Review of SanDestin Beach and Golf Resort

sandestinHave any of my readers been to Destin, Florida? If not, you are in for a treat!  I love Destin.  It is located close to Pensacola and Ft. Walton Beach in Florida.  Those are the two closest airports as well if you have to fly in.  I flew into Pensacola and rented a car to make the easy 90 minute drive to the SanDestin Beach and Golf Resort.  If I had flown into Ft. Walton Beach, the drive would have been less than 45 minutes.  The main factor in regards to my decision to fly into Pensacola was my travel schedule.

As you arrive into SanDestin Beach and Golf Resort, you notice that the grounds are impeccable and the area is gated.  I had booked a one bedroom condo at Beachside I.  The resort is immense, and it consists of various accommodations depending on the needs of the guest(s).  Since I was staying with children and other adults (my parents and siblings), the Beachside condo fit our bill.  The one bedroom condo ended up actually being two bedrooms–there was a king size bed, another room with a bunk bed and a sleeper sofa in the living area.  There was a full size kitchen and a full bathroom.  The view from our balcony was of the lovely clean beach and ocean.

There is a complomentary shuttle that takes guests to various aspects of the resort including the village where there are lovely restaurants and a great coffee shop (the coffee shop was my stop every morning for my latte)!

The beach has umbrellas and chairs that guests can rent, but there is plenty of space to simply lay out a towel and enjoy your space.  The beach does get crowded later in the afternoon, but it is kept very clean.  The water was full of fun waves for the kids and , and the water was also warm at the time (in early June).  There is a pool at the base of the Beachside condo tower, but there are no lifeguards.  The amenities include bike rentals, kayak rentals at the bayside (there is a bay on the opposite side of the resort from the beach), bike trails, gorgeous tennis courts and a golf course.  There is also a fitness center, but be sure to check out the website for the hours.

All in all, this is a fantastic resort, especially for families.  The resort would also be perfect for conferences as well since the conference center is very spacious and well equipped.  The rates of the condos are reasonable, and guests can bring groceries and cook for themselves in the condo if they wanted to save money (and calories!) on dining out.  Outside of the resort are a bevy of convenience stores and restaurants, so any guest won’t be lacking in wants.  I do recommend renting a car.

 

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Review of “The Diva Cooks Up A Storm”

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I enjoy Krista Davis’ books. She has two series that I am reading right now. One is the “Diva” series where the word “Diva” is in every title. This series centers around Sophie along with a cast of characters based in Old Town Alexandria in the metro Washington DC/northern VA area. Sophie is an event planner, but it seems that she is truly a domestic goddess, the way Krista Davis describes her in every page!  No matter what the occasion or event (i.e. murder, power outage, neighbors can’t sleep, etc.), Sophie always seems to have homemade goodies ready in her fridge along with gourmet coffee or cocktails.  She always seems to dress her tables with fresh tablecloths and matching placemats.  Her  “Martha Stewart-like” domesticity is very amusing, but as long as you can overcome that bit of unrealism, the series is quite cozy and engaging.  Each book centers around a mystery, and Sophie with her quirky yet loyal set of friends engage themselves in unraveling the clues.  What’s even more interesting is that Krista Davis pits Sophie against a neighbor named Natasha who is even a more perfect hostess/entertainer than Sophie; Natasha is painted as an extremist hostess who must have everything in her home (and in her friends’ homes) “perfect”.

Despite Natasha and Sophie’s unaggressive “rivalry”, I enjoy the various recipes that are listed at the end of the book and their descriptions.  The reader can definitely learn a thing or two about hosting just by reading this series.

However, despite the hosting background, the mysteries in this series are fun.  In particular, this mystery is more interesting some of Davis’ prior ones due to the involvement of numerous potential suspects.  I usually can predict the killer , but this one took me for a loop!  This mystery involves the complexities of divorce and even child custody, second marriages, corporate partnership, and the disease of hoarding.  All of these topics are nicely touched upon in as “cozy and light” a manner that one can bring to these serious topics.

I think this is a fun series, and this book is a nice read.  You do not have to read this series from the beginning.

If you are interested in reading this book, please click :

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Review of the movie, “Crazy Rich Asians”

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It was a rainy weekend, perfect for the movies.  My group of family and cousins were torn between half of us who wanted to see Mission Impossible (second time for some and first time for others) and Crazy Rich Asians.  Since I had already seen (and loved) Mission Impossible, I wanted to give Crazy Rich Asians a go.  I hadn’t read the book, so I can’t compare it to the novel.  My sister-in-law, on the other hand, loved the book and was looking forward to the movie.

I was pleasantly surprised throughout the movie.  It was almost flawless in terms of the settings, language(s), and acting!  Constance Wu was terrific in her role of Rachel Chu, an economics professor at NYU, who travels to Singapore to meet her boyfriend’s (Nick Young played by the gorgeous Henry Golding) family.  Little does she realize how excessively weatlhy her boyfriend’s family is and how awkward the meeting will be.  Fortunately, she has her old college roommate , who is “new money”, played by rapper Awkwafina (who steals the show), and helps her acclimate to the old money-society of the Young family.

Rachel , as the economist, is a formidable foe to the matriach of the Young family who dislikes Rachel from the start simply due to her background.  The movie delves into the intricacies of family and tradition without a hitch, and yet the writers manage to add in the bonds of love and friendship.  Any viewer will leave the movie feeling satisfied and looking forward to a sequel!

If you are interested in reading the book, 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=0345803787&asins=0345803787&linkId=a89286941e964dbe86dbdfe450c22ded&show_border=false&link_opens_in_new_window=false&price_color=333333&title_color=0066c0&bg_color=ffffff.

There is also a trilogy and here are the links to the follow up two novels:

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Review of the “Omni Plantation Resort” in Amelia Island, Florida

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For booking options, check out:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g34218-d115358-Reviews-Omni_Amelia_Island_Plantation_Resort-Fernandina_Beach_Amelia_Island_Florida.html

For those of you who want the combination of pool and beach with first class tennis and golf, this resort is right up your alley!

It is a short drive (about 40 minutes) from the Jacksonville airport.  Jacksonville airport is relatively easy to fly into due to Southwest flying direct to Jacksonville from multiple cities.

Amelia Island has some nice restaurants in the historic district and convenience stores such as Harris Teeter, CVS and Walmart near to the resort if you needed to get some supplies that you forgot from home. There is a small convenience store on property of the Omni which is nice if you didn’t rent a car.

The property is quite large.  There is a hotel with a combination of standard sized hotel rooms and suites.  However, there are also homes and condos that are not part of the high-rise hotel.  These homes are still part of the resort, and occupants can have access to all of the amenities.

The amenities include a family pool, kiddie splash pool, two spacious hot tubs and an adult-only infinity pool.  All of the pools are directly behind the hotel entrance, so the access is incredibly convenient.  Beach access is also poolside.  Warning: there are no lifeguards present, so parents of younger children do need to be on-alert.  There are poolside activities that keep the atmosphere fun, and there are waiters galore to bring you poolside drinks and even food items.

The restaurants are okay, and it is a bit inconvenient for the main deli/coffee shop to be on the opposite end of the hotel. You would either have to take a shuttle or have a long walk to get your morning latte.  There are coffee drinks and fast food breakfast items in the lobby, but the variety is few.

The main negative of the resort is the pricing of the food and drinks.  It is outrageous!  The coffees are Starbucks prices without Starbucks quality, and the lack of variety and pricing of all entrees/appetizers is really expensive.  The only affordable item is pizza from the pizza place in the “shops” area, again a shuttle drive away from the main lobby. You can rent a car and drive out to nearby Fernandina Beach and even Jacksonville to get more variety in meals, but this does require an effort when you just want to laze poolside.

The positive of the resort is the variety of activities offered including kayak tours, segway nature tours (highly recommend even if a segway beginner like me!), and nature center tours.  Renting a bike is definitely recommended, since the trails under the gigantic Spanish moss trees are gorgeous!

The beach is definitely not crowded and very clean.  There is minimal seaweed (when we went in mid-August 2018) and the pool side areas are also kept very tidy.

All in all, if you don’t mind being nickel-and-dimed for food and drinks, I highly recommend the resort.

 

Review of “The Wife Between Us”

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thewifebetweenus

This book is definitely a page-turner.  After one twist was revealed, I figured that the book wouldn’t have any more surprises.  Boy, was I wrong.  I enjoyed getting surprised while reading the book , and, especially towards the end, I truly began to like the main character, Nelly.  This book, like several others with “wife” in the title, does center around spousal abuse , but I found Nelly’s character to be stronger than most.  Her strength wasn’t revealed to me until further on in the book.  At first, she appeared to be weak and clingy, making me not like her at all.   As I read the book further, I realized that her “bad” traits per her husband’s perspective were actually common ones among young women.  No women is perfect, and the authors lead the readers to realize that.  It’s refreshing since the book embraces flaws of human beings.  It also focuses on how men can turn abusive and how certain men with their own flaws cannot accept flaws in others.  This book is a great choice for discussion among book club members, and it is an easy read.  An avid reader can easily read it over a weekend, but be aware that you lose sleep trying to discover the twists!

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

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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

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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”

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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”

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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!