Everybody Wants to be a Cat

Good evening everyone, I hope you’ve had a great weekend… and aren’t feeling too depressed at the thought of work tomorrow. I’ve been sat in a haze of Vicks watching the latest season of Game of Thrones (Ahem. I haven’t watched them all over the past 48 hours. Promise.), but I wanted to write a quick post about the latest Quirky Crafts challenge. This time the theme is everybody wants to be a cat, for more design team examples check out this post… but here’s mine:

IMG_20130627_104616_555-1

I think my art journal page was heavily influenced by the cold and flu medicine I’m taking, because even I have to admit this is a little bit odd! I used the ‘I Taught It Was A Putie Cat’ image from Robyn’s Fetish and dressed my birds up it kitty costumes. I used very few materials on this one… a few felt tips blended with water to give a washy effect, a couple of coloured pencils,and some scraps of painted paper from another project to make the ears and whiskers. What do you think? Quirky enough?

Remember, you can link any kind of crafty project up to the Quirky Crafts challenge, we love to see a bit of variety!

D x

Divine Colour

Good afternoon everyone! I’ve been somewhat lazy over the past few days because I’m all fluey and feeling a bit sorry for myself. The one bright side is that I have had a chance to catch up on my Life Book lessons. The page I’m sharing with you today was inspired by Dion Dior’s ‘Divine Colour’ lesson. If you’ve seen any of her artwork around, you’ll know how vibrant and colourful she is in everything she does… so I was excited to learn from the master!

The first step of this lesson was to create a colour palette to work with (I’ve since invested in a colour wheel so I can play around with colour combinations some more). I picked the tetrad of yellow-green, blue, red-violet and orange for my gerbera, what do you think? (NB a tetrad is a combination of two sets of complementary colours)

She showed us lots of tips for using water-soluble media, and creating texture using everyday items (unfortunately I had none of these everyday items lying around… instead of cling film, gauze and bleach, I used kitchen role, string and nail varnish remover).

This is the page I ended up with:

IMG_20130628_115345_808-1

It really doesn’t look like something I’d normally do, but I really like it. The photo doesn’t really do justice to the vivid colour of the physical page… and you can’t see the golden shimmer at all.

I hope you all have a great weekend, but for now I better get back to my Lemsip!

D x

{Top Ten Tues} Read So Far

Technology has failed me. This post was supposed to go live yesterday (when it was actually Tuesday) but for some reason it didn’t… so here you go:

The latest topic for Top Ten Tuesday is ‘books read so far in 2013’ but I’m not really feeling 10… so instead I’m going to share just two that I’ve read, and loved, since the beginning of the year.

[From a debut novelist]

Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham

There is no point lying to you now, I picked up this book because the author plays one of the best characters from one of the best TV shows of all time: Lorelai Gilmore. At the start I was convinced this woman could do no wrong… but then I was faced with prospect of actually reading the book, and it worried me. What if she let me down? What if it didn’t live up to Gilmore Girls or Parenthood? HOWEVER I’m so glad I kicked my neuroses in the face and switched on the Kindle, because I just loved it.

Someday, Someday, Maybe tells the story of a wannabe actress living in New York in the mid-1990’s, and the highs and lows she experiences while trying to fulfill her dreams… doesn’t it just sound like a storyline straight out of Friends? And there’s definitely something to be said for ‘sh*t happens and so do love triangles’ philosophy…

The biggest strength of the novel has to be the characters. Graham conjures these entirely lovable, hugely amusing, incredibly vivid people out of thin air, and you can’t help but get attached to the whole lot of them. It was one of those books that almost made me cry at the end, not because it was sad, but because it was coming to an end.

 

[From a seasoned pro]

Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks

Again, this was a book picked for a stupid reason- I’d seen the advert for the film adaptation and really liked the cover of Go Your Own Way that they played on it. Stupid, right?

What can I say about Nicholas Sparks? His books are so unbelievably easy to read. I think I’ve read three now, and none have taken me more than a day to get through.

Safe Haven is a story about strength and second chances. We meet our protagonist, Katie, just after she moves to a sleepy little American town, and over the course of the novel we learn about the hope she sees dangling in her future, and the horror lurking in the past. There’s a steady build up towards a satisfying climax and that is all you really need in a book… everything else is just for show.

I’d definitely like to see the film now. I find it very comforting when an author is involved in the adaptation of his own novel- it can guarantee that nobody will be faffing around with the story too much!

So tell me, which books have you really enjoyed this year?

D x

Tigers in Red Weather

tigers

This is the first book I’ve read from Richard and Judy’s Summer Book Club. For more info, check out this page. If you feel like working your way through these books this summer, you can link up here (just click on the button in her sidebar).

Tigers in Red Weather tells the story of a family filled with secrets. The plot keeps you guessing the whole way through… the clues you’re given are ambiguous enough to offer multiple possible scenarios. In my opinion, one of the markers of great writing is that the reader just can’t stop thinking about the book. This is what this one was like for me. I wasn’t always thinking nice things about it, but I was slightly obsessed nonetheless.

The story is split between numerous points of view, and it jumps through time quite a lot. This had the potential to annoy me a fair bit, but it was pretty seamless. Occasionally frustrating, but seamless.

The first narrator is Nick, and after reading her section I found her pretty repulsive. But actually, as I kept reading, and I got to know her family, I warmed to her. This family has issues.

The characters are all extremely well executed, not necessarily likeable, but expertly crafted. If nothing else, Liza Klaussman is a GENIUS at creating total w$%@!&*s. These are the kind of characters you really wish could step out of a book, just so you can punch them in the face.

If I had to point out one negative, I’d say the ending was a little anticlimactic… and there were a few loose ends I’d like to have seen tied up, but all in all I enjoyed this book. After reading the blurb, I thought I would anyway… but as it turns out, the blurb really doesn’t accurately represent the novel. I was expecting some 1940’s glamour, some heartbreak and scandal, and it wasn’t quite like that.

So R+J Book Clubbers, have you read Tigers in Red Weather yet? What were your thoughts on it?

D x

Artful Shamanism

I’m a few weeks behind with Life Book projects, but I guess that’s just a side effect of all the crazed revision I’ve been doing for the past month or so!

Today I’m going to share a page with you that was inspired by Effy Wild’s ‘Artful Shamanism’ lesson:

Jpeg

The first part of the lesson included a few meditative moments, to help us come up with a symbol. Mine (obviously) was a dandelion.

Even though I’m now a grown-up (ish)  I still associate dandelions with making wishes. Unless they still have their petals (because then they make you wet the bed!). This is why I picked a wish-related quote for the page:

“Apparently the world is not a wish-granting factory” – John Green

I started with a quick sketch, then added a watercolour wash before doing my favourite thing (doodling) with a couple of different pens. I really quite love this page. It’s so whimsical, and I didn’t need to think about it. I didn’t need to get messy. I didn’t need much time to fit it in. I think sometimes that’s just what you need!

Have a great weekend,

D x

Dracula

drac

Dracula, by Bram Stoker, is officially the last set book I’ll be reviewing for you this year, possibly ever (depending which courses I pick for next year). I didn’t manage to read them all this year… I skipped Heart of Darkness, but I couldn’t get into it, I didn’t have to do an assignment on it and I didn’t have to be examined on it… so to be honest there was very little incentive!

Anyway, back to Drac.

In all honesty I would probably never have picked this book for myself. It’s not that I don’t adore the vampire side of things – because I really am a bit of a junkie for vamp-infused TV… Dracula has just never really appealed. Maybe because I already knew the story so well, it seemed pointless to bother reading it.

However, there were actually things that I really enjoyed. I enjoyed the often poetic language. I enjoyed crazy Renfield (who doesn’t love a good fruit-loop?). And I enjoyed that it inspired an episode of Buffy (among many other things, obviously). But there were definitely things that grated on me. A lot.

The two main female characters (Mina and Lucy) were insipid. They were so morally sound and perfect and so unbelievable lovable that every man in the book couldn’t help but throw themselves at their feet. My other issue was with said men… how fickle were they?! They all adored Lucy, were willing to give her their blood and pretty much die for her. As soon as she was out of the picture, however, they had no issues desecrating her corpse and moving on to Mina. Not really the enduring love one would normally associate with vampire fiction, is it?

I find it quite hard reviewing books that I’ve studied… if you develop quite sturdy critical knowledge of a novel, it’s not so easy to talk about it in terms of entertainment… after my original reading, I quite enjoyed it (despite all the simpering, heartfelt postulations), but after going a bit more in-depth… I’m not so sure. One of my pet hates when reading stuff by the critics, is when they assume that every author is just writing about sex. But in this case, I have to admit that maybe it’s true. Each character seems to be living out some sort of Victorian taboo… however, I don’t think these references to lesbianism, sexual domination and incest are grotesque enough  o be obvious to all modern-day readers. You probably won’t be able to escape the total misogyny and shameless racism though.

I can say wholeheartedly that I will not be reading Dracula again. I’m glad I’ve read it once, but once was enough. Now that I’m aware that it’s about a bunch of sexual deviants, I don’t think it’s really quite so charming…

D x

{Top Ten Tues} On Your TBR Pile

My ‘to be read’ pile is not exactly what I would call a pile… it’s more like multiple lists, a few leaning towers and a very full Kindle hard drive.  I don’t usually plan ten books ahead… I tend to go with whatever I’m feeling… but I’ve managed to pin down the next ten I’d like to read (unless I find something else particularly exciting…)

[All blurbs borrowed from GoodReads]

This is How it Ends – Kathleen MacMahon

THIS IS HOW IT ENDS tells the story of two people who collide with each other just as the whole world seems to be caught between the hope and promise of Obama’s election and the catastrophic collapse of the global economy.

Bruno is a middle-aged American banker who has come to Ireland to escape the financial meltdown in his own country. Addie is an out-of-work Irish architect. Childless and isolated when she meets Bruno, her life seems to be on a downward spiral.

Addie and Bruno’s story is one of nationality and identity, of the power of optimism to defeat despair and the unstoppable march of time. It’s the story of two people who find joy together when they were least expecting it. It’s about the past and the future and the elusive skill of living in the moment. It is a love story for our times.

Fugitive Pieces – Anne Michaels

In 1940 a boy bursts from the mud of a war-torn Polish city, where he has buried himself to hide from the soldiers who murdered his family. His name is Jakob Beer. He is only seven years old. And although by all rights he should have shared the fate of the other Jews in his village, he has not only survived but been rescued by a Greek geologist, who does not recognize the boy as human until he begins to cry. 

With this electrifying image, Anne Michaels ushers us into her rapturously acclaimed novel of loss, memory, history, and redemption. As Michaels follows Jakob across two continents, we witness his transformation from a half-wild casualty of the Holocaust to an artist who extracts meaning from its abyss. Filled with mysterious symmetries and rendered in heart-stopping prose, FUGITIVE PIECES is a triumphant work, a book that should not so much be read as it should be surrendered to.

Close My Eyes – Sophie McKenzie

When Geniver Loxley lost her daughter at birth eight years ago, her world stopped… and never fully started again. Mothers with strollers still make her flinch; her love of writing has turned into a half-hearted teaching career; and she and her husband, Art, have slipped into the kind of rut that seems inescapable. For Art, the solution is simple: Have another child to replace Beth. For Gen, the thought of replacing her first child feels cruel, nearly unbearable. A part of her will never let go of Beth, no matter how much she needs to move on.

But then a stranger shows up on their doorstep, telling Gen the very thing she’s always desperately longed to hear: that her daughter was not stillborn, but was taken away as a healthy infant. That Beth is still out there, somewhere, waiting to be found. A fissure suddenly opens up in Gen’s carefully reconstructed life, letting in a flood of unanswerable questions. How could this possibly be true? Where is Beth? And why is Art so reluctant to get involved?

As Gen delves into the darkest parts of her past, she starts to realize that finding the answers might open the door to something even worse, a truth that could steal everything she holds close. Even her own life.

With searing emotional insight, Sophie McKenzie weaves a breathless thriller that digs in its hooks without mercy and twists without warning, confirming her place among today’s most exciting new voices in psychological suspense.

Dangerous Liaisons – Choderlos de Laclos

Published just years before the French Revolution, Laclos’s great novel of moral and emotional depravity is a disturbing and ultimately damning portrayal of a decadent society. Aristocrats and ex-lovers Marquise de Merteuil and Vicomte de Valmont embark on a sophisticated game of seduction and manipulation to bring amusement to their jaded lives. While Merteuil challenges Valmont to seduce an innocent convent girl, he is also occupied with the conquest of a virtuous married woman. Eventually their human pawns respond, and the consequences prove to be more serious-and deadly-than the players could have ever predicted.

The Biscuit Witch – Deborah Smith

Biscuit witches, Mama called them. She’d heard the term as a girl. She’d inherited that talent. My mother could cast spells on total strangers simply by setting a plate of her biscuits in front of them. –Tal MacBride
Welcome back to the Crossroads Cove where new loves, old feuds, and poignant mysteries will challenge siblings Tal, Gabby, and Gus MacBride to fight for the home they lost and to discover just how important their family once was, and still is, to the proud people of the Appalachian highlands. Tallulah MacBride hasn’t been back to North Carolina since their parents’ tragic deaths, twenty years ago. But now, Tal heads to cousin Delta Whittlespoon’s famous Crossroads Café in the mountains above Asheville, hoping to find a safe hiding place for her young daughter, Eve. What she finds is Cousin Delta gone, the café in a biscuit crisis, and a Scotsman, who refuses to believe she’s passing through instead of “running from.” He believes she needs a knight in shining flannel.When a pair of sinister private eyes show up, Tal’s troubles are just beginning. For Tal’s brother and sister—Gabby, the Pickle Queen, and Gus, the Kitchen Charmer—the next part of the journey will lead down forgotten roads and into beautiful but haunted legacies.

The Sea Sisters – Lucy Clarke

There are some currents in the relationship between sisters that run so dark and so deep, it’s better for the people swimming on the surface never to know what’s beneath . . .

Katie’s carefully structured world is shattered by the news that her headstrong younger sister, Mia, has been found dead in Bali – and the police claim it was suicide.

With only the entries of Mia’s travel journal as her guide, Katie retraces the last few months of her sister’s life, and – page by page, country by country – begins to uncover the mystery surrounding her death.

What she discovers changes everything. But will her search for the truth push their sisterly bond – and Katie – to breaking point?

In Love – Alfred Hayes

A powerful novel, telling of a middle-aged man who falls in love with a young divorcee who lives alone in a tiny, untidy apartment in the New York of the 1940s. Here, he visits her, erratically and not always happily. All is soon inexorably overturned when a rich interloper comes between the couple with an indecent proposal-a thousand dollars for a night.

Sovay – Celia Rees

It’s England, 1783. When the rich and beautiful Sovay isn’t sitting for portraits, she’s donning a man’s cloak and robbing travelers—in broad daylight. But in a time when political allegiances between France and England are strained, a rogue bandit is not the only thing travelers fear. Spies abound, and rumors of sedition can quickly lead to disappearances. So when Sovay lifts the wallet of one of England’s most powerful and dangerous men, it’s not just her own identity she must hide, but that of her father. A dazzling historical saga in which the roles of thieves and gentry, good and bad, and men and women are interchanged to riveting effect.

The Poisonwood Bible – Barbara Kingsolver

THE POISONWOOD BIBLE is a story told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. They carry with them everything they believe they will need from home, but soon find that all of it — from garden seeds to Scripture — is calamitously transformed on African soil. What follows is a suspenseful epic of one family’s tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction over the course of three decades in postcolonial Africa.

Nicholas Nickleby – Charles Dickens

When Nicholas Nickleby is left penniless after his father’s death, he appeals to his wealthy uncle to help him find work and to protect his mother and sister. But Ralph Nickleby proves both hard-hearted and unscrupulous, and Nicholas finds himself forced to make his own way in the world. His adventures gave Dickens the opportunity to portray an extraordinary gallery of rogues and eccentrics: Wackford Squeers, the tyrannical headmaster of Dotheboys Hall, a school for unwanted boys; the slow-witted orphan Smike, rescued by Nicholas; and the gloriously theatrical Mr and Mrs Crummles and their daughter, the ‘infant phenomenon’. Like many of Dickens’s novels, Nicholas Nickleby is characterised by his outrage at cruelty and social injustice, but it is also a flamboyantly exuberant work, revealing his comic genius at its most unerring.

No doubt my mind will change once I’m half way through the first on this list, but even if it does, this lot will remain firmly on my TBR stack.

So how about you? What are the next few books you’re planning to read?

D x

P.S. This post is linked up to Top Ten Tuesday, a book meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish.