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!

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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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