Sunday, June 23, 2013

Road Trip!

We took a road trip, hence the no blogging for a couple weeks. We drove from Iowa City to San Francisco, in the Prius, with the kids. Luckily the kids are nine and twelve and iPhones and iPads go a long way to keeping them entertained.

We spent two nights and one full day in Salt Lake to visit my Grandma. The kids also got to try out a trampoline park The Wairhouse in SLC. The kids had a lot of fun, but an hour was enough for them. We also did a short stop at the Tracy Aviary at Liberty Park in SLC. It was great to see my Grandma, just before her 87th birthday.

We drove across the Salt Flats

We finally made it to the Golden Gate!

We checked out Pier 39

We also went to Monterey Bay Aquarium

We saw Dreamworks

There was a photo booth at our friend's wedding

Did I mention the wedding was in Napa?!

There is a castle winery there. Castello di Amorosa. It was a fun tour, and they had some good wine.

After arriving back in San Francisco, we went to the Giants baseball game. Xander had a really good time.

On the way home, we stopped for the Jelly Belly Factory Tour, in Fairfield, CA.

We put 4700 miles or so on the Prius.

I worked on hexipuffs for my Bee Keepers Quilt on the road.

I didn't get a lot of reading done, so book reviews will come as soon as I catch up on some reading!

I hope everyone else is having a great summer too!

Monday, June 03, 2013

A Tale of Two Endings

I recently read the final book in two separate series. The first series ending I read was for the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris, Dead Ever After. The second series finale was Tempest Reborn by Nicole Peeler.

These two series have things in common, they are both walking the line between urban fantasy and paranormal romance. They feature a variety of supernatural creatures, the heroine of each is from a small town, and both heroines are called upon to be bigger than they ever thought they would be. Both Sookie and Jane True change from someone fairly naive into someone who has seen too much and become a little immune to death and destruction over the course of their book series.

One place where I feel the series diverge from each other is in the feeling of an overall plan for the series from the beginning. I have read a lot of what Charlaine Harris has written and said about her Sookie Stackhouse series. She knew how she wanted to end it from about book 2 onward. In Sookie's case though it feels like some of the most recent books were not plot lines that Harris had on her mind early on. The series after about book eight or nine starts to feel like she's stretching to buy time.
My personal opinion on that is that she was pressured a little by her publisher to keep putting out new books after the series was turned into True Blood and True Blood was doing well. I would bet if she had wanted to keep writing a few more Sookie books, the publisher would have let her. True Blood has definitely helped book sales. I think the fact that there were still new books coming out also helped True Blood. I think that Harris would have ended the series a little sooner if it had been completely up to her, and I think ultimately the series would have been better for it.

Nicole Peeler's series as a whole is only 6 books long, a little less than half of Sookie's 13 books. The Jane True series reads more like a complete story told in volumes. Each book builds on the last, up to a final battle royale in Tempest Reborn. I can only imagine how a writer goes about creating that. I would think very few writers are like J.K. Rowling and have this complete series in their head from the beginning. Knowing how many books they would like it to be, and getting to write it the way they envision it has to be very rare in literature. Perhaps many authors do plan a whole series that way, but I would guess that there are many obstacles to getting a work like that published, especially for a new writer or a new series.

I enjoyed both Tempest Reborn and Dead Ever After very much. Dead Ever After was not perfect, but I ultimately felt that it was a wrap up that was true to Charlaine Harris' characters and her long held vision of how the series should end. I know there was a lot of disappointment, I was a little disappointed myself, I definitely had a different suitor that was my favorite. However, Harris had said many times that Sookie wouldn't become a vampire, and really how else can you live happily ever after with a vampire? The mystery of Dead Ever After seemed a little out of nowhere, as did the villains of the book, and the big hookup scene definitely wasn't competition from that shower scene in book four. I do think a re-read of it in awhile, after a re-read of all the rest of the series will prove the book to be better than it seemed on first read through. Tempest Reborn was a little predictable, especially when it came to some of the big moments, but it was fun to go along for the ride. Jane gets to go to London and battle dragons, what more could a half-selkie girl want?  Tempest Reborn does a good job of keeping the pace up, throwing in some nice sexy times and having a satisfying, if unsurprising ending. To me, the Jane True books have always been a fun, light read and I was fine not having to think too hard about who the bad guy was. I also liked that the ending didn't feel out of place sappy in Tempest Reborn, or actually in Dead Ever After either.

I remember when I read the last book in the Fever series by Karen Marie Moning, I was with her right up until the last little bit of Shadowfever. That last little bit seemed so overly cheerful and out of place with the rest of the series that it colored the whole series a little bit badly for me. That series is another example of one that feels fairly well planned out from start to finish though, at least its core five books.

I think it is very interesting to compare a series like Sookie that was probably drawn out by the publisher, longer than the author would have liked to a series that was allowed to run the course the author had envisioned for it. I do know that I will be seeking out whatever either Nicole Peeler or Charlaine Harris writes next. After reading the first few Sookie books I went back and read everything else I could find that Charlaine Harris had written, and I wasn't disappointed.

I'm giving Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris, 3.5 stars.
Tempest Reborn by Nicole Peeler, 4 - 4.5 stars.