K Drama Review

The Time We Were Not So Dense

Annyeonghaseyo! This post might be a surprise to you because so far, my blog has been about nothing but books. I still enjoy book blogging, but I want to widen my horizons by writing about my other passions or interests, such as K dramas and K-pop music. Today, I’ll be reviewing The Time We Were Not in Love (also known as The Time I’ve Loved You), which is a contemporary K drama that I finished around two months ago. It’s been quite a while, but the story is still fresh in my mind because it stars one of my favorite Korean actresses, Ha Ji-won. In light of her royal aura and beauty, it’s no wonder that she has lots of admirers. The leading man, Lee Jin-wook, is charming in his own way; he’s also one of the reasons why I enjoyed the drama.

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Essentially, The Time We Were Not in Love depicts how best friendship can eventually blossom into something more. It follows Oh Hana (Ha Ji-won) and Choi Won (Lee Jin-wook), young professionals who have been friends for 17 years. The former is a progressive team leader in a fashion company, while the latter is a super amiable flight attendant. Since both of them are very passionate about their careers, they barely have time for romance. Strangely, their romantic relationships with other people are always unsuccessful. Hence, both of them remain unmarried at the age of 34. Really, it’s obvious that Oh Hana and Choi Won are perfect for each other. However, before they reach blissful enlightenment, Oh Hana’s annoying ex-boyfriend named Cha Seo-Hoo (Yoon Kyun-sang) gets in the way and decides that he wants her back. Stress and complications ensue, making viewers wonder if a happily ever after is even possible.

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If you’ve been reading my book reviews, you probably know that I utterly dislike instalove. I am not a fan of love at first sight because I cannot fathom how it can happen in real life. With that in mind, I enjoyed The Time We Were Not in Love mainly because Oh Hana and Choi Won’s relationship was very organic. Since they had been friends since they were in high school, they knew each other’s strengths, flaws, and more. It was funny how they could read each other like an open book; it made it impossible for them to keep secrets. The only thing that threatened to eliminate their mutual transparency was Cha Seo-Hoo, the infamous ex-boyfriend. In totality, the validity or authenticity of Oh Hana and Choi Won’s love could not be questioned because it was founded on much history.

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Another thing I liked was the chemistry between Oh Hana and Choi Won. Their unique and fascinating personalities complemented each other and made the scenes seem so natural. Interestingly, the same could be said of their physical appearances. Just looking at their pictures now makes me smile with fondness. I’m pretty sure that I’m not the only one who can see the sparks flying. I wouldn’t object if Ha Ji-won and Lee Jin-wook ended up together in real life. Hahaha.

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Oh Hana and Choi Won were very likable characters. I particularly admired Oh Hana because as far as her career was concerned, she wasn’t someone to be trifled with. After one of her colleagues “stole” her boyfriend, Oh Hana retained her dignity and just moved forward. All in all, Oh Hana wasn’t a catty woman, but she wasn’t a pushover, either. (According to a reliable source, Ha Ji-won generally doesn’t portray weak characters.)

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As for Choi Won, I was fond of him because he wasn’t the typical chaebol (rich dude) that I often see in K dramas. He had a very at-home, happy-go-lucky personality that counterbalanced Oh Hana’s workaholic tendencies. Furthermore, he was practically Oh Hana’s guardian angel; he was the perfect obstruction to Cha Seo-Hoo’s advances, and he never failed to show up whenever she needed a ride after getting drinking too much. Sometimes, Choi Won was selfless to a fault, constantly putting Oh Hana’s happiness over his own.

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The last thing that I liked about The Time We Were Not in Love was the family dynamics. I loved that Oh Hana had a healthy relationship with her parents (and unemployed brother). Most of the characters in the books I read have either bad or neglectful parents, so it was refreshing to take a break from that dreadful trope by watching this drama. Choi Won did have a neglectful mom, but I wasn’t annoyed because reconciliation was eventually achieved. I hope that I will find more Korean dramas that depict strong family bonds.

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Truth be told, my only problem with this K drama was Oh Hana’s indecisiveness. Her character arc was inconsistent because it involved both development and regression. I was annoyed that she succumbed to Cha Seo-Hoo, who was actually an infidel. I expected her to be wiser than that, especially since she was always with the vigilant Choi Won. If Oh Hana hadn’t listened to her unreliable heart, she would’ve avoided much pain and stress. True love was already waiting right in front of her, but she was too infatuated with the past to see it. I was so happy when she finally stopped being so dense.

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Ultimately, I gave The Time We Were Not in Love 4.5 out of 5 stars. I genuinely enjoyed it because of the great characters, touching family dynamics, and realistic romance. It’s not a K drama that warrants binge watching, but I highly recommend it to anyone looking for meaningful entertainment. Chalga! 😀

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Book Review

Under Love-tainted Skies

Under Rose-Tainted SkiesUnder Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When people say weird, what they really mean is different. And difference has never been a bad thing. —Luke

I resolved to finally pick up Under Rose-Tainted Skies because it had been on my TBR since 2017 and the pages had turned murky yellow. Hahaha. Also, someone told me that the story was similar to a book that I felt meh about: Everything, Everything. Basically, my expectations were kinda low, but everything worked out well at the end because this book took me by surprise. Out of the 20 books I’ve read this year, it’s the third one to get a perfect rating.

Plot-wise, Under Rose-Tainted Skies is indeed similar to Everything, Everything, in that it also features a female protagonist who cannot leave her home because of agoraphobia (and other mental complications). Furthermore, just like in Everything, Everything, the protagonist’s life “changes” when a handsome and inquisitive dude moves next door. Thankfully, that’s where the similarities end. For one thing, the mental illness in this book doesn’t turn out to be fabricated. AHEM, AHEM. Ugh, I need to stop before this review turns out to be a rant about another book.

One reason why I loved Under Rose-Tainted Skies was that it was surprisingly funny. It was weird because Norah’s mental health was anything but funny. In addition to agoraphobia, she had OCD and anxiety disorder. Her symptoms included an obsession with patterns and even numbers, panic attacks, self-harm, and more; she obviously didn’t have an easy life. Still, the author managed to discuss or explore these symptoms in a way that was simultaneously serious and lighthearted. The author’s writing style, combined with Norah’s sarcastic humor, made me laugh with fondness, not malice. I hope that makes sense. I will always remember how Norah antagonized the blackbird outside her window for singing too loudly. xD

Another reason for my rating was Norah herself. Since the book was written in first person, I was able to connect with her on a deep emotional level even though our thought processes were super different. I could understand her tendency to criticize herself as well as her fear of the great unknown. Just because she had anxiety disorder didn’t meant that all of her fears were irrational. I myself know what it’s like to be my own enemy. Just like Norah, I sometimes put myself down and look at the future with negativity. And just like Norah, I feel better when I hear the voice of reason. I genuinely loved this book because it taught me that no one on Earth has a completely “rational” or “benevolent” mind. Everyone has bouts of “crazy” once in a while.

Finally, I loved this book because of Norah’s support group, Luke in particular. As far as his treatment of Norah was concerned, he was the epitome of kindness. He sometimes triggered Norah, but it was only out of ignorance. He was a gentleman from the very beginning, and when he learned about Norah’s mental health, he became even more admirable. He respected Norah’s personal space, he taught her how to dream, and he was basically the sunlight to the darkness of her thoughts. Honestly, I had never encountered such an angelic male protagonist. I guess you can call him a great role model.

To be objective, I would have enjoyed this book more if the author had given more information about Norah’s jerk of a father. I just couldn’t fathom how he could abandon his family just like that. Oh well, that’s probably the point: some people simply care more about themselves than their family.

With all that said, it’s been quite a while since I gave a book 5 stars. Norah is a such a thorny but beautiful rose, while Luke is probably the nicest guy in the fictional world. And I must say, the book’s thriller of an ending is nothing short of perfection. This #OwnVoices novel really deepened my understanding of the complexities of mental illness, so I would be more than happy to reread it someday. ❤

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Author Interview

Q & A with B.T. Gottfred

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Happy Tuesday, bookworms! I recently finished The Handsome Girl & Her Beautiful Boy and gave it 4.5 stars. I really enjoyed reading this YA novel because it powerfully depicts the fluidity of masculinity and femininity. I’ve always been a fan of gender discourse, so this book was a pleasure to read. Hence, I’m very grateful that the author granted my wish for a written interview. I highly encourage you to pick up THGAHBB when it comes out next month. 😀 If you want to know my thoughts, feel free to check out my review. Happy reading! ❤


 

  1. What inspired you to write THGAHBB? Is the topic of gender stereotypes close to your heart?

“Almost all my books are born first with the character voices speaking inside my head. Unlike some of my books (like Nerdy and Dirty), I always knew Art and Zee would be in the same book opposite each other. So then the question of “If Art and Zee are voices in your head, are you gender and sexuality fluid?” arises and my answer is I think ALL people are, even if many if not most people don’t identify that way publicly or even consciously. So yes, this topic is close to my heart. ;)”

  1. Among all of the members of the LGBTQIA+ community, who do you think is the most marginalized/misunderstood nowadays?

“Trans people are going to be the most marginalized until there is a major break through in understanding gender. If not a total deconstruction and rebuilding of what gender even means. I have friends who are as progressive and liberal as one can be on many topics, yet are downright archaic when thinking about gender.”

  1. Is it possible to identify or label the sexual orientation of Art and Zee?

“They certainly try to make sense of it, in their own way, with the ‘Zert Scale’ (which is a bonus at the end of the book). But part of what both they (and I) are trying to do is say that labels and identification should only be used if they are (1) self defined and (2) self empowering. No one anywhere ever should be telling anyone else who they are or who they should love.”

  1. How much research did you have to do before (or while) writing  THGAHBB? Are you a scholar of Feminism?

“An academic scholar, no;) I’m far too lazy for such a feat. But I was raised by a feminist and I married one so I feel like my scholarship has been lived more than studied. I do think all any writer (or person for that matter) with any ounce of imagination has to do is imagine, “what if I was born differently than I am” and they would immediately realize that equal rights is the most important thing there is. Period.”

  1. What gender stereotypes do you dislike the most?

“Anything aimed at children. I have two small boys (2 and 4 years old) and you can see they pick things up from classmates and others such as “that’s a girl’s show” or “that’s a boy’s toy” and yet, when they are not being tricked into stereotypes, both of them love to sing princess songs and have their toenails painted like their mom. I guess in a broader sense, I hate any stereotypes that tries to limit people’s ability to be the person that makes them most happy.”

  1. If you had the chance to go on a picnic with one of your characters, whom would you pick and why?

“Asking me to pick one of characters is like asking me to pick one of my kids… just can’t do it. I will say that as for Art and Zee, I would bring Art for his joy and Zee for her strength.”

  1. When it comes to gender/sexuality, on which side are you on: nature or nurture?

“I’m on the side of only the individual has the power to decide who they are. There are dangers to both nature or nurture and I don’t want any individual being told who they are by anyone or thing else.”

  1. Are you friends with Cale Dietrich? Who are your YA author buddies?

“I do not know Cale, but I just followed him on twitter because of this question. 😉 Jessica Brody got me into YA, so I will always credit her first. I’m in a writers group with Gretchen McNeil and Jennifer Wolfe and they both helped a ton with my book. I have dozens of others friends in YA and meet more every week. I must say some of the nicest/kindest people in the world are YA writers.


About the author:
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B.T. Gottfred (Brad T. Gottfred) is a screenwriter, producer, director, playwright and young adult novelist. He wrote and directed the digital series THE BOONIES, which premiered on go90 in 2017. His debut novel, FOREVER FOR A YEAR, was released in July 2015 by Macmillan/Holt, followed by THE NERDY AND THE DIRTY in November 2016. His third book, THE HANDSOME GIRL AND HER BEAUTIFUL BOY, will be released in May of 2018.

 

Visit B.T. Gottfred’s website

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Book Review

Love Is Love

The Handsome Girl & Her Beautiful BoyThe Handsome Girl & Her Beautiful Boy by B.T. Gottfred

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Thank you, Macmillan, for giving me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

A man who reads effeminate may well be consistently heterosexual, and another one might be gay. We can’t read sexuality off of gender. —Judith Butler

Have you ever been subjected to gender stereotypes? That’s probably a rhetorical question. Hahaha. I myself have experienced being criticized for not conforming to traditional or hegemonic masculinity. Even though there are many kinds of masculinity, most people prefer only one: the kind that includes athleticism, big muscles, and other “macho” qualities. The same can be said of traditional femininity, which is typically tantamount to outward beauty, gentleness, and silence. In college, I learned about a feminist named Judith Butler. According to her, gender is a social construct or performance. In other words, your gender (behavior) isn’t determined by your sex (genitals); males aren’t necessarily “masculine,” and females aren’t necessarily “feminine.” Following this logic, I can’t help but think that gender stereotypes are stupid.

The Handsome Girl & Her Beautiful Boy is a novel that powerfully illustrates the latter truth. It’s the story of two teenagers who are bombarded by gender stereotypes. Because of their divergent looks and behavior, Zee’s and Art’s sexuality is always put into question. It eventually comes to a point where they themselves aren’t sure of their orientation. However, as Zee and Art become closer, they realize that gender is not as solid as people want it to be.

It was my first time to read a book by B.T. Gottfred, so I was pleasantly surprised by his humor and candor. He didn’t sugarcoat anything in this supposedly YA book. The emotions and conversations of the characters were raw, and the love scenes were pretty graphic. Hence, although this book features YA characters, its content is for a more mature audience. I personally did not enjoy the explicit scenes, but I commended the author for deviating from the norm, just like his characters. I plan to read more of his novels, so I guess I should prepare myself. xD

Zee and Art were unquestionably quirky and fascinating. I had never encountered such a weird yet perfect couple. Zee was turned on by Art’s effeminate looks and behavior, and vice versa. There were times when I was so confused because I didn’t know if they were straight, gay, or bisexual. Seriously, there were so many mixed signals, and it was impossible to label them using gender stereotypes. In the end, it occurred to me that that was probably the author’s intention. Zee and Art were in love with each other, so what was the point of labels?

In addition to gender discourse, this book had lots of family drama. Zee suddenly met her biological father after losing her mother to cancer, and Art’s parents separated after one of them became unemployed. I found their problems to be of equal magnitude, but I was particularly invested in Zee’s dilemma. She had a lot of hang-ups to address before she could start a relationship with her dad. That being said, I loved Art because he was selfless enough to set aside his issues and help Zee attain reconciliation.

Overall, I gave The Handsome Girl & Her Beautiful Boy 4.5 stars because it was very funny and insightful. Readers who are familiar with Judith Butler’s theory of gender performativity will definitely enjoy it. Art and Zee powerfully illustrate the fluidity of masculinity and femininity, so this book is perfect for anyone who hates gender stereotypes.

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Book Review

Tickle Me Orange

Orange: The Complete Collection, Volume 1Orange: The Complete Collection, Volume 1 by Ichigo Takano

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Maybe it’s impossible to live life without any regrets. Even when you know the future…you’ll still mess up.

Orange was a wonderful introduction for me to manga. Yup, I’m a manga neophyte! 😀 I’m sorry I joined the bandwagon only now. I am not really fond of reading on electronic devices, so I deigned to buy the actual, printed collections regardless of their…high prices. Now, I’m happy to say my monetary sacrifice was worth it.

After reading the first half of the manga, I can say that Orange is predominantly a heartwarming story of love and friendship. If I were to compare it to an actual novel, I think its plot could be likened to that of a YA contemporary, with an interesting element of sci-fi (i.e. time travel) on the side. It sounds like the perfect summer read, doesn’t it?

I’m deliberately being vague because I have yet to read the second collection. But so far, I am primarily invested in the characters, who are endearing both individually and collectively. Orange gives its readers six unique characters to choose from, an equal division of three boys and three girls. Furthermore, each of them has an important role to play, and if anyone of them is “removed,” the beauty and intricacy of the story would be diminished. It is obvious that the author values all of her characters, and I cannot help but feel the same way.

As a final note, the anime adaptation of Orange is currently ongoing, and I am having a delightful time watching it after finishing a chapter of the manga. Also, I really don’t care if Orange is classified under the Shoujo genre. I assure you that its message resonates across both sexes. Hmm. Girls are not criticized for reading Shonen, are they? 😉

P.S. Thank you JesseTheReader for inspiring me to read this manga. 🙂

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Book Review

The Way You Disappoint Me

The Way You Make Me FeelThe Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Thank you, Macmillan, for giving me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

People who would be there for you even when you messed up and behaved like a jerk? They were the good stuff.

I’m sure that I’m not the only one who has noticed that people of color (e.g. Koreans, Filipinos, and more) are becoming popular in literature nowadays. Readers continue to crave for more diverse books, whether it be in regards to race, religion, and more. With that in mind, books like this are nice because they can make all kinds of readers feel represented.

By looking at the pretty cover, one can easily deduce that The Way You Make Me Feel is about an Asian girl. It follows Clara Shin, who is both Korean and Brazilian. She is particularly famous (or infamous) for her ability to cause mayhem and piss people off. After Clara gets into a catfight with her African-American nemesis named Rose Carver, both of them are obliged to spend the whole summer working on Clara’s dad’s food truck, the KoBra. They continue to get on each other’s nerves but eventually realize that it is possible for them to be friends. To make things more interesting, Hamlet, a hunky, Chinese barista nearby, seems to be crushing on Clara. Get ready to be entertained by a story of family, love, and friendship.

For the most part, this book was a fun read. I gave 3.5 stars to I Believe in a Thing Called Love last year, so I expected to have a similar reading experience. Unsurprisingly, I encountered the same virtues: diverse characters, beautifully simple writing, and touching family dynamics. I also didn’t have a hard time finishing this book because the content was very easy to process or take in.

I particularly loved the close relationship between Clara and her dad, Adrian. Adrian practically raised Clara on his own. Jules was an Instagram celebrity who couldn’t stay in one country, so she wasn’t very involved in raising Clara. Hence, it was interesting that Clara seemed to favor her mom, who clearly didn’t prioritize the right things. There wasn’t supposed to be any competition, but I was on Adrian’s side all the way because he never made Clara feel neglected. He was a permissive parent at the beginning of the book, but thankfully, he became wiser and stricter. At the end, Clara couldn’t have asked for a better dad.

Clara and Rose’s hate-to-love relationship was also fascinating. I was surprised that even worst enemies could become best friends. After spending much time together, they learned to understand and accept each other. I didn’t feel sad at all that Clara decided to “ditch” her old “friends” who only brought out the worst in her.

As for the romance between Clara and Hamlet, it was sweet but instalovey. Even Rose thought so! Haha. She was shocked to learn that Clara and Hamlet became a couple after just one date. LOL. Looking on the bright side, it was nice that Hamlet did not pressure Clara to confess her love for him. According to Hamlet, they would follow “Clara Time,” not “Hamlet Time”. That was such a cute and feminist thing to say.

The only problem I had with this book was…Clara. She was super annoying, especially at the beginning of the book. In fact, she was the one who made me understand the concept of girl hate because she had nothing but derogatory things to say about the females she encountered. And she had a public altercation with Rose, for crying out loud. Clara wasn’t this mean or aggressive to any of the male characters, so I couldn’t help but describe her attitude as a manifestation of girl hate. With that in mind, it was a miracle that she was able to make a best friend out of Rose.

Furthermore, it bugged me that Clara kept on comparing Hamlet to a dog. Chinese people are kinda known for their willingness to eat dogs, so go figure. 😦 I’m not sure if this counts as racism. Thus, please correct me if I’m wrong. Is it okay for Asians to be racist to fellow Asians? Ugh. Whatever.

Overall, I liked reading The Way You Make Me Feel mainly because of its emphasis on family dynamics. Still, in retrospect, some of its themes/aspects were contradictory (e.g. female friendship and girl hate, racial diversity and racism). If you loved I Believe in a Thing Called Love, you might be disappointed in this book. I hope that you’ll enjoy it more than I did.

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