Monday, August 30, 2010

When Blood Calls by J.K Beck

Earlier this month, I won the ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) of When Blood Calls by J.K. Beck. This is Book 1 of the Shadow Keepers series. Book 2 (When Pleasure Rules) and 3 (When Wicked Craves) come out at the end of September and the end of October and there is mention of the possiblity of Books 4-6 as well. First, the book is a paranormal so there are vampires and shape-shifters and were-creatures and other characters that are brand-new to me. If that is not your cup of tea, you probably won't like it. Also, if you don't like romance, you probably won't like this book. If you especially don't like paranormal creatures and romance, seriously, just move on. If you're still with me, When Blood Calls reads more of a mystery or crime detective novel at first but, you know, with a vampire as the murder suspect. The main heroine is human so you get introduced to the world through her eyes even if you don't meet her right away. Because it is the first book of the series, I found the beginning purely an introduction into the universe. It was even difficult to tell who the main characters were at first, but that became evident after a couple of chapters or in the next paragraph as I'm going to tell you.

The basic storyline is that a judge is found dead after being drained of his blood. An officer learns of his last thoughts and, combined with evidence at the scene, concludes Lucius Dragos is the one at fault. So, a team gets together and arrests the vampire. In the meantime, the courts hire Sara to be the prosecutor in the case because she's great at what she does and because she's somewhat immune to vampire mind influence. Of course, to make things complicated, Lucius and Sara had a hot one-night stand the night before the murder. So, that's the storyline in a nutshell. Sara needs to prosecute Lucius, and she wants to win very badly, but if she wins, Lucius is put to death which she doesn't really want because she's drawn to him and he to her.

The romance is slow to develop though it wouldn't make sense if it was rushed - and I should phrase that it was well-paced, and the book reads as an introduction into the series. However, the romance is there and ends leaving the reader satisfied as well as the characters if you know what I mean. I've read a lot of first books in series, and this is one that I truly enjoyed and didn't feel like I was reading a giant prologue. I liked that Sara was strong and smart and ambitious. I liked how both characters really gave to each other instead of the relationship being one-sided - and that's in and out of bed. If I'm reading a romance, that's very important to me. I want there to be a solid relationship and more than attraction or one-sided blind love. Lastly, considering that a lot went on throughout the book in introducing a lot of characters, a lot of types of characters and setting up the scene for the books to come, it was easy-to-follow and kept my attention. I don't think it is a book that I would have normally picked up without a friend's strong recommendation, but I did enjoy it and will read the second book in the series.

Weekend Update - Social Butterfly

Very few photos from this weekend as well. I slacked off this month after vacation. Let's see. On Friday, I read. I finished the book club book and then I watched tv (I cleared out 3 entire shows from my DVR during the last week). On Saturday, Little Miss and I had a pleasant day. We woke up and got ready. My parents came over for brunch where I made Baked French Toast with raspberries and blueberries. Then, Little Miss took a nap and spent the night with the In-Laws. I met my book club at Maggiano's to talk about the book, Eat Pray Love. Then, we all went to see the film. It was a super fun night. On the way home, I picked up some ice cream from Coldstone Creamery, and I've been eating it ever since. Little Miss did help me a little yesterday. I plan to eat the rest tonight perhaps. It's amazing how long a small lasts when I take it home.

On Sunday, I slept late which was glorious and finished a book. Then, I showered and got ready to pick up Little Miss. We tried a nap, but it was unsuccessful so we had to go to a friend's surprise party with no nap. She was a tad bit restless to say the least. So, after cake, we head home. She slept all the way which made the night a little off-kilter. She had a bath and then had some dry cereal for dinner and then went to bed. A half hour later, she stood up and said she was hungry and wanted an egg. So, I made her an egg which she didn't eat because she said she was tired and went to bed. After not strangling her, I settled on the couch to finally watch fast-forwarding through the Emmy's. I agree with many of the blogs and articles out there. It may not have been the best Emmy ceremony, but I was glad new faces were granted Emmys and to see the new faces act like they genuinely appreciates the recognition. However, I would have liked it if Friday Night Lights won something on the big night. (Funny sidenote: I told Kyle Chandler "I love you" when he flashed on screen and a tiny voice from a back bedroom replied "Love you" back. I didn't have the heart to tell her I wasn't talking to her but to her imaginary daddy.)

And thus ends August. Seriously, where did this year go? It's like a science-fiction film where time just is sucked out by a giant wormhole by a dying alien race. Also, good news - Husband is en route home after being in New Orleans since last Tuesday. I plan on celebrating by sleeping and not worrying about every little noise in the apartment.

Movies Watched in August 2010

  1. Coco Before Chanel
  2. The Switch
  3. Eat Pray Love

A moderate month. I rented Coco Before Chanel which was interesting. Then, I saw The Switch and Eat Pray Love in the theater. They were enjoyable. It was interesting to read Eat Pray Love for book club and then go see the movie. Doubles the discussion.

Books Read in August 2010

  1. A Little Bit Wild by Victoria Dahl (NOTE: This is Book 1 of a new series about the York siblings.)
  2. Hot Finish by Erin McCarthy (NOTE: This is Book 3 of the Fast Track series. The book order can be found here.)
  3. Insatiable by Meg Cabot (NOTE: It appears this will be the first of a series as well. I don't know much about the series, but the second book is expected Summer 2011.)
  4. All Tied Up by Cathryn Fox (NOTE: I imagine this is part of a series, and you can check the author site for more info. The book was free so I haven't looked too much into the other books yet.)
  5. Overheard by Maya Banks (NOTE: This is Book 2 of a series though I don't think the books have to be read in order, and she doesn't even list them on her website as connected.)
  6. Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
  7. When Blood Calls by J.K. Beck (NOTE: This is book 1 of the Shadow Keepers series. Book 2, When Pleasure Rules, and 3, When Wicked Craves, will be released in September and October.)
As always, the books that link to an ebook were read on my nook and the books that link to a physical book were read on paper. Vacation this month and a lot of business so mostly quick reads. I will warn that Overheard is quite explicit so I wouldn't go reading that one unless you're prepared. All Tied Up is, but though it looks more risque, it's not as explicit and mostly just a short story, a quick diversion. The others were more standard romance novels excluding Eat Pray Love which was for book club. There will be a separate post about When Blood Calls.

Weekend Update - Quickie

The weekend flew by quickly so I figure so can the recap. This recap is also a week late. I have no pictures. On Saturday, I got up with Little Miss and made her breakfast. Then, Sister and Nephew came over. The kids played while we figured out the day. Brother-in-Law met us and we went to lunch. After, Little Miss (and I) took a nap, we worked on potty-training and then called it a day.

On Saturday, Husband woke up with Little Miss and made pancakes, her favorite. Then, Brother-in-Law, Sister-in-Law and new nephew came over. We all head over to the In-Laws' pool where we stayed until it started to rain. Little Miss and I took a nap separately, we had dinner, and that was that.

It was a super quick weekend filled with family. Plus, now that I have two nephews, I'm really going to try to think of separate nicknames for them. I'm working on it.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Asian Rice Salad with Shrimp

Last night, I tried a new recipe. I think I like it. I misread the recipe and made 2c of rice instead of 2c of cooked rice so I had a TON of extra rice though I don't think I used enough in the recipe. Also, I would only use 3-4 scallions. A whole bunch was way too many, and I love the taste of scallions, onions, and the like. I added chow mein noodles instead of crushed peanuts, too. The crunch and color is a nice touch either way. I brought leftovers for lunch, and I'll probably eat again for dinner. It would feed 4, I think, regularly. You can find the recipe for Asian Rice Salad with Shrimp if you click here.

Asian Rice Salad with Shrimp
Ingredients2 cloves garlic, minced
1 2-inch piece ginger, peeled and grated
3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
Pinch of sugar
3/4 pound large shrimp, peeled, deveined and halved lengthwise
1 large carrot, shredded
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
2 cups snow peas, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 cups cooked white or brown rice
1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
1/4 head iceberg lettuce, shredded
1 cup mung bean sprouts
1/2 cup chow mein noodles and/or chopped peanuts

Directions
Whisk the garlic, ginger, sesame oil, vinegar, soy sauce and sugar in a large bowl. Transfer 2 tablespoons of the dressing to a medium bowl, add the shrimp and toss. Add the carrot, celery and snow peas to the remaining dressing and toss.

Heat a large skillet over high heat and add 2 teaspoons vegetable oil. Add the shrimp and stir-fry until they turn pink, 3 to 4 minutes, then transfer to the bowl with the vegetables. Add 3 to 4 tablespoons water to the skillet and scrape up the browned bits with a wooden spoon, then add the liquid to the bowl with the shrimp. Let the skillet reheat, then add the remaining 1 teaspoon vegetable oil and stir-fry the rice until toasted, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool.

Add the rice and scallions to the shrimp-vegetable mixture and toss. Divide among bowls and top with the lettuce, sprouts, chow mein noodles and/or peanuts.

Photograph by Kate Sears

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Vacation Update - Rides

Last summer, Little Miss rode on one or two rides - the cars and the carousel. She was, at best, indifferent. This year, she got to ride with her cousin who took time out of his roller coaster riding to ride the baby rides. They had a blast. Little Miss thoroughly enjoyed herself and, when Nephew went on a ride without her, she wanted to go on so badly. She's going to love them when she's a little bigger. She fell asleep before Skeeball this year, but last year, she did throw the ball a bit. None of the balls made it down the lane, but she had fun. This year, she fell asleep in the stroller and my dad brought her back home to bed. In her defense, it was after 10PM. We let her stay up late to see the fireworks which she absolutely loved. You couldn't tell by her face while they were going on, but she talked about those fireworks for days afterwards. Oh, and just a sidenote, Nephew was being very silly. He wasn't unhappy or sick.

Vacation Update - Playground Fun

One day, it was a little chilly in the morning and the fog was heavy. Husband went to play some golf and the rest of us went to the playground. Above is a photo of the cousins, nephew and Little Miss. Below is a photo of Sister and me. It was a lot of fun and the kids went nuts with the slides and the climbing and the spinning.

There was this one freestanding seat where you can just spin. Everyone (but me) had a turn. Even Little Miss. She's quite the daredevil. Below is a video of her spinning and then what happened when we lifted her out. Even though you can't see it, there are many hands reaching for her while she's spinning just in case, but she never moved out of the seat and held on tight!

Vacation Update - What to Do at the Beach

The beach, for me, is good for two things - sleeping and eating. Sometimes, when I can sleep or eat any longer, I'll read, but I basically concentrate all my energies on those two things. Little Miss also embraced both during vacation. I will say she embraced the snacking more than the sleeping, but she was great and took a nap at the beach all of the days. She'd either nap on Husband or start on Husband and transition to the blanket. This is progress over last year when I'd have to take her back to the hotel and have her nap there every afternoon.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Vacation Update - The Beach is That Way

The beach was great. The kids had a blast. There was a lot of running, digging, hole digging, and eating (eating of snacks and/or sand - it's hard to eat snacks with sandy hands, who wants to take time to clean them off?) Not a ton of playing in the water, but the kids did go in.

It was nice to have the entire family at the beach. At one point, my grandmother made it down to the beach to see the kids. I got some
good reading done. There were some skirmishes over beach toy possession, but all in all, everyone got along and played well with each other.

Luckily, we also have one more beach vacation planned so I don't have to miss the beach too much.

Vacation Update - We Hate Delaware

I mean, seriously, Delaware. Maybe it's a Napoleonic complex or something, but Delaware is evil. It took us almost 8 hours to get to Connecticut and half of it was spent in Delaware. Craziness!

Regardless, when we got to Connecticut, we went to Panda Pavillion to recreate our first date (plus one, of course). The Panda Pavillion we first visited in Westport closed, but we found another in Greenwich. We had dinner, spent a brief night in Trumbull and head out early the next morning to Maine. Also, for some reason, I think
Dunkin Donuts tastes better in New England. Oh, I need to mention that I actually complained at the hotel. It was a great hotel. We've stayed there before, but this time, the hotel hosted a wedding. The children across the hall had no or little supervision and just ran screaming down the hallway, slamming doors. I didn't say anything at 7PM or 9PM, but when they woke me up in the middle of the night, I had it. I called the front desk and complained. Me. I've eaten the wrong sandwich before so I didn't have to complain. I was very angry.

And to Think, He's a Press Secretary!

Husband is a Press Secretary. His job, it bears repeating, is to create statements for other people, important people. My retort is how can he speak for other people when he can't speak for himself! Case in point:

Years ago, I bought a halter shirt. I debated returning it, but I never did. One day, I go to wear it, and Husband asks if I was going to wear the outfit I had on. I said I was (which is why I was wearing it). So, already he's in trouble, but he continues on to say that the shirt made me look "wide". Wide, folks. Though I appreciate being told something is less than flattering, "wide" should never enter the conversation. Needless to say, I took the shirt off, put it in my drawer, and didn't let it see the light of day until a couple of weeks ago.

I wore the dreaded shirt and didn't feel wide at all. Someone actually said they liked it when I got to work. I took a picture that morning just so I could blog about it, and even after looking at the pictures, don't think I look wide at all. Yes, Little Miss has rain boots on. At least they sort of matched her outfit (and it actually did rain that day so it worked out this once).

Monday, August 2, 2010

First Pedicure

First, it's important to know that Little Miss has always been good about having us cut her nails. Even yesterday, we cut her fingernails. Then, we touched her foot and she went berserk. I mean, absolutely batty. There was screaming, crying, running, hiding. So, we tabled the idea.

Tonight, I took out the clippers again and the whole routine started again. I tried brute force, but she's strong and I was afraid I'd cut off a toe if she kept squirming. I also didn't want to hurt her. Finally, she let me file her toenails, but that wasn't working on the very long nails. Then, after a bit of negotiation (because she wouldn't accept bribes - seriously, would not take candy if it meant I would cut her toenails), she allowed me to cut her toenails if I painted them. She got to pick a color. She first picked silver and then two toes in, changed her mind. So, I painted the dark pink over the silver. Here is the finished product:
She seems to really like them and was patient enough to let them dry (though it helps it is a little before bedtime). This is after a morning where she informed me she wanted to wear black. Forget the teen years, I won't survive the toddler years.

Weekend Update - Trains and Automobiles... and my couch

Last Friday, we didn't do anything that I can recall. On Saturday, I knew we'd have a big day. I was already thinking the plan wouldn't work. We woke up and had breakfast. Little Miss went to her room for a rest but didn't sleep. Then, we got ready and went on the train to meet a friend at The Cheesecake Factory. Little Miss was crazy. She was due for a nap and squirmy and fussy. She didn't eat much but wanted cake. I gave her some, of course, but she didn't have nearly as much as she wanted. Of course, she was an angel all the way home, just a pest in the restaurant.

After lunch, we took the train home and got into the car and drove to Brother-in-Law and Sister-in-Law's apartment to see the new nephew. Little Miss was more into entertaining Sister-in-Law. She was curious about her cousin at first but then was just playing and snacking. She made great progress and, though she doesn't like the doggy to get too close, she enjoys feeding the doggy. So, not quite friends but we're getting there. She actually got a little jealous when Husband held the new nephew. I held him for quite some time and then gave Husband some time, but Little Miss poked him and said "Mama hold baby". When Husband handed me the baby, she asked to be picked up instead. After, I met friends for dinner and a movie. We went to see Inception which I really enjoyed.

Sunday was a quiet day. The weather was cooler than it has been and overcast in the afternoon. So, we mostly just hung out at home. Husband and I had a quiet evening watching tv before bed. Next weekend - vacation! So, no blog after for a little over a week.

I'm Not Really a Waitress

If you click here, there is a link to a list of the most ridiculous nail polish names. Let's just say that even though I like the color, I would never wear "Phallic". Some are ridiculous and ridiculously explicit (you'll get no further warning), but I'm kind of irked they chose one of my favorite colors, I'm Not Really a Waitress.Sidenote: did you know you could get an I'm Not Really a Waitress laptop? You can see it here - so pretty!

Movies Watched in July 2010

  1. Knight and Day
  2. The Hangover
  3. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  4. Toy Story 3
  5. Precious
  6. Valentine’s Day
  7. Leap Year
  8. Inception

I didn’t realize I had so many movies watched this month. Knight and Day, Toy Story 3 and Inception were in the theater and the rest were rentals. I’ve seen The Hangover many times, but this was one of the times where I watched it from start to finish, and it’s always fun and worth mentioning. All the movies were pretty good. There were some I didn’t love, but they were rentals so it was all good. Doubtful that August will be as big of a movie month.

Books Read in July 2010

  1. Loving a Lost Lord by Mary Jo Putney (NOTE: This is Book 1 of The Lost Lord series. The book order can be found here.)
  2. Never Less Than a Lady by Mary Jo Putney (NOTE: This is Book 2 of The Lost Lord series. The book order can be found here.)
  3. Crazy in Love by Victoria Dahl
  4. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (NOTE: This is Book 2 of the Millenium trilogy. The book order can be found here.)
As always, the books that link to an ebook were read on my nook and the books that link to a physical book were read on paper (although none were paper books this month). I was on a good pace at the end of last month, but I was busy this month so not a lot of reading at the end of the month. The Girl Who Played with Fire was a slower read, but it still only took me about a week to read. I enjoyed it and it motivated me to immediately start the third in the trilogy.