Bringing Down the House: a blackjack playing guidebook

are several books written on playing Blackjack, but one of the phenomenal book
written so far that gives great inspiration to Casino lovers is “Bringing Down
the House.” Penned down by Ben Mezrich the book narrates the story of a group
of MIT Card Counters, famously known by the name the MIT Blackjack Team. The
book is a series of events that took place when this team played several games
of Blackjack and came out winning. The story is so inspiring that there were
two movies made on the story, namely 21 & The Last Casino.

of the Book:

MIT Blackjack team had great casino players the top players of which were Jason
Fisher and Andre Martinez. In 1993, Jason Fisher and Andre Martinez invited
another MIT graduate Kevin Lewis in the team. Lewis is the main character of
the book. The financer of the team was a colorful character, Micky Rosa. The
team played with unity; however, later, there were card counting deterrent
efforts as well as personality conflicts which caused the MIT Blackjack Team

book is labeled as a non-fiction book, but there are claims that it is not. The
Boston Globe, a famous American daily newspaper, however, claimed that the book
contains several fictional elements.

of Bringing Down The House:

book was claimed as fictional several times. Famous magazines and newspapers
like Boston Magazine and The Boston Globe were the first to run articles
claiming that the book has fictional element at significant places. It was
claimed that the author, Ben Mezrich, not only made up some events but
exaggerated at a number of places leading to a fictional story.

book also had several historical inaccuracies, for example, the underground
Chinatown Casino which in reality was never there. Also, the book showed that
strippers were used to Cash Out Chips, which is again not true.

are several scenes in the book that show that the players indulged in physical
assault, but again there are no records of any such event happening in real

it may be, the book had some great learnings for the casino aspirants. A
reading of the book offers great insights into the
rules of blackjack

and help people improvise their games. There may be many
controversies related to the book, but in all, it gained a lot of popularity
and still is referred by many casino lovers.

City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare

To say I am terribly behind on my reading for my own Shadowhunters Countdown Reading Challenge would be an understatement. I’ve also been distracted by the Shadowhunters TV show on Freeform which I love but it’s quite different from the books which most fans did not expect and are not happy about. I kind of like that it’s different. I don’t know everything that’s going to happen before it happens.

Before I review City of Ashes, here is the book description:

Clary Fray just wishes that her life would go back to normal. But what’s normal when you’re a demon-slaying Shadowhunter, your mother is in a magically induced coma, and you can suddenly see Downworlders like werewolves, vampires, and faeries? If Clary left the world of the Shadowhunters behind, it would mean more time with her best friend, Simon, who’s becoming more than a friend. But the Shadowhunting world isn’t ready to let her go — especially her handsome, infuriating, newfound brother, Jace. And Clary’s only chance to help her mother is to track down rogue Shadowhunter Valentine, who is probably insane, certainly evil — and also her father.

To complicate matters, someone in New York City is murdering Downworlder children. Is Valentine behind the killings — and if he is, what is he trying to do? When the second of the Mortal Instruments, the Soul-Sword, is stolen, the terrifying Inquisitor arrives to investigate and zooms right in on Jace. How can Clary stop Valentine if Jace is willing to betray everything he believes in to help their father?

In this breathtaking sequel to City of Bones, Cassandra Clare lures her readers back into the dark grip of New York City’s Downworld, where love is never safe and power becomes the deadliest temptation.

I loved parts of this book and hated parts of this book. It’s really hard to review it properly without giving away spoilers though. I will keep them as minor as possible.

The way the Shadowhunters deal with Valentine is just so different than in The Infernal Devices series. In The Infernal Devices, they were more about offense. Let’s get the bad guy before he gets us kind of outlook. It seems like the Shadowhunters in The Mortal Instruments are more laid back. They prefer to have a good defense and get the bad guy when he comes after them.

My biggest complaint about the book was Cassandra Clare kept the sibling attraction still going. Jace seemed pretty okay with getting it on with his sister. Can I just say ewwwww? I love a forbidden romance as much as anyone but I have my limits. Fortunately Clary was wise enough to say no even though she wanted to (which still had an ick factor). Although I can’t help but hope they really aren’t brother and sister and do end up together.

Unfortunately I read a spoiler about what happened to Simon before reading the book. (Hint: He’s not a mundane anymore!) I was really annoyed that Clary kept blaming herself for what happened. In all honesty, I’m annoyed by the Clary character in general. I just don’t find her likable but I can’t explain exactly why. Maybe it’s because she’s just so one dimensional. She wants to save her mom, but what else does she want in life? She wants Jace but can’t have him. So I guess maybe that’s two dimensions?

What keeps me reading is all the mysteries surrounding Jace and Clary origins…but do not, I repeat, do not Google anything! I just visited Shadowhunter’s Wiki and accidentally got some huge spoilers in the series. Although I admit the spoilers do make me want to read the rest of the books even more, these were things I would have rather found out as I read the series.

Another thing I disliked about the book is that Valentine summons one of the most powerful demons to do his work. How much more powerful could Valentine possibly get without unleashing the entire legions of hell? I wish they would just take him out already.

But I will keep reading because I want to know where Simon fits into Clary’s world now. I want to know if Clary and Jace’s mother wakes up and finds out she has someone in love with her. I want to see Magnus and Alec get together. The second book was written much better than the first so I expect the books to improve as I go on. I gave City of Ashes .

The Girl’s Guide to Witchcraft by Mindy Klasky

This book wasn’t quite what I was expecting. I enjoyed the story but didn’t like Jane much so I don’t know if I will finish the series.
First the book description:

Which is more unlikely? Meeting a single, straight, reasonably attractive, willing-to-commit man? Or discovering a secret cache of magic books? For good-girl Jane Madison, neither has a shot in hell of coming true — until the day she finds a hidden room!

Yep, that’s all of it from Goodreads. I’m so used to seeing three paragraph book descriptions that it’s strange to see a three sentence blurb.

Jane is a librarian at a historical library. She’s completely obsessed with one of her patrons who she refers to as her Imaginary Boyfriend. Even when they finally get involved she keeps calling him this. I’m pretty sure Klasky wrote Imaginary Boyfriend about a hundred times. Did I mention Jane is in her twenties? No one over the age of 14 should ever use the phrase Imaginary Boyfriend, especially a grown adult.

One day Jane finds out that her salary is getting cut. She freaks out to her boss that she can no longer afford her rent and her boss shares that there just happens to be a livable home behind the historical library that no one has been in for like a hundred years. But the electricity and all the plumbing still work. Uh huh.

Jane moves in and discovers a fully stocked room full of magical books and supplies that belonged to the previous owner. Instead of being excited like a normal person she completely freaks out. She’s completely terrified like there’s serial killer in the room. Finally after relaxing a bit, she reads a spell and awakens Neko, her familar, a gay man trapped in a cat statue who is part cat. I loved the character of Neko. Was it a little unbelievable that Jane would be cool with the insta live in gay best friend? Yeah but he’s a staple trope in chick lit, so…

The book was fun and funny for awhile as Jane does various spells and hijinks ensue. Jane is all “I don’t know if I want to be a witch and learn magic” which is frankly completely unbelievable. It’s not like she had to give up anything to do it. At one point it seemed like she was giving up because it was just too hard.

At the same time as all of this happens Jane learns that her mother really isn’t dead from her grandma. This aspect of the plot wasn’t bad, it just did not fit in with the I’m-suddenly-a-witch plot. I think if this part of the plot has been eliminated it would’ve made the book much better and not as long. It was absurd that this book was 426 pages!

What is even more absurd is Jane decides to invite her Imaginary Boyfriend to her family reunion after only two dates. No one in their right mind invites a man to meet their parents after two dates much less stay the entire weekend to meet the extended family. Since Jane barely knows her Imaginary Boyfriend she starts lying to everyone in her family about the details of his background. This plot trope has been done to death in sitcoms. To read about it in a paranormal chick lit was just unforgivable. Up until the lying I could tolerate Jane but I didn’t outright hate her.

In the end, Jane does mature some and sees the errors of her ways but you have to get through 400 pages before that happens. I would expect a far more mature character from an imprint of Harlequin. I suppose in all fairness I will give this series another chance and read the second book. However this book only gets . I will say I’ve been imagining some pretty great Neko meets Magnus Bane fanfiction in my head.

The 2016 Love/Hate Valentine’s Day Reading Challenge

How It Works 
This reading challenge is called The I Love/Hate Valentine’s Day Reading Challenge. What’s with the love/hate in the title? Those that are happily coupled generally enjoy Valentine’s Day while us Singletons (as Bridget Jones put it) hate Valentine’s Day.

You will choose what books you read based on whether or not you love Valentine’s Day or hate it. However, you may read from one or both categories and you are free to switch categories if you want throughout the month. Maybe Valentine’s Day will turn out to be a disaster or better than you ever expected!

If You Love Valentine’s Day: 
Those of you who love Valentine’s Day should choose romance or other genre books that are happy. They do not have to be specifically about Valentine’s Day or romance but must have love, hearts, and such on the cover or in the title.

For example:
Valentine Princess by Meg Cabot
Be My Valentine by Debbie Macomber
Plum Lovin’ by Janet Evanovich
Three Little Words by Susan Mallery
Candy Store by Bella Andre

If You Hate Valentine’s Day: 
Those of you who hate Valentine’s Day should choose books that have titles along this theme. Books should be about love lost, murder, or having a broken heart. They can be romance, mystery, or even horror.

For example:
The Trouble With Valentine’s Day by Rachel Gibson
Valentine’s Day is Killing Me by Mary Janice Davidson
Written in My Own Heart’s Blood by Diana Gabaldon
The Girl You Left Behind by by Jojo Moyes
The Art of Deception by Nora Roberts

The Rules: 

  • This challenge begins February 1, 2016 and ends February 29, 2016.
  • I won’t be creating different levels. Read as little or as many books as you want.
  • You may include books of any format including traditional books, ebooks, or audiobooks.
  • Books may be YA, adult, horror, romance, nonfiction, etc.
  • You may reread books.
  • Books may count towards other reading challenges.
  • Use the hashtag #LoveHateVDRC on social media
  • If you could be so kind, please place the The I Love/Hate Valentine’s Day Reading Challenge banner on your blog to help spread the word.
  • Please link back to this blog, post about it on Facebook, Tweet about it, and so on to help spread the word.

Signing Up
Before signing up, please create a post or page where you will list all the books you have read and then use that link for your Linky Tools. If you don’t have a blog you can still sign up by using a link to your Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, and so on.

Hippies Read Too (Host)
Rachel @ Goodreads

Top Ten 2015 Releases I’ve Added to My TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.
I am behind on my Top Ten Tuesday posts so I am combining the last two weeks. This will be Top Ten 2015 Releases I’ve Added to My TBR
1. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me by Mindy Kaling (November 2015)
2. Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee (July 2015)
3. Every Fifteen Minutes by Lisa Scottoline (Released April 2015)
4. The Heir by Kiera Cass (Released May 2015)
5. Stars of Fortune by Nora Roberts (Released November 2015)
6. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah (Released February 2015)
7. Grey by E L James (Released June 2015)
8. Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined by Stephanie Meyer (Released October 2015)
9. An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir (Released April 2015)
10. Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Book Blogger Resolutions I Have For 2016

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.
This week’s topic is Top Ten Resolutions for 2016 (Mine are specifically about book blogging and told using gifs.)
1. I will post my review of the book soon after reading it and not end up having to write several reviews at once like I did last year.
2. I will review more nonfiction books.
3. I will read and answer my email at least every other day.
4. I will read 100 books this year.
5. I will read the books on my bookshelves that have been there for years.
6. I will read more classics this year.
7. I will post my Top Ten Tuesday posts actually on Tuesday. (Starting next week obviously.)
8. I will read books that are chunksters (very long books) this year.
9. I couldn’t think of a ninth resolution to go with this gif but I just had to use it!
10. I will stop using so many gifs in my blog posts. Just kidding!

Winter Stroll by Elin Hilderbrand

I was happy to read the second installment of the Winter Street series. This is one crazy family. This review does contain spoilers because it is hard to review it without them. First the book description:

Another Christmas on Nantucket finds Winter Street Inn owner Kelley Quinn reflecting on the past year as he writes a holiday letter to friends and family. Though the year has had its share of misfortune and worry, the Quinns have much to celebrate. Kelley, now single, at least is on better terms with his first wife Margaret, who is using her celebrity to lure customers to the inn in record numbers. Their son Kevin has a beautiful new baby, Genevieve, with the Inn’s French housekeeper, Isabelle; and their daughter, Ava, is finally dating a nice guy–her devoted colleague, Scott. 

Now the Quinns are looking forward to celebrating Genevieve’s baptism, welcoming Isabelle to the family, and enjoying the cheer of Nantucket’s traditional Christmas Stroll. But just when a peaceful family gathering seems within reach, Kelley’s estranged second wife, Mitzi, shows up on the island after souring on her relationship with the inn’s former Santa Claus. Soon Kelley isn’t the only Quinn entertaining a surprise guest from Christmases past as lovers old and new gather beneath the mistletoe. With jealousy, passion, and eggnog consumption at an all-time high, it’s going to take a whole lot more than a Christmas miracle to get the Quinns–and the inn–through the holidays intact.

Do not read on if you do not want spoilers!

Overall the story seemed mostly like a game of switching partners. This was my biggest criticism of the book. It’s like Elin just decided to disassemble the new couples that formed in Winter Street and put them all back together again.

The exception is Ava who is going back and forth between  Nathaniel and Scott. She basically cheats on Scott because she’s jealous of him helping out another woman who was injured. This was beyond ridiculous and immature. Ava seems to be so insecure as a woman that it’s sickening.

The main reason I read this series is to find out if soldier Bart will be found and returned home. Of course he will but Elin is torturing us until the end. This book does give more information about what happened. I like the story of Bart being held as POW but it makes the book series rather depressing to read at Christmastime.

I also want to know if Jennifer will sober up or if her pill addiction will escalate. Again, I liked this storyline but it’s not something that I want to read in a Christmas book.

I hate having to wait a whole year to find out how this series ends. The last book won’t come out until later this year. This series is truly a soap opera but this second installment was more tightly written then the first. I was leaning towards four stars but settled on three because of the tired musical romantic relationships.

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Most Anticipated Releases For The First Half of 2016

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.
This week’s topic is Top Ten Most Anticipated Releases For the First Half of 2016
1. The Dirt on the Ninth Grave by Darynda Jones
In a small village in New York lives Jane Doe, a girl with no memory of who she is or where she came from. So when she is working at a diner and slowly begins to realize she can see dead people, she’s more than a little taken aback. Soon, she senses something far darker. A force that wants to cause her harm, she is sure of it. Her saving grace comes in the form of a new friend she feels she can confide in.
Paranormal, romance, series (Releases Jan 5)
2. A Ghoul’s Guide to Love and Murder by Victoria Laurie
M.J., Heath, and Gilley, are back home in Boston, where their new film is sure to be a monster hit! To promote the film, the studio is sponsoring a special exhibit of supernatural artifacts at a local museum. Unfortunately, Gilley—whose mind is engaged with wedding plans—gets talked into donating to the exhibit the very dagger that keeps the dangerous ghost Oruç and his pet demon locked down in the lower realms. Before M.J. can recover the bewitched blade, there’s a murder and a heist at the museum, and the dagger is stolen.
Paranormal, romance,, mystery, series (Releases Jan 5)
3. The Siren by Kiera Cass
From Kiera Cass, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Selection series, comes a captivating stand-alone fantasy romance. Kahlen is a Siren, bound to serve the Ocean by luring humans to watery graves with her voice, which is deadly to any human who hears it. Akinli is human—a kind, handsome boy who’s everything Kahlen ever dreamed of. Falling in love puts them both in danger . . . but Kahlen can’t bear to stay away. Will she risk everything to follow her heart?
Young adult, romance, fantasy (Releases Jan 26)
4. Grace & Style: The Art of Pretending You Have It by Grace Helbig
From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Grace’s Guide and the host of The Grace Helbig Show on E! comes a beautifully illustrated, tongue-in-cheek book about style that lampoons fashion and beauty guides while offering practical advice in Grace Helbig’s trademark sweet and irreverent voice.
nonfiction, advice, humor (Releases Feb 2)
5. The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig
Sixteen-year-old Nix has sailed across the globe and through centuries aboard her time-traveling father’s ship. But when he gambles with her very existence, it all may be about to end.
Young adult, science fiction (Releases February 16)
6. Kill the Boy Band by Goldy Moldavsky
The story of four superfan friends whose devotion to their favorite boy band has darkly comical and murderous results.
Young adult, humor (Releases February 23)
7. All the Broken Places by Anise Eden
Cate Duncan is a promising young therapist, dedicated to her work. But after her mother’s suicide, she is seized by a paralyzing depression. To save her job, Cate agrees to enter a program with Dr. Angeline MacGregor, run by her stern son, Ben, that use unconventional approaches include crystals, aura reading and psychics. 
Suspense, paranormal, romance (Releases February 16)
8. Lady Midnight (The Dark Artifices) by Cassandra Clare
It’s been five years since the events of City of Heavenly Fire that brought the Shadowhunters to the brink of oblivion. Emma Carstairs is no longer a child in mourning, but a young woman bent on discovering what killed her parents and avenging her losses.
Young adult, paramormal, series (Releases March 8)
9. The First Time She Drowned by Kerry Kletter
Cassie O’Malley has spent her whole life trying to keep her head above water—literally and metaphorically. It’s been two-and-a-half years since her mother dumped Cassie in a mental institution against her will for something Cassie claims she didn’t do. Now, at eighteen, Cassie enrolls in college, ready to reclaim her life and enter the world on her own terms.
Young adult (Releases March 15)
10. The Way I Used to Be by Amber Smith
This extraordinary debut novel shares the unforgettable story of a young woman as she struggles to find strength in the aftermath of an assault. Eden was always good at being good. Starting high school didn’t change who she was. But the night her brother’s best friend rapes her, Eden’s world capsizes.
Young adult (Releases March 22)

Announcing the 2016 Star Wars Reading Challenge!

I’ve always loved the Star Wars movie series but have never read the books. This weekend I saw The Force Awakens and I fell in love all over again on a much deeper level. I’ve decided to read the Star Wars books but it’s always more fun to read a series together, so I created a Star Wars reading challenge!
This challenge is also a little different because there are two optional TV series that are included. Also if you are like me, you are overwhelmed by the number of Star Wars books in the expanded universe. Don’t worry! I break it all down so you know where to begin.
There are three levels to this challenge. This challenge is also little different because you do not have to choose a level. If you are like me you will be reading books from all three levels. I simply wrote out different levels to help break down the expansive Star Wars universe. 
LEVEL 1: Read the Del Rey timeline books only. Watching the TV series and movies will be optional.  This list includes (and they are in order):
I: The Phantom Menace

II: Attack of the Clones
The Clone Wars (TV series)
Dark Disciple

III: Revenge of the Sith
Lords of the Sith
A New Dawn
Rebels (TV series)

IV: A New Hope
Heir to the Jedi
Battlefront: Twilight Company

V: The Empire Strikes Back

VI: Return of the Jedi
Aftermath: Life Debt
Aftermath: Empire’s End
New Republic: Bloodline

VII: The Force Awakens

LEVEL 2: Read the Del Rey timeline books, watch the TV series, and read the Star Wars series of books and comics that lead up to The Force Awakens.

Read the short stories that take place before The Force Awakens. The list of short stories include:

The Perfect Weapon

High Noon on Jakku

The Face of Evil

The Crimson Corsair and the Lost Treasure of Count Dooku

All Creatures Great and Small

Other books include:

Lost Stars (young adult)

Moving Target: A Princess Leia Adventure (junior novel)

Smuggler’s Run: A Han Solo & Chewbacca Adventure (junior novel)

The Weapon of a Jedi: A Luke Skywalker Adventure (junior novel)

Comics include:

Star Wars: Shattered Empire

Star Wars Special: C-3PO

There are also reference books, a collector’s magazine, and activity books. These will be optional. For the full list visit here.

LEVEL 3: Read the Stars Wars expanded universe books and comics

My mind is blown by how many Star Wars books there are. For a full chronological list of the novels, reference books, kids’ books and comics visit here. There are far too many for me to make a list!

Is there anything else I should know?

This challenge runs from Jan 1 – Dec 31, 2016.

Books DO NOT need to be reread! If you have finished a book before this challenge started it will count.

You may read books from ANY level and count them towards the challenge!

Books may be hard copies, ebooks, or audiobooks.

Books may count towards other reading challenges.

You do not need a blog to participate. You can sign up using any social media profile.

Please post, tweet, blog, pin, and Instagram about my challenge to spread the word.

Use the hashtag #2016StarWarsRC on social media

2016 Reading Bites Reading Challenge

The Reading Bites vampire reading challenge is back for 2016 by request!

I love anything to do with vampires. One of my favorite sayings is “Forget being a princess. I want to be a vampire!”

I’m inviting others who love the vampire book genre to join me for this reading challenge.

This is a design it yourself challenge. I want you to choose your own reading goals.

New for 2016! 
To help you reach your Reading Bites goals, I will be hosting a few vampire readathons! I will be calling this the #ReadingBiteathon. The first one will be January 15 – 21, 2016. This is the winter edition. I will do one each season of the year. The sign up page for the first readathon can be found here.

The Rules: 

  • This challenge begins January 1, 2016 and ends Dec 31, 2016.
  • You may sign up anytime during the year.
  • I won’t be creating different levels. Read as little or as many books as you want.
  • You may include books of any format including traditional books, ebooks, or audiobooks.
  • Books may be YA, adult, horror, romance, etc.
  • You may reread books.
  • Books may count towards other reading challenges.
  • Use the hashtag #2016ReadingBites
  • If you could be so kind, please place the The Reading Bites Challenge banner on your blog to help spread the word.
  • Please link back to this blog, post about it on Facebook, Tweet about it, and so on to help spread the word.