Thursday, January 30, 2014

Book Review: Archetype

Archetype (Archetype #1)
M.D. Waters

Release Date: February 6, 2014

Book Description:
Introducing a breathtakingly inventive futuristic suspense novel about one woman who rebels against everything she is told to believe.

Emma wakes in a hospital, with no memory of what came before. Her husband, Declan, a powerful, seductive man, provides her with new memories, but her dreams contradict his stories, showing her a past life she can’t believe possible: memories of war, of a camp where girls are trained to be wives, of love for another man. Something inside her tells her not to speak of this, but she does not know why. She only knows she is at war with herself.

Suppressing those dreams during daylight hours, Emma lets Declan mold her into a happily married woman and begins to fall in love with him. But the day Noah stands before her, the line between her reality and dreams shatters.

In a future where women are a rare commodity, Emma fights for freedom but is held captive by the love of two men—one her husband, the other her worst enemy. If only she could remember which is which. . . .
The first novel in a two-part series, Archetype heralds the arrival of a truly memorable character—and the talented author who created her.

Amazon US | Goodreads

Digital copy provided by Penguin’s First to Read Program. This review is my honest opinion.

ar•che•type noun \ˈär-ki-ˌtīp\
: a perfect example of something

Sometimes the hardest books to review are the ones that you’ve enjoyed the most and this stunning debut novel by M.D. Waters is just that kind of a book. Archetype tells the story of Emma, when she wakes up in a hospital with no memories to guide her on and an uncanny voice inside her head warning not to trust her current reality.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Book Review: Friends Without Benefits

Friends Without Benefits (Knitting in the City #2)
Penny Reid

Release Date: September 29, 2013

Penny Reid

Book Description:
Friends Without Benefits can be read as a standalone, is a full length 120k word novel, and is book#2 in the Knitting in the City Series.

There are three things you need to know about Elizabeth Finney: 1) She suffers from severe sarcastic syndrome, especially when she's unnerved, 2) No one unnerves her like Nico Manganiello, and 3) She knows how to knit.

Elizabeth Finney is almost always right about everything: the musical merits of boy bands are undervalued by society, “benefits” with human Ken dolls are better without friendship, and the sun has set on her once-in-a-lifetime chance for true love. But when Elizabeth’s plans for benefits without friendship are disarmed by the irritatingly charismatic and chauvinistic Nico Manganiello- her former nemesis- she finds herself struggling to maintain the electric fence around her heart while avoiding electrocution or, worse, falling in love.

Amazon US | Goodreads

You guys! This was such a sweet romance, full of antics and sincerity, insecurities, imperfections, smart and witty dialogue, and some very lovable characters. I have to admit I didn’t read the first in Penny Reid’s Knitting in the City series but fortunately Friends Without Benefits can be enjoyed as a standalone [I love it when authors do that!] nonetheless you can be sure I’ll be reading other books by the author very soon. 

Penny Reid delivers a sexy, laugh-out-loud funny romcom that will cheer you up and make you wish that you were part of this knitting group. Heck, even being absolutely incapable of the simplest mending job let alone knitting I still would want to be part of this group and friends with these fabulous ladies. They were smart, honest, supportive, pushy at all the right moments, and absolutely hilarious. I laughed, I almost cried, and I definitely awed, because humor and love are always a winning combination in my opinion and they are perfectly in balance here.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Book Review: The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
Deb Perelman

Release Date: October 30, 2012

Deb Perelman

Book Description:
The long-awaited cookbook by Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen—home cook, mom, photographer, and celebrated food blogger.

Deb Perelman loves to cook. It’s as simple as that. She isn’t a chef or a restaurant owner—she’s never even waitressed. Cooking in her tiny Manhattan kitchen was, at least at first, for special occasions—and, too often, an unnecessarily daunting venture. Deb found herself overwhelmed by the number of recipes available to her. Have you ever searched for the perfect birthday cake on Google? You’ll get more than three million results. How do you choose? Where do you start? What if you pick a recipe that’s downright bad?

So Deb founded her award-winning blog,, on the premise that cooking should be a pleasure, and that the results of your labor can—and should be—delicious...every time. Deb is a firm believer that there are no bad cooks, just bad recipes. She has dedicated herself to finding the best of the best and adapting them for the everyday cook—the ones with little time to spare, little money to burn on unpronounceable ingredients, and little help in the kitchen. And now, with the same warmth, candor, and can-do spirit her blog is known for, Deb presents her first cookbook—more than 100 new recipes, plus a few favorites from her site, all gorgeously illustrated with hundreds of Deb’s beautiful color photographs.

The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook is all about approachable, uncompromised home cooking: stepped-up comfort foods, stewy dishes for windy winter afternoons, an apple cake that will answer all questions: “What should my new signature dessert be?” “What is always welcome at a potluck?” “What did Deb consume almost single-handedly a week after having a baby?” These are the recipes you bookmark and use so often they become your own; recipes you slip to a friend who wants to impress her new in-laws; and recipes with simple ingredients that yield amazing results in a minimum amount of time. Deb tells you how to host a brunch and still sleep in—plus what to make for it!—and the essential items you need for your own kitchen. From salads and slaws that make perfect side dishes (or a full meal) to savory tarts and pizzas; from Mushroom Bourguignon to Pancetta, White Bean and Swiss Chard Pot Pies; from Buttered Popcorn Cookies to Chocolate Hazelnut Layer Cake, Deb knows just the thing for a Tuesday night, or your most special occasion.

Amazon US | Goodreads

The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook is comfort food refined and perfected, and is on the level of its own genius. It is by far one of my favorite cookbooks and certainly one that I keep referring to all the time. And this review has been long overdue.

Let me tell you why I think everyone should check out The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by the fabulous, award-winning, food blogger Deb Perelman whose blog I’ve been following quite religiously for a few years now. Her recipes are creative, inspiring, scrumptious, and yet absolutely approachable. I simply get lost every time I open this cookbook because I keep turning the pages, unable to decide what I want to make first – everything looks and is delicious. All of Deb’s recipes both from the cookbook and her blog [which you should check out here] that made it to my family’s table turned out wonderfully, and several made a few reappearances since. Clearly I can’t help but gush about how awesome this cookbook is and my opinion might be absolutely biased [but that’s why you wanted it, right?] but trust that I’m not the only one expressing my love for this cookbook.   

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Book Review: Clean Sweep

Clean Sweep (Innkeeper Chronicles #1)
Ilona Andrews

Release Date: December 2, 2013

Ilona Andrews

Book Description:
On the outside, Dina Demille is the epitome of normal. She runs a quaint Victorian Bed and Breakfast in a small Texas town, owns a Shih Tzu named Beast, and is a perfect neighbor, whose biggest problem should be what to serve her guests for breakfast. But Dina is...different: Her broom is a deadly weapon; her Inn is magic and thinks for itself. Meant to be a lodging for otherworldly visitors, the only permanent guest is a retired Galactic aristocrat who can’t leave the grounds because she’s responsible for the deaths of millions and someone might shoot her on sight. Under the circumstances, "normal" is a bit of a stretch for Dina.

And now, something with wicked claws and deepwater teeth has begun to hunt at night....Feeling responsible for her neighbors, Dina decides to get involved. Before long, she has to juggle dealing with the annoyingly attractive, ex-military, new neighbor, Sean Evans—an alpha-strain werewolf—and the equally arresting cosmic vampire soldier, Arland, while trying to keep her inn and its guests safe. But the enemy she’s facing is unlike anything she’s ever encountered before. It’s smart, vicious, and lethal, and putting herself between this creature and her neighbors might just cost her everything.

Amazon US | Goodreads

Light hearted and refreshing Clean Sweep is a delightful and highly entertaining read. And I’ll be sure to add other books by the writing duo known as Ilona Andrews to my growing to-read list.

All in all, Clean Sweep is a trip! Unexpected, humorous, sarcastic and fast paced; this urban fantasy, gory details aside, had me giggling late at night. I couldn’t help but love the heroine – Dina the Innkeeper. She was feisty, determined, and self-sufficient [just the way I like my heroines to be]. Add to that a couple of impetuous alpha males, one werewolf, the other vampire; and you know there’s bound to be plenty of fun exchanges between these three [and if your thoughts immediately jump to Twilight, rest assured that these novels have very little in common]. Truly, even the ever annoying love triangle works charmingly well here, creating the needed tension between the heroine and her two would-be suitors and comrades-in-arms, as well as offering plenty of comic relief. The dialog alone was one of the bigger highlights for me; still there are plenty of other enjoyable aspects as well.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Recipe: Mushroom Julienne

Hi guys! Today I’d like to share this great hot appetizer with you. If you are a lover of mushrooms like me then I’m sure you’d like this dish as well. It is a Russian recipe and popular among many of the Eastern European countries, it is quite similar to a gratin and has little to do with the julienne technique of cutting vegetables as the name might suggest, but it is delicious nonetheless. I have fond memories of mushroom juliennes which were traditionally served at intermissions in theater’s cafeteria, along the caviar toasts and other fancy snacks and desserts [the indulgence of which I often found as an exciting part of the theater-going experience while growing up]. So give this dish a try! Quick, rich and creamy, served in small individual dishes, called cocottes, it’s bound to impress.

“Russian” Mushroom Julienne
Servings 2 – 4

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Book Review: The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic

The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic
Emily Croy Barker

Release Date: August 1, 2013

Emily Croy Barker

Book Description:
An imaginative story of a woman caught in an alternate world—where she will need to learn the skills of magic to survive

Nora Fischer’s dissertation is stalled and her boyfriend is about to marry another woman.  During a miserable weekend at a friend’s wedding, Nora wanders off and walks through a portal into a different world where she’s transformed from a drab grad student into a stunning beauty.  Before long, she has a set of glamorous new friends and her romance with gorgeous, masterful Raclin is heating up. It’s almost too good to be true.

Then the elegant veneer shatters. Nora’s new fantasy world turns darker, a fairy tale gone incredibly wrong. Making it here will take skills Nora never learned in graduate school. Her only real ally—and a reluctant one at that—is the magician Aruendiel, a grim, reclusive figure with a biting tongue and a shrouded past. And it will take her becoming Aruendiel’s student—and learning magic herself—to survive. When a passage home finally opens, Nora must weigh her "real life" against the dangerous power of love and magic.

Amazon US | Goodreads

When it was first published last summer The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic was heavily marketed to fans of Deborah Harkness’s All Souls Trilogy and even praised by Ms. Harkness herself as “fun, seductive, and utterly engrossing.” Naturally, I had to read this book or rather listen to it since I purchased an audio version, narrated by Alyssa Bresnahan [which might have contributed to my overall experience]. Regrettably, I had many issues with this novel which outweighed its positive elements and at the end I found it far from charming and captivating but rather dull and unnecessarily long.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Author Spotlight & Giveaway: Cindy Spencer Pape {Blog Tour}

Hi guys! It’s Friday and that means it’s time for another spotlight & giveaway. This week I’m very excited to share with you an excerpt from a new steampunk novel, Ashes & Alchemy by Cindy Spencer Pape. Now, I admit, I haven’t read this series yet, but it certainly sounds fun, so on to my never-ending to-read list it goes and don't forget to add it to yours! 

Note: Scroll for the Rafflecopter giveaway below.

Happy reading!

Ashes & Alchemy (Gaslight Chronicles #6)
Cindy Spencer Pape

Release Date: January 6, 2014

Cindy Spencer Pape

Book Description:
London, 1860

Police inspector Sebastian Brown served Queen and country in India before returning to England to investigate supernatural crimes alongside the Order of the Round Table. If his wifeless, childless life feels a little empty sometimes, that's not too great a price to pay in the name of duty.

Minerva Shaw is desperately seeking a doctor when she mistakenly lands on Sebastian's doorstep. Her daughter Ivy has fallen gravely ill with a mysterious illness—the same illness, it seems, that's responsible for taking the lives of many of Ivy's classmates.

Seb sniffs a case, and taking in Minnie and Ivy seems the only way to protect them while he solves it. But as mother and daughter work their way into his heart and Seb uses every magickal and technological resource he can muster to uncover the source of the deadly plague, it's he who will need protecting—from emotions he'd thought buried long ago.

Amazon US | Goodreads | Barnes & Noble

Police Inspector Sebastian Brown stirred the coals in his study’s small iron grate. The clock on the wall chimed quarter past two. Another night with no sleep, then. Bloody hell, this insomnia was getting to be a habit. Perhaps he should ask his superior to move him to the graveyard shift. If he was going to be awake all night, maybe he’d be able to rest during the day. It was better than what he was doing now, getting no sleep at all. At forty, he was too old to keep that up indefinitely. He eyed the half-empty decanter of brandy on his desk but shook his head. He’d tried that for the last couple of nights, and all it had earned him was a headache to go along with his fatigue. That, he could do without. It was bad enough that the British winter made his hip hurt like hell—except he knew from experience that hell was hot and dry, not frigid and damp.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Cover Reveal: The Book of Life

O*M*G! I literally cannot contain my excitement. The US cover for Deborah Harkness’s third and final installment in the All Souls Trilogy, the eagerly anticipated The Book of Life was just exclusively revealed on USA Today! Go check it out and read the fabulous excerpt here. Squee!!!

Happy Thursday everyone!

The Book of Life (All Souls Trilogy #3)
Deborah Harkness

Release Date: July 15, 2014

Deborah Harkness

Book Description:
The highly anticipated finale to the #1 New York Times bestselling trilogy that began with A Discovery of Witches

After traveling through time in Shadow of Night, the second book in Deborah Harkness’s enchant­ing series, historian and witch Diana Bishop and vampire scientist Matthew Clairmont return to the present to face new crises and old enemies. At Matthew’s ancestral home at Sept-Tours, they re­unite with the cast of characters from A Discovery of Witches—with one significant exception. But the real threat to their future has yet to be revealed, and when it is, the search for Ashmole 782 and its miss­ing pages takes on even more urgency. In the tril­ogy’s final volume, Harkness deepens her themes of power and passion, family and caring, past deeds and their present consequences. In ancestral homes and university laboratories, using ancient knowl­edge and modern science, from the hills of the Auvergne to the palaces of Venice and beyond, the couple at last learn what the witches discovered so many centuries ago.

With more than one million copies sold in the United States and appearing in thirty-eight foreign editions and translations, A Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night have landed on all of the major bestseller lists and garnered rave reviews from countless publications. Eagerly awaited by Harkness’s legion of fans, The Book of Life brings this superbly written series to a deeply satisfying close.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Book Review: Songs of Submission: Sequence One

Songs of Submission: Sequence One (Songs of Submission #1-3)
C.D. Reiss

Release Date: March 24, 2013

CD Reiss

Book Description:
My name is Monica. I'm a singer born and raised in Los Angeles.

I've stopped dating. When I cut a record, or win a Grammy, maybe then I'll be with someone, but every man in my past has done everything he could to make me submit myself to him, and it's gotten in the way of my career. I won't do it again.

But there's Jonathan. He owns the high-rise hotel where I work, and he is gorgeous and charming. I refuse to fall in love with him, even though when he asks me to submit to him, I want nothing more.

When Jonathan was gone I couldn't stop thinking about him, and the first thing he did when he got back was demand more of me. I'm willing to give him my body and my time, but I find myself giving up pieces of my heart.

My career is on track, and even though I can't write a thing, I can sing. So I'll go to the art opening with him, because his ex wife will be there. I feel this need to protect him from hurt, though in bed, his domination brings me to my knees.

This man is going to break me into a million little pieces.

"You're mine. The minute I told you to spread your legs and you did it, you were mine. When I told you to beg for it and you did, you were mine. When you put your hands behind your back without being told, I owned you. You never had to say a word. You are a natural submissive."

No. God, no.

My name is Monica, and no matter what Jonathan says, I am not submissive.


Amazon US | Goodreads

Hot, quick, with a touch of BDSM, these books are surprisingly addicting. Trust me; you can’t stop at just one…

Monday, January 6, 2014

Book Review: A Study in Ashes

A Study in Ashes (The Baskerville Affair #3)
Emma Jane Holloway

Release Date: December 31, 2013

Emma Jane Holloway

Book Description:
As part of her devil’s bargain with the industrial steam barons, Evelina Cooper is finally enrolled in the Ladies’ College of London. However, she’s attending as the Gold King’s pet magician, in handcuffs and forbidden contact with even her closest relation, the detective Sherlock Holmes.

Not even Niccolo, the dashing pirate captain, and his sentient airship can save her. But Evelina’s problems are only part of a larger war. The Baskerville Affair is finally coming to light, and the rebels are making their move to wrest power from the barons and restore it to Queen Victoria. Missing heirs and nightmare hounds are the order of the day—or at least that’s what Dr. Watson is telling the press.

But their plans are doomed unless Evelina escapes to unite her magic with the rebels’ machines—and even then her powers aren’t what they used to be. A sorcerer has awakened a dark hunger in Evelina’s soul, and only he can keep her from endangering them all. The only problem is…he’s dead.

Amazon US | Goodreads

Egalley courtesy of Random House Publishing Group - Del Rey Spectra via NetGalley in exchange for fair and honest review.

What a great end to a wonderful series! I must admit, at over 600 pages long this book took me awhile to finish but it was well worth it. There is magic, gadgetry, intrigues and treachery, love, bravery, and much more. This beautiful dark magical world, so vividly drawn throughout the series serves as a perfect backdrop to the multiple storylines explored here, each having their own unique arc and purpose. And the fabulous cast of characters does not stop to impress. At the end, A Study in Ashes serves as a perfect conclusion with a hopeful glimpse into future possibility of more stories to come.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Author Spotlight & Giveaway: Diane Alberts {Blog Tour}

It’s the first Friday of the New Year so what are you reading? How about a nice New Year romance from the lovely Diane Alberts? Check out her new novel – Kiss Me at Midnight and enter for a chance to win Take a Chance series bundle. See the Rafflecopter giveaway below.

Happy New Year!

Kiss Me at Midnight
Diane Alberts

Release Date: December 30, 2013

Diane Alberts

Book Description:
Her New Year’s resolution was seduction…

Doctor Ashley Hanes has one mission and one mission only—end her annoyingly long dry streak and ring in the New Year with a bang. Literally. When her long lost and oh-so-sexy ex-best friend, Ethan Pierce, shows up as if he hadn’t broken her heart all those years ago, suddenly she doesn’t want to bring home just any man. She wants Ethan.

What should have been one night of blow-your-mind make-up sex quickly turns into another. And another.

Before long, Ashley thinks maybe she and Ethan should reunite for good. If only the elusive bachelor will stop running from his tortured past and trust a future in Ashley’s arms…

Amazon US | Goodreads | Barnes & Noble

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