Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Book Club Picks 2021-2022

Here's our schedule for book club this next year! We are doing DOUBLE THE BOOKS during the summer! This cracks me up given that the whole book club is experiencing a slump. Maybe this will help? I guess we'll see!

Anyway, over the years our book club lists have been popular, so I wouldn't want to neglect you all of seeing what we've chosen yet again. 

Have you read any and do you have thoughts about what we have coming up?

The Giver of Stars AND The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek: June

Born a Crime/ They Called Us Enemy: July

Seven Deadly Shadows/My Plain Jane: August

Anxious People: September

The Picture of Dorian Gray: October

I am the Messenger: November

Emily of New Moon: December

Keep Moving: January

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before: February

Nine Perfect Strangers: March

Dread Nation: April

Carve the Mark: May

Wish us luck!!

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Book Review: 96 Miles by J.L. Esplin


Book: 96 Miles by J.L. Esplin

Genre: MG contemporary survival

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ 

Wow, but I haven't read a book that gripped me like this one for quite awhile. It's a survival story that really had me on the edge of my reading seat the whole time, and I devoured it. (Ha devoured... because yet again, this book will make you HUNGRY and THIRSTY both, like... literally!)

It's about two brothers (ages 13 and 11) who are trying to walk the 96 miles across the Nevada dessert to get to family friends who they hope will help them. Because there's been a country-wide blackout and it's been about a month now with no electricity. Which means that society is falling apart.

Just before the blackout, their dad had gone on a business trip, leaving the boys alone. And it appears he is having a problem getting back to them, because they have heard nothing from him at all. 

Normally they'd be fine, because their dad is one who has prepared... they have food storage and a generator and all the things they need. But the neighbors raid it and steal everything. This is a problem in more ways than one, and so they head off for help.

It's written in such an engaging way that I was invested from page one. It read very much like a YA for me and not sure why... the characters just felt a bit older than they actually were, but not in a way that bothered me, you know? They are awesome kids. We do meet up with another sibling pair and the four of them face this adventure together. It's very heartwarming. And rough, and scary. And sad, once again showing an idea of what people will do in the face of survival. 

Anyway. Yeah. I loved it. Now, I kind of want to go take drive and see this road they had to walk down. 

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Book Review: The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

 Book: The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

Genre: historical fiction-ish (man who thought naming a genre would be so hard lately?)

Rating: ★ ★ 

We read this one for book club this past month and I must say, it's one of the weirdest books I've read in a long long time! I went in expecting absolutely nothing, but what I got was REALLY not expected. LOL!

It's about a girl in Ireland in the 1800s who appears to be starving herself, but staying alive. So people are starting to look at her like she is something divine, some sort of saint... a "wonder!" So a couple of nurses (well, our main character nurse and a nun) are sent in to watch her 24/7 to make sure that her family isn't sneaking her food and then claiming her to be this saint-like thing. 

Our main character girl goes in with a really bad attitude about it thinking she is going to figure it all out right away and that every one is really stupid and she is going to be in and out and yeah... she is just rolling her eyes over it all. 

Turns out things are much more complicated than she expected, and suddenly she finds herself  much more invested in this girl and everything that's going on than she planned!

The first half or so of this book was VERY slow... and it seriously was just us as readers going every day into this girl and watching her.... and absolutely nothing was happening. Our main character did A LOT of complaining and such... but yeah. I was like... please let something happen soon!

And yet I felt this weird draw to keep reading and to see what WOULD happen. And what was actually up with this girl. And in the end it started to get much more crazy and...like I said.. .so very weird, that the last bit I read nearly in one sitting until it was done. Such a crazy story!

Not based on a true story, but based on stuff like this that really happened, which makes it all even weirder. Anyway, I'm glad it showed up on our list this year and added some diversity to my reading for sure. Be warned though, reading this while you are hungry is not recommended! It will make you even hungrier!

Monday, March 22, 2021

Random Life Update

A cat picture because don't we all love cat pictures?

I feel like it's been a long long time since I've done a random rambling post. But I feel like one is really needed about now since we have crossed that year mark from when all the pandemic stuff started. Here are a few thoughts:

  • We keep having anniversary dates: one year since the pandemic started, one year since we've been to our last concert, one year since that crazy earthquake happened, one years since we've been on an airplane, one since we could go in public without a mask... and on and on. It's crazy we've survived this long in this new world. Who knew it would still be happening a year later. 
  • But it seem like the light is at the end... I got my first vaccine dose last week, and look forward to completing that process with the second dose in a couple of weeks. Hopefully the rest of the family and follow soon with their doses. I'm still wary that it will even help... I keep reading things that say you can still give it and you can still get it... so that makes me think what's the point. But hopefully the point is that this is a step in just making this all end. Though.. there are some that say it will never end and this is our life now. Which is the most depressing thing ever.
  • It's also been one year since I went to the doctor to "get healthy" which basically means I'm told all the things that are wrong with me and that if I eat this I will die, but if I eat that I will also die. And that I need to take a thousand supplements to cover all the things I can't eat. I can't even tell you how frustrated I am with it all. I'm still at 40 pounds lost, and holding steady... it seems that no matter what I do.. eat good or eat crappy... nothing moves that number now. So... I'm currently trying to figure out what to do next... food wise. Moderation in all things?
  • In other news, I'm constantly trying to figure out how my hobbies can make money. I don't know why I care about this lately, but it seems like a good thing to worry about. So... I want to figure out how to make videos for the kpop channel that get watched, I want to start making other sorts of videos for a "normal" channel (lol... like books, travel, etc.), and I want to figure out how to write books that people want to read and sell them independently on Amazon. So there you go for my new years resolutions. Ha. 
  • I'm also helping my son try to get a cool language vocabulary site off and running and spending a ton of time on that. If anyone knows how to get a business going, let me know! I'm sure you'll see more on that when I really start trying to get the word out, but in the meantime, if you want to drill French words or Korean words... try it out! www.trackyourvocab.com 
  • Oh I was going to mention that I'm part of a video chat show that my friend is doing on her YouTube channel. Talking with people from all over the world about kpop. It's been pretty cool so far. Pretty sure anyone reading this won't want the link, so... no link. Just know that's been a biggish fun thing in my life lately! And maybe I'll get famous because of it...(insert extremely sarcastic emoji face here....) 
What's new with you all? Have we all survived the year and hopeful things will get back to the new normal soon? New normal where we can travel, go to concerts,  and you know... see people again? 

An example of the sort of breakfast I eat that makes me lose weight,
but isn't great for cholesterol levels.

It's been exciting at the library, we opened a new part of the building that we call:
The Library Hall. Now, if only we could have events in it!

An example of the wonderful lyrics found in my kpop songs. 
Most songs are so upbeat and positive, and they really help me keep going.

Pickleball has becoming a thing at this house. But it's bad if you accidently step on one.

A rare selfie on the day I got my Victon album and was thrilled.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Reading Recap: February 2021


February Storm

Oops I guess I'm a bit behind on my monthly recap post! Here you go!

The Elephant's Girl by Celesta Rimington: During a tornado a young girl is lost and family is gone, but she is found at the nearby zoo being protected by an elephant.

The Flatshare by Beth O'Leary: What happens if you share a flat with a dude you've never met, and plan to never met since he lives there during the day, and you live there during the night. No problem, right?

Beginners Welcome by Cindy Baldwin: Our girl and her mom are trying to cope with the death of their dad/husband. 

Beautiful Melody by Trish Milburn: Chim, leader of the famous kpop group SBG, finds love when he is reunited with a childhood friend.

Favorites of the month: The Flatshare and Beautiful Melody. 

Goals for March:

  • read The Wonder for book club
  • read as  many MG books that I can for the award I'm helping judge
  • catch up with my Shadow Mountain ARCs
That's about as much goal making that I can handle!

Here's hoping you are all having fun with your reading these days!

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Book Review: On These Magic Shores by Yamile Saied Mendez


Book: On These Magic Shores by Yamile Saied Mendez

Genre: MG magic realism-ish

Rating: ★ ★ ★ 

I've been anxious to read this author for quite sometime now. She was someone I met way back in the big book blogging days before she became famous.  (Her books are currently making quite the buzz especially after she was chosen as a pick for Reese Witherspoon's book club.) And I think this was a great first choice for me to read!

It's about a 12 year old girl and her two sisters. Her single mom works hard to keep them going, but one day when the mom heads to work... she doesn't come home. And she doesn't call, and they have no idea what's happened.

So our girl  tries to keep going as if all is well. But that's really tricky when she has to go to school. And she finds out the day care her mom uses for the baby is crap. And she wants to try out for Peter Pan and get the role as Wendy. And she needs to figure out how to get food for them. 

Her mom has told them stories about fairies, which she rolls her eyes about, but turns out it appears these fairies might actually be helping them somehow. Or SOMEONE is anyway. She ends up befriending a cute boy that actually does help them in the small ways he can. And the neighbor helps them a bit. And she finally gets the courage to contact  her grandma that she doesn't even know... to see if SHE can help. 

It's all very moving and sad in bits, but funny in bits too and cute and wonderful in all the family and friend connection stories. We do find out what happened to the mom and in the end some hard choices have to be made, but it all works out and I think all three of these sisters are in a better place. 

I totally enjoyed finally reading one of Yamile's books and hope to add more to my list soon! 

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Book Review: Beautiful Melody

Book: Beautiful Melody by Trish Milburn

Genre: kpop idol romance

Rating: ★ ★ ★ 

I'm still trying to catch up with this series! This is book five in the Idol in Love series wherein each book a different member of this fictional kpop band is highlighted... specifically their love story. It's so much fun. And like I've said before, I am in love with this band now as if they were real! 

In this book, our leader Chim finally gets his story. He's off to see a childhood friend's wedding, and he goes against the rules and attends without his people, his entourage... which turns out to be a bit of a mistake. 

All his childhood friends attend this event, including a girl who he has lost touch with after she moved to the US. She is now back in Korea and when he sees her at the wedding he's all... wow... she grew up well! And of course she is thinking the same thing about him. She knows he's become this famous dude, and has sort of paid attention, but when she sees him in person she's all.. wow... he's is TEN TIMES better in real life and... can this even be the same dude??

And so they reconnect and it's wonderful... until the paparazzi gets wind of things because of bad security situation and bam... suddenly everything is this HUGE scandal. So how are these two supposed to connect now that they are being watched constantly, and if they don't want Chim's career to be ruined? (It's so crazy that this is true to what really happens in the kpop world... dating is a massive scandal and can totally ruin careers... unbelievable.) 

These books are such fun fast reads! I look forward to slipping them in between all the other books I'm trying to get read. The next book is the last that will be dealing with this group and we'll get the stories of the two remaining members. I'm particularly concerned about them so I want to jump into reading this one ASAP! 

And Trish has just released the 7th book, in which we switch over to learning about the "rival: group of these guys that we've fallen in love with! How fun is that! 

Trish uses a real life kpop dude as visual inspiration for all her books. I don't know who Chim was for her but I find it fun to try and think up my own visual inspiration as I'm reading. Chim was a little harder for me to peg though...hmmm.... (which I actually love that they become their own person in my mind, you know? I'm telling you, this is a real band for me!)

I'll think I'll go with Yonghoon from ONEWE for my Chim! What do you think Trish? Does he fit or not? LOL!

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Movie Review: News of the World

Movie: News of the World

Starring: Tom Hanks, Helena Zengel

Rating: Two thumbs up

It's been a long time since I watched, like, a "normal" movie. But my husband watched it and said it was good, so he "made" me watch it too. And what's not to like? Tom Hanks.. you know?

It's a Western setting... and our dude goes around to all the communities and reads them the news, since they have a hard time getting it any other way. In his travels he comes across a stage coach wreck and rescues a girl who is being transported to her family. After some time he learns that she was was kidnapped by the Indians years back and her Indian family was killed and so now she has been rescued from that situation and is being taken to the only family she now has, an aunt and uncle. It falls on our hero to continue that mission.

And so they have some adventures together and life is rough out there in the Western world, and they bond. And it's adorable. And then comes the time when he has to give her to this family that she doesn't know. 

Here's the trailer:

So yeah, it was a fun movie to watch after not seeing movies for so long. I really love Tom Hanks of course, and the girl they got to play this part was fantastic. Not an easy roll at all.  And of course, the music is fantastic... James Newton Howard. What's not to love there either, right? 

Watch it if you get a chance. If you've already seen, it what did you think?

Monday, March 15, 2021

Book Review: Beginners Welcome by Cindy Baldwin

Book: Beginners Welcome by Cindy Baldwin

Genre: MG contemporary

Rating: ★ ★ ★ 

This is the story of a mom and daughter trying to recover from the death of their husband/father. Our girl has not only lost her dad, but her friends have drawn away from her too. She's so sad. And her mom is really truly not functioning. In the midst of this, she escapes one day to the mall and befriends an old guy who is there playing the piano in the courtyard. She talks him into teaching her piano, and this happily brings back some good memories of her dad and makes her feel like life is good again.

Except the problem is, her mom would be SO MAD if she found out! 

So it's all quite a problem. She wants to enter a contest at the end of the year, and she needs this guy's help to do it. But she also doesn't want to cause her mom more trouble.

Oh, and then there's the matter of her dad's ghost that just won't leave them alone!

It's all quite a sad story, but with a hopeful feeling. And how you can find friendship in the most unlikely of places. I quite enjoyed it!

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Kdrama Review: Lovestruck in the City

Drama: Lovestruck in the City (on Netflix)

Starring: Ji Chang Wook, Kim Ji Won, 

Genre: Romantic comedy

Rating: ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤

This was a very different one guys! I don't even know what to say! LOL! It's set up like a reality show... or a documentary. So the actors are looking at the camera a lot and talking to the "interviewers" and answering questions. In the course of them answering questions, their story unfolds. And so sometimes it morphs into a "regular" drama where we see the story... and then sometimes we are back with the characters as if they are real people getting interviewed. 

Does that even  make sense? 

So it's fun and different and takes a bit of getting used to. But I enjoyed it once I got used to it.

It's very unrealistic though, because at first you think all these characters are randomly picked for this "reality" show, but then suddenly we realize that they are all connected. Of course. Their stories all intersect in the end!

So we follow three couples, who are all getting interviewed about their thoughts on love and relationships. The main couple had a fast and furious affair when the dude went off for a vacation. And meets the girl and is completely blown away by her. She is like a breath of fresh air to him. So quirky and fun and spontaneous. 

But turns out she was faking that personality. And when she realizes he is in love with THAT personality and not her true self. She runs away and leaves him. Ah, it's heart breaking. 

So now, in present time, which is about a year after that happens... he is angry and hurt and trying to heal, and not doing a very good job of it. 

The other couples have stories that we follow too and we get invested in all of them. 

Despite the fun of this drama and the sort of free spirit of it... at times it made me feel quite depressed. I hated how they treated each other sometimes, and what a bleak out look it had on love... and relationships. It just made me sad a lot.

And yet, there are moments that are very romantic and has some of the most romantic bits I've seen in a drama to date. Also.... Ji Chang Wook. I mean.. . he's practically perfect in every way, so it really doesn't matter what he does, you know! Yeah, if you are a fan of him, watch this one!

Anyway, so mostly I really enjoyed it, even if these characters made me crazy at times. The end was... weird... and upsetting for one of the couples. I was like... you are seriously going to leave that story like that? NO. UNACCEPTABLE!

Also, they threw in a side story that featured newly returned from the military SHINee's Minho, who placed the character of the cop and they gave him a little romance at the end too. It was cute, but felt a bit out of place, especially when we really wanted things wrapped up with the other characters. But like JCW... Minho is Minho and we'll watch him do anything really. 

(Side note: I thought that cop looked like Minho the whole time, but I totally didn't think it was him because how could he be in a drama already when he literally JUST GOT DONE with the military? I figured it was just a really good look alike. But then towards the end when everyone was talking about him, I was like.. DANG, that REALLY is Minho all this time? Silly me!!)

So yeah. It's a good one, mostly! And like I said... I love Ji Chang Wook in anything. 

Yeah. How could I not think that's Minho??

Here's a fun fast trailer:

And a lovely song set to some of the fun clips during the romantic parts!

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Book Review: A Captain for Caroline Gray by Julie Wright

Book: A Captain for Caroline Gray by Julie Wright

Genre: Historical romance

Rating:  ★ ★ ★

This a fun story about our girl Caroline, who is just too smart and witty for the guys of her time. Whenever she says her opinion about things, and she has a lot, all the suitors get scared and back off. So when her cousin (who owns the house she lives in) gets married, she basically gets kicked out and has to figure out her prospects. Turns out a neighbor decides Caroline would be PERFECT for her son... who happens to work and live in India. So an arrangement is made whereby Caroline heads off to India to meet this guy, with the deal that she will give him a chance, and get to know him...but she doesn't have to agree to a marriage unless all things work out. 

And so... she heads off to India... which will take THREE MONTHS by boat. (It really struck me this time about how travel used to be... can you imagine a three month journey to another country? And we think a 13 hour plane ride is nearly unbearable! Yeah, you really gotta commit that THAT vacation!)

Well, and so on the boat, life gets interesting. She takes to the sea like a pro and loves the activity there and walks around sketching everything. 

And then there's the captain of this boat. He's intriguing to say the least! But when she opens her mouth to say her thoughts... will he be turned off and run away? And how can she be attracted to him when she has a dude waiting for her in India? Hmmmm???

Then we get the POV of the captain. And how he is baffled at this girl and torn about what he should do about it if anything. 

Okay, so I really enjoyed the story, and the setting. Most of it on the boat, and some in Mumbai. And Caroline is a great heroine. But the captain... I don't know.. I didn't really warm up to him. He seemed a bit gruff and even mean at times. I wanted to like him so much more than I did! Ah, I hate it when that happens! I also wanted a more sparky romance... more intense. 

But that's really my only complaint about this one! Lots of fun side characters and some crazy goings on occur. It was a very interesting time in history for sure. 

Anyway, you should totally check it out and let me know what you think of our captain!

Also, thank you to Shadow Mountain for continuing to send me Proper Romances to read, even though I am so behind in my reviewing! 

Here's more info about the author:

JULIE WRIGHT was born in Salt Lake City, Utah. She’s lived in LA, Boston, and the literal middle of nowhere (don’t ask). She wrote her first book when she was fifteen. Since then, she’s written twenty-five novels and coauthored three. Julie is a two-time winner of the Whitney Award for best romance with her books Cross My Heart and Lies Jane Austen Told Me and is a Crown Heart recipient. Her book Death Thieves was a Whitney finalist. She has one husband, three kids, one grandbaby, one dog, and a varying amount of houseplants (depending on attrition). She loves writing, reading, traveling, hiking, snorkeling, playing with her family on the beach, and watching her husband make dinner.


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