pen rainbow

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Monday—The Reading Corner: Janet Evanovich

Available on Kindle
Bounty hunter & car killer, Stephanie Plum, is back!

Gosh, I've missed these books!  Last week, I finished Corduroy Mansions by Alexander McCall Smith, and after spending time with the chittering, oh-so-genteel, sedate Brits, I was really ready for something with grit.  The holidays always put me in the mood for something fun and uplifting, so I decided to reconnect with a great detective series by Janet Evanovich featuring the indomitable female bounty hunter, Stephanie Plum.

When I started reading the series in 2K, I loved the books so much that I read them straight through and bought every new release in hardback because I couldn't wait to read the new books.  Stephanie's crazy Jersey family made me laugh out loud, and the villians were calculating, unpredictable, and genuinely scary.  But, the stories started to get a little stale for me later on in the series, and my devotion fizzled after book number fourteen (Fearless Fourteen, 2008).

I was such a fan of the Stephanie Plum novels that I read two of the four Stephanie Plum holiday novellas, Visions of Sugar Plums (2002) and Plum Lovin' (2007).  Both are good, and I plan to finish the other two during this holiday season.  

I just started the fifteenth book, Finger Lickin' Fifteen, and I am happy to report that it's as good as ever!  One of my favorite characters—Lula, the reformed hooker, assistant detective, and Stephanie's part-time file clerk—is back in all of her delightful glory.  I love the relationship that these women have as friends and as female bounty hunters.  

Did I mention that Stephanie has a hamster named Rex?  Ms. Evanovich is such a good writer that she manages to make readers care about minor characters like Rex.  Rex is part of Stephanie's world, along with her on-again, off-again cop boyfriend, Joe Morelli; her mysterious mentor, Ranger; and her grandma Mazur.  Supporting characters like Salvatore Sweet, Stephanie's transvestite friend and part-time crime solving assistant, are plentiful and endearing throughout the books.  

I bought books fifteen (Finger Lickin' Fifteen, 2009), sixteen (Sizzling Sixteen, 2010), and seventeen (Smokin' Seventeen, 2011) on Kindle.  The eighteenth book in the series was released yesterday (November 22, 2011), and it's not getting great reviews, so I'm going to finish off the next three before I decide on whether or not to purchase the latest Stephanie Plum novel, Explosive Eighteen.  

If you're looking for a fun read during the holidays, I'd recommend starting this series.  It holds up well and gets consistently good reviews on Amazon through Book #13, then seems to lose its steam with #14.  I wasn't sure what to expect with Book #15, but so far, Finger Lickin' Fifteen is pretty good, and I would say that it's worth a read if you're already a fan of Stephanie Plum.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!  ::::gobble::::gobble::::

Friday, November 18, 2011

Friday's Art Gallery — Monique c. 1976

Monique c. 1976
Art from the back of a closet in Searchlight

On Fridays, I blog about art, and I tend to focus on art that is interesting, uplifting, and sometimes mysterious.  Art comes in many forms, and today, I want to take a look at unappreciated art.

I've been out at my mom's trailer in Searchlight this week helping with a variety of repairs that were caused by a burst pipe underneath her bathroom sink.  While we were painting a bedroom ceiling last Wednesday, her husband, Ed, produced this acrylic-on-canvas painting of what appears (to me) to be a stylized Las Vegas showgirl.

My mom hates it, and at no time during their 30-year relationship has it ever hung on a wall.  For as long as he's owned it, the painting has been parked in the back of his closet.  It is in surprisingly good condition because it has been kept out of the damaging sunlight in a relatively cool and protected area.

The Verbal Provenance:  According to Ed, it was given to him 35 years ago by someone who was cleaning out a house in Las Vegas.  Ed ran a successful air conditioning & heating business in Las Vegas for 50 years and serviced residences all over the city, including some of the homes of entertainers who were working on the Strip.

One day, he was working at a house after the residents had vacated, and the man in charge of cleaning out the house gave him the painting.  He told Ed that it was called, "Monique."

The name, Monique, does not appear anywhere on the painting, but it is signed by the artist in the lower right corner.  As near as I can tell, the signature reads "M. Raschaert."

M. Raschaert 
My own google search did not produce any information on an artist by either name who would have been around Las Vegas in 1976, so I contacted Peter Michel, the Director of Special Collections for the UNLV Libraries, who developed a special collection called, Showgirls © Oct 2006.  He said that there was a famous Vegas showgirl named Monique, but he wasn't sure if the woman in the painting was a showgirl.

Maybe not, but most women I know don't walk around topless wearing a skirt made of ostrich feathers.  And, she is holding a feather like a prop, so I thought that she may have been a dancer with one of the extravagant Vegas shows like MGM's Hallelujah Hollywood!, a musical production that was known for its over-the-top flamboyance and spectacular feathered costumes.

French revues like Lido de Paris (at the Stardust), Les Folies Bergère (at the Trop), and Casino de Paris (at the Dunes) were also playing on the Strip, and it's entirely possible that a Belgian name like Raschaert belonged to someone associated with one of those shows.  There may even be an earlier connection to the popular 1955 Tropi-Can-Can revue at the Moulin Rouge.

The slender, angular style of the woman is similar to Bob Mackie's costume design sketches from that time period.  She has the statuesque figure of a dancer, and it looks like she's wearing false eyelashes.  The hair appears to be blond, and the scroll work on her body looks like it could be the lacy sleeves of a showgirl's costume.  Check out the blond hair and prominent scroll work on this Mackie-themed Barbie:

Bob Mackie design for Barbie™
I am fascinated by this painting for two reasons.  One, it is a piece of Las Vegas art history, and two, it has a connection to 1970's Vegas / Strip culture.  I'm not sure what the connection is exactly, but I really like the painting!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Wednesday: Good for You, Good for the Home—Skinny Cow White Mint Truffle Bars

A great low-cal dessert!
A yummy, minty, 100-calorie ice cream bar for the holidays!

As part of my ongoing quest for good, low-fat ice cream, I discovered a new tasty freezer bar this week at the Albertson's in Boulder City.  I'm in Nevada for a week to help my mom work on her shabby chic trailer in Searchlight.  When I say, "shabby," I mean falling apart, and when I say, "chic," I mean by Searchlight mobile home standards.  It's fine, really.  It just leans to the right by several inches, and a coyote lives in the front yard.

Anyway, I've been driving the 80-mile, round trip every day through the stark and beautiful Eldorado Valley along US 95 South.  The intense November sun is usually parked just over the craggy tops of the McCullough Range as I cruise back home every afternoon.  The view has been nothing less than spectacular.

I'll grab a couple of pix before the end of my stay, not while driving, of course.  My Bay Area driving sense tells me that this would not be a good idea.

After a day of hard work at my mom's place, I am ready for a lovely glass of Kendall Jackson Vintner's Reserve Chardonnay (on the shelf at Albertson's in BC as of last weekend) and an easy supper.  A hot bath and one of these white mint truffle bars deliver a sweet ending to another satisfying day.