Sunday, March 17, 2019

Book Review: Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

Book: Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate
Genre: Literary fiction
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ 

So much buzz last year around this book! And I'm happy to report that for me it lived up to the hype! Such a crazy gripping story!

It's fictional story but based on something that really happened in history, in Tennessee between 1920 and 1950 or so. This lady decided to have an "orphanage" and sell kids to rich people. I guess some of the kids were truly orphans, but many of them were stolen kids... stolen from poor people who signed them away without realizing what they were signing.

We follow the story of one family who's parents went to the hospital so the mom could have twins. They left the rest of the kids on their shanty houseboat. Before they could get back, the bad guys came and stole those kids and took them to this home. This part of the story is told in the voice of the oldest girl, Rill, who is 12 years old. It's heartbreaking.

We flip back and forth between that and the present day where our other girl has a chance encounter with a grandma at a rest home and that makes her think this person has a connection to her own grandma. She starts investigating and uncovers the truth about her family.

I was gripped and totally immersed in this story. Great writing moved it right along and had me at every page. I loved it. Even though it was a painful story, it was told in a hopeful way and so it wasn't necessarily a downer. I appreciated that too. Perfect. So glad to have finally read this one!

We'll be discussing it at book club this week. I'm hoping everyone else enjoyed it too!

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Kdrama Review: My Strange Hero

Drama: My Strange Hero

Genre: Romantic comedy/drama
Starring: Yoo Seung Ho, Jo Bo Ah, Kwak Dong Yeon
Rating: ❤ ❤ ❤

This one was intriguing because it stars the same dude from I am Not a Robot, where he was fabulous. I loved him in this one too but the story line didn't grab me quite as much as I hoped it would.

It's about guy who was expelled from high school because of an incident, which we learn about as the drama unfolds. People told lies and he was falsely accused. Those people being his best friends. So he has lived with that over his head for the past nearly 10 years and is pretty bitter about it, but he's moving on.

But then one day he is invited to come back and finish high school. So he enrolls as a 27 year old and decided to take advantage of the situation and get revenge on all those that wronged him. His former girlfriend, who now teaches at the school and is his homeroom teacher, and his other friend, who is now the director of the school and is suffering from his own many bitter feelings.
The director dude who takes an amazing internal journey in this drama.

Well. It gets crazy, and there is so much corruption at this school thanks mostly to the mom of the our director dude. She is a piece of work for sure. And hss messed up this boy in so many ways.

Of course, our main guy falls in love all over again with the girl who is now his teacher. And his revenge takes a different turn. All together, with the help of the students in the wildflower class (kids with the lowest grades) they manage to bring all the corruption to light and take back their school!

So I enjoyed the romance parts. Our main dude is over the top adorable. I can't with him. He has the best eye smile I think... EVER. I cried during the bits with the director dude, who is SO SO MEAN, but also in SO SO MUCH pain. He was awesome. His character development was probably the best part of this drama.
The eye smile of which I speak.

Anyway. I enjoyed it. Cute one! Mixed in with the heavy drama as always!

A little trailer:

And cutie pie Ken from VIXX with a song and cute clips:


Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Book Review: Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett

Book: Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett
Genre: YA Contemporary
Rating: ★ ★ ★ 

I sneaked this in after buying it on a Kindle deal and seeing that it is marketed as a sort of You've Got Mail/Little Shop Around the Corner type of story. Boy and girl are secretly communicating and fall in love, but have no idea that the other person in real life that is driving them crazy and causing them all sorts of grief, is in fact the person they are writing to.

Yes? This is great premise and one I'll probably never get sick of.

In this story we have our girl, who's voice I loved and personality I related too (mostly, lol), comes to live with her dad in California. She has been emailing a dude (because of their mutual love of classic movies) and she knows he lives in this beach town, but she doesn't want to tell him she is there. She plans to stalk him out and evaluate the situation first!

Meanwhile, she starts working at the local tourist trap and gets annoyed right off the bat by the drop dead gorgeous surfer boy full of himself body guard. Yeah.

But of course that doesn't last for too long because this boy is very very intriguing. And then she starts to learn his back story, and back stories will end us all!

Meanwhile, what does she do about the dude she's been writing to? And should she keep trying to find him, or just tell him once and for all that she is here but that she isn't really that interested in him anymore? And just how much does she let surfer boy into her life and her OWN crazy back story?

I loved the setting, the lazy warm breezy California beach town. I think I need to live in a place like this. Seriously. I loved the banter. Banter is the best! I loved this girl (for the most part. She made some questionable choices a couple of times, but yeah.) and her insecurities and her tendency to be an Artful Dodger all of the time. I loved the dude, who appears to be one way, but is really another. I loved the families in this book. Good families are a such an amazing thing in books these days! And of course I loved the classic movie references! So many!

Yeah. I loved it for a fun YA romance. Pretty sure I need to read more by this author. Keeping my eye on more sweet deals!

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Book Club Book Choices 2019

It's voting time for the book club.
We are celebrating our 15th year in existence this year! CRAZY!!!

We had a first round of voting and these books made the first cut:

Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
The Hollow City by Dan Wells
A Room With a View by E.M. Forster
Ban This Book by Alan Gratz
Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

Now we are voting on these books to see which ones will make
the cut to round our our schedule.

What comments and/or suggestions do you have to help us choose?

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
Cry, The Beloved Country by Alan Paton
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North
The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi
The Cruel Prince by Holly Black
A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
A Night Divided by Jennifer A. Nielsen
Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro
Red China Blues by Jan Wong
Prize Winner of Defiance Ohio by Terry Ryan
The Year in Provence by Peter Mayle
My Story by Elizabeth Smart
Educated by Tara Westover

Bottom line: I just want to read them all!!

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Book Review: Stories for Children by Oscar Wilde

Book: Stories for Children by Oscar Wilde, Illustrated by P.J. Lynch
Genre: children's illustrated short stories
Rating: ★ ★ 

I picked up this one to read because we are doing The Happy Prince for the Kpop bookclub this time around and I found it in this compilation and decided to just read all the stories here, because it will also fulfill another category on the book challenge I'm doing!

This particular edition included six stories. Here's a summary of each:

The Selfish Giant: A giant gets bugged when he discovers children playing in his garden, so he bans them from coming. But then his garden is cursed with winter until he realizes why and has the kids come back. One particular kid catches his eye...

The Nightingale and the Rose: A young boy wants to give something to a girl to make her fall in love with him. The nightingale learns of this plight and sacrifices himself to create the perfect rose, but the boy takes no heed and all is in vain.

The Devoted Friend: A miller has a very warped definition of friendship and works his "friend" to literal death.

The Happy Prince: A statue of a the prince notices the suffering people in his kingdom and he gives everything he has, with the help of his sparrow friend, to ease their suffering.

The Remarkable Rocket: A firework, intended for the celebration of the marriage of the prince and princess, decides to start bragging about how wonderful he is and ends up exploding in a very unremarkable way.

The Young King: A pauper turned king has three dreams on the eve of his coronation which makes him decide he does not want to be a pompous king and he refuses to wear the riches prepared for his coronation.

Basically, every single story is extremely depressing! Except maybe the Selfish Giant which still ends in death. Yeah. Every story is also quite sarcastic and expresses the author's feelings (I'm assuming they are his feelings) in quite an unsubtle way. Of course, most of this would go over a kids head, so I was baffled they are considered "for children." They are pretty morbid for children too! More like parables for adults here! They did feel like twisted Bible stories in a way.

Anyway, still I learned lessons. Things like: be a true friend, don't be selfish, don't be a braggart, help the poor people, don't be prideful, give of yourself, know the true meaning of love. Etc. :) Also, I know I was supposed to pay attention to the illustrations, and they were okay, but they didn't really stand out to me.
I.M aka Im Changkyun of Monsta X

We read this one because recently I.M (aka. Im Changkyun)  from Monsta X read The Happy Prince for an audiobook production. I found it on Youtube and thoroughly enjoyed listening to him read it to me! He knows English well, but has some interesting pronunciations for some words which made me smile and was so very cute.  Here it is if you are interested. I know he did a Korean version too, which I would love to listen to. But I haven't found it yet.

We are also reading The Little Prince for this bookclub this time around, so look for that to come later!

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Concert Review: ONE OK ROCK

So awhile back we realized this Japanese rock band was coming near us, like within driving distance, like we could just go and come home.. no long ride, no plane ride, no hotel! And cheap tickets too! So we decided to go! Just for fun!

We'd heard of them, but weren't totally familiar, so in the days leading up to the concert, we listened a lot to them and pretty much loved every song. So we were truly looking forward to it.

Of course, it was all GA standing, unless you spent quite a bit more money and sat in the balcony where they served drinks so it was 21+, which bans Toto from that possibility... for another year anyway. But we were fine with GA and figured we were now experienced pit goers.

Yeah. Well, we had forgotten that this concert featured two "warm up" bands. (I think they should call  them "sap all your energy" bands and leave you DEAD TIRED for the band you came to see! UGH!!) And the second of those bands was flat out awful. And roused the crowd to the true mosh pit frenzy to the point that some lovely kids decided it was time to start the slamming thing. Which caused massive pushing and shoving leading to people getting hurt and people in tears. Also, we lost our good spot on the floor that we had held on to at that point for over 3 hours. Sigh. I was so mad. SHAKING mad.

When that band finally ended, there was the expected surge, but it was a HUGE surge and some boys linked arms and literally mashed their way in front of us. Now we really couldn't see as they were all a head taller than us. I thought I was mad before, but now I was SEETHING.

After standing there for a minute trying to get control, I thought, why should I let this happen? I don't need to take this. The boys were still all linked arm in arm, and so I lifted the arm from the guy in front of me, and shoved Toto between him and his buddy so that she was a little bit in front of them again. He looked at me like I was crazy. I just said, "you stole our spot, I'm taking it back." He put his arm back, which meant he was now having his arm around both Toto and his friend. Awkward. We had to stand like that, literally in each other's faces for a half hour while they messed around on stage. Finally, he awkwardness was too much and he retreated a bit. Some of the other boys saw how upset Toto was and I felt like they were feeling a little sheepish at that point. And they didn't bug us or give us grief anymore. (They were very young Japanese boys. Not sure if they even did English too well. And I am convinced that in normal life they are very nice boys, but in that situation, they were so very not. I hate how that happens to some people.)

So FINALLY, after waiting and standing for FOUR hours (one outside to come in, one inside waiting for it to start and a total of two for those two dumb bands) our guys came out and the concert truly started. Thankfully, once they started, the crowd seemed to calm and everyone was normal for the rest of the night. Sigh. I was so scared it would happen again, but it didn't.

And so, ONE OK ROCK was awesome. Hearing those songs live was awesome. So much energy. Chill inducing lyrics (they sing sometimes in Japanese, but they did English songs for us) and just powerful vocals and guitarists. We really loved it. Even though we were EXHAUSTED! We sang some of the songs loud with the crowd and everything was redeemed! In the end, we were glad we went and were able to see them.  I guess in Japan, you can't hardly get a ticket and they play at huge venues and are extremely popular. So we feel lucky to have experienced them live. Next time though, I 'll probably avoid the pit and sit upstairs. LOL!

Here's a video with a little montage of some footage we took. Please take note of the very first song they sang. It's called Push Back and the chorus says :So go ahead and push us, we'll get up and push back!! LOL! We thought it was so perfect! Watch the first part of the video at least to see that song!

Monday, March 4, 2019

February 2019 Reading Recap

I don't know why but the combination of flag, snow and mountain always compels me to take a picture!

It was almost like a normal reading month for me! Here are the books I enjoyed in February:

4. Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami: a young kid runs away from home and meets some interesting people along the way in his journey to find himself
5. Dear Rachel Maddow by Adrienne Kisner: a struggling student writes to a famous news anchor as a way of getting her feelings out
6. Geekerella by Ashley Poston: a girl goes to a convention dressed in her dead father's cosplay and ends up meeting the stranger she has fallen in love with through texts
7. The Marriage Bureau by Penrose Halson: the story of a dating service set up in London during WWII
8. Fame, Fate and the First Kiss by Kasie West: a budding actress has strange things happening on set, including falling for her tutor

Favorites of the bunch: Geekerella and Fame, Fate and the First Kiss were just totally enjoyable. Kafka on the Shore was a wild ride that I somehow enjoyed!

Book Challenge Progress: 3 more crossed off

  • Kafka on the Shore: book translated into English
  • Dear Rachel Maddow: book I've never heard of
  • Geekerella: book recommended by friend or family
Goals for March:
  • read the book I have lined up for a book tour
  • read both book club books (in person and online kpop club)
  • mark something else off the challenge list
What books did you enjoy this past month?


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