Love in English [book review]

While Love in English isn’t a book I would typically review here I am happy to offer four-stars for this emotional page-turner.

Love in English Book Review

With her first foray into romance, self-publishing maven Karina Halle has weaved a piece of her soul into the words and pages of Love, in English.

Overall I found this a satisfying read. The emotional story, told by 23-year-old Vancouverite Vera Mills, kept me captivated well past bedtime for more nights than I care to admit. And although Vera overuses words like “just” and “totally” I could still identify with and even like her, despite not having much in common with her.

The narrative takes us from Spain to Canada and back to Spain again where we see Vera fall desperately in love with a married man. We struggle alongside as she wrestles with shame, guilt, and lust and empathize as she deals with the complications of inconvenient and forbidden love. Both the back cover and the prologue tell us this so I don’t know why I was surprised when they finally get together most of the way through part one.

I don’t know what I hoped would happen, everything was so complicated.

Maybe that’s the point, relationships are never straightforward or black and white. And even the right decision hurts someone. You can’t get through life without a few battle wounds.

One thing I wish was covered more was the idea that choices made to appease guilt are still selfish. Although disguised as selfless all motivation behind the choice is to make yourself feel better. I found the book’s argument that love is selfish interesting as this is the most shallow (although probably the most exciting) form of love. I would have liked to see Vera mature in her understanding of love (advancing beyond lust and selfishness) and relationships.

Love, in English takes on difficult themes and doesn’t rush past the tough stuff. However, the story was a bit unbalanced as there wasn’t equal time spent resolving the problems as there was building up to them. The wrapped-up-in-a-bow ending didn’t feel cheesy (I was ready for the emotional roller coaster to end) although upon reflection it didn’t feel as realistic as the rest of the story. Still, a satisfying read.

Other Book Reviews

Narrowing Down Travel Rewards Credit Cards

I’ve noticed a lot of television advertising lately about travel rewards credit cards. I figure the more competition then the better the rewards will be.

Narrowing Down Travel Rewards Credit Cards

I have a lot of points cards. A lot. I have so many I don’t even remember which clubs I belong to anymore. And I don’t know how many points I have, what I can do with them, or when/if they expire.

It’s a problem.

For a while now I’ve wanted to slim down my points memberships and choose a few I understand and will actually use. But how do you know which ones you’ll use and which ones give you the best value for your time and energy?

I’m overwhelmed to say the least.

Canada's top rewards cards

Canada’s Top Rewards Cards from 2013 via Rewards Canada

As I’ve waded through the different points options I’ve found ranking sites helpful, they do all the work and I can read the results. Thanks! My husband and I went through our options and decided for us travel rewards were the most important and since he charges a lot of expenses for work…a travel credit card was a good option.

In fact we were even able to narrow down to Aeroplan Canada, which feels so good. I went ahead and unsubscribed from all my other points emails and began looking for ways to optimize our points collecting.

Mileage balance: 7,219

I received my monthly newsletter the other night and was pumped to see all the different ways I could collect points. And then I went to check if I had enough points to, like, go anywhere.

Not with 7,219 points I can’t. But not to worry! The newsletter gave me lots of ways to pump up my points STAT.

aeroplan-options-galore

Whoa. Lots of options. Feeling overwhelmed…which option is best for me…

I’ve noticed a lot of television advertising lately about travel rewards credit cards. There are so many options and while it is overwhelming I’m happy there is competition. In my mind the more companies there are competing for my loyalty then the better the rewards will be. Right? That’s logical, right? Anybody?

Well, we’ll see. I’m setting a goal of taking a springtime trip completely on points. I think that’s enough time to go from 7,219 to…how many points do you need for two round-trip tickets around the world anyway?

I've noticed a lot of television advertising lately about travel rewards credit cards. I figure the more competition then the better the rewards will be.

This post was compensated but don’t worry, the story is original (and mine! And also true!)

Driving a Rolls-Royce Wraith [Review]

Not in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine I would have the opportunity to drive a Rolls-Royce Wraith. Or be near one. And yet, now I have photo proof.

Driving a Rolls-Royce Wraith

Driving a Rolls-Royce Wraith

As part of the North American launch the lovely and generous team from Rolls-Royce flew me to Phoenix, AZ for a test drive.

Pause for effect

As this was my first press-junket I wasn’t sure how to act. So I decided to play it safe and act cool. You know, be myself. Except for the parts of myself that are afraid to drive my husband’s sports car in fear of breaking it. Must. Be. Cool.

However, my coolness evaporated when my greeter said “Hi Robyn!” My eyes widened as I exclaimed “You’re amazing!” My greeter led me outside where a Rolls-Royce Phantom (with extended wheelbase of course) waited. For me.

Still pretending I was playing cool I resisted the urge to pull my camera out. So you understand how grateful I was when a fellow member of the press asked the greeter to take a couple shots of us with the car.

Rolls-Royce Phantom

Still trying to be cool I took sneaky shots of my airport ride.

The event was held at The Canyon Suites at the Phoenician Resort. Everything about my day was luxurious. Well except for lunch when the person in front of me spilled ALL the beans and I was caught in the crossfire. Oh, and after when a lady helped me get the beans off my backside with napkins and club soda. But that was more about me not being fancy. Or cool.

Man, that Rolls-Royce Wraith is a sexy car

Rolls-Royce Wraith

Coming into this experience I held the same misconceptions about the Rolls empire as the next uneducated non-rich guy.

My Misconceptions

  • Rolls-Royce motorcars aren’t meant to be driven—only driven around in. Not true. While some models are intended to be chauffeured the Wraith is a two-door four-seater, with a V12 engine allowing 0-100 kph in five seconds
  • It’s an old-fashioned brand. Well, it’s an old brand but the car certainly didn’t look old fashioned to me. The Wraith is downright sexy
  • Rolls-Royce motorcars are only for the really, really, ridiculously good looking super rich…mmm actually that one’s true. This is not a car you save up for. It’s more of a reward you give yourself…for being you. Sure there’s a price attached to the car and each bespoke customization and unique feature adds to that price, but it doesn’t really come up
  • The brand is only for old people. Nope, it’s for rich people

But let’s talk about driving a Rolls-Royce Wraith

I was seated in the Wraith with another journalist and we were given detailed instructions on our 70 mile driving route. We were to follow the built-in GPS (whose voice was Englishy and polite and calming) through the city and into the mountains where we would stop halfway to switch drivers, have a snack, and take photographs.

Seemed straightforward enough. We were also handed a paper map, should anything go wrong, and a cell phone with one number in it. Should anything go wrong.

Setting off with great enthusiasm we tested features, pressed interesting-looking buttons, and followed the directions until…

“Hey, the GPS isn’t saying the same directions as the paper map…”

“And where are the mountains?”

Oh crap we got lost.

The main tip-off was when the GPS told us we had reached our halfway point. And we were on the freeway. With nothing anywhere, just desert. Since I was being cool I didn’t panic. And since my driving buddy didn’t seem bothered it gave me even more confidence. So we pulled over in an empty lot, switched drivers, and drove back the way we came.

Did we see the mountains or the photo spots? No. Did we drive those famous winding Arizona roads? Nah, we were in city traffic the whole time. But did we DRIVE A ROLLS-ROYCE? Heck yes! And it was AWESOME!

The car is beautiful to look at, comfortable to sit in, and exciting to drive. The car is big but not too big. It’s powerful but you never feel out of control. And it is so smoooooooth.

Rolls-Royce Wraith Launch Vancouver BC

Unveiling of the Rolls-Royce Wraith in Vancouver BC, August 2013

I fear I may be ruined for regular cars for the rest of my life. The other day I happened upon my plain-old regular car with a flat tire and my first instinct was to walk away. Until I remembered I didn’t have a chauffeured Phantom waiting for me around the corner.

Did we see the mountains or the photo spots? No. Did we drive those famous winding Arizona roads? Nah. But did we DRIVE A ROLLS-ROYCE WRAITH? Heck yes!

Do I Dare Go All-Inclusive?

Before you judge me about all-inclusive vacations, remember I’m the girl who has really only ever travelled on a shoestring. And I prefer second-hand clothes to new ones. And I’m not above dumpster diving. So this is a big step.

All-Inclusive

Perks of all-inclusive vacations

What I’m trying to say is I’m not completely sure I’d be comfortable at an all-inclusive where your every need is met and all you have to do is enjoy yourself. And yet…I’m tempted.

I’m willing to plead ignorance. This commercial actually sums up my knowledge on the whole thing. And yes, I know it’s from 1983 but that’s what comes to mind when I think of all inclusive.

So to ease my 1980s nightmare I asked around a bit. It wasn’t difficult to find support for the all-inclusive thing. Enthusiastic support. And really it does sound pretty swank. Especially if you’re looking for a gorgeous getaway in the sun, an open bar, and not a care in the world.

Actually that sounds extremely tempting

And now I’ve discovered a way to combine my crippling frugality with my passion to travel and my newfound desire to do nothing: booking last-minute vacations.

I like the whole idea of travelling standby and I’ve tried a few times to convince my husband to embark on a last-minute adventure to parts unknown (he’s on the fence, but I think he’ll see it my way eventually), or at least a last-minute hotel room, but I never really considered booking a last-minute vacation package.

In my wildest imaginings I’ve only got as far as booking a $20 flight and ending up somewhere in the mid-western States needing to figure it out from there. This option seems much more comfortable.

So I searched around a bit and here is my pick. You know, if I was leaving tomorrow.

My dream vacation

For my dream vacation I chose a place called Buccaneer’s Creek, which I’ve never heard of but I think my husband would like because it sounds piratey. As well it has one of those pools where it looks like you’re falling off the edge of the world. You know what I mean? Love those photos. I’ve never experienced it for myself though.

But now that I look closer I see this resort isn’t on the last-minute deal list. But the Bahamas are and that place looks awesome!

I “pretended” (secretly hoping I’d accidentally book it) to sign us up but unfortunately since the package includes airfare, the website wants you to try out a whole bunch of dates and airports and I think it would just be easier to call the 888 number. But far less spontaneous.

And it’s a heck of a lot harder to convince your husband you accidentally gave your credit card number to the travel agent than claiming “the Internet did it.”

I like the whole idea of travelling standby but I never really considered booking a last-minute vacation package. And if I do, do I dare go all-inclusive?

Other travels

Top Five Favourite Travel Destinations

Everyone has a different list of their favourite places to visit and top travel destinations but I didn’t really believe it would be so difficult to choose my top five.

Travel Destinations

For this roundup I chose entire countries as travel destinations rather than cities because it made choosing just that much easier. So here are my personal Top Five Favourite Travel Destinations collected through years of travelling and adventuring. Both of which I rarely do anymore. Because I’m responsible.

Note to self: Must fix.

Top Five Favourite Travel Destinations

  1. New Zealand. In December 2007 I was fortunate to go on a working holiday to New Zealand. What an incredible place. In many ways it’s a lot like a mini-Canada but it’s also quite unique. It’s friendly, laid back, diverse, and quirky. My top city is Queenstown—I was quite sure I could happily transplant here after only spending a few hours in the downtown.
  2. Norway. My heritage is Norwegian and I had always wanted to go there. Maybe even live there. So while I was living in England I made it a point to go there. Twice. Or was it three times? Oh dear I’m getting old. Twice. Anyway, I made some great friends in Norway and look forward to finally making it to Bergen, which is closer to where my actual relatives are from and may even still reside. So although I’ve been to Norway three times (?) no, twice, it’s still on my to-do list.
  3. Malta. Malta was the big surprise of this list for me. It was barely a place I had heard of before a friend moved there but visiting last summer was absolutely amazing! What a fascinating island filled to the brim with culture and history. I would go back in a second. My favourite spot in Malta was the stunning Comino Island with the tropical fish, craggy cliffs, and perfect aqua water.
  4. England. Obviously this country is close to my heart. It once was The Netherlands but I suppose all things change in time. I’ve spent much time there living and exploring and still believe there’s more to experience. Every time I travel overseas I make sure to stay in England at least for a few hours. There are many great memories and stories still waiting for me there.
  5. South Africa. I travelled to South Africa the first time before I fully understood it was definitely it’s own country and not just an area. It’s a place engraved on me. I’ve only spent four months and two visits there but it’s the kind of place that leaves its mark. This is another place I could happily relocate to although I don’t know how to explain it. It’s the scariest, roughest, most amazing, beautiful, rugged, romantic, exciting place I’ve ever been. I’ve had the best—and worst—moments of my life in that part of the world.

I’m interested to know where your favourite places to travel are. I need to start working on my next to-do travel list!

Everyone has a different list of their favourite places to visit and top travel destinations but I didn't really believe it would be so difficult to choose.