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!

 

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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!

Review of “To All The Boys I Have Loved Before”

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Usually, I don’t tend to watch YA movies, but this one had been receiving some good press and I wanted to watch something on Netflix while I did my morning elliptical at the gym. I decided to give it a try for a few minutes, and was planning to find something else if it didn’t catch my interest.

Boy, was I wrong. Not only was the movie funny and romantic, but it actually is one that I want to see again. It brought me back to my high school days and the innocence of romantic crushes.  The character of  Lara Jean (“LJ”) , played by the talented Lana Candor, was fantastic and truly depicted the persona of a “sweet, innocent” high school girl , and the character of Peter Kavinsky (played by the accomplished and handsome Noah Centineo) was, despite being depicted as a jock initially, the epitomy of the guy that any girl would want to date.   Each of the characters were well played, and the main couple had incredible chemistry that any viewer could see right off the bat.  I enjoyed the tangle of the love triangles, the show of family love and trust, as well as the love and trust that develops in a relationship, albeit a young one.

The best scenes were the ones of Lara Jean and Peter simply talking to eachother.  The viewer could feel the connection between them and could see how they were slowly falling in love even though they may not be realizing it at the time.    It was a heart warming film , and I have almost nothing negative to say about it (that may be a first for me!).

If you are looking for a romantic film, this one ranks as one of my favorites which says a lot since I am picky about which romantic movies I recommend.  Five stars!

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.

 

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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