Review of “Signed, Sealed, Delivered: To The Altar”, a Hallmark movie

signedsealed

Hallmark has done it again with a great series, Signed, Sealed and Delivered. I have to admit that I was late to hop on the Postables bandwagon, but I am enjoying catching up on the seasons. The latest installment of the series was the movie, “To The Altar” focusing on Norman and Rita’s upcoming nuptials.  The writers intertwined wedding planning with a mystery of finding the long-lost owner of a wedding dress that was discovered in a box at the post office.  The Postables’ quest to return the property to its rightful owner was enjoyable and expected.  However,  I also enjoyed how the writers brought light to the topic of mental illness; it was refreshing and heart felt.  The movie ended with romance and an unexpected proposal as well!  I highly recommend this movie for the fans of the Signed, Sealed and Delivered series as well as those who haven’t started watching the series yet but are fans of other Hallmark channel series.

Review of “English Tea Murder” by Leslie Meier

englishtea

There is something about London….the shows on the West End, the London Eye, Buckingham Palace, changing of the guards….I can go on and on. When I picked up a copy of the “English Tea Murder” at the library, I was excited to read a cozy mystery set in England.  I usually tend to gravitate towards British authors for some unknown reason—could it be imaging the quaint towns that typically form the setting, the attractive English accent, drinking Earl Grey tea and buttering yummy scones?  I honestly have no idea why I tend to enjoy British authors but their novels do take up a decent percentage of my reading list.

That being said, I also enjoy Leslie Meier’s novels.  Her protagonist, Lucy Stone, is someone that a lot of mothers can identify with; Lucy is a mother of four, a dog owner, a wife to a restoration carpenter and a part time reporter. She lives in the small town of Tinkers Cove in Maine, and the author Leslie Meier does a fine job introducing the reader to Lucy’s small town life and her group of friends.

This mystery takes Lucy to London with her group of friends where she is, yet again, enthralled by a murder “close to home”.  The reader follows Lucy down a path of clues and findings that help to discover the murderer along with becoming familiar with London and its neighboring countryside.

I enjoyed this novel, but it is part of the cozy genre.  Therefore, please don’t expect a pulitzer prize winning literary novel.  Great, easy read.

Review of Hallmark Channel’s “Love at Sea”

loveatsea

Well, I have to start with this ….for those of my readers who will not tolerate anything negative said about a Hallmark film, this review may not be for you. I generally love Hallmark movies, especially the Christmas ones.  They are my “go-to” movies when I am up early in the morning exercising or wanting to take a break in the evenings. There is always a happy ending, and a blend of family drama and romance in the storyline.

I have to say that “Love at Sea” was disappointing. It ended like a Hallmark movie and it also tried to bring in the Hallmark-usual family dynamics and romance.  However, this is where the movie failed in its quest to join the ranks of the other Hallmark summer movies.

I am surprised that it made the line up of Hallmark’s “Summer Nights” since the quality was very different from “A Summer to Remember” and “Love on Safari”.  The two main stars are actually a married couple in real life.  I figured that their chemistry would be natural based on their real life marriage.  Instead, the relationship between them on screen seemed more forced.  The movie ended up being one big commercial for the cruise ship Harmony of the Seas by Royal Caribbean. The cruise ship looked spectacular in terms of the activities, deck ocean views, zip line, miniature golf and the poolside bars.  The movie definitely made the viewer want to take a cruise but didn’t engage the viewer in the movie storyline.  The relationship between the Alexa’s mother and her new beau seemed to be an after thought of the writers, and the ending seemed very rushed.

All in all, I don’t recommend this movie since it below Hallmark’s typical summer line up standards.

Review of “The Death of Mrs. Westaway” by Ruth Ware

ruthwareOk–I’ll be honest.  I was hesitant to read this since I wasn’t a huge fan of the peetered-out ending to the “Woman in Cabin 10” by the same author, Ruth Ware.  I thought that this book would be a disappointment like the last “thriller” I read by Sophie Hannah (“Woman With A Secret”–see my last blog post).  However, I was pleasantly surprised. I looked forward to reading this before bed last weekend, and it only took me 3 nights to complete since I was super eager to find out how the mystery ended.

Ruth Ware wrote a page-turner this time.  I did not expect the twist of an ending, and I also felt that she developed each of the characters well so as to not make the reader longing for more details or more answers.  The protagonist, Hal, was someone that the reader could empathize with — an orphan left penniless, struggling to become debt-free and, at the same time, unravel the mystery that she didn’t expect.

Due to her quest to pay off her debt to a potentially dangerous loan shark, she decided to attend the funeral and will reading of a “stranger”.  She was invited to the will reading due to , what she assumed, was a case of mistaken identity.  I thought it was refreshing that Hal felt guilty at being a “fraud” and of being the recipient of an estate that she didn’t think she deserved.  These personality traits of honesty and humbleness endeared Hal to the reader.

I recommend this book to any reader who wants a non-gory thriller that is well written.  I would love to hear your thoughts on the book as well!  Please click //ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ac&ref=qf_sp_asin_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=storybooktree-20&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=1501156217&asins=1501156217&linkId=b1c0307089eee5d62928f547f78a291e&show_border=false&link_opens_in_new_window=false&price_color=333333&title_color=0066c0&bg_color=ffffff to order your copy.

Review of Sophie Hannah’s “Woman with a Secret”

womanwithsecret

This book was fun to read initially. Then, the author bogged it down with too many side characters and side plots that made me actually thumb through it , hoping it would end soon. I enjoyed the main plot of the actual “woman with a secret”, Nikki, initially but then the ending made me realize how unlikeable Nikki actually was.  Her husband also ended up being a complete idiot for staying with someone like her—not only was she an adulterer but a liar as well.  Hannah did not elaborate on Nikki’s husband’s character nor did she elaborate on (SPOILER ALERT) the true identity behind “King Edward”. The revealing of the true King Edward at the end was not as much of a “wow” moment as I thought it would be.  I was disappointed with this book and could barely get through it.

Click//ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ac&ref=tf_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=storybooktree-20&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=0062388274&asins=0062388274&linkId=c4846a3153a7f9e3442d850263023bb2&show_border=false&link_opens_in_new_window=false&price_color=333333&title_color=0066c0&bg_color=ffffffto purchase this book and see what the fuss is all about!

Chesapeake Shores—the O’Brien family is back!

chesapeakeshoresI’m so happy that the Hallmark channel renewed the Chesapeake Shores series!  I love the O’Brien family and their closeness.  The family is inspiring in their relationships and openness with one another.  Nell, the grandmother, seems to be the glue that holds the family together despite tragedies (their mother leaving them at vulnerable ages) as well as joys (new jobs, new relationships, great-grandkids).  The director has taken the Sherryl Woods series and has further managed to make the characters endearing to the viewer.  Rather than only focusing on the relationship between older newly-divorced daughter (and mother of two young girls), Abby O’Brien, and her boyfriend/musician Trace, Abby’s sisters and brothers are also brought out into the spotlight.  I actually find the stories of Bree, Jess, Connor and Kevin more enjoyable and real.  The writers tackle topics such as military PTSD, divorce, business politics, and various occupations such as running a bookstore, being an author, and running a B&B with aplomb and freshness.  The only negative aspect of the series, which isn’t really too much of a negative, is the continuing drama between Abby and Trace.  They obviously love each other, but the time and location constraints of Trace’s musical career continue to hinder their relationship. I  agree with grandmother Nell saying that it’s not how much time you spend with each other but how you spend the time that counts.  Looking forward to Sunday nights on the Hallmark channel this month!

Review of “Summer to Remember” on the Hallmark Channel

Summer-RememberAnother cute Hallmark film!

Of course, like all Hallmark movies, the ending was predictable and the storyline didn’t have any hidden twists.  However, the scenery and setting of the island of Fiji was simply breathtaking!  It was the perfect backdrop for the romance between the two main characters, Will and Jessica, played by Cameron Mathison and Catherine Bell, respectively.  I have enjoyed these two actors in other movies that they have starred in (although not together), and was looking forward to seeing if they could actually portray a good chemistry together in this movie. I shouldn’t have been surprised, since they formed a great pairing.  The attraction between the rigid doctor and the carefree resort owner was almost natural.  Catherine Bell always seems to exude an air of calmness and serenity, and Cameron Mathison also appears to be laid back in his many roles.  I enjoyed this film and felt that it was a nice relaxing way to end a busy work day.  Prop your feet up, grab a hot cup of chamomile tea and set your TV to Hallmark this evening!

Review of “The Luckiest Girl” by Jessica Knoll

luckiestgirlalive

This novel sucks you in right from the start.  I actually read it in one night since I was eager to get through the ending.  TifAni (“Ani” as she prefers) is engaged to a wealthy and handsome businessman, Luke.  Right from the start, I realize that Ani is not truly happy with her glamorous life. She seems to be caught up in image and status , and she does everything that she can to prove that she fits into Luke’s rich lifestyle and prestigious pedigree.  This preoccupation with status made me think that there was a reason behind Ani’s insecurity, and in less than a few chapters, I discover it.

The author, Jessica Knoll, opens up Ani’s high school years to the reader , and it is heartbreaking to discover what she went through.  Getting suspended from her old school due to marijuana use propelled her to enroll in a new, private school called Bradley.  Her experiences at Bradley are also nothing less than horrific, and I admired Ani for having the strength to become an independent strong woman despite her traumatic past.

Would I recommend this book?  Despite the fact that it started off with a bang, the ending was a bust.  I honestly thought that my copy of the book was missing the final chapter.  It seemed that Jessica Knoll simply had run out patience and wanted to end the book quickly.  I could tell that the first half of the book was much more well written and thought out than the second half.  If you are looking for a true thriller, I would stick to the novels by Gillian Flynn instead; at least, there is a satisfying conclusion in her novels.  This novel provides hastily thought out answers to questions that deserved more attention and detail.

SPOILER ALERT****

Ani is caught in a vulnerable position of being at a boy’s home and having had too much to drink.  She is the only female in the house, and several boys of the soccer team are in the house, all drinking.  Ani ends up being taken advantage of by several of the boys.  She is the victim of gang rape, and I felt that Jessica Knoll addresses this in a realistic manner.  The way that the boys treat her afterwards at school is heartbreaking, and her trip to Planned Parenthood is simply real and honest. Unfortunately, due to the social hierarchy of popular high school kids, Ani is afraid to call out her attacker(s) during high school. It is not until she is a grown woman and is forced to re-live her high school experience through a documentary about the school shooting does she make the public accusation.

Jessica Knoll adds yet another traumatic event to Ani’s high school years as if assault wasn’t enough.  Ani and the rest of her popular clique are also in a school shooting, started by one of Ani’s friends who was one of the first kids to befriend her on her first day.  Knoll seemed to get into the psyche of the shooter and his accomplice well, delineating why the shooter wanted to take down the school.  This shooting was the subject of the documentary, and Ani was asked to be interviewed.  The return to Bradley and the resurgence of her past and experiences , especially her face-to-face meeting with Dean, her main attacker, instigated Ani to come out about the rape.

The book was interesting to read up to the ending.  The ending was truly a major disappointment.  Ani ended up breaking up with her rich fiance (surprise, surprise), but the reason behind the break up was almost a mystery.  I knew that Ani would break up with Luke, but I didn’t understand what made her all of a sudden break up with him right before the wedding instead immediately after her trip back to Bradley.  In addition, the ending was rushed and not well written at all. It almost seemed like Jessica Knoll was on a deadline and had to finish the book quickly.  I almost felt that the same author who wrote the first half of the book did not write the ending.

All in all, this is a good book depicting a strong female protagonist, but the ending is simply unforgiveable.  Click //ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ac&ref=tf_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=storybooktree-20&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=1476789649&asins=1476789649&linkId=5777d818d92859c2332cdaea6fe14792&show_border=false&link_opens_in_new_window=false&price_color=333333&title_color=0066c0&bg_color=ffffff to read it for yourself.

The Food Network Star 2018 Finale

winners

So, were any of your surprised at the outcome of the finale this past weekend?  SPOILER alert***.

To be honest, I think the finale of the Food Network Star, every season, is really a bunch of hype and filler before the last few minutes of the show when they finally reveal the winner.

I was rooting for Christian and wasn’t at all surprised when he was one of the chosen two.  However, I was honesty shocked that Jess Tom was the other winner.  She actually wouldn’t have made it to the final episode without Star Salvation giving her another chance.  Wow!  How life changing was Star Salvation for Jess Tom!?

I felt that if the Food Network was going to choose two winners, I would have chosen Christian and Manny instead of Christian and Jess.  Manny is definitely the more likeable of the two, and seemed to have a great handle on food knowledge.  His dishes looked mouth watering, and, again, I’m not sure if the network wanted a different type of cuisine in their line up which is what Jess Tom offered.

Jess also has great food knowledge, being a food novelist, and her dishes appeared right up my alley since they had an Asian twist (me being a huge fan of all Asian cuisine!).  Jess also appears to be very polished and has an elegance about her persona. However, Christian has the down home personality which was hard to beat.

It is going to be an interesting year at the network–I wonder which shows are going to be added to the line up staring Jess and Christian?  I hope Manny will also have a side spin-off opportunity from the network and will also be able to grace our televisions with his warmth and fuzziness!  winners

Review of Hallmark Channel’s “Yes, I Do”

yesido

The Hallmark channel movie, “Yes, I do” was like eating a sugary hot fudge sundae—the end result sput a smile on my face even though both have empty calories!

I think the main actress endeared me to the movie.  I enjoy Jen Lilley, and her character, Charlotte, was as cute as can be !  It wasn’t a typical Hallmark movie where the main character falls in love during the movie; instead, Charlotte is already happily engaged to a wonderful man, James, played by Marcus Rosner. They are in love and enjoy a great chemistry together except for one major hiccup.  Charlotte has left James at the altar not once, but twice.  She apparently is “allergic” to weddings and can’t gear up the nerves to go through with the ceremony despite the fact that she is head over heels in love with the groom!  This issue is a tough one for the view to wrap her head around, but, as I said, Jen Lilley’s cuteness and chemistry with Marcus Rosner propel the viewer to watch the movie in entirety.

Charlotte makes  “to die for” chocolates, and a side story is how she is in a contest for “best chocolate” in her hopes to win a storefront in Times Square.  The judge of the contest is gorgeous Jessica Lowndes , playing the character of Nicole. Not only is Nicole the chocolate contest judge but also an ex-flame of James.  Nicole apparently wants to win James back, even if she has to stab Charlotte in the back to do so.

“Yes, I do” is a fun movie with a unique subplot.  It’s a great time-pass for an evening after a hard day at work or a hard day at home dealing with young kids and pets!