Thursday, December 24, 2015

♥Top Movies of 2015!♥

It's almost the new year, which gets me really excited to make lists about 2015. I've watched a large amount of movies both at home and in theaters, so I thought it would be appropriate to share my favorites that have come out this year. The following are listed in no particular order:

Jurassic World- I randomly decided to rent this on Redbox and I'm really glad I did. I thoroughly enjoyed the adventure and thrill feel of everything that happened. Though they were mostly likely all CGI, the scenic shots of the island and the theme park were beautiful. I highly enjoyed the comedic moments scattered throughout the movie.
Inside Out- The characters were great, the animation was fun and colorful, and the meaning behind everything was so thoughtful. It was exciting that I could point out the references to concepts I've learned in psychology class. So many feelings and thoughts of the characters were relatable to real life, which was my favorite aspect of the movie. The graphic design of the characters was so well done and their personalities were so unique. A great movie for people of all ages.
Cinderella- This live-action adaptation of my favorite princess's story exceeded all my expectations. I wasn't planning on watching this, but it popped up on the movie screen when I was flying from Shanghai, China to Tokyo, Japan this summer and I thought why not and just watch it. So I did. Ella is a kindhearted, hardworking girl that never gives up hope, which I've always admired. The addition of certain words/phrases to build up Ella as an independent woman who can make decisions for herself was a good one on the script writers part. Furthermore, the dresses and sets were absolutely stunning and you can't help but feel swept up in all the beauty.  For "where there is kindness, there is goodness. And where there is goodness, there is magic." :)

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2- It still feels like the first Hunger Games film just came out, so it's crazy that the last one has come and gone. As usual, the whole cast was amazing and the acting was on point. Bringing Katniss to life is a big feat and Jennifer Lawrence pulled it off so well. I think she made the character even more likeable than she was in the books. There was so much action, suspense, and a lot of thrill. I really enjoyed this and I would definitely recommend anyone who hasn't watched it (or any other Hunger Games movies) to watch it!
Maze Runner: Scorch Trials- This movie lived up to its name because there was a whole lot of running and a huge, scorching desert. There were so many unexpected twists and turns (I didn't read the book), which was really exciting. All the action and running got me into a running kind of mood (because the cast looked so cool doing it), so it's a good movie to watch if you want some motivation to exercise. Also, you should watch it because the characters are amazingly badass. Mostly because of that reason.
Pitch Perfect 2- You aca-believe that this movie was extremely entertaining. Usually sequels aren't as good as the first, but this was awesome. The abundance of Bella Barden performances and new medleys/songs (Flashlight has become one of my favorite songs) created a fun, lively atmosphere. The humor and romance was no downside either. I liked the new character, Emily, who was played by Hailee Steinfeld because I've liked the actress for years now and because it added something fresh to the plot. You can't help but sing along after watching this film.
Kingsman: The Secret Service- A refreshing, badass and humorous take on a spy movie. I enjoyed the spy training scenes and suspsenful moments the most. Read all my thoughts in the full movie review that I've written here. A fantastic movie if you're looking for something action packed and funny.

That is all for today! I hope you enjoyed reading about my top movies of 2015. I would like to know what your favorite movie/movies are that were released this year, so feel free to comment. I'll be back with more lists of my favorites of 2015, so be on the lookout for that. Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas!(:

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Book Review: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Actual rating: 4.85 stars (-0.15 stars because I passionately dislike love triangles, or love squares in this case)
Here's the synopsis of the novel from Goodreads:
Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.
Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.
It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.
But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.
There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

In my heart, An Ember in the Ashes deserves 5 stars, but I had to be a little critical:P. This has definitely become one of my favorite books! The entire time I was reading, I was thinking “There is just so much suspense built up in the plot. What are emotions?”. After seeing so much hype surrounding it, I was skeptical like any other avid reader would be. However, like many of my favorite books, this was different and better than what I expected. The novel was well written and the premise executed nicely. I could picture scenes and settings in my head (and it was cool to have maps of the world in the front and back cover of the book). I was repeatedly surprised, which really messed with my feelings.
Map of Blackcliff Military Academy from the back cover
I love the dual POV’s. Understanding the characters’ backgrounds and emotions from the core was fabulous. I can’t deal with my love for the characters. Laia’s determination and belief in the good of people, Elias’ courage against injustice. I felt for them because when they got injured, it just felt so real and painful. Sabaa Tahir created such vivid, strong characters that I felt like if I was in their positions, I would think and do similar things. Tahir did something that authors often don’t do- she put her characters in serious danger and I was pretty much sitting on the edge of my chair for the majority of the book. The characters’ emotions felt so real. Even the littlest of smiles made me so happy that I read the sentence(s) multiple times. There were certain scenes that made me smile so much and melted my heart. I sympathized for some of the minor characters as well.
A few downsides that I encountered. The beginning was a bit slow, but there was good set up for the fantasy world. So to anyone who thinks the book drags, I assure you the book will get better! Also, love square- UGH. I passionately dislike love triangles and there was a darn love square. While romance was a large aspect of the novel, it wasn’t overwhelming and it definitely wasn’t full of stupid drama, so I gladly say that it wasn’t too bad. (Tho I felt like one side of the square was unnecessary, but handled alright nonetheless.)
An Ember in the Ashes was a big book, but the action and suspense captivated me to no end. I finished it with a few bathroom and eating break in between. I cannot believe that there wasn't going to be a sequel for this at first, but I'm so thankful that there is going to be one now. CANNOT WAIT! 

A shortened version of my thoughts:

Monday, July 27, 2015

Book Review: The Wrath & the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

Actual rating: 4.85 stars (-0.15 stars because the first 1/5th of the book was ehhh)
Here's the synopsis of the novel from Goodreads:
Every dawn brings horror to a different family in a land ruled by a killer. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, takes a new bride each night only to have her executed at sunrise. So it is a suspicious surprise when sixteen-year-old Shahrzad volunteers to marry Khalid. But she does so with a clever plan to stay alive and exact revenge on the Caliph for the murder of her best friend and countless other girls. Shazi's wit and will, indeed, get her through to the dawn that no others have seen, but with a catch . . . she’s falling in love with the very boy who killed her dearest friend. 
She discovers that the murderous boy-king is not all that he seems and neither are the deaths of so many girls. Shazi is determined to uncover the reason for the murders and to break the cycle once and for all.

I cannot explain my happiness that I picked this book up. I’ve seen so much praise for The Wrath & The Dawn, as well as some negative reviews. Naturally, when I started reading, I was skeptical. The plot continuously intrigued me, but some of the choices the main characters made in the first 1/5th of the book didn't make much logical sense to me. However, as I got further into the book, pieces of the mystery slowly began fitting together. I fell more and more in love with the characters and the story. If you didn't know, the novel is inspired by A Thousand and One Nights and I thoroughly enjoyed the retelling.
The characters’ feelings were so raw and I couldn’t help but feel for them, even if I didn’t fully understand what was going on. There was emotional tension and unexplained answers for a majority of the book, but it was executed nicely. Shahrzad is a strong, caring soul and Khalid is definitely not who he seems to be (don’t worry, I won’t spoil anything).  Needless to say, I got completely lost in the romance; it was just so beautifully written. Some scenes brought me Mount Everest-sized amounts of joy to read, that I felt I was going a bit crazy. There were some exceptional quotes in Shazi and Khalid’s conversations that absolutely melted my heart. I grew to love the minor characters, Despina and Jalal, so much too.
While the entire book was written in third person perspective, the book would sometimes follow different characters and their thoughts. Most of the time, it was Shazi’s POV, which was great because I appreciate reading gradual character developments in books. I also really liked the occasional Khalid POV, though I didn’t care much for Tariq’s or Shazi’s father’s perspectives.
I couldn’t stop reading and finished in six/seven consecutive hours. The scenes with lots of dialogue, romance, action, and/or humor were my favorite. The cliffhanger ending makes me cringe because I know I’ll have to wait many more months (possibly even a year) for the sequel to come out--though I am really glad that this is a duology because I couldn’t stand it if the story was not finished in one more book. 
A shortened version of my thoughts:

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Book Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

Here's the synopsis of the novel from Goodreads:
When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.
As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she's been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.

I really wanted to love this and it was extremely enjoyable and entertaining, but it wasn’t as good as other books I’ve been reading recently. If you didn’t know, A Court of Thorns and Roses is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, so it was fascinating to see how the concepts of the fairytale tied into the fantasy plot. The writing is easy to follow and quick to read. I wish there were more specific details when Maas described certain settings because while I could visualize scenes in my head, there were certain small details that I felt were missing.
Overall, there was a diverse character cast: Feyre is a caring and courageous leading woman in the story and I appreciated reading about her determination through hard events in her life. However, I didn’t like how she would sometimes make decisions that people had previously warned her against. Tamlin is a fascinating character, and I kind of wish that there were chapters written in his perspective to get a stronger hold on his emotions. There’s also Lucien (who reminds me of Kenji from Shatter Me because they’re both awesome, but different at the same time) and Rhys (interesting is a good word to describe him and the choices he makes).
The last 100 pages was full of action, which wrapped everything up nicely. I’m absolutely terrible at riddles (I’ve never been able to solve one on my own without hints), but I was able to successfully guess a huge part of the ending. It was a slight disappointment. There was a slight cliffhanger at the end, but not a huge one. Now onto some of my rambly thoughts towards the possibility of a love triangle in the next book- I REALLY hope there isn’t one because then everything that happened in this book would seem like a complete waste of time/effort. Romance drama in the next book would just make me feel sad. To think that the two main characters went through so much for the love interest to change...that would definitely change my positive feelings towards the characters and these books in general. In that sense, I kind of wish that this was a standalone novel, so I can get immediate closure. I wonder if this series will turn out like the Lunar Chronicles with different fairytale retellings in each novel. It would be cool to see them featuring more than one character’s point of view and include new characters/romance plot lines (but NOT for the two main characters).

A shortened version of my thoughts:

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Book Review: Dream A Little Dream by Kerstin Grier

Actual rating: 3.75 stars
Here's the synopsis from Goodreads:
Mysterious doors with lizard-head knobs. Talking stone statues. A crazy girl with a hatchet. Yes, Liv's dreams have been pretty weird lately. Especially the one where she's in a graveyard at night, watching four boys conduct dark magic rituals.
The strangest part is that Liv recognizes the boys in her dream. They're classmates from her new school in London, the school where she's starting over because her mom has moved them to a new country (again). But what's really scaring Liv is that the dream boys seem to know things about her in real life, things they couldn't possibly know--unless they actually arein her dreams? Luckily, Liv never could resist a good mystery, and all four of those boys are pretty cute...

Dream A Little Dream was a fun and fast paced read. I was looking for something light and this was definitely it. As a part-time lucid dreamer, I found the plot original and very interesting. In a tiny way, it reminded me of The Archived by Victoria Schwab. The main character, Liv, is smart and loves a good mystery to solve, but she irritated me at times. She would constantly describe her appearance (“My dark-blue shirt had a low neckline, and the new jeans that I’d bought fitted perfectly. I was also wearing lip gloss, mascara, Mom’s concealer…”) and the appearance of others, specifically the four main boys. She has an annoying habit of agreeing to do things without really thinking about how it might affect the people around her. While I felt the book was a little immature for my taste at times, since the main character is only 15 (soon 16) years old, but it was entertaining to read.
At first I thought this was going to be some sort of a love pentagon (with four boys), but the romance was simple, so I liked that. Interesting turn of events towards the end of the book, but it didn’t fully make sense to me. So far this trilogy is less complex compared to Kerstin Gier's Ruby Red trilogy, but I have a feeling that the second and third book will dig deeper into some of the characters' pasts, where some problems between relationships may possibly rise. That should be interesting!
Side note: I really like the cover and the metallic silver theme. Also, Liv’s mom is embarrassing and irritating.

A shortened version of my thoughts:

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Book Reviews: The Winner's Curse & The Winner's Crime

Actual rating: 3.95 stars
Here's the synopsis of the novel from Goodreads:
As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions. 
      One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin. 
     But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined. 
     Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.

I was really excited to get into The Winner’s Curse because I’ve heard many great things about it (and also the cover is just gorgeous). It was different from what I expected, which was a heavy but sweet romance. Instead, I got that but 100x more complicated and lots of politics. The main character Kestrel boosted my overall feelings for the novel as a whole. She's strong, smart, and courageous, making strategic decisions while using her heart. She is a consistently good character. I also enjoyed the extensive world building that built up the fantasy world. There was complexity weaved throughout the plot that was fascinating to think about.
While I liked this book a lot, my feelings were conflicted for most of it. There was something about how the romance first started that didn’t settle with me; it just seemed like Arin was mad a lot, which annoyed me. But I will for sure continue reading this trilogy because I thoroughly enjoyed the ending of the book. Kudos to the author for creating such a unique book when there are so many young adult novels similar to each other.

Actual rating: 3.75 stars (No Goodreads synopsis because that contain's spoilers and this is a no spoiler zone)

I felt like most of the book was just build up for the last book in the trilogy; there was only slow progress to figuring out a misunderstanding and moving on from there. There was a lot of inner conflict in both of the main characters’ minds, as well as, emotional conflict between the characters. I was hooked from the beginning because I had no idea what was going to happen, but by the last 1/3rd of the book, I felt that the problem in the plot had dragged out too long. I felt for Kestrel because she faced tough situations in her life; her actions and decisions made me respect her. Like the first book, the details describing the setting and people were vivid and well written. Overall, The Winner’s Crime had so much angst, which definitely made me think. I’m looking forward to see how Marie Rutkoski ties everything together in the last book of the trilogy and provide well-needed closure (which I’m really hoping happens). Sadly, it’s going to get published in March 2016.  

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Book Reviews: Never Never Part 1 & 2

Actual rating: 4.25 stars
Here's the mysterious synopsis of the novel from Goodreads:

Best friends since they could walk. In love since the age of fourteen. 
Complete strangers since this morning. 
He'll do anything to remember. She'll do anything to forget. 

That. Was. So. Good. -0.75 stars because Never Never was way too short (there really could have been more packed into this book), but the good thing is that Part 2 is already out. The plot is a teeny tiny bit similar to a movie that I've watched before, but most of it was extremely original, which I loved so much. The mystery captivated me to no end. I feel the phrase, “He'll do anything to remember. She'll do anything to forget.”, on Goodreads is misleading because that wasn’t the case in the book; the description makes it seem like the two people have different goals, but that really isn’t the case. The characters were realistically written in that they acted how I would assume people would act when they don’t know their own identities. I was rooting for Charlie (a tough, smart girl) and Silas (a kindhearted, responsible guy) since the beginning because their chemistry is undeniable. The writing from the two authors mingles well and is easy to understand. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting from Never Never when I started, but the thrilling mystery and character relationships were spectacular.  The novel was a definite page turner.

Now onto my quick thoughts regarding Part Two:
There was a lot of redundant information in the beginning that could’ve been left out if all three parts of Never Never were in one book. However, it was still interesting to read how the plot developed. The pieces and clues are starting to fit together, though many things still have to be explained. The few plot twists and new discoveries were unexpected and I enjoyed the surprise they gave me. I cannot wait to see how the mystery unravels in Part Three.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Book Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Actual rating: 4.25 stars
Here's the synopsis of the novel from Goodreads:
      CATH IS A SIMON SNOW FAN. Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan... But for Cath, being a fan is her life--and she's really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it's what got them through their mother leaving.
      Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fanfiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere. 
      Cath's sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can't let go. She doesn't want to. 
      Now that they're going to college, Wren has told Cath that she doesn't want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She's got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend; a fiction-writing professor who thinks fanfiction is the end of the civilized world; a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words...and she can't stop worrying about her dad, who's loving and fragile and has never really been alone
      For Cath, the question is: Can she do this? Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

When I first started reading this book, it was 9 months ago in September. I had begun reading, stopped, and then finished reading it all in one day during this month (and I’m so glad I did). The beginning of Fangirl was extremely slow for me because I couldn’t relate to Cath, which I really like to do with a book’s main character; she frustrated me with her ceaseless dislike for change. However, I really enjoyed the second half of the novel because that’s where she started developing as an individual. It was wonderful seeing her interact with different people, her dad, Wren, Reagan, Levi, and Laura, in various situations. She became more realistic as a multidimensional character, someone who is a home-body and anxious for the future, but also caring and willing to do anything for the ones she loves. The romance was super adorable and sweet, as I had expected. Levi was supportive, cheerful, and sweet all the time, but it just seemed like that one side of him was the only side. It would be fascinating to see Cath meet his family and visit the farm to see a different side of his character to make him more realistic. Also, further plot regarding Laura would be really interesting. She was mentioned continuously throughout the novel, but there was no further development with that plot line. Additionally, I would appreciate an epilogue for the romance because I love the relationship so much (and that would’ve provided more closure than the actual ending of the novel). Overall, I’m pleased to say that I ended up liking Fangirl much more than I had expected when I first picked this book up. Rainbow Rowell’s writing and characters grew on me and I’m so glad that I decided to pick this back up this summer.

A shortened version of my thoughts on this book:

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Book Review: The Body Electric by Beth Revis

Here's the synopsis of the novel from Goodreads:
      Ella Shepherd has dedicated her life to using her unique gift—the ability to enter people’s dreams and memories using technology developed by her mother—to help others relive their happy memories.
      Ella starts seeing impossible things—images of her dead father, warnings of who she cannot trust. Her government recruits her to spy on a rebel group, using her ability to experience—and influence—the memories of traitors. But the leader of the rebels claims they used to be in love—even though Ella’s never met him before in her life. Which can only mean one thing… Someone’s altered her memory.
     Ella’s gift is enough to overthrow a corrupt government or crush a growing rebel group. She is the key to stopping a war she didn’t even know was happening. But if someone else has been inside Ella’s head, she cannot trust her own memories, thoughts, or feelings. So who can she trust?

The Body Electric was fast paced and super fascinating. Though I did get kind of confused at times, for the most part the mindboggling book was logical. I couldn’t stop reading because I was so intrigued by where the plot was going. I read Beth Revis’ Across the Universe trilogy in the past and enjoyed it immensely. She has a way of writing that captures readers’ attention and builds up a colorful world in front of them. The technology and sci-fi elements of this novel were strong, but she did a good job at describing everything in detail. It was unique and intriguing. I felt that there were some parts in the book that dragged on a little too long. While I definitely feel like some parts of the story could’ve been explained better to make everything easier to follow, I can understand how the vague, unexplained aspects of the novel add to the overall mystery. The main character, Ella, was very likeable and realistic. It was interesting to see the rest of the characters and the plot fit together, though I would have to say a few parts were predictable. Also, I wish there was an epilogue to give closure for the romance. I like the Across the Universe trilogy much more, but this was an enjoyable novel. I would recommend this only for sci-fi lovers because there is a whole lot of science fiction aspects in it that readers have to follow.

A shortened version of my thoughts on this book:

Monday, May 4, 2015

Throwback to Ten of my Favorite Childhood Foods!

So much has changed since my last post: I received college decision letters, visited school campuses over spring break, and committed to what will be my home for the next four years. Senior year has flown by so quickly, it's kind of ridiculous. Feels like just the other day I clicked the anticlimactic submit button for my college applications. Even though it's almost the end of the year, the past month I've been bombarded with class homework/tests and in the beginning of this month (currently) I have AP testing. I'm so excited for the events to come (prom, graduation, etc), but I also want to pay tribute to my childhood through this throwback blog post. Today, I will be talking about my favorite foods growing up as a late 90's kid. **Note- most of the items below can still be bought today; however, I included them because they either were more popular or just invented when I was a child.

1. Gushers: Oh. my. gosh. The chewy outer gummy layer and the candy gooey gel inside are such an innovative, yummy combination. I was so obsessed with these and all the flavors they came in.
2. Gogurt: These are such a fun, but messy, way of eating yogurt. Although I could have gotten so much more yogurt for the price of a box of Gogurt, it was entertaining to be able to squeeze the plastic "tubes" and solve the puzzles on the wrapper.
3. Lunchables: Quite expensive for the amount of food in the package, Lunchables were so extremely popular, especially during field trips when almost every person had them (and I very rarely did).
4. Trix Yogurt: Another yogurt item because I absolutely loved (and still love) yogurt when I was a child. The colorful flavors were just so exciting to swirl around, though I'm pretty sure all the flavors tasted basically the same.  Nevertheless, the packaging and flavors grabbed my attention in the grocery store.
5. Ring Pop, Push Pop, and Bottle Pop: I guess the word "pop" was extremely trendy... I used to really enjoy the hard candy parts of the pops!
6. Yogos: These were yummy little yogurt covered fruit balls. They were kind of addicting to eat.
7. JELL-O Strawberry Cheesecake Cups: I was so in love with these and I never found out the name of them until today. I'm pretty sure these are discontinued now (at least in the U.S.), but they were delicious while they existed. Strawberry gel on top with a cheesecake flavored pudding bottom.
8. Otter Pops: These were the ideal summer treat. Still loved nowadays, they were definitely a favorite in the past.
9. Dippin Dots: Y. E. S. I'm pretty sure everyone loves Dippin Dots because how could you not? The delectable variety of flavors melt so deliciously in the mouth. They used to be more widely sold and less expensive, but nowadays when I see it in amusement parks and at events, I can't help but buy a cup.
Clearly I was obsessed with colorful foods when I was younger...(: Thank you all so much for reading this long post and let me know  if you've experienced any of the fabulous foods above.  See you all soon.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Book Reviews: All Fall Down & Burn for Burn

I recently read two fast paced books, so I thought I’d share some of my thoughts about them. This will be a fairly quick post compared to my more lengthy book reviews. First off I read,
        All Fall Down was an entertaining, fast paced book, but not as good as I was expecting. I’ve read The Gallagher Girls series and part of The Heist Society series by Ally Carter, so I am familiar with Carter’s writing style. The premise of the story was very interesting, covering a variety of topics from politics and international relations to espionage. I enjoyed how this novel was written because it was fast paced and kept my attention. If you know me, I love a good mystery with spy thriller aspects, however this book just wasn’t anything extremely new compared to other novels that I have read. I definitely think there is potential, but I wish this book was longer because nothing really exciting happened. The main character is sarcastic, brave, and stubborn, all things I like about a good protagonist, but she was cloudy-headed sometimes when making decisions. I like the other characters and I hope there is further development of their personalities and friendships in the next book. (Possibly there will be a budding romance btwn Grace and Alexei?:) ) 

Next, I finally picked up a book by Jenny Han, an author that many people have talked about. 
        As a general overview, this novel is told in three different girls’ perspectives (you’ll just have to read to see how their stories intertwine) that all want revenge on someone in their lives. This is extremely intriguing with three points of views to read from. I like all the characters, but I also find faults with all of them (for ex, they are immature at times). I wasn’t very sure what to expect when I started reading this book, but logically the plot and the characters fit together. I think Burn for Burn would have been so much more enjoyable if it was a standalone novel (or just had one sequel). I feel like I did not have enough closure for this book; I'm not sure that I would like reading two more books with these characters because there's sure to be new stupid drama. I wish the novel was more focused on friendship, but there wasn't a huge emphasis on that. Overall, I was hooked while reading and I couldn't put it down, but after finishing it and thinking about it for a while, I like this book less and less. Not sure if I'll finish the trilogy; I would prefer to read something that has a little more depth with the characters and relationships. 

Monday, March 9, 2015

Movie Review- Kingsman: The Secret Service

I'm a sucker for a good, fast paced action movie and Kingsman was all that and more! This is going to be a no-spoiler review of the movie, Kingsman: The Secret Service, which was released on February 13th, but is still in theaters.
I really enjoyed the fast pace of the movie overall; there was never a dull moment because new, exciting things kept on happening. As a major spy movie and novel enthusiast, I did find some parts of the spy training predictable, but it was all still very entertaining to watch. I liked how Kingsman tried to break the mold of a typical spy movie (you'll see what I mean if/when you watch this) and the ending 40 minutes was by far my favorite. The action was suspenseful and fantastic to watch; I was definitely on the edge of my seat. There was quite a lot of blood, and one scene that was particularly shocking for me to watch  (that involved a blade), but the violence really wasn't disturbing. The bad ass characters really made this movie fascinating.

Even though he isn't well-known, I think the actor, Taron Egerton, who played the main character Eggsy did a wonderful job. I loved his character because of his caring dedication to his family and his humorous remarks throughout the movie. The rest of the actors were great as well. Fun fact: Emma Watson was a candidate for the minor character of Roxy, but Sophie Cookson, a newly graduated theater student, earned the role.

Overall, I would recommend this to anyone who is interested in action and adventure, and doesn't mind blood. Kingsman: The Secret Service draws inspiration from other spy movies, but is still very unique and entertaining. This movie is a 4.5 out of 5 stars (90%) in my opinion because I absolutely loved it.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

❀Afternoon Tea at Waldorf Astoria on the Shanghai Bund❀

        While I was in Shanghai, China for around one week during my February school break (for my close family member's funeral), I visited the Bund, a long street lined with old Victorian style buildings that border the HuangPu River. Across the river, one can see the famous Pudong skyline with an assortment of skyscrapers.
        Today, I will be sharing a couple, fun hours I spent enjoying afternoon tea (with my mom) at Waldorf Astoria, a luxurious hotel on the Bund. I discovered this place after watching a YouTube video. I've been craving tea sandwiches and pastries for a long time, so I thought this would be a wonderful experience and it really was!

Be warned: this post is extremely long because of the excessive amount of pictures that I took. ALL pictures (excluding two pics that I have credited others for) were taken personally by me. CLICK the pictures to get a zoomed in view.

I took a picture in front of the building, but accidentally deleted it. So here is a picture from Google Images. 
The following pictures are of the interior of the hotel. There were various red decorations throughout the hotel in celebration of Chinese New Year. 

Because this place is extremely popular and we didn't make reservations enough time beforehand, we didn't dine in the red velvet inspired room Salon de Ville (pic on left). Instead, we sat in the lobby (pic on right), also a beautiful location overlooking a large dining area, to enjoy the Waldorf Astoria's signature Red Velvet Afternoon Tea Set (named after their signature red velvet dessert; there is no red velvet tea:P).
Left picture is from Sugared & Spiced. Right picture was taken by me.
There was a relatively wide variety of teas to choose from (I think around 20 different flavors): my mom went for Japanese ginseng tea and I ordered a peach tea (forgot the actual name). I really loved the combination of the fruity flavor and brown sugar cubes.
Now onto my favorite part: FOOD! :) The food came atop a three-level tier display
with little savory sandwiches and pastries on the bottom,
deliciously baked scones on the middle level (never have I had better scones. These were moist on the inside and crunchy on the outside layer. I really liked the raspberry and blueberry jam),
and finally, delectable desserts on the top.
I am a food enthusiast, so I'm going to going into detail with all the treats.Hopefully you enjoy looking at these pictures; possibly you could feel inspired to make your own?:)
Left to Right, Top to Bottom: cheese and sausage tart, cucumber egg salad sandwich, tuna fish spread over bread garnished w/ pistachios and cranberry, ham and tuna spread sandwich w/ cranberry garnish, baked curry pastry, baked salmon pastry, smoked salmon sandwich
Left to Right, Top to Bottom: strawberry mouse w/ tart crust, red velvet whoopie pies, chocolate mousse cake, plain cheesecake w/ grape garnish, cream w/ raspberry jelly, fruit tart with mango mousse filling, mango mousse, cream puffs with custard filling (my favorite), raspberry macarons
That afternoon was fantastic and one that I'll remember for years to come. We took some left over desserts home:
The cost was approximately 350 yuan (RMB) per person, which is around $54.05 USD per person. (This price includes the afternoon tea set and waiter tip. The service was very nice.) I don't think I will ever be returning there, but I'm glad I was able to experience it all. I'm grateful for my mom who came with me. And I would say that my money (earned from work) was well spent on a relaxing, memorable occasion. 
I worked really hard on writing this post. Thank you all so so much for reading!