It’s MerMay! Let’s have Mermaids in Wonderland!

If you are not familiar with MerMay, let me direct you here, and then note that while I am not an artist, I am a colorist. And I love mermaids, the odder the better! Finding a non-Disney type mermaid coloring book was a treat!

Mom found this glorious coloring book back in April, and I fell in love with it so badly that I hunted through every local Barnes & Noble store until I found my own copy. It is not often I feel the need to own a coloring book that badly!

Mermaids in Wonderland is a 10 by 10 inch book, with 96 pages of beautiful images of mermaids and other sea life. The paper is a really nice smooth midweight, that takes color with ease without too much bleed through. The pages are double-sided, so bleed-through was something of a worry until I experimented a little.

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Colored with Tombow Dual Brush Markers

The first half of the book has white pages, while the second half is done with black pages. These make for some stunning pictures!

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Such a pretty turtle!!

Mermaids in Wonderland isn’t just another coloring book, it is a puzzle-solving adventure! Throughout the pages, cleverly  woven in are clues to riddles that need to be solved. These riddles work in concert, creating a story that you can be a part of. The only other coloring book I can compare this to is Johanna Basford’s Ivy and The Inky Butterfly.

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I think the best parts of this book are the mermaids doing nonstandard mermaid things. There are mermaid (and mermen!) adventurers, acrobats, and warriors. There are salons, restaurants, and amusement parks! There are mermaids from almost every possible culture, from a Chinese Dragon Dance to Native American hunters to European nobility. Unlike most mermaids drawn, there are almost no clamshell bras! It seems to be a function of fashion rather than a statement of sexuality, which is refreshing! The Mermaids of Wonderland have amazingly details on both their clothing and their scales.

Marcos Chin is a new artist to me, Mermaids is one of his three coloring books so far. He has also drawn Fairies in Wonderland and Elves in Wonderland. If they are as good as Mermaids, I’ll be adding them to my collection at some point soon!

Disability Notes: Other than noting that some designs have more complicated linework than others, I have no complaints. Those pages are being set aside for a day when my hands don’t shake.

Where to buy: Mermaids in Wonderland is available on at the HarperCollins Publishers website, as well as Barnes & Noble and Amazon. The book’s MSRP is $15.99 but some locations are selling it for less.

Marcos Chin : Website / FaceBook

Disclosure: I bought this coloring book to use for this review. The opinions are my own. All art shown on this post is Copyright ©Marcos Chin and Harper Design 2017. The coloring is mine. All links are direct, I do not make money from them.

Thanks for reading, and please click the Follow Button under my profile on the right side of the page. To support posts like this in the future, consider joining my Patreon!

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Feeding the Troll, Blogging and Services Rendered.

Spouse-Critter says “Arguing with a troll is like wrestling with a pig. Both of you will get dirty, but only the pig is having fun.” He is most likely right, but I need to post this.

Back in December, I received this comment on my Day 8 Christmas post. I didn’t see it until after December 22, as I’d been in New York on family business.

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This person, hereafter referred to as Troll, chose not to leave a name or email so I could not contact them.  Now, as a point of order, I have to, in fairness, point out that there is no reliable way to convey tone within text. So the little disapproving “church lady” tone I read this comment in is entirely in my own head.

I was hurt, and at the time did not have the words to explain. So I spent a few months being alternately angry/frustrated and depressed. Never a good combo. I fought my way to the surface, spoke to my representatives at various companies, and spoke to both professional writers and other bloggers. I was introduced to a novel concept. If I’m being trolled, then I’m doing something right!

So I started blogging again. I put myself out there, solicited new companies for reviews and worked out a schedule that worked for me.

Then I woke up this morning to this:

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Sorry Troll 2.0, this time I have the words.

The thing is, every product I receive must be logged at either wholesale or retail value and I MUST pay taxes on them. The IRS doesn’t care; I cannot pay my taxes in puzzles and coloring books. I can and do sell some of the products I receive after doing my reviews, but that doesn’t generate enough income to pay taxes, much less regular bills. Other products  I donate to my local VA, senior center, and children’s hospital; because I believe in sharing.

I am disabled, but I fall in that not-so-small category of people who are in the process of applying for benefits, but not receiving any yet. Spouse-Critter works a good job, but his job doesn’t include health care or much in the way of extras. If I want to buy products to review, like LEGO® or high-end wooden puzzles, I need income to do so. That is why I have both Patreon and Ko-fi set up. If you read my Patreon, you’d see that I have it set as a way to sponsor different projects.

I’m of the opinion that if professional authors and other bloggers have Patreon accounts, then there is no reason why I cannot as well. Patreon is a platform to pay for services rendered. I write and do projects, and I recieve money for services rendered. Effectively, it makes my hobbies into a job. As for the accusation of being shameless and asking for money? Have you read my disclaimer at the bottom of each post? I’m not begging. I ask you to consider it. Being a patron is a choice!  You can choose to be one, or you can choose not to. Simple.

Thanks for reading, and please click the Follow Button under my profile on the right side of the page. To support posts like this in the future, consider joining my Patreon!

Lucky Timing and Diamond Art

Have you ever made a split-second frivolous decision? I’m really glad I made this one!

Just after Christmas last year, My friend Sammi let me know that there were diamond art kits on clearance at our local Walmart. I was laid up due to the weather and SAD, so I asked her to pick one out for me.

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This is a Dazz™ Dimensional Diamond Art™. Dazz™ is made by Horizon Group USA, an arts and crafts company. They were only available at Walmart for a limited amount of time before being discontinued by the company.

This is a partial drill diamond art, meaning that parts of the canvas are printed, and not meant to be covered by gems(AKA drills). Dazz™’s  kit is amazingly well set out! The canvas is bright and large, the drills are well labeled, and the instruction sheet is the best I’ve seen!

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Close up of the canvas

I found the drill chart to be easy to read in daylight, though I struggled when my eyes tired. This is the largest diamond art kit I’ve done to date, measuring 16 by 20 inches. The surface is roughly ¾ covered by drills and so it took me almost 2 weeks to finish.

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So many gems!!!

 

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All Done!!

I’m incredibly happy with how this kit turned out! The colors are vibrant and the drills adhere amazingly well. I’ve done a few kits since being introduced to diamond painting last year, and Dazz™ is ranking right up there as one of the best. I’m going to be framing this, but that post will be on the Patreon.

Please, Horizon Group USA! Bring these back! Or at least send me your discards!

QUALITY: 

  • Box: Small, thin and compact, Easy storage
  • Image Quality: Excellent, great color saturation
  • Finish: Glittery without the glitter!
  • Difficulty Level: Intermediate
  • Gem Shapes: Round
  • Gem Fit: Very Good.

Disability Notes: I can definitely recommend this for a person whose hands have good and bad days. I worked on a lapdesk on the couch, and other than my butt going numb, it was a very comfortable project to work on.

Where to buy: I’m sad to say you can’t, unless you get very lucky on Ebay. I’ve looked. If you were lucky enough to buy one of these last winter, congrats!!

Disclosure: I bought this diamond art kit for review. The opinions are my own. All links are direct, I do not make money from them. All images of Dazz™ Dimensional Diamond Art™ are ©Horizon Group USA 2018.

Thanks for reading, and please click the Follow Button under my profile on the right side of the page. To support posts like this in the future, consider joining my Patreon!

Sunny May Days and Baseball!

Tonight my baseball team, the Boston Red Sox will play against the Seattle Mariners.

Team loyalty is a strong human trait. Most people “choose” their sports teams early in childhood and rarely switch them. I’m no different. My first baseball memory is my Grandpa Roy (maternal grandfather) taking my brother and I to a game when I was around 8 or 9. That was 30 years ago. Grandpa Roy was a diehard Mets fan, and while he failed to give me a love of the Mets, he did teach me to love baseball.  At the time, I was living in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Naturally, I was a Red Sox girl. When we moved to Upstate NY, I found myself in enemy territory. The dread Yankees merchandise was everywhere!  I clung to my beloved Sox fandom, throughout the long years of no Pennants or World Series wins. I celebrated with the rest of the Red Sox Nation when in 2004 we broke the Bambino’s Curse at last!

When I saw the new puzzles that MasterPieces  and Major League Baseball had created, I knew I needed to do one! This is the Boston Red Sox 500 Piece Home Plate Shaped Jigsaw Puzzle, which is a mouthful to say! Thankfully, the title tells you all the pertinent details; it’s 500 pieces, is shaped like home plate, and features the Red Sox! This puzzle is officially licensed by the MLB.

I don’t have my usual frame picture, because I started to assemble the puzzle on my new puzzle board, not having checked to see if it would fit first! Ooops! I ended up having to slide my frame onto the puzzle board SC made me. Shaped puzzles can be tricky, as the nonstandard dimensions may not fit on your puzzling surface.

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This was a really fun, and challenging puzzle. Not only is it a shaped puzzle, but it has 5 shaped pieces, known as whimsies. The whimsies are larger than all the other pieces, and added to the difficulty. That being said, this is a random cut puzzle and the pieces fit together amazingly well.

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Home plate, cleat, glove, cap, and jersey

I haven’t been to Fenway Park since I was a little girl. I live in Virginia now, but visit family and friends outside Boston often. Eventually, I’ll get a chance to cheer my Sox in their home stadium like I did as a kid. In the meantime, I watch from home and wear my colors proudly!

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PUZZLE SPECS

  • Company: MasterPieces® Inc.
  • Title: Boston Red Sox 500 Piece Home Plate Shaped Jigsaw Puzzle
  • Artist: Not listed
  • Year released: Unknown
  • Pieces: 500
  • Cut-Style: Random
  • Finished size: 22x 22 in
  • Bonus poster: No
  • Made from recycled materials
  • Made in China

QUALITY: 

  • Box: Sturdy but lightweight, 10.5 x 10.5 x 2 inches
  • Board: Medium thickness, recycled chipboard
  • Cut: Cut with a steelcut die
  • Image Quality: Excellent, great color saturation
  • Finish: Semi-gloss
  • Puzzle Dust: Minimal
  • Piece shapes: Irregular pieces and 5 whimsy pieces
  • Piece Fit: Very good, small clusters of pieces could be moved without falling apart

Where to buy: Boston Red Sox 500 Piece Home Plate Shaped Jigsaw Puzzle is available on the MasterPieces website for $19.99 USD.

MasterPieces Puzzles: Website / FaceBook

Disclosure: I received a complimentary puzzle from the manufacturer in exchange for review. The opinions are my own. All links are direct, I do not make money from them.

Thanks for reading, and please click the Follow Button under my profile on the right side of the page. To support posts like this in the future, consider joining my Patreon!

Puzzle Board as a Disabilty Aid?

Living with a chronic disease sucks. When it is one that also happens to be invisible, life can be very hard indeed. Like many people, I have a ton of hobbies. Most of those hobbies form the basis of this blog and do double-duty as a way to keep my brain and body active. Puzzling and diamond art are wonderful mental exercises, but they are absolute murder on my back and neck.

Over the last few years, I’ve had to accept that mobility aids are a part of life. They help me expand my quality of life. So I’ve been looking at different products that other puzzlers use to help them. When I was at Toy Fair, I was intrigued by their puzzle board and the possibility that it could help me on bad days.

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The board  came in a rather intimidating box, but once the travel packing was removed it revealed a really nice traveling box.

I was really surprised to find that the puzzle board comes pre-assembled. This is already saving me spoons! The board is beechwood with a blue velour covering. It is 20 inches high by 27 inches long and somewhere between 15-20 lbs.  Ravensburger says it can handle puzzles from 300 to 1000 pieces. It has 4 possible settings, so that you can adjust the tilt to your preferred angle.

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I decided to test the puzzle board in my two main puzzling locations, on the coffee table in the living room as well as on my bed in the bedroom. The velour cloth that covers the puzzle board creates a slightly static environment that allows pieces to stay in place on the board, even when the board is at its most extreme tilt.

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Hurricane resting under my puzzle and not on it!

I found that I liked the third notch position, and that my puzzling was much less painful after several hours. The non-slip velour kept my pieces on the board and the few that fell were caught by the ledge at the bottom. My back and neck didn’t cramp up from leaning over! The only issue I had it that the puzzle I started didn’t fit the board! this was my fault, because it was a specialty shaped puzzle and I forgot to check the dimensions before starting.

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Yes, my messy bed. With SC out-of-town, I live in a nest of blankets.

I also tried puzzling on the bed. the puzzle board’s base is too long to fit my bedtable, but I found that I was equally comfortable balancing it on my legs or sitting cross-legged with it on the bed itself. Obviously, I couldn’t spend as long puzzling in bed; my legs have issues being stuck in the same position for long periods of time. However, I was able to assemble a 100 piece puzzle and not overstress myself. Due to the nature of my illness, I expect that the puzzle board and I will be great friends this next winter!

Because I live with cats, when not in use, I’ll be keeping the board in its travel box. I’ll also be investing in a really good lint roller! Overall, I think this will be a wonderful aid in my puzzling. At least now I have a way to assemble larger puzzles in bed on bad days!

QUALITY: 

  • Box: Sturdy cardboard with a plastic travel handle
  • Board:  Lightweight Beechwood, sturdy wooden pieces, blue velour surface
  • Finish: Semi-gloss
  • Weight: Estimated 15-20 lbs
  • Dimensions: 20 x 27 inches

Disability Notes: Obviously, there is the weight of the board if you have any weight restrictions. If you cannot lift 20 lbs, have someone help you move the puzzle board to your preferred puzzling location. Like most Ravensburger products, you will pay for the quality. That being said, saving up for a puzzle board is much like saving up for any upgrade to a mobility aid. I don’t need the shiny glow-in-the-dark cane tips. But I like them and they make my life easier.

Where to buy: At the moment, the only place you can buy a Ravensburger Puzzle Board is at one of their physical store locations. The price of the Puzzle Board is not listed on the website, but I did a bit of research and found that it retails for $149.99 USD on EBay and Amazon.

Ravensburger : Website / FaceBook

Disclosure: I received a complimentary puzzle board from the manufacturer in exchange for review. The opinions are my own.All links are direct, I do not make money from them.

Thanks for reading, and please click the Follow Button under my profile on the right side of the page. To support posts like this in the future, consider joining my Patreon!

Traveling From My Couch, and Happy Birthday Eric Dowdle!

Okay, to explain my title for this post… Yesterday, May 2nd, was Eric Dowdle’s 51st birthday. I’m incredibly fond of Eric’s artwork, which is the basis of Dowdle Puzzles. For his birthday, Dowdle puzzles is having a 51% off sale that ends today, May 3rd. Code: ERICBIRTHDAY

What? you’re still reading?!? Scroll to the bottom of my post, hit the link to the Dowdle website and get shopping! I’ll wait…

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You’re back? Ok. So the other part of my title has to do with the fact that SC has been out-of-town for a week now, and I’ve been busting butt and stressing more than usual. So of course, my body decided I needed a few days of pain flares and unbelievable fatigue. No matter how much I wanted to be active and do a ton of chores, I just didn’t have the spoons.  Thankfully, SC reminded me I’d received a wooden travel puzzle at Toy Fair.

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Dowdle’s Travel Puzzles were not what I expected! Most travel puzzles are either magnetic or have too small a piece count to be a challenge. This is a wooden puzzle where the image is giclee-printed directly unto the wood before being laser cut. At 150 pieces, there is enough complexity to keep my fuzzy brain engaged.

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Such pretty pieces!

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As you can see in the above picture, the pieces fit snugly in the frame, which works just as well on my lapdesk as it would in a car, train, or hotel room! Like the other wooden puzzles I’ve done, to connect the pieces, you have to slide one piece on top of another. Due to the precision of laser cutting, this makes for a really tight fit.  While I was assembling this puzzle, I watched a documentary on Roman Catacombs, just so I’d have the full “travel experience”. 

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I really love the sheer number of animals that Eric has managed to fit into one image! There are the usual suspects: lion, elephants, giraffes and hippos. But there are some real surprises as well. I found a fennec fox, African painted dogs, a rhinoceros beetle and even a tortoise!

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All Done!

The best part of this puzzle? It’s so easy to store! It is only a quarter-inch high, and a little bigger than a sheet of paper. If you travel a lot, space can be at a premium. Or, if you’re like me, my puzzles war with the cats for space on the bookshelves. Collecting all of the travel puzzles currently available would take the same space as a standard puzzle box from one of the other puzzle brands.

About the Company: Dowdle Puzzles is a part of Dowdle Folk Arts. The artist and owner is Eric Dowdle, who has over 200 folk art paintings, mostly focusing on American cities and national parks.  

PUZZLE SPECS

  • Company: Dowdle Puzzles
  • Title: Wild Africa
  • Artist: Eric Dowdle
  • Year released: Unknown
  • Pieces: 150
  • Cut-Style:  Random
  • Finished size: 9 by 11 inches
  • Bonus poster: No
  • Made in USA

QUALITY: 

  • Box: N/A Plastic sleeve
  • Board:  Lightweight , sturdy wooden pieces
  • Cut: Laser Die
  • Image Quality: Excellent, great color saturation
  • Finish: Semi-gloss, with great color saturation
  • Puzzle Dust: None
  • Piece shapes: A good mix of traditionally cut and irregular pieces
  • Piece Fit: Very tight!  Some of the irregular pieces make it so that pieces can only be moved in small groups.

Disability Notes: The smaller piece count and wooden pieces are wonderful for someone traveling or trapped in bed! I can recommend this for people with mild arthritis or good to excellent hand/eye coordination.

Where to buy: The Wild Africa Travel Puzzle is not listed on the Dowdle website, making me think it is a Toy Fair/Vendor Exclusive. However, there are currently 5 different designs available on the Dowdle Puzzles website for $34.95 usd.

Dowdle Puzzles : Website / FaceBook

Disclosure: I received a complimentary puzzle from the manufacturer in exchange for review. The opinions are my own.

Thanks for reading, and please click the Follow Button under my profile on the right side of the page.To support posts like this in the future, consider joining my Patreon!

A Parliament of Bodies – Reviewing the Latest Installment of the Maradaine Series!

I’m a reader. Unashamedly. My parents wanted their kids to love books, and I’m sure that at some point, they deeply regretted it when the floorboards groaned and creaked, and the bookshelves overflowed. I’d read and enjoyed the first of the Maradaine Constabulary books, A Murder of Mages. But 2015 was a crazy year, and I never kept track of the subsequent books. It was a surprise to chance across Mr. Maresca’s Twitter feed as he was promoting A Parliament of Bodies. I reached out, and was beyond grateful that he was kind enough to ask DAW Books, his publisher to send me an ARC.

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I started reading in fantasy, only later branching into science-fiction, mystery, nonfiction, and true crime. Marshall Ryan Maresca’s Maradaine Constabulary series manages to combine all of these genres. This is the third book in the series and the ninth of the Maradaine world. Yeah, you read that right, Maradaine World. Maresca’s Maradaine is a loom upon which he interweaves the four different stories (Thorn, Constabulary, Elite & Streets) into a comprehensive tapestry. You can read just one series, and get the basic story just fine, but if you expand into the greater world, you can see the whole of the panorama.

A Parliament of Bodies is a wild ride. It has only been a few months since the events in An Import of Intrigues, and Inspector Welling is under Investigation as to his continued fitness to serve as a member of the Constabulary. There is a fiendish serial killer who has kidnapped dozens of people and strapped them into clockwork death machines (think the Saw movies). Inspectors Welling and Rainey are joined by Dayne Heldrin and Jerinne Fendall of the Taurian Order to stop the man Dayne is convinced is the killer.

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So much jelly beans!

Some books are comfortable to read, they cradle your mind as you wander their pages. Others are a veritable battle, where like Bastian Balthazar Bux in the NeverEnding Story; you are drawn in and are as much a part of the story’s energy as the characters are. You can guess which A Parliament of Bodies is. After the first hundred pages I had to break out the 2 lb bag of jelly beans my mom gave me for Easter. It was either jelly beans or cannibalism as I chewed my fingernails to nubs.

This book had me laughing, crying, cursing out loud, when I wasn’t gasping  and spluttering in inarticulate wonder. There are side adventures, and new revelations on past events that build both the world and make the cast more “real”. A Parliament of Bodies has  so much of an edge-of-your-seat quality that by the end you are both winded and desperately craving the next book!

  • Title: A Parliament of Bodies
  • Author: Marshall Ryan Maresca
  • Series: Maradaine Constabulary
  • Publisher: DAW Books
  • Released: March 26, 2019
  • Language: English
  • Pages: 389

About the Author:

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Marshall Ryan Maresca is a fantasy and science-fiction writer, author of the Maradaine Saga: Four parallel series set amid the bustling streets and crime-ridden districts of the exotic city called Maradaine. This includes The Thorn of Dentonhill, A Murder of Mages, The Holver Alley Crew and The Way of the Shield. His work also appeared in Norton Anthology of Hint Fiction and Rick Klaw’s anthology Rayguns Over Texas. He also has had several short plays produced. He grew up in upstate New York, studied film production at Penn State. He currently lives in Austin, Texas.

For more information, visit Marshall’s website at www.mrmaresca.com.
Where to buy: A Parliament of Bodies is available on Amazon in Kindle,  and  paperback. There is not currently an Audiobook version, although the first two Maradaine novels will  be available on Audible on May 28th, 2019.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary book from the publisher in exchange for review. The opinions are my own. All links are direct, I do not make money from them.

Thanks for reading, and please click the Follow Button under my profile on the right side of the page. To support posts like this in the future, consider joining my Patreon!

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