Monday, October 31, 2011

Big Bird and Black Swan

Happy Halloween!  I hope everyone had a fun and festive day today. I have to admit that the freak snow storm we had here on the east coast this past weekend has thrown us for a loop and Halloween wasn't as exciting or festive as it has been in the past.

Our town has an area of barely 5 square miles and we had 100 trees and over 240 power lines come down in roadways, creating hazardous conditions and knocking out power for many people. This snow storm wasn't particularly violent nor did it produce that much snow. We got maybe only 2-3" of snow, but it was very heavy and wet. Which again, isn't particularly noteworthy except for the fact that most of the trees still have most of their leaves, giving the snow a lot of surface area on which to fall and accumulate. The branches just couldn't bear that kind of weight and huge tree limbs were snapping everywhere. It was very dangerous out there!

Schools were closed today, bringing our total school closures for the 2011-12 school year to three and and it isn't even winter yet! [The first two were in September due to hurricane Irene]. Right now schools will have a delayed opening tomorrow, but there's a possibility it will turn into another closure by morning! Any more days off and they'll have to take days off our spring break in April. Ugh. :(

As for Halloween festivities, the girls went trick-or-treating today, so at least there was some Halloween spirit around here. And alas, now there's a ton of candy around here...

My youngest dressed up as Big Bird from Sesame Street this year. One of her friends went as Cookie Monster. You can't quite see it in the photo, but she has Big Bird eyes and a beak on her headband. Very cute.

My teenager dressed up as the Black Swan and her friend was the White Swan. They put the costumes together all on their own. They purchased one or two things and everything else was borrowed or from their own collection of dance wear. Very pretty!

Now my biggest challenge will be to ignore the presence of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups in the house.

ONE Reese's Peanut Butter Cup
115 calories [calories I burn running 1.3 miles]
7.5g fat
        2.3g saturated fat
11.5g carbs
        10g sugar
3g protein
70mg sodium

Sunday, October 30, 2011

In Death Series Reading Challenge October 2011

Interested in joining the Challenge? Anyone is welcome to join in at any time of the year at wherever in the series you currently are. See the sign up post HERE
and join the fun!

It's that time again to share which In Death books we've read this month. I'm currently reading Origin In Death [Book #20], but don't think I'll finish by tomorrow night. Hopefully others have had a more successful month!

Link up any In Death posts you made this month below. If you made a post on your blog, whether it be a review or commentary, please grab the link to your post and enter in the Mr. Linky below along with your name so we can find each other's latest In Death posts easily. You can also just use the link to your goodreads or other virtual bookshelf as well.

None from me this month...


I always find it sad when characters make a reference to something that all children should know and Eve just draws a blank. That she missed out on anything and everything simple and happy that a child should experience. In the book I'm reading now--Origin In Death, Eve drew a blank when a reference was made to the Humpty Dumpty nursery rhyme and a few scenes later when Peabody referred to Barbie dolls. That Eve doesn't know common nursery rhymes is heartbreaking enough because she never had a loving, attentive adult teach them to her, but to also not be familiar with Barbie dolls suggests that not only did she not have toys, but that she probably never saw the inside of a toy store nor did she ever watch television of kids' shows because otherwise she would have seen commercials for the dolls at some point. Instances like these throughout the series are sad reminders of just how much Eve was deprived of love and any form of a childhood whatsoever.

What toy from your childhood stands out the most in your memory? Either one you had or one you always wanted?

Some classics from my childhood are Barbie dolls [I had a tent camping set, but always wanted the RV or airplane play set], Baby Alive [battery operated doll with a motorized mouth that "ate" baby food and soiled its diaper]. I always wanted an EZ Bake oven and Lite Brite. Finally got to play with those when I became I mom and got them for my own daughters. ;)

Saturday, October 29, 2011

REVIEW: The Greyfriar by Clay and Susan Griffith

Think you've had enough of vampire fiction? You may want to reconsider and give this one a try. The Greyfriar is a the first book in the steampunk fantasy Vampire Empire trilogy written by husband and wife author duo Clay Griffith and Susan Griffith. After thousands of years of dormancy, vampires inexplicably emerged from their hiding places and swiftly massacred scores of humanity, irrevocably changing the demographics of human life and technology on the entire face of the earth. The Greyfriar story begins a century and half after the emergence of the predatory vampire clans with humans and vampires on the brink of war. Princess Adele, the daughter of the emperor of Equatoria, the largest human nation, is sent to tour the outskirts of human territory when her airship is attacked by vampires. The airship crashes and in the chaos of the battle that ensues, the princess is rescued by The Greyfriar -- the legendary and mysterious slayer of vampires and defender of humans. The Greyfriar has sworn to protect Adele and return her to Equatoria, which is no simple task when the vampire empire's most powerful clan is hunting for the princess so that they can use her as a political pawn against Equatoria. Adele's journey quickly becomes more than a mere physical journey home. She is literally fighting and fleeing for her life within vampire territory and inevitably learns more about vampires than probably any other human on Earth. She also learns some very interesting things about herself--things that have her questioning her very own views of the world and consequently, her role as Princess and heir of the Equatorian Empire.

The story is a fast paced, action packed adventure teeming with classically terrifying vampires, political strifes within and between empires, personal adventure and a touch of romance--all set in a fascinating and epic steampunk alternate history. Princess Adele and the Greyfriar are compelling characters, both of whom grabbed my attention immediately upon introduction and for whom my affection grew with every turn of the page. The story is certainly focused on the events that serve as political catalysts for war between the empires, but it would be remiss to say the story is not also a personal one. The relationships Adele forges during her journey home are equally tender as they are strong and may possibly be what saves both empires from future destruction. The Greyfriar is thoroughly entertaining. I loved this story and am terribly anxious to read the next book in the trilogy, The Rift Walker, already available now.


. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 

Steampunk Challenge Update: 

The Greyfriar is the only full length steampunk novel that I've read during Steampunk Challenge hosted by Rikki on her blog The Bookkeeper.

Challenge: Read steampunk books from October 2010 through October 2011.

I did also read a steampunk romance novella that was absolutely fantastic. That story is "Here There Be Monsters" by Meljean Brook in the Burning Up anthology, which includes additional [non-steampunk] stories by Nalini Singh, Angela Knight and Virginia Kantra.

"Here There Be Monsters" is a prequel story to Meljean Brook's Iron Seas series. It is, in my opinion, extremely challenging for authors to write really stellar short stories, particularly in the romance genre, but Meljean has once again met that challenge in spades. The world building is impeccable and fascinating, the plot clever, the characters diverse and the romance is both believable and memorable. A romance for which the characters had to really fight, too! Now I'm looking forward more than ever to reading the first full length novel in this series, The Iron Duke. A task I must attend to ASAP as Heart of Steel--book two in the Iron Seas series, comes out in just a few days! 

Friday, October 28, 2011

REVIEW: Until There Was You by Kristan Higgins

I'm wearing circles under my eyes all this week because I stayed up way too late the other night reading Until There Was You by Kristan Higgins. I was glued to the pages and could not put it down until I finished!

I've been a fan of Kristan Higgins' novels ever since I read Catch of the Day a few years ago. I've since read--and loved-- five other books by Kristan Higgins books, including her latest book, Until There Was You, which was released earlier this week on October 25, 2011. [I still have to read Fools Rush In and Just One of the Guys]. I wasn't at all surprised at how much I enjoyed Until There Was You because I adore Ms. Higgins' quirky, yet familiar characters and down-to-earth story telling--the layers of humor, familial issues, female drama and those sad moments of life that we never forget and how they shape who we are-- all wrapped into a charming romance and tied with a satisfying happily ever after ending. All of which is consistent in all of Kristan's books.

Thirty-four year old Cordelia "Posey" Osterhagen owns a salvaging company in her hometown of Bellsford, New Hampshire. Posey was a very shy, skinny and awkward teenager and consequently doesn't have many great memories of her high school years. In fact, she was at her lowest back in high school when her heart was broken by her long time crush and high school bad boy, Liam Murphy. Posey is a kind, generous and well adjusted adult now and happy enough in life. She has a great business, a loving family, a handful of close friends and even has a boyfriend of sorts. Until Liam Murphy shows up in town after all these years, that is, widowed and raising a teenage daughter on his own and as attractive as ever. His arrival sends her heart in a tailspin and Posey knows right away that she has to distance herself from him before she falls unrequitedly in love with him all over again. As if she ever stopped...

Liam Murphy had a troubled family before he moved in with his uncle and attended high school in Bellsford all those years ago. Once in Bellsford, girls were constantly throwing themselves at Liam and he took advantage of it. Until he fell for the smart, pretty and popular Emma Tate, whom he followed to California after high school. Emma got pregnant and she and Liam married and became parents at a young age. Fifteen years later, Emma dies from leukemia and a few years after that, Liam decides to return to Bellsford with his teenage daughter, Nicole so she can be closer to her grandparents.

While Posey has matured and moved on from high school, she still has some insecurities--mostly about her body image, a bit caused by some family dynamics and in general, she tends to herself short in a lot of ways. I think these are things that most women can relate to at some point in our lives.

Women still hit on Liam wherever he goes, much to his annoyance [except Posey!], but he's not the same person he was as a teenager. He's matured and has learned a lot about love and loss. Not to mention how becoming a father has changed him in ways he never imagined. Despite all his fears about parenting all by himself, and knowing first hand what teenage boys are like, he's responsible, attentive and tries so hard to understand and be there for Nicole. He's ultra protective of her, but truly a great dad. Liam's relationship with his daughter is definitely one of the strengths of his character.

Despite Posey's attempts to put a wide berth between herself and Liam--they continuously cross paths and rekindle a tentative friendship that they sort of had back in high school when he worked in her parent's restaurant and slowly begin to see each other for the person they have each become. Both of them have clearly been affected by their pasts and haven't quite gotten over a lot of their teenage insecurities, but over time they kind of show each other how to see themselves in a different light, move on, live and love. They're there for each other in ways they both truly need and deserve. It was simply heartwarming to see Posey and Liam at ease with each other, having fun and finally being loved for just who they are.

I just loved reading Until There Was You--it's entertaining and heartwarming. There are numerous little side stories threaded throughout Posey and Liam's story involving their friends and family that tie the story together in a really fun, but also meaningful way. All of those little subplots reveal details about Posey and Liam's character and how they see themselves. Posey and Liam are on a soul searching journey of sorts as they figure out who they are, where they belong and what kind of life and love are they worthy of, and in the end, how to fight for it. Most of all, it's a story about a second chance at love and how we all deserve a happily ever after. Until There Was You is a charming story that shouldn't be missed.

Visit author Kristan Higgins on her website at

Ms. Higgins' next novel, Somebody to Love is coming out in May 2012. This new romance will brings us back to the same town in which Maggie and Malone from Catch of the Day live and I hear we get to see snippets of them again! I can't wait!


Monday, October 24, 2011

Love your breasts... do Breast Self-Exams

Photo taken by my daughter
October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month dedicated to promoting breast cancer awareness, education and empowerment to women to make informed decisions regarding their breast care. Right now is as good a time as any to evaluate your personal breast care plan for early detection of any breast tissue diseases.

In October last year, I wrote the post "Love your breasts... get a mammogram" reminding, encouraging, imploring women to be conscientious about monitoring the health of their breasts by getting their annual [or biennial] mammogram starting at age 40, or earlier for women with a family history of breast cancer.

This year, I am reminding, encouraging and imploring you to be conscientious about another important part of your breast health plan and that is to do regular Breast Self-Exams [BSE] starting in your 20s.

I personally endorse this as an absolute necessary component of your breast health plan because in January of this year, I found a lump in my right breast while doing a Breast Self-Exam, just two months after having had a clear mammogram. Thankfully, I was eventually diagnosed with a benign breast disease, but it was a harrowing several weeks between finding my lump and receiving my diagnosis. An experience that I will never forget.

My Story...
On the morning of January 4, I was doing a breast-self exam while lying bed and found a lump on the lower, outer area of my right breast. It felt about the size and shape of an almond in its shell, and since it was close to the surface, I could put fingers around it and move it. Startled, I went to the bathroom and stood in front of the mirror. I raised my arm over my head and moved my breast aside and saw the shape of the lump protrude under my skin. I tried to remain calm and optimistic that this could be something benign, but boy that is WAY harder than it sounds. I admit that the fear that I was going to start a battle with cancer was hard to tamp down, but I tried my best to think positively.

I called my gynecologist as soon as her office opened and was grateful that she saw me that same afternoon. She reassured me that she was confident it was a benign tumor but ordered an ultrasound to decide the next step. I had an ultrasound about two days later, but the lump was un-imagable, indicating that the lump tissue was the same density as the surrounding breast tissue. When my gynecologist got the results a few days later, she referred me to a breast care specialist, whom I saw about a week or so later.

The breast care specialist is a surgeon who specializes in breast care and breast diseases. He concurred with my gynecologist with the likely diagnosis of a benign tumor, and because the lump was palpable and easily accessible, the best and most thorough course of action would be to surgically remove the tumor and have it sent to the lab for evaluation. So that's what we did. Two weeks later, on the morning of that horrendous ice storm that hit the East Coast on February 2, 2011, I had a lumpectomy on my breast. A week later, my breast care physician called me with the histological results and informed me that the tumor was indeed benign and my official diagnosis is a breast disease known as Pseudoangiomatous Stromal Hyperplasia of the Breast, also referred to as PASH. PASH is a rare, but benign breast disease that causes the proliferation of stromal lesions or tumors in the breast. It is a huge relief to know PASH is always a benign disease, but because it is a recurring [can happen again] and proliferative [grows and spreads quickly] disease, I am being diligent about doing monthly self-exams so I can find any future tumors early. The doctor has implied that it's likely I'll never have another PASH tumor, but if I do find one, it's likely another PASH tumor and not a cancerous type of tumor. From what I understand, PASH is more closely linked to progesterone receptors as opposed to estrogen receptors, which is good news for me since malignant breast diseases are more closely linked to estrogen, not progesterone.

Fortunately, my diagnosis has a positive prognosis. If I had not found the lump early, it could have proliferated and been more difficult to remove if it had grew very large or spread to other areas of my breast. Or if the lump was not caused by PASH but by a malignant breast disease, and I had not found it early, the course of treatment could have proven more complicated and even life threatening. But those scenarios didn't pan out because I do self-exams.

So here I am, proof positive that Breast Self-Exams are a valuable part of a breast care plan and I emphasize how important it is that YOU take this component of breast care screening into your own hands--literally!--an do Breast Self-Exams.

For information on how to do Breast Self-Exams, talk to your health care provider.

You can also find a lot of accurate information on breast care and how to do Breast Self-Exams from reliable sources online. Here are a few links to get you started:

Susan G. Komen Cure: Breast Self-Exam

American Cancer Society: Breast Cancer Detection  The Five Steps of a Breast Self-Exam

WebMD: Breast Self Exam Tool
WebMD Breast Self-Exam

Please love your breasts... do breast self-exams! 

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The NJ RWA Literacy Signing

The New Jersey RWA Conference is being held this weekend at a venue not too far from me, and this afternoon was the literacy signing fundraiser to support local literacy organizations. I couldn't pass up the chance to meet some lovely authors and buy a few signed books, so I headed over. This conference is no where near the scale of the national one held in New York City back in June, so I was able to take my time and chat a bit with some of the authors as I went around the room, which was great. I shared how I came to learn about their books, which of their books I've read and enjoyed, how they affected me, that sort of thing. It was really nice.

The first author I visited was KT Grant, a.k.a. katiebabs a.k.a. Kate. Kate and I have been friends for several years now, having first met online on JR Ward's message boards back in 2007. Today, Kate participated in her first ever author signing where SHE was the one signing copies of her book, Sweet and Sinful, available in paperback now.

Congratulations on this milestone, Kate! :)

I was so thrilled to learn that Kristan Higgins was going to be at this conference. She is one of my most favorite authors and I missed out on seeing her at the National RWA author signing in June. So I was particularly thrilled to be able to meet her today.

Kristan Higgins' next book is Until There Was You, and will be released on Tuesday, October 25, 2011. That's just a few days away--look for it!

Other lovely authors I met and their books I purchased:


Laura GriffinSnapped
Caroline LindenOne Night In London
Lisa DaleSlow Dancing on Price's Pier
Rachel GibsonAny Man of Mine

Brenda Novak Inside, Book One in her Bulletproof romantic suspense series. She's so friendly--we spoke fondly of our friend Phyl who donates a hand made quilt to the online auction Ms. Novak hosts every year to benefit diabetes research.

Ms. Novak also has an historical romance coming out soon, titled The Bastard-- her very first release in this genre. The book will be offered in ebook format only on November 1, 2011, but I believe it may become available in print by demand. It sounds great!

Have you read any of these books or other books by these authors? 
I'd love to hear!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

RECIPE: Concord Grape Sorbet

It's been a long time since I've posted a recipe here, but when I made this refreshing and fragrant sorbet the other day, I knew I had to share it. We usually get a generous bunch of concord grapes in our organic co-op every year when these incredibly aromatic and sweet grapes are in season locally--which is now.

Concord grapes are the origin of the classic grape flavor and scent that Americans will readily identify with classic purple grape beverages and grape candy. But trust me when I say this fat free, low calorie sorbet tastes better than any grape flavored treat you've ever had. It's the real deal

I came up with this recipe around this time last year when we got concord grapes in our co op, but at that time I had made the smallest batch of sorbet to serve only two people,because I had eaten most of the grapes before getting around to making the sorbet. This year, I made sure I ate only a few of the grapes and used the rest to make the sorbet.

A ice cream maker provides the best results for sorbet. I recommend the Cuisinart ICE-21 that sells for $49 on amazon. I have the older ICE-20 model, but they look to be essentially the same machine. If you don't have an ice cream maker and don't want to invest in one, you can make the sorbet by freezing the sorbet in a shallow glass baking dish and repeatedly mixing it with a fork every hour or so as it freezes, but finished sorbet won't be nearly as smooth as the batch made in the ice cream maker.

Concord Grape Sorbet
1 1/2 lbs. concord grapes
1 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vodka, optional

Remove grapes from stems and rinse. Combine grapes, water and sugar in a non-aluminium saucepan over medium heat.

Bring grape mixture to a gentle boil and cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. The grapes will break down and the liquid should be slightly thickened, like a thin syrup.

Remove grape mixture from heat and pour into a fine sieve that's resting over a large glass bowl. Gently stir grape mixture, pressing gently with a large spoon to extract as much liquid and "pulp" from the mixture.

It helps to occasionally scrape the thickened pulp that will accumulate on the bottom of the sieve into the bowl. Press the mixture until you can't extract another drop. You should be left with a clump of grape skin, small stems and seeds in the sieve and at least 2 cups of thickened grape "juice".

Add the vodka to the grape "juice" and stir gently. You can omit the vodka if desired. The vodka will help keep the sorbet smooth and not "icy". It works because alcohol lowers the freezing point of the mixture, so the sorbet doesn't quite turn to solid ice in your freezer.

Pour the grape mixture into the freezer container of your ice cream maker and process for 15-20 minutes, or until the sorbet is the consistency of soft serve ice cream or a thick, smooth apple sauce.

Spoon the sorbet into an airtight container that can accommodate the sorbet with minimum head room between the sorbet and the lid. Again, having as little air as possible in the container helps prevent the sorbet from forming ice crystals on the surface.

Freeze in your freezer for a couple of hours for best results. Consume within 3 days for best flavor and texture.

Enjoy! :)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

After the Triathlon: What's Next?

It's been a month since the triathlon and I believe it's safe to say that officially lost the tri "high." Sure, the pride and sense of accomplishment will always be there, but the thrill has waned. I imagine my family is grateful for the break. They were so patient listening to my incessant triathlon-this triathlon-that training chatter. :)

Last September's triathlon was on my calendar for almost a whole year and I hadn't realized how accustomed I became to having a goal towards which to train. Once the tri was over, it was a matter of days before I started thinking, "WHAT'S NEXT?"

So I've been PLANNING! Here's a running list--pun intended!--of events I'd like to do over the next several months:

__ October 1, 2011     5K Run for
__ October 16, 2011   5K Run for Make A Wish Foundation
___ November 26, 2011 5 Mile Turkey Trot
___ January 1, 2012     5K Hangover Run
___ January 21, 2012    Romp to Stomp Breast Cancer
                                      5K Snow Shoeing Event
___ July xx, 2012        Sprint Triathlon <--in ocean! OR Duathlon <--on land!
___ August 28, 2012    SheROX Sprint Triathlon
___ September 9, 2012  Danskin Sprint Triathlon <--so disappointed same day as Gran Fondo :(
___ September 9, 2012  Gran Fondo 100 Mile Bike Event
___ September 30, 2012  5KTunnel to Towers
___ November xx, 2012 SheROX Sprint Triathlon in Bermuda <--A girl can dream, right?

This is just a plan. Everything is subject to change. Events may be added or deleted at whim. But I do hope to do most--if not all of these events. In any case, it should be an eventful year for me. Literally.  : )

What about YOU? Do you have any Run or Walk Events on YOUR calendar? 

If not, you should find one in your area. It's FUN! 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Birthday Giveaway Winner

Thanks to all who entered the giveaway. I used to generate a random list from the list of entries and the first person on the list is ....
Congratulations!!! Email me! :)

Deanna blogs at Paperback Dreamer. I encourage you to visit her there--she reviews and discusses romance novels, usually preferring paranormal, but she also reads some contemporary and historical romances. Plus she does a lot of cool giveaways.

The results from

List Randomizer

There were 14 items in your list. Here they are in random order:

kim h
Timestamp: 2011-10-09 19:38:45 UTC

As a side note, I'm thinking of changing my blog look already. The blue is really nice and I like the fresh, clean look, but I don't know... it doesn't quite feel like "me." I need warmer colors maybe.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

What I Read Last Month

Here's a look at what I read in September.

Total books read: 8

Young Adult ..... 1
Mystery ............ 1
Crime fiction ...... 1
Graphic Novel .... 1
Romance ........... 4

Of the romance novels read, one was a contemporary romance and three were paranormal. Although I debate whether Angels' Blood by Nalini Singh isn't more urban fantasy than romance. It's one of those that border on the edge between the genres.

Some thoughts.

1. Simply Irresistible by Jill Shalvis [2011]
Lucky Harbor, Book 1
Contemporary romance
Thanks to Hilcia who passed her copy of this book to me the last time we met up, as I probably would have otherwise passed on a really sweet and fun romance. I enjoyed the small town romance in this book--the main characters were believable as was their love story and both truly deserved their happy ending. I'd give this book 4.5 stars if we could give half grades! 

2. Into the Flame by Christina Dodd [2009]
Chosen Ones, Book 4
Paranormal romance
I had read the first three books in this four book series a couple of years ago and just never got around to reading this last one when it was released. I came across it in my box of TBR books and decided to finally read it and finish the series! I worried that it would be slow going since I may have forgotten a lot about the series story arc, but a lot of it came back to me as I read the story and the author reviewed some details from the first three books within this storyline, so it worked out fine. 

Into the Flame is an exciting conclusion to this story of a family held together by faith, love and goodness as they face the consequences of a pact their long ago relatives made with the devil. In the first book a prophecy is revealed that slowly comes to fruition in each of the four books in the series with a shocking plot twist in this last book. The romance part of this story didn't get much page time in this story, but it actually seemed fitting for the characters and the plot and was no less believable than the others. Overall, this book and the series as a whole is enjoyable for the author's ability to blend good story telling with mythology, strong family bonds and a little bit of romance. GRADE: B-

3. Angels' Blood by Nalini Singh [2009]
Guild Hunters, Book 1 [RE-read]
Paranormal romance/urban fantasy
I decided to re-read this favorite book of mine because I want to catch up with this series and read the next three books that are out already and I the last time I read Angels' Blood was when I read the ARC back in February 2009. I thought it was brilliant then and am pleased to say that my rating stood the test of time two and a half years later when I reread it last month. 

Angels' Blood takes place in a fascinating world with diverse, intriguing and often frightening characters. The story line is intense, original and very engaging. Looking forward to the next books! Five stars. 

4. An Ice Cold Grave by Charlaine Harris [2008]
Harper Connelly Mystery, Book 3 
Another enjoyable installment in the Harper Connelly series. The murder mystery was rather disturbing in this one, making this book, I think, more intense and pardon the pun--grave-- than the others. On the other hand, the parts of the story relevant to Harper and Tolliver's personal lives were more heartwarming and optimistic, so that helped soften the harshness of the murders. I'm looking forward to reading the next and last book in this series. 

5. Night After Night by Kathryn Smith [2009]
Brotherhood of the Blood, Book 5
Paranormal romance, historical romance.
I finally picked up this last book in the five book Brotherhood of Blood series, featuring the vampire Temple and Vivian--the ward and protector of the Brotherhood's arch enemy--Villiers of the Order of the Silver Palm. I started this series several years ago when I was a newcomer to reading romance. The series is a really great blend of paranormal and historical romance. The overarching series plot is well thought out and executed throughout the five books with a successful conclusion in this last installment. I thoroughly enjoyed each book, but I have to admit my reaction to this last novel wasn't as favorable as the earlier novels. I think this is largely due to the fact that in the years since starting this series, my tastes and expectations have become a bit more discriminating. 

I really liked the characters in Night After Night and the way the series conflict built up to its anticipated denouement in this final book, but I had two issues with the book that keep me from giving it a higher rating. One is that I felt that the first few sexual encounters between Temple and Vivian were a little unrealistic, too much too soon and overall the romance too rushed. My other issue is that the resolution of the conflict felt overly simplified. The build up was great--but I felt in the end the villain was defeated way too easily. I expected a more intense, if not complicated clashing between the Brotherhood and their enemy, The Order of the Silver Palm. However, if you enjoy both paranormal and historical romance and are looking for a series that combines both genres, I do recommend you check out the Brotherhood of Blood series. 


6. Hunger by Jackie Morse Kessler [2010]
Young adult
This is a young adult contemporary urban fantasy novel that creatively employs the biblical mythology of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse to tell the story of how a modern anorexic teen learns what hunger really means, giving her the knowledge and hope to do what it will take to fight for her life. The story is a four star read, but because of the nature of the topic, the unflinching honesty with which the author tells the story and the power of the story's message, Hunger deserves five stars. You can read my review HERE

7. Beowulf by Gareth Hinds [2007]
Graphic Novel

Through detailed artwork, artist and story teller, Gareth Hinds creatively brings the classic epic poem of Beowulf to life on the pages of this graphic novel. The legend of Beowulf itself isn't a terribly exciting one, though. Beowulf is certainly heroic as he battles the formidable Grendel, Grendel's mother and a fearsome dragon before he ultimately perishes. If there is a lesson to be learned from Beowulf and his story, however, I'm afraid it escapes me, hence the three star rating on goodreads. 

8. Survivor In Death by J.D. Robb [2005]
In Death, Book 20
Crime fiction 
This is my favorite book so far in the futuristic crime series featuring the prickly Lieutenant Eve Dallas, her husband Roarke and her supporting investigative team members. And Mavis. LOL. You can read my review HERE.  

My favorites books this month are Angels' Blood by Nalini Singh and Survivor In Death by J.D. Robb. Simply Irresistible by Jill Shalvis comes in a super close second place. 

What was your favorite read in September? 

Monday, October 3, 2011

Fitness Challenge Report Card: August & September 2011

Interested in joining the Fitness Challenge? Please visit the Sign Up post for more information, including the challenge rules. You may leave a comment there or on this post if you'd like to join. Be sure to include your fitness miles goal in your comment.

This is a double report card for August and September.

Are you all still tracking your fitness challenge miles*?

*ONE fitness challenge miles = 1 mile walked or run for fitness OR = 15 minute increments of other exercise for fitness such as cardiovascular or strength training exercises.

I know Brandy is. She makes note of them every day at the bottom of her daily blog post--which is a great way to keep track of and reflect on what you're doing. I'm still keeping a log of my exercise on my fitness blog, See how she runs..., which I update every couple of days.

How did you do with your fitness challenge miles* in August? And September?

My ongoing goal is to reach 100 fitness challenge miles* every month. In August I came in at a mere 43.8 miles, which I more or less anticipated since I was on vacation with my family for two weeks in Europe, during which I didn't do any workout specific workouts, although we walked miles every day touring the cities, climbed tons of stairs in subways, museums and landmarks always carrying a backpack and often lugging luggage around. So it was hardly a lazy vacation. Then later in the month I missed a few days of working out because of hurricane Irene. Considering those "interruptions" to my regularly scheduled workouts, I was still pretty active.

In September, my fitness goals were both awesome and a bit disappointing. First the awesome. As most of you already know, I competed in My First Triathlon on September 11 and had a really fantastic experience! It so much fun-- the training, the anticipation and finally doing it! I enjoyed it so much that I'm planning to do it again next year!

As for the disappointing part, I fell short in meeting my 100 miles again in September. It's one thing if something legitimate comes up like sickness or vacation, but I was working out consistently. Argh!! I've since figured out why and will make the necessary adjustments so I can reach my goal this month.

One reason I missed some fitness miles was because I was leaving 15 minutes early from my 6-7 am fitness classes three days a week since school started so that I could be home before my teen left for school. She has zero period this year, which means has to leave by 7:15 am and I like to be home to pack her a healthy lunch, make sure she has everything she needs and basically see her off for the day. If I'm not there in the morning before she leaves, I don't see her from bedtime the night before until 6 or 7 pm the next night because right now she has volleyball practice or games every day immediately after school. That's too long without connecting with my daughter so for now, I'll keep leaving class 15 minutes early to see her off, but I'll make up those missed fitness miles at home those days with some ab exercises, push ups and other resistance training after the girls leave for school.

Another reason I missed some fitness miles is because my Friday boot camp class has been cancelled due to lack of interest--although not mine! Ugh. I'm so upset about this. I loved that class--not only was it a killer workout that we often did outdoors, but also because all my workout friends were in it, including the instructor! I miss it. I've been running on Friday's in lieu of boot camp, but I don't always run 4 miles for the same 4 fitness miles I'd get from an hour of boot camp. I suppose I ought to make sure I DO run 4 miles on Friday's then. :P

So it looks like I've got my work cut out for me for October if I want to reach my goal of 100 fitness challenge miles!

What about you? What are your exercise plans for October?

Saturday, October 1, 2011

A Happy Birthday Giveaway!

It feels like I just celebrated one of these, but here I am again! Wow, time sure flies when you're having fun. ;)

This first thing I did this year to celebrate my birthday was run in a 5K race. What a nice way to celebrate life, right? The best part--I ran the 5K in 30:02 minutes--my new personal best! Whaoo!

It was like a surprise birthday gift to myself! : )

The rest of the day was spent at home hanging out and relaxing with my husband and daughters and ended with a warm apple pastry, vanilla ice cream and a mug of my favorite herbal tea.

In the spirit of celebration and per my annual birthday tradition, I'm giving away a "birthday gift" to ONE lucky winner on my blog.

This year's "birthday gift" includes two of my favorite things-- a book [winner's choice ebook or paper book--mass market, trade or comparable priced hardcover] and a bar of dark chocolate with caramel with Hawaiian sea salt from Trader Joe's.* [It's SOoooo good!]

You're going to want to enter just for the chocolate bar. It's out of this world.

To enter the giveaway, just leave me a comment below telling me how you like to celebrate your birthday.

Giveaway ends on Saturday, October 8, 2011 EST and the winner has one week to claim prize before I'll give it away to someone else.

Please also include your email address if it's not easily found on your profile or web page.

Open to everyone, but international winner*, if chosen, will receive book of their choice per the guidelines above and shipped from The Book Depository ONLY. Thanks for understanding.

Good luck!