Sunday, February 28, 2010

Going back to Cali, Cali...

I'm going to California!!

While talking to my mom last Thursday, she mentioned to me that my Aunt Sue would be driving out to California for the week of March 15th on business.  That's spring break week for me, and my aunt agreed to take me along, so it looks like I'll be visiting home soon!  It would seem that my aunt, who only lives 1-1/2 hours from me, drives out to California every 3-4 months, and yet this is the first time it occurred to us that I could go along and have the opportunity to see my family for next to no cost.  So, this will be the first time I've gone along, but if all goes well, perhaps it won't be the last.  It makes it much easier for me to afford it, since all I'll have to do is pay for my meals during the two days trip there and the two days trip back.

This trip'll be good for many reasons and I'm so excited!!  With me going, my aunt won't have to drive across three states alone, I'll get to see my grandparents on the way, I'll have the chance to catch up with my aunt who I've not seen in 12 years, and I'll get to see my family.  I can't wait and luckily, with the extremely short notice, I won't have to for very long.  We leave early the morning of March 12th, head to Lubbock & Plainview to stay over night, then on the morning of the 13th we set out for California.  We'll stay the night in either Flagstaff or Kingman and then finish the trip into California on the morning of March 14th.  We should be at my mom and dad's around 2:30 p.m. on March 14th.  I'll stay with my folks for a week and then she'll pick me up on her way back to Texas on March 20th or 21st and we'll spend two days coming home, with a stop off in Plainview to see my grandparents again.

Matt won't be going, the notice is too short this time.  He'll stay home with Ani and Galileo, and hopefully come next time.  I haven't seen my family in more than two years, but they've not seen Matt in far longer than that.  I know he misses them, and they him, so hopefully he'll be able to go out to CA with me next time.  This will make three visits to CA for me that he's had to stay home.  It's just much more cost effective this way, which is unfortunate, but a reality nonetheless.  I always hate to be apart, even for a few days, because we miss one another and because Matt can't cook, at all, and I worry about him eating while I'm gone.  He's been fine the other two times and I won't be gone as long this time as I was before, so I'm sure he'll be okay.  Still, it doesn't keep me from worrying.

Let's see, I'm hoping to get some visiting done while I'm out there, to see my sister and nephews, my Aunt Pam, and some of the many friends I have in CA.  Unfortunately, I won't have a car, so getting around will be a little difficult, but I'm sure it can be worked out.  More than anything, I'm dying to see my parents, I miss them like crazy.  I'm going to take pictures of everyone and post them online, probably via Facebook, so I have up-to-date pics of the family and friends, for myself and for Matt since he's not going to be able to go -- I got a new camera in January and I'm dying to put it to good use!  I'll probably come back with an absolute ton of pics of the landscape between here and there, of the desert and the mountains.  I miss those things here, where it's flat and there's not a Joshua Tree in a thousand miles.

So, there you have it.  If you missed it in all that chatter, I'll be there from about March 14th - March 20th (or 21st).  If you're one of said California friends and would like to get together, let me know.  I think almost everyone I know out there either knows where to find me, or at least has a general idea about where I'll be staying and could find it with directions.

Did I mention I can't wait?!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Cupcake Cones

I did a survey through Betty Crocker's website a while back and for doing so they gave me a free 95 page, deserts e-cookbook.  I've made several recipes from the book so far and they've all been amazing.  Anyway, this morning while searching through my pictures, trying to put them into some order, I found some of one of the recipes I made from the cookbook and was reminded that I wanted to share the recipe.  It's easy, and something you've probably seen before, but I enjoyed making them anyway!

Cupcake Cones

1 box of cake mix (any flavor)
30 - 36 flat bottom ice cream cones

- Mix the cake by box directions.
- Fill each cone half-full of cake batter.
- Stand cones in muffin pan & bake for 20 - 25 min.
- Cool and frost. That's it!

It's pretty simple and the cones cool really, really fast.  I've never seen cake, or cupcakes, cool so fast.  I used Funfetti cake (Rainbow Chip frosting, not Funfetti), because it's my favorite, but it would work with any flavor.  Like a dumb-dumb I didn't remember that it took 3 boxes of cones, so I only had 12 cones.  Rather than going out for more cones, I made a small deviation to the formula... I used waffle bowls.

I had some bowls, because Matt, who always goes rogue on recipes, suggested I try it with bowls at some point in the near future.  I had enough cake batter left to fill 4 bowls exactly half-full.  After baking them, I was really happy with the result!  The bowls sort of ruffled out on the tops and were really pretty.  Unfortunately, I put two of them in the microwave overnight so they wouldn't get eaten by critters (Ani, Galileo, stupid evil mice) and the humidity in the small space made the bowls soft and a bit leathery.  I'm going to try this recipe again, with the bowls, and chocolate cake.  It would really work better in more dry places, but I'm going to make them again anyway.


Monday, February 22, 2010

Life, Updated

It's supposed to snow again tomorrow.  If it does, that will make it the fourth snow storm we've had this season.  Last night, when I mentioned it to Matt he said, "We've had 21 years worth of snow in one winter!!"  He wasn't kidding.  Before this, in my whole almost 11 years living in Texas, we've had snow twice, and I was in California one of those times.  I'm enjoying it, to be honest, it's nice to have snow once in a while.  I think if we had it all the time, the novelty would wear off and make me cranky at how cold it is.  The last time it snowed, on the 11th of this month, it was actually 60 degrees and sunny the next day.  The weather here is so unpredictable.  In years past, it was already starting to get warm by this time.

In the gloom of the last few days, I've found it nearly impossible to focus on reading for class.  I'm supposed to be reading The Book of Margery Kempe but I'm having a truly hard time getting through it.  I should have started last week, rather than reading for fun, but I don't regret the time I spent reading Bound by Honor instead.  At least part of the problem right now is that I'd rather be reading Master and so reading the Kempe book feel a bit like punishment.  I'm sure I'll get through it, but that isn't making it any easier to swallow.

I also have a paper over Tender is the Night due on Wednesday and an annotation for the Kempe book due Thursday.  Fortunately, the paper only has to be 5 pages and annotations are fairly simple once I decide on an article to write over and get it read.  I've been thinking that I might do the rest of the semester's annotations some time this week, that way I have that done and out of the way.  I always think I'll do things up ahead of time and then never get around to doing them until they're due.  I'm such a procrastinator.

In non-gloom, non-school related news, I had my first article accepted at Demand Studios over the weekend.  This is a big step forward for me.  I waited to do it until now because my bio was still under review with them until last week and any articles written before the bio is accepted go as anonymous.  I want credit for my work, so I waited.  My first article was over tourist attractions in Stephenville, which was a topic I surprisingly found in their database.  I chose it for my first for obvious reasons, given that I live here.  It came back for a few very minor edits and clarifications, which I fixed, and it was accepted.  I'm actually fairly excited about this!  Unlike Helium (a site I love, by the way), all demand studios articles are edited by copyeditors.  You can't just publish anything you want.  So, to have an article published through them is very affirming.

Additionally, I just found out that my first Suite101 article, Free Software for Writers, was accepted tonight.  At Suite101, the first article has to be reviewed by a copyeditor before it can be published.  Until it's reviewed, no other articles can be written or published.  It took me 5 hours to write that article this morning, which is a long time, I put a lot of work into it.  Once it was done and submitted, I was waiting to see if it would need edits.  It didn't, they accepted it on the first go!  Three cheers for me!!   So, I'm going to work some tonight on a few other articles I have planned for Suite101!  So, I'm off to a good start this week with my freelance writing stuff.

Anyway, I started writing this post about  3:30 p.m. this afternoon, but Matt came in and interrupted me.  It's 9:40 p.m. now and I'm just getting around to finishing it.  The upside of that is that I get to share with you the good news about my Suite101 article, which hadn't been accepted yet when I began writing this post.  Matt met with his dad today, went to class, and met with his statistics group for a group project, which gave me some nice time alone today.  When he came home he wanted to go to Hastings and since we got our tax return today I got two books, Wuthering Heights and The Lightening Thief, and Matt got me "Jewel of the Nile" and "Romancing the Stone" and we would have gotten "War of the Roses" but they didn't have it.   We also splurged a little and took our some of our best friends out for Chinese food, because we haven't seen much of them lately and we missed just hanging out.

Tax money also means grocery shopping, which I both love and hate.  I enjoy shopping but I hate making the menu and grocery list, and trying to get Matt to go with me is like pulling teeth.  Of course, he acts like a 12 year old in the grocery store, and wants everything he sees, so taking him is always a mixed blessing.  I'm just hoping we have enough food around here for a few days, especially since it seems like we'll be snowed in tomorrow.   Cross your fingers that it happens, I love the snow, even if it does mean being cold... which I hate.  Although, I think I already covered this.

So, I'm off to watch "Romancing the Stone" and work on some of the articles I have planned for Suite101.  Good night.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Bound By Honor

I sat down to read Colette Gale's Bound by Honor last night and couldn't put it down.  I read the first 190 pages before 1 a.m. rolled around and I had to go to bed.  The first thing I did when I climbed out of bed this morning, after getting cleaned up, was to pick up the book and finish reading it.  I absolutely loved this book!

So, onto the review, shall we?

From Amazon:
"Maid Marian, now Lady of [Morlaix], is sent to the court of Prince John-not to take part in the debauchery of his Court of Pleasure, but to spy on him for his mother. Little does she know that her secret mission will thrust her into a whirlwind of intrigue, terror, and carnal temptations.

At court, Marian is torn between her duty to the queen and her desire for two men: one, the mysterious highwayman the peasants call Robin Hood, and the other, the dark, cold Sheriff of Nottingham. Given an impossible choice, she must submit to the carnality of Prince John's court in order to fulfill her duty and maintain her honor. But in the end, there is only one man for whom she will risk her life and give her heart."

My Review:

From the very beginning, I felt like I was reading historical romance.  Gale has excellent historical voice, while leaving enough room for modern understanding.   The familiarity of the characters renders this novel comfortable, and Gale expertly takes an original turn on the whole story that left me extremely satisfied.  The subtitle, "An Erotic Novel of Maid Marian" is very much the truth.  This is Marian's story, not Robins of Locksley's and not William de Wendeval's (Sheriff of Nottingham).  There is no mistaking this novel, however, this book is very much erotica.  There is explicit sex involved and if that's not your thing, this is not your book.  For those who enjoy it, or are at the very least not offended by it, Gale has sensuality down to an art.

The narration is third person and jumps around frequently -- following Marian, Robin, Will, and Alys.  Still, it's extremely easy to follow and lends a multi-dimensionality the story couldn't have had, had it followed Marian alone.  It allows us to understand all of the characters and how they feel, which is important to how the story turns out in the end.  Had readers not been able to see things from more than Marian's perspective, the way things unfold simply wouldn't have worked as well as it does.

I simply cannot say enough good about this novel. I found myself smiling like an idiot more often than not, and when I closed the back cover, the smile didn't go away.  I love that this story isn't traditional, that it's not predictable, and that the characters are original despite their historical relevance.  Unfortunately, to say too much more would utterly and completely give the story away which is simply not something I would want to do.  I recommend this book, but only to adults, and only those who don't get insulted by erotica.  While the book is technically considered historical fiction, it skirts all the way to the brink of what's allowable as romance.

When I bought this book, I also got Master: An Erotic Novel of The Count of Monte Cristo by Colette Gale and after reading Bound by Honor: An Erotic Novel of Maid Marian, I simply cannot wait to pick that one up and see what Gale does with it, too!!  If I like it, I'll be getting her first historical romance, Unmasked: An Erotic Novel of The Phantom of the Opera.

One last note of interest, now that I've told you how much I loved Bound by Honor.   I've always been skeptical of romance, indeed scoffed at it.  Then, last year, I began listening to Michele Bekemeyer's Trapping a Duchess and every apprehension I had about romance went out the window.  Her amazing work, which I say listened to because she podcasted it, opened my opinion to a whole new genre.  Without Trapping a Duchess, I might never have read Bound by Honor, which I truly loved.   Michele Bekemeyer will be podcasting the second novel in the series, At Journey's End, sometime later this year and I simply cannot wait.  Now, go and listen to Trapping a Duchess, it's excellent!

Friday, February 19, 2010

From Me(me) to you...

I love meme's!!  I was tagged for this one by both Jodi and Shannon, and they were tagged by their friend Sarah.  My tags will be at the end of the post, but I don't know that there'll be five since some of the people I'd have tagged beat me to it and tagged me.  Also, this should be interesting because many of my friends are... um... areligious, shall we say.  So, here goes!

The rules:

1. Copy and Paste the rules of the game at the beginning.
2. Each player answers the questions about themselves.
3. At the end of the post, the player then tags five people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read the player’s blog.
4. Let the person who tagged you know when you’ve posted your answer.

Note: Please keep this link in your rules so the original poster can see how far the Meme goes.

- What is your favorite word? Oh-for-fuck-sake. I know, it's technically four words, but I run them all together like that, so it counts!
- What is your least favorite word?
Whatever.  I hate, hate, hate, hate to hear "whatever."  Matt and I have a rule about not saying it to one another, but it slips out from time to time.
- What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? Rest and Reading.  I need a certain amount of R&R to function and when I don't get it, I turn into a crazy bitch.
- What turns you off? Stupidity & willful ignorance.  I have no tolerance for people who willingly turn their backs on understanding.
- What is your favorite curse word? Fuck.  Yes, I say it.  I say it a lot.  I try not to say it on the phone and hardly ever say it in emails, but I say it in person a heck of a lot.
- What sound or noise do you love? The kettle whistling.  I heat water for tea in the kettle and I love the way it sounds when it's ready!  I'm like Pavlov's dogs, when the kettle whistles, I start salivating for my Blueberry tea!
- What sound or noise do you hate? Dogs barking & the telephone ringing.  I hate barking, it drives me up a wall.  That includes Ani's barking, by the way.  Barking just reminds me that I'm afraid of dogs (yes, true story) and cranks up my anxiety.  The phone usually means phone solicitors, bah!
- What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? Web designer/graphic artist.  I would love to have some mad CSS-fu!  Unfortunately, I have to settle for the creative genius of others to make my site look awesome.  My expertise stops at being able to tweek little things here and there, and usually not without tutorials of some sort.
- What profession would you not like to do? Airline Attendant.  Flying makes me both anxious and feel like I'm dying.  Motion sickness + vertigo + fear of crashing = taking the train!
- If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? "Stop looking so confused, you're in the right place!"  Ha!  Okay, I considered skipping this question, honestly.  I'm not terribly comfortable with it.


Phoena, Mayren, Shawn, Kristine, & Christine.

Okay, there you have it.  I even came up with five, although Kristine isn't a blogger unless Facebook counts.  It's been forever since I was tagged for a meme and I so love them!

Monday, February 15, 2010

10 years!!

Happy (slightly-belated) Valentine's Day!  I would have posted yesterday, had  Matt and I not stayed in bed until 11:30am. We did, though, and it was nice, so here it is today!

This year marked our 10th wedding anniversary.  We were married February 14, 2000 in Waco, TX.  We didn't do a big wedding, we just went, the two of us, and got married at the court house by a JP.  The ceremony was short, but it was also quaint and lovely, without all the pomp that comes with a big wedding.  I've always felt like that was a good decision for us.  Big weddings are a pain in the rump, they bring with them all sorts of stress, and it wasn't something I felt like I could ever, ever do again.  Also, I really don't like weddings, so having another one wasn't on my list of priorities -- especially given how the first one turned out.  Also, we had been together only 8 months when we got married, so there was no long engagement either.  All in all, it was a small, very personal affair and something I've always felt good about.

The day we went to get married, I wore a gray skirt and a blue beaded sweater that buttoned up the front with pearl buttons -- an outfit I got with the $100 my mom sent me when she heard I was getting married (a story for another time).  We were waiting for the JP when a clerk stopped, looked at us, and said, "You gettin' married?"  We agreed that we were, to which he replied, "Lucky man, marryin' her."  I still remember it, both because I was flattered, and because it made me laugh.  Matt agreed that he was, but all I could think is that the clerk wouldn't say that if he knew me.  Ha!  No, it was a nice thing to say, and it completely off set what would happen after we said our "I do's."

When the ceremony was over and the JP was paid, he signed our marriage license and we walked it across the street to the municipal building where we would take it to be filed.  Texas has some weird laws about marriage.  One I found most funny asked if we were related on the application for the marriage license.  I almost laughed out loud.  Anyway, when we got into the elevator at the court house after we got married, there was a woman in there crying her eyes out.  She asked us if we were married, and when we told her just so, she shook her head and showed us her divorce papers.  This poor woman was filing her divorce on Valentine's Day!  I felt just horrible for her, especially since she was so upset about it.  I mean, if she wanted to get married, or if she was laughing about what a horrible bastard her soon-to-be-ex was, I probably wouldn't have felt bad, or remembered, but she was just so distraught.

After that, trying to put that sad woman out of our minds with sympathy, we went to the game shop where everyone congratulated us.  Man, I miss being able to go to that place!  Just one more piece of Waco I loved and lost when we moved away -- now a days, that game shop is nothing like it was.  It's not cozy or friendly, it's sort of dark and filled with dozens of ill-adjusted teenage Warhammer/Magic geeks.  Afterwards, we went to Johnny Carinos for dinner, which was amazing as I love that place, and that was that!  It was a beautiful day, with beautiful weather, and one of the happiest of my life.

For years after, we went to Johnny Carinos (how I love their Peach Bellini!!) for dinner on Valentine's Day to celebrate.  It was almost a tradition, then we moved here, and it's too far to drive to Waco just to have dinner.  It may be that when the rest of my financial aid comes in March that we'll go to Waco and have dinner at Carinos and go to the Waco Zoo (one of my favorite places in Cameron Park!) for old times sake.  Might even be that we could get Amanda and Karen to join us!

This year, however, we didn't go anywhere for Valentine's Day.  Well, okay, we did go to Wal-Mart for the groceries for dinner, but that doesn't really count.  Unlike the day we got married, yesterday was cloudy and windy and cold.  Had it been warm, like it was the day before yesterday, I might have tried to talk Matt into a picnic in the park.  It's not really his thing, but I think he would have done it and had a good time, had I wanted to.  When I asked him, while in Wal-Mart, what he wanted for dinner, he said he wanted manicotti, which I refused.  Manicotti is a pain in the ass and I don't like it enough to spend so much time in the kitchen cooking it -- that said, Matt actually refuses to eat manicotti in restaurants, claiming mine's better, so maybe I should have given in just to get the inevitable compliments that would have come with such a meal.    Ultimately not, I mean, it was my anniversary too and I didn't want to spend it cooking.  So, we had fettuccine alfredo with grilled chicken and shrimp which was quick and easy, but tasted amazing!

The day would have been perfect if it hadn't been that Wal-Mart was a mad house.  Everyone and their mother was out, buying last minute gifts, while clerks were trying to take down the Valentine's Day section and consolidate everything down to one isle.  What a mess!  It wasn't even that bad around Thanksgiving.  Then, when I was sleeping last night, I woke up coughing because the air in the house was acrid, like molten-chemical-death or burning-rubber.  Matt said it was the heater, but that nothing was on fire.  The smell went away, after a few hours, but made it hard to even sleep and we still have zero idea what caused it.

And you know, I learned something very interesting this year.  There are a hell of a lot of people who do not like Valentine's Day.  I mean, I knew that some people didn't like it, but it seems like a lot of people just down right hate it!  I learned this by way of Facebook, where you can always rely on people to either be encouraging, or downright ugly.  No one was rude about it, when I was posting that it was my anniversary and that I was looking forward to it, but I did get a few private messages giving me a hard time for folding to commercialism and getting married on the most cliche of days.  I just don't get it, I like it and I always have.   Maybe it's because I haven't been alone on Valentine's Day since I was 15 years old.  Even still, before that my folks always went out of their way to get us something for Valentine's Day, so it was a holiday I grew up enjoying.

So, now that I've written more than I had intended when I opened the blank post, I'm off to do something productive.  I hope your Valentine's Day was wonderful, no matter how you might feel about the holiday and in the words of Jacqueline Carey, someone whom I greatly admire, "Love as thou wilt."

Thursday, February 11, 2010

It's snowing in February... in Texas!!

I was up at 5:30am this morning.  I usually sleep late, so 5:30am is really, really early for me.  I'm tired and it's only 2:15pm.  Matt can't/won't wake up to the alarm, so I normally get up to wake him up and then go back to bed.  This morning, he was already awake, which is not unusual, but rather than just leaving me alone so I could go back to sleep, he decided to assault me with a barrage of how-to questions about Tarleton's website.  Very annoying and believe I was very annoyed.  I answered all of them, but by that time, I couldn't sleep. So, I got up, but am grumpy.

We had freezing rain all morning and I'm cold, which isn't helping anything.  The heater just isn't doing it for me, most probably because Matt won't leave it turned on.  So, my hands are turning purple and slightly marbley and are really stiff.  It's days like this that I feel really old.  Then, around about 11:30am it started to snow!  That definitely helped my mood a little bit, but not all the way because the weather is making me sleepy and also because my teeth are bothering me.

On the upside, the snow is really beautiful!  I took this picture with my new camera.  It came out much better than the ones I took on Christmas eve, for which I'm grateful!  As always, click the image to see it larger.

The weather has caused the campus at Tarleton to close from 5pm - 10am, so my class is canceled.  Fortunately, my professor emailed us this morning, canceling the class, so it would have been canceled anyway.   I regret that I'm not going to have that class, I was really looking forward to discussing Aristophanes' Lysistrata but it's not a total loss, I studied the play as an undergraduate.  It's one of my favorites.  I don't regret that I'm going to get to stay home and enjoy the snow as a spectator, rather than trying to brave the weather.  I hate driving in the snow, it scares the heck out of me, so it's better this way, anyway!

I'm starting to wonder what the heck is going on in Texas, honestly.  It never snows here.  The entire time I've been living here we've had snow less than 5 times... or at least that was the case until now.  It's snowed 3 times in the last month and a half.  It's insane!  People who don't believe in global warming are nuts, that's all I have to say about that.

Oh, and this is what Matt was  comfortably doing about mid-morning, while I was miserably lamenting my lack of sleep, for which he is to blame.  The man is impossible to catch with a camera when he's awake.  The irony in that is, he's a major insomniac so he's almost never sleeping -- I caught him in a rare moment!  Grrr!!   He's really very photogenic, he should let me take his picture more!

Anyway, I'm off to scavenge up something to eat and watch the snow a bit before it decides to depart.


**Quick Update**

It's 10:30pm and it's just stopped snowing.  The Weather Channel's website says the snow has passed us.  I'm a little sad to see it go, I love this weather!!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Bathory: Memoir of a Countess

Rather than doing my homework last night, I decided to curl up with a book and while the night away.  Very irresponsible!  I could have been writing my Gatsby paper, which is due tonight, or reading Euripides' Helen for Thursday's class, but I couldn't bring myself to do either, preferring instead to escape the chores ahead of me with A. Mordeaux's Bathory: Memoir of a Countess.  I read the entire thing, all 232 pages, in about four hours.

At this point, I'd like to preface my review by saying that ever since I discovered and ordered the book on Amazon, I've been eagerly awaiting its arrival.  When I got half of my shipment from Amazon early and this book wasn't in it, I was really disappointed, and when it finally did come, I could hardly contain my excitement.  I was able to put off reading it in favor of finishing Kushiel's Avatar, Sappho, and Gatsby, but only barely.  I've been looking for a good book about the Blood Countess and this one seemed like it might be just what I'd sought after, so I was eager to devour it.

I've never been so disappointed by a book in my entire life.

So, first from Amazon:
"The legend of Elizabeth Bathory has captivated generations, but her true persona eludes many. She has been called the most renowned serial killer of her time, accused of torturing and murdering more than 600 people. Conflicted, wanton, and sadistic in nature, was Elizabeth the result of generations of inbreeding? Was she a twisted byproduct of an archaic environment? Or was she merely a victim of a political conspiracy? Travel back in time and explore her story, told in her own voice, and discover the many facets of Countess Elizabeth Bathory."

This is the product description, not a review, but it helps to put things into perspective.  Elisabeth Bathory was a murderess of the highest caliber, believed to have bathed regularly in the blood of  both servant and aristocratic virgins to sustain her youth.  She wasn't just a killer, she was a sadistic torturer, as well.  This is not a sympathetic character, though she is a fascinating one.  So, if anything good could be said about this book, it's only that the story is interesting, but is a story not of the authors devising.  History gives us this character and her tale.
**Includes spoilers beyond this point**

I say then, without reserve, that this is the single worst book I've ever read.  I do mean that, the absolute worst.  Though the character is historical and her story is fascinating, the book is utter garbage.  The prose are stiff and at times difficult to follow, just a lot of sentences haphazardly forced together.  The story unfolds in jagged fits and spurts of time.  There is absolutely no continuity.  The historical details are poorly researched, the character is poorly rendered, and the ending is ridiculous.  Dialogue is both modern and unbelievable, and there is not a single moment when the characters are speaking that I didn't want them to just stop (the book is most certainly not written in "her voice" as the product detail suggests).  It was horribly, horribly distracting and stole away any credibility and suspension of disbelief this book could have had.

The character recognizes herself as depressed (the historically accurate term is melancholia), her husband calls her stressed, and she gets what they recognize as influenza (which didn't become a medical term for more than 100 years after this book is set).  If I had a dime for every time this book said castle, I would have made up the cost of the book. I actually laughed out loud at the term "castle management."  This is historical fiction and shouldn't sound like the characters are going to stay at a cheap motel.

In the midst of all of that, the book depicts in horrible, and horribly written, detail scenes of graphic torture and depraved sexuality.  I'm not one to be insulted by sex, nor am I such a prude that I can't accept torture in it's historical context (we are talking about Hungary in the fifteen- and sixteen-hundreds after all), but the book went over the line.  If the author wanted to write bad BDSM, they should have done so and left history out of it.  There is heterosexual sex, homosexual sex, child molestation and torture, rape, murder, mutilation and all manners of horrors.  Innocent bystanders are tortured and killed to no purpose, which doesn't fit with Elisabeth Bathory's profile.  I don't have a weak stomach for these things, but this book made me nauseous.

As if all that weren't enough, the book has so many loose threads, we could weave a cloak!  Characters are introduced and then disappear.  Children are had and the disappear until the author needs them later.  The only mention of her any of her children being married is that of Elisabeth's middle daughter, Katalin, though her other children are apparently wed as well.  Her son and one of her sons-in-law come to her aid, for no reason at all, while her other son-in-law is apparently, and for no apparent reason, conspiring against her.  Her cousin puts her under house arrest for 3 years, is cruel to her, won't even give her water to bathe with, and yet in the end, this same cousin simply lets her go with a bag of money and tells her to go somewhere and disappear, with no explanation of why.  A young woman is lead into her chambers as she leaves them, and we are left to assume that that woman will serve as a stand-in corpse for Elisabeth, because history says that Elisabeth dies under house arrest.

Though there are many gaps in the record of Elizabeth Bathory, some historical facts are known beyond question.  That she dies under house arrest is one of those fact and yet the author screws that up, too.  In the Author's notes, in the end of the book, Mordeaux attempts to explain away their poorly constructed story and admits to doing most of their research on the internet.  Okay, I research using the internet from time to time, but I also use databases which are unquestionably useful resources.  Oh, and Mordeaux's website links to Wikipedia, the internet's most notoriously unscrupulous source, where anyone can write anything.

After reading this ridiculous book, cover to cover mind you, I did some digging around to find out about the author and publisher.  The book is, not surprisingly, self-published and after this I will never buy another self-published book again as long as I live.  This accounts for the fact that this book has almost no editing.  Many sentences are run together in such a way that they're almost indecipherable, punctuation is wrong in more places than I can count, it is more than clear that no fact checking occurred, words are misspelled, and the author often uses the wrong word entirely (ie. Mordeaux says boar when they mean bore).  Where was the editor?!  I would be humiliated to put my name on this if I were Mordeaux, yet they don't have to be humiliated because they take no credit for their work.

If I've learned anything, it's that authors unwilling to put a face with the name have zero credibility.  This author's website is thin on information and has no author bio.  I don't even know if the perpetrator of this heinous crime against the English language is a man or a woman.  The icing on the cake is that the author is trying to make money, on their website, by selling t-shirts and mugs and bumperstickers with their brand on it.  Credibility first, then t-shirts and mugs, otherwise you just look like a shyster.

Whatever you do, do not buy this horrible book.  I never leave reviews on Amazon, but I think that this time I'm going to.  One of the reviewers over there suggested, quite conspiratorially, that Mordeaux had their friends and family put up dummy reviews to bring in more sales.  When I first read that, I was appalled, but now, having read the book, I'm not only not appalled, I believe that's probably the case.  I should not only get my money back, but should be awarded hazard pay for the four hours of my life I wasted on this trash.

What a disappointment.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Damn Neighbors!!

I've written before about how much I dislike my neighbors, but I think it warrants mentioning again.  The house next door to us is a rental and the people who've rented it have always seemed to be the absolute lowest sort.  We frequently have new neighbors over there, in the last 5 1/2 years we've had 10 different neighbors.  I never see them bringing anything --no furniture, no clothes-- they just appear out of the blue one day and then are gone just as quickly as they came.  The most recent batch of neighbors are always changing, but someone is always living over there.  There'll be a couple, then one of them will disappear replaced by someone else, then the other one will disappear replaced, yet again, by someone else.  It's ridiculous and it's starting to get to me.

When we first moved here, there were a whole bunch of "cowboys" living over there.  They ran around in their boots and hats and had big trucks with gun racks.  One night, we came home and they were drinking beer and cradling their riffles, all of them were drunker than a skunk.  I almost called the cops then and there, but I decided the better of it when they went inside and didn't show their faces again until morning, all hung over and bleary eyed.  They were ridiculous and a menace, but they were relatively harmless.  Other than their stupidity, I only took offense to their dogs, which they kept in a little tiny chain-link kennel, of sorts, in the yard between our houses.  I always thought those dogs looked sad and were ignored.  I counted my blessings when they left.

Then there were 5 or 6 people to follow, all particularly shifty eyed and unfriendly.  I worried about them, but they minded their own business and we did them same.  The people who came after them were assholes, who I was glad to see go.  The husband was mean as all hell to his wife and baby, who I heard him beating on on more than one occasion.  Those people are the ones who called the cops on us when Matt and I got into a fight one night, I know it was them because they would look at us with their sunken eyes and whisper whenever they saw us outside.  After them, the house sat empty for a good year or so, for which I was grateful, only to be filled with obnoxious single mothers with passels of kids.  There had to be two or three of them over there, and a good 10 kids between them.  They were noisy and unfriendly and always had random men coming in and out, which made me nervous.  It was when they built a damn trampoline between our houses, where their kids would spend hours screaming at the top of their lungs, that I thought I'd lose my mind.  Then they were gone.

After them were the people who live there now.  The ones residing there right now are generally friendly, but I dislike them nonetheless for it.  For a long time I'd come home to find furniture in the yard --sofa's, broken washing machines, beat up wicker furniture.  It got old fast.  Then, when they stopped that it was trash.  There were actually dirty diapers and all manners of garbage all over the yard, not just theirs but scattered around on ours, too.  The managers asked them to clean it up before I had the chance to talk to the manager about it, for which I was grateful.  Now, it's the mess their dogs are making.  They have two large dogs chained up outside, and two smaller dogs in the house.  In the mornings they're letting their dogs off the chains to run loose in our yard and they're making a huge mess!

I finally had enough and went to talk to the manager about it.  This is when it gets tricky.  The manager is a generally nice guy, I haven't had much trouble with him, but he tells me that the guy who lives next door to us does work for him.  In other words, they're friends.  Great, just freaking great!  He told me that he told my neighbor that they have to build a fence over there, but it hasn't been done yet.  Now, since I talked to the manager, things have actually gotten worse.  When I came home from school the other night my neighbors big black dog was in the yard unchained.  I sat in the car for a while, looking at it, because I'm afraid of dogs.  I finally, after 15 or so minutes, willed myself to get out of the car and trek the 10 or so yard to the house, when the dog ran at me.  I bolted for the house, dog barking at me the whole way.  I was scared out of my mind.  Then, when we came back from the grocery store the other day, that same damn dog was off his chain, in the yard, and tried to attack Matt.

Okay, so, I'm going to have to talk to the manager again, but I'm worried about doing so because he's friends with the guy who lives over there.  Will it get worse?  When I come home will both of the big dogs be off the chain?  I don't think I should have to sit in my damn drive way, too scared to go inside, because my neighbors dogs are loose and might attack me.  It's ridiculous, I pay my rent and shouldn't have to deal with this crap.  I told Matt he should go with me to discuss this with the manager, but he doesn't seem particularly interested in doing so, so I'm going to have to go alone again and I don't think it's going to do much good.  For my part, I've resolved that next time this happens, next time I find myself sitting scared out of my mind in the drive way in 30 degree weather at 9:30 at night, all because my neighbors are jerks, I'm calling the cops and the humane society.  Animal control can come and take their flea bitten mutts away for all I care!!

It's getting to be ridiculous!!  I'm going to go talk to the manager again tomorrow and hopefully something will get done.  I'm at the end of my rope with the jerks who live next door!!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Kushiel's Avatar

Wow, is it really February 1st already?!  Time flies when you're having fun, I suppose.

Anyway, I spent the afternoon reading the last 200 or so pages of Kushiel's Avatar, the first book on my Busy Bookworm Challenge list for the year.  I know, I know, I'm just now finishing the first book!  Shame on me!!  In my defense, I can say only that it's 750 pages and not a particularly quick read, and also that it's not the only book I've finished this month (as in, January, not February, not yet!). I also read The Great Gatsby and The Complete Poems of Sappho.

Kushiel's Avatar by Jacqueline Carey is Book 3 of the Kushiel's Legacy series, preceded by Kushiel's Dart and Kushiel's Chosen, in that order.  For this reason, this review will be extremely thin on specifics, so as not to include spoilers that might ruin the books, Avatar included.

So then, first from Amazon:

"Terre d'Ange's inhabitants are the descendants of angels, a race of breathtaking beauty whose highest law is Love as Thou Wilt. Extraordinarily skilled as a courtesan as well as in diplomacy and espionage, Phèdre nó Delaunay has risen to be a queen's companion and peer of the realm.... Peace and her life were bought with the sacrifice of her friend Hyacinthe, who assumed an ancient, eternal contract as apprentice to the master of straights.  Phèdre [then] vowed to free him, and has finally discovered how. She must speak the true name of God, which will banish the embittered angel Rahab, who controls Hyacinthe's fate.  To discover the true name, Phèdre journeys to distant lands and dangerous places.... For Phèdre is the only living anguisette, chosen by the god Kushiel to experience pain and pleasure as one, and to maintain divine balance in the world.  At the hands of the insane warlord[...], Phèdre learns what true horror is, nearly losing her soul to keep the covenant with Kushiel.  As her spirit and strength drain away, the love of her life, Josceline the Cassiline warrior priest, must stand by.  Carey's lush, sensuous prose again makes her heroine's story a savory feast for mind and heart."

I chose this particular summary from Amazon, by way of Book List, because this one sums it all up without giving away too much.   A huge number of people who read this book enjoyed it, myself among them, though there are some reviewers (on Amazon, not professional reviewers) would have potential readers believe it's filled with depravity when it certainly isn't.  There is sex, and if that offends then this book (indeed, series) is not for you, and there is some element of torture but there isn't anything too horrible or graphic that it can't be taken in context.  I was certainly moved by the horror at times, but only when it was appropriate and not overly taken aback.  Amazon's review calls this adult fantasy, which for me summons up images of romance, and though it's not exactly that, this book was certainly not written for children.

The story is very tightly woven, with no discernible loose ends to be tied up.  Carey is meticulous in making sure that every thread is secured and follows through in a way that leaves readers satisfied.  Further, as the last book in the first trilogy of a series, it ties up not only it's own loose ends, but all of the loose ends left as plot threads from the two previous books in the series.  I was left only with the grim satisfaction that always finds me at the conclusion of a really satisfying book/series.

It's also of note, where this book and series are concerned, that the characters mature in such a way as to be believable and sympathetic.  I can see, quite clearly, every single character and how they interact.  The cast is somewhat large, but they're vivid, each with his or her own personality and style.  And, so as not to get lost, there's a "Dramatis Personae" in the beginning of the books that helps to keep everyone in perspective.  Although, it's really difficult for me to say that having read about half of the "Wheel of Time" where there are droves and droves of characters to be followed.

Anyhow, after a bit of a lull where the second book in the series is concerned, this book reignites the spark kindled by Kushiel's Dart (Book 1) and has left me wanting more.  Thankfully, there's more to be had since there's a second trilogy in the series!  Still, If I had to say anything was amiss with this book, I would say that at times it can be a bit melodramatic and that the story takes us so far away and to so many places it's sometimes hard to know how they've gotten to where they are.  She follows the characters on their long trek across the world and, much to my chagrin, all the way back.  I felt a bit like she could have skipped the details, either coming or going, and not lost anything but pages for the mercy.  Ultimately, almost every scene added to the story in some meaningful way, making the excess in description tolerable and at times charming, especially with the inclusion of one Imriel de la Courcel, a Prince of the Blood, and a fantastically energetic young character.

Imriel is of particular note because, as it turns out, he is the narrator of the second trilogy of the Kushiel's Legacy series.  Imriel, having grown by then to young adulthood, narrates books 4-6.  Of this, I was particularly wary as when I get attached to a narrator, I want to keep them!  I wasn't sure how I would feel about the change, from Phèdre to Imriel, but having finished Avatar, I feel like I'm going to really enjoy the next 3 books.  I'm even wondering why I ever doubted it at all!  Besides, who can really resist a name like Imriel?!

So, there you have it and though I think this goes without saying, I highly recommend this series to everyone over the age of 18!  I loved it, it's one of the most beautifully written trilogies I've read in a very long time.  Jacqueline Carey is amazing in her ability to form prose that make your heart ache for their beauty!  To say she's eloquent seems an injustice, but will have to do.  I simply cannot wait to start the next book, and perhaps the next after that!

Now, I'm off to watch House and contemplate when I'll be able to start the next book.  Hopefully, my next review won't be nearly as long and rambling, but I wouldn't hold my breath, if I were you!