To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (Movie Special)

I love rom-coms! I miss rom-coms. It feels like it’s been forever since I’ve watched a decent rom-com. And To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the coming-of-age teenage rom-com that I’ve been hoping for.

While To All the Boys reminds me of Mean Girls, the #1 teen rom-com of all time (according to me), it isn’t “just another teen movie.” It’s about growing up and understanding life’s lessons, but what makes it heart-warming and relatable is the story’s focus on a stage in life that we all experience as teenagers: having a teenage crush. Having a crush on someone, whether it’s a classmate, boy band, girl group, actor or actress, seems like a right of passage. And as we grow older, we look back at this point in time, and we laugh at our cute and silly actions.

Watching Lara Jean reminded me of the silly and stupid things I did as a teenager. I think Lana Condor did a fantastic job of portraying the romantic daydreaming teen girl. I especially love her character because she is the right blend of not quite an adult but still possesses a bit of that childhood innocence. And Peter, played by Noah Centineo, is charming and cute. He nailed the portrayal of a popular high school jock who on the inside isn’t really the confident guy everyone thought he was. And the chemistry between Lara Jean and Peter is breathtaking; there were moments when my heart melted.

To top it off, what really made me appreciate this movie is it’s positive message on self-image and sexual consent. Teen movies, especially teen movies for girls, focus so much on “the makeover.” It’s always about an ugly girl who gets a makeover and becomes the most popular girl in school. There’s no makeover, there’s no discussion about body image, there isn’t even any jokes about the nerd or the fat kid. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is simply about a teenage girl trying to find her way in life’s complexities and in the process finding love as well.

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An Update

I can’t believe it’s already been a month since my last post. A lot of stuff has happened, and I’ve been so busy that I haven’t had much time to read. 😥 So here’s an update.

I changed jobs, and I’ve been getting used to the new environment. First two weeks were crazy hectic. There was a backlog of jobs and the previous workflow was inefficient and disorganized. The new supervisor changed a bit of the workflow, organized the place a little, and already there’s been a dramatic difference.

I’ve been taking an ebook / EPUB production course and tomorrow it’s coming to an end. It’s been so much fun learning XHTML & CSS coding for ebooks, but it was also a lot of work. I had to create an ebook from scratch, as in here’s the text and you input all the coding to turn it into an EPUB, and I had to quality check an ebook and make sure it works on any ebook reading device. Before taking this course, I thought, “Oh, ebooks, they’re so simple cause it’s just text.” After taking this course, I’m like, “OMG, whyTF doesn’t this work on iBooks? How do I make the images shrink according to the device?” The more enhancements you make, the deeper down the rabbit hole you go.

My 10-year-old Macbook Pro has finally broke down. It’s been having battery issues for a few years, and last week the WiFi card died. It made me realize how much I depended on my computer to connect to the internet. I would be writing something, and then I’d open Chrome to check some facts or whatnot, and then I’m reminded by the browser window that I’m not connected to the internet. I really wanted to fix it, after all it’s been by my side everywhere I went, a reliable partner in crime for all my document, audio, video, and photo needs. But it’s been 10 years, and 10 years is a really long time for a computer in this day and age. So in the end I got a refurb iMac with an SSD hard drive and quad core CPU. HOLY MOLY is it fast! OK…I really shouldn’t be comparing a 2017 iMac to a 2008 MBP, but damn it’s fast.

Although I haven’t had much time to read, I’ve started listening to audiobooks. My commute to work is much longer than before, and I could finish around 1 audiobook per week. Unfortunately, I’m not used to listening to books. I find that I tune out and tune in, and it’s dependent on the narrator. For example, I love listening to Neil Gaiman, David Sedaris, Amy Sedaris, and Scott Brick. I recently found Roger Wayne after listening to Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck (review coming soon). I learned that I pay better attention to the book when the narrator performs the book, similar to voice acting for animations. I tried listening to a historical romance, and the narrator’s voice was so monotone that I couldn’t even get past chapter 1. If anyone has any good audiobook recommendations, please share with me.

Also, I’m so excited for Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda’s Monstress #3! I’ve been waiting since March when I learned that the tentative release date would be July. Come July, I visit the Indigo website hoping to pre-order the graphic novel, and the official date is September. But no worries, I can wait. It’s totally worth it!!!

Lastly, I saw Mission Impossible: Fallout last weekend. O.M.G! Everyone has to go out and watch it! Possibly the best movie in the Mission Impossible franchise. I really want to tell you all about it, but no spoilers! Long story short, there were so many amazing action scenes in the movie. There was never a dull moment. Go out! Watch it!

Magic, Romance, and a Con

Pyre at the Eyreholme Trust by Lin Darrow (ARC Review)
Pub date: July 4, 2018
Publisher: Less Than Three Press

I love the world building in this book: the 1930/40s “Here’s Looking At You, Kid” mixed with “elemental” magic and sprinkled with a bit of steampunk. At 30,000 words, Darrow has beautifully conveyed the world to the reader without making it boringly descriptive. I felt like I was transported into this world, and each character had their specific accents and quirks.

The premise of the story is simple. Eli foils the jewellery heist of the Pyre gang leader Duke, but he exposes himself as an unregistered inkman who is not legally allowed to perform ink magic. Duke uses this knowledge to blackmail Eli into helping with a con, which brings Eli and Duke closer and closer together until…they fall into each other’s arms. And it might seem cheesy, but it’s not easy balancing the action and romantic plot line in a short novel and still making the story flow naturally. There wasn’t any point in the story where I thought, “They’re falling in love so quickly it seems totally unreal.”

For a debut novella, Pyre has all the elements that makes a great action, fantasy, and romance story. If there’s anything I’d request from the author, it would be expanding this story or developing more stories using this world. I’m excited to see more stories from Darrow soon!

Goodreads

Hmmm…………….

Undermajordomo Minor by Patrick deWitt

Uh…. Hmmm??? Whaaaaaaaaaa?
(A Canadian for a Canadian)

Have you read Undermajordomo Minor? Well, if you have, maybe you could relate to the “WTF DID I JUST READ?” feeling I’m having here.

I don’t know what it is with modern literary fiction, but there seems to be this movement towards surrealism whereby the reader is thrown haphazardly out the window of a plane in lieu of providing a climactic plot point. You’re reading along, following the protagonist Lucy on his adventure (of sorts), and just when you feel like he’s going somewhere, doing something exciting, you’re tossed out of the book and into…into…I have no clue. I put down the book at this time.

It took me several months of on-and-off reading to finish this book. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t difficult reading it. In fact, I kind of enjoyed the back-and-forth dialogue between Lucy and Mr. Olderglough. It reminded me of Baldrick and Blackadder. The prose has an antique beauty to it, like looking at a piece that doesn’t belong to modern civilization but nonetheless you recognize the beauty and ingenuity. But the pacing of the story was slow and meandering, and I felt like it deserved time to ferment and stew. Unfortunately, it left a weird aftertaste.

I don’t know whom to recommend this book. I don’t know why I picked up this book and am slightly regretting it. I’m reading the blurb now, and it’s actually quite accurate without revealing too much. If you decide to read it, you’re very brave.

Side note on genre: I have no clue about the book’s genre. So here’s my best guess: it’s like Waiting for Godot thrown into Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel with a dash of Blackadder/Monty Python style British comedy.

Goodreads

Showing Your Cards in Love and Life

Can You Keep a Secret? by Sophie Kinsella, read by Kate Reading

Can you keep a secret? I’ve got a soft spot for chick lit. Even if the characters and plot follow a predictable archetype, I still laugh and cry reading chick lit. And Kinsella didn’t disappoint. The plot followed a typical structure, and events happened as expected, but I was still pleasantly surprised by how it happened. I think that’s why Secret was fun to read, that even with the same cheesy characters and same cheesy plot line, I was surprised by the outcome.

Actually, Secret reminds me of Bridget Jones a bit. Both stories have a sort of ditzy cutesy kinda lost-in-life lead female character. As she’s figuring out her life, she stumbles upon a cute/handsome guy who’s got his own issues but they’re sort of perfect for each other. And then at the climactic point this super big betrayal happens that leads to important life choices. Of course, all is well by the end.

What really got me was the big betrayal. It was mortifying and embarrassing and equal parts “Oh no! I can’t watch this” and “Oh my god! What’s going to happen next?” The romance plot line really stole the show.

If anything were lacking, I’d say the leading man Jack is like a Disney prince: we don’t really know anything about him. We don’t see his family, his friends, his work life. We only know what he tells Emma. He’s there as a supporting character for Emma.

Secret is an entertaining, light romance perfect for moments when you want to chillax and turn off your brain.

Dogs <3

How to Save a Life (Howl at the Moon #4) by Eli Easton

I adore Easton’s stories. Blame It on the MistletoePuzzle Me This, and The Mating of Michael are a few of my favs. Her stories have just the right balance of warm fuzzies, easy breezy humour, relatable MCs, and a dash of sizzling romance.

However, I think How to Save a Life has slightly missed the mark. Comparing all the books in the series, How to Walk Like a Man (#2) is my favourite story, mostly cause of Roman. Roman is cute and naive in an endearing way, and Matt plays an important role in the development of Roman’s character. While Sammy is similarly naive, he seems like a secondary character in Save a Life. Rav discovers the secret of Mad Creek by following Sammy’s GPS tracker, but he decides to stay because he’s allured by the town’s mystery. His decision to uproot his life and move across several states all because of a town mystery seems haphazard. Ultimately, I wasn’t persuaded Rav would do something like that for a special dog who was unwilling to make friends with him.

Although Save a Life isn’t my absolute favourite, it’s not too far from a standard Easton story. There’s still elements of warm fuzzies and sizzling romance. It also ties in with the rest of the series, and shows some interactions with characters from previous books. So if you intend to read this book, I suggest reading Book 3, which is the first time Rav appears in the series, but it’s not absolutely necessary. You’ll still understand Book 4, but you might miss some character nuances.

Goodreads

The End of the Journey

A Wish Upon the Stars (Tales From Verania #4) by T.J. Klune

This is the end my friends. The moment when all the strings come together. The end of Sam’s destiny. When Sam and Ryan can finally live happily ever after. And Gary becomes the most amazing unicorn EVER! And Justin finally admits to being best friends 5eva. And Tiggy is…the same wonderful half giant Tiggy. There’s so much laughter and tears and warm fuzzies.

I think A Wish Upon the Stars brings the whole series to a beautiful end. I was so happy that everything worked out for everyone. And I do mean EVERYONE. I can’t say much more without spoiling the ending. Just know, the ending is so touching, and I know it’s unrealistic with the whole deus ex machina thing, but it’s a godsdamn fairy tale so it’s allowed.

Overall, I would say book 4 is for fans of the series and author. It’s got all the elements of a Klune novel: weird quirky humour, sassy sarcasm, characters who talk a mile a minute and overshare too much information. Don’t get me wrong, I love them very much, but it could get a bit tedious. After a while you’d start to wonder where exactly are we going with the story, but that’s the whole style, just go with the flow. So be prepared if you plan on reading the series.

P.S. I hope Klune will write a short story about Justin’s happily ever after. After all this (ex. putting up with Sam), he deserves it.

Goodreads

Black, White, and Grey

The Boat People by Sharon Bala
Canada Reads 2018 Finalist

Sharon Bala’s The Boat People is an examination of the broken bureaucratic policy that is the refugee system in Canada. The story is inspired by a true event that happened in 2011 when a cargo ship docked in the B.C. harbour with 500 Sri Lankan Tamil refugees. The author weaves together the perspectives of the refugee Mahindan, the lawyer Priya, and the adjudicator Grace that make us consider the difficult choices presented to these characters. It leaves you questioning: is it truly as simple as black and white?

Published at a time when there’s growing public concern for terrorists influenced by politics and sensationalized news, this story is a timely tale that asks us to think about the Canada’s immigrant history. While the author has tried to stay true to the story and researched on the topic, I find that the story is biased against Canada’s refugee policy. Mahindan’s narrative takes centre stage, and through his struggles we can sympathize with the difficult choices he’s had to make. But on the other hand, I couldn’t understand Grace’s fear for making the wrong decision. Parallels can be drawn between Grace’s ancestors and Mahindan’s situation, but the book doesn’t explore a deeper meaning of life in an internment camp.

I think if there’s anything that I learned from this book, it’s that war is never beneficial and neither side is right. The ones who suffer are the innocents who want nothing to do with war and merely want a peaceful life. It’s these people who have been pushed to their limits, like cornering a dog, that they have to resort to desperate measures. And so are they wrong? Is there a right or wrong when all you can do is fight for survival? That would depend on how you interpret the ending of this book.

Goodreads

Dragons Are Awesome, Just Not This One

The Dragon’s Legacy by Robin White (ARC Review)
Pub Date: May 30, 2018

I requested this book based on the description and my love for fantasy romances with shapeshifting dragons. However, the story wasn’t what I expected and…I was disappointed. So, let’s go into the nitty-gritty.

First off, the story is based on the hero’s journey trope. Alessio goes on a journey to find the Dragon Sword, which will prove his legitimacy to the throne. It sounds like we’re going on an adventure! But the story drags on about typical travelling life. They eat. They sleep. They chat. They encounter some dangers like muddy roads and wild things in the forest, but they don’t fight a monster or go adventuring until around chapters 5/6 (there’s 12 in total). Then the story finally picks up and they start doing exciting things, but before you know it the story’s over. WHAAAAAAAAT?!

Second, there’s 2 main and 2 secondary characters, but they seem like archetypes. Aside from basic facts like Alessio’s the prince, Chiara’s the mage, and Lorenzo’s the bodyguard/soldier, we don’t find out more about them. Only Valgaforis gets a tiny character arc, but it doesn’t develop to the full potential. I was especially disappointed that the story didn’t contain any romance when it listed romance in genre. Even bromance is pushing it. It’s just friendship.

Lastly, the writing had too much explanation and not enough demonstration. One or two explanations are fine, but the explanations peppered the whole story. It’s as if the author wanted to explain the character’s actions or feelings, and explaining only made the story drag instead of pushing it forward.

There were some good ideas in the story, like Valgaforis’s role in the journey and how they find the Dragon Sword. Also interesting is telling the story from Valgaforis’s POV instead of the hero. In general, I think the characters need to be fleshed out, and the storytelling needs to be 10 times more exciting.

Goodreads

Giant-Sized Toblerone

Fox and O’Hare series by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg, narrated by Scott Brick

So I just spent the last two weeks binge-reading/listening the Fox and O’Hare series. I love this series soooooooo much. It’s exactly what I like: the perfect balance between rom-com and action-adventure. I’ve even thought about who would play the main characters in a TV series. Nicolas Fox would be played by the character Neal Caffrey (Matt Bomer) in White Collar, and Kate O’Hare would be Detective Kate Beckett (Stana Katic) in Castle. And my favourite character Boyd Capwell totally reminds me of Charles Boyle (Joe Lo Truglio) in Brooklyn 99, same annoying level of seriousness that Boyd has for acting as Charles has for food. Yep, officially obsessed.

Of all the books (there’s 5 novels and 3 shorts), I think book 1 and 2 are my favourites. Book 1 cause it’s the one that started it all. Book 2 cause the scam is pretty epic, the team is a bunch of odd characters, and it’s hilarious. It got me giggling and I sincerely hope I didn’t look like a crazy lady on the bus. Book 3 wasn’t as fun cause of the creepy villain Violante. Book 4 felt more like a build-up to book 5, but it definitely made me pick up the next book immediately and I wasn’t disappointed. In Book 5 the team is working together again and there was that ONE MOMENT in the scam that even I got fooled! OK, maybe book 5 is one of my favourites too.

P.S. I can’t read these books without Scott’s narration. I love his voice acting!
P.P.S. Book 6 is coming out in August. I CAN’T WAIT!!!!

Goodreads: 1 The Heist | 2 The Chase | 3 The Job | 4 The Scam | 5 The Pursuit