What’s Up Week 11: TV Binging Through Staycation

Welcome to Week 11 of What’s Up! This week has been a little bit mixed. Some things happened more than others. Its what happens when I spend a lot of time having time off. I’m going to be super honest that I have massive TV binge tendancies that started the earliest so it is my best destressor. So, no doubt its a huge part of what I do when I go on staycation (regardless of the backlog).

READING

two sisters of borneo

  • The Two Sisters of Borneo by Ian Hamilton (Review)

Currently reading: Obsidio

I am focusing on getting back to book series that I have put down. Finishing The sixth installment of Ava Lee series, The Two Sisters of Borneo, was a great reading experience. Still a pageturner series, which is always great. While I have the next book released which was the prequel to the series (odd, right?), I decided to go back to The Illuminae Files final book in the trilogy, Obisido. I loved the first two books so much that I just couldn’t resist. I’m still fairly early in the reading for Obsidio but the book tends to go pretty quickly due to its immersiveness.

PLAYING

  • Candies ‘n Curses
  • Liar!
  • Mortal Kombat X

I went lazy on gaming this staycation. Probably shouldn’t because well, we do have a game to review but I didn’t end up starting it until late. Prioritizing things that probably could have been pushed later in the schedule. Oh well, what’s done is done. I did a lot of mobile gaming. To be accurate, I played Liar! which is a visual novel sort of game which I’ll talk about in the next Mobile Games Roundup and went back to play Candies ‘n Curses that I talked up in the last Mobile Games Roundup (HERE) and also went back to polish some MKX skills. There’s not a whole lot to talk about there.

WATCHING

a monster calls

  • A Monster Calls
  • Battleship

Movie watching has definitely slowed down and I’ve hinted it enough. I did need a little break from it after the immense blogathon and marathon craze. It will pick up after I get through some piled up backlog, which should bring forth at least 2 more double features. With that said, the highlight movie (not that we had a lot to choose from) is A Monster Calls. I had a few issues with pacing for it but there is a lot of style and visuals to it and a nice twist to it all that I appreciated more and more as I watched further into the story. As for Battleship, I’ll talk about it when I do the double feature when we get there in a few weeks.

BINGING

queer eye

  • The Big Family Cooking Showdown (Season 2, 2019)
  • Queer Eye (Season 3, 2019)

Currently binging: My Amazing Boyfriend 2, The Singer 2019, Mr. Swimmer, My Little One 2

The currently watching (that I haven’t discussed too much of in the last two weeks) has been pretty good. Some of them are nearing their final episodes. There is 8 more episodes of My Amazing Boyfriend 2 to go, 2 to 3 more episodes of The Singer 2019 and probably the same for My Little One 2. As for Mr. Swimmer, everything is out but I’ve slowed down as the drama has intensified but I’m about 10 episodes  more to go to wrap that up. As for what I did finish, I binged some newer shows (which I’ve prioritized TV binges on…or trying to) and that’s The Big Family Cooking Showdown Season 2 and Queen Eye Season 3.  The latter was almost a one day binge and that is just because its so awesome.

That’s it for this week’s What’s Up!
What have you been reading/watching/binging/playing?

The Two Sisters of Borneo (Ava Lee #6) by Ian Hamilton

If you missed the reviews on the previous novels in this series, you can check out these links:

The Water Rat of Wanchai
The Disciple of Las Vegas
The Wild Beasts of Wuhan
The Red Pole of Macau
The Scottish Banker of Surabaya

The Two Sisters of Borneo
(Ava Lee #6)

By: Ian Hamilton

two sisters of borneo

Ava has been in Hong Kong looking after Uncle. She has also set up an investment company with May Ling Wong and her sister-in-law, Amanda Yee. One of their first investments — a furniture company owned by two sisters in Kota Kinabalu, Borneo — runs into immediate problems with a Dutch customer. Ava goes to the Netherlands to investigate, but her life is threatened when she is confronted by a gang of local thugs in Borneo. Out of the shadows comes a mysterious man from Shanghai – IMDB

One of my favorite series ever and one of the most random discoveries that was a pleasant surprise is diving into the Ava Lee series. I picked up the first book of the series, The Water Rat of Wanchai because of its Hong Kong location title. Six books in now and almost 4 years since I read the 5th book, I have a lot of catching up to do but the most important thing is that, the world is still so amazing to jump into. The best thing about this book series is the whole commitment of being fairly self-contained. The investigation in question may have characters from previous books but they always have sufficient information to make sure they are outlined enough even without knowing about the previous books.

Over the course of the books (and I urge you to start this series from the beginning), Ava Lee has developed a lot and still has a lot of room for it. Its really nice especially in The Two Sisters of Borneo because it hits close to home both with her personal issues but also with the investigation she dives into showing us that Ava Lee is very much a tough woman but also vulnerable in her own way as well making her very human and keeps adding new elements and twists to her forensic accounting skills. While I love the self-contained aspects of these books, the other characters have also grown and as we get to know Ava’s family and friends more, they become these staple characters and have built at this point to something that can be described as the first phase over with in the Ava Lee series at the end of this one. To me, that is a pretty smart move because it will give it a whole new dynamic but I won’t say how to avoid any spoilers.

I am getting ahead of myself to lets reel it back in. The Two Sisters of Borneo brings us to yet another exotic Asian location paired with a European location as well. Ava meets some interesting people to say the least. It is no doubt there is always a great plan at play. The best part of these mysteries is that while we can see the game at play, there is always a fairly surprising twist. In this case, it was a bit more obvious (for me) however, the whole process was still a page-turner. Its always the big reveal that has an eye-opening experience and how Ava chooses to approach the mastermind to retrieve the compensation or return of wealth that makes it even more intriguing. There’s a whole array of different people that seem like they will get another chance to come back as Ava Lee steps further into what I’d say is a phase two to the series. While a lot of foundation as already been done, there is a real sense of a second build in foundation here to get ready for more great mysteries to come.

The Scottish Bank of Surabaya (Ava Lee #5) by Ian Hamilton

Its been a while since I’ve dived into the Ava Lee series.  I really love the whole Chinese-Canadian roots for this intelligent, brave and tough forensic accountant.  I’m still thinking this series would be prime for TV but then, maybe not for various reasons that don’t bother me but might bother other viewers.  Without being too offensive, if you’ve read it and know the character, you might know what I’m talking about.

I have reviewed all the previous books if you missed it.  You can find it here:

#1 The Water Rat of Wanchai
#2 The Disciple of Las Vegas
#3 The Wild Beasts of Wuhan
#4 The Red Pole of Macau

Now, let’s check it out! 🙂

The Scottish Banker of Surabaya (Ava Lee#5)

By: Ian Hamilton

scottish banker of surabaya

After the events of The Red Pole of Macau, Ava has slowed down to heal from all the physical damage (if not a little, her mindset about her business as well).  That is until her mother introduces her to a woman in need who has a bunch of Vietnamese investors that fell for an investment scam and lost a lot of money.  Being forced into taking the business, Ava flies to Vietnam and then Surabaya hoping to figure out and trace back the money. This leads her to a Scottish banker in Surabaya who runs Bank Linno who ends up having a rough clash with her and takes it to a more personal issue.  While Ava has finally figured out where the money has gone, the situation gets more complicated when she realizes that its related to one of the biggest Italian mobs and their grand scheme of money laundering. Faced with difficult decisions and dangerous situations, Ava must try to make the best choice while things also get more personal as she realizes that there is something Uncle (her partner) is hiding from her about his health.

I love this Ava Lee series a lot.  I stumbled on this book completely be accident and honestly, its one of the series that has a lot to love.  The adventure and the wit in all the stories are great.  The cases themselves are unique and feature a whole travelling adventure just to track it down with compelling characters each time.  What the previous few books did lack was diving a little more into Ava’s personal life and her relationship with Uncle.  We saw signs of her personal life being a part of the picture in the previous book and when things get more personal, the stakes get higher, making the story even more intriguing.

At this point, after 4 books, jumping into this one, Ava Lee is a character I know fairly well of.  She’s connected with me and I look forward to what she’s up to.  This time, Ava Lee is given a much more dangerous situation and she even gets into a few bad tangles herself.  Those tangles are the turning point for her character and I think that is the game changer here.  One that is tough to swallow but also one that shows us what Ava is capable of.

I still struggle a little to understand why branding is a such a huge thing in these books.  I wonder if its to show the class that Ava is or the type of person she is or its just brands that stick out.  I don’t think that talking about Adidas workout gear or Brooks Brothers shirts or Cartier watches are details that matter so much.  They don’t quite bother me as much as it did in the earlier books but its still something I have a hard time wrapping my head around the reasoning of choosing that.  It feels like meticulous unnecessary details.  Still, thats not enough to pull away from just how awesome this novel is.

For a series to run for so long and after 4 books, still manage to drag me right into the story and craving for what will be next in the following novel.  It definitely something that I never expected when I spontaneously picked up this book after the bookstore shelf.  I love pleasant surprises and this fifth book is one that you don’t want to miss! 🙂

Have you read the Ava Lee series? What are your thoughts on it?

July Reading Recap!

I’m a bit more back on track now! At least book recaps are on time, right? Well, relatively! Confession time: I almost forgot to do this one…

As I’m working hard to finish up the Fantasia Festival reviews, I’m working hard on getting things back in a certain system on the blog. Enough of my rambling, lets move on…

Its been a good run for reading in July up until the last one right now thats taking me FOREVER to read, I’ll tell you which book it is at the end 😉

If I Stay by Gayle Foreman

If I Stay

Mia is a teenage girl who goes through a day of her life following an accident which takes the life of her family.  She relives the scattered moments of the past while seeing how her family, boyfriend and close friends deal with her endangered situation.

I really wanted to fall in love with this book.  It has a great premise and the setup of the whole book was pretty special.  Its a countdown of the hours as she goes through her life in the back seat.  She’s in between life and death and she gains clarity of what’s happened in the past and how everyone reacts to her. Its a lesson about appreciating the little things in life before its too late and at the same time, facing life courageously.  The only problem was that, as well as the story starts, I started losing a connection with  Mia as the story went along in the middle but what does redeem itself is the ending few hours before she makes a decision and through her eyes, we get witness the important people in her life.

If I Stay is set to be released in theatres a little bit.  I can’t remember if its in August or September.  I’m still debating whether I will go see this.

The Red Pole of Macau (Ava Lee #4) by Ian Hamilton

The Red Pole of Macau

In this 4th book of the Ava Lee series, we follow Ava as she heads over to Hong Kong to help her half brother and his partner deal with a business transaction gone bad over in Macau.  Much to their surprise, the Macau side is lead by a powerful and ruthless triad society leader.  Going solo this time for the first time since the start of this series, Ava is not only about business but personal stakes are involved when she is also acting to protect her family.

Up till now, this one has to be my favorite Ava Lee novel.  The fact that she’s not flying around or even engaging in her normal forensic accounting analysis is beside the point because for once, I felt like I was getting closer to understanding Ava a little more and this case itself was exciting and adrenaline pumping action all the way through.  An awesome page-turner!

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

The maze Runner

Thomas wakes up in a lift with strange boys surrounding him.  Everyone arrived the same way and only remember their names.  They are in what they call The Glades.  Locked in at night but surrounded by a maze that constantly change.  The maze runners go out everyday hoping to find a way out while they are all assigned jobs to keep the Glades functioning.  Except Thomas’s arrival triggered the arrival of a girl, in turn causing major changes that challenge their survival.

The Maze Runner was a pleasant surprise.  The whole story is fast-paced and intense.  As Thomas searches for a way to escape from the maze with the others, they also are challenged with avoiding being hunted.  There are secrets he has to keep and memories that he tries to find.  As things flip around, the only thing we will worry about is how they will not die in the process. Plus, the ending was totally kick-ass.

The Maze Runner is due to be in theatres in September and as much as I worry that it might be not a good adaptation, I have high hopes that if done right, they might have a great franchise on their hands.  Its has the right material to be a hit, the question now is whether it delivers.

OVERALL…

I didn’t read too much in July and that has to do with this book below:

A Game of Thrones

Thats right, my lovelies! A Game of Thrones is killing me.  Its not boring just crazy long at 835 pages.  I’m only at 65% and I’m starting to wonder when I’ll lose track of the events going on.  Still, I’m soldiering on because its not a bad novel.

After this, I have a little special something planned for the blog related to reading.  Every section has had their time to shine and now its time for a Reading month.  Not just any reading month but one where I’m going to flip through all those independent authors here on the blogosphere that I’ve backlogged and stored on my tablet and I’m going to work on reading as much as I can in a month. A few have reached out to me over the last few months and with everything going on, I never got around to reading it.  Here’s my way to repay everyone 🙂 Better late than never, right?

What have you been reading? Have you read any of these novels?

May & June Reading Recap!

Its been a while since I’ve done a reading recap and I’ve been way behind with my reading challenge.  I’m hoping that as work slows down, my energy will return and my focus on reading will pick up.  It also helps when I have a captivating book in my hands.  I’m starting to think that as I read more.  I’m becoming a harder audience to please.  Or maybe I just didn’t like the style of the book.  That can happen, right?

Lets get started 🙂

Dead Ever After (Sookie Stackhouse #13) by Charlaine Harris

Dead Ever After

It took 13 books but Sookie Stackhouse finally came to an end.  The last few books have been a chore to get through with more meaningless parts than actually good stuff.  But, the writing style is always so easy to read that it doesn’t take much effort to go through it quickly.  Dead Ever After is the final book and I guess the question is how does Charlaine Harris wrap this up.  She has to pack Sookie’s dangerous, crazy and romantic life all up. In the foreword or whatnot, she justifies that its how she’s wanted this to end.  Right off, the setup of the novel is different, featuring a mysterious side story which reveals itself in the end, supposedly maybe wanting to give it a little thriller-esque sort of feeling.  Except, its become so predictable that although this last book wasn’t bad, I wasn’t exactly enthused. After having some time to digest it, I really didn’t like the ending at all.  It wasn’t just that it didn’t meet my expectations but it faded out some pretty important characters.

Seeing as True Blood was what got me into this, I’m more curious as to how this last season will go.  Will they change the ending from the novel? Lets just say, if they do keep it the same, I won’t be quite so pleased. I just don’t really see how the series would build itself to that ending.

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Divergent

I bought this book in hopes of reading it before going to see the movie.  Obviously, that didn’t happen as I planned.  But thats okay, because apparently, the movie was really good and that comes from friends that actually read this and enjoyed it.

I had extremely low expectations when I first started this book. I honestly have no idea why.  Maybe its the worry that all these teenage books (Harry Potter aside) might end up like Twilight.  Still, this one did well.  I made it through the whole book in a rather quick pace.

Divergent has a great premise.  The concept behind the whole story works really well and the characters were developed decently.  At least the main characters were done well.  It might have benefited from having a little more emphasis on some key characters rather than just our main characters Tris and Four.  While there is a lot to like, I can remember the beginning taking me time to adapt to because the writing style seemed so amateur, maybe. It had something I didn’t quite like but I couldn’t really figure out what it was but that only lasts for a few chapters until it picks itself up and carried me straight to the end.

I don’t know how bad the movie can be but when I get a chance to see this, I’m going in with an open mind.  Plus, I’m already planning out when to get the second book and continue with the series.

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

The Casual Vacancy

I can’t say for other people who read this but I definitely picked up this one and hesitated and hesitated over an over again because I was not only curious to see how J.K .Rowling would do in the books for an older audience but also I had my doubts.  What eventually made me pick up the courage and read it was that it was unfair that I knew nothing of the plot and I had already judged it.  I’m just that kind of person and I won’t be that kind of person.

For the record, I wanted this book to be good.  It was just so damn long and the pace was so slow.  The story itself touches on morals, integrity and just so many social issues as well all embedded in a little town.  It sets off by one character’s death which allows us to see a bunch of characters and their lives, viewpoints and how there’s a lot of friction and just how self-centred and ugly everyone was.  I spent a good part of it really hating on the characters and in the beginning its a bit confusing because there’s a mountain of names and characters introduced throughout the first few chapters.

I don’t remember this book a lot other than the surprisingly good ending but I do also remember thinking how J.K. Rowling had gotten really sexually explicit in some descriptions.  I didn’t really think she would go there.  I’m not saying its a bad thing but I guess thats what makes her stand out.

I just can’t help but wonder if maybe she just needs more practice as its just her first step into the books for adults or maybe she’s more geared for books for the younger audience?

The Giver (The Giver Quartet #1) by Lois Lowry

The Giver

When I was in elementary/high school, I know that some classes got to read The Giver.  However, my English teachers never did so I never knew what it was about either.  Now, The Giver is a short novel. Its a bit over hundred pages.  Its also the first I knew that its actually part of a series.  Believe me, you will know also when you reach the end of this book.

The Giver is about a dystopian world which is the opposite of what we have now.  Its in a space of Sameness where everyone has their life planned out for them and in routine.  This world is emotionless and colorless and painless.  Our main character,Jonas has one of the rare jobs which no one had got chosen for since 10 years ago called The Receiver.  His job is to work with The Giver who will pass him memories.  They are the ones who others believe see beyond and carry the burdens and knowledge that others do not have.

The Giver is a great book.  I loved it a lot and I read through it extremely fast because everyone was written well and developed in a good way.  Of course, the book being short also makes certain details blurred over but in general, the events that went on and just the inner struggle of our character is one that is intriguing all on its own.  Its about seeing a world living in ignorance.

From my Goodreads review, I end it asking this question: Can you imagine a life without memories and everything is simply black and white? Simplicity has its pros but it also strips away the desires and wants that are what motivates us everyday. However, remembering more and feeling more also brings on more pain so would you choose to fully experience life or be in a simple and protected world where your choices are made for you?

The movie looks like its going to be good with a decent cast.  Jeff Bridges possibly in a more serious and heavy role.  This one I have to see.  I’m not sure how anyone can ruin this book adaptation and my fingers are crossed that they won’t.

The Wild Beasts of Wuhan (Ava Lee #3) by Ian Hamilton

The Wild Beasts of Wuhan

Jumping into the third book of this Ava Lee series, all the complaints from the second one has pretty much subsided in this one.  Ava Lee is sent on a mission to recuperate money on some fake paintings which takes her around the world to Wuhan, Hong Kong, London and New York.

All in all, this one is quick-paced and fun to read.  Its a definite page-turner and reminds me of the Ava Lee that made me fall in love in the first book.  It carries suspense and less violence but at the same time, she carries intelligence and this time around, we get a good look at her personal thoughts on her relationship and her family.  We dive into her awkward family and I’m pretty sure the next book is going to be head-on involved with a family member.

There really is nothing to complain about in this one because its a satisfying read and I’m hoping the next books will have the same greatness to it 🙂

OVERALL…

As I was writing this up, I realized how many novels are actually series.  Its really amazing how there isn’t really any standalone books anymore.  I mean here’s 80% series.  Of course, there are good and bad but for the most part, Sookie Stackhouse kind of overstayed her welcome whereas Ava Lee is still a work in progress.  I’m only the third book in and there’s probably already a few more if I’m not mistaken. However, that is a series that I think deserves more attention and would make a pretty awesome TV series or movie.

On that note, I can’t wait to see The Giver in theatres and I’m hoping its a wide release, but I’m willing to travel further to see that since I’m so in love with the book. I also just finished another book that will be adapted into a movie soon but I will post about that in the next recap.

I’m on a reading spree and I have a bunch of books lined up with a few independent writers in the mix once my tablet behaves and lets me load my ebooks again.  I’m working on that while I read some physical books 🙂

What movie adaptation are you looking forward to this year? Did you read any of these books? What are your thoughts on it? Any interesting reads that you’d like to share?

February 2014 Reading Recap!

February ended in a flash! Maybe its being super busy and I looked forward to reading on my bus ride early in the morning and after work because this was my mind-clearing time to submerge into another world not filled with deadlines and numbers.  Some days it was even hard to even stay awake on the bus but still, I kept at it as much as I could 🙂 Lets see what books I got through! Continuing on from last month which you could find HERE if you missed it!

4) The Disciple of Las Vegas (Ava Lee#2) by Ian Hamilton

the disciple of las vegas

This is the second book in the Ava Lee series.  You can check out my review of the first book, The Water rat of Wanchai HERE!

The Disciple of Las Vegas follows right after Ava Lee arrives back in Toronto and with a rather pushy, demanding and controlling Chinese/Filipino client who has been lead to believe that his brother in Toronto has conned money from his business operations for his gambling addiction.  She ends up following the paper trail and not only building relationships but also breaking a few as well to track down the significant amount of money and defend the parties while trying to keep her name clean and surviving this ordeal. While, at the same time, a former client has sent for killers to take revenge on her and they could be ready to attack her at any moment.

The intensity of this second one is almost as good as the first one.  The case itself is rather intriguing and the turn of events show a different side of Ava and also allowing us to shine a bit of light into her personal life more.  At the same time, we can see that she’s not the, as I mentioned in the first book, overbearing feminist but rather she’s human like us, except you don’t test her limits because she could also be very deadly.  There are very blurry limits to how far she’d go to get the information she needed and to complete the task.  At the same time, in this one, we get to see her losing a bit of the normal control she would have because of a more dominant figure as the client.  The only thing I found unnecessary for this novel was the constant product placement.  Descriptions of her clothes being from Giordano or her Cartier watch or her Brooks Brothers shirt.  Once or twice is understandable but it repeats itself quite a bit, but then, maybe I’m being slightly picky. Still, this is a great read and for the adventure and mystery, its well worth your time 🙂

5) The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

the book thief

I’ve been wanting to read the Book Thief for a really long time but never got around to picking up the book at the bookstore.  However, a while back, I did, especially after all the reviews on how great the movie is.  I still have to give that a shot.

The Book Thief is about an orphan Liesel who ends up with foster parents and finds joy in her books and reading during the WWII in Germany when Hitler was in power.  The everyday life and how she grew up with her friend Rudy and eventually their family keeping the secret of hiding a fugitive.  It was about the poverty and how lives were and how the Book Thief became the Book Thief all in the eyes of our narrator, Death.

That was probably the most unique part of the story, being narrated and witnessed by Death.  The story ended up being moving back and forth with little inserts of notes from Death.  Whats also refreshing is that its in short chapters to document different things happening while being separated into 10 different sections containing different phases and events that come up.  As much as its about Liesel’s life, its also about her foster family and her friends and the effect that war had on them, the choices they made, etc.

The Book Thief starts off slowly as we learn about the little girl that Death encountered the first time when he went to take away her brother’s soul and then we follow everything else bit by bit afterwards.  As much as its slow, it never feels like it drags on but does it very efficiently.  Its a fantastic (and unique) reading experience 🙂

OVERALL…

I have one more novel but I had read it in anticipation for Recommendation Month as its written by a fellow blogger.  That will go up next week 🙂

Its been a good month for reading yet again.  This time, I enjoyed all of the novels quite a bit and I especially look forward to the next novel in the Ava Lee series.

Have you read these novels before? What are you reading now? What are your favorite mystery thriller or young adult/historical fiction?  I’m not much of a historical fiction person but this one has me intrigued 🙂

Just a note, since next month, I’m going to be focusing on fellow bloggers and their novels, although I still need to seek out one or two more, I’d love to hear some suggestions. Also, chances are if I’m doing full reviews, there won’t be a March recap 😉