Saturday, February 25, 2017

Cinder - Book One of the Lunar Chronicles | Book Review

(Because I abhor spoilers myself, I will try to keep the details and bulk of the story a secret!)

Being a cyborg may have its advantages, like good mechanical skills and the ability to digitally analyze what she sees, but for Cinder they separate her from love, relationships, dreams, and in general, being normal.

Cinder is a sci-fi retelling of the fairy-tale Cinderella. The story is set in futuristic Beijing where Cinder works at a booth in the square fixing mechanics at her Stepmother's command. Her skills in this area bring her to the attention of Prince Kai, the Emperor's son, who needs her to repair his old android. As Cinder unexpectedly runs into him more she begins to discover more about the kingdom and an impending danger from the evil Lunar's. At the same time a lethal disease is picking off random people on the planet, leaving the Emperor's research team racing to find a cure. As Cinder becomes involved in these situations she soon discovers there is more to her than meets the eye. Having resigned herself long ago to her insignificant status, what she learns will change everything about her.

My Thoughts
I received this book for Christmas from a friend who had read it and knew how much I adored the original Cinderella story. In fact, I am the ultimate Cinderella expert. Okay, self-made expert anyway. I had seen this series here and there for a little while but hadn't had a chance to read what they were about. You see, I don't visit libraries or book stores anymore. Sad, I know. What is sadder is how I rarely read anymore.

The fact of the matter is, I probably never would have picked it for myself to read anyway. Although the story may sound intriguing, I normally do not go for the modern sci-fi/fantasy fad fiction. I usually find them lacking some really important depth and ultimately leaving me feeling less entertained and more embarrassed for the person who thought they could write.

I actually started reading the first chapter right after my cousin gave it to me. I was immediately intrigued by the cyborg Cinderella twist and as always, eager to see how it measured up to what I love most about the classic tale.

Tell-tale Signs of the Classic
The author, Marissa Meyer, included a few key elements of the Cinderella story that we all know and respect, such as the main characters: the lowly servant girl status, her stepmother and stepsisters, the Prince, and then of course: the ball, the glass slipper, and her ending desperation. While reading there were times when the realization of how these elements fit in was like a puzzle piece sliding into place. It made me smile when Cinderella losing her glass slipper became Cinder losing her cyborg foot. But as unique as it was, I don't think an old, musty automobile was the replacement I would have chosen for the magical pumpkin carriage.

My Favorite Points
What I like most about this adaptation was the Oriental overtones. I suppose like Meyer, I have always been a fan of Asian cultures. Although I never watched anime cartoons or read the comics, I love the differences of the food, the traditions, and the exotic landscapes. Frankly, I love learning about different cultures in general.

One thing that drew me into this story was how relatable the character of Cinder was to myself. No, I am not a tortured servant girl, or a cyborg, or even small and flat-chested. I spent my younger years playing in, and later working some, in a mechanic shop, and even if I am not mechanically inclined, nuts and bolts, grease and grime, are as familiar to me as home. The fact that Cinder wasn't afraid to get dirty made her real, although what she did to her dress was verging on sacrilege.

As for depth, I kind of regard the easy style of the book as popcorn. Fun and enjoyable, but not enough for a steady diet. Which is a shame, because a story like this could really pull people in but give them a lot to chew on or think about. People these days need all the stretching of the mind they can get.

Morality and Worldview
What I didn't like about this book was the use of profanity, however light. I understand that in this era the bounds of what you should say and do have been stripped down and their basis taken away, and that your average teen will say more than this in an average given day. But this doesn't make it right. Foul language doesn't make a story more intense or engaging. The intensity of a moment is neither heightened nor lessened by such and to include it is bad taste. Only after reading it did I discover that it is labeled Young Adult Fiction which makes my opinion even more resolute. Teens get enough trash from our culture, they don't need any more.

There were a few humanistic points to the story, such as how cyborgs are treated, as well as Lunar shells (readers will understand), but this was not how our heroine felt, neither was it portrayed as right, therefore it was not glamorized or promoted. However it did bring up some interesting questions I would like to ask its readers, such as what makes a human worthy of respect? Or what makes a being truly human? Could an android, if it had a unique enough personality, be regarded as human? Addressing these may become a post of their own. What do you think?

There are one or two slightly off-color remarks I personally wouldn't have added but all in all, the book was cleaner than I expected from a modern day read.

In this day and age I am hardly ever worried that the heroine will be too weak. On the contrary, my worry is that she will be too independent so that she will not need anyone. A character in a story that is so self-confident that she doesn't need anyone is hard to feel for because what can anyone do for her? I felt Cinder's self-sufficiency was well-balanced. She was not weak, neither was she too strong.

Future Books
I am hoping to get my hands on the rest of the books in the series soon. I must say I am hooked. I've always been a fairy-tale fan, and I don't know how many times I have tried my own adaptations of them as well. It is fun seeing how others recreate the stories we love. Granted, sometimes I am not so pleased. Cinder's story was fun and enjoyable, and I can't wait to see how it turns out. Having read an excerpt in the back of the book about Scarlet, I am wondering if book two will be darker or contain a more liberal worldview than the first. Meyer has hinted at a lot of mystery in this first book and we'll see just what comes to play in the next one's and whether my review of them will be as positive. I hope so!

Before I can say whether or not I recommend this series, I will have to read the rest.

Come back soon! And let me know what you think!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Does Good Business Mean Compromising Who You Are?

Being your own boss is growing in popularity with the ease the internet provides in running your own cloud-based business. There's also a great deal of advice on how to go about it.

I'm young and new to business for the most part. At least in terms of running my own. I have learned a lot and still have so much to learn since starting my blog in 2012 and my business in October 2016. I'm not naturally business minded and I fear being business ignorant. The struggle to find the happy medium in the advice I receive from the public is very real to me. If you're a blogger or have started your own business I'm sure you know what I mean.

An Information Overload

The internet is both helpful and intimidating with its information. I love the fact that I can find information for all of my business related questions. Without this informative outlet I wouldn't have the business I have today. And yet in my ignorance of the proper way to run a business do I believe everything I read? Sorting through the advice can be a headache.

In my attempts at bettering my blog I've changed a lot and endured much struggle. While doing research on the subject the pressure to do the right thing (i.e. what the public wanted to see) was overwhelming. I constantly heard things like --

"Make sure your blog appearance is visually appealing."

"Your blog should engage readers to stay past the 30 second marker."

"Write interesting content, things people will want to read."

"Take professional pictures."

"Find your particular niche."

"Get involved in blogging communities," and etc.

All of which is very good advice but can easily make you forget your true interest and the reason you started your blog in the first place.

The same goes for starting your own business. Loads of advice that can weigh you down with a feeling of desperation and impossibility. The recurring question I have asked myself over this time has been, "What is good business sense and what is merely public preference?" After reading all of this advice I began questioning myself, concluding that maybe I don't have the commitment necessary to run my own business. Maybe I am not "business" enough for the job.

The problem is, they are right.

Writing merely to please yourself may be exactly what you need to relax and unwind but if you want a prosperous blog with a growing following you will need to write about things that interest the general public or at least a large percentage.

Go With The Flow

I'm not normally one to follow the fads or go with the flow. Right now a great majority of the public are obsessed with fantasy and sci-fi, and though I have an occasional interest in the genre myself, I will not change my writing style to please the public, even if I know it would be more socially acceptable.

On Etsy some of the most popular stores are the one's that sell copyright branded products. They are literally disrespecting the owners copyright and selling products with a name and elements that do not belong to them. (For example, Disney and Marvel themed products). These stores make 1,000's of sales at the cost of others, but until the corporation decides to crack down on this these businesses flourish. It's what the public wants, regardless of who suffers.

What The Public Wants

When you witness the prosperity of these people doing what the public wants to see, read, or buy you can only surmise that pleasing the public is good business sense. So the question is, can I be me, with my standards and my interests, and still have a prosperous business and blog? Do I adjust my interests and write on topics that are currently in vogue? Do I avoid those topics I am passionate about because "no one" wants to read them? Although others may do it, I will not infringe on the copyright's of others not matter how long they have been getting by with it. Breaking the law is harmful to the public and, more importantly, dishonoring to God.

But aside from obviously breaking the law, would it be good business for me to sell fad products because that is what people want? Or am I right in only selling what I want to sell?

Do I lose my identity for the sake of "good business" or do I risk never making it in the business world by following my dreams? Is this a question of "conform or lose out?"

Coming to a Point

The fact of the matter is, people will always encourage you to conform to the fads. They chant, "Be yourself," and yet define for you what "Being yourself" looks like. This is what makes it hard for people like me to sift out the truth from popular belief.

Whether it is good business or not, I still cannot say. I am still new to business and have a lot to figure out. But when it is a question of compromising who you are or who God wants you to be, there really is no doubt as to the answer.

I still don't know what business moves would be best for my shop, or whether my writing really interests anyone, and that is disheartening. But the beautiful thing is, God knows my future and He gave me my passions. He holds my future in His hands and because He loves me, I know I can expect something great beyond what I could ever choose for myself. I have to wait and see what His idea of prosperous means for me.

"Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." -- Romans 12:2 NIV

Friday, February 17, 2017

A Little Bit of a Slump

Since the beginning of this year I have had a long to-do list in nearly every area of my business life -- crocheting, mixed media, store work, blog work, affiliate work, etc.

I wrapped up my crochet list with Valentine's and finished my latest mixed media idea and now I find myself kind of wondering, what now? Oh, I can think of a hundred things to do and projects to finish, but for some reason I find myself in a slump. Maybe I need a break.

I have 21 items in my shop, crochet patterns, crochet products, and mixed media products alike. I have a handful of patterns to add and a few products to add as well, and yet, in my slump of an attitude, I wonder if I'm getting anywhere. These days I am wondering if the public really wants to see a shop full of all kinds of things to choose from or would I catch their attention more with a few new things in a confined category. I realize on Etsy I have a lot of competition. Still thinking on this matter but would welcome anyone's advice.

So, in my slump I also wondered what to write about today. Can you believe I made a list of at least nine post ideas and didn't want to do any? So instead I sit here rambling on. Maybe it's for the better. Sometimes I don't think I am personal enough here on my blog. Like maybe I am trying to be too professional and not personal. I see others saying this too, in an effort to have their work and business recognized they heap on the anxiety and restrictions. It's a fragile balance, one that I run into every few months. I can't tell you how much a blessing it is to know that God is in control of my future. It's way to harried for me.

One of my favorite movies, State Fair (1945). Read my review here!

But one happy thought resides, my birthday is tomorrow! Can I talk about my birthday for a minute? Hearing me talk people would think we gave huge parties for birthdays, but we don't. I realize, compared to some people, we do very little for birthdays around here. But what we do is special and tradition, and that's what matters. What do we do? Well, the day is for the birthday person. I choose my meal and dessert, which is always something like lasagna or Asian food and chocolate pudding cake. Someone in my family makes a personalized banner and drapes it over the china cabinet while someone else will hang streamers, colors that I have chosen. I get to pick the music or people pick what they know I like, I get to choose the movie we watch, and basically that's it. I guess I love a chance to celebrate, however simply.

Now my hardest decision is what will I choose to watch this birthday? Oh yes, this is a hard one. I have so many favorites!! The top three are (a version of) Persuasion, The Count of Monte Cristo, or The Scarlet Pimpernel. See what I mean?! I may just choose a good ol' black and white suspense like Night Train to Munich with Margaret Lockwood and Rex Harrison.

But anyway... Maybe by the time Monday arrives I will be out of my slump and ready to get to work. Although I could play jacks... read Tintin comics... or play around on my new tablet. But no, seriously.

Before Christmas I was working on two projects, a baby blanket and a Steampunk Top Hat. I will pick those back up and hopefully have a pattern to post by the end of next week. Also, before too long I will share with you my latest pattern I made for Crochet Spot. You want a hint? All green!! If you follow me on Instagram you will have a good idea of what it is.

Soon I plan to start my Carousel mixed media piece. I had an idea for it many months ago but got sidetracked with the holidays and a lack of supplies. I now have the supplies and am ready to work! If you want to see the idea I had, check out my Instagram post a few months back.

And how is that for a rambling post? Actually, talking helps a person get their thoughts realigned. I don't know about you, but this has been good for me.

Thanks for bearing with me while I talk. Come back soon for some creative treats!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Be My Love Valentine's Plaque | A Mixed Media Project

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone! And I mean everyone. For Valentine's Day can be celebrated whether you have a significant other or not.

This is the third plaque I have decorated and I'm loving it!

Moving from flat, scrapbook pages to 3D plaques has been an exciting transition. Because of how I would store my scrapbook pages (in plastic page protectors), I would try to keep my designs from having too many 3D elements. But with plaques I have practically no restrictions.

Here are my recommended supplies for this project, the Be My Love Valentine's Plaque.

  • heart plaque from Jillibean Soup
  • two sheets of 8 1/2 x 11 scrapbook paper
  • two sheets of 5 x 7 scrapbook paper
  • ribbon
  • lace ribbon
  • buttons
  • paper flowers
  • Mod-Podge and stiff brush - I used three different kinds (Paper, All Surface, and Fabric) but you can use whatever you want.
  • ruler
  • scissors (a Fiskars Fingertip Control Craft Knife comes in handy with the letters)

Here are the things that I selected as possible materials when I began. I didn't use the ribbon at the bottom because I didn't feel the colors melded with what I had.

I wanted the heart front to be covered in scrapbook paper, leaving a quarter of an inch of wood showing. So the first thing I did was trace one half of the heart onto a piece of printer paper and trim off a quarter of an inch all the way around. This is where the ruler came in handy.

I work at my projects a little at a time and only glue at the last moment so that I am sure I will know what it looks like and can make adjustments if necessary. I don't always use a table but instead make a work space out of boxes on the ground. Usually boxes from the supplies I just ordered. It works for me.

I chose to use two complementing patterns for my heart plaque. Plus, I was dying to use the blue and pink floral there.

This was the first idea with the flowers. I used lace ribbon about 2 inches wide that I got from Hobby Lobby. In fact, nearly everything you see there I bought from Hobby Lobby.

Here was my second idea with the flowers, mixing them up. Notice that I also have added pale yellow buttons. Years ago my family bought me a Bag O'Buttons and from there I pulled out every yellow button in a similar size range. Do you see the heart button? That was the only one in the bunch and I love that added touch.

This and the next two pictures are center ribbon examples. By this time I had cut out the words I wanted to use from the 5 x 7 scrapbook paper. I pulled two different shades of green from the So-So Sweet book from The Paper Studio. I really love how the green words bring out the touches of green in the floral paper behind it.

To get the words, I measured just how much space I would have on my heart after adding the flowers and buttons. Then I chose the two fonts I wanted to use (making sure they were free fonts) and arranged them in Gimp first and then an Open Office document, being sure the sizing would match up. I printed the page and cut out the separate fonts (not the separate letters). On the back of the 5 x 7 pages, I laid the printed fonts and used the opposite end of an ink pen to rub over the printed font from the backside of the page (really, any blunt end object would work). The fonts transferred nicely to the back of the scrapbook page and I cut them out from there. Ingenious, right? Saves so much time for people like me who do not have a special machine to do it for you.

I decided on using the gold but I think the yellow up there would have worked well too. I don't like the purple and am now glad I didn't use it.

Then it was time to glue! I was disappointed in how yellow the paper Mod-Podge left my lace. But it held nicely and looks good anyway. I draped the lace down the sides of the plaque and underneath.

After the lace, I glued the buttons with Mod-Podge All Surface, a dot at a time, and let that dry. Then the wording and last the flowers.

Here is the plaque from the side. I think the lace going all the way to the back of the piece kind of solidifies the look.

A closeup of the words. Don't you just love the font?! I took a while trying to decide what words to put on this piece. I recalled a favorite song of mine from Mario Lanza, one I used to sing to tame my savage beastie, Ella the part Bobcat. Be My Love just fit.

This is the first time I have used paper flowers like this and I am impressed by how well they have held up during the designing process. When I wasn't using them, I would put them in a small plastic bag and blow it full of air so that they wouldn't get crunched.

And that is my latest piece! What do you think? Do you like it? I've actually given some thought to organizing a PDF with the templates I used and full instructions. But I'm not decided. Let me know if you are interested in a PDF version!

I will be putting this in my Etsy store very soon, Ginger Peachy Store, if you want to order yours!!

Thanks for reading, and come back soon!