Thursday, August 28, 2014

Product Review: Vita Nut Milk Bag + Giveaway! (US only)


Save time, get better yield, and produce less waste without any stretching or tearing!

Our nut milk bag is made with a premium, tight-weave, fine 200-micron monofilament mesh. This durable, high-quality material is perfect for squeezing without tearing or ripping the bag. This means less waste and smoother, better tasting nut milks, juices, yogurts, and cold brew coffee that you only have to filter once.

The convenient, durable drawstring makes for convenient filtering and cleaning. The large opening fits over almost any container or jar for easy pouring and straining. Perfect for both small batches and large, this 12" by 10" bag reduces your prep and cleaning time.

As an exclusive Amazon bonus, it also comes with Vita's specially written recipe book full of instructions for making almond milk, hemp milk, sprouting, greek yogurt, and much more.

Review


If you don't know what a nut milk bag is, boy, you're missing out!

It's the ultimate multi-purpose kitchen straining tool, useful for making not only nut milks (perfect for vegans!), but you can also use it for juicing, sprouting, in place of a cheesecloth, and so on. Recent paleo, vegan, and "clean" eating diets call for nut milk bags all the time. I could definitely see myself using this for cauliflower pizza crusts, homemade tofu, and really anything that requires lots of wringing and straining!

The first thing I made with this was all-natural Jell-O—made purely from fruit purée, gelatin, and honey, they tasted amazing, and were much healthier than the artificially flavored, sugar-laden alternative. Vita nut milk bag is amazingly durable and was definitely a good sport even with me squeezing the hell out of it. The mesh is very fine—it's just a nylon cloth, rather than a hole-y strainer—so it did a great job at catching all the seeds and pulp.

Cleaning is easy, but I was disappointed to see how easily and permanently the bag stained. I thought the plastic-like texture of the cloth would not stain easily, but it turned red after my strawberry juicing, just like a regular fabric cloth would. While the bag is dishwasher-safe, it doesn't do much for the stains. I know the bag is clean, it just looks unsightly and messily colored. Multiple people have suggested to soak it in hydrogen peroxide or grapefruit seed extract, which are both safe methods to "bleach" the stains. I'll have to try it; otherwise I'll just buy a new one! This is such a useful kitchen product and I think all health foodies—whether you're raw, paleo, or just like experimenting in the kitchen!—should have one of these.

Giveaway!


One lucky Books à la Mode reader will win
one Vita nut milk bag—yay! To enter, all you have to do is tell me:
If you had a Vita nut milk bag, what would you use it for? There are so many great possibilities with this—tell me why you want it!
Don't forget the entry eligibility terms and conditions!
Sponsored wholly by the company—a huge thank you to the fabulous folks at Vita!
Giveaway ends September 3rd at 11.59 PM (your time).
Open to US residents only—sorry, everyone else! Please check my sidebar for a list of currently running giveaways that are open internationally—there are plenty to choose from!
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!

FTC Disclosure: I received one complimentary Vita nut milk bag via Tomoson.com in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. 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!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Exclusive Sneak Peek of Forever Kinda Love by Clara Stone + Giveaway! (International!)

Forever Kinda Love
Clara Stone

Life’s little surprises...

The last thing seven-year-old Carrigan "Ace" Casper foresaw was an eight-year-old Heath Lovelly walking into her life the day her mother died. From that moment on, Heath stuck by her side, slowly becoming her strength, her confidant, and her entire world. What she didn't know is she was his saving grace, too.

Ten years later, Ace is handed another crippling challenge that threatens everything in her almost perfect life. Only, this time, she doesn't turn to Heath—hiding the truth instead. But Heath knows Ace too well and won't back down easily. He's ready to do whatever it takes and will stay by her side until she accepts that their love is the kinda love worth fighting for.

Will he be her forever triumph or her unexpected downfall?

Two lives.

One story.

And an unexpected journey to falling in love. Forever.
Buy the book from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Kobo | Autographed Copies

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Vitamin C Diaries #5: How to Apply Vitamin C Serum + Petunia Skincare Review & Giveaway! (US only)

It's no secret that Vitamin C serums are a huge skin care must-have these days. With anti-aging, acne-fighting, and scar-reducing properties, they're sweeping the beauty blogosphere; even I'm writing a series on Vitamin C you can follow!

The benefits of Vitamin C have always been known to skin care specialists, but it's only recently emerged in highly concentrated forms—through serums.

So how does one exactly apply a Vitamin C serum? Here are some simple instructions and tips on where, when, and how to apply a Vitamin C serum:

Where


Vitamin C serums are formulated for the face, although they are fantastic for the neck and décolletage areas as well. Vitamin C targets wrinkles and fine lines and acne scars, and has been known to reverse signs of premature aging and sun damage as well. Since skin on the face and neck is extra sensitive (and not to mention, prone to wrinkles!) it's important to treat those areas with serum.

Pro tip: When shopping for Vitamin C serums, try to find one that uses natural, organic, and cruelty-free ingredients. Like any skin product you use, they should not contain chemicals that can be harmful for your skin such as parabens, comedogenic oils, alcohol, or petroleum. Check out the serums I've reviewed in the past—most of them were all-natural and cruelty-free, and I would recommend them to anyone! Stay tuned for a giveaway at the end of this post to WIN one of them for free!

When


To get the most out of Vitamin C serums, you should apply them consistently, just like you would any other skin product. That's key, here; many people are disappointed when they expect one application of Vitamin C to produce instant results—and they don't! It's kind of like a weight loss journey; the path to beautiful skin is not something you can expect to change radically overnight. Just like you can't expect to lose ten pounds after one workout, you can't expect all your wrinkles to be erased after using a serum once.

I use my serums twice a day—in both my morning and nighttime skin care routines—but since Vitamin C is mildly acidic, people with extremely sensitive or dry skin should only use it once a day. I have sensitive skin, and using my serums twice a day has not affected me aversely at all, so I think most people can get away with twice-a-day usage.

Serums should be applied right after cleansing (and after clarifying, if you use a toner) for maximum absorption. I use a few drops per application, because that's really all I need. Most serums are very watery, so a little amount goes a long way.

Immediately after the serum dries, you should use your regular moisturizer—this is a crucial step! While Vitamin C serums may contain added ingredients to moisturize your skin—such as Vitamin E, jojoba oil, or aloe—the serum itself is NOT a moisturizer, and in fact can actually dry out your skin. Therefore, it's always safe to follow up with lotion, cream, emulsion, or whatever else you use on a daily or nightly basis. Hydration is very important for acne-free, or for more mature skin, wrinkle-free skin.

Pro tip: Different kinds of serums can be used in conjunction with each other, so if you have any other serums in your beauty repertoire, such as hyaluronic acid or retinol treatments, you should apply those on top of your Vitamin C serum, and then follow with moisturizer.

How


There's really no right or wrong way to apply a serum, but what I like to do is place a few drops on my fingers and dab it all across my face and neck—cheeks, nose, forehead, temples, chin, jaw, browbone, throat, chest—and then pat it in gently using my fingertips, kind of like I'm giving myself a mini massage. Use very soft patting or tapping motions because you don't want to tug or pull on your face—that promotes wrinkling.

Currently I'm using Petunia Skincare Vitamin C serum, which also contains Vitamin E, hyaluronic acid, and ferulic acid. I'm giving a full-size bottle away, so keep on reading!

Pro tip: When dispensing serum from the bottle, don't squirt it into your palm. The skin on the inside of your hands is rough, usually drier than anywhere else, and has bigger grooves and indents than any other skin on your body. Just look at your palm, how many lines it has!

Instead, you should dispense the product onto the back of your hand, or directly to your fingertips (if it's not too runny) so that the least possible amount of product is absorbed into the skin on your hands. This saves product, which in turn saves your face (more moisture!) and saves money (yay!).

Giveaway!

One lucky Books à la Mode reader will win a full-size bottle of Petunia Skincare Vitamin C Serum—yay! I've been using this serum for about a week now, and it's a great addition to my skin care routine. It makes the surface of my skin slightly sticky, so that when I apply other serums and eventually moisturizer on top of it, my skin absorbs everything better. 

Petunia Skincare's serum is safe for dry or dull skin, and can minimize wrinkles, fine lines, signs of aging, as well as sun spot, dark spots, and age spots. It also helps return lost elasticity and firmness to skin, so it's really a miracle product!

To enter the giveaway, all you have to do is tell me:
What song are you currently obsessed with? If you're not a huge music listener (gasp!), just tell me one of your all-time favorite songs.
I know, I know... completely irrelevant, but I just have to know! I also needed an excuse to share this song with you guys. I've been playing it on constant loop for days.

Super sad, but super addicting. What do you think?

Don't forget the entry eligibility terms and conditions!
Sponsored wholly by the company—a huge thank you to the fabulous folks at Petunia Skincare!
Giveaway ends September 7th at 11.59 PM (your time).
Open to US residents only—sorry, everyone else! Please check my sidebar for a list of currently running giveaways that are open internationally—there are plenty to choose from!

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!

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary sample of this Vitamin C Serum from Petunia Skincare using Tomoson.com in exchange for an honest review. I was neither paid nor sponsored in any way to share my opinions—positive or otherwise—and all thoughts reflected in this unbiased post are mine and mine alone. I only recommend products or services I have used personally and believe will be good for my beautiful readers!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A Death in Vegas by Christopher Meeks Giveaway! (US only)

A Death in Vegas
Christopher Meeks

Page Count: 174
Release Date: August 15th, 2014
Publisher: White Whisker Books (self-published)
Genre: Mystery

In A Death in Vegas, the president of BenBugs, a company that specializes in beneficial bugs for organic gardening, discovers a young woman dead in his Las Vegas hotel suite. She had worked as a sexy lady bug at his convention booth—and he had nothing to do with her death.

While that’s being investigated, the FBI raids his booth on a money-laundering scam that he knows nothing about, either. Soon, the coroner doesn’t have good news, the police and FBI are against him, and his wife cannot be found.

He flees to find the answers.

About the Author


Christopher Meeks has four novels and two collections of short fiction published. His most recent novel before this was the acclaimed thriller, Blood Drama. His novel The Brightest Moon of the Century made the list of three book critics’ Ten Best Book of 2009. Love at Absolute Zero also made three Best Books lists of 2011, as well as earning a ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year Finalist award.

He has had stories published in several literary journals, and they have been included in the collections "Months and Seasons" and "The Middle-Aged Man and the Sea."

Mr. Meeks has had three full-length plays mounted in Los Angeles, and one, "Who Lives?" had been nominated for five Ovation Awards, Los Angeles’ top theatre prize.

Mr. Meeks teaches English and fiction writing at Santa Monica College, and Children’s Literature at the Art Center College of Design.

Giveaway!


Books à la Mode is giving away
 one finished print copy of A Death in Vegas—yay!! To enter, all you have to do is tell me:

Have you been to Vegas? What was the most memorable thing you did there? If you've never been before, what would you like to see or do?
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. Chris and I really want to hear from you guys! :)

Don't forget the entry eligibility terms and conditions!
Sponsored wholly by the tour publicist and author—a huge thank you to PICT and Christopher Meeks!
Giveaway ends September 3rd at 11.59 PM (your time).
Open to US residents only. Sorry, everyone else! Please watch my sidebar for a list of currently running giveaways that are open to my international readers.
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!

Clear Your Shelf Giveaway Hop 2014! (US only)

The 2014 Clear Your Shelf Giveaway Hop, hosted by I Am a Reader, Not a Writer and Bookhounds, 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 Clear Your Shelf Giveaway Hop is scheduled from August 20th at 12.01 AM until August 27th at 11:59 PM (EST).


The Prizes


Two lucky followers will each win one of the following books from my shelf:



What would you choose if you won? We'll have two winners total! Woohoo!!!!

Also


Completely unrelated to the hop, but I wanted to give everyone a quick reminder that I am partnering with St. Martin's Press to host a VIRTUAL BOOK CLUB for Twitter celebrity Jenny Mollen's hilarious memoir, I Like You Just the Way I Am. If you join, the publisher will send you a free copy of the book, you'll get to chat with fellow book club members, AND you'll get to meet the author. Exciting, right? This book club does not have any location restrictions as it will be hosted completely online, and is open to anyone who wants to read the book and have fun with us! Click here to sign up!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Jenny Mollen's I Like You Just the Way I Am Virtual Book Club [SIGNUPS!]

Hello, my lovelies!

I'm excited to announce the first-ever virtual book club hosted by Books à la Mode and want to extend my personal invitation for you—yes, YOU fabulous readers!—to be a part of it.

The book we will be covering is called I Like You Just the Way I Am, a collection of crazy, snarky essays by Hollywood actress and Twitter phenomenon Jenny Mollen (who also happens to be the wife of Jason Biggs. Yes, THE Jason Biggs!). À la Chelsea Handler, Jenny brings us a book about her hilarious, outrageous life antics (most of, but not all of which, she is insanely proud of), appropriately titled "Stories About Me and Some Other People." If you're a fan of Chelsea Handler, Tina Fey, and Sarah Silverman, you will adore Jenny! Here's the back cover of the book:

By the actress, writer, and one of the funniest women on Twitter, an outrageous, hysterical memoir of acting on impulse, plotting elaborate hoaxes, and refusing to acknowledge boundaries in any form

Jenny Mollen is an actress and writer living in Los Angeles. She is also a wife, married to a famous guy (which is annoying only because he gets free shit and she doesn't). She doesn’t want much from life. Just to be loved—by everybody: her parents, her dogs, her ex-boyfriends, her ex-boyfriends’ dogs, her husband, her husband’s ex-girlfriends, her husband's ex-girlfriend's new boyfriends, etc. Some people might call that impulse crazy, but isn’t "crazy" really just a word boring people use to describe fun people? (And Jenny is really, really fun, you guys!).

In these pages, you’ll find stories of Jenny at her most genuine, whether it’s stalking her therapist (because he knows everything about her so shouldn’t she get to know everything about him?); throwing a bachelorette party so bad that one of the guests is suspected dead; or answering the eternal question, Would your best friend blow your husband on a car ride to dinner if she didn't know you were hiding in the backseat?

I Like You Just the Way I Am is about not doing the right thing—about indulging your inner crazy-person. It is Jenny when she’s not trying to impress anyone or come across as a responsible, level-headed member of society. With any luck it will make you better acquainted with who you really are and what you really want. Which, let’s be honest, is most likely someone else’s email password.
Here's how the virtual book club will run: Just like a regular physical book club, we will be reading I Like You Just the Way I Am together within a one-month timeframe, tentatively scheduled to be the first two weeks of September. Each week, we will have checkins, that will either consist of live chats so we can all talk about the book and answer discussion questions, or of blog posts (if you are a blogger).

You know what's awesome? St. Martin's Press will be providing reading copies—woohoo! We have copies available in both digital and print format, although the print copies are limited and restricted to US and Canadian residents only. If you can accept both print or digital, you will most likely be receiving digital just because we should give print-only readers the opportunity to join. However, by being willing to accept an electronic review copy, you are increasing your chances of getting into the book club—and yes, we do have a member limit, so widening your chances is always safer.

You know what's even awesomer? At the conclusion of the book club, Jenny Mollen herself will be joining us for a live chat or video chat to discuss the book. How fabulous is that? Not only will you be able to talk with the author, but you'll get to meet the fabulous woman herself.

Any other questions? Comment below or shoot me an email—I'd love to have you on board!

Interested in signing up?

Below, is the signup sheet (Google form) AND the review copy roster (Rafflecopter). You must fill out both forms in order to be considered for the book club and receive a review copy. If you only fill out the Google form, you will have to find a copy of the book yourself.

Please make sure all required fields of the Google form are filled out, and all the Rafflecopter entries are submitted.


a Rafflecopter giveaway
Note: Even though this review copy form is through Rafflecopter, I will not be randomly selecting "winners"—this is just a way for me know who needs what format and where to send it. If you are selected for the book club and indicated needing a review copy, you are guaranteed to receive one (a huge thanks to the wonderful publisher!).

Signups close Thursday, August 21st at 11:59 PM, so make sure you get your submission in quickly! Late requests will not be granted.

I can't wait to do this with you guys! Thanks for considering!!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

7 Heart Review: The Curiosity by Stephen Kiernan

The Curiosity
Stephen Kiernan

Page Count: 464

Release Date: July 1st 2014 (paperback edition)
Publisher: William Morrow Books (Harper Collins)
Source: Complimentary copy provided by tour publicist via publisher in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you, TLC Book Tours and Harper Collins!)
Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

What if the love of your life died decades before you were born?

When Dr. Kate Philo and her scientific exploration team discover the body of a man buried deep in the Arctic ice, her egocentric and paranoid boss, Erastus Carthage, orders the frozen man to be brought to his lab in Boston and reanimated. The endeavor is named The Lazarus Project, and as the man, Jeremiah Rice, begins to regain his memories, the last thing he recalls is falling overboard into the Arctic Ocean in 1906. When news of the project breaks, it ignites a media firestorm and protests by religious fundamentalists.

Thrown together by fate, Kate and Jeremiah grow closer. But the clock is ticking and Jeremiah’s new life is slipping away. With Carthage planning to exploit Jeremiah while he can, Kate must decide how far she is willing to go to protect the man she has come to love. A gripping, poignant, and thoroughly original thriller, The Curiosity raises disturbing questions about the very nature of life and humanity.
"When hard ice forms, any creatures in the water undergo extremely rapid freezing—so fast that the usual crystals of ice do not form. That speed leaves cells intact, and with unique chemical properties, namely abundant oxygen and glucose. Everything is preserved as it was when alive. Our challenge is to guide it back. Observe."

When love's timeline is limited, does it make that love any less meaningful? Reading the premise of The Curiosity sent a thrill reverberating through my body. From the Frankenstein-meets-The-Time-Traveler's-Wife storyline, to the ultimate romantic tragedy of finding a soulmate from another time and place—another plane—this was the kind of sci-fi novel I knew I had been waiting for for a long time. The good news is, in so many ways, this book blew my mind with its originality and argumentative depth. The bad news is, in so many more ways, it also disappointed me. My feelings, clearly, are mixed.

The Curiosity is narrated in the alternating voices of four arguably essential figures behind the Lazarus Project: Kate (the jaded scientist), Carthage (her controlling, mad-genius supervisor), Jeremiah (the judge and human subject), and Daniel (a seedy, seemingly useless reporter with an inflated sense of self-importance). Each point of view gives interesting perspectives on the discovery of the "unfrozen" man, Jeremiah, and the muddiness and uncertainty between these three characters are what contribute to most of the novel's tension—this was very well done.

Kiernan has the tendency to go into specific, sometimes rambly detail about, well, everything. I love how his style is both straightforward and analytical—like the scientific method—yet still profound. However, sometimes I felt like it was a bit too much; frequently, there is elaboration on what doesn't need to be elaborated, and it was frustrating and quite laborious to have to skim through all that to get to the good parts. And trust me—when The Curiosity got good, it got really good. The most exciting scenes of the novel—namely, Jeremiah's reanimation—are absolutely electrifying; they will make your heart pound wildly against your ribcage and your fingers tremble. These are the scenes that motivated me to continue reading the book, and that surpassed my expectations. But considering these brilliant pieces were so few and far between—nestled within long chunks of backstory and redundant ruminations—and clocking in at 464 pages, The Curiosity wasn't exactly an easy, or overall enjoyable, read.

In terms of actual writing style, Stephen Kiernan is no doubt, extremely talented. His voice flows vibrantly and cinematically, but gets stiff during Kate's narrations; she just doesn't seem relatable or likable to me. It bothered me that Daniel had to comment about how "hot" she is every few pages, in order for her attractiveness to be conveyed, but more importantly, she personally doesn't feel genuine. I'm unsure of whether this is because her female perspective was written by a man, or if her personality was just built like that—rigid and impersonal—but I hardly found myself rooting for her as the protagonist.

Since romance is among my favorite genres, I am typically a huge sucker for these types of "falling in love at the most inopportune moment" stories, but I felt the romance was misplaced in this situation. Kiernan begins with a sensational plot, but adding the romance in kind of cheapened it. Given the circumstances of high-profile scientific research and Kate's professional career, I was turned off by how her first encounter with Jeremiah immediately turned into a romance—it felt inappropriate, and largely, unbelievable. It was very well written and I did find myself being swept away by the angst that came with Kate's budding affection for the off-limits Jeremiah, but overall, I think The Curiosity could have been successful not being a love story.

While romance is not the biggest accomplishment of this novel, the intensity of thought-provoking questions raised, certainly is. Obviously, an ethical debate will come naturally with a storyline about a man who becomes a lab specimen, and the fact that Jeremiah is humanized by becoming the object of Kate's attachment further heightens the issue of morals and ethics. Both the scientific rationalizations and the convoluted line of events present readers with heart-stopping revelations and the frenzy that follows, and this was what made The Curiosity so provocative and so stimulating. To me, this novel isn't simply about a man who is revived, and a woman who loves him, but it's about two lost people who experience everything for the first time in their lives again; people who, through each other, are brought back to life.

Pros


Creative, captivating plot // Multi-dimensional and deep-delving storytelling, rather than just spelling out what happens // Perspectives of different characters are very distinct (and switch from first to second to third person, something I've never encountered before) // Thought-provoking and controversial in topic

Cons


Long-winded writing style // Bland, rather unmemorable characters, even when given emotions and a backstory // I had trouble sympathizing with Kate, which in turn, defeated the purpose of the "tragic romance" for me

Verdict


The Curiosity is a fascinating study on human vulnerability, the virtues of love, the astonishing power of science, but it's also a rather bulky novel. Due to its drawn-out chapters and massive page count, I didn't have that much fun reading it, but do I recommend it to others? Yes, yes yes! It's an impressive debut, a force to be reckoned with. Stephen Kiernan begins with an original plotline and cleverly interconnected multiple perspectives to produce a thought-provoking, challenging, and incredibly dynamic debut that I can see doing well on the big screen (luckily, 20th Century Fox has already bought film rights!!!). I suggest you only pick this up if you have a lot of patience and some time on your hands—as much of a page-turner as this book is, it is NOT something you can read within a few sittings Americanflag

7 hearts: Not perfect, but overall enjoyable; borrow, don't buy! (x)