Book Review & Author Interview: The Sun Under A Night Sky by Vontress Renae

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You are the sun and the center of your universe.

Order on Amazon & Paperback

Plot Summary:

In this collection of untitled thoughts, poetry, and affirmations; Vontress plants her powerful feminine energy and wisdom like a seed. Showing growth through struggle, and sharing stories of blooming into a flower. She shines her light like the sun into the darkest parts of her soul.

Grade: A-

Review:

The poems in this collection are often dark, but even in the darkest moments, there is a tiny light that glimmers with hope. And this is what makes this collection stand out from other poems that tackle similar topics like love and heartbreak. The message Renae seems to want to give with these poems is that happiness isn’t something you should search in someone else, or depend on someone else for your own happiness, but rather that happiness lies inside us all if we have self-love and that’s an essential and potent message to give. I recommend this book if you’re into poetry that explores life’s dark moments but that has an uplifting message in the end.

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Short Q & A with the Author:

What has inspired your writing?

The inspiration for my writing comes from day to day life. I wonder what people think and put it on paper, my own stories and sometimes the stories of those around me.

When did you first start writing?

I have always written things for as long as I remember, but it was not until recently that I felt comfortable enough to share it with others.

What tips would you give a novice writer?

My advice would be to remove all distractions. There are times that I sign out of social media and take a bit of a hiatus in order to gather my thoughts and get them down clearly.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve been given?

The best advice I was given would be to do what makes me happy. I feel that my writing can take me all the places I want to go in this world I just have to trust myself and believe in what I’m saying on my pages.

What are you currently reading or looking forward to reading?

I am currently reading ” The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F” by Mark Manson. It has definitely been a page-turner and I plan to take a view of the tips that I have learned while reading.

RENAE ON THE WEB:
Website: https://vontressrortega.com/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/writtenbyvontress
Twitter: https://twitter.com/byvontress
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/writtenbyvontress/

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Review: Wander Beauty After Hours Highlighter

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Although I don’t use highlighters often, I do love a good highlighter. It really can change the look of your skin and create the most amazing glow. That’s why having a good highlighter can really make you look alive.

What It Is: Powder Highlighter

What It Does: Creates a subtle, dewy glow

Verdict: Out of all the highlighters out there, (liquid, powder, gel) I prefer powders as they’re the most subtle, forgiving, and easiest to use. I love how this powder feels, very silky and soft. You can use this on your cheeks, temples, and inner corners of the eyes. The shade of this highlighter is very pearly silver, but it’s more on the warmer side than cold, so it’ll suit most skintones. This highlighter will have you looking awake in no time. Even on days when you’ve repeatedly hit the snooze button and are dragging yourself out of bed. You can either use a brush or your fingers, it works both ways.

Price: $30

Where To Buy It: wanderbeauty.com

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Women In Horror: Beloved

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February is one of those months on the calendar that offers a unique and exciting blend of emotions. It’s time to honor and celebrate Black history and culture. Valentine’s Day reminds us of love and relationships (the good, the bad and the ugly…). I also enjoy watching The Oscars to see where the needle of society’s values and elevation of diversity in cinema lands. More recently though, February has become a month to showcase women in horror. With the release of Azzurra Nox’s anthology “Strange Girls”, I thought it befitting to make a cinematic recommendation while adding some horror into today’s post as well.

In ruminating on all this, I was struck by how one film, in particular, incorporates all these themes to absolute perfection; a film that has haunted me with its piercing honesty and emotional depth; a film that effortlessly weaves the themes of slavery and freedom in all its various forms; a film that celebrates the beauty, power and, yes, horror that can manifest from immense love.

Toni Morrison’s “Beloved.”

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I was living overseas when “Beloved” first came out and it had slipped past my radar for a long time. It was always one of those movies I knew I’d appreciate but didn’t get around to seeing it until just a few years ago. Better late than never though. When I did eventually see this film, it made a huge impact on me and has remained one of the top five best films on my list of favorites. It’s haunted me ever since and completely reframed my standards for what constitutes a good ghost story. One of my New Year’s resolutions is to consume fifty classics this year in books and film. Needless to say, Toni Morrison’s novel is next on that list.

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Incredibly acted and unapologetic, “Beloved” threads a needle through the struggles and triumphs of a mother navigating post-emancipation America while the horrors of her past demand reconciliation – with an ever-increasing insistence for attention. As the climax nears, the thread tightens and cinches together all of these elements into a jagged, heart-shaped tapestry of tenacity, terror, and tenderness. It’s a beautiful and painful portrayal of the multi-faceted nature of love. And it raises the question in all of us…

What would you do for your beloved?

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By: Erica Ruhe

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Book Review: Open Book by Jessica Simpson

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You set my soul at ease, chased darkness out of view.

Release Date: February 4, 2020

Order on Amazon!

Publisher: Dey Street Books

Price: $18.06 (hardback)

Plot Summary:

This was supposed to be a very different book. Five years ago, Jessica Simpson was approached to write a motivational guide to living your best life. She walked away from the offer, and nobody understood why. The truth is that she didn’t want to lie.

Jessica couldn’t be authentic with her readers if she wasn’t fully honest with herself first.
Now America’s Sweetheart, preacher’s daughter, pop phenomenon, reality tv pioneer, and the billion-dollar fashion mogul invites readers on a remarkable journey, examining a life that blessed her with the compassion to help others but also burdened her with an almost crippling need to please. Open Book is Jessica Simpson using her voice, heart, soul, and humor to share things she’s never shared before.

Grade: A

Review:

Let me preface this with, I’m not a fan of Jessica Simpson. Sure I know of her from seeing her in teen mags in the late 90’s (who mostly focused on the fact that she was a virgin dating the much older Nick Lachey from 98 Degrees) than her music. In fact, I had never listened to any of her songs till recently (I wasn’t aware that MTV didn’t want to play her songs). But I was intrigued to read her memoir cause it seemed like a fun, spill-all type of book (yes, I’m nosy). And well, Jessica delivered on her promise to be an open book.

We learn some interesting things about her. How she went to the Chuck Norris school of acting (it basically consisted of him taping down her eyebrows because his fave actor is Denzel Washington and apparently he doesn’t move his eyebrows when delivering his lines). I never really noticed that tidbit, but I’m sure as hell gonna focus on Denzel’s eyebrows next time I see him in a movie.

Jessica is the sort of good-hearted Texan gal that we all wish we had as a best friend. On many occasions in her memoir, I felt sorry for her. The girl can sing and yet Tommy Mattola kept trying to make her into the next Britney (with dire results) with Janet Jackson abs (this, in turn, lead her down a road of self-loathing, self-doubt, and diet pills). Let’s all remember the girl was just 18-19 yrs. old.

She also goes into detail about her high profile wedding with Nick Lachey and her turbulent romance with John Mayer (spoiler alert: Mayer’s as much of a creepo jerk that I had always suspected him to be but much much worse).

But one thing that I really loved most about the book was that Jessica is unapologetically herself, meaning that no one has managed to have her question her faith even when times were bleak. And her willingness to give back to people (especially service members) is really telling of her character. I also like that she doesn’t try to paint herself as a saint and her exes as villains. She merely lets us in on events and willingly admits her faults. Nick Lachey seemed to resent the fact that Jessica couldn’t transform into a doting housewife (and how could she? She was twenty-two and never taught any household chores since she spent her childhood going to voice lessons and performing). John Mayer was obsessed with her and was a total sociopath when it came to her (breaking up with her multiple times over email!) only to beg her to take him back.

I know that Jessica has a billion-dollar empire now with her Jessica Simpson Collection line, but the real tragedy is that she wasn’t allowed to be herself artistically speaking. Her managers kept wanting her to be more like Britney Spears that she just became a terrible copy of her. Unlike Spears, Jessica CAN sing, and her talent deserved so much more.

Open Book is the sort of inspiring celebrity memoir that you didn’t know you needed.

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Find out why this photo haunts Jessica

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Women in Horror: Interview with Cristina Vargas

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Exclusive collab with:VoyageLA(large inverted)

I love checking out haunts during Halloween and for a few years, I’ve been a scareactor for a haunt at a middle school in Newberry Park, California. Universal Halloween Horror Nights is an awesome experience, and in partnering up with the wonderful folks at Voyage LA for this exclusive collab, I will be showcasing some of the talented people that make up the city of Los Angeles. We catch up with actor Cristina Vargas for a quick Q & A!

Describe your experience working for Universal Halloween Horror Nights. What were some of the pros and cons?

My experience working at Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights was overall fun! The pros were being able to scare people and seeing some of their reactions from screaming to running to dropping on the floor. Aside from that, another pro was meeting new people and creating friendships for years to come! The cons were, unfortunately, getting harassed by guests for scaring them and even getting tainted for not being scary to them. One of the rules that guests are supposed to follow is not to touch the Scareactors and that rule gets broken a lot…and scareactors get physically hit by guests. Luckily we have a protocol for that and are able to report those kinds of issues right away.

What sparked your interest in horror?

Ironically, I’m not that into horror, but what sparked my interest was when I was dared by a friend to watch a movie. I believe it was Ring 2 that was playing in the movie theater at the time. I was really scared and still laugh about it till this day!

Do you have a favourite horror movie?

My favorite horror movie is Chucky and the bride. I used to be so scared of Chucky when I was a little kid, but I started watching the movies at an older age and realized Chucky’s not so bad after all!

Editor’s Note: Chucky’s Bride

What acting project are you the proudest of?

The project I am most proud of is the indie film titled “Drug Addiction,” where I play the role of Gabby who comes out as this friendly girl, but later you find she’s not really friendly, but rather a backstabber.

What are some of your future projects? Where can we see you next?

You can catch me on Jenny Lorenzo’s YouTube channel where she creates funny LatinX sketches. I play the role of Lorena, who is one of Maruchi’s best friends. Check out Jenny Lorenzo’s YouTube and stay tuned on when Lorena makes an appearance! I also have a YouTube channel of my own in which I explore different restaurants and try out new food!

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Follow Cristina!

Twitter: @Cristimisty

Instagram: @Cristimisty

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCn8USIYraCDCxoMxKX98dyA/featured

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Celebrating Black History Month: Top Ten Novels by Black Authors

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I wonder who thought it was a good idea that placing a book cover that displayed black characters on books that RARELY had any characters IN the book, and weren’t written by black authors, was the best way to celebrate Black History Month. How could’ve the CEO of Barnes and Nobles and the head of Penguin sit in meetings and think this was such a grand idea? I guess if you figure that the majority of the publishing world is made up of white men, then you can quickly see how this idea was ever conceived.

Personally, I think that the right way to Black History Month as a bookstore would’ve been to republish amazing classics written by authors because simply having classics written by white authors in blackface covers only shows how ignorant you really about what is being celebrated.

These are my top 10 classics written by black authors. I’m pretty sure someone on Penguin’s team could’ve come up with a similar list along the way (but I digress).

Kindred by Octavia E. Butler

Dana, a modern black woman, is celebrating her twenty-sixth birthday with her new husband when she is snatched abruptly from her home in California and transported to the antebellum South. Rufus, the white son of a plantation owner, is drowning, and Dana has been summoned to save him. Dana is drawn back repeatedly through time to the slave quarters, and each time the stay grows longer, more arduous, and more dangerous until it is uncertain whether or not Dana’s life will end, long before it has a chance to begin.

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave by Frederick Douglas

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass is an 1845 memoir and treatise on abolition written by famous orator and former slave Frederick Douglass. It is generally held to be the most famous of a number of narratives written by former slaves during the same period. In factual detail, the text describes the events of his life and is considered to be one of the most influential pieces of literature to fuel the abolitionist movement of the early 19th century in the United States.

Cane by Jean Toomer

First published in 1923, Jean Toomer’s Cane is an innovative literary work―part drama, part poetry, part fiction―powerfully evoking black life in the South. Rich in imagery, Toomer’s impressionistic, sometimes surrealistic sketches of Southern rural and urban life are permeated by visions of smoke, sugarcane, dusk, and fire; the northern world is pictured as a harsher reality of asphalt streets. This iconic work of American literature is published with a new afterword by Rudolph Byrd of Emory University and Henry Louis Gates Jr. of Harvard University, who provide groundbreaking biographical information on Toomer, place his writing within the context of American modernism and the Harlem Renaissance, and examine his shifting claims about his own race and his pioneering critique of race as a scientific or biological concept.

Complete Writings by Phillis Wheatley

In 1761, a young girl arrived in Boston on a slave ship, sold to the Wheatley family, and given the name Phillis Wheatley. Struck by Phillis’ extraordinary precociousness, the Wheatleys provided her with an education that was unusual for a woman of the time and astonishing for a slave. After studying English and classical literature, geography, the Bible, and Latin, Phillis published her first poem in 1767 at the age of 14, winning much public attention and considerable fame. When Boston publishers who doubted its authenticity rejected an initial collection of her poetry, Wheatley sailed to London in 1773 and found a publisher there for Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral.

Iola Leroy by Frances Harper

Being very desirous that one of the race, so long distinguished in the cause of freedom for her intellectual worth as Mrs. Harper has had the honor of being, should not at this late date in life make a blunder which might detract from her own good name, I naturally proposed to await developments before deciding too quickly in favor of giving encouragement to her contemplated effort.

The Blacker the Berry by Wallace Thurman

This novel, associated with the Harlem Renaissance, is considered groundbreaking for its exploration of colorism and racial discrimination within the black community, where lighter skin was often favored, especially for women. The novel tells the story of Emma Lou Morgan, a young black woman with dark skin. It begins in Boise, Idaho and follows Emma Lou in her journey to college at USC and a move to Harlem, New York City for work. Set during the Harlem Renaissance, the novel explores Emma Lou’s experiences with colorism, discrimination by lighter-skinned African Americans due to her dark skin. She learns to come to terms with her skin color in order to find satisfaction in her life.

The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.D. Du Bois

This classic groundbreaking work of American literature first published in 1903 is a cornerstone of African-American literary history and a seminal work in the field of sociology.

W.E.B. Du Bois, who drew from his own experiences as an African-American living in American society, explores the concept of “double-consciousness”―a term he uses to describe living as an African-American and having a “sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others.”

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

A first novel by an unknown writer, it remained on the bestseller list for sixteen weeks, won the National Book Award for fiction, and established Ralph Ellison as one of the key writers of the century. The nameless narrator of the novel describes growing up in a black community in the South, attending a Negro college from which he is expelled, moving to New York and becoming the chief spokesman of the Harlem branch of “the Brotherhood”, and retreating amid violence and confusion to the basement lair of the Invisible Man he imagines himself to be.

Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison

Milkman Dead was born shortly after a neighborhood eccentric hurled himself off a rooftop in a vain attempt at flight. For the rest of his life he, too, will be trying to fly. With this brilliantly imagined novel, Toni Morrison transfigures the coming-of-age story as audaciously as Saul Bellow or Gabriel García Márquez. As she follows Milkman from his rustbelt city to the place of his family’s origins, Morrison introduces an entire cast of strivers and seeresses, liars and assassins, the inhabitants of a fully realized black world.

The Sport of the Gods by Paul Laurence Dunbar

In this extraordinary novel, Paul Laurence Dunbar tells the story of a displaced Southern family’s struggle to survive and prosper in early Harlem. “The Sport of the Gods” was one of the first novels to depict the harsh realities of ghetto life and the revolutionary truths it uncovered still resonate today.

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Excerpts From: Strange Girls: Women in Horror Anthology

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It’s officially Women in Horror Month and in less than two weeks, this anthology will be released (February 18!). You can pre-order the book in both ebook and paperback formats! If you’re from the Los Angeles area, then you can find signed copies of the book over at Skylight Books (1818 N. Vermont Ave.!).

Excerpt from Night Terrors by Angela Sylvaine

I wake up unable to move, pinned to my bed by an invisible force. I struggle against it but can’t even wiggle my little finger. Each beat of my pulse pounds through my veins. My eyes are wide open. I try to blink, but even my eyelids are frozen, immovable. With my head locked in place, I can only stare straight up at the ceiling. What’s holding me down? Why can’t I move?

The air is too thin. I can hardly breathe. Every muscle in my body tenses as I twist and strain, but it’s no use.

My vision is hazy as if my face is covered by a gauze veil. Blurred figures are visible in my peripheral. They wear light blue tops, surgical masks, hospital caps, and latex gloves. There are seven in all, three on each side of the bed and one at the foot. I want to open my mouth, to scream for help, but I can’t.

That figure at the foot of the bed speaks, his voice the low baritone of a man.
I strain to hear. Something about administering medication. The person closest to my head on the left responds, “Yes, doctor.” A woman. She has something in her hand. I focus on the object, try to see through the veil.

A syringe.

My breath catches in my throat. No. Leave me alone. Let me go!

Pain pricks the inside of my elbow, and a slow burn spreads through my veins, building into a raging inferno. Tremors shake my body, and a scream swells in my throat. Unable to open my mouth, the shriek stays locked inside, silently ripping through my brain.

Excerpt from Leda and the Fly by Marnie Azzarelli

But that noise, that thing on her wall was neither plain nor right. The thunder was spreading to her chest, walloping her ribcage with each loud boom. She got up achingly, her body accustomed to anything but her bed. She crouched when she got closer to the wall, her knees popping protest, but she knew she needed to be as quiet as possible.

She moved in closer to the ring of light and that terrible sound like a stalking cat ready to spring; her body taut and still, her eyes closed to slits. The thing started to flit in and out of the light, but Leda’s usually dulled senses were sharpening just by the sight of her prey. She could see it almost too clearly.

It was there staining her pristine wall with its filth covered feet, buzzing, buzzing, buzzing through the quiet of her mind.

A fly.
Musca domestica.

Six hair-covered legs, antennae, a small head with two compound eyes, prothorax, mesothorax, a large abdomen, and two transparent wings.

Its front two feet were probing the pure white of Leda’s wall, searching for sustenance only to buzz out its frustrations over the empty surface. Her frustration was built on its existence in her, once sacred, space. Her only solitude after her body had been hollowed out, wiped clean from the toxins and waste that fly thrived on.

She felt the storm rage throughout her and let it out with a low moan, her vocal cords cracking to attention after months of disuse. She groaned softly at first, her knees starting to shake slightly. She took another step towards the fly and her voice came out louder, her legs ready to give out on her in any second.

The fly buzzed louder, startled by the other presence in the room. Its movements became a little more frantic as it bounced to different parts of the lit wall. Leda tried to follow, but she was so focused on that one spot, she couldn’t imagine it going anywhere else. But it decided to move and ruin more and more of her wall.

She started to cry, small tears hot and salty falling down her tingling face. Her nerve endings were all firing at once and she suddenly felt like she was dancing on a thousand pins and needles. Each step was another sharp stab to her that almost broke the skin but didn’t. Her legs finally gave out on her and she fell keening to the carpet.

Patterns of Faerytales by Azzurra Nox

A dreadful chill ran down his spine. It was like having a million spiders crawling down his back. He shivered. The last thing he wanted to do was lose his soul mate.
“So what exactly am I supposed to do with this box?”
“Keep it locked and away from Olivia.”
“Why haven’t you just buried it then?”
The look she gave Cillian was that of disbelief, almost as though he had suggested torching the damn box.
“You must never do such a thing!”
“Why not?”
“Because this is part of her, and you can’t bury it like it’s a box of bones you’re trying to get rid of!”
“What would happen?”
“There could be fatal consequences.” With that, she got up and handed the box to Cillian. “Be careful, and remember….never let her see the contents of this box! Keep it locked.” And with those parting words, Lydia left as swiftly as she had entered.

STRANGE GIRLS: WOMEN IN HORROR ANTHOLOGY DROPS FEBRUARY 18, 2020 BUT IS AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER!

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Women In Horror: Top 5 Female Directed Horror Movies

The world of directing is still predominantly male, and so is the horror genre. But more and more women are trying to carve out their space in both directing and horror. Below are some of the best the world of horror has to offer when it comes to female directors. Many times women decide to tackle subjects that many men wouldn’t understand with the same amount of ethos. Women understand trauma, the fear of sexual assault, female friendships, and body horror more than men, and the movies I’ve selected all explore those themes.

RAW – directed by Julia Ducournau

Everyone in Justine’s family is a vet. And a vegetarian. At sixteen she’s a brilliant student starting out at veterinary school where she experiences a decadent, merciless and dangerously seductive world. Desperate to fit in, she strays from her family principles and eats RAW meat for the first time. Justine will soon face the terrible and unexpected consequences as her true self begins to emerge.

Honeymoon – directed by Leigh Janiak

Young newlyweds Paul (Harry Treadaway) and Bea (Rose Leslie) travel to remote lake country for their honeymoon, where the promise of private romance awaits them. Shortly after arriving, Paul finds Bea wandering and disoriented in the middle of the night. As she becomes more distant and her behavior increasingly peculiar, Paul begins to suspect something more sinister than sleepwalking took place in the woods. Treadaway (CONTROL) and Leslie (HBO’s GAME OF THRONES) give captivating leading performances as a couple that takes new love to disturbing depths. With romance slowing giving way to terror, writer/director Leigh Janiak puts her unique stamp on this intimate, chilling thriller.

Blue My Mind directed by Lisa Ivana Brühlmann

15-year-old Mia is facing an overwhelming transformation that calls her entire existence into question. Her body is changing radically, and despite desperate attempts to halt the process, she is soon forced to accept that nature is far more powerful than she.

M.F.A directed by Natalia Leite

An art student struggling with creativity is violently raped by a fellow classmate. After attempting the traditional routes to cope with her trauma, she impulsively confronts her attacker – a decision that has deadly repercussions. Her world is turned upside down as a chilling reality is uncovered: she is one of many silenced sexual assault survivors on campus. A vigilante is born- retribution is the inspiration she’s been waiting for.

Always Shine directed by Sophia Takal

Two friends, both actresses (Halt and Catch Fire’s Mackenzie Davis and Masters of Sex’s Caitlin FitzGerald), leave Los Angeles for Big Sur embarking on a weekend getaway to reconnect. Once alone, however, the two women’s suppressed jealousies and deep-seated resentments bubble to the surface, causing them to lose grasp not just of the true nature of their relationship, but also of their own identities.

What female-directed horror movies are your favourites?

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Keto Diet and Why You Should Try It

You may have heard celebrities rave about this diet, or maybe you have a friend who is trying it out. But what exactly does this diet consist of?

Basically, it’s a high fat, low carbohydrate diet. What are some of the benefits of this diet? Apart from being a healthy alternative, it also is linked with potential weight loss and fat loss.

A Keto diet is made up more or less of:

55-60% fats

30-35% protein

5-10% carbohydrates

But what do those percentages mean and how do they translate into a meal plan?

A basic Keto meal contains less than 50grams of carbs per day. The majority of calories in a Keto diet comes from fats, while a small portion comes from proteins.

Why is this diet effective?

Usually, the body relies on carbohydrates for energy, but when it can’t it will begin to burn fat for fuel. This is why a high-fat diet will help reduce fat mass, waist circumference, and overall weight.

Below is a 1-Week Meal Plan:

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Have you tried Keto Diet before or are you planning to in the New Year? Let me know in the comments below!

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Review: Dry Bar Prep Rally

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What It Is: Hair Primer

What It Does: Primes and detangles hair

Active Ingredients: Biotin, Vitamins B & C, and Sea Berry Oil

Verdict: It’s rare when I find a hair product that actually delivers on its promises. When I received this in my Fab Fit Fun box I wasn’t expecting miracles. Very few heat protectant sprays actually seem to work or at least provide me proof that they’re working. This is why I rarely wish to try new hair products because of my faith in them is so low. Fast forward to the first time I used this product. HOLY SHIT! This product not only delivers on its promises but goes above and beyond any expectations I may have had. All I used were three spritzes on towel-dried hair, and once I was done drying my hair I noticed a HUGE DIFFERENCE. First of all, it made my hair very manageable (it’s no easy feat for a product to do that when you’ve got unruly frizzy curls to work with) and also left them feeling incredibly soft. I don’t think I’ve ever had hair this soft in my life before and the feeling is euphoric to say the least. Now I can see why celebs rave so much about this company, and since this product worked so well I am very curious to try out anything else they have to offer. Out of all the products that I found in my Fab Fit Fun box, this is one that I will definitely purchase on my own once it’s done.

Price: $23

Where To Buy It: https://www.thedrybar.com/

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