.An excerpt from my novel 'Cruise Quarters'

An excerpt from my novel 'Cruise Quarters'

When people sat down at Sarah Seldon’s blackjack game, they always wanted to talk about The Book. “Should I double down? Should I hit? Dealer, I know you’re a gambler; you could let me win if you wanted to. What does the book say?” She had never read this book, this mythical Bible for gamblers. The truth is there are 2256 books, each teaching its own foolproof winning system. But Sarah had been in the casino business long enough to think with a gambler’s mind. Gamblers knew they could follow all the rules of basic strategy, utilize money management and still lose if they weren’t dealt the right cards. The allure and curse of gambling was that there were no sure things. In the end it all came down to luck; gamblers prayed that Lady Luck would show up and that she would stick around for awhile.

Sunday, November 20, 2011


I am not ashamed to admit it I like to eat. and I prefer to eat really great food. My nickname when I worked on cruise ships was the food scout, and my book Cruise Quarters - A Novel About Casinos and Cruise Ships is filled with vivid descriptions of the wonderful meals I have eaten across the globe. So when I heard that there was an all you can eat lobster buffet at Valley View casino - a small casino set in the mountains north of San Diego I knew that I had to go there. I know some people don't like buffets. they prefer to be waited on but I am a grazer, I like to try little bits of this and that and at the Valley View they had over two hundred dishes waiting.

Last week my husband and I found ourselves with a few days off and we didn't want to get on a plane so we decided to book a night at the casino and enjoy a mini vacation. It was a pleasant two hour ride up twisting roads dotted with fruit stands and horse farms to the Valley View. The rooms were immaculate with a tub and a shower, and gorgeous views.
Infinity pool at Valley View Casino

Now what I haven't told you is that the buffet is free, all you have to do is join the Players Club! They don't have unlimited passes so you need to join early in the day and request a pass to the evening buffet. So we joined the Players Club as soon as we arrived got our passes and then spent the rest of the day hitting the thrift stores in nearby Escondido.  I learned after we checked into the hotel is that if you are a guest there, you are guaranteed a lobster buffet and you even get a VIP Pass for the line. The room also includes a free breakfast so by the time you add up the price of the meals it was as if our room was free.

Now the most important part, the food, how was the food? Everyone knows that a casino can be rated on the quality of its buffet. It is the draw especially for a casino set high up in the hills. I am happy to report that it was great. The lobster was good, they really were Maine lobsters split in half and easy to eat. From the Chinese ribs to the mashed sweet potatoes this was the real thing, home cooked food. But where this buffet really shines is the sweets. There is a huge desert selection, from homemade fudge, crepes and cupcakes to fresh fruit and cheese.

The Macaroons, not the coconut ones we are used to but the fancy French ones were as good as the ones we bought in London one day from a very fancy shop on Regents Street, They literally melted in you mouth. There were homemade chocolates as pretty as anything at See's.

Now less than a week has passed and when we picked up our mail today there was a postcard from you guessed it - the Valley View Casino. They were offering us two free buffets or $30 worth of cash on our next visit. So if you in Southern California or are planning a visit there, I highly recommend a stop at the Valley View Casino, but don't tell everyone, I'm scared they will run out of free lobster!

Click to find Cruise Quarters at Barnes and Noble

Saturday, November 5, 2011


With the demise of bookstores all around us, both national chains and local independents, the question now is how do you find a good book? My favorite hobby used to be browsing through the bookstore stopping to read the first few pages of any book that caught my eye. I also am a subscriber to the Los Angeles Times and so every Sunday I would look forward to reading their book review section, but over time I found that most of the books reviewed there didn't really interest me. I enjoyed books that made me laugh where the words flowed easily off the page and where I picked up some insight into human nature.

So two years ago when my husband surprised me with a Kindle for my birthday I wondered how I would find a good book. But in the last two years E-books have exploded and I have found that there are so many great sites that inform the reader about new books that I don't have room to even begin to describe them all here but I will spotlight some great ones.

The most notable of all would have to be Daily Cheap Reads. Here new books priced up to $9.99 are introduced all day and links to the book at Amazon are provided. You can browse their archives to find books in a genre that interests you.
Click the link for Daily Cheap Reads

There is also another great site, No Trees Harmed, and as you can tell by the title the focus is on E-books. Their motto is 'Good Reads for a Paperless World'. There you will also find links to many other blogs reviewing books. Click on some of the links and you will find a maze of websites all designed to find you a good book.

Another excellent blog is 'I am a Reader not a Writer'. I hosted a book giveaway there. If you follow the link you will find my interview and the great contest entries the readers provided.

I have been fortunate to have my book Cruise Quarters - A Novel About Casinos and Cruise Ships featured on all of these sites. The links take you to my interviews and from there you can navigate around the sites, and then on to Amazon. If you are anything like me you will download free sample chapters from the books that interest you. What a great feature, by being able to download the first chapter I never end up with a dud book.

I also wonder how did you find my blog? I know that just this week I have had readers from Russia, Australia and the United Kingdom as well as the US. So if you are a reader please let me know a little bit more about you. You can comment here but sometimes that can be difficult, so feel free to e-mail me at carabertoia@yahoo.com.

Click to find Cruise Quarters at Barnes and Noble