Monday, October 28, 2019

Book Review: Field Notes on Love by Jennifer E. Smith

Book: Field Notes on Love by Jennifer E. Smith
Genre: Contemporary YA romance
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ 

So, we have Hugo who is about ready to set off on an adventure riding a train across the US just when his girlfriend breaks up with him. But sadly, everything is in her name and it's nontransferable. Problem. Solution: to ask any random girl with the same name as his ex to step in and go on the trip with him.

And so that's when Mae comes in and fills the spot. And you can probably guess what happens from there. But for both of them, so much is going on at home that they can hardly be in the moment. Hugo has to figure out what he's doing about school, and Mae is very worried about her sick grandma, and about getting into to film school in California.

So yes, this is an insta love sort of story, if that bothers you, but I enjoyed it just fine. It's another travel across the US story (just like the previous one I reviewed) and so I enjoyed THAT again too. (going by train seems so fun. I want to do this!) Anyway, that seems to be a thing suddenly!

But as with all Jennifer E. Smith books, the romance is fun and very swoony and sweet. She is similar for me to Kasie West in that regard. Cute teen romances. But there's always some depth too. Another great one!

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Book Review: A Heart in a Body in the World by Deb Caletti

Book: A Heart in a Body in the World by Deb Caletti
Genre: Contemporary YA
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ 

This one is about a girl who is struggling with some tragedy that has made her nearly unable to function. When the story begins, she runs out and away from a diner she's at, and just keeps on running. After many miles, she decides she just wants to keep on running. So spontaneously, she finds herself running across the US just to... get it all out I guess.

Her friends and her brother are masterminds so they start a gofundme and raise money for her... her grandpa comes to get her in the motor home, so he is her guardian.. and suddenly. she becomes famous and is met by people at every stop she goes to.

All along the way, as she runs, we get the flash back story as to what happened. Though, it's not until the very final pages do we get to the tragedy, so by then we are guessing what happened, and it sort of made me crazy.

So on one hand, I enjoyed the running journey, seeing the country and meeting the people... I would actually love to do this someday, only not running. But you know, driving the back roads and see the small towns and awesome countryside. It would be amazing.

But I was very much losing patience by the end as to what happened. And what this girl's future was. I was pretty convinced she had actually committed a crime. (Wrong) And was headed to court herself.

Anyway, so I won't give it away what happened... but when we do find it out, the whole thing suddenly became a bit political, which as you know, rubs me the wrong way too.

So, this is a hard one! I really enjoyed reading it. The writing is fantastic and the journey engaging. (I don't think I've read any other books by this author, which kinds of surprises me.) But the dragging out of the "thing that happened" and then making a statement bit... was just... eh.

Have you read it? I'd love to know what you thought!

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Movie Review: Gemini Man

Movie: Gemini Man
Starring: Will Smith
Genre: Action Adventure
Rating: one and a half thumbs up

I have a goal to start finding my love for the movies again, so the plan is to just simply go more often for date night, or whatever. Here's hoping some decent ones show up now and then! Mostly I look at the list of available movies and there's just nothing that looks good.

Anyway, that being said, the other night we ended up randomly at Gemini Man. Because anything Will Smith has got to be good, right?

And it was... not bad. Actually quite good I'd say. I actually enjoyed it!

The premise is that we have an assassin... Will Smith, who kills the bad guys. And then just as he's about to retire, someone is out to kill HIM. And when he finds out who it is, this dude LOOKS JUST LIKE HIM... a younger him. So he and his cohort (a girl he has just barely met) set out to figure out what's going on. And who this dude is.

It's all quite fascinating really. And a little disturbing.

There is lots of violence and fighting, but not as much as I expected. The movie actually had a lot of chill and quiet moments which was surprising. I remember leaving the theater thinking... there were some great parts and some really weird parts. I think some of it seemed very real... and some of it seemed way too fake and digital-ized, you know? I think that was it.

But we had no idea if Will Smith played both characters, and it turns out, he sure did! So somehow they managed to make him look all those years younger. It didn't look fake, that part, either. And he looked just different enough that it made us wonder (not knowing going in) if it was him, or someone else.

Anyway, what an excellent acting job! I loved that.

So, if you are up for a decent action adventure, and you are a Will Smith fan, then check it out!

Here's the trailer.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Book Review: A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi

Book: A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi
Genre: YA Contemporary
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ 

I was at once both leery and intrigued by this book. I worried it might be a bit too agenda-y and try to shove lessons to be learned in our faces.

But, while it did teach us something, it was done in a very palatable way. And I ended up loving it.

Based on a year in the author's own life, this is about a girl who is dealing with being a Muslin girl in high school, the year after 9/11. She is angry. Very very angry. At lots of things, and not just how she is treated by people, both at school and not.

When she gets paired up with a dude for science lab, she is curious about him, but figures his curiosity about her is just like everyone else's and doesn't really mean anything.

As it turns out, they click and become friends and then more. In so doing, it helps her to look at the world a little differently, and when she realizes his life isn't as perfect as she thinks it is, she starts to look a little more outside herself instead of focusing always on her own pain and anger.

There's a quote at the every end of the book that I wish I'd written down before I turned it back to the library, but the gist of it is what I just said above... that in all the anger she has with dealing with all the injustices, she realizes that it's her attitude and her choice with how she reacts to all that. And that she can choose to be happy over angry. That other people have their own things and that everyone is all the same and that her prejudice against people is just as bad as their prejudice against her. Or something like that... whatever it was, it was good and I inwardly cheered.

Anyway. All that deep stuff aside, the romance is AWESOME! Perfectly swoony. I loved it. I loved the writing (as I've come to expect from this author) and the way she handled this subject. It hit me just right instead in preachy or self-pity-ish... which I very much appreciated. Thank you!

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Let's Watch Some Star Wars!

So I saw this movie watching schedule on Facebook and I think I'm going to give it a shot. Which means I need to watch that first one soon!

Who's with me?

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Concert Review: MONSTA X at the iHeartRadio Music Festival in Las Vegas September 21, 2019

A few weeks ago, we had pretty much the most craziest kpop adventure yet! Nearly four years of doing this, and this one topped them all in the CRAZY department!

Earlier this year when we found out Monsta X would be at the iHeartRadio Musical Festival in Las Vegas, we thought.. that's like RIGHT HERE (lol it's only 6 hours instead of 9 hours away!) and so we HAVE to support!

Also, it wasn't that expensive for a ticket, so we were like, what the heck.. and bought tickets. Kathy (who you will know here from Read This Instead from back in the day) and I planned to drive together, and pick up Toto at her school on the way.

So that's what we did! And the adventures began!

First adventure was starting out in a pouring rain storm, but that was not bad and quite nice actually, and didn't last long.  All was well.

Next adventure was arriving in the dark in Las Vegas, which wasn't too bad either, but always a bit edge of your seat-ish. We stayed at the Stratosphere, a first for me and so that was exciting. We got discounts on the elevator ride to go up the tower, so that became our adventure of the night, it was a good one. We saw the scary rides up there at the top and people bungee jumping. So crazy!

Then the adventure became trying to find ice cream, which we ended up getting just at the McDonalds at the casino. Ha. But it was ice cream and tasted pretty good.

During the night we were all woken up by some sort of siren or alarm. Kathy thought it was inside. I thought it was out, but regardless... it woke us all up... and then we realized the power was out. Kathy called the front desk and they said, yep. We don't know what's going on, but it's out. The water too.

We were like, SERIOUSLY??? But I figured it would be back on by the time we really got up. We had about 2 more hours of trying to sleep, but when we woke up... it was still out. It appeared we still had water though, however, we were scared that it would suddenly shut down on us. So we took modified showers... by the light of our phones... and then we got out of there!

When we checked out the hotel gave us the room for free, and complimentary breakfast buffet coupons. So... awesome! We ate breakfast, then headed to the concert.

It was the day stage, which we had learned lasted much longer than we thought. It was scheduled to go from 11 am to like 6 pm. And we learned our boys would perform at 3:15 pm. one of the last ones on the list. So the debate was... do we go early enough to get close, or do we not stress about it?

Well... of course we wanted to be close! I mean, after all the effort it takes to get there, you want to be able to actually  SEE them, you know!!

But we didn't go and stand in the line at the gate, we just went and got in about the time the gates opened, which was at 10:00 am. and piled in with the crowd and just went straight to find a spot at the stage.

Turns out our spot wasn't bad at all. So we were happy. And as each band performed, things would shift and we ended up closer.. .and closer... and closer.

our view at the beginning for one of the first bands

But... we had to last the extreme endurance test now. It was 90 (or more, not even sure) degrees... with the sun beating down on us. So we had to stand there... from 10:00 am until 3:15 pm... waiting for the moment we had come for. So we stood for an hour before anything even started, and then after that, we at least had bands to watch....that would help, right?

We had one water bottle each, so we played the drinking game, where we all got a sip from our bottle after each band. We had to make it last the whole five hours, and try not to pass out from dehydration, which lots of people were doing actually. They did pass us water a bit, but it was quite the scramble to get your hands on one. We did each end up with one, and so then we felt good passing them on to others after that. They really did try to make sure we all didn't faint.

I had brought a little paper hand fan, and that thing saved me I'm pretty sure. Seriously. It was BAD. There were several moments about half way that each of us thought... how are we going to make it??? Like it was so hard, and truly an endurance test!

The things we do!! It's so crazy!!!

Anyway, the bands that came on before.. some where okay, and fairly enjoyable to listen to, and others.... not so much. And there was a spell there in the middle where i thought we would all fall asleep on the spot. Ugh. It was LONG... LONG LONG LONG to wait!!  And all that time, you have to be very aggressive to keep your spot, and not let tons of people push in front of you. It was so painful to maintain the spot... really. This is almost the worst part of it all.

And then finally it was almost our turn, and suddenly I realize two people had come up behind me, each with HUGE cameras (which are not allowed) and I was so mad... like HOW DID THEY GET THEM PAST SECURITY??? And they just put them in your face and couldn't care how they are blocking your view! Or banging your head with it or whatever.

And they tapped me on the shoulder and were pointing up ahead (acting like they didn't speak English) and basically asking to go closer and get to the front. I was like... ARE YOU KIDDING ME?? No FREAKING way!

But I calmly shook my head and simply said.. no. you are not getting in front o me. No, you can not just show up, after I've stood here for five hours, an expect to get to the front. No, no and no. They looked at me like I was the worst person in the world. And if I was, I sure didn't care. No way was I going to let them get closer. I couldn't believe they'd managed to push their way as far as they did. I guess they really intimidate people with those cameras.

So Kathy asked them.. are you guys fansites? And they were all, yeah... so proud of themselves. And Kathy asked, which one? So one of them revealed herself, so we could look her up later. The other we figured out who it was on our own later.

Anyway, so fansites are people who dedicate their lives to one member of a particular group. Basically, a stalker fan/groupie, who follows them everywhere (including on the plane they are on, and hotels they are in,etc.) to get pictures. They sale stuff and make money somehow, to support the endeavor. People, other fans, love them because they get all these awesome amazing HD pictures with those huge illegal cameras. But I have never supported them (that I know of) and can't stand seeing them at events, because they break all the rules and feel so entitled just because they have thousands of followers and because the boys actually know them. Ugh... so annoying.

So, it's about to start finally, and I have this to deal with. I was so mad. SO MAD! So when they came out and started singing I (and Kathy too I know) made ourselves as annoying as possible, making sure our hands, and arms and elbows and phones got in their way a lot. Geez. It's a ruthless game! After awhile, I did forget about them, because I needed to enjoy the show, you know?

But i was getting banged on the head constantly, and the one was still trying to push closer. And then at one point there was a HUGE surge and someone barreled into me and I was like WHAT THE HECK.. NO!!! And it appears that they had really pushed to the point several of us went flying. RIGHT WHEN MY FAVORITE SONG WAS STARTING! (And yes it's all on camera, because i was ready to film that song!)

Anyway... we survived it and regrouped and watched the song and screamed for the boys and loved (lol) every second of those 15 minutes (and 5 songs) they were on stage! Every single precious second!
Our view at the end. The person with the paper never gave up and held it the WHOLE time. 

Shownu throwing water on us

Minhyuk and his out of control tongue

Wonho looking fine

Jooheon with his dimples out (you might not see them, but I know they are there!)

After they were done, (the fansites had suddenly disappeared) we had to make our way out of that pit. It was another adventure to be sure. We had to push and shove and squeeze through so so many sweaty stinky slimy slick people! I thought it would never end! They were surging forward to get better spots for Billie, and we, all the MX people, were surging back to get out. It does not work well!!
Pre endurance test (with new MX friend Liz)

Post endurance test
Whew, but we made it out, and then went to find water and to just breathe. We found Emily (internet kpop book friend) to say hi to, and just sat and talked for a bit, before Billie came on. At which point, we went back to the BACK of the crowd to enjoy her!

Seriously though. It was the craziest mosh pit experience yet!

And the most interesting thing about it is that we were not in a crowd of kpoppers. This was a mixed crowd, so it was very interesting to see the reception people gave our boys. Of course, we had lots of MX fans with us, but also lots of Billie and other fans. They were blown away by our craziness I know, but I don't know if they fell in love with our boys. I watch them and think, how can you not? They are amazing. But then, I think many people watched them and thought... what's the big deal? Sigh. It was really interesting to experience that too.

We left and went and got food and drank so much soda until we all felt hydrated again. And then we found our second night's hotel, and just had the most relaxing evening ever! Ah, that was probably the best shower I've had in a long long time! LOL!

Then we drove home the next day, and that was the end of our adventure... except for all the looking up of the fansites and seeing how they moaned about the mean racist people who wouldn't let them go in front of them... and then we debated about revealing ourselves, which we eventually did and bam... they up and deleted their posts! LOL! Well, so we got some Twitter attention for a minute about that. And vented all kinds of righteous anger. But in the end, the fansites will still get tons of love and money from their followers and lots of attention from the boys who benefit by their pictures too. (Though I do think the boys aren't too fond of the stalker behavior, yeah?)

Anyway. Yes, the most crazy thing we've done yet. I need a break.

(But only two weeks later and I've bought tickets for the next concert... but NO MOSH PIT!)

Anyway, here is everything caught on video. The sound is bad because the bass was so intense our phones totally freaked out. I've been to a lot of concerts and this was the most intense bass I've ever experienced. It was extremely painful. So add that the endurance test! Also, Toto's phone can't handle screaming, so that's a problem.

It was also sad because the boys had a ton of technical difficulties. And we learned they basically got into a fight with staff before they came on stage. So what you see here is them performing but being mad. Ugh... but they seemed to shake it off and do well in the end. They are amazing. Really and truly.

Everyone says, but... was it worth it? To that I say... YEP!


Monday, October 14, 2019

Book Review: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Book: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
Genre: speculative fiction (magical fantasy)
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ 

Yes, I do think this one is getting five stars, simply for how it surprised me with how much I loved it and how glued to it I was.. and how I loved pretty much everything about it. Yeah, that's a five star book I'd say!

It's about our guy who is a magical traveler between worlds... these worlds are three different Londons... Gray London where there is no magic, Red London where magic flourishes, and White London where magic has taken over. There's also Black London, a place that the other three have shut themselves off from due to the fact that very very dark magic has destroyed it.

When a relic of that dark city appears, our traveler (Kell) ends up with the responsibility of getting it back... hopefully before the darkness spreads and destroys these other three Londons.

He ends up partnering with a girl from Gray London, who knows nothing about magic, but is extremely savvy and capable, and who ends up saving his life many times over. They bond, and face this evil together.

Sounds simple in its summary, yeah? But the magic system is crazy awesome. The writing is beautiful and so perfectly descriptive. The characters are amazingly real. There's another traveler who I really felt for... and became so sympathetic for, even though he is a very very bad boy. But the author is able to easily make us care about him. I love that. His name made me think of a person in real life that I know who also uses that name, and I think that made me picture HIM as that character and then it made the agony for him even worse.

It's a very violent and dark book. As I said on Instagram, the title does not lie. There is very dark stuff going on here. It's creepy and scary and disturbing. (We picked this one for our October book club for a reason!)


Anyway. I was hooked fast and loved it all. Is this a series? I haven't looked it up yet, but it feels like there could totally be more to this story! (Oh nevermind, Goodreads says it's Shades of Magic #1, plain as day. Well. So I guess I'll be reading more of this stuff!)  (Oh gosh, there's a TON of books based on this one.. .what have I done???? )

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Movie Review: Downton Abbey

Movie: Downton Abbey

Genre: period drama
Starring: um... everyone...Maggie Smith mostly
Rating: Two thumbs up of course!


It's been the tradition with my co-worker that we celebrate our birthdays by sluffing work and going to a movie together. We missed it last year somehow, so were determined to make it happen this year... and thankfully there was actually a movie we both wanted to see... DOWNTON ABBEY of course!

I was a little worried I would have forgotten how the series ended... but it all came back and was not a problem. I quickly remembered all the reasons I loved the series.

The basis for this movie is that the king and queen of England are coming for a visit. So the house is in a flurry to get ready, both the up and the down stairs. It's very fun to see what needs to be done. It's also a little distressful to see how what is being demanded by the monarchs. So crazy.

There are some awesome antics that end up happening that are totally delightful. Can I just say how much I love Anna and Bates. :)
Branson is still my favorite.

The whole movie I stressed trying to figure out what king and queen this would be.. and where the Princess Mary in the movie features in things. I determined afterward that they (the king and queen) are the grandparents of our current Queen Elizabeth. And that George, her dad, was their son... and the brother of the Princess Mary in the movie. Do you all agree with me?

King George V and Queen Mary

Anyway, I loved seeing it on the big screen, with the big beautiful sweeping views of the country, and the music that gave me chills. Loved it!

It was really fun to go to a movie again. I hope I can start making it more a thing again...if only there were better movies out there to see. I'm pretty underwhelmed by most of them. Let me know if you see a good one!

In case you want to see the trailer. It's a good one!

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Concert Review: Pentagon in LA September 12, 2013

On a whim (you may think all the concerts are "on a whim" but there is usually much stress and agonizing involved) I bought tickets for Pentagon way back in May... for a September concert. They weren't selling fast, so I bought them "later" as in after everyone else because people were like... you should totally go! It's not expensive!

So I thought, yeah, why not? And I said to the husband.. "want to have a trip to LA?" and he agreed to go on an excursion with me, to even go to the concert with me. So I bought tickets WITH SEATS in the balcony and hoped it would be good.

So Thursday September 12, we left on our adventure. We decided to do Lyfts and public transportation the whole time, so we even left from our house with a Lyft ride! And then the trains to the airport, the plane ride to Burbank (our latest LA airport of choice) and then a Lyft to our hotel in Koreatown... because the concert was to be at an hysterical old beautiful theater in Koreatown called The Wiltern (on the corner of Wilshire and Western... get it? It took me awhile...)

So we wandered around the area, got food, got bingsoo, took a ton of pictures, stood in a huge line to get in (even though we had assigned seats) and finally... the concert!

Pentagon is a group that is popular, but not THAT popular. So it was fun to support them and see their adorable-ness first hand. I loved every minute of it (except the crazy girl in front of me... she should have been doing the pit thing, lol.) The husband tolerated it, but did not come out loving them or anything. He was a great sport about it all. It will be interesting to see if he will go to another one some day with me.

My favorite parts of the concert included the ballads, the covers and the cute popular songs. Also, their ending comments. (Whole video of that here if you are interesting what I mean by that.) I think the view from the balcony was awesome. It's really fun to be closer, but we definitely had a great view this time, even if we weren't RIGHT THERE.

Here's my highlight video of the concert:

We spent the next couple of days hanging out in LA... one day at The Getty, and the evening in Santa Monica. Then we spent the next day at Universal Studios. It was so hot! But we had a great time, and got a nice recharge before come home and facing life again.

A few pictures:

Friday, October 11, 2019

Reading Recap: September 2019

Santa Monica sunset

I fell like I managed to pick up the reading vibe again, just a bit, in September. Here's what I finished:

Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson: A group of opposing factions are competing with each other for control of the world.

One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus: Four kids find themselves mixed up in a murder investigation. Are they all telling the truth? Or lying?

Maybe This Time by Kasie West: Our girl clashes with our boy when they meet each other at different events in the town throughout the year.

Wicked Fox by Kat Cho: Our girl is a gumiho, a Korean mythical creature who seduces men and then kills them. She doesn't want to kill people, she just wants to live and be as normal as she can.

Best of the month: Wicked Fox probably for it's uniqueness and interesting setting.

Plans for October:

  • read the book club book (already DONE!)
  • start reading books for the Beehive Award long list

How's your reading going? Are you still with me?

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Kdrama Review: Moment of 18

Drama: Moment of 18

Genre: high school romance/drama
Starring: Ong Seongwu, Kim Hyang Gi, Shin Seungho, Moonbin, Kang Ki Young
Rating: ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤

What a delightful drama this was! Capturing the struggles of high school (especially what kids in Korea deal with) in a beautiful way. I loved it.

We have our new kid (of course.. always a new kid!) who starts going to this school, and right off people label him because they learn he was "forced" to transfer.. meaning... there was an incident at his former school and he got kicked out. He is targeted instantly by the leaders of this school and before he knows it, he is accused of theft. Well, he is a chill kid and takes it all in stride and doesn't let anyone get to him. Sort of. That's the front he puts on. But he really struggles. His mom is living in a different city because of her job and he is all alone.

But he does make a couple of friends eventually. The girl who almost ran him over on his first day, and a boy who is sweet to everyone no matter what their back story.

Anyway. We learn about the struggles and the crazy home life (crazy parents) for several of these students, including the bullies. And so then we can sympathize with them all. We root for the romances... all of them. And hope each kid figures out how to succeed.

Kang Ki Young usually plays the quirky friend in dramas, but this time he got
the role of the perfectly awesome teacher.. and nailed it!

The best part of this drama was the amazing teacher character! What a champion for the kids he is! Brought me to tears several times. He is the best! So much fun, and if only all kids could have a teacher like him, yeah? He made the show.

Also Moonbin (from the group ASTRO) played the friend and he did amazing. Like, you should watch it just for him and the key part he ends up playing. He pulled it off beautifully.

Cute Moonbin getting a kiss.

It's a great one for feel good vibes, and a sweet romance. Watch and enjoy!!

A little glimpse:

Our lead is from an idol group called WANNNAONE and he is the most beautiful voice, so of course he sings one of the songs from the drama. Seriously. It's beautiful.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Book Review: Wicked Fox by Kat Cho

Book: Wicked Fox by Kat Cho
Genre: YA urban fantasy
Rating: ★ ★ ★ 

A lovely fun fantasy based on the Korean folklore of the gumiho... a nine tailed fox who seduces men and eats their livers! Our girl wants to not be a murder, so she has modified her feedings to just the bad guys... and she doesn't eat their livers, but drains their energy. It's a peaceful way to go and the only way she can survive and still feel okay about things.

Her mom is a very famous gumiho, but she doesn't know who her dad is. She gets help from a shaman girl who provides her with the bad guys. She has just moved to Seoul, since she and her mom don't say in one place long. Al in all, she is not really very happy.

But then this kid, a boy in her new school, gets mixed up in the middle of a skirmish she has with a goblin. And he learns right off what she is, but that doesn't stop him from being massively attracted to her. And his ordinary-ness makes her feel normal. And she likes that.

Well, and so stuff happens during that skirmish that causes her all kinds of problems which is the whole book, her trying to figure this thing out! And things go from bad to worse.

It's great fun and a blast to read about a creature and a tale that is a little different from those we are used to. The romance was fun, the backstories sad, and the action intense. I really enjoyed it!

It ended with an epilogue opening wide the events for a sequel. Here we go!


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