Have You Read Any S M Reine Books Lately?

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A New Discovery – S M Reine

I recently discovered the author S M Reine from my Bookbub email I receive every day.  In case you don’t know what Bookbub is it’s a mailing list you can join that sends you recommendations on the types of books you like to read.  Anyway I read the synopsis and it was free and thought why not?  I clicked through to Amazon and bought the free book and it was some time later that I started reading it on my kindle.

The Descent Series

The first book was actually the first three books combined as one. Once I got into the collection I could not put it down.  It was a bit hard going at first as the scenes kept switching to different time frames (the author does this quite a lot throughout this series).  However once I got into the swing of things so to speak, I was lost in an urban paranormal fantasy world.

So What is the Descent Series all About?

In a nutshell two main characters; Elise Kavanagh and James Faulkner.  Ok, elaborating a bit more than that…. Elise is a demon hunter known as a kopis and James is a witch known as an aspis.  The first book takes you into their world where they are retired from the demon hunting business, but things come to light and after some reluctance Elise agrees with James to take on a job.  This in turn leads to them working as demon hunters again.

There are 7 books in the descent series.  With each book you are thrown into the past and the present and it can get a little confusing at first, but putting that aside these are really worth a read.

S M Reine - The Descent SeriesThe books in order are;

  1. Death’s Hand
  2. The Darkest Gate
  3. Dark Union
  4. Damnation Marked
  5. Dire Blood
  6. Defying Fate
  7. Paradise Damned

The more you read the Descent Series the more the plot thickens.  Each book takes you through a fast paced journey of kick ass demon hunting.  I don’t want to write any spoilers in here about the context of each book and what happens but I’ve been pretty gob smacked by some of the endings, only to move on to the next book and be wowed again.  If you are looking for some fast paced action with a female kick ass hero then this is the collection for you.

I personally think S M Reine is under-selling herself and the reason I decided to write this review is she has quickly become one of my favorite authors.  I believe S M Reine is widely under-publicized and she deserves credit for writing an epic adventure of these two characters.  S M Reine (Sara) also writes a werewolf series which I shall be investigating too.

If you have read any of her books, what did you think?

How I Adjusted to American Life – Have You Had a Similar Experience?

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I’ve been reflecting recently on how my life has changed in the space of a few years.  I would never have imagined that I would emigrate to America, fall in love, get married and have another baby.  I would never have thought my life could be so different from what it was.  I certainly wouldn’t have thought I would be adjusting to American life that’s for sure.  Is my life a typical American one?  Probably not but that’s down to where I am living.

adjusting to american lifeSlower paced living

It’s definitely a slower pace of life in the south, or at least where I live.  It certainly has taken me some time to adjust.  Given that I am from a corporate background it was hard at first.  It still is at times, but the way I see it is people can either take me as I come or not.  Tommy thinks I am the most professional person he knows, and I know more professional people than me!

If I look back since first moving here, I couldn’t understand why things weren’t happening.  It just seemed very relaxed.  I’m not sure how else to describe it but maybe it’s because everything is so spaced out and rural.  One of the things I love about it here is how much greenery there is.  I love trees anyway but it’s so nice driving along the highway and see all the trees in full bloom with their lushness.  It won’t be long before the russet colors come in and their colors change.  I’m digressing….

Children adjusting to American life

If I look at Lana and how she has adjusted, there have been some cultural issues for her at school.  I think some of the language that Lana and I use is not properly understood but people are just to polite to ask what we mean.  Which makes no sense to me, I mean if you don’t understand something then ask right? Other than that she has settled right in.

Adjusting to American food

The foods over here are so filled with artificial flavors and additives and there is lots of High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) and GMO products.  I’ve had to learn to the hard way on what to eat and what not to eat.  Now I cook from scratch and use plenty of herbs and spices to flavor up our food.

However on a good note, Lana used to be such a fussy eater, but she’s eating things now that she never would have when we were back in the UK.

To use an attorney or not?

Looking back would I change anything?  Yes.  I wouldn’t go with the attorney.  They were a waste of money and they added no value in using their services.  They certainly didn’t speed things up.

I can’t imagine going back to a fast paced life with all that stress.  I don’t miss that that’s for sure!  If you’ve made the move, how do you find it in comparison to your home town?

Returning to America with a Green Card

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My husband is self employed and we have a new baby.  After much debating it was more cost effective for my ex-husband to come and collect our daughter, Lana, for her visit to England.   Lana was away for 7 weeks this time and boy was it a long stretch.  I was going nuts around the house.  Yes I did have the new baby to look after but having a daughter with you all the time and then not be there, saying it sucks is an understatement.  Anyway she came home last week and I was so happy to see her, she has grown so much too.  My ex did have some trouble coming through customs as my daughter has a green card and obviously he did not.  They were taken to the side and he was questioned intensely on why she had a green card and he didn’t.  So I guess it was a bit inconvenient for him but other than that they came through customs no problem once he explained the situation.

Lana arrived back on US soil last Friday and we took her and her dad out for dinner.  Apparently it is the right thing to do from an American perspective.  Personally I thought it was a bit weird, but I put on a happy face for the sake of my child.  What else is a woman supposed to do?  After that, we traveled home to NC.  I had two exhausted children in the back of our truck and I know that Lana was so happy to be in her own bed.  Nothing says home like your own bed right?

Back to normality

We have had some repercussions appear from my ex traveling with her which is more of a behavior issue.  However, I think that given a week or two Lana will be back in to her life in America.  She also doesn’t have long until she starts school and I know she is looking forward to that.  From a parenting perspective I think it’s very underhand to try and use a child’s emotions and guilt them into feeling bad about leaving.  But that’s just my opinion.  I don’t think I need to say more on that front.

A New Addition

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It’s been well over a year since my last post and things have been kind of hectic here to say the least.  Not only have I been busy with the businesses with Tommy, but we have a new addition to our family!  Our daughter was born on the 10th April 2013.  It was a bit of a shock to find myself pregnant again.  We were open to having more children should they come along, but I guess given that Tommy has two grown girls, and I have a seven year old, I didn’t really expect it to happen.

Anyway, the pregnancy went pretty smooth, even though I was considered to be high risk but that was down to my age – I wouldn’t mind though I’m not even 40!  Tommy was so funny, I remember as the time got closer to her birth, he’d be calling and asking if I was in labor yet.  I pulled an April fools trick on him which looking back was funny.  I sent him a text telling him that I’d tried calling him but his phone went straight through to voicemail.  He needed to get his butt home as I was in labor.  He fell for it hook, line and sinker bless him.  He forgave me and just laughed about it.

Our new addition is called Isabellla Rae and she is just the sweetest thing.  She has such a lovely temperament and Lana loves her to pieces.  She isn’t quite sleeping through the night yet – I am breastfeeding so I guess that’s to be expected.

On a point to note about ex-pats having babies in America, the only thing I can say is it’s expensive!  My OBGYN appointments were around $4,000 and that was only because we paid everything up front before the baby was born.   We paid in installments and spread the cost out.  However, the cost of actually delivering the baby in hospital cost us about $6,500.  I had a normal birth and was told if I had of had a caesarian then it would have cost more!  Compare that to UK healthcare which is “free” you can hopefully see my point with it being expensive.

If you are going through the K1 visa process, are you planning on having children once you move to America?

Traveling Under Advance Parole

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I have just returned back from the United Kingdom on a 4 day return flying visit.  Why so quick you may ask?  I took my daughter back to England so she can spend some summer time with her father.

I was worried about returning back to the US and if I would have any problems traveling under advance parole.  Being the nerd I am I took all documentation with me, just in case – I mean you never know what’s going to happen and since this was my first time traveling under advance parole.  Best to be prepared I think!  Anyway, this is how the journey went.

Saturday, 9th June

We departed Norfolk (VA)  airport and were checked in all the way through.  Our flight was to connect at JFK.  We didn’t have any issues checking in or on the journey to the UK.  On a side note, I was expecting some decent duty free shopping at JFK.  Having always travelled through Newark which I found disappointing, I was also disappointed with JFK.  It seems the London/Manchester have a better experience with duty free in my opinion.

I digress….

Sunday, 10th June

We arrive at Heathrow airport and had no problems with immigration and were straight through.  We both have UK passports.

Tuesday, 11th June

I return back to Heathrow to catch my return flight home.  I get asked by the security man at check in (the guy who checks your passport before you actually check in) when I am intending to return to the UK.  I inform him that it would be at the end of July which is when I will be collecting my daughter.  He informed me my visa would have expired by then.  The visa he is referring to is the K1 visa which is in my passport.  This is a visa which allows you to get to the US to marry your fiancé.

traveling under advance parole

An example of an advance parole/work authorization card

I found this slightly odd, but went with it.  I told him I was traveling under advance parole and had to produce the document and my marriage certificate to the gentleman in question.  The name on my passport is not the same as the one on my advance parole card.  The reason being is my passport doesn’t expire until 2019 and I would have to pay for a new one (you can’t get a name change when you are in the US).

When I arrived at New York Newark (and I really hate this airport – I mean what is the point of going all the way through immigration and then having to check your bags in again and go through security again?) I queued up and when it came to my turn, I  explained that I was traveling under advance parole.  I handed the document over with my passport and the customs form which was handed out on the plane.  I was told I needed to go downstairs and was promptly escorted by an immigration officer.

At this point I was nervous.  This was the first time I had left the US since our arrival and the first time traveling under advance parole.  I handed over my documents to an immigration officer who took them to another officer.  I then had to complete an I-94 which weren’t given out on the plane.  The officer put a stamp in my passport and that was it.  I asked him what would happen when the green card came through, and he told me because I was traveling under advance parole I am effectively in limbo, I’m not a resident but I am allowed to stay temporarily.  So when the green card gets here I will be able to clear immigration upstairs with everyone else and not worry.

Interestingly when I arrived home there was a I-797 Notice of Action welcoming my daughter and I to the US and that our green cards should arrive within 3 weeks.  Typical!!!

All in all the whole experience from when we started paperwork to the approval will have taken 13 months in total.  Which I guess looking back isn’t that bad, seeing as we’re now living out here and have been in the US for 6 of those months.

uscis civil surgeon

Finding a civil surgeon

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uscis civil surgeon

We exited the interview and I could feel the adrenalin and stress kick in.  Tommy was much more relaxed and was very much if we have to come back, then we come back kind of attitude. Where I was we’re here now, so let’s see if someone can help us.

So I started making calls from the list of civil surgeons the interviewing officer had given us.  The first place I called told me that the doctor was out but they would try and get hold of him and see if he could come in today in order to complete the documentation.  They told me they would call me back within 30 minutes.

Now I am not one to sit around waiting, so I decided to start calling the other civil surgeons on the list, and was met with quite a number of no’s we can’t see you today.  I did find one that could fit us both in but we would have both had to have full blown medicals and come back on Saturday to have the TB results read, and the cost was going to be nearly $600.

Whilst making the calls, I received a call back from the first surgeon.  I promptly returned their call.  They could fit us in so we headed down to their offices.  When we arrived I handed over all the medical documents I had brought with me as well as our passports and my marriage certificate.  I then had to complete numerous forms for myself and my daughter.

We were taken into the back and told to wait for the doctor who was a really nice guy.  I thanked him for fitting us in at such short notice and explained that we live 4 hours away.  He was very pleasant about it and didn’t do much in terms of anything medical specific.  A nurse then came in to give my daughter a TB test, much to her dismay.  I was to have the results read by my own GP and get the results faxed through so they could then forward on the documentation to me.  I would then in turn, send these back to the USCIS in Durham – all a bit long winded if you ask me.

The whole visit took 5 minutes in total and we ended up paying another $400 for these extra pieces of paper.  Anyway, I took my daughter to our own GP for the TB results, which was clear and faxed the document back to the doctor in Durham.  I then received her documents in the mail in a sealed envelope.

I completed a covering letter with both sealed envelopes for myself and my daughter and sent it priority mail to USCIS in Durham.
Now I am back to waiting again!

What to expect at a green card interview in Durham

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We had to travel up to Durham in Raleigh for our green card interview – this was the local field office who was now dealing with our case.  It took us around 4 hours to get there so we stayed overnight as our interview was 10:15 on 17 May 2012.

Earlier in the week I had got myself into a panic as I was double checking everything that I had put together in terms of supporting documentation that we needed for the green card interview.  Now I had a question mark over the I-693 and I was under the impression that in terms of all the medical information it was all done and dusted.  Ha !  How wrong I was.  You’d think after spending the money going to London for a day, and then having to pay for a full medical for myself and my daughter that everything would be right.  Nope.

Anyway, let me cast my mind back.  We arrived at the US Immigration Services office which was 2 minutes from the hotel we were staying at.  We all went through security, which is a similar set up to airport security and the US embassy in London.  Once through security we gave our notice of appointment to the receptionist and as we were early, we waited downstairs in a waiting area.

Mobile phones are allowed although we didn’t take ours in.  Additionally there is no entertainment for children so if you are taking yours you may want to think of that.

Our time came and we were called upstairs.  Which was pretty much a reflection of downstairs.  Just a waiting area with a TV screen which had the numbers of who was being seen on it.  Again similar to the US embassy in London.  Our number was brought up on-screen and we went to the door, which was a security door and opened by security personnel.  Inside this area was a walkway and either side was lined with small offices.

We were led into one of these offices of the lady who was going to interview us.  She  asked us to raise our right hands and swear we were going to tell the whole truth.  Which we said we’d do.

The lady did give my daughter a piece of paper and a pen so she could at least draw a picture and not be bored.  She asked her name and where she lived.

What to expect at the green card interview

Anyway, this was it, this was the green card interview that we’d been waiting for!  I was asked to confirm my name and address.  I was asked for proof of bank statements or anything else, so I gave the original and a copy over.

I-693 - required for green card interviewNext came the stumbling block.  She asked me for a copy of the I-693 and I asked her wasn’t that sent in with the documents I had to hand over at the point of entry back in January.  In a word no.  This is yet another piece of paper that tells the US embassy that all your vaccinations are up to date.  Now I’m sat there in the office having my green card interview and I’m thinking are you kidding me?  I went through a whole medical in London and you want a further piece of paper saying what exactly?  The same thing that you’ve already got except it’s on a different piece of paper?!

Tommy could see I was getting frustrated.  And tried to calm the situation over.  Oh and the other thing was that my daughters medical was not on their file either.  They’d either lost it or it was mis-filed somewhere.  Again, what was the point of my paying money in London for my daughter to have a medical if this is what is going to happen.  Now I had the paperwork I received from the medical in London and tried to offer her this.  She wouldn’t take it as it wasn’t in a sealed envelope!

So our option in terms of my daughter was I could either get her to request our file and see if her medical information was in there or have a new medical completed but she would still need an I-693 completing.  I also needed an I-693.  The interviewing officer gave us a list of all US Civil Surgeons in Durham.  She did search our area and the nearest one was where we were at, Durham.  So that either meant another day trip or see if we could get this fixed now.

Our interview on that basis was given the “Intent to Deny” status.  We had 30 days to get this piece of paper mailed back to them.  The interviewing officer did ask Tommy one question which was so you own your own pest control company?  Hardly seemed worth him taking the day off considering he is self employed.

In terms of our relationship she wasn’t interested in how we met or why we got married so quickly.  In fact she just seemed a little bored by the whole thing.  We were told that once they had the I-693 for both myself and daughter then we wouldn’t have to come back for another green card interview.  She did indicate that as long as that piece of paper was fine and there were no medical issues then we would be approved.

What was your green card interview like?  Did you have a lot of questions or was it a case of formality?

Notification of Green Card Interview

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The whole waiting part of the K1 process is so stressful.  Anyone going through this can relate and anyone who is about to go through the K1 process will soon discover.  The waiting is stressful and some things take a long time.

English: The logo of U.S. Citizenship and Immi...

I received another I-797C Notice of Action for both my daughter any myself.  It is a request for the applicant (me) to appear for an initial interview for the adjustment of status.  It is quite a lengthy notice which goes into detail on who should come.  As I am now married, Tommy needs to come with me and in relation to my daughter, then I need to be there to accompany her.  I am assuming that we will just all go in together.

Items which need to be taken are;

  • We need to take Government issued photo identification with us, such as a driving license or identity card.
  • The interview notice and the photo id.
  • Completed medical examination from (I-693) and vaccination supplement in a sealed envelope unless already submitted.
  • A completed Affidavit of support (I-864) will all required evidence including federal income tax returns and W2s or certified IRS printouts for the most recent tax year.  Letters from each current employer, verifying rate of pay and average weekly hours, and pay stubs for the past two months; and evidence of the sponsors US citizenship or lawful permanent resident status.
  • All documentation establishing eligibility for lawful permanent resident status.
  • Any immigration related documentation ever issued, including Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and any authorization for Advance Parole (I-512).
  • All travel documents used to enter the United States, including passports, Advance Parole documents (I-512) and I-94 (arrival/departure document).
  • Birth certificate.
  • Petitioners birth certificate and petitioners evidence of United States Citizenship or Lawful permanent resident status.
  • If you have any children bring their birth certificates.

If the application is based on marriage;

  • A certified copy of your marriage document issued by the appropriate civil authority.
  • Spouses birth certificate and their evidence of US citizenship/lawful permanent resident.
  • If you have been previously married then all divorce decree from each prior marriage.
  • Birth certificate for all children within this marriage and custody papers for your childcare and for your spouses children not living with you.
  • Supporting evidence of your relationship such as joint assets or liabilities including tax returns, bank statements, insurance documents, rental agreements, utility bills, credit cards etc.

Suffice to say I think I have everything under control and from what I have read everything seems to be in check.

In terms of supporting documentation showing that we had a real relationship,  took copy of bank statements and life insurance papers.  Everything else was and still is in Tommy’s name including the mortgage (which was going to cost nearly $900 to get me added).

As I publish this, the date has passed, as well as the interview.  There was a vital piece of information missing and if you are going through this process, then I’d suggest you don’t make the same mistake that I did.

Employment Authorization and Advanced Parole

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Well it’s been a while since my last post and that’s been for a few reasons of me being busy but also not hearing much back from immigration.  Anyway, suffice to say I have an update!  Yay!

We’ve received our advance parole documents.  Which is great news.  Just a shame it couldn’t have come through a bit earlier so my daughter could have gone back to the UK to see her dad for Easter/spring break.  Anyway my daughter’s advance parole is a piece of paper which gives her name and details and has her photo and fingerprint printed on the document.

My advance parole looks like a driving license and is classed as a combo card which acts as both advance parole and employment authorization.  We are free to travel and I’m free to work.  Both documents are valid for one year.

I’m hoping that we will hear some news soon on the green card/the next interview.

What to expect at the biometrics appointment

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Yesterday I was up at 5am and I felt like my body had been rudely awakened and didn’t know what was happening.  Then I remembered – we had our biometrics appointment.

After rousing myself and my daughter we hit the road and arrived at the USCIS building in Norfolk.  We were a little early and there were also some other cars waiting in the car park, which I assumed were other people having the same thing.

8am arrived and we were promptly let in by the female security guard.  The people who were there had formed an orderly queue and it wasn’t long before I was quickly seen.  I explained that my daughters appointment was at 2pm the same afternoon and the security guard told me we could both be seen now.  A huge sigh of relief for me.  I was given a form for each of us.  The security guard transferred some data from the appointment notices to each form and I gave over our ID.  I also had to give a copy of my marriage certificate as my passport is still in my maiden name.

I filled out each form, which was basic information like first name, last name, middle name, date of birth, place of birth, country of citizenship, any other names which you’ve gone by and then gave it back to the lady.  I was given a ticket number and had about a 5 minute wait.

Picture of a whorl fingerprint pattern

We were called by the scanner man and he decided to take my daughters details first.  The notice of appointment bar code was scanned into the system and I checked that her details were correct.  Due to her age he just took her right index picture.  She was asked to write her name and they also took her picture.

It was then my turn.  My appointment letter bar code was scanned and I checked the details were correct.  Mr scanner man took some paper towel and sprayed it with this liquid and wiped my left hand down.  I then had to have my left hand fully scanned on the scanning pad.  Before he took any print of my prints, he wiped each finger tip down with the damp paper towel.  My finger prints were taken in order from both hands, and then a further set of prints were taken, which I can only describe as the full print.  Where each finger was rolled on the sensor pad and taken rather than just the top part of the print.

I asked why these were being taken as our finger prints had already been taken at the airport and also at the US Embassy in London.  He told me they operate on a different system and these are in fact full prints.  After being taken they are sent to the FBI to check their criminal database which will affect whether the green card is given or not. The prints which are taken elsewhere are only a snapshot picture.

So once all prints had been taken he checked to make sure they were all ok with no comeback.  He then took my photo with a smile and we were all done.  The whole process from walking in the door and the wait took about 30 minutes.  Hardly worth getting up at 5am for, but it needed to be done.