Thursday, September 19, 2019

Book Review: One of Us Is Lying by Karen McManus

Book: One of Us Is Lying by Karen McManus
Genre: YA mystery
Rating: ★ ★ ★ 

This one got a lot of buzz last year, so we decided to read it for this month's book club book.

It's about four kids who end up in detention together one day when a fifth kid suddenly collapses with a massive allergic reaction and dies. And now the investigation is all centered on them.

We get the story from all their points of view, which at first was a little much, but it didn't take me long to get into the groove and remember who was who and which was which.

We have:

Copper: the all American star baseball player
Bronwyn: the honor student and classic piano prodigy
Nate: the drug dealer outcast
Ally: the seemingly airheady beauty queen princess

And the guy who died: Simon. And his big claim to fame is that he runs a gossip column type app that dishes all the juicy stories on everyone in the school.

Mix this all up with the mystery of Simon's death, add in some interesting parental figures and siblings, plus some really fantastic secrets that EVERYONE has and you have this fun and page turning story.

And it was very engaging and lots of fun to read. As is usually the case with me, I wasn't that into the actual mystery (and really it didn't seem like this was the main center of the book either) but was very into the relationships of these four kids with each other, with their families, and with their other friends. Really lots of great characters here and lots of modern day struggles addressed. I look forward to discussing it at book club this week.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Book Review: Maybe This Time by Kasie West

Book: Maybe This Time by Kasie West
Genre: YA contemporary romance
Rating: ★ ★ ★ 

Another Kasie West book! Yes! You know I'm on it whenever she comes out with one!

This one is about a girl who works for a florist and she has to help at all the local events in the small Alabama town they live in. She'd really rather be working for the seamstress that makes alterations for people, so she can get experience for her dream job as a fashion designer. But that's not to be.

The books takes us on a year's worth of events, starting with Valentine's Day and ending with New Years. The interesting thing about this particular year of events is that the dude who caters the events (the dad of her good friend) is getting mentoring from a very famous chef who's been on TV. And he has brought his son to work along side with him too.

Well, our girl and this son don't hit it off too well. At first. They clash at all the events and banter and bicker like crazy. But of course, as it goes, they start seeing each other differently which in turn makes them both learn a ton about themselves.

So basically, the typical fun contemporary YA romance, with this interesting twist on the fact that our two heroes only see each other at these events throughout the year. And enough stuff happens to make the relationship blossom.

It was exactly what I needed!

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Book Review: Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson

Book: Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson

Genre: epic fantasy
Rating: ★ ★ ★ 

This is book one of a huge epic fantasy called Malazan Book of the Fallen. My son finished the entire Wheel of Time series recently and needed more of a similar genre (he was already all caught up with the Brandon Sanderson stuff) and he learned about this particular series and absolutely fell in love. And he wanted me to try it too, so that's what prompted this read!

And I must say, it was hard going in parts, but also very enjoyable in parts and while I have to say my brain these days struggles with this stuff, I also get glimpses of the old me who totally loved it. Very interesting mix that is!

Anyway,  this books starts the adventure of two peoples or empires... who are pitted against each other in a war to take over the world. It's interesting because you get the view from both sides and there truly aren't any "bad" guys... you love and are rooting for everyone!This is not how these kinds of books usually go.

One one hand we have the noble people, the rulers, the big wigs...and on the other hand we have the lower level, common people. However, everyone, or rather, many people have magic. And this means that strange and other worldly things are happening all the time. We also have the thieves and assassins using their plain old skill and luck. It's truly a mixture of everything.

 And when stuff goes down, it goes down in a big and fantastic way. Like, dragons and demons and scary birds and hounds and old skeletal creatures and fat magicians and sorcerers all fighting to win the day. One thing is for sure, the world building in this book is CRAZY. So amazing that someone can come up with this stuff! It truly blows me away.

Much of the political intrigue went over my head, as it usually does, but I did become very invested in the characters. Wiskeyjack, Sorry, Tattersail, Crokus, Quick Ben, Caladan, and so very many more! I am happy to have succeeded in making it through this first book and now my son is anxious for me to keep going (guys, there's like 20 or more in this series!) but I told him, maybe someday, but I needed a few easy reading books first! LOL!

Have any of you read this series? Let me know your thoughts if you have!

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Kdrama Review: Hotel del Luna

Drama: Hotel del Luna

Genre: Fantasy
Starring: Yeo Jin Goo, IU, P.O
Rating: ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤

This has been the current buzzed about drama this summer...and so I decided to jump in at the beginning this time and watch it every week as it aired. It helped that Toto was home when we started it and wanted to do the same! And then the Mr. saw us having fun watching together and joined in. And soon the son/brother and his girlfriend were joining us! WE WATCHED A DRAMA TOGETHER AS A FAMILY! This is pretty big and it was really fun for me.

Anyway. The drama is about a hotel for ghosts...a place for them to stay when they are stuck here because of something holding them back from going to the afterlife. When they get that resolved, they can move on to the great beyond.

Our girl has been the boss/owner/runner of this hotel for over a thousand years, a sort of punishment to the stuff she did in her life, all of which we learn about as the show progresses. Over the years, she hires a human person to manage the hotel so he can deal with human matters. Our guy is the one she has lately picked for this job. For a bunch of strange and interesting reasons.

She has three ghosts very close to her that also help with the hotel.. their back stories and resolutions to them are also a big part of this show.

It has a bit a of a Beauty and the Beast vibe because there is a tree that represents her soul, and when this new manager shows up, the tree is suddenly blossoming. And the idea is that when it blossoms and then the leaves fall again, she will be ready to move on... finally.

There is much lovely bantering between these two. They seem ill-matched of course, but the dude, a very soft hearted and calm and sweet kid, manages to soften her extreme harshness. It's awesome.

The fun ghost stories (of guests at the hotel), the past stories of our main characters, the beautiful special effects, the amazing acting and the amazing music all make this one of the best dramas of the year. Such a fun one to watch.

My only complaint was that it seemed to drag a bit in those final episodes... and they really played some things up and made it go on and on and on. But I was waiting for the usual kdrama manipulation of the ending and this one did not do that. So I was very pleased with that.

IU dressed up in so many amazing things during the drama! 

Anyway. IU, our main girl, was amazing in her role. She outshone everyone, even my guy (the third drama of his I've watched in a row now) took a back seat! Even though he was perfect too. Also PO (from the idol group BlockB) was so adorable as the bell hop. And his story was the one that actually made me weepy in the end. Great job dude! So good!!

There were a lot of drama inside jokes featured during this drama... cameos from some famous dudes, a very WHAT? cameo from someone huge at the end, lots of references to other dramas these guys have all been in, and especially The Crowned Clown which I just reviewed the other day. I was happy to catch and understand most of these jokes and it made it all even more fun.

Anyway, it was a blast watching one in "real" time and see the buzz every week online as each episode was aired.

Here's the trailer:

And the song we all fell in love with:

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Kdrama Review: The Crowned Clown

Drama: The Crowned Clown

Genre: historical
Starring: Yeo Jin Goo, Lee Se Young, Kim Sang Kyung
Rating:  ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤

This one got a ton of buzz earlier this year and everyone was saying it was their favorite historical drama to date. So when I was going through my Yeo Jin Goo binge this summer, I knew this one had to be watched!

But I was nervous because as is usually the case with historicals, I feared it would be too tragic. But I was still ready to jump in!

From the opening scenes I know that our boy Jin Goo was going to KILL this show with his amazing acting. Yes. He totally blew me away. I can't handle how good he is!!

This one is about a really awful terrible young king (mostly he is terrible because of lots of things gone wrong in his life and he has resorted to drugs to numb all his feels) who really has no grip on reality. He thinks everyone is out to get him (and in fact there have been several assassination attempts) and so when his helper dude (secretary? I can't remember what his official title is, but he becomes a favorite very well loved character) finds a dude in the city, a jester/clown in fact, that looks JUST LIKE HIM, he drags that kid to the palace and they force him to dress up like the king and become the king, while the true king hides and waits for the danger to pass.

Well, yes, of course Jin Goo is playing both parts and the way he can go from this ruthless scary king to this fun lovable clown is amazing.

Here's the iconic scene where the switch takes place. You can see the contrast between our two Jin Goo's and see him acting with himself, which is always amazing when that happens:

Anyway, of course the clown ends up doing a TON better at being king than the king. And the helper dude (secretary?) realizes that if the kingdom is to be saved, it would be better if the clown remained as the king.

Also, the clown falls in love with the queen... who... as king it should be okay, right? But since he is NOT the king, he feels a bit...wrong... about this... and all the CONFLICT ensues. And she is all, why is the king suddenly nice? And she wonders why she suddenly actually LOVES him now, whereas before she was scared out of her mind!

And then what if people start to figure out he is really not the king? WHAT IF?

Ah, and what about the REAL king???

Oh man, the politics, the scheming and plotting. The emotions and feels. The dude who is the captain of the guard! All of it! It's intense and crazy and pretty much edge of your seat stuff all the way through.

Did I say Yeo Jin Goo was amazing??? I did? Because.... (and guys... all this at like barely 22 years old. How do people get such talent?)

The end was weird though, and frustrated the HECK out of me. I don't even know if I know what happened exactly. WHAT HAPPENED my people who have seen this??!!!

Anyway, it says at the beginning of the show that it is not based on true characters, but then I read somewhere that actually it based on something from history. So that's intriguing.

The music soundtrack for this one is AMAZING also. As is the cinematography. Everything about it is truly beautiful.

Here's a simple trailer that highlights our three main characters. It's so simple but gives me the chills anyway:

And all the cute romance bits:

For an idea of the soundtrack music, here's what the opening title music sounds like:

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Our Experience at KCON 2019 LA

I wasn't sure it would actually happen again this year, but sure enough, we were invited back to KCON 19 in LA to be on three different panels. This year it was just me and Toto representing The Kpop Konverters, and despite missing our comrades, we had a fabulous time.

Every night there was a concert of sorts. The first night was Klub Kcon where they have a DJ dude doing kpop mixes while everyone dances. In between that are random performances from random popular youtube types and others, all hosted by a very flashy flamboyant and quite obnoxious drag queen. (At least this year... lol. He was funny but also... not. ) We hung out there for awhile, but left early to go back and sleep after driving all day to get there.

The next night was Kcon Rookies, where they showcased what was supposed to be 4 of our newbie groups that we are all loving on right now. One of the groups ended up not being able to come, sad sad day (there were a lot of visa issues this year, thanks to our president I think.) But the three that were there were a blast and we thoroughly enjoyed that evening. We decided to play it cool and hung out in the back of the crowd instead of stressing about getting close. ATEEZ stole the show for us.. our favorites of the year by far. A new girl group called LOONA was also very popular and a cute boy group called AB6IX also got a lot of love.

ATEEZ at Kcon Rookies

The next two nights were the big concerts and we loved every minute of them both. The second night though was especially fun when we let it loose and stood up and literally screamed our voices raw during Stray Kids and Seventeen. We also sang loudly during N. Flying's tribute to Queen and then there was the moment when the three rappers from Stray Kids (3Racha) and N. Flying sang together. I really thought I was going to die seeing that. Best thing ever.
Finale of the second concert

We had three panels, one each day of the con. They all went really well and we had a blast discussing kpop with random attendees and connecting with so many fun people. I really wish I'd taken more selfies of these connections. I always forget in the moment!

After one of our panels with our fellow panelists and attendees

 In between our panels and the night concerts, we went to a couple other panels (Holland and Edwin were highlights) and seeing which groups we could encounter on the convention floor. We did fight our way in the mosh pits down there to see ATEEZ up close, and also SF9 and AB6IX. We also waited for an hour and a half to see N. Flying at the foodie booth. It was worth it. They were adorable.
AB6IX cuties
ATEEZ with Ronald McDonald getting their free fries and pics taken!

Holland's panel... he's famous for being the only kpop idol who has official come out as gay. We fell in love with him.
N.Flying boys making sandwiches. 
Edwin draws horrible fan art and Toto was lucky enough to win a picture of herself!
KCON is a blast. Every year I think we won't be going again, but after this time around, i hope it truly does continue to be a yearly tradition for us. Which means I can't let the channel die so we can still be relevant and invited back, right???

We posted a ton of stuff on the channel about KCON, but this one is our overall experience vlog with little clips from all the things I mentioned.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Reading Recap: Summer (June/July/Aug) 2019

Seven Magic Mountains: a strange and colorful art project in the middle of the dessert just outside of Las Vegas off I-15

Well, and so I know summer would absolutely KILL the reading vibe I had going the first half of the year. Dang, but isn't summer supposed to be about just kicking back and reading all the books? Maybe back in childhood days, but not now. Sigh.

Anyway, these are the books I  read since we last updated at the end of May:

Ban this Book by Alan Gratz: A fourth grader decides to take her school library's book banning situation into her own hands.

A Room with a View by E. M. Forster: Our heroine falls in love while vacationing in Italy, but she is total and complete denial. (This was an "almost" re-read.)

The Lady in the Coppergate Tower by Nancy Campbell Allen: A doctor and his assistant embark on a romantic and creepy adventure that leads to a faraway country and a coppergate tower.

Comeback: A Kpop Novel by Lyn Ashwood and Rachel Rose: A romance blossoms when a famous boy band idol and his make up artist remember what brought them together a few year's previous.

Best of this lot: The Lady in the Coppergate Tower... though I gave every one of these books an average three stars.

Plans for September:

  • finish the big epic fantasy that I have been working on all summer long
  • read the new Kasie West :)
  • read the book club book, One of Us is Lying

I don't even have to ask. I know you are all doing better than me regarding reading! Let me know what your favorite book of the summer was, and I'll add it to my list!


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