Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Update to the Twilight Series Review

I have a confession: I've been re-reading the Twilight books since I finished them.

I really didn't expect that, especially after I finished the first book. That book was good, but I actually waited several days to see if I could borrow the second book before buying my own copy. It's just that once I finished the second book, I couldn't wait to devour the third and fourth books.

**Spoiler Alert: Stop reading if you don't want to know anything that happens in the stories.**

My favorite book is the last one, Breaking Dawn.I've re-read huge portions of it multiple times at this point. I guess I just wasn't ready to say goodbye to Bella and Edward. (As Lex surely understands, judging from this comment.) In exploring Stephenie Meyer's web site, I was very sad to discover that she considers Breaking Dawn the conclusion of the series. I understand that it's the end of Bella's story, but there are so many other stories to be told. I especially want to know what happens to Leah, who seemed particularly unhappy, notwithstanding her escape from Sam's pack. Stephenie doesn't seem to be ruling out future vampire/werewolf stories, but for now, she's apparently done.

Well, except for Midnight Sun. She states she's planning to finish the story at some point, and I have to say, I like Midnight Sun at least as much as, if not more than, Breaking Dawn. Even if the Edward-as-stalker aspect is rather creepy.

If you enjoyed the books, you might want to check out the "outtakes" sections for Twilight and New Moon. They are portions of the stories that were edited out – I particularly enjoyed the expanded prom scene. Unfortunately, there aren't any outtakes for the last two books.

Finally, am I the only one who attaches a song to a book? I've become somewhat obsessed with Coldplay's "Viva La Vida" – for me, at least, it is the perfect soundtrack for the whole Twilight Series.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Review: Pinot Bistro

Marc and I had the chance to go out for dinner a few times recently, and one of those times, we decided to go to Pinot Bistro, a restaurant we hadn't been to in almost ten years. It's a fine dining restaurant in Studio City, and we remembered the food being quite excellent (and expensive).

Since we went on Christmas Eve, there was a limited prix fixe menu, and although many things sounded good, nothing was really spectacular. Admittedly, I got a little adventurous with my ordering, selecting the things I would never make at home, like beef carpaccio and duck breast. Unfortunately, the carpaccio was took thick, and the duck breast too rare (and hence chewy). I probably would have enjoyed my meal more if I'd stuck to more ordinary dishes like mushroom risotto and halibut, but since I could cook those myself (if I had the time to cook), it seemed like wasting the special occasion. But even the bread was bland. (And I'll never understand why restaurants serve their bread with cold, unspreadable butter.)

The service was impeccable, though, which made the meal a lot more enjoyable than it would have been otherwise.

It's not that the food was bad, but it certainly wasn't worth the money. We paid $45 per person for a four-course meal, which isn't outrageous but definitely not cheap. So needless to say, we won't be going back to Pinot Bistro for another ten years.

But we did find another restaurant that we're going to visit regularly - and I'll tell you about that one soon.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Review: The Twilight Series

In less than a week, I've read all four of the books in Stephenie Meyer's Twilight Series.

That alone tells you how much I enjoyed the books. We're talking about 3,000 pages in less than a week. I was reading every chance I got, taking advantage of a little time off this week for the holidays.

I reviewed the first book, Twilight, right after I read it. But then I read the second, third and fourth books in quick succession, and they've all kind of blurred together now.

**Spoiler Alert: Do not continue if you don't want to know anything about the stories.**

I love that I can never predict what's going to happen, even when I have a vague idea of what's coming. For instance, I knew Jacob would become a werewolf, but didn't foresee the alliance with the vampires. And I knew as soon as Bella started feeling nauseous that she was pregnant, but didn't guess that Jacob would imprint on Nessie.

But the best thing was that I was euphoric while I was reading the books. I could hardly bear to put them down, and I couldn't wait to pick them back up. But during those times that I wasn't reading, I was happy because of the stories. I felt so blessed to have Marc, who is my Edward. The book reminded me that I have that kind of love in my life, and so my emotions were soaring even when I wasn't reading.

I do wonder how I would have felt reading this book as a child, rather than a gloriously happily married woman. In fact, even in reading the first book, I was a little bothered by the fact that there was a 100-year old man/vampire falling in love with a 17-year-old girl. I mean, Edward may have become a vampire when he was 17, but it doesn't change the fact that he's much older than Bella. And while it was sweet that he apparently was a virgin until they consummated their marriage, I can't help but think that it might not be appropriate for young girls. But then again, I read wildly inappropriate books when I was young and ended up okay. Although I think that if I had a daughter who was into the series, I would read the books and discuss these issues with her.

Incidentally, I'm glad I read Midnight Sun before I read the second book, New Moon.Because of that, I had Edward's perspective in my mind as I read from Bella's and Jake's points of view. I was, for instance, extremely fond of Emmett in the subsequent stories, even though he is a peripheral character, because Edward is so fond of Emmett in Midnight Sun.

As a final aside, I don't plan on seeing the movie version of Twilight. The characters don't look anything like what I've envisioned in my mind, especially Edward, and I've heard such bad things about the movie that I don't want to risk ruining all of the lovely images in my head. But one of the funniest thing I've seen recently is a jar of Edward Shimmer Powder - which I'm guessing is a lot like the shimmer body powders that were oh-so-popular about ten years ago. (I think I might still have a jar lying around!)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Review: Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

I feel like the last person on earth to read the first book in Stephenie Meyer's blockbuster series, Twilight.

And since I'm so late to the party, I don't feel bad about discussing the story. So if you don't want spoilers, definitely don't read past the next paragraph.

I expected to like the book, since all of my girlfriends have raved about it. Still, I took my time getting into it. I borrowed the book from a friend and only got through it because I read it while I was on jury duty last week. It's a very fast read, and from about halfway through, I found myself unable to put the book down. (It's a very good thing I didn't get called to a courtroom!) I was actually surprised at how much I liked the book considering it's about teen love. But the story was so compelling and well-written that I found myself appreciating my own marriage anew - causing Marc to encourage me to read the rest of the series ;)

**Spoiler alert - don't read further if you don't want to know anything about the story**

I found the vampires much more interesting than Bella herself, so if you've read the first book, I highly recommend the incomplete book available on Stephenie Meyer's web site, Midnight Sun. You might have heard about it earlier this year, when part of the manuscript was leaked and she had a complete meltdown over it. When she recovered, she decided the best course of action was to publish what she'd written so far on her site, so it's there in pdf format. If the book came out at midnight, I'd be at the bookstore for it. That's right - I enjoyed what I've read of Midnight Sun so much that I would sacrifice many hours of sleep for it.

Midnight Sun is a retelling of Twilight from Edward's perspective. And maybe it's because I'd just read Twilight (and haven't read the other books yet), but I was enthralled. I totally believe these vampires as they are described, and it's beyond anything I could have imagined. Of course, I'm always captivated by well-told stories of characters I could not have created myself. (I'm equally fascinated by the clones in Karen Traviss's Star Wars: Republic Commando series.Until I read the first Republic Commando book, it had never occurred to me to think of the clones as people.)

I was able to borrow the third and fourth books in the Twilight Saga, but the second one is eluding me, so I'm just going to have to buy it - I really don't want to to wait!

Friday, December 19, 2008

More free toilet paper at Ralphs

Earlier this week, I mentioned that if you combine a 50-cents off manufacturer insert coupon with a 50-cents off Shortcuts coupon, you'll get a free 4-pack of Cottonelle toilet paper at Ralphs. And now you can get up to three free packs that I know of if you have at least three insert coupons. I was able to load two Cottonelle coupons onto my Rewards card at Shortcuts, and there's also a 50-cents off Cottonelle coupon at Cellfire.

At A Full Cup, some members have reported that both Shortcuts and Cellfire coupons come off for the same item in the same transaction, but that didn't happen for me. Either way, though, it's a great deal - you get 25 cents or 75 cents of overage toward another item and some free toilet paper!

Get another free 8x10 from Walgreens and Snapfish

Thanks to MoneySavingMethods for posting that you can order a free 8x10 from Snapfish if you pick up in store at Walgreens. Just use code WALFREE. (Note: Most sites are posting this code with 2 L's, but there's only one L.) The code expires tomorrow, Dec. 20.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Walgreens Photo: Free 8x10

You can get a free 8x10 photo from Walgreens Photo when you use code FREEGIFT. The offer is good through December 20. Save on shipping by picking up the photo in store and get it completely free!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Free toilet paper at Ralphs (and maybe all Kroger stores?)

Ralphs is the Kroger store out here in California, and right now they have 4-packs of Cottonelle toilet paper on sale at 4 for $5, or $1.25 per pack. There were 50 cents off any 4-pack or larger Cottonelle coupons in yesterday's Smart Source insert. There's also a 50 cents off any 4-pack or larger Cottonelle Shortcuts coupon that you can load onto your Rewards card. Since Shortcuts coupons are supposed to combine with paper coupons, the math should work out like this:

$1.25 for 1 4-pack
- $1 (50 cent SS coupon doubled)
- 50 cents (Shortcuts)
= 25 cents overage toward other purchases

Sometimes Ralphs and Kroger deals overlap, so if you're going to a Kroger-affiliated store anyway, be sure to load the Shortcuts coupon onto your card and then check the price on Cottonelle!

Friday, December 05, 2008

Lots of free $10 certificates for friends & family

Visit Coupon Cravings to find out how you can send three free $10 certificates per day to friends and family through December 25.

Just a few words of caution with this generous freebie, however: Make sure the recipients don't mind you sharing their name and email address, and check the restrictions on the certificate. Most of the certificates, at least in my area, are for restaurants that require dining in and a minimum amount spent, which pretty much kill any inclination I might have to try the restaurant.