Thursday, January 28, 2016

Book Review: "Hail Storme" by W.L. Ripley

I've just finished reading W.L. Ripley's "Hail Storme", the first book in his Wyatt Storme series. What a great ride it was. I'm happy to say there are several more Wyatt Storme mysteries for me to sink my teeth into so I'll have many happy nights reading meaty books.

We meet the main character Wyatt Storme in the forests of Missouri where he's bow hunting. We're told he's a former professional football player and Vietnam vet. Storme just wants a calm week hunting and enjoying down time at his cabin. The problems start when he comes across a large marijuana field guarded by a vicious doberman and a man with a gun. Storme is forced to kill the dog and wound the gunman. When Storme reports the incident and the marijuana filet to the local sheriff he unknowingly begins a domino effect that will end in a bloody battle for his life.

"Hail Storme" was an incredibly complicated and totally enjoyable read. I was completely immersed and invested in Storme's character and had trouble putting it down at night to allow myself some sleep. It took me several nights to finish Ripley's novel because it was so wonderfully deep yet easy to read. I found myself really getting to know Wyatt Storme. The writer fleshes his character out so expertly that Storme felt real to me. I'm not surprised that many have compared Ripley's Wyatt Storme  to John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee, it's an apt comparison  This is a five star winner and I can't wait to read the next in the series.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Filling The Gap

Hiya. There hasn't been much from me this last week but I'm hoping that I can change that really soon. I'm having trouble with carpel tunnel in my dominant hand so painting (and typing for that matter) is darn hard. If I want this to heal I have to let it alone and just not use the hand for a few more days. I didn't know until a few years ago that I had weak wrists that were prone to carpel tunnel. Up until this time the problem has always been in my right wrist (non-dominant). 

Anyway, all I have is from early last week, just adding a little playfulness to my sketchbook. I gave a good friend tea snails for a silly Christmas present. She's notoriously hard to get kitsch for when it comes to tea because I think she may own EVERY cute infuser in the world. Hehehe. These little silicone snails sit on the edge of your mug and you wrap the teabag string around it's shell. I thought they were just so unique and cute that I had to get them for her. I figured if she usually used loose tea, she could put them along a pen cup so they could sit and watch her and cheer on the art she makes. Hope you're having a pleasant week all!


Monday, January 11, 2016

Book Review: "The Bitter Season" By Tami Hoag

"The Bitter Season" By Tami Hoag comes out January 12, 2016. This is a complex, mesmerizing psychological thriller that continues Hoag's Kovac/Liska series. 

I am not going to do what I usually do when I review a book. I'm not going to outline what this one is about. The plot is just too complicated (in a good way) and if I try, I might inadvertently give away a detail that will lesson your enjoyment of this spectacular read. I'll spell out the very basics. Detective Nikki Liska has a twenty-five year old murder case she's working on and her former partner Sam Kovac is saddled with a brutal double homicide of a professor and his wife. The reader goes back and forth between these cases until the detectives realize the two cases seem to be connected. How that's possible makes for a hugely satisfying mystery. This was one of the most intense books I've read this year.

I read mostly mysteries and I'm used to having a good idea about who done it by the end of a book. Even if the writer is good enough to fool me until the end, I almost always have the plot twists and scenarios worked out, if not the actual murderer. This time though I had no idea at all who done it or why or even what was connecting the old and new murders. It was GREAT to be so in the dark! I spent hours (when not reading the book) trying desperately to figure out how, why, who and what. I loved the challenge and instead of that challenge being frustrating, it was exhilarating. I recommend this book wholeheartedly and would give it more than five stars if the rating system would let me. Don't miss this one, you'd be missing a gem of a mystery.


Sunday, January 10, 2016

Extending Christmas

Yes, I know Christmas ended weeks ago. Sue me, lol. I didn't get to paint up a poinsettia until now and I've wanted to paint one forever. Seriously. It's been on my paint bucket list for at least four years but I never got to it. Honestly, I think I didn't really think I could do it justice until now. Tracey's Delicious Paint course really changed my confidence level and gave me skills I didn't know I could learn. I'm so waiting for another course and I hear she's not only running Delicious Paint again this spring but will also be putting out another new course. Yep, I'll be first in line for that one.

Anyway, I finally found the courage to put paint to paper and discovered that I could indeed paint a poinsettia. I'm pretty happy with the way it turned out. I'm trying hard to be looser with my lines and my paintbrush. Now all I have to do is figure out what to paint next. I'll take suggestions, lol.

Later gator.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Do You Love Brussels Sprouts?

I started drawing up this recipe more than a month ago. Christmas planning and execution definitely got in the way. We made this recipe for awesome brussels sprouts (testing it for Christmas) and were blown away by just how great and easy they are. They're sweet and spicy and just so you know, the amount of sriracha sauce is minimal, I don't like spicy stuff much. But, of course, you can up the ante and ratchet up the heat by increasing the sriracha to whatever you like. I thought I'd actually type up the recipe below just in case you can't read my artwork, lol. (below, click on either side of the recipe to see larger)

Left Page RecipeRight Page Recipe

Honey Garlic Roasted Brussels Sprouts

1½-2 pounds brussels sprouts
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup balsamic vinegar (or rice-wine vinegar)
¼ cup honey
1 1/2 tsps Sriracha sauce
2 tsp minced garlic (about 4 cloves)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Trim the brussels sprouts & cut in half.
2. In a large bowl, whisk the olive oil with the vinegar, honey, garlic and Sriracha to combine. Add the brussels sprouts and toss until they are fully coated. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
3. Spread the brussels sprouts on a baking sheet, cut sides down. Pour any extra olive-oil mixture onto the pan and tilt the pan around to distribute it.
4. Roast until the sprouts are crispy on the outside and golden and caramelized on the cut sides, about 30 minutes. Serve immediately.

We'll talk soon, it's art all the time here at the McLean house. God I need a tea, I'm off caffeine and it's killing me. ;o)

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Book Review: "Three Truths & A Lie" By Lisa Gardner

"Three Truths & A Lie" By Lisa Gardner comes out January 5, 2016. This is a great little short story that introduces you to Lisa Gardner's writing style and her popular Detective D.D. Warren character. There are ten mysteries in this series so any reader who likes Gardner's writing has a plethora of meaty books to read.

It looks like this short story will be only $1.99 on Kindle when it comes out so I think it's a great way to meet the series' main character. This novella also includes a preview of Gardner's next mystery to come out, "Find Her", which I will be reviewing in February 2016 just before it's publishing date. I'm pretty excited to get reading that one.

Boston Detective D.D. Warren is intimidated by very few things but this latest assignment has her tied up in psychological knots. How did she get roped in to giving a fifty minute speech to a large group of thriller writers who thrive on bloodlust? D.D. has no idea what she's going to say about police procedure or how she might educate a bunch of writers on true police work. At the last minute she realizes all she has to do is use one of her actual cases. Who wouldn't be interested in a twisted case involving murder, drugs, cheap hotel rooms, prostitution and a severed leg? 

Lisa Gardner always hits them out of the park, so to speak. I've never read a mystery from her that I didn't like. Although this novella is short, it still holds the reader's interest through to the last sentence. I laughed out loud several times at some of the tongue in cheek dialogue that makes Gardner's characters great. I also loved how she wove a few actual writer's names into the story, it made the context of the story feel really real. I could imagine D.D. Warren standing in a lecture hall talking to a bunch of cheeky authors as she tried to keep them interested. This was a solid four out of five star read, I just wish it was longer! Luckily I have a full novel from Gardner to read soon. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Book Review: "The Forgotten Soldier" by Brad Taylor

"The Forgotten Soldier" by Brad Taylor will be published December 29, 2015 so it'll make a great New Year's book. I've read several of Mr. Taylor's Pike Logan series and I have loved them all. Normally, a mystery/thriller based in military jargon isn't my thing but I find all the authentic information in Taylor's books to be fascinating.

I previously reviewed "Insider Threat" and "No Fortunate Son" by Taylor and each time I pick up one of his thrillers I'm mesmerized by the sheer amount of knowledge this former Lieutenant Colonel who is a twenty-one year veteran of the U.S. Army Infantry and Special Forces imparts in his books. I love learning when I read but first and foremost, I want the novel to be fun and good. Brad Taylor never misses that mark.

Guy George is determined to seek revenge against the men who killed his special forces brother. When he figures out who his brother was tracking on his last mission, it gives Guy information to do some tracking of his own. The military doesn't want Guy following the leads he has to find his brother's killer because of who Guy is. He is a member of a clandestine group called the Taskforce. These specially trained operatives work under the radar as a counterterrorist unit to anticipate attacks around the world and prevent threats to the United States. By seeking revenge, Guy is putting the secret of the Taskforce in jeopardy. When Guy "goes rogue" Pike Logan is sent to bring him back into the fold and prevent an international incident as Guy goes after government officials of allied nations who may be complicit in his brother's death. Logan is split in his loyalties to his friend and the administration he's sworn to protect. 

As I said above, I really love Brad Taylor's thrillers and this was no exception. I found myself starting to understand (even in just a small way) the intricacies of political infighting and international relationships. I am not a political animal but I do like not feeling stupid if I'm listening to a discussion about political things. By reading this book I find myself feeling a little less stupid. Taylor is such a good writer that he makes ingesting complex information as easy as eating lemon meringue pie. And who doesn't like pie? This is certainly a five out of five star read. Even if this genre isn't usually your thing, I still recommend you trying it. I guarantee you won't be disappointed.


Sunday, December 6, 2015

Book Review: "Fixed In Fear" By T. E. Woods

"Fixed In Fear" By T. E. Woods comes out on December 8, 2015. I have read every book in the Fixer series and loved them all. I found this one to be the most intense Fixer yet.

Detective Mort Grant can't believe his beautiful daughter has become a deadly criminal. Mort knows she's dangerous but when Allie shows up at his granddaughter's soccer game claiming she misses her family, Mort is confused about what to do. He is desperate to have Allie back in the family fold but he is unsure if she is prepared to give up her former life as a criminal.

On top of the threat that Allie brings into Mort's life, the detective is also working on a brutal murder case. Mort is helping to find the killer of five innocent people participating in a sweat lodge. One of the murder victims is a family member of Mort's best friend, Larry and Mort wants to solve this painful incident quickly so his friend can grieve in peace. The conclusion of the murder will tear Larry's life apart.

This book was a solid five out of five. If found myself holding my breath as I read page after page. I had trouble putting my Kindle down. Over these five Fixer books I've gotten to know the two main characters, The Fixer and Mort Grant. T.E. Woods expertly lets us learn about the deep personal nuances of her characters and because of her excellent writing skills I found myself hurting for the characters. It is unusual for a book to drill deep into my consciousness. This one did. I found myself days later thinking about how I would feel or what I would do if similar things happened to me. That makes this a stellar thriller. Go read this series, you'll not be disappointed.


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Book Review: "The Masquerading Magician" by Gigi Pandian

"The Masquerading Magician" by Gigi Pandian is the second book I've read in this series. I loved the first mystery (The Accidental Alchemist) so I'm thrilled to be reviewing the second installment that will be published January 8, 2016.

Once again, Gigi Pandian has hit it out of the park. I just loved this continuation of the story started in "The Accidental Alchemist". If you can suspend your disbelief I can guarantee you'll love reading this cozy mystery.

Zoe Faust is an alchemist. She works most successfully with plants to make healing teas, tinctures and salves, she has a real talent for making things grow and bringing out the healing properties of plants. In the first book we learn that after many, many years of traveling the world, Zoe wants to put down some roots in Portland, Oregon so she buys an old house. Her life is made much more complicated when a living gargoyle named Dorian is found hiding in the crates she's had shipped from Paris. In "The Masquerading Magician", Zoe is trying to decipher an ancient alchemy text so she can hopefully cure Dorian from turning back into stone and trapping him forever.

When Zoe takes a rare night off she attends an old fashioned magic show, the magicians remind her of people she knew in the past and she suspects there may be another alchemist in her midst. When a murder happens at the same theatre the next day, Zoe decides to find out if there may be a mystery afoot. She's hoping to find another alchemist to help her decipher the complicate and dangerous alchemy book. The temporary cures she's making for Dorian are sapping her life force from her, making her sicker every time she performs the backward alchemy to make the curative tea. If Zoe can't get help she may be unable to continue and Dorian will die.

What can I say, I just LOVED this book. It is a solid five out of five. It is so fun when you find an unbelievable book that you just want to believe in. I find it so enjoyable to wish there could be a Dorian the Gargoyle out there somewhere. I also really liked the background food theme. The character of Zoe, because of her alchemist background, finds plants to be the most healing of foods. She is therefore a Vegan and I was intrigued learning about the delicious sounding recipes that are being created in her kitchen. Although food is a small part of this book, I found it's inclusion made for even more interesting background for the character.

Gigi Pandian has started a very successful series with Zoe and Dorian and there is definitely room for several more books about the pair. As the reader, I was interested in the magical qualities of Alchemy and found myself wishing that it were somehow true. If you're a dreamer like I am then you'll love this series. It will make you wish for magical truths and unique creatures. Who wouldn't love a little more mystery and uniqueness in our lives, isn't that why we read books?


Friday, November 20, 2015

ADEM - Day Eighteen, Nineteen, Twenty & Twenty-One

I've been conspicuously absent from AEDM for... hmm, let me see, Day 15 was the last time I posted. For the last five or so days I've been hobbling around like the hunchback of Notre Dame. We McLean's have notoriously bad backs and once again, with no fault of my own, I pulled my back out. I didn't even twist, trip or move the wrong way. Sheesh! You'd think I'd have done a jig or participated in the triathlon with the amount of pain I've had these past days.

It took me four days to draw a spoon. That sounds really pathetic. But every time I went to put pencil to paper my back wouldn't co-operate. I got the idea to do a spoon from Nigel Roberts, he's participating in AEDM too. I visited his blog and learned about The Spoon Theory. I was mesmerized by Christine Miserandino’s explanation of what's it like to be ill. 
I understand how Christine feels. I don't have lupus but I do get how one who is ill has to "count her spoons". Her explanation is the first time I've had a cogent way of explaining what it's like to not have the physical resources one wishes they had. So, that's it for today. I'm slowly healing and I can't guarantee any art in any consistency but I'll keep trying. Until then, I hope you all have a day filled with paint.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Do You Know About The Perfect Sketchbook?

I just thought I'd add an update for all of you lovely artists out there interested in spectacular art supplies. If you're like me, and I don't think I've met an artist who wasn't, you LOVE learning about art supplies.

Some time ago a very cool artist, Erwin Lian, decided to try to create The Perfect Sketchbook. He crowd funded a pocket version of the sketchbook you see on the left. The campaign was a total success and artists around the world heralded the incredible paper and other great features of this sketchbook.

I was so thrilled when Erwin decided to, once again, crowd fund larger version of The Perfect Sketchbook. I wrote all about this new sketchbook's details HERE. The campaign is in it's last ten days so if you want to get your own Perfect Sketchbook, go here and buy into the crowd fund. It is 225% funded so the sketchbook is guaranteed to go through. All who contributed to purchasing a Perfect Sketchbook will be getting our wish. Because Mr. Lian is unsure if this Perfect Sketchbook will ever be available in stores, this is you only guaranteed way of getting one of these gems. I didn't participate last time with the pocket sketchbook and I regretted it, this time, come hell or high water, I was gonna participate. Who wouldn't want a spectacularly good sketchbook with amazing paper and a leather cover that you can actually get embossed with your name?? Seriously, so far, 42 countries full of artists have participated!

Yep, it's popular! HURRY, there's only TEN DAYS LEFT to participate. It would be a great Christmas gift for any artist.


Saturday, November 14, 2015

AEDM - Day Fifteen

Wow, half way through AEDM. Christmas is just six weeks away. I'm stunned. I guess I gotta make a Christmas list, huh? I'm sure there'll be art supplies on it, there always is. Last Christmas one of the things I really wanted were Da Vinci Maestro Pure Kolinsky 1503 watercolor brushes. Here's the story.

When I started painting in watercolor I knew nothing about the supplies, I had a LOT to learn. I bought standard brushes, not too good, not bad either. But I did purchase brushes that were waaaay too large, I didn't even have an 6, everything was a 8 or bigger! I struggled. A few years later I started painting in a sketchbook and bought waterbrushes. What a wonderful invention!! They made working with watercolor so much easier since I didn't really know what I was doing, lol. I took Sketchbook Skool classes and thrived with the waterbrushes. I fell in love with the Niji and bought all sizes. I put good brushes on my Christmas list along with new Niji yearly.
Ode To My Beloved Waterbrushes
What changed everything was when I took a class with Tracey Fletcher King. It was called Delicious Paint (and will be run again in April 2016, I suggest you take it!!) Tracey suggested I try actual brushes but didn't tell me what brand, just that she used from a 1 to a 5 size almost exclusively. I went looking and learned by accident (just by trying to learn about which synthetic brushes were the best) that sable brushes were harder to purchase currently. It seems that the animal (in the weasel family) the hair came from was on the endangered list and no one knew if importing would start again. (I have no idea what happened with that, by the way). This made me decide to bite the bullet and get good brushes once and for all and it seemed many agreed that Da Vinci's 1503 were great brushes. (They're actually travel brushes but then I have small hands and i loved the idea that I could protect the expensive tips by storing them in their handles.

These brushes, along with Tracey's tutelage, changed my art drastically. I went from that looks nice to I'm so proud of that! I'm SO glad I spent the money on my brushes, I covet them. Now though my waterbrushes stand on my desk in a cup, unloved and a little dusty. I mostly use them now for adding water to my paint, lol. They're accurate for that which is great. Maybe someday I'll do plein air work, until now they sit and remind me of when I struggled to understand my paint. I'm so glad I kept struggling because now painting makes me so happy.

Friday, November 13, 2015

AEDM - Dy Fourteen

What a terrible thing to happen in Paris. I'm horrified. It makes one feel so helpless to hear of such terrible acts against innocent people. It also feels a little weird to post about something so silly as my glasses and how I drew them up this afternoon, immortalizing them on a page. Yes, I'm supposed to do art about my life and I'm thrilled to have a terrific pair of glasses that help me see ever so much better. But it feels so trivial somehow. I'm sure everybody is feeling the same way though, I'm not alone, I'm sure.

So, I'm gonna leave it at the art and say I'm so sorry terrorism has landed within your borders again. I hope and pray for the recovery of all who were affected.
My New Glasses

AEDM - Day Twelve & Thirteen

I obviously meant this to go up for Remembrance Day but it took too much time to finish. Do you mind seeing poppies on November thirteenth?? I can't believe it's already thirteen days into AEDM. Where does the time go?

The poppies were so much fun to do. I really did splash paint around, all over my arms (as I put one into a puddle of paint on the page, lol) and drips on my desk. This is probably the messiest I've ever painted. I wanted it to be really free form, the impression of bright red poppies. I'm actually pretty darn pleased for my very first attempt at freeform painting. I really didn't plan anything but the stems (I didn't want to paint over them inadvertently as it's hard to un-paint quin red and pure yellow, they're quite staining.) I just made four mixes of color, pure red, yellow mix, dark red-purple mix and a dark black type color, I used neutral tint actually. I knew I'd just dip and paint for all the other nuances. It worked terrifically, well, except now my palette is kind of a mess, lol. But then that's the best kind of mess, right?? The more paint everywhere the better.

NEVER FORGET - Remembrance Day Poppies
Anyway, here's wishing all of you artist a great and happy weekend filled with art. My plan is to cover myself in some kind of art supplies, maybe graphite or charcoal or something this time. We'll see, I try not to plan my creativity too much, lol.
Talk soon, K? Good!


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Book Review: Death Before Decaf by Caroline Fardig

"Death Before Decaf" by Caroline Fardig begins a new series  that comes out November 17th, 2015 starring an outspoken fiery redhead named Juliet Langley. She is a musician and business owner but when her career crashes and the coffee bar she loves is monetarily gutted by her cheating fiancé  Juliet is forced to take a job as the new manager of Java Jive. It's owned by her best friend Pete, they've known each other since University. What could go wrong?

On Juliet's first day she doesn't make a good impression on her staff. She fights with the head cook and alienates the baristas. The day gets even worse when she finds the cook she argued with dead in the dumpster out back. Now she's a suspect in a murder, her employees hate her, Java Jive is hemorrhaging money and she can't count the health code violations she's spotted all over the restaurant.

Juliet wonders what she's gotten herself into. She decides she better find the real killer before the police decide she's the easiest person to charge in the murder. The problem is she's a hotheaded redhead not a sleuth.

This turned out to be quite a fluffy mystery. For me, it was only a three out of five star. I just didn't enjoy the characters, they seemed so one dimensional and obvious. Juliet is  a redhead who actually blames her red hair for having little control of her anger and other emotional outbursts. Pete, her best friend and secret crush is actually called "Saint Pete" in the book and he's too perfect. In fact he's so perfect he becomes milk toast. Many of the other minor characters are similarly one dimensional, the bitchy girlfriend, the sarcastic barista, the lone wolf mystery man and the foul mouthed crackerjack grandma. 

It was hard to believe that the character Juliet, after being so cheated on only a few months ago, would so easily trust and date a guy she knew nothing about. I just never really got to care about who murdered the cook. I gave the book three out of five because the writing was smooth and easy to digest, there were no superfluous filler bits that bore the reader and it made me wish the actual story was better. I've heard that Caroline Fardig has written another series called the Lizzie Hart mysteries that are wildly popular. I just might try one of those next. I don't want to give up on this author quite yet.


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

AEDM - Day Ten

Something simple today. It's been a looong day. I started juicing today and learning to get it right, cutting pup all the veggies and prepping them, all for future juice extraction, has been exhausting work. 

Someone in Sketchbook Skool (on the Facebook website) did something similar to this and I thought is was so darn cute and tongue in cheek that I just had to do a little stealing. And since I've read the book "Steal Like An Artist", I'm just proving I know how to read and do what I'm told. ;o)
(Thumbnail Sketch, you gotta love a little subtle humor.)

Let's just hope life settles down and I have a little more time for art. I have so many ideas like I want to do some poppies. I've wanted to try poppies for months and since Remembrance Day is just around the corner, I thought it was the perfect time. Now, just to carve out some time!


Sunday, November 8, 2015

AEDM - Day Nine

Ooh, I love to add paint to a piece. This one I really wanted to capture the "well loved" nature of the lotion tube. I think I captured that. I decided to do the shadow in purple because the shadows on the tube was neutral tint and the silver top part was Payne's grey. I wanted the cast shadow to stand out from the other shadows.

This is what the drawing looked like yesterday, before I added any detail. It's weird to look at the line drawing after you have the finished product to compare to.
I found that I had to just go for it when it came to putting all the shadows on the tube in. It's kind of hard to mess up a pretty bottle with all those little flowers but if I wanted it to looked squeezed and folded I had to just throw caution to the wind. I think it worked.
Talk to you in a day or so with paint, paint and more paint. K? Good!


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