Monday, June 29, 2015

Beyond the Ashes- Karen Barnett

My Rating: 3.5 Stars

Description: Where better to rebuild and face one's fears than in 1906 San Francisco, a city rising from the ashes? Ruby Marshall, a young widow, is certain she'll discover new purpose assisting her brother Robert with his cancer research, but she doesn't anticipate finding new love. Dr. Gerald Larkspur dreams of filling his empty home with family, but he'd always hoped it would be a wife and children. In the aftermath of the great earthquake, the rooms are overflowing with extended family and friends left homeless by the disaster. When Robert's widowed sister arrives, the close quarters seem close indeed. Ruby and Gerald's fledgling romance is put at risk when Gerald develops symptoms of the very disease they're striving to cure. Together they must ask is it worth a second chance at love when time might be short?

My Thoughts: Beyond the Ashes is a beautiful story about learning to love and trust again after loss. Ruby and Gerald were interesting characters to follow through the aftermath of the San Francisco fire and the complications of rebuilding lives in more ways than one. Unfortunately, there were parts which felt more drawn out then necessary.

A large part of the story is dedicated to Gerald teaching Ruby to drive and her being afraid of cars. While I thought it interesting for a scene or two, that it continued to come repetitively, and at moments I was much more interested in the camps or the hospital, I wished that it had been cutting it altogether. Particularly when cutting it would have left more room to flesh out the ending.

The description mentions Gerald developing cancer yet, while this is alluded to through out, they do not work through it as a couple for more than 60 or so pages, most of which is over shadowed by other conflicts. It made the ending feel rushed and incomplete. Maybe if it had been fleshed out into two books, I would have liked it better.

Other than a rushed ending and some scenes which, while enjoyable, meant little to the plot, I did enjoy this book. It is the first I have read by Karen and I hope to find one of her others (perhaps the first of the series), and see if those are more fleshed out. Then, I am sure, her writing is fabulous.

I received this book through Litfuse in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Jordan Update- The First Week

The First Days
For the first day here, there were only two students and the most of the staff here at our Darna Village hotel. We spent the day hanging out, waiting for the rest of the students to arrive sometime that night. It was a slow day of laying out by the pool and trying not to sleep too much and throw off our sleep schedules. Even after everyone else arrived, we still spent most of our time just laying around.

I took quite a few pictures at this point, as our hotel overlooks the Red Sea, and Egypt beyond that.

For anyone unfamiliar with the Muslim world, last Friday marked the start of Ramadan. This is a Muslim holiday (similar to the Catholic Lent) in which they fast during day light hours for a month. Our hosts pointed out to us the crescent moon which marked the start of this holiday.

Because of Ramadan, none of the shops in Aqaba were open during the day, so we made our first shopping trek into Aqaba on Saturday. There were a lot of people out, along with vendors trying to sell us all sorts of things. It's given me some ideas as to what I can put in the Goody Box prize, but there are still a few other places I can purchase that item.

Unfortunately, I do not have any pictures of downtown Aqaba at this time was I did not want to take my camera there the first night. Hopefully I will get a chance to take some.

So how are all of you doing? I hope you are enjoying these posts!

Rebekah Gyger

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Heather Manning and Carried Home- Guest Post

Hey, everyone! I am very excited to be guest posting here on Backing Books! 

Today, I would like to tell you a little bit about the main characters of my new novel, Carried Home. If you read my first novel, Swept to Sea, you might recognize Ivy and Gage, who made appearances in Swept to Sea as Eden and Caspian’s friends.

Lady Ivy Shaw: Ivy is a caring individual. Whether it’s her young brother, her group of friends, an abandoned baby, or a handsome pirate captain, Ivy feels a need to take care of everyone around her. Her care sometimes turns to worry, however, as she worries a lot about her little brother back in England. After jumping onboard a mission to rescue her best friend, Ivy finds herself stranded in the Caribbean with no easy way to get back to her brother. So, she enlists the services of Captain Gage Thompson to carry her back home to London on his newly found ship.

Captain Gage Thompson: Gage just became a captain, and he still is not too sure of himself holding a leadership role. For years, he sailed under his best friend, Caspian, but now he has to command a crew on his own. Despite his insecurities in his ability as a captain, Gage eagerly agrees to take Lady Shaw back to England, since he would hate to not rescue a damsel in distress. But his unruly crew has other ideas, and Gage has to learn that he can command the respect of his crew.

Ivy and Gage are just two characters from Carried Home, which features a colorful cast of both new and recognizable characters. To meet more characters, take a look at Carried Home on Amazon or wherever you buy books. Now, here’s an excerpt from Carried Home:

Gage nearly heaved a sigh of relief as he braced a hand against the lady’s back, turned her around, and guided her back to the street on which they had come upon the child.

What shall we do with her, Captain?”

The sounds of the street faded to his ears, and all he could see was the baby in Lady Shaw’s arms. The child turned her little head and reached a tiny hand out to him in a sweet gesture.

He knew at that moment that he couldn’t leave this little one out in the streets. What if someone had taken him and Addie in right away after they had been abandoned? He couldn’t let this girl go through what he had when he was small. But what would he do with a baby?

Captain, please. We cannot leave her here, for some stranger to take care of. Her own mother abandoned her. Sweet thing. We need to take her with us. I beg you.”

Gage stifled a groan. Dash it all, the woman was thinking the same way he was. He had hoped that she would have enough sense to persuade him to leave the child alone, so they could begin their journey as soon as she had wanted only hours earlier.

Lady Shaw…exactly what are you going to do with a baby on board a pirate ship?” There, he forced the voice of reason out from his throat.

The child let out a small whimper, drawing Gage’s attention. Small copper ringlets of hair framed her face, and wide blue eyes blinked up at him. She again reached her tiny, open palm up toward him, and in that moment, his heart melted.

There was no way he could let reason make itself known in this matter.

About the Author: Bestselling author Heather Manning is a young lady who loves to read—and write. After she won several writing competitions, her first book was professionally published and quickly became an Amazon Bestseller. She is an active member of her local ACFW chapter and lives in Kansas City, Missouri where she attends high school, sees plays, devours do-nuts, and acts in community theatre. You can find Heather on her blog:

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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Mesu Andrews- Moses and the Movies- Guest Post

As a little girl, I loved watching The Ten Commandments. In the early 70’s—the days before blu-ray and Netflix—its annual Easter broadcast was a big deal. The whole family would sit around the TV with bowls full of popcorn and watch Charlton Heston shout, “Let my people go!”

Imagine my excitement when I heard about another movie, Exodus: Gods and Kings, coming to theatres in 2014. A new face, Christian Bale, would light up the big screen with the story of Moses—or so I hoped.

I found the Exodus movie entertaining—though not biblical—and for me, at least, it will never replace the classic story told by Cecil B. DeMille in 1956. However, I nearly stood up and cheered when Exodus: Gods and Kings portrayed Moses as the grandson of Horemheb! That tidbit of fiction is unique to the movie and my book, The Pharaoh’s Daughter, and sprouts from a little bit of fact. Stay with me as we traverse the bulrushes to find fact amid the fiction…

The candidates for which Pharaoh’s Daughter drew Moses from the bulrushes is the subject of much debate—almost as widely speculated as the date of the Exodus itself. Once I chose which expert to believe on the Exodus date (1250 BCE), Scripture determined which Pharaoh was king:

Moses was eighty years old and Aaron eighty-three when they spoke to Pharaoh.” ~ Exodus 7:7 (emphasis added)

By adding eighty years to 1250 BCE, sources pinpointed to King Tutankhamen as the king in 1330 BCE, the “pharaoh of the edict” in Exodus 1:15-16:

“The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, whose names were Shiphrah and Puah, ‘When you are helping the Hebrew women during childbirth on the delivery stool, if you see that the baby is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live.’”

I was both excited and dejected when research suggested King Tut. Excited, because I’m fascinated by the boy king. Dejected, because he was truly a boy king—not old enough to have a daughter capable of bearing or mothering a child. 

Because I know the Bible is unshakeable truth, and I’m unwilling to bend historical research, I tried to think outside the box. More research uncovered King Tut’s biological sister—a girl who would have been deemed, Pharaoh’s daughter, the daughter of Tut’s father, King Akhenaten.

To understand the life of Akhenaten’s daughter, we should first picture the life of her father. 

King Akhenaten had many wives. Fact. 

One he loved; another he feared. Fiction.

Nefertiti, the one he feared (fiction), produced six daughters—no sons. Fact.

Kiya, the Beloved Wife (fact), gave him a son—Tutankhamun (Tut)—and two daughters. Fact.

Nefertiti coerced King Akhenaten to name Kiya’s daughters “decoy names”—names similar to Nefertiti’s daughters—so if the underworld gods sought to steal (kill) Nefertiti’s daughters, perhaps they’d be fooled by the names and take Kiya’s daughters instead. (Fact and fiction—the names are real and thought to be decoys for the gods, but we can’t know if Nefertiti coerced the king.)

Now begins the weaving of fiction: The little decoy princess witnessed her mother Kiya’s death in childbirth. Her fear of death soars. Without Kiya’s protection, King Akhenaten realizes their children will be vulnerable to Nefertiri’s schemes, so he relinquishes his little decoy princess to his top soldier—General Horemheb—who adopts the girl and gives her a new name, Anippe

When Anippe marries a handsome army commander, she becomes Amira of her husband’s fertile Delta estate. But the word fertile conjures nightmarish memories of her mother’s lifeless body on the birthing stones.

Anippe sees a Hebrew baby floating in a basket on the Nile (biblical Truth) and believes the gods have answered her prayers for a son—without the dangers of childbirth. (Fiction)

She names him after her adoptive father—Horemheb—but in the quiet moments calls him by his Hebrew name, Moses. Will rescuing this boy from the Nile answer her prayers or cost her life?
The Pharaoh’s Daughter mingles Egyptian history, biblical fact, and imagination to tell the story of a girl who grew up in a palace, defied a king, and raised a Hebrew boy to lead a nation. Though the movies tell a different story, I hope you’ll enjoy the unique retelling of this familiar Bible favorite.

Mesu's Giveaway: Mesu is giving away a copy of her book to one lucky winner! This is international so long as Book Depository ships to your country.

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Main Giveaway: Don't forget to enter the main giveaway for this Guest Feature Event.

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Saturday, June 20, 2015

Draven's Light- Anne Elisabeth Stengl

My Rating: 4 Stars

Description: In the Darkness of the Pit
The Light Shines Brightest

Drums summon the chieftain’s powerful son to slay a man in cold blood and thereby earn his place among the warriors. But instead of glory, he earns the name Draven, “Coward.” When the men of his tribe march off to war, Draven remains behind with the women and his shame. Only fearless but crippled Ita values her brother’s honor.

The warriors return from battle victorious yet trailing a curse in their wake. One by one the strong and the weak of the tribe fall prey to an illness of supernatural power. The secret source of this evil can be found and destroyed by only the bravest heart.

But when the curse attacks the one Draven loves most, can this coward find the courage he needs to face the darkness?

My Thoughts: As with all of Anne Elisabeth's stories, Draven's Light is a well crafted and beautiful tale. She fully brings to life both Draven and the two brother knights of Farthest Shore. This book gives a better picture of what the brother's do to build the houses for the light which the Prince has given them, as well as gives the first real look at Akilun the person, rather then the myth.

I did not enjoy everything about the story. While it was apparent that Anne Elisabeth meant for Draven to have truly been courageous, I found that for most of the story he was the coward his father had named him (if not for the reason his father gave). His refusal to kill the prisoner seemed to be less an act of courage than a gut reaction to the spilling of a man's blood. Throughout the story, he continually expressed that he believed he had made the wrong decision and then hid from it and the village. This made his actions at the end far less courageous as it was evident he had no regard for his own life.

The message I would take from this story is that even cowards can do heroic deeds. And that even good deeds can be done out of cowardice, as it is clear by Draven's own admittion that he did not spare the prince out of courage, but out of a fear of killing which was stronger than his fear of being an outcast.

Overall, I still loved the story. The little girl was great character to follow and the story as a whole was a captivating read. I look forward to reading Poison Crown: Part 1 in the future.

I received an ecopy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Jordan Update-Number 1

It is my second day in Jordan, though it feels like more. Unfortunately, I can't share pictures yet as, in Jordan, the wifi works the way data does on your phones. So this post will only be on the flight and then the first day, which I have no photos for.

The First Leg
On the way to Jordan, I flew from Knoxville to New Jersey and then had to take a shuttle to JFK before flying on to Istanbul and Aqaba (the city we are staying in). I thought I was going to die on the shuttle; our driver was cutting into traffic, driving way faster than he should have, and there were probably too many people in the car.

The flight to Istanbul was not all that eventful. The one thing I can says is that if you are flying international, Turkish Airlines is great. On my 11 hour flight, they gave us two meals, practically drowned us in beverages, and they started the flight by giving everyone a little travel kit and a piece of Turkish delight.

The Long Haul
I had a 12 hour layover in Istanbul, which was about the most boring thing I have ever done as I couldn't get on the wifi and had no way to call and talk to anyone. I sat there, by myself, until midnight when our flight left. At that point, I had finally found out what gate I needed and gone there. A Muslim woman sat next to me with her daughter who played model for us, taking pictures with her Minnie Mouse luggage and striking different poses. I think they were the only people there to actually acknowledge my presence, and they gave me candy.

At last we were able to go to the plane, which we had to be bused to. We got to enter the plane president PR style (minus the waving and secret service). Again, Turkish Airlines fed us, even though it was only a 2 hour flight. Unfortunately, this was the worst of the flights. When I would have liked to be sleeping, I instead had a four year old kicking the back of my chair the whole flight and had beer knocked over into my lap by the woman across the asile.

The Arrival
Once we landed in Aqaba (there were now four of us who had met up as we were boarding the plane), we waited for half an hour in the visa line for someone to actually show up and run the booth. At that point, we went to the hotel, where greeted by a rooster and some stray cats, before collapsing in our rooms.

I hope you got through that story! Sorry again that there are no photos. I plan to upload some for you next friday, but who knows in Jordan (so inshallah). I hope you have enjoyed the guest posts and giveaways so far. Hope to hear from you in the comments!


P.S. Right now I am watching the hotel staff (it is family owned so these are like teenagers) mop the floor by scoping water out of the pool and then throwing it on the floor. Interesting to see the different perspective as to the usefulness of pool water.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Tamera Alexander and Southern History- Guest Post

Against the backdrop of one of the most turbulent times in American history, the post-Civil War era, one woman struggles against prejudice, injustice and suffocating conventions of the 19th century to pursue her dream.

Tamera Alexander’s To Win Her Favor, the second stand-alone novel in the Belle Meade Plantation series, is receiving high praise. According to Library Journal, “Strong characters, a sense of the times and the themes of love, friendship, and the importance of loyalty and determination make To Win Her Favor a triumph!” Cindy Woodsmall, New York Times bestselling author says it’s "…captivating beyond expectation!"

About the book:
Maggie Linden lost nearly everything in the Civil War — including most of her family. She’s about to lose her stables and land at Linden Downs, and her racing hopes as well. A gifted rider in a world where ladies never race, Maggie is determined that her mare, Bourbon Belle, will become a champion. Indeed, her only hope of saving Linden Downs is if the horse takes the top purse in the inaugural Peyton Stakes, the richest race ever run in America. To give his daughter a chance, Maggie’s wily father makes a barter. But his agreement includes one tiny, troublesome detail: Maggie must marry a man she’s never met — a man she never would have chosen for herself.

From Tamera:
Born and raised in the South (Atlanta, GA), I’ve long held a strong connection with Southern history. And what historical event defines the South as much as the War Between the States? Family homes became headquarters for troops. Churches and schoolrooms became hospitals for the wounded. And the hills thick with pine and meadows lush with grass became hallowed ground with the blood of the dead and dying.

The years of Reconstruction forged a steel in the hearts of surviving men and women for a new life, a
new country, and I find myself fascinated by what they accomplished in the face of overwhelming odds. And remember, ultimately, so much good came from this time of suffering in our history too. So many advances in medicine, botany, mental health and social justice, to name a few.

At it’s heart, To Win Her Favor is a passionate love story. Not only romantically, but in the true historical events that found their way into the pages of this novel. Cullen and Maggie’s journey in To Win Her Favor explores questions of race, faith and loyalty and offers perspective on how Reconstruction affected racial relations, social status and economic fortunes in the post-war
South — with a moving romance woven throughout. 
More about To Win Her Favor here. 

Tamera would love to connect with you:

Giveaway: Tamera is giving away 10 copies of her co-authored book Among the Fair Magnolias on Goodreads. Check it out here!

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Saturday, June 13, 2015

R.J. Larson- Bringing Esther into Fantasy- Guest Post

Bringing Queen Esther into a fantasy realm, and entwining her story with another heroine, was a challenge I thoroughly enjoyed. While I was writing Prophet, Judge, and King, one of my editors wrote to me about the importance of bringing the mood and intent of the scriptures to life, while making the fantasy realm and its stories unique. While writing Queen, inspired by the Book of Esther and several other amazing heroes and heroines from the Scriptures, I kept the editor’s kindly admonishment in mind. 

How did I subtly bring Esther’s story into Serena’s world? 

I studied my fantasy realm and chose the Eosyth lands as the setting. Serena is actually based on two women from the O.T. One woman is Esther, so both storylines are entwined, however the second O.T. heroine is slightly more subdued until the end of Queen. Notice that I'm not mentioning the second O.T. woman's name due to spoilers! However, all the hints are there for both characters from the first time we meet Serena. Indeed, the parallels actually begin in Exiles, however—while reading the books in order is always good—you don’t necessarily need to read Exiles to enjoy Queen.

I chose Nikaros as Serena's relative, who protects and rescues the volatile and spoiled king throughout both books, while rising to power within the kingdom. Nik’s kinship with Serena ultimately strengthens his position and brings him more fully into favor with the spoiled king, Bel-Tygeon. 

In both books, Vashti's disgrace is reflected in Zaria's rebellion and scheming, and the Lady Dasarai and Ebatenai are the final judges (representing the harem) for Serena. When Serena meets Bel-Tygeon in his own kingdom, I've drawn some oblique Esther-esque comparisons in her thoughts and resolutions as she prepares to meet the king. 

Also, Serena is chosen throughout her story, repeatedly, based on her looks and potential as she is brought to power against her will, and I made a deliberate decision to show the Infinite working quietly in the background, as the Lord did during the story of Esther, to save His people—in this case, the Eosyths who love and revere Him despite the threats from their enemies). For the spoiled and lovelorn king, I had such FUN bringing Ty (Bel-Tygeon) into an ordinary family, allowing him to experience a normal life. Ty’s longing to have a family and children of his own really came to the surface in Queen, when it was only hinted at in Exiles. I hope you enjoy reading Serena’s story as much as I enjoyed writing Queen!

About the Author:  R. J. Larson is the author of the Books of the Infinite series, and Realms of the Infinite series. R. J. also writes fiction as Kacy Barnett-Gramckow. She and her husband, Jerry, live in Colorado.

Giveaway: Larson is giving away one copy of Queen to a lucky winner. This giveaway is international, however, a winner from outside the US is eligible for an ecopy, rather than a print book.

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Friday, June 12, 2015

I'm Going to Jordan- Guest Post Event and Giveaway (Main Post)

That's right, I'm leaving for Jordan this Monday and will gone for a month and a half. During that time, I will not be able to blog as often as I might like, so I have gathered a list of Guest Posters for the rest of this month and through July. Many of them have new books to tell you about as well as for you to win!

To go along with this Guest Post event, I have my own giveaway. The prize is a Goody Box including:

Book Swag
A Tardis Book Light
A Souvenir from Jordan
And possibly more!

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Now, unfortunately, this giveaway is only for those in the US due to shipping costs. International viewers can still take part in many of the other giveaways being offered, as some are international.

Visit each of the guest posts and leave a comment to earn another entry each week and look out for my Friday updates to see how my trip is going. Below is the guest post schedule so you can mark your calenders.

R. J. Larson- June 13th
Tamera Alexander- June 17th
 Mesu Andrews- June 23rd 
Heather Manning- June 25th 
Sherry Palmer- July 1st 
MaryLu Tyndall- July 9th 
Savannah Jezowski- July 15th 
Jenelle Schmidt- July 23rd 
Victoria Howell- July 29th

You can also bookmark to see what we are doing as a group! (at Ayn Gharandal that is).

See you back here tomorrow!

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Season of Fire- Lisa Bergren

My Rating: 3 Stars

Description: After tackling her first mission and coming to terms with her power of empathy, Andriana discovers her first battles were only a taste of what is to come. She and her knight, Ronan, have admitted their feelings for each other, but their bonds are tested when Dri is captured by their mortal and spiritual enemy—Sethos—and his master, Keallach, emperor of Pacifica.

Andriana is certain Keallach can be convinced to follow the Maker’s plan and join the other Remnants . . . but in time, she must decide whether she really can pull him back to the Way, or if Sethos’s web of darkness has slowly and thoroughly trapped them both . . . forever.

My Thoughts: Last year, I received a copy of Season of Wonder from the author, Lisa Bergren. At that time, there were some issues I had taken with the book and, in agreement with the author, I decided to hold off my review until I had read the sequel as well. For that reason, I have decided to post my reviews of both books together. This is a review of both the first and second books of the series.

While I am of huge fan of Lisa's River of Time series, I found Season of Fire (and Season of Wonder) to not be one of my favorites. While sold as a dystopian, it reads far more like fantasy (which is my favorite genre, just not when I am expecting something else). Perhaps if it had been sold as a fantasy, I would have enjoyed it more. As it was, the Remnants powers and abilities did not fit into the dystopian worldview. Throughout the books, I found myself wishing that their gifts had been gifts of
the spirit (as their powers are all listed in the Bible as such) rather than powers they were born with and still had even when they had forsaken God's will for their lives.

As well, I took issue with their being forbidden to marry as Remnants. In 1 Timothy 4:2-3, it says,

"Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. They forbid people to marry (emphasis added) and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth."

 While I understand that falling in love would make their jobs harder (Paul does speak of marriage as dividing the will between one's spouse and God), I could not forget these words of scripture.

These things may not be an issue for you. I know there are those who do not believe that the gifts of the spirit are for this day and the future, and that there are groups which forbid certain people from marrying. There are also those who will not take issue with these things because this is a work of fiction. For such people, I believe you will adore this book.

Season of Fire (and Wonder) is full of action and adventure, with a story that is about saving not just the world, but saving people's souls as well. In Season of Fire Dri spends much of her time believing she can reach those that others have given up on, and I admired the refusal to give up as everyone else had. Sometimes I think we are far too tempted to wash our hands those we find to be too difficult.

I received a copy of Season of Fire from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Cover Reveal and Contest Announcement- Five Magic Spindles

That's right, Rooglewood Press is delighted to introduce their third fairy tale novella contest—

Five Magic Spindles
a collection of “Sleeping Beauty” stories

The challenge is to write a retelling of the beloved fairy tale in any genre or setting you like. Make certain your story is recognizably “Sleeping Beauty,” but have fun with it as well. Make it yours!
Rooglewood Press will be selecting five winners to be published in the Five Magic Spindles collection, which will be packaged up with the phenomenal cover you see here. Maybe your name will be one of the five listed?

All the contest rules and information (how to enter, story details, deadline etc.) may be found on the Rooglewood Press website. Just click HERE and you will go right to the page.

Rooglewood Press’s first collection, Five Glass Slippers is available for purchase, and our second collection, Five Enchanted Roses is scheduled to launch on July 27, and is currently available for pre-order. Be certain to get a copy of each and see what previous winners did with their wonderful retellings.

Blog Button:
Please consider posting the blog button on your sidebars so that others will learn about this contest! Invite your readers to share it as well. Here is the link to include:

Cover Illustration Credit:
This cover illustration was rendered by Julia Popova, “ForestGirl.” You can find out more about this gifted artist on her website: