Sunday, September 20, 2020

Kdrama Review: I-Land

 Drama: I-Land

Genre: music survival show

Starring: 23 awesome boys, Rain, PD Bang, and a random appearance by BTS, TXT and SEVENTEEN!

Rating: ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤

(This review is not spoiler free for anyone who thinks they might watch this and don't want to know the ending!)

I'm counting this as a kdrama review because I watched it on Viki, it was FULL of drama and there's also, you know, that whole K (AHHH!!! double meaning!) element to it. 

In the kpop world there have been lots and lots of music survival shows... where they bring together a bunch of kids who compete to be in the group that is formed by the survivors of the show. I've never watched one in real time, only after the fact (years later sometimes) and already knowing who makes it. Most of the time I refuse to watch because I KNOW it's painful and ruthless and very very manipulated. 

Still, somehow I found myself watching this one, out of curiosity... quarantine opportunity (more time) and I guess a bit because it was being produced by Big Hit aka. BTS' company... which meant I knew it would be big and everyone would be talking about it, so I wanted to be part of the buzz.

So anyway, it's 12 episodes long... and the finale just aired live Saturday morning. I got up at 5 am to watch it live (8 pm on Korean TV). And wow... as expected. It was brutal and ruthless.

The gist of this show was bringing together 23 boys (I think it was meant to be 24 but someone dropped out just before it aired) from all over the world, some of them Big Hit trainees, some of them just barely started in the business... to compete to make a group of 7 boys by the end. This huge AMAZING set was created just for this show... complete with high tech stages, living quarters for the boys and everything you can imagine. Right off the bat it was crazy because the boys, the second they arrived, had to perform each other and vote whether they stayed or left! Only 12 could stay! 

Turns out that the ones that got voted "off" actually went to a different place and were still able to compete for a chance to get back "in."  They called that the Ground and they fought hard to get back to the I-Land. 

Throughout the episodes, they had missions and tests to complete... different styles of music to sing and perform. They worked together as teams most of the time, even though they were competing against each other. Positions constantly changed between who was I-land and who was Ground. They were mentored by big wigs in the business (Rain for one. And he was awesome.) Conflicts happened all the time, but mostly, they bonded tightly with each other and formed lasting friendships.

And we the viewers fell in love with every single one of them!

At the end of part 1 they eliminated half of the boys... and they were done with no chance to come back. At that point we the viewers were able to start voting... and then one by one, the remaining boys were eliminated according to that vote... and also according to the producers' decisions. Until Saturday morning at the finale and we were left with the final seven.


I rooted for  many of the boys (some who had to leave at the end of part 1 of course) and voted evenly for pretty much all of them. But there was one boy (named K, see picture above) who was just amazing and I thought he would for sure make it... he scored high constantly and seemed to be a producer favorite. But there at the end, they shocked us by choosing to NOT save him... and he got eliminated. It was devastating.

This is one of the iconic performances that brought K a lot of attention. He's the one with the especially floppy hair hanging in eyes. The one that waves to us all there at the end. The first song in this medley is Rainism, which they are performing for Rain himself. I can't even imagine.


And now I see why everyone moans about these shows so much! And yet continue to watch them! They are such a draw, full of emotion and talent, and character, and everything. But it's so hard to know that they are all so good and all have such dreams, but then don't get their big chance. So painful.

The hope is that the ones who don't make it end up getting nabbed by someone who was watching and has their eye on them... and they get their big break after all. Here's hoping. 

So.. yeah. My first experience watching one of these things and having my heart ripped out! A blast! It's going to take me awhile to get over it! And here's hoping I can be strong enough to not get sucked up into another one of these things!


For the finale they brought back ALL the boys to perform this, their signature song. It's been stuck in my head ever since. They all looks so amazing. 


And this is the final test the remaining nine had to perform. They look so good. After this, two of them (including K) were eliminated.

And now we are left with a new group to love. They are called Enhypen. A very strange name that hopefully I'll get used to soon!



Saturday, September 19, 2020

Book Review: The Body by Bill Bryson

 Book: The Body: A Guide for Occupants by Bill Bryson

Genre: non-fiction

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ 


This one was a book club read and I am actually surprised that the book club voted it in! A  hefty non-fiction? That's quite rare for us! But it was already on my shelf and I'm so glad to have had the push to actually read it, even though I was already intrigued enough to buy it. I started it late, with only about a five days before the book club deadline, and I read it fast and easy! How did that happen? 

Because, it was fascinating and kept me awake and interested, despite some detail that was very scientific and over my head. That's how! It was all just so fascinating.

Sadly, I didn't mark it up or take notes or stick post its in it to remember all the bits that really made me go... Oh really? And so writing a review is tricky because I can't list all these things. But just know, there were tons of them!

We learn a lot about the spreading of germs and viruses, which, as you might guess, is quite a timely subject. We go on a sort of journey through the body and learn how all the different thing work, eyes, ears, brain, heart, lungs, stomach etc... including all the organs we don't even know what they do. Everything! We are told stories along the way of strange and bizarre cases where people had really weird things go wrong. We are told about the scientists and doctors who studied all the different parts over the years, and about their breakthroughs and failures and crazy stories. We are told lots of crazy fascinating statistics and numbers that make us go WOW. And we are told many many scientific terms that is a lot to take in and process. 

All this with the humorous style that we should expect from a Bill Bryson book... and you'll know what I mean if you've read one. It's absolutely delightful. It makes me want to go and read every single one of his books. For real. He can make any subject interesting and relatable. I love that. I envy him his job and talent. How fun would this be? 

Let me give a little warning here though... if you are the type (like some people in my family) that will read something and then instantly think that you have that thing, or feel that symptom and imagine that problem in your own body, then this book isn't for you! If you are at all worried about the amount of germs around us and the craziness that more things don't go wrong with our bodies, then, this book might not be for you! It will put way too many ideas into your head!

Anyway, I feel just a touch smarter for having read this one, and a lot more appreciative of  my body, this thing I have that is quite a miracle even when I hate it and curse it all the time! We need to take better care of ourselves and our body will give back if we do. I am glad that I'm in the middle of this life style change as I read this because it made me feel much less guilty than I would have been otherwise... I am currently trying and I'll give myself a pat on the back for that!


 

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Book Review: Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyer

 

Book: Midnight Sun by Stephenie Myer
Genre: YA romance/paranormal
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★


Back in the day, when the beginning of this book was online, I think I managed to read the first couple of chapters before it disappeared. And I remember Stephenie being so mad about the leakage of it, or the unapproved sharing, or whatever the issue was, that she said she would NEVER finish and publish it. That made me sad. 

So it was a good day when I heard she was actually publishing it all these many years later! And great timing because I was in SUCH a perfect mood for this in my life again! 

Yeah, so pretty sure we all know this is the Twilight story told from Edward's point of view. It's been a long long time since I read Twilight, and I haven't gone back to re-read since finishing this one, but I think we got a lot more detail regarding lots of things this time around. We got a lot more back story of the vampires. We got a lot of angst since Edward was VERY VERY stressed out from the moment Bella entered his life. Poor guy. LOL. 

My biggest issue with the book was trying to read it without picturing whatshisface Robert Pattinson in the lead role. I really want to remember my original whoever was in my head the first time I read Twilight which was years before the movie. But I can't recall that image! I'm so bugged about that! So then I tried to picture some favorite kpop boys who can REALLY REALLY pull off the whole vampire look well, but that didn't work very good either. In the end, I think I pictured a morphing of ALL the above... a bit movie Edward, a bit kpop boy, and a bit my own invention. I guess it worked. But wow, that was a frustrating thing!

Being in Edward's mind was... I don't know... hard. He really struggled, didn't he? Wow. It's amazing they managed to get to a place where he didn't want to constantly kill her, yeah? I think this book does an amazing job of describing what it might be like to be a vampire. LOL... as if anyone knows, but she really captures something here...I mean.. I FELT it! That's crazy!

You may or may not remember that I was always a big fan of Jacob. It was sad he was not really even a part of this book. Did Edward only cross paths with Jacob like twice during this whole story? Wow. And how he just dismisses him in his head. If only he knew...yeah? I wonder when it hits him that Jacob is going to feature more than just an annoying kid with a crush? But I guess we will get no more books from Edward's POV if I understand correctly. This is it! So we will never know!!

So yeah, I'm happy to have this book to add to the collection. It was very fun to go back to Forks and live all this over again. Good times!



Sunday, September 6, 2020

My Weight Loss Journey... so far

 It's been about six months since I made this pretty drastic life change, so I thought I'd document the experience up 'till now! It all coincides with the whole virus life change too.. so things have been a bit weird around here for me consider both these things. 

There was a time when I said I would never diet. Food is too much a happy thing for me. Being fat is annoying, but food is worth it. And I still kinda think this. As long as you're healthy and all. Right? 

So then what if you are told you aren't really that healthy? When I finally went in for a regular check up and they told me that if I didn't do something, I'd have diabetes, I guess that was enough of a push. I'm not even sure what "having diabetes" means, but in my mind it means having to constantly deal with something very unpleasant and having to take insulin and all that. 

So after having pooed pooed dieting my whole life, I suddenly found myself doing it. Well, I still think of it as not truly dieting, just changing how I look at food. And I really do look at things differently now! Anyway,  they told me to do a low carb diet, so I researched what that meant and started making the changes, keeping track of and counting carbs on My Fitness Pal. I had no expectations except to hopefully go back six months later to see if my number was better. 

When it was three to four weeks later and I suddenly realized I'd lost about ten pounds I was like...seriously? For real? This is working? I had no idea it would really work. It was a nice motivational factor! And it just continued to go down! When this happens to other people I always want to know EXACTLY what they did. So here's what I did:

  • counted carbs... trying to stay between 50 and 100 a day. (Keto is more like 20 carbs, so I was no where near close to that.)
  • exercised every day (with one day off) alternating every day between walking for 30 min on the treadmill and doing 30 minutes of Zumba
  • stopped drinking milk (and this is the hardest thing!) and eating bread, potatoes, rice and pasta, and breakfast cereal. I still have them occasionally... but so very rare compared to before.
  • learned to love eggs every day for breakfast. And bacon and cheese. 
  • Learned to cook with heavy cream or half and half, and cream cheese, and lots of meat.
  • Learned to eat vegetables better. But not corn. Spinach in all the things.
  • Perfected salad making. Ranch is okay!
  • Avocado is now a staple!
  • Almond milk smoothies for a treat! And a rare banana.. .but these are... A TREAT!
  • Ice cream is okay, just not a HUGE amount like before, and not every day.
  • Lettuce wrapped hamburgers are awesome, but hard to eat. 
  • Have a few french fries, just not the WHOLE THING!
  • Intermittent fasting (which has gone well with the whole coronovirus lifestyle) is also a thing. This means not eating until noon, and being done eating after 8 pm. 
  • Trick yourself regarding bread by making all the variations of chaffles. Chaffles are a beautiful thing! (Cheese/egg  mixture made in a mini waffle iron.)
  • Drink flavored water when you are sick of regular water. Drink LOTS of regular water!
  • No juice no soda! NONE!
  • No donuts, cookies, cake, pastries, pies, cinnamon rolls. This is really hard for someone who finds comfort n baking. Gah, so sad.
  • Allow cheat days and make cookies on those days! Hide the dough, and don't eat cookies for a week afterwards. ONLY ON THE ONE CHEAT DAY!
  • Figure out how to enjoy cauliflower things... rice, crusts and etc. It's not bad after all! Who knew?
  • Did I mention eggs????

Anyway, in the end by doing this I've lost 35 pounds these past six months. I seemed to have stalled at that number... but I've also been slacking a lot lately. Ugh. I need to recommit. I also did have my blood tested again and I went down from a 6.6 a1c number to 5.8. I still need to drop two more points to be within normal range. And I'd like to lose 15 more pounds to make it an even 50 pounds.

So... I'M NOT DONE YET! And, of course, I'll never be done. This is the new lifestyle whether I want to admit that or not. I can up my carbs a bit to maintain (which is kinda what it's ended up being the past few weeks...it's been more like 120 carbs a day.) But still not go crazy on all the awesome things there are to eat in the world. It's sad. But it's also good to be healthy.

We'll see how it goes. Has anyone else had experience in this endeavor? What things helped you? And what did you learn from it all? 

(I know I should show a before and after picture, but I haven't found good ones yet. LOL. And I'm still not sure it's even that noticeable. Which would be embarrassing to show! HA!)



Thursday, September 3, 2020

Kdrama Review: Mystic Pop Up Bar

 Drama: Mystic Pop Up Bar (another Netflix one!)

Genre: Fantasy

Starring: Hwang Jung Eum, Yook Sung Jae, Choi Won Young

Rating: ❤ ❤ ❤


Lots of people loved this one so much, but I found it to just be... okay. Which is highly unusual, right? I'm usually loving EVERYTHING! I don't know I guess my main issue with it was it was just TOO silly (and I can totally handle a lot of silly) and it went off on way too many tangent stories when all I wanted was our main characters' story. 

It's about a girl from the past who has a very crazy sad tragic story. In her past life, she commits suicide and is then cursed to "live" in the living realm helping people out by solving their grudges. She has to help 100,000 people by a certain deadline or she goes to hell. It's been 500 years and time is about to run out.

Enter our guy, played by the cute and adorable Sungjae (of BTOB) who has a special power that when he touches someone, they just start gushing their inner most thoughts and feelings. He is sick of this power and wants it GONE. When he meets up with our girl from the past, they make a deal. She will get rid of this power for him as soon as he helps her meet the quota.

And so most of the episodes are random characters stories as we enter in their lives (our main characters solve grudges by going into the dreams of people) and figure out their problems and make their lives happy. It's very heartwarming, but sometimes those episodes really dragged for me. 

Toward the end we got more into the back story of our characters, and some pretty great surprises and twists happened. Our guy falls in love with a girl he works with, and their romance was cute but even more slow moving than what is typical for a kdrama! I was so impatient with them!



Anyway. I watched it for Sungjae no doubt. He's absolutely adorable and a fun actor. Also, every episode had cameo appearances by really famous Korean celebrities and it was fun to try and pick them out. 

So in the end, it was fun and cute, but... just not what I was in the mood for I guess. 

Also, for those who are familiar with Hotel del Luna... this one is very similar in premise, but very different in execution. Hotel del Luna is much better in my opinion. But if you liked that one, you might enjoy this one too.

Here's a trailer:





And a lovely fun song!



Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Reading Recap August 2020

 

Flash back to when we were tending grand kids at the beginning of August. 


In the past we'e had a tradition of reading local authors during August. Looks like I pretty much continued that this year with three of my four books being local! Cool. 


Trick of the Spotlight by M.L East: A kpop romance where the kpop boys are, shall we say, not so nice! 

Brass Carriages and Glass Hearts by Nancy Allen Campbell: Steampunk romance loosely based on Cinderella. Shape shifters and vampires included.

The Lost Wonderland Diaries by J. Scott Savage: Two kids find themselves in Wonderland where things are not so wonderful.

Resistance by Jennifer A. Nielsen: A novel depicting the story of resistance fighters in Jewish ghettos in Poland during WWII.


My favorite would probably be Resistance. A really eye opening powerful book.


Goals for September:

  • Finish Midnight Sun which I'm currently immersed in.
  • Read The Body for book club.
  • Maybe read another of Trish's kpop romances. Book 4 is up next!
  • Read some random thing off the shelves just for fun.
  • Get through The Toll once and for all!

Happy reading to all!

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Kdrama Review: It's Okay to Not Be Okay

 Drama: It's Okay to Not Be Okay (It's on Netflix!)

Genre: melodrama

Starring: Kim Soo Hyun, Seo Ye Ji, Oh Jung Se

Rating: ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤


This is the highly anticipated return to the drama scene by beloved actor Kim Soo Hyun after his military enlistment. And it was a brilliant return indeed and he made us all remember why we love him so much! Wow.

It's a drama that deals with a disturbing subject matter, namely mental illness, but done in such a way as to leave viewers happy and hopeful. Our main guy is a caretaker at a mental hospital, and also a caretaker of his older autistic brother. He is so good with everyone, but he neglects himself. And he's starting to realize that neglecting himself is not such a good thing. He's starting to realize that he needs his own life in order to function.

Our girl is a famous picture book author. She is very caustic and selfish and mean. On the outside. On the inside she is lonely, hurting and suffering. She was raised by abusive parents, and treated like an object to be molded and fitted to their wishes. Her fairy tales are dark and twisted, reflecting both of these sides of her. 

The autistic brother is a massive fan of this author and one day when they are attending her signing, their stories converge. The author is instantly enthralled by the gorgeous younger brother and she wants to acquire him... to possess him. He is enthralled by her because she simply enthralls him. And because there is of course a connection to his past.

And then he finds out the connection is even worse than he realized.

Being a family means taking a family portrait, right?


And so the story goes, with these three characters becoming very involved with each other, coming to rely on each other, and love and trust each other. The stories of several patients at the hospital are weaved into it, along with the terrible back story. We learn about human nature and what people crave in life. We learn about the importance of family, and what makes a family a family. We learn how to laugh in the face of despair. 

Wow, but it's a good one. It's filled with many teary moments, and many out loud laughing moments. The relationship of the brothers is crazy good. The acting of these two actors playing the brothers is crazy good. The music is crazy good. The weaving of dark and twisted fairy tale stories in and among the "real life" stories is crazy good. 

This one will be on my list of favorite dramas this year for sure. And I am completely besotted by Kim Soo Hyun yet again. 




Here's a trailer:


And I absolutely fell in love with this song, and have a new favorite singer to add to my list:



So many good songs from this drama!

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