Category Archives: Creative Inspiration

The Last Tomatoes . . .

One of the blogs I read regularly is the Susan Branch blog – not because I aspire to be as sweet as she is, or to become a domestic goddess, but because I love her watercolor illustration.

And, there is something about living in someone else’s shoes for just a few minutes, that is refreshing. I don’t wear shoes, of course, but you know what I mean.

This lady publishes books and calendars, designs products, and works her butt off – so I identify with that last part.

And she appreciates the small things in life – like cats and squirrels. I identify with that too.

The weather has been terrible on Martha’s Vineyard, and Susan said this:

“This is when the little things in life are really all there are . . .”


We got our first snow in months this week, and really have to celebrate it, even though it came with bitter cold, and wind. With Susan’s thought echoing in my head, I spent some time in my garden room appreciating the small things – like I still had three tomatoes on the vine and it was February 5! Yes, we ate them and they tasted like Summer.

We didn’t eat these, but I was thrilled to have bright red Impatiens to gaze at in February . . .

redimpatiensfebAnd this little bird is still nestled in purple Bacopa blossoms . . .

claybirdAll while it looks like this outside . . .

winteragainSo, I appreciated the heck out of all of this, and then left for Tucson where it is much warmer.

Also, where I am exploring the Gem & Mineral Show.

Then, to Tubac for their Festival of arts, and to strategize my Art Journaling Retreat which will happen there at the end of March.

Sorry I never made that one public, but it sold out to former students before I had a chance, and became a “graduates” retreat. It will be a great creative “reunion”.

And, speaking of workshops, by popular request, I am leaving the reduced price on the Sketch Journal Workshops until Sketch Journal 2 begins on February 15.

These workshops are the BEST and easiest way to learn to draw and use watercolor in your art journal, and that’s the truth.

To clarify because I have had so many former students ask, these Sketch Journal Workshops are brand new. You may have heard some of the principles before, but this is ALL NEW content. Even if you have taken ALL my other workshops (and many people have!), you have not had any of this.

Sketch Journal Workshops 1 & 2

I’ll let you know the best things that happen here in Arizona!


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Wow! Creative Process, Part 3

Wow-Logo-Black-BackEveryday since last time, I have glanced at my laptop wondering when I might get a chance to check in with my dear blog readers.

As many of you know, we have moved our gallery into Santa Fe downtown, and we are in the process of reinventing it – top to bottom.

The name is Wow! and our new sign heads this post.

In a wonderful example of collaboration in creative process, I designed the logo, and Mark added one small thing that had SO MUCH value. He suggested that we make the dot on the exclamation point red.

Not only does this add POP, the red dot is the universal symbol of “SOLD” in the gallery business, so it is a good omen too. Even if you think you are a design know-it-all (my bad), it is always good to consider input from others. You don’t have to take the advice, but if you don’t at least consider it, you might miss out on a game-changer.

The gallery business is all about location and, incredibly, we figured out the other day that this is our ELEVENTH location since 1993. The first was on the ocean on the San Francisco Peninsula, and the other TEN have all been in Santa Fe. Once, we had three locations at the same time.

This is the best location ever and will likely be the last one.

We will not open until Feb 1 and this is the longest time I have ever taken to create a gallery space – especially since the space required ZERO build-out. The building had just been gutted and remodeled, and our space, which is the only retail space in that building, was beautifully decked out to be a coffee shop with an urban/metro feel. No counters or anything – just some very interesting details.

Several thousand people, it seems, have asked us when we will open, and I have had to say I don’t know.

How can you know when a creative project of this magnitude will be good enough to be considered ready for prime time?

And this has brought me back once again, to thinking about creative process and SLOW art.

The world at large, and our nagging inner fishwives in particular, keep cracking that “when will it be done” whip.

Like kids on a driving vacation: “Are we there yet?”

It takes A LOT of fortitude for an artist to “stand her ground” and demand the time it takes to do a thing right.

Especially since many of us are brought up with the idea that art is not a worthwhile use of time in the first place.

In my new found passion – kiln fired glass, if you hurry, you hurt yourself. And, as I have mentioned, each firing takes the better part of a day.

This has been a wonderful lesson for me, and even though paints, pencils, and crayons won’t cut or burn you (probably), no art should be created in a rush or under pressure.

If you only have 10 minutes a day to work on artwork, then devote as many days as it takes.

If you HAVE TO have something finished by a specific date (like for holiday gifts, for example), don’t procrastinate. Start early so you can enjoy the process.

That process is where all the fun is.


Only THREE days left to save $15 each on Sketch Journal One and Two.

As of February 1, they will return to normal tuition of $65.

Here is the Sketch Journal One description page (and a FREE lesson can be had by clicking the link in the menu bar of this blog):

And here is the Shopping Cart Link where you can find the Sale on both:

Sketch Journal Two picks right up where we left off and continues along the easy drawing and painting adventure.

I will be back to share before and after gallery photos with you and show you some of our amazing artists as soon as I find another minute.

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Creative Process, Part 2

leafdrawingWhenever I create, I watch myself carefully to note the steps I take.

This practice comes from being a life-long teacher. How can you explain how to do something if you aren’t keeping track of the steps?

I am always trying to improve my teaching by making it more and more simple and easy to understand, so I have come up with several methods of art instruction over the years, and my newest is most closely aligned with how creative process actually works.

I was sketching and painting Wildflowers last Summer – meandering from one thing to another along the creative path of that, when it struck me that this very thing I was doing, was the best way for someone to learn to draw and paint.

I learned long ago, in the process of teaching PhotoShop, that it is a more effective thing to learn what is necessary to the task at hand, and put it to use immediately – than to learn “all about” each part of a process and then try to store that knowledge for when you actually need it in the future.

That last sentence was very wordy, but I think you know what I mean.

So, while sketching my Wildflowers, I was thinking how much fun it would be to teach drawing like that – just meandering from one thing to another, and asking the students to just follow along – step-by-step.

In the process of drawing and painting one thing, you may learn a little bit about perspective, a little bit about shading, a little bit about watercolor and color usage – but not EVERYTHING about all those things.

Just enough to get that flower done nicely.

Of this was my Sketch Journal One Workshop born. It  was a great success, and is now a self-paced WHENEVER workshop.

On February 15, I will launch Sketch Journal Two to continue the journey.

It will pick up from where we left off and continue with 15 more lessons over a 30 day period.

My biggest challenge has been to explain to you how fun and effective these workshops are – without actually showing you.

Seeing is believing after all.

So, FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER, I am sharing an actual, complete lesson from the Sketch Journal One workshop – FREE for everyone.

I chose a lesson which demonstrates how easy it is to draw an ordinary thing, and how many little pieces of art knowledge you pick up in the process. Of course, some of the knowledge was presented in the lessons preceding this one, but you will be able to follow along just fine.

AND to sweeten the pie even more, I have put the workshop on Special for the rest of January – $15 off the $65 tuition!

To make this  more fair to students who already took Sketch Journal One at full tuition, I am extending the same discount on Sketch Journal Two if you register during January.

That discount is in the Shopping Cart here:

AND anybody feeling that they will probably want to take both workshops, can purchase both during January for the reduced tuition.

Without further ado, here is Lesson 10 from Sketch Journal One. I hope you have a lot of fun with it:

If you want to learn to draw and paint – particularly for the sake of your art journal, this is the workshop for you. If you know how to draw and paint, but want new idea starters, tips, and incentive, this workshop is for you also.

Sketch Journal One, Drawing and Painting for the Art Journal and Sketchbook.



Happy In My Own Skin . . .


“From the Depths of My Heart”, Kiln Fired Glass, Sterling and Fine Silver, © Jessica Wesolek,2013

This time, I went missing for three whole weeks!! OMG, where have I been?

Have I been navel-gazing and contemplating the meaning of it all? No.

Have I been whining and crying about too much to do in too little time? No.

Did I take my planned trip to Tubac and bask in warm weather and warm-hearted sisterhood? No.

Then what in the world have I been doing?

I have been making art, my friends.

Making art and that is all.


“Rainbow Raven Coasters” Kiln glass silkscrened with powdered glass. © Jessica Wesolek 2013

It has been many years since I have felt like this. That I am absolutely firing on all cylinders.

When I made a promise to myself in my twenties that I would live by my art, or die trying, I knew that there would be much compromise made between what I longed to create and what I would HAVE to create in order to keep a roof over my head, and some food under that roof.

Because I was always being “creative” in some way, however, I have never been unhappy in my commercial endeavors and have, in fact, enjoyed them.

But there is nothing in this world as amazing and all-encompassing as the JOY of immersing myself in art for me – making whatever I want to make and learning, learning, learning in the process.

I have been logging 12 hours studio days one after another. Luckily, the studio is well warmed by the new kiln, which is running all the time. I don’t know or care what time it is, or whether I remembered to eat something all day.

I am making art.


“You and I” Sterling Silver, Fine Silver, and kiln-fired glass. © Jessica Wesolek, 2013

I think I mentioned last time (so long ago, it seems) that I was about to take a workshop in Powder Printing at the Bullseye Glass Resource Center here in Santa Fe. I was excited, but I had no idea that I would fall head over heels into a new world, and LOVE it SO much.

Being reminded of how it feels to be completely absorbed in art making, has reminded me also that artists are the luckiest people alive.

And yet they spend more time soul-searching, self-doubting, and indulging in self-sabotage than they do making art.

If they would just put all that energy into making art, there would be none left for worrying about making art.

I speak to me as I speak to thee, because I am as guilty as anyone of barking up that very wrong tree.

Today is Thanksgiving, and I am grateful for so many things: my family, my health, and my dear friends (such as you).

But this year, I am reminded to give thanks for the greatest gift of all . . .

That I can make art.


“Wild Horse Canyon” Image powder-printed with reactive glasses and kiln-fired. © Jesica Wesolek 2013


“Family Ties” Sterling Silver and Reactive Glasses Kiln-Fired. © Jessica Wesolek 2013


Nightlight, Kiln-Carved Cathedral Glass. © Jessica Wesolek 2013

Happy Thanksgiving, my dear friends!

Ho Ho Ho – Art Journaling We Will Go


A couple of months ago, on a whim, and because the Santa Fe Art Journaling Retreat was coming up, I did a post about my favorite artist-made art journaling bags – which I sell at my gallery.

I said I would place a custom order and you all blew me away with your enthusiastic response. I also blew the artist away by placing such a large order. But she recovered.

I then reordered for my gallery, but the Retreat students wiped that order out before it ever got to the gallery.

These are GREAT bags that weigh almost nothing.. See the full description in this post:

Now, I am getting requests for more bags because they make great gifts for artist friends.

I have just gotten a new shipment of two each of the bags you see above and one green fern bag is already sold.

I also have orders for some other color combos, so I will be placing one big order early next week for the holidays. Because poor Corrine has to actually make these by hand – even printing her own fabrics – this will be the only order I place for the holidays. Turnaround will be 2-3 weeks if I don’t have what you want in stock, but we will get them to you in time for gift giving.

This is also a fabulous iPad bag. Fits the iPad in a folio – with lots of extra room for stylus etc.

Here’s the Shopping Cart Link

Custom Made Art Journal Bag

Feeling Like An Idiot . . .

We all know how a new art form can grab us by the heart strings and pull until we say yes.

I have really tried to fight that lately – in the interest of concentrating on just my painting… and journaling… and photography… and jewelry making… and . . . you get the picture.

Anyway, a couple of weekends ago, when Lynn was here, Betsy and I took her to the Galisteo Studio tour. Galisteo is a lovely village, very scenic, and home to several of our most treasured artists around here. In fact, I am going to share some photos next time, but on with this story.

We walked down a long, tree shaded path along the river to the studio of Judy Tuwaletswia. Judy works in natural media and does amazingly beautiful works that may take her 5 years to complete. There are fibers and textures and there are stories.

When I saw these pieces on her wall, I loved them



The first piece looked like paper and the second like corrugated copper with a “strange” glow to it

Judy said it was glass.

“Glass on what?” I asked?

“Glass on nothing.” she replied.

PING went the heart strings!

I was in trouble.

This is fused powdered glass fired directly on a kiln shelf. I can’t even say how much this excited me! My mind just about exploded with possibilities.

But I know NOTHING about glass. I don’t even LIKE most fused glass that I see.

Judy gave me the name of our local Bulls Eye Glass Resource Center (there are only three in the country and we have one here!). When my DFFL, Valerie, was in town last weekend, we trotted over there. Valerie is a potter and owns some kilns, and owns a fabulous gallery in Durango, CO, so for all those reasons, she was interested.

There was a workshop on the schedule about how to create these sheets of glass and also how to screen print on them with more powdered glass.

Valerie and I always get in trouble together and this time, we signed up for an expensive workshop right there on the spot. It’s not ENTIRELY our fault, They told us there were only two spots left. Who can resist that?!?

So, she is coming back to town tonight and we will be in class for three days. I’m excited.

I was SO excited, that I signed up for a short and inexpensive workshop yesterday – on how to cut glass sheets.

Here comes the IDIOT part . . .

On my first try, I dropped and SMASHED a large sheet of glass. OMG.

Lots of noise – glass smashing and the other students’ jaws dropping.

Something in my brain had not gotten the concept of hanging on to a sheet of glass WHILE you dropped it on the table edge.

“Someone does that in every class,” said the instructor kindly. (I bet she says that to all the idiots.)

So, I was the SOMEONE for that class.

At least my feet didn’t get cut up.

They FORCE you to wear shoes in these classes, and it was a good thing. My flip-flops would have led to my wiping out the large supply of bandages they have close by. LOTS of bandages.

Maybe someone DOES do this in every class.

The teacher said they had felt foolish putting the closed-toe shoe requirement in their class description at this time of year. Who WOULDN’T be wearing closed-toe shoe?!

They hadn’t met me yet – grin.

But now they have.

So, I apologized the whole time the teacher swept up all that broken glass, and “felt like an idiot” while the other students all looked smug with their nicely “dropped” but unbroken sheets of glass on the table in front of them instead of on the floor.

I was telling Val all about it on the phone last night, and she was giving me lots of sympathy.

“You must have felt like an idiot,” she said.

“No,” I said, “I actually did not feel bad or embarrassed at all, now that I really think about it.”

“Sure you did – you must have.” she said.

But the truth is that you can reach a spot in life where you can find your idiot moves entertaining instead of embarrassing. My “feeling like an idiot” was actually fun.

And the best part was – I didn’t have to worry about doing something stupid. I already had that out of the way. I was sure to make other mistakes, but they would likely be quieter.

What a sweet thing that is

It’s taken a long time, but when you have made enough mistakes in life, you get pretty comfortable with yourself in your own skin, and it really doesn’t matter what other people think of what you do.

Are you there yet?

Can you have dinner alone at a restaurant without feeling funny?

Do you still get embarrassed if you do something like I did?

What’s the last “sheet of glass” you dropped?


What Is A Kiva Ladder?


“The Blue Door” Watercolor © Jessica Wesolek

One of the great things about making art in Santa Fe, is that the area has SO MANY design icons to work with.

One of the best, in my opinion, is the Kiva Ladder.

What is a Kiva Ladder?

Well, first it helps to know what a Kiva is.

A Kiva is a room used by Pueblo people for religious ceremonies and communal meetings. These rooms are usually dug into the ground, and you enter and exit by means of a Kiva ladder. A portion of the Kiva ladder usually sticks up a ways out of the Kiva opening, as this one is doing at the Pecos National Historic Park, which we visited during our recent retreat . . .


This is so cool looking that folks now lean Kiva Ladders against their courtyard walls to get the look, and the Kiva Ladder has become a widely known symbol of Santa Fe style.

I have them in my courtyard, and even use one in the house as a towel rack!

I also use them in my art whenever the chance arises. The Kiva Ladder in the painting at the top of the post is magic because it does not cast a shadow.

This one is very special . . . all about finding direction.


“The Rainbow Way” Watercolor © Jessica Wesolek

Here’s a “Little Church With Lofty Expectations” done in pastels . . .


And sometimes, I just draw them all by themselves because they fascinate me . . . especially when they are lashed together with leather lacings . . .


This was the sample I used in our Art Journaling in Paradise workshop . . .

classroom 1

One of our more adventurous students, Vivian Aldridge, actually climbed down into the Kiva at the Pecos Ruins and sat and sketched it from inside looking out . . .


Isn’t this a fantastic journal page?

And, of course, there just had to be a bit of fun thrown in. While Vivian was sitting down there, a pair of red boots appeared on the top rung of the ladder. A couple of tourists who were traveling with the red boots and photographing them in interesting settings.

And, speaking of fun – Registration is now open for:

Art Journaling in Paradise 2014!

I was learning some new video software this week, and I thought it would be good practice to make a video to show you how you can draw a Kiva Ladder too. They come in very handy, you know.

The video is 7 minutes long and meant to engage you in its moments, so get the ants out of your pants before watching it!

It is hosted on Dropbox and you have my permission to download a copy for yourself.

I would also love to know what you think of the style, so leave a comment if you have a moment.

How To Draw A Kiva Ladder



Holding a Hummingbird In Your Hand . . .


I think the most stress-producing thing in the world is to feel powerless in moving your life forward toward its goals.

When I get absolutely crazy about some things, Mark will say, “Relax. You’re not driving the bus.”

That makes me even crazier.

I like to know where I am going and I like to be in control.

Without boring you with details, we are currently in limbo about the timing of our gallery move. Our current landlord is playing musical chairs with tenants and we happen to sit in the middle of it all. Bunches of other people have to decide about their plans before we can make ours.

I can’t get any answers and it makes me nuts.

So I was sitting on the garden swing steaming and simmering over the latest non-answer.

I kept hearing a strange noise. 

I couldn’t place it but I just felt like it was some critter in distress, so I started searching all over. Couldn’t find anything. But I did find that the bird feeders needed refilling.

As I was going in the front door to get the birdseed, I heard the noise loud and clear – from above my head.

We have a skylight in the portal in front of the door, and it is set up into a box-like frame.

A Hummingbird had flown up into that box and was trying very hard to fly through the skylight, which she obviously could not do.

Those of you who have been online friends for a long time will think this sounds familiar. It did happen before and I blogged about it – in May, 2007. How time flies!

I got my big ladder and my leather gardening gloves and climbed up until my head was in the skylight box.

The Hummingbird really went bonkers then, of course, and flew into the skylight over and over. Can you just imagine how frustrating for her that the sky, which represents her life and freedom, was suddenly a barrier?

I told her that I would show her the way to go if she would trust me.

She did.

I held her in my hand and brought her down to where she could easily fly, and let her go.

She was uninjured and flew off to resume her usual nectar-gathering routine.

I climbed down off the ladder, and it hit me what an amazing analogy this was for the way I’ve been feeling – flying over and over into invisible barriers until the effort hurts.

Perhaps better to relax and trust that the hand of fate will carry you to the proper path.

I felt so much better!

And there is something so profound about holding that powerful a life force in your hand and knowing that as powerful as it is, it is also very fragile, and must be handled with extreme care.

The Hummingbird at the top of the post is not the skylight Hummer, by the way. It is the very first Rufous that I have been able to photograph in my garden, and I really love the photo. Hope you do too, and that this little story has brought a smile into your day.

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A Real Treat of Art and Music . . .


There is much I don’t share with you, but not because I don’t want to.

I just have a hard time being a BRIEF blogger. I always want to wait until I have a big story to tell – or a whole batch of small ones. By that time, many treasures have fallen by the wayside.

I came by this video by a circuitous route and was SO charmed that I have to share it with you – right now before it gets lost in my pile of things to share.

This is a music video by Irish singer, Lisa Hannigan, The song is Lille and it can be found on her album called Sea Sew (find it on iTunes).

As this haunting and beautiful song plays, Lisa turns the pages of an incredible two volume pop-up book which illustrates the story. The book was created by Maeve Clancy, another Irish artist.

You know how I love great music and great illustration. And I really loved the whole personality that came through as Lisa turned the pages.

The work put into this project is mind-blowing to put it mildly.

I was so charmed that I watched it three times!!

And then I went and bought the album.

Here is the video link

And here is Maeve Clancy’s site where you can see more of her creativity.


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Garden Art Journal . . . New Stuff


Another good art starter when you can’t think of what to journal about is a chronicle of new things.

It seems like every year, I add some permanent things to the garden: tools, pots, sculptures, feeders, etc.

When you bring them home all shiny, it’s a good time to have them star on a garden journal page.

Plus, they hold still and let you sketch them, unlike many other things in the garden.

This page was done with pan watercolors in my Stillman & Birn Beta journal.

I didn’t do any transferring – just sketched with 3H pencil and painted over.

These pots really are a find.

They are beautiful and look just like ceramic.

You all know I don’t like plastic much, but I needed to get those Hibiscus into large pots and I have to be able to move them – to rescue them from hail.

These are still managable even when full of wet dirt. And they look natural.



Corona is my favorite brand of garden tool and I am excited every time I get a new one. The one in the journal is a mini lopper.

And, of course this trip to Lowes also yielded some Morning Glory Seeds. I have some full grown already that I started from nursery plants, and I am about to start another crop from seed. I got some incubators I will be telling you about, so they will get enough overhead light and still not get eaten by bunnies.

Another GREAT Thing from Lowes . . .


Oh do I love this app!

First of all, the print magazine you can pick up in the store is really good, but the interactive version on the iPad is TOO wonderful.

Great animated graphics – like watching little gardens grow right before your eyes, and every project has step-by-steps and supply lists to click on. It is ultra-entertaining – and free!

And maybe my favorite thing – Pin It! buttons with every article, so you can keep and share the projects for future “doing”.

Yay for Lowes! This is marketing at its best.

Here’s the link

Creative Ideas


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For the Birds . . .


Backstage at the Whatever . . . Whenever Blog

I wrote yesterday’s post while sitting in my favorite place on earth – my garden swing.

No matter what I am doing in the garden, this is always right beside me . . .


And so it was that I could capture this most perfect headshot of Ms. Hummingbird.

And such a strange thing happened right afterward.

But first let me set the scene . . .

This is my all time favorite Hummingbird feeder, and it has its own story


This ceramic apple feeder was marketed by Havahart several years ago and is no longer sold. I loved it so much when I saw it at a local nursery, that I bought two.

I don’t know why I loved it so much – just one of those things. It was red and wonderfully shaped and shiny. May as well have been a heart. I loved it.

And my Hummingbirds loved it too. They know a good thing when they sip at one.

As much as I loved it, however, I gave the second one to my Mom for her garden.

Years passed and my wonderful apple got sun faded, cracked and finally got broken. I tried to find another one, and there were none to be had.

Then I went to Michigan to help my mother move to Santa Fe, and lo and behold, there was her apple feeder still in the box – just like new!

I gushed all over it until she gave it back to me.

And I was really happy with this new red apple. This time, I hung it on a shady branch of a tree so it wouldn’t fade.

But the tree I hung it in was this one – a Chinese Elm I have to keep cutting way back so it won’t become too big for the courtyard.


And one day, I cut the wrong branch and my apple feeder fell and smashed.

Great weeping and gnashing of teeth ensued.

I went back on the web determined to find another one. I called the manufacturer in case there might be one sitting forgotten in a warehouse somewhere. No luck.

But then, my friend, Google, came up with a woman on ebay who was selling some “VIntage Fruit Hummingbird Feeders”. The early 2000′s isn’t quite vintage in my book, but I went to look anyway.

You guessed it . . . there was my apple amongst some very ugly fruit that may as well have been vintage.

And I bought it.

So, that’s the ebay find hanging in the midget Elm as of yesterday (the garden is still very much a work in progress!)

And the tree is about 6 feet from my swing, so when my Hummingbird friend decided to visit the apple, I grabbed that telephoto lens and got right in her face with it.

And now, the strange thing that happened . . . she got right back in my face. She flew right up to the end of my lens – she didn’t hit it but she hovered there – just as close as she had been to the feeder. Obviously, there was no way to focus, so I just sat there until she had enough and flew away.

Maybe she was checking her make-up in the lens reflection?

Mark passed through the garden about then and I told him about it.

“Maybe she thought I was some exotic flower or something,” I said to him.

“Maybe she thought you were a gigantic Hummingbird with a REALLY weird beak,” he said.

It’s for moments like that that I keep him around.

Copyright Notice

You may have seen that I added copyright type to the lead photo in this post. I hate the look of that, but with Pinterest and all that going on, it is something I have to do – at least to the important images. I will try to keep it as unobtrusive as possible.

A Great Read . . .

I am really picky about fiction. It has to be very well written, not stupid or saccharin or hopelessly insipid. I am also sick to death of violence as entertainment. So, it is not very often that I will recommend a work of fiction, but . . .

This book I loved.



This is historical fiction at its best – telling the story of two women born at opposite ends of a century, who you would not think have anything in common – but they do. The narrative switches back and forth between the early 1900′s and 2011. I could not put it down – and smiled at the end.

Doesn’t get any better than that.


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