"delirium" - Lauren Oliver - 2011

Book One of a Trilogy. Another YA Dystopia, this time the US has closed its' borders from the world and closed its' cities from the forests.  Oh, and love is a disease.  People have a 'procedure' when they turn 18 (think controlled brain damage...) to save themselves from the hurt and pains of love.  It also turns them into walking, talking cogs in a big propaganda machine.

When we meet the heroine, Lena, we learn her mother had the procedure done 3 times, at least once without anesthesia, and killed herself before they could attempt it again.  She has felt the stigma of suicide her entire life, both at home (raised by an Aunt and Uncle) and at school.  Schools are segregated by gender, she only has one very close friend, Hana, who is also her running partner. 

The novel begins with Lena and Hana preparing for their evaluations, which will determine their future spouses and the entire course of their lives.  Lena's evaluation is interrupted by a protest from 'Invalids' from the Wilds...opening her eyes to the world beyond her controlled sphere of Portland.  As 'delirium' (slowly) progresses Lena's world is cracked wide open - by love and freedom - and inner strength.  "Pandemonium" promises to be a faster ride, one I look forward to taking...

"The Artist" - The Academy - and me.

We lost a very special lady last week, a woman who always asked me about my art and why I wasn't showing more at the shows she read about in the paper...guilt induced by the best of intentions, because she always came out and supported me when I actually did create enough work for an audience.  She will be greatly missed.   
I know she would support this quest of self-improvement and creative independence, and I think of her as I try to slowly cross things off lists, and one by one get rid of these tiny lead balloons that are holding me down. 

For example, last week, I cooked three meals with seitan I made from scratch, and actually cleaned the kitchen along the way.  I hung cute shelves for all the newly useful spices,  making one empty wall more appealing, and I have one more to go (next up: over-sized glitter silverware).   I'm trying desperately to like the kitchen more by using it, but at one point on Saturday, I did scream, "I HATE THE MAJOR APPLIANCES THAT CAME WITH THIS APARTMENT!!" (and I swore a good bit, too.) We have a crappy apt sized fridge, with an ice box instead of a freezer and a stove with only two working burners blow out if you try to use the oven at the same time.  They are truly terrible, if anything edible comes out of them it's a small victory in itself.

I also spent a ton of time on pinterest - but some of that time led to delicious seitan recipes and the discovery of new tattoo artists - so it can easily be a valid tool.  My only concern is that some of that time spent online translates to the real world.  I have a DIY craft board, and the goal is to make the items I pin.  First up: I made this jewelry hanger last night and added it to the wall of misc art and frames in our living room.  My giant earrings end up all over the place anyway, so it's both pretty and a functional corral - I just have to keep them safe from Mr. Nebraska!

The tattoo studio has a big charity event coming up in March, and I need to get some physical evidence of my work into peoples' hands, and have just under a month to do it.

I made business cards, finally.

I also spent literally all but two hours of my waking day yesterday online editing my apprentice portfolio into a hardcover book.  At one point the save failed, Firefox crashed, and I lost three hours of work.  Frustrating? You betcha.  I almost cried, but instead, I kept working and swearing, and now I'm down to the tiny tweaks and final proofread. 

On a side note, the Oscars were on Sunday, but I don't have tv, so I streamed a bit of the red carpet (which felt silly even as I did it) and tried to watch "The Artist."  I basically failed, because it's really fucking hard to multi-task during a silent film... 
I did however successfully avoid yahoo and the internet, and watched the Oscars 'live' on Monday minus commercials! I knew 'The Artist' would be a big winner on style points alone.  I love a flapper look, but I know those dresses are meant for boys' frames.  I'll stick to the cloches and finger waves.

"Crooked Hearts" - Patricia Gaffney - 1996

No matter how many re-issues or new covers they smack on it, you can pretty much tell when a book was originally written and published.  "Crooked Hearts" for example, takes place in the 1880's, but feels very 1990's.  Not in an anachronistic way, but in an overall effort way.  90's romances moved away from the early bodice rippers, often by introducing beta heroes and outspoken strong heroines.  The best examples from the 90's introduced complicated couples and intricate plot lines full of emotion, intrigue and of course, tons of sexual tension.  "Crooked Hearts" technically has all these elements, but not enough soul to win me over (just like the Olympic short program in "The Cutting Edge")  I found the H/H emotionally immature and kind of annoying, but initially I enjoyed reading about their swindles and escapades.  Unfortunately, the villain was a lisping cartoon, their first romantic encounter is drug-induced and ridiculous, and I saw the how the happy resolution would play out from the first few chapters of the book.  AAR gave it an 'A' grade, but I found it just about average. 

"Anyone But You" - Jennifer Crusie - 1996

1996 vs 2006 
Both are pretty accurate!

This series romance made it's way to hardcover, so that says quite about Jennifer Crusie's fanbase and publishing power. 
 "Anyone But You" holds up pretty well to the passing of time, the book is far less dated than its' original cover.

Includes many of my 'Favorite Crusie Quirks':  Childless by Choice, Victorian apartments, old movies, books, cool bff, a delicious dessert, small town Ohio, and most importantly to this one, the iconic pet (his name is Fred and he loves bras and oreos).

An afternoon with a classic...

                                                                    My favorite scene...enjoy! 

On the life of a 'working artist' - what I've learned so far...

Making art is not the easy choice. 
TV/Entertainment/Drugs/Alcohol/Hanging Out/Reading, those are easy choices. 
You have to create for you, and do it every damn day whether it comes easily or not
(and it's hardly ever easy).

I've struggled for years under the misconception that all I needed was Virginia's message - a room of my own - to finally make new and meaningful work.  But I've learned, a new setting won't help if you don't change.

Three truths that are hard to admit:

 All the free time in the world doesn't mean anything if you let it slip into the voids of the internet. 
That day job was a great excuse for not producing. 
Having the space to create doesn't mean you will. 

In fact, your will is the only thing that really matters.  

A studio doesn't care if you use it, but the people you're asking for support do
A room doesn't have arms - it won't grab you and force you to put needle to thread,
paint to canvas, words to the page. 
Waiting for inspiration can take a long ass time. 
                              It's all up to you to create the things you want from what you have -
                                to 'make it work' instead of building up castles in your mind.

                              When you get the thing you think you need and still don't use it,
you feel twice as bad as you did before. 

The List.

AAR Top 100 Romances 2010

- I've read 72

- I would like to read Joanna Bourne and J.R. Ward

- I will probably never read about 15 or so romantic suspense titles.

- Some books only made it due to their recent publication status.

- there are entirely too many books by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. 

"Naked in Death" - J.D. Robb (aka Nora Roberts) - 1995

The fantastic website All About Romance compiles a "Top 100 Romances" list every few years, based on science and reader opinions.  I always mean to send mine, and somewhere there's a Word document with 80-some books on it, but I never make the deadline in time.  I consider reading all 100 books a vague life goal, and I must say I've put a decent sized dent in it.  However, there are a few repeat authors that I've read once, didn't like, and don't feel the need to waste time on (Linda Howard I'm looking at you).  I read one Nora Roberts book, Sea Something or other...the 4th in a series of brothers, that was boring and typical and not great by any means. 

"Naked in Death" ranks pretty high (#19 in 2007 and #24 in 2010) - so when I came across this horrific metallic cover at the Goodwill, I bought it, despite plenty of misgivings.  I admit to near total ignorance about this series.  In fact, I didn't know much other than Nora Roberts was extremely prolific (so how can they all be good?) and that J.D. Robb was her pseudonym a la "Richard Bachman" to see if she could sell without name recognition.

My dumb ass didn't realize that "Naked in Death" was set in the future - so, I was all "air commutes and Autochefs, whhhaat??!" I can accept and even enjoy books set in the future when they are relegated to the genres of Science Fiction and Young Adult - but I don't believe I've ever read a futuristic romance by choice (narrow-minded, perhaps - but I don't like medievals either, a girl's allowed to have preferences).  Look at that cover, how can it not be cheesy?

Another strike against it, the BILLIONAIRE hero.  When did romance authors/publishers decide that a MILLIONAIRE is too run of the mill and easy to come by in real life to populate the pages of a romance?  Was this the first, can we pin it down to N.R. in '95?

Despite it's ranking on the Top 100 Romances, I feel "Naked in Death" is primarily a murder mystery, and the romance is secondary - which now that I'm thinking about it, is probably the definition of Romantic Suspense - a genre I tend to avoid at all costs.

The main character and heroine, Eve Dallas is a tough cop with no memories before the age of 8, who grew up in the foster care system.  She has short hair, great features, wears jeans and leather jackets - written 4 years before S.V.U - but come on - she's perfect!  How could I prevent that mental casting?

And as for Rourke, it's funny because I had to think of 90's Irish actors, so Liam Neeson, OBVIOUSLY. 

                  But that didn't stop this hilarious google image search:  "Handsome Irish Actors"


Sure, there's some good ones on there (and Brenda Fricker) but look close: far left, second from bottom - Bradley Cooper!  I guess he's just so incredibly handsome, geography ceases to matter!  

As I mentioned earlier, I don't read much romantic suspense, so I will admit a change of pace was interesting, if not exactly refreshing.  The murderer was pretty obvious - plenty of hints and foreshadowing.   Eve is a character you grow to care about - and  Roarke he cares about her, too.  It's just a damn good thing he couldn't possibly be the killer - because he was in a space meeting (yeah, you heard me, a meeting in space about a space station resort for the uber-rich).  How about that for an air-tight alibi? (Bad pun, I'm sorry, couldn't help myself...)

Overall, I didn't hate this novel.  I do hate the forceful language Roberts uses to describe kissing and desire - it feels dated, very much of the old school Judith McNaught variety, which is never very appealing to this modern reader.  Also, the 'future technology' feels dated, a hilarious concept in itself,  it's a 90's FUTURE -  a world before smart phones and thumb drives - don't worry though there's still tubes of Pepsi to quench your future thirst.

Just because I didn't hate it, doesn't mean I will read the 43 OTHER BOOKS IN THIS SERIES! 44 books in 17 years!  It's too many, it just has to be.

I have a new obsession.


Now the only question is if it will conquer my magazine hoarding tendencies, or if I will simply transfer this image obsession to the digital realm.

Day 13...

...now officially known as the day the heat came back! 

And I wasn't bullshitting that it was just too cold to work, cause as soon as that studio was toasty I got my ass in there and started drawing.  3 cute (tiny) paintings to be shown off soon! Also, did some housework and general singing about the house, 'cause I was just so fucking happy to be warm and out of bed!!

We didn't make it to the Philly Convention...

...which is both practical and a bummer.  However I did get to spend a Sunday like this:
Series 1 of 'An Idiot Abroad' + hot tea, heavy blanket, and a sketchbook.  
Not the inspiration of a convention, but easier on my savings!

A subtlety that will never translate to a generic rom-com...

I put off watching it, I expected the worst - in fact, I was pretty sure they would change the ending, they didn't - but that doesn't mean it was good or even close to the book I really enjoyed.  It had a few nice moments, I mean who doesn't love 'Push It' and choreography?  All the surface elements of the novel are there, but that's all it is.  Surface.  And I don't know if they were struggling with the MPAA on this one, but there is very little evidence of an affair (scenes are cut short, there's a hell of a lot of PG kissing in the street) for a book with adult themes such as adultery and the Hamptons.

As far as casting, I liked Kate Hudson (although I think she was pregnant during filming and I found myself focusing more on her changing waistline and flowing dresses than the movie).  I didn't mind Ginnifer Goodwin (better than she was in that barf bag, "He's Just Not That Into You") or the guy that played Dex (who I totally recognized as the Jess look-alike Rory flirts with on Spring Break - ONE EPISODE , PEOPLE -and I called it!) Hilary Swank produced this movie and they didn't even bother including the character of Hilary, Rachel's no-nonsense co-worker, she couldn't have stepped and done it herself? - Well, I guess she couldn't because the screenwriter made a giant Hilary/Ethan living in New York character destructacon.    Which leads me to my second biggest issue with this adaptation...

A plea to movie producers everywhere: Don't cast John Krasinski as the smitten yet silent best friend, unless his character's name is Jim Halpert and he's looking right at Jenna Fischer.  Please, all you accomplish is the gaining of my sympathies for a manipulated and inaccurate character translation.  I'm not supposed to root for Ethan 3/4+ of the way through this movie - I've read the book, I'm supposed to be rooting for Rachel and Dex EVEN THOUGH HE'S ENGAGED TO HER BEST FRIEND!

But that's not even my number one complaint - NO 'THUNDER ROAD' or mention of Springsteen, at all!  Just pop crap like every other upbeat romantic comedy with no soul.  If Bruce said no, or you don't get why the songs are important to the characters, at least give me Jimmy Durante or Harry Nilsson - instead of 8 million songs by Colbie Caillat!

Oh, oh, and is it too hard to find one dive bar in all of New York City?

So, you failed, "Something Borrowed" and now, no one, and I mean no one, will give a shit about "Something Blue" (and here's the kicker, Kate Hudson and John Krasinski had a surprisingly funny, bickering chemistry, but they won't get their own movie now, cause this one Bombed...)

Day Ten (...a day of chores)

...and I still don't feel like I accomplished anything!  No fights, no magazines to browse/take, still fighting with the gym over automatic renewal policies (total scamming BS!) and to top it off, I am still regularly over-sleeping.  Piss on this one.

Day Nine (...first full Wednesday at the Studio)

Fingers Crossed!!

1) Up at 5:30 am to take out last minute trash
2) Super quiet sorting of studio (unfortunately Lincoln decided to play fetch on stairs...)
3) Back to bed!!!!  sigh.  
4) Research and Tattoo prep (1/4 sleeve and a big cover-up)
5) Touch up/Catch up, dates added
7) Wasted two hours on Snapfish, grrrr!

If you are ever feeling down or sad, google image 'baby chick' it's like prozac.  

"England's Perfect Hero" - Suzanne Enoch - 2004

Well, this stepback actually makes sense - these two do it in a garden - so yay, for realism!

Book Three of Enoch's "Lessons in Love" and my favorite (actually, one of my Top 10 Romances) but strangely it didn't do anything for me this time around.  I still love Robert (suck,suck,sucker for a tortured hero) but Lucinda seemed even more shallow and led by family then Evie (from Book Two) did!  Or, maybe it was just my mood, or I shouldn't have read two Enoch's in a row, or I've grown and changed since 2004...Oh, and the anachronisms really stood out and bothered me... 
Really, Lucinda you want to 'have sex' with Robert again?  Even in her head, she should be using euphemisms, this is a REGENCY MISS!

Verdict - I'll keep it for nostalgia, and in case it was just my mood.

Week Two (Day Eight...as a working artist)

Bryce Dallas Howard always looks beautiful, and it must be all the period pieces messing with my head (or when she was preggers...) because she looks so young in this movie!  A movie I only half paid attention to - looking up tattoo artists on facebook instead - then felt I would have liked, and probably should have just sat down and watched.  Also, spent a big chunk of this movie wishing I was watching Dying Young instead (not to slight 50/50, but Campbell Scott as a rich boy with cancer? C'mon!!).  

1) Another irregular sleeping schedule
2) Freezing house is preventing anything other than reading/watching tv/sleeping under 2 blankets.
3) Fun cover-up that actually took my quoted time!
4) Booking for Feb under way and new contacts established...

Goals for WEEK TWO:  
Walking path/room to paint in studio!
All possible yellow post it notes gone!
Snapfish and Vistaprint finally done!!
Two paintings by next Tuesday....
Magazines recycled!
Books to studio! 
Sketches for sleeves and cover-ups done!
One proper book, read! As well as one Keeper!

Author's Note: 
Yes, it took me a month, 
but everything's basically done except some heavy lifting.  
I feel pretty good about that. 

Day Seven...

                        Less accomplished in the way of art, but a lot in the way of friendship -
                                                         so it all works out in the end.

1) Good start on whittling away those colored post it's...
2) Errands and Favors and Shamrock shakes...
3) Goodbye to excess work shirts no longer needed...
4) Clearing out the lost world under my desk...

Sappy Monday!

                 No, watching figure skating clips on YouTube is not a productive use of my time....
                                             Go ahead and laugh, but this still makes me cry!

Day Six (the day of rest...)

Yeah, me and Lincoln - we took two naps yesterday and then ate way too much food 
at a Super Bowl party where no one likes football.  
But, MIA flipped off the camera during the half-time show, so that's cool.  

Day Five (as a working artist...)

                                                            Awesome fox print on Etsy

1) Coffee and last night's Spak Brothers seitan melt!
2) Re-coloring some older work (not mine) for a nice lady (who knew my grandparents - small world)
3) Started a painting of leaves...
4) New people, great conversations and tattoo planning.  
5) Made a present (discovered the joy of printing from a standard printer on heavy cream card stock).
6) Got lost and irritated on the back roads of Northern Cambria.
7) Games, great food and more new people.

"London's Perfect Scoundrel" - Suzanne Enoch - 2003

I love when the google image search turns up with the stepback - I also love these covers, which lead you to believe every ball has shirtless men accosting women on the balcony!  For a while in the early 'aughts Julia Queen and Suzanne Enoch were my favorite historical romance authors, in fact I would read pretty much anything their publishing house Avon (also home to Lisa Kleypas) put out.  As I discovered online reviews my interests branched out to include many other publishers, but the Avon styling will still pop out to me to this day.  "London's Perfect Scoundrel" is one of two Enoch books that survived three moves to maintain a spot on my Keeper Shelf - but since I'm in purging mode in all other rooms, I figured it's only fair to evaluate the 'Keepers' again, by re-reading of course!

Enoch (and Quinn) definitely fall in to the 'wallpaper historical' genre, which works for me for a light and entertaining read and usually a quick one at that.  While not a perfect plot or story, I have to say I love Saint (the Scoundrel of the title)  - he makes this a keeper still.  I love how his rake's reformation progresses almost against his will, and it's almost too late when he realizes he actually wants to marry Evelyn, not just bed her.  As for the 'bedding' in at least two, but possibly all three of Enoch's "Lessons in Love" trilogy (it's been a long time since I read "The Rake - not a keeper) the H/H make love/lose virginity in a somewhat uncomfortable space and then have a quickie in a public place.  The pattern annoys me, because it feels like Evelyn and Saint never get to properly honor their love for each other.  Books with 8 million love scenes in a row are also annoying, but I could have done with one more for these two.

Verdict - it can stay for now. 

Day Four (as a working artist)...

1) Still having trouble waking with alarm (stayed up from 7 am and then back to sleep for a bit).
2) First timer - small chest piece - no outline
3) Cleaned studio back room (found pizzelles from xmas - still delicious!)
4) Home then a trip to PGH to see Olivia's Solo Show  
 and the Beagle Club at the new Mr. Roboto Project!

Day Three (as a working artist)...

Day Two (Evening)

1) Gave away a large bag of fabric to someone who will make great use of it!
2) Scanned even more fabric and images for textures and brushes.
3) Kept the cutest cat in the world company while loud drums and trombones invaded his home.

Day Three

1) Tattoo Thursday - still sleeping in a bit longer than I would like...
2) Custom work with a historical background - bonus learning experience.
3) Really great repeat client...
4) 'Groundhog Day' and fried ravioli - delicious!
5) More work with photoshop brushes.

I cannot believe that only this past Monday (4 days ago...) I was still slinging coffee and setting alarms for 5:45!!  Yes, this life is stressful, yes, $ is still a concern, but I feel 100% on track and I am not looking back!  Up next - studio overhaul and tiny paintings!

Day Two (as a working artist)...

1) Definitely need to get up with Matt - slept even later today!
2) Healthful walk to bank, followed by not so healthful stop at Donut Connection...
3) Arrested Development and photoshop brushes (see previous post).
4) Scanning in for textures and possible brushes of my own.
5) Dishes and black bean burgers....
6) Upcoming tattoo designs and more studio organization/purging!

Awesomeness I never knew about...