Sunday, November 28, 2010


The following photos are from  First comes Billy Burke (Charlie Swan), whose birthday was on November 25th, and then, Peter Facinelli (Dr. Carlisle Cullen), whose birthday was yesterday, November 26th.  Hope you guys had a REAL BLAST!!!!!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

How well read are you?

I was catching up with my favorite blogs this afternoon, and came across the following, posted on the blog Dog-Eared & Bookmarked.  The blogger, Cyndi, got it from yet another blog, Everything Distils Into Reading, whose creator, Gautami Tripathy, has graciously given permission to post this on other blogs.

I have to point out one small detail, however.  There are really more than 100 books on this list.  For example, the Harry Potter series is listed as if it consisted of only one book, when everyone knows that each of the seven books of the series was published separately.  The Lord of the Rings, although one book, was first published in three separate volumes, The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King.  This has become a publishing tradition, since the entire book is a pretty unwieldy thing to handle.  Therefore, it's technically considered a trilogy.  As for The Chronicles of Narnia, it can be considered as seven separate books, although it has also been published as one volume containing all of the seven books.  Interestingly, this list mentions the entire collection as one book, as well as one of the seven, separately.  It's The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardbrobe, which is the first book in the Chronicles.  Another example is The Complete Works of Shakespeare, also listed as one book (I have seen it in bookstores), while one of The Bard's plays, Hamlet, is listed separately as well.   Last but definitely not least, the book listed as Inferno is one of three making up Dante's Divine Comedy, which I've seen sold both as one book and three separate ones, although it is considered one book.

So where does that leave the reader who, like me, has perused at least one "book" which is really a series of books?  I think each of those books should be counted.  That's only logical.   Okay, then....I can say I've read 30 books from the list, since I'm including the three in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, as well as the seven in the Harry Potter series.  I haven't read any of the Narnia books, so that's not a problem. 

There!  Now that's settled!  Also, there are five books on the list that I started and never finished.  A few, I'm embarrassed to admit, I have never heard of before.  There are a couple of others, like Dracula, that I have absolutely no interest in reading, and I am not at all ashamed to say so!

So here's the list, with thanks to Cyndi & Gautami!  How well did you do?

The BBC believes most people will have read only 6 of the 100 books listed here.
• Copy this list.
• Bold those books you’ve read in their entirety.
• Italicize the ones you started but didn’t finish or read only an excerpt from.
• Tag other book nerds.

Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
The Lord of the Rings – J.R.R. Tolkien
Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
Harry Potter series – J.K. Rowling
To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

The King James Bible
Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984) - George Orwell
His Dark Materials - Phillp Pullman
Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
Little Women – Louisa M. Alcott 
Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
Catch-22 – Joseph Heller
Complete Works of Shakespeare

Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien

Birdsong – Sebastian Faulk

Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger 
The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger

Middlemarch – George Eliot

Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh

Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame

Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
David Copperfield – Charles Dickens 

Chronicles of Narnia – C.S. Lewis
Emma -Jane Austen
Persuasion – Jane Austen
The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe – C.S. Lewis 
The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres
Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
Winnie the Pooh – A.A. Milne

Animal Farm – George Orwell
The DaVinci Code – Dan Brown
One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez 
A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving 
The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
Anne of Green Gables – L.M. Montgomery
Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
Lord of the Flies – William Golding
Atonement – Ian McEwan
Life of Pi – Yann Martel
Dune – Frank Herbert
Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon

A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
The Secret History – Donna Tartt
The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold

Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
On The Road – Jack Kerouac
Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding

Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
Moby Dick – Herman Melville
Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
Dracula – Bram Stoker
The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
Ulysses – James Joyce
The Inferno – Dante
Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
Germinal – Emile Zola
Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
Possession – A.S. Byatt

Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
The Color Purple – Alice Walker
The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
Charlotte’s Web – E.B. White
The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom

Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle 
The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad

The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery
The Wasp Factory – Ian Banks
Watership Down – Richard Adams
A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas

Hamlet – William Shakespeare
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

Friday, November 26, 2010

Current & Future Reading List

After a ten-year hiatus, Smith decided to continue the story of Stefan, Elena, Damon, and their friends in Fell's Church, in Nightfall (The Vampire Diaries: The Return, #1).  I like it so far, despite some negative reviews of it I've read.  It seems that this time, the evil Power at work in this town so frequently buffeted by the supernatural is...a group of Japanese demons!  My, oh, my....I don't much care for demons, but we'll see how it goes...

I happened to see this in a CVS pharmacy here in Miami, and the cover immediately drew me in!  It's from a new line of romance novels, based on true romance stories, and appropriately known as "True Vows".  (Yes, I enjoy reading regular romance novels, too!)  This one, by Alison Kent, is a very sweet tale (pun intended).  The female protagonist wants to open her own business -- a gourmet bakery.  It looks like her boyfriend wants to have a hand in the production of the goodies, as well as in the general direction of her life! 

Now this one is a very useful reference book for novice bloggers, which I am!  I'm still getting the hang of this whole thing, but this book, written by blogging expert Susan Gunelius,  has really helped me in several areas.  It contains excellent chapters on search engine optimization, as well as on how to grow your blog, and monetization of same.

Since the Christmas season is already here, I will be starting my Christmas romance reading cycle.  I've been meaning to read this one in particular, by Kerrelyn Sparks, since last year, but never have gotten around to it.  I have skimmed it, though, and found it pretty funny, somewhat in the vein of Lynsay Sands.  (And that's another intended pun. Lol.)

 This is a Regency romance.  I enjoy these, too, and I LOVE Mary Balogh's novels!  I wouldn't miss them for the world!  This is a reissue of a book originally published in 1992.  Hmmm...wonder how I could have missed it, what with all the used book buying I do...  Anyway, I figure it will definitely get me in the spirit of the season!

This is unusual....Christmas and vampires!  I think it makes for an interesting combination, though -- all that vamp angst and the cheerful holiday spirit....  I read the first story in this book, by Maureen Child, sometime last year, but don't remember it much, except that the ending was very, very sweet!  So I'll have to re-read it, and go on to the second one, by Caridad Pineiro, which I barely skimmed at the time.

This is the second volume of Christmas vampire stories. The authors in this one are Merline Lovelace and Lori Devoti.  I have just ordered it from Amazon.

I LOVE the combination of the Christmas season and vampires!  I guess the publisher, Harlequin, knows that a lot of women feel the same way, since this is their third collection of such tales, in their Nocturne line.  The authors here are Linda Winstead Jones, Lisa Childs, and Bonnie Vanak.  Another Amazon order!

This one looks to be very, very special, and the author, Andrew Greeley, is a well-known Catholic priest who has written many bestsellers.  This one concerns an Irish-American college guy who falls in love with a young Russian woman studying at Harvard.  Of course I've been looking forward to reading it, too!

Of course, I want to read this, too!  I've heard so much about it, I just have to put it on my reading list! 

Okay, so I'm wondering if I'll have the time to actually read all these books.  (I happen to have two jobs...)  It's like when one sits down at a delicious meal -- one eats with one's eyes!  All I can say is that I sure want to read all of these books, and I sure am going to do my very best to do so!

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Blingee: "Love Sparkles"

Some time ago, I discovered this really cooool site --!  It attracted me right away, since I was an art major in college (although I always enjoyed writing poetry). 

Since I don't have the necessary space to do art, I figured this was the next best thing.  So I began creating what are known as "blingees".  Of course, the theme that motivates me the most is.... The Twilight Saga!! 

Although I haven't visited this site for a while (except for a few minutes ago, in order to pull the code to post this blingee here), I do have several of my creations saved there.  I will post them here, one by one.  Also, I will be frequenting this site again on a regular basis, so that I can create new ones to display on my blog.

Hope all of you -- especially the TWIHARDS!! -- enjoy!!  : )

Love Sparkles
Glitter Graphics

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Book Review: Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer

Title: Twilight
Author: Stephenie Meyer
Format: Hardcover, 498 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
Publication Date: October 5, 2005
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance, Vampire Romance

Although I have read many vampire romances, both for adults and young adults, none of them have moved me as deeply as the books of The Twilight Saga, the first of which remains my favorite.  The poignant, bittersweet tone of the writing, the wonderfully depicted characters, indeed, the story itself, have made me a lifelong fan!  

Isabella Swan, usually known as Bella, leaves her beloved, sunny Phoenix for what she sees as the depressing, rain-drenched atmosphere of Forks, a town in the state of Washington.  She's doing this so that her newly-remarried mother, Renee, can spend more time traveling with her husband, Phil, a minor league baseball player.  Bella will be staying with her father, Charlie, who happens to be the town's police chief.

On her first day of school, Bella meets Edward, whose initial reaction to her is one of hostility.  This puzzles her.  After all, Edward doesn't know her from Eve.  Little does she realize how she has really affected this boy she is already mysteriously drawn to....

Later in the story, we meet Jacob, a young Native American, who lives on the nearby Quileute reservation.   During a conversation with Bella at a beach outing with her classmates, he hints that Edward and his family might be the original "Cold Ones", with whom Jacob's grandfather established a treaty, many years in the past.  These creatures turn out to be vampires, a fact Bella verifies when she does an Internet search.  She then realizes that the Cullens are, indeed, "the Cold Ones" Jacob had told her about.

Once she discovers the truth, she also discovers that she is madly in love with Edward, and that he is just as fiercely attracted to her.  Throughout the book, they strive to deal with their unusual romance.

One of the most endearing aspects of the novel is Edward's strong family ties.  I especially love Carlisle and Alice, although Emmett is definitely a blast!  Jasper remains very enigmatic and mysterious, while Rosalie actively dislikes Bella, thus making me dislike her.  Esme is very sweet and nurturing, and immediately starts to love Bella like a daughter.

Carlisle, as the family founder, is the one responsible for the ethical code the Cullens follow.  They refuse to feed from humans, preferring to hunt animals instead.  Edward jokingly refers to his family as 'vegetarians', but this is a very serious life choice they have made, one that sets them apart from most other vampires.

We also meet James, Victoria, and Laurent, nomadic vampires whose fateful encounter with the Cullens sets off the novel's drama, and highlights even more the strong love between Bella and Edward.

The romantic highlight of the book is the famous "meadow scene", in which Edward shows Bella why exactly why he and his family prefer to live in rainy, clouded-over Forks.  When he removes his shirt, his skin sparkles brilliantly in the sunlight (it was one of those rare sunny days in the area).  This is exactly what Stephenie Meyer saw in the dream that developed into this book.  This is something I've never encountered before in vampire romance -- a vampire that sparkles in the sunlight.  Instead of the usual avoidance of sunlight, because it will destroy them, Meyer's vampires avoid it because the sparkling will reveal them for what they are to the humans.  Although this feature of the novel has been criticized as silly by some readers, I totally love it!  It's not only original, but very creative, as well.

It's in the meadow that Edward first declares his love to Bella, with the famous line, "And so the lion fell in love with the lamb."  This is very beautifully poetic.  Indeed, Edward is an old-fashioned romantic (he is, after all, more than 100 years old, although he appears to be about 17) who woos Bella with intense gazes full of longing, and lines evocative of classic English literature.  In today's cynical, crass world of casual sex, I found this to be very refreshing indeed.  It also enchanted me, transporting me to a fantasy world in which true love does really matter, and lovers want to be with each other forever... Is this maudlin?  Only for those with not an ounce of romance and poetry in their veins!  To me, it was sheer magic!

Toward the middle and end of the book, Bella repeatedly asks Edward to turn her into a vampire, so she can stay with him forever.  He refuses, claiming that this will put her soul in jeopardy.  It is very touching to see how each is concerned about the other's welfare, although of course it is Edward who bears the major responsibility for keeping Bella safe.

I simply cannot say enough about this beautiful, exquisitely romantic novel.  It has immortalized the love between "the lion and the lamb".  This book is much, much more than just 'an entertaining read'.  It is a lyrical tribute to the purity and steadfastness of true love.   

I have already read this novel three times, and know that I shall read it yet again, and again... for a long time to come!


Purchase Links

Stephenie Meyer

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Book Review: The Vampire Diaries: The Fury/Dark Reunion

The Fury/Dark Reunion
(The Vampire Diaries, #3 and #4)
Author: L.J. Smith
Paperback, 520 pages
Published January 1, 2007, by Harper Teen
Reading Genre: YA Paranormal Romance

In the two books included in this second omnibus edition, Elena Gilbert, the pivotal character of the series, is transformed from a vain, egotistical girl into a radiant being whose compassion and goodness save the lives of her friends, Matt, Meredith, and Bonnie, as well as that of her boyfriend, Stefan, the mysterious boy who turned out to be a vampire in the first book, The Awakening.

I started the series utterly disliking Elena. By the end of The Fury, I actually liked her -- a lot. At the beginning of this book, she has been turned into a vampire, and returns to the town of Fell's Church.  At first confused and dazed, she mistakes Damon for her true love, even attacking Stefan. She has, in other words, become temporarily insane, as a result of her transformation.  Thankfully, this is only a temporary condition.

In this installment of the series, which I liked more than the previous two, Elena joins forces with her friends, as well as Damon, in discovering the identity of another mysterious Power now haunting Fell's Church.  The resulting battle is harrowing, and has a tragic end, which will only be resolved at the end of Dark Reunion .

In the second book, the friends join forces again, to combat yet another evil power that has come to Fell's Church.   Unfortunately, two deaths occur before they are able to stop the villain, with some very unlikely supernatural help -- the unquiet spirits of Fell's Church.

Dark Reunion closes on a miraculous event that brings the star-crossed lovers, Stefan and Elena, great happiness. They are joined in their joy by their loyal friends, as well as by Caroline, whom Elena has forgiven for her attempts at getting Stefan accused of murder in The Struggle .

Sadly, Damon remains outside the group, refusing to be touched by Elena's love and goodness. Throughout both books, certain events take place that give the reader more of an insight into Damon's personality. He is not, after all, totally evil, as Elena turned out not to be entirely selfish and arrogant. However, there is something in him that prevents him from completely embracing the light. He prefers to remain in the darkness instead, proudly asserting his independence from those whom he has reluctantly come to care for.

These two books are not only action-packed, but also give the reader a deeper look into the characters. They really come to life here, bonding with each other to achieve a common end -- the elimination of all evil from their town. Bonnie's psychic skills play an even greater role in these books, and especially in the second one.

When I began reading this volume, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it greatly exceeded my expectations! These two books are thoroughly addictive, even if they do contain some rather horrific events, which would normally not appeal to me.

L.J. Smith has that magical, storytelling ability that can keep one turning pages, even if the reader initially has difficulty connecting with one or perhaps more of her characters. Her fertile imagination ensures suspenseful, heart-pounding moments, yet everything is satisfactorily resolved in the end.  She is a superbly talented writer!

Friday, November 19, 2010

My Love of the Fantastic: Part I

The fantastic...such a label covers quite a bit of ground.  Basically, it encompasses everything and anything that would be considered otherworldly, out of the ordinary.  That includes such literary genres as traditional fantasy, urban fantasy, science fiction, magic realism, paranormal romance and....horror.

I am dismayed at the fact that the horror genre has to be included here, which is the primary reason I'm writing this piece.  My love of all things fantastical and out of the ordinary absolutely does not extend to the horror genre.  Here, some fans of the fantastic might find themselves muttering, "What?!  She doesn't like horror?" in utter disbelief.  They might even wish that they could have an actual conversation with me, in order to discuss this seemingly illogical (to them) exclusion of stories, books, and even films that have the power to raise the hair at the back of one's neck, and give one goosebumps, while one's heart starts knocking rather loudly against one's ribs.

Well, there it is...I absolutely and irrevocably detest this particular genre.  In fact, much as I loved such Ray Bradbury books as The Martian Chronicles and The Illustrated Man, for example, I distinctly remember the feeling of queasy uneasiness that slowly stole over me when I read some of the stories in those books.  They gave me definite chills.  Having experienced this, I would never dream of reading another famous Bradbury book, The October CountryThat particular book has more than just a slight undercurrent of horror...

The thing is, I don't like feeling scared, especially when there's no good reason to be.  I don't like feeling "that little frisson of fear" up my spine.  In fact, I abhor it.  It seems so incredible to me that there are people who actually enjoy this kind of thing!  Why would anyone deliberately read a story, a novel, or watch a movie, that would make them feel terrified?  After all, the feeling of terror is not a pleasant one at all.  Nor are the physical sensations accompanying it.  I really cannot understand why books and movies whose entire purpose is the evocation of abject fear continue to be produced, and consumed.  What is it about the human psyche, I wonder, that seeks out this type of uncomfortable experience?  Well, my psyche certainly doesn't crave it!

I can understand other feelings related to the fantastic, if the horror genre is excluded.  I can understand feeling totally enthralled by the beauty of magical landscapes.  I can understand feeling awe and wonder at the miraculous feats of magic performed in fairy tales and mythology.  I can also understand the grim determination of a heroic warrior, as he (and nowadays, 'she' as well) battles a fearsome dragon, or some other equally daunting foe.  Ironically, this particular situation does include a certain element of horror; however, it's not usually the most important one in the story. 

I can also understand the love of a human, whether male or female, for a  mythical being. 

Then there's the wonder of meeting fascinatingly different, or even human-like, alien beings, crossing vast galactic expanses, using technology that is so advanced it borders on the magical.  There are so many things to ponder and wonder about -- new scientific discoveries, interactions between humans and aliens, exploring new, uncharted worlds....  These things, too, I can understand.

I cannot understand the appeal of terror. 

So, as I analyze my love of the fantastic, I have to admit that not everything out of the ordinary is wondrous, enthralling, and awe-inspiring, which means that I have to be very specific when I say that I love the fantastic.  I love every literary genre that deals with the fantastic, with the sole exception of the horror genre. 

Things can get a bit difficult for me when a writer introduces elements of horror into another fantastical genre, as in the case of Bradbury.  That makes me very uncomfortable, especially if I like other aspects of a writer's work. 

Another writer that comes to mind, where genre overlap is concerned, is L.J. Smith, who writes YA fantasy.  She is the author of the Night World series, which I love.  She's also the author of The Forbidden Game, an omnibus edition of three previously published books -- The Hunter, The Chase, and The Kill.  I won't say much about this edition here, as I intend to review it soon.  Suffice it to say, for now, that certain parts of the book gave me that uncomfortable feeling.  I can say the same thing for The Vampire Diaries.   I have already reviewed the first omnibus edition of this series, which includes the previously published The Awakening and The Struggle.  I might very well go back and put in some comments referring to this uncomfortable aspect of it in my review.

A very obvious objection that might now be raised here is that it's totally absurd for a proclaimed Twilight fan to detest the horror genre.  Vampires are, after all, creatures that inspire horror, are they not?  To parody Gertrude Stein, " A vampire is a vampire is a vampire".  Right?  Well, no, not necessarily.  The idea of vampirism certainly does inspire horror; however, not all vampires are created equal.  Not all vampires are like Dracula, mercilessly drinking their victims dry, slinking alone through the darkness, deliberately instilling terror and revulsion in all who unfortunately run into them.

Stephenie Meyer's family of vampires, the Cullens, are not like that.  In fact, they are presented in contrast to the Volturi, a group of ruthless vampires who rule the city of Volterra, in Italy.  The contrast is most marked when one compares the leader and role model of the Cullens, Dr. Carlisle Cullen, with the leader and dictator of the Volturi, Aro.

I must again avoid going into too much detail here, since I do want to review all four books of The Twilight Saga.  Indeed, it's incredible that, as much as I love them, I have not yet done so.  But explaining that would mean going off on a tangent, so I won't go into the reasons at this point.

Unfortunately, there are some story details in Stephenie Meyer's Saga that do make me a bit uncomfortable.  Although these books are classified as 'horror' on Goodreads, I feel there are so many overriding elements that I love about them, that I have to say I forgive Ms. Meyer for the uncomfortable moments.  I would therefore hesitate to classify them as belonging to the horror genre.  I would insist that that they should be listed as 'YA paranormal romance', which indeed they are, in such bookstores as Barnes & Noble and Borders.

The most important of these overriding elements I'm referring to is the love between Edward Cullen and Bella Swan, which I will deal with in detail in my forthcoming review of the first book of The Twilight Saga.   It's not the type of thing one would expect to see in a novel primarily calculated to arouse fear.  In fact, a Biblical verse comes to mind here: "Perfect love casts out fear."  As depicted by Stephenie Meyer, Edward and Bella's love is nothing if not perfect.  It's an impossible ideal, the stuff of fairy tales.  Edward is the somewhat flawed knight in shining armor, who manages to overcome his tragic flaw, and Bella is the somewhat 'ugly duckling' whose last name is a little prophecy of what she will end up being -- a beautiful, highly accomplished princess.   This is hardly the kind of stuff one would run screaming from.

The first horror writer that comes to mind, and whose books I absolutely refuse to read, is Stephen King.  Just looking at his picture on the back cover of one his books, during a visit to my neighborhood Barnes & Noble, scared me!  Seriously, the guy looks like...well, let's just say, probably one of his own villains...  I did read one of his stories once, out of curiosity, and that was a huge mistake!  I don't recall the name of this story, but the plot gave me a couple of sleepless nights.  I resolved never to so much as touch another of his books again!

Of course I have to mention the utterly detestable Edgar Allan Poe, who is supposed to be an icon of American literature.  Well, he was, I must grudgingly admit, a master prose stylist.  His stories can also give the reader sleepless nights, though.  I remember suffering through three of them, because they were English assignments in high school: "The Tell-Tale Heart", "The Pit and the Pendulum" and "The Cask of Amontillado".   For those who are familiar with these horrible tales, enough said.   For those who are not, I would recommend you avoid them like the plague.  They are definitely not for the fainthearted.

Other writers whose works I have also avoided reading, and intend never to read, are H.P. Lovecraft, V.C. Andrews, Dean Koontz, and Clive Barker.  I would also have to include R.L. Stine.  I skimmed through one of his books once; unbelievably, he writes primarily for children.

Granted, there's a little bit of horror in all fiction, in the sense that tragic events do and must happen, so that conflict, which is the basic dramatic ingredient, is maintained.  The horror genre, however, magnifies this element until it's the one that predominates in the fictional work, whether story, novel, or film.  Gruesome, macabre descriptions abound, and very evil characters -- to the point that they are no longer human, but monsters.  Worst of all, these monsters never do seem to be stopped.  I'm thinking, for instance, of Hannibal, in The Silence of the Lambs, by Thomas Harris, which was later made into a movie starring Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins.

I do realize that there might be monsters in fiction, that these are, in fact, a necessary evil.  When they are allowed to run amok, and remain undefeated in the end, after the reader has gone through pages and pages of the most horrible and terrifying events, then I have a problem.  How do I avoid this problem?  Simple.  I refuse to read such fiction.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Fan Fiction: "The Rainbow at the End of the Bridge", Chapter 2

Disclaimer: I own nothing related to the Twilight Saga. These are Stephenie Meyer's characters, and no copyright infringement is intended, now, or at any time in the future, near or far.

In this chapter, Bella finds out that she has been rescued by an angel who possesses an unexpected talent...

Chapter 2: The Angel's Digs


It was already late afternoon when I set out. No one figured that I would actually attempt to leave. I didn't think it would be that hard - this wasn't a maximum security prison, but only a juvenile detention hall. My lawyer had told me that he was doing everything he could to prevent me being tried as an adult.

I had a forged pass, as well as a set of regular clothes, thanks to the mother of one of the kids, who had actually believed my story. She had sent her daughter some clothes, including some extra ones for me. The jeans looked new, the sneakers were a little bit broken in, and the T-shirt was the nicest part of my "nice-teen-girl ensemble" - it sported a cute teddy bear with an armful of roses. I actually felt human again.

I wouldn't want to bore anybody out there with the details of my life. Because my life is just a big nothing. That's just the way it is. But people might wonder what made me consider suicide an option. Somebody's bound to read this journal, sometime in the future.

No one would have thought that I would be considered a murderer. Sure, he did cheat on me. Then he denied that he was involved with her at all. To top things off, he broke off our engagement in a text message. What a coward! He deserved nothing but contempt, at the very least. But murder? That's just not me. Not at all. Hell. I couldn't even bring myself to kill a mouse, when I saw one once, running across the dirty linoleum floor of an abandoned tenement I had hidden out in, while they were looking for me.

So tonight I was going to put an end to all the garbage that was my life. No one wanted me, and I knew I wanted nobody. I appreciated the gesture by my friend's mother, but doubted she would continue to be nice to me once the conviction came through. I had no one to put up the bail money, so I was at the hall, awaiting trial.

The guard at the exit barely looked at my fake pass, and soon I was through the gates, standing outside. I breathed a sigh of relief. This was due to my friend's mother, as well, I knew. She had bribed the guard.
I didn't care about being caught, because my purpose in escaping was simply to put an end to my life. After all, I had nothing to look forward to. Although this was a local crime, where could I go?. I would be a fugitive. Anyone who did some digging into my background would be sure to find out that I was an accused murderer. Who would hire me? What school could I possibly attend? And, last but definitely not least, what man in his right mind would be crazy enough to marry me, let alone have a romantic relationship with me? No man would want to risk being killed by the vicious, cold-blooded, Elizabeth Perkins Swan.

I had always liked my mother's maiden name, in spite of the dim memories I had of her - all of them unpleasant. So, I had decided to use the name "Isabella Swan", should I ever need to. I had some familiarity with Italian people, having grown up in the Bronx. That name had always made me think of romantic gondola rides, while nestled in the strong arms of my true love. The name "Elizabeth", while pretty, was the name of my abused self.  Now this didn't matter anymore. Whether I was "Elizabeth" or "Isabella" wouldn't matter, once they found - or perhaps didn't find - my lifeless body.

I tied up my sneakers tight. I was going to be doing some heavy walking before I met my doom. I had calmly given my pass to the guard on duty, and was allowed to step outside, to a freedom that would not delight me. I sought the ultimate freedom. I was ridding the world of my unwelcome presence.

Hey, so okay, I like to feel sorry for myself. Wouldn't you, in similar circumstances?

Then I began to walk, toward the bay. I would find the bridge. That became my goal. The bridge. One jump, and, since I never did learn to swim properly, that would do it. Perhaps the tide would pull me out to sea, if I was lucky. If not, then there were would be no doubt that the case was permanently closed. I no longer cared about trying to clear my name. I had spent most of my life trying to justify myself, and it simply hadn't worked. Why would this situation be any different?

I didn't want to have to go through the trial. I knew I would probably be judged as an adult. I was nearly eighteen, after all. No one would believe me - the circumstantial evidence was just too strong. So I would then have to look forward to years and years of imprisonment, if not life. I shuddered. I had heard the usual stories of what really goes on in prisons...

Swallowing an entire bottle of aspirin never occurred to me. That was not an easy thing to get at the juvenile hall, though. Hanging myself with bed sheets? Nope. They had thought of everything. There were no bed sheets on the worn mattresses - only threabare blankets. As for eating utensils, they were all plastic, and we were still searched for those, on a daily basis.

I liked the bridge idea. I would make a splash, all right, then hopefully disappear into oblivion.
Frowning, I realized I had forgotten the type of neighborhood I would have to cross on my way to the bridge. I was on foot, of course. I had decided against taking the bus. I just didn't want to be with people who had fairly normal lives.  Well, maybe one of the neighborhood undesirables would save me the trouble of going all the way to the bridge.

I had been walking for some time when I met him.  Night had gradually fallen, although I had no notion of time.  It must have been pretty late by the time he found me.  Winos and crackheads had leered at me, and I had kept walking, indifferent to them. I was on a mission to find this bridge, you see. It shouldn't have surprised me when I stumbled. I simply picked myself up and moved on. These streets were very poorly lit, and my lifelong klutziness sure didn't help. I should have turned around and gone back the way I had come, but what was there for me to go back to?

And then I fell down. A dim memory came to me as I hit the concrete sidewalk. My mother, hauling me up by one hand, slapping me hard across the face for falling down, for being so clumsy. Hell, for just existing.

I felt hands picking me up. Gentle hands. They supported me carefully, as if I would break. I looked up, and met his eyes. They were deep black, and they mesmerized me. I couldn't focus very well at first - I had never seen such a breathtakingly beautiful guy. Then I smiled. I had been walking in some sort of daze, just focused on that damn bridge. But then the power of his eyes snapped me out of it, and I had to smile at the irony of things. Here I was, on a mission to end my life, and an angel from heaven appeared. Well, it was too funny! Why would an angel abandon his holy green pastures and stoop to earth to rescue someone like me?
No, I wasn't hallucinating. This guy had to be an angel. He didn't seem interested in attacking my body, whether sexually or violently. Wow. Now that was a first. Yeah, he had to be from the next world, although those hands holding me felt very real.

Half-seriously, I asked him if he was in the habit of rescuing hopeless people. He reacted as if I had spoken in a foreign language, because he repeated the word, "hopeless", as if he hadn't understood it.  I wanted to go on my way. I tried to shrug him off, but he persisted, telling me that I shouldn't be walking in this neighborhood alone, at this hour of the night. Yeah, yeah. Tell me something I don't already know.
I really couldn't understand why he bothered to scare off those three dudes that came up to us, clutching knives in their hands.

Before the night was over, I discovered, to my surprise, that I was going home with him. He didn't really ask, just slung me on his back, telling me to hang on. I made my muscles obey him, wrapping my arms around his neck, and my legs around his waist. I closed my eyes tightly, and we were off.

Well, you meet all types, I guess. What an interesting way to travel.  Live and learn, for sure.  Only I was so tired of living and learning...

As I opened my eyes, I could tell that I was lying on a mattress. Then I shifted slightly, and noticed how very comfortable this mattress was. It was much too comfortable, in fact. I rolled my eyes around the room, gingerly turning my head to the left, then to the right. The pillow was very comfortable, too. The room was dimly lit, but I could tell that it was daylight, although there were heavy, burgundy-colored drapes on all the windows, and they were drawn. The room was large. I began to notice, as my eyes roamed around it. The furniture was very modern; in fact, it was obviously expensive. Everything was a warm sienna tone - the dresser, the two night tables, and the desk and chair by the window. An intricately carved, paneled sculpture dominated one wall, which was painted in a golden shade of yellow, just like the other walls. I wasn't up on the latest trends, but I was familiar with the work of Louise Nevelson. One of my foster mothers had sold art in a New York gallery, and I had seen pieces by Nevelson from time to time, not to mention other sculptures by more recent artists. There were performance artists also, but those didn't appeal to me.  This piece was wonderful, and it looked authentic. I smiled wryly. So my strange rescuer was an art collector. More and more interesting...

The temperature in the room was very nice, too. Not too cold, not too warm. Just perfect, in fact. Still, I had been covered by a comforter, a luxuriously thick, huge thing, with a solid bright blue background on which stars of various shapes and sizes seemed to have been sprinkled. For some reason, I looked up at the high ceiling, only to find that it, too, was sprinkled with stars. The background was cobalt blue, making me think that the ceiling was actually an open window to the universe.  I smiled in spite of my inner despair.

I simply lay there for a few minutes, going over the events that, up until a few minutes ago, had seemed to be a dream.  I  knew I was awake, although on second thought, I told myself maybe I wasn't. This whole scenario seemed to be the stuff of New Age visualizations. It couldn't be real...of course it couldn't be. I could never hope to have such a nice room, in my real life.

The sweet, poignant notes of the Debussy came softly through the door at first, then got a little louder. That was one of my favorite pieces - again, thanks to the gallery foster mother. Too bad she had gotten so bored with me so fast. I could have really picked up more culture from her. I did show her two or three poems once, but she accused me of copying them from somewhere, and wouldn't believe that I had written them myself, no matter how much I insisted that I had.

I savored the melody, the flowing chords, picturing swans paddling elegantly across a placid lake, on a late Sunday afternoon, as the sun's rays warmly caressed the cool water. I sat at the edge of the lake, my head in my true love's lap, watching the clouds skidding across a brilliant blue sky.  That was part of the reason I wanted to kill myself. I was always imagining beautiful, romantic scenarios, torturing myself with dreams that would never really take place. Nothing good ever happened to me.

"Are you awake yet?" A young man's voice came from the adjoining room. Startled out of my impromptu fantasy, I leaned on one elbow, wondering if I should try to get up.

So this was no dream, after all. Interesting.

He suddenly appeared in the doorway, wearing a ragged old T-shirt splattered with paint, and faded jeans that were also splattered with paint. To top it all off, he wore a huge grin. His eyes, however, made me feel uneasy. They were very, very black, very ominous-looking.

"Did you sleep well?" he asked, leaning on the doorjamb, arms crossed. He shifted his eyes to look around the room.  I could tell he was trying to avoid my curious gaze.

Silence from me. I literally could not speak. The sight of him was almost painful to my eyes. He was unbearably gorgeous. No. That just doesn't cover it. Words failed me. I had thought he was an angel last night, and then decided, upon awakening, that such an impression must have been the product of a morbid imagination. I was on my way to the next world, after all. The reality of him standing there did nothing to alter my impression of the night before, though. He was an angel incarnate, a denizen of the heavens above, and no mistake.  His physical beauty contrasted strongly with his disheveled, stained clothes.

"Well, I see that my appearance has rendered you speechless," he said, in that beautiful, melodious voice of his. Was there anything about him that was not beautiful? Even his manner of speaking was beautiful. Somewhat old-fashioned, but beautiful. He was speaking like someone out of an English novel. Yes, that was it. I felt like Jane Eyre meeting her Mr. Rochester, except that this guy was not much older than me, from the looks of it.  He was probably a model for some glitzy New York magazine. Or maybe one in South Beach. That would account for his excellent taste in art. He was obviously a very succesful model.

"Ah, but I am a terrible host!" He bounded into the room, and I couldn't help but smile at his irrepressible energy. "You must be terribly hungry! Come on, let me get you something to eat."

He held out an arm, and I stared up at him. He was grinning from ear to ear. His eyes remained a marked contrast to his wonderful smile, though. I felt funny for a moment.  I couldn't help but smile back. Relax, Bella, he's a sweetheart. It was surprisingly refreshing to be greeted with such cheerfulness just after waking up. He totally disarmed me. He was sort of like a big, happy, kid. At least, he seemed to be. Maybe I needed to be careful, though.  My smile faded. Maybe I should wait for the other shoe to drop.  He still held out his arm. So, I sat up, and laid a hand on his arm, with the intention of swinging my legs to the side of the bed.

At the contact with his arm, I let out a yelp. It was ice cold.

I looked up at him, and he frowned. "Yes, I know," he said, his voice taking on a tinge of sadness. "I take medication for that, but I'm not due again for a couple of hours. It's worn off by now."

I didn't know whether to believe him or not, but I did have to get up. So I gritted my teeth, and stood up. I swayed a bit for a moment, but he steadied me with his other hand. Then he escorted me into the adjacent room, exactly as if he were walking into a ballroom.

My jaw dropped as we crossed the threshold into the room. It was huge, with high, wood-beamed ceilings. One wall, painted electric blue, had floor-to-ceiling windows, although these, too, were covered, by those same burgundy drapes, huge ones, too. Dozens of paintings were stacked along two other walls, which were painted in the same bright blue. In the middle of the room stood a very large painting-in-progress. Three easels accommodated it. Next to the painting, there was a medium-sized wooden table, loaded with several small plastic pots, a large glass palette, more than a dozen jars of paint, and more plastic pots full of brushes of all types.

I looked at him, and he was still grinning.

"You like it? I have a one-man show coming up soon, and I'm working like mad to finish it. I thought only corporate types had to worry about such things as deadlines, but I was totally wrong. Once you become succesful at anything, you invariably get invaded by those disgusting deadlines."

I still couldn't speak. Not only was my rescuer an angel, but an amazingly talented artist, as well, if I had learned anything at all from my artistically-inclined foster mother.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Book Review: The Vampire Diaries: The Awakening/The Struggle

The Awakening and The Struggle (The Vampire Diaries, #1 and #2)
Author: L. J. Smith
Hardcover, 492 pages
Published 1991 by Harper Collins/Harper Teen
Reading Genre: YA Paranormal Romance

I have been an L.J. Smith fan since the first two books of her Night World series -- I'm referring to the omnibus editions -- became compulsive reading for me from the moment I started page one.  I fell in love with the Night World characters, as well as with the plots of these stories; indeed, with the whole premise behind the series.

I did enjoy this first omnibus edition of The Vampire Diaries, although not quite as much as the Night World books.

I had a very hard time relating to the protagonist, Elena Gilbert, at first. She's used to being the queen of her school, Robert E. Lee High, in the fictional town of Fell's Church, and seems to think that she's entitled to use and manipulate people, to have the unquestioned adulation of all her peers, and have any boy she wants, only to discard them later.

This type of girl usually has a coterie of loyal followers who will unquestionably do her bidding. Elena has two such friends: Bonnie and Meredith, and she does not hesitate to order them around.

Elena does start to evolve, slowly but surely, throughout both books, becoming fully aware of her egotistical behavior toward the end of the second book, The Struggle.  I did feel some sympathy for her, though, since she's an orphan, and pours her heart out in her secret diary, which turns more introspective as she begins to realize how she's been using people.

Stefan is the vampire Elena becomes obsessed with.  He's basically good, and tries very hard not to hurt humans. He hunts animals, like the Cullens do in the Twilight books. However, he does give in to his anger at one of the students, Tyler Smallwood, and very nearly ends up killing him, in spite of all his noble ideals. The guilt he feels regarding this incident renders him vulnerable to succumbing to his ever-present feelings of being a monster.

Stefan finds Elena compellingly attractive from the beginning, since she reminds him of a girl he loved and lost, back in Renaissance Italy. Once he becomes involved with her, he realizes that she's not like Katherine at all.  She has an inner, fiety strength he admires. 

Elena becomes just as obsessed with Stefan as he is with her. In fact, she dumps her current boyfriend, Matt, in order to "win" Stefan. This might seem cruel, but she has suddenly discovered that she never felt anything more than friendship for Matt.  She does do her best to "let him down easily", which provides a glimpse to her true, inner self.

Damon, Stefan's older brother, is totally evil. He has always hated Stefan, and they have been rivals all their lives. Of course, they fight over Katherine, and then Elena. I did find some traces of Julian, the villain of Smith's The Forbidden Game, in Damon, whose love for Elena is entirely based on her physical beauty, as well as the strength Stefan has already perceived.  Julian, in contrast, is fiercely attracted not only to Jenny's outer beauty, but to her goodness, as well.

The flashback scenes in the first book, The Awakening, are fascinating.  To me, they are one of the strengths of this book.  The dialogues in which Stefan, Damon, and Katherine enact their love triangle are full of barely suppressed tension that finally erupts climactically, leading to tragedy.  Stefan will carry the guilt for this tragedy throughout the centuries, and the feud between the two brothers seems destined never to end.

The plot in the two books is very well handled, with plenty of suspense and very scary moments.  Bonnie, who is a reluctant psychic, provides an unexpected foil for the pervading, oppressive atmosphere with her constant, humorous references to druid lore.  There is plenty of bad weather, created by the powerful Damon, and this appropriately contributes to the gloomy tone of several crucial scenes in the story, mirroring the characters' inner confusion and turmoil.

The one thing I felt could have been depicted more realistically was the romance between Elena and Stefan.  They fall in love much too quickly.  True, they both realize, when they first touch, that they're soulmates, but there really should have been a more gradual buildup to this realization.

In conclusion, I would have to say that I prefer the Night World series, although The Awakening  and The Struggle are also page turners.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Fan Fiction: "The Rainbow at the End of the Bridge", Chapter 1

Disclaimer: I own nothing related to the Twilight Saga. These are Stephenie Meyer's characters, and no copyright infringement is intended, now, or at any time in the future, near or far.

This is my second Twilight tale. It suddenly came to me, the way stories sometimes do, wafting on the night breeze.

Edward finds Bella walking in a very dangerous part of town. He doesn't know her, but, as her scent overpowers him, so does an overwhelming urge to protect her, and get to know her better... (OOC, AU)

Chapter 1: Midnight Encounter


The rain lashed her face, but she was past caring. She walked down the sidewalk, obviously oblivious to her surroundings. I wondered why. Even with my limited experience with human women, I knew they didn't usually take night promenades at a late hour - through one of the seediest neighborhoods in the city. Not, of course, unless that happened to be their profession. But this girl did not look the part. Far from it. She merely looked...lost. No, that wasn't it, exactly. She didn't look like she had no idea where she was - just that she didn't care. That was the first thing that drew me to her. The fact that she was not afraid at all, or perhaps, was beyond such fear. On the other hand, it wasn't like she was being in any way adventurous or brave. She was clearly not interested in walking on the wild side for the heck of it.

I suspected that something had happened to her, something that had caused her to behave this recklessly. Although I wasn't close enough to see her face, her listless movements were clear evidence of this. She had made me curious. Beyond mere curiosity, however, there was the elementary reality of her scent - the sweetest I had ever smelled. Not in all my years as a vampire had I encountered anything similar. Her scent drew me inexorably after her, and, in doing so, I went ever deeper into the night realm of the city, the land of the hopeless and the dying. I walked right by them, lying in the street, next to garbage dumps, most of them either passed out from drugs or alcohol, or merely resting for the night, if such sleep could be called rest. Their scent made me wrinkle my nose, and nearly obscured hers. And yet...I was easily able to detect it, following it unerringly along dilapidated streets strewn with refuse and the strangled dreams of so many lost lives. I could have taken any of them, had I chosen to. After all, I had abandoned Carlisle's utopian family, casting myself adrift, like a nomad vampire would. I had killed only one human since then. None of these derelicts even remotely tempted me, even though I was starting to feel thirsty. I was much more discriminating than that. Besides, I was having second thoughts about living according to my predatory nature. It had not been pleasant, after I had slaked my raging thirst, to be flooded with guilt and regret. The man whose life I took had murmured a woman's name, as he lay dying... Karen, I think he whispered... I had no idea whether she was his girlfriend or wife, or perhaps his sister. He would never see her again, thanks to me.

She stumbled, bringing my complete attention back to her. And I felt an impulse, or maybe I should call it a need, to make sure she didn't fall down, or hurt herself. I made sure to walk closer behind her, but not close enough that I would alarm her. She continued her dangerous little journey, not paying any attention to the stares and occasional drunken leers that came her way. I frowned. There was something very wrong with this human girl. She truly did not care about the potential danger that surrounded her at every turn. In spite of her intoxicating smell, and the thirst that was beginning to burn my throat, I felt that I had to watch her, in case someone accosted her. I don't know why I felt this need. It was nearly as strong as the need to take her blood. I was pulled along, following her everywhere she went. I turned left or right when she did so, and all the time I was observing myself, surprised at my behavior, because I finally reached the point at which her blood was less important to me than the urgent need to protect her...

She stumbled again, and this time she did fall down. I reacted without even a second thought. I was suddenly beside her, reaching down with both hands, to lift her up. She felt too limp in my hands. She looked up at me, and her eyes didn't seem to be focusing properly. I wondered whether she had overdosed on something.

I brought her up, gently, ever so gently, and all the while that incredible, beautiful, scent of hers washed over me, so powerfully I nearly took her then. But I couldn't, because suddenly her incredible eyes were on mine, and she had this wistful little smile on her face, as if she knew that she had come to the end of the road, and that just shook me.

She was mine for the taking. And so I decided to take her - with me. I felt as if I had no choice in the matter. Somehow, it seemed to be the right thing to do. I know how very trite that sounds. But that's just how things were, for me, at that point.

She smiled at me abruptly. "Hi," she whispered, and my non-existent heartbeat lurched, as I stared at her in wonder. That breathy whisper had touched me, sliding softly along every nerve ending. i stood in front of her, powerless to do anything but stare at her, as she stared back at me.

"So," she continued, in that same soft whisper, "are you in the habit of rescuing hopeless people?"

I stared at her, speechless for a few seconds. "Hopeless?" I repeated idiotically. I was still holding her arms, and my hands trembled - the feel of her skin on mine was arousing another kind of thirst.

"Yessss," she answered, smiling again. "You sure don't look like a rapist. So what else could you be doing? But you don't need to bother."

She looked down at my hands. "Let me go," she whispered, in a very sad voice. "I'm not even worth raping..."

I took my hands off her arms, and she glanced up, smiling her sad little smile, before she turned away to continue her walk.

Again I reacted without thinking. I reached out, and grabbed one of her arms.

"You shouldn't be walking alone in this area, at this time of night. You're risking not only rape, but certainly death, as well."

She shrugged. "No skin off your nose," she replied, indifferently.

Perhaps I had misjudged her. "Are you...a streetwalker?"

She laughed, and I eagerly drank in that laugh. It tinkled merrily, in stark contrast to her entire demeanor. I could have sworn that she momentarily turned into a different person. But it was only for a moment. Then she turned away again, gently, sadly, disengaging my hand from her arm. She was shaking her head.

I fell into step by slow step beside her. "Please," I pleaded, then stopped. Pleading? I was actually pleading with someone whose blood called to me so powerfully that it was all I could do to restrain myself from drinking her dry?

"Please come with me. I don't want to leave you alone. You'll end up as just another statistic in the evening news by tomorrow, if you stay in this part of town."

She shrugged delicately again, and kept on walking. I was forced to act. So, I simply picked her up in my arms. She didn't protest or struggle, as I had expected. Definitely something seriously wrong there.

It was all I could do to keep from doing the deed then. Her scent nearly caused me to lose control. But I managed to restrain myself, and began to walk away, carefully cradling her light weight.

"I'd put that broad down if I was you," a male voice threatened in the darkness.

I turned around slightly, and was not surprised to see three brawny young men behind me, brandishing knives.

I smiled my most dangerous smile. "You don't really want me to do that, now, do you? But...if you insist..." I growled, ending on a snarl. Then I slowly, lightly, set her on her feet, keeping one arm around her waist.

I unleashed the full force of my eyes on them, snarling again for good measure.

One of them, a tall, strapping guy, froze, his gaze locked with mine. The others hesitated, looking from me to him, then back to me. Their gazes locked with mine as well.

Slowly they lowered their knives. I snarled again, and took one step toward them, keeping the girl behind me. They suddenly turned tail and fled, scattering like leaves in the wind, their knives clattering to the ground.

Satisfied, I turned to this strange girl with the most wonderful scent in the world.

She stared at me, and her brows knit together in a puzzled frown. "Wow..." she whispered. "What the devil did you do to them?"

I chuckled - it was an eerie, dark sound. "Maybe I'm the devil himself," I replied, as my black eyes met her brilliant green ones.

She stared right back at me, without fear. "Well, if you're the devil, you're much toogood-looking. And just as I was about to kill myself, too..."

"Well," I said, smiling, "I'm sorry to have upset your plans. But you won't be doing that tonight. Or anytime soon, I would imagine."

With that, I picked her up in my arms again, and easily positioned her on my back.

"What are you doing?" she asked conversationally. "Rescuing you, just as you thought," I replied. "Rescuing the most beautiful woman in the world, whose name I do not yet have the pleasure of knowing."

I could almost feel her smiling, and it filled me with sudden delight. But she didn't answer right away.

Just when I thought she wasn't going to say it, I heard her whispery voice, next to my left ear.

"Bella," she said, making my ear tingle deliciously. Somehow I wasn't surprised. It was a lovely name for a lovely girl. In Italian, it meant "beautiful".

"Now hang on tight," I told her, just before pushing off into the night. I ran as I had not run in a very long time, af if my own life depended on it, which it obviously didn't.