Anita Blake: part 2

Are you following our vampire series??  What’s up next – a continuation of our Anita Blake discussion!

9780515134506_p0_v1_s114x166As I said before there are twenty books in the Anita Blake series and that that requires two posts, however that’s not the only reason.  In book nine (The Obsidian Butterfly) Narcissus in Chains Anita, who is now bound to Jean-Claude through vampire marks, acquires his ardeur a cross between an illness and a hunger.  The problem this hunger is for sex, a lot of sex, a lot of the time.  See this change the books severely, so severely that many readers quit reading at this point.  Anita fights with everything she can to not sleep with anyone and everyone but that leads to consequences.  In much the same way that Jean-Claude has bound her to him, Anita has bound the vampire Damian to herself.  If she doesn’t feed the ardeur he begins to weaken and die as does Nathaniel and young were-panther that she has taken on as her responsibility since she is the one that killed the head of the panther pard and has also tied to herself.

This leads to the next five or six books reading much as erotica, which is just one reason I never read the 50 Shades of Gray series, I didn’t need to I had Anita and her many men.

While many readers left the series at this point, some did pick up again several books later when the sex dropped off and the crime-solving picked up again.  The problem is they missed some great plots in the meantime.  In those middle, sex-filled books, we meet oh so many vampires including those of the Vampire Council and their protectors.  They also miss her becoming a Federal Agent, a pregnancy scare, a fall out with her best friend Ronnie, the beginning of the Coalition for Better Understanding Between Human and Lycanthrope Communities, the coming and going of Richard several times, ok maybe that’s a good thing to miss because he is just plain annoying.

9780425255704_p0_v1_s260x420Some people never come back and I think part of that has to do with Anita having multiple lovers in her life, a situation that works for her and her men though how I’m not sure. It usually makes me think of polygamist families and wondering how they manage it, all I know is for some it does work and it is not for me to question how or why others’ relationships work so I’m not going to, I’m just going to keep enjoying Anita’s bad-assery (ok probably made up that word but hey it works) the admiration she gets from various SWAT teams across the country while the regular cops hate her for oh so many reasons.

And while I’m waiting for the next Anita Blake book I’ll get to enjoy the newest book in her Merry Gentry series, which I just might write a post about later.

Check out Anita, I think you’ll like it, and don’t let the sex put you off, as a matter of fact if you’re a fan of 50 Shades it might be just one more reason for you to check out Laurell K Hamilton’s books!

Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter

There are twenty books in the Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series by Laurell K. Hamilton, and that definitely requires two posts.  This is by far my favorite vampire series, to the point that I own almost all of the books and am working on getting the rest as they come out in paperback.  Anita is the main reason why.  She is a giant bad ass in a petite package.  Anita’s “day” job as an animator (zombie raiser) combined with her side jobs of helping the police solve crimes involving the preternatural and vampire hunting can get her into some very dangerous situations but as scared as she may be she never gives in to the fear, at least not until after and not until late in the series.

9780425197547_p0_v1_s260x420Anita is in her mid-twenties when the series starts and over the course of the books (twenty in twenty years) she ages into her thirties.  The first eight books of the series see Anita battle a variety of monsters, help solve preternatural murders, meet a variety of weres and vampires.  She becomes friends with vampires, something she thought she would never do.  She is conflicted in her love life having to try to make a decision between Richard a werewolf, and Jean-Claude a vampire, because she is a one-man woman.  If that sounds familiar please remember that this was written way before that teen series that I’ll write about at a later date.

The first book opens with Anita in her office at Animator’s Inc, meeting with a vampire that she knew in life before he was turned.  As at this point she finds all vampires evil, this makes her rather uncomfortable.  The Master of the City wants her to help solve a murder case, and not just any murder, case but the murder of vampires.

In Anita’s world, vampires came out of the closet about two years ago, again this probably sounds familiar but again this was written first.  Hmm I sound a bit defensive of this series don’t I?  Yes Anita was written first, a decade before Sookie, and the authors appreciate each other and each other’s books so I just need to relax.

Anita meets the Master of the City after being set up by the friend of a friend.  It all starts at a bachelorette party at Guilty Pleasures a vampire and were strip club.  Yes you can go down to the “District” better known in our world as the Landing in St. Louis.  Yes this book and many of the others take place in St. Louis, as that’s where LKH lives.  Being a native St. Louisan I love this, it’s so cool to read a book and know exactly where it’s taking place, for me it just increases my pleasure in reading.

Ok back on track, in this first book we meet two of Anita’s best friends who help her, Ronnie and private investigator and Edward a bounty hunter.  That’s just the beginning of a very interesting cast of characters that just grows and grows until LKH herself admits in posts on Facebook that she has to reread to keep track of them (as she also has to do with her Merry Gentry series).

More upcoming later this week about other books in this series, and my review of Dr. Sleep!!

A new kids genre

As the holidays rapidly approach, I’m sure there will be a slew of new recipes books released just in time for holiday baking, and gift giving.  What I’ve noticed recently is something a little different – some of the most famous chefs have been working on children’s books instead.  I normally spend more time reading to my daughter, who just turned three last week, than I do reading by myself.  While browsing through the children’s section at Barnes and Noble lately I’ve noticed a few familiar names.

9780062047564_p0_v2_s260x420Tyler Florence, of Food Network fame, is the author of several recipe books.  He also recently has written a couple of children’s books, focusing on a child’s love of food.  The main character of these books is of course a little boy named Tyler.  Tyler Makes Pancakes! was released in the spring of last year, and the success of that book was followed up this past April with Tyler Makes Spaghetti!.  Both books are aimed at the 4-8 age reading group.  I consider myself to be relatively well-read in this age group and genre, but I have to say I wasn’t that impressed with these two books.  I understand that art is subjective, and that artwork in children’s books can range from what seem like basic illustrations and characters to something incredibly detailed, crafted, and beautiful.  I understand that artwork on both ends of this spectrum can be enjoyable, but the main character Tyler is a stick figure, though many of the other characters aren’t.  The stories are kind of cute, and if you have a young aspiring chef in your family, these books may be just the thing!

9780448478531_p0_v1_s260x420One of my favorite celebrity chefs, Giada de Laurentis, has also been busy lately, working on a children’s series.  This series focuses on a love of food, and also includes elements of language and culture.  This series, titled Recipe for Adventure, is for the 7-11 age group.  These are chapter books, each one featuring a different city.  The first two in this series take place in Naples and Paris.  I recently finished reading Naples!, which was an adventure undertaken by a brother and sister – in search of a connection to their Italian heritage, and real food, centering on a pizza competition.  This book was fun, and will be enjoyed by those who enjoy a good adventure, and pizza!

“Alfie never knew something as simple as making pizza could become such an adventure – not to mention so cutthroat.  But as he guessed, if you were going to be competitive about a particular food, pizza might as well be the one.  It was, after all, the best food in the whole world.”

9780061996559_p0_v1_s260x420Many people are familiar with The Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond.  She, too, has written a few recipe books, and now has children’s book author to add to her resume.  My daughter and I found Charlie the Ranch Dog at the bookstore and were instantly in love!  Charlie is a Bassett Hound.  And like most Bassett Hounds, he’s a bit lazy, has droopy ears, and sleeps a majority of the day.  Charlie’s “work” on the farm is comedic, as his friend Rosie, a Jack Russell Terrier, does most of the important stuff.  Charlie is adorable and lovable, and I just found out there will be more Charlie books to come!

One thing these authors have in common is their love of food.  One thing their books have in common is the recipes that are included in the books.  I can’t wait to try Zia’s Zeppoles that are featured at the end of Naples!

Sookie Stackhouse

Let’s talk Southern Vampires, as in the world of Sookie Stackhouse written by Ms. Charlaine Harris.  I didn’t read any of the Sookie books until this past summer, just couldn’t find time in between the other series I was reading.  The advantage being I was able to read the entire series one book after the other, no waiting for the next one to come out.

9780441008537_p0_v1_s260x420Sookie lives in a small town in Louisiana, the kind of small town where everyone knows everyone and everyone knows everything that happens with everyone, or so they think.  The whole town knows Sookie is strange, some of them even have some idea of why.  See Sookie can read minds.  In Sookie’s world, which is like most any vampire series almost a parallel universe to our current world, vampires exist and have recently come out of the closet so to speak.  The creation of a fake blood substitute that allows vampires to refrain from drinking human blood, unless there happens to be a willing donor nearby, gave them the freedom to come out of hiding.

Bill the vampire, which is what almost everyone in little Bon Temps, Louisiana calls him, strolls into the 9780441009237_p0_v1_s260x420bar where Sookie works one day and asks for a bottle of synthetic blood.  Sookie realizes quickly that he is blank to her, she can’t read his mind (hmmm sound familiar to anyone, yeah well this book was written first 😉 this intrigues Sookie.  She saves Bill’s life that same night, falls in love with him.

Unfortunately there are a few murders in Bon Temps, setting up quite the stir.  Vampire Bill and Sookie’s brother Jason are both suspects.  Throughout the first book we meet most of the town, and several of the “local” vampires.

As the series continues, Sookie goes from being a small town girl who has rarely dated anyone to a girl who dates vampires and various weres.  Oh yeah did I mention in Sookie’s world there are werewolves, weretigers, werefoxes and other animals as well as faeries; none of those groups are out of the closet.

9780425269510_p0_v1_s260x420The books are definitely enjoyable though there were times I was really annoyed by how things just seem to happen to Sookie or around her, it was all so coincidental.  My annoyance probably comes from my love of the Anita Blake books.

If you’ve only seen True Blood on tv, pick up the books and give them a go, very different!!  Charlaine Harris has written twelve books in the series, After Dead is going to be the last book in the series, and is set for release later this month.  It’ll be the perfect book for a Halloween read!

Before taking on the Sookie Stackhouse series, Harris had published several books, and had 3 other series of books.  One of those other series, the Lily Bard series, I may just tackle next!

Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a DAy

9780312362911_p0_v1_s260x420What I want to share with this blog is my love for books.  I love sharing books with friends, especially something I know they’ll enjoy.  I have some really great friends who often return the favor.  A couple of years ago a friend shared a really special book with me: Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois.  The title of this book is a little simplistic – and for good reason!  Can you really have homemade bread (that’s also worth the effort) in only 5 minutes?  I am a total carbaholic – so of course I had to test this “theory”…

I was so surprised and delighted by the result of my first attempt at this bread recipe!  It was similar

I made this myself!!

I made this myself!!

to the loaves I would routinely buy at Panera – which are increasingly more and more expensive!  This bread is warm and yeasty on the inside, crusty and slightly crunchy on the outside!  One other thing I love about using this recipe is the delicious smell of yeast that fills my house when the dough rises, and when the bread bakes.  I’m still completely amazed at this recipe’s simplicity and versatility.  Bringing bread to a dinner party?  Want to impress someone with your amazing baking skills?  Try this recipe out!  This is honestly the best recipe book I’ve ever had – and I use it regularly.

pre-risen dough

pre-risen dough

There is the basic recipe (that mixes in a large batch, which stays in the fridge until you’re ready to bake), and a few different varieties included that are just as delicious, and are suited to a variety of different meals, occassions, and skill level.  What’s the secret to amazing bread, baked at home, with minimal effort?  According to the Hertzberg and Francois method:  “Pre-mixed, pre-risen, high-moisture dough keeps well in the refrigerator.”  After mixing the dough (pictured at left), which can be easily done by hand or with a stand mixer, the dough rises in a container and be kept for up to two weeks in the refrigerator.  When you’re ready to bake, take what you need from the batch, and the rest stays in the fridge.

Ready for the oven!!

Ready for the oven!!

A few other points that are made, explaining why this recipe is so much easier than traditional methods of baking homemade bread.

1. You don’t need to make fresh dough every day to have fresh bread every day.

2. You don’t need a “sponge” or “starter”

3. It doesn’t matter how you mix the dry and wet ingredients together

Homemade bread in the Crock Pot - seriously!

Homemade bread in the Crock Pot!

4. You don’t need to ‘proof’ yeast

5. It isn’t kneaded

Equipment needed includes a baking stone, cookie sheets, bread knife, baking basics.  Other equipment is suggested, but not necessary.

The master recipe includes just a few basic ingredients: water, yeast, kosher salt, and flour.  With this basic recipe, there are many variations: crock pot, rolls, bread bowls, baguette, herb.  All of these varieties can be made with 1 batch!  On a recent batch I mixed up a couple of weeks ago I did a loaf in the oven, one in the crock pot, and even made rolls – which turned out amazing!IMG_1239

I’ve seen several variations of the basic recipe on Pinterest, but nothing that that includes the variations that are included in the book.  I know when it comes to holiday baking (that some people look forward to – and many people dread), this will be my go-to source.  Enjoy!

The Undead

On to a set of vampire books I have thoroughly enjoyed reading.  The Undead series by MaryJanice Davidson is just plain fun, though there is some seriousness thrown in.  There are 12 books in the series; and I’ll be honest I haven’t read the most recent book but it’s on my library hold list and I am eagerly awaiting its arrival.

The Undead Series is all about Betsy, a blonde former beauty queen administrative assistant, turned vampire totally 9780515151350_p0_v1_s114x166obsessed with shoes, really nice shoes, I mean really nice shoes like Louboutins.  Betsy is self-centered in the way that I think the general population imagines most beauty queens are.  Life is all about her, well most of the time.  Her worry about herself does extend to her best friends: Jessica the heiress who runs a non-profit, Marc the ER doctor she talked out of committing suicide, and as time passes some vampires too – including her super hot honey Sinclair.

In case you couldn’t tell this is not your average ordinary vampire series.  Betsy is turned not in the normal vampire sucking out your blood fashion but by a pack of fiends.  She wakes up in the funeral home in an ugly suit and shoes she would never wear.  It seems her stepmother, who puts Cinderella’s stepmother to shame, has taken all of Betsy’s clothes and shoes though none of them will fit her.  Betsy attempts to kill herself several times and when it doesn’t work she finally realizes she’s a vampire, oh yeah the bloodlust causing her to jump her detective friend/acquaintance and the visits from Sinclair and his assistant Tina probably helped too, then there’s the trip she is taken on to meet the local head of the vampires Nostro who looks like he walked right out of a 1950s vampire movie.

Betsy is not your typical vampire she can go days without drinking blood, instead subsisting on shakes and liquor, there is an alarming number of flavors of vodka listed in the series.  The author reassures us that some flavors are merely in her imagination while others are totally real.

As the series continues we meet the devil and her daughter, the werewolves of Wyndham (another of Davidson’s series), one of the fiends comes to live in the basement, and numerous vampire subjects come to pay their respects to the new queen.

9780515150919_p0_v1_s260x420Book 10 – Undead and Undermined takes a bit of a left turn in the series, ok more than a bit, a huge left turn, like at Albuquerque but it only makes the series more interesting.  I had to read that book and the next twice to make sure I was clear as to what was happening.

Undead is listed as a paranormal romance series but don’t let that turn you away – it is so much more than romance.  When it first came out I told another friend about it saying it was vampire chick lit, and for the most part I think that description holds true.

Just got the e-mail the new book is in, now to go get it. YAY!

The Silver Star

9780743247542_p0_v4_s260x420Jeanette Walls has experienced popularity and success based on The Glass Castlewhich was published in 2005.  This memoir of her nomadic, chaotic, and unusual upbringing has set records – remaining on the New York Times Bestseller List for months.  According to the Times, the book sold over four million copies!  I’m not normally a fan of memoirs, but based on this book’s popularity, I felt I had to check it out.  I absolutely loved it, and unlike any other book I’ve ever read, Castle made me re-examine my own life.  It was sincere, gritty, and also very heartfelt.  Her ability to connect to readers, and to tell her story of incredible success and survival of a difficult childhood proved why so many had connected to this book.  The details of her parents’ shortcomings – their inability to provide a stable home for their children, and primarily function as adults are expected, made me feel that I had grown up with the Cleaver family.

She followed up the success of this memoir with Half Broke Horses.  It was loosely based on her grandmother’s life, which was considered a work of fiction.  It was because of this that the book was not considered a true biography, because it had been constructed from her memory of her grandmother’s stories (which she admidtedly didn’t recall all the details, and in those instances filled in the blanks with her own fictional details).  Subtitled A True-Life NarrativeLily Casey Smith’s life story is told, against the backdrop of the developing west, and the Great Depression.  This too was an excellent read!

9781451661507_p0_v8_s260x420Her newest book, The Silver Star, is similar to her earlier works in that it follows the lives of two young sisters.  Bean and Liz are 12 and 15 when the novel begins.  These two have been living with their mother, who is a free spirit (to put it lightly), never staying in one place too long.  It’s this flakiness that causes the girls to seek out the only family they know, they travel to rural Virginia from their home in the Los Angeles area.  This move is quite a shock to them in many ways.  Although both girls were born in Virginia, their mother Charlotte had fled their small town when Bean was just a baby.  They had no idea what life in a small town was like, especially in the south.  The year is 1970, and Virginia was still struggling with desegregation – which is something the girls had never experienced.  This is also the time period of the Vietnam War, and the conservative south viewed this conflict in a much a different way than individuals in California had.

The town itself plays almost as an important role as the girls themselves.  Their mother hastily left, with the two young girls in tow, because of an incident involving Bean’s father.  Charlotte’s progressive ideas and lifestyle didn’t sit well with the townfolk she had grown up with.  Years later, when the girls are left to fend for themselves in California, they journey to Virginia, in search of help.  Neither girl has ever had a relationship with their father, and they show up unexpectedly on their uncle’s door; the home of their mother’s only sibling, Uncle Tinsley.  Here, after a series of disastrous events with Tinsley’s nemisis in the town, the girls get a better understanding of why their mother left.  Opinions of Charlotte have not changed in the years after her departure, and this is something that the girls struggle with throughout the last part of the novel.

I  loved the way the book ended, and for these details you’ll have to read the book yourself!  For anyone who enjoyed The Glass Castle, Walls’s return to the relationship between siblings and a troubled relationship with their mom in Silver Star will be familiar, touching, and satisfying.