Concert review: Imogen Heap (2019)

Imogen Heap is a musical genius. She is one the most creative, innovative and interesting musicians out there. I never thought I’d ever see her live since she hasn’t gone on a world tour for eight years or so. It was so worth it.

Honestly, this was a dream come true. There have been countless times in which I’d replay her CD (yes, I actually bought a CD) because it made me happy, hopeful and inspired. Her music came to me during a time in my life when I was still discovering my identity and personal preferences. Learning about her made me admire her even more. Her songs validated these indescribable experiences that mainstream pop songs just couldn’t do. Imogen is also super talented and it is wonderful to see someone with so much knowledge and skill be recognized.

Hearing the songs I’ve enjoyed for years live is an unreal experience (Goodnight & Go, Let Go, Breathe In and Just For Now to name a few). For some of these songs, she performed with her long-time collaborator Guy Sigsworth. This was such a treat! Despite her being sick, her vocals were amazing. Imogen performed with musical, high-tech gloves that assisted her in manipulating the music while she sang. They are called Mi.Mu Gloves and she created them. This is definitely a progressive way of performing and an invention that is, in general, the bee’s knees! She spoke about them in her recent performance at NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert video featured above.

The crowd was so eclectic. There were people dressed in nice dresses, casual jeans, cowboy boots and all in various age groups. Perhaps it’s because her music has been featured on various platforms like the television show The O.C. and the soundtrack to the film Garden State. Her song has been covered by Ariana Grande, sampled by Jason Derulo and she collaborated with Taylor Swift. She even composed the music for the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child play.

She chatted with the audience quite a bit and even had a quick Q & A. I admire and appreciate her ability to just be real and relatable on stage. I’m not sure when she will be performing next, but I will definitely be looking out for her next big idea and song release.

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Food product review: Mong Lee Shang Coconut Milk Drink

This post is not sponsored in any way.

Mong Lee Shang coconut milk1

For dietary reasons, my mom wanted to drink more coconut milk for her health. She came upon this at an Asian grocery store we often go to. I hadn’t tried it until earlier this year and now I wonder why I waited so long.

It’s delicious! It’s sweet and obviously coconut-y, but not overbearingly so with either taste. It is wonderful chilled and shaken. For me, it’s like a dessert in itself. The can has two sides and I happen to have taken this photograph of the side with the Chinese characters for the brand name. I just double-checked and it is in fact Mong Lee Shang. I’m not too familiar with the brand (or that I’m aware of), but I would recommend this for sure.

Video game review & gameplay: Tetris Effect (2018)

Tetris Effect is easily the coolest puzzle game I’ve ever played thus far. The game has successfully integrated addicting musical beats and impressive visual effects to create an intensely stimulating and challenging game we know and love. The background music also adds in sound effects based on your movements of the pieces, so it’s cool to create music as a contributor in that sense.

Another unique feature they offer is allowing players to “save” a piece in place of another. I don’t think I’ve ever had the ability to do this with other puzzle games. This feature definitely helped me in making bigger combos in those later levels. Boring is a word I would never use to describe this game. It’s fun to play and to also watch someone else play (which is something I don’t say with every game).

The visuals do get really intense and distracting, which I think is part of the point, so the levels do get a bit harder faster than I’d like to. Those sensitive to intense visuals, please do more research before buying the game. It’s super easy to make a mistake with this game as you progress, so I used that as an opportunity to explore the other game modes you can choose from.

Check out the video above if you’d like to get a sense of what Tetris Effect is like in gaming mode. Overall, I think it’s worth the price and more affordable than most games out there. Have you played? What did you think?

Product review: PACT lounge pants | sustainability

This post is not sponsored in any way

More than a few years ago, I had gotten on this sustainability kick after watching The True Cost. Everything I bought (regarding clothes and other non-essential items) had to be either second-hand, made naturally, was handmade and/or made sustainably. I did have one exception to these rules and it was if I absolutely had to purchase for work or a necessity. Otherwise, I just wouldn’t buy. I was pretty good at it for a few years and even now will have second thoughts about most purchases I have, which most times helps me put the items back and realize I didn’t really need them anyway.

So, when I came across PACT clothing at a store, I was happy to see that it was a company that had used Fair Trade Certified factories. Nowadays, I think there are more and more companies that hold similar values on sustainability and human rights. If you know of any such companies, feel free to let me know.

I decided to buy a pair of lounge pants and they are not cheap. However, they are super comfortable. They were also a little long for me, so I had to adjust them to have them fit better. Regarding their ingredients, the PACT website states, “The best ingredients make the best clothes so we use GOTS-Certified 100% Organic Cotton. Toxic dyes, artificial
fertilizers and other gross stuff don’t belong in your clothes, against your skin, or in the world’s water supply.” 

The pants are still great even after all these years. I also purchased their various different styles of underwear. I still think the fabric is super soft, but again, the sizes were a little challenging for me regarding a good fit. This company isn’t perfect, but I’m a fan!

Book review: Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

AttachmentsAttachments by Rainbow Rowell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Attachments is an entertaining and funny love story between two co-workers at a newspaper company called The Courier. They find love at the intersection of technology and the breakroom of a typical 9-to-5 job.

The story starts by introducing friends Jennifer Scribner-Snyder and Beth Fremont through a personal email at work. They often send each other such emails despite knowing that it is being monitored. Lincoln O’Neill is the IT security person whose job it is to do just that and other IT troubleshooting needs in a Y2K technological era.

Given their humorous and charming banter, Lincoln finds their emails the highlight of his day at a pretty lonely and boring night-shift job. He inevitably falls in love with one of them. While the attraction is mutual, Lincoln never fully understood her perspective until they finally meet-cute; seeing one another for who they are and validating their strong feelings for one another.

This story is complex, but not heavy. The three main characters are no longer recent college graduates getting used to their 20s; rather they’re entering their 30s and meeting expectations of what their next steps in life should be. Lincoln, Beth and Jennifer each exhibit different relationship perspectives; being single, in a committed relationship and married, respectively. They each overcome their internal conflicts which results in changed selves by the end of it.

Rainbow Rowell did such a great job in writing a novel that encompassed a romantic comedy love story (that didn’t involve the internet 24/7) without it being too sappy and dramatic. She also did a seamless job in presenting the commentary on the changing times of a new era where parking lots are valued over old movie theaters and acknowledging that we are at an age where love may come before at first sight. Attachments made me laugh out loud more than a few times and swept me off my feet with its delightful characters and dialogue.

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Book review: I’ll Be There for You: The One about Friends by Kelsey Miller

I'll Be There for You: The One about FriendsI’ll Be There for You: The One about Friends by Kelsey Miller

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book brings out the warmth of 1990s nostalgia. It is a well-researched and thorough book on a seemingly simply loved sitcom only to find out there is much more involved from getting the show on-air to the final decision to end the series.

For someone who used to watch the commentary version of films and watching James Lipton interview celebrities for fun growing up, this was a gem to me. I thoroughly appreciated the work that Kelsey Miller put into combining her humorous personality, well-crafted writing, and commentary on society’s important issues like racism, religion, sexual orientation and sexism (and also the amusing topics like the famous Rachel haircut and the “will they won’t they” talk of a reunion). There was a lot of information that was not public knowledge (at least I did not know these facts) about the hiccups with casting, the magnitude of the show’s fame, the back and forth in salary negotiations and the background on certain episodes. The world was a very different place from the show’s inception compared to its now immortal state; as re-runs still keep this show very much alive to this day.

Admittedly, the book was a little challenging for me at the beginning. It seemed a bit dry and it took me longer to finish than other books I’ve read. It isn’t the kind of book you read in one sitting (at least for me), but it does keep me interested to finish it through. Although the author is a self-proclaimed super fan, she does a good job in pointing out criticisms and compliments of the show in fairly equal parts. I found the book to not solely focus on the show Friends, but also the climate of the world during the airing of the popular hit.

This book made me see the show as a whole as opposed to the one-dimensional entity I’ve always known it to be. It was an interesting read. I had no idea the amount of time in negotiating and deliberation it takes to get such a show to lift off let alone make it successful. And how different (and similar) the actors are to the characters they played. Although there is a lot of talent out there, there also needs to be a lot of luck that goes into this Hollywood life and it certainly isn’t as easy as television makes it out to be.

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Video game review & gameplay: Borderlands 2

If you watch the video, I’m the player with the blue font!

When would I ever have the opportunity to be a treasure hunter competing with scary monsters to find the ultimate prize in a vault? Never, unless I’m playing this game. This amusing, yet intense game has been an interesting change from the others I’ve enjoyed in the past like Tetris, Yoshi, Mario and even Assassin’s Creed Odyssey (which I liked a lot). Setting-wise, it drops us first onto this desert-like world with strange animals (I guess I would call them that?) who kind protect their surrounding territory or have the tendency to beat up whoever is around. We have to battle them (and other scary/huge/creepy/ monsters) along the way as we complete missions that ultimately lead us to the final boss battle in a giant lava pit with I think two bosses: Handsome Jack and The Warrior.

I played this specific version a couple of years ago and although I did beat it with my love, I was not as invested in it as I am now. Therefore, my memory about the different stages are a little foggy, but having just played a bit recently, I feel I can still give a quick review.

I would say in terms of difficulty, this is on the high end for me. I think this is a great game for those who can play with an experienced gamer, is an experienced gamer or have enough patience to learn the ins and outs of gaining money, weapons and completing the missions. Since I’ve always played with pretty dedicated video gamers, I can’t say really if I’d suggest this to a beginner.

If you plan on playing this, I’d definitely play with more than one person since it’s nice to have back-up during those battle sessions. I do love how this game allows you to revive yourself by fighting for your life as opposed to immediately spawn to a whole new location.

Overall, I’d say the game does get addicting. For the harder parts, it gets frustrating to play (i.e. collecting eridium to get resources and the monsters that never die) and I recall even near the end, it was challenging to beat the game. Despite the difficulty level, I would still rank this within my top ten video games (for now)!

Book review: The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

The Sun Is Also a StarThe Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I did not want the book to end. I loved Natasha and Daniel so much. After spending the day together, readers will learn a lot about them, life and love. The charming thing about this book is that there is a realist view for what love means, how it affects people and what they will do for it. Along with love, there are consequences with every action that not only affects the lives of those involved directly, but also the ones just passing by, as well. I thoroughly enjoyed their philosophical conversations, Natasha’s scientific input, Daniel’s hopeless romantic idealism and depth of maturity and belief they had for one another. They’re the kind of characters one wished more people were like in real life. I also like that Yoon did not shy away from racial conversations and concepts by integrating them into the story.

We meet Natasha, who has been trying to figure out a way to stay in America after her family learns that they are forced to go back to Jamaica. Then Daniel, who is Korean American, have a scheduled meeting about his college admission to Yale. With an immediate attraction to Natasha after seeing her on the street, Daniel tries to convince her that she will fall in love with him.

I wish this was a series. Although the book follows these characters for one day, their depth and growth felt like months or years in the making. We learn about their complex relationships to different family members and how they’ve come to understand them. Most importantly, we learn how they’ve come to understand themselves. Their own internal realizations are what carries this book.

The book does not divide by chapters, rather the story is told by the perspectives of the main protagonists as well as explanations for ideas/concepts and background information of the supporting characters. Similarly styled as Eleanor and Park, this book also centers around young love, however, different in the most important way. The characters progressed towards each other and they did not let the negative relationships in their lives affect their idea of love and the feelings they had for each other. The way their perspectives took turns guided a very smooth flow and transition of the sequence of events.

I highly recommend this book.

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I am excited to see the movie when it comes out!

 

I play Tetris |Puyo Puyo Tetris

I LOVE Tetris. It’s as simple as that. I’ve played multiple versions of the game. I love Dr. Mario, Bejeweled and Tales of Montezuma to name a few. And well, Puyo Puyo Tetris which is the game featured in the video below. I remember being so good at it. I think I got it from my mom because she’s extraordinary with it, too. Never thought I’d ever bond over a video game with my mom, but it happened! What is it about Tetris? I love puzzles. Maybe that’s it. Also, it forces you to try to create a match even if the pieces given to you are random, you only have a few moments to make it work—no matter what. The key to life!

If you want to watch me play Tetris, check out the video below. I’m the player on the left.

What I love about this game is that it allows you to play Puyo option or Tetris option. Puyo is like playing the Tetris game with virtual gumdrops. Also, you can play against the computer with friends or just with computer or just play solo. It’s a cheery game for sure. And quite addicting.

A huge downside to the game is that the Tetris levels are hard. I think Puyo is easier to play. I used to think I was really good at Tetris and then I played against the computer on the lowest level and I still can’t be confident I’d win. Maybe I’m out of practice or well, I’m playing against the computer. It could cheat and I’d have no idea haha!

Video game first impressions & gameplay: Yoshi’s Crafted World

yoshi_GIF_gif1
Check out my gameplay

As of late, there’s been two distinct things in my life that I’ve always done, but haven’t been this focused on as much until now and that’s reading and playing video games. I’ve always enjoyed both throughout my life (with long breaks), but for some reason, lately it’s been kind of what I’ve been craving to do.

This game was released about a week ago and so far, I am really enjoying it. It’s hard to say now if I like this game more than Yoshi’s Woolly World (and that would be really tough to do).

As for my first impressions, it’s cute and fun (as with most of these types of games). I’d say some of the gaming controls are not as intuitive and my gaming partner and I tend to knock into each other a lot. Admittedly, and especially regarding the first level, I wasn’t quite sure how to get points and what the mechanics were (as with all games I play the first time). With that being said, my score was the worst on that level. You can actually see me playing in the video below. I’m the blue Yoshi.

The things I do like is that they allow you to change into different types of costumes when you have earned enough coins to purchase. So far, the random selections I’ve been given have been a goldfish, blowfish, snails, sheep and oddly, grass.

Given the name, the world is pretty crafty. They have 3D folded stars, construction paper environments and corrugated cardboard as train tracks. I think this is fun for the whole family and couples. I would play this with my little cousins and friends for sure.

I’m eager to play more!

Book review: The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas

The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line (Veronica Mars, #1)The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Just another day in Neptune with Veronica Mars and her vigilante team of witty misfits who fight for justice, even if it means breaking the law sometimes. As a fan of the television series and the film, I was anticipating the charisma and intelligence of the namesake’s powerful female lead. The book certainly delivers that spunk and charm fans like me are addicted to.

With that being said, I prefer the visual telling of this series than a literary one. This is not a reflection at all on Rob Thomas and his writing abilities or talent. It was well-written and he even does a seamless job in inserting quick summaries and background information on the characters and story lines in case there are readers who are unfamiliar with the story. That’s a big plus I’d say for anyone needing a recap.

The basic premise of the book is that Veronica has returned back to Neptune to work with her dad, Keith, in his private investigation business. Without giving too much away, a missing persons assignment falls on her lap and she digs deeper into who may be to blame. She reconnects with her past in multiple ways, but one person in particular returns into her life that does create a new trajectory in her character arc. For anyone wondering, Logan doesn’t appear too much and although has a part to play, it wasn’t necessarily a main one.

Overall, this was a good story, but also not a super exciting one. It had its surprises and I definitely couldn’t put the book down near the end. I would say it just doesn’t have that spark and power that film production has that keeps my eyes glued to the screen. I don’t think I will read the next book in this series, but will definitely watch the next film or reboot of it if it ever happens! (And of course, re-runs.)

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If you’re interested, here’s my review for the Veronica Mars television series.

Book review: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor & ParkEleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Two teenagers from completely different backgrounds converge when an awkward moment on the school bus results in them sitting together, which cemented a ritual they never intended to have. Gradually, their time together evolved from avoiding each other, to quietly reading and listening to music together to falling in love. The journey was rocky at most points and smooth in others. I truly valued the personalities of Eleanor and Park. I cared about them and wanted an ending that they deserved.

Their love for each other was pure and deep. The character growth was evident and the essence of their internal and external conflicts were raw. This story was heartbreaking because I wanted more for them and for the book.

Author Rainbow Rowell is talented in writing about human emotions and personalities. There were moments in the book in which I wanted to keep reading, but then I come across these barriers or nonsensical challenges of the story in which I felt like more could have been developed with the characters and their relationships with the people in their lives or even with themselves. I didn’t need a happy ending, necessarily, but I wanted a better resolution and goodbye to Eleanor & Park.

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Book review: Pulse by Michael Harvey

This book is dark, contains profanity and the theory of quantum entanglement. I’ve read some reviews about how some of these characteristics turned some readers off from the book, so I thought to give some warning about that.

PulsePulse by Michael Harvey

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is riveting and I couldn’t and didn’t want to put it down. Any chance I had, I’d read the book. Characters Daniel and Barkley are so memorable they stay with you and while reading, you hope they end up okay, but given the tone, you know that anything could happen. I absolutely love the quantum entanglement concept in the story and how the characters play within the seams of this theory. There’s mystery, crime, coming of age, romance and sci-fi.

There were twists in the end in which one I was able to predict, but another I was not. The ending made me want to re-read it again just to see if I could pick up the clues sprinkled throughout the book. Harvey’s descriptions of each Boston location was dynamically symbolic as it gave you the sense of how all these characters fit, molded and behaved within their environments.

Overall, I am quite happy I picked this book up. This is the first Michael Harvey book I’ve read and I’m eager to read more from him. His writing uses words in the most meaningful way as it delivers rawness, depth, truth and heart.

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goodreads and book reviews

So, I signed up for an account on goodreads. I had one long ago, or so I thought. I couldn’t remember the log-in info at all, so I figured to create one for this blog. If you’d like to add me as a friend or follow, feel free to do so here: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/94855605-portfolio-cnw

I’m fairly new to it because even when I did have an account long ago, I barely used it. I think I logged in one book. I am hoping to be better at it this time around. I had just finished reading a book by Michael Harvey titled Pulse and it was amazing. I am hoping to read more thrilling books I can’t put down. I will post the review up here soon. If you have any suggestions at all for books, I am open to hearing any you’d recommend.

I have written a few book reviews here in the past. I think my book review writing needs more practice. After reading a few on goodreads, I’m a bit intimidated. There were so many that were very well-written. But also a lot that started to sound the same. We shall see as I write more and how I can improve. For my first review on goodreads, I wrote what I liked most about the book and what I thought were unique qualities that made it special. I thought the reviews on the platform were already inundated with a lot of summary, so I didn’t think I needed to write as much about the story as a whole.

In the past, my book reviews here were more in depth. This may be the case in the future as well. But we’ll see. If you’re interested, you can read my review for The Book of Ruth (a book I did not like) and Best Love, Rosie (a book I really liked).

I’m currently reading Eleanor & Park. Have you read any books that you absolutely could not put down? Those are the ones I’m most interested in.

Food review – shave snow at Powder, San Francisco, CA

I had my first taste of shave ice in Taiwan. The summer treat was surely unique to me as I’ve never had anything like it—red beans, tropical fruits and cream topped over literal shave ice was one of the tastiest and interesting desserts I’ve ever eaten. Fast forward to my trip to Oahu after trying their mango shave ice (which is fairly different from the Taiwan version), I fell in love.

Shave ice - Oahu Hawaii
Mango shave ice in Oahu Hawaii

It was a bit sad for me at the end of that trip because I knew that no matter how many cravings I’d have in the future, I couldn’t just order this at a nearby restaurant (or fly to Hawaii however much I would like to).

So you can imagine how happy I was to find Powder, “think ice cream meets shave ice,” they say. Founders Mimi and David were inspired by the Taiwanese treat and decided to open up their own place. This cute parlor sells interesting flavors that include horchata, cereal snow, black sesame and Vietnamese coffee (and not to mention strawberry and mango).

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I loved the sweet creamy taste and texture of the snow. It’s a fun dessert to eat because you can try different flavor combinations with various toppings. It’s very similar to frozen dessert places, but it’s much lighter in texture than fro-yo and ice-cream. Seeing how it’s made was cool and if I remember correctly, they are also pretty eco-friendly, so that makes this treehugger pretty happy.

Their instagram page is pretty sweet with all the yummy photographs of the shave snow combinations. I’m a fan of shave ice and happy to show some love to a cool foodie place I discovered. They also made me feel nostalgic with their Taiwan connection. I wish there were more places out there that sells shave ice and the like (maybe they exist and I just don’t know they do?) Maybe someday.