7.22.2016

5 K-Drama Reviews: Who Are You; Heirs; Hyde, Jekyll, and I; Oh My Venus; Orange Marmalade

I have a new page just for K-culture! I'll be keeping track of the dramas I watch, the K-pop I listen to, and a few other things on that page. 




Who Are You ★★★★★  ♥
Airdate: 2013
Genre: Supernatural Romance Mystery
Episode Count: 16
Detective Yang Si Ohn (So Yi Hyun) awakens from a six-year coma and discovers she now has the eerie ability to see and interact with spirits. She’s paired with Cha Gun Woo (Ok Taecyeon), a cop who believes only in cold facts and solid evidence. As the two begrudgingly work with one another, they develop a knack for solving cases involving supernaturally charged objects in the lost and found center — and eventually develop a lot of romantic tension. Just when things start to make sense, a paranormal love triangle emerges when Si Ohn’s dead boyfriend, former elite officer Lee Hyung Joon (Kim Jae Wook), appears as a spirit... Description via Dramafever.
There are some noticeable faults to this drama, such as trained police officers who have no idea how to hold a gun, defend themselves, or how to low key investigate a crime at all. But all of that is swallowed up in the story as it unfolds. This one has some mystery to it as Si Ohn, the main lead, attempts to discover just what put her into a coma six years earlier. And she has to do all of that while dealing with her newfound skill of being able to see ghosts. While I think a bit more could have come of this ability (some of it is explained and utilized, but only when necessary to the plot), I like how things turned out in the end.

The most compelling part of this drama is the relationship between the main character, her previous boyfriend's ghost, and the new love interest. The nuances to such a situation are handled so well, leaving us unsure of how, exactly, we want things to end. Do we want a miracle to happen that somehow allows her to be with her almost-fiance? Or do we want her to move on and accept the one who now hopes to take care of her? Will all parties be satisfied with the outcome? The result of this dilemma leaves us in tears, though there is a satisfying conclusion at the end of this one.


The Heirs ★★★★★ ♥
Airdate: 2013
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Leads: Lee Min Ho and Park Shin Hye
Episode Count: 20
A worthy successor to the international hit Boys Over Flowers, Heirs follows a group of privileged, elite high school students as they are groomed to take over their families' business empires. These wealthy students seem to have everything under control–except their love lives. Kim Tan (Lee Min Ho) is heir to the Empire Group sent to study abroad in the U.S. In reality it's a form of exile, as his elder half-brother back home (Choi Jin Hyuk) schemes to take over the family business. While in the States, Kim Tan bumps into Cha Eun Sang (Park Shin Hye), who's arrived from Korea in search of her older sister. He feels himself falling for her, never realizing that she's the daughter of his family's housekeeper. When his fiancée Rachel Yoo (Kim Ji Won) arrives to bring him back to Korea, his heart is torn between love and duty. Meanwhile, Rachel's half-brother Choi Young Do (Kim Woo Bin) develops his own crush on Eun Sang. Who said being a rich, beautiful high school student was easy?
Description via Dramafever.
This is what Boys Over Flowers should have been. While it has many faults, I think the re-do of the B/F storyline presented here is a good one. It has more realistic circumstances and resolutions, and I feel the characters mesh well in this drama. From the leads to the supporting characters, the relationships and conflicts leave a much better taste in your mouth. For one thing, I love how Eun Sang stands her ground and makes decisions herself for much of the drama. I also like the sacrifices made by other characters such as Kim Tan. And rest assured: you won't find these characters suddenly in a meaningless amnesia storyline (thank you K-drama gods).

A lot of people have complained about the beginning episodes while the story is set in Cali, and I guess it would be a bit awkward to get through if you aren't used to odd accents. I grew up with one parent speaking broken, accented English, and conversing with people who also have accents, so it really didn't bother me. I also don't believe other countries have to hire actors who can speak perfect English; Hollywood doesn't hire actors with perfect British accents (to the bane of Brits everywhere), yet we accept their movies with no questions. This seems no different to me. (Rant over.) It's only three episodes anyway, then the story moves back to Korea and the awkwardness is gone.


Airdate: 2015
Genre: Romantic Comedy-ish
Leads: Hyun Bin and Han Ji Min
Episode Count: 20
Goo Seo Jin (Hyun Bin) reaches an all-time low when he uses his power as a theme park director to decommission Wonderland's popular circus. Refusing to give in to the demands of her frosty boss, ringleader Jang Ha Na (Han Ji Min) puts up a fight, but is thrown off guard when Seo Jin's secret persona reveals itself with genuine kindness. In the battle to save her circus, Ha Na realizes she must tease out Seo Jin's brighter side with magic, wonder and love, but who's listening — Jekyll or Hyde?
Description via Dramafever.
This one began with such promise that I was really excited to watch it. That excitement faded a bit somewhere in the middle when the same things kept happening over and over again. Honestly, how many times can one person fool everyone else involved and still get away with it? How many failed attempts at kidnapping and/or murder will one person try until they give up? The culprit is clear from his/her first appearance without a mask.

And then there's the Hyde/Jekyll issue. I liked it at first, then it became bothersome. It took the main character FOREVER to find out what we viewers knew from the very first episode. Then she willfully ignored the positive or negative aspects of each personality, depending on how those aspects fit her own assumptions.

As for positives, I like the resolution that was found, both with the culprit and the main characters. It ended pretty much how I suspected it would, but the ending, at least, was well done. I can positively say that this is the first drama where I've been conflicted over two leads who are actually the same person.


Oh My Venus ★★★
Airdate: 2015
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Leads: So Ji Sub and Shin Min Ah
Episode Count: 16
Although Kang Joo Eun (Shin Min Ah) was once considered the most beautiful girl in her hometown, her workaholic tendencies as a lawyer have taken a drastic toll. On top of being overworked and overweight, the former so-called “Venus of Daegu” is crushed when her long-term beau, Im Woo Sik (Jung Gyu Woon), dumps her for another woman.
Meanwhile, Kim Young Ho (So Ji Sub) — a mysterious personal trainer who works incognito as “John Kim” — flees Los Angeles, amidst rumors that he and his ultra-famous starlet client are romantically involved. Devastated by the turn of events, Joo Eun pours herself into a business trip, but suddenly passes out from stomach pains on the return flight. As luck would have it, Young Ho promptly rescues her (from a tummy corset she’s been wearing to slim down her curves).
Though they initially clash and part on a sour note, a turn of events convinces Joo Eun that Kim Ji Yong (Henry Lau) — a member of Young Ho’s team — is indeed the famed John Kim. Threatening to blow his cover, Joo Eun tracks down his athletic entourage and blackmails Young Ho, Ji Yong and MFA fighter Jang Soon Jung (Sung Hoon) into becoming her trusty personal trainers.

On a mission to get even with Woo Shik and Soo Jin by shedding pounds and emotional baggage, Joo Eun’s optimism and determination eventually warm the cold and stoic exterior of her control-freak coach. In his biggest challenge yet, Young Ho musters all of his stubborn perfectionism into whipping Joo Eun’s body and heart back into shape—discovering along the way that she’s exactly what he needs to move past his own issues.
Description via Dramafever.
This one gets the award for ten minutes ruining the entire drama. I don't think I'm alone when I say that the ending killed the whole thing for me. I can't go into details without spoiling everything, but if you watch this one, be prepared for a sudden downward spiral that causes you to lose all hope and joy in life.

Negatives first: the ugly/pretty fat/skinny culture. This seems to be a running theme in K-dramas, but it was especially present in this one, as that's the theme. The lead is ugly because she's fat, and is considered pretty only when she loses weight. The male lead makes sure she's aware of this all the time. His excuse is that "healthy is pretty," which is just a clever way of saying skinny is pretty. (Because it's impossible to be thick and pretty, right?) This is why another character passes out trying to achieve this "healthy" look. This is literally my only beef with this drama, but because it's a theme that runs throughout and is constantly brought up by all characters involved, it's the reason why I only gave it 3 stars. It really irks me that one of the ultimate insults in K-dramas is telling a woman that she's ugly, and there's plenty of that here.

Other than that, the romance in this one is pretty sweet. I really like Shin Min Ah and So Ji Sub together. They have a lot of chemistry on-screen. There are plenty of swoon-worthy moments to make up for some of my above beef. Despite the fact that this is another rich man/poor woman storyline, it was handled really well and I was happy with the conclusion (minus those last ten minutes).



Orange Marmalade ★★★★

Airdate: 2015
Genre: Romance
Episode Count: 12
Despite a 200-year-old treaty between humans and vampires, both races still don't get along. Amidst the looming tension, Jung Jae Min (Yeo Jin Goo), a posh yet kindhearted high school student, quickly falls for the mysterious new girl Baek Ma Ri (Seol Hyun). But can Ma Ri conceal her true vampire identity and give love an honest chance? If these star-crossed lovers can find the courage to make the leap, Jae Min and Ma Ri may just be the key to a final resolution between humans and vampires...
Description via Dramafever.
Squee! This drama was unexpectedly good. I began watching it because it's about vampires, and I was looking for something supernatural after watching Who Are You. There are some things I wish it had done a better job with, such as explaining more about the vampires themselves. The only information that is revealed is whatever is pertinent to the story. Everything else is left up to our imaginations, so we never find out who controls all of the vampires, nor do we find out who signed the original vampire/human peace treaty. While these are small details, they are important for believable world-building.

Despite these things, I feel the show was done very well. It's about star-crossed lovers, and we get to see two of their lifetimes in the show. It was jarring at first to have the show set in modern times, then to have it switch back 200 years. I almost quit watching at that point because I was too invested in what had already taken place nowadays. I'm really glad I kept going, though, because going back in time shows sides to the characters that we need to see in order to understand their modern-day actions and behaviors. I liked both time periods a lot, and was sad to leave each one.

This is a sweet high school romance with the nice addition of history and the supernatural (and even some Kpop). It isn't perfect, but I enjoyed it anyway.
Fair warning: be prepared for some major second male lead syndrome!


What are some of YOUR favorite Kdramas?
And if you've seen any of these, what did you think of them?

6.26.2016

4 Korean Drama Reviews: My Descent Into The Kdrama Rabbit Hole

I have recently been introduced to Korean dramas, thanks to the suggestions of many friends. Needless to say, I fell HARD for these shows! I have been watching them like crazy, and can't get enough. Though I'm sure these have been reviewed many times over, I thought I would leave my thoughts regarding four of the shows I have watched.
Title links will take you to the show on Dramafever where you can watch them for free (this is where I watch them). Teh descriptions also come from DF. I'm not endorsing them, nor am I getting paid or compensated for any of this...I'm just lazy, and they have all the info. :) Links to actor profiles will take you to their actor profiles on Dramafever--mainly because I think it's hilarious that they even give you the actors' blood types.



The Princess's Man ★★★★★  ♥
Airdate: 2011
Genre: Historical Romance
Episode Count: 24
Princess Se Ryung is the fearless and strong-willed daughter of Grand Prince Su Yang. Seung Yoo is a noble "old soul" who captures her heart. The only problem is that their fathers are powerful rivals, and both will stop at nothing to defeat the other and ascend the throne. Featuring breathtaking cinematography and gorgeous locations, The Princess's Man is a lush historical romance is widely loved, and will capture your heart. This epic Romeo and Juliet-style romance features Moon Chae Won ( Shining Inheritance ) and Park Shi Hoo ( Iljimae ) as the star-crossed lovers. Description via Dramafever.
The majority of Kdramas I've been watching have been historicals, and this is my favorite purely historical one yet! It ripped my heart out many times, and I cried endlessly because of it--which is just how I like my historicals. I admit that I haven't had much experience with Asian history until I began watching Korean dramas. What a world that has been opened up to me! I thought I enjoyed European history, but I believe Asian history is even more interesting and enjoyable. The clothing, the honor, the familial loyalty. *Sigh*

This story gives Sejo of Joseon (the one who took over the throne via a coup) a fictional daughter, Se Ryung, who then goes on to upend his world (with a good reason as to why she isn't in the historical records). I truly admire Se Ryung. She is passionate, strong-willed, and selfless. She also loves her family very dearly. We watch as she goes from taking small risks such as stealing glances at someone, to secretly switching places with the Princess for her daily lessons, to openly disavowing her own parents (a very big and risky move at the time) because she doesn't agree with her father's morals. She is fearless, as long as her actions benefit those she cares for.

I think one of the biggest reasons I enjoyed this show was its true-to-the-time political intrigue and drama. Things happen as they really would have at the time, meaning the deepest friendship and familial ties are tested over and over. People you fall in love with die, and you find your allegiances changing as the story moves on and the characters themselves grow and change. This is the real Game of Thrones (and a clean one, at that), and because of that there is so much restraint to the actions of some characters, and so much must be conveyed via a mere glance, or words with double meanings. We see entire family trees destroyed, and other family trees made anew, as those in power and those who seek power struggle and fight.

Along with all of this are relationships of every kind that grow, break, grow again, and are tested even more. The romance is tragic at times, and beautiful at others. And through it all, the overarching theme is forgiveness: can it be given? Would it be worth it? Will pride get in the way of it, or will love overcome? The actors portray these characters' dilemmas very well, and you'll have a hard time guessing how any one character will respond to a situation.

If you watch any historical, I really recommend this one. Just be prepared for your heart to break over and over.


Faith (The Great Doctor) ★★★★★ ♥
Airdate: 2012
Genre: Historical Fantasy/Romance
Leads: Lee Min Ho and Kim Hee Sun
Episode Count: 24
Lee Min Ho stars in this thrilling fantasy epic, as an elite warrior in 1300s Korea who travels to the 21st century to find a doctor capable of healing the Queen. In a comic twist, his search for a doctor with godlike abilities leads him to a popular plastic surgeon. When she refuses to believe his outlandish story, he kidnaps her, dragging her back into the past to save the Queen. Will this stoic warrior give up his code of honor and choose love over war, and will this career woman ever consider a life less modern? Only time will tell—literally.
Description via Dramafever.
This is officially my favorite Kdrama so far (TPM was my favorite until this one, but I like them for different reasons). It combines my favorite things into one show: romance, history, comedy, and fantasy. I thought it was strange in the beginning because I think they were working out how much magical power they wanted the characters to have/use (compare the powers and character strength in the beginning to the powers and character strength in the end, and you'll see how much they changed this). However, I think the magic use was fair, and done well. I like that the MC relies on his fighting skill more than his powers. I also like that there are limits to the powers of all involved. One doesn't have full control of his powers, another is like X-Men's Rogue, having to take her glove off if she wants to use hers, etc.; there are powers in this world, but there are also rules that follow the laws of nature.

One of the most interesting things about the show is that it isn't the villains' magical powers that cause so much fear amongst the "good guys," but rather the villains' political powers. This really sets the scene for the historical aspects of the show, and allows for more interesting twists in the plot. I loved all the intrigue that takes place. I especially love the portrayal of the King. He was just so human; able to admit his faults, and to ask his followers for advice or help. This very aspect of his personality becomes a major plot point, endearing not only viewers to him, but also key characters in the show.

The main relationship develops in a sweet way, and we get some very touching moments because of the circumstances. I adore these two in these roles together. They did so well! I think this is one of the deepest relationships I have seen in a Kdrama, and the way it develops is just so satisfying and sweet. Think Beauty and the Beast for this one. <3

There are also relationships between other characters that are interesting and compelling, creating a well-rounded storyline. I love the relationships between King and Queen, friend and foe, Calabash families, and even doctor and patients. On top of all this is fantastic humor that comes out at just the right moments to make you laugh out loud (X-Men moment, anyone?).

*Le sigh.* I could watch this one over and over. If you aren't big on historicals this is a good one to watch because it has so many other aspects to it. There is also the fact that the MC is from our own time period, bringing with her questions and explanations about history that create a softer landing for those who aren't familiar with it.


Airdate: 2009
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Episode Count: 25
At the prestigious Shin Hwa High School in Seoul, four boys comprise the group known as the Flower Four. The crème de la crème of the most powerful families from Korea, these spoiled, rebellious, flirtatious and cruel boys rule the school. Enter Jan Di, a girl of humble upbringing who is accepted into Shin Hwa on a swimming scholarship after accidentally saving the life of a Shin Hwa student. Not one for following the rules blindly, Jan Di faces immediate scrutiny from the entire school and in particular the boys of the Flower Four and their leader, Goo Jun Pyo, who dislikes her instantly. Through her charm and undying optimism, she slowly begins to capture the hearts of those around her, even the icy boys of the F4.
Description via Dramafever.
I think this is one of those shows that you have to watch upon your entry into Korean dramas just to see the show that set off so many fashion trends, and launched the career of the famous hearthrob, Lee Min Ho (totally fangirling over here).

I want to start off by saying that I already had something against this show before I even began watching. I hate Gossip Girl-like storylines, so books, shows, or movies of a similar nature annoy me. Snotty rich kids who have no boundaries or supervision, and who use their money to do whatever they want is a storyline that I seriously despise. Basically, take what I say with a grain of salt, because there were things in this show that really irked me because of this bias. However, this show came highly recommended, so I decided I needed to at least watch it once.

Needless to say, there was a lot that I did not like about the show. For one thing, the first half takes place primarily at school or during school days, yet there are only two times total (I counted) in the show that we ever see a teacher, administrator, or school security of any kind. There are classroom scenes where no teacher is ever present. There are many examples of fighting, bullying, egging, attempted rooftop suicide, and even a fire alarm goes off without one teacher, parent, or administrator being present. There is one 30-ish second scene with a teacher of some sort teaching the F4 in their special classroom. And then there is finally a scene with the school principle--yay! Except the scene is just one where his job is being threatened by one of the characters, and he caves to demands. So how and when do these kids actually learn anything at this prestigious school? Why is it one of the top schools in the country? Because I guarantee if these things were attempted at an actual private school all students involved would be expelled immediately. It must be one of those "magic of TV" things that we mere mortals can't understand. And don't get me started on Jan Di's parents--the ones who have no problems any of the multiple times that she fails to come home until the next morning.

All this aside, there are some redeeming qualities to the show. Once F4 goes to university, the relationships all around become more meaningful. They no longer participate in petty grievances, and they seem to grow up a little. I did really like Jun Pyro's character arc. He goes from angsty, naive, and terrorizing rich kid, to responsible, loving, and fearless adult. Jun Pyro and Jan Di's relationship is what made me admire the show, at least a little bit. She's courageous, and without even meaning to she molded Jun Pyro into a man worthy of her. She didn't ask for any of the bad things that happened to her, nor did she deserve them, but she works through each one while remaining the smiling, caring person that she is. She reminds me a lot of Elinor Dashwood.

So, basically this show was a flop for me, but there were moments of wisdom and perseverance that redeemed it a bit, especially among the side characters. I don't think it will ever be a favorite, but I've at least seen it now.


Descendants Of The Sun ★★★★
Airdate: 2016
Genre: Action Romance
Leads: Song Joong Ki and Song Hye Gyo
Episode Count: 19 (technically 16 episodes with 3 bonus scene compilations)
It's love at first sight for special forces Captain Yoo Shi Jin (Song Joong Ki) when he meets a beautiful doctor (Song Hye Kyo) who treats his wounds. Over before it can truly begin, the two separate due to their opposite values -- one being a soldier who takes lives, and the other a doctor who fights to save them. Almost a year later, a fateful reunion takes place in Uruk, causing them to work together. Can Shi Jin and Mo Yeon overcome their biggest hurdle, or was it never meant to be?
Description via Dramafever.
Descendants is--so far--the most risque Kdrama that I've come across. It has the most over-the-head references to sex, along with the most passionate kissing I've seen in a Kdrama (whoa there!). Yet it being a Kdrama means that these things are still pretty chaste, and I would only call it PG in regards to intimacy. However, in areas such as drinking and violence, I would call it PG-13. Like I said, I have been mainly watching historical dramas, so it may be that this is the norm with the modern dramas, but this was the first one I came across with so much of it.

In other regards, the show is quite great. It features several compelling side stories ranging from familial relationships, to friendships, to some very sweet romances. I was just as invested in the happenings of secondary characters as I was in the relationship of the main characters, and the writers did a great job of making every on-screen moment count.

In regards to the main couple: *sigh.* I love their dynamic: his unfailing cheerfulness, and her caring reserve. There are many sweet and tender moments where actions say more than words ever could. In one scene Shi Jin simply ties Mo Yeon's shoelace, and more love and care is conveyed through that action than anything.

The one thing I didn't enjoy about the romance was how quickly deep feelings were developed. I believe we were two episodes in (and the MCs had only seen each other three times) before they were saying how much they had missed each other. Shi Jin tells Mo Yeon that he missed her "like a man." So we never get to see those initial feelings develop, they just appear. However, despite this, the rest of the relationship development from there on out happens in a natural way.

The humor is very on point in this drama. I found myself laughing so often! There's a great balance between romance, humor, and action. I did cry a few times, and there are some sad events that are sure to make anyone cry. I think part of what made it so emotional was the great camera angles and scenery. This is my favorite drama in this regard, as I feel it has the best camera work that I've seen. It's comparable to Pearl Harbor, in that it utilizes scenery and camera angles to raise the emotional impact.

Lastly, get ready for some odd American accents. There are characters from many different countries in this drama, however there are also a lot of characters that are defined as American. These "Americans" have Australian, Russian, and a few other accents that I couldn't place. While I didn't mind, it does sound a bit odd coming from a supposedly American Special Forces team. It was also interesting to see how Americans are portrayed in this one. The first American shown had anger issues, threw his knife at the Korean team during a joint operation, and then cracked a "yo mama" insult for good measure. :D


What are some of YOUR favorite Kdramas?
And if you've seen any of these, what did you think of them?

4.12.2016

Unleash The Storm by Annette Marie | Book Review

Unleash The Storm by Annette Marie (Steel & Stone #5)
Publisher:Annette Marie
Format: ebook
Genre: Urban Fantasy, YA
Publication Date: 4 March, 2016
Piper thought she could handle the Sahar, the most powerful magical weapon in existence. She thought she could protect her loved ones and stop a war. She thought she could make a difference.

She was wrong, and her mistakes were paid for in blood.

Leaving her world—and her failures—behind, she retreats to the Underworld with Ash and the other draconians. They forge deep into long abandoned mountains, the first draconians to fly the valleys and passes in centuries—or so they thought. Until now, Ash’s mysterious heritage has been nothing but a name, but his presence does not go unnoticed. A new danger stalks him, one that may be even greater than what they escaped.

Cut off from the power she’d come to rely on and lost in a world where she doesn’t belong, Piper has never felt so hopeless. But she must find her strength, and find it quickly, before she loses Ash to an ancient power he can’t fight, before her home is devastated by the daemon war, and before her mind, body, and soul are consumed by the Sahar’s insidious magic.

"Loss can be like chains holding you in place or a fire pushing you onward. We each choose every day what it will be to us.”
-Unleash The Storm by Annette Marie

Ugh, this book. It ripped my heart out, put it back together, then did it again. This is what I get when I ask for some maturity in my YA reads--mature, heart-wrenching, realistic finales. (Cue tears.)

For a little while in the beginning the book felt like it was all over the place. A lot happens, and many discoveries take place, along with the obligatory changes in mission due to those discoveries. However, the many threads spun in the beginning and in previous books come together nicely in the end, creating a powerful ending that is just as satisfactory as we've all hoped for, five books later. That is, except for in one aspect, but as I said above: I asked for maturity and this is the price.

I really like Piper in this book. She has truly grown into the best possible consulate/daemon/friend/girlfriend/daughter/human being. Her relationships with those around her are extremely important, and she nurtures all of them in surprising and insightful ways. No longer is she the damsel in distress; she's the one doing most of the rescuing, and her confidence to do so shows in her improved fighting skills and decision-making ability.

Ash has also grown right along with her, finally letting her fight her own battles, and empowering instead of hindering her. He also finally steps up and begins to take on the role of a leader. Instead of determined defiance, he is now the determined and confident leader the draconians have always needed.

Overall, this is a very satisfying conclusion. While there are some heart-wrenching moments, there are also touching moments to balance them out. The maturity and depth we've seen glimpses of in previous books is now present in force in each of the characters. Surprising allegiances are made, and even more surprising separations take place.

If you've been reading this series and aren't sure if you want to pick this one up: go for it. You'll enjoy it. Just be prepared for the shocking, but mature decisions made at the end.

Read this if:
...you enjoy urban fantasy, level-headed characters, and dire circumstances.

Content Warning
*This section may contain some spoilers about content!*
Highlight between the brackets to reveal the text.
{Typical war violence, though not graphic; some kissing.}
Temp. Guide


Previous Books in the Series:

Purchase Unleash The Storm:
Annette Marie:
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