Monday, December 30, 2013

Announcement: Co-Blogger Search

Photo Credit: leontine via Compfight cc

Hi guys! As some of you might know I started blogging earlier this year and absolutely fell in love with it. From discovering an amazing variety of wonderful blogs out there, to connecting with readers, authors, and of course other bloggers, not to mention the fabulous books I got to read this year, I feel I’ve been pretty fortunate and have to thank all of you for your support and encouragement along the way. My sincere wish is to continue sharing my love for books (and hopefully cooking!) with you. However, I feel that the blog and I can really benefit from finding or joining together with some new partner(s) in crime. So, this is a call to all: if you or anyone you know is looking for any type of co-blogging opportunities I would be happy to hear about it!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Recipe: Olivier Salad

I hope there is another post that I will have a chance to share with you before the year ends, but here’s one I’ve been planning for awhile – a traditional Russian dish that always reminds me of the holidays. And while we are talking holidays let me wish you lots of love, laughter, happiness, and many great reads in the coming year!

Happy New Year!


I can’t believe it, but 2014 is just around the corner and as we get ready to celebrate the New Year it is time to whip up some classics. And the Russian holiday table will not be complete without its most popular dish - the Olivier Salad (or Stolichny Salad as it is also known). I grew up eating the Olivier Salad and can’t imagine it any other way, but there are as many variations of this dish as there are cooks. So here’s my take on the Russian classic, as promised Lori!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Hi guys! I’ve been crazy busy these past few weeks: lots of work, last minute errands, and everything else in between. I’m tired just thinking about it, still the holidays are here and I’m ready to take a well deserved break. The presents are wrapped, the house is decorated and delicious treats are cooking in the kitchen. And speaking of treats, if you need a last minute holiday treat idea then try these Eggnog Doughnut Muffins from The Kitchn. They were absolutely delicious when I made them the other night, and the divine aroma when they came out of the oven… Well, you get the idea, so try them!

Merry Christmas!

Victoria, xoxo

Monday, December 23, 2013

Book Review: Chasing the Star Garden

Chasing the Star Garden (The Airship Racing Chronicles #1)
Melanie Karsak

Release Date: December 4, 2013

Book Description:
An opium-addicted beauty.
An infamous poet living in self-imposed exile.
An ancient treasure about to fall into the wrong hands.

Melanie Karsak's Chasing the Star Garden takes readers on a thrilling adventure from the gritty opium dens of gaslamp London to the gem-colored waters of the ancient world. Lily Stargazer, a loveable but reckless airship racer with a famous lover and shattered past, reluctantly plunges into a centuries-old mystery in a romantic adventure best described as Dan Brown meets Mary Shelley.

It all begins on one of the worst days of Lily’s life. She just lost the London leg of the 1823 Airship Grand Prix. To top it off, a harlequin fleeing from constables shoved a kaleidoscope down her pants, told her to fly to Venice, then threw himself from her airship tower. What’s a girl to do? For Lily, the answer is easy: drink absinthe and smoke opium.

Lily’s lover, Lord Byron, encourages her to make the trip to Venice. Lily soon finds herself at the heart of an ancient mystery which has her running from her past and chasing true love and the stars along the way.

Amazon US | Goodreads

I must apologize it took me so long to write my review because Chasing the Star Garden is an absolutely wonderful, steampunk adventure novel that I can’t wait to share with you! Part romance, part mystery, with a fabulous cast of characters and beautiful world-building, a sprinkle of history and mythology – it is a charming and a thoroughly enjoyable read.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Book Review: City of Lost Dreams

City of Lost Dreams (City of Dark Magic #2)
Magnus Flyte

Release Date: November 26, 2013

Magnus Flyte

Book Description:
The exhilarating, genre-bending sequel to the sensational New York Times bestseller City of Dark Magic

In this action-packed sequel to City of Dark Magic, we find musicologist Sarah Weston in Vienna in search of a cure for her friend Pollina, who is now gravely ill and who may not have much time left. Meanwhile, Nicolas Pertusato, in London in search of an ancient alchemical cure for the girl, discovers an old enemy is one step ahead of him. In Prague, Prince Max tries to unravel the strange reappearance of a long dead saint while being pursued by a seductive red-headed historian with dark motives of her own.

In the city of Beethoven, Mozart, and Freud, Sarah becomes the target in a deadly web of intrigue that involves a scientist on the run, stolen art, seductive pastries, a few surprises from long-dead alchemists, a distractingly attractive horseman who’s more than a little bloodthirsty, and a trail of secrets and lies. But nothing will be more dangerous than the brilliant and vindictive villain who seeks to bend time itself. Sarah must travel deep into an ancient mystery to save the people she loves.

Amazon US | Goodreads

“I'm sorry to bother you but it's an emergency," she told Alessandro. "I need a drug test.” City of Lost Dreams (p. 86).

What a trip this novel is! I’m pleasantly surprised and happy I gave Magnus Flyte another chance as City of Lost Dreams is a much improved, fast-paced and exciting novel. The returning cast of characters gain needed dimension as they continue on in their quest to find the Golden Fleece and in increasingly desperate attempt try save life of the young, blind, music prodigy – Pollina, whose health has deteriorated drastically since last time we saw her. What lies ahead is a web of elements that somehow balance together to create this unconventional, drug-infused, time-traveling journey through time and history, with a sprinkle of magic, questions of immortality, drive, passion and more. So buckle up and prepare for an outside the box tour of Prague and Vienna with Sarah Weston and friends.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Book Review: A Discovery of Witches

A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy #1)
Deborah Harkness

Release Date: February 8, 2011

Deborah Harkness

Book Description:
A richly inventive novel about a centuries-old vampire, a spellbound witch, and the mysterious manuscript that draws them together.

Deep in the stacks of Oxford's Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries-and she is the only creature who can break its spell.

Debut novelist Deborah Harkness has crafted a mesmerizing and addictive read, equal parts history and magic, romance and suspense. Diana is a bold heroine who meets her equal in vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont, and gradually warms up to him as their alliance deepens into an intimacy that violates age-old taboos. This smart, sophisticated story harks back to the novels of Anne Rice, but it is as contemporary and sensual as the Twilight series-with an extra serving of historical realism.

Amazon US | Goodreads

Absolutely spellbinding! Deborah Harkness crafts a magical tale about a reluctant witch, a fifteen hundred year old vampire with a taste for wine, and a long lost alchemical manuscript that is about to turn their world upside down. Alchemy, history, and magic collide in this complex and beautifully executed paranormal romance. And oh the romance! A whirlwind courtship, a forbidden alliance, and Matthew Clairmont – you’ll want to discover it all for yourself. A Discovery of Witches is a true delight.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Book Review: Mistress of the Solstice

Mistress of the Solstice
Anna Kashina

Release Date: September 5, 2013

Anna Kashina

Book Description:

As the head priestess of the ancient Solstice cult, Marya must sacrifice a virgin every year. She copes with this gruesome duty by assuming a mask of cold detachment, as her father—the evil tzar Kashchey—devours the maidens' souls to maintain his youth and power. It is his power alone that keeps Marya’s kingdom safe from all enemies—or so she was raised to believe.

When Ivan arrives on a quest to stop the virgin sacrifices, Marya throws all her magic against him. To maintain her life—and that of her father—she must destroy Ivan before he completes his quest. But can she find it in her heart to do so?

Baba Yaga, Leshy, Vodyanoi, and the ancient animal deities come alive in this beautifully crafted romantic story that will take you into the authentic world of Russian fairy tales—with a dark, sensual twist.

Amazon US | Goodreads

Digital review copy provided by Dragonwell Publishing via NetGalley in exchange for fair and honest review.

What a mess! I think I picked this book up and kept reading against my better judgment, sincerely hoping it will get better. The premise sounded intriguing enough to get me curious but the execution left a lot to be desired. In addition, I cringed at the sexualization of the traditional Russian folklore characters; there was something fundamentally wrong with this picture. I’m not a prude but I grew up reading and watching these characters come to life and they are firmly cemented within my childhood and this is definitely not the way I’d like to perceive them. Nonetheless, stubborn as I am I kept reading, hoping for redemption that never came.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Author Spotlight & Giveaway: Krystle Lewallen

It’s Wednesday and I have a little teaser for you! Check out an excerpt from a new novel Fractured Heart and scroll down for an amazing giveaway from author, Krystle Lewallen.

Happy reading!

Fractured Heart (The Redemption Series #1)
Krystle Lewallen

Release Date: November 29, 2013

Krystle Lewallen

Book Description:
It is because we love them so much that we lay our heart in their hands. So when they do not treat it delicately, instead choosing to squeeze the life out of it, it becomes fractured. A fractured heart, almost impossible to heal the pain etched into that tiny little organ.

But there is mercy...

My name is Katy. I have been ripped apart and torn to shreds by past and present circumstances. Everything that I am has been tested, and faith is slowly fading away. I try to forget the past and move on. I try not to let those events define my life. But the past, she just walked through the door, and she is about to test every limit that I can handle.

My life...just got real.

Amazon US | Goodreads | Barnes & Noble

"This is the best place to come and practice my meditating and breathing techniques. I do this every Sunday after church. It helps reduce stress." Walking over to him I listen intently. "It's all about connecting your mind," he says as he places one long finger on my forehead, "with your body." He places another finger just below my neck. As if on cue I tense from the touch but my stomach also flutters with excitement. I'm so conflicted. He doesn't linger and pulls away quickly. "It's fairly simple and slow, so you should be able to catch on just by watching a few times." He places his hands on his hips. "Ready?"

Cover Reveal: Forged by Desire

Squee! We have a cover for the next novel in the London Steampunk series by Bec McMaster, and it’s seductive as always. Although I must say, I’m still quite partial to the recent My Lady Quicksilver, which was absolutely fabulous (read my review here). Now, all there is to do is wait for a really long time cause the book doesn’t come out until September next year.

So what do you guys think? Do you love it?

Forged by Desire (London Steampunk #4)
Bec McMaster

Release Date: September 2, 2014

Bec McMaster

Book Description:
Captain Garret Reed of the Nighthawk guard has a deadly mission: capture a steel-jawed monster preying on women. He hates to put his partner, Perry, in jeopardy, but she’s the best bait he has. Little does he realize, he’s about to be caught in his own trap.

Perry has been half in love with Garrett for years, but this is not exactly the best time to start a relationship—especially when their investigation leads them directly into the clutches of the madman she thought she’d escaped...

Monday, December 9, 2013

Book Review: Campbell

C.S. Starr

Release Date: November 8, 2013

C.S. Starr

Book Description:
It’s been ten years since a virus wiped out the adult population. Across the world, opportunistic kids worked to reestablish order through the creation of uneasy, fractured territories.

A decade later, the rules are changing.

Desperate to stop his western territory from coming apart at the seams, Connor Wilde sends his oldest confidante to negotiate with the leader of Campbell, a swelling northern empire.

Tal Bauman isn’t expecting her to be so impossible.

Or intriguing. Or beautiful.

He’s also not expecting their negotiations to leave them both fighting for survival in a part of the world neither are familiar with.

Spanning a dystopian North American landscape, Campbell is the story of two unlikely companions who find themselves reevaluating their loyalties, beliefs, and futures.

Amazon US | Goodreads

Digital review copy provided by author in exchange for fair and honest review.

Campbell is one of those books you don’t expect. I can’t say I loved it, yet I was glued to it. Gripping, unexpected and unapologetic it takes you on a complex and often harsh journey of learning and discovery that will leave you craving for more. It tells the story of the post-apocalyptic world where adult population has been wiped out by a virus ten years before. Told from the points of view of Lucy Campbell and Tal Bauman, with glimpses of past and present we slowly begin to uncover the new order of life and how it came to be...

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Book Review: Curtsies & Conspiracies

Curtsies & Conspiracies (Finishing School #2)
Gail Carriger

Release Date: November 5, 2013

Gail Carriger

Book Description:
Does one need four fully grown foxgloves for decorating a dinner table for six guests? Or is it six foxgloves to kill four fully grown guests?

Sophronia's first year at Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality has certainly been rousing! For one thing, finishing school is training her to be a spy (won't Mumsy be surprised?). Furthermore, Sophronia got mixed up in an intrigue over a stolen device and had a cheese pie thrown at her in a most horrid display of poor manners.

Now, as she sneaks around the dirigible school, eavesdropping on the teachers' quarters and making clandestine climbs to the ship's boiler room, she learns that there may be more to a school trip to London than is apparent at first. A conspiracy is afoot--one with dire implications for both supernaturals and humans. Sophronia must rely on her training to discover who is behind the dangerous plot-and survive the London Season with a full dance card.

In this sequel to bestselling author Gail Carriger's YA debut Etiquette & Espionage, class is back in session with more petticoats and poison, tea trays and treason. Gail's distinctive voice, signature humor, and lush steampunk setting are sure to be the height of fashion this season.

Amazon US | Goodreads

The Finishing School series is heating up my must read list with a delightful follow-up novel! Curtsies & Conspiracies is full of adventures, secrets, mischievous characters, and lessons in etiquette, espionage and most importantly – friendship. So, if you haven’t started on this series yet – you are definitely missing out!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Book Review: Allegiant

Allegiant (Divergent #3)
Veronica Roth

Release Date: October 22, 2013

Veronica Roth

Book Description:
The faction-based society that Tris Prior once believed in is shattered—fractured by violence and power struggles and scarred by loss and betrayal. So when offered a chance to explore the world past the limits she’s known, Tris is ready. Perhaps beyond the fence, she and Tobias will find a simple new life together, free from complicated lies, tangled loyalties, and painful memories.

But Tris’s new reality is even more alarming than the one she left behind. Old discoveries are quickly rendered meaningless. Explosive new truths change the hearts of those she loves. And once again, Tris must battle to comprehend the complexities of human nature—and of herself—while facing impossible choices about courage, allegiance, sacrifice, and love.

Told from a riveting dual perspective, Allegiant, by #1 New York Times best-selling author Veronica Roth, brings the Divergent series to a powerful conclusion while revealing the secrets of the dystopian world that has captivated millions of readers in Divergent and Insurgent.

Amazon US | Goodreads

Mild spoilers ahead

It’s been over a month since release of Allegiant and I’m still trying to write a satisfactory review, it just seems like an impossible task. In fact my original draft review is ashamedly sitting waiting for me to look at it. It wasn’t good, or honest, or raw, it was more of a polite reaction to the end of what could’ve been one of the best YA dystopian trilogies. At this point, I think I really need to learn my lesson and not expect these trilogies to end well, they all simply underwhelm and disappoint [yes, I’m looking at you Matched and Delirium]. But don’t get me wrong, for all its faults I still believe Divergent series is one of the better ones out there and definitely worth reading.

“I am not all right. I was beginning to feel that I had finally found a place to stay, a place that was not so unstable or corrupt or controlling that I could actually belong there. You would think that I would have learned by now— such a place does not exist.” Allegiant (p. 276).

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