Graphic Novel Review: Food Wars! Vol 1 & 2 by Yuto Tsukuda and Shun Saeki

I like food so I thought I’d give Food Wars! a try.  I thought the first volume was okay, but it didn’t blow me away.  Soma’s family owns a diner, and Soma’s number one goal in life is to be a better cook than his dad.  I love this storyline; it kept me reading The Prince of Tennis for a long time (and I need to catch up on that one!).  I’m not sure why I find this trope so appealing, but it is one of my favorites.  The protagonist working to hone his skills, hoping to one day surpass the person who taught him almost everything he knows, yeah, I really like that.

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Interview with Amanda Usen, Author of Luscious and Giveaway!

 

Amanda Usen is the author of Luscious, a sexy romp through Italy, featuring yummy food and star-crossed lovers.  Amanda dropped by the virtual offices for a chat about her book.  After the interview, enter for your chance to win a copy of Luscious!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Amanda Usen] Pastry chef, word geek, romance writer, mom of three, caffeine addict, hot chef lover – all at the same time, not necessarily in that order!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about Luscious?

[Amanda Usen] Chef heroine Olivia Marconi is balanced on the knife-edge of a major meltdown. Her marriage is over. She hates her job. Her two best friends have fallen in love with each other. She wants to start over, but first she has to go to Italy and tell her parents she doesn’t want to run the family restaurant anymore. Sean Kindred rejected Olivia’s indecent proposal while she was still married, but now that she’s free, he’s determined to take her up on her offer. Wherever. Whenever. Italy would be perfect. Luscious is the story of star-crossed lovers searching for a new beginning while eating amazing food, drinking fantastic wine and making incredible love.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Amanda Usen] I was sitting in a doctor’s office editing the first draft of Scrumptious. When the doctor came in and learned I was a chef, he started telling me about his fabulous vacations at a cooking school in Italy. Villa Farfalla was born! A cooking school/spa/vineyard in Verona, Italy seemed like the perfect place for the next book. I knew Olivia, the restaurant owner from Scrumptious, would be the main character. Since she made a pass at her divorce lawyer and got shot down in the first book, it made sense that he would become her love interest in the second book. The storyline fell into place in my subconscious and was born, page by page, on the computer screen. There was a LOT of coffee involved in the writing of Luscious and more wine than I will ever admit.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Olivia?

[Amanda Usen] Hungry for love!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are three ingredients Olivia would never, ever use?

[Amanda Usen] Strawberries, inferior quality olive oil, box wine

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are three things that Sean would never have in his bedroom?

[Amanda Usen] Best question ever! It’s going to take me ages to answer because I keep mentally trying on items and giggling. Okay…deep breath… a television. No hero I write will ever spend his time in the bedroom watching TV. Mementos from other women; it’s always been Olivia for Sean. Pajamas. No explanation needed. ;-)

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Amanda Usen] I belong to the Western New York Romance Writers and the Romance Writers of America. I’m constantly inspired by the hard work of my colleagues, and I’m grateful to the authors who write books that make me reach deeper and work harder to write my own stories. Food plays a big part in my books. I met my husband in culinary school, and he’s my own, personal, hot chef hero. He cooks, cleans and loves to play with our kids – now that is inspiring! I love to read the cookbooks of Maida Heatter, Nancy Silverton and Tish Boyle. I love to listen to the music of Adele, Brad Paisley and Taylor Swift. Growing up, I read all of Anne McCaffrey’s dragon books, Crystal Singer books and contemporary romances. I constantly seek inspiration from life; it’s the way I stay creative.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things do you need in order to write?

[Amanda Usen] My three Cs: Coffee, Computer, Chair!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

[Amanda Usen] Tiffany Reisz’s The Siren, but her BDSM erotica isn’t for the faint of heart or the conservative of religious or sexual morals! Reisz is just such a great writer that it was impossible not to be pulled into her world of complicated and unforgettable characters.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[Amanda Usen] One book? One book? When I was a child, I devoured books, one after the other. I was voracious. Insatiable. One book? Okay…Timothy and Two Witches by Margaret Storey. In the book, the good witch grows a petit four tree out of a stump after lunch, and the diminutive desserts have the characters’ names on them. In the forest, elves make hot chocolate that is the perfect temperature to warm your belly. Who would not be captivated by a book like that? I still have it, and my girls have both read it.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Amanda Usen] I love to read. I was a romance reader long before I started writing, so I’m always in the middle of a book. I get to yoga as often as possible to help correct laptop-hunch. Since it’s summer, we take the kids swimming and to lots of parks. We love to cook with vegetables from the garden and make summer cocktails with the mint and lemon balm that run rampant in the flower beds. WNY summers are precious, so we spent quite a bit of time sitting in the front yard, watching the neighborhood kids and dogs chase each other around in circles, and waiting for the Mr. Softy truck to come down the street!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[Amanda Usen] I love to talk about romance, writing and recipes on my blog Writer. Chef. Romantic. http://www.amandausen.com/

I can also be found on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/amandausen and Twitter https://twitter.com/#!/AmandaUsen

Thanks for having me here at Manga Maniac Cafe today! I love that you have “geek” in your tagline. I’ve always described myself that way, although I’m more of a barefoot, bookworm, sits-in-the-front-row, studies-for-every-test, hates-curling-my-hair kind of geek. I always have a book in my purse for emergencies. Speaking of books, what’s your current favorite? For the chance to win a copy of Luscious, comment below and tell me what you are reading!

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Review: Busted in Bollywood by Nicola Marsh

 

Title: Busted in Bollywood

Author: Nicola Marsh

Publisher: Entangled Publishing

ISBN: B006GR35RQ

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Shari Jones needs to get a life. Preferably someone else’s.

Single, homeless and jobless, Indo-American Shari agrees to her best friend’s whacky scheme: travel to Mumbai, pose as Amrita, and ditch the fiancé her traditional Indian parents have chosen. Simple. Until she’s mistaken for a famous Bollywood actress, stalked by a Lone Ranger wannabe, courted by an English lord, and busted by the blackmailing fiancé.
Life is less complicated in New York.

Or so she thinks, until the entourage of crazies follows her to the Big Apple and that’s when the fun really begins. Shari deals with a blossoming romance, an addiction to Indian food and her first movie role, while secretly craving another trip to the mystical land responsible for sparking her new lease on life. Returning to her Indian birthplace, she has an epiphany. Maybe the happily-ever-after of her dreams isn’t so far away?

Review:

When I was given the opportunity to review Busted in Bollywood, I jumped at the chance.  First, I am interested in Entangled Publishing, and I wasn’t very familiar with their titles, so I thought this would be a good way to see what they have to offer (I’ve read several of their titles now, and overall, I have enjoyed all of them).  Second, I love Indian food and Bollywood videos, so when I learned that the heroine goes to Mumbai, I was eager to dive into the story.  It was an additional bonus when I also discovered that I have snapped up several of Nicola Marsh’s Harlequin titles at the Borders close-out sale, so I was interested to start reading her books.  I am glad that I don’t have to backtrack too far now, because I was able to add much of her backlist to my TBR already!

Shari has allowed herself to be talked into a hare-brained scheme to help her BFF Rita get out of the marriage her traditional Indian parents have arranged for her.  Being a traditional Indian when it comes to her parents’ demands, Rita doesn’t want to shame them by breaking off the engagement herself.  Instead, she sweet-talks Shari into going to India in her place, meeting her undoubtedly boring intended, and painlessly turning him down.  Since Shari’s life is on the skids and she is wandering aimlessly from day to day after the breakup with her boyfriend, a change of scenery sounds wonderfully adventurous to her.   After some initial reservations, she allows herself to be packed up and put on an airplane without much resistance.

When we are first introduced to Shari, her life really is a mess.  She is homeless and jobless, thanks to her lying snake of a boss, and she’s having a hard time getting over him.  Even though he was cheating on his wife and their relationship was pretty much at his convenience.  Shari was so sure he was going to leave his wife, so it came as a blow to her to learn that the wife was pregnant.  So much for the promised divorce so that they could stop sneaking around behind everyone’s back. To learn that he was just playing her all along is a bitter pill for Shari.  Losing the apartment he owned and her job at his law firm were just the icing on the cake.  In the blink of an eye, her entire world came tumbling down around her.

While I didn’t feel a whole lot of sympathy for Shari’s situation, I did warm up to her right away.  She realizes that she’s made a major misjudgment in character, and after months of moping around, she is eager to put the unpleasant incident behind her.  How better to refresh yourself than an all-expenses paid trip to India?  What a perfect way to explore her mother’s birthplace.  Who cares that the food is full of fatty goodness? Or that she has to pretend to be her best friend and crush a guy’s hopes?  Ah, that’s a small price to pay to eat all of that wonderful food!

I loved the first part of this story when Shari was be-bopping around India with Rita’s Auntie Anjali.  This was a fun, glutton filled romp about the tourist sites and food stalls as Shari tries to prep herself for the big brush off.  I couldn’t help but laugh when Rita’s intended, Rakesh, abruptly turns the tables on her – if she doesn’t play along with his plans, he is going to blow her cover.  When Rakesh’s best buddy Drew enters the picture, sparks fly instantly.  Too bad he thinks she’s a gold-digger and that she’s only after Rakesh’s sizeable bank account.  Despite being a complete jerk, he is totally hot.  After sharing some not so playful banter, Shari just can’t get him out of her head.  No wonder she keeps having guy troubles!  She gravitates toward pompous buttheads.

This is a fun read, though I felt that the ending started to get a bit bogged down as Shari kept finding reasons to not confess her feelings to Drew.  She wasn’t good enough for him, she wasn’t independent enough for him, having a long-distance relationship would just be too hard, he wasn’t totally open and honest about his background, and now she can’t trust him.  Her excuses were too feeble for me, considering how much she did care for him, and her reservations just added an artificial distance between them.  I wanted her to stop taking the easy way out, to stop running from her problems, and to stand up for herself and for what she wanted.  It was gratifying when she finally did.

Busted in Bollywood is a light read with engaging characters and exotic  locales.  There’s nothing groundbreaking, but it is a enjoyable journey of self-discovery, the value of fat grams, and love.

Grade: B

Review copy provided by publisher