry, rest of the world! Please check my sidebar for a list of currently-running giveaways that are open worldwide.
Void where prohibited.
Winners have 48 hours to claim their prize after they have been notified, otherwise risk forfeiting their winnings.
Although I do randomly select winners, I am in no way responsible for prizes, nor for shipping and handling.
As a reminder, you do not have to follow my blog to enter, though it is always very much appreciated ❤
Good luck!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Vitamin C Diaries #4: Skin Care Routine for Oily, Combination, and Acne-Prone Skin + La Deessa Giveaway! (US only)


Hello, pretty blog babes! I'm here with some recent updates with my Vitamin C serum experience, but first I wanted to share with you my regular daytime and night time skin care routine.

I use a LOT of different products—like makeup application, skin care is definitely a multi-step process—and a lot of them are higher end brands. I normally do not purchase super expensive "designer" makeup or clothing products but if it's going on my face, I'm going to want the best of the best. (I use drugstore mascaras, no-name brand lipsticks, and looooove Target... but for skin care, I don't care how much money I put in!).

My current routine is in no way perfect, and even I can say I'm not completely satisfied with it. I have skin trouble just like everyone else. However, it is what I am currently using, so this comprehensive list will give you guys general idea of what I do on a daily basis, and my thoughts on each product.

Cleanser


The first thing I do in the morning is wash my face. I have oily-combination skin so it is important for me to wash my face when I wake up! My current (and absolute favorite) face wash is Uriage Hyséac Cleansing Gel.
This stuff is absolutely amazing, and it's definitely one of my holy grail products. I've mentioned the Uriage Hyséac line on my blog before, and it is by far my most trusted skin care line. It targets clogged pores and blemishes—perfect for people struggling with acne, oily skin, and large pores—but is also hypoallergenic, which is great for sensitive skin, unlike most drugstore acne-targeted products. I used to have very problematic, acne-prone skin, and this stuff SAVED ME. I have been using it for years continuously and do not see myself stopping in the future.

The only problem with it is that it is a French brand (ooh la la!) so it is not available in the US. I have never seen this line at places like Sephora and Ulta, nor at department stores. I always either order it online, or stock up on it when I visit Korea, as they sell it at some pharmacies and at Olive Young.

I'll also warn you it's a pretty expensive line; the cleanser alone costs around $25 (5 oz.). Amazon has pretty reasonable sellers that may have them for cheaper, so I definitely recommend you check there. Over the years I've attempted to find more affordable cleansers that are still appropriate for my skin. So far, the search has been rather unsuccessful; I've always gone back to Hyséac, and every time I have done so, my skin instantly cleared up and felt smoother and softer. It's a miracle product, I tell you! Close runners up would be Mario Badescu Enzyme Cleansing Gel and Mario Badescu Glycolic Foaming Cleanser.
I love Mario Badescu as a brand, and these cleansers are gentle and work as nice basic cleansers. Mario Badescu is more expensive than regular drugstore brands, but the Enzyme cleanser is still only $12 for a huge 8 oz. bottle, and the Glycolic cleanser is $15 for 6 oz. You can find these online or at Mario Badescu spas in New York. I wouldn't call either of them an amazing product, but they do make my face really soft, don't break me out, and smell really nice. The Enzyme cleanser is my "down day" cleanser; I use it interchangeably with the Hyséac gel, usually either in the nighttime, or when my skin is behaving really, really well and I don't need Hyséac to save me (as it always does). The Glycolic cleanser, I use as a clarifying cleanser once a week, just to really get deep into my pores and target acne. It is not recommended to use it more than three times a week, just because Glycolic Acid can be irritating for sensitive skin.

My only problem with the Enzyme cleanser is that it contains methylparaben, which doesn't really matter to me, but may bother some people. I don't use the Glycolic cleanser enough to have major beef with it. It foams up nicely and a little goes a loooong way. I'm pretty sure I'll be using this bottle for the next ten years LOL! It does make my face slightly red right after usage, but that's expected due to the high Glycolic Acid content. I use it at night only anyway, so it's not that big of a deal.

As you can see, I have an affinity for gel cleansers, and that's because they are perfect for oily skin. Unlike cream cleansers, which can contain comedogenic oils, gels are great for oily skin types like me. I would suggest staying away from them if you have dry skin, though; oil-free cream-based or liquid-based cleansers are great for dry skin.

Cleanser Alternative


If I have a morning workout, I'll skip the face-washing, just spritz on some facial mist, and blot the excess oil and moisture away. After I hit the gym, I'll jump in the shower and wash my face in there. The facial mist I'm using is Caudalie Organic Grape Water.
This is perfect for mornings where cleansing is unnecessary, or for people who have dry skin types and may not need to wash their face twice a day. It's refreshing, moisturizing, and gentle. It doesn't smell so great because it contains grape extracts, but it's not intolerable, and it doesn't last since the main ingredient is just water. It's pretty pricey as well—$18 for a 200 mL can—but totally worth it.

To blot the excess oil, I use regular oil absorbing sheets. I'm not picky about brand and will really use anything, but a cheap, tried-and-true product I use is Nature Republic Oil Control Film.
Nature Republic is a Korean "drugstore" beauty brand, but I love them because they are affordable and high-quality. As far as I know, these blotting sheets are only available in Korea or online. They only cost around $2.50 for a 50-sheet package. I don't only use these with the grape water; I use them all the time around midday to blot off my face whenever I feel myself getting oily. They instantly mattify your skin without smearing skin makeup (such as foundation or BB cream), so I carry a packet of these with me everywhere... in my schoolbag, my purse, my boyfriend's car... everywhere!

Toner


Immediately after cleansing, I dry my face completely and apply toner with a cotton ball. Toning is an important step in any skin care routine because not only does it target your pores and close them up after you wash your face, but the sweeping motion of the wet cotton ball picks up any remaining dirt or makeup from your face. It's like using a clarifying face wipe—I never skip this step!

Currently, I am using... you guessed it! Another Uriage product: Uriage Hyséac Deep Pore-Cleansing Lotion. "Lotion" apparently means "toner" in Europe; it's just a clear, watery toner liquid like any other.
Ugh, I am SO in love with this stuff! Again, it's pretty expensive; around $30 for 6.8 fl. oz. but it lasts a long time, so it's worth it as always. I have not experimented with other cheaper toners, and have not really wanted to, but I will let you know if I find anything just as good but better priced!

Acne Spot Treatment


Sometimes I skip this step, but if you have any specific pimples you want to target, it's best to spot treat right after toning so that the stuff penetrates your skin immediately. If you do this last like most people do, the acne treatment will have to go through layers of serum and moisturizer before getting to your skin, so I always do this step right after toning. Currently I am using both Kiehl's Blue Herbal Spot Treatment and Burt's Bees Herbal Blemish Stick.
The Blue Herbal Spot Treatment is a clear Salicylic Acid gel and is another one of my miracle products. However, at a whopping $18 for a teeny 0.5 oz. bottle, I knew I needed to explore my other options and found Burt's Bees ($8 for 0.26 oz.). I am not a huge fan of most Burt's Bees products (as I'm allergic to beeswax) but this blemish stick isn't bad. It is a heavily fragrant alcohol that you roll directly onto your blemishes. It's strong, but I feel like the application method isn't that sanitary. I don't find it as wildly effective as Kiehl's, but it does its job and is 100% natural, so I'm still a happy gal.

Burt's Bees is a standard drugstore brand that you can find everywhere (Walmart, Target, CVS, etc.), so I definitely recommend it if you want all-natural skin care products at a reasonable price and wide availability. Kiehl's... not so much. But the Blue Herbal gel is a wonder-product, so I will continue buying it until I go broke.

Vitamin C


So finally, the main point of this post... the ever-important Vitamin C serum! So far I am enjoying my Vitamin C exploration, and have tried dozens of different products. Most recently, I've tried La Deessa Premium Anti-Aging Elixir, which I adore!
As I've mentioned a countless number of times, the main reason I started using Vitamin C serums is for acne scars and sun damage. I do not really have to worry about wrinkles and fine lines yet—I'm only 18... I still have baby fat!—but I do have some dark pigmentation where I used to have acne when I was younger. While the transition was tough—initially, Vitamin C was very irritating to my skin and even caused some unexpected breakouts—serums are now an essential part of my routine. It is never too early to start the anti-aging process, either. I figure it's easier to prevent wrinkles than it will be to treat them in the future, so I am definitely continuing using them.

La Deessa is today's spotlight brand. It is pretty pricey ($19.95 for a 1 oz. bottle) but it's 95% natural, 72% organic, and free of all the bad ingredients like alcohol, parabens, and sulfates, so I think it's a good investment. The Anti-Aging Elixir has 20% Vitamin C content and it has not broken me out, so it's a keeper! I am giving away THREE bottles of this at the end, so be sure to stick around!

Hyaluronic Acid


Another relatively new addition to my daily routine, Hyaluronic Acid serum helps your moisturizer absorb better into your skin. It is said that it holds 100x its weight in water, so it's basically a primer for your moisturizer, allowing every molecule to penetrate your skin more deeply. I am currently using Azure Naturals Ultimate Hyaluronic Anti-Aging Serum.
This stuff really makes my pores smooth and feels slightly tacky upon application, but it really doesn't matter because once I apply moisturizer over it, I don't even notice. Again, this is a moisturizer priming step, NOT an actual moisturizer itself, so make sure you apply lotion or emulsion over this if you are incorporating it into your skin care routine. Azure Naturals's serum is also 98% natural and 72% organic, and it hasn't broken me out or irritated my skin, so I'm really happy with it. It costs $18.95 for a 1 oz. bottle.

Moisturizer


The penultimate step of my extremely extensive skin care routine is, of course, moisturizer. I use Uriage Hyséac Mat' Pore Refiner religiously in the daytime, but again, it's not cheap. At around $25 per 1.35 oz. tube, it's a product I need to switch out with another if I want to be able to make rent. That's why I also use Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing Gel every other day, which is only $26 for a humongous 4.2 oz. pump bottle.
Hyséac Mat' is honestly my go-to favorite product. Aside from its steep price tag, it is the most perfectest product in the world (no, I'm not being dramatic). It is a light green gel-like emulsion that moisturizes and smooths pores, making it a perfect makeup base. Clinique's gel is similar in texture, but yellow in color. It is not as mattifying as Mat', but it has a cult-following for a reason; it's super hydrating, smooth in application, and does not clog pores.

In the nighttime, I usually use products that have specific skin-targeting properties. They are typically a bit heavier and will make my face a bit shiny, but it really doesn't matter since I'm going to sleep ;) You won't be surprised that my two current nighttime moisturizers (and all-time favorites) are Uriage Hyséac A.I., which limits emerging and existing blemishes and residual marks, and Uriage Hyséac K18, which unclogs pores and mattifies and refines skin texture.
These two are pretty similar in what they do for my skin and how they appear (a bit oily after application, but I don't bother blotting since they're part of my nighttime routine anyway). They are priced pretty similarly (~$25 per 1.35 oz. tube) and I have not bothered finding cheaper alternatives because I don't think any other products can do what they do. I can't really tell the difference between them, other than ingredients and texture. A.I. is a bit clumpy, but very gentle. You need to wear SPF over this as it may cause sensitivity during sun exposure. K18 contains 18% AHA extracts, which are acne-fighting. Thus, it's a bit stronger but the texture is much creamier and almost gel-like.

Sun Care


Sunscreen is a VERY important step that many people skip (including yours truly....shhh). This is very very bad and will cause wrinkles once you hit 30!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I don't know how many women have emphasized how important it is to apply sunscreen whenever you go out, even if you're not going to be outdoors for long periods of time. Even the short walk to your car exposes your face to skin-damaging UV rays from the sun, and you can prevent it all simply by applying SPF. If there is SPF in your regular moisturizer or foundation, it is acceptable to skip this step. Obviously you do not need to apply sunscreen at night. But in the day, make sure you incorporate sunscreen into your skin care process regularly.

There is no specific sunscreen product that I particularly love and recommend. I use Uriage Hyséac's Fluide SPF 50+ just because I purchased it two years ago on a whim, but it was expensive (around $30 for 1.7 oz.) and it makes my face shiny just like other brands' sun care products do. It is very runny rather than creamy, which is better for my face in that it doesn't feel as sticky, but it's also annoying to dispense since it gets everywhere. Overall, it isn't my favorite Uriage product but I use it because I just have it on hand.

I also use Atomy's Sun Cream in Beige, which feels like a tinted moisturizer and also is SPF 50+. I use this on days I don't wear foundation or BB cream, but still want SPF and a little bit of coverage. Atomy is a Korean brand that does have a US site so you can definitely find this stuff easily, and it comes in regular White as well, for those who don't want the tinted version. I received it as a gift so I'm not sure what the price range is, but it runs for $20 for a 2 oz. tube on Amazon.

Most days, however, I use my BB cream which has SPF 30 in it. BB Cream, as you probably already know, are a cross between a tinted moisturizer and foundation that has an amazing range of skin-benefitting qualities such as moisturizing, pore erasing, and concealing, all in one product. I know technically this isn't a skin care product and is more makeup (since I wear it instead of foundation), but I have to share this with you guys—it is definitely a holy grail product that I use on a daily basis and could not live without!! The brand I use is Dr. G Gowoonsaesang Brightening Balm.
This stuff is ah-ma-zing. It doesn't have as full of coverage as a high-end foundation would, but it comes pretty darn close. I almost never wear foundation anymore because this stuff just works so well. It's like a primer, foundation, and concealer all in one—saves time and money! While it is a Korean product, I've seen it everywhere in the US—Amazon carries it for sure. It is around $33 for the 45 mL tube, but it lasts so long—one tube lasted me a year and a half. Unlike foundation, where you need a couple squirts of product to blend out, you really only need a small bead of BB cream to cover your entire face.

I have tried other BB creams, both Korean and American brands, but I always come back to this one. It's one of my favorite products ever—a classic in my beauty repertoire!

Makeup Remover


I skip this step on days I'm not wearing makeup (obviously), but on days that I am—even if it's just a thin layer of BB cream—I always swipe my face down with a makeup remover wipe before washing it in the evening. I would not recommend just using your cleanser to get all that makeup off, even if it claims to have makeup-removing properties. You need to take your makeup off separately, especially eye and lip makeup because you don't want to rub that all into your skin when washing your face.

First, I use an eye makeup remover—you can use this to remove eyebrow makeup and lip makeup as well. If it is oil based, do not use it on your face since it could clog pores. My all-time favorite is Lancôme Bi-Facil Double-Action Eye Makeup Remover ($28 for 4.2 oz.) because it is gentle and removes even waterproof mascara effectively.
Sometimes when I want to use an all-natural product, I just use plain coconut or olive oil. Making sure it's the 100% food-grade kind, all I do is dab some on a cotton ball and rub it over my eyes gently. It's not as Lancôme, but it's a great, natural substitute in a pinch.

My makeup remover wipe of choice is from Mamonde, another Korean brand. I couldn't find a link to this stuff anywhere, but I love it because it is made out of a thin, sift-like tissue rather than a solid cloth, so the texture provides a bit of exfoliation on top of taking off all my skin makeup. It's very reasonably priced (I think $20 for a huge tub of wipes?) but I'm really not that picky with face wipes as long as they don't contain alcohol.

Masks, Treatments, and Exfoliators


I definitely have a collection of products I use every once in a while to pamper my face. My all-time favorite mask treatment is Victoria Lanolin-Ägg-Tvål Soap, which is a bar soap that you lather up, then spread across your face; it's meant to be used in place of a cleanser.
You leave it on for 10-15 minutes, then wash it off, and voilà—perfect, tightened skin! This egg white-based soap definitely dries skin out so I use it twice a week, but its effects are instantaneous and absolutely amazing. I think it's only about $20 for six 50-gram bars of soap, which seems pricey, but six bars of soap! That's bound to last forever. Definitely worth the investment.

I'm also a fan of Korean sheet masks, if you've ever seen these around the beauty blogosphere. They are great to use every once in a while to freshen up and add lots of moisture to your skin. I use all brands from Korea, but my favorites have been from Nature Republic, Innisfree, The Face Shop, and Etude House—all basic Korean "drugstore" brands—that usually cost $1 or $2 each. Not bad for a single treatment. Bioré Deep-Cleansing Pore Strips are also a must for me. Whenever the blackheads on my nose and chin get noticeable, one of these babies will pluck them right off! It is kind of disgusting to see the little blackheads on the sticky sheet, but it's so fulfilling to know that gunk is off your face ;) I use them once or twice a month, because using them too often can be irritating.
You can find Bioré at pretty much any drugstore and online. I believe a box of 8 strips retails for about $8 (may be cheaper at Walmart or Drugstore.com).

I don't find it necessary to exfoliate every day since I have sensitive skin; usually a makeup remover wipe or washcloth is enough for me, but sometimes you just really need to get rid of pesky blackheads. I definitely notice when my skin starts feeling a little rough, and to smooth it out, my favorite all-natural treatment is facial salts! Every two weeks or so, I use Adovia Dead Sea Exfoliating Facial Salts, which pretty much look and smell like regular salt, but have minerals from the dead sea. I add a spoonful of this stuff to my cleanser and work it in like a scrub.
In my opinion, this stuff is severely overpriced considering it's literally just salt... it's around $19 for a 12.3 oz jar—outrageous! I'm sure you can just use regular sea salt to exfoliate, no need to purchase a spa brand. Just make sure it is SEA salt and not table salt, because that stuff is chemically derived and could be bad for your skin.

Giveaway!


Phew! Finally done with this list—I hope it helped you guys understand what products are good for oily and acne-prone skin, and what steps are necessary in skin care routines. To end my huge, extensive, post, I'm giving away three full-size bottles of La Deessa Premium Anti-Aging Elixir to three lucky Books à la Mode readers!

To enter, all you have to do is tell me:
What's your skin care routine like? Tell me the step-by-step process and products/brands you use. Obviously you don't have to go into as much detail as I did, but I want to know your current routine and holy grail products, if you have any!
Don't forget the entry eligibility terms and conditions!
Sponsored wholly by the seller and review coordinator—a huge thank you to La Deessa and Tomoson!
Giveaway ends August 2nd at 11.59 PM (your time).

Open to US readers only. Sorry, everyone else! Please check my sidebar where I have a list of currently running giveaways, some of which are open worldwide—there are plenty to choose from!
Void where prohibited.
Although I do randomly select winners, I am in no way responsible for shipping and handling, nor for the prizes themselves.
As a reminder, you do not have to follow my blog to enter, though it is always very much appreciated ❤
Good luck!

FTC Disclosure: I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. However, I was not paid in any way to write a review—positive or otherwise—and all thoughts and opinions are mine and mine alone. I only recommend products or services I have used personally and believe will be good for my beautiful readers!

Monday, July 14, 2014

5 Heart Review: The Return of the Rebel by Jennifer Faye + Giveaway! (Open internationally)

Brought to you by...
The Return of the Rebel
Jennifer Faye
Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Follow the Tour!

Page Count: 251

Release Date: July 1st 2014
Publisher: Harlequin
Source: Complimentary copy provided by author via tour publicist in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you, Jennifer and Tasty Book Tours!)
Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

The guy from the wrong side of the tracks…

Being promoted should be a dream come true, only it means working closely with Cleo's childhood crush, Jax Monroe. Jax may no longer be the rebel she remembers, but he still gets her heart racing like no other.

Jax cares too much about Cleo to let her get too close—but keeping his distance is proving impossible! As Jax reveals the extent of what he's been through, will Cleo show him that some things are too precious to put off until tomorrow?
At age fourteen, Cleo had the most painful, most obvious schoolgirl crush on her big brother's best friend: the dangerous, brooding Jax Monroe—and to be honest, she's always been in love with him, even after he left town without a word. Now, she's finally up on her feet with a handsomely paying casino job and the determination to make amends with her estranged mother, so it's a shock—and not even a pleasant one—when, after all these years, Jax comes barreling back into her life.

I was attracted to the "reunited after childhood" storyline of this novel but it was far from dramatic and really just didn't hit the spot for me. The plot revolving around the cute badboy all grown up is normally my thing—I love myself a reformed hero!—but the two main characters are so shallow and so irritatingly boring that I didn't like or sympathize with either of them.

Regarding the romance element, what Jax and Cleo feel for each other is definitely instalove; with poor relationship development, stilted dialogue, and absolutely no chemistry, the "romance" is unrealistic and mundane. There's nothing that stands out to me about this couple, nothing that makes me swoon or ache or smile. They're both just there, taking up space. The Return of the Rebel is a VERY chaste romance, very PG with no steam or sex at all; sure, it's sweet, but it's also rather flavorless. It didn't seem much like a romance novel to me, other than the (rather undeserved) happy ending.

My biggest issue with this book was Faye's tendency to draw out the blandest, most clichéd literary devices and conventions in her writing. She is not a bad writer; while not immensely commendable, her style is smooth, straightforward, and it gets the job done. However, her prose is full of trite metaphors and stereotypical romance tropes (the cool best friend, the loving but troubled family, the helpless heroine, the hero who instantly falls in love with her for no reason at all) that I had a hard time tolerating. At the climax of Cleo and Jax's emotional connection (or whatever constitutes for it), Cleo says, verbatim:
"[Life is] kinda like looking at a glass of water. You can either view it as a glass half-full or half-empty. I choose to look at it half-full."
Deep stuff, isn't it?

And of course, the last line is "I will always love you." Who didn't see that coming?

Pros


Easy, short-length novel // Quick, light read that doesn't make you think too much

Cons


Boring // Wordy and rambles off on irrelevant tangents about furniture and pets and clothing that contribute exactly nothing to the story // Characters are all two-dimensional, hard to like, and rather unintelligent-sounding // Romance is not romantic // No sexual tension... or sex, for that matter // Very formulaic, unoriginal // Flat, unmemorable

Verdict


The Return of the Rebel was not terribly unpalatable; it has a linear storyline and Cleo has a somewhat intriguing backstory that made it a quick, watery read. I was mostly annoyed by how dull the characters, insipid the plot, and unextraordinary the writing is. While Jennifer Faye's newest release serves as a quick, lighthearted, surface-skimming romance novel, I personally don't think it's anything to write home about Americanflag

5 hearts: Doesn't particularly light any of my fires; I feel indifferent about this book (x)

Giveaway!

We are giving away three digital copies of The Return of the Rebel and one grand prize of a $25 Amazon gift card as part of the virtual tour hosted by Tasty Book Tours—that's four winners tour-wide. Yay!!

To enter, all you have to do is fill out the Rafflecopter form below:
As a reminder, this is a generic tour-wide giveaway so I do not choose winners or prizes, and am merely a part of the promotional efforts.

Don't forget the entry eligibility terms and conditions!
Sponsored wholly by the tour publicist and author—a huge thank you to Tasty Book Tours and Jennifer Faye!
Giveaway ends July 20th at 11.59 PM (your time).
Open internationally—that means anyone in the world can enter! Woohoo!
Void where prohibited.
As this is a tour-wide giveaway, I have no say in the selected winners and am in no way responsible for prizes, nor for shipping and handling.
As a reminder, you do not have to follow my blog to enter, though it is always very much appreciated ❤
Good luck!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Azure Naturals Ultimate Retinol Serum Review + Giveaway! (US only)


Azure Naturals provides high quality facial skincare and anti-aging products using natural and organic ingredients whenever possible. We are committed to delivering the finest skin care system and making sure that our clients are 100% satisfied with the results. Our customers are looking for better health and better skin and the solutions that we develop will always be designed around these elements. We appreciate those who are taking the journey with us to return to your youth.

VITAMIN A WORKS! Retinol is one of the most effective ingredients for reducing fine lines and wrinkles. Vitamin A is proven to improve pigmentation, fine lines, wrinkles, skin texture, skin tone, color, as well as increase your skins hydration levels. ULTIMATE RETINOL is the most advanced Retinol product currently available. We have designed a delivery system that allows very high strength 2.5% Retinol to be used around the eyes and even by people with sensitive skin.

HOW DOES IT WORK? Cellular renewal happens continuously when we're young, but as we age the skin's ability to renew itself slows down. Retinol has a very small molecular structure that allows it to deeply penetrate your skin activating collagen and elastin. Applied at night, ULTIMATE Retinol will increase your skin's moisture, promoting cellular turnover and renewal.

BUY WITH CONFIDENCE! Made in the USA with the highest quality natural and organic ingredients available: 97% Natural, 72% Organic. Contains no alcohol, no parabens, no GMO's, is plant-based, cruelty free, and never tested on animals!

HOW DO YOU RECEIVE OPTIMAL RESULTS? Start using in your late twenties or early thirties. Early use of Retinol can combat fine lines before they become apparent. If you don't have prior experience using Retinol products start slowly and be consistent with your use. Apply a small amount every other day, after a couple of weeks you can begin applying more frequently as your skin adapts. Just like exercise, it is very important to use your skin care products consistently. If you do experience any irritation decrease usage for a few days and work your way back up after that.

Review


Azure Naturals is one of my go-to skincare brands for serums (and NO! I was not paid to say that!!!). I regularly use their Vitamin C and Hyaluronic Acid Serums, so trying this Retinol serum was a no-brainer for me. Although Retinol serums are mainly used to combat wrinkles and fine lines—which aren't a skin care concern of mine quite yet—they are also useful as preventative treatment. It's much easier to prevent wrinkles than it is to cure them, so it's really never too early to use anti-aging products!

I was a bit concerned with this product at first because of how retinol is known for being irritating to skin. I have very sensitive skin, but this product did not cause any irritation, thank god. Still, I am being careful and only applying this serum in the evenings as instructed. If you use any other serums, you should use this one last (I use it after my vitamin C and hyaluronic acid serums), just once a day, at night. That way it won't penetrate the skin as deeply, which may keep any potential irritation or redness at bay.

Retinol apparently is great for clearing acne, so I'm glad I gave this serum a shot. Since it didn't make me break out or give me an allergic reaction, I'll definitely be incorporating it into my regular skin care routine.

As a side note, there's a lot I love about Azure Naturals as a company. Not only do they use natural, organic, cruelty-free ingredients, but they also have excellent customer service (I know from personal experience!) and make their products AFFORDABLE. I don't know how many serums I've seen all over Sephora and Amazon that are unnecessarily pricey; Azure Naturals carries the exact same formulas (seriously; some of the ingredient lists are the exact same!) at a more affordable price, without sacrificing quality.

Giveaway!


Three of my beautiful readers will get the opportunity to try Azure Naturals Ultimate Retinol Serum themselves—Books à la Mode is giving away three 1 oz. bottles! That's three winners total—yay! To enter, all you have to do is tell me:
Have you ever used retinol in your skin care routine? (Serums, powders, creams, etc.) If so, what was your experience like? If not, why do you want to try this serum?

Don't forget the entry eligibility terms and conditions!
Sponsored wholly by the company—a huge thank you to Azure Naturals!
Giveaway ends July 25th at 11.59 PM (your time).
Open to US residents only. Sorry, everyone else! Please take a look at my sidebar, where I have a list of currently running giveaways that are open worldwide—there are plenty to choose from!
Void where prohibited.
Winners have 48 hours to claim their prize once they are chosen, or else their winnings will be forfeited.
Although I do randomly select winners, I am in no way responsible for prizes, nor for shipping and handling.
As a reminder, you do not have to follow my blog to enter, though it is always very much appreciated ❤

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary sample of Azure Naturals's Ultimate Retinol Serum using Tomoson.com in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. I was not compensated to write a positive review, nor was I sponsored in any way. All thoughts are mine and mine alone.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Top 5 Random Sources of Inspiration for Love & Treasure by Ayelet Waldman + Giveaway! (US)

Love & Treasure
Ayelet Waldman

A spellbinding new novel of contraband masterpieces, tragic love, and the unexpected legacies of forgotten crimes, Ayelet Waldman’s Love & Treasure weaves a tale around the fascinating, true history of the Hungarian Gold Train in the Second World War.

In 1945 on the outskirts of Salzburg, victorious American soldiers capture a train filled with unspeakable riches: piles of fine gold watches; mountains of fur coats; crates filled with wedding rings, silver picture frames, family heirlooms, and Shabbat candlesticks passed down through generations. Jack Wiseman, a tough, smart New York Jew, is the lieutenant charged with guarding this treasure—a responsibility that grows more complicated when he meets Ilona, a fierce, beautiful Hungarian who has lost everything in the ravages of the Holocaust. Seventy years later, amid the shadowy world of art dealers who profit off the sins of previous generations, Jack gives a necklace to his granddaughter, Natalie Stein, and charges her with searching for an unknown woman—a woman whose portrait and fate come to haunt Natalie, a woman whose secret may help Natalie to understand the guilt her grandfather will take to his grave and to find a way out of the mess she has made of her own life.

A story of brilliantly drawn characters—a suave and shady art historian, a delusive and infatuated Freudian, a family of singing circus dwarfs fallen into the clutches of Josef Mengele, and desperate lovers facing choices that will tear them apart—Love & Treasure is Ayelet Waldman’s finest novel to date: a sad, funny, richly detailed work that poses hard questions about the value of precious things in a time when life itself has no value, and about the slenderest of chains that can bind us to the griefs and passions of the past.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Interview with Maryann Reid, Author of This Life + Giveaway! (Open internationally)

I'd like to welcome Maryann Reid to the blog today to celebrate the publication of her newest novel, This Life. Stick around until the end for a fabulous giveaway—print copies and Amazon gift cards, y'all!—that you don't want to miss!

Welcome to Books à la Mode, Maryann! Let's get this interview started.


Will you please share a brief introduction with us?

Award-winning author and TV/radio social commentator Maryann Reid has been featured by countless media outlets including USA Today, Essence, Glamour, The CBS Early Show, and The Wendy Williams Experience. She is an expert wordsmith and has a plethora of connections with women all over the world from her travels to Europe and The Caribbean, and is a popular guest lecturer at colleges, where she has taught her writing and business skills to groups who want to lead their ideal life on their own terms.

Maryann has been profiled in The New Yorker, Newsweek, Oprah.com, and NBC Nightly News for her innovative approach to life and solving its complex issues, including creating the uber-landmark event Marry Your Baby Daddy Day. This event originated from her third book, Marry Your Baby Daddy (St. Martins Press, 2005) that was optioned by Hollywood actress Holly Robinson-Peete and Dolores Robinson.

Since her debut book Sex and the Single Sister, Maryann has been invited to speak to some of the most innovative groups all over the country and has received over 20 million media impressions worldwide via major news outlets like ABC News 20/20, NBC Nightly News, and CNN.

Maryann received her BA in Journalism from Fordham and developed her writing and love for news at Random House and CNN. She later received her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Miami. She currently lives in Brooklyn, NY and steadily working on new products for women.


Readers, here's a bit about this new book!


Reality just got a bit too real for this queen of an empire.

Blake is living a life that most women could only dream about. She's beautiful, brilliant, fierce, and doesn't know how to quit. She's built an empire, made millions, and fought her demons. When she's invited to host "The Takeover", a new reality show, she's quick to take on the challenge. The show is an instant success...and Blake's life becomes an instant mess.

Blake's new celebrity status comes with a catch: notoriety. That notoriety uncovers secrets that Blake would have rather kept buried. The worst is her ex-husband Lang, a jealous, obsessed man intent on destroying everything Blake has built.

Blake's success and money become her weaknesses, leaving her with very few people to trust. This only gets worse living in the public eye. Lang uses Blake's celebrity and feelings of isolation against her as he enlists the help of people from Blake's past to ruin her. Unfortunately for Lang, Blake didn't get where she is by backing down from a fight.

When Brett, Blake's ex-flame appears, she finds herself hoping for the best, but expecting the worst. Their complicated history soon has her life spinning out of control.

As Blake struggles with the chaos, and the feeling that she can't trust anyone, she starts to wonder if the life she has is even worth the fight.

When Lang's schemes escalate, Blake finds herself on the edge of losing everything...

Sizzling with celebrity fantasy, This Life goes inside an action-packed world of wealth and power, secrets and deceptions, revenge and betrayal-where staying on top could mean paying the ultimate price.
Buy the book from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository | Books-A-Million | Createspace

Describe the This Life in six words (or less!).

Good people behaving badly.

What was the inspiration for the book?

I’ve always been curious about women who reinvent themselves and are not occupied with being good girls. I created a character who was neither very good, nor very bad.

As a huge fan of first lines, I’d love to hear the first line of This Life. Could you give us a brief commentary on it?
Faint whispers came out of the hall closet as Blake stepped out of the bathroom.
The bathroom is one of our most vulnerable places. We expect to be left alone there.

I wanted to start with Blake acting innocently and show how quickly she can shift.


Which character from This Life was most difficult to write?

Robin Love. Because of the circumstances in her life, she chose badly. She reminded me of women who have so much potential or may have been cheered on when very young, and never quite blossomed into the woman everyone thought they would become. Robin was waiting for her life to happen, and she got a little impatient.


- - - - - - - - - - -

Some randomness...

Most romantic thing a guy has ever done for you? 12 long red stem roses arrived in a long white box at work. He took a good hint!

How do you get over heartbreak?  I don’t think I ever do. There’s always a tiny hole there. I just learn to live with the hole.

- - - - - - - - - - -

Give us your best personal advice—something you wish you'd known when you were younger and would offer to your own kids.

When you’re alone, you attract the most attention. When you’re in a crowd, no one cares.

What is the message in This Life that you want readers to grasp?

I want them to know that sometimes we have to be a little bad to get what we want in this world. Fortune favors the bold, so the saying goes.

Where can you be found on the web?


Before we conclude this interview, is there anything you'd like to ask our readers?

Blake has a painful secret that she reveals in the book. If you told someone your biggest secret, would they scream, cry, or laugh? 

It was an absolute pleasure to be able to get to know you better today, Maryann! Thank you again for dropping by, and best of luck with future endeavors!

Giveaway!


Books à la Mode is having a huge giveaway in celebration of Maryann's visit today! We are giving away
 two print copies of This Life and three $10 Amazon gift cards
—that's five winners total! Woohoo! To enter, all you have to do is answer Maryann's question:
If you told someone your biggest secret, would they scream, cry, or laugh?

Also, what country do you live in? This will just determine which prize(s) you are eligible for.
Please make your comment MEANINGFUL. Comments solely consisting of stock responses or irrelevant fluff like "Thanks for the giveaway!" will not be considered for entry. Maryann and I really want to hear your thoughts! :)

Don't forget the entry eligibility terms and conditions!
Sponsored wholly by the author—a huge thank you to Maryann!
Giveaway ends July 23rd at 11.59 PM (your time).
Open internationally—yay!! However, the print copies are open to US residents only. Anyone outside of the US may only enter to win for the electronic Amazon gift card (as long as you are able to redeem it at Amazon US).
Void where prohibited.
Winners have 48 hours to claim their prize once they are chosen, or else their winnings will be forfeited.
Although I do randomly select winners, I am in no way responsible for prizes, nor for shipping and handling.
As a reminder, you do not have to follow my blog to enter, though it is always very much appreciated ❤
Good luck!