Thursday, May 28, 2020

Book Review: Awakening by Christopher Keeler and Matthew Keeler

Book: Awakening by Christopher Keeler and Matthew Keeler
Genre: YA urban fantasy
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Years ago, (has it really been years already?) I was lucky enough to read this book as a sort of beta-reader for Matt (Matt-from-Australia as he is known at our house since we have a lot of Matts in our lives) and his brother Chris, when I first discovered he was writing a book. At the time I knew him as a fellow kpop fan and when I learned he was also an aspiring author I was all over that! It's been fun to watch as he's made his writing dreams come true all the way to publishing this real live book!

In order to properly review it I have just finished a re-read...because my memory is crap these days and I needed to be reminded about pretty much everything that happened in this story!

And... this story is about our girl Jenna who is a typical ordinary awkward teen who is struggling with self esteem and worried about things like the upcoming dance and friends and boys and working for the crazy cat lady next door. But things change when she is given a message to go meet a mysterious someone who has something to give her.

She enlists the help of her friends and together they go face whatever is going to happen and from then on they are mixed up something big and crazy and dangerous. At first it's just a series of strange occurrences, mysterious objects, weird feelings and visions and scary people appearing out of nowhere. But it quickly morphs into a sort of revolution between powerful entities... some who have bad intentions for humanity and some who have rebelled to fight against that. It appears that Jenna, although she doesn't remember, is a key element in making this rebellion succeed.

It's an intense story with lots of crazy things going on constantly! Which escalates to a final battle filled with both guns and magic!

It's one of those cool stories were the ordinary kids find an inner power they had no idea they had and become the strong heroes. It's awesome.

And, if you know me, you will know that I especially enjoyed the romance part of this story. Jenna is drawn to a mysterious stranger who at first fleets in and out of the story, never really sticking around.  When the two finally meet, the intensity is "out of this world" as you might say. I wished for more between them, more scenes and connection, but alas, they never really had much time because there was a world to save!

Another one of my favorite things about this book is how Matt and Chris have included so so many songs as a sort of musical background to everything that's going on. I know many authors write with music, but rarely is that music actually a part of the book itself. Since the reason I know Matt is because of our common passion for music, I felt the need to mark every time a song is mentioned with the intention to list them! And make a playlist! And look them up and add new music to my life!

So here's that playlist on Spotify! Check it out if you are into all sorts of music from classical to pop, country to movie scores, old and new... and yes Korean! So much fun!

This is book one in a series called Starwalker Chronicles. I look forward to what Jenna and her friends will be up to next! And also, congratulations to Matt and Chris for making this book happen!

Monday, May 18, 2020

Coronavirus Week Eight and Nine: May 4 to May 17, 2020

The farm is a great place to escape reality

I didn't report anything for week 8 since life is basically unchanged week to week for the most part. The routine is pretty set these days!

However, this past week, week 9, I could feel a shift... a little step towards back to normal. Even though I'm pretty sure nothing will be normal again, but you know.. .there were moments that felt like the old life.

I went to work again on Monday... the new routine. Work on Mondays! And then last week I went straight from there to the store to pick up the groceries...still not going in. Later that evening I went out walking with a friend and we visited... outside with social distancing observed... a couple of people. It felt so... NORMAL!

We saw several times this past week Kid 1 who lives a few miles away. He came down a few times since we were trying to help them get their trailer functioning so they could take out for the weekend. We were unsuccessful, but in the process we saw them a lot. They were diligent mask wearers and say they are totally used them now.

On Saturday we drove up to the farm in Idaho and spent the day walking around, breathing the air, visiting the grandparents at the cemetery and etc. We did stop at a Subway during the day, and went in with our masks on which prompted the local people give us strange looks. I think they, living out in the country, feel like this virus thing is not their issue. I don't know. It was weird. We took our sandwiches back to the farm to eat them in peace. LOL.

Also, we had an online family game night on Friday so that was also fun and quite diverting. We hope to do that again soon. We have played some games before, but this time it was using zoom, so we could see faces.

Anyway. There were a few people in our lives this past week other than the three faces living at this house. While not "normal", it started to feel like a step toward it. Now whether or not you think that's a good thing or bad, is another discussion!

This week we have a hike planned, and a couple of other online events (book club again and a kpop party) and so there are things to look forward to!

I can't believe it's almost June. We've been doing this for over two months. Two months ago this very today was Earthquake Day. Wow. It's crazy. And I still can't believe this is our life now.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Kdrama Review: Kingdom (Seasons 1 and 2)

Drama: Kingdom (Seasons 1 and 2) (Netflix)
Genre: Historical horror fantasy thriller
Starring: Ju Ji Hoon, Jeon Seok Ho, Bae Doo Na
Rating: ❤ ❤ ❤

People have been raving about this for like a year. The first season (6 episodes) came out last year, and then recently 6 more episodes in a Season 2. (Netflix is having a great time messing with the kdrama system and breaking things into "seasons" which is really annoying.) I didn't have much desire to watch this one despite the huge amount of buzz it was getting. But when the stay at home thing started, I thought it would be a fun one to check out.

We started it out as a family watch, but that didn't last long. It was not a good one for the anxiety of a quarantine after all. So I put it on hold and then have finished it on my own.

So this one is a zombie show... set in the historical time period of the Josen Dynasty in Korea. So they are running around killing zombies in their beautiful long silk robes. So crazy. (Well, the peasants are a little more practically dressed, but still.)

The king is sick and died, but his evil subordinates have found out about a plant that can revive a person from the dead. So they use this on him. But there's a drawback... it turns them into a zombie! So now they are keeping this a secret from the people, just telling everyone he is sick. Alive, but sick. And meanwhile they have him tied up so he won't kill them all, and they feed him damsels.

Well, the infection gets loose and pretty soon we have a full on plague, with many many people turning. Our heroic prince goes out and about to try and find a solution to this problem and ends up mixed up in the whole gruesome fight. With the help of a few other heroic others, they try to save people and try to kill all the zombies. It's pretty impossible.

Meanwhile, we are getting word of even more corruption at the palace thanks to the wicked evil queen. Sheesh, she is a trip.

Anyway. I was frustrated with the first half because it was mostly all action and fighting and slashing and killing and blood, and not so much about character development. That improved in the second half and I was finally feeling invested in our characters and genuinely worried about them. Things got very crazy that second half and the whole mess ended up BACK at the palace.

Well, and so I compared this one a lot to The Walking Dead in my head. It was just as violent and gruesome as that show, maybe even more so. But these zombies RUN... they the fast kind! It's very hard to get away from a RUNNING zombie! Anyway, so much blood and guts in this show! So much! It's exhausting!

But if you are into that kind of thing and enjoy a massive production (I can't even imagine what goes into making something of this scale) then you'll enjoy this one! So many people have loved it, but for me it was just okay. Not one of my favorite dramas by far.

However, the freaking second season also ends in a cliffhanger, so now when more episodes are released, I will have to watch! I need to know what happens next of course!

Here is the trailer for the first season:

Let me know if you watch it! I'd love to know what you think! This one is sort of more "main stream Netflix" so maybe you might be more inclined to check it out? Especially if you are a zombie fan.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Book Review: The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North

Book: The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North
Genre: Historical scifi/fantasy
Rating: ★ ★ ★ 

I knew absolutely nothing about this book going in. It was voted as our book club book this month and I hadn't heard anything about it at all. I actually thought it was a YA comedy of sorts! LOL!

I couldn't have been more wrong!

It reminded me a lot of Life After Life by Kate Atkinson if you are familiar with that one. Our main character, Harry, is born, lives a life and dies, only to be born again exactly as he was before. In this book, he takes us on a detailed journey of his different lives, not in any order, so that's a bit confusing, but we are to understand the process and struggle he goes through.

The circumstances of his lives are all different depending on how Harry approaches things... or the different scenarios he finds himself in. After awhile he gets good at manipulating things for his benefit, but he still doesn't feel it necessary to change history at all. In fact this is what gets him in a trouble the most.

He is born in 1920 (I think... or 1919?) so he lives through many historical events. If his life is "normal" he always gets sick and dies an old  man in the 80s or 90s. One time he was a little more healthy and lasted into the 2000s.

He uses his lives to learn all sorts of things, and experiences nearly every career, travels everywhere, learns all the languages and etc. In one life he finally meets up with others like him and they have a sort of club. The club learns that someone down the line is trying to change history to the point that the world is destroyed.

So now Harry has the mission to stop this from happening, and it's not easy.

It's all actually quite fascinating and crazy and confusing and messes with your brain in a crazy time travelling sort of way. And makes you think what you would do if you had endless lives. And could actually remember everything from all the previously lives.

The book is quite violent in parts (so much torture! WHY???) and there's murder and mayhem and war and some pretty awful people. Harry is sometimes awful himself and sometimes nice, depending on the life he's chosen that time around.

This whole book is like his memoir reflecting on all he's done and if he's made a difference at all. It's quite stream of conscious in parts but I found that if I didn't stress about connecting the dots, they all connected eventually on their own.

In the end, I really enjoyed it a lot! What a crazy ride!

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Kdrama Review: Meow The Secret Boy

Drama: Meow The Secret Boy
Genre: rom com fantasy
Starring: Kim Myung Soo, Shin Ye Un, Seo Ji Hoon, Kang Hoon
Rating: ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤

Another perfect fluff (literally) drama for these hard times. LOL.

So, our guy is a cat. But he can turn into a human when he's near our girl. So he does. And he lives with her. As both cat and human. Meanwhile, the guy who owns the cafe across the street who once liked her but rejected her decides he likes her again. But now has to compete with the cat.

But dang this is a cute cat!

So how long does it take our girl figure out the guy and the cat are the same? Um... awhile. She thinks he is the landlord's son, who she expects to be also living there. So he, the cat, just lets her believe that.

It's a very simple story, with no "bad guys." I like it when we don't have a terrible antagonist to worry about you know. I mean there is one dude who is... weird and scary. A little.

It does have the theme of abandonment, so even in it's simplicity and fluffiness, it's still giving a message and making us think. I also love that.

Mostly this whole drama I was worried about how they could end it happily ever after. Which I knew had to happen given the nature of the thing. And yes, I was left a bit unsatisfied with their solution to this. But it was okay.

Anyway, that's not why I watched it... I watched it for the cuteness. Of both the story and the characters (and actors.) Our kitty is played by Kim Myungsoo also known as L from the band Infinite. He's adorable.

So, we had a blast watching this one and giggled a lot! So much fun!

Here's a quick little trailer:

And this beautiful song from the drama song by our very own Kihyun from Monsta X. YES!

Monday, May 4, 2020

April 2020 Reading Recap

Easter Eggs

So what happened to being quarantined to just read and read and read? Oh, right. Kdramas. They pull harder than books sometimes, a lot, these days. Sigh. But still I read some stuff.

Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman: The second book in the Scythe series were we learn more about the Thunderhead, and we follow the further adventures of our two heroes and hope they can figure out how to save the world from corruption.

I Love You So Mochi by Sarah Kuhn: A girl travels to Japan to meet her grandparents and also hopes to figure out what she wants to do with her life.

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi: The start of a series in which we are introduced to this world where magic has been taken away and is a bad thing, and our characters are trying to bring it back.

These three books are so different from each other it's very hard to compare and contrast and choose a favorite. I guess Thunderhead kept me on my toes the most and made me shudder in shock.

Goals for May:

  • finish Matt's book:  Awakening
  • finish The 15 Lives of Harry August for book club
  • read Island of the Sea Women for Asian Book Club
  • probably that's all I'll get to, but I want to read some fluff too

What are you all reading?

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Coronavirus Week Seven: April 27 to May 3, 2020

We started and finished a puzzle this week. I didn't help with even one piece!

And just like that it's May. Some people are saying March was forever long, and April flew by. I think I agree. Amazing how fast these stay at home days are going.

This week I would say three big things happened:

We finally went out of the house one day to pick up groceries, grab a sandwich from Subway and then take it to the canyon park to sit on the grass and eat it. So weird when something so simple becomes and event. But yeah. The first time we were out in way over a week... and the only we we got out this week. (The husband gets out every day somehow... working on his shed project at the duplex we own... so I'm not counting him in this!)

Also, we had an visitor this week! My sister dropped off something she borrowed a long time ago and stayed and talked to us from the driveway for like an hour. That was nice!

(I forgot to mention that the farther away kid visited us last week. That was nice too! We hadn't seen them since Earthquake Day. They did the backyard visiting like the closer kid does every few days. So glad we have a nice big backyard for social distancing visits!)

The third thing is that our state went from red to orange meaning, some restrictions are going to lessen up. For me, this means the library is going to open again by appointment only, so they can restrict the amount of people in the building and encourage people to get in and out. So they are letting me go back to work... gradually. I will go tomorrow just to enter the bills and then play it from ear from there. I don't have to work with the public and hardly any staff either, so I'm not worried about anything. But still probably just go in once a week for a bit until we assess thing further. Everyone has to wear a mask, and so I ordered some basic little ones from Amazon that I hope will be more comfortable and breathable than that homemade bandanna one I wore to Costco the other week. That was so miserable! Anyway, I guess we'll see. Wearing masks feels so weird to me though. Definitely one Asian cultural thing that I really don't love! LOL! Makes me feel like a thug or something. Also, makes you realize how important peoples faces are while communicating too.

But I think this is our new normal, and as things open back up, masks are going to be required. So... deal with it I guess!

Anyway, getting back to "normal" is going to feel as strange as stopping life was before. I've gotten quite used to our strange routine and wow, hopefully I can actually get up tomorrow!


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