2019 Summer Reading: Four Novels and An Art Book. Fun Summer Reading.

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I’ve got a pile of books waiting for me to read right now. I’d whittled my pile down but built it back up over the past few months.

All I hope for are books I can finish. Damn, I’ve started to read three books this summer that I could not finish because they were either stupid, boring, or just difficult to follow.  I don’t need amazing literature. What I do need and crave is a good story – a well told story – with interesting characters.

The books I’m posting today aren’t books I’ve read already. These are books I’m going to read over the next few months. Read along with me. I hope these are all entertaining and a lot of fun to read.

RIGHT NOW, I’m reading

Field of Bones
by J.A. Jance

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This is the first book I’ve read by this author. It is the fourth in the Joanna Brady series, and the first in this series I’ve read. I didn’t even know it was part of a series until I started. I’m only on chapter 8, and so far it has captured my attention.

Description from the back cover:

While on maternity leave, Sheriff Joanna Brady is dragged into a far-reaching investigation to bring down a sadistic killer in this chilling tale of suspense from beloved New York Times bestselling author J. A. Jance

Though she’s still recovering from a series of tragedies, Joanna Brady’s life has never been busier.  Her older daughter is off to college, her five-year-old son is full of energy and boundless curiosity, and she’s just given birth to a new daughter—on the same night she won her third election as Cochise County sheriff in a squeaker of a race.  In addition, her husband, Butch, is away on an exhausting book tour.

Despite her devotion to her work, Joanna is determined to see her maternity leave through this time. But in this beautiful desert landscape, home of Wyatt Earp, Tombstone, and the shoot-out at the OK Corral, a monster is roaming free—a serial killer who has transformed Joanna’s small corner of the Southwest into a field of bones.

When a teenager turns in a human skull found on the far side of the San Bernardino Valley in the Peloncillo Mountains between Arizona and New Mexico, it is the beginning of a multiple homicide case. As much as she would rather stay home with her newborn and lose herself in the cold cases to be found in her father’s long- unread diaries, Joanna instead finds herself overseeing a complex investigation involving multiple jurisdictions and an FBI profiler.

Some of the online reviews are sort of odd, stating this book is just a Republican tool and that they don’t like the authors stance on women or border control. We’ll wait and see. I think there might be some trolling here. At chapter 8 I’m going to give the author a benefit of a doubt.

Eat Only When You’re Hungry
By Lindsay Hunter

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This is a short book, only 208 pages, but it look like it is going to be a big story. I looks different. It looks fun. It seems like it just might be really really good.

Official Description:

Finalist for the 2017 Chicago Review of Books Fiction Award and a 2017 NPR Great Read

Recommended reading by Nylon, Buzzfeed, Vulture, Lit Hub, Chicago Review of Books and Chicago Reader

With this novel, Hunter establishes herself as an unforgettable voice in American letters. Her work here, as ever, is unparalleled.” ―Roxane Gay, author of Bad Feminist and Hunger

Achingly funny and full of feeling, Eat Only When You’re Hungry follows fifty-eight-year-old Greg as he searches for his son, GJ, an addict who has been missing for three weeks. Greg is bored, demoralized, obese, and as dubious of GJ’s desire to be found as he is of his own motivation to go looking. Almost on a whim, Greg embarks on a road trip to central Florida―a noble search for his son, or so he tells himself.

Greg takes us on a tour of highway and roadside, of Taco Bell, KFC, gas-station Slurpees, sticky strip-club floors, pooling sweat, candy wrappers and crumpled panes of cellophane and wrinkled plastic bags tumbling along the interstate. This is the America Greg knows, one he feels closer to than to his youthful idealism, closer even than to his younger second wife. As his journey continues, through drive-thru windows and into the living rooms of his alluring ex-wife and his distant, curmudgeonly father, Greg’s urgent search for GJ slowly recedes into the background, replaced with a painstaking, illuminating, and unavoidable look at Greg’s own mistakes―as a father, as a husband, and as a man.

Brimming with the same visceral regret and joy that leak from the fast food Greg inhales, Eat Only When You’re Hungry is a wild and biting study of addiction, perseverance, and the insurmountable struggle to change. With America’s desolate underbelly serving as her guide, Lindsay Hunter elicits a singular type of sympathy for her characters, using them to challenge our preconceived notions about addiction and to explore the innumerable ways we fail ourselves.

Someone Knows
by Lisa Scottoline

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Official Description:

Allie Garvey is heading home to the funeral of a childhood friend. Allie is not only grief-stricken, she’s full of dread. Because going home means seeing the other two people with whom she shares an unbearable secret.

Twenty years earlier, a horrific incident shattered the lives of five teenagers, including Allie. Drinking and partying in the woods, they played a dangerous prank that went tragically wrong, turning deadly. The teenagers kept what happened a secret, believing that getting caught would be the worst thing that could happen. But time has taught Allie otherwise. Not getting caught was far worse.

Allie has been haunted for two decades by what she and the others did, and by the fact that she never told a soul. The dark secret has eaten away at her, distancing her from everyone she loves, including her husband. Because she wasn’t punished by the law, Allie has punished herself, and it’s a life sentence.

Now, Allie stands on the precipice of losing everything. She’s ready for a reckoning, determined to learn how the prank went so horribly wrong. She digs to unearth the truth, but reaches a shocking conclusion that she never saw coming–and neither will the reader.

As you all know Lisa Scottoline has been one of my favorite authors since I first picked up one of my favorite books Dirty Blonde.

Tight Rope
By Amanda Quick

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Amanda Quick is one of the many pen names of Jayne Ann Krentz.

This book is the newest in the Burning Cove series. These books are light mystery, ROMANCE, total Summer Reading fluff and a lot of fun. I’ve been hooked on her books for a while. Don’t even ask me why. These aren’t literary, but sometimes we need something more than meat and vegetables.

Official description:

Former trapeze artist Amalie Vaughn moved to Burning Cove to reinvent herself, but things are not going well. After spending her entire inheritance on a mansion with the intention of turning it into a bed-and-breakfast, she learns too late that the villa is said to be cursed. When the first guest, Dr. Norman Pickwell, is murdered by his robot invention during a sold-out demonstration, rumors circulate that the curse is real. 

In the chaotic aftermath of the spectacle, Amalie watches as a stranger from the audience disappears behind the curtain. When Matthias Jones reappears, he is slipping a gun into a concealed holster. It looks like the gossip that is swirling around him is true—Matthias evidently does have connections to the criminal underworld. 

Matthias is on the trail of a groundbreaking prototype cipher machine. He suspects that Pickwell stole the device and planned to sell it. But now Pickwell is dead and the machine has vanished. When Matthias’s investigation leads him to Amalie’s front door, the attraction between them is intense, but she knows it is also dangerous. Amalie and Matthias must decide if they can trust each other and the passion that binds them, because time is running out.

Edwin Deakin
California Painter of the Picturesque
By Scott A. Shelds, Ph.D.

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This beautiful book has been calling out for me to read the entire thing from cover to cover for a long time. I’ve spent time with the pictures, and looked up bits and pieces. Now is the time to read all of it. Scott A. Shelds is an excellent writer who always makes art read like an adventure – he is never dull or overly academic.

Official description:

The paintings of Edwin Deakin–beautiful, romantic depictions of California’s early architecture, particularly its missions, as well as picturesque and nostalgic scenes of California wilderness–are regarded as major achievements in early California art. Deakin’s trip to Europe in 1877 also inspired breathtaking canvases, notably of Notre Dame in Paris and the Castle of Chillon on Lake Geneva. Later in Deakin’s career, his brush captured the uniqueness of San Francisco’s Chinatown and the destruction of the 1906 earthquake. Deakin (1838-1923) was equally gifted at still-life painting and produced magnificient compositions of fruits and flowers. Edwin Deakin: California Painter of the Picturesque is the first book to survey the artist’s vast accomplishments, bringing together examples from all the genres in which he worked–including all twenty-one of his paintings of the California missions.

Born in Sheffield, England, Deakin first came to San Francisco in 1870. The next year he established a studio in the city and began exhibiting regularly. His later years were spent in Berkeley, where in 1890 he purchased a large tract of land and built a mission-style home. Today a street in Berkeley is named in his honor.

The Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, California, developed this book in concert with an exhibition of the artist’s paintings. Edwin Deakin has long been admired by aficionados of California art, but wider recognition of his accomplishments is overdue. This publication, with illuminating text by Alfred C. Harrison Jr., president of the The North Point Gallery, and Scott A. Shields, chief curator at the Crocker Art Museum, strives to further the painter’s legacy as an important contributor to the canon of California–and American–art.

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Until next Monday, happy reading.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

2019 Summer Reading: Transport Yourself to Another Time

Today, on my Monday Book/Reading feature I present three books that are quite different, but three books that will transport you into another time or place.

Reveries of a Bachelor

by I.K. Marvel
1850

I’ve carried my curious little volume around for years, with now yellow and brittle pages, treasuring it as a nice little book that takes one back to 1850, in the time of the Industrial Revolution and the California Gold Rush.

This summer I’ll be reading it again after many many many years.

Reveries of a Bachelor examines the dream-like lives Americans were living at the time. It was one of the top best sellers of its time but has received little attention from 19th century literary critics. In the text, Ik Marvel theorizes on boyhood, country life style, marriage, travel, and dreaming.

It was one of poet Emily Dickinson’s favorite books.

It is now quaint, and dated, but there are still hard truths of the heart and soul that we can all find in this volume of essays.

If you like social history, or write historic history from the mid-19th Century this book contains a wealth of sentimental information.

Reveries of a Bachelor is no longer in print. You might be able to find a copy online, on eBay, or maybe at your local used bookstore. Some people are asking over $100 for a copy but I know you can find one on eBay for under $10.

This sweet, and sometimes silly book will transport you to another time. Fix a tall drink and spend an hour or two with it under a shade tree or on your back porch with your cat or dog at your feet.

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Author I. K. Marvel

Artful Players
Artistic Life in Early San Francisco

by Brigitta Hjalmarson

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I love this book so much.

From the book jacket: With a handful of wealthy Gold Rush barons as indulgent patrons, an active community of artist appeared in San Francisco almost overnight. A subculture of artistic brilliance and social experimentation was the result in essence, a decades-long revelry which finally ended with the 1906 earthquake. 

Unfortunately when most people think about art from 1849 – 1906 they think of French, or Italian, or German art. Or they think of artist in the Eastern United States. But the real story, the personalities, the talent, and the fun was in California, specifically San Francisco down to Monterey, and even in Sacramento.

This book is non-fiction but it is a well written story and oh so fun to read. You’ll be transported in time with the adventures of Jules Travrnier, Thomas Hill, William Keith, Julian Rix, Grace Hudson, Theodore Wore, Oscar Wilde, and others. It was a time and place where both men and women could break out of the normal constraints and be the artists they wanted to be. Yes, there was drama, and the guys still didn’t want the girls to play in their club house, but it was an amazing time. It is a time and place you won’t want to leave. So pack your tuxedo, your camping gear, and your paint brushes and join the fun in Artful Players.

I read this book in January but I know I’ll be reading it again soon, just to savor it and get in the details once more.

Note: This book is available on Amazon for about $30. You can get a nice copy for a lot less on eBay or other online non-Amazon book sellers. Also check with your local used bookstores.

Chronicles of The One Trilogy

Book 1 Year One

Book 2 Of Blood and Bone

By Nora Roberts

I have book one and two of this Nora Roberts trilogy. Book 3 comes out later this year. I have to admit that I’m a fan of Nora Roberts trilogies. This post appocolyptic series includes magic, romance, and no doubt some nice twists and turns. I haven’t read either books yet. These are on my summer reading list. I will no doubt read them with tall cool drinks on my back deck undisturbed by two or four legged visitors.

I absolutely LOVE the J.D. Robb “In Death” series, and am of course waiting for the next book to come out.

 

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I will never shame anyone about what they read (if you want me to I can give you my shameful awful reading list of books I violently dislike.) I like to read just about anything. My goal is to give you some fun and interesting suggestions, and share books I’ve enjoyed, found curious, or think I’m going to enjoy.

So until next Monday – have fun and happy reading.

And you know, you can always read my blog anytime you want. With over 2,000 posts it is guaranteed to keep you entertained.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

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Cat-ur-day

Saturday is here which usually means a Burning Question Poll or a lousy drawing.

But TODAY it is Cat-ur-Day. Move over Saturn, the cats are here.

Last night while I was folding laundry (yes, Vampires have laundry) my cat Oscar was curled up next to his buddy Stan-Lee. Stan is an old Steiff tiger of the most pleasant disposition. Oscar loves his Stan.

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Oscar is my baby boy, even though he turns eight this summer.

Gloria is almost fourteen. We got her at the pound (Sacramento Animal Control and Rescue) on my daughter’s 6th birthday. She was a teeny tiny little thing. Gloria is still pretty small but fierce. She is the hunter, and I will say no more. Birds, bugs, lizards, and all small rodents – you have been warned.

But wait… for all of you who need your poochie dogo fix I also took a picture of Alice, my cuddle bug hellhound (aka GSD aka German Shepard Dog.) Alice is three years old. Her birthday is December 25th. Alice weights 86 pounds, loves the cats to no end, listens to the “mom voice”, and steals the cat food as often as she can.

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For those who came here looking for a Burning Question or a drawing I aim to please.

Here is a doodle I did a while back of a vampire child and her cat. Just a doodle.

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The Tiger and Vampire Maman

And something else a little more detailed.

This one was done under another name (aka Marla Todd) but I drew it. This was a while back. I have a stash of works I’ve never shown anyone, and a lot of work I’ve sold or given away. Hell yeah I’ve been paid for my artwork and illustrations.

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Finally…

Drum roll please…

The BURNING QUESTION for today is: How does society influence art?

If you don’t like that one talk about your cats, dogs, art, or spring garden in the comment section below. Yes, that is what the comment section is for. Start the discussions NOW.

Happy Cat-ur-Day.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Musings on Inspiration, Change, and Art

Oscar the cat enjoying my art

Oscar the cat enjoying my art. He says I need to start drawing again.

The other night my husband and I were watching something about the Lost Neck, I mean, Loch Ness Monster. A guy came on who was a cryptozoologist. I told Teddy I wanted to be a cryptozoologist. He said he wanted to be a luxury lifestyle consultant like David Bromstad on “My Lottery Dream Home.”  Seriously you have to love David Bromstad.

Then we laughed. Our kids could tell their friends, “my parents are a cryptozoologist, and a luxury lifestyle consult.”

Then we realized that they already say, “my dad is an antiques dealer and my mom blogs about Vampires.”

I used to be an artist but I forgot how to draw. I think I’m forgetting how to write most of the time too. I’m forgetting a lot of things. My world is getting smaller, yet it is more complex, and growing, and changing.

As life changes our inspiration changes. It is kind of like the moon, waxing and waning. In that way Werewolves are lucky. They have a degree of certainty in their lives.

Anyway, until I can learn to get my passion back for drawing (it was beaten out of me, long story you don’t want to hear) I’ll be inspired by other artists. I will also try to inspire those who do art or want to create.

Hey, please don’t send me “you can do it” messages about this. I appreciate it but I’m fine, really.

I’m going to be an art museum docent. I guess I already am, as I plan my final tour before I graduate and become an official docent. This is super exciting.

Now that my children are grown I’ll be teaching a new crop of children all about art, and history, and all manner of related things. I hope to inspire the young hearts and minds so that they might one day take on the world with wild abandon.

Wild abandon is something we all need. I watch my children, as grown as they are, and hope that they learn the fine line between control, and passion.

I hope they learn not to listen to assholes. I hope they know that deep down inside that in the long run their opinion about their own lives, talents, and passions is all that matters.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

 

 

Winding River – A Mystery

 

While going through a pile of old artwork I found this large format photo. It is about 16 x 18 inches and printed on heavy paper. It was printed in the 19th – early 20th Century. I don’t know who the photographer was, or who printed the photo. It is an original photograph.

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About a month ago I saw a photo of a painting of the exact same scene. The photo was from the late 19th Century. The scene is in the Rocky Mountains, maybe in Colorado. I don’t remember the what/where/who of that painting.

I’m putting the following questions out to my readers, and art/photo/Western historians. I don’t know the answers to these questions so any help would be WONDERFUL and I’d be grateful to you forever:

Who was the photographer?

Was this the Winding River and are the mountains in the background the Rockies?

Who painted this scene?

What is the painting and where is it located? Is it in a museum?

If you know any of the answers let me know. Yes, this is a mystery. Let’s solve it together.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

At the Crocker Art Museum

My heart is in this place. The Crocker Art Museum, in Sacramento California, is such an amazing, beautiful, wonderful museum. Put it on your MUST SEE list.

I’m just posting images today. No words necessary. If you have any questions just ask and I will answer. Or go to crockerart.org for more information.

I can’t always explain the wonder and awe and feeling of being so complete and one with the universe when I’m in the presence of art. It is time travel for the soul. It is the essence of being. It was something that transports.  It is like a high that no drug can match. It is magic. ~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Enjoy. Oh, one more thing. I’ll post a story inspired (sort of) by the museum. It is also about dogs and full moons and maybe a little romance…maybe.

Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, California.

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Night Dogs (A Short Story)

Constantine Jones sat on the bottom of the museum steps wondering what just happened.

Earlier that evening he’d put on his best Armani suit, a Hermes silk tie, and was feeling good about the outcome of the evening. It was to be a charity event. Beautiful people would be there dressed up. Everyone would be relaxed, and happy, and it would be delightfully fun.

After discussing art and drinking champagne he’d lured a few well-heeled patrons to remote galleries to see some unusual modern art. There he took a few pints of blood from wrists and left his donors with no memories, except those of a delightful conversation with a well dressed, nice looking young art expert. Well, a 165 year old art expert, but that was besides the point.

Then in the main gallery, the California Room, he saw her standing in front of the Thomas Hill grand painting of Yosemite Valley. She wasn’t the most beautiful woman in the room but she was attractive in a cute sort of California girl way, and had that delightful look of both shyness and playfulness. Her olive green dress shimmered along the neckline with iridescent beads. As she turned her head towards him it was like a lightning bolt had hit his heart. First sight.

Second sight as well. A smallish dog of unknown breed stood next to her with a service dog vest on. A service dog. Why did she need a service dog?

With his usual ease, Constantine approached the woman. He asked if he could pet the dog. She said yes. She told him she’d had a head injury when she was in Afghanistan. She’d been in the Army. He would never guessed. The dog could detect seizures.

They talked for an hour about art, and life, and it seemed as if he’d met his soul mate. It was the best hour he’d ever spent. Then she was gone. He hadn’t even asked her name.

So like Prince Charming, he sat at the bottom of the stairs wondering where Cinderella had gone. All he had of her was one of her earrings he’d found on the steps. It was a gold strand with a single diamond on the end. The diamond was real.

I might as well walk home he thought. It was just a couple of miles. He’d clear out his mind. The full moon, and lights from late night downtown bars and restaurants lit the way.

Out of the corner of his eye he thought he saw a large dog wearing a back pack. A service dog? A smaller dog in a vest followed. Around the next corner, in an alley, he saw three more large dogs in the dark, all wearing packs.

Maybe it was a training exercise. The dogs could have been German Shepards looking for drugs or a missing person, or even bodies. It was weird, but at this point he didn’t care. He just wanted to go home. He was a Vampire so weird and unusual was over rated anyway.

Constantine thought about the woman he’d met. She’d been a nurse in a convoy, and there was a bomb. She didn’t say anything else except that her dog was named Tess. She liked Jazz music, indie films, and indie books. Of course she liked art too. She was a high school art teacher now, having moved on from nursing. But sometimes she helped out the school nurse. Weird how he got those details. He’d told her… what had he told her about himself? Not much. He was a Vampire so he never told much, at least not at first. He’d told her that he ran a philanthropic foundation that supported the arts, and other causes. He told her he had two cats and liked astronomy. She also was a watcher of the moon and stars. Then she kissed his cheek, excused herself, and a few minutes later he saw her walking out the front door of the museum.

As a Vampire he usually had a good feel for people but he couldn’t get a final read on her. Again, he thought about the fact that he didn’t even get her name. But the dog was named Tess. Tess the service dog.

Constantine thought about war. He could imagine the horrors she’d been through. He was a child during the Civil War or the War Between the States, whatever they wanted to call it. Those weren’t memories he cared to relive. He’d come out to California as soon as he was old enough to be on his own, as soon as he’d become a Vampire, and stayed there.

As he walked along the dogs with packs stayed in the alleys and shadows. Looking at the local news feeds and police scans from his iPhone he found nothing. One of his neighbors was a K-9 cop. Constantine would ask him about it tomorrow.

Arriving home at his craftsman style bungalow he noticed a few dogs in packs at the end of the street. This was getting weird. Odder, and a nice surprise, was that a woman in a slightly wrinkled olive green dress, and a single diamond and gold earring was standing on his front porch.

Tess the service dog stood beside her. Hanging off of her shoulder was a back pack.

No. It couldn’t be. She wasn’t Cinderella. She was a Werewolf.

They introduced themselves, again, but this time with names. Her name was Diana. Like the goddess of the moon.

“You have my earring,” she said smiling and holding out a hand.

“You have my heart,” he heard himself saying, much to his surprise.

Then he kissed her under the full moon, as Tess sat at attention and wagged her tail.

~ End

 

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman