Monday, June 27, 2016

Book Review: "All The Missing Girls" by Megan Miranda

"All The Missing Girls" by Megan Miranda will be published June 28,2016. This is Ms. Miranda's first adult novel and it's spectacular. It has been compared to "Gone Girl" and "Girl On The Train" and although I don't see the resemblance in actual storyline, I do see that I would be surprised if this book didn't end up THE book of 2016, just as the above mentioned books did in their brake out year.

In the beginning of "All The Missing Girls" we meet Nicolette Farrell who has been running from her small home town of Cooley Ridge and her past for the last ten years. Although now almost thirty, Nic was eighteen when her best friend Corinne disappeared after an afternoon spent at the fairgrounds. The investigation focused on Nic's group of friends and as we learn right away, all of them hold their own secrets. When Nic comes back to her hometown to help sell her family's house she finds herself once again in an investigation of a new missing girl. This time Annaleise Carter has disappeared. Annaleise was a young teen when Corinne originally went missing, she ended up actually being an alibi for Nic's brother. Now the rumor mill of a small town has started up again and this time there will have to be answers, everyone's secrets are going to be revealed. Living with the outcome will be the problem.


Megan Miranda employs a unique way of telling her story. We are first introduced to all the main characters and given the general outline of the mystery then the story jumps ahead fifteen days and is told backward by the day until the end is revealed. I actually would have hated this in a lesser author's hands, it could have been clumsy and ill conceived. But Miranda's excellent prose force the reader to work a little harder in trying to solve the mystery. It was so cool to have to reorder the events as they happened backwards. This literary device also helped make the entire situation feel very fractured, that added to the book's mystery.


Definition of 5+: Better than all the rest,
in other words, DON'T miss this BOOK!
I loved this book. I found that I related to the main character even though I've obviously never been in her kind of situation. I think most readers will relate to the people around Nic though. The character of Corinne was especially haunting and recognizable. I have had frenemies like this girl and didn't know what to do about her either. You love her and hate her at the same time. Teens usually don't have enough life experience to see people like Corinne as dangerous people when, in fact, they're more dangerous than any other friend. It's so easy to be swayed by a powerful personality. We all want to get along, be part of the group and not be shunned. Megan Miranda's novel allows us a glimpse into Nic's present and former world as the past comes crashing through her life. The characters are so well written you'll recognize them in your own life and you'll be thankful you never lived in Cooley Ridge. Oh, and did I not mention that you'll have a seriously tough time figuring out WHODUNNIT?? Ya, I didn't figure it out at all, I had to read it instead and that's a really rare happenstance for me. YAY for Megan Miranda's mystery, so spectacularly mysterious I couldn't figure it out.

As I said above, I would not be surprised to see this book become one of the standouts of 2016 so I would recommend pre-ordering it now before it's popularity doubles the Kindle price! I really regret waiting and being unsure about reading "Girl On The Train", now it's on my to read list and because I didn't read it when it came out, I'll have to fit it in somewhere in the future. On the other hand, I'm thankful I read "Gone Girl" when it was popular, it's ever so much nicer to be a part of that frenzy of a great new novel. Don't miss the frenzy of "All The Missing Girls", I can guarantee you'll regret it.
Best,

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Book Review: "The Curse Of Tenth Grave" By Darynda Jones

"The Curse of Tenth Grave" By Darynda Jones will be published June 28, 2016. It is obviously the tenth installment of the Charley Davidson series. I highly recommend reading the first nine before reading this one and let me tell you, the series is so totally worth reading. It's fun, unique, interesting and even sexy. The relationship between Charlie and Reyes is explosive and crackling. The series has such wit, humor and snark that I can't believe any reader would be bored.

To give an accurate synopsis of this book I would have to reveal "spoilers" for the nine books before it so let me simplify the story a little and give you a broad overview. Charley Davidson, our heroine is the Grim Reaper. Yep, she is the conduit to heaven from earth. When someone dies, if they don't immediately ascend to heaven for some reason (that reason usually being unfinished business here on earth) Charley is the cross over point for those lost souls. She is an impossibly bright beacon of light to those who have not crossed over. She describes it like being a flame that all the moths are attracted to. Charley uses her abilities (she can see and speak to dead people) to help lost souls solve the problems keeping them here on earth.

In "The Curse Of Tenth Grave" Charley encounters a lost thirteen year old girl, Heather, who's not yet dead but thinks she's cursed. She has good reason, nearly a dozen foster kids from the institution she lives in have died under mysterious circumstances. Heather is now sick and running for her life. Charlie is also trying to help an innocent man accused of murdering his girlfriend. All the evidence points toward the boyfriend but Charley knows he's absolutely innocent so who killed his girlfriend, why and where's her body? On top of all this, Charley is dealing with her husband Reyes' unusual aloofness. He's lying to her about what's bugging him and she's determined to dig up the truth. But then he's not the only one keeping secrets, Charley now has the God Glass and a lot more knowledge about who wants her dead. Reyes isn't going to like hearing all Charley's secrets and the tension between them is affecting their marriage.

I LOVE this series. I love taking a break from hard bitten detectives and psychopaths to read something that begs you to just suspend disbelief and go with it. I also revel in Darynda Jones' sense of humor. For instance, at the top of every chapter you get a quote, bumper sticker or T-shirt saying.
"The fact that there's a Highway to Hell and only a Stairway to Heaven says a lot about anticipated traffic numbers"
"I'm one step away from being rich. All I need now is money." 
"Just when you think you have all your ducks in a row, someone comes along and teaches you the recipe for Duck a` L'Orange, and you realize you can live without a duck or two." 
I don't think I've read a funnier, meatier more satisfying series in years. I totally recommend you starting this series with book one named "First Grave On The Right". The Kindle price is less than $10 and since the series is ten books in, you'll have LOTS to read this summer. I'll tell you the truth, I devoured the first five books in two weeks this January because I fell in love with Charley and Reyes right away. It's like binge watching a great series on Netflix. Go and binge read this series, seriously, you won't regret it.

Best,

Sunday, June 19, 2016

It Isn't Easy Being Green

I've put off painting herbs even though they really interested me. They have been on my bucket list for ever. See, although it seems like a fun little project to paint a plant like basil, the problem is IT'S ALL GREEN. That's a problem when you need the leaves to have some definition. If there's no definition then it'll just look like one green blob, been there, done that.

My worst thing in the past has been not being creative with my greenery. I didn't think bold enough, I didn't add purples or blues into my shadows. I didn't just get creative when something wasn't working. I realize my thought process at the time made sense, I mean the plant IS green so what could be wrong with using all of the different kinds of green? What I had to do is learn to SEE LIKE AN ARTIST. 
I had to paint the basil not like I saw it with my eyes but like I saw it with my heart.
That can be a hard lesson to learn and I still think I'm working on it. I like how my basil turned out but I don't LOVE it. I know I want to be even more creative and not end up frustrated and finally thinking, "oh ya, I can add other colors, not just green!". That's what happened this time. I finally realized I could refresh the painting with pure yellow then mix some deep blue and go to town on the shadows. Yes, it reads as green but believe me, it's NOT. Maybe next time I'll be even more creative and go for some purples and even some turquoise in the lighter areas for character. Live and learn.
My Sweet Basil comes off my
(painting) bucket list
Speaking of colors and loving your own work, I finally broke down and made some more Moo.com cards. I LOVE MOO!!!! Since discovering them, I have gotten all my cards, stickers, pamphlets and postcards from Moo. I can't wait for them to get here. This is the first time I used my newly scanned art instead of photographed art so there'll be no shadows or wrong colors, instead they should be bright and awesome. I'll definitely show you in a week or so when they arrive but until then I thought you guys would like a MOO Coupon. Moo gave me a 10% off coupon code to pass out for anyone who hasn't tried Moo before. So, if you're looking for some cool business cards (or anything else paper related for that matter) and you've never tried Moo then click on this code (https://www.moo.com/share/chgsy5) and save 10% on your first order.

The cool thing about Moo is that you can put different pieces of your art on every card then on the other side you put your particulars. Here's the (really OLD) set I did...
YOUR art on every frontYOUR stats on the back
Anyway, see you soon with new art (I'm thinking cauliflower will challenge me), probably some book reviews and of course, the MOO cards!! Later Gator.

Best,

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Book Review: "Ink & Bone" by Lisa Unger

"Ink & Bone" by Lisa Unger will be published on June 7, 2016. If you like paranormal type mysteries this just might be right up your alley.

Finley Montgomery has been sensitive since she was little. She sees dead people as the psychic saying goes. As she approaches adulthood her powers are becoming more difficult to integrate into her normal life. The only person she knows who could help guide her as she becomes more able to use her unusual abilities is her grandmother Eloise, a renowned psychic. So, against her mother's wishes Finley moves to The Hollows, New York. The Hollows is an unusual place, it seems to draw people to it when it needs something. 

Finley and Eloise take on a cold case with Jones Cooper, a detective Eloise has worked with many times in the past. Ten months ago a little girl named Abbey went missing and her mother, Merri Gleason, has contacted Jones as a last resort. Merri has heard of the phenomenal successes in similar cases that Jones and Eloise have worked. She just hopes a miracle can happen and her daughter will be returned. Finley ends up taking the lead in the case, with her grandmother's help maybe her gifts can do some good. Finley must piece together all the information coming at her to help find this little girl and in this process she may solve many other mysteries buried deep in The Hollows.

This was a good, solid although unusual mystery. Ms. Unger writes smoothly and this makes the reading go down so easily. To enjoy this book though, one would have to believe somehow in other worldly happenings. I have no problem suspending disbelief and embracing psychic phenomenon so I found that I really enjoyed the journey.

I"nk & Bone" is a wonderfully unique look at psychic phenomena without all the usual unbelievable baggage. Finley must use the feelings she gets and interpret what it all might mean. She is a complex character and I can see that Ms. Unger will surely use this her again to start a series. There is so much to get to know about Finley and it seems obvious that this book is the beginning of something unique. One small caveat: since I think this is the start of a series, I found myself wanting more in a slightly negative sense. I felt that some of the relationships were left hanging so in a small way the book felt a little unfinished. I would think that's a problem when starting a new series, you can't just give away everything all at once. There's so much more to say in future books which left me hanging a little in this one. Because of that unfinished feeling I would give this book a three and a half stars out of five but since I can't go halvsies I'll round it up to a four star book.

I did find that the character Finley and her position at the beginning of her psychic journey made me think of what I wanted in the future. Finley didn't want the future to choose her, she wanted to choose her own path. This sentiment gave me pause and caused me to think about whether I was drawing my own life script or just letting it happen. I like books that cause me to look inward. It makes for a much deeper reading experience. 

Best,

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Book Review: "The Trials Of Apollo: The Hidden Oracle" By Rick Riordan

"The Trials Of Apollo: The Hidden Oracle" by Rick Riordan has already been published so it's available as both an e-book and a hardcover. This book is written for grades five to nine but I certainly liked it myself. Parents would especially enjoy reading this to their children.

Zeus is my father and he's angry. It seems he's decided to punish me by making "the handsomest, most talented, most popular god in the pantheon" a human sixteen year old kid. This is the basic premise of "The Trials Of Apollo". Apollo is the God of music, poetry, prophecy, plague and healing. He and his chariot pull the sun across the sky and now he's a teenager with no godly powers. There are many monsters, Gods and mortals who would love to use Apollo's weakness against him so his only choice is to try to get to camp Half-Blood where he will be safe. Apollo figures if he can hang around earth for a few years by helping out another God, his father will give his powers back. That's the way it has worked in the past at least. 


Four stars because kids will love it.
Rick Riordan is an extremely popular writer for the young adult genre and I can see by the reviews on Goodreads that nothing has changed in his likability through this book. I have read his Percy Jackson series years ago when I was babysitting and I found that having read previous Riordan books very helpful in the enjoyment factor of this one. In fact, I would recommend reading both his Olympian series and his Roman series books to make this one even better, it brings the whole ball of wax together, so to speak. As an adult I found that this book was about a three out of five but if I was reading this to my children it would be at least a four. I am certain that kids would love the action and visual details that are given in this book. The Apollo character was really funny as he learned how to be human and his complaints brought a smile to my face. This book also has a subtle moral theme to it about compassion and selfishness that I found refreshing.

If you have children you certainly could not go wrong here. I think any child would be thrilled if you started reading Rick Riordan's books to them and happily there are lots to devour. As a stand alone for adults it's a little bit of a shallow pool in that it reminds me of many Disney movies, great visuals, good theme but a little thin on the meaty center. I also have read all of the Harry Potter series and would not make a comparison of this to it. The "Percy Jackson series" is more along those Harry Potter lines. But then maybe if I'd read all the other Riordan books I wouldn't have felt like I was missing an essential unspoken element.

My final verdict is a big thumbs up for this book for children and any parent reading these to their kids would be a hero of the first magnitude. Even better you won't be bored as you read because your child's excitement will be all you need to keep you going.

Best,

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Reviewing 72 Colored Pencils By Kingtop

72 Kingtop Pencil Crayons
I was contacted by the company selling Kingtop colored pencils (Amazon USA, Amazon Canada) and asked if I'd like to review them on my blog. I was thrilled to be asked. First, because it's the first bit of art tools I've been asked to review and second, I actually don't have any true pencil crayons per say. I have watercolor pencils, both Faber-Castell Albrect Durer and Staedtler Karat brands. (I also have a few Derwent Inktense but not many.) Usually I use the watercolor pencils for correcting and enhancing watercolor paintings but I don't really use them as normal pencil crayons. I think I'm afraid that since they're activated by water, if a piece was done and got moisture on it then it would be ruined. Not so for normal pencil crayons.

I have actually been hoping to get the matching Faber-Castell pencil crayons, they've been on my wish list for quite some time. Alas, they're expensive and I've been putting off buying them in favor of watercolor paint as I use them so much more. It is fun though sometimes to let my inner perfectionist come out and play once in a while and that's why I wanted the pencil crayons. I am so surprised and thrilled to say that in fact I now won't be buying the expensive artist quality Faber-Castell pencil crayons because these Kingtop actually will do just fine!!
Back & Front of Kingtop PackageInner container with 72 Pencil Crayons
Above is what arrived very promptly after I ordered them from Amazon.ca. They actually arrived two days early with not a single broken tip. The outer package has a color chart on the back but I suggest anyone getting them make their own chart. I did and it made such a difference when I was making the test art I did for this review. The end of each pencil has the color of the lead. It helps as just like other pencil crayons and watercolor pencils, you can't tell accurately what color the lead will give you. Each pencil crayon is numbered from 501 to 572. Although names are given on the back of the package with the color chart, the numbers are the only way to tell which color you're actually getting. The fun names don't help because they haven't been connected to the numbers on the pencils. Really though, just get around that by making your own color chart like the one I made below. As I said above, it really helps you use the pencils more easily.
72 Kingtop Pencil Crayon Color Chart (click to enlarge)
I'm really thrilled with Kingtop's quality and I put them through their paces this last week. I must admit, I didn't expect them to give me the versatility and depth of color. I am absolutely giddy after testing them. I wanted to show you some of the agility tests I performed. I tested their erasability and their intensity. then I made a piece of art to test blend-ability and to see just how far I could push them. Could they keep up with an artist who expects perfection? Yes they could!
Erasability of Kingtop Pencil Crayons
Kingtop pencil crayons were highly erasable! I was thrilled to find that if I went over a border, I could just pick up any eraser and touch up that edge. I found that especially if I had just gone over a little with a few strokes, any color I used would erase completely. As you can see from above, with highly saturated strips you get most of the color up but not all.
Gradients of Kingtop Pencil Crayons
With the gradients, you can see that you can do very light colors all the way to more saturated samples. I would say I could have gone one more shade darker, showing five gradients with each color. There is a limit to their saturated color but I didn't find any problem when doing the following piece of art. If I couldn't achieve the color I wanted I chose a darker pencil crayon to achieve the saturation I wanted. I found the best way to get an even wash of color was to color in one direction at at time then add another layer going another direction to get more saturation, changing direction with each darkening layer.
Kingtop Pencil Crayon Test: "Art of the Pear"
My final grade for the Kingtop 72 colored pencils was an A. The only slight issue I came across at all was that these pencil crayons are not as color saturated as professional artist grade pencil crayons, but they're close. They would certainly work abundantly well for both the coloring book crowd, student artists and even professional artists. I love them and I consider myself a closet art tool snob. I usually buy the best. I am so happy that I can truthfully say I will NOT be buying the more expensive Faber-Castell pencil crayons. Thank you to Kingtop for allowing me to test their product, I look forward to using them for years to come.

Best,

Thursday, May 19, 2016

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

"Storme Warning" by W.L. Ripley is the second "Storme" book I've read and loved. Several months ago I read "Hail Storme" and gave it five stars, "Storme Warning" is even better.

Wyatt Storme usually has an uncomplicated life. He lives in the remote woods of Missouri in a cabin he built himself. Although he's both a former soldier and star of the NFL who played for the Dallas Cowboys, he doesn't like the limelight. Wyatt loves the solitude of fishing and hunting and slow pace of his chosen home. It's hard though to stay off the grid but when Wyatt's best friend Chick Easton entices him to let a movie studio shoot the latest Jessie James movie on his land, Wyatt isn't surprised it brings with it a heap of trouble.


The play of personalities against one another was the most enjoyable thing about this mystery. Wyatt and Chick's wise cracking continually aggravates the uppity, privileged Hollywood movie stars makes this book not only a great mystery but really funny too. Usually Wyatt is up against very deadly people, this time it's the attitude of the stars around him that elevates this book to a five star. I highly recommend this book and all the Storme books. Fortunately, they all work as stand alone mysteries too.

Best,

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Book Review: "Dead End Fix" by T. E. Woods

"Dead End Fix" by T. E. Woods will be published June 7, 2016. It is the sixth book in the Fixer series. The last book, "Fixed In Fear", left the reader awaiting this newest mystery with a great cliffhanger, now we finally get to find out what will happen.

I've voraciously enjoyed every one of the "Fixer" series and since the last book left us hanging, I've been chomping at the bit to read "Dead End Fix". I am slightly saddened to say that I was a little disappointed in this book. I'm so used to Woods' books being winners, a clear four to five star read that having this one be only a three star was a little bit of a let down. Don't get me wrong, I still enjoyed it as only a fan of an author can. Sometimes you get a duller read in the middle of a great series but it still pushes the story forward and as a fan you await the next thrilling read from that author. This was one of those books, it pushes the story forward but I didn't love it as much as usual.

The Fixer must find Detective Mort Grant's granddaughter who has been kidnapped by her sociopathic drug czar aunt. Allie Grant thinks she has a right to take her niece, it's her family after all and she's angry that the Grant family won't accept her into the fold. It matters not that she is a vicious murderer and international criminal who heads a drug cartel, Allie Grant wants what she wants and she wants it now. She'll hurt who she has to to get her due.

The Fixer is not going to let Allie hurt her family, someone has to stand up to this sociopath and say NO. It will be a colossal struggle to track down Allie, she has more money than she knows what to do with and underlings who will kill to protect their Czarina. 

As a reader I was already heavily invested in this series and wanted to see Allie Grant get her comeuppance. This is where I was a little disappointed.  I found the wrap up to this part of the storyline a little lackluster. For an author who has kept me on the edge of my seat, I expected a little more breathless moments than I received. There was a slight feeling of letdown when finally the Fixer confronted Allie about her crimes. Maybe I'm bloodthirsty but I would have stretched the moment out a little more and designed in more collateral damage. I felt like... "Oh, ok, well, that's over" instead of of the expected... "OMG, I can't believe that just happened!".

Although "Dead End Fix" was a slight disappointment, the story is certainly moved forward and therefore is a must read for anyone invested in this series. I look forward to the next Fixer mystery without some of the distractions inherent in this novel.

Best,

Monday, May 2, 2016

Three Colorful Peppers!

Eat Your Veggies
Yep, I'm still at it, painting veggies. And yes, before you ask, my home's walls are covered in fruit and veggie art. I really just love painting them. Today we have peppers, colorful peppers done in a loose graphic style, which seems to be where my style is going lately. I'm good with that, wherever it goes to get me to unique, I'm happy with.

I'm actually pretty darn thrilled with how they turned out. I used colors that weren't actually in the green peppers but then an artist is supposed to interpret what they see, right? So my using phthalo blue (red shade) in the shadows and some phthalo green (blue shade), also called viridian, in the lighter areas to give some oomph isn't a bad thing it's just a creative thing, lol. I also allowed the green pepper's darks to bleed into the red pepper's side, it helped to make it's shadow much more unique.

I'm even proud of the stems which just like leaves I have a terrible time with usually. This time I just let my eye tell me what to do instead of analyzing just exactly what I was seeing, I just let the artist interpret what my eyes were telling me. It feels a little like exhaling, like I finally "got it". Does that make sense? Anyway, here's some colorful peppers, may they inspire you to go buy and eat some! (They're so good on a baguette after you sauté them in olive oil with fresh garlic and add some capers. Go get creative with your peppers. It's called eating the rainbow and it's SO good for you!)
Oh, I just remembered that a year ago I finished up some of my last pages of my first Moleskine with a painting of peppers. Here's the comparison, I think I see some definite improvement. I like to think that I'm developing a style that I could be identified by. Hopefully if you saw something painted by me you'd think, oh, that's Jenn's painting. Crossing my fingers. ;o) Now I gotta go pick more veggies for tomorrow's painting. I take suggestions!

Best,

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Book Review: "City Of The Lost" by Kelley Armstrong

"City Of The Lost" by Kelley Armstrong will be published on May 3, 2016. This is not the first Armstrong book I have enjoyed, I have also read much of the Cainsville series and truly loved it. But I have to say, even though I gave the Cainsville books five stars, this one is even better! I think many people think of Kelley Armstrong as either a YA (young adult) writer or a paranormal/fantasy writer. Well, hold onto your hats everyone, we have a NEW mystery writer in our midst and she's gonna give the greats a run for their money!

I really like Kelley Armstrong's writing style so I was pretty sure I'd like "City Of The Lost". Boy, was I right. In fact, I'm starting my own new rating just for this book. I am lucky that I read many really good authors so it's not surprising that I give about half of the books I read a five star rating. But now I'm starting a personal new category, the Five PLUS rating, just for books like this.

Definition: 5+ rating
When a book gets to the five star rating it has to be eminently readable, truly enjoyable with no annoying bits that you want to skip and also have that "I don't want to put it down" feeling. If a book then adds one other element, that of "I can't forget what I read no matter how hard I try" then THAT'S a 5+ star book. It's a book that's so darn good that if you miss reading it, you're a fool, you're gonna miss something spectacularly special.

That designation starts with "City Of The Lost". It's been a whole twenty-four hours now and still I find myself wishing there were more pages to read, I want MORE. I can't seem to stop thinking that I can go read a little more about these characters, get my fix and I'll be ok. But, alas, there is no more, I finished the last page last night and with the light of the morning I am sad. IT'S OVER!!! I want to know what's next for these characters, I don't even care if the mystery is solved. I just want to "hang out" with these people. *Sigh*. I wish I could beg the author to write more, just for me. Let me give you a synopsis of what the book's about.

Casey Duncan is an excellent police detective but she carries a secret with her, she killed a man and got away with it. When she was a cadet in training she killed her mob connected drug dealing boyfriend, she has held all the guilt and shame of that incident in but now her past has caught up with her. Even worse, her best friend Diana is having trouble with her ex-husband again. He has stalked her before and even though Casey has tried to hide Diana and keep her safe, it seems he has found her. They both have to run for their lives and Diana has heard of just the place, a town where people can purchase their anonymity for five thousand dollars as long as they're prepared to live off the grid in the middle of nowhere. There's a town in the Yukon Territories where desperate individuals can find sanctuary and get away from the dangers in their real lives. Casey finds that they could use her skills. When one puts a hoard of desperate people together in a small town unconnected to the outside world, one can expect trouble.

I need to make you read this book. The characters were so darn dimensional and meaty. I really did sink my proverbial teeth into these characters and as the reader I found myself wanting to hang out with them. I found all the dialogue so well wrought and believable, there were no miss steps. And talking of miss steps, Armstrong doesn't make a single mistake when describing the surroundings of the little town on the edge of nowhere. The author could have inundated us with unnecessary atmospheric details but instead she gave us just what was necessary and enticing. I became as curious as Casey did about the town's surroundings, the forest, it's dangers and the animals that inhabit it. I loved that I wasn't left thinking that I wish the author had edited herself a little more. It was a perfect read and I'm well sated after devouring a truly delicious book. But just like chocolate chip cookies, I wish there were more.
Best,

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Book Review: "Don't You Cry" by Mary Kubica

"Don't You Cry" by Mary Kubica will be published on May 17,2016. This is my second Kubica book I've read. I read "The Good Girl" a couple of years ago and LOVED it. In that review I actually said I'd have given it more than five stars if I could have so I had high hopes for Ms. Kubica's newest thriller. I am sorry to say I was somewhat disappointed. I found Kubica's latest offering a little to atmospheric and slow.

Quinn Collins' roommate, Esther Vaughan, has gone missing. All Quinn finds after her night out is her roommate's bedroom window open to the fire escape and a cryptic letter to "My Dearest". It puzzles Quinn that Ester seems to have disappeared since Ester is usually the more conscientious roommate. It takes some hours until Quinn truly starts to worry but then what does one do? Call the police or Ester's family? Quinn knows it's too early to put in a missing person's report and Ester never talked about her family. What's a slightly scatterbrained roommate to do now? In the same time period, Alex Gallo, living in a small town in Michigan, falls under the spell of an unusual girl who enters the coffee shop where he works. He calls her Pearl and as he harbors his crush on her, he tries to get to know this enigmatic and ostensibly lovely young woman. 

Kubica's story weaves back and forth between Alex and Quinn as the reader tries desperately to figure out what's happening in each of these characters' lives and whether there's a connection between them. The problem is that the book tries too hard to create an ambiance and instead just becomes wordy. I appreciate letting the reader slowly get to know our main characters but I feel like one could strip away half of the words and get a good, well worked short story instead of this book.

Very rarely do I skip or speed-read. I say this for two reasons, I'm terrible at it and I find it makes the book less enjoyable. But in this case I seriously found myself skipping entire paragraphs and sometimes even PAGES of atmospheric dialogue about the weather, the scene the heat or cold of the scene, the leaves, flowers and people walking by, ad nauseam. I finally stopped caring about Alex and his strange little crush and only wanted to know what happened to Ester. By the second half of the book I was pretty sure something weird had happened. I'll give the author kudos for the fact that I didn't actually figure out exactly what was happening until the end. Unfortunately, since there were so many, many wasted words, I found myself not as much interested as I should have been. In the end I just wanted.. the end to be reached. Hopefully with her next book Ms. Kubica will get back to her excellent and wonderfully unique writing with less atmosphere added to increase the wordage, because "The Good Girl" was just that good. I won't easily give up on an author that can write such a fantastic thriller as that just because this was a slight misstep.

Best,

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Playing With DIY

Before I became a watercolor artist, before I stopped being afraid that I wouldn't be good enough, I filled the void with Do It Yourself projects. This last ten days I've immersed myself back into DIY. Up until this last week I hadn't done anything DIY in about ten years. It's been totally FUN getting my hands dirty in something other than watercolors! Here's the list of things that have been accomplished lately...
  1. Painted my grandmother's cedar chest (it's lined with cedar, I didn't paint the cedar, I promise !! LOL)
  2. Spray painted all the lamps in the house silver
  3. Replaced lampshades with black barrel shades (every room should have a touch of black, isn't that a rule?)
  4. Sewed a bushel of cushions for sofa
  5. Re-upholstered coffee table/bench
  6. Made coffee table tray (30"x12" for fabric coffee table so you can put a cuppa on it)
  7. Made matching tray for a passel of candlesticks (gotta coral those suckers! 18"x12")
  8. Bought and repainted huge initials for living room shelf (one foot high)
  9. Rearranged all shelves in kitchen and living room
  10. Restaged my bedroom so I can now get to the window (holy COW the dust on that window ledge!)
  11. Made papier mâché fruit
  12. Bought several HUGE canvasses (two 24"x30", one 30"x40", several 18"x24" they'll all be painted in acrylic. My mom is FINALLY going to start painting again, YAY!!!)
  13. Bought new plum towels for bathroom and lime green facecloths 
  14. Bought new shower curtain (bright floral pattern, nothing boring here)
  15. Painted living room frames white then distressed them (then filled them with my recent art. Yes, we are resplendent in fruit and veg art, got something to say about it?)
  16. Painted frame in bathroom silver, filled with asparagus painting
  17. Spray painted lid of mason jar to use as toothbrush holder, it now matches new soap dispenser that's a reworked mason jar, kinda cool, must say.)
  18. Changed all the kitchen & bathroom knobs to brushed nickel knobs (I HATED those horrible gold ones!!!!!)
  19. Bought a BIG clock, painted the little one black.
Would you believe that I'm kinda tired? (and sore and covered in paint, glue, tape, etc) It's been one wild week but HOLY COW does the house look great! Here's how the fruit looked...

Papier Mache before paintingAfter painting the Papier Mâché
I made the form using tissue paper & 20 gauge wire. I then covered it in masking tape. Then I covered the tape with papier mâché. After drying I gessoed them several times before painting them up. Here's a bunch of other pictures of some of the other projects mentioned above.
One foot tall InitialsCandle tray in Cobalt Teal
Painted frames, new art, painted clockNew towels in washroom, painted frame, new art & soap dispenser
New BIG clockPainted lamp, new drum shade
Sewed pillows, re-upolstered bench, tray
So that's it. The last addition will be a delivery of the new black and white rug for under the coffee table. It's gonna bring it all together  Now I'm gonna go hunt down some chocolate (damn, I wish I had some chocolate!), ok, maybe just a cuppa hazelnut coffee. *Sigh*, I think I deserve the chocolate. 

Next week we'll be back to watercolor art. I've missed painting. Now though, I've gotta learn how to paint with acrylics. A little nervous about that. Anyone know about some good videos about how to's about acrylic painting? I could really use some help and comments!!!

Best,
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