Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Book Review - Hidden Power

Today I'm reviewing the book Hidden Power by Tracy Lane. I received this from the Early Reviewers program on LibraryThing.



Here's the summary from Amazon:
Aurora Turnleaf has lived her whole life hearing fairy tales of mysterious lands, magical beings, and crystal towers. She thought nothing of them until the day she stumbled upon a magnificent city, deep within the woods, built entirely of see-through crystal. It appeared out of nowhere, in a part of the forest she’s never ventured into before, and suddenly all those stories she heard growing up become much less imaginary. Her guide is Iragos, a light mage, who introduces her to Kayne, a mage in training for a dark wizard named Kronos. Unbeknownst to Aurora, Kayne had just stolen the Ythra Orb form the Hallowed Hall on behalf of his master and hidden it in her pack. Suddenly Aurora is thrust into a life or death journey to help Kayne find the mystical land of Morgis, home to the Oracles who first created the Orb, in hopes that they can secure its safety against Kronos. The path to Morgis will be treacherous enough, but it is what follows the two teens that is more life threatening. For the dark mage’s fierce legion of vicious minions is on their path, with Kronos himself not far behind, and all of them are intent on intercepting Kayne and Aurora at every turn. Meanwhile Aurora and Kayne must battle both the elements and Kronos’ dark magic to complete their quest. And along the way, the two teens from very different worlds must learn to work together to overcome obstacles, one of them being their mutual attraction.

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I want to start out by saying just how much I loved this book! I finished it in record time; granted it's a short YA book, but I usually end up finding something to do that gets in the way of reading time if it's something I'm not into it all that much. I didn't want to put this one down because I enjoyed the writing style and characters so much. The story itself was well-written, which is always a plus. The plot was cohesive and fit together with the characters working towards a clear end goal. I almost want to say that there wasn't a whole lot of world building because I think I would have liked it even more if there had been room for more detail and adventure, but even though the book wasn't overly long, it did have world-building, particularly if this is going to be the start of a series. I thought it was neat how the mages have their own hidden location kept secret from the rest of humanity and I thought the way the two main characters' magics worked was an interesting spin on a magic system. I always enjoy it when an author includes animals in a story and I liked how these were different from earth creatures because they existed on a fantasy world, but still were similar enough that the reader easily knew what they were- that is, until the evil mage did his thing, of course! I thought both of the main characters had depth and their interactions and relationship were written well. The supporting characters were a little more flat, but since they weren't the main ones, this wasn't much of a problem.

The book may not have been too utterly deep, but that was completely fine with me! I'm actually so tired of the current trend in fantasy and fiction being dark, edgy, and epic that I truly appreciate a book that's pleasant and has a happy ending. (I'm not a young reader wanting this, either; I'm a thirty-something who enjoys lighthearted stories with happy endings.) When I reached the end I actually smiled a huge smile and went "I loved this!" because finally I was able to read something that was generally happy. Thank you, thank you, Tracy Lane, for writing something that was different from the redundant and overdone trend currently saturating the market!

I'm usually very nitpicky about books; my friend and I theorize that it's because I studied literature in college and that left me constantly critiquing and editing the written word. When I got to the end of this book, however, I just couldn't think of any real faults with it and nothing I could dislike. There were a few typos and some excessive punctuation in the Early Reviewers copy that I received that I would have edited slightly, but other than those extremely minor things that most people probably wouldn't even notice, this was a great book.

I really wish I'd written this review as soon as I had finished reading because I feel like I'm missing so much here that I wanted to rave about in better detail! (Darn life got in the way this week and book reviewing got put on the back burner.) I'm going to assume that this is the start of a series judging from how the epilogue played out and I'm looking forward to reading more in the series if that's the case. Even if it's not, I'm going to look for more books by this author. I'm giving this five stars because I can't think of any reasons that would drop it from five to something lower.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Art Update - Yarn Dyeing Adventures!

Today I had some yarn dyeing adventures! It had been probably close to five years since I last did anything with handmade yarn, so I decided this week that I was going to get back into spinning and dyeing it. I still need to break out the spindles later tonight, but I had a bit of wool yarn left on one of them that I thought would be good for practice. I wanted to test that the Wilson's cake icing dyes I had were still good after being opened for probably seven years.

Judging from how well they dyed my hand when I was adding them to the water/vinegar mix, the answer to that was a resounding "yes". They were very thick after this much time (hence why I needed to use my fingers to pry the colors off of the spoon), but the dye was still good.


I dunked the small skein into a mix of two greens and two browns:


But when I drained the water, I immediately realized my mistake when I saw that it was mostly an icky light brown color. Greens and blues absorb slower than reds, so the brown cleared out the water leaving most of the green behind rather than on the yarn:



I drained the pot and tried a different approach to make it darker by dipping the one end into just the two greens. (The other end is just sitting in an empty pot to keep it from dripping on the stove or, ya know, catching on fire.)


I left it in for the better part of an hour. Bingo! Now the green was nice and dark:


The brown still looked awful, though, so I switched around the yarn and dunked the other end into the two shades of brown. About an hour later with that, I ended up with much nicer looking yarn than I had in the beginning:


The colors in the photo aren't exactly right since it's a rainy day and the lighting is bad, but I'm really happy with how this came out! I'm looking forward to using this yarn on a pair of dreadfalls later. :)

The only snag I ran across is that the darker brown didn't seem quite up to snuff after this amount of time. I'm going to have to replace that particular bottle, but my greens and the lighter brown still worked fine even after several years. (In hindsight, I seem to remember having problems with my reds before where they'd lose potency faster than the other colors. No wonder brown did the same!) Of course I probably wouldn't want to eat it after seven years, but for dyeing yarn it was okay. Then again, I know I was using more than I did last time for the same amount of darkness as a result, so I probably should at some point replace all of the colors. I do love using this dye, though; since it's food dye mixed with just vinegar and water, I can use my regular pots and cooking utensils.

Now the next trick is relearning how to use my spindles. Eep! I'll blog later about how that adventure goes.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Art Update - Custom Multiple Piercing and Gauged Cartilage Chain Earrings

I've had a few orders this past week or so for fun custom cartilage chain earrings, so I'm going to share pictures of them today. :)

First are two pairs of earrings made from thin silver-plated chains. Both earrings in the pair have double lobe piercings while the one earring also connects up to a piercing at the middle of the ear and two cartilage piercings. The one pair has silver-colored metal feather charms and the other pair has dagger (or sword) charms.

Silver and Black Feather Five Piercing and Double Lobe Pierced Cartilage Chain Earrings

Silver and Black Dagger Sword Multiple Piercing Cartilage Chain Earrings


The feather earrings are a custom version of these in my shop while the dagger earrings are a similar version based on this ear cuff.

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These next two earrings were for someone who has a gauged cartilage piercing, so instead of using the regular earring stud at the cartilage, I used a 16 gauge barbell. The first pair with the leaves and the handmade gold, green, brown and silver chain is a variation of this earring. The second black and silver wing pair is a variation on this pair of earrings.

Green, Gold, Silver, and Brown Leaf Cartilage Chain Earring with Barbell Cartilage Piercing

Black and Silver Wing Cartilage Chain Earring with Barbell Cartilage Piercing


On both pairs I made a wire loop at the top of the chain; this slides onto the barbell, so that isn't physically attached to the chains. Here's a closeup of the black and silver wing pair so you can get a better idea of what I mean about the barbell.

Black and Silver Wing Cartilage Chain Earring with Barbell Cartilage Piercing


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This last one looks a little funny because my mannequin's ear is a little smaller than life-sized, but it's made with three chains for triple earlobe piercings connecting up to a clip on ear cuff at the upper cartilage. This was based off of this double pierced earring.

Silver and Black Triple Pierced Earring With Cuff


Lots of black and silver in this art update post! The next one will probably be more colorful. ;)

Friday, August 01, 2014

Art Update - Giant Cardboard Dice!

Recently I had the opportunity to work on a strange crafting project with my husband. When he gets the chance (not nearly as frequently as he would like), he does stand up-type comedy and earlier this month he joined in a geek-themed show. His role was as Dungeon Master to an amusing short "Dungeons and Dragons" game played by other comedians, but since this was going to be on stage, he came up with the idea that they needed giant dice to use as props.

My husband is very good with math and shapes, so he figured out pretty quickly how to make a 20-sided, 8-sided, 6-sided, and 4-sided set of dice out of cardboard. He cut these out and taped them together, then dug out Sharpies so we could start coloring them in. This is where I came in because I realized that a.) Sharpies smell terrible, especially for large projects like this, and b.) wouldn't acrylic paint work a lot better? Turns out it did, so I got put on painting duty, which is fine by me because I love an excuse to make a mess with paint!

Several hours later after they were dry I covered them in clear packing tape so they'd stand up to being rolled on stage and so the paint wouldn't rub off because acrylic paint on cardboard gets a little chalky. (I'll forgive my husband for giving me this time-consuming job since he did have to, ya know, write his comedy act and D&D game up.) We were quite pleased with the result, though! They ended up looking exactly like large dice- and they're evenly weighted so they function like dice, too!

Huge cardboard dice!

Huge cardboard dice!
There's a 12" ruler in the second picture for scale; the six-sided purple die is about 5" tall.

They held up during his comedy show, so now we have the set sitting on our end table. The 10-sided and 12-sided dice are a little more complicated, so my husband is going to make them later so we can have a full set. He didn't have time to sort those out before the show, and really, who needs a 12-sided die in 2nd edition D&D? Unless you have a barbarian, they're kind of pointless. ;)

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Trove Treasures - Celestial Fantasy

Celestial Fantasy

Here are some lovely moon, sun, and star items from the Fantasy Artists of Etsy street team. To find more fantastical pretties, search faeteam on Etsy.

ooak cloth art doll, Aster the star fairy
$92.00
Wolf Angel - Winged Wolf Art - Fridge Magnet
$3.00
Petite Siren Tiara
$35.00
Dragon art, Art Nouveau, fantasy art print, 5x7, limited edition, luna moth - Wishing on a Star
$12.00
Moon Art Dream Catcher Fantasy Print Dreamcatcher Painting Moon Goddess - Sarah Alden
$15.00
Ear Cuff Wrap Faerie Moon Goddess
$20.00
OOAK Mermaid Art Doll Fairy Mermaid Soft Sculpture Cloth Mermaid Doll Blond Purple Violers Fantasy Fairy Mermaid Art Doll
$40.00
Tea Infuser with Purple Star Charm
$8.99
Sterling silver Baltic amber necklace, exquisite box clasp, unpolished raw, Sun Moon Summer Solstice pendant - unique silversmithing jewelry
$225.00
Moon Goddess in Bronze and Red
$25.00
Bead Embroidered Cabochon Earrings  - Ruby Spikes
$32.00
SUN Mask,  bright gold with silver leather mask
$129.00
Sun flames handmade leather mask Mardi Gras masquerade costume Halloween
$45.00
Original silk painting, fantasy, fairy-tale illustration, fairy scarf, bride, baby, sun, elven fashion, pink scarf, fairy gift idea
$70.00
The Golden Sun Door
$14.00
Sun Magick Spell Candle - Success, Illumination, Courage, Power, Creativity, Boosting Energy, Uplifting Moods, Manifest, Enlightenment, Lugh
$9.75

Powered By Toastie Studio - Etsy Tools


(I know I usually title these posts as "Trove Thursday" but I made the treasury on a Friday and didn't want to wait until Thursday to share it. So "Trove Treasures" it is!)

Friday, July 18, 2014

Art Update - Custom Cartilage Chain and Double Lobe Earrings

Recently I've been making connecting chain earrings for custom orders for my Etsy shop. I love custom orders because it means I can experiment with ideas and colors I wouldn't normally have chosen or thought to make. That's always fun!

First up is a pair of double pierced lobe earrings with gunmetal colored spikes, double silver chains, and purple semi-precious stone beads:
Purple and Silver Double Pierced Spike Earrings


This pair of black and silver bow cartilage chain earrings were a kind of combination of these feather earrings and these bow earrings. That's why I love custom orders- I wouldn't have thought to combine those. :) The one earring connects between two lobe piercings and a cartilage piercing while the other connects between two earlobe piercings:
Triple and Double Pierced Black and Silver Bow Cartilage Chain Earrings
These are a custom order, but I liked the idea so much that I have them in my shop as a regular listing, too.

These are probably my favorite of the bunch, but that's just because I'm partial to greens and browns and leaves. ;) This pair of double pierced earrings connects between two earlobe posts with handmade chains and has dangling glass leaf beads:
Double Lobe Connecting Chain Leaf Earrings - Brown and Green


This arrow cartilage chain earring was another neat idea a customer had- combining the handmade multi-color chain with a thinner silver-plated chain to connect from the earlobe to the upper ear cuff. I wish the picture had come out clearer, though, because it's hard to see the purple and black chain here:
Arrow Cartilage Chain Ear Cuff Earring


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


This week I realized that I had made a ton of earrings about a year ago that I never got around to photographing and listing. Since I have so many of them, I decided that I'm going to list some of them in batches in my Etsy shop rather than individually. I feel like I'm swimming in earrings most of the time since I'm always coming across ones I'd made and forgotten about. Or possibly I'm making them in my sleep. Considering that I'm an insomniac, probably that one. ;)

So far I listed this series of cartilage chain earrings with colorful spike charms attached. These are fun because the spikes are actually two different sizes at the lobe and the cartilage. The listing is available here with the choice of purple, pink, or red spikes, as well as a choice between pierced cartilage posts or ear cuffs.
Purple and Silver Spike Cartilage Chain Earrings

Pink and Silver Spike Cartilage Chain Earrings

Red and Silver Spike Cartilage Chain Earrings


I have other color spikes, too, so I'll be adding those to my shop later. I'll share more pictures later as I sort through the piles of earrings. Can't I hire a fairy or a brownie or something to do this for me? What helpful creature likes jewelry, anyway? I think a dragon would be too big for my apartment and the cat is absolutely no help. ;)

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