Monday, March 31, 2014

Review: Pawn by Aimee Carter

Title: Pawn (The Blackcoat Rebellion #1)
Author: Aimee Carter
Format: egalley
Pub. Date: November 26th 2013
Source: Netgalley & Harlequin TEEN


Four stars.


I picked up this book because it was one that blew up the blogosphere. I hadn't read any books by Aimee Carter before, so I was excited to get started on this dystopian novel. I'm glad I gave into peer pressure; this is a great start to a series that I cannot wait to finish.

First of all, I love the world that Carter created. US citizens are categorized and sorted by number, depending on the results of their test. The higher the number, the better off in society you'll be. The lower... Well, let's just say it's not good. The scenery is well written and the characters well described so that I could easily fall into the story. I read it in one go. I was particularly intrigued by the concept of Elsewhere- where you go when you need to be out of sight for good. I had to read the reveal of that a good three times before I accepted it!

I also loved the amount of action in this book. The plot is one big strategy game, where everyone is trying to out-lie everyone else. When you think someone's lying, they're telling the truth. You think you can trust them? Think again. I was perpetually asking myself "Wait, WHAT?" but in a really good way. I like when I don't have a book entirely figured out. The only problem with having such dense layers of treachery and deceit is that sometimes the timing seemed a bit rushed or choppy. I found myself questioning where I was in the novel one or two times, but not enough to really hinder my reading experience.

If you're a fan of YA dystopian books such as Stung, The Hunger Games and Divergent, then I'd definitely give Pawn a try. I eagerly await the next book in the series. Thanks to Netgalley and Harlequin TEEN for my chance to read this.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Stacking the Shelves [43]

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews where we get to show off the books we've won, bought, or otherwise received in the past week.

Remember how last week was quiet? Haha. Hahahaha. Ha. Yeah, that didn't last very long. My mail has caught up with me, and this week was a big one. A really big one. So bear with me, kiddos.

Yours for Eternity: A Love Story on Death Row by Damien Echols, Lorri Davis
Plus One by Elizabeth Fama
Fine Cooking Cakes & Cupcakes by Fine Cooking
Magnificent Vibration: A Novel by Rick Springfield

Race by Bethany Walkers (from the author)
Crimson Night by Marie Hall (free on Amazon)

In the Mail:
Ask Again Later by Liz Czukas (thanks Stacee!)

Juliet Immortal by Stacey Jay
Possess by Gretchen McNeil
Thanks Kari!

Flying High by Rachel Kramer Bussel
Cowboy Heat by Delilah Devlin
50 Shades of Kink: An Introduction to BDSM by Tristan Taormino
Thank you Cleis Press!

Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Scarlet by Marissa Meyer
Cress by Marissa Meyer
+ a comb, Thanks Dani & Macmillan!

And that's it folks. If you haven't signed up yet to participate in LGBT Month hosted by Laura Plus Books and Fighting Dreamer, you should do so by clicking below. To participate you only have to make ONE LGBT post, or review ONE LGBT book. How easy is that? There'll also be a read along and Twitter chats and other fun stuff. Come on allies, and join me!

Laura Plus Books

What about you? What did you add this week?

Week at a Glance:

GIVEAWAY, review, & excerpt of Twisted
GIVEAWAY & review of Broken Skies
Review of International Steampunk Fashions
Review of The Homesick Texan's Family Table

Review: The Homesick Texan's Family Table

Title: The Homesick Texan's Family Table: Lone Star Cooking from My Kitchen to Yours
Author: Lisa Fain
Format: egalley
Pub. Date: April 1st 2014
Source: Netgalley & Ten Speed Press


Four and a half stars, rounded up.


The Homesick Texan's Family Table: Lone Star Cooking from My Kitchen to Yours is a collection of home style recipes of the dishes that make Texan food so damn delicious. Featuring sweet, spicy, and savory recipes, there's bound to be something for everyone tucked away in this collection.

The first thing that sticks out to me in this book is the pictures. The photography is really well done, and it made me hungry just flipping through it. If that's not a sign of a good cookbook, than I don't know what is. The beginning of this book also features an introduction to Texan food, a guide to peppers, and what tools of the trade are best to have on hand while making these dishes. Not being from Texas (though I have visited and I loved it), this was really helpful.

The recipes are sorted according to course, making it easy to navigate and construct a Texan meal from salad to dessert. The fact that each recipe comes with a personal story about family or friends of the author gives every single plate a really homey quality to it. It really does feel like you have a trusty Texan family member guiding you through your cooking. It's a nice touch.

There are way more recipes in this book that I'd love to try than not, although I have to admit the amount of peppers used in this book is really high. I know that it's Texan, but as someone who wants only a skosh of peppers, if that, it stuck out to me a lot. My girlfriend's dad is essentially allergic to flavor (he doesn't eat even the mildest spices), so it'll be just more food for me and her!

A few of the recipes that I'm most looking forward to preparing are Pecan Lime French Toast Casserole, Steak Fingers with Jalapeno Cream Gravy, Turkey Enchiladas with Sweet Potato Chipotle Sauce, and Peach Ice Cream. Doesn't that all sound delightful? There's way more where that came from!

If you like spice, southern/Texan cooking, or just cooking for your family, this is a book that you should have on stand by. Thanks to Netgalley and Ten Speed Press for my chance to review this title.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Excerpt, Review, & Giveaway: Twisted edited by Alison Tyler

Hello my lovelies! I'm really super excited for my post for you all today. Cleis Press was awesome enough to host a giveaway with me for the new bondage anthology Twisted: Bondage with an Edge edited by Alison Tyler. Each short story features a steamy scene of, you guessed it, bondage, but each author approaches the topic in very different but equally arousing ways. As if a giveaway wasn't enough, I have the very extra special treat of an excerpt from the book!

This excerpt is from a story entitled "Sylvia’s Transgression” by Tamsin Flowers.

Sneak Peek:

“If you’re going to be noisy, you know what will happen?”
“Yes, Sir,” I whispered.
“Do you want to be gagged?”
“No, Sir.”
“Are you sure?”
“I’m sure, Sir. I won’t be noisy.”
He slapped me sharply on the butt with a flat palm as if to
test my resolve, but I was biting my lip and stayed quiet.
“Good girl.”
I heard him pacing round the bed.
“Let’s get this over with.”
I lay wondering what sort of punishment he had in mind. Then his arm swooped under my waist and he pushed a bolster cushion in underneath me, drawing my legs up slightly and raising my arse a foot or so above the bed. I knew what that meant; with the spreader pulling my legs wide, my butthole and labia were fully exposed and vulnerable to whatever pain he devised for them. I shut my eyes and chewed on my tongue, determined not to cry.
He must have been aware of my distress because then I felt his hand gently stroking my arse and down the back of one thigh.
“Don’t be frightened, sweet girl,” he whispered in my ear. “You know I’ve got to do this for your own good. You know you’ll feel much better when it’s over.”
“What will you use?” I managed to say, finishing with a slight sob.
“No, no, no. Nothing given away beforehand.”
He moved silently in the darkening room and as the light faded, I felt as if I was losing myself, sliding into a deep pit from which I would never be able to claw free. All I could hear was his breathing, deeper and heavier than when he’d first come in. He was getting ready to punish me now, psyching himself up, deciding what he would use, how many times he would strike and how hard.
He opened the cupboard where he kept his toys and I heard him rifling through his collection: whips, crops, paddles, belts, a flogger…. He’d been collecting them for years and he’d tried them all out on me. I knew exactly how much pain each would cause and as I wondered which one he would pick, a dull, grinding ache of need made itself felt in my clit and my cunt and my arse. I breathed deeply; I was starting to sweat now with the anticipation. I wanted it to start, but I wanted to wait like this on the brink forever. I longed to hear the whoosh of air and feel the first the blow but I was scared, frightened of the pain, frightened of his anger and of his desire. I pressed my forehead into the bed as time seemed to stand still and all sensation was lost apart from the throb of longing that pulsed from my cunt through to my chest.
Then I heard it. The thin, high-pitched whine of his bamboo riding crop. Instantaneously, I felt it too; a shard of pain that seared through my left buttock and up to the base of my throat. I gasped, and then I wretched as the after-burn kicked in. I fought for breath, desperate to regain my equilibrium before the next inevitable blow. This was one of his favorites; a harsh bestower of pain, of bright red welts that stayed for longer than any others in a sharply delineated pattern.
“Look at you, you’re so wet for it,” he whispered near my ear and at that moment I became aware of hot juice that was dripping from my cunt and running down the inside of my thigh.

My Review

Title: Twisted: Bondage With an Edge
Editor: Alison Tyler
Format: Paperback, 244 pages
Pub. Date: February 18th 2014
Source: Cleis Press
Purchase: Amazon


Four chained & begging stars.

Twisted is an anthology of BDSM erotica that offers a story for every kink and every fantasy. Whether you're into girl on girl, chains, voyeurism, and lord knows what in between, Alison Tyler has included a steamy tale in this collection to scratch your itch. Even the cover draws you in, making this book one that tempts you from cover to cover. Of course, as is sure to happen with every anthology or collection, I did enjoy some stories more than others. I'll highlight briefly my top three, in no particular order, in the lines below.

One of the short stories within Twisted is called "The Customer's Waiting" written by Giselle Renarde. This escapade features two lovely ladies, a boring night at work, and a few cable ties. Add in some sexual tension and some great attention to after care and you've got a sizzling story that will leave you hot and bothered.

The next of my picks is "Bondage Blogging" by Meadow Parker. A huge fan of a husband and wife duo's bondage blog gets the chance of a lifetime when she gets an email from the couple saying that they'll be in town if she wants to get dinner. She never suspected that she'd get a very special BDSM experience that is not available online. As a blogger, this one struck me a biiiiiit personally in a great way. Maybe I should follow more naughty blogs!

My final pick is entitled "Rope Drought" and is written by Teresa Noelle Roberts. When the land finally gets some much needed rain, Zeke and Ellie decide to take a walk to get wet- in more ways than one- out on their farm. The descriptions in this one are particularly lovely, and it made me wish I didn't have such a high population of people and neighbors nearby.

From farms to offices, homes to camp there's a fantasy for everyone. Though these three are the ones that stood out to me, each story is worth reading for different reasons. Each author brings a unique set of characters, kink, and voice to make each one arousing, making you want to read more and more. Another plus of this book is that because the stories are only related by theme, bondage, you can stop and start reading with ease. Fans of BDSM erotica, or even erotica in general, will not be left disappointed by this collection.

Thank you so much to Cleis Press for giving me a copy of Twisted in exchange for my honest review.


Now, here's your chance to win a copy of Twisted!
The Rules:
-This giveaway will run from March 28th to April 4th, 2014.
-This giveaway is open to those 18+ and is USA ONLY.
-It is open to anyone over that age who can legally enter, receive, and use their prize.
-One (1) winner will win a copy.
-This giveaway is sponsored wholly by the publisher.
-This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity.
-Winner will have 48 hours to reply, or a new winner will be chosen. Winner will be chosen using Rafflecopter.
-Invalid entries will be removed, so please don't cheat.
-Void where prohibited. Odds will vary. No purchase necessary.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Blog Tour Review + Giveaway: Broken Skies

Title: Broken Skies (Broken Skies #1)
Author: Theresa Kay
Release Date: March 2014
Publisher: Selfpublished
Purchase: Amazon


Thirty years ago, there was the Collapse. A massive war fought with biological weapons and followed by plague. Almost everyone died.

Ten years ago, the aliens showed up. They made one of our cities their own and that's where they stay, for the most part anyway.

One year ago, I killed two men and went a little crazy.

Today, the aliens took my brother and I will do whatever it takes to get him back even if it means partnering up with the enemy, an alien boy who makes me think things I shouldn't and makes me feel things I don’t understand.

*Click here to go to the Goodreads page!*

My review:


Three and a half stars, rounded up.

I have a love/hate relationship with science-fiction novels, but when I saw this book, I was drawn in not only by the lovely cover design, but the intriguing plot too. All in all, this is a solid read that those who read this genre, as well as YA romance and dystopian settings, will enjoy. It's worth a read.

I really liked the way that author Theresa Kay described both the characters and the world around them. I very much felt as if I was exploring nature and the city alongside the characters, and that's a great trait for a book to have. I was also smitten with her descriptions of the aliens. They sounded so beautiful and mysterious, I wanted to get a glimpse of them for myself.

I also really like the idea of a dystopian involving a romance between a surviving human and an alien. Call me old fashioned, but the forbidden romance plot never gets old for me. Especially when, like in Broken Skies, there is no insta-love, and the protagonist is a strong female who has no intentions of becoming an obedient housewife any time soon.

I started off really liking Jax, the main character, but as the book continued I grew less fond of her. In my opinion she grew less strong and less pleasant. However I loved Lir, the alien romance, from beginning to end. I was intrigued by him and his people, and wanted to learn more about his kind.

Another thing that sort of irked me was the cliffhanger ending. Don't get me wrong, it's a great way to ensure that I'll continue on with the next book in the series. But, I was not prepared for it and felt a bit let down by it.

This is a book that paints a vivid picture of a future after a collapse of the human world as we know it. It has a little something for everyone. Whether it be romance, aliens, dystopia, or female leads, you can pick your poison when it comes to Broken Skies. I received an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author:

The only person she knows who had a subscription to Writer's Digest at eleven and was always excited to write research papers, Theresa has been putting words to paper since a young age. She writes predominantly in the sci-fi and urban fantasy genres. Residing in central Virginia, she juggles two kids, a husband and a full-time job in addition to her writing and in her free time she reads almost anything she can get her hands on.
Website | Facebook

Be sure to follow the rest of the tour here!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Review: International Steampunk Fashions

Title: International Steampunk Fashions
Author: Victoriana Lady Lisa
Format: egalley
Pub. Date: March 28th 2013
Source: Netgalley & Schiffer Publishing, Ltd.


Five stars.


International Steampunk Fashions is a photography/art book that highlights the style of steampunk. From corsets and suits to brooches and top hats, this book features countless pictures and pieces to inspire thoughts of fantasy and the Victorian age.

At the beginning of this book, time is devoted to explaining what steampunk is as a style of fashion, but also how it stemmed from literature. Information is given on how things like gears and other "typical" steampunk trends came into play, making the first few pages a great introduction to those who are unfamiliar, and a good brush up for those who are.

The pages that follow feature models wearing their steampunk best, representing several countries and models of every gender, race, and size. The photographs are stunning. Being a long time fan of steampunk fashion myself, I was really excited to see two of my favorite models- Kato and Ophelia Overdose- within the book. There's also a section dedicated to jewelry, accessories, and top hats that offer up close pictures of the intricate designs that these artists and designers put into their craft. It's stunning, and I sincerely wish I was that creative.

At the end of the book, there's a section filled with biographies, containing further contact information about models, photographers, designers, artists, performers, musicians, and everything in between. There's also a reference section full of websites to visit, so if International Steampunk Fashion lit your curiosity for all things steampunk, the author has made it east for you to access more.

This is a book I would love to have on my shelf. The photography and artwork are stunning, I'd definitely look at it for fashion inspiration, and writing inspiration too. This is a must have for fans of the genre, and those interested in fantasy and fashion. Thanks to Netgalley and Schiffer Publishing, Ltd. for my copy.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Stacking the Shelves [42]

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews where we get to show off the books we've won, bought, or otherwise received in the past week.

This was a quiet week for me, thankfully. I've been doing a lot of reading both for school and for fun, so maybe I'll actually make a dent in my TBR pile soon. (Ha.) BUT I DID see Divergent, and I loved it. Did any of you see it? How did you feel?


Circus Escape by Lilliana Rose
Wonton Soup: Space Trucker Opera by James Stokoe

And that's it folks. If you haven't signed up yet to participate in LGBT Month hosted by Laura Plus Books and Fighting Dreamer, you should do so by clicking here:

Laura Plus Books

What about you? What did you add this week?

Week at a Glance:

Guest Post & Review of Partners in Passion
Review of Sous Chef
Cover Reveal: Martyr

Be on the look out for a few giveaways next week!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Partners in Passion Guest Post & Review!

Title: Partners in Passion: A Guide to Great Sex, Emotional Intimacy and Long-Term Love
Authors: Mark A. Michaels & Patricia Johnson
Release date: February 11th 2014
Publisher: Cleis Press
Buy Link: Amazon

Synopsis via Goodreads:
Happily married partners in passion themselves, award-winning authors Mark A. Michaels and Patricia Johnson provide readers with a fun, step-by-step manual to creating a lasting, loving and erotic relationship.

Partners in Passion proposes alternative models of long-term connection, founded on mutuality, a collaborative mindset, empathy and transparency. It features interviews with long-term couples and includes an extensive resource guide that covers everything from health to erotica, with excellent advice from many of today’s leading sexuality and relationship educators.

Inside, you'll learn:
- Why communication is important but talking is overrated
- How to balance the need for intimacy with the need for personal freedom
- Ways that sexual adventuring can strengthen your bond
- Tips to deal with discrepancies, distractions and disruptions in your sex life
- Ways to maintain a vibrant erotic connection throughout your lives


I am so excited to be a part of the tour for this new Cleis Press publication. I'm lucky enough to have a guest post today courtesy of the authors of this book, Mark A. Michaels & Patricia Johnson on a topic that interests me in particular- kink. Without further ado, here's what they have to say on the topic!

Guest Post:

Kink is a term that covers a variety of activities and forms of sexual expression. It is a catchall word for sexual practices and interests that are outside the mainstream—from role play to dominance and submission, a vast array of fetishes, and sadism and masochism. Tristan Taormino defines kink as ". . . an all-encompassing term to
describe the people, practices, and communities that move beyond traditional ideas about sex to explore the edges of eroticism," and we like her definition.

Initially, the world of kink seemed a little strange and scary to us. Nonetheless, sexual exploration has been a core part of our relationship since day one. Even before we met, each had a deep and abiding interest in sexuality and a willingness to explore. This open and curious attitude had its limits, however, and we both had inhibitions and judgments about some forms of sexual expression that were unfamiliar.

Some of these inhibitions were based on cultural messages that impinged on our abilities to fully embrace our sexualities and sexual tastes. It took us a while, both individually and as a couple, to discover what worked for us, a process that involved both reflection and experimentation. Actual experiences also played an inhibiting role. Before we met, we had both been to BDSM clubs in New York City – the Vault, Hellfire, and Paddles.

Most of our experiences in this realm were somewhat off-putting. We were outsiders with interests that were not really congruent with the scene, and we certainly had no understanding of its various dimensions, rules, and protocols. After we started teaching Tantra, we came both more curious and more judgmental; we wanted to know more about all aspects of human sexuality, but the idea of inflicting pain on or humiliation seemed antithetical to the Tantric approach in which each partner worships the other. As we continued to explore, we began to recognize that kink and Tantra have a great deal in common and that many serious kinksters are closer to the true spirit of Tantra, which involves fearlessness and a radical ability to recognize the sacred in what is generally perceived to be profane.

As a result of these explorations, we've incorporated some kink into our own interactions, and this has expanded our sexual palette and given us access to new pleasures. We like to say that virtually everyone is a little bit kinky, it's just a matter of discovering the particular kinks that work for you. For us it was impact play. Mark, who grew up in a very feminist milieu, had to adjust to the idea that flogging or spanking a partner was not intrinsically abusive. The key to making this shift was tapping into the pleasure and arousal that the seemingly abusive behavior inspires. This is something that's of great value in any erotic encounter. If you can tune into and feed on your partner's enjoyment, your own enjoyment will increase commensurately.

Recent research indicates that couples who have adventures together (this includes any kind of adventure from travel to sex) are more deeply bonded and have higher levels of relationship satisfaction. There's also a study showing that participants in BDSM scenes have lowered cortisol (stress hormone) levels after a scene, even if the scene itself has not gone particularly well. Kink and other forms of conscious sexual adventuring seem to be good for relationships and stress management. If you have reasonably good communication skills, these activities can strengthen bonds between or among partners.

About the Authors:

Mark A. Michaels and Patricia Johnson are a devoted married couple. They have been creative collaborators – teaching and writing about sexuality and Tantra together – since 1999. Michaels and Johnson are the authors of Partners in Passion (Cleis 2014), Great Sex Made Simple, Tantra for Erotic Empowerment, and The Essence of Tantric Sexuality. Their books have garnered numerous awards: Independent Publishing (IPPY), ForeWord Reviews, and USA Book News Best Books, among others. They are also the creators of the meditation CD set Ananda Nidra: Blissful Sleep. To support the pleasure-positive community in New York, they co-founded Pleasure Salon in 2007.

My Review:


Five stars.


This is one of the rare times that I can honestly say that everyone should read this book. Whether you're young and just starting out in the world of sexual relationships or a senior citizen looking on how to best continue, this book has something for everyone to learn.

There is so much useful information packed into this guide, I can't even begin to describe it all. So, I'll hit on some main things that I personally enjoyed or learned from in this book.

Not shockingly, the sections on kink and exploring sexual fantasies interested me. I'm not a stranger to the lifestyle of BDSM, and I have to say the advice about communication and exploring new ideas and activities with your partner is dead on and crucial. There are plenty of tips for everything, from how to admit that you're into a fetish to how to meet like minded people. Color me surprised when I found a familiar website, Fetlife, mentioned. This is a great site, and I was really happy to see it incorporated.

Similarly, I was happy to see open relationships and polyamory represented in a non-judgmental and professional way that explains the lifestyles well. They're words that come with bad associations, and I'm very happy to see the authors clearing up the confusion and connotations that encircle them.

Honestly, I'm really impressed with the amount of technical knowledge that this guide includes. There are anatomical diagrams, plenty of facts about medical conditions that effect sexual regions and desires, and even things such as STIs and safer sex. Additionally, these facts are cited in the back, along with resources on everything from sex shops to safety websites. It's a great list that includes some sites and businesses that I'm already familiar with and recommend.

Advice on how to be the best partner you can both emotionally and physically, tantric sex, how to keep your bedroom sexy, how to last for the romantic long haul and so much more are held within this book. If you are sexually active, this should be in your life. I know that my copy will stay on a nearby shelf for whatever questions may come up in our own boudoir. I'd also like to point out to my darling readers that THIS BOOK IS LGBT INCLUSIVE! Couples of all ages, experience, and orientation are represented here, so when I say everyone I mean it. This is a huge plus for me as well.

Thank you so much to Cleis Press for sending me a copy of this in exchange for my honest review, and to Mark A. Michaels & Patricia Johnson for taking the time to talk with me about their new book.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Review: Sous Chef by Michael Gibney

Title: Sous Chef
Author: Michael Gibney
Format: egalley
Pub. Date: March 25th 2014
Source: Netgalley & Ballantine Books & Goodreads Firstreads


Four and a half stars, rounded up.


Sous Chef is a nonfiction book that lets the reader experience what it is like to be a sous chef in a kitchen for a twenty-four hour period of time. The pressures, defeats, victories, and the massive amount of work are all beautifully illustrated in the text, immersing the reader in the culinary world and all it has to offer.

When I saw this book, I knew I had to read it. In addition to being a foodie to the core, I'm also the daughter of an executive chef. I've pretty much grown up in the kitchen and in the industry, and I'm no stranger to just how intense things on the line can be. I was curious to gain this first hand experience from a chef himself about what a typical day was like, and I was not disappointed.

I'm actually really surprised by what I'm about to say, but I loved that this book was written in second-person. It made it completely easy to sink yourself into the story and become the character in the book. It enabled me to feel things like guilt or pressure personally, as though the head chef was really mad at ME or that I actually did a great job cooking, even though I was reading a book on a train.

The writing itself is vivid and descriptive. Whether Gibney is talking about the other kitchen workers or the delicious dishes being prepared, you can picture it clearly in your mind and damn near smell the food on the fire and hear the familiar hum of a kitchen working in sync.

Though personally I knew most of the culinary terms or phrases, Gibney includes a glossary in the back in case the reader is unsure of things like foods or cooking techniques. It's extremely helpful and explains a lot that can help with comprehension of the story.

Honestly, I wish it didn't end. I knew the twenty-four hours were up, but I didn't want them to be. I read this in one sitting, and was so sad when I ran out of pages. To me, that's the ultimate sign of a great book. I recommend it to foodies and cooks alike, and even those who are just interested in learning more about the life. Fans of Kitchen Confidential should check it out especially. There is profane language at times but it's true to the kitchen life.

Thanks to Netgalley, Ballantine Books & Goodreads Firstreads for my copy[ies] of this book.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Cover Reveal: Martyr by A.R. Kahler

Today, I'm lucky enough to share with you the cover of Martyr by A.R. Kahler. It's the first book in a new series called The Hunted, and will be published by Spencer Hill Press in October of 2014. Personally, I adore the coloring on this one. Want to read a bit more about it? Check out this blurb!

Three years have passed since magic destroyed the world.
Those who remain struggle to survive the monsters roaming the streets, fighting back with steel and magic—the very weapons that birthed the Howls in the first place.
Tenn is one such Hunter, a boy with the ability to harness the elements through ancient runes. For years, the Hunters have used this magic to keep the monsters at bay, but it's never been enough to truly win the war. Humans are losing.
When Tenn falls prey to an incubus named Tomás and his terrifying Kin, Tenn learns there's more to this than a fight for survival. He's a pawn in a bigger game, one with devastating consequences. If he doesn't play his part, it could cost him his life, his lover and his world.

I know that I'll definitely be checking this book out. Be sure to add it to your Goodreads TBR list by clicking here.

Want to see the full cover art? Your wish is my command.

Charity Poll

To which charity should A.R. Kahler donate a portion of his proceeds from MARTYR?
The Trevor Project
To Write Love on Her Arms
Poll Maker

About the Author

Alex is many things, but first and foremost, he's a Sagittarius.

In the past few years he's taught circus in Amsterdam and Madrid, gotten madly lost in the Scottish wilderness, drummed with Norse shamans, and received his Masters in creative writing from Glasgow University. And that's the abbreviated list.

He is the author of the tantalizing CIRQUE DES IMMORTELS trilogy, which debuted in 12/12 from 47North. MARTYR, the first book in his post-apocalyptic YA fantasy series, THE HUNTED, will be published 10/14 by Spencer Hill Press.

When he's not writing or climbing in the rafters, he's probably outside, staring at the clouds. And seeing as he now resides in Seattle, there are clouds aplenty.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Stacking the Shelves [41]

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews where we get to gab on about the books we've won, bought, or otherwise received in the past week.

This week is short but sweet. I'm on spring break at my girlfriend's house, and haven't been uber worried about blogging. She had some medical work done, so my focus has been on her. I hope you all had a good week. Her mom did splurge on us and took us to Half Price Books. God, I love it there!


The Diamond Thief by Sharon Gosling
Uganda Be Kidding Me by Chelsea Handler

Gifted from Lisa:

Flawed by Kate Avelynn
The Nazi Occult War: Hitler's Compact with the Forces of Evil by Michael Fitzgerald
Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr
The Nazis and the Occult: The Dark Forces Unleashed by the Third Reich by Paul Roland

We also went thrifting, and I got a pair of brand new high heels, brand new Victoria's Secret top, a really cute Eskimo girl costume, and a CD for like 16$. And an Eiffel tower necklace. Emily and I also went on a few dinner dates this week, and it was lovely. I'm sad I leave tomorrow. Ah well.

What about you?

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Review: Bread and Butter by Michelle Wildgen

Title: Bread and Butter
Author: Michelle Wildgen
Format: egalley
Pub. Date: February 11th 2014
Source: Netgalley & Doubleday Books


Three stars.


Bread and Butter is a novel that follows three brothers running competing restaurants in Pennsylvania. It shows what happens behind the scenes in restaurants, from drama between chefs to strange customers and everything in between while all the while demonstrating what it really means to be family.

I have to say first off, that I am a huge foodie. To the point that my girlfriend sometimes implies that I'm a snob. I'm always on the search for good eats, and I'm a sucker for a good chef story. This can be contributed to the fact that I was raised by a professional chef, who taught me how to love food. When I saw Bread and Butter, I knew I had to check it out.

Unfortunately, this fell a bit flat for me. I hate to use the b-word here, but when I was reading this, I was often bored. The interactions between characters felt forced at times, and at best seemed strangely put together. Though written fairly well, pages seemed to drag on at parts, and it made it hard to continue onward to the end of the book.

One thing I did love, however, were the author's descriptions and preparations of dishes throughout Bread and Butter. These were excellently written, though they were torture to read on an empty college-budget stomach. These were the shining moments in the text, and made the rest seem dull in comparison. Have a snack nearby for when you get to these vivid descriptions.

Plus, I adore the cover of this one. Isn't it darling? It's one made to lure you in from the start.

This is a solid book that is worth a read if you get it. Despite the lagging and characters at times, the overall story is interesting and the foodie bits are worth it alone. I didn't get much of a Kitchen Confidential vibe from it as the blurb suggests, but fans of chef reality shows would probably enjoy this one. Thanks to Netgalley and Doubleday Books for the chance to read this.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Review: 77 Things You Absolutely Have to Do Before You Finish College

Title: 77 Things You Absolutely Have to Do Before You Finish College
Author: Halley Bondy, James Lloyd
Format: egalley
Pub. Date: March 11th 2014
Source: Netgalley & Zest Books


Four stars.


The point of this guide is fairly obvious: this is a list of things every collegiate student should do before they graduate. Being in university myself, I had to pick this up to not only see what else I could be doing to make the most of my experience, but to also see how many of them I had already done. I'm happy to say, by the way, that I have done a fair few.

I strongly agree with many of the items mentioned in this book. For example, that you should make your dorm room into a homey, personalized space. My first year I didn't bother, and I hated being stuck there to sleep and study. The next year I went all out, getting rugs and wall decs and things like that, and my dorm has become my favorite place to be. Another great example of advice from this book is to spend time in your library without doing homework. The library holds far more than you realize, and it's a great resource and honestly just a cool place. (And I say this not biased as a future librarian.)

I did find some of the advice to be a bit less helpful, or at least inapplicable. For example, exploring your town without a goal or destination. My town isn't always the safest, and I would never consider just aimlessly wandering. I might find something cool, but I could also get myself into trouble. Another one is that you should rent an apartment on your own. I wish, but financially, it's not in the cards. My loans are great at covering on campus housing, and that's where I'll stay.

All in all though, this is a solid guide that I would recommend that any high schooler or current college kid take a look at it. This is the kind of manual that would make for a great graduation gift or last minute advice- so much of it is useful. Thanks to Netgalley and Zest Books for the chance to read this.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Review: My Irish Table

Title: My Irish Table: Recipes from the Homeland and Restaurant Eve
Author: Cathal Armstrong, David Hagedorn
Format: egalley
Pub. Date: March 11th 2014
Source: Netgalley & Ten Speed Press


Five stars.

My Irish Table: Recipes from the Homeland and Restaurant Eve is a cookbook that features 130 recipes from chef Cathal Armstrong, demonstrating the fare of Ireland as well as stories from his personal life.

When I saw this title on Netgalley, I knew I had to read it. I love food and I love my heritage, a portion of which is that of good old Ireland. And yet, I myself can cook little more of this nation's cuisine than soda bread and bangers and mash. Thanks to this book, I have a wider knowledge and appreciation for Irish food, as well as a mighty need to make (and eat!) it all.

The photography in this book is gorgeous, and the instructions are very clear and concise. In fact, the author makes sure that you know everything you need to, offering tips on things like how to stuff a sausage and how to blanch veggies, so even new cooks can find these recipes approachable.

Another thing I really liked about this book is that the recipes are organized by occasion or event. So whether it's Christmas or a fish-filled Friday night, it's easy to access recipes that correlate.

A few of the dishes that I can't wait to try are Foie Gras with Black Pudding and Pears, Shepard's Pie, and Bakewell Tart.

All in all, this is a visually stunning and appetite stirring collection of recipes. Inexperienced and experienced cooks alike can cook from here, and as someone of Irish descent, I'll definitely want a copy of this to keep in my family for holidays. Thanks to Netgalley and Ten Speed Press for my chance to read this.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Stacking the Shelves [40]

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews where we get to gab on about the books we've won, bought, or otherwise received in the past week.

Good news! My cold is gone and my midterms are over. I'm finally free for spring break. FREEEEEEEEEEEE. Ahem. I'm a little excited. Anywho, this was a slow week because of the aforementioned studying and papers and whatnot. But, I'm being rewarded, as I leave for Wisconsin in a few hours to spend break with my lovely girlfriend. In addition to books this week, I also got a few bonus packages I wasn't expecting. Shall we?

Netgalley/ebooks for review:

I Don't Know What You Know Me From: Confessions of a Co-Star by Judy Greer
Emily and the Strangers by Mariah Huehner, Rob Reger, Emily Ivie
Road To Somewhere by Kelley Lynn, Jenny S. Morris
Third Daughter by Susan Kaye Quinn
The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys by Gerard Way

In the Mail:

Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead (Thanks, Brandi!)
Partners In Passion by Mark Michaels (Thanks, Cleis Press!)
Historical Heartthrobs by Kelly Murphy (*signed* Thanks, Eli!)

Bonus Packages:

My sister sent me a belated Valentine's Day/Birthday package including all kinds of treats, Hello Kitty stuff, and Justin Beiber duct tape for the laughs.

I'm also too lazy to post a picture, but my dad sent me a belated birthday gift too, and it's a Hello Kitty toaster. It makes her face on the bread and it's adorable

Week at a Glance:

Guest post & Review with Jennifer Barclay
Review of Teeny's Tour of Pie
Review of The Art of Catching a Greek Billionare

What about you?

Friday, March 7, 2014

Falling in Honey Blog Tour, Guest Post, & Review with Jennifer Barclay

Title: Falling in Honey: How a Tiny Greek Island Stole My Heart
Author: Jennifer Barclay
Release date: March 4th 2014
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Buy Link: Amazon

Synopsis via Goodreads:
The Best Gifts in Life are the Gifts We Give Ourselves...

Breathtaking ocean views, tranquil beaches, delicious food, and warm-hearted people...these are just a few of the reasons why Jennifer Barclay loves the Greek islands. But her dreams of living there full-time seem out of reach, until a break-up turns her world upside down.

Jennifer realizes she is responsible for her own happiness-and decides to cut back on work, stay out of relationships, and vacation for a month on Tilos, her favorite Greek island. Life becomes instantly sweeter, and she resolves to uproot her life to Tilos. But then the strangest thing happens...

A glimpse into life on a tiny Mediterranean island, Falling in Honey is a testament to the power of being good to yourself.

Guest Post:

I'm so excited to welcome Falling in Honey author Jennifer Barclay as she talks about some delicious recipes from Greece as part of the blog tour. Thank you so much for joining me!

FOOD FOR A GREEK ISLAND – from the Laziest Cook in Tilos

I am perhaps the world's laziest cook. If there's an easy way and a complicated way to prepare something, I will always take the easy option. I live on a Greek island and could probably survive on fresh fish, tomatoes and oranges, thick creamy yoghurt with thyme honey, and sunshine. Helping myself to fresh figs from trees along the path in the summer, cooling down with watermelon smoothies.

Greeks, on the other hand, will often take the harder road, at least when it comes to traditional cooking. This is, after all, the nation that invented moussaka. Don’t get me wrong, I adore those rich flavours of juicy eggplant, meaty tomato sauce and creamy béchamel; but all those different layers take some preparing and, to be honest, I reckon that’s why restaurants were invented: so we don’t have to cook moussaka at home. Basically I’d rather go for a swim at the beach to work up an appetite for moussaka made by Maria at the taverna.

The island of Tilos, where I came to live three years ago, floats in the Aegean Sea not far from the coast of Turkey. It is tiny, with a fluid population that at times barely tops 300 inhabitants, so from October to Easter most of the restaurants shut down. During those months, therefore, the oven – which has been out of action all summer as it’s far too hot for baking – is back in business. Shopping is done from a handful of mini-markets and farms, a few ingredients are gathered from the garden and fields, and we eat what’s in season. The kitchen has certain fundamental ingredients, though.

That myth that Greeks use a lot of olive oil in their cooking? It’s not a myth. Olive oil here is taken seriously, and I now agree with them – don’t spoil good food by adding olive oil that isn’t fresh and extra virgin. Garlic goes in just about everything too; I never knew you could use garlic in an omelette before, but it tastes amazing fried with onion and green peppers, and free range fresh eggs from the local farmers. The herb I use most is oregano, which grows wild here along with sage and rosemary and thyme, so you simply pick it in spring and leave it to dry in a cool, dark place. I have a stash of locally gathered sea salt, and my own lemon tree in the courtyard. So, once you’ve stocked up on flavoursome basics, let’s get cooking… and bring an easy, healthy, Mediterranean feast to the table!

Salad varies depending on what’s in season, though I love the classic Greek salad of juicy tomatoes, cool cucumber, zingy peppers, red onion, creamy feta cheese and olives, sprinkled with pungent oregano and doused liberally in olive oil. The Greek word for this salad is Horiatiki or Village Salad, and the best have a local ‘village’ touch. In Tilos we add capers – both berries and leaves – gathered from the cliffs and preserved in brine and vinegar. In Sitia, on Crete, I enjoyed a wonderful salad using the region’s sharp, soft white cheese called zigalo. A favourite light meal of mine is Dakos, where you layer the bottom of the bowl with hard rye bread or rusks, cover it with a thick layer of chopped juicy tomatoes, crumble feta cheese on top with herbs and drench the lot in olive oil, so the tomato juice and oil start to soak into the bread.

Fried Fish
Use any small fish that are in season – whitebait, anchovies, sardines, mullet – the smaller the better as they don’t need to be gutted. Wash and leave to dry a little, then dip in flour, adding a touch of salt to bring out the flavour if desired. Fry in a deep pan of oil until crispy golden brown, then drain off the oil as you put the fish on a plate and squeeze fresh lemon over them. Fried fish are great served with lightly boiled spinach-type greens and potatoes mashed with olive oil and pepper. Chunks of bigger fish fried or barbequed go well with skordalia.

Skordalia, or Garlic Dip
Chop a couple of medium potatoes into chunks, boil until soft, then drain most of the water off and mash them. Chop up two or three medium cloves of garlic and mash using a pestle and mortar, and add to the potato mix; a touch of vinegar, a grind of pepper and a generous glug of olive oil, then mix or blend until smooth. If you prefer the garlic to be more subtle, you can use less and add it to the potatoes while they’re boiling.

Grate half a cucumber into a bowl (peel the cucumber first if the skin is bitter). With your hand, squeeze most of the water out of the grated cucumber (and drink it – it’s delicious and good for you!). Chop up two large cloves of garlic, mash with pestle and mortar, and add to the bowl. Add about two cups of thick, strained Greek yoghurt, organic or farm-produced if available, a generous glug or two of olive oil, a pinch of salt, and mix until smooth. This is a great accompaniment to meat or rice dishes, and scrumptious on its own with fresh bread.
Roast Pork in Lemon
This is one of the tastiest – and, importantly, laziest – things to cook, and the more of the ingredients that come from local farms, the better it will turn out. Buy organic pork if you can. Arrange chunks of meat, some of it on the bone and with bits of fat, in your roasting tray. Roughly quarter several potatoes and add to the tray, along with some crushed and roughly chopped cloves of garlic, and sliced green pepper. Squeeze a lemon over the meat and potatoes, drizzle the whole thing liberally with olive oil and a cup of water or white wine, then sprinkle with lots of oregano. Add sea salt and fresh-ground pepper to taste. Then leave to cook in a medium-high oven for an hour or two. Add water if it looks like it’s drying out, especially if you want to leave it on a lower heat for another hour.

Gigantes, or Giant Beans
Vegetarians, take note: there are various Greek stews that use pulses – chick peas with garlic and onion, olive oil and lemon; lentils with rice – but this is my all-time favourite. Soak half a kilo of the large white beans known in Greece as gigantes – lima or butter beans – overnight in a big pan. Next day, boil for about 45 minutes until tenderising. Scoop off the froth as the water boils, leaving just enough water to cover them. Add a handful of chopped carrots, a few chopped cloves of garlic, a couple of chopped onions, a few chopped tomatoes, and handful of flat-leaf parsley or wild celery (or celery leaves), a bay leaf, a good cup or two of olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste; then leave to cook for another hour, ensuring the beans are covered in liquid. They’re ready to eat once they’re soft, but to finish off you can put them in a hot oven for about half an hour covered, then remove the lid, stir, and let them crisp and brown on top for another half hour. Serve warm with fresh bread – or put some potatoes in the oven for the last forty minutes to bake.

In Greece, generally you don’t eat separate courses but load up the table with plates of everything, and spend a leisurely hour or so sharing the food and conversation and a karafe of wine with family or friends. I hope you’ll enjoy your Greek feast in a similar way – tasting, savouring, and imagining a sunny afternoon with the waves lapping the shore… As we say in Greece, Kali orexi! – bon appetit!

About the Author
Jennifer Barclay is the author of Falling in Honey: How a Tiny Greek Island Stole My Heart (published by Sourcebooks) and her updates from a Greek island, including her irregularly updated Lazy Cook page An Octopus in my Ouzo, can be found by clicking

My Review:


Five honey dipped stars.


When I saw this book on Netgalley and got invited to the tour, I knew I couldn't resist. Thanks in large part to my dad being a chef, I have always loved Greek food and culture. I actually have a little bit of an obsession with it, and it's only worsening as I get further into my Classics studies in college. I'm happy to say, this book did not disappoint.

The way that Jennifer Barclay writes about her experiences makes you feel like you're right there beside her. You can almost smell the honey in the air and the salt of the sea, you can pretty much feel the warm sun and white sand. It's a relaxing sort of calm that lulls you into the story in the best possible way. As someone currently in the middle of taking their midterm exams, this was a great break in an otherwise stressful life. She writes in amazing detail, and makes you vividly picture the words that she pens, from the people she meets to the villages that she visits.

She also writes of her life and adventures in Greece with a raw sort of honesty and sincerity, like you're just at a bar together and she's letting you know about her life. It feels genuine without being braggy about anything she's done- you just want to pack a suitcase and explore the islands (and gorge yourself on treats) with her.

If you didn't want to travel Greece before reading this book, I can promise that you will afterwards. Falling in Honey is a sweet non-fiction work exploring the author's life, relationships, eats, journeys, and so much more. Prepare to get hungry with a need to travel (or Google Greece to daydream). This is a perfect book for lounging on the beach, or for helping you pretend that you are during the winter. Fans of books like Eat, Pray, Love and Karma Gone Bad ought to check this out.

Thanks to Netgalley and Sourcebooks for my chance to read this, and to Jennifer Barclay for her guest post.