Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Book Review: "The Forgotten Soldier" by Brad Taylor

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

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

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

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

Best,

Sunday, December 6, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

Best,

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Book Review: "The Masquerading Magician" by Gigi Pandian


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

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

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

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

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

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

Best,

Friday, November 20, 2015

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Do You Know About The Perfect Sketchbook?

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

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

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

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

Best,

Saturday, November 14, 2015

AEDM - Day Fifteen

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

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

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

Friday, November 13, 2015

AEDM - Dy Fourteen

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

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

AEDM - Day Twelve & Thirteen

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

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

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

Best,

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Book Review: Death Before Decaf by Caroline Fardig

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

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

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

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

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

Best,

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

AEDM - Day Ten

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

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

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

Best,

Sunday, November 8, 2015

AEDM - Day Nine

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

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

Best,

AEDM - Day Eight

AEDM
I expect I've never mentioned that I love hand lotion. I tend to have dry skin but I'm picky about my moisturizers. So many of them leave a horrible film on my skin. Here's my hand lotion hack. I combine two kinds. I use OPI Avojuice because it's really thin and leaves no film and I combine it with a rich and emollient lotion like Cath Kidson. Then the rich one spreads and sinks in but because of the Avojuice it somehow doesn't leave a sticky film all over my palms. TADA, the perfect hand lotion and no dry skin.
I only got the black and white drawing inked today, you'll have to wait until tomorrow to see it in living color. Later gator!

Best,

Friday, November 6, 2015

AEDM - Day Seven

Hello again, welcome to Autumn. Can you believe that Halloween and Thanksgiving (for Canadians) is gone? Me either! I can't believe Thanksgiving (for the US) and Christmas is truly around the corner. Seriously, it was just September and kids were going back to school just yesterday. So we're already seven days into AEDM, life is zipping by at the speed of light.

The frightening thing is that I've already sent some Christmas presents out because when they go around the world they take FOREVER. Even worse, I sent them two weeks ago and I'm told they're STILL gonna be late! Time is so short.

I decided I better do an homage to Fall before everything is covered in SNOW!!! Maybe I should whisper that... snow. The only thing I like about winter is Christmas and the promise of a New Year. Everything covered in white fluff is pretty as long as you don't have to go out in it, lol. I'm hoping our precipitation stays liquid all winter. So, here's to a loooooong Autumn.
Autumn
We'll talk later. Go make yourself a hot chocolate with marshmallows. I think you deserve it. :o)

Best,

Thursday, November 5, 2015

AEDM - Day Five & Six

It's another few days into AEDM and I'm madly painting away. I'm determined, after this intense month of Art Everyday, to have a habit that I take into the new year. I'm thinking of it as an early New Year's Resolution for 2016. Planning ahead always helps in these things.

It seems I'm rubbish about normally keeping an art habit. It's not that I don't have ideas to paint or even that I don't have time. I have an abundance of ideas, so many that I keep both a physical list on a piece of dedicated paper and also a folder of ideas on my computer. The computer folder is BULGING with ideas so you'd think, since I do have time to paint, that I'd PAINT. Huh, no clue what stops me in my tracks many times.

It's not even that I think I won't get the effect I want. I'm actually pretty confident in my skills. The course I took with Tracey Fletcher King really helped solidify my skills and her feedback boosted my confidence in my abilities to get what I wanted in my artwork. I'd highly recommend her art courses to all artists especially anyone struggling to improve their skills.

Anyway, I had this idea in the summer to do an ice-cream & popsicle page. I love how it turned out. As I said the other day, it reminds me of that Sesame Street song, "One of these things is not like the others, one of these things doesn't belong!"
Ice-cream & Popsicles
I'll be back soon with more art. Until then you might want to check out a previous post I wrote last week. It's about The Perfect Sketchbook, you might want to order one and you can learn all about the crowd funded project by reading my post. You'll find artists all over the net talking about this campaign, go to their actual site by clicking https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-perfect-sketchbook-b5#/

Best,

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

ADEM - Day Three & Four

I'm combining posts because I'm having a heck of a time catching up to the group doing AEDM. I'm on the Pacific coast of Canada so I'm three hours behind many of the posters in this month's art everyday challenge. This means that by the evening I'm already totally behind. I find myself posting close to the next days ADEM post, the last on the totem pole so to speak. I hate that. So, I did two smaller pieces today and decided to combine them into one post for Day 4, thus getting "ahead". YAY!!

The first thing I did was my trusty Sakura Micron Pen. What artist doesn't use hundreds of these over a lifetime? This is my Ode To My Black Pen. What else can I say, they rock. (Don't forget archival and waterproof!)


Ode To My Micron Pen
My next piece is another Ode actually. My wonderful cousin hooked us up with Netflix a couple of weeks ago. Without his help we wouldn't have tried as I know NOTHING about Netflix or any other streaming services or how to "get" it. Total blank on that subject. Think of an empty box, like that. Someone mentions Netflix (or for that matter, Amazon TV, Shoime, Hulu, Google play etc.) I get a vacant stare that shows no one is home. 


Ode To Netflix
But now I'm totally in the know. Ok, I get Netflix. Don't ask me about all the others. I'm in LOVE too. In love with Netflix. I thought I'd totally go for the TV programs I'd missed over the years like Breaking Bad or The Office, or maybe a bunch of movies. But no. I'm addicted to documentaries. Yep, you heard it. I guess I'm not so much a shallow pool, only interested in mysteries and good fiction. I love information, and I can't seem to get enough! I've watched hundreds of hours of TED talks and since each one is always less than say, twenty minutes, that's saying something.

I've learned SO much in just a few weeks of binge watching. I've seen that engineers have finally figured out how to make a mechanical bird fly just like a real bird. And it flew around the room. I've also seen robotics engineers proudly show an exoskeleton that helps soldiers carry more than two hundred pounds of stuff on their backs without hurting the soldier. They use the same technology to make paraplegics walk. They actually walk, swear to god. I've heard brilliant doctors talk about cancer and that with new techniques like angiogenesis we can actually make cancer a paper tiger, no threat anymore. They've done it in the lab with actual human patients. Holy cow. I'll let you look up angiogenesis, but essentially it has to do with teaching the body not to feed the cancer by not giving it access to our capillary system growth. No food for cancer, no cancer. It dies. And no chemotherapy. 

How about teaching your body that stress is actually good for you? That if you believe that even overwhelming stress cannot hurt you, then it won't. Again, holy cow! And here's a quote that I loved. It came from the same TED talk where this social psychologist told us about stress. Here's the quote...


Chasing meaning is more helpful
than avoiding discomfort.

I'll leave you with that thought today. Have a great day!

Best,

Monday, November 2, 2015

ADEM - Day Two

I only got a few things inked out today. They await paint but you gotta admit that they look like they'll turn out to be fun projects. I'm looking forward to giving character to every one of my watercolor paint tubes! And Ohhh, ice-cream. It makes me wish for summer again. The ice-cream page reminds me of the song from Sesame Street. You know the one...
One of these things is not like the others,
One of these things just doesn't belong.
Can you tell which thing is not like the others
By the time I finish my song?
Yep, I'm pretty much aging myself. Sesame Street, before Teletubbies, Thomas the Train and all the other kiddie shows. It was always Bugs Bunny and Sesame Street. Which was your favorite character? Mine was Cookie Monster and Oscar the Grouch. My time was before the eternally happy and endlessly red Elmo. If I was a kid now, I'd totally choose Elmo. I'd be all over that.
Watercolor TubesPopsicles & Ice-Ceam
The tubes of paint are ALL of my tube colors, mostly Daniel Smith. Each tube has it's own unique crumpled appearance and I'm gonna try to capture that uniqueness. Anyway, see you in a day, probably in color, lol.

Best,
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