Tuesday, March 31, 2015
I don't wear scarves and I can't see myself in the diaphanous gorgeous hand painted silk clothing by Mary Sly but oh, so beautiful.
Brianna Martray works in resin clay and cast resin. This wall piece caught my eye.
I was totally entranced by C. J. Bradford's illustrations, hand colored (some) whimsical pen and ink drawings.
Mike Bose works in clay and creates these very cool 'territorial' pots and sculptures.
The handmade furniture by Thomas William was so elegant and beautiful.
The clay sculpture by Pat and Ken Larson drew me in. I particularly liked their raven pieces.
I was happy to see my friend Thomas Irven at the show. I have always loved his turned wood acorn boxes.
I really liked these great yard totems by Cliff Matyszczyk. He also does some kinetic art but I liked these better. I have no contact information for him as his truck had been broken into the night before and he did not have any business cards but my friend Kerry tells me that he does not ship and does not use the internet.
There were 25 glass artists at the show and most of the work was predictably the same but there were a few stand-outs...a large display of very Chihuly-like (and I'm sure they would be horrified to hear me describe their work as such) sea form compositions, another booth with a few exquisite torch work paperweights (wish I had gotten a picture of those and they aren't on his website), and then these little cast boxes by Amanda Walker and Tom Beach. I did not get a picture of their work at the show either so I have taken this off their website. She does the glass work and he does the woodwork. I didn't care for the plate glass top, though, and think it detracts from the piece.
These impossibly delicate and beautifully embroidered pieces by Yan Inlo were not small. She would not allow me to take a picture so I took this one off her website.
I also really like these etchings by Marina Terauds. Again, I did not get a picture at the show so this is off her website.
I hope you enjoyed the little tour of the show.
Sunday, March 29, 2015
It's been a long time since I was at a quality art and craft fair so Friday, my sister and I headed into the city for the first day of the Bayou City Art Festival. This year the show included 450 artists working in 19 different categories (photography and mixed media have 2 categories each, mixed media/3D is a separate category than sculpture/3D, and then one for functional art, and of course the traditional clay, glass, wood, metal, jewelry, etc.). I wonder with so many categories, how an artist selects one. Some would be easy like jewelry. But what if you do sculptures in wood or clay or metal? Or the three people who made musical instruments out of wood?
Anyway, it was a great show on a beautiful spring day and by going on a week day, there weren't so many people that you couldn't even get in the booths to see the work or lines so long at the concessions that you had to wait an impossibly long time just to get water. By the time we made it all the way around the loop we were just in overload. I quit looking at the jewelry about halfway through because I just don't wear jewelry and especially not expensive jewelry no matter how gorgeous it is. And I stopped looking at the painters and photographers works because most of it didn't appeal to me however well crafted and so many of the canvasses were huge with huge price tags. In fact, there was lots of very expensive art there.
I purposely left my camera in the car because I didn't want to have to carry it around all day. After asking my sister for the third time to take a picture of something for me, she handed over her iPhone for the duration. The quality of the pictures is not always great but these are some of the things that really caught my eye (all the artists' names link to their websites).
As soon as we entered, to the left, was a metal artist with a fun and quirky flair, Fred Conlon, and his work immediately drew me over. He must have had hundreds of pieces spread out under the trees there. It didn't take me long to find the one I wanted and then I dithered over spending my money on the very first thing that I saw before seeing anything else of the show. So, I just took a leap of faith and forked over my money. He held it for me til we left.
Venus flytrap with spark plug dragonfly
The man directly across, Andrew Carson, did kinetic sculpture out of metal and glass. You can't tell it from the photo but these were in constant motion.
Further in, I thought these strumsticks by Bob McNally were elegantly beautiful even though I don't play any musical instruments.
These gorgeous beaded 'heritage' purses by Jacqui Uza were stunning. They not only looked beautiful, they felt good in your hands and what is even more amazing is that they are knitted. The beads are knitted in as she goes and she knits them all of a piece. She showed me the one she was working on where she had already 'turned the corner' and was working back up the other side.
Brenda McMahon was showing these beautiful softly colored vessels with natural materials adorning the tops. She uses a saggar fire form of raku which produces the soft colors.
These baskets by Cindy Killgore (who, unfortunately, does not have a web site or FB page so I can't give you a link besides her email address) are woven using pine needles and raffia. She had a set of shallow round forms on a wall that were based on butterfly wing colors and patterns but apparently I didn't get a picture of those.
Another potter whose work caught my attention is Cathra-Anne Barker. Her vessels are highly decorated with wax resisted glazes that she makes herself.
These beautiful obsidian wind chimes are made by Deborah and Richard Bloom. The shards of obsidian have the sweetest tinkling sound and are ornamented with all sorts of natural materials...bits of wood, dried seed pods and berries, bone and thorns, antlers and shell.
I loved the sweet little watercolors of leaves and bugs and fungus and feathers and moths and so on by Katie Musolff.
The enormous metal sculptures of cactus and palm trees by Richard Turner were wonderful. We were a little amused when he told us he was from Kansas...because they have so many cactus in Kansas?
These very cool birdhouses by David Boone stopped us in our tracks.
More gorgeous stuff continued in the next post...
Thursday, March 26, 2015
I was back up on the 12' ladder yesterday. I've got the art work done for the two commissions still to do and it wasn't wet or rainy or overcast. I thought I could work in the yard or I could start the cold work on the Botanicas or I could work on the roof of the shop more. It's going to be pretty brutal over there before too long so the roof won out.
I worked on the worst of the leaky areas yesterday. Mostly all I did was to scrape away and brush out as much of the built up rust and dirt that had collected in the channel at the end of the roof panels as I could and opened up the slots so that the water can drain out instead of collect. Of course, doing that exposed all the totally corroded away areas where the water was leaking in. I figure I either helped by allowing the water to drain off or made it much worse. It's raining today (what a novelty) so I guess I'll find out.
Since replacing the roof is out of the question, the next step, I think, is to see what kind of stuff there is that might stop or reduce the rust. Then maybe some kind of paint? Ultimately though, I'm going to just caulk the shit out of it with the roofing tar stuff. And I need to get it done so we can start insulating and putting up wall board in the big bay which we need to do before we can get air conditioning in there. The thing about the metal building and no shade that makes it tolerable in the winter with no heat is the same thing that makes it unbearable in the summer.
Other happenings in the yard:
The bluebonnet patch in front is coming into full bloom. I tossed some seed from last year in a couple of spots in the back and now have two more smaller patches coming along.
All the trees are leafing out except for the pecans which are always the last to be convinced it's really spring and the rain storm that we are having today has blown in some chilly weather. The acorns have really liked all the rain we've been having, though, as I have oak trees coming up everywhere. I imagine little pecan trees will follow soon after.
I've been trying to keep the squirrels off the tea cup because they are total pigs. They are totally unimpressed by my waving frantically and yelling at them through the window. They won't run off unless I actually open the back door and holler at them which never intimidates them for long.
Monday, March 23, 2015
So, I got my summer hair cut. I've been pulling it back with combs for weeks, a sure sign it has gotten too long. I cannot abide having my hair in my face and my hair naturally wants to grow forward and I have spent the last 45 years combing it back, away from my face. It's really short! Always a shocker for me since I let it get so long between cuts.
You might notice a sparkly glint on my earlobe. That's because I did find my diamond studs a couple of weeks ago purely by accident when I decided to wear a particular necklace to work that day. Obviously, I did not put them in my pocket that morning and they did not get washed away in the washing machine like I supposed and I did not put them in any of the usual places I put them when I take them off. What I did do was put them in the little bag that I keep a necklace in that I hardly ever wear. Apparently, I took it with me when we were in the city for the open house last December, though I ended up not wearing it, and when I took my studs out in favor of another pair of earrings, I slipped them in the bag with the necklace for safe keeping and never thought about them again until 5 weeks later.
Yesterday after raining most the day Saturday, it cleared up and stayed cleared up. I actually got to see the sun set for the first time in weeks, maybe even months. And today dawned clear blue sky with not a cloud in sight. Everything is loving the sunshine. Especially me. I have a full size drawing I need to get finished but I keep getting drawn outside.
The wisteria has exploded into bloom and is so busy with bees of all kinds that you can hear the buzzing long before you can get close enough to see them.
The dewberry (our wild blackberry) likewise is blooming and busy with bees.
The first poppies opened
and the azaleas are in full bloom.
It was so nice to be able to stroll around the yard in the sun and see what there was to see.
Thursday, March 19, 2015
All of a sudden 5 days have gone by. The days have been dawning overcast but the sun manages to break out in the afternoons for a couple of hours until it clouds up again around sunset. There's a mockingbird sitting out there somewhere just singing away. I can hear him through the open front door. I got up to rain yesterday morning but it cleared up by noon, and more rain this morning and while it has stopped, it is very gloomy out.
Last Friday I drove into the city sixish to pick up my grandgirl Jade who wanted to come spend the weekend. We poked around antique and junk stores in Wharton and outlying towns. We stopped in a new place that I thought was a small building and turned out to be a huge building full of stuff. Overall, the whole weekend I came away with two pressed class coasters, a blue glass salad plate, a little sock foot bunny for my daughter, and a 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle. I also found a present for my sister for her birthday, no mean feat let me tell you. Jade had her own cache of treasures and gifts.
Monday I spent the morning digging up walking onions in the Little Back Yard. They are edible and totally invasive and come up thick every year. I didn't plant them, they were here when I got here but all they want to do is reproduce. Tuesday, I dug up my flowering senna which was not thriving. It's been planted there for two years I think but it has steadily declined and I finally decided to pot it and see if I could get it healthy again. Poor thing had been planted in thick black dirt/clay (and is in serious wilt right now). We have terrible dirt here. Sticky sticky stuff. Plants need new dirt and raised beds or really working an area with sand and compost and good topsoil. Yesterday it rained in the morning so I didn't get any outdoor work done. I've been trying to get some outdoor time before lunch and then work on art work for the commissions we have in the afternoon.
It's been a blah spring here. The flowering trees aside, things aren't blooming like they should be, late or lackluster. The overcast and wet days of winter have continued into spring. It did warm up but we haven't had our glorious sunny days with no humidity and flowers and buds busting out and busy bees and butterflies. The birds are chirpy but that's about all. I spent about an hour this morning pulling up clover from amongst the bluebonnets in front. It's been a banner year for clover at least. It's knee high everywhere and crowding out the bluebonnets. Marc finally mowed for the first time over at the shop and our little 'lawn tractor' was having a hard time of it. Our neighbor, Jimmy, was also mowing and took pity on him and came over with his big powerful 'lawn tractor' and mowed down all the clover for him and then went back and finished the yard he was working on.
The climbing roses in the crepe myrtle are doing their spring thing. As you can see, overcast and wet.
All right, off to get my hair cut.
Saturday, March 14, 2015
This last bout of rain and overcast and cold lasted 6 days after only a day and a half of sun after another week of rain and overcast and cold. And that's how our winter has been. This has been the most overcast and wet winter that I can recall. But today it is warm and mostly cloudless and sunny even if the ground is so wet it's mushy. I've got the door open listening to the birds who are just as happy as I am. I had been holding my own as far as mood went all winter but waking up yesterday to more cloud cover after a heavy rain the night before when it was supposed to be clearing just finally tipped me over the edge into grumpy. All it took though to lighten my mood was that first ray of sun that finally broke through late yesterday afternoon.
I'm supposed to be working at the antique store today but I got the Friday guy to work for me. Grandgirl Jade called yesterday afternoon and wanted to come spend the weekend. They are out for spring break next week and she and her twin have to work all week, as does the grandboy, but she got this weekend off. This is the first year since we have had the country house that we won't have all the kids. In the past, all four would come for 4 or 5 days during spring break but this year the three oldest have jobs. Whether Robin wants to come by herself is up to her. I've told her all she has to do is call and I'll come get her. Well, I told all of them that.
I spent nearly this whole week it seems in the car. Drove into the city Sunday, ferried kids to and from school and work for two days and drove back home. Drove back to the city and back Thursday for an appointment and then again yesterday to pick up Jade.
And, I'm happy to report that I have been very good about doing my 5 Sun Salutations every morning and sometimes I even throw in a few other Asanas. Already I feel stronger, my arms a little firmer. Now if I can just fit a walk in every day.
Wednesday, March 11, 2015
Same as it ever was. We've had one etched glass job since we finished all that work last June and that was in the fall. We don't usually get work in the summer as everyone has kids home or are on vacation and it usually picks up in the fall only last year it didn't. Nor in January or February neither. Now, here in the first two weeks of March, we have received three deposit checks and a fourth client is ready to get started and I got another inquiry yesterday from a repeat designer so that will be coming up also. Each job only consists of one piece of glass so it isn't an overwhelming amount of work for a change and it will still allow me time to work on the cast glass.
the final approved design of the cabin and mountains
And speaking of the cast glass, the last four Botanicas came out of the kiln last Sunday. I returned from my cook and chauffeur stint yesterday afternoon and washed them in vinegar so now I need to get the cold work done and get the frames ordered. One casualty though. Sometime during the night a crack appeared in one of the 6” x 6” ones. You can't see it unless the light hits it just right but it is definitely there and I can't, in good conscience, send a piece out for sale that I know is cracked. It may be stable now or it may continue to to spread. So, bummer. I'm not through. Now I have to do another big one. I won't re-do this one. Still have lots of good flower pictures to choose from but I have lost my enthusiasm. I may go for the simple anthurium.
poppy seed head
don't know what this is
It rained the last two days, enough to see if my roof leak repair worked and I'm happy to say it is holding though I know that it is only temporary. Eventually, given the heat and humidity here, it will fail. I have a couple of other products to try on the next section which, I imagine, will also be temporary because the only real solution is a new roof. Especially if the weather continues the way it has been.
It's been a very disappointing spring so far, constantly overcast, wet, and cold, even though all the flowering trees are in full bloom and others are popping out in their spring green. I put my silk long johns on today! It's nearly mid-March, that should not be happening!
Sunday, March 8, 2015
I finished re-caulking the two windows in the big bay area of the shop last Friday, inside and out, the work I had started on the previous Wednesday until it started to rain. While I was working on the outside I could see that all the old caulking around the frame of the windows is dried out and cracked. Will need to re-do that as well. I just wonder if I really need to scrape out all the old stuff or if I can just go over it with new stuff. Since I had the 8' ladder out I checked out the top of the walls where they meet the 3” or 4” overhang of the roof. I hesitate to call it an eave. Some of the metal is rusty on the surface but some of it is so rusty that the metal is flaking off. Not sure how I need to approach that. Besides that, there are stretches of about 6” - 8” where the wall has pulled away underneath the overhang. I'm thinking that that's where the water leaks in. I'm not sure the limited kinds of caulk available at our small town hardware store will be up to the job. The guy there did mention some tar like stuff in a can. I may have to check that out.
Yesterday, I got the 8' ladder and peered at where the wall meets the roof on the inside where it leaks, which is not an easy thing since there's a sort of ledge there at the very top which is all rusty and corroding and I saw a hole! So obviously, it's not the outside section on the wall, it's the actual roof. So then I got the 12' ladder out and looked at the roof where the hole I saw from the inside was. No hole that I could see, but what I did see was that the edge of the metal roof panels have corroded away in varying degrees where they end in the shallow channel on the top of the overhang. There is a notch where the water is supposed to drain out but it was all clogged with rust so the water slips under the corroded ends of the roof panels and into the inside. Confused yet? I didn't have my camera with me on that 12' ladder so you will just have to use your imagination.
Since my idea of patching the hole with a piece of sheet metal and silicone wasn't going to work, what I did was scrape away as much of the rust as I could and cleaned it as best I could while perched on the 12' ladder and then I filled in all the gaps with silicone where the roof panels had corroded away. Actually, I did four of the 16” sections. So, we'll see. It's suppose to rain today and Monday. I doubt it will work as a permanent solution as there is no way to tell if the silicone sealed against all that rust. I may be investigating that tar.
Oh, and the toilet is still leaking. Well, the floor was wet and there is some question as to whether it is leaking from the toilet or the valve that comes out of the wall.
In the meantime, I am still waiting on two deposit checks. I thought these people were in a hurry.
I'm driving in to the city later today to stay at my daughter's house while she and her husband spend a couple of days away with her husband's brother and his wife. I'll be the cook and chauffeur, fixing dinner and ferrying the kids to and from school and the boy to his job.
Thursday, March 5, 2015
botanica erotica 20 partially filled mold
I filled the last Botanica Erotica mold this past Tuesday. The final four went in the kiln yesterday. I feel detached from these last four. I still did all the fussy work but I'm less emotionally involved in how they turn out. It's like, I'm done with these so as long as they don't come out terrible, I won't be disappointed. So far, I am only really disappointed by two of them. I do still want to do one more about 18 – 20” square but I want to use clay for the model and the weather is going to have to be warm for that and also I don't feel any real urgency to do it. Which is good since I have three, possibly four, etched glass commissions pending.
botanica erotica 19 partially filled mold
I guess I'm going to be working on two new bodies of work at the same time for a while, well, after I get all the cold work done on the pieces in progress. I have a collection of ideas for pieces titled River Stories that I want to do and also the 9 x 9 idea in which each 'piece' will be 9 variations on a theme. For instance, 9 different tree barks.
Some of the things we discovered after buying the new shop 'as is' is that the toilet leaked from the bottom and that the walls and windows leak in places so that when it rains, we get puddles on the floor and nothing can go against the walls in those places. We haven't really figured out where the leaks are. I think it's at the top where the walls join the roof as there is no eave whatsoever and I hope a little judicial sealing will take care of it. So far it's either been too hot, too cold, raining, or too busy on the good days to test out my idea.
The windows were leaking from bad putty so I set about to reglaze the two windows in the big bay area of the shop yesterday, scraping out the old stuff and cleaning the dirty rusty metal framing. I got one done and then the other one 2/3rds of the way done and it started raining. The one window did not leak and I don't know if it was because the caulk was hardened enough or because it didn't leak in the first place. But the one I was working on did and now I am going to have to scrape out parts of it and start over when it's dry.
While I was working on the windows, Marc was pulling up the toilet, cleaning it, and resetting it with a new seal. So now we don't have to run back to the house to use the bathroom which is a major improvement, especially in the winter when it is really cold and windy, like today. We had two warm days this week, still overcast, and then the temperature plunged to the high 30s last night and it's going to be even colder tonight.
It's March. It shouldn't be getting this cold still. I'm beginning to think that 5 days of spring we had were just a cruel joke.
Sunday, March 1, 2015
Lucky Us by Amy Bloom - A mother tells her daughter that her father's wife has died and so they would go see what was in it for them. That's basically the first sentence of the book. Eva's mother abandons her to her widowed father and her older sister Iris. This is the story of Eva and Iris, sisters who share the same father, both motherless. Iris's mother has died and Eva's has run off without her. The sisters form a bond of sorts as Iris leaves home, with her younger sister in tow, in the mid 1940s for California so she can follow her dream of being an actress. She is a rising star but it's cutthroat out there and just as she has fallen, their father shows up. With their father and a favorite Hollywood make-up artist, Eva and Iris head back across the country to New York and job opportunities there. Even though it seems Iris is the star, it's really Eva's story, told from her point of view mostly, of family and those who become attached, become family as they try and make their way. I don't want to tell too much. It grabbed me right away, it's a good story and well written and an easy enjoyable read and not too long, 230 pages or so. I liked it a lot.
The Watcher: a novel by Charlotte Link – this is a murder mystery set in Scotland. Two older women who live alone and isolated are murdered weeks apart. A painfully shy 30ish man, Samson, who lives with his brother and his wife, fills his days spying on certain women in his neighborhood to pass the time after he gets fired from his job. Gillian, a woman who is having a troubled relationship with her young teenage daughter and who feels unimportant to her husband and also feels isolated in their community because she has trouble finding common ground with the other women starts an affair with her daughter's ex-detective tennis coach with a murky past in Scotland Yard. When Gillian returns home late one night after a failed attempt to meet with her lover, she finds her husband has been murdered and her daughter is hiding in the attic. Samson quickly becomes the prime suspect by the police and goes into hiding. When her lover becomes convinced that Gillian was the intended victim instead of her husband, he starts his own investigation but he's afraid he won't solve the crime in time. A decent read.
Elantris by Brandon Sanderson – In this alternate world story, Elantris is a beautiful city inhabited by benevolent beautiful beings that seem to glow with an inner light and who use their god-like powers for the benefit of all the people of Arelon who have built their cities around Elantris. These beings were once human but were transformed, chosen by no rhyme or reason, by the Shoad. Once transformed, they became citizens of Elantris. Ten years previous, some disaster has put an end to the magic and Elantris died and although the transformations still take place, they become leper-like and are banished by the people of Arelon to the dead city. The people crown the richest merchant as king of Arelon at the end of the riots and destruction that followed the death of Elantris. The crown prince, a week before his political marriage to the princess of a neighboring country to forge an alliance to ward off the impending invasion of a religious army intent on taking over the world, wakes to find he has been taken by the Shoad and banished to the dead city. Here follows political, palace, and religious intrigue when the prince's 'wife' arrives unexpectedly and makes herself at home in the palace. Meanwhile, the prince is doing what he can to make life better for the Elantrians and tries to figure out what went wrong. It's a good story and I enjoyed it but I wish these authors that make up worlds and names would stop making them with weird combinations of vowels and consonants as to make them unpronounceable. Like Fjordell, Hrathen, Raoden, Teod.
White Fire by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child – another Pendergast novel. In this one, Pendergast's protege, Corrie Swanson, has left her goth image behind (but not her impulsiveness) and is working on her thesis project which takes her to an extremely wealthy ski town that had been founded by silver miners. Corrie's attempts to examine the bones of miners who were 'killed by a bear' lands her in jail with the prospect of a ruined career before she even gets started. Enter Pendergast who springs her from jail, getting the charges dropped, just as one of the mansions goes up in flames killing everyone inside. Corrie's continued examinations and discovery of what actually killed the miners and her aforementioned impulsiveness puts her in danger from the people who have been trying to keep the secret secret.
The Probable Future by Alice Hoffman – For three hundred years, the Sparrow women have had only girl children and they are always born in March. On their 13th birthdays, they wake with a new talent, always different. Their forbear, Rebecca Sparrow, appeared out of the woods at the edge of a small town and is eventually taken in by the washerwoman. When Rebecca turns 13, the town discovers she can no longer feel pain and so start the events that lead to her death but not before she gives birth to her daughter. Generations later, Elinor, who can smell a lie, and her daughter Jenny, who dreams other peoples dreams, are estranged. Jenny left the family home with the boy her mother knew was a liar and a cheat at 17 and it isn't until her own daughter Stella turns 13 that circumstances take her back. This is a lovely novel about mothers and daughters and their relationships as well as their relationships with the men in their lives and love and the history of an unusual family. I enjoyed this one a lot though there were times when I would put it down mid-sentence as it waxed esoterically about these issues.
I've Got You Under My Skin by Mary Higgins Clark - I wanted a quick easy entertaining read and while I usually avoid authors whose books take up two or three shelves of space in the library, Mary Higgins Clark knows how to tell a good story. This is sort of a double murder mystery...Laurie's husband was murdered in front of their three year old son and the killer, who was never caught, promised to kill him and his mother and a famous 20 yr old unsolved murder of the socialite wife of a wealthy man on the night of the big graduation party given in honor of her daughter and three of her friends. Five years after her husband was killed, Laurie, a TV show producer who needs a hit show, proposes a series on unsolved crimes with the 'Graduation Gala' as the first episode. Her boss gives her the go ahead and the four friends, who each have a motive for the murder and the widower agree to recreate the night and submit to interviews about the unsolved murder. When the recently released from jail killer of Laurie's husband learns of the upcoming filming he decides that perhaps this is the perfect time to carry out his threat.
The Storied Life Of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin – A.J. Fikry is a depressed, bitter, and brusque widower who has not recovered from the death of his very loved wife and has managed to alienate just about everyone in the small town on Alice Island which in turn has his bookstore suffering the worst sales since they opened. His one treasure, a rare first edition of Poe's first published book, worth a quarter of a million dollars and the only retirement account he has, is stolen from his apartment above the bookstore one night while he is passed out cold drunk. He reports the theft to the police and is further sinking into a pit of misery when one Friday evening he discovers that a small child has been abandoned in the book store with a note explaining that the mother has nothing to offer her, that the child is very smart, and that she has picked A.J. to care for her because she believes he will do right by her. Several days later, the body of a young black woman washes up on the beach, obviously the mother of the child. Because he finds the child late on Friday, Social Services won't arrive to take possession of the girl, whose name is Maya, until the following Monday. By the time they arrive, A.J. finds that he cannot part with the child. Maya transforms his life. I don't want to say too much, it's a sweet little book about love and loss and becoming who we are, not sweet like all sugar and roses and happy stuff but in the sense of a story well told, about 250 pages. Each chapter starts with a title of a short story pertinent, in a way, to the following part of the story, with A.J.'s comments about it to his daughter as he recommends the story for her to read. I didn't stop and read the recommended short stories, as they weren't readily to hand, but I imagine that it would add to the enjoyment of more literary minded readers. Or maybe that's just artspeak on my part only about writing. Anyway, I really liked this one and recommend it to everybody.
A Sudden Light by Garth Stein – Trevor gets his first look at the massive legendary family mansion, Riddell House, the summer of his 14th year. His parents have separated and his father, Jones, takes Trevor back to the family home where he grew up and was sent away at 17 by his father, Samuel. The two have not spoken since. The family is now destitute and Samuel is sliding into dementia and Serena, Jones' sister, wants to sell the extremely valuable property for the wealth that they should have inherited if their founding fortune timber baron great great grandfather, Elijah, and great grandfather and father had not either given it away or spent it. The house itself is crumbling from disrepair. To say that this is a dysfunctional family with secrets is putting it mildly. When Trevor sees and talks to the resident ghost of Elijah's first and treasured son who died suddenly and mysteriously, he learns that Elijah made a promise to let the land return to natural and untamed forest in penance for the millions of trees he cut down. In Trevor's explorations of the rambling mansion with it's secret doors, tunnels, and rooms, he discovers all the secrets of the family history, a history he knows nothing of because his father refused to talk about his past. It's a good story, a good book and I suppose it ends the only way it could.
The Fever by Megan Abbott - Deenie and her brother, Eli, live with their father Tom, who teaches at the local high school. She has two BBFs, Lise and Gabby though Lise and Gabby are connected mainly by being friends with Deenie but lately Gabby seems to be pulling away from Deenie, spending more and more time with a fourth, Skye, a bohemian new age type, Gabby's new BFF. Confused yet? So one morning Lise has a seizure at school and then a heart stoppage at home that results in her cracking her head open on the table when she fell, rendering her unconscious. She slips into a coma. The next day, Gabby falls victim to a similar event only she is sent home without being admitted to the hospital. Two days later, another of their friends fall victim. Then more and more fall to what becomes a collective hysteria, parents panic, the police and health authorities start to investigate. Only Lise though shows toxicity. Eventually Gabby cracks and confesses and Deenie corners Skye and she learns that Gabby has only mainly been her friend because she has been in love with Eli, the brother, since she first set eyes on him. One day Skye tells Gabby that she saw Eli and Lise getting it on in the bushes and the two girls conspire to drive the dark energy away. Skye makes a concoction out of jimsonweed and Gabby puts it in Lise's thermos. Lise eventually comes out of it and recovers. There's more going on that confuses things like mandatory HPV vaccines, a polluted lake, losses of virginity, and a father who doesn't seem very confident in his role. I told you the story because I don't really recommend it. It was OK but nothing to write home about. And really, the only reason I picked this book up was the author has the same name as my niece.