Thursday, December 30, 2010

Review: Miki Lip and Eye Palette

This was given to me for Christmas, by my parents.

It's very cute, if a little tweeny. I haven't tried this brand before, so I thought I'd give it a proper shot and review it at the same time. I wasn't able to find out a lot about them online. Their website is 'coming soon' and they do have a Facebook page.

It contains three lip glosses:

It has three eyeshadows as well:

There are also two mini applicators, one for lips and one for eyes. As you can expect they're both pretty crap.

None of the shadows or glosses are named or labelled, except for the back, which has the ingredients and the name of the palette:

Um, ok.

Lip swatches; upper left-hand gloss (darkest), followed by middle, followed by the big (pale) one at the bottom centre.

These are definitely glosses - not very pigmented, heavy on the shimmer, kind of goopy. Formula-wise, I have to say these aren't actually that bad. They're not too sticky or runny. Don't have a lot of staying power. I honestly can't imagine myself using these a lot, though - I'm either a lipstick or a balm girl, and I don't do a pink-y lip too often. You can see a fair bit of a difference to the glosses in person, but not enough (to me) to justify having all three on the same palette.

I didn't wear them for very long so I can't comment on the moisurisation factor. They contain lanolin (as well as beeswax and silica) so I can imagine they'd be alright for the short amount of time glosses tend to last.

Shadow swatches:
Rather disappointing pigmentation, but they do perk up a little with a good base - Concrete Minerals Electric eye primer and Nyx Jumbo Eye Pencil in Milk.

This is them without a base - pretty weak, ashy and patchy.

I was going to do a wear test with these shadows, over the CM primer and Nyx Pencil, to see how they held up, but...

(Bare eyelash alert!) This is a TON of product, patted furiously with several different brushes for about ten minutes. I just could NOT get the shadows to show up, and blending just wiped them out. That's the mauve as a highlight, since it didn't show up at all on the lid and the grey-silver-green shadow was too shimmery and chunky for a highlight. The closed-eye shots seriously looked like I wasn't wearing any shadow, just that there was some funky lighting going on. I didn't think there was any point doing a wear test when the freshly applied shadows looked like they'd been on for about eight hours over a crappy primer.

Now I just have to figure out how to dispose of this failure of a palette without my parents noticing...

Want to win some SUGARPILL?

If you, like me, still haven't tried the sparkly goodness that is Sugarpill (damn you, wallet) then you might want to go check out LadycrowX's giveaway. There's MAC and miscellaneous other nice stuff too.

Real post coming soon, pinky promise :) hope you're all relaxing in the post-Christmas lull.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Swatchfest! High Voltage shadows

As promised, here are the swatches of my eyeshadow sample haul from High Voltage Cosmetics. I bought about ten samples and got two freebies. I ended up getting an awful lot of purples and blues, which in hindsight was silly since I have a buttload of shadows in both those colours. Anyway. On to the swatches! These are done over Concrete Minerals Electric Eye Primer, under artificial light.

Fairy Blood
Site description: satin blood red.
My description: Delicious smoky dark red. Yum.

Site description: skin toned highlighter for medium skin tones or darker skin tones with a slight pearl sheen.
My description: I am buying a full-size jar of this after my bank has recovered from Christmas. It's my absolute perfect highlight shade, swept lightly over primer (it's swatched quite heavily here). Not too much shimmer but not a flat matte either. I LOVE this.
Spiked Stilettos
Site description: shimmery golden pink brown with pearl accents.
My description: Beautiful smoky golden pinky taupe! The neutral I didn't know I was missing out on. Looks like a really dusty pink in the jar, I didn't think I was going to like it at all, but once I swatched it I was wishing I'd cracked it open sooner!
What A Drag
Site description: metallic orange red.
My description: This shows up as shimmery chocolate-copper brown to me. I can see myself using this for liner a lot, it's a very rich shade.

Alter Ego
Site description: fuschia metallic shadow.
My description: Bright, shimmery fuschia purple. I'm not too sure why this is in the 'pink' section. The only thing I had close to this was a colour in the Sleek Curious palette, which disappeared every time I tried to use it. The shadow I mean, not the palette!

Girl's Night Out
Site description:  indigo-purple with massive gold sparkles.
My description: Dark blue with an explosion of silvery and gold glitter! This will probably need Pixie Epoxy to stay glitzy, but it's really gorgeous! The blue is a bit darker in person - like a cross between navy and royal blue. Dark, but still definitely blue.

Electric Boogie
Site description: royal blue with gold sparkles and a slight pearl sheen.
My description: Electric blue with gold glitter. Very sparkly!

Sunset Strip
Site description: powder blue with subtle purple undertones.
My description: Periwinkle blue with a slight lavender shimmer. This goes a bit pale and matte if overblended like I did in the middle of my swatch.

Saturday Night
Site description: complex shadow that looks purple blue or silver from differnt angles.
My description: Silvery-purple-blue! It's this metallic duochrome... I can imagine even more absolute gorgeousness coming out of this over Pixie Epoxy.

Little Miss Perfect
Site description: light airy blue with strong yellow highlights.
My description: Dusty denim blue with gold shimmer/duochrome. I really, really love this shade.

Cocktail Party 
Site description: bright shocking aqua.
My description: Bright, cheerful aqua/turquoise.

Detroit Rock City

Site description: light aqua green with tons of shimmer.
My description: Slightly darker and much more metallic version of Cocktail Party. I ordered both of these because I couldn't make up my mind which to get. I'll probably end up mixing them together with a splash of TKB Hilite Blue to have a nice standby turquoise/aqua colour, since it's not something I use a lot, but was missing from my collection.

Phew! I reeeeeeeeeally need to stop buying samples and start just getting full sizes of the colours I use. Maybe I should make that a New Year's Resolution :P

Hope you liked the swatches and that you're all having a great Christmas! I've set this to post while I'm enduring enjoying a family Christmas lunch. I should be back pretty soon after Boxing Day - I'm not jetsetting off for a holiday like a lot of my friends are. I'm gonna stay home and relax after the silly season! Sooo looking forward to it.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Review: High Voltage Lip Whips (!)

After enduring horribly slow December mail, I finally got my High Voltage Cosmetics order. The previous order I placed came quite fast for international shipping, so I knew it wasn't anything on Jasmine's end, just crazy Christmas-ness. She followed up several times on Twitter to see if I'd gotten my order, and when it finally arrived we both had a big "YAY!"

I immediately pulled out my three Lip Whips and my heap of samples, all ready to start swatching... aaaand my camera promptly ran out of battery. More December madness ensured I wasn't able to get replacement batteries til yesterday, and I've been really busy working so I didn't have time to swatch!

Since I haven't been able to find a whole lot of reviews or swatches on the Lip Whips, I thought I'd do a review/swatch of those first, and then do a big, separate post on the eyeshadows.

Lip Whips are $6.25 US for 7ml. They come in a squeezy lip gloss type tube with a slanted tip. They're vegan, peppermint scented, and SO pigmented.

Without further ado! I ordered:
Those are the descriptions from the website, and also links to Jasmine's swatches. I think they're actually better than mine turned out!

Jesse's Girl tube

Hand swatch

So at this point, I'm thinking "Nude for tan people?! I must need way more sun exposure! Look how dark that is!" But wait...

Lip swatch

On my lips it softens into an absolutely gorgeous glossy, nude shade. Ignore the blue bit on the left there, it's a reflection! See how glossy it is? :P

She's Got the Look, tube
Hand swatch

Lip swatch
This looks really terracotta-orangey, and it's not. It's a bright, clean, pinky-orange coral. It's absolutely wonderful, and I reach for it when I don't feel like doing a nude, or a red lip - my two go-to work colours. It's a great all-around shade. Please go see Jasmine's swatch for a far more accurate depiction!

Last but not least:

Iron Butterfly tube

Lip swatch 

Something about greens, and my skintone - I don't know what - makes pictures abysmal. Greens end up chalky and my skin turns raging sunburn-red. I tweaked the lip swatch so that a) I wouldn't look like a lobster and b) Iron Butterfly wouldn't look like a pastel. Again, please go and check out Jasmine's swatch, it's dead on.

From the description of the Whips, a lot of people have been saying that these may be cheap, indie dupes for the coveted OCC Lip Tars. I am by no means an expert on the Tars. I own one, the original purple called Katricia. I love the colour to bits, but I really don't find myself reaching for this often.

Not a Lip Whip, this is OCC Lip Tar Katricia

I haven't done a long, concentrated comparison. What I can say about the Tars vs. the Whips, just in passing observation, is that:
  • When I open the tube and sniff, they have the exact same peppermint smell.
  • On the lips, both the Tar and the Whips give the same gentle cooling minty sensation.
  • Both feel light and somewhat oily to me. The Whips feel slightly thicker - almost as if they have more pigment? I like the weightier feeling, it doesn't make me paranoid all the colour's disappeared. They're still much lighter and more moist than a traditional lipstick.
  • The Whips 'settle' and dry without becoming drying. Katrice always feels 'wet' on my lips.
  • Whips: $6.25 US for 7ml, 68 different shades (at last count!). 
  • Tars: $12.50 US for 8ml (OR Aussies can get it for $16AU from here), 33 different shades. 
Honestly, it's up to you. As I said I haven't done an in-depth comparison or even a wear test. But I'll be buying more Whips and I probably won't shell out the cash for another Tar. Jasmine is coming out with new colours in the Whips almost constantly. She also does requests - I actually requested Iron Butterfly and another blogger, I believe Cacau, requested She's Got the Look (THANKYOU! I LOVE IT!) I have worn both Jesse's Girl and She's Got the Look at work, and not only do they stay put nicely, but they stop my lips from getting dry and crackly like they normally do without copious/frequent applications of lip balm.

I really, really want to try some of her new lipsticks, the primer, and get some full sized shadows, but that'll have to wait until 2011 since I'm broke.

Hope you like the lip swatches (well the first two, anyway) and I shall try to get the shadow swatches up in a reasonable amount of time! I have several half-finished comic review drafts sitting around waiting for me, and I have a bit of an announcement as well. Right now, though, it's bedtime. The rest of you can check out High Voltage's shop or the other reviews (one of which is my first one).

Sunday, December 19, 2010

(Overdue) review: Changing Ways

Two things that I just don't really like, no offense to the things or to other people who may like them:
1. Photorealistic art
2. Horror and/or suspense

This graphic novel contains both of them.

I've already written about how the cover of this graphic novel caught my eye, and how I nearly went away without it, but my boyfriend (who, I might add, doesn't even read comics) saw the look in my eye and promptly bought it for me.

You're probably now expecting a tale of woe, or at least mediocrity, but... I LOVE this graphic novel.

As I mentioned before, the art is photo-realistic. One of the problems I have with some very cartoonish art (especially in uncoloured webcomics) is that I have a hard time telling minor characters apart. Each character in Changing Ways is so distinct and beautifully rendered. Expressions, body language, clothing - all distinct and lovely to look at.

The colour palette is expressed in the cover. I LOVE continuity between cover art and comic art! Each spread is consistent to the scene - inside under artificial lighting is a yellow glow. Outside in the rain is a cold, dark blue-grey, almost monochrome. Tail-lights, sunset, fire and blood are all red, a faded yet vibrant shade, like a watercolour. I want to frame every other page. You cannot appreciate how truly gorgeous this is until you read it.

Yes, because it is a horror story is has some 'gory bits', but they're just so... I don't want to say 'tasteful' because that just sounds dumb. It's done well. Not cartoonishly graphic like in Nemesis, but not in squeamish 20's fade-to-black style either. It's just kind of "hey, that happened, it was kind of gross, but we're moving on with the story now".

That last panel is one of the ones I wouldn't mind having framed and on my wall. Isn't it amazing?

Now, Justin Randall wrote this as well as doing all the artwork. But don't let that deter you - this is most definitely NOT one of those comics you buy just for the artwork (as gorgeous as it is). The story itself is mysterious and chilling. Justin assured me at Supanova that "it's not a zombie or vampire story", so any hackneyed horror fans will be safe picking this up. That said, this is a very relationship-and-character driven story. The mains have very distinct personalities and the way that they all interact is so realistic. There's plenty of dialoge but it doesn't overwhelm the art/action. The bubbles are clear, but unobtrusive, and it's always clear WHO is talking. There is a little first-person narration which is done in small, black boxes with red borders. Again - clear but unobtrusive.

The pacing in both the dialogue and the narration is masterful. The panels without text have amazing body language/facial expressions to hold the mood and the story. All sound effects are done in this awesome sketchy, hand-written style with the appropriate colourisation for each panel.

I cannot freaking wait for the sequel.

Simple, honest, realistic dialogue.

Buy it, read it, love it. Even if you don't like horror, even if you don't like photo-realistic art, even if you're a hardcore superhero comics devotee. It's over 100 pages, a proper graphic NOVEL, so it'll keep you going for a while. And going back for another read. And another. And another. And cursing Justin Randall for taking so damn long with the sequel!!!

You can see some sample pages here if I haven't convinced you with my babbling. You will totally spoil the novel for yourself though.

All images copyright, owned by and belonging to the amazing and fantabulous Mr. Randall.
I paid for this graphic novel with my own- er wait, no I didn't! Hehe. I also got a copy for free, which is something I'll do a post on later.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Review: Deadpool (Wade Wilson's War)

The biggest problem with coming in as a new fan to a superhero comic series is that there are SOOO-OOO-OOO many variants (unrelated or partially related storylines) and basically everything on the shelf is issue #74 or #129 and that's a LOT of catching up to do.

I got into Deadpool via the Merc With a Mouth series. At around issue 12, there were some new variants on the shelves - all miniseries (4 issues per series), so I felt like my bank account wouldn't be too shattered ;) the most recent of these provides good insight to Deadpool's origins and a nice introduction to the humour and complexity of the character for those seeking a superhero comic to get into.

I loved the covers that I got, they were all scattered with newspaper headline type slogans:
All images are belong to Marvel, I don't own Deadpool. He's not house-trained.

Deapool's art doesn't seem to undergo any huge stylistic changes, which is good. I like the way it's done. Most of the female characters are done in the exaggerated T&A style - meaning big boobs, unrealistic proportions, and skimpy clothes, but Deadpool himself is so funny I don't mind. It's a 'classic' hero comic, meaning that the hypersexualisation and objectification of female characters is pretty much tradition, unfortunately. Deapool's humour helps negate that a little bit.

Deadpool's brain is in three segments and a lot of the dialogue in the comics is between them. There is none of that in this particular series, which made me a bit sad because it's one of my favourite things about him.

One quick warning about Deadpool - he breaks the fourth wall fairly often, either by talking to the reader or, in the case of this particular series, specifically referencing the fact that he's in a comic book.

 My favourite cover of the series. "America's next top psychopath"... that made me laugh.

This miniseries is radically different in content to a lot of Deadpool's other stuff. Generally when you open a DP comic you can expect to find the following:
*Women not wearing much
*Pop culture references

Are you seeing a pattern yet? In Wade Wilson's War there's not a lot of the usual back-and-forth between Deadpool and, er, Deadpool. Instead we the reader get a glimpse into Deadpool's painful past and twisted psyche. Though a lot more cerebral than I'm used to from the good ol' masked quipster, I really enjoyed this miniseries.

If you like wit, sarcasm, and action, you'll love Deadpool. This is a great series for old and new fans alike. 

Stay tuned for a review of Deadpool: Pulp (when I get my hot li'l hands on #3 and #4) among many many others!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Dragon of the Second Moon: a review with a side of rant

Sci-fantasy is apparently a new genre which mixes science fiction and fantasy - two genres which are often confused but which are utterly different.

Dragon of the Second Moon is Australian writer Christian Taamblyn's first novel and occupies this fresh, hybrid space, though leaning heavily on the latter.

Featuring linguistic flaws of the novice writer - choppy sentances, an excess of adjectives, and a few punctuation missteps - this book is nonetheless an engaging read. I've definitely read - and written - much worse, language-wise.  My expectations that the protagonist, Alex (later renamed), would turn out to be a messianic character falling just shy of a Gary Stu were pleasantly unfulfilled. Mistakes, misunderstandings and hardships plague him as any fish out of water. Taamblyn's time compression of the character's learning curves are masterful - without being bored by every minute ticking past, we are given a few paragraphs of explanation which manage to express the amount of time and effort Zanderhall puts into his re-education. The bewilderment, wonder and loneliness of the character comes across well without making him a pathetic character. Learning a language, learning to fight, learning to use magic - these things all take time and effort (well, I wouldn't know about the last one but I assume so) and this is expressed in a realistic manner, rather than just "oh hey I picked up a whole vocabulary in a week and look at my awesome firebolts". It's nice to see a bit of realism trumping a faster-paced, action-packed story. Not to say this isn't fast-paced and action-packed, because it is.

The novel provides a thoughtful perspective on cultural divide, which has two peoples - magical and non-magical, essentially. The non-magical folk are suspicious of their counterparts, who have their ears cut to 'mark' them and are then ostracised. This segment of the population have formed nomadic tribes of people far more 'in tune' with the world than their stodgy, city-dwelling counterparts. The cultural and lifestyle differences that result are well-crafted and provide nice contrast.

Taamblyn weaves some stock fantasy archetypes into this story with accumen, providing some interesting new pespective which tailors the creatures to his world: elves, mermen, dragons, dryaads, were-creatures, even a Minotaur-like creature. I was continually surprised and delighted at how Taamblyn appropriated tried-and-true 'species', not completely deviating so that they were entirely new creatures with a new name, or just re-using the same-old; he really integrated them into the heritage and atmosphere of the story. They fit well, it wasn't just an "insert elf/dragon here" or worse, "well we'll call it a Minotaur because it's similar even though it flies against all of the preestablished norms of the creature" (yeah Smezzer, I'm looking at you).

One of the main difficulties with giving one race, or even a group of characters magic (or mar'jics) is that you give them a a rather large advantage over the non-magical folk. Taamblyn ties magic into mythology and makes it a skill, to be honed and practised, rather than some mystical, disconnected skill. Through the main characters' eyes, we witness some Eleran children being taught how to focus their innate powers (p102). It's a wonderfully crafted bit of world-building. Complicated, powerful magic takes a physical toll on the wielder, which means warriors still have a part to play, and necromancy is pretty much out of the question. These are sensible but often overlooked 'laws' of fantasy.

My only real disappointment is that Taamblyn has fallen into the trap that nearly all fantasy writers do: sidelining female characters and perpetuating ridiculous gender standards. Taamblyn sets up this seemingly equal society by giving the Eleran people a Queen. He promptly turns around and negates that with Sharna, a character whose sole function is Protaganist's Love Interest and Paragon of Sexual Liberty. Then there's physically dimunitave Kyanne (p152), and brash, outspoken Gail, who are the only two women pointed out among the fighters though in Gail's own words, "Scores of those going North [to fight] will be women. We will fare no better or worse than the rest, be treated as equals" (p316). This forward-thinking statement is immediately sidelined three pages later where we are treated to a voyeuristic affirmation of Gail's feminity, as she undresses in a tent, emphasising the "shapely curve of her ample breasts, even the fine definition of her waist, hips and legs" (p319). It just felt completely unneccesary and quite belittling to the character.

In two instances - there may be more, these are just the ones that stand out - senseless Western male stereotypes are also integrated into the story - Jahlam's refusal of a numbing paste on his ears before he was marked because "it was not the manly thing to do" (p94). That sentance infuriated me. Further on, a (male) character speaking of his lost daughter and grandson gets (understandably) teary-eyed. "He quickly turned his head to conceal his weakness" (p286). Sorry, what?! He's lost his family and he's upset. I'd be more concerned if he DIDN'T react emotionally. Why is this a 'weakness' when Kyanne cried "in heavy sobs" (p159) after winning the right to be a Loremaster? Hello, sexism which does not need to be in a fantasy book. I know I harp on about it a lot, but where there's magic and dragons and swords, is it really that difficult to have women fighting and guys crying and, y'know, aspects of social gender equality which are sorely absent from the real world?

Don't even get me started on page 212.

I was discussing these issues with my boyfriend, as I really do like the book and didn't want to be too harsh on it because of its shortcomings. He said, "honestly I don't think that most authors think about the gendered implications when they write. They're more focused on the characters as individuals and the plot movement." Which is fair and probably true, but like I said to him, the tent scene and the two statements about manliness and weakness stick out like a sore thumb. The book would have gone through several rewrites  and the fact that those sections - not contributing to overall plot, storyline, or character development - are still there means that they were consciously included. I could of course be wrong, that's just the impression that I get.

Gendered stereotypes aside - and hey, these sorts of issues may not phase you, and fair enough, it's very common in the genre - I actually do like this book! I know I did a massive breakdown of the 'iffy bits', but that's what an English degree does to you. Makes you super-critical. When I met Christian at Supanova he seemed like a really nice guy. The sequel will hopefully be out soon, and I will definitely be purchasing a copy. If you can get your hands on the book (it's at Borders and online at his site) I'd definitely recommend it. For fans of sci-fi AND fantasy.