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!