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!

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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

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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

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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”

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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!

Review of “Love on Safari” on the Hallmark channel

loveonsafariThis is a great movie on Hallmark’s “Summer Nights” line up. It stars Jon Cor and Lacey Chabert. Lacey plays Kira, a character who is straight-laced and almost “boring” lives in Chicago.  She hears that her uncle passes away, leaving her with an African wildlife reserve as an inheritance.  She used to spend time at the reserve when she was a child, but as she grew older, she somehow lost her adventurous streak.  Returning to Africa, she falls in love with the staff at the wildlife reserve as well as the animals, especially the elephants.  She meets Tom, one of the head wildlife reserve conservationists, and they share their love for the reserve.  Despite having a boyfriend, Brad, from Chicago, the viewer can see the chemistry developing between Tom and Kira.  Kira does not want to end up selling the reserve to an entrepreneur who may not have the best interests of the reserve at heart.  Brad, on the other hand, can’t wait for Kira to leave Africa and go back to her humdrum life and actually betrays her trust by going behind her back to the entrepreneur to expedite the sale of the reserve.

This movie was a delight to the eyes!  I loved seeing all of the wildlife and the scenes filmed in the reserve.  The safari slant to the story was unique to Hallmark, and I enjoyed watching the different animal species in their natural habitat!  The storyline was also enjoyable, and the two actors played their roles naturally.  Highly recommend!

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=B01066T4UO&asins=B01066T4UO&linkId=2290c0364df514db2cfab2d8a1ceb9dc&show_border=false&link_opens_in_new_window=false&price_color=333333&title_color=0066c0&bg_color=ffffff to read something similar on your Kindle!

Review of Katie Fforde’s “A Perfect Proposal”

 

 

katiefforde/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=B008BU6Z6E&asins=B008BU6Z6E&linkId=827e25efa129776120eba489d0eea05b&show_border=false&link_opens_in_new_window=false&price_color=333333&title_color=0066c0&bg_color=ffffff

For those readers who enjoy British chick lit, I think this book will be right up their alley.  It is well written in an easy-going manner, typical of most Katie Fforde fictional novels and is centered around a budding romance between an independent, loveable heroine and a stoic hero.  Katie Fforde develops her main feminine character, Sophie, in a very detailed manner but leaves a lot to be desired in the protagonist’s love interest, Luke.  I identified with Sophie’s trusting personality as well as her drive to be financially independent even when lacking the traditional academic skills.  However, I could never see why Sophie was so attracted to Luke.  Luke is described as good looking and wealthy but that is where the attributes seem to end.  His personality is as dull as dishwasher.  His grandmother, Matilda, is the reason that Sophie and Luke end up meeting, and she also is behind Sophie’s adventures in both New York City and in Cornwall.  Moira ends up being much more likeable than Luke, and it is interesting that the author delineates the lovely personalities of the side characters of grandmother Matilda, the B&B keeper Moira, Sophie’s uncle Eric, and even Sophie’s mother.  However, she keeps Luke one-dimensional.

Outside of this one flaw, the book is a nice, cozy read, perfect for a cold winter’s night by a fireplace.  It has the skill to transport the reader to the warmth of the English countryside and even to the glamourous side of New York City.  It is not a book of thought provoking conflicts, so it would not be the right choice for a book club.  However, it is perfect for a read after a long day at work and after putting the kids to bed.  Highly recommend to put a smile on your face!

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Suits–the new season 8 on USA

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I don’t know how many of my readers watch the series, “Suits”, but I highly recommend it!  It’s probably what the new Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle (wife of Prince Harry) is best known for, and it’s a fantastically written series.  Outside of regular use of cuss words, the show is very well written and engages the viewer in complex law and corporate cases with the added bonus of soap opera-like drama and relationships.

I admit that, with every season, some of the dialogue gets a bit redundant as the writers struggle to keep the characters fresh, but , all in all, the show hits the mark every time.  I was worried when Patrick J. Adams (Mike, one of the main characters) and Meghan Markle (Rachel, Mike’s love interest) left the show at the end of last season.

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I wasn’t sure that the characters of Donna, Harvey and Louis could carry the show on their shoulders.  The chemistry between Mike and Harvey seemed to be the main foundation of the show.  Boy, have I been proven wrong this season.

In enters Katherine Heigl.

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Katherine plays the character, Stephanie Wheeler, a no-nonsense aggressive attorney who seems to be a “Super Donna” like character.  She seems to match Harvey’s wit and assertiveness but still has an air of mystery that hints at more to come.

The past two episodes of this season have introduced new characters and expanded on previous minor characters who are now playing more meatier roles in this season.  I am looking forward to more of Stephanie Wheeler as well as more of the new managing partner , Robert Zane (who plays Rachel’s father).

If you haven’t gotten hooked on Suits yet, now is the time!  Highly recommend! 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=B07F5YHQLQ&asins=B07F5YHQLQ&linkId=d83406aab0583801ad5a9ee94b687e0c&show_border=false&link_opens_in_new_window=false&price_color=333333&title_color=0066c0&bg_color=ffffff to catch up on the first seasons.

Review of the book “Rich Dad’s Cashflow Quadrant”

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I will admit it—-I am a finance junkie, albeit a complete novice.  I have started to take an avid interest in the stock market (especially investing in index funds–see my review of John Bogle’s book next!), crowdfunding real estate opportunities, real estate syndication, and ultimately the goal of financial independence.  I follow several finance blogs, and one such blog recommended this book as part of their reading list for finance newbies like myself.

I was excited to read it, since I had heard so much about “Rich Dad”.  His earlier book, “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” seemed a bit basic for me, so one of the blogs I followed recommended this one as the next step in my reading library.

I started reading the book from page 1, looking forward to finding out exactly how Robert Kiyosaki made his millions. Ultimately, I was disappointed.  The book does offer great advice, but it offers it repeatedly. It seems that every chapter of the book concentrates on the Cash Flow Quadrant ,and which part of the quadrant the reader should belong to in order to attain financial independence, over and over again , albeit in different forms.

After reading the first chapter, if you understand the gist, there is no point in reading the entire book.  If I were the reader, I would move on to the next advanced book in your financial reading library such as what index funds to invest in and how to invest in real estate rather than this book on finance philosophy.

If you do want to give the book a try, please click on the link //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=1612680054&asins=1612680054&linkId=668cb39b2d551dfe138d88f4c828844f&show_border=false&link_opens_in_new_window=false&price_color=333333&title_color=0066C0&bg_color=FFFFFF