Saturday, April 30, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

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

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

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

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

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


Sunday, April 24, 2016

Playing With DIY

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

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

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


Monday, April 18, 2016

Book Review: "Reserved" by Tracy Ewens

"Reserved" by Tracy Ewens has already been published and is available as a paperback and digitally. I don't usually read romances but somehow this book ended up on my list of books I said I'd review and I'm so glad it did. As I said, I never would have chosen it but it was serendipity that I ended up with it on my list. It was fantastic, a five out of five star read. 

I'd have to say I'm really hard on romance writers in general because I expect so much out of them (because I don't usually read them!). I expect no silly behavior that one wouldn't see in your friend or next door neighbor. I want a romance to be timed well, not to be rushed. I also expect, probably even more than I do with mysteries, for the characters to be well fleshed out and believable. I guess I'm saying that I don't suspend disbelief in the romance genre like I do with the mystery/thriller genre. That seems unfair but I I'm tickled pink to be able to say that this romance ticked off all the boxes above and more. I was shocked, to say the least. Here's what the general book is about.

Makenna Rye Conroy is a widow. She lost her beloved Adam five years ago only a few weeks after their only child, Paige, was born. Makenna has coped beautifully, she's a great mom and she has a terrific job as the manager of her brother's popular restaurant. She also helps out at the family farm. Travis works along side Makenna's brother as chef. Travis loves to make people happy with food and he's excellent at his job. He and Makenna have been friends and verbal sparring partners for years until one day Makenna is looking at Travis differently. She knows she has no time for romance and Travis isn't the kind of boyfriend she needs. He dates casually and Makenna is anything but a casual date. Travis knows this and that's why he has always thought of her as unattainable. But maybe it's time to change his mind and attitude. Over time Makenna and Travis start seeing that they may have more in common than they ever expected. Maybe there could be something special cooking in the kitchen that isn't food.

As I said, this was a five star read for me and it was so delightfully unexpected. It was like a wonderful lemon sorbet after a good meal. I read a lot of mysteries with dark plots and although this was not a trivial book it was so wonderfully palate cleansing. I would highly recommend it to anyone who likes good, strong characters who are trying hard to find more meaning in life. I loved how the author let the reader slowly learn the inner workings of the characters' thoughts and then let that imbue their ongoing behavior.

This would be a spectacular summer read. If you want something that's not depressing but has substance and terrific characters that you can relate to, this is the romance for you!


Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Book Review: "With A Vengeance" by Annette Dashofy

"With A Vengeance" by Annette Dashofy is the fourth book in the Zoe Chambers mystery series. The book comes out on May 3, 2016.

Zoe Chambers is our main character. She's a paramedic and the deputy coroner for the small town in which she lives. One evening a terrible call comes in to dispatch. The first responders to an overturned ATV have been shot. This starts a tense and angst ridden mystery about who would want to kill first responders. Everyone Zoe works with is in danger and now with the police trying to protect the first responders, Zoe's boyfriend, the sheriff, is also in danger of being shot. Figuring out whether this is about specific people being targeted or just a psycho shooting at any first responders becomes the only way of trying to catch a killer.

**SPOILER ALERT** To explain my low rating on this book I have to break my own rule about giving out details of the book. I rarely do this but it seems unfair not to explain my thinking.

This was such a different experience for me as I read through this mystery. It started out as a five out of five, reading it felt like being on a freight train that was out of control (in a good way). But then as I got to the ninety percent mark the author broke an unwritten rule. The rule is that it's unfair to make the killer some character that's not been introduced before. It makes no sense to make a character who has not been fleshed out by the author, the killer in the book. If the author has given no real details that lets the reader wonder if they could be the killer ,then how is that fair? How is it even possible for the reader to figure out who done it? And isn't that the point of any good mystery?

There were two other small details that I would have overlooked if the author had played fair with the "Who Done It" game. The first detail was that Zoe's best friend has a meltdown, yelling at Zoe for the stupidest thing even when she knows Zoe's life is in eminent danger every night and sleep has been unattainable because of the stress of the situation. There are times when one should hold one's tongue and wait for a better time to have a hissy fit, eminent death would be one of them. The second detail was when Zoe had the opportunity to shoot the killer, she said "Stop or I'll shoot", giving the killer time to duck and cover, using Zoe's boyfriend as said cover. If you have the training to shoot a gun, which Zoe does and a killer is threatening every life around you, why would you warn him that you're gonna stop his rampage? JUST SHOOT HIM for god's sake!! This kind of thing totally ticks me off as a reader.

For these reasons I'm forced to give this book a three. Unfortunately, I enjoyed most of this book. It was fast paced and I loved how the author created tension so the reader certainly didn't get bored. BUT, to break the "Who Done It" rule and then to have such stupid details thrown in that tick off the reader, "With A Vengeance" lost two stars very quickly. I recommend this author generally, I had read a previous Zoe Chambers mystery and enjoyed it much more than I did this one. If I were you, I'd start at number one in this series and when you get to this one, know that the story will move the general plot forward, you just might not like it as much as the previous three.


Monday, April 4, 2016

One Turnip, Two Turnip, Three Turnip, Four

Yep, they're turnips. I've certainly been in a veggie mood lately. Maybe next time I'll pick something really complicated like a pineapple. It's been on my bucket list since I first took Delicious Paint last year. Ok, I guess this is a short post today, I NEED a coffee like I need oxygen so I'm so outa here! Later Gator.


Saturday, April 2, 2016

Book Review: "It Takes One" by Kate Kessler

"It Takes One" by Kate Kessler comes out April 26, 2016 and I wholeheartedly recommend it to all fans of psychological thrillers. When I put in to review this book I had high hopes, the synopsis made it sound like a delicious read. I'm so darn glad I was right! I haven't read something so psychological for at least a year so this was a real treat.

Audrey Harte is now a successful criminal psychologist working in L.A., one would never guess that she was once just like the youths she now studies. When Audrey was thirteen she and Maggie murdered Maggie's father. The question that has haunted Audrey ever since is "what would you do for someone you loved?". When her best friend confesses that her father is molesting her all Audrey wants to do is rescue her best friend, to stop the abuse, and when no one in town believes that Maggie's father could rape his own daughter it becomes Audrey's job to come to the rescue. That one decision changes the lives of many people around both girls.

Seven years after Audrey left the little town of Edgeport, Maine she flying back for her mother's birthday. Audrey's dreading all the home town gossip that has followed her since that fateful night so many years ago. She is unsurprised to find that nothing seems to have changed in the intervening years. Audrey is in a fight with a drunken Maggie within hours of arriving home. Her father is still an alcoholic, her mother is still enabling and her sister still blames Audrey for everything. Her only solace is seeing Jake, the one that got away. Audrey is full of regrets and can't see how this trip could ever get worse until Maggie turns up murdered on the beach. Someone has bashed her head in just like Audrey and Maggie did to Maggies father so many years ago. So starts a winding mystery that is more psychological drama, intrigue and angst than whodunnit.

I loved how this book was so character centered. In a little over four hundred pages I came to care about the people Ms. Kessler introduced me to. The writing is so strong and so emotionally engaging that it only takes one book to fall in love with her complex cast of characters. Only a few times in my reading life have I come across such a strong literary writer. My last love affair with a writer was Robert A. Heinlein. He's well known as the father of Sci-fi but what I found most compelling was that the science fiction he wrote about always played second fiddle to his character development. He too, with one book, could make you memorize characters. He made the reader feel like these people existed in real life somewhere. They had to be because you cared so much and knew so much about their lives, their thoughts and their heart.

This rare gift is what makes me love this author, Kate Kessler. I will endeavor to read every book she's written and I hope this book, "It Takes One", is the first in a series because I don't want to let Audrey Harte go. I want to know how her life continues. I know you'll love her too, she's complex, straightforward and real. She'll grow and change, leaving the reader wanting more each time they step into one of the mysteries that features her. What an exciting find that author is, you have to try this book!


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