Thursday, January 19, 2017

Passenger by Alexandra Bracken

by Alexandra Bracken

Find out more about this book and author:
Twitter @alexbracken

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

Passenger duology:

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


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 fiancĂ© 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.


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.”


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.


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.


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:

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


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 -

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...

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.

===== 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


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

Imagination Designs
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