Review of Image and Likeness

Image and Likeness: Short Reads Reflecting the Theology of the Body, with a foreword by Damon Owens

If St. John Paul II ever summarized his Theology of the Body, it may have been when he said, “Man cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself.” But how does this sincere gift look when lived out by human beings with all their failings? What happens to our humanity when we withhold that sincere gift? What does life require of us when we give most deeply? Full Quiver Publishing brings you this moving collection of poetry and prose, featuring some of today’s brightest Catholic literary voices.

I was gifted an ebook copy of IMAGE AND LIKENESS: LITERARY REFLECTIONS ON THE THEOLOGY OF THE BODY quite a while ago (it launched on 27/10/16 and I have been sadly remiss in keeping to my word) and, to be honest, I finished reading it about a month ago. But I’m so behind on my blog schedule, with all of these half-written pieces, particularly of reviews, that I never got around to sharing it.

There’s something incredibly wholesome about this collection of prose and poetry. Don’t get me wrong: at times, it touches on dark and heavy topics, pertinent for this age we live in, but each piece finished in a way that left me feeling satisfied, even for the short pieces. Yes, the pieces centre around the Theology of the Body—integral to what makes this collection so unique and pleasing to me—but that is not their only or engrossing focus. Some might argue of overly-religious undertones to the idea, but it’s not the feeling you get when you read the pieces themselves. If you’re looking for those kind of tones, you’ll find them here, but if you’re looking for interesting pieces of fiction and poetry and reflection, you’ll also find them here. Just like any other piece of writing, with its themes and ideas.

My personal favourites were No Turning Back by Leslie Lynch, Movements by Michelle Buckman, Nice by Gerard D. Webster.

I definitely recommend this collection of poetry and prose if you’re looking for something different, contemplative with all great, short plots.

You can get IMAGE AND LIKENESS from good retailers, Amazon.com, or straight from Full Quiver Publishing, available in both paperback and Kindle formats.

Review of Limecrime’s ‘Dope’

I am an avid fan of liquid lipsticks, so I was overjoyed to get a Christmas gift voucher from a friend for Limecrime makeup, just enough to try a Diamond Crusher liquid lipstick/lip topper that I’ve wanted to try since they came out last year.

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Look 5/5

Dope dazzles. I’d say ‘crushed diamonds’ is not quite the correct description of the visuals, but this lip topper certainly has a host of facets in the colours it projects. Pinks, blues, green. The main colour is a rose gold – Limecrime describes Dope as ‘cotton candy champagne’ (they also have Lit, which is ‘rose gold on acid’, but I think the two are very different in their warmth of hue). I’ve seen Dope look goldy in swatches, but on me it’s more of a pinkish glow, akin to Nivea’s Pearly Shine.

It’s a bit more, of course. Flecks of glittery colour. Difficult to really pinpoint the best way of describing the effect.

Formula 3/5

It’s a cross between lip gloss and liquid lipstick formula, a bit streaky, but with a decent setting time and the scent of strawberry candies. I imagine that this would sit better with a lip liner on the cupid’s bow.

For the same price as a Velvetine, you get a larger tube of Diamond Crusher, which suggests that you need more to get a smooth, pigmented application on the lips and/or it’s a formula that you’ll get through quicker.

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As if you need more photos of my face…

Comfort 4/5

Dope is comfortable to wear for hours at a time. My lips don’t get that dry with lipstick on, though, so it might be a relative factor. Despite not being glossy in the sticky sense, it is a bit gummy even after drying and it has that roughness that lipglosses with crystal bits in tend to have.

It doesn’t crumble, however, and it feels smooth to the tactile touch.

Long lastingness 2/5.

Limecrime liquid lipsticks aren’t the best when it comes to long-lasting wearability we all acknowledge, but Dope is the worst Limecrime lipstick I have in terms of lasting. It comes off quickly during eating and drinking It is transfer-proof when completely dry, but I found my hands getting sparkly if i wiped them across lips not with a little moisture. Even with a liquid lipstick underneath, the glitter topper and the colour underneath (I used Limecrime’s vampy purple Jinx), both came off on my first bite of Dim Sum.

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Overall: 3 1/2 stars out of 5.

A pleasant colour and texture, but I am a bit disappointed about the lack of staying power my Dope has. Yeah, these are meant to be toppers to the other colours, but I expected something more from their ability to stay.

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A compliment-worthy colour that is muted enough for me to wear daily with a formula that needs tweaking. Not sure it’s worth the money, but if you love the feel of a liquid lipstick with the shine of a gloss, Diamond Crushers are worth considering.

THE TROUBLE WITH DEMONS review

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For seeker Raine Benares, a demon infestation on the Isle of Mid couldn’t come at a worse time. Already fighting the influence of the Saghred, a soul-stealing stone, Raine discovers she is also magically bonded to a dark mage and a white knight, two dangerous and powerful men on opposing sides.

Turns out, the demons want the key to unlock the Saghred. As a seeker, Raine should be able to find it first. As the axis of light and dark powers, she’s a magical cataclysm waiting to happen.

Well, there was certainly demon troubles.

Unfortunately, I just didn’t love THE TROUBLE WITH DEMONS as I did the Raine Benares books #1 and #2. I can’t really pinpoint why. Well, okay, I can think of a couple of reasons.

But first – the good:

Demon-Squishing

I enjoyed the introduction of new types of demons in this novel, and I was intrigued by the way Raine and the Saghred handled them. The threat-level has definitely increased, both internally and externally, and it’s great to read how Raine, despite her new power, struggles with it.

Getting to See More of the Baddies

Because it’s been a while since I’ve been in Raine’s world, I was always going to feel disorientated at characters saying “oh, it’s so-and-so here to do threat to us. Sigh”. However, I didn’t feel like I needed to well know the characters. Sure, it would be a bit awkward to start reading at book #3, but the plot stands-alone in its arc and even the main characters are pretty summarised by Raine when she interacts with them. “Until a week ago, so-and-so did not know…”

So, being faced with some baddies that I’d forgotten about from the first two books, I wasn’t scratching my head and wondering how they fitted in, which is always something I like to read. I wasn’t confused.

First-Person Raine

You really get inside Raine’s head with the narrative. I guess whilst I didn’t like how plain the language and description was (see below) it well suits Raine’s style of speaking and, well, living. She rough and doesn’t take anything from any of the baddies or the I-know-what’s-best-for-you heroes.

Me – crying over not enjoying a novel I ought to.

And now – what I didn’t enjoy:

The Pacing

Demon-fighting, talking, demon-fighting, talking. My biggest problem with Demons was that I got bored. It felt a samey progression like a) the previous books and b) every other paranormal fantasy. I wanted more from the writing, which felt plain, and more from the plot. The characters did the same thing at each location.

Love Triangle

Granted, it’s also a magically enhanced love triangle, as mentioned in the blurb, but character-shipper in me just finds one of the guys irritating whilst the other is the sexy, white-magic guardian every girl wants. #teamMychael

And whilst I loved the flirting (at least, where I felt it between Raine and Mychael), I didn’t feel there was enough of it/in the right place to satisfy. Then after all’s said and done, Raine is contemplating her love life and it just…seemed too arbitrary at the end.

In Conclusion

I find more positive points than negatives, but unfortunately, the negatives were what would’ve sold the book for me. It is, unfortunately, about personal taste, and I just didn’t feel that THE TROUBLE WITH DEMONS was my book.

TableClock_AlexB2 - Copy.jpgRegrettably, 3/5 steamy cogs. I will be reading on…when I can get my hands on the next novels. I am invested in Raine’s story, and hope I get to see more variety to the description and action in book #4.

HOUR OF MISCHIEF Review

(What’s this? Another review? Well, I read on the way to work, okay.)

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Born in a whorehouse in the slums of Fortuna and burdened with a prosthetic arm, seventeen-year-old JANET REDSTONE doesn’t think she owes the Clockwork Gods anything—which is why she makes a living stealing from their temples. But when she lands her team in prison, making a pact with the God of Mischief, ITAZURA, is the only way to right her wrongs and free her friends.

Janet doesn’t trust Itazura as far as she can punch him, but with her soul in his hands, she has no choice but to do what he says. The clockwork gods and the bad-tempered elder gods of the ancient past are locked in a game of cat and mouse and the human realms are caught in the middle. If Janet can’t somehow convince the gods to step in a save the world, humanity is in an abyss of trouble.

Using her unconventional wits, an impressive tolerance to alcohol, and a strong right hook, Janet has to convince the gods that humanity is worth saving. Unfortunately, it’s a lot more difficult to stop an apocalypse when you’re slowly being driven crazy by the Lord of Mischief, especially when he starts growing on you.

(Also, yay, an excuse to use Steampunk gifs!)

Author Aimee Hydman is someone I admire, having acquired an agent and deal during college/university. So, I was eager to get my teeth into her debut, particularly as it’s Steampunk right off the bat.

It’s hard for me to pick a favourite element of the book. The setting was luscious but not over-described – Fortuna, Janet’s home city lies on part of a clock-shaped world. I am rather jealous, actually, of how Hyndman incorporated her world-building into the Steampunk aesthetic of the novel and explained through it the human characters’ relationship with the clockwork gods.

Speaking of the characters, they were also engaging. Janet’s the kind of spunky heroine that my teen MC, Agnetha, would hate and be best friends with. It wad great to have the book narrated by Janet; she makes a number of questionable decisions – yet, one understands her reasoning and even supports her. Not only because we see it through her eyes, but also because she is fearlessly faithful to her friends.

Speaking of which, I was sad we didn’t get to see more of the Pendulum Thieves, but, again in retrospect that the is a book1, My favourite character, however, was the goddess Laetatia. Despite being world-weary and as assertive as Janet, she is a foil to Janet with her femininity and elegance. She combines Janet’s strong qualities with a softness that makes her an appropriate companion/big sister figure in the novel.

There was also a lot of set up for later, with hints of foreshadowing here and there that I appreciated. Got to love some subtle foreshadowing (though, Shakespeare does tend to ram it in your face…). Granted, I didn’t realise this was the first of a (potential) series until the final chapter, so I was expecting the mysterious elements to be wrapped up by the end. Okay, I’ll admit that I was a little disappointed they weren’t, but at the same time, I liked that they weren’t all solved. Hyndman avoided rushing the reveals with some deus ex machina explanation or the old “as you know, Fred…” trope. (You can tell I’ve been editing the end of my first-draft novel, cant you? *grin*)

I planned not to be interested in any potential sequels (I have too many books on my to-read list to be involved with series at the moment) but the cliff-hanger-esque feeling to the ending meant that there are so many questions still unanswered in the novel that I want to snatch up the sequel if it’s published.

4 Steampunk pieces out of 5.

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I took a star off for the typos I noticed. I consider this not the fault of the author but of the editor, who I would expect to have caught these things before publishing, and whilst I do admire Curiosity Quills Press, I have heard of a few editorial problems from them.

Would I recommend the YA Steampunk novel? Absolutely. It’s an adventurous quick read with a take-no-trouble-from-anyone heroine and, yes, a somewhat dreamy god who’d rather give you a trick than be a hero.

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About the author:

Aimee Hyndman, by Aimee HyndmanAimee Hyndman has been writing ever since her toddler fingers could grasp a pencil. A lover of all things speculative fiction, she spent many a night penning the beginnings of novels that would never see the light of day. Now attending college in Iowa, double majoring in Creative writing and English, she has clearly never lost her love of the craft.

When not writing and avoiding her school work, Aimee enjoys reading, singing, and acting at her school’s theater department. She is also a lover of anime and all things Disney.

Her area of specialty is fantasy of all sorts but she dabbles in many genres— whatever she feels compelled to write at the moment. The plot bunnies are never ending but, luckily, so are the words!

 

Five Nights at Freddy’s: The Book

I missed the chance quite a while ago to write about the finesse of mystery accompanying the Five Nights at Freddy’s game series by Scott Cawthon that has almost haunted me since I learnt about them. Never played, but always fascinated.

The thing is, it didn’t translate well to book form. Don’t get me wrong: I wanted to love it and I did, but…there were some things I couldn’t overlook and that I still questioned once the novel was over.

It’s been exactly ten years since the murders at Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza, and Charlotte has spent those ten years trying to forget. Her father was the owner of Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza and the creator of its four adult-sized animatronic animals, and now Charlie is returning to her hometown to reunite with her childhood friends on the anniversary of the tragedy that ripped their town apart. Curiosity leads Charlie and her friends back to the old pizza place, and they find it hidden and sealed, but still standing. They discover a way inside, but things are not as they once were: the four mascots that delighted and entertained them as children have changed. The animatronic animals have a dark secret, and a murderous agenda.

(blurb from Amazon)

As the premise is based on the (not so secretive) reveal in the games that it’s not only the animatronics coming alive but also that the pizzeria has a deadly history of child murder – of the thriller of a past murder and the paranormal element that surrounds the automatons – this was the appeal to me at first, but then the story itself caught my attention.

I liked the characters; although they were mostly stock characters: the love interest, the popular girl, the smart one, they still helped to aid the story forward with their own qualities, and I think that is what made this big cast effective. I liked Charlie, and I appreciated that we saw from her perspective, as she seems to be the most sensible of the characters.

The setting, too, was well brought out. The sleepy town still reeling in the wake of the murders. The residents there, who still have their theories and hold their guards up. And, especially of course, the dark mall built around the remains of the pizzeria. I lost track of some of the rooms and the layout of the pizzeria, as the characters all darted around them repeatedly. And whilst this was disorientating – and I’d say the layout of the pizzeria should be obvious, as it’s the main location of the inciting incident and the present of the plot – it’s not that important to reading the story, as long as one knows the main rooms.

On the other hand, some turns of phrase jarred with me, or read as if they could have done with more polishing. I think the problem partly comes from the high standard I set myself for writing and precise syntax. I tend to expect it from all I read, which is no fault of the authors themselves. High expectations = being letdown somewhat.

So, 3/5 stars because it was a great story, a little roughly written at times, and missing just that added sparkle to make it a great novel. I can’t say what it was, but I expected something more from the surprises and so the reveals weren’t that dramatic to me.

That is not to say that I didn’t enjoy it, though. If you like teen voice and tense storyline that can be read quickly, I’d say give Five Nights at Freddy’s: The Silver Eyes a peruse.

‘Heaven Sent’ Review with Nevillegirl

This series 9 of Doctor Who, I’ve been part of the review team over at Nevillegirl’s blog. Last year, we did a similar system, and one of the episodes I’ve been reviewing this year has been episode 11, Heaven Sent.

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Wow, that’s was one wild ride of an episode. I had a lot of thoughts and a lot to say about it with Nevillegirl:

Alex: I liked this episode a lot. Although it was Doctor-heavy, it didn’t feel that way. I love the visual setting, the CGI of the castle turning. The inside of it was skipped over, but I think this leaves more room for viewer imaginations to create more of this world… if you can call it a “world,” as such. The conflict/threat to the Doctor was tangible. Personally, I felt for him, and this made the episode all the scarier. Capaldi subtly showed the fear. Again, great acting!

Alex: However, I think there were a few predictable elements in the episode, particularly the Doctor loop. We’ve had episodes before – I don’t know if they were written by Moffat or not – where the Doctor has been setting himself up; and that’s something I like to imagine (and write) in temporal fiction.

Engie: I loved this episode. No, wait – I looooooooooooooooooooved it. PETER CAPALDI IS SUCH A GREAT ACTOR OH MY GOD. And I was so pleased to see that my prediction came true!

To read more of this review, find it at Nevillegirl’s blog, Musing From Neville’s Navel.

‘Face the Raven’ Review With NevilleGirl

This series 9 of Doctor Who, I’ve been part of the review team over at Nevillegirl’s blog. Last year, we did a similar system, and one of the episodes I’ve been reviewing this year has been episode 10, Face the Raven.

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Alex: On the other hand… I don’t like how Clara’s death makes the Doctor angry. The thing is… that’s been done before. With every companion. It’s kind of… boring. Yes, it’s nice to see him have these memorable relationships and lose friends just like humans do, but… why always the anger or the desperate acts? Even Ten only acted this way when he thought he was going to die.

Engie: I agree. I do like how she told him not to be angry, though – or rather, that he can be both sad and mad, but that he shouldn’t take that out on anyone else because this was her choice. We’ll have to see if he actually listened to her, though.

Engie: Now that Clara’s story is over, how satisfied are you with her characterization? Do you think she could have been written better?

Alex: I definitely think Clara could have been written better, though she works as a better companion to Twelve than she did to Eleven. She’s like a sensible niece to her grumpy uncle! It’s difficult to know if she was used just right or not, since I didn’t like her from how she was written at the beginning – and first impressions are hard to break.

To read more of this review, find it at Nevillegirl’s blog, Musing From Neville’s Navel.