No fuss Bread!!

For the longest time, I have wanted to bake my own bread. Most bread recipes are pretty daunting, especially the bit about kneading the life out of the dough. I cannot even manage to knead my chapatti dough properly, so I knew I would not be able to do it (the nick is couchpapaya for a reason).

So, when I came across this no knead baguette recipe, I knew I was going to try it out. And, if you missed it, I'll say it again it's NO KNEAD people! The best part about this recipe is it's so so so easy to put together. It took literally 5 minutes for me to assemble the dough last night, a few minutes of prep work today and voila - two perfectly airy, crusty baguettes in time for dinner. I put olives on one as shown on the blog and sprinkled some dry oregano on the tomato one. Delicious!!! I've also frozen half the batch to see if I can make them as needed during the week.

I'm so excited about this bread I'm off to Amazon to buy the book this recipe came from My Bread: The Revolutionary No-Work, No-Knead Method by Jim Lahey. I foresee a lot of pizzas, foccacias and sandwich bread being baked in the PapayaHousehold in the near future. I've never been happier :)


3 fantasy series reviews ...

This has been the year a lot of my reading misconceptions were shattered. I thought I didn't like reading about vampires, and you all know how that turned out. I thought I couldnt read YA (young adult) fiction, or shape shifter stories but have since found out that a talented writer can hook me onto anything. And so I've decided to never say Never.

And if anyone (all 6 of you who read this blog) was wondering what happened to all the series recommendations posts I promised to write and didnt follow through on, I realized how pointless compiling a list of favorites was. This was because just after I published that post, I started reading the aforementioned shape shifter series which has since muscled out every other to become my favorite romance series - ever! So, in order to prevent more goofs of the same sort I've decided to just do a round-up of current favorites whenever I have a few to discuss. This post lists fantasy series.

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The Queen's Thief Series by Megan Whalen Turner

Series Order
The Thief, The Queen of Attolia, The King of Attolia, A Conspiracy of Kings (to be published 2010)

The Thief is the book that convinced me into adding YA novels to my reading list. I used to think Harry Potter was a one-off, and that I would not be able to relate to YA fiction. I picked this one up because of the attractive covers and without knowing it was YA. It's turned out to be the best impulse buy I ever made.

It's very hard to review this series without giving away major spoilers so I wont try. All I'll say is that the series revolves around the title character of the thief, Eugenides. Eugenides is rash, arrogant, impulsive and cocky, but he's also fiercely loyal, cunning, extremely intelligent and just an awesome character.

The books take place in a fictional region in the Meditteranean with the three countries of Sounis, Eddis and Attolia and there is enough political intrigue to satisfy adult readers. And I loved the romance which develops over the course of the latter books.

Ms. Turner is also responsible for over-turning another of my cherished notions. It's no secret that I love big, fat, meaty books. Here book 3 is the fattest book with 400+ pages of largish font, but I thought that each book was very well told within it's word count

And we have new religions and plenty of divine intervention but I was able to read these just because the subject wasn't delved with in detail. In fact, Ms. Turner has come up with fascinating mythologies for her Gods. Highly recommended!

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The Temeraire Series by Naomi Novik

Series Order
His Majesty's Dragon, Throne of Jade, Black Powder War, Empire of Ivory, Victory of Eagles.

Before I picked this one up, I was inclined to think of dragons in the stereotypical knight-slaying-dragon-and-rescuing-maiden way and didn't think I would ever want to read about them. I bit when I saw this series covered my favorite topic of a historical with fantasy.

This series with a projected 9 books, is set during the Napoleonic Wars. Ms. Novik has created an alternate history where the ground and naval troops are assisted by aerial troops in the form of dragons and their riders. We follow the dragon Temeraire a Chinese Celestial and his Captain, William Lawrence, on their adventures from the thick of war with the French, to China and Africa in the later books.

The writing is good, the relationship between Lawrence and Temeraire almost paternal and very endearing and Ms. Novik has included journal articles, pencil sketches of breeds of dragons, their treatment in society and a whole lot of other fun appendixes to the books.

And if you like to be on the ball wrt films, I just found out that Peter Jackson is going to be converting these to film. I've never been more excited!!!!

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The Sharing Knife Series by Lois McMaster Bujold

Series Order
Beguilement, Legacy, Passage and Horizon

Sharing knife combines my two of my favorite themes - fantasy and forbidden romance. This four book series is about the adventures of a young 'farmer' (in the sharing knife world, people without any ability to manipulate nature around them ie. no magic) girl Fawn and Dag a 'Lakewalker' or the magical sort. Neither of the groups understands or communicates with the other.

Lakewalkers protect the farmers from malices, creatures that drain nature around them and convert the world to a barren landscape. The story starts after a great war between malices and Lakewalkers and the survivors who have slowly started rebuilding their world.

This series has some fascinating character studies about the nature of prejudice intertwined with intricate and well thought out world building. The first two books cover Fawn and Dag's new relationship and discovery of each other. The last two books deal with them becoming a cohesive family unit and influencing the people around them in an effort to get Farmers and Lakewalkers to cohabitate and cooperate. Huh, I've made it sound dry, but it's a truly enjoyable series!!

Do you have an OFF switch?

I like to read across many genres and many topics, even if I end up coming back to certain tried-and-true favorites. Over the course of my reading I have found that the one thing that is certain to pull me out of any book is when a religious theme is introduced.

I admit it's a personal bias, I'm agnostic and I cannot understand character's motivations when colored by religion. I am uncomfortable with extreme piety. The moment I come across any theological themes, it's like a switch flips in my brain and I cannot get interested in the book anymore.

It's happened to me way too many times recently. I just discovered Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Legacy Series. The first book is one of those brilliant starts to any series - with dark fantasy elements, fascinating characters, political intrigue, intriguing world-building- I blazed through the Kushiel's Dart and couldnt wait to get my hands on the next one in the series.

The remaining books made for weary reading, the author is obviously fascinated with Christianity and the mythology and delves deep into ancient Jewish and Christian myths. The Kushiel series has so many sub-plots that I was able to complete reading it, but only because in my initial euphoria I got all 6 books in the two series and they kept taunting me on my bookshelf. I did like it, but if I have to remember what displeased me or bored me about the books then it would have to be the religious discussions.

The next book I read is Laura Kinsale's breathtaking Flowers from the Storm. In Flowers, the Duke of Jerveaulx is a womaniser and prominent mathematician, until a cerebral haemorrhage leaves him with damaged motor skills, unable to speak and with damaged long term memory. Maddy Timms, daughter of a prominent Quaker mathematician, has worked with Jervealux for some mathematical papers and been repulsed by Jerveaulx's lifestyle.

But, when she comes upon Jerveaulx in an insane asylum, she is the only person to recognise that Jerveaulx is not insane, he can recite mathematical formulae and proofs just fine, he's just forgotten how to communicate. And Maddie and Jerveaulx begin a long and arduous journey to recovery and love, lined with legal pitfalls, greedy family members, Jerveaulx's deviousness and Maddy's Quaker beliefs.

The word I used to describe Flowers From the Storm before was breathtaking and I really cannot think of a better one. I think Ms. Kinsale is the best romance novelist there is. Her prose is elegant, the characters are well realized and have Issues (and you guys know how much I love angst) and this book covered such a range of emotions for me that it was impossible to put down.

However, even as engrossed as I was in the story, my biggest problem was with the heroine who is rigidly religious and the choices she makes because of her beliefs. Basically, she puts herself and Jerveaulx through the double-wringer (yesyesyes I needed a box of tissues the whole time I was reading). Jerveaulx isn't a saint either, he manipulates Maddy through the entire book but because her choices are due to her religion I felt that I had less patience with them. If another heroine had made the same choices, just through common sense or even self-preservation, I think I would have understood and tolerated her better.

And I find it's not only established religion either. I think Ms. Carey reinterpreted a lot of the stuff in her books, they are fantasy after all but they are based on existing religions. In Lois McMaster Bujold's Chalion fantasy series, Ms. Bujold invented a new religion for her world of Chalion. And much as I love Ms. Bujold's books, I couldnt get through these. I loved the world-building, it was the issues which put me off.

I just discovered the pattern because I picked up so many similar themed books recently, but I find it troubling. That I should dismiss any topic or even any character because I cannot understand their beliefs or am not interested in the themes being discussed. I should be more tolerant I think. I will probably try and find some more books to read, just to rid myself of my bias ... after a little while. Suggestions would be welcome!

And how about you? Is there any subject which you just cannot bring yourself to read or when introduced kills your appreciation for a book you were enjoying before? Do you feel guilty, or are fine with it?



Pumpkin Flan

Hope everyone's Thanksgiving was fun! I was on vacation so I refused to do anything strenous, just read about 4 books, ate like a pig and tried out a couple of bookmarked recipes (to facilitate the aforementioned eating).

And for all you people who are sick of pumpkin pies and over-eating during the holidays I give you the perfect holiday dessert - pumpkin flan each serving of which is only a 100 calories. If I have a dessert weakness it's custard in any form, flans, caramel custard, creme brulee, so of course I had to try this out! And it was superb, all the wholesome deliciousness of pumpkins co-mingling with the richness of custard, caramel and a gentle hint of spice. A perfect recipe to flummox your guests with, who'd have thought of pumpkin + flan together huh?!

The pumpkin puree I used wasnt finely pureed so I got a chewier texture than flan generally has, if you dont like that I'd suggest giving the puree a little whirl in the food processor. And since the recipe was such a big hit the first time, I just had to make it again - the second time around I added about 1 tbsp. of orange rind and served with vanilla ice cream. The plates were licked clean, and my guests were truly thankful!

What did you guys do/ eat for Thanksgiving? For the international visitors, how was your weekend? And did anyone score any great Black Friday deals? I'm the worst bargain shopper, I get easily overwhelmed and end up browsing without buying anything. This time, keeping with the tradition, I bought a winter coat at one of those few, few, very few stores without a Black Friday sale. Le sigh.

On biting off more than one can chew!

Work has been aggravating lately. It's just been little annoyances piling on top of each other until I feel I'm going to tear a piece off the next unfortunate who is going to add to my work load.


To add to my frustrations, I decided to sign up for the NaNoWriMo this month i.e. committing myself to writing a 50,000 word novel in November. The first 2 days went by in a welter of typing. It's the 11th day and according to the schedule I should have written approx 19000 words by the end of today. Instead I have 4700. Four. Fricking. Thousand. And all of them nauseating. It seems every time my characters open their mouths the sound that comes out is mwaaah-wah-wah, I'm boring myself with the story so far. Even the characters names bore me. I proudly put the badge up on my blog the first couple of days but have since taken it down in shame.

As an aside- it doesnt help that I also managed to read two mind-blowingly amazing books by the talented Laura Kinsale. Just comparing her prose next to my driveling garbage makes me want to take a cleaver to my computer- or atleast my story. Bah! I generally tend not to review the books which greatly move me (I only managed the time traveller's wife and I only got it right the second time). Kinsale's books are in that category, so will try to review but cannot promise it, I never manage to get the emotional content right.

Because of all the unneeded frustrations I needed something simple and satisfying to eat today. So, I settled on a grilled crunchy peanut butter, jam and banana sandwich. With a puddle of golden honey drizzled on the bananas (because I use sugar-free jam and I needed to amp up the sweetness).

I have not calmed down yet. But, lunch sure was comforting.


Review: Covet

Rating: 3 / 5


Covet is the first book in the new Fallen Angels series by JR Ward.

Jim Heron is a loner and drifter. After being discharged from the military he has been wandering around picking up odd jobs to make a living. One of these has landed him in Caldwell, NY, as part of the construction crew on Vincent diPietro's house.

Hanging out with his construction buddies in the Iron Mask, Caldwell's new night club, Jim has an odd encounter with the vulnerable Devina. The oddness is ratcheted up to shock the next day, when she gets out of Vin's car at the construction site- apparently he hooked up with his boss's girlfriend. Startled, Jim loses balance, electrocuting himself and ends up with a new job description.

Because, the Earth is a game board, with the angels and demons playing for people's souls. But, the Creator is now tired of the constant fighting between good and evil and has issued an ultimatum, the final deciding factor will be 7 souls. And the player who will manipulate them is Jim, who is the perfect balance between good and evil and thus acceptable to both teams.

In the afterlife 4 angels approach Jim and charge him with the task of saving 7 souls- if he succeeds evil will be vanquished from the world forever and if he does not, the world ceases to exist passing under the dominion of the demons. On this gameboard, the angels and demons play to win, and are not above putting little bit players to help or hinder Jim as the case maybe.

And as it turns out the first soul he has to save is Vin's, embedded in avarice. Vin comes from a poor background and has a relentless drive towards earning money and surrounding himself with the material trappings of success- cars, furniture, art, complete with the stunningly beautiful model girlfriend, Devina. He doesnt believe in donating his money, wanting some service or return with every dollar he spends. He believes he is happy, but is shocked out of his inertia when he cannot bring himself to propose to Devina.

The revelation comes about when he meets Marie-Terese, a prostitute (with the proverbial heart of gold) at the Iron Mask. Marie-Terese is a single mother who is running from a criminal husband who tried to kidnap her son, is living under an assumed name and doing the only job she thinks she can to pay off the debts she has accumulated. With the demons trying to take over Vin's soul, Vin must look to Marie-Terese, the woman who quietens the greedy beast within him, and Jim for salvation against the evil that threatens to consume him.

Let's get this out of the way- Covet is marketed as a new series and it isnt part of Ward's other series, the Black Dagger Brotherhood. However, to muddy things up a bit, it takes place in the same location as the latter and Trez, Officer de la Cruz and Phury from the BDB have cameos here. Additionally, the style is similar to the BDB, even though the mythology is completely different.

I'm not sure how new readers will relate to this book since there are a few bits that might come across unexplained (the cops carrying out only a rudimentary investigation, for instance) but for me, I was happy enough to return to a much-loved world. And I quite liked the story and the whole angel-demon mythology setup.

As with the other books, there are multiple story-lines. We have Vin and Marie-Terese, the primary romance. A stalker-type fixated on MT (unfortunately this is the track which doesnt work, I had no clue behind his motivation). Four British, croquet loving angels and dog, in an over-the-top, silly track . Jim, and his fallen angel helpers, riding Harleys and wearing leathers :) and Dog (the dogs really, really confuse me). And the demon who has its hooks into Vin.

Interestingly we never see a portion of the climax between the fallen angels and the demons, maybe it's left for the sequel. Only Jim's character really worked for me though, when he's first introduced he's a blank slate, and we pick up bits and pieces of his background as we go along. All the rest are stock Ward characters.

I know it sounds like a lukewarm review, but I did enjoy the book while reading it. I know I'll keep reading since this series has a promising arc and I am still hoping for a read as compelling as the BDB (ummm, ok, gun to my head, like the first 3 books). I do think some of the stories are going to have the demons winning so those should make for some interesting reads. If you are looking for a fun paranormal read, pick this one up . But, if you want to start reading JR Ward, you cannot go wrong with the Black Dagger Brotherhood series.

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I received my copy thanks to a giveaway at Reading, Writing and Ranting.

CymLowell

Why I'll never be a food stylist!

As the leaves start falling and the temperatures flirt with the single digits, all I want to do in the evenings is cosy up in front of the fireplace, drink hot chocolate and read a good book. Unfortunately hunger pangs rear their demanding heads once in a while, so I need to cook something substantial to eat. This is the time of the year when soups and sandwiches make their appearance regularly in the Papaya household- I love the comforting aromas of a good soup bubbling away on the stove and the sandwiches are to feed the heartier appetites.

This weekend I kick-started our new winter menu with the soup-sandwich combination above. It's a simple pumpkin-potato soup with a parsley pesto thick yogurt (or dahi butter) garnish and the sandwiches are parsley pesto, avocado, tomato & lettuce paninis. The yogurt adds a tanginess and creaminess to the soup while the pesto added a hint of freshness- we thought the flavors blended well together.

The picture isnt quite what I wanted it to be, I wanted 3 distinct colors in the soup. The pumpkin orange, with the green pesto drizzled on top and pristine white yogurt in the center. Of course, the pesto didnt drizzle well and after a couple of tries I gave up and mixed it with the yogurt. Then the yogurt wouldnt arrange itself the way I wanted it to, and of course it wouldnt float. I have a new appreciation for food stylists and for the patience and talent of people with food blogs.

If you want to make paninis at home and dont have a panini press try this simple trick I picked up from Rachel Ray on the Food Network. Place your sandwich in a fry pan/ grill and then use something heavy to press it. I like to use a saucepan filled with water. Presto paninis!! Clean up is a breeze too.

For the pesto: Process parsley leaves, garlic, lemon juice, salt, pepper, almonds, grated parmesan cheese in a food processor adding olive oil until it all combines together.

Happy Halloween everyone!!




Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

(translated by Reg Keeland)

Rating: 4/ 5

Stieg Larsson's posthumously published debut novel is the first in a series of 3 novels in the Millennium series. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has been popping up on bestseller lists for a long time now, which is when it went on my TBR list.

The start of the book introduces the mystery of Harriet Vanger, the scion of the Vanger family who disappeared over 40 years ago. Henrik Vanger, her uncle wants to get to the bottom of her disappearance once and for all.

To do this he hires Mikael Blomkvist, an investigative journalist. Blomkvist has been convicted of libel for a story he wrote about financial genius Hans Wennerstrom. Due to the conviction he has to serve a prison sentence and give up his position as publisher of Millennium magazine. Blomkvist is heading towards depression because he believes in his exposé of Wennerstrom, but has no proof.

Vanger approaches Blomkvist dangling a tasty carrot- in return for his investigating Harriet's disappearance, Vanger will give him proof of Wennerstrom's financial fraud. This gives Blomkvist the impetus to agree to solve what he describes as a 'classic closed door mystery', the vanishing taking place during a family reunion on Hedeby island. Blomkvist hires Lisbeth Salander, a brilliant PI to help him, but as their investigation proceeds it quickly becomes apparent that the truth is much darker and more sinister than anyone had imagined.

In addition to being a mystery, this book is also a broad perspective of Sweden, on the financial journalism, on it's social and welfare programs, on the sexual abuse of women in Sweden (presented as little tid-bits before the start of the various sections in the novel) and a family saga. It also contains technological mumbo-jumbo for a complete package of crime in the twenty-first century. In short, it's one of the most engrossing, multi-layered thrillers I've read in a long time. And it was very interesting to read about another setting, most thrillers I read seem to be located in America.

Easily the best part about this book is in the unique title character of Lisbeth Salander. She's brilliant at computers, but is mostly unemotional and uninvolved in her interactions with people. That this genius comes packaged in a tiny, anorexic-looking punk facade with tattoos and piercings confuses everyone she comes across.

Blomkvist is much less complicated. A possible foil for a lot of the women hating in the novel, he is a man who easily loves and is loved by women (this part really made me scoff). Blomkvist becomes the only person who does not expect or demand something from Salander, eventually they come to trust each other laying the groundwork of a formidable team.

I must mention that I think the title of the translated version is misleading, Blomkvist features more in the book though I agree that Salander is the more interesting character. The book's original title in Sweden was 'Men who hate Women'. And the buzz is that the recently released The Girl Who Played with Fire deals with Salander's back story and has Blomkvist and Salander team up again. Cannot wait to read it!!

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Series Order

1. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
2. The Girl who played with Fire
3. The Girl who kicked the Hornet's Nest - to be released 2009

CymLowell


Hiking the Kalalau trail to Hanakapi'ai Beach: a rainy day perspective

Na'Pali coast

Kauai, in the second week of October, turned out to be a spur of the moment trip due to an airline fare sale coupled with B's colleague regaling him with stories about hiking and camping on Hawaii's oldest island. We wanted to spend 2 days on the dramatic Na Pali coastline hiking the Kalalau trail which is rated as one of the most difficult backpacking trails in America, and camp overnight on Kauai's beaches.

The first indication that something was about to go wrong was on the evening before we left when I spent a couple of hours researching our trip. Apparently, to camp at Kalalau, you need a permit and it was recommended that people apply for the permit 6 months in advance. At that point there was not much we could have done so we decided to trust in luck.So, the morning after we landed in Kauai, bright-eyed and full of hope we headed to the state department and were told there were no permits for camping until mid-October, but we could get a free day hike permit to Hanakoa. The Kalalau trail is divided into 3 segments - 2 miles from start at Ke'e Beach to Hanakapi'ai Beach, 4 miles next to Hanakoa Valley and then 5 miles to Kalalau Valley. The initial 2 mile segment can be hiked by all, but you need a day hike permit to Hanakoa and a camping permit for Kalalau Beach since it is not recommended to do the full hike (round-trip 22 miles) in a single day.

Severely disappointed we decided to do the Hanakoa hike atleast. Heading to the county department for camping permits we hit another snag. Apparently the Hae'na Beach Park which is a couple miles from Ke'e Beach was closed for undisclosed reasons. This was where we planned to setup camp, deposit our stuff, then walk to the trailhead at Ke'e Beach (since the trailhead is notorious for car break-ins). We settled for camping at the nearby Anini Beach Park, since we were not doing the overnight hike we werent worried about our stuff anymore.

We managed to score a campsite right by the beach at Anini (a gorgeous beach with a calm lagoon edged by a coral breaker and white sand, just dont get here on the weekend), the thrill of which was somewhat marred by families with screaming children (I am tolerant of kids but not when their parents allow them to run around yelling at the top of their lungs in an extremely crowded campsite at 10 in the night) and drunken idiots who insisted on loud talking and playing their boom-boxes well beyond midnight. A special shout-out goes to the other fidiot who imitated a rooster call, very realistically, at 4am. Way to endear yourself to people, folks!

Waking up to a view of the sunrise over a gently rolling Pacific did away with all the illwill of a sleepless night for about a couple of minutes until we went to the washrooms and found that more fidiots had messed up the washrooms, re-routed water from the drinking water fountain (we saw someone taking a shower with this water supply later in the day, while the rest of us went waterless) and B cut his finger when trying to turn off the tap to the secondary outlet. At this point à la Eric Cartman we decided 'Screw this sh1t, we're checking into a hotel' and spent the morning driving around to see if there were restrooms available.

The original plan was to start our hike (round trip 12 miles) at 7 in the morning. Because of all the snafus we didnt get to the trail until 830 am. We could have avoided the restroom hunting, Ke'e beach did have some decent washrooms supplied with water, no soap though, and I didnt see any place for drinking water. Anyway, by the time we reached the trailhead it was raining cats, dogs and bonobos (keep in mind Kauai is tied with Cherrapunji, India -or Mawsyngram now- as the wettest place on earth). We were going to wait the rain out, but when we got there the parking lot was full so we decided to start hiking too.

Muddy trailThe Kalalau trail was created back in the 1800s for horses and goats and the high rate of erosion on these cliffs has ensured that the trail hasnt been maintained. Consequently it's an uneven, rocky, muddy, slippery, narrow trail with portions having the rain forest on one side and straight drops hundreds of feet into the ocean on the other. The first two miles are the easiest though.

The first half mile is an uphill climb withKe'e beach view from trail beautiful views over Ke'e beach. Also, the trail is edged by the most fascinating flora- saturated with flowers, loads of exotic fruits, berries and forests of sweet-smelling guava trees. The guavas were so ripe they had fallen off and gotten trampled underfoot with the result that the trail smelled of a heady mix of wet soil and fruity guavas. We picked a handful of guavas for a snack for when we reached the beach.

After the first three-quarters of a mile or so Na'Pali coast viewwe finally held our breath at a mist-covered ethereal glimpse of the famed coastline. All this time the trail was rocky but now it became muddy and at this point, it started raining very hard and we were soon encrusted. My shoes were ruined in a couple of minutes; I must mention that this trail needs a hardy pair of hiking shoes. B and I were prepared even with hiking poles which were a great help, but we were flabbergasted by flip-flops and Crocs on the trail. One adventurous couple were barefoot, something I would have thought twice about with the leptospirosis danger due to feral goat and rat urine in the streams. Everyone seemed in good spirits though.

The last leg just before we got to Hanakapi'ai Beach, and after a dire warning of the number of people who had died on a notchable sign (the count was at 84 when we went, the pic alongside is from Wikipedia, wonder when it was taken :( ), we had to cross a fast-moving river to finally get to the beach. B managed to get across without problems, me the shorty sank hip deep. It ultimately took us 2 hours to get to the beach, with a couple of breaks in between. Because of all the warning signs about the strong currents we decided to avoid getting into the water and just continue to Hanakoa without much delay.

After Hanakapi'ai, the trail immediately becomes an extremely narrow path through shrubs and trees (where little bitty mosquitoes hide out waiting to bite unsuspecting bare legs) and there are a series of switchbacks into various valleys with gorgeous views. About half an hour of this, I slipped at the very edge trying to avoid sinking ankle deep into muddy water (foolish me, there was no earthly way I could have got dirtier) and was only prevented from falling off the trail by doing a series of comical hand rolls forward and backward by which time B grabbed me. After this, I turned B's ears blue with a steady stream of invectives (it's my coping mechanism when I'm scared or angry :( ) for about 15 more minutes, when B asked if I wanted to turn back. I put up a token resistance but then agreed.

As we returned it seemed that we were walking a completely new trail-Trail covered with water 3 hours into the hike and it had been raining continuously and heavily. In most places, the trail was completely obscured by water, the little muddy water trickles were now fast-moving streams (see pic alongside) and impromptu waterfalls had sprung up which we had to wade through. The rain let up for some time letting B experiment with different camera angles and exposures, so finally we got back to the trailhead a good 6 hours after we started- completely bedraggled and muddy. We headed back to our hotel for a long, hot soak in the bathtub thanking our stars that the camping idea had been scrapped.

Even though this hike was tough, I totally enjoyed it and would definitely do it again. The only disappointment for both of us was that we didnt make it to any of our milestones. The great advantage with the rainy weather was no sunburn and we didnt get thirsty at all, we carried 2l of water per person and ended up using only about half a liter for the entire hike. We even gave away some of our water to people who had run out just to lighten the load on the way back.

The tantalizing views we had of the coastline (so near yet so far :( ) means that B and I have promised ourselves we'll go back, and all the way to Kalalau Beach. Let's hope the second time's the charm ..... xxx


It must be October!

I love pumpkins and come October I look forward to using pumpkin in everything - soups, subjis, cookies. I have a limited repertoire though, so I'm always looking for new stuff and I was excited this weekend when i came across a recipe for pumpkin with pasta, something I'd never tried before. Below is a pic, the recipe I used was Mario Batali's Ziti alla Zucca (Ziti with pumpkin).


If you're reeling at the combination, do try it, it's delicious!! I added some walnuts because I like to have some crunch in my pasta.

The only version I HATE is pumpkin pie so this year I'm going to play around with recipes until I come up with an acceptable version for me :) Cant wait! And of course, you will read all about it here.

So, suggestions- any favorite or unusual pumpkin (I mean the red pumpkin here) recipes I should be trying out?

Randomness

I came across this movie Before the Rains while randomly browsing today. Santosh Sivan, Nandita Das, Rahul Bose, Jennifer Ehle, Bruce Wayne's dad (heh, dont know his name), Kerala in the 1930s .... it looks amazing!! Anyone seen this movie? It's going to the top of my watch list ... and how come it's out on DVD already and I hadn't even heard about it hmpf!



For the Austen fans I came across the writer Juliet Archer whose going to be writing a series of modern versions Austen in the 21st century. The Importance of Being Emma is already published and she's next working on a version of Persuasion. I've been on an Emma jag lately, just finished watching Clueless (lovelovelove this movie) so cannot wait to get my sticky Papaya hands on this book.

And finally, remember all the whining I was doing before - fall's here people! And since I just stumbled across this amazing site called Polyvore I played around (feeling a lot like Silverstone's Cher) to create an outfit from my closet - I picked up the ribbon-trim dress for $15 (original price $90) courtesy some coupons so currently it's the favorite item I possess, next to my impulse leather jacket buy and those 4 inch heels which are killer to wear but look so cute. I just know this outfit is going to get worn time and again this season ....
fall colors

There's nothing like retail therapy (even if it's from my own closet) to scare away the ennui :) Have a great weekend, folks!!


Ennui

Some of my most creative meals come about when I'm alone. Most of the time my diet staple is good old Maggi (esp. now that they've introduced the vegetable atta noodles, luuurve them). The day I run out of my Maggi and am too lazy to drive half an hour to the Indian grocery store are the days when my mental acuity is tested to the limit. Which one tempts you?

Take for example, last night. My dinner consisted of Haldiram's aloo bhujia with 2 slices of bread. And if you haven't ever eaten sev with bread, it's crispy, it's crunchy, it's sweet and savory, what's not to like? (Spike I know I laughed at your meals but I was laughing with you all those times).

As I still haven't gone to the grocery store, tonight's meal presents another problem. I've been debating throwing thinly sliced potatoes, red onions, celery and avocado in a skillet with salt and pepper and I doubt it will taste half bad. Actually the only item bothering me is the celery - I hate the stuff. The only reason it entered the house was I was looking for healthy snacks (no scoffing) and was sick of the baby carrots I normally chew on.

In a flash of inspiration (and the result of watching countless shows on food network) I remembered someone mentioning celery and peanut butter is a great snack to get kids to eat their veggies. And if kids can eat it so can I, went the thinking. Well I tried it last night and if that shtuff gets kids to eat their veggies, I'm a size 0. Celery and peanut butter does NOT go together. Unlike bread and bhujia. So, now I have this great hunk of celery in the house and no idea what to do with it. Or atleast I know what to do with it (ref. the potato idea), I'm just not looking forward to eating it. Sigh.

How about you? What are your favorite healthy snacks? Or your favorite quick fix lonely dinner?

Anyways, before I continue to depress myself, let me say that the wonderfully creative avdi presented this award to me sometime ago. Her post giving away the award is inspired. Thanks a lot for thinking of me avdi!


Of this and that ...

Yeesh .... no posts this month. I could say I was super-busy traveling and while it would be partly true the other reason is I have no writing ideas.

The weather gods have been dithering between summer and fall, so I've been going around wrongly dressed for almost every event- flowy, sleeveless dress and flip-flops on a miserably rainy day, completely covered for a sunny barbecue and so on. I guess it would help to check the weather every morning but that would require a more planned person than me. I wish fall would just get here already!!

I also bought a super-cute faux-leather jacket (similar to the one alongside though in a richer golden-brown color and prettier zipper detailing) in preparation for fall and I cannot wait to debut it. This was a total impulse buy, we were in a new town with some time to kill, spotted our favorite discounted designer store and ended with me buying the jacket and B with 2 pairs of shoes (just the fodder I needed the next time 'someone' points fingers at my shoe addiction :D) ...

Getting the new items to fit into our luggage was a challenge, since we already traveled with over-stuffed bags! I did find a new way of packing, apparently if you roll your clothes you can get a whole lot more stuffed into the same space. I did pity the customs guys if they happened to open those suitcases, items were apt to roll out every which way. Anyway, we got back with nothing missing so all's well on that front.

Anyways, so I decided I'd just do a round up of some events. The first was the food at the Minnesota State Fair- everything fried and preferably on a stick!

- deep-fried candy bar on a stick- -jumbo smoked turkey leg- -pork chop on a stick-

I've spent a lot of time scoffing at the deep fried chocolate thingy on the left but honestly, it's doughnut batter with melted chocolate in the center and sprinkled with sugar. What's not to love? The only sound I could make after eating this started with an m and ended with the same, I'm pretty surprised I actually had the fortitude to take the pic before I gobbled the rest up. The turkey leg was just plain scary!

The next was an end of summer barbecue. I made these delicious bacon-wrapped jalapenos in two batches; one as in the recipe and the other with a spot of honey in the jalapenos for the timid. I grilled them but next time I think I'll use the oven since our grill was very hot and it ended up charring the poor things. But, they were so much fun to eat and disappeared in a couple of minutes. I didn't get many nice pics though, so check out the original recipe to see some absolutely drool-worthy pics.

And lastly, due to the aforementioned writing slump there's been a decided lack of reviews. But, I did start reading a new author Nalini Singh's Psy-Changeling series and have been steam-rolling my way through them. I've read 2 books and the world is just so intriguing, detailed and complicated, I'm loving it. It's based in an alternate reality where there are three races - humans, changelings and the Psy and Ms. Singh goes into the details much more clearly than I can.

I started reading the author after picking up her new series Angels' Blood a few months ago, based in another alternate reality setting with vampires, angels and humans. Do pick both series up if you like paranormal reads, they're rich in world-building, the characters are fascinating and the books are well thought out and well-written.

However, this brings me to something that bugs me with romances and their covers , more specifically the tacky covers even the good books seem to end up with. If I hadn't been intrigued by the author's other series I would never have picked the Psy-Changeling series up solely based on the cover art. I know it's publishers who make the cover decisions so I wonder why they cannot understand that if people are embarrassed to be seen with the book cover they will not buy the book (i'm talking the impulse buys here). Atleast that's how it works in PapayaLand, I wonder if anyone feels differently?

Anyways, that's about all for this rambling post, how was your weekend folks?



Zucchini Kofta curry ....

... or a desperate attempt to update this blog!

This was made when I had a ton of zucchinis in the house (an enthusiastic farmer's market purchase) and was running out of things to make with them. Since this is not an original recipe I'm not posting it to the food blog, it's made from Smita's delicious recipe for Cabbage with a spicy twist. Because I love the flavors of the original I've been trying various versions of it. The one below is for a zucchini kofta curry.





Clockwise from left: Grated zucchini, turmeric powder, coriander powder, cumin powder, thinly sliced ginger, chopped green chillies, chopped coriander leaves, besan (gram flour)
Mix together, there's no need to add water.






Drop the batter (I used a spoon) into an appe / ebelskiver pan or deep fry them as usual. This wasnt an original idea, it's been borrowed from the amazing food blog world - needless to say I love it and have been using this pan to do all my deep frying in.






While the koftas are frying chop coriander leaves, onions, tomatoes and slit some green chillies.


Spices clockwise from left: slit green chillies, red chillies, bay leaf, clove, cinnamon stick, green cardamom, black cardamom, ajwain (carom) seeds.




In a little oil add all the spices. After a couple of minutes add the onions. Fry till transparent and add turmeric/ chilli powder.










After a few minutes, add ginger and garlic paste.











After another couple of minutes, add the cumin and coriander powders. Fry well.











After the masala is fried (couple of minutes) add the chopped tomatoes (or tomato puree if you dont like lumpy gravies), once they have been fried well add well-beaten yogurt (or for added richness cream can be added but do this as the final step after the one below). Mix well.







Add some water, drop the koftas into the curry and let simmer until desired consistency is reached. Garnish with coriander leaves and serve hot with rice/ chapattis/ parathas.

Chocolate Marie treats ...

... or Quick 'n easy recipes for the Lazy Papaya!

Summer holidays are almost at an end here. This weekend I was thinking nostalgically of my own short lived, much enjoyed summer holidays and of driving my mom crazy with endless refrains of I'm-bored and Is-there-something-to-eat when I remembered the simple treat mom used to make for us to shove into our gullets the minute we brought up the eating question.


You will need: Digestive (Marie) biscuits and some squares of bitter cooking chocolate (use milk/semi-sweet, whatever you like). Please ignore the interesting looking bottle of alcohol in the background - more on this later.

Melt the chocolate in the microwave (or if you are fussy use the double-boiler method). Spoon a largish blob on one biscuit and then spread all over the surface. Repeat for all. Harden in fridge and enjoy.

What I love most about this treat is it's potential, you can dress it up or down as follows:

The Sophisticated - First, spread a layer of marzipan on the biscuit, then add the layer of chocolate. Or else, spread the chocolate on the biscuit and layer some crushed praline/ sliced strawberries/ raspberries on top.

The Kiddie Version - Spread some peanut butter then spread the layer of chocolate. Thinly slice apples/ bananas and add over the layer of chocolate.

The Simple - Sprinkle powdered sugar/ cocoa over the chocolate covered biscuit.

However, due to my inability to learn from my mistakes I tried to add rum to the microwaved chocolate. It promptly seized and the resulting biscuits looked like they were covered with dog poop.

Hence, the intentional blurry image of what was meant to be the money shot. They taste great though, and since it's just B and me (or I) and our tummies we were all completely satisfied!!

The other fun thing we did last weekend was watch District 9. Produced by Peter Jackson, it's part sci-fi, part political commentary, part action flick and totally amazing!! Do watch if you enjoy the genre.



How was your weekend folks?




Julia and Julia/ Cheeni Kum and the food!

When the Julie and Julia buzz began making the rounds sometime last month I knew I would watch it. However, my reasons to watch it were because it was a movie about cooking, not because of any familiarity with Julia Child. The only things I knew about her are that were that she is a culinary icon, her cookbook is seminal in publishing and I had watched an episode of hers with Emeril Lagasse way back when on Food Network.
Julie and Julia- the book- is a personal memoir of Julie Powell who decides to cook all the recipes in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking over the course of a year and maintains a blog about it.

The movie splits Julie's experience with stories from Julia Child's memoir and so we get a charming story of two women separated by time and place who embark on a culinary voyage - Julia because she needs to find something to do after her husband Paul Child is transferred to Paris and Julie because she is an under-achieving, failed writer stuck in a desk job and nearing her 30th birthday and, again, needs to find something to do.

I'm not reviewing the movie, I just want to say it is perfectly charming. Julia Child and Paul Child are played by Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci respectively and they have an amazing chemistry - during the romantic moments or even when they are sitting quietly together. Julia's portion makes the movie, it's charming and vibrant with Streep's larger than life portrayal of Julia. Julie Powell and her husband are played by Amy Adams and Chris Messina and their portions, while not as vivid as the rest are quietly engaging proving a testament to Ms. Adams charm in front of the camera.

The movie is written and directed by Nora Ephron, so yes it's chick flick territory but largely unlike the regular fare. I guess the difference here is that the couples are already in love, Streep and Tucci especially, and while they have their spats they are still supportive of their spouses. And just in case it wasnt clear already, I loved the movie.

But coming to the point of the post - the food. The food was all that I had expected and more. From the first shots of a perfectly browned fish sputtering in butter sauce which is Julia's first meal in Paris to Julia's famous boeuf bourguignon the food was the unacknowledged star. Needless to say I was drooling and I dont even like stews much. Thank God for my BIG tub of popcorn, I doubt I could have made it through the movie without it.

While there's ample movies with Western food, J&J, the recent Catherine Zeta-Jones starrer, even the highly entertaining show Kitchen Confidential (why do all the shows I love end up getting cancelled??bah!) it's much rarer to see Indian food treated like the star in Bollywood.

So imagine my surprise when the opening shots of Cheeni Kum (the Tabu- Amitabh Bachchan starrer, a May-December romance) showed colorful spices being roasted, onions sizzling in oil, coriander garnishes, all exquisitely framed in a pristine kitchen with chefs in pure-white smocks and caps. The opening sequence was so enthralling, it made me realize that I've rarely seen Indian food presented so beautifully as it is here.

And my enjoyment of the movie was guaranteed once the Hyderabadi zafrani pulao made it's appearance, looking so perfectly saffron tinged I wanted to eat it- RIGHT away! Coming to the movie, Tabu and AB were amazing, AB especially wonderfully eccentric in the scene where he lists the ingredients of the pulao right before being slammed with the knowledge that it was made by Tabu. It's not a perfect movie by any means, melodrama taking over the latter half but I came away with positive thoughts about it all because of the first few scenes.

Watching these two movies recently has just made me realise that it's very rarely I absolutely dislike movies about food or based on food. I loved Chocolat, Like Water for Chocolate, liked No Reservations, even enjoyed Harold and Kumar go to Whitecastle. Sadly, that's all the food movies I've seen.

How about you? Do you have a favorite food movie? And I'd love any recommendations, especially for Bollywood.

However right now, I'm going to go raid the piece of emergency dark chocolate I hide in my cupboard for just such occasions. All this talk of food has made me ravenous!!


Tagged!

Thanks avdi for tagging me. Like I said, I haven't been feeling like reviewing so atleast I get a post out of this :)

1. Grab the book nearest to you, turn on page 18 and find line 4.
As always on chilly mornings many people had stopped off for something to eat before making their way home.

2. Stretch your left arm out as far as you can & catch air?
My coffee cup

3. What is the last thing you watched on TV?
Starship Troopers

4. Without looking, guess what time it is?
545pm

5. Now look at the clock, what is the actual time?
559pm

6. With the exception of the computer, what can you hear?
Fan whirling away in the august heat

7. When did you last step outside? What were you doing?
Went to ride my bike, found B had put a big, fat lock on it and taken the key with him ... grr...

8. Before you started this Q&As, what did you look at?

On sale now .... am sooo buying them :D

9. What are you wearing?
Cropped pants and a fire engine red shirt

10. When did you last laugh?
This morning as I watched a lady walking her dog in a pram ....

11. What is on the walls of the room you are in?
errr... paint?

12. Seen anything weird lately?
See 10.

13. What do you think of this quiz?
Slightly voyeuristic no?

14. What is the last film you saw?
Starshop Troopers

15. If you became a multimillionaire overnight, what would you buy?
A pair of Manolo's, guilt-free!! Other things will be done with much thought of boring finance mumbo-jumbo.

16. Tell me something about you that I dunno!
I hate to drive.

17. If you could change one thing about the world, regardless of guilt or politics, what would you do?
Hmm I'll go with Avdi's answer ... poverty.

18. Do you like to Dance?
I have two left feet, but yes !

19. Imagine your first child is a girl, what do you call her?
Antara

20. Imagine your first child is a boy, what do you call him?
Neel

21. Would you ever consider living abroad?
haha Yes, India.

22. What do you want GOD to say to you when you reach the pearly gates?
After handing me the welcome drink with an umbrella; bar to the left, dance floor to the right and the beach shuttles leave every hour.

I'm going to tag Bouncing Bubble, Angel's Flight, EISI and Samir!

The Time Traveler's Wife movie trailer ....



Smita's comments got me thinking about this book again. Anyways, I'm less excited about the movie after watching the trailer, but I think the background music is to blame. And what's with the cheesy special effects for the disappearing!!!

How about you? Planning to watch?

Oh, and if you have not read this book, please do! It's excellent!! A review can be found here, but if you can read the version on That-Other-Site, it's far better than this one.

Review: The Heretic's Daughter


Rating: 4.5 / 5


I tend to dig out stories of the Salem witch trials, so when I heard about this book I had to read it. The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent is a richly drawn and captivating tale of a family uniting through love in the midst of a terrifying ordeal.

The book starts as a letter from Sarah Carrier Chapman to her beloved grand-daughter in an attempt to clarify their family's history - a history shrouded with whispers, gossip and most of all fear.

The Carriers, Thomas and Martha, and their children 4 boys and two girls Sarah and Hannah move to Andover from nearby Billerica to escape the small pox which has caused a large number of fatalities in the village. Unknown to them their son Andrew already carries the virus and before long there is a small pox epidemic in Andover, which causes more deaths. The townspeople slowly come to hate the Carriers for bringing the disease in their midst.

Martha Carrier, an outspoken and fearless woman rubs against her neighbors the wrong way with her honesty and Thomas Carrier is feared for the role he played in an English uprising. Since there is already bad blood between the neighbors and the Carriers because they do not submit to the religious beliefs of the village, the Carriers live a solitary life. A property dispute arises between Martha Carrier and her sister's family for the house in Andover.

It is in the middle of all these events that a group of girls in nearby Salem Village accuse people of being witches. Very soon, the fear ripping through the counties of Massachusetts reaches Andover and the Carriers are caught up in it's wake.

The story is told through the eyes of 10 year old Sarah, a prickly child not easily loving perceiving herself as unloved because her mother is a cold, no-nonsense woman. I loved her voice observant with the odd maturity of childhood.
A seeping wound can be bound. Salve can be dabbed to a burn of a swelling bubo. Poison can be drawn with a leech, or a lance. But guilt is a ghost that takes the shape of the body it inhabits and consumes all that is tender within its shell: brain, bowels, and heart. I cannot pluck it out like a splinter of glass or treat it with herbal brews.
Sarah's loss of innocence leads her to the understanding of a parent's love and that it need not always be outwardly manifested.

With the subject and the fate of Martha Carrier being well documented, the beauty of the book lies not in the tension of the final outcome, it's the starkness of the prose and simplicity of a harrowing tale told through a child's eyes; of the events as they might have unfolded during that bleak period of 1692 which makes this story so readable.

This book carries some vivid historical detail from the ordinary chores of a farming family, Puritanical beliefs, to descriptions of the prisons where the 'witches' were kept and the horrifying conditions and torture they have to live through. Ms. Kent has done her research, but the story became additionally compelling for me when I learnt that Martha Carrier is her ancestor.

For me I'm fascinated with the psychology by which entire counties, priests, lawyers and judges came to participate in what is a dark period in American history. The author puts forth some theories, the Puritans having their rigid social patterns, fear-mongering due to disease, religion and Indian raids and finally the much too familiar motives of jealousy, greed and hate accompanied with mass hysteria.

The sole criticism I have is that the history of Thomas Carrier isn't clear. He's widely feared and has occupied a pivotal part in British history and this is the major reason he escapes when most men who supported their wives were also accused. But since I'm unfamiliar with the history I didn't really understand his notoriety or his political beliefs.

However, it doesn't take much away from the story and if you are interested in American history read this book. It's unputdownable.

CymLowell


Review: Lover Avenged


Rating: 3.5 / 5

Read the reviews for the first 6 books in the series here. WARNING- this review is for people familiar with the BDB it contains a lot of Ward's terminology and might also contain spoilers wrt previous books.

Among the number of search terms associated with the Black Dagger Brotherhood that lead people to this site every week, the question 'What is a sympath?' inevitably makes an appearance. And I thought JR Ward's Lover Avenged, the 7th novel of the BDB series would answer just that.

The focus of this novel is on Rehvenge, half-sympath, leahdyre of the vampire glymera and a powerful drug lord and pimp in Caldwell, New York. Rehvenge's illegal activities serve to pay his blackmailer for keeping the sympath side of his identity a secret thereby protecting his mother, sister and half-sympath employee Xhex.

According to vampire law any sympaths have to be quarantined in a colony in the remote northern areas of the state. The sympath laws are even clearer, ALL half-breeds must die. To keep his sympath urges at bay Rehvenge relies heavily on drugs, which leave his body numb.

On his routine check ups at Havers' hospital he often comes in contact with nurse Ehlena. Ehlena is a fallen member of the glymera and is sole care-giver to her father who is schizophrenic which leaves her with almost no social life. Rehvenge is drawn to this loneliness of hers, a mirror of his own and the two start to build a tentative relationship together.

In the meanwhile, Wrath has been secretly fighting lessers in his free time, and it's not long before he is found out. This severely tries his relationship not only with Beth, who is sorely hurt by his deceit and lack of trust towards herself, Wrath also has his annoyed Brothers to deal with. In addition headaches which have persisted almost all his life become stronger and he loses what little vision he does have. Trapped in his blindness, not being able to fight, having to depend on other people just to get around and marital problems lead to Wrath being scared, not a good emotion for any Brother to wallow in.

But, things are going to get worse for Wrath. A member of the glymera approaches Rehvenge for assassinating the Blind King and a sympath, even a half-breed canNOT be trusted, can they? Read the book to see how Ward resolves the stories - can Wrath and Beth come to terms, will Rehvenge and Ehlena find true love, where the assassination plot leads and what exactly are Lash and the Lessening Society upto?

Wrt the sympath question posed before, I have to say I'm still clueless. All I gathered from this book was that sympaths fed off emotions preferably the sinful ones (and what? no idea), and they have a decided predilection for scorpions and spiders. But, let's just say for the purposes of this book that sympath = ehvil (heh) and leave it at that.

I really liked all the action in this book, first since it plays catch up with the old stories - Wrath and Beth for example. Wrath suddenly accepting his Kingship had always seemed too good to be true so I loved the continuation of his story arc here.

I liked the real-world conundrum the Lessening Society is facing, apparently being humongously evil AND a son of the Omega is not enough in the material world. Lash has to struggle to make money to supply his people with decent weapons, hideouts, bling and sexy cars. He hits upon the perfect solution, getting into the drug business, but that slowly infringes upon Rehvenge's territory and before he knows it the vampires have been clued to his return.

John Matthew, Blaylock and Qhuinn have minor roles but we do spend some time with John Matthew and his love for Xhex. I must say, I didnt like JM ever since he was introduced, first he was all angsty and whiny, though I was able to tolerate him in LE mainly because he seemed to have matured a bit. Well, here he slides down that slippery slope into tiresomeness, nohbuddy luuurves me. He does fit right into the Brotherhood (pre-marriage) though.

What I didnt care much for was the Rehvenge-Ehlena track. Rehv in all the previous books was a hard core character, seemingly conscienceless, filled with self-loathing for himself over the blackmailing bit contrasted with being extremely protective towards his family ... let's go for tormented, yup he's a tormented hero - my favorite kind.

With Ehlena he suddenly becomes a total mushy sap all I-love-yous and I-want-to-serve-yous and sentimental phone convos in a matter of minutes. Not that it wasn't sweet, but it took some time for me to reconcile the amethyst-eyed mohawked drug lord who kills people without compunction with the gooey pillow talk. And that Ehlena, that upright figure in the vampire community accepts him warts (hmm maybe I should be saying barb :) and all.

The h/h feeling they're not good enough for each other is my least favorite theme in romance, and Ehlena and Rehv go quite a few times around this particular bush. The other reason is I didnt care much for Ehlena, she felt like an amalgam of all the earlier heroines Beth, Mary except she can handle her way around a gun. Though I did like the way she dealt with her father's illness, at one point she walks him through a new house so that his fears of intruders are minimised once he sees security cameras around.

I think Ward should move out of finding women for her heroes from the social outcasts. Surely, there's scope for someone from the glymera to have an HEA too.

Phury still being Primale stumped me, in LE he refused the joy of being sole sperm donor to the Chosen. Why does he keep the title? Looks to me just like another way to keep poor Phury away from the house (heh, I like how ever since LE he's forever become poor Phury in my mind) ...

And even though I like Xhex's character (being the sole alpha female in the series) I didnt like the kidnap motif being used again. Additionally, is it just me, or does the war between the lessers and the vampires seems like it's on a never-ending track. Not much happens in this book, the vampires basically doing their own thing and Lash his own until they intersect at the climax and I'd like to see more concrete developments happening with this in the next few books.

And of course, new characters are introduced here and I have the sinking feeling that they might have their own books coming out soon.

Will I keep reading? You bet. I'm hooked onto this series and wasn't much bothered with only a sprinkling of romance because of all the other fun stuff. The thing that might prove a problem for me is the suspicion that there is no concrete story arc for the entire series.

I learnt some new slang though - fidiot (Ward's short form for effing idiot), now where shall I use it first? :D

-------------------
Series Order

1. Dark Lover
2. Lover Eternal
3. Lover Awakened
4. Lover Revealed
5. Lover Unbound
6. Lover Enshrined
7. Lover Avenged
8. Lover Mine - to be released 2010

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