[Product Reviews] Makeup Haul… part II

My second makeup haul arrived yesterday and today from Amazon… I did not get to use two of the Cover Girl products, so I’ll have to do a review for them at a later time.

I am wearing Neutrogena Retinol Daily Face Moisturizer with SPF 30, and Neutrogena Skin Clearing concealer; CoverGirl Outlast All-Day Stay Fabulous foundation… I put it on with a Real Techniques makeup blender and with Start Makers makeup brushes, and finally e.l.f. lip stain in Pink Petal. (My daughter asked where I was going with all this makeup on — I told her I was going to get the mail, ha!)

I LOVE the Neutrogena moisturizer! It is very fast absorbing and light. Does not feel greasy at all, and your face definitely feels smoother. Plus, it has SPF 30, and something everyone should do daily is wash your face, brush your teeth, wear sunscreen and moisturizer, ha! (The only con is that it is kind of expensive. It cost $20 for a 1 oz. bottle.)

I’m wearing CoverGirl Outlast All-Day Stay Fabulous (#855 — this is my “summer color”, in winter I wear #845, but since I’m in GA right now, there’s no such thing as winter). This really is my go-to foundation because it works as a primer, concealer, and foundation all in one; and it also has SPF 20. The foundation is matte, so you don’t get the shine that you do from wear with other foundations.

On top of the foundation I am wearing Neutrogena Skin Clearing concealer in medium. It’s a twist-pen with a brush top. It works really well and the color tone is excellent for blending and very well matched for my skin color. The brush top is excellent for blending if you don’t want to use your fingers or a blender to blend it in. Looks absolutely flawless (much better than the concealers that come in the lipstick-style formats).

Finally, to finish off my look, I am wearing e.l.f. lip stain in Pink Petal. I am not sure if I am a fan of lip stains or not. It does give the lips a natural look… but it kind of reminds me of when you eat a cherry ice in the summer and then get that red lip stain (right!?); I used it with lip-liner and lip color, but maybe I should have just used it with lipstick instead — or by itself. It’s like a felt-tip marker, and it is hard to get it at an angle to get the ink to flow continuously. (I like the color though because I only wear rose lip colors for a “natural” look if I put anything on my lips.)

I used one of my new Start Makers brushes to put the foundation on. (It comes with 11 brushes with different head sizes, a mini makeup blender, and a drawstring pouch to keep the brushes in.) I also used another brush for my blush, and a third one for my eyeshadow. I used the Real Techniques makeup blender to blend everything in.

Also wearing, but not included in this haul are: blush (L’Oreal), eyeliner (Maybelline), mascara (L’Oreal), eyebrow-liner (Maybelline) and eyeshadow (Urban Decay).

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[Book Review] My Light

Tonight, I received a late-night review request, and I figured I get right into it… since sometimes my emails go ignored for months (I still have not replied back to one of the CNN producers from the summer on doing a short video segment for their Salute to Troop program) — but I digress!

My Light, by E Darkwood (pen name??? — available on Amazon.com), is a coming of age novel about two twin sisters. First, I am not sure why it’s deemed “mature content” — it’s not. I was expecting some sort of erotic novel or even some trashy romance, it’s neither. At the most there’s some very mild cursing during heated arguments. Also, the title could have been better (having done marketing in corporate America for six years in NYC before becoming a history teacher — the editor/publisher should have given better input for category content and working title, as that’s what readers notices first).

The story is about the coming of age of twin sisters, Penny and Cass, from Kansas. They lost their parents due to a plane crash and end up being raised by their grandparents. The novel transitions from their early school years to college, to eventual full-fledged adulthood.

You read the story from Penny’s perspective, and she lets you know within the first sentence that she misses Cass, so you automatically assume she’s dead (which is what I did). The story is easy to read, the narratives easy to follow, and the dialogue natural to the reader.

I am not sure what Darkwood’s intended targeted audience is, but this would work best for teenagers, as I’m not sure adults would be as engaged. This book reminds me of a few novels I read in junior high school actually. It focuses on things that are socially more important to high school teenagers than any other demographic — specifically: career goals, friendship, sisterhood, what to do with your life, etc. (Think of it as the PG-13 version of Elsa and Anna.)

Penny seems like the protagonist to her sister Cass, wanting to always do the right thing by her, and feeling like she’s being shut out by her cold sister instead (again, think Elsa/Anna). The story ends with Cass dying just like her parents, in a plane crash — kind of surreal until you think of JFK and all his family’s bad luck with death, it doesn’t seem so unrealistic when you compare it to history.

This was an easy to read novel. I appreciate Mr./Ms. (???) Darkwood for the opportunity to review his/her book, and wish him/her success with it.

[Book Review] Megan’s Pet Sitting Adventure

I was emailed sometime at the end of last year to review the follow-up to Ms. Foland’s first book in the Megan’s World book series — which follows the learning curves of a young teen girl in Texas, and her adventures in being a mom to furbaby kittens.

As stated in my review of her first book, this is definitely targeted towards a young children’s demographic; I’d say below Middle School age, so a girl below the age of 13 would be the best audience for this book series.

Megan’s Pet Sitting Adventure, by Pamela Foland (available on Amazon.com) happens only a month after the last book, which I felt was not enough of a time gap. Ms. Foland should have at least made the setting during the summer school break. The whole story actually takes place over a short weekend.

Also, as a cat and dog owner, I can relate to some anecdotes of the book with my own personal experiences; but cats are actually very solitary animals, even kittens are way more independent than puppies. The kind of needy sentiment to always be with her kittens seems a bit amateur-ish… like in the first book, the idea that she would be able to keep the kittens a secret; anyone that has ever owned a cat knows there’s no way of keeping an inside cat a secret when it goes in the litter-box (and I just had one cat!).

This book follows Megan and her friend Jill over a short weekend as they pet-sit for the local librarian. The woman has a dog, cat, and bird. Over the weekend, Megan learns that it’s not as easy as she thought it would be to be a pet sitter. She finds a lot of comfort and pride on achievement during payday and after talking to her older brother Kevin, who reveals to her the struggles of his first job mowing lawns for the neighborhood.

It’s a cute story. Four out of five stars — Ms. Foland still needs some improvement in her creative writing, but overall young girls will enjoy reading it. I appreciate the opportunity to review her book and wish her continue success with the series.

[Book Review] Thank God I’m Here

In the beginning of December I had received a request for a book review: Thank God I’m Here, by Raymond Dale (sorry for the late review).

The marketing manager for Mr. Dale’s book had emailed me and asked if I would review the book; I replied I would, and that I prefer PDF formats via email rather than a physical book be mailed to me. Today I finally read Mr. Dale’s book.

It is a Christian testimonial book. I, being of the non-practicing Catholic faith, still gave it a fair critic from an author’s standpoint. I give it 3 out of 5 stars.

The book is not very long, and it could be read in one day if you have the time. Mr. Dale writes in a very easy way, as if talking to a friend, so the sentences flows freely and naturally. There are black-and-white photos that are included in each chapter to correspond with the chapter’s theme.

It starts off with the death of Mr. Dale’s son, and his stated forgiveness for those he felt responsible for the death. Although the story does get personal, it is not personal enough. The chapters always starts with a story from his past and then moves on to the next awakening or enlightenment by God through Jesus Christ — in that aspect, the author could have improved his creative writing skills to follow through with his stories.

For example, there was no deeper details about the death of his son; or the other anecdotes of his revelations, including the last chapters of his business dealing and how he felt cheated or wronged — instead, it reminded me of when someone says: I have a secret, but I can’t tell… well, why are you telling me you have a secret then?

The book would be more captivating if Mr. Dale’s story-telling writing was better sharpened; but as a Christian-faith book, those devoted to the faith will probably enjoy it the most. He talks about the different ways Christ has entered his life, the constant battle with Satan, and the power of forgiveness.

I appreciate the opportunity to review Mr. Dale’s book, and I wish him success with it.

My Experience as a June Bride ♡

I am so thankful for such a wonderful mom-in-law, not enough credit is given to these women. Sure, everyone knows about the monster-in-law, and most brides hope for a mother-in-law, but very few are lucky enough to have a mom-in-law.

My guy wasn’t very involved in the planning, so it was his mom and me who planned it mostly; and it gave us an opportunity to get to bond with each other. We had a $10,000 wedding budget (we originally had a $5,000 budget, but then decided that wasn’t realistic for what we wanted).

For those in the surrounding Cincinnati area, our beautiful venue was at Norlyn Manor. They offer an inclusive wedding package that includes everything from linen to centerpieces. The starting price is $4,000 — our venue cost came out to about $7,500 alone; but we had upgraded our menu, included a cocktail hour, and our ceremony on site.

One of our tables in our reception room on the day of our wedding.

I got all my bridesmaids a bracelet from Amazon. (I bought myself one too.) The girls got their dresses from Forever21. I gave them three choices to choose from, they ended up all choosing the same dress. The guys got their suits at Men’s Warehouse, and the Dr. paid for their suit rentals. My reception dress I bought from an online retailer. My wedding dress I bought online from China (if you’re skinny enough, buying a dress from China will save you a few hundred bucks if you don’t mind waiting for the long shipping date).

You can’t tell in this picture, but there is a heart charm on the last link, and when you hook the clasp on a link, the heart dangles from it.

I asked our bridesmaids and groomsmen to be a part of our wedding through individual homemade cards that I made for each of them, and attached to each was a ring-pop… I asked them to post a picture on FB and tag us on it if they accepted. ♡

My reception dress was the traditional bright red that Chinese brides wear (red is a lucky, happy, and love color in traditional Chinese culture); and my bridesmaids dresses were a red wine color. (That’s us with Aunt Diane, Heidi, and Grandma – Grandpa wandered off to another table with Steve, Dad, Mom, and Uncle Joe to mingle with the other guests by the time we got to their table).

My flowers were the traditional red roses. My mom-in-law could have saved a lot of money if she had went with sunflowers (or any other flowers besides from roses). We used the centerpieces from our venue; so my mom-in-law only needed bouquets, corsages, and boutonnières… and decorations for the gazebo and table-toppers for a few “special” tables (our sweetheart table, the place-card table, etc.) — we had beautiful red roses in vases at these tables too.

Our beautiful red roses that were on our gift table, at the bar, our place-card table, etc.

I made all the prints myself, including the invitations. I used Gartner Studios kits, and they had so many bird themes. (Our wedding theme is lovebirds.) The only prints that I used a professional service for was our rehearsal dinner invitations, and that was a huge disappointment. I used Wedding Paper Divas; they were expensive, and there was a print error on the back of one of my cards; but the cardstock quality was excellent, so I’ll give them that.

I made the place-cards and all our invitations myself (except for our rehearsal dinner invitations). We saved A LOT of money on DIY printing.

Our wedding was a Lovebirds theme; I made our invitations myself using a Gartner Studios’ kit.

Our wedding favors and engagement party favors I ordered online. For the wedding, we got stemless wine glasses engraved with birds on a branch and our names and date; for the engagement we got a lovebird salt and pepper shaker set from Amazon, (I wished I had ordered those for the wedding instead, they’re perfect!).

Our wedding favors.

Our engagement party favors… I got them on Amazon (they’re Kate Aspen, it’s a brand of popular wedding favors).

We got the Dr. and Mrs. a high-end Cuisinart carafe maker… it might be too high-tech for the Mrs. though, so the Dr. will have to program it instead. The guys got a really nice engraved drinking set in an engraved metal case as their gift.

Our wedding website was the Knot, and they even have a lovebird theme that matched our invitations. We registered at BB&B and Amazon.com because they are partnered with our wedding website; and our chosen charity is the US Fund for UNICEF — which is also partnered with the Knot for registry donations.

We went with the recommendations from our venue on the DJ (Steve Bender Entertainment, and our DJ, whose name was RJ, was excellent). My mom-in-law chose a bakery that she’s used before. I let her choose the design; she went with a tiered cake with red roses cascading down, and I bought our rehearsal dinner cake topper on Amazon. It’s two blue lovebirds with a top-hat and a veil.

Our beautiful wedding cake. (We saved the top layer, and it was left un-cut for our anniversary next year.) ♡

Our rehearsal dinner cake… I got the love birds topper on Amazon, and my sweet mom-in-law had the cake designed with sunflowers (my favorite flower).

With the wedding itself, we did it within our $10K budget; but we had help from the Dr. and Mrs. on some of the expenses, and they also host our other events for us like our engagement party (unfortunately his grandpa got very sick around that time); and our rehearsal dinner was paid for by my wonderful brother John. We were very fortunate that they were able to help us out financially with some of the expenses because most couples have to foot the bill entirely on their own.

The whole thing cost closer to about $25,000 though if we included our honeymoon and things outside of the actual wedding; like all the traveling expenses for our wedding, the hotel for our wedding night, etc. (After our reception we stayed at a hotel near our venue in their honeymoon suite, and we left for our honeymoon the next day.) ♡

[Book Review] Puppy Training

Today I received a book to review: Puppy Training: A Step-by-Step Guide to Crate Training, Potty Training, Obedience Training, and Behavior Training — by Julia Chandler.

It’s a good instruction book that is best suited for a first-time dog owner. It has beautiful photos of various dogs which helps the book a lot visually. It’s an easy read with some great tips. The paragraphs are broken up very neatly instead of being long and compact. There’s some really good info in the book like poisonous plants, the kind of collar to choose, click training, etc. I highly recommend for someone who is getting a puppy for the first time.

Thanks to Ms. Chandler for the opportunity to review her book, and the best of luck for her success with it.

[Book Review] Your Breakup, Your Blessing

A few days ago I received an email to review a new book: Your Breakup, Your Blessing: Breakup Self-Help — How to Live Before, During and After Divorce, by Karen R. Rivera.

This is a self-help book for women going through a divorce. On Amazon, I gave it 4 out of 5 stars. It is very straight forward and offers some good advice and insights. However, I find that most of the info in the book can be found by just using Google, where there are thousands of articles written about this subject. I, myself, have written lots of posts on my blog on dealing with a breakup.

With self-help books like these, on relationship advices, I find that most women are seeking answers to questions that their common senses already are telling them — but breakups, especially a divorce situation, is hard to deal with, and sometimes you just need to hear it from someone else instead.

The main criticism I have on this book is that it starts off its first chapter with different types of abuses in relationships. I don’t think this is a good self-help book for general breakups or divorces, automatically assuming that relationships are always caused by some sort of an abusive relationship is not accurate.

Like most self-help books, this one is targeted towards a female demographic, but I think it is best suited for someone in a relationship like Kourtney Kardashian, dealing with an alcoholic womanizing baby daddy relationship… or Nicole Simpson, who was actually in a physically abusive relationship.

Thank you to the author for the opportunity to review her book, and I wish her lots of success with it.

[Review] Learn ANY Language: A Practical Guide to Learn Any Language to Any Level of Fluency

I was given a digital copy (PDF) of a self-help type book, learning a new language, for review: Learn ANY Language: A Practical Guide to Learn Any Language to Any Level of Fluency. The book is available on Amazon.com for purchase as a digital copy (Kindle), and it’s free for those that have the subscription service Kindle Unlimited. The book is authored by Janina Klimas.

The book starts off with the usual self-help books, especially with language learning, which is basically that you can do it. You can do it if you put the time into it.

It’s not a learning book in the sense of an actual language book. It’s not teaching you a new language, but gives you tips and advice on how you can learn a language. A lot of the things are common sense knowledge; and as a teacher, a lot of it is common core knowledge.

As someone who speaks conversational Cantonese, and have an elementary understanding of French, being a native speaker of English; here’s my advice — submersion is key. Especially with today’s technological society, even being in a place far removed by my beloved NYC, I can still find ways to “submerged” myself in rural Buddha-land Iowa somewhere. Movies, music, books… I spent a whole summer about two years ago watching French movies, listening to French music, and flirting with French military pilots while my ex-fiancé was sleeping.

If you have Kindle Unlimited, it’s worth the read. Otherwise, it’s $6.99 for the digital copy. I’m not sure if there’s an actual physical copy of the book though, there wasn’t a format option on Amazon.com for it.

I wish Ms. Klimas the best of luck in her continued success in writing and teaching (and learning). Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to review your book! ♡

“The Little Voice” [Review]

In December, an author found my blog and asked if I would write a review for his book. (Sorry it has taken me a while to filter through my blog emails, especially during the holidays!)

The book, The Little Voice, by Joss Sheldon is available for purchase on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.

The theme of the book seemed to be rebellion against society and social norm. It’s a short novel and I finished it in one day. I felt it was missing a plot, and the storyline seemed very monotonous. The characters could have been built on more, and this seemed kind of all over the place. When I think of other “societal rebellious” novels like Catcher in the Rye, although it was only Holden as the main character, it was focused on what happened to him in a span of just a few days from prep school back to NYC.

This jumped from grade school to adulthood, and there was too much narrative explaining what was going on instead of the book being able to do it on its own through the story. Another “rebellion” novel, I think of, The Basketball Diaries, the grammer sucked and I’m quite certain Jim Carroll was high when he wrote it, but it was incredible because it didn’t feel pretentious.

With Sheldon’s novel, there was way too much quotes from Lao Tzu in every chapter (he’s the ancient Chinese philosopher who wrote The Art of War, for those of you who don’t know); and maybe he could have focused more on one aspect of the character to make the story more readable.

This was a novice book, and I’m sure Joss Sheldon will only continue to improve with his writing. I did not particularly like the novel, but that’s just me. I strongly recommend my readers to give it a try and see for yourself. There’s a Kindle version available for only $2.99, as well as a paperback and hardcover edition.

Joss had emailed me a PDF format of his novel, and the cover art looks great. Thank you so much for giving me an opportunity to review your novel, Joss. The best of luck in your continued success! ♡

The Sunflower Review …

The mister sent me sunflowers a few days ago.

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My bouquet two days after delivery. I’ve also changed the water too (cut sunflowers soaks up LOTS of water, so change the water every few days to prolong the blooms on your bouquet).