Saturday, February 29, 2020

Kdrama Review: Secret Garden

Drama: Secret Garden

Genre: Romantic comedy with fantasy elements
Starring: Hyun Bin, Ha Ji Won, Yoon Sang Hyun
Rating: ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤

So, being on the Hyun Bin binge that I am, I decided it was finally time to watch Secret Garden, a drama that turns 10 years old this year! There are a few older dramas that fit into the "classic kdrama category" and this is one of them. It was about time I finally watched it!

And wow, it's a crazy one! We have ALL the cringy tropes included! Some are awesome, some are... not so much. LOL. So our lead guy, played by the ever so popular Hyun Bin, is a rich CEO of a mall and one day he goes out to a movie shoot trying to find someone, but ends up finding our girl instead, who plays a stunt double. He ends up taking her to the hospital for a bad cut she got on her arm that day during shooting, and it's all over for him from there! He can't stop thinking about her!

So he seeks her out and follows her and torments her and teases her and bothers her until she finally decides he's kinda cute in his crazy annoying way. His bugged that he likes her because she is so poor and has no family and no connections and pretty much absolutely NOTHING. But still, he decides he doesn't care and ends up deciding to give up everything for her.

The twist of this drama is that they happen upon a weird shop one day, end buying a weird drink, end up drinking that drink and then.. bam... when they wake up the next day they have switched bodies. So then they also have to deal with THAT. They switch back and forth a couple of times, and it's really funny at moments... but it made me just want them to be their normal selves every time it happens!

This twist leads to an interesting moment at the end of the drama that actually had me quite weepy and ah... all the mean crazy things our main dude did throughout the whole drama was wiped clean away. And you love him despite everything he's done! Anyway. It was a fun and VERY dramatic moment that.

Our dude is controlling, which made me a little crazy. But still, there are some really romantic moments. And so I totally enjoyed this love story in the end.

There's a whole other side character story with his cousin who is a "has been" idol and is trying to stay relevant and win back his lost love. He has some pretty good touching moments too and his character is endearing, even if he does yell a lot!

So it was fun to see Hyun Bin as such a different character from the other two dramas I've recently watched where he is so serious and somber. This one he smiled a ton more ( and believe me, you want all the smiles!) and was crazy and had to act like a girl a lot, and laughed and ran around and yeah. Very different from our captain from North Korea in Crash Landing!!

There's not really a trailer for this one so here's some clips to one of the main songs, this version sung by Hyun Bin himself:

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Book Review: In Love on Anchor Island by Terri Osburn

Book: In Love on Anchor Island by Terri Osburn
Genre: Romance
Rating: ★ ★ ★ 

Nothing like starting a series at the end! What the heck am I thinking??

Terri is a friend on twitter over in my kpop world. She mentioned one day having a new book and I said, hey I'll read it! So I got her book and when time allowed, read it pretty much in one sitting.

So I learned just as I started, that the Anchor Island series is the love stories of a bunch of different characters who live on this quaint island. Their lives all interconnect in some way, but each book highlights a different couple.

In this particular book, we have Roxie who is coming to help the island clean up after a hurricane. She is running away from issues at home, and her mom is bugged, and has begged this cousin who lives on the island to take her.

Roxie's confidence has fallen to the bottom, but as she works and connects with the people on this island, she begins to rebuild that. Next door lives a beautiful single doctor, who is the complete opposite of Roxie in every way!

Well... umm.. I wonder what happens!

This is one of those quick and easy to read books that's fun and happy and all about falling in love. And all about the connections between these people who live in this tiny place. I really enjoyed it. Now I'm kinda dying to go back and start at the beginning and learn the love stories of all the couples I met in this book!

PS. I love that Terri included a very funny kpop conversation in this book. Most people reading it will just skim by it, but I was dying laughing. It was so perfect to how things are!!

(I have several other kpop friends who are also writers. I'm thinking you might be seeing more of their books showing up here.)

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Concert Report: SuperM in LA February 1, 2020

Ten, Baekhyun, Lucas, Taemin, Taeyong, Kai, Mark

Two weeks after seeing SEVENTEEN, we were back on the road again to see a new group called SuperM. This is a group made up of guys from four different already well established groups... to create this super group. It's a new idea they are trying just to see what happens and to hopefully make a big kpop splash here in the U.S. This group, while part of a huge company in South Korea, is actually being funded and backed by a record label (Capitol Records) in  Hollywood. So they debuted the group here (in LA) last October. It was awesome.

Anyway, so they only have five songs, but have already gone on tour in November/December and then back again in February. Finally it was our (by our I mean LA because I guess that's who I identify with these days!) turn!!

This groups includes:

Taemin from SHINee
Baekhyun and Kai from EXO

Mark and Taeyong from NCT 127

Lucas and Ten from Wayv

They are all amazing. I have no words to describe them. Ten is an out of this world dancer. Baekhyun is an out of this world power singer. Taemin is already a legend and has been around doing this thing since he was 15 years old. Taeyong is too beautiful to be real. Lucas is a huge 6 foot tall baby teddy bear. Mark is a Canadian/Korean power rapper. And seriously the master of duality. (Taeyong too actually. Taemin too actually.)

Anyway. Toto and I were very excited to see them. This time we met up with friends and shared an airbnb together and drove to the concert together, forgoing the lyft thing and seeing how driving our own cars went. P.S. It went well. It's expensive, but we would have paid the same or more getting a Lyft there and back. Transportation... always the big stress!

So two weeks later, we found ourselves back at The Forum again, but this time in the cheaper higher up seats. I was disappointed about that, the The Forum isn't that huge so I hoped it was okay. Still. It was hard to see them without looking at the jumbotron. Sigh. I've been spoiled that is for sure.

Our audience wasn't as nice this time either. We had a lot of very obnoxious screamers. People who stand at top of the arena there on the back row and literally scream the guys' names over and over again with the expectation that they will ACTUALLY hear them and look up. Right. And they scream over the guys when they talk, and when they sing soft balled-y songs, and just... the ENTIRE time.

I am getting tired of audiences like this. But what to do about it?

Anyway. The boys were FABULOUS. They sang all five of their songs of course... with their solo performances in between. Which meant that it was actually a very short concert. That was a little sad too, but every minute of it was perfect. Seeing the solo songs and dances they had prepared was so fun. And seeing some iconic songs live was just crazy.

Here's our video vlog of it all:

But here's what their MV is like, a bit better than the footage I can capture with my phone! This is Jopping, which is the song they ended with:


The next day, we got up and drove all the way back home in a day. These concert experiences are so fun, but very exhausting, and when we drive like we have done these past two times... it's a three day long adventure with driving nearly the whole time.

This is the last concert in the queue until the end of April. Unless something else comes up!

Monday, February 24, 2020

Kdrama Review: 1% of Something

Drama: 1% of Something
Genre: Romantic comedy
Starring: Ha Seok Jin, Jun So Min
Rating: ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤

Well, so I started this one in order to have something to watch while waiting for new episodes of Crash Landing on You. I wanted one that was easy and fun and fluffy. I picked the perfect one! And I must have totally been in the mood because I ended up "binging" it, which for me means, watching the whole thing in a matter of a few days! So fun!

And DANG, but now there's another new favorite lead actor to love! My list is getting so huge! I hadn't seen him anything before and he was a blast. (I have since learned that he had a cameo in Crash Landing... what! I was watching both at the same time and I didn't even realize??)

Anyway. He is very swoony. I had heard this one was good in the kissing department and that held true. Whew. Perfect!

This one is what we call a contract story. So, we have our rich obnoxious leading dude who is set to inherit his grandfather's wealth...but the grandfather makes a clause in the will that he has to marry this girl, this nice sweet school teacher girl. Now, the reason the grandfather chooses this girl, is that she ended up being the one to save him when he nearly died one day near her school. She has no idea who he is and doesn't know the connection. So she is baffled when she is summoned to be part of this contract.

The guy negotiates with his grandfather that he will give it a try and at least date this girl for six months. And so it goes. They start a "fake" relationship just to get through it all. They seem totally ill-matched of course and clash in all the ways.

And yet. He is drawn to her... and ends up being the first to fall.

And then she follows close behind.

But they have the deadline looming and once it's here, they are supposed to be done and over.

So what then?

It's a really cute one! So much fun! So funny and adorably and swoony all over the place! AHH! It's great to counter balance some of the heavy subject ones with these sorts of fluffy ones. I love it.

This isn't a great trailer, but it's all I can find with subs:

More cute stuff:

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Book Review: The Last Voyage of Poe Blythe by Ally Condie

Book: The Last Voyage of Poe Blythe by Ally Condie
Genre: YA dystopian
Rating: ★ ★ ★ 

This one is set in a world where different groups are living separately from each other, trying to survive each in their own way. Poe Blythe is with the group that settles in one place, but forages the river for gold treasure. They fear the group they call The Raiders, that moves from place to place and tries to steal from them. 

The book opens with an ill fated trip where the boy Poe has been friends with her whole life is killed. She is forever after trying to get revenge on The Raiders by designing ships that destroy them instantly if they try to come aboard.

So this story centers on the voyage where she is made the captain and they go out to gather more gold. Of course things go badly and Poe is forced to make many hard decisions. She doesn't know who to trust and she is driven nearly crazy trying to understand what is right and wrong. 

She, and those she gathers around her, find out many things and learn that the world is not black and white and not exactly as they have been led to think all these years. It's quite eye opening.

I enjoy these kinds of stories where you end up realizing there are no sides. There really are no good guys and bad guys, that everyone is just trying to survive in their own way, and that once you learn the stories of everyone, then you might have a better picture of life. And also get more and more confused!

It's beautifully written with unique and believable characters, especially a strong leading girl, which we all love, right?

I really enjoyed it! Thanks for another great one Ally Condie!

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Concert Report: SEVENTEEN in LA January 19, 2020

Back row: DK, Seungkwan, S. Coups, Woozi, Mingyu
Middle row: The8, Vernon, Jeonghan, Dino
Front row: Jun, Hoshi, Wonwoo, Joshua

Our concert going year started off with bang in January over the MLK holiday with a trip to LA to see the awesome group SEVENTEEN. (Seventeen with 13 members!) We've loved these guys since the beginning and watched them grow from a newbie group to one of the most loved kpop groups out there.

We have quite the driving routine these days. On this trip, I left on a Saturday morning, drove to pick up Toto at her school three hours south. We then continued on to Barstow, five more hours of driving, with a pit stop at our new favorite pit stop place... the huge Chevron in Jean Nevada.

We slept in Barstow and then left that morning to finish going to LA, two more hours. We went straight to Choice Music where we spent some money... I bought another Stray Kids album and the lightstick for this concert... Seventeen's light stick. I can't remember what else. Ha.

Then we went to Sul and Bean in Koreatown... to have bingsoo and meet up with friends. That was fun! Then on to our hotel near the airport and venue, which this time was the LA Forum.

We had exactly one hour to rest, before we we headed to the concert by way of a Lyft ride, about 10 min away. The crowd was already huge, but we got through security quickly and ended up in our seats with an hour to wait.

But waiting is fun, because they play MVs and the entire audience sings along. It's so fun. But finally it started and then we had THREE FULL HOURS of concert bliss! From crazy dance songs, to beautiful ballads. We got it all. Hoshi stole the evening with his crazy charm and DK blew me away with his amazing vocals as expected. They are all so much fun though. I got tired standing (we had seats, but who sits at these things? No one.) and kept thinking... are my concert days numbered? How long can I do this for! I think for a good time to come still. Just no more mosh pits!

Anyway. They did their signature finale with Very Nice and pretended to leave I don't even know how many times. Seven or eight? So much fun!

So then, the big dilemma was how to get back to the hotel. We learned that The Forum has this elaborate system for Lyft/Ubers to pick people up, but so many were doing it that the app wouldn't even work. So we left the premises and walked down a street a bit and finally managed to get one called. It took us 45 minutes! But finally we got back to the hotel... about midnight.

We were starving because all we had eaten was the bingsoo 12 hours before! So we did our very first Door Dash order ever and got a hamburger delivered to our room at 12:30 am! WAH! That was a the best hamburger ever!

The next day was Monday, MLK Day, and we drove the whole way back home, taking the entire day to do so.

Exhausted, but so worth it!

Two weeks later, we went again. Stay tuned....

Our vlog:

Friday, February 21, 2020

Movie Review: Parasite

Movie: Parasite
Genre: who the heck knows!! I've seen people call it a horror/comedy. 
Starring: Choi Wooshik, Park So Dam, Kang Ho Song, ChoYeo Jeong
Rating: R
My Rating: two thumbs up, I

So I'm not one that usually watches R movies, let's just say that. But because of my "connection" (geez what word do I use there? LOL... my love of all things Korean?)   I have been intrigued by this movie from the get go. Everyone was talking about it. I knew I needed to watch it.

THEN it won best picture, best director and a couple others at the Academy Awards. It had to be done. I had to watch it!

But I was nervous actually. I knew it would be a disturbing movie. A harsh movie. A hard one to watch. And I was right about that. Though I'm glad I watched and I don't think I'll be forever tainted by it or anything! (R rating for many subtitled fbombs, a weird sex scene, and violence)

Everyone describes this move as being about class warfare. The clash between lower and upper society in Seoul. We have a family who is living in a terrible basement apartment struggling to find work. We have a family living in a huge beautiful mansion struggling to find good help for their kids and family. The two get together and we have this crazy movie!

The boy ends up getting a tutoring job for the girl in the rich family. They then infiltrate by having the sister be the art teacher for the little boy. They cause both the chauffeur and the housekeeper to get fired and manage to get their parents into both of these positions. They feel they have succeeded and finally made it!

But then...

...stuff happens.

And you are watching it going, WHAT THE HECK IS HAPPENING???

And then it gets weirder from there.

And it's all quite depressing. This feeling that people who are in the lower dregs of society can not escape. I hate that. But it does also give hope... like tiny shred. So...hopefully there's hope!

The acting was amazing. The music was good. The suspense was fabulous. The snark was great. The whole feel of it was pretty crazy.  I really enjoyed seeing something so different. It was refreshing in that sense.

And in case you wondered, this did NOT feel like a kdrama. Other than the subtitles and language and such. While I didn't at first recognize their names, it turns out that I have seen pretty much all of the actors in a drama though. I thought that was cool.

Speaking of subtitles, on twitter the day after it won its Oscar, there was a huge debate about subtitles vs. dubbing. I'm guessing you probably know where I land on that debate. HA. It still baffles me that people would actually rather not hear the original language. So much of the acting nuances happen through that. You would lose SO MUCH if it was dubbed!

Anyway. It was fun to finally know what all the buzz was about and to form my own opinions on everything! I truly find it fascinating that so many people loved it.

I'm dying to know if anyone who reads this has watched it, or plans to? I would love to know what you think!

Here's the trailer, which is fabulous:

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Book Review: Dear Evan Hansen by Val Emmich

Book: Dear Evan Hansen by Val Emmich
Genre: YA Contemporary
Rating: ★ ★ ★ 

This is the book written based on the musical. I keep wondering... did the book or musical come first.. .but it's the musical. Since we'll be seeing this musical in a few weeks, I thought knowing the story beforehand would be helpful. I've had it in the house for over a year, but finally got to it this past month.

It's a story about a kid who is suffering from pretty bad depression and anxiety. His therapist wants him to write encouraging letters to himself, so when the story opens, he is struggling with getting his latest letter written. At school, he finally writes and prints it off, but another dude nabs it from the printer and won't give it back.

This dude, Conner,  just happens to be the brother of the girl he likes... and a dude that is quite the outcast himself. Evan and Conner had a run in at lunch that very day, I can't remember why now, but after that, Conner ended up signing Conner's cast (because he had just broken his arm recently, yeah.)


Turns out that Conner goes home and commits suicide that night. And when they find Evan's letter in his pocket, everyone thinks that Evan was his friend and that he was calling out for help to Evan.

And thus starts a whole crazy thing where Evan continues this charade of actually being Conner's friend. He ends up with a relationship with Conner's whole family, including the sister. He starts a campaign for Conner... and everyone is all on board. And suddenly he is popular and getting seen.

It's like a complete about face. He suddenly feels like someone.

Until it all blows up... and then he's back to facing his problems yet again.

Well, it's such a sad story actually. But I think it's popular because it really says some pretty deep and profound things that kids (all people actually) feel about how they fit and connect in this world. And people relate. And it makes you want to take a look around you and realize that there are people everywhere that feel invisible... and how all we need to do is reach out and be friends. 

I think that's the reason. 

I haven't listened to the music yet to prepare, but I know everyone just loves it so much I look forward to seeing it. I hope it leaves me with a hopeful feeling. I'm a little nervous that I will walk away depressed and sad. I really don't need that, you know.

Have you seen this musical or read the book? I'd love to know your thoughts!

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Kdrama Review: Crash Landing on You

Drama: Crash Landing on You (on Netflix)
Genre: melodrama
Starring: Hyun Bin, Son Ye Jin, Kim Jung Hyun, Seo Ji Hye
Rating: ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤

So this one just finished airing this past weekend, wrapping things up with a 2 hour finale. It was all the buzz in the kdrama fandom and ended up receiving the highest ratings for a kdrama on this particular network. Yeah. It was GOOD!

It's premise is one I've not seen before an any kdrama... which is basically a romance between a South Korean famous/rich lady, and a North Korean soldier. Because, one day, she goes out paragliding, and a storm comes along and blows her off course and she crashes into a tree and gets all tangled up there. Our guy, going on his patrols, happens upon her and gets her down.

Well. Now he has a dilemma. Does he turn her in? or let her go? He decides to let her go of course, and tries to direct her the way to go, on foot, to get back across the line, but she doesn't trust him and goes the opposite way. Wrong choice. She ends up wandering all night, gets lost and then ends up in a nearby village where just when she is about to get caught... he shows up and hides her in his house.

AH!! Yes... and so now begins this awesome part where she totally becomes a different person from the spoiled rich person she is... as she learns to adapt to life in North Korea. And everyone falls for her and her spunk, including our quiet, reserved, shy North Korean soldier. It's the best.

Anyway. How much to say!? Stuff happens, and we end up all back in South Korea eventually, even our soldier, and his subordinates, who were deemed "the ducklings" by the fans and were absolutely adorable! AH! So now we see them trying to adapt to life in South Korea. But of course, they can't stay long and have to go back.

There's also a very bad guy who is causing all kinds of problems. Ugh.

There's also a roguish guy who is tied to all our characters, who is running away from the law, and he ends up in North Korea too... and falls for the girl that our solder is supposed to be marrying. It's all very complicated and wonderful. But anyway. Dang...I fell HARD for this character! What a fabulous comic relief he was and such fun to watch! I've seen him in one other drama, but he seemed totally different in this one. I NEED MORE!

Well, and so... the big question was... how can there possibly be a happy ending with this scenario? Everyone was very worried,but I felt they did an amazing job coming up with a solution to this and yes... giving us all the happy ending we wanted and needed.

Gah, I loved this one so much. So much.  Everything about it.

Not that I know, but just from other books I've read about North Korea, I do feel they painted a much rosier picture about life there than I would have imagined.  But I have learned that there was a writer on the show that has defected from there and so I would hope that he had a lot of input and made things be fairly accurate. I think there's going to be a q and a with him on something and hopefully I can catch that and see what he has to see about it all. So fascinating.

Anyway. It's on Netflix... so, if you have ever wondered about watching a kdrama... just... watch it. Just jump in and watch it.

Here's a very short trailer:

And the (one of them) song:

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Mini Movie Reviews: Jumanji 2, Frozen 2, Star Wars IX

I've not been going to the movies much lately, but over the holidays I saw three movies in one week. I know, right? Here's what I thought of them:

JUMANJI 2: The Next Level

I hadn't see the first one of these... and since work was taking us to this second one I had to catch up and so we rented that one first and watched it in preparation. I thought it was surprisingly funny, which seemed to be the sentiment from most people who had already seen it. Not bad, quite funny, not creepy like Robin Williams version, and etc. I agreed. It was a fun movie. So with that I looked forward to this second one.

Good thing I prepared, because I would have been so lost otherwise. Anyway, the second one was pretty much more of the first in that the kids end up in the video game AGAIN (even though it was destroyed in that first movie!) because they had to rescue their friend. They thought they would have the same characters as the first, but there was much body swapping going on and they had to experience a different body. So that was funny. Also, add to the mix that the grandpas ending up coming with them, and so that was funny. (A fun way to get some more big names in this movie!)The best thing about these movies is seeing these actors have to play up being a person they are not... I mean that goes without saying for any actor, right? But you KNOW what I mean when it comes to this movie! LOL! Anyway, the adventures were crazy and fun and everything was exaggerated as expected and I really enjoyed it. Woot!

The trailer:


I'm not a huge Frozen fan, but of course we had to go just to be part of the in crowd. HA HA! And I wanted to hear the music so... we went. And yes the music was fun. I especially enjoyed the haunting song at the very beginning that the mom sings. So pretty. The story was a bit sad, given the whole betrayal spin, but of course all things end happily. I really enjoy Anna and Kristof the most for sure. And the Olaf of course, as we all do. 

What I especially enjoyed was seeing all my kpop favorites going ballistic over Into the Unknown and everyone doing covers of it. So fun! And some of them blow me away with their renditions. For example Sunyoul from Up10tion, singing it in Elsa's original key, which is AMAZING. Take a listen:

But here's the trailer:

STAR WARS IX: The Rise of Skywalker

Here's another one we were able to go to with work people, the husband's this time. I wasn't as excited about this one as I have been for Star Wars' past, but just the fact that it was the end of the series... something I had been in love with since seeing the first one in 1977 at 12 years old... gave me chills, and made me so sad at the same time. What a ride it's been, this Star Wars thing, eh? I am blown away by the epicness of it all!

Anyway, I ended up loving it.  I thought it was a great end to the epicness. It felt good. I got weepy. I was happy with the arc of certain characters. Confused by some stuff, but not overly so. Anyway, I don't want to say too much in case someone happens up this who cares about spoilers. Plus I don't remember details much either! HA. I need to see it again I think.

Here's the trailer:

Anyway, it was a fun week of movie watching. I do miss the movies and hope to go more this year! Bring that back into my life!!


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