Bob Ross Paint-A-Long: Autumn Mountains Edition

Well, the father/daughter team is at it again! We finished another Bob Ross paint-a-long session for the Autumn Mountains painting. I am happy to say that we have improved from our first one. We learned quite a bit!

What we learned from the last time is watch the whole video first, then start from the beginning. That way you’ll see where Bob is leaving space for rivers and what not. He also follows the rule of thirds, which is something to keep in mind to judge if you are putting that tree in the right spot. We also learned this time around that paint from college can go bad 🙂 College was many moons ago, yet the thought never crossed my mind that paint might separate or dry out. At times it felt like I was painting with Play-Doh, which is when I would try to mix linseed oil into my paint. Probably not what you are supposed to do, but it worked.

My dad has never taken an art class before so I talked him through creating form and color mixing. I’m happy to say he now knows how to make the color brown! He’s most proud of his mountains, which took us an hour to create because he really wanted to work on the form. They turned out fantastic!

We still need to understand how Ross layers color and doesn’t just pick up the paint from the first layer. Any tips from the oil painting veterans out there?

As usual there were some mishaps along the way. Like when I left to find a snack and come back and my dad is on his knees trying to clean paint off the tile. When I asked how he managed this he said, “It just jumped out of my hands.” We had a GIANT drop cloth on the floor where we were painting and he managed to flip his palette under a chair where we had no drop cloth. This was after he got paint on his “favorite” jeans. PRO TIP: Don’t where your favorite anything when painting.

For reference, Bob Ross paints these works of art in 30 minutes. Around hour 7 my dad and I decided, “Screw it, the painting doesn’t need that left hand side.” So I just painted a random tree and dad left his side blank. But you know what, now they are uniquely our paintings and I am even more proud of them because of it.

Overall, it was just nice to hangout with my dad and paint. If you haven’t yet taken on a Bob Ross painting, I suggest you do! You can find a lot of Joy of Painting episodes to choose from on YouTube! Below you will see our materials list, setup, and some process shots.

WHAT WE USED:

  • Oil Paint ( color list from beginning of episode)
  • Black Canvas
  • Paintbrushes
  • Turpenoid / Paint thinner
  • Paper towels (LOTS!)
  • Bob Ross episode and TV
  • Easel
  • Old clothes (recommended)
  • A well-ventilated area

PROCESS:

Process shots below.

Let the painting begin! How we set up our studio.

Have you ever painted along with a Bob Ross episode? If you haven’t do you think you will one day? Let me know below in the comments!

Lastly, remember these words of wisdom from the legend himself:

“We don’t make mistakes, just happy little accidents.”

— Bob Ross

Happy Painting,

Laura

Book Conundrum…Advice Wanted

I just recently moved out of a place I had lived at for about 10 years. I’ve accumulated so many things and I didn’t realize just how many things I owned until I had to pack them all in boxes – and try to make those boxes not weigh 50 million pounds.

There were soooo many books and because of all the books it took the movers awhile to move everything which ultimately cost us more money. One of the movers in particular kept sort of joking about all the heavy books, which rubbed me the wrong way because I felt like I was being shamed for my love of books. A lot of the books were from my 100+ TBR tower. Since it’s possible that we might move again in 3 months I was thinking about donating a lot of my books, but the libraries and donation centers are all closed due to COVID-19.

I’m not sure what to do. I feel guilty having bought these books with the intention of reading them, but 15 years have gone by for some and I still have yet to pick them up. I’m clearly not dying to find out how the last three books of the Sookie Stackhouse series ends…

Some of the books have memories for me though. I went to a commuter university and lived with my parents for the full four years. As a habit, about three times a week after class I would stop at Borders (the best book store chain) and browse the shelves while sipping a turtle latte before I had to go home and finish some lab report or paper. I also went to Borders a lot with friends and my Dad to browse and buy. I distinctly remember going overboard with my Dad when they announced the closure of the whole chain. We bought so many books for crazy cheap.

At this point though, do I need to keep those books that I haven’t read yet? I don’t know what to do. I feel a sense of guilt donating books that I haven’t read. Maybe I get rid of a book and it could have been incredible and turned out to be one of my favorites. Is this FOMO?! Look how it took me 12 years to get through At the Mountains of Madness and I ended up really enjoying it.

So any advice is appreciated to help me out of this book conundrum. Do I donate books because I feel like I have too many and it makes moving complicated? Or do I try not to feel guilty about it and keep everything!? In the comments below let me know what you think. Thank you in advance!

Help!

Laura

Quick Book Review: The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

Title: The Martian Chronicles

Author: Ray Bradbury

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Date Finished: 12/30/2019

Recommend for: people who wonder what it might be like to start a settlement on Mars

Short Review: I’m not really one for hardcore science fiction, but I like Ray Bradbury’s writing style. I picked this up expecting it to be an intense, weird science fiction novel about Martians. I still went ahead and bought it though since I like Bradbury. I also thought the cover was pretty cool looking (yes, I know the old adage).

Knowing this was in the science fiction genre was a little off-putting and I felt like I needed to be in the right mood for this story. I finally picked it up because, if I’m being honest, I just wanted to read a short book. This is a little shy of 250 pages and I was surprised to find out that not only is this NOT hardcore science fiction, it’s composed of short stories. Mars is the main element tying all the stories together, but it’s about Earthlings inhabiting Mars.

I actually REALLY enjoyed these short stories. Even though the stories take place in space, they are relate-able. The different snapshots of human life on Mars had me thinking about my own life. At times I found myself agreeing with the Martians, who are simply trying to defend their home. These types of stories had me thinking about early white settlers coming to America and destroying the land and its inhabitants. I’m assuming this was Bradbury’s inspiration for some of these novellas.

Some of the stories were heartbreaking and had me wondering what I would do if I was the last person on Earth or Mars. How would I act, what would I do out of desperation to survive? How would I cope with isolation?

This book really made me reflect and think about the world – both past and present. I’d recommend this book since it exceeded my expectations and made me stop, pause, and think. It’s always great when a book causes that kind of reaction.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Which story did you enjoy the most?
  2. Did any of these stories make you want to live on Mars?
  3. Did any of these stories make you look at society differently?
  4. How did different characters cope with isolation?

My Rating Scale:

5 stars – Can’t stop, won’t stop thinking about this book

4 stars – Deeply enjoyed

3 stars – Meh, it was fine

2 stars – Didn’t give me anything to relate to or a world I wanted to be a part of

1 star – This is just the worst and NOT for me

“To Be Read” Tower Progress: 113 books remaining

Let me know what you thought about the book in the comments below and hangout with me on Goodreads 🙂

Till next time bookworms,

– Laura

Quick Book Review: At the Mountains of Madness by H. P. Lovecraft

Title: At the Mountains of Madness

Author: H. P. Lovecraft

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Date Finished: 9/30/2019

Recommend for: People who love a slow build up to terror

Short Review: This was my first venture into the “terrorscapes” of H. P. Lovecraft. Honestly, I tried reading this book three different times and couldn’t get through the first story – At the Mountains of Madness. The story has a VERY slow build up and sometimes gets too bogged down in the scientific descriptions of alien specimens. Eventually though, a little over halfway, I was finally really into the story. It started to get really spooky, especially near the end. If you were getting stuck like I was, I suggest you power through since it has a good ending.

The other stories still involved monsters, witches, and the supernatural. This is the only Lovecraft book I’ve read so maybe it’s my small sample size, but most of the stories dealt with a protagonist becoming obsessed with some supernatural concept or experience. Naturally, they then needed to ‘find the truth.’

My favorite story was actually the shortest one – The Statement of Randolph Carter. It did a good job of creeping me out in just a handful of pages.

My favorite character was by far Brown Jenkin from The Dreams in the Witch House. The character is the witch’s familiar and is a grotesque-looking humanoid rat. The sheer grossness made him my favorite. I’ve also started referring to my Maine Coon cat as “Brown Jenkin” whenever she is up to no good and I can see her out of the corner of my eye causing mischief.

Overall, these are really short creepy stories worth giving a shot around Halloween.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Which was your favorite short story?
  2. Did one story creep you out more than the others?
  3. If this was your first H.P. Lovecraft experience, do you think these stories lived up to the hype?

My Rating Scale:

5 stars – Can’t stop, won’t stop thinking about this book

4 stars – Deeply enjoyed

3 stars – Meh, it was fine

2 stars – Didn’t give me anything to relate to or a world I wanted to be a part of

1 star – This is just the worst and NOT for me

“To Be Read” Tower Progress: 114 books remaining

Let me know what you thought about the book in the comments below and hangout with me on Goodreads 🙂

Till next time bookworms,

– Laura

Quick Book Review: The Fear Institute by Jonathan L. Howard

Title: The Fear Institute (Johannes Cabal, #3)

Author: Jonathan L. Howard

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Date Finished: 9/15/2019

Recommend for: Lovers of the bizarre, surreal, creepy, and Lovecraftian.

Short Review: Johannes Cabal is just a necromancer trying to unlock the mysteries of death. In this book Cabal is approached by the Fear Institute to accompany them on a quest to the Dreamlands. Their ultimate goal is to find Fear in a tangible animagus form and destroy it. In theory this will lead to a happy life of no worries.

The concept was really interesting. I feel like most of us would love to vanquish fears we have. The atmosphere was delightfully creepy. There were also a lot of H.P. Lovecraftian vibes throughout the story – from the unusual creatures to the surreal world, controlled by powerful, vengeful gods.

It was a really entertaining read with the right amount of snark and weirdness. Although, I would expect nothing less from a novel in the Johannes Cabal series. The way this book ends makes you immediately want to read it again to see if you missed anything. Endings like this always get high marks from me!

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Did you see a lot of similarities between the Dreamlands and worlds created by H. P. Lovecraft?
  2. Who was your favorite member of The Fear Institute?
  3. Have you read other books in the Johannes Cabal series?
  4. Would you trust Johannes Cabal on a journey through supernatural landscapes?
  5. Did the ending make you want to read the book again?

My Rating Scale:

5 stars – Can’t stop, won’t stop thinking about this book

4 stars – Deeply enjoyed

3 stars – Meh, it was fine

2 stars – Didn’t give me anything to relate to or a world I wanted to be a part of

1 star – This is just the worst and NOT for me

“To Be Read” Tower Progress: 115 books remaining

Let me know what you thought about the book in the comments below and hangout with me on Goodreads 🙂

Till next time bookworms,

– Laura

Quick Book Review: Inferno by Dan Brown

Title: Inferno

Author: Dan Brown

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Date Finished: 8/5/2019

Recommend for: Fans of ancient European history as well as Dante Alighieri

Short Review: There’s not a ton to say about this book. It’s just like the other novels by Dan Brown, nothing mind-blowing or out of his comfort zone.

If you are in the mood for a typical Dan Brown book, then this won’t disappoint. There’s still action, history, a love interest, and of course our symbologist hero, Robert Langdon, falling into a mystery that determines the fate of the world.

I had high hopes for the story, since it started out strong with Langdon’s amnesia fueling the mystery and adding an element of surrealism. I enjoy a well-crafted unsettling scene with bizarre imagery and plague doctor masks, but I started to lose interest after awhile. The book seemed to drag and when I finally reached the end, I didn’t agree with the resolution. The antagonist didn’t seem to get their deserved comeuppance.

As a positive, it was interesting to learn so much about Dante Alighieri. I didn’t know much about him other than he’s the famous Italian poet who wrote The Divine Comedy. I didn’t realize he had such a tragic personal story or such a strong influence on Italian culture.

As in all Dan Brown books, I learned about some historically significant landmarks around the world. This book focused on Italy’s history and some eastern European countries. There’s typically quite a few new places added to my bucket list after reading his novels – this book was no exception.

Now, I’ll admit, YEARS ago I saw the movie adaptation of Inferno in theaters. I was constantly visualizing the story with those actors and pretty much already knew what was going to happen. Maybe I ruined the book for myself, having seen the movie first? Maybe that’s why I felt like it was run of the mill?

Angels and Demons is still my favorite Dan Brown book. If you are given the choice to choose between Inferno or Angles and Demons, you should pick the latter.

I started this review by saying, “there’s not much to say,” and yet, it’s one of my longer reviews…maybe you did win Dan Brown…maybe you did…

Side note: I read a lot of this on a plane with people coughing all around me, which really makes a book about plagues that much scarier.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Did you enjoy this book?
  2. How much did you previously know about Dante Alighieri?
  3. Sienna Brooks, antagonist or protagonist?
  4. Did you agree with the ending of the story?

My Rating Scale:

5 stars – Can’t stop, won’t stop thinking about this book

4 stars – Deeply enjoyed

3 stars – Meh, it was fine

2 stars – Didn’t give me anything to relate to or a world I wanted to be a part of

1 star – This is just the worst and NOT for me

“To Be Read” Tower Progress: 116 books remaining

Let me know what you thought about the book in the comments below and hangout with me on Goodreads 🙂

Till next time bookworms,

– Laura

Quick Book Review: The Diviners by Libba Bray

Title: The Diviners

Author: Libba Bray

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Date Finished: 7/20/2019

Recommend for: Fans of supernatural elements set in the Roarin’ 20s.

Short Review: Where to even begin with this book? I loved everything about it. I’m a sucker for anything set in the 1920s through the 1940s and you can tell a lot of research was put into creating this novel.

Not only does the atmosphere seem believable and really made me feel like I was in a 1920s New York, but the magic seemed like it could have been real, too. It was written in a way that made you think Diviners could be walking among us today. Yes, Armageddon being brought on by a spirit resurrected isn’t plausible, but it worked for this book.

My only gripe is that there was a lot of set up for future books. I was really hoping that I’d seen what the other Diviners could do, but it focused mainly on Evie. I can’t wait to continue on with this series and see what other supernatural disasters the Diviners need to stop!

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Who was your favorite Diviner?
  2. Would the story be as strong if it were set in a modern day setting?
  3. If you could have a Diviner power, which would you choose?
  4. What were some examples of the theme – identity?

My Rating Scale:

5 stars – Can’t stop, won’t stop thinking about this book

4 stars – Deeply enjoyed

3 stars – Meh, it was fine

2 stars – Didn’t give me anything to relate to or a world I wanted to be a part of

1 star – This is just the worst and NOT for me

“To Be Read” Tower Progress: 117 books remaining

Let me know what you thought about the book in the comments below and hangout with me on Goodreads 🙂

Till next time bookworms,

– Laura

Quick Book Review: Bone Gap by Laura Ruby

Title: Bone Gap

Author: Laura Ruby

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Date Finished: 7/13/2019

Recommend for: Someone who is looking for light fantasy/surrealism

Short Review: This book had been on my shelf for years. I was really excited to finally pick this up and read an urban fantasy that takes place in my home state – Illinois. I thought this book was going to have a quirky creepy Welcome to Night Vale vibe. It sort of did, but I needed more creepy surrealism.

Let’s start with the positives, it was an easy read that focused on the idea of what makes someone beautiful. It changed the way I see corn. Not sure if that’s a positive, but sure why not? I also learned a lot of bee facts.

Now here’s why the book didn’t do it for me. I wanted more of a creepy factor and an increase in magical elements. The final “fight scene” was fantastic and I wished the entire book had that same bizarre atmosphere. Sure there are ‘magical’ elements, like the horse just showing up, and the environments Roza finds herself in, but it wasn’t enough for me.

It also wasn’t explained who the main villain was. Yes, I understand who it was in the “real world,” but mythically speaking, who was it? I have my guess, but I wanted it to be explained a bit more. If you know who the mythical villain was, drop me a line because I’d love to know if I’m thinking along the same lines as others!

Overall the book was fine, nothing special that I would recommend. I will think twice about walking through a corn field though…

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Who was the ‘big bad’?
  2. Why were bees such a large part of this book?
  3. Did the amount of magic in this book work?
  4. Did you see the twist with Finn coming?
  5. Do you feel the same way about how the book defines beauty and a healthy relationship?

My Rating Scale:

5 stars – Can’t stop, won’t stop thinking about this book

4 stars – Deeply enjoyed

3 stars – Meh, it was fine

2 stars – Didn’t give me anything to relate to or a world I wanted to be a part of

1 star – This is just the worst and NOT for me

“To Be Read” Tower Progress: 118 books remaining

Let me know what you thought about the book in the comments below and hangout with me on Goodreads 🙂

Till next time bookworms,

– Laura

Quick Book Review: Diamonds are Forever by Ian Fleming

Title: Diamonds are Forever

Author: Ian Fleming

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Date Finished: 7/7/2019

Recommend for: Fans of the James Bond series that enjoy action and characters’ meals described in great detail

Short Review: The fourth book in the James Bond series takes the reader on a journey down the diamond smuggling pipeline.

This is the fourth book in the series and the fourth Bond book I’ve read. You can read most of this series out of order and still be fine, but my OCD kicks in and I NEED TO READ BOOKS IN ORDER.

That being said, this wasn’t my favorite of the series so far. It seemed VERY slow in the beginning and I was worried it would be the same slow pace throughout. The most exciting parts were reading about all of Bond’s meals and drink orders. Eventually the book does pick up when Bond gets to Las Vegas and tracks down the big bad. From that point on there is a lot of action and the reason for the 4 star rating.

As for the Bond girl in this story… Tiffany Case had a good backstory, but was a bit annoying. She was CONSTANTLY flipping from having feelings for Bond, then would shut herself down emotionally because she reminded herself she didn’t trust anyone, especially men. Just pick a feeling!

If you are interested, Moonraker is my favorite Bond novel so far. Diamonds are Forever didn’t top that book, but it was still a quick read after it finally picked up momentum halfway through.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Will you continue on with the series?
  2. Did you find holes in the story?
  3. Is there too much stereotyping in the book, to the point it detracts from the story?

My Rating Scale:

5 stars – Can’t stop, won’t stop thinking about this book

4 stars – Deeply enjoyed

3 stars – Meh, it was fine

2 stars – Didn’t give me anything to relate to or a world I wanted to be a part of

1 star – This is just the worst and NOT for me

“To Be Read” Tower Progress: 119 books remaining

Let me know what you thought about the book in the comments below and hangout with me on Goodreads 🙂

Till next time bookworms,

– Laura

Quick Book Review: The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy

Title: The Black Dahlia

Author: James Ellroy

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Date Finished: 6/30/2018

Recommend for: Lovers of the twisted crime noir genre

Short Review: This book was so crazy, twisted, and graphic, but I loved it. Once I got through the boxing match at the beginning of the book, the rest was hard for me to put down.

I had heard of the infamous “Black Dahlia Case” and was always confusing the real case with this book. This book takes the famous case and spins a story around what could have happened. The actual case remains unsolved.

Dwight “Bucky” Bleichert wasn’t necessarily a likable character, but he wasn’t so unlikable it was hard to read. In the past I’ve read books where all the characters are awful people and that ruins the book for me. Bucky isn’t a terrible person, but his obsession with the Black Dahlia case leads him to make questionable decisions.

I could go on and on about this book, but I don’t want to give away any spoilers. I’ll leave you with this, it’s a great murder mystery about the dark side of Hollywood. And who doesn’t love a book written in 40’s slang?

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Were you able to figure out the culprit?
  2. Did you agree with how Bucky handled situations?
  3. Did you realize the removal of “land” from “Hollywood Land” was such a big deal?
  4. Will you read any other novels by James Ellroy?

My Rating Scale:

5 stars – Can’t stop, won’t stop thinking about this book

4 stars – Deeply enjoyed

3 stars – Meh, it was fine

2 stars – Didn’t give me anything to relate to or a world I wanted to be a part of

1 star – This is just the worst and NOT for me

“To Be Read” Tower Progress: 120 books remaining

Let me know what you thought about the book in the comments below and hangout with me on Goodreads 🙂

Till next time bookworms,

– Laura