Sunday, July 30, 2017

Book Review: "Emma in the Night" by Wendy Walker

"Emma in the Night" by Wendy Walker.  I have previously read and enjoyed a Wendy Walker mystery, "All Is Not Forgotten". Her newest book is being released August 8, 2017 and what a stunner it is.

This is one of the best books I've read this year. It's a rare 5 1/2 stars. In other words, it's better than The Best, it's stunning, memorable and for me, life changing. It's foundation is built upon what it's like to live with someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder and how living with that person damages your inner spirit.

Yes, the basis of this book sounds dark and depressing and there are parts that are just that. On the flip side, it is incredibly exciting to read about a character who wins her life back from the brink of destruction. 

Cass was fifteen and her sister Emma was seventeen when they disappeared one night. Three years later Cass is back and insisting that someone has to help her sister! She tells her mother and the FBI a harrowing story of kidnapping, lies and betrayal. She claims she had to leave her sister on an island with their kidnappers as she ran to try and get help. But it's been three years, why did it take her all this time to break free and why didn't Emma come with her? The FBI's forensic psychiatrist Dr. Abby Winter along with her partner will have to tease out the truth from all of Cass's words because time is running out.

I have never read a fictitious book that had such insight into the narcissistic mind. Within the first few pages of "Emma In The Night" it is revealed that Cass's mother, Mrs. Martin, is a narcissist. The book goes on to tell a riveting story of how that undiagnosed condition afflicted her family. Wendy Walker is a talented story teller but what elevated the book for me was the learning that happened organically just by reading the pages. If you've ever wanted to understand psychopathy and narcissistic personality disorder then this is THE book to teach you.

The expert writing and critical thinking of the author made every word count on the page. Even the cadence of the words, the minimal use of contractions, made Cass's speeches sound both so harrowing and matter-of-fact. Truly an incredible job of story telling that I wish every person would take the time to read. In these current times of President Donald Trump, I think it behooves us all to learn what makes the United States' President tick. This is the book to help you understand all by just reading a spectacular mystery that flows like water down a hill. Don't miss this one, it's staggeringly well written and magnificently enjoyable.


Thursday, July 20, 2017

I ♥ Art Supplies

This week has turned out to be a banner week so far. In fact, it makes me think Friday and Saturday may be gold encrusted if my luck holds. The first thing that came down the pike was Sketchbook Skool contacted me and offered me a free course. YAY! I assume many others were also offered to participate for free but the best thing about it, aside from it being FREE, it gets my behind into gear as it starts at the end of July.

I've been so darn reticent in actually doing and finishing art. It's not like me to start something and not finish it but I have several journal pages covered in pencil sketches that are begging for paint. And then on top of that I have a bunch of ideas that I want to do. I've just been so scatter brained lately, it seems the day gets away from me. Before I know it, it's midnight.

I decided the first thing I could do to make art easier was to get organized. So I went out with a 50% off coupon and bought an organizer cart. It works perfectly. I've wanted one for ages as my art supplies are all over the house. Now they're all in one place and I'll not ever think... "where the heck is the Burnt Sienna paint?" It's even turquoise and matches the couch it sits beside.

So, the second thing to surprise me and fill me with joy is that Charlie O'Shields from Doodlewash and the creator of World Watercolor Month asked me to be a guest artist. Ok, that's flattering! I'll be doing a few new pieces to go into the guest artist post so Charlie some time to work out all the kinks. Finally, I also won a prize with WWM. So, Winsor & Newton will be sending me a "A Complete Watercolorist Set". I'm guessing that the Universe is trying desperately get me to PAINT Damnit!!

As you all know, I  love painting my art supplies. I'll be adding this to Paint Party Friday and #WorldWatercolorMonth. Come on over and join us!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Book Review: "Urban Enemies" by Jim Butcher, Kelley Armstrong Et Al

"Urban Enemies" by Jim Butcher, Kelley Armstrong, Kevin Hearne, Seanan McGuire, Jonathan Maberry, Jeff Somers et al is a short story anthology and will be published by Gallery Books on August 1, 2017. I've found myself being drawn to sic-fi and fantasy kinds of mystery books for a year now and when this book came up for review I jumped at the chance to find some new authors. The anthology already had two authors I knew and enjoyed, Jim Butcher who writes The Dresden Files and Kelley Armstrong who, among other things, writes the Cainsville Series which I love.

I thought it would be a fun way to get to know a few new authors easily. Short stories have such a lovely fit sometimes between long novels. Just a few hours here and there, sprinkled among big books can clean the palate so to speak.

The biggest reason I wanted to read "Urban Enemies" was that I could use an influx of new blood to my reading list as I've read every book all my favorite authors have written so far. I must admit, I was slightly disappointed. I don't have high expectations for anthologies as I assume a great short story can be as hard to write as a great novel but I did hope to be entertained. As I said above, I wanted to sprinkle them between other novels like candy after a good meal. What happened was I wasn't as entertained as I had hoped.

Firstly, other readers have mentioned that the Dresden story by Jim Butcher was a repeat from another anthology (which isn't fair) so his short story shouldn't have been touted as the number one in the book. I will say that it was a very good short story and will probably get new readers to try The Dresden Series. Secondly, I found that some of the authors assumed the reader had some knowledge of their series so their stories were too convoluted for a first time reader of their work. In some cases I felt like I'd been dropped from a high place into another universe that I knew nothing about and didn't have a translator or guide with me. Those I ended up skipping as I was so confused by the third page I couldn't stand another sentence. 

A third reason this anthology did not win a fourth star is that even the good stories, like from my favorite author Kelley Armstrong, seemed to be a little lackluster. I found myself liking the story but being sorry that no new reader would be turned onto her work because the sparkle her words usually have just didn't materialize in her story. That happened a few times with several authors too. 

Finally, I must admit, I gave up without finishing a few stories. All for the reasons given above. One reviewers said she much prefers novels to these short stories and I totally agree. If these stories brought new readers to an author then I'm thrilled. But if you're thinking of buying this anthology for the same reason I wanted to review it, then try noting the names of the authors who participated and go get their first book of the series. It's well worth doing. I may do that with a few authors that I feel didn't give me their best. I want to still give them a chance, as I said, I need new blood in my reading list. ;o)

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

When Any Talent You Have...

...seems to have left the building. You know that feeling when you wonder where your inspiration/talent/muse went off to when you were working hard trying to paint something? Why did whatever meager talent you seem to possess not run into your brush today? What the hell happened to that muse you pay so much money for? Did my inspiration go out drinking with my muse and they both got lost-drunk-abducted??!?

I've got no idea what happened, but when one finds oneself in this annoying position, don't despair. Bad art happens to good people. Get over yourself, go feed your muse some good chocolate. Give your inspiration a good, strong cuppa coffee. Take the night off and get back on the proverbial horse tomorrow. K? Ya, that's my plan... now where the hell is that chocolate? ;o)

Later Gator, I gotta go sober up my team. I don't drink but they obviously do. *Jenn rolls her eyes at her virtual muse". Oh and just so I can officially say I participated, I'm hooking up with #WorldWatercolorMonth. If you want to join us you have more than a month to join in the fun.


Friday, July 7, 2017

Superman Needs A Phone Booth

For those of you who come here NOT for quiche recipes,  LOL, here's some art. My friend Linda sent me samples of Peerless watercolors and I swatched them the other day. They're wonderfully bright and transparent!

Top Line (L-R):
jaqueminot pink
deep yellow
orange yellow
daffodil yellow

Bottom Line (L-R):
bismark brown
pearl grey
viridian green
butterfly wing

I also sent Linda a little package and the art I sent was a postcard painting of a telephone booth, I named it "Calling Card". It was very strange and difficult working so small. I'm used to larger pieces of paper but it was wonderfully intricate and it was such fun to try and capture all the shadows. I'm becoming addicted to doing shadows in art. Ahh god help me, I look at stuff to see it's color and how the light hits it just in case I want to paint it! I'm guessing that's the heart of an artist, huh?

Title: "Calling Card"
What things make you or the artists around you artists at heart? I'd love to hear your response in the comments.  I'm hooking up with PPF, come join us!

Monday, July 3, 2017

Crustless Quiche & Art Stuff

DEEP-Dish Quiche Pan
(biggest we could find, ignore
the mushy sentiment, lol)
We are indulging in crustless quiche lately. In fact, I'm a little embarrassed to admit that in the last month or so I've made about ten quiches! We've been making them for dinner twice a week in every incarnation we can think of. They're really, really good for you without the crust and now that I've perfected the recipe, I dare you to NOT like this quiche.

One of the best things about quiche is that you can  put practically ANYTHING in the "guts" of it to add flavor. Also, a dozen raw eggs are cheap and last an inordinately long time in the fridge. Finally, like me, you can make up the "guts" of the quiche in bulk, freeze them then as long as you always have some eggs, milk and potato starch, you're good to go for dinner that will serve SIX.

Here's my recipe for THE MOST DELICIOUS CRUSTLESS QUICHE you'll ever have, I promise. Now, you can modify all of the ingredients with different veggies, meats, cheeses and spices you want but I'll give you some guidelines.

#1 Don't skip the PESTO!!!
#2 Spray the pan WELL
#3 Use 2 cups "guts" per quiche

This is assuming you're using a pan of similar proportions to the one I have above. My quiche pan holds about 5 cups, this makes it very full but still movable, I put it on a cookie sheet just in case. Learned THAT lesson... twice ;o). Yep, this is me rolling my eyes at the screen. *Geez Jenn, you'd think you'd learn the first time, after you spilled a third of your quiche into a hot oven. Holy HELL Batman, what a mess!* 

The pan is 9 inches (22.5 cm) in diameter (not including fluting) and a little less than 2 inches (5 cm) high. Feel free to use sautéed spinach or baby kale, sautéed asparagus or broccoli or your other favorite veggie. I've substituted out chicken, pork loin, breakfast sausage, bacon and ground beef as the meat. I've always used an aged cheddar as the cheese but I'm sure you can come up with other great combos with the fillings. 

My final addition, just in the last week has been PESTO. Holy YUM Batman, Costco's own brand of Pesto taste divine in quiche! (Ok, it tastes divine on anything, even just on the spoon, lol. Seriously, how did I live without Kirkland Pesto for fortyish years?!??).

Ok, finally, here's the basic recipe:

Jenn's Awesome Crustless Quiche

12 eggs
4 Tbsp potato starch
1 cup (scant) milk of choice (we make our own out of cashews, see recipe below)
1 tsp salt
generous pepper
~ two Tbsp Pesto
2 cups quiche guts

For quiche guts:
(This is what I combined last week, no measurements necessary, get creative!)
  • Costco barbecued chicken
  • package of breakfast sausage or bacon
  • head or two of broccoli
  • shredded cheese of choice
  • Kirkland Pesto from Costco
  • Sun dried tomatoes
  • an onion or large handful of dried flakes of onion
  • any other veggie that's not watery (carrots, celery, cauliflower, asparagus, sweet potato)
{Cook all ingredients and either put them through a chopper or chop them up by hand (not including the pesto). Julienne or mince the sun-dried tomatoes. Mix all that you have in a big bowl then measure out into portion sizes of about two scant cups. Add 1/4 cup of Pesto to each 2 cups of "guts". Freeze in 2 cup containers.}

  1. Put "guts" into well sprayed quiche pan.
  2. Whisk the eggs, pesto, s&p, potato starch and milk together. Pour over guts.
  3. Bake @ 375 degrees F for 45 minutes.
  4. Sprinkle a little extra cheese over top of quiche and let melt as you make a salad to go with dinner! Cut into six pieces. Enjoy!

Cashew Milk
(tastes awesome, no grittiness, it's similar to the thickness of whole milk)

1 blender
1 cup cashews
4 cups water
dash of salt
1-2 Tbsp maple syrup (unnecessary if making this for quiche)
1 tsp vanilla (unnecessary if making this for quiche)

  1. Blend nuts and two cups water on high for two minutes.
  2. Stop blender and add the other two cups of water+salt (and other ingred. if using).
  3. Blend 30 seconds more. Pour into bottles. Recipe makes 5 cups of milk.
  4. Stores in fridge for about 4-5 days.
I'd love to hear if you LOVE quiche and what you think of the recipe. What do YOU put in your quiche? HELP ME with new flavor combinations!!



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