Drama Review: Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo

 

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I had fully expected it to be a lighthearted, fluffy romantic comedy. But last night, this show made me cry at the end of episode 10.

WEIGHTLIFTING FAIRY may seem like just another feel-good rom-com, but it actually tackles a lot of hard-hitting emotional and psychological issues – such as trauma, pressure, eating disorder, and depression – that not just athletes but regular people go through. And that’s what makes this show so relatable.

Beneath all that cutesy puppy love, adorable banter and squeal-worthy scenes between the impossibly photogenic leads also lie big dreams, passion and depression, friendship and kinship, and a raw humanity to each character as they go through life making decisions big and small, making mistakes, and realising what matters most to them in the end.

 

SYNOPSIS:

WEIGHTLIFTING FAIRY KIM BOK JOO is a campus romance about the titular character (played by Lee Sung Kyung) who has been training to be a national weightlifter her whole life … until she encounters her first love at 21. In college, she is reunited with Joon Hyung (played by the handsome, cute AF Nam Joo Hyuk), a national swimmer whose dreams are hampered by an unresolved childhood trauma. His cousin, an kind, gentlemanly obesity clinic doctor (played by the gorrrrgeous Lee Jae Yoon), is the heroine’s first crush, and Song Si Ho (played by Kyung Su Jin) is an overachieving gymnast gradually pushed to breaking point.

 

REASONS TO WATCH IT:

  1. It’s YA Contemporary at its best

It is a deceivingly simple story about athletes trying to achieve their dreams, with an essential host of characters like hilarious sidekicks and tough but well-meaning coaches. It’s everything you would expect of a young adult contemporary story. It includes hilarious drunken shenanigans, first crushes, jealous ex-girlfriends, competitive seniors, sneaking out after hours, and more.

2. The relatable characters

Kim Bok Joo is a likeable, relatable character who is positive, down-to-earth, unassuming but not a pushover. She’s loyal and honest, raw and flawed – it’s easy to see parts of yourself in her, and you find yourself identifying with her, wanting her to be your best friend, and rooting for her throughout the story.

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Dr Jeong, the object of her (initial) affections. And can you blame her?? The guy’s gorgeous.

Plus, she and her friends are total #friendshipgoals.

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3. The burst-out-laughing-and-clap-like-a-flailing-seal moments

 

4. The chemistry between the two leads

I enjoy every single scene between Bok Joo and Joon Hyung – from the hysterically hilarious moments to the cute banter to the surprisingly poignant and sweet moments. It just makes you yearn to fall in love!

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5. The realistic portrayal of depression

Despite her fast track to winning nationals, not everything is peachy in Bok Joo’s life. After a painful experience with unrequited love (to which I’m sure we can all relate), she begins to question why she’s weightlifting, whether she really loves it, what she’s doing it all FOR.

This scene at the end of episode 10 *spoilers ahead* where Bok Joo describes the symptoms of depression to Joon Hyung broke my heart:

It’s like she stole the words right from my lips. This scene made me realise that I was going through the exact same thing, that maybe I’m feeling just as lost and stuck as her at this juncture. (But more on that another day, perhaps.)

This is a major turning point in the story as she realises she no longer has any motivation or passion for weightlifting, the only thing she has known all her life. Now she’s lost, stuck in limbo, and has no idea how to recalibrate her life.

This depiction of depression feels on point. Bok Joo knows that something is wrong with her but she can’t pinpoint what it is – that’s what the first stage of depression is like. Sometimes, the person herself has no idea that she’s depressed but she knows something’s wrong with her. Joon Hyung immediately realises that Bok Joo is suffering from depression – sometimes, it’s the outsider who notices the symptoms first.

I like how the writers didn’t romanticise depression and presented it in the most raw and heartbreakingly honest way. The actors – both Lee Sung Kyung and Nam Joo Hyuk – did a great job too, as the sufferer and the bystander.

 

6. The swoon-worthy romance

Bok Joo and Joon Hyung collide (literally) into each other’s lives through a series of misunderstandings, then realise they were ex-elementary school classmates, and become good friends (best bros, in fact) before falling for each other. It’s a slow burn romance that viewers already root for right from the start.

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Dying from the fluff!

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I want someone who can stare out at the sea with me too.

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THE WAY HE LOOKS AT HER *__*

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Korean dramas and their picturesque scenes

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STOP BEING SO CUTE! ><

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I love this OTP because they understand each other very well as fellow athletes. Their affection and appreciation for each other goes as deep as kindred spirits’, and that is established even before the romance kicks in.

As fellow athletes, they can truly understand each other’s struggles, and encourage each other in significant ways: Bok Joo comforting Joon Hyung when he lost a race, and Joon Hyung regularly giving Bok Joo the best pep talks whenever she’s feeling anxious or nervous about a competition. They are each other’s biggest supporters.

Plus, I love that Bok Joo doesn’t need to be anything or anyone other than herself to inspire this kind of loyalty, affection and head-over-heels lurve from him. They started out as really good friends – bros, even – and maybe that’s why she can be entirely herself around him with no inhibitions.

 

7. The pretty soundtrack

NELLLLLLL!!! I can’t put into words how much I ADORE this soft rock band (if Muse and Radiohead had a love child, it would be Nell). The fact that their song fits so perfectly into this drama makes me so happy.

I’ve heard lots of good things about this acoustic indie band Standing Egg, but this is the first song of theirs I’m hearing and I’m in looooove.

How pretty and sad this song is! Perfectly encapsulates the phase where Bok Joo contemplates and reassesses her life.

 

TL;DR

This drama deals with the good, the bad, and the ugly things that college students, athletes, and really anyone go through. Don’t dismiss it as just a fluffy romantic comedy – it’s worth a lot more than that. Like all contemporary YA worth their salt, they stay with you long after you’ve closed the book.

And if not, there’s always Nam Joo Hyuk and Lee Jae Yoon’s pretty faces (and abs) to ogle at 😉

 

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Drama Review: Scarlet Heart Ryeo

A friend of mine told me that I’ve had a major fall at least once every year since she’s known me. And she’s not wrong.

In 2014, I fell right smack on my tailbone and had to work from home for three months. In 2015 I fell while boarding the bus, split my lip and busted my knees. This year, I fell on my left knee and the side of my right foot while rushing to work from the swimming complex on Monday morning.

So I spent the whole of Tuesday like a downright slob, watching dramas and camping out on YouTube, using my injury as an excuse to procrastinate on the proper work. The self-loathing is real, guys :/

It feels terrible not being able to move about freely, go for a swim, or even do a jumping Jack. Now I know how frustrated and upset my granddad must have felt after he broke his hip. So pardon me for hiding out in drama world for a day (and wallowing in self-pity).

The plus side is, I finally managed to finish this terrific South Korean drama called Scarlet Heart Ryeo (AKA Moon Lovers), and now I’m in a COMPLETE WRECK thanks to it. I’d been putting it off for a month before finally deciding to watch it since people around me kept urging me to.

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And boy, was it worth the watch! I had never really been into time-travelling historical fantasies, but this drama completely changed my mind! Historical dramas are now my new obsession!
(Especially now as I’m planning Land of Sand and Song, a YA historical fantasy novel, I’ve been reading up on bloody monarchs, one of which includes Emperor Gwangjong. Scarlet Heart Ryeo is centred around this character, how he came to ascend the throne and gained his reputation as a wise, fair, but ruthless emperor known for the emancipation of slaves and the extensive purges of nobles who rebelled against him. This Tumblr post offers a detailed yet digestible explanation of the early Goryeo dynasty (Korean dynasty established in 918 by King Taejo).)
Scarlet Heart is based on a book trilogy written by a famous Chinese author, Tong Hua (who also wrote Sound of the Desert, if you remember my earlier blog post raving about it), and there’s a reason why people get so obsessed about her stories. She has perfect acumen in terms of plotting, and a particular knack for delving into her characters’ psyches, fleshing out delicious backstories, and then transforming them over the course of the story.
I didn’t watch the original Chinese version (because the number of episodes it had is quite daunting), so I went in without any expectations.
With the Korean adaptation, I was first blown away by the beautiful cast
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Then by the GORGEOUS costumes and cinematic visuals
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And the EPIC orchestral OST (more on that later!)
The Korean version, at only twenty episodes, was fast-paced and concise – every scene and dialogue is crucial and I couldn’t skip any scenes because they were all so gripping.
Scarlet Heart Ryeo is, in a nutshell, a palace drama with a twist, beginning with a 21st century girl down on her luck who goes into a coma after an accident and ends up in the Goryeo dynasty as Haesoo, the cousin of the eighth prince’s wife.
There, she meets the princes and is caught in the middle of their power struggle after the incumbent king takes ill. She soon falls in love with the warm, kind and sweet eighth prince Wang Wook (played by the cinnamon roll that is Kang Ha Neul) AND IT’S NOT HARD TO SEE WHY
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His smile can thaw the harshest winter

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THEY TRADE POETRY as a form of courtship. Can we adopt this practice for the 21st century please *__*

But things change when the fourth prince Wang So (who would eventually become Emperor Gwangjong) enters the picture. Abandoned when he was a child (sent to a live with noble family, but basically abandoned) because of a scar on his face, Wang So (played by the charismatic Lee Joon Gi) is the textbook misunderstood bad boy with a broken heart.

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The lonely, misunderstood, often feared Wang So. As much as the eighth prince’s smile captured my heart, I wanted to give the fourth prince a much-needed hug 😦

He watches as the power-hungry Wang Yo (third prince) claws his way to the throne, backed by the ruthless Mother Queen Yoo (also Wang So’s mother, but he gets ZERO loving from her, that cold bitch), watches him try to exterminate all threats to his position, including his brothers, and vows to become king so as to end the bloodshed and indiscriminate killing.
Along the way, Haesoo and Wang Wook’s relationship changes as the latter begins to yearn for the throne. Haesoo and Wang So grow closer as she helps him cover up his scar and becomes instrumental in his ascension to the throne. So there’s a lot of deception, mercury poisoning, emperors driven to madness, bloodshed, regicide, fraticide, betrayals, broken promises and broken hearts, and also a lot of romantic swoon-worthy moments in this drama.
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The final episode of Scarlet Heart destroyed me – I was literally sobbing into my palms. It’s a tragic ending (the kind most historical dramas tend to have) that completely rips your heart out, but it was gratifying to witness the way the entire story played out, how some characters came full circle and how others changed, for better or for worse, how history came to be written.
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Scarlet Heart Ryeo was the first Korean drama project for Universal Studios and had a budget of US$13 million. It was significantly less of a commercial success than the Chinese version, and I know some viewers were frustrated at how the story ended, but I personally LOVED it. It didn’t have the happy ending everyone hoped for, but I think if the screenwriters had pandered to the audience’s wishes and wrote the cheesy, predictable happy ending, the story wouldn’t have ended on such a strong note – one that is ridden with regret and sorrow, and the yearning for more.
ALSO, the orchestral OST is the icing on the cake. It is THE BOMB – I’ve had it on replay for days!
Have you heard anything quite as beautiful?! I think what made this drama such a fantastic escape and reprieve from reality is its keen sense of place, and the OST definitely helped set the mood.
So tl;dr contrary to what the naysayers think, I absolutely ADORE Scarlet Heart Ryeo. It helps if you just take the drama for what it is without comparing it to the original version. Overall, the plot and pacing and dialogue are tight, intricate, and pack a mean punch. It doesn’t have a happy ending, but its ending is perfectly sublime in the amount of catharsis and pathos it evokes. GO WATCH IT IF YOU HAVEN’T, THEN PLEASE COME AND FANGIRL WITH ME.
What are your thoughts on Moon Lovers? Any other recommendations for period dramas? I am officially a fan of Lee Joon Gi now and am planning to watch his previous dramas, Gunman in Joseon and Scholar Who Walks the Night!

Oh Eddie, you slayed in Sound of the Desert

Excuse the radio silence. I’ve been preoccupied for the past couple of weeks with the aforementioned period drama, Sound of the Desert. And when I say preoccupied, I mean I am entirely consumed by this addictive series.

I can’t remember the last Chinese period drama I’ve watched. They had always put me off with their tacky acting, overdone plots, terrible makeup and gaudy dressing. Plus, palace politics get boring after a while.

But Sound of the Desert is quite something. It has beautiful cinematography, characters with depth and fully fleshed out backstory, credible acting, character development, and loads of swoon-worthy moments that makes a girl like me squeal.

(And of course, there’s Eddie Peng.

THAT FACE IS A JACKPOT.

I always thought he was just a pretty face, but this show made me a huge fan of his acting!)

Essentially, Sound of the Desert is a love story based on a book series by a renowned Chinese author called Tong Hua, who also wrote Scarlet Heart, another popular drama series that everyone was obsessed with about a year or so ago.

The story centres around Jin Yu (played by Liu Shi Shi), a girl who lived among a pack of wolves in the desert until her adoptive father found her. Her father brought her up to live among humans and regaled her with magnificent stories about the city of Jian An, so she has always wanted to visit the place.

After her father is murdered, she goes to the city to start a new life and changes her name to Xin Yue. Along the way, she meets this handsome, disabled young man called Jiu Ye (played by Hu Ge), who has links with the royal family and is in charge of Shi Enterprises, the biggest commercial player in Jian An. She tries to steal some new clothes and salt from him and his entourage, but is caught. Jiu Ye lets her go but gives her this STUNNING BLUE DRESS that looks like something out of a fairy tale.

She also meets the confident, charismatic, hot, cocky young general Wei Wuji (played by Eddie Peng).

The scene where they meet is so perfect and momentous, and everything unspoken lies in their gazes.

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Xin Yue rescues Wuji and his crew from a bunch of desert bandits and helps them return to Jian An, where they then go their separate ways.

Wuji is bewitched by Xin Yue upon their first meeting, and you can see his cold exterior stripped away whenever he interacts with her. While he’s all intense, piercing gaze and clenched, chiselled jaw with his comrades and soldiers, around her he’s all puppy smiles and bright twinkly eyes (yes, the author included that description in the book).

Eddieeeee you slay me! He has such expressive eyes and the cutest smile.


Anyway, so Xin Yue goes to Jian An, is roped into being a dancer in a dance parlour before Jiu Ye finds her (Shi Enterprises owns the dance parlour), offers her a place to stay as well as a job managing the dance parlour instead of performing there. Meanwhile, Wuji searches high and low for the exotic, mysterious girl he met in the desert.

A love triangle develops, where Xin Yue falls head over heels for Jiu Ye, who is calm, collected, beautiful, but detached from everyone. Xin Yue is a shy and uncertain thing around him, and she always has to second-guess her behaviour. Like some lovesick schoolgirl.

Around Wuji, though, she is entirely, freely herself. The way you would be around your best friend, even though you know he’s in love with you. Wuji doesn’t bother hiding the fact that he is smitten with her, even when he’s around his soldiers.

He’s attentive,

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He looks at her like she’s his world,

He openly flirts with her,

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So many cute moments between them! Is there any wonder why this pairing launched a thousand ships (and new fans of Eddie)? 

 

He’s there by her side to cheer her up when she gets rejected TIME AND AGAIN by Jiu Ye (although I don’t know what she sees in him),

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Look around you, you dolt! Here’s a hot, sweet, charming, brave young general who is willing to lay down his life for you and do everything within his power to make you happy! Why chase a cold, reserved guy who has rejected you harshly thrice in a row because he’s too busy feeling inferior due to his disability? All he does is play the flute, read, and stare out the snowy window in deep thought. YAWN. Wuji, though, is passion, fire, fun.

And Eddie has so much on-screen presence, he commands every scene he’s in. The casting director did goooood with him. I bet Tong Hua is pleased with the decision to cast Eddie as Wuji too, because he doesn’t just play Wei Wuji. He IS Wei Wuji. He fully embraces and revels in the role. In other words, he slaaaayed (the girls over at My Drama Tea feel so too!), and he’s the main reason why I watched the show.

Also, he has set impossible standards for all guys out there.

On the battlefield he’s like,

When he sees her he’s like,

Don’t you just love a guy who is fierce and driven when it comes to serious matters, but lets down his defences around you?

There’s palace politics and other subplots in the show that I could care less about, but the main focus is on this lovely OTP. It’s total “shippy heaven”, according to Dreaming Snowflake, another fan I found on Tumblr who does greater justice to the show in her elaborate and insightful episode reviews. Tong Hua must have been projecting her fantasies with General Wei when she wrote her books. In fact, she did mention that she wrote Ballad of the Desert FOR this character, based on a real-life general called Huo Qu Bing, a young general who has never lost a single battle in all of his 26 years.

 

Those sparkling wide eyes!

Wei Wuji doesn’t die in the show – the characters get their happy ending (okay, at least the important ones do) – but there’s a twist at the end that helps the story tie in with historical records. I’m not spoiling it for you, so go watch it! In the meantime, I’m going to go catch up on all of Eddie’s other movies.

Wow. That turned out to be a long post. And most of it was spent gushing about Eddie. Excuse the fangirling. It’s just been a long while since I’ve fallen head over heels for a character that makes me grin to myself like a fool and itch to write another in his likeness.

If you watched the show and are now, like me, irrevocably in love with General Wei and Eddie Peng, let’s spaz together I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Drama Review – Pinnochio

I’ve been meaning to talk about Pinocchio, the Korean drama series I just finished watching. I started watching it around the same time I read Jellicoe Road (still wrecked by that book), and finished around the same time I finished reading it too. So a lot of what I wrote for No Room in Neverland was very much influenced by the mood of these stories.

So, Pinocchio.

It’s about a girl who has the Pinocchio condition, wherein she is unable to lie because it causes her to hiccup endlessly until she tells the truth*.

Despite her condition, In Ha decides to follow in her estranged mother’s footsteps to become a high-powered broadcast journalist (who is rumoured to go to any means to get her scoop, even if it means fabricating stories and twisting the truth).

After her parents’ divorce when she was a child, In Ha and her father go to live with her grandfather in the countryside, where she finds her “uncle”, this boy her age posing as her distraught grandfather’s son who died out at sea.

Going by the name of Dal Po, the boy has also recently lost his entire family – his fireman father died on the job and is accused by the media of sending his team into an empty building on fire, his mother took her own life following the incident, and his older brother is missing. While Dal Po harbours a crush on In Ha*, he also learns that In Ha’s mother is the journalist who accused his father of killing his team in the fire and left him an outcast for the remainder of his life.

Meanwhile, In Ha struggles to reconnect with her mother by sending her text messages she hope she would one day receive a reply to. On the day before she goes for her interview at the news station with Dal Po, she receives one. But the sender is not her mother. It is the son of retail tycoon who decides to apply for a journalist post to meet In Ha.

The show centres on Dal Po’s quest for revenge against In Ha’s mother, his search for his older brother, In Ha’s struggle to make sense of what happened 13 years ago, when the media misdirected the focus of the fire and laid the blame on Dal Po’s father***, as well as the mystery of why In Ha’s mother’s cellphone ended up in the hands of the heir to the retail conglomerate.

*Because obviously they couldn’t make her nose grow longer.

**Yes, of course Dal Po and In Ha have a thing.

But it wasn’t heavy-handed or overly sappy. The development of their relationship was natural and comfortable, not melodramatic with copious declarations of love. Think Wes and Macy from Sarah Dessen’s The Truth About Forever rather than Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell.

***This just goes to show how the media can warp public perception.

This show is just SO FREAKING GOOD. In terms of plot, subplot, character growth, character interaction, pacing, everything was perfect. Okay, it got a tad melodramatic at times, but every character has motive, agency, and flaws, and the antagonists come in proverbial shades of grey. This show is so under-rated compared to You Who Came From the Stars, which, while engaging enough to leave you hooked on every episode, didn’t bring me to tears and a hair-tearing state the way Pinocchio did.

The scene that particularly got me was the part where In Ha’s mother, the cold, aloof, successful news anchor

realises the devastation she wrecked on others, as well as her negligence of her daughter, while she was busy pursuing her career.

I tried so hard to stave off the ending, but as with all good things like Jellicoe Road, it eventually came to and end and now I’m in an existential crisis where I don’t know what else to read or watch that can fill this void in my life.

So I’m starting on It’s Okay, That’s Love, which centres on mental illnesses and the stigma faced by mentally ill patients. I also have Hyde, Jekyll and Me (which I’ll watch after all the episodes are out because waiting for a new episode each week is a bitch) and Kill Me Heal Me lined up. So please let them be good!

Reading material-wise, I’m reading Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta, which I read when I was 14 but need to reread to jog my memory before reading the sequel, The Piper’s Son. Also, I’m still on Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo because dammit the trilogy must not end!

Have you watched Pinocchio? (If not, why haven’t you???) How did you find it? Do you have any other drama or book recommendations? I’d love to hear from you! :0)

and the to-read list keeps growing

Another book update. So soon? Yes.

 

BOOKS TO READ:

 

1. Red Queen, by Victoria Aveyard

Expected publication: 26 March 2015

In a world where people are divided by the colour of their blood, silver or red, a girl finds herself endowed with magical powers. There’s rebellion, forced betrothal, and the struggle of the underdog (the protagonist belongs to the Reds, the inferior class). Kinda like Gattaca, come to think of it. Only with magic. And princes and princesses.

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Plus, that cover is GORGEOUS.

 

2. The Girl at Midnight, by Melissa Grey

Expected publication: 28 April 2015

This is purportedly a mix of Cassandra Clare’s City of Bones and Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone. An ancient race of people with feathers for hair and magic running through their veins are kept hidden from humans thanks to age-old enchantments. When her home is threatened by a centuries-old war, a runaway pickpocket decides to find the Firebird, something that can end it for good.

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3. Monstrous, by MarcyKate Connolly

Expected publication: 10 February 2015 

As Bookworm007 said:

Sounds insanely interesting!!!

A protagonist

…with the wings of a raven, the tail of serpent, and the razor-sharp vision of a cat?

…who rescues captive girls from an evil wizard and avoids human interaction?

…in love with a page boy but has yet to reveal her appearance to him?

…forced to question who the real monster is: the wizard, her father, or…..herself?

Lordy, sign me up for this adventurous ride!!!

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I’m inclined to agree.

(Seriously, how do these people come up with ideas like these??)

 

4. The Wrong Side of Right, by Jenn Marie Thorne

It says on Goodreads that “fans of Sarah Dessen and Huntley Fitzpatrick will enjoy this smart debut young adult novel, equal parts My Life Next Door and The Princess Diaries.”

Girl meets rebellious bad boy, family conflicts and duplicitous relationships amid a presidential campaign – all the ingredients of a Korean melodrama YA contemporary novel.

(Speaking of Korean melodramas, I’m currently watching Nice Guy – AKA Innocent Man. More *here!)

This could be good.

 

 

Good thing there are books ALREADY published so we don’t have to wait to immerse in awesomeness:

 

5. Dreams Underfoot, by Charles de Lint

Jilly paints wonders in the rough city streets, while Geordie plays the fiddle while dreaming of a ghost. The Angel of Grasso Street gather the fey and the wild and the poor and the lost; Gemmins live in abandoned cars and skells traverse the tunnels below; while mermaids swim in the grey harbor waters and fill the cold night with their song.

This book is “a must-read not only for fans of urban fantasy but for all who seek magic in everyday life”.

THAT WOULD BE ME, THANKS.

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(Published in 1993?? How did I not know of this book until now and how can I get my hands on one?!)

 

6. In the Night Garden, by Catherynne M. Valente

Published in 2006? How did I ever miss this?!

I mean, shape-shifting witches and wild horsewomen, heron kings and beast princesses, snake gods, dog monks, and living stars, all these stories inked on a girl’s eyelids that are clues to her hidden identity? I WANT TO GET LOST IN THIS BOOK ALREADY!!!

 


JULY READS:

 

1. Sinner (or rather, SINNER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!), by Maggie Stiefvater

Anything from the Mercy Falls series is bound to be good. And I say that with utmost conviction. Shiver was life-changing, and Sinner is only going to rock (pun intended – you’ll get it if you read the books!).

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(I did rush down to the bookstore during lunch to buy the book, but it’s not here yet. I know you’re thinking, Just buy it online, dinosaur! But I like the experience of heading down to the bookstore and making a purchase there, okay?)

 

2. The Midnight Thief, by Livia Blackburne

A con artist recruited by the Assassins Guild meets a palace knight intent on avenging his friend’s death. In my shopping basket now, please.

 

 

* So, Nice Guy.

It started out intriguing enough, with the male protagonist, a promising pre-med student, taking the blame for his childhood sweetheart’s accidental homicide. He goes to jail for a few years and comes out to find that the girl has moved on and married the CEO of some multinational company. (Nice.) He meets her stepdaughter, and makes use of her to get revenge on childhood not-so-sweetheart, but ends up falling for the daughter instead.

It’s a lot to digest, with a power struggle and backstabbing and deception and dead parents and sick sister and amnesia and car accidents and divided loyalties and personal agendas and OMG CALM YOUR HORSES PLEASE, SCRIPTWRITER.

That said, I’m going to finish watching it since I’m already three quarters of the way through (mostly by skipping the draggy bits). Plus, the male lead is easy on the eyes. He has an adorable smile, and fits perfectly into the sweet-nerdy-guy-turned-angsty-protagonist role, even if my dad thinks he has a fat face. Boo.

 

If you have any book or drama series to recommend, please share! I’m always in need of new narratives. Hope your week’s going great! :0)

June Read-List and Watch-List

Read-list: 

 

1. Midnight Thief, by Livia Blackburne

O.M.G. How awesome does the plot sound. Gotta love characters with conflicting agenda, when the love interest is also the antagonist. Can’t wait to read this!

 

2. The Girl from the Well, by Rin Chupeco

Yay for horror that doesn’t involve monsters and gore! A girl who hunts murderers meets a strange tattooed boy with a dark secret. Plus, creepy doll rituals and Japanese exorcisms. YUM.

 

3. Forget Me, by K.A. Harrington

“Psychological thriller with a romantic twist” is what it says on the Goodreads page. Reason enough to read it.

 

4. Of Metal and Wishes, by Sarah Fine

More horror. A unique setting. A girl who is drawn to the Ghost in a slaughterhouse where she assists her father in the medical clinic. The whole thing sounds very Phantom of the Opera-ish. And The Phantom of the Opera is one of the most haunting, beautiful books I’ve ever read.

 

5. We Were Liars, by E. Lockhart

This one has a very deliciously twisty plot.

And bonus reason to read the book: Maggie Stiefvater loves it.

 

6. Deep Blue, by Jennifer Donelly

I will never get tired of mermaid stories. This one’s about mermaid heroines who gather their forces across the 6 seas to prevent a war between the Mer nations. Sign me on.

 

7. Trust Me, I’m Lying, by Mary Elizabeth Summer

Grifters, con artists, swanky high school and its dirty politics, missing fathers. What’s not to love?

 

8. Inland, by Kat Rosenfield

This seems to contain elements of magical realism, and goodness knows I’ve been searching high and low for magical realism books. We need more of those, especially in YA! And you know what Toni Morrison said:

 

9. The Museum of Extraordinary Things, by Alice Hoffman

 

Speaking of magical realism, here’s one of the masters of that genre. I’m still in love with the last Alice Hoffman book I read, The Story Sisters. This one, though, is set in a freak circus. You can’t really go wrong with a setting like that. Remember Wonder Show by Hannah Barnaby? So yes, I have high hopes for this one.

 

10. The 57 Lives of Alex Wayfare, by M.G. Buehrlen

A 17-year-old who has visions of the past is actually a Descender, someone who can travel back in time by accessing Limbo, the space between Life and Afterlife. Alex is in fact one soul with fifty-six past lives. And each of them features this mysterious boy with “soulful blue eyes”. SO reading this.

 

What’s on your read-list? Any other recommendations?

 

 

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Watch-list: 

 

1. Dream High 2

Dream High was a pretty entertaining and compelling drama series, so hopefully the sequel won’t disappoint!

 

2. Pretty Little Liars

Yes, I’m late to the game. But I’ve heard it’s got a great twisty plot like Vampire Diaries, so I’m sold. There’s the stigma attached to PLL – a lot of people probably dismiss it as some high school drama series – but I’m hoping it will, like TVD, change my mind and wow me right from the first episode.

 

3. God’s Quiz 4 

One word: Donghae.

 

Also, this is the cutest thing you’ll see today:

(The boy, I mean. Not the fangirls.)

 

Okay, okay. Something cute that’s not for the fangirls:

I don’t know, bananana sounds catchier to me.

 

Happy mid-week! :0)

k-dramas: the winning formula (plus, your weekly mood-lifters!)

Despite my efforts to focus on writing Neverland, I finally decided to watch You Who Came from the Stars last week.

(Not that I’m validating my drama obsession, but I’ve found the more material I expose myself to – be it books or TV shows or music – the easier it is to coax the plot bunnies out, and the easier the words flow when I work on my stories. So I shall stick to this line of reasoning whenever I feel guilty about watching dramas when I could be writing. At least I’m not obsessively watching all the episodes in a day! Right? I totally pace myself – one episode a day – if only to make the show last longer.)

So it’s no secret that ever since Secret Garden,

I’ve been properly sold over by Korean dramas. I don’t watch a lot of them, though, just those that come highly recommended – and even then I don’t always follow through *cough* 49 Days *cough cough* Lie To Me.

But Secret Garden was INCREDIBLE. Thanks, Felicia, for recommending it! I am forever grateful.

It had a great story line: an arrogant CEO who, due to an fateful misunderstanding – falls in love with a poor stunt-woman?

 photo hyunbinyoucanleavenow_zpsf62e80f4.gif

Toss in a narcissistic washed-out pop star:

A body switch (a plot device done to death, but so funny in the hands of scriptwriter Kim Eun Sook):

A traumatic repressed memory that links the two leads together dramatically and you get a recipe for an undeniably entertaining series.

Plus, it’s got one of the most beautiful soundtracks I’ve ever heard for a k-drama – perhaps even THE most beautiful:

And a very watchable cast … by which I mean:

Hyun Bin! ❤

And, okay, her too:

Ha Ji Won

And the dialogue is simply hysterical:

It was all SO ENTIRELY PERFECT that I wrote a script for EN3271 Advanced Playwriting influenced by the mood of Secret Garden, and a novel, Until Morning, that was – I hope! – as funny and bittersweet and dramatic and whimsical as the drama.

Don’t you just love stories that inspire you to write your own stories?

Anyway, after Secret Garden and Heirs, I hadn’t really found another drama that I HAD to follow, mostly because I’m picky when it comes to dramas (and wouldn’t you be, if you were going to spend hours watching an entire series?): is the cast watchable, are the characters layered, is the story cliched, is the dialogue snappy or funny or insightful? I’ve tried watching a few since Heirs, including Bel Ami, starring Jang Geun Suk, but got bored after two episodes.

You Who Came From the Stars, though, is funnier and more gripping than I’d expected. I thought it was completely ridiculous at first. A 400-year-old alien (yes, really – think Clark Kent instead of E.T.) who is stuck on Earth and is finally about to go back to his own planet, but then he falls for this narcissistic actress who reminds him of his first love and things get complicated?

But with a murder subplot to keep things moving and raise the stakes, I haven’t been able to extricate myself from the drama since episode 2!

Actual dialogue from the drama! The female character is a bit on the psychotic side.

I’m on episode 13 now, so no spoilers if you’ve watched the latest episodes already! I’ll have to start looking for the next drama to get sucked into, though.

Find another, that’s what!

Any other recommendations?

While we’re on the topic of the success formula of k-dramas, here’s another cogent breakdown.

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Also, I started reading Fathomless, by Jackson Pearce over the weekend.

And can I just say, I am SO in love with this book! I read her earlier novels, Sisters Red (Red Riding Hood retelling):

And Sweetly (Hansel and Gretel retelling):

They were enjoyable enough, but didn’t really wow me in terms of plot or prose. Maybe because I have an obsession with mermaids – along with Peter Pan and the Little Prince and winged beasties – but Fathomless TOTALLY does it for me.

Plus, the prose is so much prettier this time, the setting painted more vividly. Jackson Pearce’s niche is fairytale retellings, and even though Fathomless is a retelling of The Little Mermaid, it has a very original plot without veering too much from the original story.

Jackson Pearce, nailed it

 photo Like_a_boss_zps78121e55.gif

So I raced down to the library yesterday and borrowed Cold Spell (The Snow Queen retelling) too:

Can’t wait to delve into this too! Big yay for folks who write good books!

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A little random, but lately, there’s this song that keeps buzzing in my head:

Gulliver, by Super Junior

I found this song COMPLETELY IRRITATING at first. But after hearing Donghae’s rapping bit at 1:15, I can’t get it out of my head. Dayyyum, that voice! (He’s the one on the left with the pretty face and nice guns, in case you’re wondering.)

Okay, okay. I’m done fangirling.

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I’m still not done reading Laini’s old blog – there are just too many things to learn from her, too much to enjoy!

For today, this:

… be willing to change anything and everything about the idea you thought you had. Nothing is set in stone. There’s a natural impulse to grip onto whatever your initial idea for the story was, but don’t. It may be that the reason you’re stuck is that there wasn’t enough there to begin with, or that it wasn’t quite right. If it was, you wouldn’t be stuck, right?

You have be rigorous. You don’t sit around waiting for the perfect idea to land on you like a butterfly. You go after it with a net. You climb out to the end of slender tree branches reaching for it.

Basically: think think think. Think in writing. Think far past anything you’ve come up with so far. Be willing to discard any of your fixed “sacred” ideas. Be willing even to tear down the very foundation of your story and replace it with something new, if that’s what you have to do.

I don’t know if she’ll ever see this, but THANK YOU, Laini, for sharing all your writing wisdom with us, and all your encouragements. I ❤ you big time.

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And now for some pretty:

Tsaritsyno Park in Moscow, Russia
Umbrella lights!

And some happy

Owl cookies!

And some funnies:

Miss The O.C.!

Have a great week, everyone! :0)