Coming Soon: CSN Stores Product Review

I dont know about you guys, but I've yet to meet a kitchen gadget I didnt like. For the past year or so I've been a big proponent of the minimalist kitchen. This happened through necessity rather than design since we moved from a large-ish single family into an apartment with a shoe-box kitchen.

As I donated three large boxes of kitchen articles from my old kitchen, I tried to get over my heartbreak (and hoarding tendencies) with positive thoughts - why do I need a sandwich maker when I have a frying pan and my own ingenuity and so on and so forth. I've been pretty good at maintaining this position, over the last year the only new article that has entered my kitchen has been my beloved ebelskiver pan.

So, imagine my excitement when the generous people at CSN Stores contacted me to review a product from their site. The website has over 200+ stores and they carry an exhaustive range of products all in one place- from dinnerware, to furniture and shoes, bags and luggage. Of course, I jumped at the opportunity. And once my mouse stalled over the kitchen tools link, I knew the product would have to be a kitchen gadget.

But, I haven't yet narrowed down which one will replace the ghosts of gadgets past in my teeny-tiny kitchen. So, here's the question to you guys to help me figure out if there's something I really need - which is your favorite kitchen gadget?

As of this writing, I would have to say my favorite is my Braun hand blender with whisk and immersion blender attachments. I love it so much I've even given it out as gifts.

Review: Lover Mine

Rating: 2 / 5

Lover Mine is the 8th book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood Series by JR Ward.

Let's get this out of the way first, shall we. Read this book only if you have read the rest of the series. It could be read standalone, but a lot of the complicated relationships are clearer if you go in order. Series order and reviews can be found here and here. There will be BDB terminology in this review and minor spoilers wrt this book and previous books which will not be explicitly marked.

LM picks up 4 weeks after the events of Lover Avenged. Xhex, the half-sympath assassin, has been kidnapped by Lash, son of the Omega. The Brotherhood, Rehv, John Matthew, Blaylock and Qhuinn are doing their best to find any clues to her disappearance. Something about the manner in which she disappeared and the way that he treated her the last time they were together has caused John Matthew to bond with Xhex and his panic, grief and the need to avenge are unsurpassable.

Meanwhile Xhex is enduring physical and mental abuse at the hands of Lash, who initially saw her only as a hostage, but has since fallen in love with her himself. After 4 weeks of Lash's brutality Xhex has come to several revelations, that she is in love with John Matthew and she kept him at a distance because of the repercussions once JM found she was half-sympath. And that she has finally reached her breaking point, the only reason for her survival is to seek revenge against Lash.

Xhex manages to get herself out of Lash's clutches and re-unite with JM for some bitter-sweet moments together since both know that the time they have is short. Xhex is driven by one purpose, she MUST kill Lash herself and does not envision life after the event, while JM in order to retain any self-respect and self-worth MUST kill Lash himself.

JM has a long, sordid history with Lash and the years spent away from the vampire community where he was different, misunderstood and traumatised have left deep scars in his mental make up. To allow Lash to have abused the female he is bonded to is unthinkable. To allow anyone else, even Xhex, to kill Lash is even more unthinkable. As their personal vendetta against Lash leads to the inevitable showdown, JM and Xhex must examine their hearts to determine what is really important, the destruction of their souls or finding and keeping a soulmate.

I must come clean, I almost, almost didnt write this review because of how disappointing the book was. The only thing pushing me was my OC tendencies since I've reviewed every other book in the series on this blog. Cant break that trend now, can I?

A major part of my disappointment has to do with John Matthew. If you've read my reviews you know I dont care for him at all. But, in LA, I almost thought that I would be able to read his story. Almost. It had to do with this wonderful dynamic that JM and Xhex had going on - she the tough, hard-as-nails sympath assassin, while he was the much more emotionally available, tormented younger guy. I wanted to read that story. The kidnapping in the last book upset me because I had a premonition that everything I was interested in was going to be thrown. And I was right!

Basically this book is a rehash of Lover Awakened where Bella is kidnapped and Zsadist goes crazy trying to find her. Bella and Zsadist worked because their characters were defined to fit the roles they inhabited in their book. In LM Xhex the tough warrior woman is forced into Bella's role while whiny JM gets Zsadist - it really, really didnt work for me. I was excited when Xhex was introduced because there are so few strong women in this series, I hated that for her to get a HEA she had to be emotionally and physically broken down until she seemed a changed person. I'm not saying that any person can undergo what she goes through and still come out strong, her journey probably strikes the right chords for survivors. I think I'm upset that she had to go through an ordeal which required her to be weak and needy just so JM could play the alpha male.

A huge part of my problem with JM is how much telling, not showing, there is going on around him. The first scene in LM introduces him as follows
The one in the middle, however, was trouble. Slightly larger than his buddies, he had dark brown hair that was cut short and a classically handsome face-but his blue eyes were lifeless, with about as much reflection as old asphalt.
A dead man walking. With nothing to lose.
JM is always talked up as being a fierce and extremely dangerous fighter but he really does nothing. His internal monologues are whiny, self-centered & immature and it seemed to me like other people were always picking up after his messes. Even at the climax, after all the angst over how it had to be him taking Lash out all JM does is put himself, stupidly, in danger, so others can save Xhex and bail him out. And while I can see how it might look that he took the higher road, put his own needs aside to allow Xhex her vengeance all I saw was JM being his pathetic, ineffectual self. Right, I'm sure everyone understands exactly how much I liked him so we'll move along now.

As is the case with all the BDB books, the plotline above is only the primary romance. There's ample other action going on in this book. Lash and the Omega have a falling out and Lash soon learns what it means to be daddy's boy no longer. We have a flashback with the Brothers Darius and Tohrment investigating the disappearance of a member of the glymera. And we have a storyline with a paranormal investigations unit in South Carolina (? I dont remember and am too lazy to look it up). None of these worked for me, the lesser parts never do and the minute I started reading the latter storylines I knew exactly how they were going to be resolved so that took away some of the mystery factor for me.

Which brings me to the portions which did work. Namely the triangle between JM's friends Blaylock, Qhuinn and Qhuinn's cousin Saxton. Blay's been in love with Qhuinn forever while Qhuinn just wants to conform to the norm, get married to a woman of worth, after being an outcast all his life. He treats Blay horribly then gets cross-eyed with jealousy when Saxton finally asks Blay out. All the Qhuinn/Blay portions were fantastic, the scenes shifting between them wanting to hurt each other, to intense longing esspecially on Blay's part. All I wanted to do was read about them.

It's a pattern I've been noticing since LE, the secondary romances have all the sizzling romantic tension but when they move into their own story lose all their chemistry. I certainly felt the same way about JM and Xhex in the last book and couldnt wait to read their story. The caveat with Qhuinn and Blay's story is that I'd love to read them get their HEA but as a secondary romance in one of the future books. I'm sure I will not be able to handle another book filled primarily with the teenage angst and urban slang speak that this book had.

Lastly we also get a buildup to the next book which is Payne and Manny's story. Again, I loved Payne when she was introduced - a female Brother? Fantastic!! But LM ends with Payne breaking her spine and it looks like she's going to need intensive therapy/rehabilitation (which is probably where Manny steps in, Manny to those who dont remember was Jane's boss in LU) to get back on her feet. By now you know how I feel that Payne has to be weakened in her own story ... as if the psychological number her mother, the Scribe Virgin, has done on her isnt enough. Also, this will be another romance with a human/vampire love interest and I've yet to see one of those come to a satisfactory conclusion.

And finally, if you are still reading and want to know about the series arc ... what series arc? I felt the storyline was completely stagnant in LM, while simultaneously introducing more characters for potential stories. The problem is that I'm just not interested in these characters, I wanted to read about the Brotherhood and they're all storied out. How about Tohr's story, you say? In the BDB world the men are mated for life. Tohr had his mate in Wellsie who died, so if I read about an upcoming book with Tohr I will be intensely irritated. As it stands, I'm not sure if I'll pick up the next one in the series.

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

Slow summer ...

It's been a long, hot, summer, and my blogging inspiration has hit rock bottom. Today I felt chatty so just wanted to share a couple of updates. First up, food! The two pizza recipes are by Jim Lahey with the no knead bread technique I mentioned a couple of months ago. I'd been dying to try out a few of the recipes in his book (which all look delicious and easy btw) so since I was craving carbs a few weeks ago I decided on pizza. The Pizza Funghi (Mushroom Pizza) is to the left while the Pizza Batata (Sweet Potato Pizza) is below. Both pizzas were fantastic, more like an thin crust of bread with some insanely simple, unique and delicious toppings.

If I had to pick a favorite it's the Funghi while B's is the Batata which was a tad too sweet for me. The next time I make it I think I'll add some potatoes to the topping just to prevent it from getting overly sweet. I also made the entire batch of pizza dough in the recipe, froze it and made them 2 weeks apart and it turned out great. I love it when I can cut time in half by making a bigger batch and then freezing, so I can definitely say that the recipes worked for me on many levels.

What do you guys do for breakfast? I tend to keep it simple with oats and any fruit I have lying around. Once in a while I might get creative with honey & cinnamon. Last weekend, being bored with oats, I decided on making the Dutch Baby (pics below). The recipe I used was Alton Brown's and while it looked spectacular in the oven, it didnt rock my world much. Imagine an eggier, denser pancake ... and I dont much like pancakes. Anyway, we ate it drizzled with agave syrup and some lemon shown below and it was nice. I wish I had made a syrup (blueberries and lemon was the original idea) to pour over it, but I got lazy. It was ok for a taste, but has so much butter & sugar I'm pretty sure I'm never going to be making it again.

I just realised the last time I was at the movies was to watch the immensely disappointing Shutter Island, an entire FIVE months ago. I've been really uninterested with the summer movie fare this year ... but I think it's about to change now. I see a couple of interesting movies coming up, high on my list are Inception and Salt.

Anyway, so there I was trolling along on IMDB and I came across the Hollywood version of The Girl With a Dragon Tattoo. And Daniel Craig is all set to play Mikael Blomkvist!! I dont really know how to take this information, while I love Craig, Blomkvist's character and personality is bland and Craig doesnt fit that description by any means. It will be interesting to watch how he interprets the character ... I cant help but compare with the last Gary Stu character I watched on screen -Robert Langdon/Tom Hanks - and it was such a train wreck. I still shudder when IMDB or Netflix ambushes me with posters of the Dan Brown movies.

I did watch the Swedish version of Dragon Tattoo and loved it, the characters of Blomkvist and Salander played perfectly by actors Michael Nyqvist and Noomi Rapace respectively. I really had no faults to find with the movie. But the sequel, The Girl Who Played with Fire was awful. The book itself is quite rambling in scope, consequently the script suffered and it just comes across as a very confused movie. I hope Hollywood manages to get the Salander character cast right, I really dont see any of the current actresses as edgy enough for the role.

Also, I stumbled across this on IMDB and startled B by letting out a squeal of excitement. It's the page for a version of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander. As some of you might remember, I adore the book which is one of my favorite romance reads. Unfortunately the casting isnt up yet, so I cant obsess over the characters, but I am so excited to see it in development. I do hope it's finally made into a movie. On Ms. Gabaldon's FAQ pages is the question about whether she's working on a script and she replies with 'Right, which 40 pages do you want to see made into a movie?' which is accurate, Outlander is such a dense novel with so many interconnected plots it's going to be extremely difficult to come up with a movie which remains true to the book while also satisfying tons of fans worldwide. But, one lives in hope.

Any other movies I should be keeping an eye out for? And what's on your must watch list this summer?

Edited to add: I cannot believe I did an entire post about movies I'm looking forward to without including The One(Two) Movie That Beats Them All heh ... who else is looking forward to it? And did anyone else think that Harry looked like a hobbit in the last movie??

Wish listin' on such a summer's day ....

Due to a decided lack of blogging inspiration, I 'm going to share some dresses on my summer lust list. I've recently started to get into dresses because they are so easy. No worrying over coordinating tops and bottoms, just pull one item of clothing and you're done. It's amazing how reaching a particular age can have a liberating effect on one's clothing choices. When I was younger I was so self-conscious- either I was too fat, too short, too shy for a lot of trendy stuff. My mom had to stuff me into leggings the last time they were in style and I actually had the legs to pull them off. I whined the entire day that I had to wear them and never touched them again. Now I have pairs in a wide range of colors and dont worry over much if they suit me or not. The mantra now is to wear what pleases me. Alright, enough of the gyaan, let's look at some pretty clothes.
This dress represents love at first sight. It's the Native American/ Ikat style fabric which has my heart beating pitter-pat. Plus, the silhouette really works well with my figure. The cons- strapless and cotton which no doubt will fade spectacularly. The fading bit is what's keeping me from actually buying it RIGHT AWAY.

As you can see I have an all-abiding love for shirt-dresses. If I had to pick just one it would be the middle dress with my favorite dots, stripes and the vivid lime-green sash. I love everything about it, the contrasting colors, the shape, the length. And so perfect for summer! Just looking at it makes me feel cool and elegant. I'm in love with the other two because of their prints - frogs on the first and a bicycle on the third. So quirky and adorable!! Can a girl have too many shirt-dresses??

And finally the summeriest of them all. I've been in love with this dress ever since I spotted it in a catalog. And it has pockets too, whee!! But, the shapelessness leads me to think it'll look like a gunny sack, albeit a cool one, on me. Decisions, decisions!!

On an unrelated note I just finished reading 'A Conspiracy of Kings', the fourth in Megan Whalen Turner's 'The Queen's Thief' series, reviewed here. What a fabulous book this one is! It's the story of Sophos, the heir of the king of Sounis, referred to as Useless the Younger in the first book. Sophos is kidnapped in the middle of the second book. Sophos is so sweet, unsophisticated and unsure of himself, all the things which Gen isnt. While I was disappointed that it didnt have enough of Gen, Sophos's story is a true coming of age and a very nice entry to the series. As a bonus, the publisher's have the first few chapters of 'The Thief' available for reading for a short period of time. Browse it here. For the record, 'The King of Attolia' is still my favorite in the series :)

Catching up with some movies!

Right I need to catch up with all your blogs and my own ... the pic above, at Goa, is meant to be both an explanation and an excuse for the month-long absence. As for my vacation- summer heat, mangoes, jackfruit and pani puris, need I say more :) The heat did confuse my body into expanding, I'm hoping the brain freeze I endured in freakishly-cold north Minnesota over the weekend, will fool it into contracting to original specs ... soon.

Here's a round-up of movies I caught on the plane. Since, it wasnt the best of viewing conditions some of my perceptions might be colored by the environment, but I'm pretty certain I wont re-watch any of the following to change my mind.

A story of how Nelson Mandela united South Africa by means of the Rugby World Cup. With Morgan Freeman in scene-stealing mode as Nelson Mandela and a sincere Matt Damon as Francois Pienaar, the team captain for SA, this was an enjoyable and uplifting movie.
Rating: 5/ 5

Up in the Air
Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) is the high-flying executive with a job involving him flying 300 days out of the year since he goes around the country firing people. Bingham loves his life since it enables him to live without baggage, read relationships, and without any responsibility and also give him ample opportunity for his obsession with collecting airline miles. Until a young MBA, Natalie Keener, in his company comes up with the idea of firing people online.

Suddenly grounded, Bingham flounders with the meaning of his life suddenly reconnecting with estranged siblings, educating Keener on the value of building relationships and consequently looking for a stable relationship for himself with Alex Goran (an awesome Vera Farmiga) a feminine version of himself. I have mixed feelings about this movie, I was entertained by a lot of the scenes but it was marketed as a romance which it isn't and the underlying thread of relevancy to the current US economic state didn't work with the rest of the plot. Rating: 3/ 5

The Men Who Stare At Goats
Through school and college, I had a friend who was a born cynic. After moments when everyone was happy/elated/victorious he would ask the question that stumped us each time - 'What is the point?'. I think this movie was meant to be a satirical look at war, but it's no Syriana.

Bob Wilton (Ewan MacGregor) is a small-time journalist. After his wife breaks up with him, an effort at proving himself lands him in war-time Iraq. Here he comes across Lyn Cassady (Clooney), and he remembers an interview with a man whom on first count he had dismissed as a flake, who first mentions a new unit of the army researching parapsychology. As Wilton hitches a ride with Cassady into Iraq and familiarizes himself with the New-Age, free-love thinking of the New Earth Army which believes war can be fought using non-violent methods like psychic and paranormal techniques, staring at goats etc he finds himself slowly undergoing an ideological conversion. If the movie is meant as a metaphor, it was too much for my tired brain to comprehend. Taken at face value ... what was the point ????
Rating: 3/ 5

It's Complicated
Jane (Meryl Streep) suffering from Empty Nest Syndrome and finally at a point in her professional and personal life when she thinks she's settling down, suddenly finds herself playing 'the other woman'. The problem is the man she's having an affair with is her ex-husband Jake. Predictable comedy and much confusion ensues when she also starts dating her recently-divorced, shy, architect, Adam.

So, why do the heroines of romantic comedy have to be so flurried, harried and cute? And didnt Streep play the same role for Mamma Mia. Oh well, it's worth a watch but dont expect too much. Steve Martin sleep-walking through the role and a hammy Alec Baldwin make up the boring love interest and juvenile, selfish ex-husband respectively. Rating: 2.5/ 5

The Proposal
Margaret Tate (Sandra Bullock) is a Canadian immigrant with visa problems who is about to be deported and lose her job, so she forces her harassed assistant Andrew Paxton (Ryan Reynolds) to marry her. A weekend of bonding with Paxton and his weird family occurs where the protagonists discover it's actually true love. Unfunny, unromantic, AVOID it. The rating is for the obligatory designer dud sightings (Loboutin, Prada and Hermes) which seem to indicate a successful , powerful professional woman in the movies .... and which I quite shallowly enjoyed.
Rating: 0.5/ 5

Color, color, which color?

I tried out this great color quiz and apparently, Black is my color ...
Nothing can stand between you and your demand for a calm environment. To be free of conflict and disagreement is the only way to live. In fact, it's this philosophy that probably allows you to be comfortable in conditions that would normally bother others. Your ability to focus is undisputed, and while you enjoy attention, you still have problems understanding how to handle it. No other color out lives by the golden rule as much as you do.
Which is largely accurate, even though that last sentence doesn't make sense to me no matter how I try to read it ...

What your color?

Butter Chicken

Do you have one recipe that is your fail-safe recipe- the one that you know will work in a pinch when you have guests, or the one that you can make as many variations as you wish and will still please palates? Murg Makhani or Butter Chicken Masala is one of mine.

I know it sounds finicky, but I have this really easy recipe which I've been using for the past 10 years or so and I've never gone wrong with it. I *think* the original recipe is Sanjeev Kapoor's but I've long since lost the slip of paper I copied the recipe out on. The original copy I made was flawed since I distinctly remember no mention of the amount of chicken to be used; as a new cook, at the time it seemed like the end of the world. But whatever I cobbled up was still so tasty that I've reused the recipe time and again.

Couple of reasons why this recipe is such a favorite. It's very quick and easy for starters. Most often the tomato puree I use is from a can (unsweetened, unflavored kind), so the only prep work involves powdering the nuts. Secondly, it uses nuts to thicken the sauce which gives it a wonderfully creamy consistency, so I leave out the cream entirely. Then, I add a small dab of butter and add oil so I get a hint of the flavor of butter. So, basically I feel like this is a healthier version of my favorite dish. And since I've been making it with twists and modifications it never tastes the same twice in a row, but all versions are pretty delicious.

It's also very easy to substitute paneer for a vegetarian Paneer Butter Masala. I just adjust spices accordingly. Since, I dont have the original recipe with me anymore, I will not be including measurements.

From L-R: Mix red chilli powder, salt, black pepper powder, ginger paste, garlic paste, garam masala powder and yogurt together as a marinade for the chicken. I've also added a couple of saffron strands, to give color and richness but I dont think it adds much so you can leave it out. Marinate the chicken (I used 500gms/1lb) with this mix for a couple of hours. (For an equal quantity of paneer, I reduce the marinade by half).

After marinating, bake the chicken in a 350F oven until almost cooked. Then place it under the broiler for a couple of minutes until the marinade is cooked and browned. (I use chicken thighs because other cuts get really dry in the oven, if using chkn breasts you might want to do this on the grill/stovetop). Shred the chicken pieces.
(Paneer should be browned in the broiler/grill.)

In a pan, heat some butter and oil. After the butter melts add powdered almonds and stir until lightly golden. I prefer using powdered cashews because I think the taste is richer, but unfortunately I didnt have any at home ... you can also add roasted and powdered poppy seeds 'khus khus' with cashews to give more depth to the flavor.

Add tomato puree to the roasted almonds above. Also add some tomato ketchup and chilli sauce into the puree. (I know! Trust me, the payoff is great!! This time I used Maggi Masala Chilli Ketchup and Sriracha hot sauce, I generally add any combinations of ketchups and hot sauces I have on hand. The best flavor profile is with plain tomato ketchup and around a 3:1 ratio.) Cook for about 5 minutes.

Stir in the marinated chicken, red chilli powder if required and about a tsp. of kasuri methi (dried fenugreek) leaves (which is the secret to this recipe, don't leave it out). Let simmer for another 5 minutes or till the desired consistency is reached.

Check seasonings- since I didnt add pure ketchup, I added in some sugar along with the salt. Also, you might need to add more of the fenugreek leaves, I've found that if you have a really old batch you will need to add more to really taste the flavor. If you want to make it really decadent, stir in fresh cream at this point. If you add cream, simmer for a few minutes more.

Garnish with chopped coriander leaves. Serve hot with rice/ roti/ naan.

The rice looks different because it is brown basmati, I've come to love the nutty flavor of brown rices and prefer them to the white. Figuring out how to cook it was a pain though and I still haven't got the hang of fluffy, unsticky basmati grains! If you have any tips I'd love to hear them!!

Review: Darkness, Take My Hand

Rating: 4/ 5

I came across Dennis Lehane's Patrick Kenzie/Angela Gennaro series as one of the recommendations for people who liked the Russ Van Alstyne/ Clare Fergusson mystery series. I've read Lehane's Mystic River before (and liked it) and watched the unfortunate Shutter Island, but I never make assumptions of books on their movie adaptations, being well used to Hollywood's disappointments by now so I was all set to give the series a chance.

The first novel in the series didnt impress me much. In A Drink Before the War, Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro, two private investigators are hired by a politician on what seems to be a simple case of the politician's cleaning service making away with sensitive documents he had hidden in his office. As Patrick and Angie investigate, the case becomes murkier, the stakes are higher and sees them dealing with unsavory criminal elements in Boston.

While I didnt care much for the mystery and gangster-style action elements, it being one of those cases where everything and the kitchen sink is hurled at the protagonists, I liked the style of the novel (the hard-boiled detective elements), the characters of Patrick and Angie who are childhood friends and sometime lovers, and the little coterie of people who help them.

So, I picked up the next one, I usually give the series a chance to develop before giving up on it entirely. And Darkness, take my Hand, the second in the series delivered everything that was promised. The slow buildup to the mystery is very well-plotted and the thriller elements kept me glued to my couch.

In Darkness, psychiatrist Diandra Warren hires the Boston PIs to keep an eye on her son. She thinks that she and her son are under threat after she accepts a patient who turns out to be the girlfriend of an Irish Mafia enforcer, who doesnt want anyone prying into his business. Diandra Warren receives a mysterious photograph of her son which scares her into hiring the team of Kenzie and Gennaro.

Patrick and Angie spend a long time tailing the son Jason, and when they dont find anything threatening, assume that the threat is over. In the meanwhile, a series of gruesome deaths in their old neighborhood have police and the FBI troubled over the absolute brutality of the crimes. In all the cases the MO is the same, the victims were sent photographs weeks before they turn up dead. And so does Jason Warren.

The police think that they have tied the murders with a 20 year old case in the same neighborhood, but the person they arrested for the crimes, Alec Hardiman, is already in prison. The nightmare turns personal when Hardiman asks to speak with Patrick. And suddenly, Patrick finds that all his friends, his lover Grace and her daughter Mae, Angie, everyone he cares for is in danger, by a threat no one understands or is able to comprehend the evil of.

Will keep you turning pages, highly recommended!!

Series Order

1. A Drink before the War
2. Darkness, Take my Hand
3. Sacred
4. Gone, Baby, Gone
5. Prayers for Rain

Of polka dots and fashion donts!

Ever since I was little I've been crazy about polka dots. As part of my adoration, I had a dotted play tea set, dotted hair clips, hair bands and ribbons and if an article of clothing had dots on it, I was almost guaranteed to crave it.

It lead to a lot of fashion transgressions in my teens, one which is particularly memorable. Namely a pair of white pants, high-waisted with pleats in the front, ruffles on the elastic waistband with .... orange polka dots all over and a matching polka-dotted fabric belt!!!!

Close your eyes and imagine that for a minute. While everyone collectively shudders at the insane number of fashion blunders in that single sentence, let me assure you those pants looked as bad as they sound. I looked like a diseased white elephant but I wore them with great fondness for a very long time. When I bought them the thinking was that the ruffles were like icing on cake, ummm yes, I loved ruffles too.

A lot of times I look at old pictures and have to scold my mom for letting me out and about looking like a short, plump mess. She did try her best though, so for a long time after the dotted disaster above I was convinced that dots were too young for me and they were completely eradicated from my closet.

If the 'young' thing didn't convince me, mom used to flash me a picture either real or a mental one of the hideousness of the white pants to make me lose all interest in my current dotty craving. She's all kinds of crafty, my mom!

And it's mostly worked for the better part of my adulthood, until a couple of months ago when I came upon the little black and cream number featured in the set below. And, all my dormant polka-dotted fantasies roared back to life. I WANT it, I whined rebelliously though it was my own mental blocked self I had to convince!!!

I was good for a couple months, but couldn't stop thinking about it and in keeping with the theme of the regression of my fashion choices .... it's mine now. Yay! I love it, it's so much fun to wear, the scalloped hem looks adorable and the workmanship is excellent, the lining even has an edging of pretty cream-colored lace. I love thoughtful little details like that.

I styled it as shown in the set below (yes, the cardi has ruffles too but I think this is a more successful pairing than my poor chicken-pox pants), and cannot wait until it's warmer when I wont have to cover my arms or legs and will have cute sandals to pair it with. Will winter never leave?!!


But, to also avoid going over board, I've promised myself that I will only possess ONE polka-dotted item in my closet at a time. This is in addition to my existing rules of owning only one plaid item, no white pants, no wide belts, and only one black item of any kind i.e. dress, sweater, jeans, skirt, kurti, shoe etc (this one's broken already, it only exists to stop me from buying black each time) ... of course when I'm shopping, it's hard to remember them at all. Sigh.

Anyway, moving on from my fashion woes- how about you? Dotty about dots ... or not? Do you have fashion rules for yourself or just wear what pleases you?

Quick 'n easy Quesadillas ...

They might not be authentic, but these quick-fix versions of the Mexican Quesadilla work really well as a work night dinner.

And there are so many ways to fix these up - here I used a stir-fry of onions, corn, tomatoes, bell peppers and spinach with taco seasoning and lime juice, but our favorite version has to be the onion, red bell pepper, green bell pepper and paneer filling.

I add my taco seasoning mix to most of the stir fries but you can also add cumin powder and red chilli powder for a different flavor. And I use store-bought tortillas. Make sure to brush the sides of the tortillas with a little oil so they get nice and crunchy.

Serve with salsa/ guacamole/ sour cream (or dahi butter)/ refried beans and Mexican rice for a complete Mexican meal in the comfort of home.

A question and an award ...

My favorite pastime is monitoring the various ways people arrive at my blog. Most often it will be a straight-forward request for one of the series reviews - the Black Dagger Brotherhood is by far the most popular.

But, a couple days earlier, this search landed on my BDB review 'who is • No'one will make an appearance - it is sounds like she will ' ... mystery guest, while I'm pretty sure my review did not provide any answers, I do hope you succeed in finding your elusive dot.

While I'm on the topic of series reviews, what I generally do is review all (or atleast as many as I can) the books in the series in one review. But, if I'm not on top of things and dont write about the books as I read them, I find it difficult to remember and review all the past few books. Which has been the bottleneck for the Nalini Singh series. Does anyone have any preference here - would you rather read about the books one by one or should I keep going on as before?

In other news, Nishita of Nishita's Rants and Raves, a book blog I've been following avidly, was kind enough to give me the following award.
Thank you so much, Nishita. As part of the rules, I have to answer the following questions....

1) Where is your favorite place to read a book?
Warm in bed or a couch, with a heavy blanket or quilt to curl under.

2) Do you snack while reading?
Not really, though if it's cold or rainy I might crave a hot beverage.

3) Are you a book borrower or a book collector?
I'm very selective about the books I buy so my personal library only contains books I can read and re-read countless times. So, most of the time I'm a borrower.

4) What is the best book you've read recently?
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I'm going to pass the award on to
Smita of Books, Life n More
Avdi's Books blog
Sraikh at Asaaan

As you know ladies, I love your blogs!!

Mini-Series Review: Lost in Austen

Rating: 3.5/ 5

I know at least one of my readers is groaning right about now. It seems Jane Austen is mentioned on this blog every couple of months. I cant really help it, Austen's world is like my favorite comfort read/ watch/ food all rolled up into one.

Last month I found myself trolling Netflix for something light to watch when the mini-series 'Lost in Austen' (LiA) popped up in my queue. It was perfect, over 3 hours long I watched it over a period of two weeks, sometimes as little as 10 minutes when I had time to spare. Being familiar with the story did help with not losing continuity but this version does have enough originality to keep the Austen fan involved and satisfied.

Amanda Price (Jemima Rooper), of Hammersmith, London, spends far too much time with her copy of Pride & Prejudice as an escape from her dull job and unromantic boyfriend. Her idea of a perfect night is at home, pouring herself a glass of wine, curling up in her jammies with Darcy's voice and Austen's language running through her head. Her best friend and mom think she's too involved with Darcy, her mom even accusing her of holding all the men she knows to impossible standards.

But, as Amanda explains, she just loves Austen's England so much, the manners, the gentility, the courtship. So, she thinks she's hallucinating when one evening, as she's engaged in her favorite pastime, hearing an intruder in the bathroom, she investigates to find .... Elizabeth Bennett (Gemma Arterton)!

Apparently, Amanda has opened some sort of portal between 21st century England and the Regency period. And the next time Lizzy turns up, it's to push Amanda through the portal, into the attic in Longbourne. The idea being that Lizzy is visiting Amanda's folks in Hammersmith for an extended period while Amanda takes her place in the bosom of the Bennet family.

Amanda's original delight is unbounded. She arrives just as Mrs. Bennet is clamoring away about Netherfield Park being 'let at last' and with drop-jawed awe she exclaims

'We're right at the beginning aren't we??'

Unfortunately, for Miss Price, things arent quite so smooth-sailing after that. The Bennet family, accepts the strangely dressed girl given over to obscure statements 'Jane will marry Bingley, Lizzy will marry Darcy', with, if not enthusiasm, then fondness for Lizzy's sake.

But, as the days go on, Amanda starts forcing events in an effort at keeping things to Austen's timeline, coercing Jane (Morven Christie) into the rain so she can stay over at Netherfield Park, or strong-arming Bingley (Tom Mison) into throwing a ball at his place. But, these people unlike the 2D acquaintances she has lovingly spent countless hours with, have minds of their own and are not so easily maneuvered. And she comes face to face with the most 'disagreeable' form of Darcy (Elliot Cowan) yet, who as Amanda indignantly objects '... is no Colin Firth is he??'

She soon finds that all her well-intentioned meddling is leading to unforeseen consequences and when a disastrous event occurs (Lady Catherine decides to foist a trio of even more objectionable Collins' brothers on the unmarried Bennets for one, and others which I will not spoil) she ceases actively arranging things and decides to just go along for the ride. And funnily enough, things straighten themselves out, if not as Austen intended, then with a guaranteed happy ending for our heroine.

I'm one of those guilty of holding Austen adaptations to high standards. But, in reality, it's not the adaptations that I find outrageous, it's when someone takes liberties with the original itself (*cough* Keira Knightley's P&P). I thought LiA is well-worth the watch for a fantasy adaptation. It is a very romanticized version, not as real as Austen's world, but with that sheen of happy-endings-for-everyone (even poor forgotten Caroline Bingley) that makes up frothy mind-candy. I liked it for that. And all the actors did a great job. The mini-series is also going to be adapted into a movie by 2011.

If I had to find fault with it, I think it's that the film-makers do not push the envelope too much. When Amanda finds herself in the Bennet household, she's dressed in jeans, boots and a leather jacket with her hair untied and in bangs. No one does so much as raise an eyebrow at the unconventional attire or hair style.

Amanda is similarly very ill-prepared for spending time in Regency England for someone who has read about it for so long, she continually finds things surprising or doesn't understand how society behaves.

And it seems so weird for the Bennet family to accept that Lizzy has traveled alone to an unknown location or leaving all her clothes behind. Or to accept a stranger with no luggage of her own. Ahh, quibbles!!

Darcy follows Amanda into 21st century London at one point, and I loved the scene where she comes across his starched self, completely anachronistic in brocade waist-coat and top-hat blinking wide-eyed at all the commotion around him. He greets Amanda with relief, being the devil he knows, 'What is this infernal place, Miss Price?'

The best part of this adaptation, and one which in Amanda's words would have Ms. Austen spinning in her grave is Wickham (Tom Riley). The charmer everyone loves to hate has a great character arc here. In fact, I would have been much happier with this version if they had done away with Austen's original hero and come up with another in his place.

Now, I'm not certain if this desire to subvert the original isn't because I hated Darcy's character here (except in the scene mentioned below) and didnt think he was believable and thought Wickham was gorgeous (ladies, cast your eyes to the left), but, I'm sure that the film-makers were not looking to be too radical, they just wanted soft-focus romance which LiA does provide.

In closing, I have to mention LiA's nod to the original wet shirt scene. Made all the more sweet because LiA's Darcy doesnt know what it is Amanda's after, he agrees to dunk himself in cold water because he wants to please her. Awwwww!!

Of course, as hunky as Mr. Cowan is, no Darcy to my mind has ever compared to the '95 BBC adaptation, so I will leave you with the infamous clip (really, I'm surprised it took so long for Colin Firth to be embedded on this blog) ..... so, enjoy!!

Shutter Island

So, we watched Shutter Island yesterday. Martin Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio, Ben Kingsley, Dennis Lehane's story (of Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone fame) and a psychological thriller ... sounds great, right??? Wrong!

I HAD to post to warn people from spending 10 bucks of their hard-earned money on this big bore. The reviewer at the New York Times accurately described it

I just wish I had read it myself before heading out.

And you know what takes the cake! I fell ASLEEP!!!! In the theatre!!! A first for me, even Gamer didnt earn that dubious honor. Actually awfulness I can forgive, not pretentiousness, and this movie was all that ...

So yeah, if you worship at Scorsese's altar, I'd say wait for the DVD. Otherwise, don't say you weren't warned!

School Blues!

Last night as I was taking an inventory of my closet, I spied a crazy pattern. Crazy because unusually for me, my closet is being slowly taken over by the color blue.

To understand why it's so crazy, you have to understand 15 years of trauma of the dreaded school uniform. Ours was worse than usual, the color being what I not-so-fondly termed as Detergent Blue. Detergent as in the color of all the detergents at the time - Surf, Rin, Robin blue. The primary school frock had the added attraction of being edged with the kind of lace you see on the elastic of cheap undies. Ladies, I'm sure you know what I mean. The school was quite anal about it too, no other lace was allowed.

In high school, the uniform changed to a pinafore (jumper) with tie and belt. In the ugly blue. I know you are thinking it doesnt sound half bad, but try imagining this outfit on a vertically challenged, festively plump, short-torsoed body. I've burned every school picture I could get my hands on and which my parents have not squirrelled away.

And the color used to fade quite spectacularly to a dull dish-water blue by the time the end of the year rolled around. So, you see my aversion to the color. It appears that it took another 15 years for the automatic 'no blue clothing' instinct to be wiped from my mind. And for me to be convinced there are other prettier shades of the color around. Recently, I even bought kurtis in various shades of the color, so the Indian wardrobe doesnt feel left out.

The outfit set below contains some of the clothes presently on my lust list. I own 3 of them already (can anyone guess which?) but the others will soon, soon, soon be mine!!!! Maybe not the colored tights. I love and am instantly attracted to them, but have yet to figure out how to work them into my outfits ....
the blues
Similarly, this year my list for shoes contains another banned-due-to-school trend, shoes with buckles. For the longest time, I avoided them because they reminded me of the dreaded Bata black shoes (similar here) which were mandatory. However, this year I find myself hopelessly attracted to and browsing only the mary jane styles. The set below are some of the ones I've been tempted by. I finally sprung for the black and purple trim pair below, I do hope they will look as cute as I think they are, otherwise back to no-buckles for me. Sadface.
mary janes
And if you thought the blue lusting was limited to clothes, take a peek at the lovelies below.
the blues 2
The last set also contains the blue t-straps, which in theory might have been my ideal shoe, combining my love for all things blue+leather with the mary jane style. Two things against them. They're sold out at the store and being sold for exorbitant prices on ebay, no way will I pay even half of what is being quoted. And they're a bit too cutesy, not really my style. I think. I have not tried them so I cannot make up my mind. Though can anything be too cute?

I just thought it was funny that my fashion choices have taken such a childhood spiral - maybe it proves the fashion cycles bit, but I wonder if it's a deeply buried subconscious anti-ageing instinct. Oh well, this blog is not known for deep introspection (actually it's not known at all :) so we wont go there.

Anyways, what were your school uniforms like? Hideous, cute or not worth remembering?

Review: The Hunger Games

Rating: 5/ 5

I generally like to review books in a series all at once but I just cannot get this book out of my head.

Marketed as young adult fiction, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins occurs in post apocalyptic North America. Known as Panem, it is ruled by a Capitol with 13 districts which provide the center with various resources - jewellery, agriculture, coal etc. The districts are poverty ridden, subject to starvation and disease. The 13 districts took part in a rebellion which the Capitol ruthlessly suppressed, and in which the 13th district was completely annihilated. As a reminder to the remaining 12 districts of where their loyalties should lie the Capitol has come up with a yearly punishment for the population - The Hunger Games.

The Hunger Games is a contest for the children from the districts. All children between the ages of 12 - 18 are entered into a lottery, and two names are drawn, two tributes - one boy and one girl from each district. These 24 contestants are then imprisoned in a vast game arena over the course of several weeks, where they must kill each other until the last tribute alive is the victor. The Games are televised live to audiences of the districts and the Capitol and are almost compulsory viewing.

16 year old Katniss Everdeen is of the 12th district- the coal mining district, the poorest and weakest district and the one with only two survivors in the 72 year old history of the Games. As sole provider for her mother and beloved little sister Prim, after her father died 5 years ago, Katniss has been illegally hunting and gathering food in the forests around the District with her friend, 18 year old Gale.

Katniss is extremely protective of her younger sister, and as Prim has turned 12 it will be the first time she's taking part in a reaping day (the day when the tributes are chosen). The lottery for the Games is weighted so that as the children get older they have more entries in their names, and Katniss and Gale are prepared for either of their names to be called out.

But, the name drawn for the girl tribute is Prim. Prim is a gentle soul, who cries when her sister kills animals for food and Katniss knows that Prim has no chance of survival at the Games. As the world threatens to collapse around Katniss she finds herself volunteering in Prim's stead. And another shock, the boy tribute drawn with her is 16 year old Peeta Mellark. Katniss feels she owes a debt to Peeta for a kindness he did for her when her father died, and her pride will not allow her to forget it. And now she must kill him in order to survive.

The tributes are whisked off to the Capitol before the actual Games begin. Here they are assigned a team of stylists and mentors who will help them sell themselves to the sponsors via their pre-game interviews. A rich sponsor has the capability of providing gifts which can help in survival during the Games. All too soon, Katniss finds herself propelled into a terrifying ordeal, a game where there are no rules and the only stakes are life and death. And where she has to be doubly wary of the contradictory Peeta, whose motives she cannot trust.

The Hunger Games starts with an introduction to it's complex world and is fast-paced and action packed through out. I must mention that the level of violence is quite high too. Katniss is a very plucky character, smart and resourceful. As a character she is very well-written, motivated by the love of her sister and by staying alive, she's a survivor in every way. Peeta is the gentler character, albeit strong due to working in his father's bakery. Peeta's own mother thinks that Katniss has a better chance at the Games. But, Peeta has his own agenda and Katniss doesn't know what to make of him.

In middle-school I read William Golding's Lord of the Flies and while I do not remember the story I remember every heart-wrenching emotion I went through. The Hunger Games evoked the same roller coaster of emotions, except while the Lord of the Flies did not have any alleviating emotions I'm happy to say this one does. Well, in a mild way. I know this book strung all my emotions at the diabolical way the Capitol kept the population suppressed by threatening their very hearts, their children.

The author mentions in her blurb that she likes to explore the effects of war and violence on young, impressionable minds and I would say she's succeeded very well. At the very least, it raises questions about morality and conscience- to what extent would you go if your life is at stake? And can you come out of the experience with your humanity intact? Katniss and Peeta's mentor, Haymitch, is an alcoholic and a district laughing stock but very soon Katniss comes to a better understanding of his hidden pain- how does one remain sane watching the children you mentor go to their deaths year after year?

Also, while I was first shocked at the concept of the Games themselves, there are more messages in store for readers. There's political subversion for one. Then, once the children move to the Capitol (whose people are exempt from the Games), the reality-tv like experience the children are put through rang true on so many levels. It's easy to dismiss the people of the Capitol as callous, cruel and self-centered, but I had a few moments of discomfort at one point when I recognized they were just extreme forms of what most of us experience today- namely if something doesnt affect us closely, it doesnt concern us.

Certainly an uncomfortable and unforgettable book. And very well worth the read. The second in the series has better reviews than this one, and while I am anxious to read it I will wait because I can take only so much raw emotional intensity at a time.


Series Order
1. The Hunger Games
2. Catching Fire
3. Mockingjay (to be released Aug 2010)

Review: The Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne Mystery Series

Rating: 3 / 5

Series Order
1. In the Bleak Midwinter
2. A Fountain Filled with Blood
3. Out of the deep I Cry
4. To Darkness and to Death
5. All Mortal Flesh
6. I Shall Not Want

WARNING: SPOILERS below. I will mark them clearly but be careful if you have not read All Mortal Flesh.

When I started Julia Spencer-Fleming's Russ Van Alstyne/Clare Fergusson mystery series it seemed that on the surface everything included should work for me. At each book's heart there is a decent mystery and some well plotted characterizations. And Ms. Fleming is an absolute master of creating atmosphere.

Set in the fictional town of Millers Kill in upstate New York, the protagonist Reverend Clare Fergusson is an Episcopal priest new to her parish and is still coming to terms with the harsh winters that occur just south of the border. As someone who hates and loathes snow, ice, wind, hail, sleet, I quickly empathized with Clare whose misery is sketched beautifully in the first couple books.

Here's an example of the kind of writing you can expect ..

There are moments in life that are between: between the blow and the pain, between the phone ringing and the answer, between the misstep and the fall. One that comes to everyone is a moment, or three, or five, between sleeping and waking, when the past has not yet been re-created out of memory and the present has made no impression. It is a moment of great mercy; disorienting, like all brushes with grace, but a gift nonetheless.
Russ Van Allstyne is the Chief of Police of Millers Kill and he often finds Clare barging into his investigations out of impulsiveness and a single-minded desire to help- the victim, the accused, it doesn't matter. (As an aside, what is it with fictional heroines named Clare and a misguided sense of responsibility due to their professions, nurse/doctor and priest?).

As soon as they meet in the first book they recognize each other as kindred spirits. Or as is romantically put in one of the later books - the missing part of their souls. Clare was in the army for ten years trained as a helicopter pilot before she got her calling and was ordained. She is also trying to deal with the loss of a beloved younger sister. Russ was in the Military Police until he resigned and returned to the town he grew up in. Because of the nature of his work, past and present, he is a recovering alcoholic, but tries very hard not to bring the brutality of his work home to his family.

I enjoyed that the topics covered in the mysteries are wide and varied. From conservation and it's effect on small business, to gay rights, immunization, sociopathy, religion, adoption, immigration and migrant workers.

Initially I was skeptical about the small town setting. How many crimes can there possibly be? But, what I didn't expect was that the setting gives so much scope for elaborating on the lives of the characters, and I enjoyed this aspect too. Russ and Clare have to be doubly careful of their actions, since something as trivial as having lunch together every Wednesday is much remarked and speculated on.

As I read, it quickly became apparent that there were two problems here. And it isn't the religion which I was wary about, going in. The first, you see the little by-line tacked onto all the titles of these books 'A Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne mystery' which implies that both Clare and Russ have something to do with solving the mystery at hand. A priest and a cop.

In order to get this scenario to work, Clare should obviously have data about the police investigation and with this plot device Russ comes across looking like an incompetent fool. Because he carries out interrogations with Clare present, or tells Clare details about ongoing investigations, or even discusses suspects with her. Russ would say I've been watching too much Law and Order and he'd be right. Clare also stumbles on the perpetrators (haha more L&O terminology) through a combination of luck, nosiness and by withholding critical information from the police. Anyway, I was willing to let this bit slide, sometimes you just have to have faith in the author's vision and the other good points more than made up for it.

But then we come to the second bigger problem. See, how I slid in that bit about Russ's family before. Family, when I was dying to say wife. Russ is actually happily married for the last 25 years to a beautiful, dynamic woman but over the course of the first book Clare and he fall in love. Now, I love romance in my mystery series and I love the subject of forbidden romance, but I cannot stomach infidelity.

Clare and Russ never let the relationship get physical, she because she is opposed to casual relationships (the priesthood does not require celibacy) and is morally opposed to one with a married man, while he is faithful and does love his wife. As if it makes a difference. I think emotional infidelity is the more difficult of the two to overcome and more of a betrayal to the spouse.

Not having an inkling it was going to occur, I was gobsmacked when this angle turned up in the first book. And what I found more disturbing is that Russ's wife Linda is offline until around the 4th book. We see everything from Clare's or Russ's view, almost making Linda 'the other woman' because as a reader it's obvious you are expected to sympathize a bit with Clare.

~~~~~ SPOILER ALERT ~~~~~~~~~

So, there I was reading each book with a lot of mental cringing, but not able to stop because it's a series and I'm a bit OC after I've started one.

Until the 5th book, 'All Mortal Flesh' where Linda dies. And I was left with a sense of severe disappointment, because at that moment I realized what I actually wanted to read about was something that would get these people out of the mess they were in.

As I mentioned before, Linda's character (the conflict in the first 4 books) never gets her own voice, we are only given impressions from the people around her. Russ tells Clare that his wife doesn't understand him. At social occasions where Russ and Clare are present, she's missing due to a number of reasons, one of them being conveniently that she never goes anywhere where her mother-in-law is also invited. Here's another broad hint to the reader that they shouldn't like the wife too much, since Russ's mother is presented sympathetically and she likes Clare.

Linda has one significant scene in the 4th book and she's offed in the next one. The manner in which she dies is guaranteed to add a source of conflict (guilt) to the protagonists' relationship since the original conflict has been removed.

So, basically Linda's character is just a manipulative plot device and is the reason I was so disappointed by the events of the 5th book. And as I write this I realize how much I disliked both Russ and Clare and the entire infidelity sub-plot. At least this book accomplished one thing, I'm finally done with this series.

~~~~~ END SPOILERS ~~~~~~~~~

I would give the series an overall 3 rating because of the problems I mentioned above. If they do not bother you, then I think it should work for you. If it does, do comment here, I'd love to read a different viewpoint :)

The Guardian Series

If you havnt yet caught on to the trend in my reviews, I have been on a paranormal romance kick lately. The best part of the paranormal trend in my opinion is the tendency towards book series. And you all know how I feel about those!

A series that I have been enjoying recently is Meljean Brook's Guardian Series. I'm not reviewing them, just wanted to point out a few fun things for readers.

The mythology of this series as far as I can describe (because it is convoluted) is as follows. After Lucifer raised his rebel angels against Heaven, in punishment all the rebels were converted to demons and forced to inhabit Hell. The angels who were on the fence were not spared either, they were converted to nosferatu, blood-drinking monsters who had to shun daylight.

The angels who tried to protect humans against the demons and nosferatu, only ended up being worshipped because of their divinity. This aroused Lucifer's jealousy and he rose against the angels in another battle, in which a human helped to defeat Lucifer. After this battle, Guardians were formed, with powers to protect humans from demons and nosferatu, and since the Guardians were once human themselves, they were able to assimilate into human society much easier than the angels.

The first book Demon Angel is about a Guardian Hugh Castleford and the demon Lilith. I intended this book to be a beach read on my vacation last year, boy how wrong I was. If you've tried reading on vacation you know that the book should be light-hearted, frothy, fluffy, something which you can put down at a moment's notice and pick up hours later without any problems - everything which this book is NOT.

I enjoyed the story immensely, but I felt I missed out so much due to being unable to give it my undivided attention that I did something I've never done before. As soon as I finished the last page, I started re-reading. And so many things I had missed earlier suddenly became clear(er). Demon Angel has an intricate mythology setup, interesting dialogue and a very intriguing heroine. Hugh and Lilith have a courtship spanning 500+ years and they make a great couple when they finally came together.

The second book in the series Demon Moon is about the vampire Colin Ames-Beaumont and techie geek Savitri Murray. Savitri has an Indian mother and an Irish (?I forget) father, has been brought up by her nani and is Hugh's adopted sister. First of all, I have to give a huge cheer for an ethnic character in a mainstream series. And, then I have to say how wonderfully Savi's character is written. With ethnic characters, it's all too easy to stick to stereotypes, Savi transcends all those to become her own person ... and she's fabulous.

And Ms. Brooks gets so many details right I loved reading this book - right from Savi's nani who keeps feeding everyone in times of stress, her nani's hangup that Savi is a college drop out and her insistence that she marry soon, some hilarious arranged marriage ads Savi peruses, Savi's date/ interview with a 'suitable' boy and so on. At a certain point, Colin even asks Savi, who is a Hindu, if she is still able to believe after being immersed in Christian mythology for so long. Just for the level of attention and detail, this book came out tops for me. However, you do have to concentrate. I found myself re-reading pages and paragraphs because I lost the thread so often.

And we come to the third book, Demon Night, which is the story of Guardian Ethan McCabe and Charlie Newcomb. When Ethan first comes onto the scene, the outfit he's wearing and his Wild West introduction had me flashing immediately to my favorite Browncoat, Mal Reynolds (if you havent seen Firefly, read about it here). A resemblance to Mal is enough to make me predisposed to like anybody. And then, he opened his mouth and all I heard was Sawyer. See, I've been on Lost Season 5 marathon in preparation for the last season premiering next week (yay!! hey, even the White House was not unaffected) and I love Sawyer's lazy drawl. Ethan's huge around 6'4" or so he often puts on big and slow facade to throw people off, which reminded me of Munnabhai. I am not a fan of Sanjay Dutt, but I cannot deny the charm.

Anyway, with such a potent combination, I was smitten, reader, Smitten!! And Demon Night, is the first book in this series which gave me what I enjoy so much in romance, the emotional connection and involvement in the characters and their stories. I loved Angel and liked Moon, but the 2 couples were far too intellectual. As far as I am concerned, Night has perfect pacing, wonderful story-telling (I never experienced the difficulty in comprehension as with the first two books) and a heart-warming romance. And if you thought it's all about the romance, the mythology makes leaps and bounds in this book too.

I think the other reason I enjoy the series so much is that the women are all so different. Lilith, probably the oldest woman on earth, is the quintessential action heroine, strong, smart, sexy, manipulative, able to do anything to protect the ones she loves. Savi is a geek, very smart with a quick sense of humor and an innate curiosity. While Charlie is more vulnerable, flawed and needy, but with a core strength that has contributed to her becoming a survivor. The men are no slouches either. And the story arc is extremely complex, I cant wait to find out what's next.

If you think you might like paranormals, check this series out. The series order is as below. I'm only reading the full length novels (in italics), I dont much like reading short stories.

# Hot Spell (Novella, Prequel)
# Demon Angel (Book 1)
# Wild Thing (Novella, Book 1.5)
# Demon Moon (Book 2)
# Demon Night (Book 3)
# First Blood (Book 3.5)
# Demon Bound (Book 4)
# Demon Forged (Book 5)
# Must Love Hellhounds (Book 5.5)
# Demon Blood (Book 6)

I must end with an observation that amuses (and irritates) me. It seems any paranormal romance series gets stuck with tacky covers for the first 2 books. Well, actually the only other series I noticed it on was Nalini Singh's Psy-Changeling Series (I will review this soon, I promise). But, it makes me wonder what the publishers are thinking? In fact, I'm tempted to classify Angel and Moon as fantasy, Night being the conventional romance out of the three I've read so far. But, for a reader like me, if I had not become interested by reviews or by the first book, these covers would have guaranteed that I never picked the books up. Do other readers feel differently?

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