Sunday, March 29, 2015

Spring Has Sprung!

Cherry Blossoms outside my window (close-up)
We here in Western Canada, Vancouver Island, BC to be specific, has been lucky to avoid mostly all of the terrible polar vortex winter troubles that Central and Eastern Canada has experienced (and still is, actually).

We've been so lucky here. We're seeing fully blooming cherry blossom trees, crocuses, daffodils and tulips coming up through the still cold ground. All the new color makes for a much happier day when you see it. We're still in the low teens, temperature wise here (that's Celsius people, like 50-55 degrees Fahrenheit). So, still cool weather, sweater weather for sure. But the blossoms still push through and insist on popping their heads up a little early. I'm certainly not complaining though!

My New Paintbox
Other than painting the pretty Cherry Blossoms that are a wonderful constant every spring across BC, I've had my head in a book. I'm either reading a mystery that I've said I'd review or I'm trying to learn about color theory. I got the idea to learn a little more about how to mix paints from Roz Stendahl. She commented that I'd feel more comfortable with my new paintbox if I had more of an idea of how the paints worked together, hence the color theory study. I've put it off too long anyway. I'm not a good book learner, never have been. I'm so much better at learning from listening or doing. But I've promised myself not to give up on this. I'm using a Stephen Quiller book. He's one of the definitive authors on color theory so I'm looking forward to learning more about my watercolors.

Cherry Blossoms in my Watercolor Moleskine
That's what I'm up to lately, looking out the window at riotous cherry blossom trees and reading mysteries and art books. Yup, what an exciting life, hehehe. Let's hope as spring  moves forward, life gets a little more exciting. I'm waiting with baited breath. What are you up to?

Best,

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Book Review: "The Stranger" By Harlan Coben

I love that I get to review Harlan Coben books, he's one of my very favorite authors because his books never fail to grip me on the very first page. "The Stranger" was no different.

We start out meeting our main character, Adam Price. Adam is a family man. He has two boys and a loving wife. They live in an idyllic town with an idyllic life. As his friend says, "We're living the dream". 

On an average day, a stranger approaches Adam and tells him a secret. That secret shatters Adam's life. That's what the stranger does. He whispers in your ear a piece of information. You're unsure where it or he came from or who this stranger is. He disappears, leaving you to pick up the shattered pieces of your life.

That's where our mystery starts for Adam Price. Is the secret true and if so, what are the ramifications for his family? Adam decides to get to the bottom of who the stranger is and why he decided to drop this bomb into Adam's life. Just the act of searching for answers gets Adam into a whole world of trouble where accusations of theft, conspiracy and murder lurk. To get out unscathed may be impossible.

I always love how Harlan Coben throws you into the deep end right away. His mysteries suck you into the story quickly so your interest is piqued and you want to continue to read. I found myself trying to right away, suss out who this stranger could be and what his game plan was. Of course this kept me furiously reading. It was interesting how, without confusing the reader, Coben kept pulling in new details from new sources but it all still kept you guessing, how, why...who? I was so rooting for our hero, Adam Price. I wanted his life to come back together again and not be ruined. 

I love it when an author gets me to care so much about the characters. Although in the end, the mystery was a tiny bit convoluted, with so many pieces to fit together. But I really enjoyed the read and would certainly highly recommend this book as a four out of five. It would certainly make a great Spring read. Harlan Coben never fails to please and this mystery is no exception. I didn't see the ending coming and I was kept furiously reading well into the night just to get to the last page. 

Best,

Saturday, March 21, 2015

New Moleskine Minus One Monkey Equals ART

Christmas Present - New palette w/DS paint
I haven't been painting much, which disappoints me. Don't get me wrong, I give myself permission to take breaks when I'm feeling uninspired and I even allow for those times when I'm feeling scared and don't know what to paint. I have to admit though, I hate having long periods of drought in mark making. It makes me feel sad as I stare at my unused paint palette and pens. I assume my supplies feel lonely too, being unused for so many, many days.

I have analyzed what happens and I did know it had to do with both starting art and finishing a painting. I had successfully solved the finishing dilemma many months ago with help from Tommy Kane. My problem had to do with perfectionism. If I thought a piece wasn't working, I didn't want to go on and that sometimes even got me to not even start at all. I was really lucky to find an easy solution (although it took me years to bump into it). 

When I took a Sketchbook Skool klass that included Tommy Kane as one of the week's teachers, he said something that changed my dilemma and actually turned my perfectionism on it's ear. He said that he had ONE rule, no matter what, he ALWAYS finished the piece of art he was making. Always. No exceptions. Even if it wasn't going well, he always stuck with it and finished. This gave me an "out" so to speak when it came to my annoying and mostly useless perfectionistic streak. Instead of focusing on the piece being perfect, which paralyzed me many, many times, I focus on finishing the piece. Make FINISHING the perfection I seek. This allows me to use that mean old need for perfection differently. Usually it would stop me from trying but if I changed what I wanted to be perfect, I could use my need for perfection in a good way. It's not about the art, but the finishing of the art that was perfect. TADA!! One problem solved. Even better, I didn't have to find a way of getting rid of my obsessive need for perfection (which, I have to say, so far, has been impossible!). All I had to do was use it in a different way.

Newly used paintbox. Look at those yummy colors!
Now, in this New Year I bumped my head hard against my other problem. I couldn't even define what it was though, all I knew is that it had to do with starting art at all. I knew it didn't have to do with that monkey on many artist's backs, that notion that we're not good enough to create. I just had no idea, if it wasn't that, what was in fact stopping me from starting? I had one small clue but I couldn't figure how how it possibly related to anything. My not starting art got much worse after Christmas when I received my new, beautiful, shiny palette. Somehow just opening and looking at all the beautiful colors was paralyzing! I found the answer from Roz Stendahl, another one of the teachers from SBS. Roz answered another artist having "monkey" troubles and it gave me an Aha moment when she mentioned time. With Roz's permission, here's a little excerpt of what she said that helped so much...
"I think before you can move forward you need to sit down and have an honest chat with yourself about what SPECIFICALLY is going on. For instance, are you not drawing because you think your drawings aren't good enough? Not drawing because you feel you never have time? Each of those has a different necessary response. What are you afraid of?...  Something I always say to my students—If your internal critic or some other aspect of yourself tells you you don't have time to draw, remember that in the time you spend arguing and wrestling with that voice or impulse you could have finished a drawing. Instead, next time just draw and sort out the argument later (which will be never because once the drawing is done their won't be anything to discuss). "
New Daniel Smith paint & paintbox
That was so helpful and freeing to me as I read it. I realized that when I looked at my beautiful palette filled with new Schmincke and Daniel Smith paint, I felt paralyzed because I didn't even know how to use most of these new colors!! So, on top of the idea that I just don't have time to do a piece of art (I'm a slow artist, no painting or drawing happens faster than a few hours!), I also felt that it would add even more time as I learned how to use these new paints. It totally paralyzed me for months. Yes, months. But with Roz's words I finally picked up a pen and made a mark and then added paint. It feels ever so much better to be back at painting again. I'm always surprised when I get over some blind obstacle, how much I think, "why did it take so long?". Well, the answer is that you need to get to know yourself a little better when you hit walls that block you. Thank you Roz.

I'll end with a wonderful quote I've seen from Roz. She says it's originally wisdom from one of her mentors...

"What could I accomplish today if I let go of perfect?"

Best,

Monday, March 16, 2015

Book Review: "Cost Of Life" by Joshua Corin

"Cost Of Life" was a total thrill ride, what a great book. I've never read a book by Mr. Corin until now but I'm adding him to my goto authors because this thriller/mystery was wonderfully unique but also easily enjoyable and interesting to read.

"Cost of Life" starts with the kidnapping of a pilot's wife and young son. The kidnappers want Larry Walder complacent, they want him to board his plane and fly hundreds of passengers to an unknown location. Larry doesn't want to participate in a hijacking but he desperately wants to save his family. After doing what the kidnappers ask, it becomes clear that Larry's job is just starting. Now he has to find a way to rescue his family, his crew and all the passengers he betrayed by following orders. He is not alone in the task though. The world is watching for the outcome of this hijacking and disgraced former FBI special agent Xana Marx is brought in because of her unique skills. Xana is a recently recovered alcoholic and she needs the support of the people around her to stay sober while she tries to solve this hostage crisis.

Xana, the FBI, police and airport security will all work together to bring back flight eight sixteen. The problem is, this is no ordinary hostage negotiation. The kidnappers have a very unusual plan and it becomes clear that a good outcome may be impossible even using Xana's superior skills and intelligence.

Character development of Xena Marx goes above and beyond excellent. The reader really gets a sense of who this woman is as she tries valiantly to both stay sober and solve a nearly unsolvable crime. The Characters that are added around her help show her many and complex sides. The story is told from both Xana's and pilot Larry Walder's point of view. The complex problems and fears that are created with a hijacking and hostage negotiation are made so clear that the reader feels both the panic and frustration the passengers feel as the hijacking continues long into the day. 

This was a terrific book not only because the writing is tight and the emotions are true but also because the situation surrounding the mystery is so unique. Initially, I thought a hijacking could only go a few ways but the author has created such an unusual and unexpected twist that as the reader you find yourself trying to discover the next move. What would help the good guys win the day? 

I didn't see the end coming and for me, that's a very, very good thing. This is a five star thriller/mystery. I highly recommend trying it and since it debuts on March 17, 2015 you only have a few days to await it's release! You'll love the characters and root for the good guys even as you can't figure out how they could possibly win in this very complex hijacking. Go preorder it, you won't regret it, guaranteed.
Best,

Sunday, March 8, 2015

International Women's Day... Are You A Feminist?

I wrote & posted the following treatise five years ago today. I have to admit, I'm really proud of it and I thought it could use a day out of the blog closet for a little airing out. I hope you enjoy. I also hope you agree, I'd love to hear your comments. 

Today is International Women's Day. Wikipedia states that today, March 8th is the major day of 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!"

Best,

Monday, March 2, 2015

Book Review: "Quicksand" by Gigi Pandian

"Quicksand" by Gigi Pandian is the latest mystery that I've been devouring. It's official publishing date comes up in a few days, March 10, 2015. This is the second Gigi Pandian book I've read in the last few months and I am certainly not disappointed with this selection. Read the other review here... ("The Accidental Alchemist").

This latest offering (volume 3) from Gigi Pandian continues her Jaya Jones series. Our main character is aptly described as a "female Indiana Jones". She is an historian working as a professor in a San Francisco University but she's certainly always ready for any treasure hunt that has her delving into interesting artifacts, historical relics and mysterious clues. I enjoyed the ease that the author writes about historical situations, the reader can learn a little something without being overwhelmed with superfluous details that would weigh down the book.

In "Quicksand" Jaya has just started the University term and she's thrilled to find her students interested in what she's teaching them. This is why our heroine feels torn when she gets a letter and a plane ticket in the mail ostensibly from her newest love interest. Jaya loves teaching but who could turn down a free trip to Paris especially when she'd love to reconnect with Lane, the man who sent the ticket. When Jones gives in and gets on the plane she inadvertently steps into a complicated and dangerous situation that just might ruin her career.

"Quicksand" was a fun and interesting read that runs along at a good paste and keeps the reader guessing as to how the mystery will all end. If the two books I've read by this author are any indication of her usual prowess, I would have to highly recommend any book Gigi Pandian writes. They're fun and easy to read, making them a good selection between heavier mysteries. Why not try this selection, it stands alone well, not requiring the reader to have indulged in the two previous selections in the Jaya Jones series. 
Best,

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Book Review: "The Shadow Cabinet" by Maureen Johnson

I just finished reading the third installment in Maureen Johnson's Shades of London series, "The Shadow Cabinet". It certainly cleaned up many questions that I was left with from the second book, "The Madness Underneath". I have to say though that I would not read this book as my first foray into the Shades of London series. I think you'd ruin your experience of a really good, strong series if you started with this book. 

I read the first two books specifically so I could give an accurate and fair review of Johnson's newest, "The Shadow Cabinet" and I'm so glad I did. If I hadn't taken the time to read the first two, I think I would have been lost for much of this book. I will try to explain where we are in the series without giving away spoilers to those who've never read any of the books yet. Here we go...

Rory Deveaux is an American transplant in London who decided to do her last year of high school in a posh boarding school instead of staying in Louisiana with relatives. Rory found she had much to learn, including that she could see ghosts. This discovery made Rory nervous at first, was she going crazy? When she found that she wasn't the only one who had "the sight", Rory set out to learn all she could about her new abilities. Our heroine has been through some major ordeals in the first two books and in this third installment is no different. There are many malevolent people who want to use Rory's skills for their own reasons and she has to learn how to choose her friends carefully.

"The Shadow Cabinet" is a good follow through from "The Name Of The Star" and "The Madness Underneath". I found this book to be even more a head long rush into danger. As one reads along there is a huge amount of information to be learned about London, mythology, history and occultism. I found myself unsure what was a product of the author's incredible imagination and what was actual historical fact. I think this shows Johnson to be a terrific writer, to be able to enmesh fantasy and reality so beautifully. 

I highly recommend this series and book three is no exception. Although the series is technically a Young Adult selection, it is also a very good and enjoyable read for any adult. I found Johnson's writing to be well plotted and not at all dumbed down. This is certainly a four of five star book and my only complaint was that I wanted the middle to move a little faster because I was so anxious to find out what was going to happen! I think that's actually a mark of a good writer, the reader so wants to get to the answer that they stay up late, forgo sleep and read on until the early dawn just to finish the last page of writing. "The Shadow Cabinet" was a satisfying read but I warn you, I don't think it's done yet, we are left with a "what will happen next feeling" so I look forward to book four, I hope Johnson writes this one quickly.

Best,

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Book Review: "The Name of the Star" & "The Madness Underneath" By Maureen Johnson

(First Book)
I've been reading a new series from Maureen Johnson and I'm loving it. So far there are three books in the Shades of London series, "The Name of the Star", "The Madness Underneath" and "The Shadow Cabinet". In the last four days I've read book one and two and I'm chomping at the bit for the review copy of "The Shadow Cabinet" to arrive on my doorstep. Until it arrives, I thought I'd tell all of you about this series so you too can get started on a set of books that will thrill both mystery and paranormal fans.

Maureen Johnson is a New York Times best selling author of young adult fiction. Her excellent writing style is eminently readable by both teens and adults. I found myself surprised that the books were geared toward young adult, only because the writing was in no way dumbed down. Never did I find myself thinking that the author sacrificed plot to make the story simpler for younger readers. Johnson's books are considered YA, in my opinion, because there are no offensive sex scenes and her writing style is so smooth and easy to digest (but not unsophisticated).

(Second Book)
When I did some research on this Edgar-Nominated series before agreeing to review the latest book, I got the impression that I would love these books like I loved the Harry Potter books by J.K Rowling. I was both right an wrong. I do love this Shades of London series but in a different way that I loved Harry Potter. Johnson's writing has a sophistication that even exceeds Rowling's writing style. I loved the Potter series because they were so fun, I love this series  not only because the mysteries are fun but also because Johnson's style is so smooth that I don't feel like I'm reading a "younger" book.

The main character, Rory Deveaux, starts out as a "fish out of water" character. She is a seventeen year old American who has moved to London from Louisiana to go to a posh boarding school. Rory has so much to learn, from the new lexicon to what to wear in colder and rainier London along with getting used to new classes and friends. The day she arrives is also the day that a serial murderer begins his work. The media dub him the New Jack The Ripper because his first murder closely mimics the original Ripper's murder in 1888. The city of London is gripped by Rippermania, people are not only frightened but also fascinated by the horrific murders. 

There are no leads and the Police are stumped. Who is recreating these terrible crimes? Although there are many CCTV cameras throughout London, nothing is caught on film, there are no witnesses until Rory sees someone outside her boarding school. The problem is The Ripper also saw Rory and now she's his next target.

I highly recommend these books, they deserve a true five out of five. The second book, "The Madness Underneath" flows directly from the first, as though the story never ended. Anyone who loves a good mystery with some paranormal leanings will love this series. The reviews on the first two books are excellent and fans have been waiting almost three years for the newest book, "The Shadow Cabinet", to arrive. Today (February 10, 2015) is the publication date for Maureen Johnson's highly anticipated third installment of The Shades of London Series. I don't think you could do better than to go out and buy these books. They will keep you warm and happy through these winter nights. All you need is some popcorn and a good cup of coffee and you'll have the perfect trifecta. Happy Reading!

Best,

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Art For All

I've been delighted to be a part of a new movement toward making art. It's happening all over the world, from "Stockholm to Sydney, Barcelona to Brooklyn". It's the one year anniversary of Sketchbook Skool and both students and teachers are cheering the phenomenal success created from the inspiration from Danny Gregory and Koosje Koene. If you want to read how Danny and Koosje are feeling about their phenomenal success just click on their names.

At the moment, Sketchbook Skool (SBS for short) has three classes it offers, Beginnings, Seeing and Storytelling. They are each six weeks long, each week having a phenomenal art teacher who will inspire you with their insights, help and personal sketchbook journey. I hear new classes are being created as we speak and I can't wait to learn about what they'll be all about. All the classes are offered in a three month rotation. For instance, Beginnings started for the fourth time on January 2nd, Seeing started January 23rd and Storytelling starts February 13th. I understand the next offering of each class will be in April and hopefully we'll have a fourth class then too!! 

If you'd like to see just what Sketchbook Skool is all about, here's a free sample class that gives you an idea of what you'll get if you sign up. Also, SBS has a blog where you can read wonderful articles that will inspire you to make art and try new things with your art supplies. There's even a compilation video of SBS students telling Danny & Koosje just how Sketchbook Skool changed their art world. Click here to view.

The art you see are pieces I did when I was enrolled in Sketchbook Skool. It's a terrific, enlightening and encouraging environment with so many teachers and students who will bolster your belief in your own talent. Art for ALL, come join us.



Best,

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Book Review: "Hit & Run" by Maxine O'Callaghan

"Hit & Run" by Maxine O'Callaghan was a fun read with enough red herrings to make it difficult to figure out who done it. This is the third book in the series but the mystery does not rely on the previous two to bolster the story. I think it's worth four of five stars, let me tell you why.

Our main character is a female P.I. who is probably too curious for her own good. To me, the character that the author creates in Hit & Run, Delilah West, is a combination of Sue Grafton's character Kinsey Millhone and Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum.

Delilah has the tenacity of the Millhone character, she just won't let an injustice go but she is poor as a church mouse at the moment, much like the Plum character. Delilah is living in her office and sleeping in a sleeping bag on her office floor. She hunts down small jobs from insurance companies and lawyer's offices but this still isn't enough to put food on the table so she moonlights as a waitress at a mom and pop restaurant to make ends meet.

"Hit & Run" begins with Delilah being struck by a car on a rainy night. She is unhurt but there is a body in the road and she is the only witness to this brutal slaying. It seems that a reckless driver in his Trans Am has mowed down an elderly man who was out for a walk. But is this actually the case? Is Delilah sure that's what she saw? The young man who is quickly charged with the murder claims he didn't do it and his mother tries to hire Delilah to look into the incident. 

The interesting conflict of interest that our main character finds herself in really adds to the mystery. The reader can't help ask whether Delilah should even be involved in this investigation. By poking her nose in where it ostensibly doesn't belong, she is essentially invalidating her testimony at any trial that is held for this murder. Delilah can't let it go though, she thinks there just might be a miscarriage of justice. Finding whether there is another killer puts her own life on the line.

Maxine O'Callaghan's book is well written and I think this character can grow into a strong lead. My only complaint is that there was so much focus on her monetary circumstances that it did detract from the book. I look forward to reading more of this character, she's a strong female lead that competes well with other female P.I.'s in this genre. As I said, O'Callaghan's character holds it's own against the likes of Grafton, Evanovich, Paretsky, Jance and Robb. If you like these authors, I think you'll like this series. It's worth a try, adding another author to your favorites is always a treat.

Best,

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Book Review: "Sparrow 59" by Devon Ashley

"Sparrow 59" by Devon Ashley was a terrific book and since it finished on a cliffhanger of sorts, I'm looking forward to the sequel. Lucky for you, you can buy it right now as the publication date passed just a month ago. It's got great ratings, all in the fours and fives and I'll be adding my own 5 of 5 rating to that spectacular success. Let me tell you about this really fun book.

"The Bourne Identity meets Mr. and Mrs. Smith" has been used to describe this thriller and I'd have to heartily agree. What more would you want? Spies, cool tech stuff, amazing CIA training, chases across the world, great banter between characters and possibly a tragic love story all rolled into one! Yep, it's a rip roaring thrill ride that's perfect for a boring and cold February evening.

Samantha and Drew have been partners since they were recruited by the CIA out of Langley. Now, they are doing  undercover work is as a married couple who are part of "SPARROW", a specialty CIA team of operatives investigating and recovering stolen medical research. After a successful op everyone involved in SPARROW is dead except Sam and Drew. Sam was found unconscious at the scene and Drew is missing.

The CIA think Drew is involved in the massacre so they are watching Sam, the other member of team 5-9. When a beacon that only Sam can see is activated, indicating that Drew is alive and needs her help, she must decide to become a fugitive herself or leave Drew out in the cold to fend for himself. So starts a gripping, suspense-filled mystery/thriller that you'll have trouble putting down.

I loved this book. It is a rare thing to find a writer that both writes good characters who feel and have flaws and also be able to inject good, fast paced scenarios that keeps the reader engaged and not bored. I found myself really enjoying getting to know Sam, the main character in this, the first book in the series "The Sleeper's Coalition". I liked how human she was and how well the author fleshed out her personality. "Sparrow 59" was an easy read and so well worth the lost sleep I suffered as I read well into the night to finish this thriller. I warn you, all answers will NOT found at the end of this book but your curiosity will be so piqued that you'll be sending pleading emails to Ms. Ashley to write the next book quickly. This is a five out of five for me because it was such fun to read with no effort needed to enjoy it.

Best,

Monday, January 26, 2015

Book Review: "Crash & Burn" by Lisa Gardner

Lisa Gardner's latest mystery-thriller is "Crash & Burn" and it will be coming out February 3rd, 2015. This stand alone book starts with a car accident on a dark, wet, remote road. We meet Nicky Frank as she bravely extricates herself from her demolished car, her only thought is to find her little girl Vero. She claws herself up the muddy ravine, desperate for help. The police and ambulance are called and Sergeant Wyatt Foster starts the arduous task of searching the scene for the missing child. Where could a traumatized little girl go in the middle of the night, surrounded by forest?

"Crash & Burn" centers around Nicky Frank, her husband Thomas and their little girl Vero. Except according to Thomas, the couple doesn't have children. Thomas claims Vero doesn't exist and his wife is a very confused and ill woman. Sergeant Foster's job is to figure out what the heck is going on. Did Nicky try to kill herself in her car the evening of the accident? Did her husband have anything to do with it? Why is Nicky Frank so damaged and what causes her to think she has a missing child? It's a whole juggernaut of a mystery for the Sergeant and the deeper he digs, the more concerned he becomes.

Lisa Gardner's latest offering is a good read but, in my opinion, not up to her usual five star success. Many readers have loved this book and I'm on the fence as to what kind of rating to give it. Yes, it was a good, convoluted thriller with true mysterious circumstances woven expertly into each page. My only problem is that it takes so many tiny moments to give out the details to allow the reader to figure out what happened to Nicky Frank. I found myself wishing the book had had a more thorough editing to limit the repetitive scenarios. Nicky talks about "Vero" over and over again, ad nauseam. I got sick of hearing about Vero.

On the other hand, it truly was a difficult mystery to figure out and that's what makes for a good read. If you've loved Gardner's books in the past, try this one, I'm probably wrong that it's only a three and a half star offering. On the other hand, if you've never read a Lisa Gardner book, start with some of her previous books because this one isn't as stand out as it could be. I've reviewed several of hers, including "Touch & Go" and "Catch Me" so feel free to try them along with this one which deserves a try too.
Best,

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Gonna Be Some Changes 'Round Here

Hiya. Not sure anyone out there noticed that my blog had a lot of missing stuff in it's sidebar for a while. If you didn't notice that, all you have to do to see the problem is scroll through some of my older blog posts (like 2012-13) to see that there are missing photos and icons everywhere. Oh ya, and did you notice my missing blog buttons (APR, Blogging 101 & Featured Artist just to name a few)? Even my signature disappeared on all my previous posts! Yep, there have been some unfortunate changes that I did NOT have anything to do with. *Sigh*. 

An upload program I used to use was purchased by Evernote but the original program owners promised to leave the servers with everyone's uploads alone forever. Um... they lied. Sometime in the last week all images that I had uploaded from the original SKITCH have disappeared. I'm assuming this also happened for millions of other previous customers. There's nothing I can do about it but it has forced me to do a little soul searching about how I want to proceed. 


I want this blog to be about my art and what I'm painting/drawing and also what I'm reading at the moment. I have therefore decided to close down the Artist's Play Room. Since I don't have the time anymore to devote to APR, I've decided to stop posting it. I genuinely thank all who came over and participated and shared their art every week.

I have new blog buttons. Since I lost the old ones and and a bunch of other stuff, I decided to change the look a little in my sidebar. Feel free to join me on Goodreads, that's my newest button (the eggplant one with the "g"). I love how colorful they are, perfect for an artist who loves color like me. You know I'm all over anything that comes in turquoise, fuchsia and green, right? ;o)  Here they are:


I hope to get new art up soon but my household has been a little unlucky, starting this new year out with "The Grunge" as we call it. Thankfully we've all avoided the terrible flu that's affecting so many people but whatever illness that's out there that causes you to feel awful has descended upon us for the last few weeks. I'm hoping to shake it off soon and get on with a great 2015. Hey, new blog, new outlook, right?

Talk to you all soon, K? GREAT!

P.S. To anyone who knows how to easily add a paintbrush under my signature, I'd love to hear from you. That's what my sig used to be but now I forget how I did that. Old age sucks. ;o)
Best,

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Book Review: "The Mussorgsky Riddle" by Dr. Darin Kennedy

"The Mussorgsky Riddle" is by Darin Kennedy and this is his debut mystery novel. It was a very unusual, intricate mystery centered around a thirteen year old autistic boy who needs rescuing. Mira Tejedor, a psychic who senses other's emotions and uses her abilities to find things is the only one who can help Anthony Faircloth in his time of need.

Something traumatic has happened to Anthony in the last month and his way of dealing with it is to retreat into his own mind. Mira is summoned by Anthony's mother after the doctors tests and the boy's psychologist can find no answers to what has caused his near catatonic state. Mira enters the child's fractured psyche hoping to help sort out his tormented mind.

At the same time, there is also a missing high school girl who Anthony's older brother used to date. Mira is pulled into the investigation and endeavors to help the police find out what happened in the girl's disappearance. As the book progresses, Mira suspects that Anthony's condition is somehow connected to the missing girl and to save Anthony she must solve a case that is ripping a city apart.

The book started out strongly with many details that kept the reader interested and willing to suspend their disbelief in psychic phenomenon  Unfortunately as the book progresses, there are so many riddles, twists and turns that the reader gets tired. I found myself muttering at my Kindle for the author to "just get on with it already!". It really was an interesting read though so I'm hesitant to give it only three stars. If I could I'd hedge my bets and give it an extra half star for sure but one cannot do that with the scoring used for books.

I will certainly keep Darin Kennedy on my radar as he is a good writer. I just think with this, his first mystery, he put a little too many details about musical scores and mythical creatures in the book. In the end I just wanted to get some information that was concrete to help me figure out what the heck happened to Anthony and the missing girl.  It's not a bad read and in the end I was sorely tempted to give it four stars as the ending is as good as the beginning. I just wish the second half of the book had been a little shorter, with the clues coming a little less "few and far between".

Best,





Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Book Review: "Cold, Cold Heart" by Tami Hoag

This was such an unusual mystery/thriller. But by the end of "Cold Cold Heart", the book became so great that I'm happy that I believed in Tami Hoag's prowess as an excellent writer and plowed through.

"Cold, Cold Heart" had an unexpected slow start. Now, don't get me wrong, in this case that's not a bad thing. I found it quite refreshing to not know exactly where this mystery was going for several well written chapters.

The book opens with the reader meeting Dana Nolen, a kidnap victim of a serial killer named Doc Holiday. She becomes the only victim of this vicious killer who lived. Dana isn't the same person now though. After surviving torture and struggling through rehab, she still has little memory of the ordeal that changed her life forever. 

Tami Hoag's book spends about half of it's pages teaching us about Dana's new life and what it means to be a victim of a serial killer. We learn of the lasting scars, both psychological and physical and what it's like to have PTSD. Throughout this interesting meandering through Dana's new life we also learn about her past life and the people who she grew up with. In that learning the reader discovers that there is in fact a mystery to be had after all. When Dana was younger her best friend disappeared and was never heard from again. Could she have been one of the first victims of Doc Holiday? Could there be such a cruel coincidence? What happened to Dana's bestie? Now that we're invested in Dana's life, this mystery pulls us hard into wanting to know what happened, if only to help Dana heal from the trauma of wondering if her own torturer also killed her best friend.

I absolutely loved the way Ms. Hoag wrote this thriller. It was so refreshing for an author to find a new and unique way of leading the reader into the mystery.  You get to love the main character first. You care about her and want her to be ok, all before the main mystery pulls you into it's spiderweb of twists and turns. This is a five out of five star book and so well worth the read. I hadn't read Tami Hoag for a few years and now I'm going to go back and fill in my reading with the books I've missed. If this book is any indication of what I've missed, I'll have a plethora of mysteries to fill my spring and summer reading. Tami Hoag's "Cold, Cold Heart" is being released January 13, 2015 so let this terrific mystery keep you warm on those cold January nights.
Best,



Saturday, December 27, 2014

Book Review: "No Fortunate Son" by Brad Taylor

I loved this book. I was surprised to find myself liking "No Fortunate Son" so much as I usually don't like military/political thrillers much. I'm really not any kind of a political animal or military enthusiast so anything to do with either category really never interested me, until this book. I am now sure I've found a new spectacular author in Brad Taylor.

Mr. Taylor has written a slam-bang, run as fast as you possibly can and read well into the night to get to the end of this stunningly well written book. Our main characters, Pike Logan and partner Jennifer Cahill are summarily fired from their jobs with an undercover counterterrorist unit called Taskforce. They are both shocked. With their last mission, Pike had broken many rules but had also saved many lives. You'd think a successful mission that saved thousands of lives would be a positive thing, but the oversight committee has decided to put their foot down. What the committee doesn't know is they'll need Pike & Jennifer's keen skills to get through the latest terrorist threat to the country.

The book starts with Colonel Kurt Hale, Pike's former commander, asking for his and Jennifer's help in finding Hale's niece who has disappeared from her University in England. Kylie is an exchange student and hasn't been heard from for several days. There has been no social media interactions from Kylie and her Uncle is worried. At the same time, the Taskforce team has been called into action. Key members of the government have had their children or relatives kidnapped, including the Vice President's son. It's a complicated and huge mission, to track down the terrorists who coordinated this monumental feat. Who took the hostages and how do you negotiate when you official policy is that "we don't negotiate with terrorists"?

Brad Taylor has written an intricate and complicated thriller that draws you in from the first page and doesn't let you go until the last paragraph. As the reader, you cheer for Pike and Jennifer, no matter what they have to do to win against the terrorists. You'll love the blatant good against evil theme. This is a five out of five book, go, run or click onto to your nearest bookstore on December 30 and GET THIS BOOK. You won't regret it, in fact, you'll hate yourself if you don't.
Best,

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Just A Little Note...

I thought I'd tell all of you about the free introductory class from Sketchbook Skool. Anyone who has thought of signing up but has been reluctant can try it out first and get your feet wet, so to speak. This allows all of you who just don't know what it would be like to take a course to try before you buy. Isn't that great?

Anyway, here's the link to sign up for the free mini class. Merry Christmas!
Best,




I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday Season. APR will start up in January 2015. :o)

Friday, December 5, 2014

Book Review: "Saving Paradise" by Mike Bond

"Saving Paradise" by Mike Bond is based in Hawaii, which made it really enjoyable to read. It was informative to learn all about Hawaiian history and the corrupt underbelly that exposes the exploitation of Hawaiian natives. 

Pono Hawkins, our main character, is a special forces veteran, an excellent surfer, a native to Hawaii and a reluctant amateur sleuth. When Hawkins inadvertently bumps into a beautiful, young but dead woman, as he goes to catch the next wave one morning, he is instantly saddened and overcome by her death. The fact that he found her spurs him on to find out what happened. The police called it an accident but Pono discovers that she was murdered. Finding justice for Sylvia Gorden, the beautiful and smart investigative journalist who stepped into something much too sinister for her own good, is Pono's determined goal.

Mike Bond's excellent narrative is both fast paced and convoluted. Although quite logical in his step by step approach to finding the killer of Sylvia, Bond's writing keeps the reader's interest by having many savvy details. Mr. Bond's prose include beautiful descriptions of Hawaii's islands. The reader, as they run headlong into the mystery, is treated to some spectacular scenery along the way.

This is a four star book, I highly recommend it to anyone who likes a slightly different kind of hero and a good who-done-it mystery. Along with a great and complicated mystery, you get terrific information about Hawaii, it's history and the lifestyle of the people who live there. It's an easy read and a good book to curl up with on a cold and snowy day.
Best,



If you're looking for this week's APR just click here.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

My Last Page

I can't believe I've finished my Moleskine sketchbook. It's a real milestone for me. I had only done about a dozen or so pages in my Watercolor Moleskine in 2012 and 2013. Then I signed up for Sketchbook Skool earlier this year. In doing two courses with them ("Beginnings" and "Seeing"), each course being six weeks, I have filled the entire rest of the Moleskine. The whole book has over seventy pages. So, it took me only twelve or so weeks to fill over fifty pages. Amazing.


It's been quite a journey in three years. I've learned so much and grown in my art. I love how my paintings are getting looser and I'm not afraid anymore to start any piece. I just jump in with no fear that I'll mess it up or not be able to create what I want to create. I've learned so much about how watercolor paint works and how the water moves the paint around. I've learned how to successfully use water-soluble pens too. It's been so much fun, I can hardly explain how great the learning has been.

I would SO recommend Sketchbook Skool for anyone who wants to learn great techniques and see incredible art from your teachers. You'll also have a terrific group of people to grow and learn with. All of us interact in a private group on Facebook, it's like playing on the playground when you were in grade school. Having fun, learning and sharing is the best way to grow. I couldn't recommend it more.

If you'd like to see my progression in art, go to my Flickr account.
Best,


If you're looking for this week's APR just click here.
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