Saturday, July 31, 2010

At Books Obsession: Paranormal Pre-Order Contest!

Books Obsession is having a Paranormal Pre-Order Contest!

First winner gets their pick of three books from the pre-order list.
Second winner gets their pick of two books from the pre-order list.

The Pre-Order Book List (so far):
Paranormalcy by Kiersten White
The Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare
Personal Demons by Lisa Desrochers
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (Added 7/14)
Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick (Added 7/18)
Halo by Alexandra Adornetto (Added 7/22)

The contest will end on August 18, you must be at least 13 years old to enter, and remember that it's international

Monday, July 26, 2010

Book Review : The Iron King by Julie Kagawa

Now Reading
THE IRON KING by Julie Kagawa

Product Details:
  • Reading level: Young Adult
  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Harlequin; Original edition (February 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0373210086
  • ISBN-13: 978-0373210084


Something has always felt slightly off in Meghan’s life, ever since her father disappeared before her eyes when she was six. She has never quite fit in at school…or at home.

When a dark stranger begins watching her from afar, and her prankster best friend becomes strangely protective of her, Meghan senses that everything she’s known is about to change.

But she could never have guessed the truth—that she is the daughter of a mythical faery king and is a pawn in a deadly war. Now Meghan will learn just how far she’ll go to save someone she cares about, to stop a mysterious evil no faery creature dare face…and to find love with a young prince who might rather see her dead than let her touch his icy heart.

I have nothing bad to say about this book, really. The Iron King was fantastic! I love Julie's writing style, and I mean it when I say the front part of the book spooked my out. Meghan was a nice, well-liked character, and I was really amazed at how far she was willing to go to get her [kidnapped] half-brother back. She exuded intelligence and unswerving determination even though she had to face various obstacles on her journey to the magical realm to save her brother.

The Iron King is not a book about cute and adorable faeries. In the fey world, Meghan learned that most fey are abominable and that nothing is free. When you request for a help, you must know that you have to return the favour some day.

I thought that the cait sith, Grimilkin was an interesting character. He was earnest in helping Meghan to find Puck in exchange for a small favour, but only when he met Oberon, the King of the Summer Court did I realize that he was actually aiming for Oberon because he knew that Meghan was the daughter of Oberon. However, I don't think he was a bad character. He was just mysterious, elusive and calculative.

Meghan's relationship with her fey-friend Puck a.k.a. Robbin Goodfellow and love interest Ash a.k.a. the third prince of the Winter Court is one of the major aspects in this book. While I was glad that Puck's mischievous, caring and supporting character provided fun and comfort for Meghan, I was even touched by Ash's willingness to trade his life for Meghan's in The Iron King's fortress, even though he did it in the name of his contract with her. I somehow figured out that he was in love with Meghan, and I was hoping he would have a happy ending with Meghan in the future, despite the serious affection that Puck, his sworn-enemy, obviously had for her.

Thumbs up for the great plot! The author inserted a lot of twists and turns throughout the story and it kept me interested the whole time. Each chapter ends with a clue of what is going to happen next or a last line that will will implore readers to read more, regardless of the time. The writing has a constant flow that will make you read with ease and excitement. As the plot builds, you will find yourself entranced by the beauty and danger of the Fey world.

Overall, The Iron King is a wonderful, fascinating depiction of the Fey world through the eyes of a half-fey. Julie presents a strong, solid opening with The Iron King, and I'll definitely be reading The Iron Daughter to see what will Julie present in this second book of the The Iron Fey trilogy.

Rating: 5

Thanks to Chris Fontes for presenting me with a paperback copy of The Iron King! Thank you so much, Chris!

Julie Kagawa was born in Sacramento, California. But nothing exciting really happened to her there. So, at the age of nine she and her family moved to Hawaii, which she soon discovered was inhabited by large carnivorous insects, colonies of house geckos, and frequent hurricanes. She spent much of her time in the ocean, when she wasn’t getting chased out of it by reef sharks, jellyfish, and the odd eel.

The Iron King is now available!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Sketching Tips

Creating Tangible, Touchable Hair Drawing Tutorial

Hair is the crowning glory. I don't care how knock my socks off the rest of your picture is. If you draw a woman, and if everything on that woman is perfect (breathtaking costume design, marvelous intricacy, perfect anatomy, beautiful eyes)......but her hair looks like a bird's nest, the picture loses its impact. Hair is a must learn if you want to improve your work.

The tendency we all have when we draw is to zero-in on details before we have established a solid, overall foundation for our drawing. Errors in proportion are largely due to this mistaken approach. Instead, we want to work from the general to the specific. Start with the biggest shapes you see...if it's a landscape, the overall shapes and contours of the terrain or architecture (before you start drawing leaves on trees, or doors on buildings), if it's a portrait, the shape of the face and hair mass (before you start drawing specific facial features). Draw lightly during this stage, then later you can develop specifics on top of this foundation. By always approaching your drawing this way you will end up with a much better drawing with more accurate proportions. Have fun!

click to view larger sketch click to view larger sketch
click to view larger sketch click to view larger sketch

This may seem self-evident, but I'll say it anyway...the more time you put into sketching and drawing, the quicker you will improve. Of course there are other factors, like having good instruction, but I and other drawing teachers believe that pencil (or pen) mileage is the most important one. The best way to draw often is to carry a sketchbook with you wherever you go. This way you will always be ready when the inspiration strikes, and instead of thinking 'gosh, I'd love to draw that', you open your handy sketchbook and start sketching. To maximize convenience, I recommned having several sketchbooks of varied sizes, so that depending on where you're going when you leave home, you can grab the one that's most appropriate. For small sizes, I love the Moleskine sketchbooks, and for larger sizes I use the Canson spiral-bound sketchbooks. Have fun out there, and don't forget your sunscreen!


One of the most popular things to look at and to sketch is the human face. The most common mistake when drawing the face is the same as when drawing most things - rushing in to draw details before establishing the big shapes, relationships, and proportions. A way to simplify the shape of the face is to think of it as a mask, like those used in the theater of antiquity. It extends from the widow's peak to the front of the ear to the bottom of the chin to the front of the other ear, and back to the widow's peak - an overall oval shape (except in profile, where it looks more like a triangular shape). Within this you can indicate the 'T' of the face which consists of the eyeline and midline (the midline divides the head and face from left to right). By establishing these simple shapes and landmarks first, you will have established a solid foundation in the correct perspective, and with the right proportions. Then on top of this you can continue to draw the features. Try this out, and have fun!

Sources: Google Image, Sketching In Tuscany, Maggie Anthony

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Book Review : Pretties by Scott Westerfeld
Pretties by Scott Westerfeld

Product details
  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK, March 2010
  • ISBN-10: 1847389074
  • ISBN-13: 9781847389077
  • Ages: 12 and up

Tally has finally become 'pretty'. Her looks are beyond perfect, her clothes are cool, her boyfriend's gorgeous, and she's completely popular. It's everything she's ever wanted. But beneath all the fun - the nonstop parties, the high-tech luxury, the total freedom - is a nagging feeling that something's wrong. Something important. And sure enough, when a message from Tally's 'ugly' past arrives, the fun stops cold. Now Tally has to choose between fighting to forget what she knows and fighting for her life...

In Pretties, Tally is back with a brand new look, and a brand new brain. But despite having all the luxuries and fun a pretty can ever wanted, Tally is not content with her current situation. She senses that something is not right, and when someone she recognizes from the Old Smoke comes to her with a message, she starts to find the way to regain her lost memories.

Let's talk about the good things first. I loved the adventures that Tally went through in Pretties. I admired her spunk and courage. Scott had created a fabulous sequel to Uglies. Tally's escape from the New Pretty Town was very dangerous, but exciting at the same time. Pretties is full of unexpected twists and turns, which left me in awe of the author's creativity in writing.

Tally's life seems to be more complicated now. She is involved in a love triangle, with two charming princes --- one pretty (Zane) , and one ugly (David). Tally is not sure whom she loves more, but when the time comes and she has to pick someone, who will she choose? I'm sure readers will have a mix feeling for Tally's temperament, just as I do. Sometimes, I like her while the other times I don't.

"He turned to face her again, his late-pretty composure crumbling. "But you're..."

"Pretty? Think again." She smiled. "I'm Tally Youngbood. My mind is very ugly. And I'm taking your car."

On the other hand, I pity Shay, Tally's ex-best friend. She was once a good person, but she had now turned to a darker side because she wanted to seek vengeance on Tally's previous betrayal. Sometimes, the inability of forgiving others' wrongdoings will only burden oneself with never-ending hatred.

"YOU are like that, Tally. You have ALWAYS been like that! No cure is going to make you any different--you were busy betraying people a long time ago. You didn't need any operation to make you selfish and shallow and full of yourself. YOU ALREADY WERE."

Personally, I think Scott had other intentions when he explained the life of the 'Rusties' in this book. He reflected the damages that was caused by the human race towards nature which finally lead to their own doom. A new minor character called Andrew Simpson Smith (Tally's guide to the New Smoke) was introduced in Pretties. He wanted to kill the 'outsiders' who caused his father's death. Whenever I think of this, I wonder if it is better for the people in New Pretty Town to remain pretty-minded and be forever protected from the harshness and violence of reality?

Then she remembered Dr.Cable's words. Humanity is a cancer, and we are the cure.

I noticed that the author used the names of famous Egyptian beauties to name the places in the Uglies and Pretties, such as Cleopatra Park and Nefertiti Stadium. I wonder if any of Scott's fans notice about this? What does it actually imply?

Even though Pretties is full of adventure and the ending is a perfect cliffhanger, I still have to comment on some petty little things that I disliked while reading the first 3o+ pages of the book. The words 'bubbly' and 'bogus' seems to have a constant appearance in the first 3o+ pages, that is, about 12 times each. It bothered me a little to read the words again and again, but still, that's not a big problem.

Overall, I think Pretties is an enjoyable and interesting read. If you have read (and liked or loved) Uglies, you might want to check this book out. I'm looking forward to read the third book in the series, Specials, as I'm anxious to know what will happen to Tally next!

Rating: 4.000

My deepest gratitude to Kathryn from
Simon & Schuster UK for sending me a paperback copy of Pretties for this review! Thank you, Kathryn!

Scott Westerfeld was born in Texas, and received a BA in philosophy from Vassar in 1985. He splits his time between New York City and Sydney, Australia. He is the author of Midnighters, Uglies, So Yesterday and Peeps. You can visit Scott Westerfeld's website to know more about him.

Buy Pretties (paperback) at:
Simon & Schuster UK :: The Book Depository

Visit the Uglies Fansite
Follow Scott on Twitter

Friday, July 16, 2010

Steampunk Summary
A "dragonfly-look-alike" Steampunk Necklace. Isn't it cool?

A steampunk guitar

A steampunk laptop by Datamancer. The key actually turns it on, and if you don't believe me, you can CLICK HERE for the video.

A steampunk pistol created by Christian Graves.
If you'd like to see more of his creations, CLICK HERE.

A steampunk wrist watch - not sure if this is actually functional, though - it may be more of an "art as jewelry" piece. Since the clock seems to be missing hands, I'm guessing it's just for looks - but very cool anyway!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Book Review : Nefertiti by Michelle Moran

Cleopatra's Daughter cover

Product Details

  • Paperback: 479 pages
  • Publisher: Three Rivers Press (December 29, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307718700
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307718709

Beautiful Nefertiti and her sister, Mutnodjmet, have been raised far from the court of their aunt, the Queen of Egypt. But when the Pharaoh of Egypt dies, their father’s power play makes Nefertiti wife to the new and impetuous king. It is hoped she will temper King Amunhotep’s desire to overturn Egypt’s religion, but the ambitious Nefertiti encourages Amunhotep’s outrageous plans instead, winning the adoration of the people while making powerful enemies at court. Younger yet more prudent, Mutnodjmet is her sister’s sole confidant, and only she knows to what lengths Nefertiti will go for a child to replace the son of Amunhotep’s first wife.

In Nefertiti, Michelle Moran has created a fascinating world of ancient Egypt which offers us a glimpse of life in that particular era, through the eyes of Mutnodjmet, Nefertiti's half sister. I can never rave enough about Michelle's superb writing skill and her talent to weave fact and fiction together seamlessly. I've been a great fan of Michelle's since I started reading Cleopatra's Daughter, which is mostly set in Rome.

Nefertiti is famous for her ethereal beauty and charm. She is portrayed as a cunning and ambitious Queen in this novel, and together with her husband Akhenaten, they demolished Egypt's gods and raise a new deity called Aten or the Sun God in their place.

Mutnodjmet is a likable character. She is a herbalist who has a caring heart and is content with a simple life. At first, she is dominated by her sister, but at last, she succeeds in finding her own true love - General Nakhtmin. I pity her when she suffers physically and emotionally because of the pain that is inflicted by others who meant harm.

Since the synopsis has given you some information about what is told in this story, I shall not talk about it further just in case I revealed some spoilers accidentally. I will only say that this book is awesome and should never be missed! Hurry and pick up a copy of Nefertiti and get swept on a thrilling ride into the world of ancient Egypt!

Rating: 5

Michelle Moran was born in the San Fernando Valley, CA. When she was accepted into Pomona College she took as many classes as possible in British Literature, particularly Milton, Chaucer, and the Bard. Following a summer in Israel where she worked as a volunteer archaeologist, she earned an MA from the Claremont Graduate University. A public high school teacher for six years, Michelle Moran is currently a full-time writer living in California with her husband. She is the author of Nefertiti, The Heretic Queen, and Cleopatra's Daughter. Her fourth novel, Madame Tussaud, will debut in March 2011.

Read my review for The Heretic Queen :: Cleopatra's Daughter

Visit Michelle Moran's Official Website
Visit Michelle's blog

I love these covers!

Michelle's other books:
The Heretic Queen
Cleopatra's Daughter

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Review : Country Soaps by Marlene {Part 2}

Handmade from 100% Fresh Creamy Goats Milk

Old  Fashion Lilac Goats Milk Soap
Old Fashion Lilac Goats Milk Soap $4.00 USD
Ingredients: Goats milk, palm oil, castor oil, coconut oil, NaOH, fragrance and skin safe coloring.

This piece of soap really smells lovely! I don't know the smell of lilacs, since we don't plant any, but I really loved the floral scent! Just as the Patchouli Goats Milk Soap, it leaves my skin soft and silky. I think this soap would look better without the colouring. I prefer plain-looking soaps with a white or creamy texture because they seem more natural that way. Anyway, this soap is awesome and you should try it!

Rating: 4.500

Endless Love  Type Shower Gel SPECIAL
Endless Love Type Shower Gel SPECIAL $6.00
Ingredients: Distilled water, Olive oil, coconut oil, potasium hydroxide, sodium borate, powdered goats milk and fragrance.

This shower gel contains powdered goats milk which leaves your skin feeling soft and silky just like the liquid goats milk does in bar soap. The shower gel comes in an 8 oz. bottle which you can snap the hook off one end and snap on the other end to hang in your shower.

I really love this shower gel! It's wonderful! When I squeezed the bottle, a creamy liquid came out from the head and my first impression was : I love this smell! It smells like a type of shower gel I used when I was a kid. It provoked my blissful childhood memories. The Endless Love Type Shower Gel makes my skin look and feel velvety. This product is a must-buy!

Rating: 5

Please visit countrysoapsbymarlene for more goodies! All of Marlene's 8 oz. gel soaps are now available for $6.00 USD!

Marlene's Online Connections:
Twitter :: Facebook :: Artfire :: Hyenacart