Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Best of Me

"Love like that doesn't go away. It's here with us forever."

They say first love never dies...

It only goes from one lifetime to the next.

Who could resist tales of first love? I know I can't.

There's something magical about first love—the ups and downs, the wrongs and the rights, the world and you.

Sometimes, the world wins. Sometimes, we lose the first thing we feel we can never live without.

And sometimes, we live lost only to find our way back again.

I love this story.

I love the fragility of first love and its incredible strength at the same time, enduring time and the worst and best of us.

October 17—along with Dawson and Amanda, we'll fall in love all over again.

*Image from pagetopremiere.com

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Fall Flavors: One-Pot Autumn Herb Roasted Chicken

I have a feeling I'm going to be talking about a lot of fall-related things.

It is my favorite season after all and there are so many incredible things to explore and enjoy in the next couple of months as the leaves turn crisp and dry and the world turns a rich palette of yellows, browns and reds, even if it's a bit more cool and gray.

I haven't made this dish yet but I have all the faith in prolific collection of unique and utterly divine-looking recipes from Half Baked Harvest.

I've been following that blog for a while now and every morning, I click on the site and serve me a little food lust.

This one is a must-make in my autumn recipe-list.

Just look at it.

It already looks delicious and it's in one pot.

Go ahead.


Eat with gusto.

Find the recipe here.

*Recipe and photo courtesy of Half Baked Harvest.*

Thursday, September 25, 2014

A Favorite Thing: Perfect Fall Coffee

I love sleep but some nights you just can't fall or stay asleep. 

I woke up at 3 a.m. and tossed around for a bit but no luck so I figured I'd sit in front of my computer and write. The bane of being a writer, I tell you. As much as I'd like to schedule my creative flow, it's very hard. When it hits you, it hits you.

What I wish I had right now is a nice warm cup of coffee, preferable a pumpkin spice latte.

Every fall, this gourmet coffee invades the world—from dessert to body lotions to scented candles. It does drive everyone a little crazy but I'm cool with it.

I love the season and everything that comes with it.

Since it's a bit early to be driving out to Starbucks, I'm just going to sit here and stare at pictures of the coffee in Pinterest until I could taste it in my mouth.... sigh...

*photo from dashing dish.com

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Falling for Fall

I love summer but there is just something about fall that makes it so special.  

I grew up in a country that didn't have it but since moving to Canada, I've had all four seasons and this is by far my favorite.

There's a certain understated beauty about this transition of time and temperature that transforms the world for a little bit. 

It's here today and I hope it lingers its full season. 

Happy Autumn!

*collages sourced from bloglovin.com, Laura Spellman and rebeccaVC1 on Flickr in their respective order

Monday, September 15, 2014

Review: Dark Skye by Kresley Cole

So, I've been dragging this review for a while now.

I've read this over a month ago, pretty much the day it released and I devoured it in a day but I couldn't review right away.

I love the Immortals After Dark series. I love Kresley Cole's brand of writing—always full of attitude, humor and sensual undertones. It's always fun to read anything she's written.

The story between the sorceress Lanthe and Vrekener Thronos have been hinted at in several of the previous books and it has always intrigued me. He's always hunting her down, viciously as it was implied, and she was always running from him. Those little hints were already packed with potential for an extensive backstory.

And there was a back story. The preliminary chapters offered an almost bittersweet history to the two but it fell a little short in terms of how much it impacted me and my sympathies toward the kind of relationship these two now have many centuries later. Nonetheless, there was a lot going for the book to keep me glued for several hours straight and many times, I did swoon a little at some things about Thronos. I didn't really have too much of a problem with Thronos except that maybe, if he'd been so obsessed about Lanthe, he would've kind of picked up a little bit on the fact that she was being terrorized by Vrekeners. Thronos had a lot of redeeming qualities and personified the kind of alpha males many of Cole's books have—fiercely possessive, infuriating as hell but still pretty damn sweet.

As for Lanthe... Hmm... I liked pretty much every female lead in the past IAD books but I do have my favorites. Lanthe always struck me as the stereotype younger, more shy, more innocent sister but she had a lot of spunk on her own once she was free from Sabine's shadow—at least until much later in the story. I just don't know that a lot of it was in the right place.

I still enjoyed this book quite a bit. No regrets.

I would've given this four stars if it didn't quite become clear to me, so early in the story, that this book has more couple's therapy than an actual session or a self-help book—on top of the very established and empowered sexuality that Lanthe embraced.

I get it, Lanthe wasn't a nun locked away in a monastery somewhere remote wearing a chastity belt. I get it, she slept with a lot of guys and a lot of times, for the wrong reasons, and yes, I'm not going to criticize her for it. That's fine by me. I just didn't need to be constantly reminded every other chapter. I would've liked to have read more about the actual story. I hated those moments but some parts I felt like skipping through because I felt like I was watching a Jerry Springer episode. I wanted to read a sexy, exciting and highly amusing paranormal romance, that's all.

I felt that the book might have embraced Lanthe's sexual liberation a little bit too much. It's the modern day and age, sure, and we are all responsible adults who can make decisions about our lives. No one needs to tell you what to do. Lots of reviews of books nowadays loudly criticize 'slut-shaming' and I think this book was a bit in-your-face about not judging someone for the way they are. I wouldn't get in someone's face and tell them they have to lead a sainted existence so there is no need point a finger at my face and dare me to criticize Lanthe's choices. This almost felt a bit like 'virgin-or-less-sexually-experienced-adult-shaming' if I really wanted to go so far. But anyway, a little less of that and I might have actually enjoyed the story a bit more instead of wondering every few pages here or there if I even wanted these two to end up together.

And for someone who's so empowered in one thing, I felt that Lanthe still got a bullied around by Sabine and Morgana toward the end. Balance is a beautiful thing, you know, but I guess, how are we to love our fictional characters if not for their flaws, right?

I'm still looking forward to the next instalment. The whole series just feels epic even though this particular pair was a little less so.

I'm looking forward to Nix's story the most. So far, not a ton of hints as to who would steal the heart of this clever Valkyrie who has everyone moving on her chessboard like pawns in a game she's playing with an unknown enemy.  God! Loved her little moment with the goddesses!

Read more reviews about it here: Dark Skye by Kresley Cole

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Review: Beautiful Oblivion by Jamie McGuire

***Spoiler Alert***

I'm not sure if many would agree with me but I think that despite the many mixed reviews, Beautiful Disaster most likely propelled the New Adult category into the spotlight. I read it and loved it, even when there were parts of it that I didn't always agree with. 

I started reading Walking Disaster and stopped at the first couple of chapters because I was seized by this fear that I might read something that will move me out of my happily oblivious state and change my mind about Beautiful Disaster. I wanted to preserve that fascination and the reviews and ramblings of what followed in the rest of the series (and what little I had read of Walking Disaster) threatened it a little so I stayed away.

When I first heard that the rest of the Maddox brothers were going to get stories of their own, I sighed in relief because while the books are most likely going to exist in the same immediate world as Beautiful Disaster, it was going to be focused on new love stories with new people and new dynamics. It was a happy compromise so I went for Beautiful Oblivion the moment it came out. I drove to the next city to get the copy because all the other book stores near me haven't got their delivery yet. LOL.

Anyway, my thoughts on this...

I actually like Trent Maddox although I worry that he's forever going to be cast in the shadow of his more famous brother, Travis. He's a sweet guy (although it's totally unfair that he shamelessly relied on the cutest five-year-old girl in the world to win him a lot of extra points). He's got the same nasty, virulent, violent streak as Travis (because this is apparently a very Maddox sort of thing), a healthy dose of baggage that all NA male leads seem to have in excess, the possessiveness, the confident swagger, the to-die-for face and build, the reckless charm. I also like the fact that he's a little more grounded as a character, made more realistic by the fact that he isn't rolling in cash or has some fancy-schmancy job. Although I'm not sure how he makes enough money considering how often he goes out and gives away free tats but then he doesn't drive a swanky car or pay a fortune for rent. He's quite down-to-earth, funny and protective. 

As for Cami, I'm a little more torn about her. She's drawn up to be tough and the drinking and smoking probably add the extra edge to her, along with her future tattoos. I liked her a lot of times, when she speaks up and puts her foot down but in pretty much half the story, she gets pushed around—by her boyfriend, her brothers, her father, occasionally her best friend, and sometimes, even by herself. It does make her a more complex character, giving her a flaw parallel to her strength which is hard to do but I'm just not sure that the two sides to her came together quite as smoothly to give her more pull as a character that readers would understand and relate to as well. 

As for the plot, I will never be ashamed to admit that I like formulaic stories, mostly because I like to know that I'm getting exactly what I'm looking for. I'm not the type to find excitement in picking out a chocolate from a box and leaving it to fate to decide which one I'll get. I'm a bit of a maximizer that way. I like picking up a book and knowing that yes, I'm going to read about a modern Cinderella or a girl who's always been in love with her brother's best friend, etc. I loved the are-we-just-friends-or-are-we-more-than-friends plot of Beautiful Disaster. The push and pull, no matter how infuriating at times, really got me right there, smack in the middle of Travis's and Abby's drama. I wouldn't mind reading a story like that again. I just don't know that I would want to find it in another book so close to Beautiful Disaster that BD's plot was unfolding in the background of this story. I also wish I didn't know what was revealed about Travis and Abby's marriage in the Beautiful Wedding but it came up here.

This is where my overall feelings about this book get a bit tricky. Trent is a Maddox and I get that those boys share an overwhelming amount of similarities. I grew up an only child that this isn't something I can totally relate to but that's fine. The only thing is Trent is very much like Travis at times that their lines nearly echo each other in some parts, especially when Trent is trying to deal with Cami in where they stand exactly. I know a lot of stories are going to overlap in some plot dynamics, especially in romance, but I just found myself a little perturbed at times when I was reading this that I could hear BD's lines in the back of my head and I haven't reread that book in a while and I don't have the best memory in the world. I reminded myself that it was that plot that really won me over to BD and it shouldn't be something to complain about in BO (I really don't like this acronym, by the way) so I read on.

One thing that did distinguish this plot from BD is the presence of T.J. (if presence is what you could call it considering how absent he really was in the entire duration of his relationship with Cami that the book covered). Lots of people commented about this 'reveal' and it struck me as a little odd that it caught people by surprise because even though it's been a while since I read BD, something from there clued me in almost right away, as soon as T.J.'s identity was hinted at, about his connection to the main characters. It's not given away until you're literally at the last page or two of the book and I get that there are reasons why Cami didn't confess anything (even though it's not explained in this book) because it's probably going to be in future books but it's just a little weird that something that important a detail was hush-hushed all the way to the end. But enough said.

I would still recommend this book, especially to all faithful followers of the Beautiful Disaster series, because despite all the little bits here and there that didn't quite make it a perfect read for me, I still had an awesome good time reading it and really, those Maddox boys are going to cost you your heart at some point. A lot of issues that New Adult books should address (but many don't for which they are getting dragged through the mud) really got highlighted here: the struggle with second jobs, having to drag out college and taking fewer classes because you just can't afford both the time and money for it, dealing with a family you love and hate and who still think they've got all the say in your life when you're already out there trying to make your own way, opting to work where money's guaranteed instead of risking the stable income to try to finish your degree, etc. And of course, there are those toxic relationships a lot of people around this age get into, from which they would hopefully learn valuable lessons so they can use better judgement and make better decisions in the future. And trust me, there are some pretty toxic relationships in this story. There's a great cast of supporting characters and even their drama can get to you.

McGuire's work here bears the same brand of realness to the dialogue and the relationship-building that has appeared in her most popular work. It has the same edgy humor, the boldness of larger-than-life personalities, the bittersweet angst of first and true love that characters reluctantly resign themselves to eventually, and the same kind of slow, simmering attraction that burns right under the surface.

I'm so looking forward to the next Maddox Brothers book! 

Read more reviews about it here: Beautiful Oblivion by Jamie McGuire

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Review: Four Seconds To Lose by K.A. Tucker

Ever since I picked up K.A. Tucker's One Tiny Lie from an airport souvenir store a few months ago, I seemed to have developed the habit of picking something from her whenever I come across the difficult decision of bringing one book with me on my travel.

This time I brought Four Seconds To Lose and it didn't disappoint.

It holds the same signature Tucker employs in her previous books but this has a grittier side to it—one that Charlie glosses over in an effort to keep it out of her reality. Some might say it's an opportunity the author could improve on but I think the way it's approached, since the story is told between Charlie and Cain's first person POV, is effective because we feel it the way Charlie would like to feel about and not feel about it. Her reality is one she likes to pretend doesn't exist even though it would eventually catch up with her. I actually liked Charlie although I did get a bit confused in the end what her name really is.

And Cain's a great guy. He really is. It's hard not to like a guy who goes out of his way by a long stretch to help people out. Like most New Adult male MCs, he's got a lot of baggage but in this story, it didn't overwhelm his character.

I only wish that there were more moments between Charlie and Cain before the calm set in just as hell was about to break loose.

It was an addictive read and I felt the pull of both characters. I'm looking forward to Ben's story next!

Read more reviews about it here: Four Seconds To Lose by K.A. Tucker