Saturday, August 31, 2013

Cowgirl Dirt Natural Cosmetics {review}

I didn't use to wear make-up.
 In fact, the concept is really still very new to me.
I first started wearing some light concealer and foundation last year, to help with covering the acne when I was out in public. Truth is, that's really all I will do most days when I go out.
I've always believed that God has given us gals natural beauty that doesn't require make-up to enhance it. We were made in His image, after all! And His design of the human body/face is certainly nothing to be ashamed of/want to cover over with excessive amounts of cosmetic products.
That being said, I have indeed come to enjoy using light amounts of make-up for special occasions and such. Notice I said *light* amounts. I can't stand to see when women and girls pile on the stuff like it's sunscreen!
So I just wanted to clarify that, for anyone who wondered.
Anyway, today I'm reviewing some NATURAL cosmetic items from Cowgirl Dirt. As most of y'all know, I'm a huge supporter of anything natural, homemade or organic. So I was pretty excited to find this company. So many big cosmetics companies today use ingredients which are harmful and even toxic.

The samples came in a cute burlap-sack style pouch.
I was sent samples of these products:

Both blushes were nice. I personally don't know much about application of blush as I've only just started using it. I like it because it can give a somewhat vintage/retro look. "Ponderosa" is slightly darker than "Buckle" in hue. Both are lovely, relatively mild blush colors. They're easy to apply, also.
The "Arena" bronzer is a nice shade as well. It takes some practice to blend it just write, but that's what foundation is least, as far as I know anyway!

My favorite of the eyeshadows is "Rhinestone". It's a very light, shimmery powder/sky blue and I think it's a great color for eyeshadow. It doesn't make you look overly dramatic or vampire-like, as some shadows tend to do.
It's more of just a fun, mild hue for when you want to add a little shimmer but not go overboard on the color.
The cream foundation is very easy to apply. Cowgirl Dirt offers it in multiple shades, to match each person's skin best. I got in it "Warm, 4" and it seems to match my somewhat-tan/sunkissed skin.  

Overall, it looks like Cowgirl Dirt makes some great, high quality products. And they're made in the USA! Love to support home-country based businesses.
I'm glad to know that when I put on this makeup, it's not riddled with junk and chemicals.
I definitely recommend checking out the shop for yourself. You can get samples of your own for just 99 cents each! And if you're already a make-up user, why not support a locally owned business?
Note: I was sent these products from Cowgirl Dirt in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

"Aquifer" by Jonathan Friesen {book review}

| Music listened to while writing this post:
The Fire in Her Eyes - TSFH/Michal Cielecki
Aeterna - TSFH/Michal Cielecki
Stronger Than You Think - Fireflight
Rising Force - Morabito-Guo Music |

Only He Can Bring What They Need to Survive.
In 2250, water is scarce, and those who control it, control everything. They'll do anything to maintain their power---deceiving, dividing families, banning love ... killing those who oppose them. Above all, they seek to control knowledge and communication---ensuring the truth that will bring their downfall will never be known. But one person verges on discovering it all.
Sixteen-year-old Luca becomes the Deliverer, the one chosen to make the yearly pilgrimage: He must descend to the domain of the hideous 'Water Rats,' creatures who mine the essential water and pump it to the desperate 'Toppers,' in exchange for light. But when Luca meets a Water Rat who captures his heart and leads him to secrets---secrets about a vast conspiracy, and about himself---the net around him tightens.
Luca and those around him must uncover and share the truth needed to overthrow tyranny---even as they fight for their lives.

This, people, would be the back cover snippet of the hot-off-the-press dystopian YA novel Aquifer.

I had the privilege of being sent a pre-release advanced reading copy, and I'll be honest - ever since I first read the plot of this story I was hooked. It reminded me vaguely of City of Ember, and I had really enjoyed that story.

Also, I've always been drawn to plots involving an expedition deep within the earth's core.
The science-geek side of me has always been fascinated with the earth's inner layers and makeup. While neather City of Ember or Aquifer are *scientific* books, I enjoyed both greatly.
In City of Ember, the MCs leave their underground dwelling place in exchange for one above the earth's surface. In Aquifer, the MCs leave their aboveground world for something down below.
I thought that was a neat contrast.

Anyway. I guess that was a random observation.

Let's get down to business.

This was one of those books that you read, and the thought goes through your head "You know, this would make an epic film. I guarantee anything that somebody will come along and recreate this on screen."

I don't say that about every book I read.

Woah. As I said earlier, I could totally imagine this book in film form. Now in order or me to state that, the plot would have to be pretty amazing, because I'm very particular when it comes to plots and movies. So yeah. The plot was amazing. I will say that the ending could have been a bit stronger, considering the labyrinth of plot twists and surprises along the way, but I wasn't upset with it.
The ending was probably the worst part in the book honestly.
Now, considering that the rest of the book's plotting was epic, this isn't saying it was a horrible ending. As I mentioned a priori, it just could've been a bit more forceful. I found it pretty vague, and even though I understood it to be an open ending, (those I'm actually very fond of, both in my own WIPs and other peoples') it still was terribly hazy.

 I almost suspect a sequel.

That being said, Friesen employs so many plot twists it's hard to keep track of them all. And many I'll admit are unforeseen and enter the story quite smoothly. I do love a good plot twist or two! (in this case, make that dozens!)

Let's just be honest. There are way too many dystopian books out there today. It feels like we've seen an influx of futuristic fiction in just the last several years. 2013 has been bombarded by the stuff.
Now, don't hate me for saying that... It's just what I observe. Dystopian is obviously quite a popular genre right now. And there's nothing wrong with that. But fact is, it's getting harder and harder to find a unique, distinguishable plot among the dystopian deluge of today.

I'm pleased to say, that Aquifer held its own.

 It is indeed a dystopian fiction involving a overly-powerful 'government'/dictator-like leaders,(a very common element employed today) and there are elements which do remind me of other works in the genre. For example, emotion is considered an illegal thing in Luca's world aboveground. The government cronies use devices called dials to determine if a person is manifesting/experiencing a 'unnaturally high' amount of emotion. And in the event that this happens, consequences occur.

I've seen similar details used in other apocalyptic works.
You could argue that the whole plot of a 'redeemer traveling beneath the surface' is unoriginal as well. But the truth is, there's nothing new under the sun.

Honestly? For a dystopian book of 2013, this is, in my opinion, very unique in its many aspects. There may be some elements which are common in today's dystopian book world, but overall?
Aquifer still stands as one unto itself.

Ah, the characters. This is always fun to discuss in book reviews.
Luca, first off, is an interesting fellow. He's presented as being nothing more than a scrawny kid in his mid-teens, but as the story progresses this seems to wear off and he emerges as something quite more masculine. His development is fascinating to observe; however, the transition between his immaturity and later maturity is a bit rocky.

His desire to express the rage of emotion within really touched me, because it's something I myself too often feel. While we in our everyday lives learn to hide some emotion vent it out later, can you imagine being forbidden to display any sort of emotive feeling at all? Considering this is what Luca must deal with on a day to day basis, I have a ton of empathy for him.

Luca's father, Massa, is an intriguing man. He is mostly seen as a man robbed of his memory (another doing of the power-hungry 'government cronies', or Amongus.) His development was also interesting to see.

I'll have to say my favorite character was probably Seward. I won't go into detail on his account because there's an awful lot of surprise twists concerning him, but he's a rough old pirate that drew my attention immediately, and soon after, my empathy. 

For the most part, the cast of characters was well developed. I thought Talya was a bit stereotypical, but with time she was sweet in her own way.

The world in which Luca dwells is not unlike that of many other dystopian tales. A dried up, spent earth with little resources left to spare for humanity's sustainment.
Luca lives in what is presumably a futuristic version of Australia - I found this tidbit pretty cool.
Friesen did a good job of describing the scenery and topography, of both the world beneath the surface and the world above. Vivid pictures formed in my head on both levels.

Underlying Theme(s):
I wasn't expecting to pick up a novel with Christian undertones, when I decided to review Aquifer.
But that's what I found myself reading. In the beginning, these underlying resonances were vague and easily interpreted in ways beyond a Biblical frame of mind. But as the story progressed, they became a bit more clear. The ending in particular sort of seals the deal, so to speak.
I've never seen Amazing Grace sung in a dystopian novel before. That is, until now.
The Bible was vaguely referenced in several places, and it's implied that it was a book most feared by the government cronies. At least, that's what I got from it.

Now, this being said, I wouldn't call Aquifer a distinctly 'Christian' book. Fact is, the Biblical references are so vague for the most part, that one could easily pass over many of them and not even notice.

I did appreciate their added nuances though. It enriched  the book in a subtly profound way.

Something else I appreciated among the underlying themes was the sanctity of human life. I always, always love to read books which push this. In this case, I believe a focus was clear on 'racial differences'. (Let it be known I never use the word 'racial', I consider it a very evolutionistic word, but I will make an exception here because it addresses the matter most clearly.) I definitely was approving of that emphasis, since racism has always infuriated me!

(On a 1 - 10 basis, 1 being the most mild and 10 the most extreme:)

Violence:  6. There is quite a lot of shooting and killing. Buckets of blood. Some scenes are more graphic than others but there continues to exist - especially toward the tail end of the book - a ton of fighting and death. People are shot down with arrows, a character is stoned to death, and people are executed by means of being handcuffed and thrown into the ocean.
Sexual Content: 2.  Any type of romance is virtually nonexistent until later in the book when Luca meets Talya. Nothing sexually explicit occurs in the book, overall.  Luca and Talya embrace often, in one such instance Luca describes feeling a "warm tingling in places he shouldn't." (paraphrased)

Overall? I flew through this novel because it was just that good. I read it in one day, and could've done so even quicker if it hadn't been that I was on vacation at the beach and wanted to get some time in with the family out in the sand and surf!

I would say this book ranks up alongside my favorite dystopian book this year, Mirriam Neal's "Monster". It's not quite on that level of epicness but it's *right* behind it!

Definitely a favorite in the dystopian genre in general. The writing is well-crafted and easy to read, without being too simplistic. Plotlines carry enough twists and surprise to trump The Hunger Games series (although I'll admit I didn't cry like I did reading those books), which I'd say is notorious for fateful twists and plot shocks. Characters are unique and well-developed for the most part, and the story's events pack a punch.

Overall? Reading this book was a thrilling experience and kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time.

In my opinion, Aquifer has major potential. I won't be surprised when it becomes the next big dystopian thriller of the year, or when it's made into a major motion picture that sells out across the country. (And if that happens, they just sure better get it right. Because if they don't...well, that would be very painful....for them.)

Oh and didn't anybody notice the uh-mazing cover of this book? Isn't it beautiful?

I think I'll attempt honing my fangirling of this thing into some drawings of the characters. *grins impishly*

Jonathan Friesen's Official Website | Buy Aquifer on Amazon

Note: I was provided an advanced-reading copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed remain mine and mine alone, and I never employ flattery or falsehoods in my reviews.


Sunday, August 18, 2013

Labradorite Viking Knit Necklace {review}

Hola amigas y amigos!
It's time for a long overdue review!
 I trust y'all have had a restful weekend? I have...for the most part. Took a small break earlier in the week, when my family and I had a short beach hiatus. It was pleasant, and I didn't write or edit for two days which was verrrry nice considering all the craziness involving the screenplay lately! Beach breaks can do a world of good y'all.
So, today I'm reviewing a unique handcrafted necklace from Odds and Ends by Kaley.
 It's a Labradorite Double Viking Knit necklace. It originally caught my eye with the title alone. I mean "double Viking knit". That tells you something right there doesn't it? Being a major fan of medieval and ancient styled things, I was immediately interested.
Unfortunately my pictures don't capture the beauty of this necklace.

According to the Etsy listing for this piece, "The technique used to make this necklace is called Viking Knitting, which has been around for centuries. This ancient method of weaving metal wire, forms an intricate, flexible chain, that looks like very detailed chainmaille. The stone paired with this hand woven chain is labradorite- believed by the eskimos to have the northern lights trapped inside.

This necklace was woven with a double viking knit weave in copper. The pendant at the base of the necklace is a gorgeous piece of faceted labradorite with a stunning flash blue flash (some green/gold/purple too!).  I have oxidized and polished the chain to give it an earthen finish. The necklace ends in a handmade S clasp that is easy to work yourself."

This is truly a piece that I would wear in my medieval garb/wardrobe. In fact, everything about it screams medieval to me! I absolutely adore the S clasp. It's one of my favorite things about this necklace.
The labradorite pendant is lightweight and lovely, and depending on how the light catches on it, it can
sport a number of varying hues. Beautiful!
And of course, the wire working is extremely intricate and I can't honestly say I've ever seen anything like it.

Overall verdict? It's a fascinating, lovely piece. If you are into medieval styled jewelry you should definitely check out Odds and Ends by Kaley! There are many other similar pieces, and also some contemporary themed accessories.
Hope everyone is having a blessed summer! I know a lot of people are starting up school once again. It's a crazy thought that the year is more than half-way in, isn't it?

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Garb For The Screenwriters {review}

Buenos dias, y'all!
(Ha that's a funny pairing of word choices, isn't it?)
I have another review for you today. A little while ago I was sent a Screenplay t-shirt from TheShirtDudes on Etsy.
As y'all probably know by now I'm a big fan of t-shirts. They're practical for a regular day (not to mention comfortable!)  of going about the typical routine, going to the store or doing practically anything that requires casual-wear.
So yeah. I like t-shirts.
I like this t-shirt for obvious reasons.
Obvious reason #1, it mentions screenplays and yes, I like this because I'm a screenwriter. It's kinda amusing - on the Etsy page for this shirt it says "Inside each of us, we are writing an epic cinematic screenplay. But just like life, it's ongoing and hardly seems to finish. Hang on you're almost there! Maybe you'll find new characters to your plot when you wear this unique shirt!"
Obvious reason #2, the design is cool. I like the little ink-well and feather pen paired with the swirly calligraphy loop under the text. The color scheme is a nice contrast, too.
Obvious reason #3, this is a very comfy shirt. Very durable/soft/breathable fabric.
Obvious reason #4, it's a t-shirt. How could it not automatically be a win?
The bottom line? Me gusta esto, mucho. (I like this shirt a lot!)
You should totally check out the TheShirtDudes for yourself. They have a wide, wide variety of different t-shirt designs. I think they'll also send you a cool vinyl sticker if you order something. (I have this "You've CAT to be KITTEN me right MEOW" sticker from them on my desk right now. *grins*)
So there you go. Plenty of reason to take a look at the shop! xD
Note: I was sent this item from TheShirtDudes in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed remain mine and mine alone.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Excuse Me While I Go Scream

Where did the time go? Last I checked it was still the beginning of summer and I was shocked that the year was five months in.
No. Actually, I remember February, and thinking ..."gosh it's February already!"
So let me repeat.
Where did the time go?
Seriously, people, how did we manage to get more than halfway into twenty-thirteen so quickly?
*sigh* Okay, okay, I'll calm down. Just going through ETTS, that's all. What's that? Oh sorry... Extensive traumatic time-lapse syndrome.
As you've probably noticed, I've not been very faithful in posting on this blog.
That's actually very intentional.
Okay, now just hear me out for a minute before you get all mad at me.
A good friend of mine had mentioned to me that she was going to stop blogging so that she could spend more time with her family and doing the things God had called her to do.
This made me think. I was already pondering if I was spending too much time blogging. I mean, my life is insanely busy and my energy is constantly being pulled a gazillion different directions. It's hard enough, WITHOUT four blogs to manage, getting everything done. That's just the truth.
It's very hard. I think if I could master time management to a T, then 99% of my stress would be gone.
I did this several years ago, I can do it again. It's time to cut stuff from the schedule.
Unnecessary things. Sadly, blogging is one of those.
Now don't get me wrong I'm not abandoning it completely. I think there is a great opportunity in blogging to witness and minister to people. I'm just going to do a LOT less of it. Especially here on Apassionata.
Please don't hate me. *sniffs* Please.
I don't know if this will help to distract y'all's attention from the news at hand, but here are two of my most recent drawings.
The first is entitled "Archer of the Cabra".
 The second is of my character Rosyar from Rehoboam. (Remember that snippet I posted a bit back? Yes, this is that dude.)

I like both drawings pretty well. Next up on the sketch agenda, several character portraits for some fellow writing friends. I've just been lazy about getting to them. Oh yeah, and I still have to draw this lilacs picture for my aunt.
 Anyway. Life has been good, despite the chaoticness of it. God's mercies never fail. Never.
So, what's been new with y'all?
 Random question: If you were going to a line dance, would you rather dress in a retro/50's theme/style, or western/country-esque? Yes this is a totally legit question.