Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Quick Update: Doctor Who Big Bang Generation

I tried to get into this book. I really did. But after several weeks of slowly picking at it, I've made it halfway through the story and I just can't get myself to care about the characters or the plot. It's a fairly short book, and I'm not entirely certain where the problem lays.
  • I like Dr. Who, but I don't live and breathe for the show. Maybe I'm not a big enough fan?
  • I haven't watched much of the show beyond when David Tennant was the Doctor. Maybe I'm not caught up enough? This story has the newest Doctor in it and he doesn't show up for almost half of the book.
  • Maybe I only like watching the show, instead of trying to read about wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey stuff. 
Whatever the case, I've made it halfway through and I still don't care, so I can't imagine it's going to get much better. I'll finish it, because I'm a completionist, but it'll be like eating your least favorite vegetable because you're just so used to cleaning off your plate. Doable, but not enjoyable. That being said, it isn't terrible, either. So don't be completely discouraged from trying this one out if you love the series. I think maybe it just wasn't for me.

This review is based on a free copy I received from Blogging for Books in exchange for a fair and honest review.

P.S. Last Minute Notes!
  1. I will be off on vacation for the next view weeks, so there won't be any updates through most of January. Sorry!
  2. I'm aware that my blog is doing strange and kooky things with this post. I don't know why. Several attempts to fix it have failed. Again, I'm sorry.
  3. I'm going to try to finish this book and have a proper review for it next time, so stay tuned!
And that's it! See you guys next year! Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Not even Christmas Haul!

Equal parts creativity machine and actual reading.
Hey guys! I thought I'd try something a little different this week and share with you some of the things I've been playing with, reading, and generally squee-ing over this past week!

I had an opportunity to get together with some of my friends this past weekend, including Stephanie from Reading with Cupcakes, so of course Coloring happened. A lot of coloring.

I'm gonna clue you guys in on a little (not so) secret of mine: I don't half-ass my hobbies. It's full ass or no ass! So when I started getting coloring books, I needed to also get colored pencils. Simple crayolas would not do to start, so I picked up some Prismas. I couldn't wait for my copy of Lost Ocean to arrive, so I got Time Chamber and Time Garden for free from Blogging for Books to tide me over. Then, when I had those three books (with plenty of pages to keep me occupied for quite some time), I realized that I had only really complex coloring books. Realizing my mistake in focusing only on the fancy, I went out and got myself a copy of Owls as well. Creative Cats was a gift for a friend, but I realized I really liked that one also and ended up getting myself a copy. A different friend gifted me Secret Garden. Now I have six coloring books. Is that enough? It might be. For now...

I am a weirdo, but hopefully you're still reading this because you find my weirdness mildly entertaining and perhaps even charming. You're welcome!

Gift-giving Frenzy is in a couple of days, and I look forward to giving and receiving my fair share. Amazon was having a book sale (I think it was 25% off one book of your choice), and I agonized over whether I should get Edward's Menagerie, The Big Book of Amigurumi, or Edward's Menagerie - Birds. Ultimately, I decided on Edward's Menagerie and I've been happily staring at it (while keeping it safe as a gift for someone else) as well as trying to figure out some of the descriptions. As you can clearly see in the picture above, I also received The Big Book of Amigurumi, and I know I'll be getting the Birds book as well. Expect a review about these in 2016, because I have several things to say about them!

That's it. She's reviewing only craft books from here on out!
Well, no. Not quite. I do read other books, but it takes me longer to mull those over. There are even a few of them that I feel the need to reread, in order to give it the most accurate review possible. So there are a few of those coming, but in the meantime, expect a barrage of crafting books! Yaaaay!

One more thing I'd like to mention:
Since Christmas is (by my timezone, anyway) in about 24 hours and 2 minutes, I will probably be taking a little break on reviews for the next couple of weeks. So I'll try to schedule a couple of reviews for while I'm gone, but if you notice a lack of updates, that's why. Just saying.

So the official list of reviews coming up next month (in no particular order):
Edward's Menagerie
Edward's Menagerie - Birds
Big Book of Little Amigurumi
Outsider in the White House (oooh, topical)

And that's it for this evening! Enjoy your holidays, my friends! Whatever those holidays might be!

Funny extra story-time.

I thought you were done?
Almost, I swear. I sent my husband out to the mailbox (before midnight, I promise), and he found a copy of Edward's Menagerie in there waiting for me courtesy of one of my best friends. I am winning this holiday season. There will be stuffed animals everywhere!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Generation T: Where high fashion meets bum comfort!

T-shirts are an integral part of my wardrobe. They're soft, comfortable, and my favorite way of displaying fandoms and/or art. The problem I run into, however, is that t-shirts are generally not made for ladies with, shall we say, "ample" bosoms in mind. Or even just with ladies in mind.

Let me rant to you about clothes for a minute here. I know you can go out and get "girl tees" which are specifically designed to fit lady parts better than your average tees, but think about how those work. A guy's t-shirt with a cool design on it can run you anywhere from $5 to $10. Maybe, if you're shopping at Hot Topic and you see one that you really love, you'll spend about $20 (because you just have to have it). The same t-shirt made to fit women? $20. No, they do not have it for $10. If it is made to fit a woman better than it fits a man, it will cost more. How unfair is that? And what about the sizes? If guys are buying a t-shirt, the cost of sizes extra-small all the way through extra large is exactly the same. Once they start hitting that 2XL or higher, they get charged a dollar or two more. Well, sorry guys: if you're 2XL or higher, that makes some sense. After all, that is LOT of shirt and requires more material. Women's t-shirts work in pretty much the same way, except that they are made primarily to fit thin women. And even then, if you're a skinny lady, prepare to feel fat because these are essentially children's sizes. So sizes XS to XL are the same, and they start charging more from 2XL and higher. But it isn't really more fabric that's at play here. For example: I fit into a men's medium. I can get in it with no problems. It covers my boobs, my stomach, has a nice length to it; it just doesn't fit nice. It doesn't hug my curves or anything. In a women's sizes, I'm suddenly an extra-large. The 2XL would fit better, but I don't want to pay more money, so I squeeze into the smaller shirt. Does it fit better than the men's shirt? Sure. It hugs my curves, that thing is on me. Is it more fabric? NO! I didn't suddenly need more fabric because the shirt is 2XL, but I'll still get charged more. Yet it's the same amount of fabric! Maybe even less!

This is a long rant. I thought you were going to review a book?!
I am. I'm setting up context. Keep your shirt on. OR, take it off and alter it to fit your needs!

Nice segue.
Thank you. My point is, I don't like paying more for a shirt just because I have boobs. That's where Generation T: 108 ways to transform a T-shirt by Megan Nicolay comes in. I came across this book at a Barnes & Noble many years ago. At the time, I worked at a GameStop and we would receive promotional t-shirts constantly, but never in the sizes that we actually needed. They were always way too big, and never in women's sizes. Finding this book was like an answered prayer! It includes 108 different ways to cut, slash, resew or no-sew your shirts.

I can't sew!
So maybe it's not high fashion. But it could be!
That's okay, because you don't always have to! One of the things I pulled from this book that I do constantly is simply cutting out the collar to men's shirts I like. Men's tees always feel too tight at the collar, and by simply cutting it out I have made the shirt fit better and also look cuter. Sometimes, that's all you need to do. This book taught me not to be scared of using my scissors. Many of the projects also have "no-sew" alternatives. Maybe you like a corset-style shirt, or you want to cinch up the sides of your favorite tee, but you don't want to sew? No problem. Instead of sewing up the sides, simply cut off a length of fabric from the bottom of your tee, poke some holes along the sides, and weave that length of fabric through the holes. Tada: No sewing! And if you're interested in doing a little bit of sewing, but have no idea how to start, the first chapter will take you through the basics. The writing and directions are easy to follow, so you should have no problems following along! There are so many cool things about this book, that the only way we'll get through them is if I just start listing them off, so:

  1. There are places for you to write in this book. There is a place in the first chapter where it tells you how to properly take your measurements, and gives you a spot to jot them down.
  2. There is a section toward the back of the book where you can sketch out your own ideas for how to alter t-shirts. There are pictures of plain tees already on there and you can just sketch away at them.
  3. The projects are not limited to shirts. Yes, they all start with a t-shirt, but they may very well end up as skirts, arm warmers, quilts, or pillows. There is even a pattern for a wedding dress.
  4. Speaking of "wedding dress," let's talk difficulty. This book contains a nice mix of patterns ranging from easy to challenging. The more challenging patterns, like the wedding dress, might be something you just work your way up to.
Wow! It sounds like you only have nice things to say about this book!
Well, not quite. I definitely have more great things to say about this book than bad ones. There are a couple of things I'm not super thrilled about, but they don't stop me from enjoying it. The first peeve I have with it is that none of the models look like me. Not at all. As I flip through the book, I get the sneaking suspicion that not a single one of these women is as short as I am (and I'm not exactly minuscule at 5'2", just fun-size), and my boobs are definitely bigger than all of theirs. This may seem like an odd thing to get annoyed at, but when the point of the book is to alter clothes to fit you, it'd be nice if you could see some of the items on a person that shares your body type. But the models are all models: mostly tall, all thin, all relatively compact in the chest area. Because of this, I can safely say that there are some patterns here that would only look good on models. That leads me to my second annoyance: the patterns are not universally usable. 
In any craft book, there will always be patterns or projects that are not your favorite, or that you simply have no interest in making. It happens. But I would like the option of being able to make the majority of them. I think I have 3 alterations, in a book of 108 things to do, that I really like and use on a regular basis. Some of these, again, just won't work for me because I find bras (at least sports bras) to be necessary. I'm not going to lie: I almost made the t-shirt wedding dress for my wedding. I absolutely adore the skirt, and the top was really nice also but it is not big boob friendly and I just couldn't come up with an alternative that would work for me. And there you have it: my only frustrations with this book. It is still well-worth the money I paid for it. I almost never bother buying t-shirts that are already fitted for women because I find it more fun to resize my own, and with Generation T I have the tools, inspiration, and encouragement I need to really make my tees my own.

That still sounds like fun! Anything else I should know about it?
Yes. While this book keeps total newbies who don't own a sewing machine in mind, some of these projects will move along a lot faster if you own a sewing machine (a basic one is fine, no need to get crazy), and know how to use it. Sewing things by hand is annoying.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who loves t-shirts, crafts, and has even a passing interest in sewing and altering their clothes. I would not recommend it for guys, though, since there aren't enough projects geared towards them to keep them entertained. Maybe you thought that was obvious, but I just wanted to make it really clear. There are actually a couple of patterns for things you could do, as a man, to alter your t-shirts but they consist primarily of just frankensteining a couple of them together. I think that's it. One pattern. Maybe two. 

And that's it, guys! I hope you enjoyed the review! Happy reading, crafting, and wearing!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Quick and Dirty: Owls

Owls as far as the eye
can see...
Pssst... Hey, guys! Look what I found! Another coloring book! I'm gonna review it!

Stephanie from Reading with Cupcakes recommended this to me a while back and, like a bad friend, I initially dismissed it. You see, while Owls appeared to be a cute book, it didn't have the level of minute detail that Lost Ocean or The Time Garden did. At least that's what I wrongly assumed... It doesn't have a cute little story to follow through the book, or myriads of hidden treasures to find and keep track of. It does, however, feature a myriad of owls with chaotic-creative backgrounds that beg to be colored in experimental and offbeat ways.

Story time!

Last weekend, I had a few friends over for tea. Since it was the first weekend of December, I figured we were close enough to Christmas to just go ahead and give them their gifts which happened to be coloring books (both from Creative Haven) and colored pencils (Crayola, of course). Our tea party thus included coloring, and I busted out Lost Ocean and my own colored pencils. Maybe two hours into this, one friend has colored three pages (she had markers, so could lay down color faster), my other friend had made excellent progress on her own page, and I was bogged down in all the tiny details of one part of my beautiful page. The rest of my page remained fairly white. Several days later, I'm still working on that single page. The moral of the story is, sometimes when you want to finish something, simplicity is key. So I went out and got myself Owls. And it's not that it's simple, really, so much as the details you're coloring are somewhat bigger and therefore you can lay color down a bit faster. Macro-coloring, as opposed to micro-coloring.
Another nice aspect to these books is that you can use markers with impunity! Remember how I mentioned my friend who blasted through three different pages in two hours? (The pages looked great, by the way!) She used markers, and made me super jealous. The markers bled through the backs of the page, but not on to the following page. Since all the pages in the book are one sided, it worked out! Did I mention that all the pages are tear-aways as well? So if you really like how you brought out that one thing's personality with your amazing coloring skills, you can take the page out, frame it, and show it off.

Overall, I like this book. I would recommend it to everyone. I'm using it to practice my coloring and blending, but if you just need something to chill with this is a great book to do it with. Enjoy, and happy coloring!

Unrelated to coloring note:
The last couple of weeks I shared with you some of my favorite crochet books along with examples of some things I've made. This week, I would like to briefly point out that some of those things are available for sale on my new Storenvy shop! Woohoo! So if you're curious about what else I may have made or you'd like a quirky toy or hat of your very own, please check out DapperFuzz on Storenvy. Thanks again and see you next week!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Tis' the Season! Kind of... Creepy Cute Crochet

Come for Cthulu,
stay for the monkey.
Click here for the Amazon link!
I have a confession to make: I'm addicted to making toys. So much, in fact, that I hope my gravestone will bear the title "Master Crafter & Toymaker" along with a goofy-looking octopus wearing a top hat imprinted somewhere on it like a hidden Mickey (only not so hidden).
On that slightly morbid note, let me tell you about Creepy Cute Crochet by Christen Haden! This, along with Amigurumi World was one of the first books I purchased when I started making toys. My relationship with this book might best be described as "complicated." Unlike Amigurumi World, this book is still very much in one piece. Of course, it helps that it's hardcover. If you were to flip to any page in this book and set it down, you don't need to set anything on top of it while you work to keep it open. I assure you, when you're in the middle of a project and all you want to do is briefly glance at the page to remind you what to do, it helps if the book will stay open on its own. That. Is. GREAT. But aside from the fact that it's hardcover and will stay open without my abusing it, my copy of Creepy Cute is in fantastic condition because I just don't use it as much as some of my other books.

But WHY Ly? Everything in here is so creepy and/or cute! How can you resist?!
Well... Hayden's work IS adorable, but the devil's in the details. Unless you follow the directions quite precisely, your work will vary wildly from what is pictured in this book. I'm not saying that is either good or bad. I'm only saying that if you want things to stay in the same style as Hayden's creations, you have to go the extra mile. And you might enjoy it! One of the things I admire most about Haden's work is how she has accessorized her creations. She describes a number of ways to make your own eyes for creatures (using polymer clay), weapons (with clay and felt), and tiny little outfits for them if the pattern also calls for outfits. I just like her little monsters so much that I'm disappointed when mine don't turn out quite as well. To be fair, that's just my own laziness because I won't go out and start experimenting with clay as well. I may be a "master crafter & toymaker," but I do have my limits. So I'm disappointed in myself, on this score. But I wanted to warn you, in case you have a tendency to be lazy also.

I'm not lazy! I will make ALL the things! OR totally make them my own! I know no disappointment!
Good for you! How long have you been crocheting, if I might ask? While I would describe Amigurumi World as perfect for the total newbie and up, I cannot say the same for Creepy Cute Crochet. I would recommend this book only if you have at least some basic knowledge of crochet, how to follow a pattern, and how to wing it when things get confusing. And things do get confusing sometimes. I'm never totally sure, on any given round, whether I'm supposed to count my connecting slip-stitch or not. Generally, in most other patterns, you wouldn't. But here, you sometimes do and you sometimes don't, and it's a surprise whether or not you're supposed to be doing that from one row to the next on the same pattern. I've learned to deal with it, but I just wanted to give you fair warning. Again. That being said, I have learned things from within these pages that I use daily when I crochet, and not just for making toys! A magic circle, pretty edging, top hats, hair-- I learned all of these from this book!

What are you going on about now?
Techniques! Excellent, practical techniques!

  • A magic circle is a way to start your work that does not involve a slip knot. What's neat about it is that you can tighten it closed to the point where it looks like there you crocheted into nothing. That means, no unseemly looking top-hole on your work (like when you're making the head of a toy). This is officially how I begin all of my toys, and all hats, and anything else that starts with a circle.
  • I learned an edging on this book that is simple but immediately fancifies and beautifies anything you attach it to. The best part is, you just do it as part of your work, not as a separate thing to attach later. Win!
  • Top hats! ... Okay, did you guys happen to notice on my previous post that a number of things I've made include hats? This is the book I learned that pattern from. I no longer use the pattern as is described because there are points in her descriptions that just confuse me. But I did simplify it some, and I make little hats for my toys constantly.
  • Hair. Oh. Dear. GAWD. You guys... have you ever tried making a yarn wig for your toys? It is surprisingly easy! Well... Straightforward, anyway. I learned the technique in this book and bastardized it to fit my purposes. But you gotta start somewhere, and this is as good a place as any!
If I might draw your
attention to Thurston's
Hat of Mystery...
Did you notice TechGal's full
head of hair, perchance?
There are many techniques contained within this book that will help you make your own little critters, even if you don't want them to look anything like Christen Haden's stuff. So, is this my absolute favorite crochet book EVER?! ... No. But it's good, and I would recommend it if you have at least a little experience. And if you have no previous experience crocheting, you'll probably still enjoy it. Just be mindful that you may have one or two more frustrating experiences with it than if you started elsewhere. Enjoy!

Quick note! 
Sorry for not having any new pictures to demonstrate my work as it pertains to this specific book. As it turns out, I've given away the little creepers I made from these patterns without taking their pictures. (I've done that a lot.) And while I do use patterns from here regularly, they're more of the little trimmings rather than the full critters. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Literally Loved to Pieces: Amigurumi World

What the hell does that have to do with Amigurumi World?!
We'll get to that.
I love Little Big Planet. Have you ever played it? It's adorable. It was probably the first game I purchased for my PS3. Sackboy (that's their mascot on the cover of the game there) was one of the oddest things I had ever seen when the game came out. Here's this little toy full of character, and made of yarn. And you can customize him as much or as little as you want! I love that weirdo little toy... Loved him so much I wanted to make my own.

Oh, you're still waiting for me to get to the point, huh? Well, thing is, Little Big Planet is what got me interested in making amigurumi. I had no idea what they were, had never heard of them before, and had even fewer clues as to how to make them. Lucky for me, the internet exists, and I was able to ask the Magic Google-ball what the heck Sackboy was supposed to be and how I could go about making one. That's where Amigurumi World: Seriously Cute Crochet by Ana Paula Rimoli comes in...

But what's an "amigurumi" anyway?
It's basically a stuffed toy. According to Wikipedia, amigurumi literally translates to crochet or knit stuffed toy. The word is derived from combining the Japanese words ami (for knit or crochet) and nuigurumi (for stuffed doll). At first, I thought they were all knit. Sackboy in Little Big Planet is knit. I have a unique set of skills. Knitting toys is not one of them. However, I did know the basics of crochet, and I figured that I could pick up the rest as I went along. Enter the resource books.

Okay, NOW enter Amigurumi World.
 I did a lot of shopping around on Amazon before I finally purchased this book. I picked it because I liked the look of the toys, the reviews were mostly positive, and most importantly it was legible. Remember, I didn't have a lot of experience at the time, and I wasn't completely certain on how to read a pattern. Besides being seriously cute, this book is also seriously easy. The patterns each come with two sizes (a mommy/daddy and a baby), and are easy to follow. Best of all, in my humble opinion, is how easy it is to play Frankenstein with these patterns! Since I bought this book, I have made almost every single pattern multiple times! I've fiddled with patterns, borrowed pieces from different animals to create mythical creatures and humanoid dolls. I love making these so much that I've had to start selling them, just to make room for all the other stuff I inevitably make.
Thurston: Magic Bunny
Named after a great
magician. Made for a
great magician.

The first toy I ever made on the
left compared to my current work.

If you've never crocheted before, but are interested in doing it now, this is a great book to start with. The beginning "guidelines" are an easy-to-follow, crash course tutorial on crochet. Also,  as I mentioned previously, the patterns are simple to follow. (That's one of the beauties of crafting and especially crochet: if you can read the pattern, it's awfully tough to mess it up.)

Amigurumi World features about 22 patterns of different animals. You'll notice, if you make multiple toys out of this book, that a lot of these patterns are a repeat of one basic toy with different details. The type and color of your yarn, and the details (like nose, eyes, mouth, and accessories) are what will make your creations unique to you and different from each other. They'll still be based on the same basic pattern, but no one else needs to know.

Even if you're not a novice to crochet or amigurumi, I would still recommend this book. It has cute ideas, is good for inspiration, and the basic patterns are versatile. Your creations will only ever be as amazing as you make them, but the tools to help you are there. ... Except for the crochet hooks and yarn. You'll have to buy that stuff separate. Oh, and speaking of crochet hooks and yarn... If you want a cheat sheet to what you'll use most often if you're following the directions to Amigurumi World, you'll want to have the following handy:

  1. Crochet hooks sizes F & G (that's American for 3.75mm and 4.25mm) These are the most commonly used hooks in this book.
  2. Medium Worsted Yarn. (That's size 4, on the label of yarn. It's the most common size, so it'll be the easiest to find in a wide variety of colors.)
  3. Felt, Buttons, Safety-backed eyes. For faces. ... If you want to give your toy a face, that is.
And that's pretty much it! So again, if the rest of the review didn't already impress this upon you: If you don't own this book, you're missing out. I love it, and I highly recommend it. Mine is in pieces from how much I've used it over the years. It is definitely worth the money!
Amigurumi World: Seriously Cute Crochet on Amazon.com

Kristi from TechGal comics by Timothy James
Available Here
Tune in next time when I tell you how I really feel about something else! It may or may not be about Creepy Cute Crochet. See you then!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

This is a marathon, not a sprint

Q&A a Day for Creatives: A 4-Year JournalQ&A a Day for Creatives: A 4-Year Journal by Potter Style

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ask yourself: Can I sketch 1,460 things over the course of four years? Of course you can. Will you?

Q&A a Day for Creatives is 366 pages of blank squares with short prompts begging for you to pick up your favorite medium and get doodling. The pages are set up into quarters, each featuring a spot to write the year so that you can remember when you started. The great thing about this is that if you draw only one thing every day, and that thing is in this book, as you start accumulating doodles throughout the years you will see how much you've progressed with time. Hence, it is a marathon, not a sprint! I think this is also a great way to take ten to fifteen minutes out of every day to unwind with a doodle.

Please note, this is not an Art workbook. It doesn't teach you to draw or demand that you use a specific medium. You can get as crazy (or not) as you want here, whether it be with pens, pencils, watercolors, or crayons. Personally, I think the pages lend themselves best to pencils, pens and crayons. The pages don't have enough tooth for pastels, nor are they thick enough for watercolors. If you don't know what "tooth" on paper is, you probably weren't planning on using pastels anyway, so no worries there.

If you're the type of person that gets overwhelmed by a large blank page, this book is for you! (Because the blanks are smaller, and it isn't totally blank anyway.) If you feel high internal pressure to create masterpieces, take a deep breath and doodle anyway because a lot of the prompts "call" for stick figures anyway. I look forward to doodling a day! Maybe it'll be the only thing I draw, and maybe as I work it'll warm me up for other things. Still, I'm ready to make a commitment to it! Give it a shot and happy sketching!

View all my reviews

This review is based on a free copy I received from Blogging for Books in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Grammar is Dead: Review of the Grave Man

The Grave Man-Mystery, Thriller  (The Sam Prichard Series, #1)The Grave Man-Mystery, Thriller by David Archer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Warning: This book is a guilty pleasure!

Something you'll notice right away about The Grave Man is that either David Archer does not have an editor, or his editor doesn't give a shit. The entire book is riddled with misspellings, typos, misplaced spaces, and other generally obvious writing mistakes that could have been fixed if he had just read his own manuscript over. If you have an aversion to sloppy mistakes, or rough writing, this book is not for you.

The story itself is entertaining in a laughable and silly kind of way. Sam Pritchard, a former cop who is medically retired from duty, is asked by a neighbor for help in finding her missing granddaughter. Apparently the cops aren't wasting any time on this girl, and she needs help! Our hero sort of just shrugs his shoulders, reminds the woman that he is no longer a cop, but promises to look into it and let her know what he finds out. That's the last time this story makes much sense. In an effort to track down the girl, Sam tries to crack into the website the missing girl's drug-dealing father gets his work through. One of the many problems with that tactic, though, is that Sam is not a hacker. You know who is a hacker, though? Indiana!

Indiana? Jones?
Not Jones! Indiana is a young, single mother who graduated from M.I.T and cannot find work despite her excellent programming and back-door opening skills. She was, however, named after the bad-ass, whip-wielding Indy we all know and love.

Wait, Ly, where did this hacker come from? How does she play into the story?
I'm glad you asked, hypothetical speaker in my head. Sam quickly realizes that he does not have the skills necessary to find the missing girl's father through drug-dealer's Facebook, so he places an ad on craigslist. Thus, Indiana and her daughter are introduced. Shenanigans, double-crossings, and shoot-outs ensue, along with some out-of-place yet touching domestic moments when the homeless Indiana and her daughter move in with Sam.

The pacing is odd. Recall the shenanigans, double-crossings, and shoot-outs I just mentioned? They really are interspersed with these slower, sweet moments where Indiana and Sam are just being domestic. It felt out of place, and yet I liked how Archer wrote the budding romance. His characters don't just fall in love. They're a little shy around each other. They don't just hop into bed in a fit of passionate lust, then try to cram a relationship around a one-night stand afterwards. They're taking it slow and I found that sweet.

Why on earth did you give this book FOUR stars?
Because I enjoyed it and I'm the one rating it. I know full well that this book is not for everyone. The typos alone during the first 10 pages made me want to throw things. And then I realized it would go a lot better if I just stopped caring and naturally filled in the gaps myself. If I had paid money for this book, I might be more upset. That being said, I am actually willing (and planning) to spend money on the following book. I want to know where it goes. So if it's still available for free on Amazon, I highly encourage you to give it a shot. And even if it's not free, it's worth checking out. It's a short read. Even if you suffer, you won't suffer long.

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This part has nothing to do with the book and everything to do with the review.
Dear Readers,
I hope you've enjoyed this presentation of "What I Think of Books." My previous reviews felt too cut and dry, so henceforth I will be including more of my inner monologues for spice. I'm just letting you know: things might get silly.
You're welcome.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Dream of Colors and Clockwork

The Time GardenThe Time Garden by Daria Song

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Time Garden by Daria Song is another example of a great coloring book. The artwork is detailed and complex, allowing for hours of coloring entertainment and stress relief. The pages are double-sided, which again makes me hesitant to use markers on it. Colored pencils remain my preferred medium for these books. By the way, take a moment to look at the cover. Did you get a good look? It's also mostly blank for you to fill in, and as luck would have it, is also double-sided! The interior shows an expanded view of one of the pages inside the book.

Similar to The Time Chamber, this coloring book also includes a short story. This time, we follow a little girl who is magically transported into, and explores a cuckoo clock in her home thanks to the fairy that lives inside of it. Somehow the clock also allows her to travel to other places in the world, including the Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory in San Francisco. Yes, I know that is a random thing to share. It felt like a random moment when I saw it. Motifs of stars, clockwork gears, and flowers add up to a dream coloring experience.

I know that this book is marketed primarily to adults, but with the inclusion of the story I would actually put it at a much younger age. That isn't to say that adults can't or won't enjoy coloring this, but that is how I felt about the story. Another way to look at it is that The Time Garden is something you can unwind with, make your own, then share with your kids.

I would recommend this book to anyone who wants something beautiful to color, to anyone who is experiencing a creative block, and anyone who just needs something undemanding to focus on for a while. So basically, this book is great for everyone. I look forward to making my mark on it!

This review is based on a copy provided by Blogging for Books in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Lost Ocean: A Visual Orgasm

Lost OceanLost Ocean by Johanna Basford

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is a visual orgasm. I can't help but compare it to The Time Chamber by Daria Song, since that is the only other "adult" coloring book I own. If this were a competition between the two, Lost Ocean would win.

Lost Ocean is what I originally had in mind when I set out to get a coloring book for myself. There is no story per se. Instead, Johanna Basford presents us with a series of related images: tropical fish, octopuses, sea horses, mermaids, and more! The reason I like it better than Time Chamber is that besides the discreet images, other illustrations include repeating patterns that help you zen out. It also contains multiple mandalas, a couple of two-page spreads, and even a two-sided pull-out image. All of the illustrations are beautifully done; I would highly recommend this book for the artwork alone.

I'm not sure where I saw a coloring book that had tear-out pages in case you were so impressed with your skills that you wanted to frame the finished product or put it up on your refrigerator. This book does not do that. The pages are firmly stuck in there. The quality of the paper is good, smooth, and perfect for colored pencils. I would be hesitant to try markers on this.

Overall, I am thrilled with my purchase! If you're looking for a good way to relax and be creative with a limited amount of guidance, this is a fantastic way to do it. The image is there; you just need to bring out the colors.

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Saturday, October 31, 2015

Happy Halloween! No tricks, all treats!

Hey guys!

It's Halloween! Yaaay! 

I was thinking that I'm maybe a little old to go trick-or-treating for candy, but I will never be too old to go trick-or-treating for free books through Amazon. Here's a list of free Halloween books I found. They are all free (as opposed to being on kindle unlimited which is part of their lending library that you have to pay for). At least, today they are. All of these books are currently rated on Amazon as having 4 or 5 stars. Please be aware that with the exception of Dracula, I have not read any of these. I will, however, likely post reviews of them sooner or later since I downloaded them all. So with that said...

Trick or treat! Smell my feet! Give me something good to read!

Classic Dracula

I'm going based on the title alone with this one: Psychosis. Thirteen short stories

Viral Zombies at Sea: Sea Sick

Serial Killer scary! Evangeline

Multiple authors, Halloween anthology: The Cat, the Crow, and the Cauldron: A Halloween Anthology

A little late to go to Hogwarts. Young adult paranormal comedy romance: Halloween Magic & Mayhem

Bonus Points: Joe Jill's Locke & Key is available as a free audiobook on Audible until November 4th! This is a 13 hour dramatized version, and my husband is going nuts over it. I have not listened to it or read the graphic novel yet, but I have heard nothing but good things about this. Doesn't hurt to snag it for free, so get to it!

I hope I found a treat or two that you'll like. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Who Doesn't Love Coloring Books? The Time Chamber

The Time Chamber: A Magical Story and Coloring BookThe Time Chamber: A Magical Story and Coloring Book by Daria Song

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I had been looking forward to The Time Chamber: A Magical Story and Coloring Book for weeks. Now that I have it, I can say that I am not disappointed; I'm delighted. The artwork is beautiful and intricate, with plenty of details to color to your heart's content. Daria Song has also included a simple story about a tiny fairy who becomes curious about what lies outside her cuckoo-clock home. The story is, of course, told primarily through the artwork with few words.

The pages are double-sided on thick, smooth, high quality paper. Other coloring books may provide perforated pages, enabling the colorist to remove and frame the artwork. Time Chamber's pages are not perforated, and you will have a difficult time removing them without losing details or the back side of whichever page you wish to display.

Overall, I would absolutely recommend this book to adults looking for a creative way to relax, as well as to anyone over the age of 7 who can hold a pencil steady and wants to color pretty pictures.

This review is based on a copy provided by Blogging for Books in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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Sunday, October 25, 2015

Book Tour: The Phoenix Year

Book Title: The Phoenix Year
Book Genre: Thriller
Author: David L Blond
Publisher: Wattle Publishing

“… from out of the fire, would rise a new order, like the legend of the phoenix. There would emerge a new world, a new super economy…”

So starts a sequence of events destined to rock world economies to their very core. On the 50th anniversary of their induction into the Society of the Phoenix, a group of billionaires is about to change the world dramatically, with devastating effect. Overseen by the reclusive Heinrich Von Kleise, the Society has hatched an audacious plan to subvert world economies, by using and abusing some of the world’s wealthiest businessmen and their families; in some cases, holding them literally to ransom, or worse. Michael Ross, an economic adviser to the US President, Ben Masters, a disgraced property tycoon, Natalya Avramowitz, a Russian economist and spy, and “Kim” a CIA Agent, find themselves at the center of this plot, involving inside trading, sex slavery, and political corruption. As the world careens towards financial Armageddon, can Michael, Natalya and Kim prevent global disintegration, or are the world’s financial institutions fated to implode? The Phoenix Year by David L. Blond is a gripping novel, encompassing many of the financial crises that have hit the headlines in the past decade. The author has skillfully woven these together to create an action-packed conspiracy thriller that smacks of reality and future possibility.

Dr. David Blond works as a private economic consultant specializing in quantitative analysis of economic data. He began his career working for the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. During the period of 1978 – 1985, he was a Senior Economist in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and after leaving that position worked for various major global economic forecasting and consulting firms. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Twitter: @davidblond2000
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/David-L-Blond/335415883266804?ref=hl
Website: www.davidlblond.com

The Phoenix Year is a love story set in a time of economic turmoil. 
Michael Ross, senior economic advisor to the US President, meets a Russian government official; Harvard educated Natalya Avramowitz at a secret meeting in France. When the meeting ends, Michael offers Natalya a ride back to Geneva, but Natalya, recognizing Ross’s infatuation suggests that they need to find out if the attraction between them is real. Natalya, however, has a secret that she fears will destroy their affair.       
When she was 12 years old her father, a shadowy longtime Russian economic advisor sent her to a special school where she was taught spy craft, American English, and fed propaganda. It was the price he had to pay to the State to get Natalya and his brother’s family out of a Russia then on the verge of complete economic collapse during the transition years.     
Now lured back to Russia four years from a Wall Street job to advise the Ministry of Finance, she fears Russia is changing fast and the exit door may be closing. She sees Michael as a way out of Russia. But when men try to steal Michal’s briefcase at the hotel, Natalya kills them both, revealing her training. Desperate to keep him, she convinces a reluctant Ross to take a week to see if they are a matched pair.  During this time they visit an old friend of Michael’s from his UN days, Heinrich von Kleise, a Swiss billionaire.   
Their story, the developing love affair is set within the backdrop of a Russia beginning to fragment as a rising tide of nationalism, protectionism, and mass immigration overwhelm the fragile global economy still reeling from the financial collapse of 2008. With markets poised for a fall as a series of negative events flash “sell everything” to investors, Natalya knows that to solve the riddle of the Phoenix and save Michael, and then she must climb the Bluemlisalpenhorn and confront Heinrich von Kleise’s in his mountain-top fortress.

Who wants free stuff?!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Can't wait for free stuff? Buy it!

No, really. I mean it. Buy this book! I have had the pleasure of reading a few chapters as part of the book tour, and I'm looking forward to writing a full review about it just as soon as I've finished reading it. The writing is excellent and the plot intriguing. I can feel that some aspects of it may be difficult to get through; after all, parts of the story do have to do with sex slavery. And how often outside of elections do people consciously think of the economy? Even so, I'm expecting a fantastic story. Click on some of the links below and help support this author!

Kindle Edition:
US http://www.amazon.com/Phoenix-Year-David-L-Blond-ebook/dp/B00IZOF03K/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1395050155&sr=8-1&keywords=The+Phoenix+Year
UK http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Phoenix-Year-David-Blond/dp/1908959282/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1395050185&sr=8-1&keywords=The+Phoenix+Year
iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-phoenix-year/id828610083?ls=1&mt=11
Kobo https://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/the-phoenix-year

Paperback Edition:
US http://www.amazon.com/The-Phoenix-Year-David-Blond/dp/1908959282/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1394203726&sr=8-1&keywords=9781908959287
UK http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Phoenix-Year-David-Blond/dp/1908959282/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1394560575&sr=8-1&keywords=The+Phoenix+Year
Wordery: https://wordery.com/the-phoenix-year-david-l-blond-9781908959287
Other links: http://wattlepublishing.com/catalogue/phoenix-year/

Wattle Publishing is an independent publisher. We publish fiction, non-fiction and poetry.
Twitter: @wattlepub

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Immortal Circus: Act Two (Cirque des Immortels, #2)The Immortal Circus: Act Two by A.R. Kahler

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The Immortal Circus: Act One left me with so many unanswered questions and such a dizzying cliffhanger that despite my annoyances I went right ahead and read Act Two. To be fair, this was likely due to my already having downloaded the series and having the second book readily available more than needing to answer those burning questions. In any case, The Immortal Circus: Act Two was marginally better.

In this continuation we find out more about Vivienne's past through many detailed flashbacks. I enjoyed these, as they were the only bits of the book where I could get any actual information about what was going on. With her powers starting to spiral out of control, Vivienne and her now "boyfriend" Kingston go on a vacation to return to her home where hopefully they can find the reset button and fix the mess they're in. In this book, Viv pretends as much as possible that the events of the first book didn't happen: no murders, demons, or wars occurred. The important thing now is for her to get her memory back! Little do she and Kingston know that their ringleader, master, and fae queen Mab has been planning for every possible thing that could happen and they will only get screwed over some more; all according to Mab's plan. Vivienne still emotes little or not at all, and she is still constantly getting jerked around. Her romance with Kingston remains nonexistent, no matter how much she tries to remind us that they are an official couple, and more characters who were supposed to be "normal" before are now discovering they have magic powers! We don't really see any of these, but supposedly they exist.

Meanwhile, I was finally desensitized to the pain of the first person narrative or A. R. Kahler got better at writing it. Either way, this book wasn't such a chore to get through. Kahler's descriptions of the circus, the magic, and the backgrounds are still fantastic. The characters didn't become more complex, though. There were times we added devil horns and fiendish mustaches to some of our cardboard cutouts, but that's about as complex as they got. The plot crept forward briefly. I started reading the third book, but I don't think I'll finish it. I can't describe how much I wanted to like this series, but without character development this is all just fluff. Fluff gets boring after a while.

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Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Immortal Circus by A.R. Kahler

The Immortal Circus (Cirque des Immortels, #1)The Immortal Circus by A.R. Kahler
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I have conflicting feelings regarding this book. So conflicting that I changed my rating of it at least three times within the last several days, though it stayed well within the "I didn't HATE it, I just didn't like it" range. It was okay.

I finished reading it, and I read the second one, and now I'm actually reading the final book in the series, so you might think to yourself, "Well, you must have liked it!" Let's be clear: it was readable, although painful to get through at times. It is written in that style that is seldom done well: the first person present narrative. It was not done well. The main character is practically a blank slate throughout the book that you can project your own feelings of confusion at. She typically has little to add to the story, despite the fact that it's supposed to be all about her. It contained more than a few cliches, such as: main character has amnesia, main character running away from her past, characters being described as "perfect" or "sexy" with few additional details so you can imprint whatever you want on them, etc. Probably the most annoying part of the book is that you are attached to the narrator and the narrator knows little about what's going on. Hence, the reader is attached to a whiny, untalented, unremarkable girl somewhere between the ages of 16 and 21 who is as focused (if not more so) on having the hots for the magician as she is on the inexplicable murders happening within a circus where everyone is supposed to be immortal. Did I mention that Vivienne, our heroine, hardly emotes except to moon over her magician? I mean it. People are dying, she's being hit over the head with magic, she discovers that she and most others at the circus have magic powers, but whatever. It's just Tuesday.

"This book sounds TERRIBLE! Why would you say it's okay?"
It's like a pumpkin spice latte: good in theory, but a gastric disaster in execution. The concept is what drew me in to begin with. I was lured in by the promise of an impossible murder mystery in an immortal circus surrounded by fairies. Sadly, the execution was lacking. The best parts of this book were the backgrounds and background characters. The fairies, the magic, the settings were all fantastic. A.R. Kahler can actually give some decent descriptions about the circus, the fairies, and how the fairies are generally going to be dicks to all humans. They're dark, and I found that wonderful. I wanted the story to be more about them. And that is why I found this book to be only "okay" instead of dreadful or enjoyable. I obtained enough glimpses of the dark, deadly, dickish fairies to keep me engaged until the end of the book, though just barely.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Book Blitz for Entropy by Robert Raker

Book Title: Entropy
Book Genre: Crime, drama  
Author: Robert Raker
Publisher: Wattle Publishing

When a series of child abductions and murders disrupt the life of an economically blighted community, the consequences have far-reaching implications. The brutal crimes take a different toll on a disparate group of individuals; the scuba diver who retrieves the children’s bodies; the disfigured cellist who thinks he knows who’s responsible; the undercover federal agent; and the mother of one of the victim’s. United in a situation not of their choosing, they are forced to take a deep, introspective look into their intersected, yet isolated lives.

The Diver
The bloated, distended corpses of the people whose shortened lives I had retrieved from the water were clearly visible in the immature patterns of condensation that evaporated gradually on the mirror.

The Musician
I just sat there. Looking closely at the gun, I cocked the trigger back and forth repeatedly, like a curious child studying the physics of a toy, wanting to grasp the technical aspects of it, what made certain parts of it function and react the way that it did when it was used.

The Model
How did we get here?
We were once such a happy family but now I am left alone with only my memories as a comfort to the love we once shared and the child we had borne.

“The department wanted someone who knew the forensic procedures,” he said, as he flipped to a blank page in his notebook. I guess they also wanted someone who knew the routine of swimming alone with the dead. In the beginning, I had hated being needed like that. But I had no way of knowing at the time, when I first shivered at the edge of a backyard pool trying to remember what the forensics experts had coached me on. I never expected to be in that situation again. I had never expected that there would be so many … not here.

Entropy has been around eight years in the making. I never believed that it would end up where it has. I was reading The Canterbury Tales, and was taken with the concept of several characters, isolated yet connected. The various characters, the scuba instructor, the disfigured cellist, the nude model and the undercover agent came from various portions of who I am as a person and how I see myself, as well as drawing some inspiration from people close to me. Each story doesn’t necessarily go on a physical journey but an emotional one. Some nights I was able to write several pages and others nothing because I write in dense imagery at times, always searching for the proper word corresponding with what I see, what I believe the character would feel. I began writing it based on nothing more than photographs I had taken and a few unrealized and isolated ideas. Much of the time, I use photography as inspiration for scenery and tone. I’m proud that I feel I was able to convey depth, structure and emotion.

Robert Raker graduated with a degree in Journalism from the University of Pittsburgh. He currently resides in Philadelphia where he enjoys art, music, literature and live theater. He is currently working on his next novel.
Twitter:  @RobertRaker1

Wattle Publishing is an independent publisher. We publish fiction, non-fiction and poetry. www.wattlepublishing.com
Twitter:  @wattlepub

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If you absolutely cannot wait to maybe win a copy of this beautifully descriptive crime story, it is absolutely available for purchase at all of the following websites as well as actual bookstores. Happy reading!
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