Monday, August 29, 2016

Review: Sunset in Central Park by Sarah Morgan

Disclaimer: I've received Sunset in Central Park as an eARC from Netgalley

Sunset in Central Park by Sarah Morgan
published by Harlequin (HQN Books) in August 2016
In the chaos of New York, true love can be hard to find, even when it's been right under your nose all along…

Love has never been a priority for garden designer Frankie Cole. After witnessing the fallout of her parents' divorce, she's seen the devastation an overload of emotion can cause. The only man she feels comfortable with is her friend Matt—but that's strictly platonic. If only she found it easier to ignore the way he makes her heart race…

Matt Walker has loved Frankie for years but, sensing how fragile she is beneath her feisty exterior, has always played it cool. But then he uncovers new depths to the girl he's known forever and doesn't want to wait a moment longer. He knows Frankie has secrets and has buried them deep, but can Matt persuade her to trust him with her heart and kiss him under the Manhattan sunset?
Genre: Contemporary romance
Series: From Manhattan with Love, Book #2

The Story: After witnessing her parents' divorce and seeing how it transformed her mother, Frankie Cole doesn't believe in love. She's actually quite anti-love; not the best stance when you are co-owner of an event and concierge company whose bulk of business mainly have to do with weddings, engagement parties and bridal showers. So when Matt Walker - best friend's older brother and landlord - needs a floral designer to complete the landscape of a roof garden, Frankie jumps on the occasion to get away from all the romance for the summer.

Matt Walker has been in love with Frankie for years, but had to play it cool because he knows Frankie's views on love. However, Matt's patience has run out and he's decided that now is the time to make his move as they will be spending more time together for work.

My Opinion: I read the first book in the series, Sleepless in Manhattan, and liked it well enough to continue the series. The truth is the one I really want to read is Eva's book, but it's not coming till November. So for now, I went with Sunset in Central Park, figuring that it'd be fine since I usually like grumpy/prickly characters... but I was wrong ^_^; Now, I'm going to sound like the heroine scrooge because this will be the second book in a row that I review where I didn't like the heroine :(

Basically, Frankie has issues. One of them is her mother who, after the divorce, decided to boost her confidence by having sex with any willing male, even if it meant affairs with married men and coming onto Frankie's friends (notably Matt and Jake). Even now, she still hooks up with men younger than Frankie and is not shy about sharing details. In short, Frankie is mortified and has moved away from her hometown to escape a bad reputation and all the rumors. She likes New York City for its anonymity. She's also determined to be the complete opposite of her mother - stays away from men, tries to look unattractive and scoffs at romance. While I understood where the issues stem from and sympathized with Frankie, I have to admit I didn't like Frankie much. I just never connected with her and to a certain extent, found her annoying. Or actually, immature. She went out of her way to avoid/run away from things that bothered her - her mother and men. Her grumpiness was actually a front, an armor to keep people away. That's fine at first, but don't you eventually have to grow up and confront reality? How long can you keep running? All those panicky moments because she didn't know how to deal with Matt's attention and her attraction to him because she hadn't let herself feel like an adult. I don't know, I just felt Frankie should have been at a point where she should have worked out some of her issues already... and I wish she'd have gotten there on her own and not because of Matt's nudging. Later in the story, readers find out that there's more to Frankie's issues... but by that point, I didn't care anymore. And one last thing... glasses are bad disguise and don't make you look unattractive.

Aside from Frankie, I also had some issues with the storyline... First, I thought it was really unrealistic to have Frankie go to Puffin Island - their hometown - to attend a wedding with Matt. Those are like the two things she hates the most and I can't see her doing them unless it was unavoidable and it wasn't. I just didn't buy it. I also thought it was a bit tactless of Matt to ask her to do it knowing how she felt. Besides, the series is supposed to take place in New York City... My second niggle with them going to Puffin Island is... sometimes, cross-over between series are fun; unfortunately, they don't always work. Puffin Island was Ms Morgan's last trilogy before this one and frankly, I didn't read it all. It didn't hold my interest then and it didn't now either. Personally, I found it pointless to have them in this book ^_^; It would have been better to focus on Matt and Frankie or the current trilogy's characters instead of bringing back previous characters just for a peek. Finally, the secondary story with Matt's employee was meh. I felt it didn't add much to the romance other than show was a great guy Matt was.

Last but not least, I thought Matt was a great hero. Very patient and caring guy - perhaps a bit too much. I did think it was tactless for him to bring Frankie back to Puffin Island, but he did it to help her out. He's the perfect beta hero. I also enjoyed the friendships in this book a lot. Whether it was between the guys or the girls or the girls and guys :) And the sequel baiting did work because I still want to read Eva's book!

My Grade: C-. Perhaps I was in a bad mood when I read Sunset in Central Park, but this one just didn't work for me on many front. However, I know I'm going to be in the minority, so if you've enjoyed Ms Morgan's writing, don't let my review deter you :P

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

End of an era...

So I just found out tonight that Bleach is over. Bleach is one of the first manga I've ever read. I followed that series for years... and have about 40 volumes at home. Yes, I eventually lost interest or more accurately, didn't follow as obsessively as I used to... but to know that after 15 years, Bleach has come to an end... It truly feels like the end of an era.

I find that the end of a series is always emotional. You never want it to be over, you always want more of the characters you've come to love so much. The longer the series has gone on, the more heart-wrenching the end is... because in many instances, the mangaka is asked to wrap up the series due to loss of popularity/decrease in ratings and therefore, the ending is rushed and not exactly what the mangaka has envisioned :( This is exactly the case with Bleach. Lots of unanswered questions, sigh.

Oh well. We don't get a say :( Now that it's over, perhaps I'll go back and read the parts that I haven't. Even though I haven't been following the series as closely in the past few years, I'm going to miss Bleach, know that it's over... The plot might not have been as strong and stellar as from the beginning, but the art has :)

Monday, August 22, 2016

Olympic Games: Days 12-16

The Olympics are over T_T I'm happy and sad at the same time. Happy because I really enjoyed the games this time around. I think it's the fact that I was practically in the same time zone, so got to watch a lot of events live. Also, for many athletes, it wasn't their first game and therefore, I was familiar with a lot of them... so it just added a little something. There were so many good moments and good performances. I'm sad because it's over. Although I have to admit that by Sunday, I think I was ready for it to be over LOL.

My sister and I joke at every Olympic games about Canada being best at finishing 4th ^_^; Fourth place is always tough, but I think it's even tougher at the Olympic games because they come every 4 years... and Rio Olympics wasn't an exception. We probably had close to 10 4th place finish... and every one of them were heart-breaking. Especially the last night of athletics where we got 3 and all of them were personal/season best performances. Perhaps we care too much about medals? What really matters is the athletes doing the best they could and being happy with their own performances...

Some of my highlights:

1. Ryan Cochrane and Hilary Caldwell

This is somewhat bittersweet. For the past 8 years, Ryan Cochrane has been the pillar of Team Canada's swimming team. He's been the one to make it on the podium consistently at all the important events. He got bronze in Beijing and silver in London. This Olympics, he really wanted to make it on the podium in honor of his coach who passed away last year... but alas, it didn't happen. It's most probably his last Olympics and I'm so sad :( Hilary Caldwell had the same coach as Ryan and the same goal. She emerged in 2013 and has been quite consistent ever since. It was just really beautiful to see the two of them swim in memory of their coach.

2. Evan Dunfee

It sounds weird, but one of the most interesting event I got to watch this Olympics was the men's 50km walk. 50km walk!! And do you know how fast they walked that?! About 3h40m!! Crazy! LOL. The walk event actually caught my attention at last year's world championship, so I knew to look out for it at the Olympics. Anyway, Evan Dunfee... Wow. Evan came in 4th which is impressive in itself, but what amazed me even more was the man itself: his sportsmanship and his integrity. Halfway through the walk, everyone thought the Olympic champion was already determined and the rest of the field would be fighting for silver and bronze as world record holder, the Frenchman Yohann Diniz had taken over a 1.5 minute lead. However, he started having cramps and other issues and had to stop. When Evan who was leading the chase group took over, he actually pat Yohann on the back and encouraged him to continue. That was already an amazing gesture... but there's more. Two kilometers before the finish line, Evan was fighting for the bronze with Japanese walk racer Hirooki Arai. Evan passed Arai, but the Japanese came back. When he did, he bumped into Evan... disrupting Evan's rhythm. Don't know if you've ever seen it, but these walkers walk funny LOL. And when they've been doing it for more than 4 hours, they're into this rhythm... and once disrupted, it's really hard to get back into it. So Hirooki got bronze and Evan 4th place. However, the race officials decided to disqualify Hirooki for the bump... giving Evan the bronze. The Japanese athletics committee protested and Hirooki was re-instated and got back his bronze medal and Evan was bumped down. It was Evan's decision whether to lodge a protest or not and he decided against. After reviewing the tape, he thought the officials' decision was fair - that Hirooki didn't mean the bump... and also, he was happy and proud of his race and didn't want a medal that way. Seriously, how many athletes would have acted the way Evan did? and for that, he's earned my respect. I'll forever support him LOL. And look at him and Hirooki at the closing ceremony!!

3. Catharine Pendrel

In London, Catharine Pendrel was the favorite to win, but came in 9th. I don't know what was the expectations for Rio, but race didn't start well because she was involved in a crash. At one point, she was 15th and had to come back from behind to win bronze... She displayed such grit and determination and was simply awesome. Just too unfortunate that her fellow Canadian, Emily Batty, was 4th...

There were tons of other moments that were great for me and not just from team Canada... but it'd be too long to list them all :) Lots of high emotions and good performances. I'm already looking forward to Tokyo 2020!!

Friday, August 19, 2016

Book Haul - Doing maths at the bookstore

It's crazy how things change so fast and sometimes, you don't even realize it. A few years ago, I used to go to the bookstore at least once a week. I might not have bought something every time, but I'd at least browse the aisles. Sometime, even sit and page through books! Nowadays, it's pretty much hit and run when I step in a bookstore. I know exactly what I want and after purchasing it, I'm out. And these trips are even rarer now that prices of books have increased. How things have changed...

There's been a promotion at Indigo: buy 40$ and get a 10$ card... I've been meaning to go to the bookstore, but I've been so involved in the Olympics I almost forgot! Finally remembered last night and checked out what I could buy LOL. Had a list and decided to hit the bookstore during my lunch break. One of the bookstores - the one near the curling club - had a few more books that I wanted in comparison to the one near my house, so that's where I went. I started gathering the books that it had and the other store didn't... and realize I should get all the books there! Why go to another bookstore? LOL. Funny how sometimes, you're so focused on certain things and can't look past it. So I started gathering the books and realized I could make three purchases of 40$! Yay! Except I was missing 2 books... and it was a challenge to decide what books to buy to fill that gap. Then, it was putting the right books together so I could be over 40$ with the smallest margin possible LOL.

Anyway, here are the books:

And I did really good putting the right books together, because I paid 40.61$, 39.63$ and 38.72$ respectively. (I had to reach 40$ before the Ireward discount of 10% :P) Yay me! and I hit the jackpot because some of the books are technically not out yet :)

So now, I have 3 10$ cards to use... Guess what I'm pre-ordering? :)

Thursday, August 18, 2016

I've become...

... a shoeaholic!!

I used to laugh at people who bought so many shoes and had closet full of them. I mean, how many shoes can you wear aat once? However, in the past few years, I've finally grown out of my running shoes... and started to accumulate quite a few pairs. Gotta have the right shoes with the right outfit for the right occasion!

So yesterday, I didn't put up my post because I finally fell asleep! I've been staying up really late in the past couple of weeks... but there was a warehouse sale for Toms shoes which my sister and I went. We spent about an hour there and I guess the heat and looking for shoes and the best deal finally tired me out :)

The prices were okay. We saved about 50% on each pair of shoes. Here is what we got:

The upper row are mine and the bottom row, my sister's. The shoes were divided by sizes, but dumped into boxes. As a result, you really had to go through the boxes to find shoes. Some models were a lot rarer than others. The flats went particularly fast and those black flats - I found them in a corner and there were the only pair I saw. My sister was also looking for flats. Unfortunately, did not find any in her size; however, she did see a lady holding a red/orange pair she liked. After stalking the FB page and learning that they were re-stocking everyday, we decided to go again today... but earlier than after work. I think the strategy worked, because here is our 2nd haul:

The two bottom pairs are mine, and the six others are my sister... LOL. She did find the red/orange flats! Those shoes were really her goal today and she was lucky she found any! Because besides the pair we bought, I didn't see any other... and she was actually lucky to get her hand on these, since at first, she only found the left foot! I didn't think we'd find the right foot, but I guess it was meant to be :) Then, she started finding the other pairs... and just couldn't choose LOL.

So yep, we're okay for shoes for a few years...

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Olympic Games: Days 6-11

Only a few more days till the Olympics are over already!! How did that happen? I feel like it just started! Once it's over, I'm going to go into serious withdrawal ^_^;

Here are my highlights for days 6-11:

1. Derek Drouin

Derek Drouin is a high jumper and the first Canadian since 1932 to win gold at an Olympic in that event!! He caught my eye in the London Olympics when he won bronze. Ever since then, I've been following his career. Last year, he won his first world championship... and to follow that with an Olympic title, that's just impressive as hell! :) I'm really happy for him, especially since he won in such a beautiful fashion - clearing all the heights on his first attempts. Seriously though, the high jump competition tonight was really thrilling! Had me, my dad and my sister on the edge of our seats :) Something else that I like about Derek is his attitude: so composed during the competition and humble afterwards. I hope he continues for another Olympic cycle!

2. Brianne Theisen-Eaton

I've been following heptathlon for quite a while. Initially, it was because of Carolina Kluft from Sweden whom I admired a lot. Then, Canadian heptathletes started to do really well and there's nothing better than cheering for your own country right? :) During the London Olympics, Brianne Theisen-Eaton stood out for me. She was the future of Canada in that event. Plus, it's no secret I'm a big romantic and there's nothing cuter than a couple competing together at the Olympics :) In Rio, Brianne and her husband, Ashton, were both aiming for gold... and they were both favorites coming in, Brianne being the wold vice-champion and Ashton, the world champion and world record holder. Unfortunately, the first day didn't go so well for Brianne... but she made an incredible comeback in day 2, especially in javelin throw, to climb back up from 6th place to bronze :) I'm so happy she made it on the podium after all the work she put in and the expectations she had. By the way, seeing Brianne with Ashton makes you believe that love really exists... their love is palpable when they support and cheer each other.

3. He Zi & Qin Kai

Speaking of love, did you guys see Qin Kai propose to He Zi just after she won silver in the 3m springboard diving? Both of them are Chinese divers and have been dating for 6 years. Qin Kai won a bronze earlier in 3m synchronized swimming and He Zi won silver on that day. After the medal ceremony, he walked up on the stage and proposed. A lot of people criticized Qin Kai's gesture, saying that he stole her thunder or whatever. In my opinion, he just wanted to start their new chapter in life. Rio was most probably the last olympic game for the two of them and what a way to end them, right? Also, it was so cute to see the female divers coming to congratulate He Zi and ask to see her ring LOL. Remind us that these athletes are also regular people :P

4. Rosie MacLennan

Rosie MacLennan is a trampoline gymnast. Four years ago, in London, she won the only gold medal for Canada. As a result, she was chosen to be our flag bearer for Rio... where she successfully defended her olympic title!! It was such a great routine and another really exciting event to watch. So awesome to see her reaction and know that four years of hard work and perseverance have paid off. Especially since she suffered a brain concussion in the last year. Winning a gold medal at the Olympic games is hard... but defending a title is even harder. So I'm really happy for Rosie that she did :)

Also, isn't that photo amazing?

5. Canada's men volleyball team

Congrats to Canada's men volleyball team for making it to the quarter-finals after a clutch win against Italy. It's been 20 years since Canada last had a men volleyball team in the Olympics and it was a tough road for them to even just qualify! So to make it out of the "death" pool was awesome! Going to be knocking on wood and crossing every fingers for the game against Russia tomorrow!!


That's it for me now! Hopefully, I'll have plenty more highlights in the next few days!!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Review: A Promise of Fire by Amanda Bouchet

A Promise of Fire by Amanda Bouchet
published by Sourcebooks in August 2016
Catalia "Cat" Fisa is a powerful clairvoyant known as the Kingmaker. This smart-mouthed soothsayer has no interest in her powers and would much rather fly under the radar, far from the clutches of her homicidal mother. But when an ambitious warlord captures her, she may not have a choice…

Griffin is intent on bringing peace to his newly conquered realm in the magic-deprived south. When he discovers Cat is the Kingmaker, he abducts her. But Cat will do everything in her power to avoid her dangerous destiny and battle her captor at every turn. Although up for the battle, Griffin would prefer for Cat to help his people willingly, and he's ready to do whatever it takes to coax her…even if that means falling in love with her.
Genre: Fantasy romance
Series: Kingmaker Chronicles, Book #1

The Story: In A Promise of Fire, magic exists and Greek gods are real. The world is divided into three countries - Fisa, Tarva and Sinta - and magic is strongest the closer you are to the North, the Ice Plains, the Frozen Lakes and the ocean. The Magoi - humans with magic - are the ones in power and rule the world... except for Sinta which has just been overtaken by the Hoi Polloi - humans without magic.

Catalia "Cat" doesn't care about the future of Fisa, Tarva and Sinta and its rulers. All that matters is that they do not find her. Cat possesses the rare magic talent of discerning truths from lies - a talent  that appears every 200 years - and makes her invaluable to those in power since she knows who can be trusted, etc. Tortured as a child by her own family to "develop" her gift, Cat ran away when she was 15 years old and has spent the past 8 years hiding in a circus... but her days of hiding are over.

Griffin's family has recently overtaken Sinta and become the new royal family. They are Hoi Polloi... but Griffin is not naive. He knows that in order to consolidate their power, he will need to work with Magoi, especially with the Power Bid coming up. What his family wants is to change the way society is. However, he won't ally with anyone.  But never in his wildest dream did he expect to find the Kingmaker...

My Opinion: I picked up A Promise of Fire because of the positive buzz it was getting in blogland. Also, it's been a while since I last read a true fantasy romance and was really in the mood for it. Unfortunately, once again, my opinion seems to differ from everyone else :(

My main issue with A Promise of Fire is that I found Cat annoying ^_^;; First, I felt she didn't really fit the fantasy feel of the story. Take away her magic and the swears based on the Greek gods and she would have fit perfectly in a contemporary romance book. So that was jarring for me.  Also, the whole book was written in her 1st person POV and seriously, it was tiring to follow all her thoughts. Especially since she rarely said what she really thought or felt. For example, she would tell Griffin she wasn't attracted to him... but of course, she was. Then, there was all the little discussions with herself... It was just too much for me - I wanted out of her head. I think it would have been better if it had been in the 3rd person POV or having Griffin's POV. Many reactions of hers were very immature and in a lot of instances, I found her bratty. Personally, I think Ms Bouchet tried too hard to create the perfect strong, kick-ass heroine à la Kate Daniels that readers would fall in love with. Sure, it resulted in a heroine that ticked all the right boxes, but also that felt forced and was a pale copy of all the strong heroines in urban fantasy series that we love so much.

Other than Cat, A Promise of Fire had potential. While not original, the story was interesting and intriguing enough for me to want to at least try the next book. Then again, I do love power struggles LOL. Especially since near the end, Ms Bouchet introduces a bunch of interesting characters and dangle the Power Bid - which I'm guessing is a competition between the three countries for power - as bait sequel and it works :) The world building was also well done, the information peppered throughout the story instead of an info dump. It was also logical enough that Ms Bouchet only had to give us a few tidbits and the rest could be figured out. I'm not huge on maps, but this time, I think one would have helped. One thing that I found unfortunate though is that the whole plot lacked the subtlety that makes a book stand out. Unless I'm completely wrong about Cat's secret, the foreshadowing was painted with a huge brush and red paint... and  it makes you question Griffin's intelligence for not figuring it out yet ^_^;

For me, the best aspect of the book was the secondary characters. I really enjoyed them - they made the story fun and appealing. I hope Ms Bouchet is able to develop them, but I'm not sure I would want whole books about them. Those who enjoy sexual tension will also be pleased because there is ton in A Promise of Fire. The romance was okay... I'm not totally sure I buy it, but I can see Griffin and Cat being together.

One last thing that bothered me is Griffin's ex-lover. I don't think that part was necessary at all - it was there just to create conflict in the romance and it felt really superfluous. Plus, I don't think it painted women in a really good light. Why go down that path then?

My Grade: C. This book definitively had potential, it's just too bad it didn't deliver and the heroine got on my nerve :( While reading A Promise of Fire, I kept thinking I wanted to re-read Warprize by Elizabeth Vaughan ^_^; Still, it had enough though to pique my interest and make me want to check out the next book to see what happens.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Vacation memories 2016: Frankfurt

Happy TGIF!

Once again, I have nothing. My mind is really tired too. I haven't been sleeping well this week... dunno if it's from the adrenaline from watching the Olympics or what LOL.

Anyway, here are some pictures from my vacation, taken in Frankfurt.

Frankfurt was an interesting mix of old and new. It's the financial center of Germany and perhaps why people told us there wasn't much to see. However, I beg to differ LOL. I really enjoyed walking around and seeing the contrast of old and new. Lots of pretty buildings and of course, churches :) Wished I had a bit more time to really research the city and make of list of what to see. All in all though, I liked :)

Re-Reading Mood

After reading A Promise of Fire by Amanda Bouchet, it made me really want to re-read Warprize by Elizabeth Vaughan. The Chronicles of Warland series is one of the best fantasy romance out there in my opinion. I'm also really excited because it seems the author is working on Simus' book!! :) Anyway, after re-reading Warprize, I couldn't stop just there... so I went on and read Warsworn and Warlord. With the Olympics on my mind, I find I'm not paying a 100% my attention on what I'm reading... so re-reading seems to make perfect sense. As a result, I picked up Demon Angel by Meljean Brook next. The only frustrating thing is I've lent out both Warprize and Demon Angel out to a friend and I can't find my keepsafe copies. Sigh. Luckily, I do have the ebooks.

So I'm curious... What is the last re-read you did? What books have you wanted to re-read, but haven't had time? Are there any books you re-read regularly?

These are actually books that I haven't re-read in a while. So I'm happy to get to them. Another book I've wanted to re-read is Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder. I also want to read her new trilogy, but have decided to wait for the third book to come out first, so I can read the whole thing :)

As for books that I regularly re-read... Count to Ten by Karen Rose is up there. Cursor's Fury by Jim Butcher and The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner. Also, I regularly go into a NR mood which usually means The Search and Angels Fall :)

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Olympic Games: Days 1-5

Are you enjoying the Olympic Games so far? Because I know I am :)

It's really been a long time since the Olympic Games were in the same time zone as me or almost. Gotta say, I'm loving the one hour difference with Brazil right now! My days have all been about Olympic Games since Saturday :) When I wake up, it's already started with rowing and when I go to bed after swimming and/or beach volleyball, it's usually past midnight LOL. I predict I'll be crashing soon though ^_^; I could feel it tonight...

And the coverage has been awesome :) Because both English and French are Canada's official languages, we've always "double" coverage of the Olympics - English and French :) So I'm able to watch both... and they don't always feature the same events at the same time. Plus, there's all the live streams online. I've really been in heaven :)

Anyway, long story short, here are some highlights of the Olympics so far for me :)

1. Penny Oleksiak:

This young lady is going to be the queen of Rio Olympics for Canada :) She's a 16-years-old swimmer and have won 3 medals so far (1 silver 100m butterfly and 2 bronzes in relays), with potential for a few more! In the last couple of Olympic games, Canada has gone through a drought in swimming, earning 3 medals. They have had to rebuild the program and guess what? We're seeing the results this year!! What makes it so sweet too is that her results are unexpected. Oh, people knew that Penny Oleksiak was talented and a strong swimmer... but being only 16, this is her first big international meet! They didn't know how she'd fare with the competition... and now, all of Canada knows :)

2. Djokovic vs Del Potro:

I didn't see the match, but the number 1 seed being eliminated in the first round was big news!! My first reaction upon seeing that it was Del Potro who won over Djokovic was joy :) I love Del Potro and has been wondering what he's been up to. I know he's had a few wrist injuries and it seems it's taken him time to recover and build back his ranking. To see him win over Djokovic is such a big accomplishment! Very happy. And then, I saw Djokovic leaving the court in tears and I felt so sad for him. I've never been a huge fan of Djokovic, but seeing how important the Olympics were for him made me like him more. There are so many "professional" athletes, especially in golf and tennis, who backed out of the Olympics and I found it so disrespectful. For so many athletes, the Olympics is the ultimate accomplishment for them. To be able to make it to the Olympics mean everything... and then, you have those who makes millions of dollars turning their noses at the Olympics! Yes, they were all concerned about the zika virus and so on... but do you see all the other athletes there?! So to see how important the Olympics were for Djokovic, it made me respect and like him better.

3. Antoine Valois-Fortier:

Antoine Valois-Fortier is Canadian judoka who won bronze at the London Olympics. That medal was somewhat a surprise and his breakthrough moment. In the past 4 years, he trained really hard and did everything so he could be on the podium again at the Rio Olympics. Unfortunately, Antoine's draw was very difficult and he ranked 7th. His matches were hard fought and his losses were heart-breaking... but what I'll always remember is his disappointment. Right after he lost his last match, he was interviewed... and he was bawling his eyes out. Could not lift his face to face the reporter, he was crying and kept swiping at his tears. I felt the reporter was very insensitive and Antoine should have been given time to settle down before these interviews. We all want to know how our athletes feel and what are their thoughts; however, this level of voyeurism is unnecessary.

I hope to see him again in the Tokyo Olympics.

4. Kohei Uchimura:

The Japanese gymnast has been nicknamed King Kohei because of his dominance in men's gymnastics. The man has won the last Olympics' all-around gold medal as well as 6 world championships in a row!! That is unheard of! I've been a fan of Kohei for, hmmmm, 5 years I think, and was rooting for him to win today... and he did!! However, today, King Kohei had big competition. Oleg Verniaiev, a 22 year-old Ukrainian, gave the performance of his life. The two were competing in the same rotation, one after another, and it came down to the last apparatus, the horizontal bar, with Oleg in the lead. In the end, Kohei nailed his routine while Oleg's was not as difficult and not as clean and as a result, Kohei won by a margin of 0.1. Talk about a thrilling finish!!

Kohei has already announced that he intends to go to the next Olympics which will be held in Tokyo, Japan. I wonder if he'll be able to maintain his position and face all these youngsters who have him as a role model :)


So those are some of my highlights so far :) Overall though, Canada is doing really well at Rio, especially in team sports!  Shout out to the women's soccer team for beating Germany for the first time ever, the women's rugby 7 by making history by finishing 3rd in the sport's debut at the Olympics and to the men's volleyball team for upsetting the US in their first game :)

What about you? What has been your moments so far?

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Review: Allegiance of Honor by Nalini Singh

Allegiance of Honor by Nalini Singh
published by Berkley in June 2016
The Psy-Changeling world has undergone a staggering transformation and now stands at a crossroads. The Trinity Accord promises a new era of cooperation between disparate races and groups. It is a beacon of hope held together by many hands: Old enemies. New allies. Wary loners.

But a century of distrust and suspicion can’t be so easily forgotten and threatens to shatter Trinity from within at any moment. As rival members vie for dominance, chaos and evil gather in the shadows and a kidnapped woman’s cry for help washes up in San Francisco, while the Consortium turns its murderous gaze toward a child who is the embodiment of change, of love, of piercing hope: A child who is both Psy…and changeling.

To find the lost, protect the vulnerable—and save Trinity—no one can stand alone. This is a time of loyalty across divisions, of bonds woven into the heart and the soul, of heroes known and unknown standing back to back and holding the line. But is an allegiance of honor even possible with traitors lurking in their midst?
Genre: Paranormal romance
Series: Psy-Changeling, Book #15

The Story: It's pretty much as the blurb describes. The world Ms Singh has created have undergone a lot of changes since Slave to Sensation. The Psy no longer have a Council, Dark River and Snow Dancer packs are allied, the Arrows are independent and humans have proved they are not as weak and fragile as the Psy and changelings thought. Now, all of these people have to figure out how to live together harmoniously instead of separately. However, the task is not simple because decades of grudges and distrust are hard to overcome. In addition, there are still individuals looking out for their own only... and of course, not everyone is happy and in favor for an unified world.

Aside from politics, some people still face big challenges. Parts of the PsyNet is still rotting and nobody knows the reasons. A bounty has been put on the head of Naya, Lucas and Sascha's daughter and the first Psy-changeling child in this new era. Finally, the BlackSea pack is still dealing with its missing members...

My Opinion: The Psy-Changeling series is one of the most popular series in blogland and for good reasons. The writing is excellent, the characters are intense, interesting and appealing, the romance is hot and the story is interesting and actually moves forward! You can feel that Ms Singh knows where she's going with the story and each book was a step in the direction she wanted. For years, there were rumors that Ms Singh would be writing a spin-off of the Psy-Changeling series and this year, it was confirmed. The first story arc is over and Ms Singh used Allegiance of Honor to wrap things up.

To tell the truth, I actually have mixed feelings about Allegiance of Honor. I always enjoy seeing characters from previous books and see what they are up to and where they are now. And that was basically the purpose of Allegiance of Honor. It's usually fun and sweet and logically, I should have loved this book... but the reason why I have mixed feelings instead is that I felt it was too much ^_^; I don't mind when it's novella, but a whole book dedicated to past characters? It was just a bit too much, especially since there were so many of them! Plus, everything was wrapped up too neatly. Every issue, every question was addressed. Yes, it's satisfying... however, when it feels like a list being ticked off, it's just not as enjoyable. Also, I have an excellent memory when it comes to characters and stories. I know not everyone is the same and therefore, recappings are necessary... but those recappings probably made up a quarter of the book!

Basically, Allegiance of Honor reminded me a lot of Tangle of Need in the sense that both are transition books. Allegiance of Honor's purpose was to wrap up the story arc and set up for the next. In that aspect, it did the job. There was no romance like in Tangle of Need; instead, there was a mystery thread about the disappearance of a member of the BlackSea pack and most of the action and exciting bits came from that thread. At times, I felt this mystery thread didn't bland well with the rest of the story, but overall, it was interesting.

My Grade: B-. Allegiance of Honor was not as intense or exciting as the last few books in the series. It had a purpose and fulfilled it well. Yes, it was fun to catch up with the past characters... but was it really necessary? I'm not convinced. If you enjoyed Tangle of Need, then I'm pretty sure you will like this one as well :) No matter how I feel about this book, one thing I know for sure: I'm looking forward to Ms Singh's new book and see where she takes us for her new story arc!

Monday, August 08, 2016

Annual BBQ 2016

Wassup everyone? So during this week-end, I took the executive decision that I would do the 30 Day Blog Challenge during the week days LOL. So I'll try to blog everyday for 6 weeks instead of the whole month of August... because the upcoming week-ends are going to be busy and I need inspiration and frankly, a break also :) For everyone and everything, I think it'll be better that way :)

So this week-end was our annual BBQ. I think this is our 15th edition in 16 years. Not bad right? :) Everything went without a hitch - guess we've finally fallen into a good routine. This year went especially well and we finished cooking the food before sunset - which meant we weren't in the dark for cleanup and avoided the mosquitoes! Yay! And the weather held up!! We had a bout of rain in the morning that got me worried, but after that, we had really nice weather :) That's always a gamble since we set the BBQ date so early - usually months ahead.

Here are some pictures ;)

 Fun day overall :)

Other than that, I've been having a blast watching the Olympics!! Oh and I'm re-reading Warprize by Elizabeth Vaughan. Don't know why I haven't re-read it for so long... but still love it!!

Friday, August 05, 2016

Week-end plans!

Friday, finally!! It was a 4-days week, but it just felt sooo long! To tell the truth, I was ready for the week-end already yesterday LOL.

So, what's your plans for the week-end? Tomorrow, my mom turns 65 years old, so we're celebrating by going to the restaurant with some of her friends :) Then, on Sunday, it's my annual BBQ. Once again, I'm hosting. So this week-end is going to be quite busy for me. Plus, the Olympics are starting!! Actually watching the opening ceremony right now!

What about you? Any plans?

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Vacation memories 2016

Okay, so I'm coming up totally empty. I have no idea what to blog about. I thought of posting a music video of my current favorite TV couple, but somehow, it felt like taking the easy way out ^_^; Instead, here are some pictures from my trip in Germany. Since I took the pictures, it feels like I'm putting more efforts into this post LOL.

We have a lot of relatives and friends in Germany. So during this trip, we stayed with them and took one-day-trips to several places. Sometimes, we'd visit a bit city like Munich or Frankfurt. Other times, we'd go to very quaint, little towns. One of my favorite days was spent in Esslingen. Esslingen is an university town just outside of Stuttgart... and it was just so peaceful! I wished we had spent more time. In any case, I got some awesome pictures that I'd like to share with you :)

I really enjoyed Germany and hope to return soon :)

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Olympic Games: Rio 2016

Ever since I was young, I've always loved watching sport events... I don't know where this love comes from. Other than curling, I've never really practiced a sport. Sure, I enjoyed track and field and phys ed classes in school, but that's about it. There's also a lot of sports I would not try... Yet, when it's on TV, I'm there. And when you add patriotism to the mix, I'm your leading cheerleader LOL. Needless to say, the Olympic Games are my version of TV heaven :)

Officially, Rio 2016 is starting on Friday with the opening ceremony. Unofficially though, it started today with the first games in the women's soccer tournament. Canada did well, upsetting Australia 2-0! There's been a lot of drama revolving around Rio 2016 and more so than usual, especially with the doping scandal. However, I believe that in the end, the beauty of sports will prevail... and I seriously can't wait for the Olympic Games to start and the first medals to be awarded :)

So I'm curious... are you a fan of the Olympic Games? What events will you be watching? Any particular athletes you'll be following?

When it comes to Olympic Games, I almost watch everything. Although I admit that basketball, boxing, field hockey, golf and water polo aren't much my cup of tea. Also, I prefer events that don't have too many qualification rounds or that don't span on too many days. I guess if I really had to choose, track and field, swimming, rowing, gymnastics and all the racing events are my favorites LOL.

As for athletes, I definitively have a list of people I want to follow during these games. Most of them are veterans and have been to the Olympics already and that's why I know them :) Others are medal hopes for Canada and have been featured predominantly as we neared the games. However, I don't have one in mind particularly ;)

Last, but not least, kudos to Team Canada on FB. They did a really fabulous job showcasing athletes, the qualification process and just stir up excitement for the Olympic Games. It was a lot easier this year to get ready for the Olympics :)

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Review: No Breaking My Heart by Kate Angell

Disclaimer: I've received No Sunshine When She's Gone as an eARC from Netgalley

No Breaking My Heart by Kate Angell
published by Kensington in July 2016
Relationship Status: Complicated

Professional baseball player Halo Todd doesn't like failure, but he can never turn down a challenge. Especially when there's a pretty woman involved. How else would he end up dressed as a rooster, helping a complete stranger compete on a wacky game show? Even when they're eliminated after the first round, Halo isn't about to lose the girl…

Alyn is stunned when gorgeous, generous Halo whisks her off for a dream vacation to the beach--she's been let down by friends and even family so many times, she's lost count. Later, he offers to lend a hand getting her vintage shop up and running. But his constant--and ridiculous--purchases are the last thing she needs. How can she convince the stubborn man that she doesn't need his help--not when all she wants is his heart…
Genre: Contemporary romance
Series: Barefoot William, Book #5

The Story: The blurb of No Breaking My Heart makes the book sounds a lot more breezy than the story is ^_^; It got the main details right... Just before leaving for spring training, Halo Todd, professional baseball player for the Richmond Rogues, is accosted and roped in by Alyn Jayne, a complete stranger, to participate in a game show. Alyn's dream is to open an antique/vintage shop and after her potential business partner bailed on her, cleaning out their bank account at the same time, she figures out the prize money from the game show is her best bet. What it leaves out is that yes, Halo is intrigued by Alyn and wants to spend more time with her... so he whisks her along with her younger brother - Halo's guest for spring training, mother and injured pug to Barefoot William where spring training is taking place. Halo can feel the chemistry between them and in order to spend more time with Alyn, comes up with an arrangement: she'll pretend to be his girlfriend/fiancée for the season and he'll be a silent partner in her business.

The secondary romance in the book involves Halo's best friend and teammate, Landon Kane. Landon is tired of playing the field: partying and hooking up doesn't interest him anymore. In fact, he's looking for a significant relationship... and seems to have found the perfect woman in Eden Cates, photographer and owner of the Old Tyme Portraits.

My Opinion: Ever since Ms Angell started writing the Barefoot William series, these books have become my go-to beach reads. I simply love the beach town and atmosphere Ms Angell has created. It's so vivid that sometimes, I can almost smell the sea and sunscreen LOL. Every year, I look forward to going back to Barefoot William and this year was no exception... unfortunately, I did not enjoy No Breaking My Heart as much as I hoped :(

I think the biggest issue I had with No Breaking My Heart is that Ms Angell reverted back to the multiple couples book. This is usually my biggest complaint with her books; however, I thought we were done with it after No One Like You featured only one couple. So it was kind of disappointing to find out we were getting Landon and Eden's romance as well in No Breaking My Heart. Disappointing because I actually liked Landon and Eden's chemistry better and felt their relationship didn't get the focus it deserved. I felt Landon and Eden's romance was more honest and straightforward. It was nice to see two people knowing that they wanted more and going for it. While there was more sexual tension between Halo and Alyn, their romance was too complicated. Why couldn't Halo just tell Alyn he was interested in her and wanted to date her? Instead, he had to invent excuses and came up with the deal and Alyn never really knew where she stood with him. Their relationship was over-complicated for nothing... and that's unfortunate because there was a lot of good elements. First, the way they met was just hilarious. Definitively something Ms Angell could have built on. Also, I loved Halo's interactions with Alyn's younger brother and her injured pug. When a man acts the way Halo did, it's just swoon-worthy. Also, Halo and Alyn had the perfect backdrop for an awesome romance - Barefoot William. Every element was there for a great romance... so I'm really bummed that Ms Angell went the fake engagement/business deal route.

Otherwise, the rest of the book was fun and fluffy. As usual, the setting was perfect for a beach read :) I loved the activities and promotional events depicted in the novel. The characters were a bit one-dimensional, but still quite lovable. I particularly liked Alyn's younger brother, Danny, and her pug, Quiggley.

My Grade: C+. All in all, not a bad read... but not as good as I expected either.

Monday, August 01, 2016

Summer Chinese Dramas

Aside from my blogging mojo deserting me, I've also been in some kind of reading slump. I don't know if it's me, but I find this year's summer releases... not lacking, but perhaps not as exciting as usual. Or perhaps it's because I'm not in the mood for contemporary romance and that's the bulk of the releases in the summer. Add to that, I haven't been feeling 100% healthy in the past two weeks :( So yeah, my reading hasn't been stellar lately.

Therefore, I've been looking for something to do... and turned towards Chinese TV dramas. I recently skimmed through Clouds of the World, aka Chinese Paladin 5, for which I'll share my thoughts with you soon. For now, I'd like to introduce this summer's blockbusters that I'm planning to watch... eventually :)

1. Singing All Along (Chang Ge Xin)

This is perhaps the weirdest title ever for a period-era, political drama... but aside from the title, the rest of the production looks top-notch. It features Ruby Lin, one of the most popular and talented Chinese actresses, who also happens to be the drama producer. As it's the case with most dramas she's in, the series follows her character's ups and downs. The main attraction for me is Yuan Hong who's playing the male lead! :)

Singing All Along is based on a novel and also, in part, on real China history. They synopsis is as followed:
A tale of a farmer who became an Emperor and a woman he married twice. Following a civil war, Liu Xiu (Yuan Hong), a distant descendent of Emperor Liu Bang, was tapped to lead the restoration of Han Dynasty. To amass political power, he annulled his marriage to first love Yin Li Hua (Ruby Lin) in order to marry Guo Sheng Tong, a niece of a powerful warlord. Upon unifying the country, he remarried Yin. Although he wanted to make her his empress, he bowed to political pressure and bestowed the position to Guo. When scandals erupted in Guo's family, he used the opportunity to depose Guo and promote Yin to the position.
Anyway, this drama was filmed in 2013, but for reasons unknown, warehoused till now. I was looking forward to it for Yuan Hong, but have to admit I'm not currently in the mood for harem intrigue. It does have the best broadcast schedule though - 2 episodes a day during the week and 1 per day on the week-end. That means we're almost halfway through the series already and I'll probably give it a go soon.

2. Ice Fantasy

 Ice Fantasy is one of this year's blockbusters. You simply know looking at the quality of the production. The aesthetic of the drama is quite exceptional, probably because they invited The Hobbit's art director to join. As a result, we get sublime decors and costumes... and Chinese elves LOL.

Ice Fantasy is the adaptation of best-selling novel City of Fantasy, written by Guo Jing Ming. However, from what I gather, there's been quite a few modifications. Long story short:
This drama depicts the wars between the Fire and Ice Clans, the loss and then return of Ka Suo's true love Li Luo, and the eventual reunion between two brothers Ka Suo and Ying Kongshi after multiple obstacles set up by their archenemy Lian Ji.
Aside from the aesthetics, I'm drawn to this drama for two characters: the younger prince of the Ice clan and Fire clan's princess. It seems there is a romance between the two, but I doubt it'll be a happy ending. Sigh.

3. The Legend of Chusen

Another very anticipated drama, mainly because one of the female lead is Zanilia Zhao Yi Ling (the women on the left of the poster). This lady is on fire!! She has three dramas scheduled to broadcast this summer. Anyway, the rest of the cast is not shabby either as they were able to secure Li Yi Feng and rising star Yang Zi :) Gotta say, out of the three dramas, I think this one is the one I'm looking forward the most. I love the color scheme and clean lines... hopefully, the story will deliver as well.

Speaking of story, The Legend of Chusen is another novel adaptation. Here is the synopsis:
Zhang Xiaofan (Li Yifeng), who along with childhood friend Lin Jingyu (Cheng Yi), are the sole survivors of a village massacre. The two are later accepted into the Qingyun Sect (Noble Sect), where they learn the ways of the Immortal Sword. Although hard-working, Xiaofan struggles to catch up to his peers due to his slow wit. Fortunately, he has the support of Bi Yao (Zhao Liying), daughter of the Ghost King (Fu Chengpeng), who supports him through thick and thin. Pivotal circumstances made Xiaofan grow, and his relationship with Bi Yao takes a meaningful turn. For power, the villainous Ghost King attempts to overthrow the Qingyun Sect, and Xiaofan gets his life on the line. Bi Yao sacrifices herself to save him, falling into an endless sleep. With courage and strong faith, Xiaofan devotes all his strength to take down the Ghost King, fulfilling a promise he made to Bi Yao and Jingyu when they were youths.
This one has just started airing on Sunday and I'm still a bit confused about the schedule. Hopefully, we get a few episodes a week.

And there you have it, what I'll be watching this summer :)  And what you can expect me to praise or rant about LOL.