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The Great Detective—Sherlock Holmes.

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 “You see but you do not observe.” Holmes to Watson, “A Scandal in Bohemia”

I have had a long-standing love affair-du-Coeur with Sherlock Holmes. I read a bunch of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories about the Great Detective when I was younger, and a few of them really stuck with me. I’m sure everyone has their favorites.

Well, for some reason or other, maybe it was the recent and latest iteration of Holmes and Watson by Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law, I felt inspired to go back into Victorian England and delve into the World of Sherlock Holmes once more.

Four novels and fifty-six short stories later, I feel as impressed as ever with Holmes and Watson, and all the crime-solving, mystery-unraveling, clue gathering, disguises, adventures, and explanations. Great stuff!

There is a reason or six why Sherlock Holmes has gripped the imagination of readers, writers and fans since his first appearance on the scene in 1887.

1. The Great Detective Himself

Let’s face it, Holmes is pretty darn fabulous. He’s gifted with intelligence, heightened powers of observation and inference, a scientific and logical mind, the ability to see connections that others don’t see. He’s a master of disguise, chemistry, martial arts and boxing, he’s daring, and he keeps true to his own sense of justice. He does not always win, he does not always find the answer, but if it’s possible, you can be sure he’ll figure out the truth.

Though brilliant, Holmes was not perfect. People have speculated he was manic-depressive, or perhaps had Asperger’s Syndrome. He was high on intellect, and low on emotion—although you could argue it. He was passionate about his crime-solving art—and he had a dry, sarcastic wit which could seriously cut a lesser opponent to shreds. And (nearly) everyone was lesser. He did spend a bit of time addicted to cocaine (when he was bored), which Watson weaned him off of. His chemical experiments, as well as a propensity for shooting off firearms indoors, did not endear him to his landlady Mrs. Hudson. Though she never kicked him out. Hmm, maybe there was something there…? Well, that’s the romance writer in me. Probably been done already, ey?

2. The Crimes—

Watching Holmes unravel the crimes and mysteries is so much fun. The stories cover a wide spectrum. Murder, theft, kidnapping, betrayal, revenge, stolen plans, secrets, espionage, mistaken identity, secret identity, blackmail, fraud—and a few cases which were more mysteries than crime-solving. It’s all about the method! Observation, clues, deductions, inferences, and lots of footwork. He put forensics into action in detective work, sometimes running circles around Scotland Yard, other times working with them at their request, sometimes holding back evidence or explanations if Holmes felt justice was better served that way. The wealth and variety of mystery plots is fantastic.

 3. The Friendship—

Dr. John H. Watson, narrator for most of the stories, chronicler of the tales, is our window into the world of Sherlock Holmes. He is adventurous, brave, loyal, moral, maybe a little stodgy, but a reliable friend—not up to Holmes’ speed, but few would be. Yet they form a strong bond that lasts decades. I don’t know when Watson actually got to practice medicine since he was so ready to drop what he was doing in order to solve crimes, though he did doctor from time to time. He was injured in the Afghan War (odd from today’s standpoint, right? The Watson in the BBC modernization of Sherlock is wounded in the current Afghan war.) Watson does fall in love—something Holmes professes has never happened to him—and marries Mary Morstan from The Sign of the Four. Watson (maybe) even got married again after she (maybe) died—though this woman is never named. No kids—that we know of. Anyway, it’s Watson’s friendship with Holmes, his admiration for his friend’s powers, and his participation in the adventures that invite us into that same bond with the Great Detective. It’s one of the great friendships of literature. Plus Watson is the quintessential sidekick—a prototype for many that came after him.

4. The Nemesis—

Nothing puts the good guys through their paces like a really awesome bad guy. The evil and brilliant Professor Moriarty only figures in a few Holmes’ stories (2 directly), and we hear Holmes mention his struggles against the ‘Napoleon of crime’ in bits and pieces. Quite frankly, Conan Doyle invented Moriarty as a way to send Holmes out in a blaze of Glory. Now Moriarty might have gone over that cliff at Reichenbach Falls, while Holmes (readers find out a decade later, three years in the story world) actually didn’t. Despite his spectacular demise, and like Holmes himself, Moriarty has taken on a life of his own, looming large in the human imagination. Holmes has had many opponents, some worthy of his greatness, others less so, but there is nothing more satisfying than seeing these villains get their comeuppance.

5. The Game—

Well, it has been played by some notable folks, including Dorothy L. Sayers and Christopher Morley. The object is to treat the Holmes ‘canon’ – the 56 short stories and 4 novels – as true. As in, Holmes and Watson really lived, Watson had his stories published through his ‘agent’ Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and the events, places and people are based on real events, places and people. Reams of writing and terabytes of internet space have been devoted to this—it’s like a smart person’s fan club, yet somewhat crazy. I mean, people in Conan Doyle’s day used to think Holmes was real—somewhat annoying to his creator, who wanted to write Other Things. (Which he did, such as The Lost World and a lot of non-fiction work.) That said, people have had fun with dating the stories, figuring out who the historical characters Watson referred to with slight changes and different names might be, how many wives Watson had, where in Sussex Holmes’ bee farm might be, etc.

6. The Interpretations

Holmes was too large to stay chained to the page, and has had a wide and varied series of incarnations on stage, screen, and, well, in other people’s books. He has inspired interpretations of his character, psychology, romances-or-lack-there-of, parody, comedy, and plenty of etc. If I say Sherlock Holmes vs. Dracula, you get the picture. As opposed to ‘cannon’ story, the ‘Adventure of the Sussex Vampire’, an actual penned Sir Arthur Conan Doyle story. In movies alone, Sherlock Holmes has inspired portrayals by over 70 actors in over 200 films. Whoa!

  There is plenty of fodder in the originals to expand on. We know little of Holmes’ background and family, though we do meet smarter (though indolent) brother Mycroft. People have made up all sorts of interesting theories of his upbringing. Watson gives us tantalizing glimpses of cases he never expands into stories (The Giant Rat of Sumatra—come on, Watson, we need to know!) We get our picture of Holmes mostly through Watson’s first person eyes—though there are 2 stories narrated by Holmes, and 2 in third person. So writers and storytellers can find a twist outside Watson’s viewpoint and have fun with it. Thus we have Young Sherlock Holmes a movie about Holmes and Watson as a school boys, Nicholas Meyer’s Seven-Percent Solution (referencing Holmes addiction to cocaine and Freud’s talking cure of same), the TV show House contains many moments of homage to Sherlock Holmes, Basil of Baker Street is a children’s book, and a Disney movie (The Great Mouse Detective) featuring Basil the mouse and his adventures, with nemesis Ratigan (Vincent Price voices, quite fabulous), the Mary Russell books starting with The Beekeepers Apprentice, where in a 15-yr-old American woman meets Holmes in retirement and they have many adventures together. And eventually, a romance.

Just a small sampling of the many, many Holmes-related and re-imagined works out there.

Below are some of my favorite Sherlock Holmes stories.

A Scandal In Bohemia, The Red-headed League, The Speckled Band, The Man with the Twisted Lip, The Copper Beeches, The Norwood Builder, Silver Blaze, The Musgrave Ritual, The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax, The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Abbey Grange, The Second Stain, The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton

If you want a list of Sherlock Holmes stories, try a visit to the Diogenes club. http://www.diogenes-club.com/hoysummary.htm , Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sherlock_Holmes . And your local library or bookstore—there’s always a classic edition around. Amazon & BN have everything as well.

A fun article on the real-or-not biz.  http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2088/did-sherlock-holmes-really-exist 

http://www.schoolandholmes.com/index.html a list of Holmes related books, not by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

http://pbpl.physics.ucla.edu/~yoder/mystery/doywork.html short, short summaries of the short stories

Enjoy! The Game’s Afoot

So, do you have a favorite Sherlock Holmes tale? Love or loathe the Great Detective? Enjoy any particular re-imagination of Holmes & Watson? Who is your favorite Holmes? Basil Rathbone, Jeremy Brett, or Robert Downey Jr., or…? Do tell!

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I love the Halloween Season!

I don’t like roller coasters, slasher movies, or walking home alone in the dark, but give me pumpkins, witches, and skeletons, evil laughs, Frankenstein, Dracula or Mummy movies, a Milky Way, and I’m a happy camper.

In my younger days, I had my goth costume moments, and I did dress up as a vampiress to my husband’s priest,and for a cozy what-if scare I will watch Ghost Hunters with my daughter (she sure does know how to scare herself).

But Halloween is pure fun.

I used to make my kids’ costumes. They were so adorable! My son was a devil (red pj’s, glued on devil horns, a pitchfork—watch out dog!—and once he figured out why the heck I was dragging him around in this outfit, he’d run up to people’s doors chanting ‘candy’! He was 2 ½ ), Zorro, Batman (yes, I made that one despite all the readily available costume shop ones), a pirate, a ninja, and the Prince of Thieves. My daughters have been Sailor Moon (reused several times, a fabulous costume if I do say so myself), princesses (from old bridesmaids gowns, got a lot of mileage there), and then I went to buying costumes, because, well, because, so we had cheerleaders, vampires, and mermaids. Did we do a black widow or ghost bride? Oh, maybe that was me.

Then we went to Zombie soccer players, and minimalist outfits (ie, sweats) and make-up, bloody scars, out with the friends and see ya, mom! Sigh.

So now, only my youngest goes out trick or treating, with friends, and my house must be a little spooky, because I get very few little goblins knocking on my door. I do put on the light. The dog is loud, maybe?

Anyway, I could go on and on about Halloween fun and the joy of a good scare, but I’ll leave it at this.

The spirit world is the closest to ours on the Eve of Hallowmas, or Samhain, depending who and where you are. Roast some pumpkin seeds, light a candle for the dead, ring some bells, and definitely go for the Treat over the Trick.

And I hope you don’t get egged!

Good Halloween Movies

Really old, really creepy. I mean, really. If it’s late and you’re alone, and you watch this thing, you WILL be scared! NOSFERATU—1922, b&w, silent. It’s in the public domain. Creep Factor=HIGH! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rcyzubFvBsA

THE MUMMY—with Boris Karloff—ooh, that close-up of him! Kissing dead things. That vat of embalming fluid. This is both a love story and a creep-fest. Creep Factor=MED

THE MUMMY—Brendan Fraser—I adore #1 and #2. Creep Factor=LOW Although those scarab beetles, ugh! Some good gross-out moments, too. Fun Factor=HIGH

DRACULA—oh, pick any of the dozens of movies out there! Children of the Night, indeed. Creep Factor= SOME CREEPIER THAN OTHERS, SOME STUPIDER, TOO

Frankenstein, Wolfman—hey, I’m a traditionalist! And for a laugh—it still holds up, ABBOT & COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN. They meet a lot of other fun characters, too. And who can forget YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, the Mel Brooks comedy with Gene Wilder and many other fabulous people. Oh, Sweet Mystery of Life!

And for a good black and white ghost story, and I probably mentioned it before, try THE UNIVITED (1944) with Ray Milland.

A lot of people tend to ignore movies made in black and white, but if you’re up for something different, I say give it a try! There is nothing like a spooky black and white movie at this (or any) time of year.

And for a fun Halloween TV treat, if you didn’t catch the Halloween episode of The Office, give it a whirl. It was funny, and good. If you missed it, check out HULU http://www.hulu.com/watch/292804/the-office-spooked James Spader’s Scary Story was Excellent.

Nothin’ to fear but fear itself!

Any Halloween tips to share, a favorite costume, or favorite scary movie? Love this holiday or hate it?

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My love of internet freebies may be known to you (see previous Freebie Friday post https://lizjakes.wordpress.com/2011/05/27/freebie-friday/ ) So here are a few more FREE programs I use a lot, and have found to be very handy. Perhaps they might be of use to you as well.

In the Computer Protection Zone

AVG—AVG has a free as well as a for-pay antivirus program. AVG FREE is pretty darn good. Of course, it’s up to every individual to find their comfort zone in the anti-virus department. It’s a hot zone out there!

You can read PC Mag’s take here, where the reviewer gave AVG FREE a pretty glowing review: http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2391931,00.asp#fbid=bXMUMp2P9Or

Nothing is perfect, but I’ve found AVG to be fairly reliable. I recently went through a big hassle with a virus/malware that I needed help with (thank you and God Bless, Roger M! ) , and ugh!, it sucks. After a few starts and stops in safe mode, a run or 6 of Malwarebytes, AVG finally caught the two nasty bugs and stuck them in the vault.

So, as with anything, make sure you’re up to date, make sure you run the thing every day, and make sure you back up all your important files.

Every day.

Every.

Day.

To read more: reviews & download

http://download.cnet.com/AVG-Anti-Virus-Free-Edition-2011/3000-2239_4-10320142.html

http://free.avg.com/us-en/homepage  They also have their pay one, which has a free trial, so watch which one you click. Freebie to the LEFT.

Watch out for the toolbar they want you to install! I hate those things—unclick unless you want it!

MALWARE BYTES:

http://www.malwarebytes.org/products/malwarebytes_free Also on the People Are Nasty front, we have the inventors and proliferators of malware. ‘Malware’ is a smush-up word for Malicious Software. That’s the adware, Trojans, worms, spyware, etc. that evildoers try to get onto your computer for their evil-doing pleasure. Grr.

Malware Bytes searches out and gets rid of such nasty things, yeah!

The Free version works fine with the caveat that you have to manually update it and instruct it to run. Easy to forget on a day-to-day. If that’s a little too hands-on, go ahead and spring for the more automated Pay version. It’s $24.95—and, hey, that’s almost free!

For CNET review and another avenue to download, see here: http://download.cnet.com/Malwarebytes-Anti-Malware/3000-8022_4-10804572.html

Useful On Your Computer

PORTABLE DOCUMENT FORMAT or .pdf

Portable Document Format gets around the fact that different people have different operating systems and use different word processing software. PDFs can be read (and printed) by (almost) all operating systems. You can read a lot of technical stuff about it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portable_Document_Format

Of course, you need a PDF reader to view a PDF file. Guess what? That part is free! You probably already have it installed on your computer—Adobe Acrobat Reader. If not, you can get if, for free, here. http://www.adobe.com/products/reader.html Make sure to UNCHECK any sneaky software they may ask you to install along with it. You don’t really want it, I promise.

The PDF was created by Adobe, and has become more and more widespread and useful. And kindly and wisely, they allow the world to use it royalty-free so that now we have a worldwide document standard. Pretty cool, right?

And in the spirit of continuing along FREE…

CUTE PDF—Windows Only, Sorry!

If you find the Portable Document Format useful, as I have, you can create PDFs of your documents, or graphics, without buying the ADOBE product. ADOBE ACROBAT Standard=$300 — CUTE=Free. This is a very basic creator. Create your document in MS Word or whatever you use, make it error free, and save it in .pdf (well, not exactly, but read on).

You can’t do the fancy things you can do with a full program, which it looks like you can buy from CUTE for $50. If you need to make changes, you’d have to go back to the original document and fix, then re-PDF.

You will need a PS2PDF converter to make CUTE work—but you can get that for free as well. It’s called GHOSTSCRIPT which is a POSTSCRIPT (which I guess is the PS in the PS2PDF above). Both are linked on the website.

Review: http://www.pcworld.com/downloads/file/fid,25938-order,1-page,1/description.html

Download: http://www.cutepdf.com/Products/CutePDF/Writer.asp I would suggest you install the converter first, then the CUTE.

After wards, your CUTE PDF creator will be a function of your printer menu.

When you’re ready to create your PDF, select the PRINT button on your computer, then select CutePDF in the drop-down menu of the printer select button. A new “save as” box comes up. Save it where you like. Easy peezy, lemon-squeezy.

WEBSITE CREATION & MAINTENANCE

Image that came up when I searched for Coffee Cup Software.

This is not for everyone—but if you are interested in doing your own website, or if you’re like me and have fallen into maintaining your RWA chapter’s website, and you have time, patience and a geeky streak, read on!

You can learn how to create your own website, for free, from the people who maintain the standards. The World Wide Web Consortium. http://www.w3.org/ Very cool group! http://www.w3.org/wiki/HTML/Training

Me, I learned from library books (ULTIMATE FREE PARADISE:  The Library), and pitiful experiments that shocked me by actually producing visual images in my web browser. Can you say, hooked? Or crazy, one of those. The Library has an OVERWHELMING number of books on the subject. My 2 favorites are:

1.  a kid’s book “Dave’s Quick n’ Easy Web Pages” by Dave Lindsay. Dave was 11 when he wrote this. I aspire. Clear, concise, and results-oriented. You might be able to find this in your local library, or used from Amazon.

2. And then, if you get hooked, you can read “Sams Teach Yourself Web Publishing with HTML and CSS in One Hour a Day” (6th Edition) by Laura LeMay. This is a bible-esque tome. But accessible for all its size and weight.

And when you’re ready to create or update:

COFFEE CUP HTML EDITOR– FREE edition.

Coffee Cup software, and doesn’t the name sound so friendly and inviting? I can almost smell the gently-wafting java. Sigh.

Anyway, it isn’t real expensive to begin with. The full version of the HTML editor is $50. You can buy a suite of software for $99 to $150+, which is a good deal for 4 or 5 programs bundled up. But if you want to stay in the Free Zone, the Free HTML editor is perfectly fine.

Better for you if you know HTML (HyperText Markup Language—the way websites are created and read over the internet) going in—and btw if you want to get super basic and bare bones, you can design and edit a website in HTML with Notepad or even Word in a pinch.

But this is better because it’s organized well, has lots of code you can add with a mere double click (and it fills in for you, too) and if you have a lot of pages, it’s much easier to organize yourself because of the left hand side tabs.

Paying for it, you get the WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) visual editor component, but the FREE version has a tab for code editing and a tab for previewing your work. Very convenient! You can also do some browser testing, copy and paste easily, PLUS you can upload directly to the web from inside the program.

IMO, well worth the hard drive space!

Check it out here: http://www.coffeecup.com/free-editor/

Coffee Cup also has a free FTP program. FTP=File Transfer Protocol, which is the way you get files from your computer to your web server, and vice verse. While the HTML editor above has an internal FTP, sometimes the separate program comes in handy. http://www.coffeecup.com/free-ftp

Good Stuff!

There are a lot of initials in website design and internet use, aren’t there? And it acts like magic if you ask me. How do a bunch of tag commands in angle brackets become a beautiful website? Heck knows! I mean, even after I read about it and even after I use it, it’s still mysterious.

But lots of fun.

Stay free, my friends!

Anybody have other freebies they love? Cool and useful programs they adore? I’d love to hear about them.

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…or not?

I, like many other book lovers, have a TBR (To Be Read) pile on the high side. And not a lot of time, sadly. But I made a summer promise to catch up on some paranormal series that I’ve wanted to read, and I made a ‘pact’ of sorts with my 13 year old daughter, also an avid reader.

She loves, loves, loves the Percy Jackson books, so she wanted to share them with me. Isn’t that sweet? So I read them, and I liked them a lot. It really was fun to share books with her. Mother/daughter bonding time.

As I’ve had to take the train to work lately, I asked her for something to read—well, she hemmed and hawed (you have to hear the list of instructions I get when I read one of her books: no eating, drinking, no creasing the spine, no dust jackets, and no folding pages. I don’t fold pages, but the other stuff…ok, it happens)

She knows me well, so she went back and forth with her treasured Fablehaven and a book she had yet to read, Hunger Games. Hunger Games won. And yes, it got a little smushed in the train ride, so now I owe her an unsmooshed copy (not that I didn’t buy it for her in the first place)

But I LOVED the book.  I even went out and bought the rest of them (3 in the series) Hardcover, so my BN discount not-withstanding, not the cheapest way to read.

So before I embark on another series beginning, I’d like to touch on the four series I got to from my list, 2 in the YA zone and 2 in the adult zone.  Feel free to comment or share your take on them!

PERCY JACKSON & THE OLYMPIANSRick Riordan.

YA–8-12 yr. old zone–

Percy Jackson and FriendsThere are 5 in the first series, all told from Percy’s POV. Great premise: the Greek gods are real, and still around, and they still do what they’ve always done, have human lovers, so their half-god children have special powers, and also are in special danger. Thus Camp Half-Blood, where young heroes are trained. I love Percy’s school issues—ADHD, and dyslexia—which become signs of his special nature (it seems all half-breeds have trouble reading anything but ancient Greek) There are adventures, a circle of friends, some of whom die so be prepared for that. There’s an unfolding prophecy to deal with, and coming of age, and paranormal-magical issues, who your true friends are, and there’s even some love stories in there. Annabeth is a great heroine, and Percy is brave and loyal and goes to great lengths for his friends. Lots of how do you deal with absentee parents? And how do you overcome fate, or make it work for you? Lots of things for kids to enjoy, and adults as well. 4 stars

HUNGER GAMES TRILOGY—Suzanne Collins

YA—13+ for tough subject matter, though lots of younger kids have read this—-soon to be a movie, March 2012-ish

Hunger Games CoverBe forewarned, these books are dark. Set in a post-apocalyptic America, the stories are told from Katniss Everdeen’s POV, a 16 year old girl from District 12, under the repressive regime of Panem and President Snow and the Peacekeepers. As punishment for a failed rebellion from the subsequently-annihilated (or was it) District 13, the remaining districts must send a boy and a girl each year to the Hunger Games where they fight each other to the death until only one is left. Nasty stuff, right? Katniss’ sister gets chosen, and Katniss volunteers to take her place. Also chosen is Peeta, the boy who’s had a crush on Katniss since he was 5. So, lots of kids die, lots of terrible bad awful things happen, and then things get worse in books 2 and 3. But it’s a good story. Dark and difficult, violent, graphic, but good.

These books are not without flaws. It’s all told through Katniss’ eyes, and sometimes you’d like someone else’s perspective. And towards the end, she is a basket case. But Katniss is a survivor under it all. Would your 13 year old like these books? Not 100% sure, but IMO, probably.  Quick read.  Well written. 4-5 stars.

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Grown Up Series—so not for the 13 year old set!

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BLACK DAGGER BROTHERHOOD SERIES—JR Ward

9 books, and counting, but I gave up (dark, violent, steamy, kinky)

Dark Lover coverI wasn’t going to talk about this series, because I have mixed feelings about it. But, heck, here goes. First, JR Ward is a fabulous writer. I think she has a brilliant way of expressing her dark vision, and a unique twist on vampires. And twisted it becomes as things go deeper into the world.

Be forewarned, this series is not for the faint of heart. Dark, violent, and often flat out strange and even icky, there are moments of brilliance, and moments of not-so-much. And lots of weird spelling that grates on you after a while.

I stuck it out for 8, though I’m not 100 percent happy I did.

I liked book one, about Wrath and Beth. Wrath is the leader of the Black Dagger Brotherhood, and the King of his vampire race, when he finally accepts his role. I like him the best of the Brothers.

Rhage–LOVER ETERNAL–I was surprised how much I liked his story, and his dragon. Pretty cool.

Zsadist & Bellayou see what I mean about the spelling?LOVER AWAKENED–this was probably my favorite book. Talk about a tortured hero! But it had some of the most beautiful, healing sex/love scenes. Sigh. A keeper.

Then we get to the books I didn’t care for. I really liked these Brothers when they were secondary characters in the previous books, but now, I was…disappointed. Oh, I forgot! I did like Butch and Marissa LOVER REVEALED. There was a shade of bisexuality between him and BFF Vishous, but that never gets acted on.

Vishous–LOVER UNBOUND–does get a mate of the female persuasion in his own book, but the strongest relationship of his life is Butch. Vishous! He’s mean, likes S&M. He’s the S in the equation. Not appealing to me at all. Did I buy that his Jane did some of the hurting on him? Do people go from one side of the equation to the other? Not sure, don’t care. He got less likeable as the series went on, and not just because of the S&M deal, until—I just don’t like him.

Phury—LOVER ENSHRINED–I can’t tell you how upset I was by the twists in his character. From a vampire of tortured nobility and honor to…a drug addict? Not cool, and the reasons for it, not good enough.

Rhevenge, LOVER AVENGED, who I like, except for the drug-dealing thing. Yeah. Kind of an off-putting occupation for a hero, right?

On the sidelines, there’s a gay romance between two of the younger generation of Brothers, that’s a thread through a bunch of the books. Then there’s LOVER MINE, John’s story, the reincarnated Brother who was Darius, Beth’s father who dies in book 1. John falls in love with Xhex, who was a girl Darius rescued in his previous life. Yeah, it’s complicated.

And the bad guys are really weird and gross. Baby powder scent though, that is creepy!  Kudos there.

So why am I mentioning this mixed bag of a series? Because it started out so good, and when it was good, it was really good.

For me, the series took a left turn that I kept waiting to lead somewhere, and it ended up somewhere I didn’t like. And the character changes I saw from beginning to the middle, those were disappointing.

On the plus, it’s an interesting, dark world, and there will be some stories you might enjoy. Lots of people like the whole thing. It’s on plenty of best-seller and top series lists.

1st 3 books, 4-5 stars, book 4—3.5 stars—books 5-6-7 2-3 stars, 8—3 stars.

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NIGHT HUNTRESS SERIES—Jeaniene Frost

6 and counting, plus 2 and counting in the secondary character spin offs

Cat & BonesCat Crawfield is a half-vampire vampire hunter who runs up against Master Vampire Bones, and whew! Fun, games, sex, violence, killing, death, dismemberment, a bad dad, vampires galore, ghouls, ghosts, voodoo, mysteries, plots, secrets,  and secret government entities—not to mention a splendid love story or two—what’s not to love?

I think this series is flat out fun. I suppose it’s dark-ish, and is self-described more urban fantasy romance than paranormal romance.  Many dark elements. All told from Cat’s POV. And there is some kinky sex that pushes it a bit. Not my cuppa, but ok, I’ll deal. Cat got a little whiny there for a bit in some books, but overall, she’s fun and Bones is awesome. Some touching, emotional moments. And character growth over the course of the books, plus the deepening relationship between Cat and Bones is great. Good stuff!

My favorite vampire is Mencheres, though. OMG, love this Egyptian cutie. His story was great. Loved Spade, too, and can’t wait to read about Ian and Vlad (yes, that Vlad-Tepesh-don’t-call-me-Dracula aka the Impaler), but Mencheres. Sizzling.

4 to 5 ♥♥♥♥♥ here!

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Anybody read these, or feel they might want to? Have bonding moments with their children over books they both can read? Disagree with my take on things? Have other series they like/love/hate? Ever read a series that disappointed them as it went on?

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In Zombie Time—after 1 am, before 3 am—TV can be a challenge.

And sleep. You know, if you don’t make it to the pillow before 1 am, the brain does a little jump, and it’s harder to get it to shut down. At least, for me.

Also, things that you watch during Zombie Time, you might think they are better than they actually are. Because, you know, you’re tired. Maybe a little punchy.

And despite the hour, you’re in the Zombie Zone so you feel compelled to see it through to the end.

That said, MARS NEEDS WOMEN. It’s your classic B movie. OK, probably a C- -. Does that make it a D? Anyway, in that odd confluence that sometimes happens, the plot ended up being exactly the same as an episode of STARGATE SG1, ASCENSION. And yes, I was able to catch the gist of both these shows, even though they were on at the same time.

Both feature your classic tale of doomed love. Alien (surprisingly human-like) sees human woman, falls for her, woos her, and…yeah, you guessed it, it hits the fan. There’s military intervention. Some shooting. A little self-sacrifice. A woman without her alien cutie at the end. Tears. Fade to black.

OK, Major Sam Carter (Amanda Tapping) doesn’t cry much. But when she clutches the empty jeans of Orlin (Sean Patrick Flannery) the Ascended Cutie, you feel her pain. Sniff. He was/is a nice guy. Just, Ascended, so, no longer corporeal. Kinda sucks.

MARS NEEDS WOMEN—why, you might ask? Apparently there’s some kind of genetic mutation and they ran out of females on Mars. So, Earth being handy, they’ve come to get  some.

However, their dating/wooing skills aren’t fabulous, and volunteers being short on the ground, they decide kidnapping is the way to go. But scientist Dr. Bolen (Yvonne Craig, later Bat Girl on the TV cult classic, Batman) is there to help. She catches the attention of Martian operative Dop (Tommy Kirk) (really? ‘Dop’?) who decides he’s going to recruit her/spy on her, some combination of that. However, after he poses as a reporter, he catches Dr. Bolen’s eye. Dop and the Doc go for a stroll and fall in love. He changes his mind about The Plan, and his buddies are all upset.

The military come and the Martians need to skedaddle, and Dop’s boss says, either she comes with us, or you do, and you know what’s going to happen to you when we get home. So, he goes.  He kisses his Doc goodbye, and confesses his love.

There are tears, guns, the women are saved, and the lonely scientist faces her future not knowing what happened to her Martian. Sigh.

In general, I like a happy ending in my romances. But these worked for me. Or maybe it was fun because they had the same plot. Maybe it was better to switch back and forth, less is more. Or maybe I was under the influence of the Zombie Zone!

Anybody have any Zombie Zone experiences? Favorite bad movies? Serendipitous alignment of plot? Feel compelled to watch something to the end, even though you know you should turn it off?

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Is the truth ‘out there’ for you? (Long live Mulder and Scully!)

As a writer of paranormal romance, I love how reality TV has branched out into the paranormal field. Who doesn’t want to believe in ghosts, aliens, and sasquatch? The possibilities inherent in the strange, and human connections to the unseen world are fascinating.

Science has debunked a lot of superstitions, but at our core, we humans know that the universe is large, mysterious, and dangerous. Fear of the dark is atavistic—and wise. But there are those who go boldly forth to confront the mysteries and try to make sense of them.

For those of you who think applying the scientific method to the paranormal is a contradiction in terms, Paranormal TV—probably not your cuppa. But the rest of us—come huddle round the fire, my friends!

GHOST HUNTERS http://www.the-atlantic-paranormal-society.com/  and on SyFy http://www.syfy.com/ghosthunters/ Love, love, love Jason and Grant—two plumbers who moonlight as paranormal investigators.

Stop right there! The awesomeness of that premise alone is killer, as well as alliterative. Steve and Tango? The best sidekicks. Nobody does scared better than Steve, except maybe Tango. Amy and the New Guy (Adam)— adorable! (again with the alliteration, it’s a disease) And the dog, Maddie, she’s awesome. And Jason rescued her and trained her, extra points for that. Also, love the gadgets!

Other Ghost Hunting / Haunting Shows—

GHOST HUNTERS ACADEMY—SyFy—they already picked their guy, Adam, but it was lots of fun watching Steve and Tango screen their potential coworkers in the paranormal. Next time, I’m putting in my application! http://www.syfy.com/ghosthuntersacademy/  Also GHOST HUNTERS INTERNATIONAL—travel and see haunted castles, not too shabby. Might be a little cold and damp, though.

PARANORMAL STATE—A&E, http://paranormalresearchsociety.org/ not on currently, but I’m sure it’ll be back—A&E isn’t that good about showing episodes, try HULU

FACT OR FAKED—SyFy—the team chooses a case and goes out in the field to try and debunk it—or maybe they can’t and it’s…a real mystery! http://www.syfy.com/factorfaked/about

GHOST ADVENTURES—Travel Channel, http://www.travelchannel.com/TV_Shows/Ghost_Adventures

A HAUNTING–Discovery Channel, I get scared just looking at the website http://dsc.discovery.com/tv/haunting/haunting.html

Paranormal TV Channel on HULUhttp://www.hulu.com/paranormal-tv Oh, you could spend days in there, my friends, days. It might even be its own dimension.

Anybody have any other paranormal shows on their favs list? Or, perhaps, a ghost tale of their own?

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