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Friday Faves: April 16th, 2021

Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah: I wanted to read this before watching the TV show, and I really loved this book. The book is about Kate and Tully, who are two best friends. It’s 1974, and Kate is an awkward junior high school girl while Tully just wants to be loved by her mom. The story follows the girls for three decades, and was an excellent read. I highly recommended reading this one, because I could not put it down.

Aerie Ribbed Woven Joggers: I got these pants to wear in the spring and summer, and I am so happy that I picked these up. They are so comfortable, and go with everything. I am debating on grabbing a second pair in either olive or khaki, as I think that these will be my new summer staple (I also got a few coupons, so why not?)

Heyday Pink Watch Band: I have been wanting a mesh Apple Watch band for a while. The problem? Apple bands are really expensive and I didn’t want to purchase one only for it to tarnish later. I got this band about a week ago, and I am so happy with it. It was a learning curve on how to put it on, but once I did, I am happy I got it. It is light and comfortable, and goes with everything (including my bracelets I wear with it). I got the one in the 38/40 mm.

Made by Aniela spring choker: Full disclosure— I was gifted this. However I am actually considering grabbing another in today’s drop. I love this choker because it fits so comfortably. It’s not too tight on the neck, but it still allows me to layer. This necklace is great on its own, but looks great layered as well. The necklace will be available on Friday, April 16, 2021 at 3 p.m. at the Made by Aniela Etsy shop. Be sure to use the code NATALIE15 for a 15 percent off discount.

The Circle: I was obsessed with this show when it came out last year and I am so happy that it’s back for season two. I’ve been binging this show for the last two days and I highly recommend watching if you’re looking for something to watch.

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#BookTok Books Worth the Read

Booktok, aka the section of TikTok where avid readers discuss their favorite reads has become one of my favorite things to do to unwind. The phenomenon, while new, has become a way to recommend books so much that Barnes and Noble had dedicated an entire page filled with recommendations. After taking a look at what they were, I decided to share with you which ones I’ve read that I thought were worth the read.

They Both Die in the End by Adam SIlvera: Deathcast told Rufus and Mateo that they were going to die today. Rufus, a bad boy, and Mateo, someone who lived for everyone else, could not be any more different except for the fact that they have received the call that they were going to die today. Both of them download Last Friend, which is an app that connects people who are going to die that day. The two connect, meet, and a romance blossoms. Tears are definitely expected with this one.

A Court of Thorns of Roses by Sarah J. Maas: I’ve blogged about this series a lot, so I’ll spare you my thoughts on it. Basically, the series follows Feyre Archeron, who goes to the woods and kills a beast to feed her poor and starving family. A terrifying creature approaches her door, and demands her life as retribution. Feyre then realizes who her captor really was, and the series follows her journey.

It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover: Lilly’s family life has never been the easiest, however, it still doesn’t stop her from following her dreams to Boston. She meets Ryle, a hot neurosurgeon who is handsome and charming. Lilly becomes the exception of his “no-dating” rule, and quickly learns of Ryle’s dark side. Lilly soon questions her relationship with Ryle — just when Atlas, her first love, reenters the picture.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid: Evelyn Hugo is a 1950’s film legend. Monique, an unknown magazine reporter, was asked to do an article on her, but when she arrives, Monique learns that Evelyn would like Monique to write her autobiography. Evelyn tells her story to Monique — the complete version.

From Blood and Ash by Jennifer L. Armentrout: Poppy is the maiden, which means that she must remain pure at all times, despite the fact that she wishes to fight back the evil that cost her her family. Her life has never been her own, and she shoulders the weight of the rebirth of an entire kingdom on her shoulders. She waits for the day of her Acension, which is why Hawke, a handsome guard is brought in. This and the sequel are amazing.

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid: Emira Tucker is confronted at a grocery store while working late as a nanny by a security guard who accuses her of kidnapping, since she is a young black woman with a white child. The incident was videotaped and then goes viral. Alix Chamberlain, her boss, uses her blogging platform to bring awareness for the issue, and aspires to help Emira, who is 25 and broke. Emira is weary of Alix’s intentions. As the story goes on, readers learn more about each woman’s past.

All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven: Finch and Violet meet at the bridge at their town with one intention. Violet is grieving her sister’s death, while Finch has an obsession with death. The two become partners for a project, and the two begin to peel back the layers of the other. Violet soon begins to live life again, however, Finch soon drowns in the darkness of mental illness.

Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston: Alex Clarmont-Diaz is practically American Royalty. After all, his mother is the President of the United States. However, he does have an issue with the English Prince Henry. A photo is leaked of the two arguing, and in the efforts to mend the relationship between the U.S. and the U.K. the two form a fake friendship for the tabloids. However, things take an interesting turn when a romance blossoms between the two.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab: Addie LaRue makes a deal with the devil — to live forever. However, there is a catch that whoever meets her once is quick to forget her. So, when Henry recognizes her after 300 years of isolation, Addie is floored. The two begin a relationship, and then fall in love.

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9 Things That I Have Been Doing to Spend Less Money

In the past year alone, I have been working to gradually improve my spending habits and finances for the better for many reasons. When I was younger, I did not make the best choices in terms of spending. As I got older and began to consume more content about the subject, it dawned on me that I needed to make better choices not only for the sake of the present day me, but for the future me as well.

Unlike many financial experts out there, I am not preaching that you can’t use money for fun or never buying things for the sake of not buying anything. I am saying that there are steps that you can take to be a better consumer and just better with your money in general.

These are the steps that I’ve been taking to help boost up my savings.

  1. Wait 24 Hours before making a purchase — at least. One of the biggest problems that I noticed with myself is the fact that I would “treat” myself impulsively. Sometimes, it would be because I had a stressful week. Other times, it would just be because I fell in love with an item and knew that I couldn’t live without it. Most of the time, my impulse purchases have worked out for me. I don’t ever want to discount that. However, by waiting 24 hours before purchasing an item has helped. 9 times out of 10, I often forget about the item, which means that I really didn’t want it that much anyways.
  2. Go shopping with a plan. This one is pretty simple. Whenever I go to the mall, Target, or even TJ Maxx, the one thing I do is create a list in my head of things that I want to buy before I go. For instance, if I need pants, I will go into a shopping trip with that in mind. Now, if I find something else, I will weigh the options and think about it, but my number one concern is to get the item that I was initially there to get.
  3. Gradually increase how much I save each paycheck. I save at least ten percent of my paycheck every week in my savings account, and then a small percentage in another savings account. Over the past few months, I’ve gradually increased how much I’ve been putting in. By making that small budget change, I have seen a huge increase with how much is in the bank.
  4. Sell everything that I no longer use/want. One of the ways that I’ve been increasing my savings and income is by selling clothes, jewelry and purses that I no longer use on Poshmark. This is a tricky thing to do, but I highly recommend it as a way to make a few extra dollars to put into your account either for savings or for pleasure.
  5. Have no spend days. This one is the hardest one yet it is the most effective. I try to have at least one no spend day per week. What this means is that I try to not spend any money on that day. Sometimes, I have one day per week. Others, I have more than one day. I think that this helps me try to save money, but also forces me to think about the things that I need or want in a more practical lens. Online shopping has become easier than ever before to shop whenever you want. By planning days where I don’t spend any money, it helps me put some thought before I click “add to cart.”
  6. Eating at home as much as possible. This goes for coffee too. One of the biggest sucks of my money in the past was takeout food. While this was something that I did because I am a cooking novice. To combat this, I’ve been learning to cook, my boyfriend does a lot more cooking, and I have frozen foods as well. The same thing goes for coffee. I purchased a Nespresso last year, and since then, my Starbucks trips were eliminated as well. Nespresso lattes are $1.10 versus the $5 ones from Starbucks. That is about $4 of savings a day.
  7. Budget.This is one thing that I am still learning to do, and am getting better at it with each passing day. I’ve been tracking my spending, and budgeting. For a while, I was scared of the word because I didn’t want to be limited and deprived. However, by having a budget helps me be in better control of my money.
  8. Get a change jar. This is something that I’ve been doing for many years, and something that has helped me so much in my savings goals. What I do is put my spare change is cash it in and use it for a big purchase. Sure, that may be tedious to save everything. But, for big purchases, any little bit helps.
  9. Listen to a bunch of different experts. I listen to Dave Ramsey and Gentler. I also watch the Financial Diet. I don’t think that it’s a good idea for someone to listen to just one source for these tips. That way, you can do things based on what is best for you, not for the person who is behind the microphone. Personally, I find Dave Ramsey a little too intense, but I do enjoy his tips.

What have you been doing to save money? Let me know in the comments below.

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Friday Faves: April 9, 2021

Trader Joe’s Powerberries: What are power berries, you may ask? It is dark chocolate covered fruit juice pieces wit açaí, pomegranate, cranberry, and blueberry juices. And it is so delicious. I tried them at my boyfriend’s parents’ house and it was so good. I bought my own, and have been snacking it on ever since.

Demi Lovato Dancing With the Devil: I love Demi’s new album. It has been on repeat for as long as it’s been out, and discusses her OD, sexuality and breakup. I currently don’t have a favorite song at the moment, but I highly recommend listening to it.

LC Lauren Conrad Jean Jacket: Did I need a jean jacket? No. Did I still purchase one? Yes. And, I am so happy that I did. The one that I have is a lighter wash, and this one is a darker, “vintage” blue. I wore this with a pair of leggings and a tunic top, and it was such a great outfit choice. I can see myself wearing this with my summer dresses, more leggings, and even pairs of jeans. It’s a great piece of clothing for spring and summer.

Barnes and Noble Nook Glowlight Plus: I have been using my Kindle Oasis for the past six months nonstop. However, when I wanted to read a book that was on my Nook and I didn’t want to repurchase it, I decided to charge it up and use it. And, wow, I am glad that I did. I think I will still love my Kindle, but I do enjoy the experience on the Nook. I’ve noticed that the screen is quite larger, and it has a great display. You can check out my complete review on the product here.

Lokai Bracelets: I have had an on and off relationship with these bracelets, and I go through phases when I wear them all of the time. I have a few different ones, such as the regular one and the few different ones, and I have been obsessed with them. I like them because I like the meaning behind them, because they promote balance and many of the proceeds benefit charity.

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Made by Aniela Expands Her Brand With New Drops

Note: This was a sponsored post, where I received free items in exchange for this post.

Lydia, owner of the Etsy Shop, Made by Aniela has three major drops in the month of April in the efforts of expanding her brand. These new pieces do just that, as she’s growing into beaded necklaces and sun catchers — perfect for summer.

Photo Provided by Made by Aniela

The first one was released last Friday, April 2. That one was called the 4/20 drop and had three new items — an emoji gold plated necklace, a f*ck charm necklace, and a 4/20 beaded choker. All of these pieces are currently live on her shop today.

Photo Provided by Made by Aniela

The second one will be released tomorrow, April 9. This drop will have a focus on sun catchers. Lydia was so kind to send over a suncatcher for me, and I am in love with it. This is the second sun catcher that I have from the brand, and certainly not the last. The other one that I purchased is also a neutral, which I keep in my kitchen. I like the neutral ones because they go with any colors of decor, and still add sparkle to the room. Her other colors include jade green. The prices will range from $15-25.

Photo provided by Made by Aniela

The third and final one will be on April 16, 2020. This drop will be all about the beaded chokers, and the names of the necklaces are giving me all of the spring vibes.

I love this choker and this will becoming my go-to necklace for the spring and summer. It’s a great stand alone piece, as well as a layering piece. What is also unique about them is that you can wear it with a necklace of any metal. I also love it that they are so comfortable— they are still pretty short on the neck, but they fit comfortably! These pieces will be in the $30-$40 price range.

Not matching my outfit, but I still love this necklace!

I don’t know about you all, but I am definitely marking my calendars for these to stock up on some great pieces for summer, as well as gifts for the summer birthdays out there. If you’re interested, I have a discount code for you to use to save a little money, which is NATALIE15.

Be sure to check out Made by Aneila on Facebook, Etsy and Instagram for release updates and more.

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March 2021 Reading Wrap Up

This is probably the easiest reading wrap-up that I’ve done, because it’s simple. All that I read last month was the A Court of Thorns and Roses series, and Dandelion by Gabbie Hanna. However, I still want to share my thoughts on what I read.

The bad news? By reading that series back to back, I am now a little behind on my reading goal on Goodreads. I’m hoping that during April I get some time to catch up. However, it was completely worth it.

That said, here is what I read during March:

A Court of Thorns and Roses Series (Books 1-4) by Sarah J. Maas: I give this series as a whole 4.5 out of 5 stars, and now I understand why everyone was talking about it. The series is a Beauty and the Beast meets Cinderella retelling. It follows Feyre Archeron, who kills a beast in the woods to feed her family who has very little to no money. Feyre is sentenced by Tamlin to spend her entire life in his castle.

I don’t want to give too much away, but I will share my thoughts on the series itself. I loved it. Honestly, I went in to really skeptical because I didn’t enjoy the Throne of Glass series as much. I became obsessed with the characters, and loved the series.

The only thing that I didn’t like about the series is the novella A Court of Frost and Starlight. It was completely unnecessary to the series itself and didn’t add much to the series in my opinion. I do think you need it to read book four, but overall, I think that I could have done without it. That is why I am giving the entire series a four out of five stars.

Dandelion by Gabbie Hanna, Five out of Five Stars: I am such a huge fan of Hanna’s writing, so I am really glad that I picked this one up. This volume has themes about body image, relationship, and mental health. I highly recommend this one.

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March Amazon Favorites

It’s coming close to the end of the month, so you know what that means, right? This month I have been working on trying to work on the savings front, which has been going fairly well with my impulse Amazon purchases. That said, I did have a dog that broke her leash, so I did end up purchasing that as well. If you didn’t know this, my dog is the reason why I have Prime in the first place, because it’s helpful when she breaks stuff or needs food immediately.

Kindle Oasis: I have been using this for months now, and this has been a game changer. I love this electronic because it’s a great ereader. I have been reading the Court of Thorns and Roses series on it and have been enjoying reading them because if you are familiar with the series, than you know that these books are thick. However, I am able to read comfortable and take the books with me everywhere. I can fit this device in any purse pretty much, which I love.

Luke’s Diner Mug: Gilmore Girls is one of my favorite shows, so I had to get this mug. This mug checks out all of the boxes for me. It represents my favorite show and the mug is massive. If you’re a Gilmore Girls fan, then I highly recommend that you check this out.

Apple Watch Bands: I love this band so much that I bought another set. The bands were two for $7, and I first purchased the brown and nude ones during Prime Day. I recently got the blush and the burgundy ones, and I am obsessed with those. They are thin so I can layer my watch with some bracelets, which I really love.

Dog Leash: My dog broke her leash on a walk so I had to get one ASAP. This leash is great because it was not only inexpensive, but it also is so much better than the one she broke. It gives me better control when using it (I have a Jack Russell Terrier who loves to pull), and it has two loops to put your hand in, not just one. I definitely recommend this for someone who has a dog who pulls a lot or needs a good quality leash.

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Women Who Work: Momi

Ever since I was younger, I always had the dream that I would interview famous musicians. Today’s post makes that dream come true. Today’s post features Momi, an artist that just released her first EP, Sun Goes Down.

Photo Credit: Momi

Momi’s music reminds me of the music put out by Lorde and Lana Del Rey. What is unique about her music is that she produces, records, and writes all of her own music. And did I mention that she’s only 19?

So, keep on reading for my interview with Momi. Trust me, you’re going to want to hear her music after reading.

What is your entire discography to date? 

As of right now, my discography is “Taste Your Love” (single), “Bandaids” (single), and Sun Goes Down (EP).

How did you get started in music? 

The first instrument I picked up (that wasn’t the recorder) was the flute in fourth grade. I was absolutely blown away by the sounds that could be created from it. I kept up with flute playing through high school and stopped having lessons once I started college. Aside from that, I am self-taught in guitar, bass, piano, ukulele, and drums; however, I hope to learn more instruments as I get older. Now, I’m diving headfirst into electronic music production. I started with using Garageband loops on my mom’s desktop computer when I was in eighth grade. Now, seven years later, I use Ableton and Pro Tools to write, record, produce, mix, and master my own music along with others’ as well.

Who are some of your inspirations? 

My inspirations for my own music primarily comes from AJR, Iron & Wine, Bon Iver, and Eminem. I admire how AJR produces their tracks in a truly original style, bouncing between pop sampling and vocal manipulation, and lush Broadway-esque choirs and arrangements. Lyrically speaking, the last three artists are extremely clever with their words. I try to model my lyricism after each of their styles, whether it’s double entendres and well-thought-out wordplay, or cryptic words that express complex emotional ideas. Sometimes though, a raw acoustic track is the best way to deliver what you want to say, and because of that, Iron & Wine is my top folk-acoustic inspiration.

What do you like to listen to? I try to listen to as much music as I possibly can; I don’t like keeping myself restrained to one genre. It feels too restrictive and close-minded to me. My music taste includes everything from classical, hip-hop/rap, pop, indie, alternative, Polynesian, Indian, African, electronic, rock, acoustic, chillhop/lofi, metal, and more. Whenever someone gives me something new to listen to, I immediately jump on the soonest opportunity to hear it. I’m always open for new suggestions!

What inspires you to write a song? 

More than anything, I take inspiration from my friends’ and family’s stories. Although I do take from my own experiences as well, I find that using another person’s emotions from a situation and incorporating them into a song makes it much more relatable. Finding ways to keep their story private while exposing all the emotion behind it is an incredibly fun challenge. All of us have stories to share, so why not celebrate them?

Tell me about your recording process. Recording at home versus in a studio are two very different animals to tackle. When I’m at home, the first thing I do (once I have an idea for my song) is to get sound levels just right. Getting a clean and healthy recording level to start is the foundation of a good final product. Once I’ve got levels down, I’ll do at least 3 takes of each instrument, and if I need anymore I’ll redo them. My vocal tracks typically take anywhere from 10 to 20 takes first, and then I’ll take my favorite versions of certain words or phrases from each take and stitch them together into one perfect vocal line. Harmonies and other vocal sounds don’t typically take as long unless I’m looking for a particular tone in my voice. Once everything is done and recorded, I move onto the mixing and effects process. That’s when I incorporate any kind of audio manipulation like stutters, changing the pitch of my voice, adding artificial harmonies to instruments and vocals, and more. I usually do at least 3 mix sessions for each song just to make sure it’s where I want it to be at, and then I do a quick mastering session. I’m no mastering engineer, but with the help of software plugins and what I’ve learned online and through my professor at school, I’ve got a small grasp on how to finalize a song. The entire process can take anywhere from a few days to months to complete.

Once things begin to open up, do you think you’ll perform live concerts? 

Aside from being the songstress for my mom’s Polynesian dance company Kaiholunuie, I have never gotten to perform at any live concerts. It would be an absolute dream to be able to perform my own music for others on stage; I hope to make that dream a reality once things become safe enough to try.

What is your advice for someone who wants to get into music? 

First and foremost: do NOT let anyone tell you not to do it. Most people believe that music is such a terrible career to get into, but that just isn’t true. I’ve never met someone who didn’t listen to music of some kind, and without people who create it, the world would be an absolutely dreadful place. If it’s calling out to you, there’s a reason. Go find that reason. Secondly, keep finding ways to be driven and passionate about your work. The more you want to strive to become better, have a polished professional sound, and be noticed, the further you’ll be taken. Find every opportunity to learn whether it’s through YouTube videos, lectures, books, buying software and practicing, performing publicly… anything you can do to keep music a daily part of your life, do it. You will learn and find so much about yourself creatively as you learn from others. The power you have is magical once you know how to harness it.

Interested in hearing Mom’s music? Be sure to check out on Spotify here. She can also be found on Twitter and Instagram, so be sure to follow her there as well. You can also check out her YouTube channel here as well.

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My Adoption Story: How I Became a Dog Mommy to Lucy

In honor of National Puppy Day, I wanted to take a moment to honor my best friend and my child, Lucy by sharing with my readers the story of how she came into my life.

Lucy came into a time of my life when I was looking for healing. About a year before I got Lucy, my childhood pet Maggie died at the age of 15 (which for Rhodesian Ridgebacks is extremely rare). Losing Maggie was something that was heartbreaking for me, but for my mother at the time. Check out the post that I did about her death here.

Maggie

My mom did not want to adopt a dog right away, and decided that we would begin looking at puppies until spring of 2019. However, my mom and I never got a chance to adopt a new member of the family, as she unexpectedly passed away in February 2019. Since I didn’t know exactly what I was going to do next since I just experienced a traumatic loss, getting a dog was the last thing that was on my mind.

During the months that followed my mom’s death something that continued to be a source of comfort was my boyfriend’s dog, Nala. I would actually visit his house just to see her half of the time. One of the few times of happiness during that time was in fact spending some time with her and her sister Maya.

About five months later, I decided that I wanted to get a dog of my own. I wanted a beagle, which after having a large dog, would be the perfect size. I wanted to get a girl dog, and I wanted to name her Lucy after my favorite Peanuts character.

I went on Petfinder and discovered a dog named Lucy. She was four years old, and was up for adoption because her owners had children and she had a hard time with that. Lucy was a Jack Russell Terrier Beagle mix. I met Lucy, we hit it off, and the adoption began to proceed.

That is until the owners stalled giving me Lucy. I paid the fee, but for a few weeks, I did not get a dog for many reasons. They ended up reconsidering my application, and said that I was no longer a good fit for her.

I was devastated.

While dealing with the loss of this (as I wanted a companion and a friend to call my own as I craved having a dog of my own), my boyfriend searched for beagles in Connecticut.

He found two at the Danbury Animal Shelter. After looking at the pictures, I knew I loved Abby. However, after what I just experience, I was not interested in looking for another dog.

We did end up at the shelter that Saturday afternoon. Upon arrival, we learned that one of the dogs would not do well with an owner that is not home during the day. So, they introduced me to Freckles.

Lucy the day I went to meet her!

Freckles came out running towards me and jumped on me to give me a kiss. We were allowed to walk her, and while she was hyper, she was instantly attached to me. I was in love with her too, but didn’t want to get too attached to her after what had just happened. I decided to fill out the application, although I had trouble filling it out because she was jumping to cuddle with me.

When we left, I was in tears and Freckles was crying and barking too.

However, a week later I went back to Danbury Animal Shelter. This time, to bring Freckles home.

Freckles became Lucy and the rest was history.

Lucy today!

Lucy has been a part of my home and family since September 2019. Although she drives me crazy (and peed on my bed once), she is the one thing in my life that I know keeps me grounded and happy. She continually brings me joy on bad days, and is one of the goofiest and happiest dogs that I have ever met — and also one that has the most energy. While she is about to leave puppyhood behind, she will continue to be a puppy to me.

Happy National Puppy Day to all of the puppies out there. Do you have a puppy? Let me know in the comments below.

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What I Love Wednesday March 24, 2021

Happy Wednesday everyone! Today I don’t have that many favorites to share, but I am still excited that we made it halfway through the week. These are a bit random, but I still can’t wait to share them with you.

Trader Joe’s Orange Chicken: I heard about this while watching Brooke Miccio’s vlog. I bought it, but I didn’t use it until I didn’t have anything in my house. And it was soooo good that I ended up finishing it the next day. It tastes just like a Chinese restaurant made it, but is definitely a lot cheaper. This is definitely going to be a staple in my freezer.

Vasoline with Aloe: I have really dry hands, which is something that really annoys me. I recently was at my boyfriend’s parents’ house, and tried this. After one use, I noticed a complete difference in my hands and purchased a bottle that day. I have been using it a few times a day, and have definitely seen an improvement.

Demi Lovato: Dancing With the Devil: I have been a Demi Lovato fan since 2008, and so I tuned in last night to watch the two episodes of the docu-series of Demi Lovato: Dancing With the Devil. The series chronicles Demi’s overdose. While this is a heavy topic, this series was a great watch because of the interviews, and the way that it was shot. I learned so much about the singer and about overdoses that I haven’t before, which I really like as well. After watching the first two episodes, I was hooked and can’t wait for next week.