Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Super Junior is COMING BACK!

The group that started it all, the guys I have to blame for this whole kpop thing, is giving us new songs this week. After two years of being on hiatus while the majority of their guys do their required military service, they are finally back!

Yesterday they pre-released this awesome ballad song. Donghae (the one that starts out singing) wrote it. I haven't even really looked at the lyrics, but it's about sticking around longer than the rain. But don't worry about the lyrics.. just FEEL it. It's called One More Chance. I love it. But they look so sad in it. Well, they are obviously sad since several of them have tears streaming down their faces.

Anyway, the whole Super Junior coming back thing will be something I will have to share. So here's the first song. Be brave, click on it and enjoy:

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Book Review: I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo

Book: I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo
Genre: YA contemporary romance
Rating:★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

I've had this book on my radar for quite some time being as that it features Kdramas. Then one day the librarian at work brought it to me and said, you should read this. So finally I had my chance!

It's pretty much what I expected. Goofy and fun and fluffy. It's about a Korean American girl who's Korean dad is very much into kdramas. She thinks they are silly and stupid (as most people do of course!) and never joins in his binges and marathons.

Meanwhile a new kid shows up at school and she is determined to win him over. Because he's gorgeous and intriguing and all the good stuff. But she has a problem with flirting, which is that it never works out. She fails miserably.

So one day she happens to actually pay attention to her dad's shows and ends up binging the whole drama with him and bam, she realizes.... the show has a formula she can follow to get a guy. So she makes a list and sets out to put her plan into practice.

Sadly, I can't remember the list and the book is already back at the library. But it was stuff like, find out about his mysterious past, be a damsel in distress, reveal your vulnerabilities, get caught in a love triangle, have a sad back story. Yes... it's all there. (Oh, I found the list online. Here you go.)

I found the list interesting since I would agree with some of it and not so much others. But it was fun to watch our girl try to go through the list and "make" it all happen. Of course, she didn't really NEED the list as it would have all happened without it, since the two fall in love quite nicely on their own. It's a fun romance and on the surface fluffy, but there is still the hard things they all have to deal with. (Sad back story and all!)

I loved the characters, all fun and quickly. The dad was especially enjoyable and I could totally picture him perfectly!

I also loved that the author included a list of kdramas to watch for those just getting going on this adventure and willing to give them a try and fall down the rabbit hole! She had them all listed by genre and category which was awesome. I've watched maybe half of the ones suggested. It was fun to see many of my favorites on the list. I should have saved that list too to fit in some of the other suggestions, but my "to watch list" is out of control already!

Anyway, of course I totally enjoyed this book that mashed up my favorite things... kdrama, korean culture and YA romance! :)

Thursday, October 26, 2017

The Trip Part 4: Paris

We started the last leg of our trip by waking up and driving to the train station in Frankfurt Germany. We left our rental car there, waited a few hours, and then got on the train to Paris. Let me just say, if I haven't already said it... train travel is the most relaxing way to travel! It's like nearly impossible not to just sit back and be lulled to sleep the whole way!

We arrived in Paris without incident and found our way to the metro where we managed to get to the Bastille stop and walked a block from there to our last and final Airbnb apartment. (Metro travel is the most stressful way to travel! We had to smash ourselves and our bags onto the train and just pray that we wouldn't get pickpocketed! Gah, those things are so crowded all the time!)

This apartment, while nice, was quite small compared to our others but we dealt with it. First order of business was to get groceries that would last us only the weekend! It was fun shopping like a local and buying bread at the bakery and fruit at the stand and etc.

The next day we began all the normal sites. First up, Notre Dame. Even after all cathedrals we'd seen this trip, it's still the most impressive one! We also checked out Saint Chappelle, the very old, and very blue church, nestled right in the middle of the Justice compound. Then we walked across the river to the Latin Quarter and had lunch. We bought a book at Shakespeare and Company (my souvenir book this time: A Tale of Two Cites. Last trip it was: The Hunchback of Notre Dame.)

Then we spent the afternoon at the Louvre. We wheeled grandma around in a wheelchair to save her feet, and it was interesting finding all the hidden elevators and figuring out how to get around without stairs! Quite the adventure! But we found all the big things and even got a front row seat at the Mona Lisa!

After that we had a snack/dinner in the area and then took our most exciting taxi ride back to the apartment. That guy weaved us in and out, drove us on a pedestrian only road, nearly ran down a cop and yeah. I said "WEEE!!" a bunch of times, but then remembered it sort of means just plain old yes in French. LOL.

The next day we walked around our own neighborhood, saw the locals hanging out at a cute park, talked to people who were gathering for a demonstration, and visited Victor Hugo's house. Then we rode the metro to the Eiffel Tower.

We ate lunch first and then got in the line to get in to the Tower. Security is so tight there these days. There's a big ugly fence around the whole Tower and you have to go through security just to get in there, and then we stood in a long slow line to go up... and had to go through security again. But we finally made it up and the view is amazing. It's like, you can't really believe you are truly there doing it. You have to stop and breathe and make sure you are really paying attention! Know what I mean?

After coming down, we took the hour long boat ride on the Seine and that was so relaxing and peaceful. We timed it perfect so that when we got back, the lights came on the tower and they did the sparkle thing. It was perfect. After dark, it's like a massive party at the Tower. I loved being part of it for just a bit before we had to go home and sleep.

Our final day was spent wandering around the most awesome cemetery ever. Pere La-chaise. Don't skip it if you ever go to Paris! I love this place! We had a guy take us around and tell us risque stories and show us all (well some) of the famous graves. It was fun. I could spend hours there and not get sick of it. But we had to leave and go get lunch. Afterward, we took the metro to Sacre Coeur. This was a place we'd missed on our previous trip, and i was impressed that this neighborhood felt so different from the ones we'd been in up to that point. It was a really hip and happening spot! The view from the church was amazing. We didn't go in, but the church was beautiful. We also finally saw the famous Moulin Rouge which is at the bottom of the hill there.

After that we deemed the trip over and came back home to pack and get ready to leave bright and early the next morning. We took a taxi to the airport where we then waited for hours until it was time to go home. But we had one last final experience before leaving, and that was to get a thorough and chaotic nearly strip down security check just as we were boarding the plan. Lucky us.

It was an amazing trip and we are already dreaming about the next one!

Selfie at Notre Dame

Trying to figure out the gargoyles.

Saint Chapelle

Ye old famous book store. 

The Louvre

Front row "seats" at the Mona Lisa

Victor Hugo lived right around the corner from our apartment

We found a cool looking tower.

It's a really pretty impressive tower.

The view from the top, well, nearly the top.

The view of the top from the nearly top.

On the boat ride. Notre Dame

Sunset on Notre Dame.

The tower again. Sparking. But not like a vampire.
'Cause it only sparkles at night.

Pere LaChaise

More awesome grave stones
(Interesting thing about this place, it's really not that old
but it sure feels like it.)

A "street" through the cemetery.

More graves. Beautiful, yes?
(or... am I weird?)

Scare Coeur

My traveling companions

The view, of both people and city.

It's the Moulin Rouge!

The door to our apartment.

Looking up to the apartment.

And the street from our window.
The Bastille (well of course it's not there anymore)
is right around the corner.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Book Review: Gem and Dixie by Sara Zarr

Book: Gem and Dixie by Sara Zarr
Genre: YA contemporary
Rating:★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

This is a tiny little book and yet it took me, what, two months I think to read it. Hmmm.... I guess mostly because I was distracted, but also because it was a sad story and so I wasn't always compelled to pick it up and read it. You know?

Gem and Dixie are sisters, and pretty much complete opposites. While Dixie is beautiful and popular, Gem, our narrator, is a bit of a recluse, and constantly worried about life. About her sister, her mom, her dad who left them, school, and everything. One day when her dad suddenly shows up out of the blue, he leaves behind something that changes her life. And not really in a good way.

But this instigates her to take some pretty rash actions. Basically, she takes her sister and runs away. And so much of the book is while they are on the run, even though it seems like they are just "taking a break."

Well, and so after awhile, her sister wants to go home, but Gem does not. It's a dilemma.

Anyway, the bottom line for me in this story is that there is hope for kids in this situation. Gem does the right thing and everything turns out okay for her. Even though the story does not have a true happy ending. But I think that if kids who live in situations like this find this book and read it, they will understand, I hope, that there are people who will help them and that things can be hopeful and will get better some day.

So.. a good book, well written and all that, but not your happy fluffy heart warming story. But we've come to expect that from Sara Zarr! You gotta think and ponder stuff when you read her books!

Sunday, October 22, 2017

READATHON October 2017

Our readathon day yesterday was a bit crazy, but we managed to get much more reading done than expected. In fact, I finished one book that I'd had started already and read most of another book. (And  I just now sat for an hour and finished that book, so that's how close I came yesterday.)

Reviews to come soon!

Friday, October 20, 2017

The Trip Part 3: Germany

On our last morning in Vienna, we woke up and get a taxi to the Hilton where we picked up our rental car. The first thing we had to do was change the GPS to English! That took a nice call to the friendly car rental dude to help and then we were on our way!

We got ourselves out of the city and into the Austrian countryside. We took a side ride that took us next to the river and through the cute little villages. One of them we stopped in and had lunch. Eventually, we made our way to a little mountain village in the Austrian Alps called Gosau. That place so beautiful I couldn't stop taking pictures. It was amazing. We had a little bed and breakfast hotel place and we just hung out and enjoyed.

The next day we drove to the nearby lakes and ate lunch and took pictures. Then we made our way to Salzburg, where we had one night at another Airbnb. On the way we stopped at the site of the where they filmed the scenes at the VonTrapp mansion for Sound of Music. Later we went to Mirabelle Gardens and the funky Red Bull museum. It started raining here and our perfect weather was over for the next few days, though I didn't at all mind the rain!

The next day we slept in and then drove across the border to Germany to another mountain in the Alps where Hitler made his home during the war. We joined a tour and they drove us up up up to the top of the mountain where Hitler had a "hideout" called The Eagle's Nest. The views up there were incredible. We ate on of our best lunches up there and then came back and made our way to our next place of abode.

This was in a town called Brannenburg in southern Germany, right between Salzburg and Munich. It was the same place we'd stayed at two years before when we where here. It was like coming home! We love this place!

The next day we had a sort of down day and just hung out at our place, did laundry, drove around in the area, found a quaint place for lunch, and then went to the same place for dinner that we'd found last time... they do a barbecue every Wednesday night and so we joined that party again. We shared our table with some people vacationing from Hanover and it was fun talking to them.

The next day we drove to Neuschwanstein but only looked at from the outside. We'd heard from the people the night before that they really liked a different castle called Schloss Linderhoff so that's the one we took the time to go inside. It was nice.. but quite small for a palace/castle. :)  We found another quaint restaurant in our tiny little village for dinner that night, where they hardly knew English and the menu was totally in German. That makes things quite fun!

We had to leave the next day for our next city... on the way we stopped in Dachau, which is so sobering, no matter how many times you visit. I got a little teary at the mass grave sites, which somehow we missed last time we were here. We made a jaunt to Munich too and walked around that main town square for awhile before heading to the next spot.

This airbnb was in a tiny German town called Kallmunz. And we loved it. We had a three level apartment set in the mountain side. The bottom was like a cave and the top like an attic loft. We spent the weekend here... Saturday we went to Regensburg and walked around.. then came back and hiked to the castle ruins right at our own place.. and joined a massive race celebration happening in our own backyard.

Sunday we drove to Nuremberg where we had local guy give us a tour of all the WWII and Nazi places. It was very eye opening and informative and sobering. We spent the afternoon there walking through their old town and getting lunch.

Monday we moved again to a place along the Rhine River called Bacharach. It was a little hotel this time, not especially nice, but did the trick. The next day we drove to yet another castle which was one of my favorites of the bunch. Very medieval-y this one! And we drove along the river and saw all the amazingness it provides! The next day we drove to Heidelberg and saw it's famous place and ate lunch. Nice city that is!

Then it was time to move again. A train to Paris!

The back view of our hotel in Gosau. A former hunting lodge back in the day.

The view from our window of that hotel.

A tiny little church on the hill.

Another view from that village.

The nearby mountain lake.

The other nearby mountain lake.

Another view.. Lake Hallstatt.

The hotel that was used as the outside scenes of the mansion in Sound of Music.

Mirabelle Gardens, also in Sound of Music.

Our tour bus for the Eagle's Nest.

The Eagle's Nest on the top of the mountain.

The lunch we had at the top. 

Another view from the top/

Selfie at Mirabelle Gardens.

The hotel where we had dinner one night.

Our quick view of  Neuschwanstein


Dinner at another very out of the way non touristy place.

Mass grave at Dachau.

View from our window in Kallmunz.

Our airbnb house in Kallmunz.

The party we crashed!

View from the hike to the top of the hill behind our place.

At the ruins at the top.

German families partying hard!

 I think this is Nuremberg. Or Regensburg. Not sure! Pretty though, eh?

One of the places Hitler gave speeches from.

One of my favorite lunches... cheesy spatzel.

The fairy tale place we stopped at on our drive.

Our hotel in Bacharach.

The Rhine River.



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