Saturday, 22 November 2014

Book Review -- Just Two Weeks by Amanda Sington-Williams

Just Two WeeksJust Two Weeks by Amanda Sington-Williams
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A digital copy of this book was provided to me in exchange for an honest review.

Jolene Carr is pretty sure of her job, when suddenly things flip 180 degrees and she is shown the door. Jo tries to make good of the situation by having a two-week vacation. She comes across Raquel, who also stays at the same hotel as hers. She encounters some troubles during the vacation, as a result of which she begins suspecting she is in danger. She dwells on paranoia and restlessness. She finds that she isn't safe even after she returns from the vacation. She realises Raquel is stalking her. To add to her woes, others in her life do not take her words seriously, brushing it away as Jo's imagination. Jo's nightmare continues and the reader, along with Jo, is in for a surprise as more strange things begin to unravel in her life.

This book took me by surprise. It proved to be one of the best psychological thrillers I've read by far. It gives a whole new dimension to elements of trust - betrayal, reality - perception, truth - imagination. Jo's character is remarkable! Having made the character out to be one that is naturally paranoid and diffident, the author capitalises on the character's flaws and weaknesses to instill a huge amount of suspense. The plot is also handled well. The narration is in such a way that the reader agrees with the other characters in the book, and inclines towards believing that all that is happening is in Jo's head. Eventually, as the plot begins to unfold, the reader can see what a horrid experience Jo must be having.

This was a brilliant and thrilling read. This goes on to prove that carving out an effective thriller is not about elaborate setting or fearsome characters - it's all about good narration and a wonderful plot, both of which this book has! Highly recommended!

My rating for this book: 5 stars

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Book Review -- Family Inheritance by Terri Ann Leidich

Family InheritanceFamily Inheritance by Terri Ann Leidich
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was provided with a digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Family Inheritance by Terri Ann Leidich is a tale that deals with a lot of heart-wrenching emotions - revolving around emotional betrayal, abuse, adultery and rape. The book talks about how one grows beyond the scars that life leaves on them. On learning that their mom is about to meet her end, three sisters journey back to their childhood to be by their mother's side. The three have grown away from each other and have also deliberately maintained islanded lives, tyring to forget their pasts. The three had undergone a very emotionally challenging and abusive time as children. Added to this, all three of them have been unfortunately assigned to unhappy present-day lives as well. They realise that the only way to gain strength to face their present and the future is to not run away from the past, but to face it, acknowledge and forgive the players in their pasts.

This is a very moving book, not meant for casual reading at all. The reader is made to empathise with, and feel the pain that the characters deal with in the book. The narration is done well. Although the situation is made out to be very grim and the author handles it well, the only aspect that the reader wishes is that there seems a stereotype that the author could have avoided. For instance, the third sister faces weight issues and there are many mentions of the adjective that the author uses to describe her body size. The other two sisters also face emotional challenges. While the first sister is married to an adulterous man, the second one is made to be an alcoholic and herself. The author narrates how the turn of events seem a result of the emotional conditions of the sisters, impacted by their pasts. The characters draw one into them.

I would definitely recommend this book to lovers of books dealing with family dramas and social issues.

My rating for this book: 4 stars

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Book Review -- Reckless by Priscilla West

Reckless (Forever, #1)Reckless by Priscilla West
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A digital copy of this book was provided to me in exchange for an honest review.

Riley is a young and ambitious accountant in fashionable New York. One night when out with her friend and colleague Jen, she stumbles upon rockstar Jax. Jax is the heartthrob of many and after an encounter that leaves them both rattled, Riley and Jax go their ways - only to be brought together again. Riley joins Jax's rock band as their accountant. While striving to do an impressive job that would entitle her for a 20% performance bonus, she also finds herself falling for Jax's overtures. She is unsure what to make of Jax's chivalry and friendly compassion. Jax on the other hand, although charmed by Riley, is struggling with his own demons from his past. Do Jax and Riley see common ground and acknowledge their feelings for each other, is what the book takes us through.

This is a breezy and enjoyable romance read. The pace never slackens and there are some surprisingly thought-trains captured that makes one ponder - such as Jax's definition for nightmares for instance. Despite the gore in the climax, the author uses the scenes well to show the depth of character in the two protagonists. Riley is a quirky and witty girl and steals the scenes many a time. Jax's character is well-etched, with various glimpses into the fact that he isn't as shallow as he is purpoted to be.

Overall, this is a good one and I would certainly recommend this book to lovers of romance and drama.

My rating for this book: 4 stars

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Book Review -- The Age of Amy: Channel 63 by Bruce Edwards

A digital copy of this book was provided to me in exchange for an honest review.

This is the first one I am reading in The Age of Amy series by Bruce Edwards. I was very impressed with the way Edwards has woven in political and social realities and views together and has beaded them into a young adult setting. It's hard to classify this book as merely "young adult" as this deals strongly with the author's socio-political stance, political realism, existentialism and science fiction. Amy, the 16-year-old precocious protagonist doesn't attempt to veil her disdain at anything flamboyant, extravagant or showy. Completely fed up with the lifestyle that her parents adore, replete with a full mansion-like house, innumerable gadgets (reminds one of the Richie Rich animated episodes) and an almost-nil human interaction. Amy yearns for the kind of life from the 1960s, when she believes people actually had time for others. She stumbles upon a channel -- Channel '63 that promises to take people right back to the 1960s. The theme park attraction, Theme Farm, lets people watch and interact with people from back then. Amy finds herself falling for Clifford from 1963. Theme Farm is run by genetically engineered creatures called Fritterz. These creatures are humans, morphed with animal heads, infused with the intellect of humans and the instincts of the animals whose heads they are morphed with.

The plot is complicated and touches upon many plot lines at once. It's clear that the author has tried to steer away from making this a scientifically driven book - science fiction plays a minimal part, although the idea of the channel, the theme park and the genetic engineering are all elements of science. The author has tried to not lose focus from the political scenarios under the scanner in the book and has succeeded at it. The pace is at times pretty fast, the narration talks of completely incredible situations - the reality show called "The Itch Factor" for instance - but they all seem to go with the deliberate impact the author aims to have. This is certainly an interesting book and refreshingly original. I recommend this to lovers of books with bigger-than-reality themes.

My rating for this book: 3.5 stars

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Of Legacies Series by Victoria Escobar

Of Gaea
Of Legacies #1
By- Victoria Escobar
Genre- YA Fantasy

Her choice will change the world.

She hated the wheelchair. Hated the way it made her feel less than what she was. Most of all she hated not being able to do all the things she used to. Ari had been a track and field star, an archery champion and an Eskrima pro. Now she was confined to a wheelchair slowly dying inside from its restraints.

Medical science wasn’t working. The tests, the drugs, the therapies were all useless and a waste of time. She was tired of wasting her time; she was tired of failure. It was time to look away from the obvious and try something unconventional.

Nothing was ever free and that included miracles. Abruptly, Ari finds herself tangled in a web of lies, questioning everything she’s ever known as truth. Never had she believed she’d be thrown headfirst into a world of good and evil, magic and Gods.

Trapped in the middle of a war she had never known existed both parties demanded her allegiance. Ari was a catalyst that could change all the rules of the Earth. But when the time comes to make a choice will she be strong enough to know right from wrong?


Why I like Filipino Food and More -- Guest Post by Author Rachelle Ayala

Filipino food is special because it is fusion of native Austronesian cuisine with Malay, Spanish, Chinese, Mexican, and even American influences. Rice is a staple and soy sauce is used, but so are chili peppers, coconuts, and noodles. Filipinos even have their own version of American ketchup in the form of banana ketchup. And don’t forget Filipino spaghetti which add sliced hotdogs and shredded cheddar cheese to the mix.
In my book, Claiming Carlos, we follow the fortunes of a Filipino restaurant, Barrio XO and its traditional roots. Choco’s parents started the restaurant and head chef, Carlos L√≥pez, adapts the recipes based on knowing his customers, what region they’re from.
“That’s because I customize it to the customer.” Carlos tipped his chin at Choco. “She tells me who’s out there and what she thinks they’re like. With my regular customers, I know what region they’re from: Bicol, Visaya, Cebu, Palawan, Cagayan, Tsinoy.”
Unfortunately, when restaurant consultant, Johnny Dee, appears on the scene, he wants Carlos to create recipe cost cards and standardize all the ingredients including their amounts. He also tries to introduce non-Filipino dishes to the menu, as well as hybrid dishes containing Filipino ingredients with those from other cuisines.
Carlos resists and Choco goes along with the changes. But what finally matters is how a dish tastes, not where the ingredients come from.
I’ll leave you to read Claiming Carlos and tell me what you think. Meanwhile, I’ve been modifying Filipino recipes to suit my family’s taste buds. We like it spicy and not as sour, so although these dishes are not authentic, they taste great and show how Filipino food continues to evolve and reinvent itself. [Don’t scream, Carlos!]
Ham and Chinese Eggplant Pancit
1/2 pound sliced cooked ham; cut into 1 inch pieces
1 long Chinese Eggplant; cut into small chunks
1 summer squash; cut into small chunks
1 cup chopped spinach
4 stalks scallions; chopped
6 cloves garlic; minced
1 3.5 oz package dried shrimp (soaked in boiled water)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 8 oz package Pancit Bihon; thin rice noodles
1 Tbsp dark soy sauce
1 Tbsp fish sauce (optional)
1 Tbsp banana ketchup
2 Tbsp Lime Juice
1 tsp Tabasco sauce
1 tsp bagoong
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
black pepper; to taste
1. Heat oil in a wok. Stir in all the vegetables and cook until tender.
2. Add ham and soaked dried shrip and stir. Sprinkle pepper to taste. Add soy sauce, fish sauce, lime juice, banana ketchup, Tabasco sauce, bagoong, Worcestershire sauce and stir.
3. Boil water while cooking above.
4. Immerse rice sticks in boiling water for about a minute, pull out and fold into the wok with the meat and vegetable mix. Let most of the liquid be absorbed by the rice sticks and serve.
5. Garnish with lemon slices, cilantro. Lately, I’ve been squirting Sriracha chili sauce on my servings.
Matcha Calamansi or Lime Muffins
1/2 cup butter; softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1-1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 Tbsp organic matcha powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup freshly squeezed calamansi juice; or lime juice
Original recipe makes 12 Servings
1. Mix milk and calamansi together. Don’t worry if it curdles. Set aside.
2. Sift dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, matcha powder, salt) together
3. Cream butter and sugar for 2-3 minutes.
4. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after every addition.
5. Add milk mixture and flour mixture into the creamed butter mix.
6. Mix until well blended, taking care not to overmix.
7. Spoon into a nonstick muffin pan (the 12 cup kind).
8. Bake in a preheated 375-degree oven for 20-23 minutes or until muffins test done.
Note: If you want more intense matcha taste, don’t hesitate to add 2 Tbsp of matcha powder.
Chia Seed Champorado
Serves: 2, Yield: 1 cup
6 teaspoons chia seeds
1 teaspoon honey
2/3 cup chocolate almond milk (or regular unsweetened almond milk)
2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
Fresh fruit or nuts
1. Mix all ingredients in storage container and put in refrigerator overnight so the chia seeds gel up.
2. Top with fresh raspberries.
I hope you enjoy these modified recipes. As Carlos runs screaming from the kitchen and Choco chases after him, I thank you for picking up a copy of Claiming Carlos.

Claiming Carlos by Rachelle Ayala

Book #2 of Sanchez Sisters Series

Choco Sanchez is stuck in a rut. She's never hit a softball and has been friends forever with Carlos Lopez, the head cook at her family's Filipino restaurant. When flashy restaurant consultant Johnny Dee hits her with a pitch, she falls head over heels and gets a makeover

Carlos Lopez is not about to lose one for the home team. Johnny launches a full scale change on the menu, and Carlos sends him straight into the dumpster. Claiming Choco's heart proves more difficult. But never underestimate a man who can cook hot, spicy, and steamy, and we ain't talking just food.

RC Bean's Review of Claiming Carlos

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Guest Post by Author Rachelle Ayala

About the Author
Rachelle Ayala is a bestselling Asian American author of dramatic romantic suspense and humorous, sexy contemporary romances. Her heroines are feisty and her heroes hot. She writes emotionally challenging stories but believes in the power of love and hope.

Rachelle is the founder of an online writing group, Romance in a Month, an active member of the California Writer's Club, Fremont Chapter, and a volunteer for the World Literary Cafe. She is a very happy woman and lives in California with her husband. She has won awards in multicultural and historical romance

1st Prize - $20 Amazon Gift Card
2nd Prize - Choice of Rachelle Ayala's eBooks

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