Monthly Archives: January 2016

Katherine’s 12 Months of Beauty Products, No. 2

Happy New Year, Peeps!

If you remember from my December post, I promised to spend 2016 testing the products that made the list for the People/Today Beauty Awards. I know it’s a hard job, but someone has to do it. 🙂

Here are my reviews for the first two products that I tried last month.

Best Deodorant: Dove Dry Spray Antiperspirant.

If you’re like me, when you think of a spray-on antiperspirant, you are thinking of your parents’ or grandparents’ generation. I don’t think that I’ve ever bought spray on antiperspirant. My motivation for trying this was that it promised to not leave a mark on my LBD. If there is one thing that drives me the most crazy, it is the white marks left on my clothes by my deodorant.Screen Shot 2015-12-17 at 3.07.54 PM

The Dove Spray is offered in four different scents. I really loved the clean scent of the Cool Essentials spray, which is a blend of green tea and cucumber. It’s made with ¼ Dove moisturizers to not only help keep your underarms dry but also soft and smooth. I honestly didn’t notice the soft and smooth skin but what I did notice, NO BLACK MARKS. Nothing…on anything. This was a major win for me!

I will continue to purchase this beauty item. Well done, People/Today Show.

Best Moisturizer: Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel

According to Neutrogena, this gel restores the skin’s moisture levels and imparts hydration that lasts up to twelve hours. This lightweight gel was going to keep my skin supple for hours. Hmmm… The gel was light, went on smooth, and had a very refreshing texture to it. I only used it at night and my skin didn’t feel as tight in the mornings. I have very sensitive skin, so I was concerned about breakouts, but am happy to report that I never broke out or had any skin issues from using this product.Screen Shot 2015-12-17 at 3.08.46 PM

I found that a little goes a long way so this is a product that will last through the long Connecticut winter. My only complaint was the packaging. I would have preferred to have this as a pump vs. the jar. Better for travel and not as bulky. Overall, another win for me. I will continue to use this product and am interested to see how my skin feels in the summer months while using this.

So what’s up next?

Best Matte Lip: Maybelline New York Lip Studio Color Blur Matte Pencil.Screen Shot 2016-01-29 at 9.36.59 AM

For those of you who know me, I am a stickler for having something on your lips! This product promises to be ultra-saturated, creamy and lasting. I can’t wait to try it.

Best In Shower Body lotion: Jergens Wet Skin Moisturizer.

With the heat on constantly in my house and the cold weather outside, I am a little itchy at night and my daily lotion isn’t doing the trick. According to People/Today, this product is a “game changer.” Use it before you step out of the shower and it absorbs before you have time to grab the towel.Screen Shot 2016-01-29 at 9.37.44 AM

Have you tried any of these products?






Daydream Believers

I’m prone to engaging in a fair amount of daydreaming. Sometimes I imagine I have a green thumb and that, when I open my front door, I’ll step into a yard that resembles this one:Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 7.47.13 PM

Other times, I will stare out my window on a dreary day and pretend I’m bound for some exotic or breathtaking location such as this:Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 7.48.01 PM

Once in a while, I try to will my husband to become a wild romantic whose sole goal is to surprise me by conjuring up an idyllic evening set someplace warm and inviting like this table for two:Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 7.48.41 PM

For the most part, these daydreams are harmless. They offer a temporary respite from the mundane matters of daily life. In those “lost” moments, I experience a tiny thrill, a feeling of hopefulness, and even, at times, a bit of inspiration. I also believe that these daydreams can become the foundation upon which real goals are built. Once you’ve visualized the fantasy, your mind automatically begins to think of the to-do list needed to make it happen. Goal + Plan = Reality, right?

The only time my daydreams can turn sour are when they are truly impossible, such as when I’m having a particularly bad “female pattern hair loss” day and wish I’d wake up with hair like this!Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 7.52.40 PMMy husband, on the other hand, is not one to daydream. He doesn’t see the point, and thinks it almost counter-productive. My daughter appears to take after him, too, because she never has an answer for any of my “If you could go/do/be….” questions. Fortunately, my son will play that game with me. In fact, he daydreams even more often than I do, which could become problematic in a different way.

Do you like to fantasize, or do you consider that a “waste of time?”


Bad Book vs. Bad Fit

One thing most authors stress about is book reviews: getting them, liking them, ignoring them, and of course, those pesky Goodreads ratings that show up before early review copies of the book have even been made available to anyone!

For those who don’t know, the number of reviews a particular book receives on Amazon is a critical factor in the algorithms that determine how visible that book will be on that site. Authors hope to see a lot of reviews go up quickly, especially if they are positive. But we also watch for book blog reviews (large and small), and finally, the trade journals (Kirkus, Library Journal, Publisher’s Weekly, Booklist, RT Magazine, and so on). These latter reviews are the ones from which authors obtain pull quotes to place on their websites or in the “Praise” sections of their future books.25910958_s

We all celebrate and share the good ones, but inevitably (at least for me) there are the clunkers, too. Whether given by an anonymous Amazon reader, a popular blogger, or a trade journal, they can sting and create an enormous amount of self-doubt. On the other hand, they can also provide some insight into a writing element we might need to work on in that next book. I try, after two or three days of serious sulking, to learn something from any bad review I receive. I suppose it is up to future readers to determine whether I succeed!

But this all leads me to the real question: what defines a “bad” book?

I think we all know that there are genuinely “bad” books out there (poorly written, unedited or poorly edited, no sense of story and character arc, and so on). But what of the other books–the ones that have been vetted by an agent and revised with guidance from an experienced editor? How do some of those novels end up with really negative reviews?

I’ve given this a lot of thought, and my conclusion is quite simply that these review grades are wrong. I’m not suggesting that the reviewer didn’t dislike it, or that s/he didn’t have a right to give it a “hot steaming pile” review. But the fact that s/he hated it doesn’t necessarily make it bad. The reality is that it was probably more of a “bad fit” of a particular book with a particular reviewer.

To support my conclusion, I’ll recount last night’s dinner with two other authors. We were sharing thoughts about some of our favorite books within the contemporary and historical romance genres. Needless to say, sometimes we all agreed, but often a book beloved by one would be despised by another.

One reader may love a formal writing voice while another finds it pompous. Also, personal biases come into play with plot elements. For example, I do not like stories where either main character is engaged in an affair. I also can’t stand heroines who’ve hidden a baby from the hero (I can’t accept any justification for this aside from abuse, so I can never understand why a hero would trust her or fall in love with her AFTER such a betrayal). I also don’t love an aggressively snarky heroine because, to me, she comes across as a woman with a massive chip on her shoulder, and I end up shouting “Grow the F Up” at my iPad. Stories with any of these elements are likely to get an unflattering review from me if I finish it.

There are also reviews that laud a “strong” heroine (which heroine may, for another reader, be perceived as nasty or unfeeling), or criticize a “weak” heroine (whom someone else may admire for her well-intentioned self-sacrifice). Same goes for heroes. I typically find the overly domineering alpha hero to be offensive, but the popularity of the billionaire BDSM books proves I’m in the minority.

Thus, while there are certainly stories that are universally beloved with good reason (dynamic characters, exceptional pacing and tension, the perfect payoff), the great majority of perfectly good books are still going to end up with some negative reviews.

What does this mean for readers who use reviews to make purchase decisions? Two things. First, authors and readers alike should pay more attention to the content of the review than the grade, because what some dislike, others may adore. Second, when you find a reviewer who seems to share your taste, follow that reviewer’s future reviews to help find new books you might enjoy.

Do you agree with my conclusions? What personal biases or preferences do you think color your reaction to a story?


Temptation’s Silver Lining

Another new year, another round of resolutions. I’m not even going to list them because, if history predicts the future, chances are good that I won’t keep them for more than about five months. *sighs* Temptation–to eat that sweet, to nap instead of hitting the gym, to watch TV instead of purging the closets–usually wins out. Although I hate to admit it, I am weak! There, I said it, and I’m not going to skulk away in shame.325872_s

All kidding aside, I do spend a lot of time thinking about temptation. Polite society tends to cast it in a bad light, making it a boogeyman that steers a corrupt person off course. But as a writer, temptation has a purpose: it is a material part of the push-pull of any good character arc. The more direct the conflict between what a character believes is right and what s/he wants, the better the story tension, and the faster a reader should want to turn those pages.

Sometimes I’ll use a story to tease out my position on a personal conflict, other times I’ll borrow from a friend’s or relative’s experience. In all cases, exploring every side of an issue/argument is my favorite part of building any character and any story.

It isn’t always pretty, and my characters aren’t always “heroic.” That’s intentional. Frankly, most of us mere mortals are flawed and make bad choices now and then. We hurt others, we self-preserve, we justify.

What I love about writing is trying to take a flawed character and redeem him or her. I think such a character’s journey to redemption is irresistible to we flawed readers because, if he or she can acknowledge a mistake and do better–can earn forgiveness, love, and respect after a major misstep–than so can we.

When viewed in this way, temptation serves a vital function in fiction and in personal growth.

Do you feel the same, or do you view temptation in black-and-white terms and become unable to root for a character who has crossed that line?