Monday, January 30, 2017

Some Kind of Magic by Mary Ann Marlowe

Some Kind of Magic
by Mary Ann Marlowe

Find out more about this book and author:
Amazon
Goodreads
Website
Blog
Facebook
Twitter @maryannmarlowe

Just released: January 31, 2017
Publisher: Kensington
Genre: Romance (clean)
Paperback: 304 pages
Rating: 5

Flirting with Fame series:
Some Kind of Magic
book 2 - tba

First sentence(s):
My pen tapped out the drumbeat to the earworm on the radio.

In this sparkling debut novel, Mary Ann Marlowe introduces a hapless scientist who’s swept off her feet by a rock star—but is it love or just a chemical reaction?...

Biochemist Eden Sinclair has no idea that the scent she spritzed on herself before leaving the lab is designed to enhance pheromones. Or that the cute, grungy-looking guy she meets at a gig that evening is Adam Copeland. As in the Adam Copeland—international rock god and object of lust for a million women. Make that a million and one. By the time she learns the truth, she’s already spent the (amazing, incredible) night in his bed…

Suddenly Eden, who’s more accustomed to being set up on disastrous dates by her mom, is going out with a gorgeous celebrity who loves how down-to-earth and honest she is. But for once, Eden isn’t being honest. She can’t bear to reveal that this overpowering attraction could be nothing more than seduction by science. And the only way to know how Adam truly feels is to ditch the perfume—and risk being ditched in turn…

Smart, witty, and sexy, Some Kind of Magic is an irresistibly engaging look at modern relationships—why we fall, how we connect, and the courage it takes to trust in something as mysterious and unpredictable as love.


My two-bits:

Instalove at the get-go. But, not an easy path. Along with the question of the effects of a perfume to cloud the sincerity of love, Eden goes through all the doubts that come with initial attraction and coupledom.

Instead of push pull banter there are lovey dovey conversations, interactions and intimate sweet moments.

Loved the details on celebrity dating and romance. Learning about the behind the scenes doings and experiences of a famous band on tour was entertaining. Being on the flip side when at music concerts, it was fascinating to get the celebrity perspective.

The balance of Eden's lab life vs. music world was interesting to explore and wonder about.

The characters are a likable lot and interesting to note that the next book will focus on Micah's (Eden's brother) love life. He was described as an equally sexy musician as Adam. I am curious to see who he gets attracted.

--~ Blog Tour Giveaway ~--

One winner will receive a $50 Amazon OR Book Depository Gift Card (International). Three winners will win a signed copy of SOME KIND OF MAGIC (US only).

(a Rafflecopter giveaway here)


~*~

* review copy courtesy of book tour sponsored by JHPR


Saturday, January 28, 2017

Stacking the Shelves & Sunday Post - 1.28.17

Stacking the Shelves hosted by Tynga's Reviews (details)
AND
Sunday Post hosted by Caffeinated Book Reviewer (details)

~*~

With the announcement of the Oscar contenders, I continue to watch as many nominated films as I can before awards night.

I picked up a couple cookbooks and food related books from the library to look through in hopes of using some for my Foodie book challenge.

~*~

For Review:

Hidden by the Leaves
by SDL Curry
-Historical, Christian, Japan
courtesy of -Thanks!
Amazon | Goodreads

NOTE: In writing Hidden by the Leaves, a substantial part of Mr Curry’s research emanates from the Vatican Secret Archives, taking over ten years to complete. Over the period of a decade, Mr Curry has conducted meticulous research in the archives of the British Library in London, the Metropolitan Library of New York, and countless museums, churches, and places of interest throughout Japan. Supplementing his research, Mr Curry is an avid collector of rare books, maps, and artefacts dating back to the time of the shogun and the early Jesuit missions in Japan.

As part of his historical explorations, Mr Curry has conducted comprehensive on-the-ground research in Nagasaki and surrounding cities and regions on the southern island of Kyushu. On a more global level, Mr Curry has interviewed and consulted extensively with priests, historians, and scholars around the world, including members of the Society of Jesus in Europe, North America, and Asia.

From an early age, Mr Curry has lived, worked, and studied in Japan, holding a passion for the country, its people and its culture. Based on his extensive research, Mr Curry is an expert in medieval Japanese history, bringing this original authenticity to bear in his uplifting novel Hidden by the Leaves and the wider Hidden Trilogy series.



UNBOXING:

From Owlcrate package (details & signup):
OwlCrate is a subscription service that sends you magical monthly boxes tailored to a chosen theme. Each OwlCrate will contain one new Young Adult novel, as well as 3-5 other bookish treats to help you get your nerd on. @owlcrate


JANUARY Box includes:
theme: classic remix
- Owlcrate button
- The Little Prince Tea from First Edition Tea Co.
- The Secret Garden Soap from TeaSoapBooks
- Slaughterhouse Five Bookmark from Lexy Olivia
- Phantom of the Opera Magnet from Sweet Sequels
- Children's Classic Stories Calendar from Obvious State
- Signed bookplate and letter from author
- TEASER card: February theme - Run Away with the Circus

AND this book...

RoseBlood
by A.G. Howard
-Fairy tale retelling, YA
Amazon | Goodreads

Rune Germain moves to a boarding school outside of Paris, only to discover that at this opera-house-turned-music-conservatory, phantoms really do exist. RoseBlood is a Phantom of the Opera–inspired retelling in which Rune’s biggest talent—her voice—is also her biggest curse. Fans of Daughter of Smoke and Bone and the Splintered series will find themselves captivated by this pulse-pounding spin on a classic tale.

Rune, whose voice has been compared to that of an angel, has a mysterious affliction linked to her talent that leaves her sick and drained at the end of every performance. Convinced creative direction will cure her, her mother ships her off to a French boarding school for the arts, rumored to have a haunted past.

Shortly after arriving at RoseBlood conservatory, Rune starts to believe something otherworldly is indeed afoot. The mystery boy she’s seen frequenting the graveyard beside the opera house doesn’t have any classes at the school, and vanishes almost as quickly as he appears. When Rune begins to develop a secret friendship with the elusive Thorn, who dresses in clothing straight out of the 19th century, she realizes that in his presence she feels cured. Thorn may be falling for Rune, but the phantom haunting RoseBlood wants her for a very specific and dangerous purpose. As their love continues to grow, Thorn is faced with an impossible choice: lead Rune to her destruction, or save her and face the wrath of the phantom, the only father he’s ever known.

A. G. Howard brings the romantic storytelling that Splintered fans adore to France—and an entirely new world filled with lavish romance and intrigue—in a retelling inspired by a story that has captivated generations. Fans of both the Phantom of the Opera musical and novel, as well as YA retellings such as Marissa Meyer’s Cinder, will devour RoseBlood.


FUNNY, last week I commented about how the covers of this series are so appealing and how I have not yet read any of the books. And then, lo and behold I got myself the latest book. While I have seen the Broadway production of Phantom of the Opera (and love the music), I have not read the book. Should be interesting.


OTHER things on my shelf: kinda book-related

Morning News Tournament of Books
13th Rooster Award for best fiction
details (here)

ADDING most of these titles from the short list to my reading this year.


AND watched: in theatre

Manchester by the Sea (2016)
Director/Writer: Kenneth Lonergan
Starring: Casey Affleck, Lucas Hedges
-Drama | imdb | my rating: 5

An uncle is asked to take care of his teenage nephew after the boy's father dies.

Oscar nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Original Screenplay.

THE weather and the location go hand in hand with this sad story.

Loving (2016)
Director/Writer: Jeff Nichols
Starring: Ruth Negga, Joel Edgerton
-Biography, Drama, Romance | imdb | my rating: 5

The story of Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple, whose challenge of their anti-miscegenation arrest for their marriage in Virginia led to a legal battle that would end at the US Supreme Court.

Oscar nominated for Best Actress.

THIS slow moving story created such impact with its loving endurance quality.


UPCOMING reviews for January:
Brake Failure by Alison Brodie
Some Kind of Magic by Mary Ann Marlowe

UPCOMING reviews for February:
The Return of Sir Percival by S. Alexander O'Keefe
Different Class by Joanne Harris
River Road by Carol Goodman

~*~

* comment and TELL me what you have acquired for your shelves recently

Friday, January 27, 2017

Wayfarer by Alexandra Bracken

Wayfarer
by Alexandra Bracken

Find out more about this book and author:
Amazon
Goodreads
Website
Blog
Facebook
Instagram
Pinterest
Spotify
Tumblr
Twitter @alexbracken

Just released: January 3, 2017
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Genre: Fantasy, SciFi, Time Travel, YA
Hardback: 496 pages
Rating: 4

Passenger duology:
Passenger
Wayfarer

First sentence(s):
She'd had a doll once, with a painted-on smile, and pale hair and eyes like her own.

I've been orphaned by my time.
The timeline has changed.
My future is gone.

Etta Spencer didn't know she was a traveler until the day she emerged both miles and years from her home. Now, robbed of the powerful object that was her only hope of saving her mother, Etta finds herself stranded once more, cut off from Nicholas-the eighteenth century privateer she loves-and her natural time.

When Etta inadvertently stumbles into the heart of the Thorns, the renegade travelers who stole the astrolabe from her, she vows to finish what she started and destroy the astrolabe once and for all. Instead, she's blindsided by a bombshell revelation from their leader, Henry Hemlock: he is her father. Suddenly questioning everything she's been fighting for, Etta must choose a path, one that could transform her future.

Still devastated by Etta's disappearance, Nicholas has enlisted the unlikely help of Sophia Ironwood and a cheeky mercenary-for-hire to track both her and the missing astrolabe down. But as the tremors of change to the timeline grow stronger and the stakes for recovering the astrolabe mount, they discover an ancient power far more frightening than the rival travelers currently locked in a battle for control. . . a power that threatens to eradicate the timeline altogether.


My two-bits:

This book wraps up the duology well in getting more into the nitty gritty of the time travel logistics and aspects.

A lot of the travel was not as glamourous as expected. As the travel mostly involved going to the past, culture and etiquette restricted the female characters.

More action and adventure fill these pages as the characters quite often found themselves in precarious or soon to be unsettling predicaments when landing at another time location.

I liked how relationships were able to grow and develop despite the time and location movements. Light romance moments tugged at the heart.


~*~

* review copy courtesy of publisher

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Tournament of Books 2017

Morning News Tournament of Books
13th Rooster Award for best fiction
sponsored by Field Notes and Powell's
short list & judges (here)

IN MARCH download your bracket for the short list (here)
AND follow along each day

... We say this time and time again, tough year buttressed by tough year, the ToB is not an award. It’s not a contest. We’re not even sure it’s a “tournament.” What it has been and will be, as long as we’re putting it on, is a month-long conversation about novels and reading and writing and art that takes place on weekdays in March. But that’s not all. Because what also happen is readers freak out, fall out with each other, and fall back in love. Fight over little things, fight over big things, altogether dig deep into what makes something good or not. This is what keeps us going, the point of it all, that together we celebrate the extraordinary act of transferring the human experience that is writing and reading and discussing fiction, and if it’s not clear already, yes, this month-long silly thing is part stunt, part goof, part circus, but we are motherfucking serious about books...

I LOVE this annual event and plan on reading (or listening to audio version) most of these.

IF you have read any of these, feel free to comment.

The Shortlist:

All the Birds in the Sky
by Charlie Jane Anders
Powells | Amazon | Goodreads

Black Wave
by Michelle Tea
Powells | Amazon | Goodreads

Grief Is the Thing with Feathers
by Max Porter
Powells | Amazon | Goodreads

High Dive
by Jonathan Lee
Powells | Amazon | Goodreads

Homegoing
by Yaa Gyasi
Powells | Amazon | Goodreads | my review

Mister Monkey
by Francine Prose
Powells | Amazon | Goodreads | my review

Moonglow
by Michael Chabon
Powells | Amazon | Goodreads

The Mothers
by Britt Bennett
Powells | Amazon | Goodreads

My Name Is Lucy Barton
by Elizabeth Strout
Powells | Amazon | Goodreads | my review

The Nix
by Nathan Hill
Powells | Amazon | Goodreads

The Sport of Kings
by C.E. Morgan
Powells | Amazon | Goodreads

Sudden Death
by Álvaro Enrigue,
Powells | Amazon | Goodreads

Sweet Lamb of Heaven
by Lydia Millet
Powells | Amazon | Goodreads | my review

The Throwback Special
by Chris Bachelder
Powells | Amazon | Goodreads | my review

The Underground Raidroad
by Colson Whitehead
Powells | Amazon | Goodreads

The Vegetarian
by Han Kang
Powells | Amazon | Goodreads | my review

Version Control
by Dexter Palmer
Powells | Amazon | Goodreads

We Love You, Charlie Freeman
by Kaitlyn Greenidge
Powells | Amazon | Goodreads


~*~

And the winner is...

revealed in April


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday - 1.25.17

Waiting on Wednesday
sponsored by Jill at Breaking the Spine (details)

~*~

I'm waiting for...

Some Kind of Magic
by Mary Ann Marlowe
-Romance
Amazon | Goodreads

In this sparkling debut novel, Mary Ann Marlowe introduces a hapless scientist who’s swept off her feet by a rock star—but is it love or just a chemical reaction?...

Biochemist Eden Sinclair has no idea that the scent she spritzed on herself before leaving the lab is designed to enhance pheromones. Or that the cute, grungy-looking guy she meets at a gig that evening is Adam Copeland. As in the Adam Copeland—international rock god and object of lust for a million women. Make that a million and one. By the time she learns the truth, she’s already spent the (amazing, incredible) night in his bed…

Suddenly Eden, who’s more accustomed to being set up on disastrous dates by her mom, is going out with a gorgeous celebrity who loves how down-to-earth and honest she is. But for once, Eden isn’t being honest. She can’t bear to reveal that this overpowering attraction could be nothing more than seduction by science. And the only way to know how Adam truly feels is to ditch the perfume—and risk being ditched in turn…

Smart, witty, and sexy, Some Kind of Magic is an irresistibly engaging look at modern relationships—why we fall, how we connect, and the courage it takes to trust in something as mysterious and unpredictable as love.


===== > Romance with a rock god... hmmmm ;-)


--~ Blog Tour Giveaway ~--

One winner will receive a $50 Amazon OR Book Depository Gift Card (International). Three winners will win a signed copy of SOME KIND OF MAGIC (US only) via Rafflecopter (here)



Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Delicious! by Ruth Reichl

Delicious!
by Ruth Reichl
narrated by Julia Whelan

Find out more about this book and author:
Amazon
Goodreads
Website
Blog
Facebook
Twitter

Published: 2014
Publisher: Random House
Genre: Coming of Age, Food, Mystery
Hardback: 400 pages
Rating: 4

First sentence(s):
"You should have used fresh ginger!"

Ruth Reichl is a born storyteller. Through her restaurant reviews, where she celebrated the pleasures of a well-made meal, and her bestselling memoirs that address our universal feelings of love and loss, Reichl has achieved a special place in the hearts of hundreds of thousands of readers. Now, with this magical debut novel, she has created a sumptuous, wholly realized world that will enchant you.

Billie Breslin has traveled far from her home in California to take a job at Delicious!, New York’s most iconic food magazine. Away from her family, particularly her older sister, Genie, Billie feels like a fish out of water—until she is welcomed by the magazine’s colorful staff. She is also seduced by the vibrant downtown food scene, especially by Fontanari’s, the famous Italian food shop where she works on weekends. Then Delicious! is abruptly shut down, but Billie agrees to stay on in the empty office, maintaining the hotline for reader complaints in order to pay her bills.

To Billie’s surprise, the lonely job becomes the portal to a miraculous discovery. In a hidden room in the magazine’s library, Billie finds a cache of letters written during World War II by Lulu Swan, a plucky twelve-year-old, to the legendary chef James Beard. Lulu’s letters provide Billie with a richer understanding of history, and a feeling of deep connection to the young writer whose courage in the face of hardship inspires Billie to comes to terms with her fears, her big sister and her ability to open her heart to love.


My two-bits:

Experiences at a New York food magazine and in a food shop pulled me into this coming of age and mystery rolled into this foodie themed book.

Some epistolary parts with descriptions of life during World War II and cooking.

And a touch of romance plays a part as well.

Cake recipe included.

~*~

* Listened to audiobook version.

* part of Foodies Read Challenge (here)



Saturday, January 21, 2017

Stacking the Shelves & Sunday Post - 1.21.17


Stacking the Shelves hosted by Tynga's Reviews (details)
AND
Sunday Post hosted by Caffeinated Book Reviewer (details)

~*~


Between watching current films in the theatre I have been buried in Alexandra Bracken's Passenger and Wayfarer this past week. I took off the book jackets to show off the beautiful hardcover designs.

Going to get into an Arthurian tale this week.

~*~

For Review:

My Skylar
by Penelope Ward
-New Adult, Romance
courtesy of Romance Read-of-the-Month Club -Thanks!
BarnesNoble | Goodreads

Luna Rising
by Selene Castrovilla
-Chick-lit
courtesy of book tour -Thanks!
Amazon | Goodreads

Been in a Romance genre mode these past weeks, so looking forward to reading these.


UNBOXING:


QUIRKSGIVING Winner Box: from Quirk books (here) - THANKS!

- Quirk Books tote bag

AND this book...

Wonder Women:
25 Innovators, Inventors, and Trailblazers Who Changed History
by Sam Maggs
illustrated by Sophia Foster-Dimino
-Biography, Feminism
Amazon | Goodreads

You may think you know women’s history pretty well. But have you ever heard of. . .

· Alice Ball, the chemist who developed an effective treatment for leprosy—only to have the credit taken by a man?
· Mary Sherman Morgan, the rocket scientist whose liquid fuel compounds blasted the first U.S. satellite into orbit?
· Huang Daopo, the inventor whose weaving technology revolutionized textile production in China—centuries before the cotton gin?

Smart women have always been able to achieve amazing things, even when the odds were stacked against them. In Wonder Women, author Sam Maggs tells the stories of the brilliant, brainy, and totally rad women in history who broke barriers as scientists, engineers, mathematicians, adventurers, and inventors. Plus, interviews with real-life women in STEM careers, an extensive bibliography, and a guide to women-centric science and technology organizations—all to show the many ways the geeky girls of today can help to build the future.

Table of Contents:
Women of Science
Women of Medicine
Women of Espionage
Women of Innovation
Women of Adventure


Perfect read for March Women's History Month.


OTHER things on my shelf: kinda book-related

Myriorama:
a collection of many thousand landscapes
Published with the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens
purchase one (here)

Playing with one of my christmas gifts. It is a wonderful prompt for creative endeavors. I love the English setting. The landscapes seem endless.


AND watched: in theatre

La La Land (2016)
Director/Writer: Damien Chazelle
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone
-Comedy, Drama, Musical | imdb | my rating: 5

A jazz pianist falls for an aspiring actress in Los Angeles.

Oscar nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Costume Design, Original Score, Original Song, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Original Screenplay, Cinematography, Film Editing, Production Design.

La la lovely! La la loved the music soundtrack! Wonderful tribute to a romantic Hollywood lifestyle.


Hidden Figures (2016)
Director: Theodore Melfi
Screenplay: Allison Schroeder, Theodore Melfi
Based on book by: Margot Lee Shetterly
Starring: Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe
-Drama | imdb | my rating: 5

Based on a true story. A team of African-American women provide NASA with important mathematical data needed to launch the program's first successful space missions.

Oscar nominated for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress, Adapted Screenplay.

Gem of a story. Amazing women! Loved learning about these ladies in history.

Nocturnal Animals (2016)
Director: Tom Ford
Screenplay: Tom Ford
Based on book by: Austin Wright
Starring: Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal
-Drama, Thriller | imdb | my rating: 5

A wealthy art gallery owner is haunted by her ex-husband's novel, a violent thriller she interprets as a symbolic revenge tale.

Oscar nominated for Best Supporting Actor.

Whoa! was not expecting that. Loved how this one got me re-hashing the story afterwards. Also loved how the film evokes a surreal artsy vibe.


UPCOMING reviews for January:
The Return of Sir Percival by S. Alexander O'Keefe
Brake Failure by Alison Brodie
River Road by Carol Goodman
Different Class by Joanne Harris
Some Kind of Magic by Mary Ann Marlowe

~*~

* comment and TELL me what you have acquired for your shelves recently

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Passenger by Alexandra Bracken

Passenger
by Alexandra Bracken

Find out more about this book and author:
Amazon
Goodreads
Website
Blog
Facebook
Instagram
Pinterest
Spotify
Tumblr
Twitter @alexbracken

Published: 2016
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Genre: Fantasy, SciFi, Time Travel, YA
Hardback: 496 pages
Rating: 5

Passenger duology:
Passenger
Wayfarer

First sentence(s):
As they ascended, retreating farther from the winding trails that marked the way to nearby villages, the world opened to him in its purest form: silent, ancient, mysterious.

passage, n.
i. A brief section of music composed of a series of notes and flourishes.
ii. A journey by water; a voyage.
iii. The transition from one place to another, across space and time.

In one devastating night, violin prodigy Etta Spencer loses everything she knows and loves. Thrust into an unfamiliar world by a stranger with a dangerous agenda, Etta is certain of only one thing: she has traveled not just miles but years from home. And she’s inherited a legacy she knows nothing about from a family whose existence she’s never heard of. Until now.

Nicholas Carter is content with his life at sea, free from the Ironwoods—a powerful family in the colonies—and the servitude he’s known at their hands. But with the arrival of an unusual passenger on his ship comes the insistent pull of the past that he can’t escape and the family that won’t let him go so easily. Now the Ironwoods are searching for a stolen object of untold value, one they believe only Etta, Nicholas’ passenger, can find. In order to protect her, he must ensure she brings it back to them— whether she wants to or not.

Together, Etta and Nicholas embark on a perilous journey across centuries and continents, piecing together clues left behind by the traveler who will do anything to keep the object out of the Ironwoods’ grasp. But as they get closer to the truth of their search, and the deadly game the Ironwoods are play­ing, treacherous forces threaten to sep­arate Etta not only from Nicholas but from her path home . . . forever


PeekAbook:



My two-bits:

Loved the action and adventure while road tripping through time in this tale. Visiting London, Paris, New York (naming just a few) during significant historical moments gave interesting trivia and perspective.

The discovery and reveals presented to the main character, Etta, kept me hooked to the end. This is a coming of age story for Etta as she finds out more about herself and family.

The side romance doses were just right without being a main focus.

Felt elements of Dr. Who and The Da Vinci Code.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Excerpt: The River at Night by Erica Ferencik

The River at Night
by Erica Ferencik
-Mystery, Thriller
Release date: January 10, 2017
Amazon | Goodreads

A high stakes drama set against the harsh beauty of the Maine wilderness, charting the journey of four friends as they fight to survive the aftermath of a white water rafting accident, The River at Night is a nonstop and unforgettable thriller by a stunning new voice in fiction.

Winifred Allen needs a vacation.

Stifled by a soul-crushing job, devastated by the death of her beloved brother, and lonely after the end of a fifteen-year marriage, Wini is feeling vulnerable. So when her three best friends insist on a high-octane getaway for their annual girls’ trip, she signs on, despite her misgivings.

What starts out as an invigorating hiking and rafting excursion in the remote Allagash Wilderness soon becomes an all-too-real nightmare: A freak accident leaves the women stranded, separating them from their raft and everything they need to survive. When night descends, a fire on the mountainside lures them to a ramshackle camp that appears to be their lifeline. But as Wini and her friends grasp the true intent of their supposed saviors, long buried secrets emerge and lifelong allegiances are put to the test. To survive, Wini must reach beyond the world she knows to harness an inner strength she never knew she possessed.

With intimately observed characters, visceral prose, and pacing as ruthless as the river itself, The River at Night is a dark exploration of creatures—both friend and foe—that you won’t soon forget.


Excerpt: from Chapter 1

Early one morning in late March, Pia forced my hand.

A slapping spring wind ushered me through the heavy doors of the YMCA lobby as the minute hand of the yellowing 1950s-era clock over the check-in desk snapped to 7:09. Head down and on task to be in my preferred lane by precisely 7:15, I rushed along the glass corridor next to the pool. The chemical stink leaked from the ancient windows, as did the muffled shrieks of children and the lifeguard’s whistle. I felt cosseted by the shabby walls, by my self-righteous routine, by the fact that I’d ousted myself from my warm bed to face another tedious day head-on. Small victories.

I’d just squeezed myself into my old-lady swimsuit when the phone in my bag began to bleat. I dug it out. The screen pulsed with the image of Pia Zanderlee ski-racing down a double black diamond slope somewhere in Banff.

My choices? Answer it now or play phone tag for another week. Pia was that friend you love with a twinge of resentment. The sparkly one who never has time for you unless it’s on her schedule, but you like her too much to flush her down the friendship toilet.

“Wow, a phone call—from you!” I said as I mercilessly assessed my middle-aged pudge in the greasy mirror. “To what do I owe the honor?”

Of course I knew the reason. Five unanswered texts.

Pia laughed. “Hey, Win, listen. We need to make our reservations.

Like, by tomorrow.”

I fished around in my swim bag for my goggles. “Yeah, I haven’t—”

“I get it. Nature’s not your thing, but you’re going to love it once you’re out there. Rachel and Sandra are chomping at the bit to go, but they have to make their travel plans. We all do.” With a shudder, I recalled my frantic Google search the night before for Winnegosset River Rafting, Maine.

No results.

“Just wondering why this place doesn’t have some kind of website. I mean, is it legit?” I asked, my voice coming out all high and tinny. Already I was ashamed of my wussiness. “I’d hate to get all the way up there and find out this is some sort of shady operation—”

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Happy re-release: Pasta Wars by Elisa Lorello

Pasta Wars
by Elisa Lorello
-Humor, Romance
Re-release date: January 17, 2017
Amazon | Goodreads | my review

Slim, successful, and soon to marry the man of her dreams, Katie Cravens is leading the life she always wanted. As the face and CEO of Pasta Pronto, a “Carbs for the Calorie-Conscious” line of frozen food, Katie chooses to live life like one of her Slimline Spaghetti dinners―no mess, no surprises, and everything tied up in a neat little package. But when Katie’s fiancé runs off with another woman and a quality control fiasco sends her customers running for the hills, it’s time for Katie to make a change.

Her company’s salvation presents itself in the form of a partnership opportunity with the legendary Ristorante Caramelli of Rome, and Katie has no other choice but to jet off to Italy to convince gorgeous, hotheaded co-owner Luca Caramelli that she’s a worthy partner. Gaining Luca’s respect proves harder than Katie could have ever imagined, however, when he insists that she must learn how to cook―and how to eat―true Italian food before he will ever agree to their companies’ partnership.

Katie and Luca's tension in Italy mounts into a fierce public rivalry that erupts back in the States with a nationally televised cooking competition. As Katie tries to channel her inner Mario Batali to win the competition, she must choose between the flavorless prepackaged life that she worked so hard to maintain and the mouth-watering uncertainty of a life chock full of carbohydrates and Caramellis.


About the Author:
Elisa Lorello was born and raised on Long Island, the youngest of seven children. She earned her bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth. Elisa is the author of the Kindle best-selling novels Faking It, Ordinary World, Why I Love Singlehood (co-authored with Sarah Girrell), and Adulation. She lives in Coram, New York.

Excerpt:

There are two kinds of people in this world: those who love coconut and those who hate coconut. I am not one of the coconut people. In fact, I happen to think coconut is the work of the devil. Think about it—would a benevolent deity invent something that could cause brain damage if it happened to fall on your head from a tree? Would it grow on trees in the first place? Would its innards be shaved and shredded into a confetti-like substance that could double as packing filler? Would it get stuck in your teeth for days? Weeks? Months? Like, you go to the dentist, and she crinkles her nose and furrows her brow and digs that torture hook between your incisors, muttering to herself, “What IS that?” Oh, it’s just coconut from a cupcake you ate in 1992.

I mean, it tastes good and all, but so not worth the effort. Give me Nutella on a graham cracker. Give me chicken marsala. Give me red velvet anything.

Don’t even get me started on coconut water.

In a span of three days, coconut managed to ruin my life.

I’d just returned home to Long Island from the Food & Wine Festival in Miami, entered the house calling out for Max, abandoned my coat, overnight suitcase, and briefcase by the door, and headed straight for the barren kitchen. It’s a habit—open the refrigerator door after a long flight or stressful day at work, stare at its inhabitants in wistful longing, and close the door—I don’t even do it consciously anymore. There’s not much in there, usually, save for plastic baggies of carrot and celery sticks, salad, a pitcher of cucumber-infused water, and at least one half-empty bottle of chablis. The freezer, on the other hand, is jammed with an assortment of Pasta Pronto meals. Since founding the company nine years ago, I’d made it a leading contender with Lean Cuisine and every other weight-loss line in the frozen food section. “Carbs for the Calorie-Conscious” is our slogan, coupled with our mission statement of “Lite Indulgences for Women on the Go.” Last year we rolled out the new Slimline Spaghetti series, and we exceeded sales projections months ahead of schedule.

My eyes honed in on the Styrofoam container sitting on the top shelf, and I peeked inside.

Breaded coconut shrimp. Odd. Max is allergic to shellfish.

“Honey?” I called from the kitchen. No answer. I went to the garage entrance to see if Max’s car was still there. It was. He moved into my house when we got engaged six months ago, and the sight of his car in my garage—our garage—still made my heart flutter with sprinkles. Like finding the perfect frame to a photograph. Proof that you really can have it all, if you want it badly enough.

I returned to the showroom-style living room—designer sofa and loveseat; apothecary table; lamps from a specialty store; custom plush carpeting—and leaned on the staircase banister. “Maaaaaaaaxxxxxx?” I called again, with a more seductive tone this time, my voice echoing. “Come out, come out, wherever you are . . .”

Seconds later, I heard the bedroom door open. Max jolted down the stairs. “Katie! Hey, honey-muffin,” he said. He leaned in to kiss me on the cheek and pulled away before I had a chance to nuzzle against his sandpapery beard or clasp my hands around his neck. What gives?

“Where’s the fire?” I asked.

He headed for the kitchen, looking over his shoulder at me as he spoke. “How was your trip? I wasn’t expecting you home until tomorrow.”

I scoffed as I followed him. “These events are getting so snooty. Pasta Pronto sells, like, five times more product than these vendors, and they’re all like, ‘oooh, oooh, frozen dinners aren’t food’!”

“Jealous, babe,” said Max. “No one makes a better fettuccine alfredo than you.”

“Especially at three hundred calories!”

“And in three minutes.”

“EXACTLY.”

He looked as if he’d just come from the gym. Chestnut hair tousled. Pupils dilated. Sweaty.

“You okay?” I asked.

“I’m fine,” he said, averting his gray eyes at the last nanosecond. “Why?”

“You buttoned your shirt wrong.”

He jerked as if someone had snuck up on him from behind and given him the Vulcan nerve pinch. “Shit!” he exclaimed as he frantically realigned the buttons. “I . . . I didn’t even notice. To think I’ve been walking around like that all day.”

“Bad day at work?”

“Meh. The usual. Cuppiecake, why don’t we skip nuking the noodles tonight and go out to dinner instead? Say, Francine’s? We haven’t been there in ages.”

I shook my head and went back to the fridge, with Max seemingly vigilant of my every move. “Can’t,” I said. “I was totally Code Orange this week. My avatar went up three dress sizes!”

In addition to the meals, Pasta Pronto had its own weight management system, complete with a food journal app in which you created your own avatar, and color-coded food rankings: Green was “safe,” Yellow was “good in moderation,” Orange was “danger zone,” and Red was “nuclear meltdown.” When you entered your food intake in the journal (you’re allotted as many Greens as you want per day, three Yellows per day, one Orange per day, and only one Red per week), the size of your avatar adjusted according to your portion and food selection. If you wanted something simpler than color-coding, you could also scan a food nutrition label in the supermarket and an angel or devil icon would appear. The app was a huge hit with our customers.

I retrieved a baggie of celery sticks (Code Green) from the fridge and plopped them on the food scale. Then I pulled half of them out and returned the baggie to its place. “This will have to do. By the way, cinnabun, whose coconut shrimp is that?” I asked, pointing to the container.

Max stared at it as if he’d never seen it before. As if he’d never seen the inside of a refrigerator, ever.

“It’s mine,” he said, sounding uncertain.

“Yours? Are these magic shrimp? Hive-free?”

He backpedaled. “The restaurant must’ve given me the wrong doggie bag.” Now he seemed even more doubtful.

“Which restaurant?”

“A bunch of us from the office went out to lunch today.”

“And you want to go out again for dinner?”

I heard a door close lightly, as if trying to go undetected, and my ears perked up like a Jack Russell terrier’s as I whisked around.

“What was that?” I asked.

“What was what?”

“A door closed. In this house. The front door, to be precise.”

“You’re imagining things, Katie.”

“You know very well I am not imagining things.” Max told people that I would be able to hear footsteps on the moon.

And then it all conglomerated into one gooey, globby mess: the coconut shrimp. The disheveled shirt. The evasive kiss on the cheek. The befuddled tone since I walked in the door. I wasn’t expecting you until tomorrow . . .

No.

No, no.

No-no-no-no-no.

I broke into a dash for the staircase, tripping on the third riser as I tried to pull off my pumps along the way, and could smell the foreign fragrance with every step. Was practically assaulted with it, like when soda gets caught as you swallow and goes up your nose instead.

“Sweetness, wait!” Max called right behind me, scaling the stairs two risers at a time. I froze in the bedroom doorway and took in the scene:

The Hotel Collection sheets and duvet: tangled.

The Sterns and Foster pillows: head imprints. One on each pillow.

The corner bedpost: shackled in handcuffs.

And OH MY GOD, WAS THAT A PILE OF BUTTERFINGER WRAPPERS ON THE FLOOR BY THE FOOT OF THE BED???

Max’s and my engagement portrait lay facedown on the night table—I wondered: was it knocked over during the sex, or did they think they were doing me a favor by hiding two-dimensional-me from the scene?

The sex? Holy frappe, the sex????

“I-I-I’m sorry, Katie. I’m so sorry.”

His hand on the back of my shoulder felt like a slab of ice.

“You . . . ? Here . . . ? Wha . . . ?”

I turned to face him. He looked like a kid who’d just been caught with his dad’s Playboy.

“Who?” I asked.

“Who, what?” he responded.

I could push him down the stairs, right now. One little shove and this would all be over.

“Who?” I snarled.

He gave in. “Cheetah,” he said as he stared at his socks.

Cheetah? Cheetah, the Hostess with the Most-ess from the Cheesecake Factory—that Cheetah? My high school nemesis? Also the work of the devil?

That was her actual name, by the way. She beat me out of the Entrepreneurs Club contest with a caramel apple moon pie recipe that she stole from a Woman’s Day magazine. She drew mustaches all over my student body president campaign posters. She stole the box of brownies I’d made for Kyle Carney on Valentine’s Day and presented them to him herself.

“She’s never had an original idea in her life! She says things like ‘O-M-G.’ She . . . she makes hourly!”

“She also eats, Katie.”

“I eat plenty,” I insisted.

Shit. That totally didn’t come out right.

“I mean, she eats real food. It’s not her enemy, like it is for you. Lately I’ve been finding that very . . . well, appetizing.”

Real food. I could’ve maimed him with a coconut at that moment. After I set fire to my bedroom.


Monday, January 16, 2017

Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde

Importance of Being Earnest
by Oscar Wilde
narrated by: Full-cast performance
James Marsters as Jack
Charles Busch as Lady Bracknell
Emily Bergl as Cecily
Neil Dickson as Lane and Merriman
Jill Gascoine as Miss Prism
Christopher Neame as Chasuble
Matthew Wolf as Algernon
Sarah Zimmerman as Gwendolen

Find out more about this book and author:
Amazon
Goodreads
Website

Genre: Drama, Humor, Play
Publisher: L.A. Theatre Works, 2009
Rating: 5

The story of two dissatisfied gentlemen, one from the country and the other from the city, who invent imaginary acquaintances as an excuse to leave their own environments for awhile. The play mixes hilarious comedy with sharp social criticism on topics such as morality, marriage, and class.

My two-bits:

I listened to the audio version of this Oscar classic and absolutely loved the word play and snappy dialogue between characters in this play.

The story telling is fast-paced and fun that has a tendency to keep you smiling throughout. The anticipation to get to the outcome of the crazy tale also keeps you at the edge of your seat.

Definitely worth seeing or hearing for the full effect.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Stacking the Shelves & Sunday Post - 1.14.17


Stacking the Shelves hosted by Tynga's Reviews (details)
Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!

AND now including...

Sunday Post hosted by Caffeinated Book Reviewer (details)
It’s a chance to share news~ A post to recap the past week on your blog and showcase books and things we have received. Share news about what is coming up on our blog for the week ahead.

~*~

For Review:

The River at Night
by Erica Ferencik
-Thriller, ebook
courtesy of publisher -Thanks!
Amazon | Goodreads


UNBOXING:


From Lit-Cube (details & signup):
Lit-Cube is a monthly subscription box for readers. We strive to pair hand-picked reads with high quality literary-themed products to bring you a magical reading experience each and every month. We mail out a variety of books & genres. We are *not* a YA only box subscription and we choose new releases, older releases, and a variety of book formats monthly.

Note: it is too late to sign up for this particular box, but if there are leftover it might be available in their shop later. Also, signup for their newsletter for a heads-up on the future themed boxes.

TEASER: February box - live.laugh.love



JANUARY Box includes:
theme: dragon
- Heartstone themed pen
- Heartstone signed book plate
- Dragon Claw Necklake
- Game of Thrones fabric wall scroll (exclusive) - Daenerys and her babies ;-)
- Game of Thrones pillow case (exclusive)
- Chips and Nachos

AND this book...

Heartstone
by Elle Katharine White
-Fantasy, YA
courtesy of -Thanks!
Amazon | Goodreads

A debut historical fantasy that recasts Jane Austen’s beloved Pride & Prejudice in an imaginative world of wyverns, dragons, and the warriors who fight alongside them against the monsters that threaten the kingdom: gryphons, direwolves, lamias, banshees, and lindworms.

They say a Rider in possession of a good blade must be in want of a monster to slay—and Merybourne Manor has plenty of monsters.

Passionate, headstrong Aliza Bentaine knows this all too well; she’s already lost one sister to the invading gryphons. So when Lord Merybourne hires a band of Riders to hunt down the horde, Aliza is relieved her home will soon be safe again.

Her relief is short-lived. With the arrival of the haughty and handsome dragonrider, Alastair Daired, Aliza expects a battle; what she doesn’t expect is a romantic clash of wills, pitting words and wit against the pride of an ancient house. Nor does she anticipate the mystery that follows them from Merybourne Manor, its roots running deep as the foundations of the kingdom itself, where something old and dreadful slumbers . . . something far more sinister than gryphons.

It’s a war Aliza is ill-prepared to wage, on a battlefield she’s never known before: one spanning kingdoms, class lines, and the curious nature of her own heart.

Elle Katharine White infuses elements of Austen’s beloved novel with her own brand of magic, crafting a modern epic fantasy that conjures a familiar yet wondrously unique new world.


===== The Jane Austen influence has got me excited to read this one.


OTHER things:


===== GOT snail mail.

- Heart card from my cousin and aunt.

- Holiday angel card from my penpal, Wenday of Wendy's Waffle, from Pen Pals 2017
hosted by Coletta's Kitchen Sink (details).

- Unicorn card from Ashley of Happy.Pretty.Sweet. The card is part of the Write_On campaign (here) which promotes writing letters. In April they post a challenge to write 30 letters in 30 days. Sounds like something fun to take on!


AND binge watched: online

The Walking Dead (2016)
tv series: season 7, part 1
Creator: Frank Darabont
Based on graphic novel by: Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, Charlie Adlard
Starring: Andrew Lincoln, Norman Reedus, Melissa McBride
-Drama, Horror, Thriller | imdb | my rating: 5

Sheriff Deputy Rick Grimes leads a group of survivors in a world overrun by the walking dead. Fighting the dead, fearing the living.

===== It was hard to watch our favorite crew get put in their place by the infamous Negan. And, the loss of some favorite characters was heartbreaking. It is such a dark period for them. Rock bottom.


AND watched: in theatre

Moana (2017)
Directors: Ron Clements, Don Hall, John Musker, Chris Williams
Screenplay: Jared Bush
Writers: Ron Clements, John Musker, Chris Williams, Don Hall, Pamela Ribon,
Aaron Kandell, Jordan Kandell
Starring: Auli'i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson
-Animation, Adventure, Comedy | imdb | my rating: 5

In Ancient Polynesia, when a terrible curse incurred by the Demigod Maui reaches an impetuous Chieftain's daughter's island, she answers the Ocean's call to seek out the Demigod to set things right.

Oscar nominated for Animated Feature, Original Song

Very entertaining and not your usual Princess story. Tamatoa, the a gargantuan coconut crab, was adorable and -- > shiny ;-) MAKE sure and stick around to watch all the movie credits for some extra treats.


UPCOMING reviews for January:
Passenger by Alexandra Bracken
Wayfarer by Alexandra Bracken
Different Class by Joanne Harris
The Return of Sir Percival by S. Alexander O'Keefe
Brake Failure by Alison Brodie
River Road by Carol Goodman
Some Kind of Magic by Mary Ann Marlowe


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* comment and TELL me what you have acquired for your shelves recently
 
Imagination Designs
Images from: Lovelytocu