Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Winning at Bees and Bulldogs

You guys! I have so many exciting things to report! It's like my whole life has changed since I last wrote. I'm back at work! My succulent lives! I have a dog! Landon killed it at the regional spelling bee! We went to the Rodeo! Some of this will have to be covered later, so we'll stick with the B's for now.

Like this gorgeous, noble, MAJESTIC bulldog who now calls our house home.

"Draw me like one of your French girls, Jack."

This is Lilly Belle, now named Magnolia Jane "Maggie," and we adopted her on Saturday from the fabulous Lone Star Bulldog Club Rescue.

She is 4 1/2, completely deaf, soft as velvet, and sweet as sugar.

She had a rough start at life on the streets. She has a chemical burn that is healed but will never grow fur, scarred up ears, and needed a mommy tuck when she first got to rescue last year because she is a petite girl who clearly had far too many litters than her body could handle.

We had a meet and greet Thursday night. She was calm and sweet and loved the kids. We were powerless in the gaze of her gentle eyes.

She is perfect. She is petite in size, doesn't bark - doesn't make a sound actually, unless it's some dainty snoring while she's sleeping, doesn't jump, and doesn't chew. She was in her foster home for 5 months, so they really felt like they knew her personality and she was the only foster dog at the house that was allowed to be loose when her foster parents went at work because she was so well behaved. She's great with other dogs (there were 9 at her foster house!), great with kids, loves to be outside and loves to play dress up.

The hero we don't deserve

We simply adore her.

Since she's deaf, the comings and goings and low-level chaos of our house don't bother her in the slightest. She sleeps soundly through the night and only wakes up in the morning when there's a change in lighting. On Sunday morning the kids were so excited to play with her and it wasn't until the sun came up high enough through our skylights to wake her that they could attend to her in the way she has quickly become accustomed.

We went to the Rodeo on Sunday and this was our guard dog 10 minutes after we returned.

Oh hai, where did you come from?

She ADORES James. He is her sun, moon, and stars and she looks at him with little heart emojis swimming around her head. I suppose it's only appropriate, since he made the call to the Rescue Club to start the process of finding our perfect match, 15 months after we had to give up on poor Winston.

She has integrated well into the family routine. She volunteers to help with chores and likes to take little loops through the house periodically to check on things.

She wakes up in the morning looking like a model and is ready for hugs.

At work today I was missing her when James randomly texted me a picture, just so I'd know she was busy being majestic at home.

You guys, I flipping love this dog.

And I look forward to sharing a few hundred smooshy faced pictures of her with you.

Lady Magnolia, killing it

In other things that start with the letter "B," Landon had the Area Spelling Bee at the Botanic Gardens Lecture Hall yesterday!

He'd been studying his massively expanded spelling list since he won the Bee at his elementary school, though honestly we just remained thrilled that he'd won the first round and saw this as a bonus experience. I think he did too, though he was definitely edgy and nervous when Monday morning rolled around. He made me bring his packet of words into the lobby and quiz him until he started. I tried to be helpful by only asking him words I knew he'd get right.

I mean, not that we don't think he's brilliant or want him to do well, but as we walked into the auditorium on that Monday morning James and I really just wanted for him to not go out first. These were all champions of their schools! Middle schools and 6th grade campuses were there! This was the big leagues and we were happy to be present.

And then shit got serious. There were 16 kids total. 4 went out on the first round. Then 5 more. At the start of round 3 we were down to less than half! And Landon was still up there, calmly and confidently spelling out words without pause or hesitation.

We were floored.

His words were:
1. damask
2. cavil
3. gaiters
4. piedmont
5. recompense
6. docile
7. noisome

And he just banged them out without even a "can I get a definition please?" We couldn't believe it. By round 8 it was Landon and an 8th grader from the middle school he'll soon go to for the last six rounds.

Just the two of them. Up and down.

He kept going:
8. cinnabar
9. eviscerated
10. balaclavas
11. phaeton
12. cursive

And then, he got "blemish." In many ways, it was the easiest word he'd gotten so far and he just froze. "B-l-e..."


He added a silent a. He told us later he totally knew how to spell it but he out-thought himself because he thought it couldn't be that simple so late into the competition. So the 8th grader won!

But you guys, he got 2nd!

He was runner-up at the Area-Wide competition and will get to go watch the Regional Competition in March. That's the level of competition from which the winner goes directly to the National Bee! We were so very proud of him!! He was so proud of him! It was the best Monday morning.

He got a trophy and a silver medal. He got to go eat a donut with his dad before going back to school while I headed in to my first day of work in 2019, and then I stopped on the way home so I could surprise him with a selection of frozen pizzas, dark chocolate brownies, and ice cream when he got home from climbing. What shopping cart could look better to an 11.5-year-old?

It was such a special day. Area Spelling Bee Runner-Up! A dog to come home to! And a mom back at work, our sweet nannies back in our life, and a homemade dessert on a non-birthday evening.

The rest of the week has a lot to live up to.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Work and Well-Being and Wecipes

So President Trump bent the knee to Speaker Pelosi and our government is open again! (Yes that is an insider's reference to a show that has spent seven seasons showing us all that walls don't work.) I am immensely pleased about this, particularly as I had just received my second notice of furlough (apparently each notice only lasts 30 days; who knew? no one, actually, because a shutdown has never lasted that long), along with a $0.00 pay day and the unwelcome news that I was about to be direct billed for our health insurance premiums. I spent the day baking cookies, streaming MSNBC radio, and making plans with all my mom friends to come eat the cookies and pair them with fine wines. Then it turned into a celebration instead of a commiseration because back to work I can go!

So I'm glad the shitdown is over. It was genuinely catastrophic for many people - still is, as contractors like our janitors, cafeteria workers, and security personnel don't get back pay and all those who depend on government employees for business went without for over a month. And even for me, someone for whom the financial aspect should not have been an enormous source of stress thanks to back pay, savings, and a family safety net, it was neither a fun nor mentally healthy 5 weeks of unplanned pseudo-unemployment. It has been proven beyond doubt (not that I ever had any) that going to work is important to every aspect of my mental and physical well being. And marriage. James loves me with his whole heart, but he is not going to miss clingy furloughed me at all.

(Actual conversation we had about 3 weeks ago:
Me: I canceled my therapy appointment for this week because it's in the afternoon when I now have the kids.
James: You mean you rescheduled for an earlier time?
Me: No, I just canceled it. I'll reschedule when I'm back at work.
James: You mean you're going to reschedule it for an earlier time later this week?
Me: Ummm...
James: Great idea.)

Me, after I decided that doing my hair was part of my self-care,
modeling new earrings my sister gave me for Christmas

And so, on Monday I go back. Except not until noon because Landon has the regional spelling bee that morning (he was his school's champion last month!) so it's actually the first day my furloughed status would have been useful. But after 12:00! At my desk I will be. Just me, a bunch of case files I barely remember, and what is probably a very dehydrated succulent.

The girls, playing "work" when I could not

The kids have been busy. Between choir, news crew, running club, student council, math facts UIL, either Landon or Claire has something every day before or after school, along with their chosen extracurriculars of swimming, climbing, and gymnastics. I look forward to handing that mess back over to our sweet nanny.

Cora, all ready for swimming, and killing it as always

We have some exciting news brewing in our little family that I can't wait to share with you.

It involves a special visitor who came to see us Thursday night, and though I haven't bought a single thing for any humans in my family since late December, I might have pressed "checkout" on chewy.com today for a yellow polka dot canine sundress with SPF sun protection. Because until that back pay comes through, we're still sticking to just the essentials.

(These were also deemed essential. Squee!)

On to food! Back to planning meals that involve less than 2 hours of prep/cook time:

Saturday: Lemon Chicken Soup with Orzo, crackers, sliced cheese.

Sunday: Trader Joe's sliced gyro meat, frozen naan, tzatziki sauce, greek salad, roasted potatoes.

Monday: Pizza (Regional Spelling Bee Day! Landon got to choose dinner and so we are having a variety of frozen pizzas), sliced raw veggies.

Tuesday: Creamy Chicken Enchilada Chili in the crock pot, tortilla chips.

Wednesday: Pasta with creamy meat sauce (Ground elk meat from our friend, cooked in garlic and onion, mixed with jarred marinara sauce and half a block of cream cheese, tossed with cooked pasta).

Thursday: Crock Pot Pea Soup, corn bread.

Friday: DATE NIGHT. 6 weeks after we canceled the last one because it looked like I might not be paid for a while, we are dressing up and going OUT and eating and drinking ALL the things and I cannot wait. The kids will eat something from the pantry, I do not care what. Have I mentioned I can't wait?

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Kids, Friends, Furloughs, and Evenly Distributed Butter

I am loving your book suggestions- you've reminded me of books I'd read in the past but forgotten (MacLean, Harkness, and others), and those I should have mentioned in the original post (Gabaldon forever; my first historical romance I read at an inappropriately early age), so thank you for that! Now we move to a more traditional recap on this, the 32nd day of this government shutdown, and the day our $0.00 paychecks are certified from the last pay period to be paid (or "paid") out this Friday. Though I feel a need to first remind the world that this shitdown began under a Republican controlled House and a Republican controlled Senate after they passed a budget the Republican president refused to sign because after 2 years of total party control in Congress he suddenly decided he wanted his wall. Back pay was approved last week, and that's great and definitely helps me sleep at night (as long as you don't think too hard about the fact your - and my! - tax dollars are being used to literally pay 800,000 federal workers to not do their jobs), but it doesn't help the contractors, doesn't help the vendors who service the government, doesn't help the people who depend on government business and programs, and doesn't help those workers - again, like me - who aren't getting paid on time through NO fault of their own when their own bills are still due. It's estimated the shutdown is costing the US economy $1 billion/week, all for a temper tantrum from a president who doesn't want to do the work of legislating (and wants very much to distract from the multitude of criminal investigations about him and nearly every member of his campaign staff). Even after 2 years I sometimes still can't believe this is our American political reality.

But moving on, because I had my therapy appointment last week and I made a spreadsheet to prove to myself that as long as we continue spending as little as possible, we can pay our mortgage for two more months without having to ask my parents for money and life is going on while I sit on the couch feeling lost.

Cora's recreation of Congress

Like the big kids having their Battle of the Books competition last week!

It was Claire's first year to compete and she was so excited.

(BOB is a local reading competition starting in 3rd grade where each grade gets 5-6 award-winning, usually thought-provoking books from all genres to read over two months and teams are created per class to compete against each other to correctly identify the book in a series of questions. The winning team for each grade level goes on to represent the school in the city-wide competition at TCU in the spring. It is the BEST and one of my favorite days all year.)

Unfortunately, despite a great team effort, Claire's team did not make it to the second round when the competition narrowed from five teams to two. She was devastated. Landon's team had won every year and I don't think it had even occurred to her that hers wouldn't. But she got strong daddy hugs and seemed in good spirits as she watched the next two grade levels compete.

After watching our good friend's son's team win in 4th grade, it was time for the 5th grade competition. Landon was entering his third year as captain and his team had won every year prior, so he was SUPER excited and maybe even a little nervous. He'd read every book 3 times and assigned each of his teammates one book to become the expert on. When I asked him which book was his, he just looked at me and said flatly, "All of them."

And so the competition began! It was tense and exciting. Nearly all of Landon's best friends were together on another team and they were neck and neck as they went through the first round of 20 questions. Twice it was clear Landon wanted to pick an answer, but his team felt strongly about another, so he went with their choice. Both times they lost that point. In the end, his best buddies team won by a point. It was brutal. He was so clearly crushed, but he took it so well, clapped for his friends, and made his way back to his seat.

As all the competitors walked to the library for the refreshments afterward, I saw him bend down to tie his (already tied) shoe. His eyes were red. He took a moment. He stood back up and ate his cookies and smiled with his friends. I have literally never been more proud. He was a good captain, he listened to his team, acknowledged his disappointment, felt his feelings, and was able to be happy for his friends through his disappointment.

Seriously, we were SO proud. I took the kids out for the treat of their choice after school and they unanimously decided on smoothie king. $10 well spent.

The week pressed on. I'm teaching all the barre classes possible and ferrying the kids to their various activities. Claire got moved up a level in gymnastics, which massively disrupted our almost doable activities schedule, but she's very excited and has worked hard for the promotion. Cora colored this beautiful birthday cake in school. "Oh, is it for someone's birthday?" I asked. "No, mom. I just like birthday cakes." How far we've come.

As I was planning this week's meal schedule (see below), I got this very sweet Venmo message from my parents:

It was so thoughtful and much appreciated and we went out to dinner immediately.

I even blow dried my hair for the first time since we were in Colorado. Putting on makeup and real clothes has become part of my self care, but the hair was a whole new level.

We followed our delicious hamburger meal with a fire and all five of us cuddled on the couch watching The Mighty Ducks 2.

The kids loved the movie, though Claire declared hockey "too aggressive" and she is my most athletically aggressive child. We're all swimmers at heart: stay in your own lane and don't touch me, I'll race you from here.

On Sunday night I joined a friend for a movie date night to see On the Basis of Sex. First of all, I cannot recommend this movie more highly for everyone and I can't WAIT to watch it again with James and the kids. It's inspiring and wonderful, even through the flashbacks I had to law school with a baby, and the relationship between Ruth and her husband Marty made me come home and immediately make out with my husband. I adore that the movie showed you his unwavering support of her and how her smarts and success in no way threatened his own considerable smarts and success. I am so thankful my own son sees this example of a strong, supportive, secure husband and partner every day of his life. I get teary just thinking about it.

Second of all, I had the best date ever. Look what she brought me. (Yes that's wine in a juice box; popcorn makes you thirsty.)

Third of all, this theater had heated seats. Game changer.

Fourth of all, speaking of game changers, look at this trick I learned from the teenager at the concessions counter! BRILLIANCE! You can use your straw as a butter delivery system to send butter towards the bottom of your bucket of your popcorn and this has changed my life forever.

And since we're on the topic of butter, let's finish out with our food for the week:

Lunches: Roasted Cauliflower and Quinoa Salad. Still LOVING this recipe; I made another batch to eat this week.

Sunday: Oven Jambalaya, cheddar garlic biscuits.
Monday: Roasted Vegetable Baked Ziti, garlic bread.
Tuesday: Dorito Taco Salad (We use the Trader Joe's nacho cheese chips, add a can of red kidney beans, sliced black olives, diced avocado, and skip the dressing. The kids love it and don't seem to notice there's an entire head of lettuce in there.)
Wednesday: Out! School fundraiser night at my favorite margarita place (the tacos are good too). It's for the children.
Thursday: Crockpot Red Beans & Rice, steamed veggies (the extra ones I cut up from the roasted vegetable baked ziti).
Friday: Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, roasted carrots.

Meatloaf Recipe (LL Family Sized; half for families with normal appetites)

2 lbs. ground beef or turkey (or 1 of each!)
2 cups panko bread crumbs
4 eggs
(1 cup diced onion; optional)
1/2 cup ketchup
2 tsp dried mustard
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp thyme
1 1/2 tsp basil
1 tsp pepper
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp onion powder

(plus ~1/4 cup Yellow Mustard and another 1/4 cup Ketchup for glaze)

1. Mix all ingredients together.
2. Divide into 2 bread loaf pans.
3. Squirt yellow mustard and ketchup over the top of each loaf; spread together with back of spoon to cover.
4. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until cooked through.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Reading ALL the Books

As we've discussed in the past, I like to read. I like to read A LOT. The only time I ever had to sit out at recess in elementary school was when my teacher found me reading a Babysitter's Club book tucked into my Social Studies textbook and I was frequently yelled at for turning my light back on after bedtime to read FAR later than any 10-year-old should. In a normal week where I'm allowed to do my job, I probably read 2-4 books; in a furlough week I'm reading at least one every two days. They're all paranormal-esque escape/adventure/romance stories. Stories with FANTASTIC writing, world-building, dialogue, and three-dimensional characters and absolutely nothing relatable to real life. Luckily, I've found friends who like to read the same. I typed out an email of my faves to several of them a few years ago and just updated it. As I was furiously typing over 100 book titles the other night, James finally looked over and said, "WHAT are you working on??"

"A vampire romance novel list," I relied without looking up.


I mean, literally what else do I have to do right now?

So, because I've already done all the typing, and because I really need more books, I thought I'd publish the list I sent my friends, somewhat in order of what I'm most excited to recommend and with some commentary. So pour a cup of tea/frozen margarita, and let's discuss.

None of the books below are appropriate for children

Ilona Andrews- husband/wife writing team, they have several series and the writing, dialogue, world-building, and fight scenes are fantastic. I've never re-read a book purely for the sword fight choreography before. All the series are solidly in the "urban fantasy" genre which is not a genre I knew existed, but it's like an action-filled subsection of paranormal romance. Kate Daniels is their largest and I adore it, but Hidden Legacy might be my sleeper fave?

Kate Daniels series - their longest series. I love it because it's different and fun and pulls in all sorts of mythology for its magic stories. The first book is kind of odd, but push through. They get much more light-hearted and smooth.

1. Magic Bites
2. Magic Burns
3. Magic Strikes
4. Magic Bleeds
4.5 Magic Dreams (novella re: Dali)
5. Magic Slays
6.5 Gunmetal Magic (novella re: Andrea)
6. Magic Rises
7. Magic Breaks
7.5 Magic Steals (novella re: Dali)
8. Magic Shifts
9. Magic Binds
10. Magic Triumphs

Iron Covenant - new spin-off series from Kate Daniels that I am LOVING. Read the first one between the 9th and 10th books of Kate Daniels.

1. Iron and Magic
2. Unnamed (expected 2019)

Hidden Legacy series - LOVE. Super fun series about powerful magical families, set in a fictional Houston, TX.

1. Burn for Me
2. White Hot
3. Wildfire
4. Diamond Fire (novella; switches POV from Nevada to Catalina)
5. Sapphire Flames (expected 2019; will continue Catalina's story)

The Edge Series - Older series, very fun; two characters pop up again in Innkeeper.

1. On the Edge
2. Bayou Moon
3. Fate's Edge
4. Steel's Edge

Innkeeper series - A magical inn that can change shape, etc. and serves as a way-point for visitors from space passing through Earth. The Innkeeper is Dina, a great character, who runs it all.

1. Clean Sweep
2. Sweep in Peace
3. One Fell Sweep
4. Sweep of the Blade

Kresley Cole

Immortals After Dark series- super fun paranormal romance series; lots of action, sex, and strong female characters. She pays impeccable attention to detail by an author who has written a TON of books and somehow they all weave together.

1. The Warlord Wants Forever (it used to be part of an anthology but you can now buy it on its own. You don't have to read it first, I'd probably read it after Hunger Like No Other which was originally written to be the first book and gives you more background, though Warlord happens chronologically before it).
2. A Hunger Like No Other
3. No Rest for the Wicked
4. Wicked Deeds on a Winter’s Night
5. Dark Needs at Night’s Edge
6. Dark Desires After Dusk
7. Kiss of a Demon King
8. “Untouched” (supposedly found in the A Deep Kiss of Winter Anthology, but I've never found it)
9. Pleasure of a Dark Prince
10. Demon from the Dark
11. Dreams of a Dark Warrior
12. Lothaire
13. Shadow’s Claim (The Dacians: Realm of Blood and Mist, a new spin-off series that follows the characters and fits in spot 13 chronologically- it was very good)
14. MacRieve
15. Dark Skye
16. Sweet Ruin
17. Wicked Abyss
18. Shadow's Seduction
19. Munro (expected 2019)

The Arcana Chronicles- YA series by Cole that I ADORE. A creative premise (a set of teens become the Major Arcana from the Tarot cards and have to battle it out to win the game); there's also an excellent love triangle. It's very teenage angsty but for some reason I absolutely love it.

1. Poison Princess
2. Endless Knight
3. Dead of Winter
4. Arcana Rising
0. Day Zero (prequel that shows every character's POV on the first day of the Flash)
5. The Dark Calling
6. (Final book expected 2019)

Gamemaker Series - erotica trilogy; #1 and #3 are okay, but the 2nd book is one of my faves ever and I re-read it all the time. The characters are great.

1. The Professional
2. The Master
3. The Player

MacCarrick Trilogy - a trilogy about three Scottish brothers; one of her first series, they're more traditional historical romance.
1. If You Dare
2. If You Desire
3. If You Deceive

Nalini Singh - Psy/Changling series. One of my newer authors; I'm currently reading this one (on #14 and sad there's only one left). Super fun and different, it's a world made up of the Psy (super smart, intellectual, mind powers and telepathy abound), Changelings (wolf, leopard, and other shape shifters), and Humans (as always, we totally get the short end of the stick).

1. Slave to Sensation
2. Visions of Heat
3. Caressed by Ice
4. Mine to Possess
5. Hostage to Pleasure
6. Branded by Fire
7. Blaze of Memory
8. Bonds of Justice
9. Play of Passion
10. Kiss of Snow (my fave!)
11. Tangle of Need
12. Heart of Obsidian
13. Shield of Winter
14. Shards of Hope
15. Allegiance of Honour

Guild Hunter series. Archangels and the women who love them! Also vampires. This was the first Nalini Sing series I read, but I think I like the Psy/Changeling one even better.

1. Angel's Blood
2. Archangel's Kiss
3. Archangel's Consort
4. Archangel's Blade
5. Archangel's Storm
6. Archangel's Legion
7. Archangel's Shadows
8. Archangel's Enigma
9. Archangel's Heart
10. Archangel's Viper
11. Archangel's Prophecy
12. Archangel's War (coming 2019)

Larissa Ione, Demonica series. Ione is an Air Force vet and trained medic turned author and one of my top tier faves. Darker than the series and author recommended above, she's a great writer and I enjoy the creativity of her worlds. Apparently she came up with the idea of this first one when she was watching Buffy when a vampire got hurt and she wondered, where would they go? and so this demon hospital series was born. These are definitely on the steamier side and the first is a little more intense than the others, but the writing and characters are great and I feel like she really hit her groove as the series goes on.

1. Pleasure Unbound
2. Desire Unchained
3. Passion Unleashed
4. Ecstasy Unveiled
5. Sin Undone

Lords of Deliverance. Spin-off from the Demonica series, book 1 picks up immediately at the end of book 5 above; I LOVED this series- it's a little darker, but for whatever reason, it completely captured me and you still get to see your favorite characters from the series before.

1. Eternal Rider
2. Immortal Rider
3. Lethal Rider
4. Rogue Rider

Demonica Heritage/Underworld. (More spin-offs and novellas, in order, interweaving all the characters from the earlier books and adding new ones while continuing the overall plot line).

1. Reaver
2. Azagoth
3. Revenant
4. Hades
5. Z
6. Razr
7. Hawkyn
8. Her Guardian Angel

Moonbound Clan. New vampire/werewolf type series by Ione. I like it, but she isn't publishing the books very fast and I'm not sure where it's going.

1. Bound by Night
2. Chained by Night
3. Forsaken by Night

Gena Showalter - Lords of the Underworld. I enjoy this series a lot. The first few are a little dark, but then they lighten up and the brother/sister-like relationships between all the characters really shine.

0.5 The Darkest Fire
1. The Darkest Night
2. The Darkest Kiss
3. The Darkest Pleasure
3.5. The Darkest Prison
4. The Darkest Whisper
4.5 The Darkest Angel
5. The Darkest Passion
6. The Darkest Lie
7. The Darkest Secret
8. The Darkest Surrender
9. The Darkest Seduction
10. The Darkest Craving
11. The Darkest Touch
12. The Darkest Torment
13. The Darkest Promise
14. The Darkest Warrior
14.5. The Darkest Captive
5. The Darkest King (expected 2019)

White Rabbit Chronicles. YA series by Showalter that I enjoyed far more than I expected. I was sad the series ended.

1. Alice in Zombieland
2. Through the Zombie Glass
3. The Queen of Zombie Hearts
4. A Mad Zombie Party

Jeaniene Frost - Night Huntress/Cat & Bones series; a fun series that's not my very top tier (Ilona Andrews/Kresley Cole/Larissa Ione forever), but is at the top of my tier #2. I find Cat (the heroine) occasionally annoying, but overall, it's well-done. I also enjoyed the spin-offs (noted below) even more than the original. These are the books in the order you should read them, with all the series and spin-off mixed together:

1. Halfway to the Grave
2. One Foot in the Grave
3. At Grave's End
4. Destined for an Early Grave
5. First Drop of Crimson (spin-off re: Denise)
6. Eternal Kiss of Darkness (spin-off re: Mencheres)
7. This Side of the Grave (Cat & Bones)
8. One Grave at a Time (Cat & Bones)
9. Once Burned (spin-off series re: Vlad)
10. Twice Tempted (Vlad book 2)
11. Up from the Grave (final Cat & Bones)
12. Bound by Flames (Vlad book 3)
13. Into the Fire (Vlad book 4)
14. Shades of Wicked (new series re: Ian; loved it)
15. Wicked Bite (Ian book 2, coming July 2019)

Karen Marie Moning - Fever series. These are a cult favorite. I have SO MANY criticisms of them and yet I don't think I've ever read a series faster or sacrificed my sleep more. They're like crack in book form. It's hard to describe. They take place in Dublin when the "wall" between the fae world and the human world comes down and chaos ensues. The main female character is Mackayla and she annoys me about 50% of the time. The main male character is Barrons and you like him very much once you figure out if he's good or bad. The series continues to add more characters and somehow lots of things happen and absolutely nothing really happens. Like I said, it's inexplicable. They have a million reviews and a cult-like following and yet, I can't even explain why I read them so fast. (I know this is a middling review, but they are inexplicable to me. I even re-read the series and still stayed up until 2 and 3 a.m. to finish each book. I can't explain it. Oh! there's also a prequel series- the Highlanders that I think were better written and yet somehow less addictive. I don't know. [shrug emoji])

Highlander series

1. Beyond the Highland Mist
2. To Tame a Highland Warrior
3. The Highlander's Touch
4. Kiss of the Highlander
5. The Dark Highlander
6. The Immortal Highlander
7. Spell of the Highlander
8. Into the Dreaming

Fever series

1. Darkfever
2. Bloodfever
3. Faefever
4. Dreamfever
5. Shadowfever
6. Iced
7. Burned
8. Feverborn
9. Feversong
10. High Voltage

Patricia Briggs - Mercy Thompson series. Mercy is an auto mechanic in the Pacific Northwest. She's also a coyote shape shifter. A fun series; not in my top tier, but solidly in the second. Some of the pack interactions with Mercy get annoying, but I liked the last one more than most of the ones that have been in the middle so far.

1. Moon Called
2. Blood Bound
3. Iron Kissed
4. Bone Crossed
5. Silver Borne
6. River Marked
7. Frost Burned
8. Night Broken
9. Fire Touched
10. Silence Fallen
11. Storm Cursed (coming May 2019)

Alpha and Omega spin-off series - I never loved this as much as I felt I was supposed to, but friends disagree and I did enjoy them.
1. On the Prowl
2. Cry Wolf
3. Hunting Ground
4. Fair Game
5. Dead Heat
6. Burn Bright

Cassandra Clare - Shadowhunters series

Mortal Instruments - I enjoyed this, but it got a little repetitive by the end and it can be pretty YA angsty. (Some recommend reading books 1-3 of this, then the prequel Infernal Devices series, then books 4-6 of Mortal Instruments; I just read Infernal Devices first and then all of Mortal Instruments, but that's just because I found that series first).

1. City of Bones
2. City of Ashes
3. City of Glass
4. City of Fallen Angels
5. City of Lost Souls
6. City of Heavenly Fire

Infernal Devices - prequel series to Mortal Instruments; I found this first and enjoyed it more than I ended up enjoying the original.
1. Clockwork Angel
2. Clockwork Prince
3. Clockwork Princess

(In between these series are The Bane Chronicles, The Shadowhunter's Codex, and Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy.)

Dark Artifices- my fave series of hers so far
1. Lady Midnight
2. Lord of Shadows
3. Queen of Air and Darkness

Nora Roberts - In Death series. A super fun futuristic true crime romance series. There are 49 in this series (I just listed the first 12) and I read all of them on maternity leave for Cora and stay up with each as they're published every 6 months or so. Written by Nora Roberts under the pseudonym JD Robb, they are very different from her usual romance fluff. Eve Dallas is the kickass New York police homicide lieutenant and Roarke is the crazy rich super sexy guy she ends up entangled with in the first book. Each book has it's own murder she's trying to solve (and, spoiler alert, she always does), while the overall plot of her romance, her friendships, etc. all grow. Some of the murders can be pretty rough, but they're the only mystery/crime type series I've ever really enjoyed. The first ten or so are so good I re-check them out to re-read all the time. (Fun note: the first book was written in 1995 and takes place in 2050; it's fun seeing what she got right about the future and what we will definitely not be able to do even 30 years from now.)

1. Naked in Death
2. Glory in Death
3. Immortal in Death
4. Rapture in Death
5. Ceremony in Death
6. Vengeance in Death
7. Holiday in Death
8. Conspiracy in Death
9. Loyalty in Death
10. Witness in Death
11. Judgment in Death
12. Betrayal in Death

JR Ward - Black Dagger Brotherhood series. Another one I have to almost apologize for. I love LOVE the first 8 or 9 books in this series. Then she starts to repeat herself and forgets to expand the universe she created. I still read them whenever she publishes one, but I no longer buy them and re-read them a dozen times. But book #3 is really one of my all time favorites and I've read it at least ten times. Her "voice" sometimes gets annoying - she's writing about a brotherhood of macho vampires and her macho "talk" comes off as fairly ridiculous, but then again, Landon says "bro" now, so who am I to say?

1. Dark Lover
2. Lover Eternal
3. Lover Awakened
4. Lover Revealed
5. Lover Unbound
6. Lover Enshrined
7. Father Mine (novella)
8. Lover Avenged
9. Lover Mine
10. Lover Unleashed
11. Lover Reborn
12. Lover at Last
13. The King
14. The Shadows
15. Blood Kiss
16. The Beast
17. Blood Vow
18. The Chosen
19. Blood Fury
20. Dearest Ivie
21. The Thief
22. Prisoner of Night
23. The Savior

(She has other series like the Fallen Angels and Bourbon Kings. Fallen Angels is okay; Bourbon Kings was fairly terrible.)

Lisa Kleypas - Wallflowers series- Great historical romance author (she has some modern day romance that are pretty good, but I'm not a modern romance reader) I always read when I want something lighter. The Wallflowers series is a particular favorite, but I like everything she's written.

1. Secrets of a Summer Night
2. It Happened One Autumn
3. A Devil in Winter
4. Scandal in the Spring
5. A Wallflower Christmas (novella)

Again the Magic
is sort of a prequel to the Wallflowers (it involves one of the main character's older sister and is fantastic) and The Hathaways is also great and has some overlapping characters.

The Gamblers series (prequel and slight overlap with the Wallflowers)

1. Then Came You - a favorite; I re-read this all the time. Cora was nearly named Lily.
2. Dreaming of You

The Ravenels - a spin-off series from the Wallflowers, bumped about about 15 years in time. #1 wasn't my favorite, but it had good background. I thoroughly enjoyed #2-4.

1. Cold Hearted Rake (not my fave, but good background)
2. Marrying Winterbourne
3. Devil in Spring
4. Hello Stranger
5. Devil's Daughter (expected Feb. 2019)

Julia Quinn - Bridgerton series. Very fun, light Regency romance series about a family with 8 siblings; each kid grows up over the series and gets their book/happily ever after.

1. The Duke and I
2. The Viscount Who Loved Me
3. An Offer from a Gentleman
4. Romancing Mr. Bridgerton
5. To Sir Philip with Love
6. When He Was Wicked
7. It's In His Kiss
8. On the Way to the Wedding

Pierce Brown - Red Rising. Fabulous urban fantasy series; lots of action, great world-building.

1. Red Rising
2. Golden Son
3. Morning Star
4. Iron Gold
5. Dark Age (expected 2019)

Marie Lu - Legend Trilogy. YA urban fantasy series; easy reads, but fun.
1. Legend
2. Prodigy
3. Champion

Sharon Kay Penman- very heavily researched historical fiction; can sometimes be dense, but she makes characters who died over 1,000 years ago come alive. My favorite was her Welsh series, but her Plantagenet series about Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine series is also excellent.

Welsh series
1. Here Be Dragons
2. Falls the Shadow
3. The Reckoning

1. When Christ and His Saints Slept
2. Time and Chance
3. Devil's Brood

Other series I've attempted and/or abandoned
- Charley Davidson series by Darynda Jones - I liked it quite a lot for the first 7 or 8 and then I just found Charley too annoying.
- The Hollows by Kim Harrison - I read this whole series and always felt I should like it more than I did. It's worth reading, and there were whole books and plot lines I really really liked, but some of the characters just never made sense to me.
- October Daye series by Seanan McGuire - I tried, I really did. I read one, forced myself halfway through the second and for one of the only times in my life, abandoned a book mid-read. She just never came alive for me.
- Anita Blake series by Laurell Hamilton - Same as above, though I think I read three of them before giving up.

Let me know if you have any others I should read!