Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Very Vampire Christmas

Busy, busy, busy.  Haven't posted in a long time.  Holiday cheer and all that rot.  So all your shopping is done and your last batch of cookies is in the oven, now what?  Well, not done here, but there's always time for some good paranormal reading.  Obviously, the genre has to be stretched a bit to fit vampires and Christmas together, but hey, vamps have to endure Christmas with us all, too.  So these are my Holiday Vampire Fiction Reads this season.

The Bite Before Christmas by Lynsay Sands and Jeaniene Frost.  There is another book by this name, so don't be fooled by imposters.  (Actually, the other one was published first, and I read that one, too.)  Okay, first of all-- love the cover!  This book is composed of two novellas: "The Gift" by Lynsay Sands and "Home for the Holidays" by Jeaniene Frost.  "The Gift" is an installment of the Argeneau Vampire series.  Lynsay Sands has her own unusual take on the biology and origins of vamps (no spoilers here, so read read it!).  If you are familiar with her books then you will recognize the characters through connections to previous stories, but this is a good stand alone story, as well.  Although the story seemed rushed and a bit squashed to fit into half a book, this is one of the better stories that I read this season.  "Home for the Holidays" seemed a bit more contrived, while it was action packed and had the requisite romance factor.  All in all a good read if you are looking for a Christmas themed vamp fiction.

A Vampire for Christmas by Laurie London, Michele Hauf, Caridad Pineiro and Alexis Morgan.  I powered through this anthology of short stories by some of the top authors of the genre in a couple of days.  It is light reading and not too cheesy.  Honestly, I'm not a huge fan of short stories, because I like to invest time in getting to know the characters and seeing them evolve, which just isn't possible in depth in a short story.  Also, this is heavy on the romance end of the genre, and I prefer my books more to the other end of the spectrum of these books-- let's just call it mystery (ahem, violence and blood).  But if you want to download a book and a get a couple light vamp stories in before you open presents without a major time investment, this is a good choice.  Short stories are great for that.

Last Breath by Rachel Caine is the 11th book in the Morganville Vampires Series.  This book was released Nov 1, and I've been waiting to read it like saving a bottle of good wine.  But I could wait no longer!  And it did not disappoint.  It was easily the best book I read this season.  Admittedly, it is not specifically Christmas themed, but-- it was released during the season, and it is set in West Texas in the cold and rainy season, which is winter there.  Life is never boring in Morganville, Texas.  And everything that is great about the Morganville Vamps return in another installment of mystery and violence.  There is a new menace in town to challenge and unite the residents once again.  This book is best read as part of the series, although I suppose it could be read as a teaser to the rest of the series.  Warning: the conflict is not resolved, and this book is left on a cliff hanger.

On a final note, I read All I Want for Christmas is a Vampire by Kerrelyn Sparks last Christmas season, and it totally deserves an honorable mention here.  This is a full novel (that is, not short stories) by one of the best authors in the genre, and it is a fun read when you want a full story.  As I said, I prefer long stories, even series in fact.  But this story has it all-- vamps, romance, violence, a Christmas party. . . What else could you want?

Nook Update:  Barnes and Noble has sent me 3 Nooks now, and finally one arrived undamaged.  Their packaging for shipping really needs to be redesigned.  I highly recommend not ordering one of the these online-- buy it in store to avoid the damage in shipping frustration.

Well, I'm off to make Peppermint Pinwheels before we go out into the hustle and bustle of Holiday shopping.   Happy Holiday reading!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

My Broken Nook

I really don't like to use my blog to rant and rave, but sometimes I just have something important that needs to be said.  Less than two years ago, I bought a Nook, which is an e-reader made and sold by Barnes and Noble.  It was a present for Valentine's Day 2010.  And it was from the second batch received in the Bay Street store in Emeryville, California.  Okay, so I'm an early adopter (meaning I jump into new technology right away) and a huge, big, big, big reader.  My husband liked that it would cut down on the books coming into the house, because they could all be stored on a little device.

While initially examining the device before purchase, I noted the design flaw seemed to be that the page turn buttons were under the case rim, so the case rim would have to flex with every page turn.  I noted at the time to the salesperson that it would be problematic, eventually causing the case to crack in that area.  Being an early adopter with an advanced degree in electronic communication, I tend to notice the design flaws right away.  But I was of course assured, "Oh, no.  We have considered that, and the case has been built to be able to handle it.  After all, page turning in a major function of the device.  But you can by the warranty to cover that."  So we bought the two year extended warranty to cover this concern.

My Nook:  you can see the crack in the case below the right next page button.

I have to say that for the past year and 9 months I have been very happy with my Nook.  I bought it a cool black leather case (to protect it, and hey style, too) that fits nicely inside a fabric sleeve (so I can carry it everywhere in my purse without being subjected to those nasty purse crumbs and lint).  I literally have hundreds of books on it.  There are even books on it that I have bought waiting to be read.  I have "borrowed" books (most notably The Hunger Games Series) from friends.  I have read books from the Oakland library on my Nook.  I have the e-ink version, which was the only version available when I bought it.  But honestly, I have no desire to upgrade to the color or new tablet version.  I read a lot, and e-ink is important for a user like me.  As I have said before, I know a computer professional who had cataracts removed at age 42.  And her doctor told her it was from too heavy computer use, and he warned her against further too heavy use.  Another friend had a series of seizures after too many super long shifts on a new team assignment, and again the doctors noted that very extended periods in front of a computer caused his health problem.  So ~ regular computer use + reading time = health problems.  Just not a good idea.  That is why the e-ink technology was invented.  I was a happy e-reader.  And Barnes and Noble had secured the vast majority of my purchases, because now I was downloading virtually everything I read directly from their website to my Nook anywhere with my Nook on the 3G network.

Let's talk dollars and sense for a moment.  Being an early adopter, I paid the premium introductory price for my Nook-- $239 plus 10% tax and $80 for the warranty.  I was informed that the warranty is a "replacement" warranty service through customer service.  My version of the Nook is no longer made, because of course there have been a whole series of upgrades and new releases in the past year and 9 months.  I'm not bucking for the new model here.  I like my Nook.  I have all the accessories to fit it.  And it operates on the 3G network, an option which is no longer available.  But I can and do search the Barnes and Noble site for books and order them at playgrounds, beaches, parks and other places that have no WiFi service.

So here's my problem: a crack in the frame surrounding the device just under the right page turn button.  Admittedly, it is basically an aesthetic issue at this point.  But this is early in the failure process.  This problem will progress until the case is no longer functional,  possibly exposing the interior technology, etc.  And I am still under the warranty period.

the crack

The crack can actually be seen as a separated split, or break in the case.

This is the problem!  Early on.  This will only get worse, I'm sure!

So here is how the warranty claim process is going for me.

I went into the Barnes and Noble where I purchased the device, on Bay Street in Emeryville and showed them my problem.  I was coolly informed to call "customer service."  I have put that in quotes because there is no kind of service involved whatsoever.  When I called, I was of course put through to someone in a country on the other side of the world from the United States.  This Barnes and Noble representative could barely speak English.  Every word of the conversation was a struggle.  He was barely capable of spelling, apparently not at all even functional with the basic alphabet.  During this painful conversation, I was required to provide credit card information as a good faith measure.  They would send me a new Nook, and I would send them back my old one in that packaging, only being charged if I did not surrender my old Nook within the required 2 week time period.  Now I am waiting and checking the delivery status.  Eight days later, UPS leaves the box on my porch without so much as a knock on the door.  I was informed of its arrival by my 7 year old daughter who was waiting for its arrival so we could depart to a playground.  Leaving a box of valuables just out on someone's porch is basically not a good idea for most people anymore.  Two-thirds (2/3) of Americans live in an urban environment today, not Mayberry.  Most companies, including Barnes and Nobles leading competitor Amazon, offers a wide variety of shipping options to account for individual situations.  Not Barnes and Noble-- they just put your device on your porch without notification, after that the problem is yours.

The device I received was not a new replacement.  It was a used device not placed in the packaging correctly therefore arriving broken.  AND--- importantly--- it was not even the correct model.  It was a WiFi Nook not the 3G version.

I went back down to the Bay Street Barnes and Noble that night.  The customer service person told me that they could not help me, and I had to call (their foreign) "customer service" representative.  I asked to speak to the manager.  She apologized for my problems.  She was very nice and seemed genuinely interested in helping me solve my problem.  She called "customer service"  After a long phone conversation, she asked me if I could return the next morning to resolve the problem.

I returned the next morning, and she handed my problem over to her Nook specialist.  Again a call was placed to "customer service."  I spoke to representative after representative, and I was asked to repeat my credit card information over the phone in the middle of this store 2 times.  Finally, after all of the frustration they put me through, a supervisor admits that the problem is really that my Nook is not made anymore.  Again-- not my problem.  I paid top dollar.  They sold the warranty.  At least offer me a discount on a model that is currently available!  Ultimately, after over another hour of frustration, I left that store with 2 broken Nooks and nothing resolved.

I am going to have to deal with this problem after the Thanksgiving Holiday.  I HAVE to --- I mean, at least figure out how to return the broken thing that they sent me. 

So what does this mean to you?  Here is my advice for people who may be considering a e-reader this holiday shopping season:  I loved my Nook.  But DO consider it a disposable device with a lifespan of probably not more than 2 years.  DON'T waste your money on the warranty-- they won't honor it.  And maybe consider competing devices, such as the one made by Sony.

Monday, November 14, 2011

BlytheCon 2012!

Art by Lirije (aka effluo-lost)

I had such a great time in Portland at BlytheCon that I am really looking forward to going to BlytheCon in Dallas this August.  It has been decades since my last visit to Texas.  Oops, showing my age there a bit.  But I'm looking forward to going back with my husband and daughter.  The venue and hotel look so excellent!  We are planning on staying for a while to enjoy the resort.  You should take the time to check it out online-- Gaylord Texan Resort.

It really made the idea of going to BlytheCon again super appealing--- even to my husband.  I am planning on preregistering in early January.  I hope that is early enough to guarantee us goodie bags.  I suppose I should start working on an outfit for our Blythes to wear right after Christmas, so I get it done in time.  I wonder what I should make?  Chaps?  A vest?  Cowboy shirt?  Something with fringe?  Or that low-pile cow-print fur?  Hmmmm. . . (I'll make sure to post my pattern when I figure it out.)

Monday, November 7, 2011

More Flavors of Fall

The last of Halloween has finally been boxed and stored.  Thanksgiving is approaching.  The few baskets and bunches of Indian corn that are the entirety of decorations seem sparcely appropriate considering the Pilgrim roots of the holiday.  And the minimalism is refreshing after the clutter of Halloween and before the extravagance of Christmas.  A welcome respite.  Many people take this time to renew with a cleanse.  Well, maybe next week for me. 

Right now, I'm going to share a recipe for Loaded Pumpkin cookies.  They are a somewhat cakey type cookie with all the flavors of fall, like a pumpkin bread; except, all the morsels push it into that decidedly sweet range that is definitely a cookie.  Tonight, I'm having mine with Tazo Calm tea, a blend of chamomile and rose petals.  It's very mellow and light.

Loaded Pumpkin Cookies

2 ½ cups flour
1 cup old fashioned oats
1 ½ teaspoon baking soda
1 heaping teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 ½ cup Libby's Solid Pack Pumpkin
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup raisins
1 cup walnuts

Preheat oven to 350˚ F.  Combine flour, oats, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.  Cream butter.  Gradually add sugars, beating until light and fluffy.  Add egg and vanilla, beat well.  Alternate additions of dry ingredients and pumpkin, mixing well after each addition.  Stir in chips, raisins and nuts. 

Drop by scant ¼ cup portions onto a lightly greased cookie sheet.  Bake approximately 22 minutes until cookies are firm and lightly brown.  Remove from cookie sheet immediate or they will stick.  Cool on rack.   Store between sheets of parchment.

Makes 2 ½ dozen


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Fall Comfort Food

The trick-or-treating is over.  The pumpkin seeds have lost their crisp.  The pumpkins' faces are turning black and caving in on your porch.  Time to put away those Halloween decorations and make some comfort food to help move you forward into the fall season.  My family loves homemade chicken and dumplings.  And it is easy to prepare, as all comfort food should be.

Chicken and Dumplings

1 tablespoon olive oil
1tablespoon butter
1 whole chicken breast, chopped
3 large stalks celery, diced
½ onion, diced
3 carrots, peeled and diced
4 c. chicken broth
4 c. water
1 tsp. salt
¼ tsp. black paper
¼ tsp. garlic powder

3 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
 4 ½ tablespoons butter
1 ½ c. buttermilk
extra flour for rolling dumplings

Heat oil in large Dutch oven or other large pot.  Melt butter in oil.  Add chicken and brown.  Add celery, onion and carrots and sauté several minutes to soften.  Add broth, water, salt, pepper and garlic powder.  Bring to a boil. 

Meanwhile prepare dumplings:  combine flour, baking soda, and salt.  Cut in butter with a pastry blender until mixture is the consistency of coarse meal.  Add the buttermilk, and stir just until ingredients are moistened.  Turn dough out onto a floured surface and sprinkle with flour, knead 4 or 5 times, no more or biscuits will be tough.  Roll the dough to ¼ inch thickness.  Cut into strips about 2 inches by 2 inches.

With the pot at a low rolling boil, drop in the biscuits one or two at a time.  Stir in some of the flour from the board, too.  Reduce heat to medium and occasionally gently stir so dumplings do not stick together.  Cook dumplings for 10 minutes.  The flour in the dumplings will thicken the broth.

Serves 4

Another Fall ritual:  don't forget to turn your clocks back one hour when Daylight Saving Time ends this Sunday, Nov 6.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Halloween Tree

We do a lot of Halloween decorating, both inside and out.  One of my favorite inside decorations is our Halloween Tree.  It is one of the newer additions to our collection.   It is on the dining room buffet and is about 3 feet tall.  It's a good size for a diorama with tombstones, Blythe, and the peanuts characters.

Blythe Witch

Trick-or-Treating together

the Whole Scene


Monday, October 24, 2011

Cool Halloween Find

These are my new Skeleton Hand salad tongs.  They are cast aluminum.  I got them in the Halloween section at Target.  So cool!  And they work great, too.  I may have to keep these out to use year round!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Here is what I'm reading this rainy Halloween month. . .

Kiss of Death is the 8th book in The Morganville Vampire Series by Rachel Caine.  There are 10 books so far with a new installment, Last Breath, coming out on All Saints' Day (11/1/2011).

The basic premiss behind this series is that all of the vampires of the world live in a small college town in West Texas called Morganville.  Of course, the human residents in town live in constant menace and seclusion.  Leaving is not an option for either humans or vampires.  Drama ensues in the constant struggle for survival.  Most residents sign up for protection from a vampire by tithing blood and cash.  This is a Young Adult series, which means it focuses more on the plot than (ahem) encounters.  My main criticism is that the books are fairly short, coming in at just under 200 pages, usually.  

I have been enjoying this series on my first edition Nook

I got it when it was first released, but you can get one now for cheap since they are trying to unload the final stock.  However, I have to say that after less than 2 years of ownership the outer rim of the case has cracked.  The page turning mechanism is a button click under the rim, which means the rim has to flex every time the page is turned.  And the rim is a semi-hard plastic.  I did recognize this as a design flaw initially.  And of course, the rim has cracked right under the "button" area.  I will probably upgrade to the newer version eventually, but for now I remain attached to my first edition.  

And, if you read a lot like I do, getting an e-ink reader is important.  I stare at a computer monitor enough without adding in the time of reading too.  I personally have known tech professionals who have had seizures from long hours of work, as well as people who have had cataracts removed at 42 years of age.  'Nuff said.

On the Television front--

The premiere of new season of The Walking Dead will be on Sunday, October 16!  Can't wait!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Coffee and Cookies: Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip with Peet's

It has been a rainy week in Northern California.  And today we are saying, "Goodbye, Steve" to one of our most innovative residents.  For quiet, contemplative moments at home or a special treat on a rainy day to brighten any mood, warm cookies and coffee always hit the spot.  So today I offer one of my favorite recipes to share:  Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies. 

First, the coffee.  I always drink Peet's coffee, a Bay Area longtime, local favorite.  And more than that--  I drink French Roast from a French Press.  A very rich and flavorful brew with nothing but the real deal, half and half.  As you can see, my french press came from Peet's, but this is a standard Bodum, and they are widely available.  The coffee is available online, too.

Now, for the cookies.  These are adapted from the Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker ©1975

½ cup unsalted butter
½ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
½ cup white sugar
1 egg
1 heaping cup Extra Crunchy Skippy Super Chunk Peanut Butter
½ teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon vanilla
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup Guittard chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375˚F.

Beat butter until soft.  Add sugars and beat until creamy.  Beat in the egg, peanut butter, salt, soda, and vanilla.  Add flour and mix just until combined.  Mix in chips.  Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.  Roll the dough into balls and flatten slightly by pressing a cross thatch pattern into them with a fork.  Bake 10 to 12 minutes.  Cool on pans to harden then move to a rack to finish cooling.  

Makes about 3 dozen.  

They store well for several days in a container.  And we have absolutely no problem finishing these before they go stale, even in our small family.

These cookies are for you Steve.  It was your vision that people, and particularly women as an untapped target audience, would use computers in their daily lives: to run not only small businesses but our homes, share our recipes and hobbies with others, etc.  You have changed our lives.  Peace to you.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

My New Doll!!!

I'm just gushing.  She is so wonderful.  I saw one at the last ACFDC meeting and immediately went home to search Ebay.  I found her a couple days later and bought her right away.  Then I ordered the wig, wig cap, outfit and shoes (plus red glass eyes) from Denver Doll.  It all arrived the same day.  Here she is. . .

She is a Bloody Moon Lati Yellow Miel White Skin released in 2010.  The dress is Doll Heart Juana.  She is my first Lati, and I am so happy with her.  Her little body is a bit thicker than other tinies which really makes her cute.  And hopefully easier to sew for.  I haven't made anything for her yet.  But I am getting ready to right away.  In the meantime, I have posted some links to free patterns on the right below the Blythe patterns.

  I am completely bespelled by her.  She wants more wigs, outfits, shoes, and a better coffin.  Maybe a sheep. . .  Yes, Master!

Friday, September 23, 2011

How to Make a Headband for Blythe!

It's long past time for a new project page!  I posted a link to making a headband for Blythe from a thread on the This is Blythe Forum, but I decided to do a step by step tutorial.  To do this project you need at least one but maybe a few more plastic headbands, like the kind for girls that you can get at Claire's, Target or Walmart.

In this picture you see quite a pile that I have collected from a variety of places.  The small one on the upper left is one of the first headband's that I made for Blythe.  I will be using it as an example of size for Blythe.  But I made that one without anything to go from, and it was not too difficult to approximate the size.  The bluegreen headband on the lower left was my first attempt for an example project, but it turned out to be too thin to demonstrate with.  I learned that these very thin headbands (while they may look great on Blythe) are very difficult to shrink, so it is best to wait until you have some experience to tackle these types.

As far as tools go, you will need some picture wire or other medium weight wire to bind to size and handle for suspension in boiling water, dikes for cutting down to size after shrinking, a file for finishing the ends after diking, and a pot to boil the headbands.  I do not use my good cooking pots for this just in case some nasty plastic type chemicals are released during the boiling process.  Here are my tools:

So that's the preparation.  Down to task:  get the pot of water boiling.  It needs to be deep enough that you can put the headband in for a few (2) minutes without touching the side or bottom of the pan.

Select your first headband.  You may want to choose one that is not your favorite for your first trial. 

Bend it so that the headband ends cross each other quite a bit and the band looks close to the right size for Blythe.  I show that step here with an already shrunken headband for clarity, but you really will be able to estimate that size.  I did for the gold example one.

Bind the headband together to retain that size.  It's a little easier said than done, but mainly, you just need to wrap the wire around enough times to secure it.

So, your water should be boiling by now.  Using the wire for a handle, you need to immerse the headband in boiling water for about 2 minutes.  No cheating on the time.  If the headband is very thin, then use simmering water for less time.  And if the headband is very thick, then extend the time by half a minute or so.  Generally, I always do it for exactly 2 minutes.  Time goes very slowly standing there waiting for the 2 minutes to pass, just like on the Stairmaster.  Make sure not to let the headband touch the sides or bottom of the pan or it will melt and mar in that place.

After two minutes, take the headband out and while it is still warm and pliable, gently press in down on the top to flatten it a little, because Blythe's head is a little flatter on top and not quite round.

Next, dike of the ends of the headband to the desired length.

Finally, I file the end to smooth it out so that it doesn't scratch my girl's head.  Sometimes after filing, I dip the ends back in the boiling water and then touch up the ends again with the file.  That just makes it extra smooth.  All done.

Here is a template to download.  I made this as a suggestion from someone on Blythe Kingdom.  I guess that you could hold up your work in progress to the template to check for size and shape.  I hope this helps you have success in the beginning.  But you should play around a little with the length.  I make some of them 1/4 to 1/2 inch longer depending on how much hair I want it to hold back or even based on the type of original headband. 

 This size of headband is a very good fit for American Girl dolls, too.  I suppose that you could rework or repeat the steps to make them smaller for other dolls, like SD size BJDs, though I haven't tried that myself, yet.

And if this all seems like too much work for you, then most of the head bands pictured are for sale in my Etsy shop, along with the outfits pictured.  There are Halloween themed outfits, too!  Boo!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

New Additions to the Top 3 Vampire Romance Series are great summer reads!

What I consider the Top 3 Vampire Romance series are: Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter by Laurell K Hamilton,  the Sookie Stackhouse Series (or True Blood on TV) by Charlaine Harris, and the Black Dagger Brotherhood by JR Ward.  There are so many popular series in this genre, but I think these really top the lists in popularity.  Spoiler alert:  some spoilers are inevitable when discussing plot, but my intent is not to reveal the ending per se.

Laurell K Hamilton was among the very first writers of the modern redux of paranormal fiction.  Hit List, released June 7, is book 20 in the Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series.  Anita Blake is a necromancer, vampire (and monster) hunter and US Marshal in a world where the monsters are free to openly participate in society as legal citizens with rights. 

I am a huge Laurell K Hamilton fan.  I have read all of her books-- Anita, Merry Gentry, even the short stories and compilations.  As always, some fans love the new book, and others are disappointed.  Many fans think that there is not enough action and serious plot.  This is another book where Anita is out of her home turf, St. Louis, investigating crimes as a US Marshal.  The Harlequin and Mother of All Darkness are the brought back in as the antagonists.  The other major players in this book are Edward and the other old school monster-hunter Marshals, Olaf and Bernardo.

While many people have been waiting for a book that features and develops the character of Edward, I was okay with his rather undisclosed nature.  It worked to make him more scary and chaotic for me.  Now, it seems that Edward is just being set up as another possible partner for Anita and the ardeur.  And what is there to say about Olaf other than he is obviously coming into play as a future antagonist, nothing new there.  Here's my big beef:  I miss Jean-Claude.  It seems like forever since he had a central role in any of the books.  Poor Jean-Claude left at home, ignored, while Anita is totally playing the field.  I would love to see another book featuring him, maybe even being a little scary and conniving again.  Oh, for the good old days.  That being said, it seems that Laurell may be at work on another Anita novel.  Her last blog post seems to definitely hint that she is deep in writing and working in Anita's world right now.  So, more Jean-Claude, please!

Dead Reckoning is book 11 in The Sookie Stackhouse Series, or the Southern Vampire Mysteries, which has been mainstreamed by the wildly successful HBO series True Blood; although, I think True Blood is only very loosely based on the novels following nothing but the most central themes and plot lines.  Charlaine Harris writes 3 other series, short stories for compilations and a new graphic novel series on top of the Sookie Books, so sometimes there can be quite a stretch between releases.  Dead Reckoning was released May 3.  And The Sookie Stackhouse Companion was just released Aug 30!

Sookie has grown up a lot over the course of this series.  She is no longer the bubbly telepathic waitress that she once was.  Now she seems weary, tired of all the drama.  Victor comes back as her antagonist to meet his doom as all her foes eventually do.  But we all knew he had to go, right?  Her relationship with Eric seems to be winding down at this point, which saddens me a bit.

A lot of fans were disappointed in this new release-- they criticize the plot lines as flat and predictable but mainly the introduction of discrepancies in continuity.  It seems that Ms Harris is attempting to take the series in a new direction, which is requiring some reworking of the back story.  The word is that she wants to end this series and is working toward an HEA for Sookie.  Whether or not her publishers allow her to put to rest such a successful series remains to be seen.  But can Sookie really have a traditional HEA at this point?  It appears that the direction she is heading is to end  up with Sam, but really?  I mean, can Sookie just lie low in Bon Temps, get married to Sam and have babies, the end?  What about her past, all the Vamp and Were politics?  It doesn't seem seem to coalesce to me, like having the end of a story just say that was all a dream, the end.  Pretty unsatisfying ultimately.  Here's hoping that's not where we are going, but there seems to be a lot of speculation. . . At any rate, I am looking forward to checking out the new abso of the minute release The Sookie Stackhouse Companion! And I am definitely following this series to its conclusion.

JR Ward writes not only The Black Dagger Brotherhood series but also The Fallen Angels Series and traditional romances under the pseudonym Jessica Bird.  Lover Unleashed is book 9 in The Black Dagger Brotherhood Series, released March 29.  I held off reading this one for quite a while, savoring the anticipation like a fine wine.

The vampire world in BDB is not traditional.  The vamps feed from each other not humans, and they battle their nemeses the Lessers in skirmishes hidden from the human consciousness of reality.  In each book, the main plot line follows the development of a relationship while continuing the overarch of the story and other past main characters' lives.  Usually, at the end there is some hint at the direction the next novel will take.  That is, whom it will follow.  In this way, these are not stand alone novels.  And for sure that is true of this one, since this story is as much about Vishous as it is about his sister Payne finding love with her doctor Manny.

The BDB fans seem split in their reception of this work.  The lamest critiques say the romance is weak, huh?  I miss the overarch, myself.  What about the war with the Lessers?  Where do the Sympaths fit into the survival of the species?  Wrath, hello, where are you?  And the relationships, and teasing between all of the brothers is a bit out, too.  But I loved all of the focus on Vishous.  He's my favorite Brother, and he really need some closure.  I found the end of his story to be somewhat dissatisfying, what with his mate dying and all.  And the whole series could evolve to center more around Vishous than Blind King Wrath, what with Butch needed him for after eating pieces of the Omega, not to mention the whole Vishous/Payne/Children of the Deity angle, true?

So this was obviously my favorite of the three new Vamp Books.  There is still so many directions this series can go-- I think that it has a lot of life left.  The overarch of the story is no where near conclusion, and so many fans are ready for the Blay & Qhuinn story.  But maybe Ms Ward is a bit nervous about a whole novel centered on a gay romance in a predominantly straight market/series?  Other fans are wanting Tohr's book, but would that be back story or a new girl?  And here we go  with a new Fallen Angels release on Sept 6--  book 3, Envy.  I'm looking forward to that one, too.

And now for something completely different. . . 

not really.  I've started following the new trend in paranormal fiction and have been reading a few of the books on Fairies.  I think that they are popular because they are otherworldly and anything can happen, including more magic situations.  Fae are intriguing because the are both beautiful and gruesome, lovely and vicious, and have roots in our historical folkloric past.

So far, my favorite read in the Fae genre, one that I just can't get out of my mind, are The Fever Books by Karen Marie Moning.  There are 5 books in the series.  Apparently, Ms Moning developed this series to its conclusion in conception, so it flows nicely from one novel to the next reaching the ultimate finale and HEA.  There are nasty cliff-hangers at the end of each book, but happily the whole series is in publication now, so there is no need to bite your nails waiting for the next one as the original followers did.  Before the Fever series, Ms Moning wrote the Highlander series, and some of those characters tie into the Fever books, so you may want to check those out, too.  The books definitely need to be read in order so start with book 1,  Darkfever.   Shadowfever is the recent best seller and the conclusion to the series.  Though, I hope she writes more in the Fever world, and she has hinted that she will.

Right now, I'm reading The Iron Fey series by Julie Kagawa.  It is a YA Harlequin series with 3 books and 2 short stories, and a new book, The Iron Knight, will be released Oct 25.  They are definitely worth checking out.

And. . .

I'm following the making of The Hunger Games, too.  There is a lot of info on the Web at this point.  It was a great series and looks like a good movie is on the way.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


Ok.  So it's not the Welcome to Forks sign, but I didn't get as good a shot of that one!  And to uhum, well, to back track a little bit. . . We arrived in Seattle by train and stayed the night at the Hyatt at Olive 8 downtown before we rented our car and left town for the coast and the rainforest.  That Hyatt is in serious need of some upgrades, IMHO.  But the pool and spa are really nice.  Anyway, we didn't do any sightseeing in Seattle.   After renting the car, we took the Bainbridge Ferry across the bay and headed straight for Port Angeles.

Our first stop was Hurricane Ridge on the outskirts of Port Angeles.

This looks so much like the camping scene in Eclipse.  Snow here at the end of June!  Bridgette and Alan had a snow ball fight.  No wonder Bella was so cold that she needed to snuggle with Jacob.  But Bella Blythe came prepared with a warm jacket.

After a quick tour of town, we had dinner at Bella Italia, home of Bella and Edward's first date.  I had the mushroom ravioli of course.  It's pretty rich, so come with an appetite.  The  staff are really good sports about the whole Twilight thing that is going on there.  But why not?  The restaurant is packed everyday of the week.  We went there twice on our trip.  I recommend reservations, even just calling ahead by a few minutes helps to secure a table.

In Forks, we stayed at the Forks Motel.  This motel is a basic older style motel.  The furnishings have some wear on them, but the rooms are large and have refrigerators.  This is the only place in town with a pool, but it was too cool even late in June to ever want to use it.  This motel is conveniently located in the middle of the main street, but everything is fairly convenient in a town this small.  There is a great little coffee stand across the street.  For a total immersion in the Twilight experience, the motel across the street has themed rooms, check them out on Trip Advisor

We took the Team Forks evening tour. 

Our guide Randy was very friendly, funny, informative, and basically a great all around tour guide.  This is the tour that ends with a hot dog roast on the beach at sunset.  We got some great pictures.

The Treaty Line Sign on the way to the Quileute reservation.
Bella at the Swan House.
Idyllic countryside right outside the Cullen House B & B.

Sunset at Rialto Beach, next door to La Push

We hiked down the Second Beach Trail through the forest to the beach.  It was a short hike and just beautiful.
On the trail to Second Beach.
La Push, baby.  It's La Push.
Wolf tracks on the beach!
We also took a river rafting trip in the HOH rainforest with the Rainforest Paddlers.  It was a fantastic, peaceful way to experience the rainforest.  We took a dip in a pool at the base of a small waterfall of glacier run-off.  (We had on wet suits, but it was still coooolllld!)  And we saw a bald eagle in a tree.  This is a very easy run, even a young child can handle it.

Hoh River
Bella relaxes in the rainforest
Jewel enjoyed the rainforest, too.
We did a lot of shopping.  There is Twilight stuff galore!  There are several dedicated stores like Dazzled by Twilight, but every store in town has a Twilight section.  I really recommend checking those out for deals and unusual local items.

There is so much to do here that I want to go back.  We went to Sol Duc Hotsprings, which is a beautiful resort and hotsprings pools in the middle of the Olympic National Park.  But we didn't have a chance to drive out to the peninsula or visit the lavender fields.  And Alan wanted to check out some fishing in the area.  We can't wait to come back!
The Beach in Port Angeles
NEXT: Reviews of the new installments from the top 3 Vampire Romance Series!