Monday, August 22, 2016

Book Review: "Girl Underwater" by Claire Kells

"Girl Underwater" by Claire Kells has already been published so you can go scoop it up right now and start reading this terrific thriller right away. Astonishingly, this is Claire Kells' first book! This is a story about survival in the thick of a crisis and afterwards when one has to deal with the fallout from enduring something horrific.

Avery Delacorte is a sophomore at a California University, she is an Olympic hopeful swimming in a nationally ranked team. She is happy, she may not be swimming the events she wants but she feels good about her life. She has a boyfriend, she is popular and she's finally broken away from her suffocatingly successful family. Avery is the youngest child, the only girl. Her three older brothers are hugely successful, one is a million dollar baseball player, another one is in Hollywood. Finally she's making her own way in California, so many miles away from Brookline, the wealthy part of Boston, Mass.

Her teammate Colin Shea thinks she should fight for what she wants, to swim the 1500m. But what does he know, Avery thinks. He's the next Michael Phelps, he can choose whatever he wants when it comes to his swimming career. Avery just wants to fit in. She actively avoids Colin on campus because of this conflict. Avery is forced to spend 6 hours with him though when he sits beside her as they fly home over Thanksgiving break. She will become grateful for his switching seats to sit beside her when the plane crashes in the bitterly cold Rocky mountains. He tells her they will survive as the plane crashes into a cold lake. Avery believes him, she holds onto Colin's words as her primary comfort.

Only five souls survive the plane crash. Colin, Avery and three little boys. Now they have to survive the freezing weather where everything they can scavenge from the sinking plane is wet, they have little food and no shelter. How does one overcome these extreme conditions? And if you do survive, how do you deal with the aftermath, the physical and emotional pain that follows victims of tragedy.

This is a five star book. I will certainly be seeking out Claire Kells' future books because this one was so stellar. I found myself grabbed from the first page. Kells has written her characters so expertly that I felt connected to Avery and Colin immediately. I could see myself feeling just like Avery as she struggles to help them all survive. The novel moves back and forth through time so the reader feels immersed in her survival before she's rescued and after as she deals with the psychological trauma of the event. I couldn't put this book down, since this story alternates from past to present I know Avery survived but I felt an immeasurably strong need to get to the end of her story. Kells is a terrific writer, she created great tension between Avery and all the people around her. It seemed as though no one could understand her pain. It made the book a visceral experience. Hopefully Claire Kells will write another book soon because I couldn't recommend this one more strongly. It's a beautiful story of survival.

Best,

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

MacKenzie-Childs Love (#WorldWatercolorMonth)

I'm in love. Nope, not with a person, with a brand. I've been jonesing for anything MacKenzie-Childs lately. I especially love their Courtly Check pattern. Who doesn't love black and white together? Then they add bits and hints of turquoise, teal and a lovely bright green and quin gold to pump up the volume. Their enameled mugs are awesome, all 16 ounces of them! They're endlessly expensive but so darn adorable that I'd have something made by them in every room if I could.


I could see Christmas done in the Courtly Check pattern, with little tiered plates, gorgeous fluted bowls and checkered mugs filled with hot chocolate with marshmallows floating on top. Oh, don't forget the candy cane stirrer. I looked it up, they even have Christmas tree decorations. Of course they do. MacKenzie-Childs found a niche and ran with it. They're the company that put all different painted patterns on things like tuffets (you know, the thing that Little Miss Muffet sat on?) and tables and chairs. Well, now they put hand painted patterns on EVERYTHING. I know they're hugely popular and I'm so in love I'm willing to spend $7000 for a sofa. That is if I had $7000 to throw away. And that would only be predicated on me winning millions of dollars.

Since it would take a tiny miracle for me to own large amounts of MacKenzie-Childs pieces, I thought I'd memorialize my obsession love of this gores pattern. I did a double page layout, double the love. Ode To Courtly Check.
MacKenzie-Childs Courtly Check Kettle
MacKenzie-Childs Mug, Salt & Pepper Shakers
If you want to participate in the second half of the #WorldWatercolorMonth go to the Facebook page and join. I'll be back with more art soon. Later Gator.

Best,

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Feathering My Nest (#WorldWatercolorMonth)

I haven't posted for a few days and I've filled my time painting feathers. Maybe tomorrow I'll do a whole bird. ;o)

First I thought I'd try some peacock feathers. Although the drawing gave me great hope for the success of this painting, I don't really think it turned out much like I wanted it to. It became nearly impossible to add shadows with all the stuff going on "on top". I'll have to figure out how to add details to the eyes of the peacock feathers. Not sure how to subtly connote the fact they're made of thin feathers that are hooked together.

Peacock Feathers
The next feather I thought I'd do was a plain white one then play with the shadows and the background color. I really like how this one turned out. Although I don't have phthalo turquoise, I decided to try to mix it. It's on my wish list for Christmas, but then paint is always on my wish list, lol. Ya, I hear you. Line forms to the left Jenn, we ALL want more and more and more paint!!

White Feather on Turquoise
Finally I found a Macaw feather online and painted it up. I think this one turned out the best. These have been fun, it's surprising how difficult the details are to get right though.
Macaw Feather
I'll see you tomorrow with something else, not sure it'll have feathers though, lol. If you'd like to start participating in #WorldWatercolorMonth just go to the Facebook group to join.

Supplies used to create the above art: Daniel Smith or Schmencke watercolors in cobalt turquoise, phthalo blue, Payne's grey, neutral tint, phthalo yellow-green, sap green, pure yellow, manganese blue, french ultramarine PB60, burnt umber, burnt sienna, yellow ochre, buff titanium, Arches 140lb hot pressed paper, Da Vinci Meastro 1503 travel brushes size1, 2, 3, pencil F, kneaded eraser. Sakura Pigma Micron pen 005.

Best,

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Book Review: "All Is Not Forgotten" by Wendy Walker

"All Is Not Forgotten" by Wendy Walker will be published July 12, 2016. I waffled about my enjoyment of this book throughout the reading of it. In the end it is a four star read. It does finally get to that satisfying ending but you have to believe you're going to get there. This story is told masterfully and uses a unique point of view of the psychiatrist, his name is Dr. Alan Forrester. Let me give you the synopsis and then we'll discuss the good and the bad. Maybe I  can convince you to give up a few days to read this because in the end it is worth the time spent.

Jenny Kramer, a normal, bubbly, beautiful and smart sixteen year old lives in the idyllic affluent town of Fairview, Connecticut with her mother and father. They're life seems picture perfect. One evening while Jenny is at a party she is brutally raped in the woods behind the house. In the hours after the rape her parents agree for Jenny to receive a controversial drug cocktail that will essentially erase Jenny's memory of the horrific event. This seems like the merciful thing to do to prevent the trauma that would plague Jenny. Unknown to her parents and doctors administering the drug is that just forgetting the event isn't enough to rid the patient of the haunting emotions connected to it.

After the rape and the drug cocktail Jenny's family does not return to normal. Her father obsesses about finding the perpetrator and her mother lies to herself that everything is peachy. This leaves no room for Jenny who lives with the anxiety of knowing something happened but not being able to connect with the event. Told through the eyes of Jenny's psychiatrist, we get a thorough analysis of how a family fractures through trauma and how to find a new normal. Dr. Forrester knows he must help Jenny get her memories back and through this process of helping a victim overcome and a family survive we also follow the mystery of who raped Jenny.

Let me add here that there are actual drug trials in the real world looking for this memory wiping capability. Scientists have already found ways to alter and manipulate memories using drugs and it is on the near horizon where there will be the ability to erase trauma. Whether this is a good idea or not will be a very controversial subject.

In this surprisingly complicated mystery we learn how memories are formed in the brain. Memories are not just one "blob" stored together in one place so when you access them, you watch a movie of an event. Traumatic or powerful memories in particular are split into many pieces separate from the actual event memory. There are emotional, smell, touch, taste, sound memories. We can access the event memory by using any of the pathways connected from the senses. For instance, the smell of lilies can trigger the memory of one's wedding because the bride's bouquet was lilies. If the connections between the senses and the event are disconnected, the event memory can be lost and misfiled, making it difficult or nearly impossible to access. This was what the drug did with Jenny's memory. The connection to the event was severed in her mind.

Through Dr. Forrester's telling, we see the excruciating psychological pain Jenny is experiencing because she has no connection to explain all the emotional trauma she feels. Jenny has free floating anxiety and no explanation of why she feels so horrible all the time. Reading about how Dr. Forrester helps the Kramer family is what made me keep reading this mystery. The only negative in the book that made me waffle in my enjoyment was that Dr. Forrester, being a psychiatrist, can have a monotone "voice" as he keeps his emotions out of the telling as any good psychiatrist should do. Sometimes this approach got tedious. In the end I finally got that moment every mystery reader looks for. It took most of the book to get there but the journey was worth it.

Best,

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Finished: Spoon & Tomato (#WorldWatercolorMonth)

This was a really fun one to challenge myself with. I love the mix of the monochromatic spoon and the colorful baby tomato. I have a love of painting fruits and veggies and I also love figuring out the shadows in a black and white photo so this was a fantastic mix for me.

I just can't figure out what to do next though. i hate when I'm so indecisive, lol. I think I see Eenie-Meenie-Minee-Moe in my immediate future, I'm just saying'.

Here's yesterday's before, obviously before the tomato was added...
Spoon & Tomato Without The Tomato
Spoon & Tomato

Best,

Spoon & Tomato Sans Tomato... (#WorldWatercolorMonth)

Just a quick post showing today's progress for #WorldWatercolorMonth. Thought I'd do a complicated drawing/painting this time. Tomorrow I'll paint in the tomato. I love doing value drawings and I think this will be so unique with the painted tomato on the spoon. Now all I have to do is wait until tomorrow morning to finish. I can't wait, I have so little patience, lol.

I saw this beautiful photograph on a Flickr account of a fellow artist, Lori at Elvie Studio. I sure hope she doesn't mind me painting it up.
Go to the Facebook group page for #WWM to participate.
Best,

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Fly Me To The Moon... (#WorldWatercolorMonth)

It's #WorldWatercolorMonth (click on the logo to go to the Facebook page) this month and I'm participating everyday celebrating watercolors by painting with them. Today, the lowly fly. He's kinda colorful and I love the blue-green interaction on his shell. I could however have less hairy legs. He needs a razor, he needs to be fly-scaped. 

I'm a little late today, gotta catch up so I don't fall behind, onto (back to) fruit and veg for a while. I'm giving winged creatures a rest for the time being.
Best,

Monday, July 4, 2016

A Butterfly Flutters By

#WorldWatercolorMonth is all of July. I'm joint in and doing one watercolor painting a day for 31 days. This is day three. I'm keeping up the bug theme for now, I thought I'd try a butterfly but I don't love how this turned out, it has no "pop". I'm thinking that's because there's no shadow like all the others have. It probably needs a background, maybe I'll try doing that later.

I do love it's little legs, such character, that's why I decided to paint it. If you'd like to join in just go to the Facebook group and join.
Later Gator.

Best,

Book Review: "Forgive Me" by Joshua Corin

"Forgive Me" by Joshua Corin will be published by July 5, 2016. I had already read the first of this series in 2015, "Cost Of Life", and loved it so I was eager to start this book.

Xana Marx has been sober for a little under one year after she drunkenly drove her car through someone's living room wall. That incident also got her fired from the FBI. In her alcoholic state Xana did many things she should apologize for when she worked as an FBI agent. Many times she overstepped the bounds of moral decency in the pursuit of justice and it seems one of the people she victimized in her zeal to catch the bad guy wants their own revenge. They turned to The Serendipity Group.

The Serendipity Group is a "a charitable organization that helps victims take revenge on those who've wronged them." But when their hit list gets out and Xana's name is on it, there's no way the police are going to keep her away from the investigation. Although Xana is a pain in the neck to work with, the detectives assigned the Serendipity case are going to need the brilliance of this tarnished former FBI agent to unravel just what's going on.

From an innocent couple just trying to go on their honeymoon to Paris to a hacksaw wheedling priest this case will tax even the most inventive detective. The problem is Xana only has three days until someone will be coming after her and if she can't help the detectives figure out what's going on she'll never see her attacker coming.

As the second installment of the Xana Marx series I really enjoyed getting to know our main character better. Although a broken hero, she has many redeeming qualities to admire and she's wicked smart. I love a female protagonist with brains, snark and some personal flaws, that's Xanadu Marx in a nutshell. This book is at least a four out of five star, if I could I'd give it another half a star because it's so close to wonderful.

Xana is trying to stay on the wagon and get through one year of sobriety so she can get her life back on track. I found her struggle to be a better person added to the depth of this book. This mystery is complicated, not because there's too many characters or overwhelming details but because the situation is just so unique. There was also something intriguing about the idea behind the Serendipity group that elevated the mystery to a new plane. So many of us hate the bullies we had to endure as children or resent the truly abysmal boss that crushed our dreams. There's all those victims of the Bernie Madoff scandal etc. Do those people deserve revenge? The moral quagmire one steps in when considering that question is at the heart of this book and it makes the mystery all that much more enjoyable.

You don't have to read "Cost of Life" first to truly enjoy this mystery, it stands on its own. But if you would like to add a new female protagonist to your list of great reads then I suggest you read both books, they're great mysteries with a terrific lead character.

Best,

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Oh To Be A Colorful Beetle (#WorldWatercolorMonth)

Tag your art #WorldWatercolorMonth to participate everyday in July
I love beetles, but usually not the ones with legs. I covet the ones with tires. I've loved the VW Beetle convertible for ever, it's on my wish list/bucket list. But recently I have seen the light when it comes to some bugs, the ones with legs, I mean. Usually I really, really hate bugs. Some make me squeamish and I cringe when I see them, others make me scream like a little girl and run the other direction. And I'm not a runner so that's a big accomplishment. That's how truly scary I find some bugs.

I have recently seen the light, as I said. Albeit the light is a teeny tiny little nightlight, most bugs are still hideously ugly and gross. But I love color and when I realized just how beautifully colorful some bugs are I had to change my opinion just a little. So here, I present a colorful beetle who would win any design contest. Best Shell Ever. I wonder where he'd keep his award. Probably in the bathroom like all the other celebrities.
It's #WorldWatercolorMonth this July so if you want to come and participate, go to the Facebook Page and post your watercolor (or gouache which is opaque watercolor) art any or everyday in July. See you sometime tomorrow!

Best,

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Ladybug, Ladybug Fly Away Home...

Keeping up the theme of bugs or things that fly (I intend to do butterflies and maybe even hummingbirds), I present a ladybug. I've always thought they were such happy little bugs, not scary at all and many people think they bring luck.

If you'd like to join in with watercolor artists around the world and celebrate July as World Watercolor Month go to Doodlewash and read up on this new official month of celebrating watercolors. You can join Charlie O'Shields and the rest of us in the Facebook group and post your art made with watercolor or gouache (opaque watercolors). Everyday in July we're celebrating this great medium by painting and if you want to share your art on social media just use the hashtag #WorldWatercolorMonth.

Best,

Friday, July 1, 2016

Cows and Bumble Bees (#WorldWatercolor Month)

My Moo cards arrived today!! I can't believe how terrifically they turned out. I'm doing a little dance and probably scaring the neighbors. Here's the back of the cards...



...and here's most of the fronts, I did 25 original pieces of art so I got two of each.
(Moo Business Cards) (Click To Enlarge)

It's amazing how much scanning my art has changed my business cards. Oh, and before I forget, I have a code to help any new customers buy some new business cards (or anything else Moo.com makes). Click on this link (https://www.moo.com/share/chgsy5) you'll get 10% off your first order from Moo.com. 

To start the World Watercolor Month of July off I decided to do a plump bumble bee. I've always loved bumble bees because whenever I saw one I would look agog at the fact that they can actually fly. It's like watching a small puppy fly on gossamer wings. I also love their black and yellow stripes.
(Click To Enlarge)
I will be doing more bugs, butterflies and probably even one or two hummingbirds. So, lots of winged things. Talk to everybody soon. Later Gator.

Best,

Thursday, June 30, 2016

A Pomegranate & World Watercolor Month

I'm gearing up to join World Watercolor Month over on DoodleWash. I always do well when there's a challenge to get me to do art everyday. Somehow when there isn't a challenge I'm pretty much hit or miss when it comes to art on a regular basis. I hate that I procrastinate. I wish I could be more like my friend Tracey Fletcher King (who is re-running her amazing course Delicious Paint now). She procrasti-paints, defined as putting off all the other things she should be doing so she can paint. I do all the other things instead of painting. *sigh* 

Yes, the question I can hear you all screaming, "WHY skip the painting in favor of laundry, cleaning the bathroom, watching the grass grow etc?" I've got no idea, I just do it. Often. WAAAAYYYYY too often. This is why I LOVE finding monthly art everyday kinds of challenges.

So, we're supposed to use either watercolor or gouache (opaque watercolor) and do a piece of art everyday of July, 31 days. Then go to Facebook and join in the celebration. July is actually now officially World Watercolor Month. Here's a quote from the website:

"It’s a month to inspire people to paint with watercolor while raising awareness for the importance of art and creativity in the world. And anyone can join the celebration from master watercolorists to artists just starting out with watercolor! Simply tag any art that uses watercolors (or gouache) with #WorldWatercolorMonth during the month of July!"
If you want to buy some swag to celebrate World Watercolor Month all the proceeds go to The Dreaming Zebra Foundation. The charity provides support so that children and young adults are given an equal opportunity to explore and develop their creativity in the arts. Click Here to buy a souvenir of the event.

So, this is me gearing up to start doing art everyday. I will post a few times a week but I am seriously gonna get control of that procrastination monster so I can participate. Here's my pomegranate to start off on Day Zero, lol.
To get back to the loose way of painting taught by the intrepid Tracey Fletcher King (In Delicious Paint) I took a short swim around her videos the other day. It so helps keep my skills flowing instead of how tight they get when I don't paint often enough. I love how this turned out as opposed to the much more tight Basil plant I did a week or so ago. Yay, I'm back!

See ya all in the WWC, I can't WAIT to see everybody's art. Oh and one warning to those of you who follow me, I'll be doing some bug paintings soon, a housefly, a bumblebee a ladybug, a dragonfly, etc. So if you don't like bugs, look away when they pop up, lol.  *Yes, this means you Mic, I love you so I thought I'd warn you. ;o) *

Best,



Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Book Review: "Ghosts Of War" By Brad Taylor

"Ghosts Of War" By Brad Taylor will be published on June 28, 2016. I've read three previous books in this series featuring The Taskforce and the Pike Logan character and including this one, I've loved them all (Insider Threat, The Forgotten Soldier & No Fortunate Son). I especially love that I not only enjoy the intrigue and story but I LEARN stuff. I am so ridiculously ignorant of world events, political maneuverings and military stuff. (See I didn't even know what kind of stuff would be military so I could be specific.) I'm an artist and have always been terrible at both history and geography. I can hardly find myself on a map let alone another country. However, just by reading these spectacular mysteries (no boring storyline here) I get to, just by osmosis, learn how the world underneath all the "pretty" works.

These books are written by an actual  badass with real world experience in the military. Brad Taylor is a former Lieutenant Colonel who is a twenty-one year veteran of the U.S. Army Infantry and Special Forces. He also put in eight years with the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment popularly known as Delta Force. I have found that as I read his books I look at what's happening on the world stage differently. In the last few books I've learned about international political infighting, ISIS and suicide bombers. In this book Taylor takes on Putin, Russian corruption and the fabled Nazi gold train from WWII.

Pike Logan and Jennifer Cahill own Grolier Recovery Services, a front company that the Taskforce (a top secret counterterrorist unit) uses to hide their clandestine movements across the world. But since the Taskforce may be disbanded because of recent unsavory outcomes Pike and Jen are left in limbo. Not knowing if they'll have a job with the Taskforce, they take a contract with their Israeli counterparts who work with the Mossad.

Israel wants to retrieve a priceless Torah that has been rumored to be on a Nazi gold train in Poland. The four operatives are sent to confirm and retrieve it. Little do they know that they will be stepping into the beginnings of World War three. With Putin wanting to increase his influence and power and a terrorist wreaking havoc on the world stage, a terrible attack on the United States pits NATO against Russia.

As I said above, Brad Taylor's books are spectacular. If you want a roller coaster ride that keeps you breathless along with a story that reflects real world happenings then don't miss reading "Ghosts Of War". Seriously, this was the best of the series so far and it was exhilarating to see how World War Three just might happen in the blink of an eye. Fantastic read.

Best,

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