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.

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)

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".


Sorry about forgetting the first Artist's Play Room of the year, it will start again next week. :o)

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.

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

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.

APR (The Artist's Play Room) will return on Saturday January  3rd. I hope to see you there!

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!

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.

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.

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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.

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

Monday, December 1, 2014

Book Review: "Suspicion" by Alexandra Monir

"Suspicion" was a lovely and easy read. I didn't particularly realize that it was written for tweens until I was well into the book. I just thought the author, Alexandra Monir, wrote easily read books. By the midpoint, I had noticed that there weren't as many details in this mystery as I would expect in an adult book. It was, however, enjoyable just as Harry Potter was enjoyable, even though it was written for children. "Suspicion" has qualities that remind me of "The Princess Diaries" but with an interesting mystery and murder plot with a little paranormal thrown in.

Our heroine Imogen Rockford is the granddaughter of The Duke of Rockford. Her heritage makes her status just below royalty. But when her parents, aunt and uncle are killed in a fire started in the garden's maze, Imogen is left alone at ten years old. She is moved to the United States to be raised by her parent's best friends and in the process of moving, she abandons all of her family heritage back at Rockford Manor, including her older cousin Lucia and Sebastian, the boy she loves. Not until she receives an urgent letter from Rockford Manor when she's seventeen, does she confront all that she left behind. Imogen will have to deal with her painful past, learn the history of her family lineage and go back to Rockford Manor to gain the truth about what really happened to her parents and what her future holds.

As I said, this was an easy read. Because this book was written for tweens I'll be giving it four stars. The mystery was good but some of the paranormal details just were not fleshed out enough. As an adult it was enjoyable to read and I think parents would have fun reading this book to their children. "Suspicion" had some interesting and unique ideas that would have brought this young adult book into a five star if they had been explored in deeper way. The actual mystery was quite complex and kept me from being bored. I know tween girls will certainly enjoy reading about Imogen just as they enjoyed The Princess Diaries years ago.


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

Sunday, November 30, 2014

AEDM Day Thirty

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The End. Yes, we reached the final day of November and I survived. As you all know, I also did Sketchbook Skool along with AEDM. It's been a ferocious, headlong rush toward December and I'm so glad to be taking a break. I've started buying all the trimmings for a good Christmas and I plan on wrapping presents in the next few days. Now that the stress of all that art is over, I'm finally feeling very festive indeed. I even intend to indulge in some NOG. My friend Tracey discovered her love of NOG last year, I wonder if she'll still love it this year? It's an acquired taste but if you love the NOG, you're addicted for life. This will be the first year in decades that I've allowed myself the fat and calories in even one glass of this ambrosia. I can't wait until Christmas Eve... I mean, Nog Eve. ;o)
Key To My Heart
On top of all that art, I actually finished my very first sketchbook today. I'm so thrilled to have a finished sketchbook under my proverbial belt. I know many artists finish sketchbooks in only a few months but this one took me over two years to complete. I'm thinking I'll be quicker now that I feel much more confident in my art journey.

Anyway, let me be the first one to wish you a Merry Christmas. I hope everyone who reads me has the best holiday season ever and that Santa is extra good to you. Hugs all around. The Artist's Playroom will begin again in January but you can still add your art whenever you want through December. I'll leave the linky open for the rest of the year. I'll be lurking and checking in (kinda like Santa) to see if you've all been doing lovely art. Take care.


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

Saturday, November 29, 2014

AEDM Day Twenty-Nine

Well, this is the second to last day of AEDM. I'm always thrilled to start November Art Everyday months but then when it's over, I'm also glad. It's tiring to do art all the time. I think, eat and sleep art when I do this. I don't do art quickly. I'm a slow painter and sketch artist. The good thing is that with doing art so much, you improve your skills. That's why I intend to do another challenge. I'm going to take December off though. I'm tired and need a break. 

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One more day and I'm finished. See you tomorrow!  

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

The Artist's Play Room #134

Please scroll down for the newest Artist's Play Room Linky and enter your wonderful, creative artwork throughout this upcoming week.

If you haven't read the rules & guidelines, please go here. If you've landed here after this challenge has been completed but would like to participate in a current or future Artist's Play Room Challenge, just either click on the APR button in the sidebar or click here and you'll be taken to the latest APR Challenge!

Are you having trouble using the Mr. Linky to add your submissions to APR? Well here's some help! Just click on HELP and you'll be taken to my Linky Help Page. Cool, huh? I've got your back!


REMINDER: This will be the last APR until the New Year, so RELAX, take some time off to put your feet up and enjoy the Season. Merry Christmas to everyone!
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Friday, November 28, 2014

AEDM Day Twenty-Eight

Well, Sketchbook Skool is officially over. *Sigh*. It makes me kinda sad, even though doing both Art Everyday Month at the same time I did SBS has been tiring. I've decided, in fact, to wait until January 1st to start the seventy-five day challenge a-la Brenda Swenson. I just want Christmas off. I'm looking forward to a quiet Christmas filled with once again trying to learn how to make recipes gluten free. This year we're also trying to lower all grains and use nut flours instead. I'm still having chocolate though!! I mean it wouldn't be Christmas without chocolate.

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I realized that I wanted to do something in my Moleskine about penguins when I was watching some penguin show on TV last week. Then I thought I'd do a whole page spread and celebrate the beautiful but also kinda funny Emperor Penguin. I love the orange/yellow blush around their faces and necks, it's so beautiful. Having that juxtaposed against their waddling is just funny. I especially love the look of the babies. They look like a teddy bear... I guess you'd call them a penguin bear. :o)

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I came up with the idea of doing a "seven dwarfs" type of thing. I went looking for different photos of the Emperor and this is how it ended up. Even cooler, since I used two pages for this piece, I only have three, yes THREE pages left in my watercolor Moleskine!! WOW. 

Oh, and by the way, in the same vein of taking Christmas off, this Saturday will be the last Artist's Play Room until January. I'll still be around this December, I certainly don't want to stop making art, it'll just be nice to breath a little and not have the requirement of making art everyday. See you sometime soon with new art. :o)

(Lazy, Sneezy, Dopey, Doc, Grumpy, Mummy, Baby)

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