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Welcome to Shadowhunter Academy:…
Welcome to Shadowhunter Academy: Shadowhunter Academy, Book 1
by Cassandra Clare, Devon Bostick (Narrator), Simon & Schuster Audio (Publisher)


This one was a cute short about Simon trying to live up to his own legacy (see previous many books) by going to Shadowhunter Academy. It's mostly funny almost a mockery of an anime high school heroes drama, but clearly setting up for a more serious tale about what it means to be a hero. Pointless to read without having read the other series, I expect, but an enjoyable lighter follow-up if you have.


Burned (An Alex Verus Novel) by Benedict…
Burned (An Alex Verus Novel)
by Benedict Jacka

Still enjoying this series, surprisingly, because this is around the point where the political drama and awful things happening to characters I love starts to wear on me. Still enough light in the dark, and it was nice to see some of the characters come to terms with each other.

Prez Vol. 1: Corndog in Chief by Mark…
Prez Vol. 1: Corndog in Chief
by Mark Russell, Sean Parsons (Illustrator), Ben Caldwell (Illustrator), Mark Morales (Illustrator), Dominike"domo"stanton (Illustrator)

In a not-so-distant future, corporate personhood and attention economy has led us to the point where a teenaged girl gets elected as president of the united states after she starred in a crappy video and a hacker group decided to push her as a viable 3rd candidate. This book chronicles her rise and her attempts to make something out of her figurehead presidency after all. This one jumps around a lot (likely an intentional choice) but is an interesting story at its core.


Delilah Dirk and the King's Shilling by…
Delilah Dirk and the King's Shilling
by Tony Cliff

Book 2 in this series is a bit less swashbuckling with a touch of Jane Austen, but still fun. Love the denouement with her relatives.


The Spirit Ring by Lois McMaster Bujold
The Spirit Ring
by Lois McMaster Bujold

Apparently I'd never read this Lois Mcmaster Bujold? This tale could be cast in the mold of "plucky girl hero saves the world" but with our young heroine's rage and willingness to bend the rules to get what she needs, it's a strangely strong story that quietly breaks many of the rules we quietly have about stories told about young heroes and women. Here is a heroine who doesn't feel guilt or uncertainty about her power and intelligence and rages against having to hide it, who gets angry, who doesn't follow the rules and this doesn't lead to downfall and repentance but rather to success. This is a quietly subversive story wrapped in a traditional fantasy mold. Sure, it's maybe not the epics and maybe isn't as full-package clever as her later works, but it's a surprising gem for its genre.
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Been a while since I did book reviews, eh? Not going to bother to catch up, but here are the books going back to the library this weekend:

Alien Proliferation (Alien Novels) by Gini…
Alien Proliferation (Alien Novels)
by Gini Koch

Amusingly, this is from the same series of the last book reviews I did, back in March! That was book 1, I'm now on book 4.

Series is still full of sexy aliens and crazy terrorist plots. Loving the characters and the way the author doesn't feel a need to pry apart established relationships in order to feed the drama. That actually matters quite a bit to me -- I get tired of longer series when they keep doing that, and here instead our main characters are growing into their relationships while chaos swirls around them. Less loving how brutal the bad guys were in this one. Still love the characters, but I might have to move this series from my personal "fun romp that will cheer me up" pile to a "read when you're ready" one.

Hair of the Dog (A Melanie Travis Mystery)…
Hair of the Dog (A Melanie Travis Mystery)
by Laurien Berenson

Also a book 4! This is a poodle mystery series my mom recommended to me after she saw how often I post pictures of dog shows (one of my coworkers breeds champion wolfhounds and I try to go out to some of his local shows when I can). It's a cozy mystery series set against a backdrop of dog shows, and it's everything I wanted in such a series. Sure, by book 4 it's getting a bit ridiculous that this amateur keeps getting surrounded by murders... but on the other hand, I can sort of see how police wouldn't get all the nuance of dog-show-based motives so at least our amateur sleuth has a clear role. It's been a while since I read the previous book, but book 4 had me right back into the swing of things in no time. Very fun!
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GSoC is, as usual, eating my life, but it's not so bad. If you're reading this and want to help mentor for Python, drop me a line, I have a project that needs help and is willing to train new folk.

But let's talk books in brief, since I've read a couple I enjoyed:



Touched by an Alien by Gini Koch



This title sounds like smut, and there's definitely some steamy scenes (The aliens look like supernaturally hot humans, because of course they do), but it's also a hilarious campy mashup of Men In Black combined with a romance novel, and it's *fun*. This one starts when protagonist Kitty walks out of a boring day of jury duty and sees a case of road rage turn into a savage and not-entirely-human attack. Thinking quickly, she jumps in to help... and in the aftermath, finds herself carted off to New Mexico by mysterious and hot government agents as a new recruit.

The weird combo of space-Judaism, code breaking, aliens and terrorists... well, you've got to read it to believe it. I'm particularly a fan of Kitty's mom, but I can't tell you why without spoilers. I've already got the next book from the library.



The Imager Portfolio (Series) by L.E. Modesitt, Jr.



The author's Recluce series marked the point at which I stopped asking questions about a friend's book recommendations and just started reading whatever he suggested. I haven't read all his other series, though, so I picked this up from the library because it was one where they had the first book. As I've come to expect, this one has fantastic world-building, politics and societal questions, characters I come to care about, and action to keep everything from getting too dense. I just finished the second book today.

This particular book is about a young man who starts his career at as a portrait painter, but as one might expect from the title, he eventually figures out that he has "imager" powers -- that's basically this world's version of a mage. Soon enough, he finds himself making powerful allies... and enemies. It's a serious study of power in the political/social arena, and while I do think it skirts the edge of being preachy at times, it's good enough that I don't mind, and I even found myself pausing to think about what the characters were saying more than once, and not just because I was knitting and needed to re-read passages if my mind wandered too much.
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Unsurprisingly, the Birchbox for January is new year's resolution themed. Here's the eye-searing outside:
Birchbox January 2016

And the contents:

Birchbox January 2016

So let's talk about 'em!

Birchbox January 2016

Key West Aloe Gentle Aloe Facial Cleanser

I know, I know, more lather doesn't equal more clean, but I love how this lathers up and it's so easy to see to rinse clean even if I'm exhausted when I head to bed. I normally don't think much about my cleanser, but this one feels like a treat. The person who described it as smelling like pina colada mix isn't wrong, but I like it.

I've tried a billion cleansers thanks to birchbox and most of them make very little impression on me. Since it's sometimes a struggle for me to remember to wash my face as much as I should, I figure anything that makes me actually happy about doing it is a good thing. I'm putting the full-sized version in my next birchbox order!


Birchbox January 2016
Birchbox January 2016
0.2 Meet Your Destiny® 0.2 Eau de Parfum - 50 ml

It's a perfume. While I don't immediately hate it, I also don't love it or even care about it. It's a grand meh on the perfume scale. The nicest thing I can say about it is that the incredibly meh "0.2" name goes well with the meh scent and the meh packaging.

update: okay, after putting it on my wrist and leaving it there while I wrote the rest of these reviews, I care about it enough to wash it off. bleh.

Birchbox January 2016
Ciaté® Nail Polish

I love getting nail polish samples and I'd never tried out Ciaté so I was pretty excited. It looks pretty neat on my nails, fairly different from the way it looks in the bottle. But unfortunately, that's where the fun ends for me: it's a fairly thick, textured polish (not a personal favourite) and it chips pretty easily so my mani only lasted two days. Maybe fun for a special event, but certainly not a daily wear for me. Alas!

It did look pretty for a day, though:
Birchbox January 2016

Birchbox January 2016
TONYMOLY Delight Tony Tint

Using this feels like I'm staining my lips with strawberries -- it's got that berry scent and a light liquid formula. I kind of love it! It's quickly become a favourite of mine because of the easy-to-pocket small curvy sample container. Do be careful on chapped lips: it can stain dry edges a bit more than other places and leave you uneven, but I've used this as motivation to remember to put on lip balm overnight so that I can use this in the morning.

Definitely nicer and easier to use than the benefit stain, maybe a bit less easy to use than the stainiac one, similar to the one I have from Sephora but the scent is more fun.

Birchbox January 2016

Birchbox January 2016
Eyeko Fat Liquid Eyeliner

This seems like a perfectly nice liquid liner, but I just can't seem to get the hang of using it even in a nice big easy-to-hold pen. I did manage to get some thinner lines without much difficulty, but I still end up with mis-matched eyes half the time I try. I guess at least there's lots of sample for me to practice with?


Birchbox January 2016

In conclusion...



I guess if I had to pick one of those stickers, I'd go with creativity, since when I thought about resolutions, I realized most of what I had were craft/maker goals. I think honestly, though, that it's less about creativity and more about refinement. My goals are mostly based on learning new techniques that complement what I know and using the skills I have more effectively, and about tackling bigger projects. That's honestly true across non-maker goals too.

I think this carries over to makeup: I'm feeling less like it's a fully creative endeavour and more like I'm in a slow skill-building phase. And this is good, because tuning the looks I can use at work is super useful, and also means I have a sense of subtle tweaks that make a difference in my continuing use of makeup as a social engineering tool. (everyone uses makeup that way, I'm just more intentional about it than some, I guess.)

Anyhow, overall, this was a good box for me: I loved the cleaner and the lip tint. While I didn't love the nail polish or eye liner, they were both products I'd considered paying for and I'm glad to know not to spend money on them. A few dollars of sample continues to be a much better investment for me than most full-sized products, even if I wind up with perfume samples every other box.

I've been wondering if I should give up my birchbox subscription when it comes up for renewal this summer since I've gotten myself into another yarn subscription and honestly, how many boxes does one gal need? But given the way I use makeup, it's still looking like a reasonable investment especially because it encourages me to keep my makeup fresh and toss old samples so I don't have bacteria-filled tubes of mascara around. Plus, I like the points system. I'll make a decision when the subscription comes due, though.
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Birchbox December 2015

I love the knitted fair-isle look of the December birchbox. So pretty! And in a rare circumstance, I was actually able to use the $10 coupon they provided (it looks like it'll be a gift cert, but it's actually just $10 off $35 worth of stuff in their shop. I had a couple of cutesy k-beauty things I wanted and I wanted to replace a lip balm that's gone AWOL in december, and with the coupon and my birchbox points, I got $40 worth of stuff for $0. The points system remains a serious benefit of the birchbox subscription!


Birchbox December 2015

jane iredale Just Kissed Lip and Cheek Stain

I would buy another of these in a heartbeat if I could get it in this sample size -- so classy looking and easy to slip into even the tiniest dress pant pocket! And it's a metal tube, which just make it feel way more posh than my usual plastic ones. I thought the orange colour would be over the top when I opened it up, but it turned a beautiful peachy tone when combined with my skin. Subtle and buildable on my cheeks especially.

Birchbox December 2015

My only complaint is that I've already crushed the top into the top of the tube twice. Apparently I don't know how to lipstick?

Birchbox December 2015

Silhouette by Christian Siriano Eau de Parfum 50ml

Meh, it's a perfume. This one was a bit more interesting than most because of the weird stopper-bottle sample container, but frankly it's a bit too much of a grey-haired classic scent to appeal to me, if I even wore scent. On the bright side, maybe it'll appeal to J's mom?

Birchbox December 2015

gorge* I’ll Make You Look Amazing Daily Spray

I've been using the Beauty Protector Protect & Detangle spray since I tried it in my Birchbox many moons ago. This sadly doesn't seem to detangle as much (it doesn't claim to, but I really like that about BP) but it's a pleasant enough alternative scent that I'm happy to have it to try! Alas, it looks to be about twice as expensive since the bottle is half the size, so I don't think it'll make it into regular rotation for me.


Birchbox December 2015

Coastal Scents® styleEYES Palette

The gold is lovely with the perfect amount of shimmer on my lids. I wish the green had the same pay-off! It's a little more washed out and not as shimmery. Neither had a lot of staying power without a primer, but eyeshadows rarely do for me so I'm not sure if that's a function of my eyes or my unwillingness to spend $$$$ on eyeshadow when I rarely wear it.

Nice sample, though, with a little magnetic lid.

Birchbox December 2015

(MALIN+GOETZ) clarifying clay mask

This is a pleasant clay face mask: cools the face a little while drying due to evaporation, gritty texture encourages thorough face washing after. I found it a bit more annoying to remove than most, but the careful face wash is probably part of why my skin feels nice afterwards, so I guess it's just part of the experience!

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