Brief Book Review of Apocalypse Z: Dark Days

So. Good.

It’s a sequel, which means I expected it to be a let-down. Sure, there’s Empire Strikes Back and Godfather 2, so we know that a sequel CAN be better than the first. But we also know that’s an extreme exception, right? (Seriously, every time this comes up in conversation, the only examples people have are Empire Strikes Back and Godfather 2, which means there hasn’t been a notably better sequel since the 80s.)

A fair number of zombie stories are written as trilogies: the Day by Day Armageddon series, the Hater series, the Monster Island series, the Newsflesh trilogy (links to my review), and that’s just off the top of my head. I don’t read a whole lot outside of the zombie / survival horror genre (except to read what my children are reading, so I’ve read more current young adult fiction than most thirty-somethings), so I can’t really speculate as to whether this is a trend in fiction right now (Hunger Games, anyone?) or if it’s something in the way the zombie author’s head works. I mean, the end of the world is a pretty epic thing. I can see why it might not fit in just one novel-sized book if done right.

Either way, I’ve been disappointed by some sequels, and I’m sure you have, too. (Please note: The above list of trilogies is not meant as a list of disappointing sequels.) And I can definitely see some of the difficulties of a sequel, especially in a zombie survival series. It’s a d***** if you and if you don’t situation: the audience liked the first one, so the author can’t do anything too different, but on the other hand, if the second is just like the first, why bother? Then, in survival horror, there’s a very small set of characters. Any romantic or sexual tension probably got solved in the first story. Antagonistic characters probably got dealt with… so then is there a new villain, or does the story get bigger (like conspiracy theory kind of stuff)?

But enough of my holding forth on sequels. That’s not why you’re here, right?! You want the skinny on Dark Days. I just wanted to point out that sequels are difficult to do well, so I was all the more pleased when Loureiro pulled it off so well.

What:

Apocalypse Z: Dark Days (But you already knew that)

Who:

Manel Loureiro, whom I no longer have a crush on because it turns out he’s married and I respect that. (:

The nitty gritty:

The second book in the Apocalypse Z series. (Read my review of the first book, The Beginning of the End.)

It’s really good. Read it. (Ahem, I mean the book, not my review, but hopefully that’s good, too…)

I’m not going to say it’s better than the first one necessarily, but Loureiro deals with the sequel issue well. His writing style is different in this book, in a good way. This book is suspenseful, in a way the first one wasn’t. There were times I literally thought of skipping ahead in the book to find out what was going to happen, and I’m not sure I’ve experienced that sensation since I was a kid. Seriously, not just once, but multiple times during the book I had to remind myself I hate wrecking the story by peeking.

And it’s a nice balance between having completely new material in the second book and including some of the tensions from the first book. Loureiro gives enough of the good stuff from the first book to quench my thirst for more of it yet enough new stuff that it doesn’t feel like a cheap rehash.

Just a quick note that I’m truly impressed, again, by the translator, Pamela Carmell. To stay true to someone else’s voice and vision for so many pages into a different language… wow!

Argh, can’t wait ’til the next one is available in English!

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DIY Deodorant

I jumped on the bandwagon and made my own deodorant on Sunday.

The recipes are all over the place, and I based mine on what I read at Crunchy Betty, Kitchen Stewardship, and Passionate Homemaking. They appear to be riffs on the same tune recipe-wise, and it seemed like a good way to start experimenting with doing it on my own, so… I did.

Here’s my experience so far:

I tweaked the recipes to fit what I had on hand and my personal preferences, which is exactly what I hope you will do. This matches pretty closely, but I’ve only tested it for two days…

Yes, this recipe is very approximate. Don’t be nervous – it’s very forgiving, and if you think it’s too liquid, add some powder. If it’s too dry, add some oil. It’ll be OK, and if it isn’t (which it will be), you’re only out like 73 cents and 5-10 minutes.

  • 1/4 C. + 1.5 Tbsp baking soda
  • 1/4 C. + 1.5 Tbsp corn starch (alternately, many recipes call for arrow root powder)
  •  6 Tbsp sweet almond oil
  • Beeswax, ~ couple teaspoons
  • 5 drops lavender essential oil
  • 3 drops frankincense

Essentially, melt the beeswax, then stir everything together. Read on for more deets.

Their recipes often used coconut oil, but I don’t keep any stocked, so I used the Vitamin E in Sweet Almond Oil I keep around the house. I love the smell, and how can a gal go wrong with a moisturizer? I know the coconut oil was listed as preferable due to its antibacterial properties, and I don’t know that sweet almond oil is purported to have any special bacteria-killing powers, but…I went for it anyway. If my homemade pit-stick doesn’t work, I can just use it for cleaning.

Apparently, coconut oil stops being shelf-stable-solid at 76 degrees F. However, my sweet almond oil isn’t solid at room temp anyway, so I opted for beeswax to help with that. Oddly, I DO happen to have beeswax stocked in my house (bottle cap candles, anyone?), so that was easy.

Home Made Bottle Cap Candle

Why I have beeswax at home…

I got the beeswax out, shaved some (somewhere between a tsp and Tbsp) into a clean glass jar, and microwaved it in 20-25 second intervals until it melted.

Common sense caution: glass and molten candle wax are both hot. Be careful! Also, if wax isn’t melted properly, it can explode, so really, be very careful. I have previous experience with wax from batiking, making casts/molds, and candle-making (real candles, not just filled bottle caps!), so I felt safe going the microwave route. If you’ve never used it, consider the double boiler method. It’s slower and safer as you get to know the wax.

Then I added my room temp oil – I might do this differently in the future, as the beeswax temp plummeted and it started solidifying. I’d anticipated that and had my powdered ingredients ready though, so I just plunked it in and stirred like the dickens. I started with a straight 1/4 cup of each powder, then added approximately half a 1/4 cup measure again when the ratio of powder: oil seemed off. Like I said, this is a VERY approximate recipe, so I felt just fine being that loosey-goosey with it. It seems easier to just start with 1/3 cup next time, but I’m not sure how much change one gets with baking soda or corn starch from humidity fluctuations. I’m going to stick with less for now.

Once I liked the consistency I added the oils.  I’m not really huge into essential oils, so I had just peppermint, lavender, and frankincense to choose from. Peppermint seemed as though it might be odd with the almond oil, so I went with lavender and frankincense. They’re both supposed to help with seasonal depression, and days are certainly getting shorter already. Plus, I think they’re lovely and sexy together. The lavender got somewhat swallowed up by the sweet almond and I can barely detect the frankincense. I’ll try at least two more drops of both in the next batch. I prefer mild scents though, so if you like yours stronger, go for it. As far as choosing your own scents, go with what makes you happy. Keep in mind that some oils are better for the human skin than others, and particularly if you shave your underarms, you may want to veer away from oils known to be hard on skin.

I stirred mine in the glass jar as a one-pot cooking sort of approach, and I’ve just got it stored that way for now. I cleaned out an old deodorant stick and I may try to pack my little batch in there. I was nervous about doing that right off the bat since I had a viscous/liquid oil instead of a solid oil, but once it set up a bit I see it would have been fine.

Day 1 was great – I applied after I showered, and despite warnings to wait an hour or two after shaving, I didn’t experience any discomfort. I felt like a weirdo repeatedly sniffing myself throughout the day, but as far as I could tell, I never got funky.

Day 2 (today)… I’m not quite as convinced as yesterday that I’m funk-free, but I didn’t shower, meaning a couple of things: my skin wasn’t clean and moist, which is the best circumstance for application, and since I hadn’t washed yesterday’s off, it’s possible I just have too much on at the moment. Bacteria love having places to grow, and too much deodorant is one way for them to set up a nice stinky feast for themselves. I was also stressed out about something unrelated today, and I know that plays a big part in how pleasant or not I smell.

Whether this is going to be my long-term recipe or not, every time I open up my jar of deodorant I feel happy. The smell is wonderful, and knowing that I’m wearing food grade ingredients as skin care just makes sense. (The essential oils are probably not exactly edible, but I’d eat them over “parfum” any day.)

If you do give this a try, be aware that many people experience an uncomfortable detox/cleanse period that often includes red bumps or even pain. Remedies to that included changing the ratio so that there is less baking soda to just waiting it out.  It makes me nervous to think that people would go through something that painful without checking in with a care provider. Personally, I have not yet felt any pain nor gotten any bumps, but my skin is fairly hardy. Also, I may have less for the body to work out of my system since I’ve been using a very natural formula deodorant for months as it is, I’ve always shied away from antiperspirants (that’s what clogs and is especially bad for your health), and my diet is mostly pretty healthy.

Anyway, the jury’s out on the sweet almond oil as a base. I’ll let you know how it pans out.

In the meantime, please share your recipes (or links to your recipes) below! Thanks for reading!

Project Paper Purge

I’ve been cleaning my desk, including (or especially) the reams of papers contained on, in, and under it.

I’ve emptied the paper shredder at least 4 or 5 times, cleared out paper jams (from over-use) at least twice, and have brought out 2 or 3 paper grocery bags full of non-sensitive papers to be recycled. I can’t even guess how many times I’ve had to blow my nose from the dust.

Thought I’d share a sampling of what I’ve found.

From one of my “inboxes”:

  • A folder full of stuff to read from 2 years ago (never read);
  • A feather;
  • A die from a Boggle game;
  • A pom pom;
  • Bills (unopened) and coupons (unused);
  • A yarn wrapper;
  • Various papers I meant to file a few years ago but still haven’t decided where to put;
  • A Pokemon trading card;
  • A ticket stub for “Hanna” (a movie I’d pretty well forgotten about);
  • A map of local parks I never opened up to use;
  • Directions to a friend’s house for a party;
  • One nail from a nail gun (I don’t own a nail gun);
  • Instructions for use for stuff I don’t own anymore; and
  • Old pretty wrapping paper I intended to use again somehow.

It’s been…interesting. Though I have had many mysteries solved as I’ve opened mail for the first time–from years ago–and found ‘first notices’ I hadn’t known about. As in, I get second and third notices and I don’t understand why since I never received a first notice.

Huh, turns out I did.

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