REVIEW: Tolkien Geek Tank by Jordan Dene

Angie in Jordan Dene Tolkien quote tank

After posting my geeky clothing wishlist in my last post, I was thrilled to receive an offer to review a new line of geek-quote-inspired togs from fellow geek maker/designer Jordan Dene. She promptly shipped out one of her Tolkien quote unisex tanks for my unbiased review.

My husband and I joined a gym a couple of months ago, so I have been looking for some "subtly geeky" tank tops to wear while working out. I am pleased to report Jordan's Tolkien tank was up to the challenge. 

I wear about a size 12, and the Large size fit perfectly, and was plenty long to cover my booty in my bike shorts, with ample room to move on the elliptical and while doing weights. The cut also provided nice coverage - no shoulder slippage while getting my sweat on. The fabric is super soft, as is the ink used for the screen-print - no "crunchy" ink transfer here!

I also love the color - at first glance, it's kind of a nice deep mint green, but upon closer inspection, you'll see it's kind of a green heather, but with hints of blue, rather than gray.

Jordandene Tolkien tank

Kind of reminded me of mermaid scales, actually, which to me just upped the geek factor. Maybe that's why she chose the same shade for her mermaid shells tank!

I already loved this Tolkien quote - "Not all those who wander are lost" - but I liked "applying" this quote to my workouts. Not all those on an elliptical have no where to go, either!

Verdict: Two thumbs up! I would definitely consider adding more of her tanks to my workout wardrobe - like the "Courage, Dear Heart" and the "Star Stuff" ones, in particular.

Be sure to check out her website, as well as her various social channels:

facebook.com/jordandenenyc
pinterest.com/jordandenenyc
instagram.com/jordandenenyc
twitter.com/jordandene

BONUS: Jordan offered a 20% discount for my readers! Use code FANGIRL2014 at checkout!

Full disclosure: I knew Jordan previously, from her contribution of the "Make It So" pennant banner to my Star Trek Craft Book (p122). She offered a complimentary tank in return for my review. All opinions and fangirling my own.


REVIEW: Write, Publish, & Sell Your Crafty Ebook

Ebook-Pub-Cover_new_500

If you're at all familiar with the online crafting community, you've probably heard of Diane Gilleland (aka SisterDiane). She is the creator/founder/editor of a veritable treasure trove of informative and inspiring stuff, like her CraftyPod podcast, her blog, and her online classes & ebooks. I took her Crafty Ebook class earlier this year, so when she asked me to review the ebook version, I was happy to do so.

Write, Publish & Sell Your Crafty Ebook is exactly what it sounds like - an in-depth tutorial on compiling, formatting, and marketing an ebook especially for the craft market. The book is divided into four chapters, each diving into the specific aspects needed to bring an ebook to market.

  • Chapter 1: Things to Think About Before You Make an Ebook
  • Chapter 2: How to Make a PDF Ebook
  • Chapter 3: The Dreaded Technical Parts
  • Chapter 4: Marketing Your Ebook
  • (see the full Table of Contents on the book sales page)

Diane draws upon her years of experience in the online crafting community to offer a tutorial that's rich in detail and resources. It's full of crafty links and examples that will not only help educate you; it will also help inspire you to produce an equally professional product. The book is visually engaging with gorgeous photos and images, and moves through a buttload of information at a good pace. This is a reference book that you will turn to again and again.

You'll find this book is valuable whether you're a techie newbie or have already published an ebook or two. I have a couple of ebooks available (Launch Your New Scrapbooking Product and Build Buzz with a Virtual Book Tour), and I learned a lot about different software to use for layout design, and particularly found the marketing section helpful, since it is geared toward a crafty audience. She also goes into considerations on ISBN's, pricing, file hosting, and digital copyright issues that I hadn't considered.

The one thing I wish she had covered more was making ebooks interactive - she didn't really cover how to include links, either navigating to content within the ebook or linking to outside web resources. I understand that creating links really depends on the software you use, whether Adobe Acrobat or Pages, or whatever, so it's hard to address that issue when people are using different software. But that was something I was specifically looking for in the content, and didn't get.

As far as I can tell, this is the same content she offers in her online course. The only thing different is the group interaction. In the online course, there is a group message board and several real-time chats. I really enjoyed the interaction, getting to know other crafters and learning about their intended crafty ebooks. It was actually during this class that I met Shayne Rioux, editor of GeekCrafts, and we struck up a conversation that led to me writing for the GC blog, which led to my fourth book deal! Crafty connections abound in the class! I also found it very helpful to have Diane available for questions that came up as I was going through the class material. Diane doesn't offer the class all the time, so be sure to sign up for her newsletter for updates on when she'll offer it again. (Find the subscription box on the left sidebar of her homepage.)

I would highly recommend this ebook to anyone considering writing their own ebook - it's a thorough exploration of ebooks in general, with special attention to the crafting audience. Two thumbs up!


Book Review: The Lost Diary of Don Juan

The Lost Diary of Don Juan (UNABRIDGED ON 10 CDs)The Lost Diary of Don Juan by Douglas Carlton Banks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this book, and found myself chuckling out loud as I listened to it. The narrator had a great Hispanic accent that lent authentic flavor to the story. The story had some great fight scenes and generally good pacing throughout.

CAUTION: this book is quite graphic. For the character of Don Juan, you might expect some pretty racy romance scenes, and you would be right. But what surprised me were the graphic torture scenes, as the story takes place during the Spanish Inquisition. Those scenes were pretty gruesome, and unfortunately with an audio book, it's hard to fast forward through them without missing other parts of the story. With a printed book, at least you could scan forward to skip any parts that aren't to your liking. (Yes, the parts were that bad, hence my rating of 4 stars, instead of the full 5.)

But overall, I enjoyed the book, and may pick it back up again to re-read in the future.

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Book Review: Curly Girl, the Handbook

Curly GirlCurly Girl by Lorraine Massey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm about a quarter of the way through this book, and have enjoyed it/learned a lot so far. Much like her author event I attended, Lorraine Massey's book leads the reader through some "curly girl pep talk" (feeling good about your hair, rather than fighting it), some education about the scientific nature of curly hair (it's dry & needs lots of hydration), identifying your curl type, and then gets into the care and maintenance of curly hair. The book also includes chapters on coloring curly hair, caring for curly-headed children, caring for men's curls, and curly up-do's.

Before reading this book, I believed I had always been pretty ok with my curls, and what they contribute to my personality. But upon reading the introductory chapters, and Massey's own history, I was surprised by the number of memories of elementary school angst that came back - of my mom always styling my hair for me on school picture days, so it would look "acceptable", of a schoolmate nicknaming me "Medusa" when we did a silhouette project in the 6th grade, of going to the hair stylist with picture after picture of cool hairstyles from magazines, only to hear, "Now, Angie, you know it won't look like this on you, right?" While I don't think I ever really hated my hair, I certainly didn't embrace it, and this book helped me recognize some moments from childhood for what they actually were - fighting my natural state. And, at the risk of sounding overly dramatic, I believe there's a life lesson there - you can fight your true nature all you want, but it's always going to be a fight, and will rarely turn out like the perfect scenario you envision. Better to embrace and nurture what gifts you have, and learn to enjoy them.

Studying this, and starting to use the Massey's DevaCurl hair products, has really changed how I treat and handle my hair. For example, I'm much gentler with it, use a lot more conditioner, and use a t-shirt to absorb the water after a shower. This book offers lots of concrete tips like those to help you better handle curls, without damaging them, or causing frizz (a lifelong bane for me!).

The book includes many hair puns and is written in a very conversational tone, which may not appeal to everyone. But I found the information provided more than outweighed any eye-rolling on my part due to the writing.

The DVD that came with the book was only so-so - it was helpful to see how Massey recommends washing curly hair in the shower, but that was about it. The home remedy recipes were ok, but she didn't show how to apply them, nor do I foresee myself using them. I would have liked to see more how-to on the up-do's and other hairstyles, too. The section on trimming your own hair also didn't work for me - looked like a long and tedious process to me, and one I don't anticipate trying.

Overall, I highly recommend this book for any Curly Girls, or parents of curly-headed children. It will definitely change the way you view your curls.

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Book Review: Pretty Little Liars

Pretty Little Liars (Pretty Little Liars, #1)Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I read this book because my daughter and I watch (& love) the TV series on ABC Family. This is one of the few cases when the show is better than the book - the TV show does a great job of keeping things dramatic and suspenseful. Perhaps I didn't get as much out of the book because I had already seen the first season of the show, so I knew some of the "secrets" shared in this volume of the series.

I did like some of the character development that just can't be communicated on screen - some of the background on each of the girls' characters, and how they viewed certain situations. I also liked that each chapter was told from a different girl's perspective, so you got a taste of each character's thoughts, while still moving the overall plot along.

It's been a while since we watched season 1 of the show, but I believe the show stayed pretty true to the book, which is refreshing - quite different from the case of the differences between the Sookie Stackhouse books and HBO's "True Blood" (though I {heart} both the books, and the show!). PLL-the-show revealed the same secrets for each girl, and even the text messages from "A" were the same, possibly verbatim.

I intend to keep reading the Pretty Little Liars series - hopefully I'll get caught up with the show timeline, and read "ahead" - then I can judge more accurately how well the suspense keeps me hooked.

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Book Review: Angst by David Pedersen

AngstAngst by David J Pedersen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

FULL DISCLOSURE: This book was written by my husband, and I edited it.

Marital pride & bias aside, I loved this book. It's adventurous, imaginative, quirky, suspenseful, twisted, and just plain fun. Think "Evil Dead" meets "Princess Bride".

Here's the copy I wrote for the back cover (which is slightly different than what went to production):

You probably already know Angst. In fact, chances are good you’ve known Angst for quite a while. You may work with Angst. You could be friends with Angst. You may even be married to Angst. If you know the feeling of compromised dreams, ever-increasing expectations, chronic frustration and the burden of unfulfilled potential, you know Angst.

This is Angst’s story.

As a young man Angst wanted to make a difference, to make his mark in history, to be remembered for heroic deeds and wondrous acts. He knew he was destined for something great, but had the feeling he had somehow missed it. Now it’s too late. Not only is 40 far too old to become a knight, Angst is one of few “blessed” with the ability to wield the magics. But his blessing is more like a curse. Kind of like the rest of his life.

For 2,000 years Magic has been repressed, outlawed, even outright destroyed throughout the world of Ehrde. By law, Angst is reduced to using his great power only to file papers. His marriage is on the rocks, his friends are bored with him, and he hates his job. The one person that makes him happy is the young Princess Victoria who seems to adore him. Unfortunately, that makes his boss, the Queen, hate him.

Without warning, Ehrde is besieged with horrifying monsters -- birds with metallic beaks like blades, monkey creatures that can dive through solid ground, mindless horse-eating giants. The world that shunned magic now turns to Angst for help, and he is happy to listen...once his back stops hurting.

On the edge of a mid-life crisis, Angst decides to risk it all, dragging his reluctant friends along with him on an adventure into the heart of magic. He’s not sure where they’re going, or what they’ll find, or even if they’ll all survive. But he knows this is his one chance to be a hero because the only way to fight magic is with magic. What’s the worst that could happen?

The plot surprised me several times - I didn't see the twists coming, and found myself gasping and exclaiming "NO!" out loud. The story also contains some rather horrific scenes I wasn't expecting, but they add to the "real-ness" of the experience. I was completely drawn into the world of Ehrde, easily imagining the landscape along their journey, the fight scenes, and the banter between characters.

Each character is so unique, and adds so much to the richness of the story. This isn't just Angst's story - his tale can't be told without the addition of his friends, because each is a part of his history, as well as his present. The dialogue between characters is inspired, with the perfect rhythm you would expect from a group of people who have known each other for years. And I can almost guarantee that most female readers will absolutely love Rose's sassy remarks - she seems to have almost no filter, and says what we wish we could say in many situations.

So, yes, I am biased when it comes to this book. But I'm also an avid reader, and have read my share of fantasy books. This one is right up there with my favorites.

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Book Review: My Name is Memory

My Name Is Memory

My Name Is Memory by Ann Brashares
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I loved this book - right up till the end. The ending seemed so abrupt, my jaw dropped.

I thought surely I missed a track in the audiobook, or somehow didn't sync it up right with my mp3 player. But it doesn't appear so. The characters were so beautifully developed, and the author dedicated such care in crafting the story, I was really disappointed in how it ended. Not only did I have unanswered questions, but just stopping like that seemed an injustice to the characters' future relationship.

I still give it 4 stars, because I really enjoyed every moment up until the end (literally, like the last two minutes of the book). The whole time I was read-listening to it, I could not WAIT for my commute to/from work, just so I could get back to the story. I spent a good 20 minutes describing the story to my husband, I was so swept up in it.

I wouldn't discourage people from reading it, only to 'guard your heart' against the abrupt ending. I'd be interested to hear what others thought of how the story was concluded.

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Book Review: Gimme a Call by Sarah Mlynowski

Gimme a Call Gimme a Call by Sarah Mlynowski

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had read about 20 pages of this book, when my 12yo daughter noticed I was reading it. She asked what it was about, so I explained the concept - a girl in her senior year of high school breaks up with her boyfriend, so she's at a mall to return a gift she had gotten for him. She accidentally drops her cell phone in a mall fountain, and the ensuing technological malfunction leaves her only able to call or text one person - her 14-year-old self back in Freshman year. Devi-Sr proceeds to give Devi-"Frosh" all the advice she wishes she could have had when she was younger - which changes her present-day life immediately, with varying success rates.

With this description of the book concept, my daughter yanked the book from my hands, and I didn't see it again for a week. Then she gave it back and demanded I "hurry up" and finish it, so we could talk about the ending.

I LOVE the concept for this book. So often we wish we could give advice to our younger selves. "If I had only known then, what I know now...." I love the idea of making it contemporary with cell phones and texting. A book like this helps feed my author brain, for figuring out innovative book concepts - start out with something many people wish they could do, then figure out some wish or snafu that will allow that to happen. Very interesting.

I loved the author's twists and turns - great pacing. It didn't really feel like a young adult book for me - it was still a good read as an adult. It was definitely chick-lit-y, in that there was quite a bit of introspection and second-guessing, but I felt like it all lead to the development of the characters. And I thought it was interesting how the author was able to develop the two Devi's into unique characters, even through they were technically the same person. I was very pleased with the amount of growth and strength of personal integrity, particularly in the younger Devi, which I wouldn't have predicted.

The ending wrapped up nicely, with some great building toward the end with the cell phone battery running out of charge. Great pacing.

Nothing questionable in the content (no swearing, sex, or drugs), so this is suitable for late pre-teens through adult.

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Book Review: The Job Search Solution by Tony Beshara

The Job Search Solution: The Ultimate System for Finding a Great Job Now ! (Job Search Solution) The Job Search Solution: The Ultimate System for Finding a Great Job Now! by Tony Beshara

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I downloaded this as an mp3 from my library, and made it through 4 of 12 hours. It was just too "sales-y" for me. I understand that finding a job is a matter of selling yourself, but I didn't find the author's presentation appealing, or motivating for that matter.

The book appeared to be read by the author - definitely READ, not "performed". His presentation was rather stilted, and the sound quality was poor in several places, which was distracting.

There was one particular section where Beshara talked about all the reasons one might or might not be hired, which had nothing to do with the candidate, but rather the hiring manager - you're too tall or too short, you're too old or too young, you're too pretty or too average, office politics, or just a bad day. He spent quite a bit of time on this, but didn't offer anything to compensate for this issue - no tactics to get around these prejudices, nor even any motivational pep talk to just "stick with it".

Job hunting is hard enough - I'd rather feel like someone was on my side, instead of yelling at me for not trying hard enough (read: via HIS methods).

End result: deleted before finishing

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Book Review: Divine Misdemeanors

Divine Misdemeanors (Meredith Gentry, #8) Divine Misdemeanors by Laurell K. Hamilton

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I Got this book for Christmas 2009, but wound up just listening to the audiobook I downloaded from the library.

I did enjoy this book, though not as much as some of the earlier books. I must admit I thought the series was over when I finished "A Lick of Frost" (TWO books ago!) So the past two books have just been a bonus for me, or overkill, though that's too harsh a word.

Since the 6th book seemed to wrap the story up so nicely (at least for me), I've felt like I don't have a sense of where the story is going, or where it might even need to go. This book just continued that feeling. There was a central murder mystery to be solved, but it seemed to be a backdrop, rather than the central plot focus. The real meat of the book seemed more focused on her relationships with "her men", Barinthus in particular. The argument scene with him and the ocean was well done - I enjoyed the imagery of it.

Because of the mystery-as-backdrop feeling I had, this book almost seemed to be one of those "inter-series" short stories. Charlaine Harris writes short stories in between full books of her Southern Vampire series, where the characters are all from her "Sookie-verse". This book almost had that feel, where all the characters were there and properly in place, but the story didn't advance the overall Meredith storyline. And after all the relationship 'stuff', the murder mystery seemed to wrap up rather abruptly, like all of a sudden, here are the missing pieces, and let's go get the bad guys.

But that said, I still enjoyed the book, and "touching base" with the now-familiar characters. And I can't help but draw parallels between Frost and Charlaine Harris' Eric the Viking Vampire, so that's just a little bonus for me. :)

Oh, and the sex is back - Meredith was apparently too busy in the past couple of books, and is making up for lost time. She had sex with at least five of her men - oh, I mean six. I forgot about the 6" tall fairy man. Hamilton also throws in several references to the fairy porn industry, which was an interesting addition.

I saw on Hamilton's website that the 9th Merry Gentry book is due out in 2011, so I guess Merry's story is still in the telling. I expect I'll probably read that one too.

In case you've lost track, or are otherwise interested, here is the chronology of the Merry books:

  1. A Kiss of Shadows (2000)
  2. A Caress of Twilight (2002)
  3. Seduced by Moonlight (2004)
  4. A Stroke of Midnight (2005)
  5. Mistral's Kiss (2006)
  6. A Lick of Frost (2007)
  7. Swallowing Darkness (2008)
  8. Divine Misdemeanors (Dec 2009)

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