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Forks Week: A Tour of Forks with Twilight Tours

When you think of Forks, WA, assuming you know what a very small and relatively uneventful town it is, the first activity that comes to mind is probably not a paid tour.  What can there possibly be to tour? you might ask.  I decided to give it a go and see what all the fuss was about.  Having seen the Twilight Tours In Forks company on the Twilight In Forks documentary, and after hearing first-hand from some friends what a great experience it was, I signed up my sweetie and me for an afternoon tour and dragged him reluctantly along (with him emphatically announcing to everyone we passed that he was “Team Switzerland”).  Surprisingly, Twilight Tours (originally owned by the Dazzled By Twilight store), is not the only tour company in the tiny town, although it is the original.  Team Forks, affiliated with Lapelles Flowers & Gifts, runs a very similar tour, with a slightly higher admission fee.  You can browse online for other opinions on the two companies, but since I didn’t take the Team Forks tour, I can only tell you about Twilight Tours, so read on to hear about my adventure in Forks and La Push!

***** Note: This post is not an advertisement for Twilight Tours, Team Forks, Dazzled By Twilight, Lapelles, or the Quilute Nation, and reflects only the personal views and opinions of the reviewer.  No monetary gain is made (nor intended to be made) from this posting. ***** 

An introduction worthy of fanfare!

A little backstory (get comfy, this is going to be a long post!)…
My friends Monique and Lexi took a trip to Forks in early May and signed up for the “Breaking Dawn” tour.  Don’t be confused by the different tour names – they all see the same thing, just at different times of the day.  Being from Texas, it was (supposedly) no big deal for Monique and Lexi to be up so early (mmhmm), but it turns out they were the only ones crazy enough to book the tour for the 8am time slot.  When Twilight Tours contacted them to see if they’d like to reschedule to a more populated tour time, explaining that more participants usually makes for a more lively experience, they decided to stick with their ridiculously early break of dawn (har har) departure time.  They wanted to do a little something special for their tour guide, knowing he was probably not too jazzed about doing a 2 person 8am tour, so they found out his name and made “Team Travis” shirts the night before.  If you’ve seen the Twilight in Forks documentary, Travis is the guide featured in all the tour segments, and he’s impressively good-natured and witty for a guy who drives the exact same route 20 times a week.  Apparently they all had a blast on their “VIP” tour, so when I found out that my husband and I were also the only two people scheduled on Travis’s tour that day, I thought it’d be fun to keep the tradition going.  Instead of shirts, we made “Team Travis” buttons, and presented him with a “Team Austin Twilighters” hat (our meetup group in Austin, TX), which he proudly wore the entire tour…
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*Queue energizing fanfare music here*
The tour starts out with a drive around the tiny metropolis of Forks, stopping at notable spots in the town itself, focusing on movie-related locations such as Forks High School, the hospital, and the police station, followed by a visit to the Chamber of Commerce, where tourists can sign the guest book, push their location pin into one of the maps adorning the twilight-themed walls, or pose with one of Bella’s trucks or cutouts of your favorite characters (including Alice!).  The bus then ventures out into the residential areas of town to pause for pictures with the various houses that have been designated as official.  Before you get too excited about visiting actual filming locations, I’m told that not a single frame of the movies was shot in Forks, and the houses were chosen based on their similarity to descriptions written by Stephanie Meyer in the books.  If you are a movie fan, very little of this tour is going to feel familiar to you.  Go ahead and feel a little disappointed, then shake it off and let yourself experience something new!  Here are a few of the Forks sites you’ll get to visit…

From there, it’s on to La Push!  As you’re zipping around in the tour bus, Travis fills the time by quizzing fans with some surprisingly tough Twilight trivia (beef up on The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide before you go!) and playing movie-appropriate theme music as you approach the various locations.  He’s also a student of the Quiluite language and traditions, and teaches you various words and phrases in the native language (pay particular attention to the word for “chipmunk”).  As you enter Quilute territory, of course the first stop is at the Treaty Line, complete with a “Vampire Threat” meter.  The tour then continues on toward the Black house before stopping at one of the breath-taking rugged beaches.

Arnold, our driver for the outing, is a member of the Quilute tribe.  He good-naturedly corrected Travis’s pronunciations (few and far between as those mistakes were), and shared his own insight into the Quilute customs and way of life.  The Quilutes are a private people, so Arnold was careful not to over-share, but his family anecdotes and tidbits of information about various La Push landmarks and activities were insightful and enjoyable, and really added an extra dimension to the experience.  One of the things passed on by Arnold during our tour that interested me the most is that the Quilutes open up some of their traditional activities up to travellers.  On Wednesdays at around 5:30, the Community Center in La Push opens for a comminity-wide pot luck meal, followed by drum circle (complete with tales!) and dancing.  Drum circle starts between 6:00 and 7:00 and there’s no fee to eat or dance, but it would be good form to bring your own dish to contribute to the pot luck if you intend to partake of the food.  There are additional activities you may be able to attend during other parts of the year, so ask your tour guide and driver for the most up-to-date info!

The tour typically lasts between 2.5 and 3 hours, arriving back at the Twilight Tours store for a final shopping stop.  Inside the tour depot, you can find a decent selection of shirts, hats, pins, magnets, stickers, and other collectible souvenirs.  I recommend taking the tour as early as possible in the day, then spending the afternoon strolling the streets of Forks and doing some serious souvenir-ing… but hey, I’m a shopper and I love acquiring new shineys! .

Twilight Tours gives back

This summer, Twilight Tours In Forks will be doing four separate surprise donation tours.  This won’t impact tour attendees, and you probably won’t see much of a change in the program aside from an announcement that you are on one of these special tours, but the benefit to the town will be notable.  Travis says all the proceeds from these tours, including admission fees, will go toward previously selected charities or causes around the Forks and La Push areas.  Those local businesses and groups wishing to be considered as recipients for the donation tours will submit their entries to Twilight Tours, then a name will be drawn randomly.  Twilight Tours will spontaneously choose the highest-attendance tours in order to raise as much money as possible.  Imagine stepping on the bus for your fangirl time, only to learn you’re secretly funding a local charity!  Very exciting, and an admirable gesture by Twilight Tours.

Twilight Tours In Forks circulates a monthly newsletter called “What Happens in Forks…”, giving readers insight into current happenings in and around town, as well as special coverage of Stephanie Meyer day.  They also distribute Quilute Word on Wednesdays (QWoW), a weekly email containing a single English word followed by its closest Quilute translation.  25% of all subscription fees collected from the newsletter and QWoW will be donated to the Quilute Nation in an effort to help them retain their traditions and heritage.  I’ve been subscribed to QWoW since I discovered it, inspired by the beautiful words Jacob spoke to Bella at the end of the movie New Moon, and Twilight Tours has graciously agreed to allow me to publish one of their words each month for free.  Keep an eye out for the first one, scheduled tentatively for next week!  Don’t wait for me though – head over to the Twilight Tours website and sign yourself up for the newsletter, QWoW, or a combination of the two, and get your own slice of Forks delivered directly to your inbox!

For my guide on where to eat, shop, and explore in Forks (as well as pick up some awesome souvenirs!), check out yesterday’s post!

© All photos displayed in this post are property of DavinciKittie.  Copies of these photos may be used for personal purposes without permission, but not on any monetized website/blog  or in any media outlets intended for profit.  Persons and businesses may use these photos in a non-profit manner ONLY as long as a link back to this site is provided in a reasonably visible location and (for businesses only) permission from DavinciKittie is obtained in advance.

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Forks Week: What to see, where to shop & eat!

Ok, let’s be honest with ourselves for a minute.  If you’re a Twilight fan, even if you don’t consider yourself a “Twihard”, you’ve probably considered visiting the tiny town of Forks, WA.  Maybe it was a wistful “Oh, what a lovely area. I’d like to see those beaches!” or maybe it was more “OMG I MUST go see where Bella and Jacob and the Cullens live, THEN I want to buy tons of awesome fangirl stuff!”  Somewhere in between?  *wink*  Well, this IS Forks week, and I just got back from a two week Pacific Northwest vacation, so of course I took a few days to visit the famed town!  If you missed Pocket Edward’s photo-journal, look at yesterday’s post and check out his awesome trip photos!  The rest of the week will also be lots of fun, with a look inside Twilight Tours, a review of the Misty Valley Inn Bed and Breakfast, and Edward’s own take on Port Angeles’ Bella Italia restaurant.  Today is all about the money!  Where can I spend it on attractions, souvenirs, and food?!

***** Note: For you non-Twilight fan readers out there, my normal blog activities (book reviews and news) will resume next week! ***** 
   

What to see!

Every Twilight fan on a pilgrimage to Forks, should visit the Chamber of Commerce.  Not only can you see (and take pictures with!) Bella’s trucks (the model from the books and the model from the movies), you can also pose with life-size cardboard cutouts of our favorite characters and see for yourself and just how much rain Forks actually gets each year via the outdoor rain gauge.  Don’t forget to put a pin in the map representing your home city, then marvel and just how much tourism Twilight has brought to Forks in the last few years.
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Also not to miss, however anticlimactic it may turn out to be, is the Forks “Home of the Spartans” high school sign.  I’m told that not a single frame of the movies has been filmed in Forks, so don’t be surprised when you look at the high school and don’t recognize it at all.  In fact, they’re in the process of rebuilding the old high school and only re-displayed the original sign after legions of angry Twilight fans complained about its absence during their visits.  Thanks to our fellow sisters-in-arms (erm, sisters-in-sparkle?), you can now view the original Forks High School sign in all its wooden glory.  Beware jaded glances from actual high school students if you are brave enough to try taking a photo with it.  *grin*

Of course, any Twilight fan worth their glitter wouldn’t miss seeing all the famous houses!  You can see them on your own (Lapelles Florist will give you a free handy map with everything nicely drawn out and easy to find) or you can take one of the Twilight tours.  More info on the tours tomorrow!  Check out a quick sneak peek at the houses the townspeople felt best fit Stephanie Meyer’s book descriptions…

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Where to shop!

Shopping in Forks really is a must.  Nearly all the stores in town carry some sort of Twilight paraphernalia, and some of them offer one-of-a-kind handmade items (by locals) and unique commercial merchandise.

Tops on my list for commercial items is Dazzled By Twilight.  This is the mega-store for all things vampire and paranormal (including True Blood & The Vampire Diaries), and it even includes an “adult” section in a secluded black lit room.  The decor is unsurpassed, better than some of the popular trendy shops I’ve seen in larger cities with its “grass” turf floor, tree and foliage decor, and the Twilight flavor just shimmering off its shelves.  From “Bite me!” boy briefs to Cullen baseball jerseys, Dazzled has a selection large enough to satisfy even the most demanding of fans.

For personalized souvinirs and scrapbooking gems, you can’t beat Lapelles Flowers and Gifts.  This unassuming little flower shop will surprise you with its large selection of vampire-inspired (and Twilight-specific) papers, stickers, and kits (all of which takes up roughly half the merchandise space!), and it still has a great selection of charming gifts, including a few items that can be personalized while you wait.  Don’t forget t-shirts and caps!  Lapelles has those too, as well as some super-cute knit “Cullen” beanies and, my personal favorite souvinir from the entire trip, a personalized glittery apple.

If you’re more interested in the native culture in Forks and the Twilight Saga, definitely visit Native To Twilight.  Offering a wide selection of Quilluite-inspired home decorations such as carvings, jewelry, and wall & window hangings, Native To Twilight also carries handmade cards made by local artists.  Get yourself one of these, then take it to the Post Office and ask for a “cancel stamp” (it’s free – you don’t have to actually mail it, just ask to have your item stamped).  Voila, your very own one-of-a-kind keepsake with indisputable Forks provenance!

Where to eat!

With all this exploring, you’re going to need some serious fuel.  Here are a few of my favorites…

No Twilight trip would be complete without a trip to Bella Italia in Port Angeles!  Obviously, this restaurant is not IN Forks, but it is well worth the 45 minute or so drive to nearby Port A.  You’ll probably notice that this too is not the same as the movie location for Bella Italia.  Go ahead and feel a little down about it, but then shake it off and sit down to one of the best meals of your life… bar none.  I’ve eaten all over the world, had some of the finest cuisine in some of the fanciest restaurants, and the food at Bella Italia ranks up there with all but the most elite.  Of course, I’m partial to Italian food, but one thing I am NOT usually a fan of is mushrooms.  Unfortunately, Stephanie Meyer wrote in Mushroom Ravioli as Bella’s food the night of her and Edward’s first date.  This means (you guessed it) either my husband or I had to order this dish to try it.  Much to my surprise and overwhelming relief, it was divine!  I won’t go into any more detail because Edward will be covering the food reviews on Friday here on Gravetells, but suffice it to say this:

Save up some money ($14-$20 per plate ish), make your reservation (they fill up fast, so don’t wait til the day of!), make the drive, and sit down to one of the best restaurant Italian meals you’ll find outside of Italy itself!

For fast food with quality ingredients and a clean atmosphere, visit Pacific Pizza! I’m what I like to call a “pizza connoisseur”.  That’s fancy-schmancy for “I eat a lot of pizza and can’t seem to get enough”.  I’ve tasted a lot of bad pizza and I’m a little ashamed to admit that I expected Pacific Pizza to be disappointing.  Well, I certainly don’t mind being wrong about a fabulous new pizza place!  This joint was, to borrow from Rachel Ray, YUM-O!  The menu is surprisingly sophisticated, with a selection of sandwiches and paninis in addition to their standard and gourmet pizzas, and the dining area was quaintly decorated and cleanly kept.  The service was also warm and friendly, which sadly was not the overwhelmingly typical experience for me in Forks.  Minimally friendly, yes.  Southern-hospitality-style welcoming, no.

For yummy, fresh sandwiches and sweet coffee confections, head over to Forks Outfitters! Yep, I said Forks Outfitters.  Outwardly, this building looks like a Safeway meets Academy meets Home Depo, with a coffee shop attached.  Honestly speaking, it’s not really a welcoming facade, and I probably wouldn’t have stopped in here to check for food if I hadn’t been a) really hungry and b) jonzing for a London Fog.  *grin*  Luckily for me (and now all of you!), we took a chance and had the deli make us fresh sandwiches.  As simple as that sounds (“fresh” sandwiches), I should point out that the deli has a decent selection of pre-made sammies and other cooked foods such as pasta, eggrolls, and meats.  When we asked for a freshly made sandwich, we were repeatedly pointed toward the pre-mades and warned about the size limitation (they apparently won’ t make a half-sized-sandwich fresh, only whole ones) and the extra cost of additional meats and cheeses ($1 each).  After about a 5 minute discussion and explanation, we finally had our sandwiches started.  It took a while to make them (I’m thinking most people probably just cave and buy the pre-made ones, which probably taste great too!), but when we finally got them back to the B&B, the wait was COMPLETELY worth it!

Long story short?  Go to Forks Outfitters and insist on a freshly made deli sandwich, then hit up the cute little coffee shop and get yourself a London Fog or a Mocha.  Best sandwich and coffee I had all trip!

Finally, if you’re willing to spend a little extra and want the best breakfast in town, book a night at Misty Valley Inn bed & breakfast.  The Misty Valley Inn is a wonderfully charming bed & breakfast just a couple miles outside the town center of Forks.  By that, I mean it’ll take you a whole 5 minutes to drive from the B&B to downtown.  😉  The owners are lovely people and have a serious flair for extravagant breakfasts.  You’ll get your morning tray of tea/coffee/chocolate, which is heavenly on its own, and then you’ll be treated to a literally gourmet breakfast overlooking one of the most scenic views in the entire area.  More about the Misty Valley Inn B&B on Thursday, but for now let me just share a few images of their mouthwatering breakfast selections and view…

Contact info for featured businesses

If you live too far away to visit Forks but still want to order some merchandise, or if you’re planning a trip and want to start making your reservations, check out the links below.  Hope you enjoyed the info!  I’d be glad to answer any questions in the comments section below.  Also look for my reviews (as davincikittie) on TripAdvisor.com

© All photos displayed in this post are property of DavinciKittie.  Copies of these photos may be used for personal purposes without permission, but not on any monetized website/blog  or in any media outlets intended for profit.  Persons and businesses may use these photos in a non-profit manner ONLY as long as a link back to this site is provided in a reasonably visible location and (for businesses only) permission from DavinciKittie is obtained in advance.

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Forks Week: Edward’s travel scrapbook

Helloooooo fellow vampire lovers and faithful Gravetells readers!  I know it’s been a while since my last update, and I try to keep up at least semi-regular postings, so where the heck have I been?!  My husband and I just returned from a 2 week Pacific Northwest blitz vacation, where my sweetie gracriously agreed to spend a whole 3 tedious (for him, hah!) days in Forks and Port Angeles.  I know, how awesome is he?!

So, in honor of the all the Twilight fans out there soaking up new information about Forks and the whole Twilight experience, this week is Forks Week!  All week I’ll be profiling various places and activities to share with all of you, and to give you some recommendations for your own future Twilight Pilgrimages.  Here’s this week’s lineup:

  • Monday (today!):  Edward’s travels through the Pacific Northwest
  • Tuesday:  Forks – What to see, where to eat, & where to shop!
  • Wednesday:  Twilight Tours photos & info
  • Thursday:  Misty Vally Inn Bed & Breakfast review
  • Friday:  Edward reviews Bella Italia in Port Angeles
***** Note: For you non-Twilight fan readers out there, my normal blog activities (book reviews and news) will resume next week! ***** 
   
Of course I took Pocket Edward along on the journey, and he had a fantastic time touring Seattle, exploring the harbor, revisiting Bella Italia, and thumbing his nose at Jacob’s house in Forks.  Edward is getting ready for his food critique of Bella Italia on Friday, so he asked me to share a few of his favorite moments from the trip.  Enjoy!  (Click on any picture to open it full-size in a new window)

© All photos displayed in this post are property of DavinciKittie.  Copies of these photos may be used for personal purposes without permission, but not on any monetized website/blog  or in any media outlets intended for profit.  Persons and businesses may use these photos in a non-profit manner ONLY as long as a link back to this site is provided in a reasonably visible location and (for businesses only) permission from DavinciKittie is obtained in advance.

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Still a chance for the long-awaited Midnight Sun

When Stephanie Meyer does an interview, what does she always get asked?  Yep, if/when she’ll be getting around to finishing the infamous Midnight Sun.  This incomplete manuscript, a telling of the events of the original Twilight novel from Edward’s perspective, was leaked a few years ago after very limited copies of it were entrusted to some key cast members in order to help them develop their characters.  Speculation is that Rob had one of the copies and might be the guilty party, but although Stephanie knows where the leak came from, she’s not telling.  And good for her!  I’d much rather see fans obsess over the manuscript itself than the who/when/why of it (which could lead to bad press for the franchise), and realistically it could have been any number of people.  Unfortunately for fans, Stephanie was so burned by the betrayal that she staunchly refused to finish it for at least a year after the incident, then when she finished Breaking Dawn, decided to move on to other projects.  Note to Ms. Meyer:  The Host ≠ Midnight Sun, not even close!!

Now, with Breaking Dawn nearing the end of filming, Stephanie recently told USA Today that she’s “hoping to do it someday because I know that’s what people want. No matter what book I put out from here to eternity they’ll want ‘Midnight Sun,” and that is the cold twi-hard truth!   Stephanie also chatted about how fantastic Kristen Stewart looks in Bella’s vintage wedding dress, Kristen’s transformation as a vampire for the second half of the final film, and Rob’s affinity to his on-screen-nemesis character Jacob.  She also revealed that the first half of the Breaking Dawn film will end as Bella opens her eyes for the first time as a vampire.   To borrow from True Blood, waiting sucks!

We’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see the full USA Today report, but you can check out MTVs recent article here.


Review: Lover Eternal (Black Dagger Brotherhood series novel #2) by J. R. Ward

TLDR recap:

Rhage, the Black Dagger Brother who is known across the species for his many and frequent female conquests, is in a bind.  He’s found “the one”, but she’s a mortal and she’s terminally ill.  She also knows far too much about his species and he’s been ordered by Wrath, the king, to either wipe her memories or kill her.  If that weren’t enough trouble, Rhage possesses a literal beast within him that forces him to change shapes when he becomes angry or stressed, and that beast will kill anything and everything around it… even his fellow brothers and, he fears, Mary.  Will Rhage and Mary be able to make their strange relationship work, or will the Black Dagger Brotherhood lose yet another warrior?  An excellent book – put this on your “must read” list!

  • Title: Lover Eternal
  • Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood – book #2
  • Author: J. R. Ward
  • Prominent Characters: Rhage & Mary
  • Recommended reader age: 16+
  • Sexual content level: Moderate

Premise:

Rhage is the Brotherhood’s strongest fighter, a drop-dead-gorgeous playboy knockout with a short fuse who has earns his reputation (both for fighting and with the ladies) nightly.  Don’t be deceived by appearances – he hates having to be with so many females like that and he’d stop if he could, but it’s the only thing (other than fighting) that keeps his beast in check (and you REALLY won’t like him when he’s angry!).  Mary Luce is a cancer survivor who thinks she may be sick again.  She knows this is it – if her tests come back positive, she probably won’t make it through the treatments a second time.  Rhage bonds with her but she can’t accept that someone as perfect as he is could ever want to be with someone as plain and damaged as she is.  Rhage has to choose whether to go against Wrath, and by extension the Brotherhood itself – the only friends he’s really ever known, or let go the only woman who has ever made him feel.

Thoughts:

One of the things that really stood out for me with this book was the prominence of Mary’s cancer;  it’s a defining theme throughout the story.  Where most writers, of this genre at least, stay away from hard-hitting issues like this (especially concerning their central characters), Ms. Robb uses it to give us a glimpse into the life and struggle of someone not only afflicted by cancer, but dealing with it for a second time.

Something else I really like about Ms. Robb is that she doesn’t telegraph what’s coming next in these stories.   Of course some of it is predictable – that’s just the nature of this type of novel – but some of it is the opposite of what you think the scene is setting up for.  The emotion and suspense will build up and up until you’re sure something terrible is about to happen, then BAM! normalcy… things ending up just as they should, instead of some new catastrophe plaguing the characters.  Then other times, things will be moving along happily, the story unfolding as it should and POW! something life-(and story-)changing happens.  It really keeps you on your toes as a reader and it helps you enjoy even the “down” time between large action or romance sequences.  Using this technique, Ms. Robb is able to bring emotion to scenes that would normally be filler fluff, and that is very refreshing.

You might also like…

There are not really any other series LIKE this one, but when I read it and feel a connection to the characters, I’m reminded of how I feel when I read Jeaniene Frost’s Cat & Bones or Karen Chance’s Cassie & crew or Nalini Singh’s Archangel/Guild Hunter cast.  The characters become part of your “family”, and the plots are earthy and hard-hitting… no partnership is spared sudden and unexpected (and sometimes brutal) hardships!  This series has the potential to make you laugh, cry, and swear, and I loved every minute of it!

Memorable quotes:

First impressions…

He wanted to give her another word to say, something like luscious or whisper or strawberry.  Hell,antidisestablishmentarianism would do it.

The effect she had on him was druglike, a tantalizing combination of sexual need and profound ease.  Like he was having an orgasm and falling asleep at the same time.  It was like nothing he’d ever felt before.

After watching Rhage order 4 entrees and 4 sides at dinner, just for himself…

The waitress looked a little awkward.  “Is all that for both you and your sister?”  As if family obligation was the only reason a man like him would be out with a woman like her.  Oh, man…

“No, that’s for me.  And she’s my date, not my sister.  Mary?”

“I… ah, I’ll just have a Caesar salad, whenever his” – feeding trough?- “dinner comes.”

Rhage on “manipulation”…

She smiled a little.  “You’re a manipulator.”

“I like to think of myself more as an outcome engineer.”

Final thoughts:

All of the Brothers are physically flawed (and sometimes emotionally as well) in some way.  I really like this – it makes them more real and believable (aside from the whole I’m-a-vampire thing) and easier to connect with.  They are all attractive, but in different ways, and not all of them are drop-dead gorgeous like Rhage is.  I also really like that.  A collection of super-sexy-ridiculously-beautiful warrior-type men is just not believable or relate-able.  These guys are physically attractive in individual ways, and their personalities are all unique and commanding.

In each book, there are characters other than the primary couple that get a decent amount of face time.  Ms. Robb is very skilled at giving these other characters depth and developing their characters without fixating on them or taking away from the title characters.  The result is that, since she is building her character backgrounds and multiple story lines through out each successive novel, when the characters finally have their own book, they’ve already got a good base and she can start right in on the relationships and book-specific plot lines.  It’s chaotic and crazy and I love it!  This way, I get MANY characters to fall in love with, and I get to see them more often!

BDB books are definitely emotionally charged!  I think it’s a sign of a good author if, as a reader, you really *feel* something even when you know it’s coming.

As a final thought, if you’re just starting this series, READ THE GLOSSARY BEFORE YOU START!! Ms. Ward uses an entire new vocabulary of terms in the vampire language, and if you don’t at least look at them first, you might find yourself a little confused. =)  Even if this is your second BDB novel, look over it again.  There are a few new words (like wahlker) in this one.

Rating:
4.5 fangs: BITE IT!

READ READ READ this novel!  If you didn’t read Dark Lover first, you’ll probably be ok starting with this one, but you’ll spoil a few of the plot points for DL… and you’ll be confused about the strange new vampire vocabulary!  Still, I think Rhage’s story is even more powerful than Wrath’s, and he got a “must read!” recommedation from me too.  *grin*

Related links:

http://www.jrward.com/bdb/index.html

http://jeanienefrost.com/books/

http://www.karenchance.com/books.html

http://www.nalinisingh.com/books.html#guild


Review: Dark Lover (Black Dagger Brotherhood series novel #1) by J. R. Ward

TLDR recap:

In an innovative new (to some of us at least 😉 ) take on vampire fiction, J. R. Ward takes us deep into a world where the vampires are just normal “people”, hunted by the undead in a blood feud as old as their creation. Wrath, the pureblood King of vampire society, spends most of his time fighting his own personal demons and falling deeper into self-hate. Everything changes when he meets Beth, the half-blooded daughter of a fellow warrior, and helps her survive her grueling and dangerous transition from human to vampire. This novel has everything a good book should have: character development, arcing & developed plotlines, likable characters, humor & sarcasm, action & romance. These vampire warriors are stone cold killers, but somehow they still manage to pull at the heart-strings.

  • Title: Dark Lover
  • Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood – book #1
  • Author: J. R. Ward
  • Prominent Characters: Wrath & Beth
  • Recommended reader age: 16+
  • Sexual content level: Moderate

Premise:

Wrath is the only remaining vampire of pure blood and the race’s hereditary king. Refusing his responsibilities as a monarch for 300 years, Wrath instead leads the band of warrior vampires, the Black Dagger Brotherhood, who protect the race from the undead “lessers” that were created solely to hunt them. When one of Wrath’s brother warriors asks him to watch over his daughter during her transition from human to vampire (a very dangerous time for a vampire), Wrath finds himself torn between his self-hate and his protective instincts for Beth.

Thoughts:

I initially read this book thinking I’d do this one review, then just read the rest for fun. I mean, usually with a series, either you like the first book enough to keep reading (in which case you finish the series) or you don’t bother with any of the others at all, so doing reviews on books farther into the series (especially if they aren’t new releases) isn’t quite the same as reviewing a series starter novel. I liked this book enough to read the next one, which I liked even more. So I read the next… and the next… (you get the drift) until I was fiending for more and was finally out of books! These novels get better as they go on, peaking somewhere around book 5. I found myself making notes while reading the sequels, so it looks like more reviews are coming afterall! =)

The “universe rules”: Okay okay, I know I always say “oh this one is unique and different!”. And they usually are! But the BDB world stands out from the other typical vampire lore on several counts:

1) Vampires are born, not made… sort of. If you have vampire blood, there is a chance you will go through a “transition” at around age 25, changing your body from a normal human to a vampire. After the change you will have to drink blood and stay out of the sunlight… I know – doesn’t sound too different yet, right?

2) Vampires do not drink human blood! Male vampires feed from female vampires, and vice versa. They CAN feed from humans, but the benefits are so much less that it’s almost not worth it. Humans are not their prey, so they have very little interaction with them at all. They typically only need to feed every 6 months or so – otherwise they eat and drink normal food on a regular basis just like humans.

3) Vampires are not immortal – they live between 700 and 800 years and then die of degenerative diseases and old age just like humans do. They do have accelerated healing and can teleport themselves, but in no way are they impervious to harm.

Something that immediately put me off in the beginning was the crass language of the brothers and their gangster-like lifestyle. This series has taken a lot of criticism for that and I put off reading it for a long time based on those negative reviews that went on and on about how horrible and distracting and chauvanistic the males in the series are. If this is one of your concerns, let me just tell you now – it gets better. Are the males (not “men” – men and women are human, males and females are vampires) chauvanistic? No, but they are extremely overprotective, which leaves room for strong-willed female leads… and who doesn’t want that? Are the males crass? Yes, their language and lifestyle before meeting their mates is offputting and easily distracting, but this just helps emphasize the positive change their females bring into their lives, as you see their habits change and their language back off. These guys are badasses, but not because they are magical and have special powers (with the exception of Vichous) – they train hard, work hard, and live hard, and they endure harsh consequences. Their women are the counterbalance to the harsh lives they are forced to lead as honest-to-Scribe-Virgin warriors. Once I read farther into the book and got over the distraction of all the “you feel me, true?” and “yo, man” vernacular, I really started to enjoy myself.

Two things that annoy me:

1) The Butch character, who eventually becomes an integral and extremely likeable character, starts off as someone you don’t really like. Throughout the first few books, he loses some of his edges and becomes more like the other brothers… which is not to say they are without pricklies, just likeable in spite of. I think this is largely due to the writer’s style. At first I didn’t like Butch (or really even Wrath), because they didn’t like themselves. The story is told from 3rd person omniscient, but with a 3rd person limited feel. You know what all the characters are thinking that you are introduced to, but you only know what they KNOW or THINK. You don’t get some overarching tidbits rolled into their thoughts. When you read Wrath, it’s like he’s talking to you, not the author. People who suffer from self-hate often also have no friends because they push away others to punish themselves. SO, if you find yourself hating some of the characters at first, stick with it and let it play out – this sets the stage for some seriously awesome moments down the line!!

2) Boots are always referred to as “shitkickers”, even by the refined females in the series.  Seriously??  Ugh.  Even after 7 books I still get annoyed with this one.

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There are not really any other series LIKE this one, but when I read it and feel a connection to the characters, I’m reminded of how I feel when I read Jeaniene Frost’s Cat & Bones or Karen Chance’s Cassie & crew or Nalini Singh’s Archangel/Guild Hunter cast.  The characters become part of your “family”, and the plots are earthy and hard-hitting… no partnership is spared sudden and unexpected (and sometimes brutal) hardships!  This series has the potential to make you laugh, cry, and swear, and I loved every minute of it!

Memorable quotes:

Darius (Beth’s father) talking to a fellow warrior about Beth’s upcoming transition:

“I’m going to talk to her.”

“And how’s that going to go? You’re just going to walk up and say, ‘Hey, I know you’ve never seen me before, but I’m your Dad. Oh, and guess what? You’ve won the evolutionary lottery: You’re a vampire. Let’s go to Disneyland!”

“I hate you right now.”

Wrath’s reaction to seeing Beth kiss someone else…

A low growl vibrated through his chest and out his mouth.

She’s mine.

He cursed. Yeah, and in what parallel universe was he living in? She was his temporary responsibility, not his shellan. She could be with whomever she wished. Wherever. Whenever. But God, the idea that she might actually like what the guy was doing to her, that she might prefer the taste of the human’s kiss, was enough to make Wrath’s temple’s pound.

Welcome to the wonderful world of jealousy, he thought. For the price of admission, you get a splitting headache, a nearly irresistable urge to commit murder, and an inferiority complex. Yippee.

Butch, after waking up in a house full of vampires…

How’d they… That’s right. They’d crashed after kicking Tohr’s bottle of Scotch.  Tohr.  Short for Tohrment.

God, he even knew their names.  Rhage.  Phury.  And that scary-ass Zsadist guy.  Yeah, no Tom, Dick, and Harry names for the Vampire types.

But come on, could you actually imagine some lethal bloodsucker named Howard?  Eugene?

Oh, no, Wallie, please don’t bite my-

Holy Christ, he was totally losing it.

Final thoughts:

Read this book! When you finish it, read the next book, then the next! If you can get through V’s book without feeling put through the wringer emotionally, then you have some serious armor! These books were the most emotionally invested I’ve been since Cat & Bones and I can’t wait for more.

As a final thought, if you’re starting this series, READ THE GLOSSARY BEFORE YOU START!! Ms. Ward uses an entire new vocabulary of terms in the vampire language, and if you don’t at least look at them first, you might find yourself a little confused. =)

Rating:
4.25 fangs: BITE IT!

It would be more, but I need to save some for the awesomeness that is yet to come in this series. =D

Okay, okay… 4.25 fangs! There.

Related links:

http://www.jrward.com/bdb/index.html

http://jeanienefrost.com/books/

http://www.karenchance.com/books.html

http://www.nalinisingh.com/books.html#guild


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