Thursday, May 29, 2008

Blood Noir by Laurell K. Hamilton

Blood Noir Book CoverBlood Noir - Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter, book 16 by Laurell K. Hamilton

.1. Guilty Pleasures
.2. The Laughing Corpse
.3. Circus of the Damned
.4. The Lunatic Cafe
.5. Bloody Bones
.6. The Killing Dance
.7. Burnt Offerings
.8. Blue Moon
.9. Obsidian Butterfly
10. Narcissus In Chains
11. Cerulean Sins
12. Incubus Dreams
13. Micah
14. Danse Macabre
15. The Harlequin (see previous commentary)
16. Blood Noir

Category: M&Ms - a bit lighter and/or not quite as satisfying as Peanut M&Ms, but still Oh-So-Enjoyable! (B,B-,C+,C)
Flame Height: 5.5" out of 9"

UPDATE: In her blog of Thursday, June 12, 2008, LKH gives her own explanation for "What's the book about?"

Well, hell. After recently expressing my concerns about some of LKH’s blog content, this commentary is going to seem like I’ve left the stands and am now on the playing field for the sport of LKH-bashing. This is soooo NOT appropriate behavior for fangirls, is it? Aren’t I supposed to be defending MY author at all costs and beyond all logic? Am I not betraying her if I do not express the opinion that every single book she writes is the Best Book Ever and is now my All Time Favorite? Well, since this is MY blog, and I consider this my book diary, then I’d only be lying to myself if I was less than honest-- about LKH's books or those of any other author.

Blood Noir was an… okay read. I didn’t hate it, I didn’t dislike it. It was just okay. But I confess a bit of disappointment because this just wasn’t an LKH book.

Jason's mother calls to tell him that his father only has weeks to live. There are a lot of issues between them and his mother suggests he bring a girlfriend to try and convince his bully of a father he's not gay. Since Jason and Perdy have split up, Nathaniel volunteers Anita for the job.

That’s the setup, now here’s the summary of Blood Noir:

Blood Noir is an extended conversation between Jason and Anita (pages 1-196), followed by a couple of disconnected metaphysical incidents (pages 197-309), followed by a couple of VERY loosely connected scenes where Anita gets to shoot and kill (pages 309-336), then the final wrap-up (pages 337-340).

Anita and Jason talk before sex, they interrupt sex to talk, they talk after sex, they talk in cars, they talk in the plane, they talk in their hotel room, they talk at a gathering of Jason’s old girlfriends, and they talk at the hospital. They talk about their relationship with each other, they talk about their relationships with their families and friends, they talk about the other men in Anita’s life, and they talk about Jean Claude’s power structure. They talk and talk and talk and talk... and talk some more. And when she isn’t talking to Jason, Anita is THINKING about talking with Jason.

Now, don’t get me wrong, getting to know the characters better is a very GOOD thing and I really DID enjoy that aspect of it. LKH’s characters are like old friends to me. But what makes this a very non-LKH like book is that nothing else is going on during the first 58% of the book where this extended conversation takes place. It’s NOT intertwined with any larger action or mystery plot, or even a metaphysical emergency. It’s just two people talking nearly non-stop as they travel from St. Louis to and around Ashville, NC (that’s a whole ‘nuther issue- I’ve never been there, but her description doesn't sound quite right). They do interact with other people, but the first half of this book is mainly devoted to Anita and Jason talking to each other.

I will say however, that the sex during these first 196 pages is just that—sex. No metaphysical manifestations or increase in Anita’s power, which is a welcome change of pace even if the scenes still felt a bit... less than passionate

This is a single layer, simple story. No complexity, no layers, no multi-dimensions. If she was a new author, I’d say she showed promise with her characters, but needs to give them more story to work with. Yes, other authors have been semi-successful with not much more than that, but this is Laurell K. Hamilton and that is NOT how Laurell K. Hamilton writes, at least not the writing that has landed her on the Best Seller lists all these years.

Honestly, this book does not feel like she put her best effort into it. As if her only goal was to get word count/page count down each day and adding any other layers would have slowed her down from meeting that daily goal.

If she’s developing that kind of tunnel vision, then I sincerely hope that she has built increased intervals between books into that new contract she just signed. I'd like to see her slow down, and take time to CREATE and THINK, to CRAFT her stories again instead of publishing stream of consciousness thoughts. Seriously, thought processes DO change as we get older (she’s only a few years younger than me.) And what worked for her before-- sit your ass in that chair and write x number of pages-- may not work for her now that she’s getting older. Or is it burn-out? Or she’s not “hungry” anymore? I dunno. I only know that Blood Noir is, BY FAR, not her best effort in the ABVH series.

Now for that last 42% or so of the book--- spoilers and all. Okay, I don’t normally give spoilers, but since there are only two events of note in the book, and they occur towards the end, it’s kind of hard to NOT mention them. Although, much of it is a bit… random… and confusing… so I can’t promise there’s much sense in my ramblings.

If you are reading this in Firefox, you should know that much of the code I use for my scrollbox (i.e. custom colors) is ignored by FF. So if it looks weird, switch to IE. If you’re already using IE7… Hee, I FINALLY found something that no one can tell me is better in FF.

**YO! Thar be SPOILERS AHEAD-- Scroll to see ‘em**

Remember in The Harlequin, Anita was given a charm to wear that would protect her from Marmee Noir? Well, when a weretiger stripper shows up at the bachelorette party for one of Jason’s old girlfriends, Marmee Noir decides she wants a little weretiger sumpin’ sumpin’. She makes Anita, who discovers that she carries multiple tigers among her inner beasts, take off the charm and Anita, Jason and TWO weretigers (seems she needs them in more than one color) proceed to lose themselves in two solid days of mindless (literally) ardeur and Marmee Noir driven sex (no, we don’t read all the details of what happens during those two days).

Then, after regaining a few of the memories that Marmee took away from her during that time, Anita frantically tries to find the charm so she can be protected again. Um… the charm didn’t work, remember? Marmee made Anita take it off, so it doesn’t make sense that she would feel protected with it back on.

It’s kind of interesting to learn about the weretigers. For instance, you know how Anita has those metaphysical emergencies where she has to give her beast to someone? Turns out that female weretigers also do that so they can carry a baby to term. But I have to admit that Anita becoming a queen to yet another weregroup is getting a bit… excessive.

The Marmee Noir sexathon also severs the ties between Anita, Jean Claude, and Richard. Presumably it leaves her tri with Nathaniel and Damion untouched since no one mentions them dying. Evidently JC’s marks are wiped out and Anita gets Marmee Noir’s marks 1 and 2 instead. Or not. Because Anita DOES link up with JC and Richard again after she feeds on Richard. So, really, either Marmee did NOT give Anita the marks, just overrode JC’s marks 1-3. Or she DID give Anita the marks, but somehow did not get rid of JC’s marks 1-3. I dunno. I was hoping JC would explain it.

Oh, and Richard-- I’m not sure how I feel about all this. Richard shows up to find out why the link between the triumvirate has been severed. Of course, he’s his usual pissed-off self, but they’ve finally figured out that Richard is angry all the time because the marks gave him Anita’s anger just like she carries JC’s ardeur. So, another metaphysical emergency blows through and Anita, who fed the ardeur through Love in The Harlequin, now discovers that it (the ardeur) has evolved and she is also able to feed from Anger. Specifically, Richard’s Anger, or rather, she is able to take back all of HER anger.

Let me repeat that-- Anita has taken back her anger from Richard. And what we find is that the Anger that was so strong in Richard was overpowering the ardeur that Richard had inherited from Jean Claude!! Yep, you read that right—Richard has his very own ardeur!

Could this be the pivotal moment in the series? The logical resolution to Anita’s ardeur that LKH said would happen? Anita knows how to control Anger because she’s lived with it all her life. So, if that Anger overpowered the ardeur in Richard, shouldn’t that mean that, through controlling the anger, Anita will now have control over the ardeur?

And Richard with the ardeur riding him? Well, it turns out HIS ardeur is closer to Auggie’s in that it rolls Anita with more Love than Lust. ::shrugs:: Could be… interesting… eventually. But it was kind of “I love, Love, LOVE you” sappy in this book.

But here’s why I hesitate to get too excited about all these developments. The end of The Harlequin was a MONUMENTAL moment for Richard—he confessed that he thought Anita and JC were evil and then ran away and left their asses hanging out to face-off with the enemies. This was a HUGE moment- I actually gasped out loud when it happened! But it’s not mentioned in BN. Whatever came AFTER that is not mentioned in BN. Everything is same-old same-old between JC, Anita and Richard when he appears in BN to save her ass. Where’s the fallout from The Harlequin? This was just too important to ignore!

But wait… there’s one final random metaphysical development… Are you ready?
Somewhere during the Marmee Noir induced sex binge, Jason became Anita’s animal to call. Seriously. They can read each other’s thoughts and everything. How? Dunno… since the sexathon is pretty much a big blank to them (and us), I guess no explanations needed to be created at this time.

So that was pages 197-309. Now let’s move on to part 3. Throughout pages 1-196, Jason kept being mistaken for one of the governor’s sons. This is the week before one of the son’s wedding and all the prenuptial activities are taking place in the same hotel that Jason and Anita are staying in. Turns out that, even back in high school, the three boys were nearly identical. Although, actually, other than Jason's sisters, EVERYONE born in Ashville eerily resembles each other.

Jason has to constantly show his ID to prove he’s NOT the governor’s son. At an impromptu press conference where he tries to clear up the confusion, Anita is recognized as JC’s girlfriend and Jason as Ripley, the stripper. The tabloid press makes a HUGE assumption on national TV that the girlfriend of the Master of St. Louis has left him to run off and elope with one of his strippers.

Which brings us to page 309-- Anita and Jason are drugged and kidnapped. Anita wakes up to hear Jason being tortured. But the bad boys have underestimated her by assuming she’s not dangerous and they’ve left her tied up in a bathroom... where there are scissors and throwable chemicals. She escapes, grabs a gun and kills them.

Turns out the governor’s son has eloped with the wife of another master of a city and that master doesn’t believe that Jason isn’t the governor’s son and Anita isn’t his wife, or maybe he believed the governor’s son had already dumped his wife and was with Anita now but knows where his wife is, or… uh… shoot, I don’t quite know WHAT the reasoning was, just that it didn’t make sense. So he sent his henchman after them.

But now they are dead, Federal Marshal Anita Blake has been stripped of her weapons while the other Federal Marshals conduct an investigation, and eventually the other master of the city, minus his wife who really DID marry the governor’s son, mysteriously disappears.

And that’s a wrap.

Bottom Line: I think Blood Noir should have been a novel-lite like Micah was. I wouldn't have had a problem with a novel-lite, especially if the conversation had been tightened up and the menace and metaphysical elements were introduced earlier in the book. As published, those elements did not feel integrated into a cohesive story.

So how does a fangirl defend this book? No disrespect intended, but honestly, I can’t. It wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t a Laurell K. Hamilton book. I can only hope that it is an aberration and that LKH’s next ABVH book will be co-authored by her infamous Muse rather than Word’s page count.

And now, I’m off to read other reviews for Blood Noir. I’ve avoided nearly all of them so they wouldn’t color my own opinion. But now I’m hoping someone will point out something I missed or will give me a new way of looking at certain scenes.
Piquant Opines: RT, Darque Reviews, Graeme's, A&F, BlogCritics: ABVH series and Blood Noir review

Have you read this book? Feel free to review or link to a review in the comments. Even if you don't agree!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

I Am a Paragon of Virtue

Yep, I've decided to cut back on book buying *GASP* until I get through some of my TBR. I had planned on continuing to buy the books I had the most booklust for, the ones I KNEW I would read ASAP, but tonight, before I ever left for Waldens, I decided to buy only ONE of the new releases.

I KNOW.... that's CRAZY TALK, isn't it?!

But, for some reason, I could not find one single Borders coupon that is valid right now. NOT ONE! Wut up wit dat?! Those coupons are the only way I can convince my frugal side (Yes, I DO SO have one!) that it's perfectly okay to buy from Borders/Waldens instead of ordering from Amazon (hush... it's MY delusion). And I knew I had a $5.00 Borders Reward that wouldn't kick in until next week, so I chose to exercise restraint and NOT BUY ALL THE BOOKS I MOST LUSTED AFTER!!

OMFG!! My mind... it is... altering... Be afraid... be very afraid.

Blood Noir Book CoverSo, since Laurell K. Hamilton's Blood Noir was calling my name AND, as a new hardcover release, it was 30% off list, that is the ONLY new release I bought.

Cover of Night Book Cover Okay, they had the hardcover of Linda Howard's Cover of Night and Elizabeth Lowell's Innocent as Sin on clearance for $4.99 each. So I bought those. But both those authors have standing spots on my wait-for-clearance list and third tier TBR, so they don't actually count towards breaking my vow. I mean, if I didn't buy them tonight on clearance, then if/when I bought the paperbacks later, it would actually cost me MORE.Innocent as Sin Book Cover

So, not only am I virtuous, but also thrifty, flexible, and clearly of high intelligence. Right?

Friday, May 23, 2008

Hotter After Midnight by Cynthia Eden

Hotter After MidnightHotter After Midnight by Cynthia Eden
Kensington Brava May 2008

Category: Peanut M&Ms - mmmm...devour... sigh... then reach for the next one. My daily dose of Insanity-B-Gone. (A-,B+,B)
Flame Height: 6.8" out of 9"

I’m still heavily lost in my TBR, but I wanted to pop my head out to give some career advice to Cynthia Eden and the folks at Kensington Brava. Cuz, you know, they really need it. hee.

Do you REALIZE what you have in Dr. Emily Drake and Detective Colin Gyth? DO YOU? You’ve got the paranormal equivalent of Catherine Coulter’s Savich and Sherlock (FBI series), or a romantic Men in Black, or current day Eve Dallas and Roarke (okay, I’ve only read the first of J.D. Robb’s In Death books, so I’m not sure if that comparison is right)... only with way hotter scenes than ANY of them.

Follow me on this, okay? Here’s two people who lived their lives feeling like outsiders from the human race—Emily because she could sense The Others and Colin because he didn’t know he WAS an Other (he was orphaned as a toddler).

At age seven, Emily discovers her father’s body after he blows his head off, then her mother throws her into a mental institution because, being a child, she doesn’t know to keep quiet whenever she sees or senses an Other. Now a successful psychologist with a patient roster of Others (fun concept, fun scenes), she finds that she STILL needs to keep her abilities hidden.

Raised in several foster homes after his parents’ death, not knowing what he was, not even knowing The Others existed, Colin experiences his first shift at puberty and spends much of his life feeling like a freak, forced to hide and control his animal side. Even later, after he began to sense that he wasn’t the only Shifter, he never knew about vampires, charmers, demons, etc. His own partner tried to kill him when he found out what he was!

Set up for some heavy, angsty, get-over-yourself, intense drama, right? They’ll be healed by the Power of Lurve and live Happily Ever After, right? WRONG! They don’t need to heal. They both have it together. THAT was the hand they were dealt and THIS is who they are now in their separate successful lives. What they find with each other is the chance to be themselves, to be loved and trusted because of, and in spite of, who and what they are. But they WORK toward that trust as they work together solving a series of preternatural murders.

Now, don’t get me wrong, the book’s not perfect. Eden fell back on the heap big macho wolf finds his mate in the teeny, tiny spitfire of a woman cliché. WHY-O-WHY are all heroines 5’1 and all heroes over 6’? Huh? What’s up with that, anyhow? Do you know how freaking awkward swapping spit and/or bumping uglies up against the wall would REALLY be? What’s wrong with a nice average size 5’5 or 5’6 heroine? We can be feminine too, ya know! Er... never mind... just needed to get that general rant out... back to THIS book.

The climactic scene confronting the villain was a bit of a let down—WHY’d he do it? Well, it kind of amounts to... “Because He Could.”. Acceptable, yes, but I would have preferred something more.

Despite those two quibbles, the second I shut this book, I immediately could see Emily and Colin in a series of books solving preternatural crimes. The books could stay centered on the current characters or even have new central characters, but like Coulter’s Savich and Sherlock, Emily and Colin are called in to assist in solving some crime involving The Others. Their sidekicks are even already in place-- McNeal, Colin’s boss; Dr. Smith, the coroner; and Brooks, Colin’s partner. Hell, I could even see this as a TV show.

We learn just enough about Colin and Emily in this book to want to see them work together again. But we aren’t subjected to the angst of them working through an overabundance of personal drama. We know who they are and we LIKE them together. This kind of bottled lightning doesn’t strike too often. I suspect it’s the kind of magic that an author couldn’t deliberately set out to catch.

So Cynthia? Brava? The characters are right there, already in place, just waiting for the call telling them they’ve got another Others mystery to solve.
Piquant Opines: RT, RJ,

Watch the video trailor.

Have you read this book? Feel free to review or link to a review in the comments. Even if you don't agree!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Truth, Justice, and the American Way...

...have prevailed against the overwhelming forces of 13 year old girls armed with cell phone superpowers!! BY 12 MILLION VOTES! Er... um... that DOES mean that I am not the only adult that voted a buttload of times last night just to try and counteract their world-domination plans, right?

The better man (by far) WON!! WOOT!


Congratulations David Cook!!

And let me just add that his unbelievable voice made what could have been a cheesy, sappy winning song tonight sound pretty damn GOOOOD!

Yeah, yeah, I DO feel a wee bit sorry for Archie boy, but as I said over at Jaci's today, I'm just not into the high-pitched singing voices. I prefer deep and rough. Photobucket

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Jumping the TMI Shark...

Humorous Pictures
more cat pictures

Anyone who has spent any time at all visiting this blog knows what a Laurell K. Hamilton fangirl I am. Hell, take a peek at my index and you'll see that, even if I'm not always enamored of every thing she writes in her books, I still can't wait for each new release so I can revisit the characters that have nearly become living, breathing people to me.

In addition to her books, I've found Laurell and her husband, Jon, to be interesting, intelligent people. I also feel strongly that opinions about an author's books may be spoken freely (good, bad, and everything in between), but that speculation about an author's personal life should be off-limits.

But sometimes, the infamous LKH Blogs have my jaw dropping and my head shaking while thinking, "Oh, Laurell... what have you done NOW?!"

The past couple of weeks, Laurell has been sharing details about her sex life. Now, granted most of it is probably no more than I would joke around about right here on my own blog. I've mentioned playdates with my husband too. But it is the cumulative effect of her sharing over this condensed time period that had my TMI alarms going off, culminating in today's full-out 4 alarm TMI alert. Thus the title of this post.

LKH Blog- Sunday April 27, 2008

More irony; two of my male friends that are straight and one of female friends that is gay all have absolutely no gag reflex. Now how unfair is that? The rest of us that could use this talent must struggle on, and learn to work around our deficiencies.
Now, if I could just figure out a polite way to ask my three friends with no gag reflex what little misery they've got instead, I'd really know if the universe was fair. But some questions are not meant to be asked even between close friends. Not unless liquor is involved, and alas, I do not drink.
[uh... if you already know that much detail, I'd say you might as well go for it. And... uh... do we really need to know that you're working on your gag reflex deficiencies? ]

LKH Blog- Friday, May 2, 2008
Solo Drive [deals with driving her car, a Foose Mustang, by herself... FINALLY.]

...It was very cool that I did it on Beltane, which is sort of the Wiccan version of Valentine's Day, but not. It's more about fertility than romance, but the two aren't mutual exclusive, as all those babies prove. Beltane is a major holiday for us, and a time for celebrating the return of the sun, the warmth, and life. It's been a long winter, and now we celebrate.

Well, Jon and I celebrated more traditionally later that night. (It was a kid free evening.)

LKH Blog- Sunday, May 4, 2008
A Weekend Off

Saturday night was serious date night and grown-up time. I'd tell you what we did, but then I'd have to kill you. Your clearance is not high enough, yet.

[As you will soon see, we evidently were promoted because we now have DefCon 4 clearance.]

LKH Blog- Monday, May 5, 2008
Domestically Challenged

But it is one of those days when I think longingly of having one extra more practical person in the house, but let’s face it, even if Jon and I could find a third adult that we wanted to cohabitate with, we’d never be attracted to someone organized and practical. When we were both dating, our choices ran high to artist, techies, writers, and scientiests. None of these jobs, or degrees are likely to net you an organized mate.
[Not the first time she's brought up their little quest for a third (she even detailed it in a newsletter), and frankly, her growing obsession/affection/devotion/awe for her skanky bodyguard, Charles, is coming off like she's got a crush on him and she wouldn't mind if he accepted the position (hee). I'd quote pertinent blog entries but really, nary a day goes by that she doesn't mention him and his god-like expertice in all things macho *gag*]

Humorous Pictures
more cat pictures

And now we don our water skis and prepare to become airborne. Yes, it is now time for the ski boat to leave the dock and head out towards our destiny-- jumping the shark.

LKH Blog- Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Mother's day Part 2

I think we'll make a movie and dinner out a Mother's Day tradition for the kid part. Uncle Richard went home, and once the kid was in bed, then Jon and I had more grown-up plans. I'm sorry, it's my holiday, I may not have known what I wanted him to buy me from a store, but I knew exactly what I wanted to do with him afterwards. I may not be easy to buy for, but I'm easy to please, okay, scratch that. I'm not, but I do try to make it worth the effort. I'm all about rewarding for good behavior.

LKH Blog- Sunday, May 18, 2008
Weekend So Far

But on the plus side for a grown-up weekend, we did manage to have some fun. Let’s just say that if you want a whole bunch of unscented candles I recommend Target. Yes, Target. Everyone else has scented candles galore, but if you’re trying to fill the bedroom with light, and you know you’ll be using other scented products, you don’t want the candle scents fighting with the oil fragrances.

What fragrant oils? Well, actually, technically they were candles, too. Ember Massage Candles from JimmyJane, are nicely scented, not too strong a scent which is my complaint for a lot of things, just enough fragrance. But unlike regular candles (okay regular candles do not work for pouring on your lover, because most of the wax gets too damn hot. Pour only from eight to nine inches, or more from the body, and even then, it can be too hot. I recommend you get candles designed with this activity in mind, for safety and sanity.) So, unlike regular candles these turn to massage oil when they’ve burned for awhile. There’s a set of instructions with them that you actually should read before use. Because, these do get hot, too. They have this little wand thing with the candles so you can paint on the wax/oil. I didn’t think the wand would be that tantalizing, but it was a big hit. Jon loved it. Oh, and like any good dominant, I tried the wax on my body before trying it on Jon’s. Especially important if it’s going anywhere delicate. Safety first. Nothing ruins a great romantic scene like your lover going, "AAARGH! Get it off! It burns!" Not to mention that the emergency room trip is very embarrassing when trying to explain to the staff how it happened. Of course, they’ve seen and heard it all, but still you don’t want to add to their amusing stories.

But last night worked out just right, everything was just hot enough, and who doesn’t like an erotic hot oil massage from their sweetie? So, in among all the hair-pulling work yesterday, I managed to drive the Foose, and drive the man in my life to warm, satisfied distraction. A very good day.

Brain ScrubGAK!! Good Gravy, woman! WHAT were you THINKIN?! Someone pass the Brain Brillo!

I dunno, maybe it's just my delicate sensibilities, but that is the very definition of Jumping the TMI Shark! Look, it probably sounds odd that, for a woman who reads so many erotic romances, I happen to think that what happens in the real life marriage bed is sacred and not to be shared with others except in the most general terms... particularly by such a public figure in such a public place!

I just don't understand what is up with her lately. In addition to these sex life TMI nuggets, it seems to me that many of LKH's blog entries have became filled with more and more advice, pronouncements, and lectures from on high. I don't know if she even realizes how pompous she's been sounding lately, which she alternates with dark moods. It's like she's losing any connection with reality or common sense, and her spelling is deteriorating.

Menopause? Bipolar disorder? Wrong meds? Too isolated? Part of me wants to throw my hands up and say that I'm evidently FINALLY comprehending what all the blog floggers have been nattering about for years. But part of me recognizes that it's escalating and I wish Laurell could step back and see it too.

Or maybe I'm the only one uncomfortable with the sharing of real life intimate details. *shrugs*

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Remodeling with a Blindfold On...


Okay, I've been making changes to the sidebars, but I only can see the changes in IE7. Since a horizontal scrollbar has now appeared across the very bottom of the blog, I strongly suspect that my side bars are looking wonky in Firefox and/or IE6.

So, before I go any farther, COULD SOMEONE WHO IS USING FIREFOX AND/OR IE6 TELL ME IF YOU SEE ANYTHING WONKY- particularly with the 1 and/or 2 sidebars? PLEASEPLEASEPLEASE! Up to this point, everything I've done can be reversed with very little work. So I don't want do the additional PITA stuff till I know I'm on the right track.

Now let me tell you what I did and where I learned how to do it.

1. I replaced my "Labels" widget with an HTML coded scroll box- Sweet Specialties and Flavours of Love. If you are adding/changing labels often, this method would be a royal PITA, but since my labels are now pretty much stable, it was a one time shot. Once again Peter Chen and his amazing Blogger Tips and Tricks site made it easy as can be. I also found instructions at a few sites for putting the Labels Widget into a drop-down box, but since that meant screwing around with the template, it was a no-brainer to use the scroll box instead. I think I'm also going to put my Soon to be Savored (TBR list) in a scroll box even though it will be a bit of a PITA to change all the time.

2. Thanks to Blogger in Draft (beta for upcoming Blogger changes) and akOOgle (step by step instructions), I've replaced part of my blogroll (Sweet "n Sour Favorites), with feeds DIRECTLY FROM GOOGLE READER into Today's Chocolate Fondue Specials!! Once I organized things into folders in Google Reader (which I recently started using and don't know how I lived without it), creating the gadget (previously known as widgets) in Blogger was soooo EASY! This is a fantastic new feature, and hopefully they'll get the update lag times worked out! I first saw this new gadget on Shannon's blog and decided I just HAD to have it- no more adding blogs to both my blogroll here AND to Google Reader! Well, okay, I still have to add them here, but it's just a matter of checking off a box in the new gadget.

3. I broke up my Constant Cravings (upcoming releases) into two sections- Insatiable Lusts (upcoming crazed-with-booklust must-buys) and Constant Cravings (wish list). This way I can still keep track of books that I might not need to buy right away but will want to read eventually. However they now won't interfere with my top tier book lists, and I just might be able to keep my TBR list from growing so fast.

4. Cleaned up the table elements I use in the top right section; Mostly centered them; Streamlined subscriptions URLS for Posts and Comments; Added my Amazon associates button; and I have a space reserved for my upcoming Smart Bitches title which I totally earned by FINALLY being the first one to name a book in a HaBo! Can I just say that this just makes me unnaturally happy and proud of myself? hee

5. I also did some miscellaneous work on the pics in the sidebar. Got rid of the Picture Widgets and instead added HTML Widgets using the picture URLs so I could center and resize them easier. This also meant that the very last picture could now include its original animation. YUM!

Hopefully I didn't do too bad for someone with trial and error HTML skills! Feel free to offer critique/suggestions anytime. Mind you, I can't promise I'll always use your advice because I might have a specific reason for doing something the way I did it.

B&N Web Video Series

From Barnes & Noble STUDIO... Cover Story

Books as seen through the eyes of those who design them.

Have you ever wondered if the stories behind books' covers might be as interesting as the stories between them? If so, welcome to Cover Story. In this original mini-documentary series, we introduce you to the creative people who design and illustrate the books we love. From children's tales to science fiction and beyond, every cover tells a story.

This week...

John Gall, Vintage & Anchor Books
Catch John's five rules of good book cover design. No. 1 is easy: Read the book!

Coming soon...

Stephen Youll, Science Fiction Illustrator
A visit with the creator of some of the best-known illustrations of far-out worlds.

Judy York, Romance & Fantasy Illustrator
Meet the artist behind the some of today's steamiest covers.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

This Just In...

...from the Jeff Files. Yes, it's another of my brother-in-law's endlessly forwarded emails.

This will either blow your mind or open your eyes...

Dubai , United Arab Emirates:

During the construction phase......

All finished. Notice the size of the palm trees outside to gain some perspective of the massive scale of this engineering marvel......

Did you guess what it is yet?

Remember, this is in the middle of the desert....

The very HOT desert where temperatures get up to 140 degrees.....

Unbelievable! But true.....

It is a self contained Ski Resort... The INSIDE views:



Why is gasoline hitting $4.00 a gallon for regular unleaded?

So they can ski in the desert, that's why!

Are we stupid or what!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

ssshhhh... Reading in Progress

more cat pictures

I've been joyfully immersing myself in my TBR like an alcoholic on a binge. It's just been way too long since I've done this.

And check this out...

I christened it "The TBR Chair". Hmmm... I wonder if my hubby would mind if I got one and put it in our bedroom.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Aural Pleasures: Personal Demon by Kelley Armstrong

Book CoverPersonal Demon, Women of the Otherworld 8, by Kelley Armstrong
Narrators: Laural Merlington and Todd McLaren

Watch the book trailor.

1. Bitten (narrator: Elena)
2. Stolen (narrator: Elena)
3. Dime Store Magic (narrator: Paige)
4. Industrial Magic (narrator: Paige)
5. Haunted (narrator: Eve)
a. Chaotic - in Dates from Hell anthology (narrator: Hope)
7. Broken (narrator: Elena)
8. No Humans Involved (narrator: Jaime)
b. Twilight - in Many Bloody Returns anthology, (narrator: Cassandra)
c. Stalked - in My Big Fat Supernatural Honeymoon anthology, (narrator: Clay)
8. Personal Demon (narrators: Hope & Lucas)

Category: Peanut M&Ms - mmmm...devour... sigh... then reach for the next one. My daily dose of Insanity-B-Gone. (A-,B+,B)
Flame Height: 4” out of 9”

Half-demon tabloid reporter Hope Adams has a secret. Like full demons, she loves chaos. She thrives on it. She needs it.
Most of the time, Hope feeds the hunger by helping the interracial council. But it's never enough. So when Benicio Cortez offers her a job infiltrating a gang of young supernaturals, she thinks she's found the perfect solution. Instead, she finds a tinderbox of greed, desire and ambition. And when it ignites, a world is going to explode.

Personal Demon centers on Hope, who is half demon and half human. But it is also a continuation of Lucas and Paige’s story, both of whom we’ve met in more than one book. Todd McLaren narrates the chapters focused on their story and told through Lucas’ POV.

First of all, my biggest problem with this audio book isn’t even anyone’s fault. I am SUCH a fan of Laurell K. Hamilton’s Merry Gentry series, which is also narrated by Laural Merlington, that it was difficult to listen to this audio book without hearing Merry’s voice instead of Hope’s. Fortunately, the story was engaging enough that I just gave myself occasional mental slaps to let go of Merry while I was listening. The biggest distraction was that Merlington uses the same vocal inflections for Hope’s hot-and-bothered voice that she does for Merry’s do-me-now voice and it would take me right out of the story! Again, not Merlington’s fault AT ALL, it’s HER VOICE, after all, not much she can do about it, is there?

As for Todd McLaren, who really didn’t get nearly enough “ear time”, I REALLY liked his narration voice AND his character voices. I hope I run into one of his books again.

While I liked the overall plotlines in Personal Demon, in fact I think the story was engrossing, the fact is that I just don’t find Hope all that interesting. I knew we had met her in an earlier book because I had a vague memory of her, but when I looked at Armstrong’s backlist and saw which previous story was told from Hope’s POV (Chaotic - in the Dates from Hell anthology), I realized that I had absolutely no recall of what it was about. I don’t DISlike her, but she’s just too forgettable to serve as a main character. I found my mind drifting off when she wasn’t interacting with the other characters.

The saving grace in this book, besides the overall storyline, was that a nice portion of the book is devoted to Lucas, his family, and the Cortez Cabal. VERY interesting developments there and I’m not breathing a word about them except to say that we should expect some future book(s) to tell more of their story.

Bottom line: Entertaining audio book and, while the series doesn’t have my booklust bubbling over, it’s still definitely interesting enough to remain on my auto-buy list.
Piquant Opines (print format): RT, LV, Dark Angel

Have you read this book? Feel free to review or link to a review in the comments. Even if you don't agree!

Monday, May 5, 2008

NOW I get it... or not

PhotobucketFound among the bazillion emails my brother-in-law, Jeff, has forwarded to me, is this latest keeper for the Jeff Files. This one's about a subject that just irks the piss outta me.

NOW it all makes sense, doesn't it?

This is a great explanation of the tax rebate program recently enacted by Congress. If you don't understand how it will work maybe this explanation will help:

50,000 people went to a baseball game, but the game was rained out. A refund was then due to the ticket holders.

The team was about to mail refunds when a group of Congressional Democrats stopped them and suggested that they send out the ticket refunds based on the Democrat National Committee's interpretation of fairness.

Originally the refunds were to be paid based on the price each person had paid for the tickets. Unfortunately, that meant most of the refund money would be going to the ticket holders that had purchased the most expensive tickets. This, according to the DNC, is considered totally unfair. A decision was then made to pay out the refunds in this manner:

People in the $10 seats will get back $15. After all, they have less money to spend on tickets to begin with. Call it an "Earned Income Ticket Credit." Persons 'earn' it by having few skills, poor work habits, and low ambition, thus keeping them at entry-level wages.

People in the $25 seats will get back $25, because it "seems fair."

People in the $50 seats will get back $1, because they already make a lot of money and don't need a refund. After all, if they can afford a $50 ticket, they must not be paying enough taxes.

People in the $75 luxury box seats will each have to pay an additional $25 because it's the "right thing to do".

People walking past the stadium that couldn't afford to buy a ticket for the game each will get a $10 refund, even though they didn't pay anything for the tickets. They need the most help. They are either lazy or think that society owes them for just being born.

Now do you understand?

If not, contact Representative Nancy Pelosi, Senator Ted Kennedy, Senator Hillary Clinton or Senator Barak Obama for assistance.

Oh and this next pic? Has nothing to do with anything. I just laughed like a loon when I saw it.

humorous pictures
more cat pictures

Friday, May 2, 2008

She Shoots... She SCORES!

YES! Barnes & Noble comes through for me again. This one isn't due to release until May 20th but it is on its way to me NOW!!!

You KNOW I've been suffering Phil Gigante withdrawals. Oh, don't get me wrong, right now I'm listening to Laural Merlington and Todd McLaren's narration of Personal Demon, Women of the Underworld, book 8 by Kelley Armstrong and it's VERY enjoyable, but it's not Phil and the Highlanders. (hee, sounds like an old rock and roll group)

The Immortal Highlander is that naughty fey, Adam's story. You know, the book where Drustan and Daegus also appear... a.k.a. the "Death by Eargasm" audio book.

Book Cover

Sum Peepul Maek Me LOL

humorous pictures
see more crazy cat pics

Obseshuns maek sum peepul bug fukun nuts

Dey sounds liek crazy screech monkee

Speshly wen dey acks soooo stoopid

Dey shows Dey noes nuffin bout nuffin.

U lern 2 read den u noes more

Otherwise u just proov u r asswipe

Wif serious obseshun

But thnx for best laff I hav all week

Srsly... I LOL'd... at ur expense

WAET WAET! Deez bettr. Dey maek me LOL evn moor. Ur obseshun R FUNNAH:

It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.
Mark Twain

There is nothing worse than aggressive stupidity.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749 - 1832)

It is better to confess ignorance than provide it.
Homer Hickam, The Coalwood Way

Better be ignorant of a matter than half know it.
Publilius Syrus (~100 BC), Maxims

Strange as it seems, no amount of learning can cure stupidity, and higher education positively fortifies it.
Stephen Vizinczey, An Innocent Millionaire

It is impossible to defeat an ignorant man in argument.
William G. McAdoo (1863 - 1941)

Talk sense to a fool and he calls you foolish.
Euripides (484 BC - 406 BC), The Bacchae, circa 407 B.C.

Never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity.
Unknown, Hanlon's Razor

Artificial Intelligence is no match for natural stupidity.