Review of “When Life Gives You Lululemons”

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I enjoyed this book!  Emily, a character from Weisberger’s previous novel, The Devil Wears Prada, is the main character in this novel and is simply a “hoot”!  She descends upon the snobby, suburban housewives of Greenwich, CT like the stylish dragon that she is and helps to fix a pesky DUI issue and custody battle of Carolina, a former, loveable supermodel wife.  The main reason Emily is on the east coast, and especially in a suburb (gasp!), is for her to visit her best friend, Miriam, a former power-lawyer now turned housewife.

This is a witty novel that is written in such a way that I felt I was living in Greenwich, Connecticut vicariously through Miriam and Emily.  The relationships seemed truly real for middle aged women, whether housewives or corporate women. I do feel that there was a tad too much emphasis on infidelity , and that there were a bit too many stereotypical observations of the typical Greenwich mom.  It would have been more refreshing if one of the housewife mom had a fun and intelligent personality rather than being one of many waspy-wealthy snobs.

All in all, it’s a fun read, but don’t look for any soul-searching thoughts!

Review of “Now That You Mention It” by Kristan Higgins

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So, the big question is, do I recommend this book?  Hmmmm…I’m not really sure.  I love this author, and really enjoyed her prior books.  They were light, fluffy and put a smile on my face and in my heart.

This book was a deviant from her usual writing style.  It did address deep issues such as home invasion, family dynamic issues, romance, and high school angst.  Despite the main character, Nora, being a physician, she didn’t seem to come across quite as independent a character as I had hoped. I also never connected with her in a way that I have with other Kristan Higgans’ characters.  Nora , who is in a romantic relationship with an egotistical, self absorbed guy named Bobby (another reason that gave me pause in connecting with Nora), is attacked in her home.  That traumatic event causes a dent in her relationship with Bobby.  Yet another traumatic event, a hit by a truck when leaving the hospital one night, leads her back to her hometown in Maine where she spends the remainder of the book healing her relationships with her mother and niece and forming new ones.  There is a new romance between Nora and a high school classmate, Sullivan,  (brother of a boy who was Nora’s high school crush and fellow competitor for a college scholarship), but the history between Nora and her new beau’s brother makes the relationship weird.

All in all, this was one of the first Kristan Higgins’ novels that I didn’t relate to and didn’t feel like reading it again for the second time.  There were two animal injuries (one of Nora’s mother’s beloved pet bird and the other of a car-deer episode) that didn’t have any relevance to the book and seemed distasteful.  The episodes, although minor in the novel, seemed out of place in a book where the main character absolutely adores her pet dog.  Also, the relationship between Sullivan and Nora seemed forced.

Don’t recommend.

Review of the fictional novel, “Blue Labyrinth”

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This is the fourteenth novel in the Agent Prendergast series.  To be honest, this was the first one that I read of the series, so I didn’t have the same familiarity with the characters as Pendergast fans.

The book begins with a dead body showing up on Pendergast’s doorstep, literally, followed by a chase led by the discovery of a turquoise stone in the deceased’s corpse. Pendergast is being targeted by a murderer who wants revenge, dredging up Pendergast’s morbid family history.

This book, all in all, was entertaining and a nice thriller; however, it didn’t make me want to read the prior ones in the series. I have read other, better thrillers in the past from different authors , and these other thrillers had captured my attention more so than this novel.  I feel that my main mistake was to start reading a book in the middle of a series rather than starting from the beginning, but I feel that a truly well written and exciting thriller should have the stamina to stand alone.

Don’t recommend unless you are an avid Pendergast fan.

Review of “You” on Lifetime

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You is a psychological thriller that just aired on Lifetime last week and episode 2 is about to air tonite.  It has already been renewed for a second season.  Penn Badgley, best known for his work on the TV series Gossip Girl, plays Joe Goldberg, the main character, who becomes obsessed with the unknowingly Guinevere Beck, played by Elizabeth Lail.  The premise of a stalker who seems innocent and kind drew me into the storyline, and I enjoyed the first person narration of Joe Goldberg throughout most of the scenes.  His “normal-sounding” narration definitely was a foil to his psychotic tendencies.  Earlier on in the episode, Joe is your typical “Mr. Nice Guy”; he befriends his neighbor’s young son with books and take out dinner when the boy is sitting in the apartment stairwell trying not to hear his mother arguing with her boyfriend.  He also hails cabs for elderly ladies and even saves Guinevere’s life as she drunkenly falls onto subway tracks.  However, the creepy stalkerish moves of breaking into Guinevere’s apartment when she is at work, hacking into her computer, stealing her cell phone and even watching her through her apartment windows more than offset the good-guy tendencies. It is not until close to the end of the episode when I saw how off-kilter and dangerously violent Joe Goldberg really is.

All in all, the premier episode was disturbing since it showed how easily Joe found out about Guinevere, including her address and daily life schedule, simply through social media and google searches.  It made me make sure my blinds were closed at night and all of my social media profiles were not “public”.  I will definitely stay tuned for the second episode. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Review of Hallmark’s “Pearl In Paradise”

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Jill Wagner and Kristoffer Polaha star in this Hallmark movie with an exotic setting. Alex Anderson, played by Jill Wagner, stars as a disorganized yet talented photographer looking to make a promotion at her magazine.  Kristoffer Polaha stars as Colin Page, a once best selling author of the novel “Pearl in Paradise” about a Blue Pearl in Fiji; he is looking to find inspiration for another bestseller.  They are placed together when Alex, deciding to look for the mystical “Blue Pearl” on the island of Fiji, discovers that Colin is the only person who knows where it is located.  Alex wants to write about the Blue Pearl since her magazine is looking for a cover story for their 30th anniversary, and pearls are the traditional 30th anniversary gift for couples.

Alex contacts Colin’s new hyper-aggressive agent to have Colin be her guide to help her find the pearl and take photographs of it. It would be a win-win situation for both sides, since Alex would get her promotion and Colin would get the publicity of writing the cover story for her popular magazine.  Colin agrees to the set up although he doesn’t really know where the Blue Pearl is located but he figured he would do enough research to find out where it is truly located.

All in all, I loved the scenery of this Hallmark movie, especially since the movie showed the natural beauty of the island.  The movie minimized the focus on resorts and beaches and instead I was exposed to waterfalls, hiking, history and gorgeous fauna indigenous to Fiji.  I wished there could have been better chemistry between the main couple, but the story line and backdrop made up for it. I recommend this movie, especially if you have the travel bug!

 

Review of “The Couple Next Door”

book_review_the_couple_next_doorI actually read this book in one sitting.  Apparently, this is the author’s debut novel, and it was definitely a page-turner.  It may end up even becoming a movie in the near future considering its immense popularity.  Author Shari Lapena definitely put in twists that kept me intrigued page after page.  The writing style was basic, and after three quarters of the way through, there weren’t as many final surprises as I had expected.

The book begins with introducing the reader to Anne and Marco, a couple with a young baby named Cora.  They are at a dinner party at their neighbor’s home, and soon the reader discovers that the young couple left their baby at home alone while they attended the dinner party.  They carried a baby monitor with them (without the video portion) and would go to their home next door to check on her every thirty minutes.  The couples actually shared a wall between their homes, so Marco felt confident that the baby would be fine.  The reader also finds out that Anne was against leaving the baby at home, but under Marco’s persuasion, finally relented to having a dinner without kids.

The discovery that their baby is missing hits the reader hard as the author puts every parent’s worst nightmare into words. As a detailed police investigation ensues to find the baby, hidden secrets about the couple and their surrounding family and neighbors are revealed.  Each secret leads to another one making the reader to want to finish the book in one sitting. Other than the neighbor Cynthia, I felt that the other side characters were one-sided and flat.  I also didn’t agree with how the author tried to confuse the reader with Anne’s high school history; it felt extraneous and didn’t seem relevant to the book, even with the ending.

All in all, readers will enjoy the plot twists, and it is a great novel to read on a plane or train trip. However, after several chapters, the readers don’t find too many other surprises that they didn’t suspect in the first place.  That was the main reason I was a bit disappointed when I finished the book.  I had suspected several of the “hidden secrets” initially and , surprisingly, I was correct in my suspicions.  I would have liked to have been truly surprised by a shocker of an ending, but, alas, this did not happen.

Review of Netflix’s “Sierra Burgess Is A Loser”

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OK, I decided to watch this Netflix movie because I had fallen in love with its other teen rom-com, “To All The Other Boys I’ve Loved Before”.  However, this movie ended up not being in the same league despite having the same actor playing the male lead (Noah Centineo).  By the way, if you haven’t seen “To All the Other Boys I’ve Loved Before”, you must see it and check out my review!

Sierra Burgess is A Loser has the typical Cyrano De Bergerac type of plot but it falls flat.  There are no surprises to the plot, although the actors did a great job making the most of their one-dimensional characters.

I didn’t feel the connection with Sierra, and even though I wanted a “happily ever after”, the ending seemed a bit forced to me.  I think the movie’s strength lies in the friendship that develops between the “bitchy cheerleader” Veronica (played well by Kristine Froseth) and Sierra Burgess (played by the cute Shannon Purser”.  This friendship seems so unrealistic in the high school popularity ladder, but the interactions and heartfelt conversations between the two truly depict what friendship is all about.  This true friendship development made the “back stabbing” plot twists towards the end of the movie seem pointless and immature; I’m not sure what the writers were aiming for with those developments, but I wanted them to focus more on how Veronica and Sierra tackle  society’s assumptions about “popular” high school girls.  The movie does show how cheerleaders are people too, but it doesn’t seem to care about how the male lead is treated by both the girls.  I felt that the deception of Jamey (played by Noah Centineo) by both Sierra and Veronica was childish and seemed inconsistent with Sierra’s character.  I was actually surprised that Sierra kept up the deception with Jamey for so long. For a girl who is supposed to be smart, mature, and kind, her communication with Jamey felt juvenile, even for an adolescent high schooler.

All in all, I would give this movie a miss unless you had nothing better to do on a rainy Sunday.

Review of Hallmark’s “Morning Show Mystery:Murder on the Menu”

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Hallmark Movies and Mysteries has come up with another series based on books co-authored by television personality Al Roker.  The main character, played by Holly Robinson Peete, is Billie Blessings, a smart and savvy restauranteur, chef and TV cooking show personality.  Billie has the bad luck of being in the area when a dead body is found in the trunk of the car of a guest on her TV show.  She ends up being caught in the middle of the drama of accusations, so Billie then takes it upon herself to find out who the true killer is.  Notable personality and former athlete, Rick Fox, plays the police inspector (“Ian Jackson”) as well as Billie’s love interest.

This second installment of the mystery series is an interesting who-dun-it and certainly has the Hallmark typical feel of romance in a mystery film that lacks blood and gore. I think that Holly Robinson Peete plays the role of Billie well, and the chemistry between her and Rick Fox is certainly palpable.  Rick Fox , when playing the police inspector role, acts well and is believable, but I feel that he plays the romantic angle around Billie a bit too forced.  His smiles appear to be fake, and I think he is better meant to play a non-romantic focus.  I enjoy the rapport between Billie and her aunt and her restaurant’s main chef, Maurice.  Her aunt and Maurice comprise Billie’s “family” , and I enjoy this aspect since many people in the real world form their own “families” through co-workers and extended relatives.  Like the prior installment, Al Roker does make a guest appearance.  This particular episode did have a complicated ending, but it kept the viewer guessing as to whom the real killer was.  All in all, I recommend this mystery movie series for cozy Sunday nights at home with the family.

 

Review of Hyatt Park Centric Times Square, New York

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Don’t you just love the hustle and bustle of New York City? The city always makes me feel alive.  I went to NYC again this past Labor Day weekend in 2018 and fell in love with the feel of the city all over again!  I ended up choosing a hotel in Times Square since I was visiting with my relatives who hadn’t been to the city before.  We had wanted a central location as well as close to the subway station if needed.

After a detailed online search, I settled on the Hyatt Park Centric hotel.  It was backed by a reputable hotel name (Hyatt) and was centrally located.

I got off the train at Penn Station, and the hotel was an easy 10 block walk from the station.  It saved me cab fare and I enjoyed the early fall weather on my walk.  Needless to say, Times Square is very crowded, but the hotel is located on 46th and 6th streets, so it’s a nice segway from the “too much” of Broadway and 7th streets. There is a parking garage right across the street as well as a much-needed Starbucks.

As I entered the lobby, I was pleased with the prompt service and kindness of the reception staff.  There is a separate concierge as well as a security personnel by the elevators.  The security guard checks that each guest getting on to the elevators has a current key and actually resides at the hotel.  I did appreciate this safety measure since the hotel is right off the main drag in Times Square.

There are two sets of elevators.  One set is for the lower half of the hotel and the other elevator services the upper half. This ensures that the elevators are prompt and minimal waiting is needed.  There is a gorgeous gym with treadmills, ellipticals, stair masters as well as free weights.  The gym is open 24 hours/daily but is locked, and each guest has to use their hotel key to open it.  This is another added safety measure.

The other elevator also goes up to the top of the hotel.  There is a reputable bar at the top of the hotel with absolutely stunning roof top views of the city. I highly recommend taking the elevator to take in the views, but be forewarned, that the bar only allows guests 21 years and older inside.  In other words, kids are not allowed in the bar nor on the balcony to look at the views.

The room had very comfortable beds (we had two queens), and the bathroom had a large shower with two shower heads. One shower head was manual and the other was fixed.  There was plenty of hot water, and the shower tile blended in with the bathroom floor to avoid toe stubs and other potential injuries.  The bathroom also had heated floors (an added plus if you visit in the winter season) as well as a working telephone.

There is large television and dresser. Part of the dresser is utilized as a desk with a chair which is convenient to use as a pseudo table to nosh on some take out pizza!  There was minimal noise from the city as I slept which was considerable since we were so close to the heart of Times Square.

All in all, I highly recommend the Hyatt Park Centric hotel for families and couples.  It is safe, spacious, and well located.

 

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Times Square:

 

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Review of “Head Over Heels” by Jill Mansell

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I really enjoy Jill Mansell novels! This one is one of her best to date.  When you finish reading this novel, you can tell what a great writer she is.  She manages to tell several romantic tales in one book , and they are all intertwined with one another.  The novel tells tales of relationships that involve age differences, infidelity, teenage crushes, a marriage between a straight woman and a homosexual man, a man who is an avid “womanizer”, and even a transgender former male!  I was pleasantly surprised at how Mansell addressed these issues in an engaging manner that kept me turning the page to find out how each romance ended!  The main romance centered around the re-kindling love between a single mother Jessie (whose son is in his early 20s!) and a married movie star, Toby.  While that romance was definitely fun to read about (and how I loved Jessie’s moral attitude towards family and children), the relationship that was dear to my heart involved Drew and Lili. Lili is a married mother of three (although married to a cheating scoundrel), slightly frumpy and an animal lover.  Drew is a veterinarian, younger than Lili, and single.  The romance that blossoms between them is cute and feels very real.

All in all, if you are interested in romance, I highly recommend this novel. It is realistic, contemporary yet has that wonderful, heart-warming “happily ever after” ending that most readers crave!