Thursday, March 30, 2017

Counting Sheep

I have a new bed. That's not new news, actually I got the bed January 11th of this year. I remember because it was two days after my cancer diagnosis. I realized that I was certainly going to need good sleep in the next year and my old mattress was sorrowfully old. In fact, I'm embarrassed to say that it even had a spring that had sprung out the bottom side. I had been putting off mattress shopping, hoping to save a little more so I could buy a good one like my old one had been twenty years ago.

So, on January 11th my mom accompanied me to go spend a boat load of money on a great mattress. I had already done research on which mattress would be best for me, so off we went to wrangle the best price we could from a Serta dealer. We spent almost an hour listening to the salesman talk about the Serta Mattress I wanted, he didn't seem to get that we were sold, lol. I was sitting on a near sofa and next to me was a HUGE Counting Sheep. I made a comment that I assumed that I also got a big SHEEP when I purchased this expensive mattress, lol. The salesman dead panned me and said they had small ones to give away. I pinned him with my eyes and insisted that I was sure one came with the mattress, right?? RIGHT??? He laughed and said that I could certainly have a sheep too. YAY.

He went away to write out the agreement as mom perused the showroom and I waited on the sofa. Fifteen minutes later I sauntered across the showroom, figuring it must be time to sign on the dotted line. Yep, signed my life away, my visa groaned. The salesman then said thank you for shopping with him. Then there was this conversation,

Me: "Where's my sheep?"
Him: "Oh, you really wanted one?"
Me: "Yep."
Him: "Oh.... Uh, I don't have one up here."
Me: "But I want one. I mean, is there one in the back, like in a big sheep bucket?"

"Uhhh... " He picked up the phone and asked if there was a sheep back there. A woman from the back room showed up but by then the sales guy was talking to people who were perusing the showroom. The woman looked at me and said, "he always ignores me. JOHN, HEADS UP!!" Then she threw my sheep with a great spiral throw directly at the salesman's head. John handed me my sheep, he had a slight scowl on his face. I had to bite my tongue not to laugh out loud.

I mean, hey, I just plunked down more than $1500 dollars and I WANTED THAT FREAKING SHEEP! I think I deserved him. He was gonna be my cancer protection sheep. I know it's kinda obvious but his name is FIVE. I mean, if you had your name tattooed on your ass it would behoove your new owner to buy a clue and call you that, right?? Right. ;o)

Anyway, here's Five the counting sheep (Oh, he has a side job protecting me).

I'll be joining Paint Party Friday, come on over and see all the other art, it'll make you happy, promise. I need a coffee, painting my sheep made me tired. I guess staring at him really works. ;o)


Saturday, March 18, 2017

Dreaming Of The Smell Of Ripe Tomatoes

Gosh I wish it were warmer. This week I've painted up ripe tomatoes and I miss that smell. It's such a unique scent when you put your nose right up to where the stem meets ripe flesh. There's nothing better in the hot summer months. I have plans to can my own salsa and tomato sauce.

Last year I made my own catsup. Holy cow it's so good I really do eat it with a spoon! It's so much better than the bottled stuff you buy. This year, since the catsup (or tomato jam, as I call it) was so successful I'm also planning on making my own spiced tomato paste. It'll be a lot of boiling down of bushels of fresh, ripe tomatoes but I know it'll be worth it. Now all we have to do is put a bums rush on summer. Maybe if we all boycott winter together mother nature will get the message that we've had enough cold. I think I'll have to text her and complain. ;o)

Anyway, here's "Salsa", let's hope I'm sniffing tomatoes soon. (Yes, it's annoying that my scanner slightly over exposes my artwork, lol)

Title: "Salsa"
I'm adding this tomato to this week's Paint Party Friday hosted by the wonderful Eva & Kristin. Have a great upcoming week!


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

International Women's Day - Are You A Feminist?

Today is International Women's Day. Wikipedia states that today, March 8th is the major day for the global celebration of women. In different regions the focus of the celebrations range from general celebration of respect and appreciation towards women, to a celebration of women's economic, political and social achievements.

Today, I'm inspired to put down my opinion on a subject close to my heart. I think it's quite misunderstood. Currently, many view "Feminist" is a derogatory term that's equated with being masculine and strident. This is a falsehood. To be a feminist simply means believing in the equality between men and women, supporting the idea that women deserve the same rights under the law as men.  Feminine and feminist are not mutually exclusive. One can have the wonderful qualities of womanhood and still be a Feminist. It is also true that men can still be masculine while also holding the belief that the women in their lives are their equal.

Where people seem to be getting confused is when manners and common courtesy enter the picture. Just because a man opens a door or pulls out the seat for a woman doesn't mean he thinks of her as less. A gallant man is not sexist, he is mannerly. It is gentlemanly behavior to have manners and be polite. Holding a woman's chair should be equated to using please & thank you. It is a form of politeness and shows good manners.

Unisex is not the goal of Feminism, equality is. Men and women make a great team working together. Each gender brings their own strengths to the party. The value of those strengths is what's equal. This is a good thing and anyone misunderstanding what the Feminist Movement really is can be comforted by that. As the French say... "
Vive La Différence!"


Thursday, March 2, 2017

Hero Worshiping

Ford Focus
Ok, I have to admit, I have a little crush on a guy in my building. I don't know his name or even if he's married (sorry to Mrs. Hero if he is). Here's the story...

I get up on Tuesday to go to a doctor's appointment at 10:30 in the morning. Dr. Kyle would be making sure the chemotherapy device that was implanted is situated in the right place and working. I'd been waiting a month to get this appointment so I could stop worrying. Obviously I didn't want to miss this appointment.

Mom's driving me so we head out to the car at around five minutes to ten. There's a sprinkling of snow on the car but it's starting to melt in the slightly warm sun. We get in to start the car so we can warm up the windows and scrape off the ice only to find... nothing. Nope. Deadsville. No vrrrrrmmm, vrrrmmmm. Not even a cough, cough. Just a click, click, click. DAMN. The battery's dead and it's cold out here. Mom starts to swear like a sailor. (she only does that when she's really frustrated). What are we gonna do? We'd forgotten the cell phone upstairs and even if we had it we wouldn't have had the doctor's phone number programmed in. We were sooooo screwed, and gonna miss this appointment. Mom gets out and rushes to the corner of the building, muttering to herself.

Just as she's about to disappear around the corner a guy (our hero) nearly bumps into her. She stops short and asks tentatively whether he might have jumper cables???? PPPLLLEEEAAASEEEE SAYYY YESSSS, I can nearly see the thought bubble over her head). Hero guy not only has cables but will help in any way he can. He seriously is the nicest guy I've nearly met in ages, lol. As I said, I didn't even get his name. As our car made that glorious vroom, vroom sound I nudged mom to stick her head out the window and get his apartment number. I had ulterior plans.

Long story short, we're only a few minutes late to the doctor's appointment and since doctors are always running late anyway, we're good. Now you know why I have a hero worshiping crush on some guy I don't even know. He rescued us and he'll never know just how important that appointment was. I got him some really decadent truffle chocolates and I wrapped them with a bow and added this card that I whipped up in, well, two hours or so, lol. He was worth it and you know I always love making art.

I'm joining this friday's Paint Party Friday, jump over and see the spectacular art submitted. I'm already working on next week's painting as it's much more involved than my usual. Yes, there's actually a background to this one, who knew? Anyway, here's the start of tomatoes. Wonder what I should title it? How about "Dreaming of Tomato Jam". If you come up with a better title (try to make me laugh, I dare ya), put it in the comments section. Oh and officially, Thank you to the wonderful guy who rescued us on Tuesday February 28, 2017 in our apartment building parking lot. As it says above, YOU ROCK.


Thursday, February 23, 2017

Deconstructed Lemonade

After I painted up my lemons today I was trying to think up a good title. Then I thought, ya, I'll just look up quotes about lemons! Who knew there only seems to be quotes based on the tried and true, "When life gives you lemons...". But here's my favorite iteration.
"I believe when life gives you lemons, you should make lemonade. Then try to find someone whose life has given them vodka."
~Ron White
Title: "Deconstructed Lemonade"
Anyway, these were such a bear to paint. I think it's because there's not much variation in yellows. I mean I have Pure Yellow from Schmincke and New Gamboge from Daniel Smith. I can use the Quin gold for light shadows but then for the darker ones I had to go with Burnt Sienna and Quin Burnt Orange. I really didn't find any of the shadows really worked like I wanted them to. The only fix was to use some Payne's Grey which was NOT how the reference photo looked. But then I'm not trying to recreate a photo, it's supposed to be my interpretation. I do love how the bowl turned out though.

I am adding this week's artwork to Paint Party Friday. Come on over and see all the pretty colors!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Don't Count Your Chickens...

...before they're hatched. I thought I'd do a more precise piece of art this time. I guess I'm feeling a bit out of control as of late. Although I'm exercising, both cardio and weights and eating between 800 and 1000 calories, I'm not losing weight very quickly. This is my only way of controlling how I deal with the cancer and losing so slowly is seriously messing with my brain. I'm guessing that's why I want to micro-control my artwork today. 

In the end, I don't think the egg carton looks controlled, it looks, happily, like my style. YAY, I have a style! But the roundness of the eggs and the blocky, textured construction of the carton was going to take some serious finesse, I knew that going in.
Title: "Don't Count Your Chickens"
(Cllick to Enlarge)
I have to say, I'm absolutely thrilled with how it turned out. I ended up using buff titanium mixed with neutral tint and it gave the best kind of oatmeal-ish color. I'm just so happy that I'm tackling projects that I've put off. I really didn't think I could accomplish these pieces, I didn't think my skill had gotten to the level needed to capture egg cartons, tulips or daffodils. Who knew taking six  months off painting could improve my skill set??

On a fun note though I'll post a GREAT chicken recipe below. I've just started (at the beginning of this year) using an Instant Pot but I'm totally addicted to the appliance already, lol. This recipe is SO easy and tastes fantastic. It makes about two cups of totally delicious sauce that works out to only have 5 calories per tablespoon! Anyway, I thought a chicken recipe would be appropriate to go with the eggs... I wonder which came first? ;o)

Jenn’s Barbecue Sauce Chicken

1 cup ketchup (250ml) (we make our own tomato jam, low sugar)
6 pieces sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained & minced (or half a small jar)
2 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 c Splenda
1/2 c minced onion (or a 1/4 c onion flakes)
1 Tbsp minced garlic (generous)
3/4 c bone broth (you can use any broth or even water if necessary)
2 tsp smoked sweet Paprika
1 Tbsp honey
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 tsp pure cranberry juice (eliminate if unavailable)
2 tsp white wine
4-5 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs (Kirkland)

For After Sauce & Chicken is Cooked:
1 Tbsp our mustard (use a grainy mustard)
1 Tbsp dijon (heaping)
2 Tbsp cornstarch + 1/4 c water (scant) to make slurry

  1. Put instant pot on sauté and cook the onion, add a little broth if it’s sticking to bottom.
  2. Mix all other ingred. except chicken in bowl and pour into instant pot after turning off sauté function. Stir until incorporated.
  3. Add chicken and immerse it all in sauce.
  4. Set instant pot on manual for 7 minutes.
  5. Let cook then wait 10 min and do an quick release.
  6. Remove chicken, turn on sauté, add cornstarch slurry. Whisk until thickened.
  7. Add the other ingred. after sauce has thickened, whisk until incorporated.
  8. Let cool. Sauce has 5 calories per Tbsp. (calories may be slightly higher if using normal ketchup)
I'll be linking to Paint Party Friday, there are some seriously good artists over there!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Ooh, Paint Porn!!

I know, don't all we artist love, just LOVE seeing the palette of other painters. I absolutely love it when my fellow artists swatch their new paint or show their new tools. I don't have new tools (I'm still coveting the Whiskey Painter's Master Palette and have for AGES but that's nothing new). I do however have new paint, some from Winsor & Newton and some from Daniel Smith. I can't help myself, I'm more addicted to color than I am hazelnut coffee, which is saying something!

About a year ago I saw Winsor & Newton's Twilight Series swatches and fell in love with the colors! Normally I tend to like Daniel Smith and Schmencke but sometimes W&N can have some spectacular colors. Their Limited Edition Twilight Series has six beautiful colors that are inspired by that special evening sky. I purchased mine from Jackson's Art Supply but Dick Blick is still carrying all the  5ml tube colors.

I purchased the Sanguine Red, Quin Violet and Aqua Green. I've been looking for that color red forever and the Quin Violet & aqua green are quite unique. Dick Blick has all of the Twilight colors in stock, here are the links for those of you who want them. (Sanguine Red, Smalt Blue, Quin Violet, Chromium Black, Cobalt Green Deep, Aqua Green). Here are a few pics to show the colors better.
(Click to Enlarge)(Click to Enlarge)
The other color I've actually re-added into my palette is Opera Pink by Daniel Smith. I originally had Opera from Holbein when I first started painting years ago. I then took it out when I found out it was really fugitive, not stable in light. I found out recently from a good friend who's a fantastic painter that if you put a lightfast color over any fugitive color then it's much more stable. She says she's never seen any fading when using this technique so YAY I get my favorite color of all time back!!! HELLO OPERA PINK!
Title: "Six Minus One" (click to enlarge)
I decided to do a painting using all of the four new colors so I could get used to them. The Aqua green is used as the base for half of the greens and the darkest green, obviously it's a great mixing color. Actually, all four colors work beautifully as mixing colors but I was extra surprised to find that Opera also seems to brighten any orange-pink-red-maroon that you add it to. I found that my dark pinks were getting a little muddy so I slapped a glaze of opera over those sections to brighten them. Opera works just like pure yellow works over any green-blue-red that you glaze with it. That's a little trick my friend and guru Tracey taught me in her Delicious Paint class. Seriously great class by the way.

Another thing I did this week is add a new section to my sidebar. I'm collecting my favorite blogs to visit. I already keep a small place in the sidebar with links where I join challenges. This new section will be friend's and fellow artist's blogs that inspire me to do art and be a more prolific and better artist. I sure hope you go and look at these blogs as I know they will inspire you also and give you a smile when you most need one. So far I have Tracey Fletcher King, Sandra Busby and Nicola McLean (no relation, I don't think, lol).

And finally, here's a quote that I read on Brenda Swenson's Blog. It resonated with me just as much as it resonated with her so I thought I'd share it.
"I am your constant companion. I am your greatest helper or heaviest burden. I will push you onward or drag you down to failure. I am completely at your command. Half the things you do you might just as well turn over to me and I will be able to do them quickly and correctly. I am easily managed--you must merely be firm with me. Show me exactly how you want something done and after a few lessons I will do it automatically. I am the servant of all great men, and, alas, of all failures as well. Those who are great, I have made great. Those who are failures, I have made failures. I am not a machine, though I work with all the precision of a machine plus the intelligence of a man. You may run me for a profit or run me for ruin--it makes no difference to me. Take me, train me, be firm with me, and I will place the world at your feet. Be easy with me and I will destroy you. Who am I? I am a habit!                                                                                              - John Di Lemme
Have a great day everyone, talk later, Eh? I'll be back with a new painting soon! 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Daffodils For Good People

You know, I'm darn lucky. I haven't had Grandparents for a long time. My grandfather on my mom's side died when I was five. Although I was an adult when my grandmother died, she had Alzheimer's disease for many years before her death in 2003. I was never close to my father's parents as they were distant both emotionally and physically.

I feel lucky though to have met our next door neighbors, Cathy & Steven. They seem to have taken me under their wing and I have to admit, I have so missed feeling that kind of love from grandparent-like figures. It really does feel like I've inherited a spectacular set of loving grandparents and I can't even express what that caring means to me. They always ask after my health (they know I have cancer, they were one of the first people I told). They also leave us tiny little treasures on our doorstep. Like when they go to the local veggie market and bring us back some baby greens packaged up with a bow. Oh how those salads taste the best!
"Daffodils In Jug" for Cathy & Steven
After I told them about my diagnosis Cathy showed up with this Jug filled with just-starting-to-open daffodils and I had to let them see just how beautiful they looked after they fully bloomed. There is nothing more comforting than feeling the love from people older and wiser than you, especially when I'd normally be nothing to them. They love me anyway. I love them back in huge buckets full. They fill my heart with appreciation for all their caring. Who could ask for anything more?


Thursday, February 2, 2017

And Finally... I'm BACK!!!

My gosh, I can't believe it's been six months since I put art up on my blog. I'll be honest, this is the first time I've picked up a paint brush in all that time. I wanted to but I've been... well, busy doesn't even cover it. I just couldn't paint so instead I read many, many, MANY books. Let me show you my first painting of 2017 then I'll tell you why I've been away for such a long time.

(Rainbow Radishes Tied With A Bow)
As 2017 got started I had to do some serious thinking about whether I was finally gonna come clean and explain what's been going on. I couldn't make a decision because the subject matter is so personal. What I decided to do is take a page out of one of my most beloved friend's playbook and tell the truth. Several years ago Tracey Fletcher King told the blogosphere what was happening in her life and I think it helped her get through it all just because she then didn't have to use subterfuge to explain her bloggy behavior. I think sharing her situation helped her in more ways that can be expressed. So, here we go.

I found out two weeks ago that I have endometrial cancer. In the last several years I've had some serious bleeding issues but since uterine cancer usually happens to women older than me, no one was that worried so I was put on a drug to stop the bleeding until I could lose weight enough to make surgery safe.

I've had weight issues all my life and never could figure out why I couldn't lose weight. Five years ago I found out I have celiac disease and once I switched to gluten free everything I lost a huge amount of weight. But since I had been undiagnosed for 40 years, I was still terribly sick (I also had more weight to lose for surgery to be truly safe). So surgery at that point would have been dangerous. The oral medication to stop the bleeding was a stop-gap so I could improve my health and lose a little more weight. Unfortunately, losing weight on this medication was IMPOSSIBLE. In fact, I gained almost every pound I had lost all while eating about a thousand calories a day.

Six months ago I decided I had to try getting off the oral meds so I could lose weight. My Gynecologist was against it as it was a possibility that the bleeding was in fact cancer and if it was, then the medication was acting like a chemotherapy device, keeping the cancer dormant. My argument was that no matter what, I needed to lose weight, whether it was cancer or not because they can't operate without me being thinner. Since I can't lose weight on the oral medication I thought the risk was worth it I mean, I was only forty-five, my chances of cancer were low. So I stopped taking the meds and lost half of what I'd gained in the last few years.. again, lol.

But then the hemorrhaging started and it shouldn't have started so quickly after stopping the oral meds. The biopsy came back a couple weeks ago as stage one endometrial cancer. I feel very lucky that they think it's stage one except the only real treatment is surgery. They did put in a chemotherapy device when they biopsied and that should help slow the growth and prevent excess bleeding. What I have to do now is lose weight. 

So that's where I am now. I didn't want to feel alone and I knew that I had friends out there that used to like my art so I thought I'd tell the truth and feel just a little less lonely. I promise to keep you all posted, I mean, if anyone out there is hopefully still reading this, lol. I intend to do what Tracey did, paint my way through this thing to help keep my sanity. She tells me it really helps and I sure do feel better putting brush and paint to paper.

I'll be painting regularly so if you're reading this you can be sure I'll be back, no hiding anymore. I've bought some new paints that I thought I'd swatch and I know all artists love peeking in on another artist's palette, hey, paint porn! LOL. I'm so glad to be back painting, I really missed it and I missed sharing my work. Talk soon, K?


Friday, January 6, 2017

Book Review: "The Elusive Elixir" by Gigi Pandian

"The Elusive Elixir" by Gigi Pandian is the latest book in the Gargoyle series and it comes out January 8, 2017. I love this series, it's so wonderfully creative. The previous books are: "The Accidental Alchemist" and "The Masquerading Magician", just click the links to read my reviews on these previous books.

Zoe Faust is and alchemist, she uses plants and herbs to make healing elixirs. Her best friend is a gargoyle named Dorian who has come to life but now is inexplicably turing back into stone. Zoe has been trying desperately to find a cure to save Dorian before he is trapped in his own stone shell. 

This time Zoe travels back and forth from Portland to Paris looking for answers to cure her friend and solve another murder that seems connected to alchemy. Zoe feels watched and wonders if she has a stalker who is interested in the dangerous backward alchemy she's researching to cure Dorian. Is it possible her stalker is also the murderer? It will take all her "little grey cells" to winnow out what is happening and she just might have to sacrifice herself to save her friends.

I love this series. I have rated both previous books as an excellent romp through a unique mystery that combines magic, alchemy, cooking and the benefits of a vegan lifestyle. Before I started this series I knew nearly nothing about Veganism but since I've gone Paleo in the last several years, I eagerly devoured the side themes in this mystery series. Dorian is not only a living gargoyle but he is also a professionally trained french chef. His mentor was a famous chef who went blind and so without knowing Dorian was a gargoyle, the blind chef taught all he knew to the "strange, deformed little man".

I also loved how the author weaves alchemy into her wonderfully imaginative mysteries. I would love it if magic were true so reading about alchemical possibilities imbues the mystery within Pangian's book with a sprinkling of magical whimsy. 

I would highly recommend that if you haven't picked up this series, that you start at the beginning before reading "The Elusive Elixir" as you just wouldn't enjoy it as much without all the background. This latest book brings many of the open story lines to a satisfying close, although I'm sure there will still be more gargoyle books. We are left hanging about finding the person who is stalking Zoe and weather she is in danger from him. As I said previously, I have loved this series for it's unusual and unique story line. I do have to admit though that this latest book was only a 3.5 out of five for me. I did really enjoy finally getting answers to questions from the last two books though so if you have read previous gargoyle books you'll love getting conclusions from this book. It's just fun to read a less serious mystery that is full of whimsy and great food! I recommend that you suspend your disbelief, buy this series and curl up with a good book. You'll be so glad you did.


Sunday, November 27, 2016

Book Review: "The Graphic Vegetable" by Michael B. Emery & Irwin Richman

"The Graphic Vegetable"  by Michael B. Emery & Irwin Richman publishes today, November 28, 2016 and is available to purchase.

This is a beautiful and visually stunning book. I contacted the publisher so I could have a hard copy to review as I didn't think my Kindle would do it justice. I'm so glad I did. As an artist I appreciate this book even more. It is really a love letter to vegetables and the way we've advertised them over the many years.

I have always been fascinated by seed packets and old can labels so the collection of photographs in this book is right up my alley. Alongside all the awesome vegetable artwork is an historical look at how we've seen vegetables on our tables in the last century. The authors start the book by discussing how vegetarianism got started then the book moves through each group of vegetable including onions, beets, carrots, kale, cucumber, peas, herbs etc. 

As I said above, it is obvious that this was a work of love for the authors. I find all the information fascinating but what I really love is the visual data, all the beautifully rendered artwork done in homage to the humble vegetable. If you are a visual person like me and get joy out of just seeing amazing artwork or, like the authors are irresistibly drawn to historical drawings and knowledge then this book is for you. It would make a sumptuous coffee table book for any artist or foodie. That's where mine is right now, where friends can peruse a beautifully rendered history of vegetables in both word and picture form. I think it would make an unusual but perfect Christmas gift for that hard-to-buy-for person.


Thursday, October 13, 2016

Book Review: "Stonefly" by Scott J. Holliday

"Stonefly" by Scott J. Holliday was a wonderfully unique book and so worth the time I took to read it. I'll start with a synopsis then give my reasons why you as the reader should invest some time in this book.

Jacob Duke has a compulsion to grant wishes. When he is ten a schoolmate wishes her tormentor dead and Jake is compelled to grant her wish. This act sends Jake to a mental institution in Braketon. We fast forward to ten years later and Jake has come back to Braketon to do some lazy fly fishing, he wants some alone time. He had promised himself while in the institution that someday he would enjoy beautiful Braketon summer days from outside the institution's walls. On his mini vacation from his tattoo shop, Jake doesn't intend on meeting a young boy named Frankie. Frankie makes a terrible wish. "I wish someone would kill my dad." Now Jake has six days to change Frankie's mind or fulfill his wish.

5+, When it's so good you just CAN'T miss it.
Some books build up a huge head of steam very quickly and the reader feels like they're rushing headlong into a spectacularly  overwhelming ending. Other books are a slow build of tension that keeps the reader reading steadily well into the night not because of the adrenaline rush but because they just have to know what happens to the characters. Scott Holliday's "Stonefly" is an exquisitely written book that follows the latter form of tension. It's tension is not the breathless kind but is still incredibly effective in compelling the reader to keep reading. We want to know what compels Jake to grant wishes, we want to know if Jake can rescue Frankie from his horribly abusive father and we want to see a happily ever after for Jake at the end.

Even by the first chapter I was trepidatious on wishing for that happily ever after for Jake but I knew I'd love this book. Sometimes just the sheer poetic beauty of the writer's style tells you you're gonna love this read. That's what this book was like for me, a five star slow boiling need to see what was gonna happen in Jake's unusual world. I'm not going to give you any more details about the book as even one more word would possibly ruin something wonderful. Go get this book, you'd be missing something awesome if you skip it.


Monday, October 10, 2016

Book Review: "Beautiful Maids All in a Row" by Jennifer Harlow

"Beautiful Maids All in a Row" by Jennifer Harlow comes out on October 10, 2016. This was the very first book this author ever wrote and she wrote it when she was nineteen. This truly excellent five star read certainly foreshadowed Jennifer Harlow's skill as an author. She has now written more than twelve books so you will have other selections as you explore this author's writings.

Dr. Iris Ballard is a mess. She used to be an FBI profiler with a degree in forensic psychology. Now she spends her time popping pills to help with her PTSD and when that doesn't work she moves on to vodka and chocolate bars. It all fell apart when a serial murder that she had caught got away and came for her. He not only stabbed Iris but he also shot her husband just to punish her for profiling him. It's been two years since that horrible day and Iris just wants to eat her chocolate bars, watch TV and drink her vodka.

When Iris's ex-partner Luke Hudson knocks on her door right after she's fired from her job at the local collage she isn't in the mood to listen to plea for help in the latest serial killer case he's heading up. But Luke leaves the files with her and Iris can't help herself, catching killers is what she does best. She becomes even more invested when one of the victims ends up being an acquaintance of her former husband.  Now Iris has to find and stop the man they call the Woodsman.

With her profile and a large team of FBI agents she and Luke plot how they will catch a killer who is stalking, drugging, raping and strangling women. The problem is he's smart enough to put the bodies in water next to the forests where he tortures them. There is no evidence to follow. It will become a cat and mouse game between Iris and the Woodsman. Who will be the mouse and who will play the cat becomes the problem as Iris struggles to stay out of a killer's sights.

5+ means the book is beyond great,
it means DON'T miss this one!
This book was beyond excellent. I knew within the first ten pages that I had a slam bang winner on my hands. Dr. Iris Ballard is a strong kick ass character that takes no guff from anyone, including her former partner. She is made all the more interesting and three dimensional as we learn of her guilt and shame wrapped around the incident that took her career and her husband. The writing was succinct with no wasted words. The author was so smart about making this mostly a game between two broken people, one a psychopathic killer and the other the profiler who needed to catch him. Only the scenes that needed explaining were added, there was no "fluffing" to make the book longer. This kept the tension high and caused this reader to hold her breath several times and read late into the night.

I certainly hope Jennifer Harlow writes more Iris Ballard books because her character was just that good. If I were you I'd put this book on my "to read" list and rush out to get it immediately. If you like psychological thrillers you nave a total winner in this one.


Thursday, September 29, 2016

Book Review: "Ghosts Of Havana" by Todd Moss

"Ghosts Of Havana" by Todd Moss published on September 6, 2016 so it is available for purchase now.

Judd Ryker is a former academic who now works for the American government as a state department crisis manager. His wife Jessica, although ostensibly a soccer mom is actually a covert CIA operative. Although Judd doesn't know it, his wife helps him behind the scenes.

Four friends from Maryland decide to take a fishing vacation off the coast of Florida. When their boat drifts into Cuban waters the Cuban navy promptly arrests all four men and throws them in jail. Judd is sent to negotiate their release. What he finds is that none of the details surrounding the incident make sense. Everyone around Judd is lying, they all have their own agenda regarding the politics that surround Cuban-American relations. Lives are in the balance though and Judd has to win the day to also save his own life and the lives of others.

This book was very well written and succinct. I always find it a great way of understanding what is happening in the world when an informed author writes an exciting story based on what's happing now. Todd Moss is the former deputy assistant secretary of state. Because of his intimate knowledge of the government, he imbues his books with details that feel real. 

Currently, actual US-Cuban relations are improving and changing, basing the book on real events allows for both a spectacular thriller and also lets the reader see behind the scenes so to speak. This is what makes Moss's books great. Beyond his strong characters, tight storyline and terrific grasp of how to keep the reader engaged, we also feel like the story just might be true. I give this book a 4 out of five stars.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Book Review: "Against All Grain Celebrations" by Danielle Walker

I am so thrilled to be reviewing Danielle Walker's newest cookbook, "Against All Grain Celebrations". This wonderfully creative Gluten Free and Paleo cookbook is out in stores on September 27,2016.

I have to confess, I'm a huge fan of Danielle Walker. I have both of her other cookbooks in hardcover, I follow her blog and get her newsletter. I must have pinned over a hundred of her recipes in the past few years and every recipe I've made has come out deliciously. I love that Mrs. Walker gives tips both in her book and online about how to make her recipes the best you can achieve.

Cooking Paleo and Gluten Free is hard. Not only is it difficult going without the regular, convenience foods everyone else can indulge in but acquiring all the myriad ingredients and then producing a successful recipe can seriously be daunting. In comes Danielle Walker and her cookbooks. I can't believe I can say this but I have only had success with her recipes, that's a miracle in the Paleo & GF world. I'd have to say that when I just go online to find recipes it's usually a 50-50 chance that the recipe will fail. This is usually no fault of my own, I know to follow directions explicitly. In fact, the first Christmas we were GF, more than half of our recipes were inedible. What a waste of food, effort and Christmas spirit! Needless to say, I didn't have Danielle's cookbooks, "Against All Grain Celebrations", "Danielle Walker's Against All Grain: Meals Made Simple: Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, and Paleo Recipes to Make Anytime" or "Against All Grain: Delectable Paleo Recipes to Eat Well & Feel Great" then. Now several years later, I'm looking forward to Christmas cooking & baking, especially with Danielle's newest cookbook specifically focusing on successful celebrations at hand.

(5+ stars means this book is BETTER
than great, it totally ROCKS!)
"Against All Grain Celebrations" is laid out in celebratory holiday sections like Halloween, Mother's & Father's Day, Easter, Christmas, Valentine's Day, Birthdays and even Fourth of July Barbecues and Autumn Dinner Parties! You'll also find conversion charts, a recipe index and a special diet index where Danielle has specified which of her recipes conform to certain special diets or food group exclusions like needing to be egg free.

Mrs. Walker also has a section on the most successful ingredients and brands to use. Many times it matters just what almond flour or other ingredient brand you use. It can mean  failure if you have the wrong grind on your flour for instance. Danielle has done ALL the work for you in her cookbooks and website. Danielle Walker draws on her own experience of fighting an autoimmune disease and she knows the pain of not being able to eat what other's eat. Now with this newest cookbook you can have company over and know that the food will please everyone. You will not have to risk your health by cooking "regular" recipes for those who do not need to eat a special diet. No one will suspect that it's grain free because it will taste so delicious, it won't matter that it's made using Paleo & Gluten Free ingredients. Speaking for those of use who need to be Paleo and Gluten Free to save our health and lives, I thank Danielle Walker for all her amazing diligent work.

Lastly, I received this cookbook as a download onto my Kindle and I've personally found that I enjoy the hardcover cookbooks much more and find them easier to use. I didn't get to enjoy the colorful, encouraging and mouthwatering photographs because mine were black & white. Before Christmas, like you, I will be purchasing my own hardcover of this cookbook. I really can't imagine trying to do holiday cooking without Danielle Walker's excellent help. Now with her three cookbooks in print I have a huge plethora of great recipes to choose from.


Saturday, September 24, 2016

Book Review: "The Comfort Of Black" by Carter Wilson

"The Comfort Of Black" by Carter Wilson has already been published and is available for purchase. This title has won several awards including the following:

WINNER: 2016 Colorado Book Awards (Thriller)
WINNER: 2016 International Book Awards (Mystery/Suspense)
WINNER: 2016 National Indie Excellence Award(Suspense)      

FINALIST: 2016 RONE Award(Suspense Category)

Hannah has survived a brutal, violent childhood and she still has nightmares about Billy, her abusive father, who is now in jail. Hannah ended up raising her younger sister after Billy was incarcerated for almost killing her and her mother committed suicide. Hanna is a strong woman though, she didn't let her childhood stop her from building a successful life. She got an education, then met and married Dallin who has become very successful with his Internet security firm. But Hannah isn't sure she's happy, she drinks too much and misses her husband who seems to be more and more distant lately. He also seems to be hiding something.

All of Hannah's fears about Dallin coalesce when she hears him talking in his sleep. The things he mumbles that night, that he wants to hurt women, chills his wife. Hannah realizes she has to know what her husband might be hiding and that decision sets off a complicated set of circumstances that has Hannah running for her life. Finding out what is truth and who is lying about her life becomes Hannah's focus. Surviving her new reality will be even more difficult than surviving her abusive childhood.

I really liked this book but I didn't love it. I wanted to love it, I almost loved it but in the end I actually think that because I read excessively and have experienced some minor situations like in this book, I didn't find it as believable as I should have. I think most readers would agree with the award givers, this is an excellent read. Therefore although personally I'd rate it a 3.5 out of 5, I'll professionally giving it a 4. 

The characters are expertly written, the situations are heart pounding and the thriller leaves you breathless. The reader feels the main character's pain and confusion as she tries desperately to sort out what is happening to her life. When there seems no where to turn and no one to trust the reader feels caught in the quagmire that the author has so skillfully written. I really do think most readers will think this book is well worth their time. I recommend it and hope you will go out and purchase this well priced thriller.


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Book Review: "Robert B. Parker's Debt To Pay" by Reed Farrel Coleman

"Robert B. Parker's Debt To Pay" by Reed Farrel Coleman  published on September 13, 2016 so it's available for purchase now. Reed Farrel Coleman has taken over writing Robert B. Parker's character Jesse Stone and now that I've read "Debt To Pay" I agree with The Huffington Post about the novel's success.
“This series can run forever in these new capable hands and readers will eagerly await each new book about Jesse Stone. I know I will.”
The Huffington Post

When Robert B. Parker died he left several strong characters such as Spencer and Jesse Stone, I think the readers are lucky that Reed Farrel Coleman agreed to bring the Jesse Stone character back to life. Several of my favorite authors are deceased, John D. MacDonald and Robert A. Heinlein to name a few, and I heartily miss their incredible characters. I mourn the fact there are to be no more of their engrossing books. It's great to feel like I'm getting on of my favorite author's back.

Not much is happening in Paradise, the small town where Jesse Stone is Chief of Police. Although there has been some annoying petty vandalism lately, Jesse is much more concerned about his ex wife Jenn's upcoming wedding. He received his invitation but because of their convoluted history, he just doesn't want to attend. Jesse is worried seeing Jenn will stir up a hornet's nest of emotions that he's worked hard to tamp down. Besides, he has a new woman in his life and he doesn't think Dianna will want to attend his ex's nuptials.

Jesse doesn't get to carry out his decision to skip the wedding though. An old foe has reared his deadly little head up and threatened everyone Jesse cares about, including his ex wife Jenn. Now Jesse has to try and puzzle out the clues to just what Mr. Peepers is planning. Peepers is a lethal shadowy, brilliant assassin who is nearly a ghost to law enforcement. Only Jesse and Suit have seen the madman's face, that and the fact that Jesse is the only one to ever thwart Mr. P's assassination plans have put all of Jesse's friends in the cross hairs.

I read every one of the Spencer books and several of the Jesse Stone novels by RBP. I also watched the tv versions of these characters. I guess what I'm saying is that I know what to expect from a Parker novel and I thought I'd be hard to convince that anyone could reanimate Parker's characters and make them as good as he wrote them. I had my doubts that I'd like this book by Coleman. I can honestly say I was shocked at how stunningly good this book was. I will certainly be picking up more of this series now that it has been brought back to life by Reed Farrel Coleman. He's one hell of a good writer. This is a 5 out of five read, don't miss this book.


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