Friday, May 29, 2015

Review: Nowhere but Here by Renée Carlino

3 stars for Nowhere but Here by Renée Carlino.

Nowhere but Here is a story about two lost and lonely souls who connect and find solace in each other's company.

26-year old Kate Corbin is a journalist at Chicago Crier, a Chicago newspaper and blog. One day, she is given an assignment by her editor, Jerry to conduct an exclusive interview with the well-known tech savvy prodigy Ryan Lawson aka R.J., a 30-year old bachelor who has all but disappeared from the limelight after selling off his share of the technology company he has cofounded years ago. He gains public interest once again when the winery he now owns in Napa Valley starts winning awards.

As far as Kate's her interview with R.J. goes, nothing seems out of the ordinary, but the trip to Napa Valley is truly a game-changer event for Kate's life is never the same thereafter.

The story flows well and the writing is polished. Though the plot is surprisingly predictable, the author compensates by matching it up with poignant memories from Kate on her past and her take on life such as being alone and not feeling lonely versus feeling lonely even when she is not alone.

I will say that all is quite well except where the hero is concerned. The male lead, Jamie is a character with too charming a personality to be true. Call me jaded or blasé, the too-good-to-be-true kind of Mr Nice Guy portrayed in Jamie is practically non-existent. As such, the story takes on a surreal quality with his appearance. Also, the way he worships Kate within a day or two of meeting her makes him shallow as if physical attraction is all that matters. On top of these, I find it hard to appreciate the scene where Kate plays hide-the-salami with Jamie barely four days into their acquaintance. It makes for a superficial union even though Kate keeps stressing that she is not out looking to have a fling.

Frankly, when I make the decision to read this book, I am looking very much forward to be filled with awe by both the writing and storyline. As it turns out, I am awed but sadly on the opposite end of the spectrum. For the most part, Nowhere but Here is nowhere as beautiful a story and intense as the author's debut novel Sweet Thing.

Publisher: Atria Books
Publication date: 5 May 2014


A Chicago reporter in her mid-twenties unexpectedly finds love in Napa Valley when she’s assigned to spend a week with a famously reclusive genius.

Kate Corbin has lost her spark. From the outside, her life seems charmed. She has a handsome, long-term boyfriend and a budding journalism career at a popular Chicago newspaper. But in reality, her relationship is going nowhere, and she’s quickly losing motivation for what she once believed was her dream job. When her boyfriend dumps her unceremoniously, Kate loses all hope of finding love.

With no living family and few friends, Kate confides in her boss. Trusting that the hungry, ace reporter is buried somewhere deep inside, he gives Kate the opportunity to jumpstart her career. The assignment: to interview the famously reclusive R.J. Lawson, a wealthy tech genius who disappeared years ago but recently reemerged as a Napa Valley vintner. The week takes an unexpected turn, however, when Lawson refuses to divulge any information. Desperate for a lead, Kate turns to Jamie, a vineyard hand who shows her the romance of wine country—and stirs her aching heart. But his connection to Lawson is ambiguous, and when Jamie disappears before the end of the week, Kate is left to investigate another story: the truth behind the man who stole her heart.

*Blurb from author's website*

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Sunday, May 24, 2015

Review: Cooking Up Murder (Cooking Class Mystery #1) by Miranda Bliss

3.5 stars for Cooking Up Murder (Cooking Class Mystery book 1) by Miranda Bliss.

Once again, I choose to read a book because of its lovely book cover. Yes, first impression does matter.

Cooking Up Murder is narrated by a 35-year old Annie Capshaw who works as a bank teller for as long as she remembers. She tells of how and why her best friend, Eve DeCateur signs both of them up for a 10-day cooking class at Tres Bonne Cuisine.

To get back at one of Eve's ex-fiance, a Tyler Cooper who is now Lieutenant of the Police Department and put in-charge of the mysterious case involving the death of a man in the parking lot behind the cooking class store, Eve decides to take things into her hands to solve the case. Reluctantly, Annie agrees to help.

I think it is a good idea to make a case story out of food and culinary skills, thrusting the mundane of attending a cooking class into an exciting forward looking evening with an air of secrecy.

The story is smooth flowing and well paced with bits of light-hearted humor sprinkled here and there. It is also quite funny reading about our protagonist and her culinary skills which is practically non-existent. In fact, Annie is a disaster waiting to happen when it comes to cooking.

All in all, a cheerful and relaxing read into the mystery genre which I have left off for a long long time.

Publisher: Berkley
Publication date: 7 Nov 2006


Annie and Eve are life-long best friends who have absolutely nothing in common-except a lack of skill in the kitchen. So when they sign up for a cooking class at the local gourmet shop, they figure the only things at risk are a few innocent fruits and vegetables.

But on the first night, Annie and Eve see their fellow student Beyla arguing with a man-a man who later turns up dead in the parking lot.

Now the friends feel bound to uncover whatever secrets she's hiding, before someone else's goose-perhaps one of their own-gets cooked.

*Blurb from FantasticFiction*

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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Review: The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy #2) by Douglas Adams

1.5 stars for The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy book 2) by Douglas Adams.

At the end of book 1 The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, readers learn that only two Earthlings, Arthur Dent and Tricia McMillian survive the decimation of Earth by the Vogons to make way for a new hyperspace bypass. And thus all hopes of finding the ultimate answers to the ultimate question of Life, the Universe and Everything fall unto the shoulders of these two survivors.

In this book 2, we are told that the Vogons do not like leaving a job unfinished, especially the Captain who is in charge of destroying planet Earth. So, Arthur and Trillian, together with their two Alien friends, Ford Prefect and his cousin Zaphod are pursued by the Vogons.

In their efforts to escape from the Vogons, this group of four miraculously turn up in Milliways which is the Restaurant at the End of the Universe. This is by far my favourite part of the story as the brilliancy of it all amuses me to no end. The Restaurant at the End of the Universe - it is not a figure of speech but taken literally, it means - Boom! End of Universe. Period. Milliways happens.

Sadly, other than my enjoyment of reading on how these four beings end up at the Restaurant, the same cannot be said for the rest of the story. Seriously, after the first half of the book, I have no idea what story the author is trying to tell. The plot simply degenerates into fragmented pieces that do not make much sense to me. It is no longer funny in a silly kind of way but absurd in a stale kind of way.

Publisher: Tor; Reprints edition
Publication date: 1 Sep 2009


Facing annihilation at the hands of the warlike Vogons is a curious time to have a craving for tea. It could only happen to the cosmically displaced Arthur Dent and his curious comrades in arms as they hurtle across space powered by pure improbability band desperately in search of a place to eat.

Among Arthur's motley shipmates are Ford Prefect, a longtime friend and expert contributor to the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy; Zaphod Beeblebrox, the three-armed, two-headed ex-president of the galaxy; Tricia McMillan, a fellow Earth refugee who's gone native (her name is Trillian now); and Marvin, the moody android who suffers nothing and no one very gladly. Their destination? The ultimate hot spot for an evening of apocalyptic entertainment and fine dining, where the food (literally) speaks for itself.

Will they make it? The answer: hard to say. But bear in mind that the Hitchhiker's Guide deleted the term "Future Perfect" from its pages, since it was discovered not to be!

"What's such fun is how amusing the galaxy looks through Adams' sardonically silly eyes."

*Blurb from Goodreads*

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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Review: The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy #1) by Douglas Adams

3 stars for The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy book 1) by Douglas Adams.

*** The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a kind of electronic book which tells us everything we need to know about anything. It is a book that has been compiled, revised and re-revised over the years by different travellers and researchers in the galaxy. ***

The story is about a 30-year old Earthman, Arthur Dent and his friend Ford Prefect. Unknown to Arthur, Ford is actually an Alien who arrives on planet Earth some fifteen years ago from a small planet near Betelgeuse. Together they hitch a hike in one of the spaceships of the Vogon Constructor Fleet on the day the world which Arthur knows of comes to an end. And thus marks the beginning of a space exploration adventure with advice from the Hitchhiker's Guide.

Ultimately, readers learn that there are only two Earthlings who survive the decimation of Earth to find the answers to the great question of Life, the Universe and Everything.

This light-hearted sci-fic fantasy novel is written with a dash of subtle humor pointing to the ironies of life itself. It reminds me of the American sitcom "The Big Bang Theory" and the consistent agreements to disagree between the two physicists, Leonard Hofstadter and Sheldon Cooper, who also happen to be the main characters in this popular TV series.

Yes, I enjoy reading this book, it is funny in a silly kind of way. But there are also times when my attention drifts from the plot as it gets too technical for me. Also, I feel that there are too many characters making guest appearances. The pros of having characters pop in and out quickly is that the story can move along at a fast pace. But unfortunately, it also leaves me feeling disconnected a tad too oft until the story is fully presented as a whole.

Publisher: Pan; Main Market Ed. edition
Publication date : 1 Sep 2009

*** Favourite quote ***

The History of every major Galactic Civilization tends to pass through three distinct and recognizable phases, those of Survival, Inquiry and Sophistication, otherwise known as the How, Why and Where phases.

~ The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy
Douglas Adams


Seconds before the Earth is demolished to make way for a galactic freeway, Arthur Dent is plucked off the planet by his friend Ford Prefect, a researcher for the revised edition of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy who, for the last fifteen years, has been posing as an out-of-work actor.

Together this dynamic pair begin a journey through space aided by quotes from The Hitchhiker's Guide ("A towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have") and a galaxy-full of fellow travelers: Zaphod Beeblebrox--the two-headed, three-armed ex-hippie and totally out-to-lunch president of the galaxy; Trillian, Zaphod's girlfriend (formally Tricia McMillan), whom Arthur tried to pick up at a cocktail party once upon a time zone; Marvin, a paranoid, brilliant, and chronically depressed robot; Veet Voojagig, a former graduate student who is obsessed with the disappearance of all the ballpoint pens he bought over the years.

*Blurb from Goodreads*

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Thursday, May 14, 2015

Review: A Hopeless Romantic by Harriet Evans

4 stars for A Hopeless Romantic by Harriet Evans.

I choose to give this book a go because I like the book cover. Somehow, a lone girl tipping on the edge of the fountain with overhanging heart-shaped leaves just tug at my heartstrings. At the end of it all, I am glad to say it is a decision I do not regret because the story is worth my time reading.

As the title suggests, A Hopeless Romantic is about romance and the hopelessness of being one such person. Laura Foster, 28 years old, is a dreamer, a hopeless romantic who falls in love easily, too easily in fact and is as blind as a bat when things go haywire. She believes in meeting The One and every man she meets has the potential to be The One after the first five minutes as she drifts off to her Laura Land making fantasies about the man she has just met. However in place of meeting The One, she always fall in love with the Wrong One, and the most inconvenient person at that.

Laura never seems to wake up from her romantic fantasies. Instead of learning from past relationships gone bad, she fleets from one to another until her personal life goes into a downward spiral such that both her job and relationship with her bestie take a turn for the worse.

I am so glad when the author introduces Laura's grandmother for the wisdom of this elderly is priceless. As the author dictates, Mary Fielding is still very much beautiful as she has been 3 decades before and carries her age with an elegance that has nothing to do with branded clothes or fine airs. As I read on, this granny character brings to my mind the Chinese proverb "the older the ginger, the better the spice". Not only is Laura's Gran not judgemental, she has the acumen to break the situation down for Laura and dish out very insightful advice.

Having never met my grandmothers, both paternal and maternal who pass away before I am even born, I greatly envy the special relationship Laura has with her Gran. She is indeed very lucky to be able to talk with her Gran over anything that is on her mind, be it life, family, work, relationships and love. The conversations between Laura and her Gran are always heartwarming and filled with much love and concern.

The entire story is made up of 4 parts. Part 1 is about Laura and her life in London. Part 2 concentrates on Laura holidaying in Norfolk with her Gran and parents. Of the 4 parts, this is one I enjoy the least as the pace is very much slower in tandem with the holiday mood. Part 3 sees the return of Laura back in London again and her attempts to box up memories of the past. Part 4 transports Laura back to Norfolk to wrap up some unfinished business. It is a section that evolves around a thought-provoking topic: Do people fall in love with each other because they simply fall in love or because it is convenient?

All in all, A Hopeless Romantic is a good story about the cold hard facts of life, about how totally different the reality is and can be. It is a story on life, love, family ties and relationships intended for the soul. It also brings across the message that it is a blessing to be filled with the capacity to love and that one should be proud of this trait and use it wisely.

Publisher: Pocket Books
Publication date: 9 Oct 2007

*** Favourite quote ***

Every time was the last time. Every time was the first time.

~ A Hopeless Romantic
Harriet Evans


Laura Foster is a hopeless romantic. It is her most endearing characteristic, yet consistently leads her into trouble. Friends and family look on with amused tolerance – until Laura’s inability to tell reality from romantic dreams causes betrayal and a …

*Blurb from author's website*

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Thursday, May 7, 2015

Review: Undercover Magic (Shifty Magic #2) by Judy Teel

2 stars for Undercover Magic (Shifty Magic book 2) by Judy Teel.

Expectations are a funny thing. You take great delight in it when you are caught unaware but are filled with dismay when the expectations fail to live it up. Very often, I am a victim of my own expectations. I get disappointed hard and fast when the high hopes I pin on a book turn out vastly different. The thing is, who doesn't?

In Undercover Magic, our heroine, Addison Kittner is tasked to find the person behind the organization responsible for the manufacturing and peddling of drugs derived from vampires' venom. Faced with threats of harm coming to those she loves and cares for, a reluctant Addison has no choice but to seek and flush out said criminal by all means.

Regrettably, I do not find myself reading and enjoying this book. There are more things I dislike than like and together they make for a wearisome reading experience. For one, the writing has shifted from first person narration in book 1 Shifty Magic to a mixture of first and third person narration in this book 2. It feels as if the author cannot make up her mind on the type of narration she feels best and so settles for a in-between.

I understand that many authors enjoy weaving some kind of love triangle tales involving a vamp, a were and a human. Unfortunately, the idea is now so common that there is hardly anything endearing about such complicated relationships unless the plot is spectacularly tailor-made and does not involve making a century old vampire appear downright foolish in either behavior or action.

If the plot is broken down into its individual subplots, there is actually nothing seriously wrong. But when I view it as a whole, it is just not cut out for me.

Publisher: Judy P. Mills
Publication date: 10 Dec 2013


A ruthless drug dealer that must be stopped…

Addison’s partner and on-the-sly boyfriend, werewolf FBI agent Cooper Daine, has been trying to find out who’s behind a powerful new drug made from vampire venom mixed with magic.  But when he gets too close to the truth, he finds himself falsely accused of taking bribes from the very drug cartel he hunts.

Addison knows he’s innocent, but the FBI have other ideas and suddenly she finds herself in their sights. When they come knocking on her door and decide breaking it down is more effective, she does what any smart ex-street kid would, she runs. Next thing she knows, someone’s trying to assassinate Cooper, Lord Bellmonte is threatening to hurt her friends if she doesn’t find out who’s making the drug, and talented kid practitioners are disappearing from their school without a trace.

As the lies pile up, one thing becomes clear–the mastermind behind the drugs is someone more powerful and evil than anything she’s ever come up against. Addison doesn’t stand a chance of winning. Not without giving up the one thing she treasures most —

Her humanity.

*Blurb from author's website*

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Monday, May 4, 2015

Review: Shifty Magic (Shifty Magic #1) by Judy Teel

3.5 stars for Shifty Magic (Shifty Magic book 1) by Judy Teel.

I cannot help but do a double take when I first come across this book because the 'f' in shifty appears so much like a 't' at one glance that my mind cannot shake out the impossibility of such a title. Surprisingly, the naming of the author's debut novel catches and intrigues me to an extent that I decide to explore this series.

Not sure if it's purely coincidental, but lately it seems that my choice readings are mostly penned in the yet-to-come future. It makes me wonder how my feelings will turn out if I actually read the book in terra year 2033 or after. So here we go. The story takes place in Charlotte in year 2033 and is told through the eyes of 19-year old Addison Kittner, a licensed private investigator and bounty hunter since 2032.

As it usually is, the plot centers around our heroine and her attempt to solve the mystery of a renegade vampire that has been murdered and drained of blood. While at it, the author introduces the 3 paranormal types in this urban fantasy world - vamps, weres and practitioners who are essentially humans but possess the uncanny ability to see beyond the physical and to work with other levels of reality. What good is a story without a hero? I am glad the author agrees and throws in our man in the form of a FBI agent, Cooper Daine.

I have read a lot of paranormal romance and urban fantasy novels. Yes, A. LOT. And because of this 'a lot', it takes much much more than your run-of-the-mill story to impress me. Come on, there is just that much to how a vampire or a werewolf can be, no matter how different, the basics are almost always the same, more or less. So what makes Shifty Magics any different? Actually it doesn't. It does not even rank up high in terms of originality. What impresses me instead is the writing and maturity level of our heroine that the author doles out. If the author has not, at any point, revealed the age of Addison, I will definitely have pegged her in the age bracket of mid to late twenties.

All in all, Shifty Magic is an enjoyable novel in the first of a series. The author, with heaps of writing potential up her sleeve, is one to watch out for. Lastly, hurry up and go grab your free copy of this book 1 at Not sure if or when the promotion will end, but at time of posting this review, it is available FOC for your reading pleasure.

Publisher: Judy P. Mills; 1 edition
Publication date: 11 May 2013


A serial killer in a paranormal dystopian world…

One night Addison comes across a girl about to be killed by three rogue vampires. She kicks some vamp butt and saves the girl, but one of the vamps escapes. Just her luck, he turns up dead the next morning, inspiring the vampire leaders to put pressure on her to solve the case or take the rap.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, her ex-lover, werewolf FBI agent, Cooper Daine, approaches her and gives her an offer she can’t refuse…a paycheck. Mixing business with lust is never a good idea, but neither is starving, so she accepts.

But as the body count builds, Addison finds herself embroiled in an ever deepening and dangerous mystery. One that leads her to something frighteningly personal. Her unknown heritage.

*Blurb from author's website*

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