Monday, October 31, 2011

5 Things Make a Post*

1. Happy Halloween! I am dressed as a witch for our costume contest at work today and you should have seen the looks I got at the gas station this morning! If I can get someone else to take a picture, I'll post it here later.

*Edited to add photo:

Scary, right?

2. Is anyone else watching "Project Accessory"? Finally...a show for all of us wannabe professional jewelry designers!

3. Is it just me or is original Nyquil the worst tasting thing EVER? If it wasn't the only thing that lets me sleep when I have a cold, I'd never take it again because DAYAMMMM does it taste like sh*t.

4. I have had that "Moves Like Jagger" song stuck in my head for about a week now. It's a great song, but every time I hear it I have to wonder why anyone would hold up Mick Jagger's moves as "cool." To me he looks a lot like a chicken undergoing electro-shock therapy.

5. I'm feeling "resinable"! New artwork, new bezels in different shapes and colors. I did a lot of prep work over the weekend but am still waiting for some of the newer items I ordered to come in. Stay tuned!!


*short post idea shamelessly stolen from author Sharon Lee's blog.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Book Review: "Crossroads"

First off, thank you so much to everyone for the supportive comments last week. I'm sorry for all the emotional spewage, but I guess I had just reached my limit and couldn't contain things any more. Plus, I figured somewhere out there in Blog-land, there had to be someone (or several someones) who had some experience with these issues and could offer some advice. and I was right! Extra special thainks to those of you who took time to message me privately and share your experiences and insights. I no longer feel so totally alone and that's a HUGE gift!

Okay, enough of that. On to the book review.

This review is for "Crossroads" by Jeanne C. Stein. It's #8 in the Anna Strong Chronicles. Anna is a bounty hunter in San Diego by trade and a vampire as a result of an unfortunate run-in with a particular perp she chases down in Book 1. I'm a fan of the series overall (obviously, since I'm up to Book #8) because of the strong female lead character and because of the way the traditional "vampire" elements of the story are handled. Stein did some careful picking and choosing about which elements she kept and why they work and I think that gives the series some unique attributes that set it apart from all the rest of the vamp lore out there.

Unfortuantely, Book #8 is, for me, the weakest in the whole series.

I'm not sure if that's because the original plot line kind of came to a head in the last book and this is meant to be a "pause" before the action picks up again or if I just find a slower-paced book less interesting personally.

Some other elements that led me to be disappointed in it include a long road trip (hard to have much action when you're stuck in a car for two days), secondary characters that aren't around long enough to justify their existence in the first place and...skinwalkers.

It may just be a pet peeve of mine, but the skinwalker device has just been SOOOO overused. Perhaps it's not bothersome if you don't read a lot of fantasy/sci-fi (or Tony Hillerman!) and you haven't run across it before, but I could name 10 series without even trying that have already used it. I'm just over it.

The one thing I did like about this book is Anna making a conscious choice about whether to remain a vampire and, if she does, what kind of vampire she will be and what type of future she will fight for. It's an important step in her evolution as a heroine and, in my opinion, makes her more powerful as she goes forward on her own terms. It's possible the author was so focused on getting through this element of the overall story arc, that the specific storyline of the individual novel suffered around it.

Oh, and I didn't like that a supporting character that I'm rather fond of essentially gets written out.

If you like vampire stories and strong female heroines, I definitely recommend the series starting with Book 1. I wouldn't start with this installment. If you like the series enough to get all the way to this book, you'll probably want to read it as a means of keeping current with the storyline and bridging to the next book. This is definitely not the entry point to this particular "universe."

Next week, I'll be review "Ghost Story" by Jim Butcher. This book came out a while ago, but as this series ranks up near #1 on my all-time favorite list, I've been sort of hoarding it for a while. Being sick over the last couple of weeks was the perfect time to treat myself to it.

Stay tuned!


Friday, October 21, 2011

Blogus Interrupticus

Wow...the last two weeks since I posted just kinda flew by, right? And there was gonna be jewelry, too. Really, I swear there was.

But then, life happened.

And then sickness happened.

And I learned that life + sickness cancels out jewelry and writing and pretty much anything creative.

I'll just mention now that this may end up being a long-ish and possibly emotional post, so if you're not down with that...well, you were warned.

If you've been reading the blog a while, you know I've been dealing with teacher issues at my son's school since last year as well as facing ADD testing/diagnosis for him.

On the up side, after last year's total debacle, we seem to have a phenomenal teacher this year. She's creative, organized and engaged. She has been patient with me e-mailing her (probably a little too much) and, amazingly enough, she E-MAILS ME BACK!

The down side is that I had Ryan tested last Spring and the results came back showing positive correlation for the inattentive type of ADD. I'll be honest and say I've struggled with that knowledge ever since. It's not that I don't believe in the diagnosis, it's that I find it so difficult to accept that my sweet, wonderful, bright boy is going to have to struggle with this issue all the way through school and beyond.

And yeah, I'm also struggling with other people's reactions to hearing about it. If I have one more person tell me it's my fault for letting him watch too much TV, I may not be responsible for my actions.

Once I got over the news about it, the question became "okay, what do we do now?" I met with the principal at his school at the end of the year last year and got the school to agree that Ryan qualifies for what's called "504 status" which means he gets some special accommodations like getting to sit up front, getting extra time for homework, etc. I also laid down the law about how I expected a better teacher assignment for him this year.

Given that his grades and test scores are all okay (basically B's and scoring at or above grade level in almost everything), I wanted to see how he'd do with a better teacher this year in 3rd grade so that's where things left off at the end of last year.

Now we're almost two months into 3rd grade and I'm starting to see the damage that the crappy teacher from last year did. Ryan is struggling with staying on task in the classroom both from the amount of work and the amount of self-organization and self-direction that is required (neither of which did he have to keep up with last year). He continues to do well on his tests, but he is coming home with piles of incomplete classwork each night that we are having to do ON TOP OF the actual homework.

Now, I would like to say that I am super-mom and can manage a full day of work, pick up the kid, cook dinner, get him through all his classwork AND homework, get the kitchen cleaned up, get the toys picked up, get the shower done, and get through the bedtime routine all with a Donna Reid smile on my face.

And some nights, I can.

But most of the time, I arrive home from work already exhausted, wanting to only provide dinner that we picked up in a drive-thru. I am certainly not in the mood to repeat 3rd grade math and grammar exercises with patience and a smile. I used to be able to leave Ryan at the table working on his homework while I relaxed for a few minutes or got dinner started, but he's reached the level where his inattentiveness does not allow him to stay on task without me at his elbow prompting him to keep going. And I am starting to picture myself glued to his side to get ANYTHING done for the entire rest of his school career - obviously, that's just not practical nor is it good for his ongoing growth.

A new wrinkle is developing in that he is starting to get frustrated with the amount of work, how hard it is for him to push all the way through it and, frankly, how sick he is of me preaching at him about "getting it done." I don't blame him - I'm sick of me, too. But this frustration he has is starting to boil over in some attitude and defiance that he NEVER had before. He's ALWAYS been my super-cheerful, sweet kid. His most frequently uttered phrase (until recently) has been "Sure, Mom."

Obviously, what we've been doing up to this point is no longer working. I need help. So, I tried setting up appointments with the ADD specialists that his testing doctor referred us to. Guess what? NONE of them are in my health care network and my current plan has NO out of network option. So, I was just forced to switch to a plan that costs 3X as much for the whole next year so that I can get to some of these doctors.

Did I mention that Ryan's dad pays $0 child support and $0 towards his health care (or activities or anything else for that matter). Did I also mention that due to the economy there've been no (or drastically reduced) bonuses and no raises or promotions at my job for the last 3 years?

So, yeah, that was a painful decision, but obviously, I need to get him seen by the right people even if it means waving bye bye to the last of my savings.

In the meantime, I've been reading as many books and websites on ADD as I can get my hands on and I've learned a couple of things:

1. It's not my fault. It's genetic. And you only have to look at his dad to see where the gene came from. So, I could have let Ryan watch NO TV for the last 8 years and he'd still be this way.

2. The experts are all saying I have to at least try putting him on medication (probably Ritalin)

3. My logic center is persuaded that's the right next course of action, but my emotions (and certain family members) are torturing me over the idea of putting an 8-year-old on a brain-chemical-altering medication.

All that has led up to several weeks of not sleeping, eating crappy food, and multiple crying jags so I guess it shouldn't have been a surprise when I started to come down with a nasty cold in the middle of last week. I'm getting over it now, but still dealing with a nasty cough.

Fun, right?

You feel all uplifted and happy after reading this post, I'm sure. And I do normally try to keep it pretty upbeat around here, but y'know, sometimes the crap just hits the fan and I have to let it out or totally lose my mind (partial mind loss has already occurred, but I'm determined to hold onto the scraps that are left).

Happier times are ahead, I hope. I'm going to move forward with trying the medication with Ryan and hoping that helps both of us along with some counseling (mostly for me so I can learn to deal with the stress better).

That's it for today. I know I'm behind on book reviews and will try to get caught up. Look for one early next week.


Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Book Review: "Ghost Ship"

Thanks, everyone, for the comments yesterday. It's amazing how bead porn brings out the blog traffic *snicker*.

And now on to this week's book review:

I first stumbled across the Liaden Universe books quite by accident. I was on some other author's website (Anne McCaffrey's, I think?) and there was mention of these books. And then later, I saw a blip about them somewhere else and it just kept going like that with these maddening little hints about how fantastic this series was and how all the SF/F writers were raving about it, but I couldn't find the books in the bookstore.

Thank goodness for because once I got the first book in my hands, I could see what all the buzz was about and I wanted more, more, MORE! I gobbled up every book in the series until I got to the very last page of "I Dare" and went "what do you mean there's no MORE?"

Like a junkie hunting for her next fix I went on the internet, found the authors' website and blogs and discovered what a total mess the failing publishing industry had made of my opportunity to get more of these books. If you want the whole story, you can sleuth around like I did on the website, but basically a publisher went out of business before the newer books could be contracted for and/or published.

Whereupon the authors took a rather remarkable risk and decided to write the next book, "Fledgling", live (without a net) on the internet where the fans could read it for free (although donations via Paypal were graciously accepted). This turned out to be such a success that the next book, "Saltation", was done the same way. Finally, enough interest was garnered that Baen Books picked the series back up again, published "Fledgling" and "Saltation" and now, at long last, "Ghost Ship."

All that was a really long-winded way of saying that while this is a great book, I don't recommend you start here. There are a few different potential entry points into the Liaden Universe:

1. "Local Custom" is my preferred entry point. I think it does the best job of setting up the family lines that are followed in the later books. This is also the best entry point for those who like a little more love story in their books

2. "Crystal Soldier" would be the entry point for those who like to REALLY start at the beginning of things i.e. the complete back story behind the origin of Clan Korval, the Tree, etc. However, in my personal opinion, this book and its sequel, "Crystal Dragon", are much richer and, frankly, make more sense, if you've already read all the later books. But that's just me...your mileage may vary.

3. Finally, I've heard that a lot of people start the series with "Agent of Change" which is the beginning of the plotline that ultimately takes the reader up through the book I just finished, "Ghost Ship." This would be the best entry point for those who want their books to tilt more towards the action/thriller end of things. There's still just happens on the run.

Now that you know a bit more about the series, its history, etc., on to "Ghost Ship" itself. It has all the normal hallmarks of a Liaden Universe book: romance, action, humor, spaceships, magic, etc. And, after sticking with her through three books (and the years it took to get them from internet to actual publication), it's great to see Theo kind of grow up and come into her own as a pilot and as a member of Clan Korval. Not that she doesn't have problems...I mean how would you like it if a sentient (and potentially deadly) spaceship was following you around the galaxy like a stray puppy?

Meanwhile, back on planet Surebleak, Clan Korval and its new delm (leaders) are trying to get themselves sorted out after the events at the end of "I Dare."

If the book has one flaw, it's that it has SO many plotlines to tie up from the old series and launch for the books going forward that it gets a little bit snippy and short-handed in places. In fact, I know I would have been much more confused by some of the goings-on had I not been keeping up with the short stories (out-takes) that fill in some of the missing bits. Still, I enjoyed it more than both of its predecessors and besides, another hallmark of these books is that the authors really make you WORK for it as a reader. I've often had to go back and re-read certain bits or entire books before I finally figured out "oh, THAT's how that worked."

Truthfully, I can't say anything bad about this book or the whole series. The worst book Lee & Miller have written is still LIGHT YEARS better than just about anything else. You can't go wrong with this series...wherever you start to pick up the storyline.

Next week's review will be "Crossroads" by Jeanne C. Stein.


Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Weekend Update and "Lite" Bead Porn

There was supposed to be some jewelry posted here. Really, there was.

Then the weekend happened. Which, correct me if I'm wrong, is SUPPOSED to be when you get to do your hobbies and relax and stuff, right?

It's not supposed to involve a Saturday filled with swimming lessons, dropping the car off for an oil change, delivering lunch to Grandma's house, picking up stuff at the Cub Scout store that we HAD to have for this week's meeting, checking the bird store to see if they had Nutriberries back in stock yet (no...and the parrot is threatening to go on strike any minute now until he gets his favorite treat back!), picking the car up after the oil change and taking Grandma out to dinner.

Nor is Sunday supposed to involve a migraine headache which could only be assuaged with copious amounts of pills, darkness, and (eventually...after partially subsiding for a while) a marathon of Season 2 of the "Vampire Diaries."

Hence no jewelry.

And I thought it would be weird to do two book review posts in a row (especially since no one seems to like them anyway) so, when all else fails, you get porn :-) It's "lite", though, because, as you may or may not have heard, there's a recession on.

These lovely floral bead caps snipped from vintage tins are from Donna Millard. Mostly she makes gorgeous-but-out-of-my-price-range lampwork, however, she has started to sprinkle a few of these into her listings.

Perfect for fall chestnut chain from my favorite color chameleon: Miss Fickle Media. Unlike most of bead porn, this chain has actually already made it into a design which you can check out here.

And since I can never get enough "fickle", I grabbed this ember red clasp, too.

Then it was off to marathon-buy some lovely enamel pieces like these cute birds.

And their darker, more mysterious cousins.

And some hearts I thought would be great for Valentine's Day designs.

So I got more than one color. These are all from Gardanne.

I'm not normally a fan of the "house" shape or theme, but I do love me some madras plaid (yes, the 80's and "The Preppie Handbook" scarred me for life) so I had to pick up this darling polymer clay pendant from Menagerie Studio.

Barbara Bechtel over at Floridity is doing some amazing new designs with this distressed watercolor finish - I love the brighter colors and thought these would make darling earrings!

And, of course, my obsession with anything ocean-related goes on. Every time Heather at Humble Beads posts any of these urchin-themed pieces, I go nuts.

Spirited Earth has quickly become one of my favorite sources for ceramic focals. Sometimes ceramics can be really huge and a little overwhelming to work with so I like it when there are some more "petite" offerings available like this cute little flower.

This green and brown forest moth pendant is also from Spirited Earth. It's an unusual color combination for me, but I am trying to push myself past my "tried and true" colors this year both in my purchases and in my designs.

I just had a necklace published in "Creative Jewelry" featuring one of these copper raku seashells from Star Spirit Studio. The one in the magazine has more blue/gold/pink tones in it while these are more true copper, but they are all great pieces and I love working with the raku and all the different colors you can find in it.

I think the true test of a lampwork bead is when it looks so yummy you have to remind yourself that it is NOT candy and that no, you are not allowed to eat it. These pretty, enamel-dappled disks from Flame Crazy definitely pass that test.

And then I saw these on the same site and was reminded of Monet's paintings, my personal fave, so they had to come home with me, too.

Okay, so these would never remind you of candy, but isn't the finish on them so unusual and FANTASTIC? They really look more like rocks from the desert than lampwork. I found them at Outwest.

I'm still hoping to get a book review and (maybe?) some jewelry up later this week...even though the craziness continues with Cub Scouts tonight (all the Bear Scouts are now considered old enough to be presented with their official pocket knives and start learning to whittle with them this evening...which I'm not sure I'm totally 100% okay with because I'm afraid the walls of the house might start sporting carved designs a la petroglyphs pretty soon), then Back to School night on Thursday, then orthodontist and swimming again on Saturday. AAAGGHHHH!

And yeah, I know, everyone with kids is this busier (or, gak!, even busier), but it's the having to do every single solitary bit of it all by myself with never a break or anyone to split the duty with after working a full day at the office AND getting the kid through his homework (plus the leftover classwork that didn't get done because of his ADD) that is wearing me out. I'm sure the migraine is partially from stress and not enough down time.

It's becoming clear to me that I have got to figure out a way to inject some balance into my life, but how to do that with a full-time job (which I'm stuck with due to being the sole breadwinner and provider of insurance) is beyond me. If anyone has a great inside stock top or surefire lotto numbers they want to pass on, I'll be standing by with my trusty pencil to take notes.