Friday, June 30, 2017

Reading Recap January through June 2017

A book event from this past month that I never reported!
This is us hanging out with Sara Larson and Erin Summerill.
(Note: Erin Summerill's book in my list below!)
Hopefully I'll read Sara's soon too.

I haven't been doing monthly recaps this year for obvious reasons...because there's really nothing to report. But since we've just hit the half way through the year mark, I thought I could manage to list what I've read this year so far. Um... ten books. Guys. I really didn't think I'd ever get to this point. I feel an upsurge lately, so I'm hopefully that the reading thing isn't truly over. So, here's hoping that when I report at the end of the year we'll all be able to see a change between the first half and the second.

Anyway, as for the first half, here's what I've read:

The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough: Fascinating story about personified Love and Death characters playing for the soul of our main characters.

Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff: The companion book to one of my favorites of last year, Illuminae. This one a violent tale of what was going on in a different part of the galaxy during the events of the first book.

Ever the Hunted by Erin Summerill: It's a problem when you are sent on a mission to figure out who murdered your father, and then you find out that the guy you've loved your whole life did it. Now what should you do?

By Your Side by Kasie West: A cute romance about what happens if you get trapped over the weekend in the library with the guy you think is bad news.

The Owl Service by Alan Garner: A strange magical tale that I can't even begin to summarize without sounding crazy.

The Chemist by Stephenie Meyer: Our main character is hired to torture answers out of people, so what happens if she falls for one of her subjects?

Kidnapped Idol by Jennie Bennett: Falling in love with a kpop idol while on a study abroad might be hazardous for your health!

Switching Gears by Chantele Sedgwick: Lucas died. The girl next door loved him her whole life. They had a deathbed confession. So, now what happens? This is how she overcomes this event.

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty: When Alice fell and hit her head, she woke up thinking it was ten years earlier. She is baffled at her current self and has to come to terms with her "new" life.

Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum: Jessie is the new girl and someone has decided to write her anonymous texts to help her get through things.

Favorites from the list:
For pure enjoyment: By Your Side
For thought provoking: What Alice Forgot
For most unique: The Game of Love and Death

Plans for the next half of the year:

  • read more than 10 books
  • go through the stack of books I've accumulated on the floor by my bed
  • read lots of contemporary as that's what I seem to be in the mood for
  • keep up with book club reads
  • I have no specific books planned.
  • if anyone is having an interesting read along, make me join!

Monday, June 26, 2017

Kdrama Review: The Moon Embracing the Sun

Drama: The Moon Embracing the Sun
Genre: Historical drama/romance
Starring: Kim Soo Hyun, Han Ga In, Jung Il Woo, Song Jae Rim
Rating:  ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤

This was one of our exchange student's most favorite dramas of all time. She wanted so bad to share it with me and watch with me. We finally fit it in toward the end of her stay and had a great time watching it together. She told me when this aired a few years ago in Korea it had the best ratings a drama has ever had... then... and still. How could I pass that up? I was intrigued, and so we watched, and I was not disappointed at all.

This is a saga of a drama. A sweeping historical romance that covers a big time period and has a very complicated political plot and complicated messed up romances and relationships. I have no idea how to summarize it! But here goes my try at it.

The first episode sets the back story of the rivalry between two clans that are vying for power of the throne. There's violence and some strange sorcery magical stuff. At the end of it we are to understand that this particular shaman is charged with watching over and protecting the baby that is about to be born. 

Next episode, skip ahead several years and this baby girl is now 13 years old. There's an event near the palace and she just happens to stumble upon the 15 year old Crown Prince who is trying to escape for a moment on his own. They are instantly intrigued and fascinated with each other. (Of course she has no idea who he is.)

The Crown Prince and his Princess of choice, behind the scenes and out of character!
Aren't they so cute!!!

Well, it turns out that she and another girl end up being invited to come and live at the palace to be the companions and playmates with the young princess (the Crown Prince's little sister.) And then that's when things start getting interesting. The Crown Prince is being forced to choose his wife and he knows who he wants without question. There's a sort of audition for the position, including our girl and the other girl.. who just happens to belong to the above mentioned rival family.

Well. It appears all is well, and our two little nobles will eventually be allowed to marry. Because of course our girl wins the competition. 

But... the Queen Dowager, who heads up the rival clan, makes plans to do away with her. It's the most tragic and sad and dramatic and terrible thing! It appears she has succeeded but we are only now about 8 episodes in and there are 12 more episodes to go!

Skip ahead about 8 or 10 years and suddenly the Crown Prince is grown up. (New actors now join the cast and Kim Soo Hyun finally arrives! Though I totally loved the kid who played his younger self. Man, that kid was GOOD!) His dad has died and so he is now king. And he is married to the rival girl. But he has refused to consummate the marriage even though everyone is getting awfully upset that he won't help with the insurance that there is an heir produced. He pleads sick every time! What is his problem!!??? Well, we know that he is still in love with the other girl of course.

Kim Soo Hyun as His Majesty the King
He pretty much has a perfect face, imho.

So they get the new shaman in town to be his "bad luck talisman" and she comes and sits by his bed at night to absorb all the bad vibes. It's awesome. I want one of these! Well, and guess who this girl is? 

Yep. It's true.

And then things get oh so very complicated and crazy and intense and wonderful from there!
Hmmm... I wonder if he figures out who his talisman is?

I have no idea if this drama is any representation of what really went on during this time period in Korea's history, but if so... sheesh. It's crazy stuff. 

Think of this as a period drama, like watching stuff from our British Tudor history or something. It's like that. Just like that!

It's all very emotional, but I held it in for the most part. Until the last couple of episodes and then I gave up and let the tears stream. Sigh. It's so good and heart wrenching! 

P.S. Do you like long-haired angsty body guards? Me too.

This is a fan made trailer. They did an amazing job. It gives me chills! How about you?

And of course some scenes set to the love song:

Yeah. Mark this down as one of my favorites.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Introducing: MONSTA X

In a couple of weeks we'll be heading back to LA for our third kpop concert experience. This time we'll be experiencing the group called MONSTA X! Guys. I'm so excited my stomach hurts! But since they are coming up soon, I figured it was also their turn to get highlighted here on the blog.

Jooheon, Wonho, Hyungwon, Minhyuk, Kihyun, Shownu, I.M

This group sort of appeared out of nowhere for me last summer. I was just opening up to exploring the whole black hole of kpop music, allowing myself to listen to other groups besides Super Junior. I'd embraced a few others by then and suddenly, this group appears. From the very moment I saw that very first video I was entranced.

The first video I saw from Monsta X. This song is called Hero.

 Then they went to KconLA in July and though we didn't get to go to the event, we had fun streaming it and watching it at our house. But when it was Monsta X's turn, the stream failed. I thought I would die of frustration. It hit me then.... this group was turning into more than just another group to check out. I was invested. I had fallen. It was over.

Then one day I happened to be watching V-Live (an app where these kpop stars log in and talk to fans in real time) and Minhyuk was on. And I was mesmerized by his soft spoken voice, his humbleness, his realness. And how he could so easily just talk to us like everything was totally normal. I fell again.

The are a fairly new group, debuting in 2015, and starting to become noticed last year in 2016. (They actually performed at the my exchange daughter's school in Busan before they debuted. She told us..."they were THIS FAR AWAY" and she indicated only a half a room's length. Ah! Lucky her!!!)

So, who are these guys? Here we go:

Shownu is the oldest and the leader. When I watched them at Kcon last summer (when the stream finally started working again) he was the one that stood out. His dancing is AMAZING and then when he sings, it's like this pretty angelic voice. The body and the voice don't go together at all and I was in awe. But dang. His dancing. It's just... crazy. Oh and yeah. He's kinda known for his biceps...

Wonho is the other one that stood out at first also because of his dancing. He has an attitude that portrays total and complete confidence. He seems to be like that when he's just being himself too. Not an act, just how he is. But without arrogance. It's a weird thing. He's extremely sexy and he knows it and he uses it and we all eat it up. (Mostly likely you will notice him quite a bit in the above Hero MV!)

Minhyuk, mentioned above, is like this calming balm. I'm addicted to his talking voice. Sadly, he doesn't have many singing parts in this group, but when he does, I melt. He seems to be the nurturer of the group and also, the life of the party. He's calm on one hand, but the silly clown on the other. Another weird combination. In real life, I think he would be sweetest nicest friend a person could ever have.

Kihyun is the main singer, the belter, the high note person. The crooner. Oh my word, but he can sing. I haven't figured out much about his personality yet though. However, he and Minhyuk did do an hour plus long V-Live one time where they talked deep serious subjects and it was fascinating. I'm intrigued by him for sure. Also, he likes to cook. :)

Hyungwon escaped my notice for a long time. I thought he looked funny with his pouty lips! But then I saw the show where these guys spent time at a day care center for their reality show, and he killed my heart. And since then I've noticed his dancing, his long long legs dancing, his beautiful eyes, and his quiet nature. He lets everyone else have the spotlight. And then he dances. I'm falling for him fast.

Jooheon I think is one of my favorite rappers. (Don't tell Rapmon!) His enthusiasm and energy is CRAZY! I love it! He is so so so much fun! And then... ah... the dimples. He is giving Rapmon a run for his money on that count too! He is adorable and funny and sensitive and as cool as they come. (He stands out in the Hero MV too. He's the one that starts the song in that so very Jooheon way!)

I.M is the other rapper and he, like Hyungwon, escaped my notice at first too. Then, like Hyungwon, I watched him with the kids and melted. He is a true sweetheart. So so soft. Why are the rappers always the soft ones? It doesn't make sense. He's adorable. And he's the only one that knows a little English (having been an exchange student) but he forgets it a lot and then it's fun to laugh with/at him as he tries. So cute. He's also the one that says "guys, just calm down" so much! I love it!

Together, these guys have a very distinct sound that I can't describe, but you can always feel it when a MONSTA X song comes on. The two rappers stand out, and then those angelic voices mixed in... it's just... the best.  And then when you watch them dance on top of that. It's over.

Here's a compilation of bunch of their songs just to give you an idea:

I love them and can't wait to see them. To MEET them actually. We have pit tickets this time, which makes me nervous, but should be a blast if we can survive, and they come with a hi-touch, which means afterwards, we'll get to go up on stage and high ten them all! Hopefully with "crossed fingers" included! Ah. I might die.

This video shows what I mean by a hi-touch and crossing fingers:

Here they are performing their newest song which came out just last week;

Yeah. Monsta X. I love them.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

In Which, WE WON!

The other day, thanks to the peer pressure of Kami and Jenni, we (Toto and I) went to the Provo Library and joined in on their book trivia night. Together, we formed a team, along with a random other teammate who came to the event alone and joined up with us. We called ourselves The Reading Mongooses... or some such thing.

There was about six or so other teams and we proceeded to play nine rounds. Each round had ten questions along a theme... like... books to movies, significant others, villains, etc. The genres represented were across the board, from classics to picture books and everything in between.

We did well. We only missed a few questions. It was surprisingly fun! We added our score and then it was time to reveal. I figured we were doing about the same as all the other teams. And we did... and it was close. But in the end, we had ONE MORE POINT than all the next best team!

WE WON! Who knew? I mean, those other guys were pretty up on their book trivia too! And then I wondered, is the fact that we won just sort of a bragging right? Did we get to take home an extra pile of candy?

And then, they passed out our prizes and each one of us on the team got our own $25 gift card to Barnes and Noble! I was like, wow. This is a legit prize! Who knew?

Anyway, yeah. It turned out to be really fun and totally worth the effort. So the other day Toto and I happily went to the store and spent our money. Here's what we got:

Better yet, I plan to actually read them! (Well, except Empire of Storms... since I'm really not up on that series at the moment.)

Stay tuned!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Book Review: Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum

Book: Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum
Genre: YA romance

So our girl, Jessie, moves to a new school in LA with her dad and her new stepmom. She is not happy. She is depressed and bugged and angry. After the first week she gets an email from someone who says they will be her guide through the roughness that is the new school. This person does not reveal him or herself, but Jessie is pretty sure it's a guy.

And thus begins a friendship all in written form. It quickly changes to texts and Jessie begins to rely on the banter and companionship she finds with this person that she doesn't know.

Meanwhile, she forges through and makes friends, gets a job and falls in love with the unattainable guy. She has a fight with her dad. She gets to know her step brother better. And she goes home for a weekend to find out that her best friend she left behind has changed. Or has she herself changed?

Pretty soon she is dying to meet whoever is writing to her. And she is trying and failing to guess who he is. But then finally, one day, they meet.

Guys. I love this kind of stuff. I have no idea why. But it's just... fun! This one was a little gritty in parts, and sad in parts. But overall, an uplifting... I got this! sort of attitude. I really enjoyed it.

Oh, the title refers to the fact that the two of them tell each other three interesting things about themselves every day. Sweet, eh?

On to the next book!!! I AM READING!!!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Kdrama Review: My Secret Romance

Drama: My Secret Romance

Genre: Romantic Comedy
Starring: Sung Hoon, Song Ji Eun
Rating: ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤

This drama breaks the tradition of regular kdramas and has a pretty steamy sex scene in the VERY FIRST EPISODE! Our two leads get together quickly due to a set of circumstances and proceed, because of reasons.. to have a one night stand. She slips away before he wakes up and then three years pass without them knowing anything about each other.

The the day comes where the girl gets a job as a nutritionist at the big company where the dude is... you guessed it, the head honcho. (or at least the son of the head honcho and due to take over any day). He realizes pretty quick who she is but she is slower to figure it out and then he reveals his face and bam. Let the conflict begin!

So they talk a bit and she is embarrassed and tells him, you know, that it was only a one night stand. But we learn that he has thought about her ever since and in fact, non stop thought about her, and in fact he's pretty much totally and completely in love with her.

And so he begins to court and woo her. Which is the cutest thing ever because he's such a cool snobby dude and he has to humble himself a little. And when he does, he's the best.

One of the best scenes... of course.. in a swimming pool

And so it goes. Things are up and down as they always are and soon we are DYING for them to just finally admit how things are! There are so many swoony kisses. And Sung Hoon is so over the top swoony himself that.. it's just ...yeah..a lot of fun!
Some of you will recognize Sung Hoon from Oh My Venus! and Faith, and Noble My Love.

So if you want a fun romantic comedy without a whole lot of extra drama, you might enjoy this one.

Here's a trailer:

And my favorite... the song... sung by both of the leads.. with all the cute clips:

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Currently: So Much Stuff!

Listening: At the very moment of this writing I'm listening to a very random Spotify playlist that includes ALL my favorites... pre kpop and post. It's perfect. I need to add to this list more often so I can have it always updated with the very best music!! Anyway, it's been a great blast to my music past of just over a year ago. I really do love all kinds of music... all kinds. All languages. All genres. All. ALL!!

What what I'm loving right now Kpop-wise? This new song that two of our BTS boys gave us this week:

Watching:  In the Kdrama department I'm watching a lovely romantic comedy/suspense starring the beautiful Ji Chang Wook called Suspicious Partner or Love in Trouble depending in which site you are watching on. It's...perfect. It's like a beach read, full of a mix of silly swoony romantic stuff and then edge of your seat what the crap is going to happen stuff. This one is currently airing and doesn't end until July 12, so we have a few more weeks to enjoy it. I've finished a couple other dramas which I'll be reviewing soon. Stay tuned.

In the American department, I finished Survivor, which was another fun season, though I was MAD MAD MAD when Ozzy got out. Dang, that dude is fun to watch on that show. I guess you could call him my Survivor bias. LOL!! I'm woefully behind in the movie going/watching. Sheesh, nothing sounds interesting. But I would like to see Pirates. And since you are all raving about Wonder Woman, maybe that one too.

Reading: I feel like I'm doing SO MUCH BETTER with reading lately. Let me know if you think so too as the reviews start coming. Ha. We'll see I guess. I'm determined to fit it in better. I just need to give up more sleep I think. Right now I'm reading Tell Me Three Things, a YA contemporary that I'm totally enjoying even though it as some content that is making me cringe a bit. Anyway. I'll tell you about it soon when I finish it!

Writing: So beta read a book for a friend this past week, and that was so fun! And it's made me pick up my very first story (the skinwalker one if you are keeping track) to try and spiff it up to the point where I might be able to let it back out into the wild. And I'm dying to finish up some of the other unfinished stories.. so the bug is back and here's hoping I can run with it.

Blogging: It's been better too, hasn't it? I do want to blog more about the K stuff and have made a few changes to reflect that. But I'm still leery. Anyway, I'm going to try and let it loose (and you thought I already had... ha!) more but still do all the same stuff I've done all these years too. It may take awhile to find this balance that I'm searching for. A work in progress as they say...

YouTubing: Well. This aspect of life is using up most of my time and keeping me insanely busy. I wish I could make money on it but since all our videos include copyrighted music YouTube says... no way. Anyway. We are on the verge of 10,000 subscribers which blows me away. Still, it feels like it's been forever since we've been hovering there and it's making me crazy. Meanwhile, we have so many ideas for videos and so much new music to react to (reaction videos are the weirdest and stupidest things but that's what this audience wants!) that we can do sometimes two or three videos day. It reminds me of how I felt back a few years ago with blogging. It's overwhelming the amount of stuff! And so far, I'm still loving it though I fear the momentum will wane after the summer and life changes. Anyway, I'm riding it while I can. To answer the currently question though, we are currently working on a marathon of a lesser known kpop group called 24K and they are awesome. Also, we've put up a couple of BTS videos, riding the wave of their huge current popularity. And then the other day we reacted to a video that was so crazy fun we couldn't stop giggling. Watch if you are in the mood for some silliness. :)

Oh, but you all actually might be interested in this where my daughter did a cover of a song with her harpist friend. It's quite impressive, don't you think?

Health Watch: Two weeks every day on the treadmill again. Keep your fingers crossed it actually does something. Eating continues to go the same. Either I eat crappy or I starve. I don't know how to do the middle thing.

Family Fun: 

  • last violin gig yesterday after 13 years of lessons and recitals and things
  • little family camping trip coming up in a couple weeks
  • youngest graduated from high school and got a job which actually hasn't started yet
  • oldest graduated from college and is on to graduate school and CPA tests (CPA right? That's the accountant one?)
  • second is in the process of buying her first house
  • third broke his arm in a bike crash but is doing well now and back to drumming and gardening
The family at graduation minus the daughter who lives far away. 

And that's my current update for now!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Book Review: What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

Book: What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
Genre: Literary Fiction- ish
Rating:★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

So here's a book I've heard about forever and finally read for book club this past week. And no, it's not the Alice one who has Alzheimer's. That's the other one! (We got these books mixed up SO MANY TIMES!)

Anyway, it's about an Alice who fell one day and clunked her head. She woke up thinking she was 10 years younger than she is and pregnant with her first child. When she realizes it is actually 10 years later and she has three kids and her marriage is on the rocks, she is blown away. How could this be?

She slowly tries to figure out her "new" life. And is even more blown away when she figures out she has become a stranger to herself during these ten years. And it all seems due to someone named Gina who no will tell her about.

It's all very mysterious.

I found the premise really fascinating because the first thing it does is make you think about your own life and would you recognize yourself ten years from now. Or would your younger self recognize the you you are today? Have you made good changes or bad ones? Have you done anything with your life? Have you alienated all the people around you? Are the things that were important ten years ago still important?

It's an interesting thing to think about!

I felt a little depressed though because it made me crazy that her life was so messed up, in some sense. Pretty great in others I guess. But her marriage fell apart because of just stupid things and it seemed like even her new perspective on life wasn't going to fix it. That really killed me. But....

I'll just leave it there in case you decide to read it. But probably you've all read it already and you know what I'm talking about anyway!

In the end, I really liked it. It was well written and fun and fast paced. Even in my altered reading state these days, I managed it easily!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Adventure is Over!

Do you remember back last summer when I announced we would be getting an exchange student? Well, can you believe that it's over?  Ten months and one school year later, we sent her home. That was last week and now we are trying to get used to the new normal. It's truly like having a kid that you have to GIVE BACK! What's up with that?

Here's a goodbye video we made of her last day:

(The song is saying "bogo shipda" which means I miss you in Korean and it's about wishing one could keep in touch with old friends. This is also the phrase we use at the end in Hangul.)

Many of you follow my Instagram so you've probably seen all these pictures, but if not, I thought I'd share a few to illustrate the fun we've had this past year with Sangi.

First day!

First day of school

Turning 15 years old

Going to Comic Con and meeting BillyBoyd

Visiting the Utah mountains

Hiking in Bryce Canyon

Seeing the Grand Canyon

Her first Halloween!

First time carving pumpkins

Meeting authors

Making pies for Thanksgiving

Holding a cat for the first time!

Sitting on Santa's lap for the first time!

The lights at Temple Square

Christmas Eve

Kpop stuff for Christmas

Seeing Blue Man Group in Las Vegas

Giving a presentation on Korea

Going to the BTS concert!

Visiting Alcatraz in San Francisco

Seeing her host sister graduate

Hiking to Delicate Arch
(obviously this isn't her, but doesn't that picture crack you up?!)

Experiencing southern Utah

And finally, cooking s'mores on the last day!

And that's only SOME of it! It's been a great experience and we are sad it's over. Here's hoping we can visit her in Korea some day!


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