Monthly Favorites · Uncategorized

April Favorites 2017

I think April is turning out to my lucky month because for the past 3 years, judging from my monthly favorites post, nothing especially bad seems to happen. I wish I could stay cocooned in April for a few more months but shit is already starting to catch up to me so gotta deal with that somehow.

Coincidentally, last April, I posted hiking pictures and this year I’m doing the same thing with 2 of my friends. This hike didn’t count as a hike so much as it was a stroll through some well-worn sandy paths with 1 “steep” hill but considering my level of physical activity on a daily basis, it was just right.

 

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Spot the human in the picture.

 

It’s kind of a tradition for us to get ramen whenever we hang out so that’s always a plus even though the ramen was salty af. But on to more food, I tried Dunkin Donuts for the first time..and was disappointed although the cronuts would have been sooooo much better had there not been peanut butter on it just saying.

My friend recently got accepted into medical school and I’m so happy for her. We went out to celebrate with other friends. We went to this nice place with a really nice view of the beach.

 

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Please summer, give me opportunities to wear this pretty romper.

 

I have one podcast favorite for April and it’s so good. I first discovImage result for the bright sessionsered this through Evi @ Adventuring Through Pages where she talks about her favorite fictional dramas that’s told through podcasts and this one sounded really interesting to me and it’s so good. You need to listen to it.  It’s called The Bright Sessions and essentially it follows a therapist as she records her sessions with her clients who all have supernatural abilities. Each episode follows a session with a different person with a different ability and then it repeats with the same people. As we move along through the episodes, we start to question the therapist’s motives and we find out there is a bigger and darker story arc than we initially thought. I really liked the different abilities. There’s a person who can time travel, another who can sense the emotions of other people etc. etc. Highly recommended.

Of course, I have some music favorites this month.

  • Fine – Taeyeon

Cheers to yet another Taeyeon hit. I continue to love her voice more and more with every new song. Also her music videos are always A+’s imo.

  • I’m the One – DJKhaled & Justin Beiber ft. Quavo, Chance the Rapper, and Lil Wayne

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The music video is stupid and the lyrics are dumb but I could never resist a catchy song. I’m basic ok?

  • Chocolate – The 1975
  • Sing Street soundtrack – John Carney

The Sing Street soundtrack is so damn catchy and inspirational. Even though it’s feel-good, the lyrics are so well thought out and not cliche at all. If you like ’80’s music, it’s a must listen.

  • Making Me Feel Alright – Bjorkman Pupavac feat. Robin Lundbeck

The perfect summer beach/pool song.

  • The Spring – Jeong Eun Ji

Enuji’s songs are something you’d find in a hipster coffee shop on a Sunday afternoon. It’s so tranquil and soothing it’s impossible not to like. I’m so happy her solo albums have been so distinctly her and I can’t wait to hear more from her.

  • Dream in a Dream – Ten (NCT)

There’s no mistaking the ancient Asian music influences on this song but the combination of that and the more modern pop influences make this song unique. Also Ten’s dancing is so good and his vocals are not too shabby either 😉

  • Most Girls by Hailee Steinfeld

Hailee Steinfeld is my queen. I completely loved her performance in The Edge of Seventeen as well as Pitch Perfect 2 and this song was pretty much the icing on the cake. In the popular pop music world, toxic messages of girls and women are so rampant and this song is an antidote to all that. She celebrates women and all their differences and it’s beautiful. Why can’t there be more songs on the radio like this? And with an electro-pop catchiness to it?

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book review · Uncategorized

Book Review: Always and Forever, Lara Jean

Image result for always and forever lara jean Title: Always and Forever, Lara Jean

Author: Jenny Han

Pages: 336

Series? Yes (Final book in a trilogy)

Synopsis: Goodreads

Rating: 4/5

Mild Spoilers for first two books but spoiler free for the last one.

 


I started reading this book at 5pm on Saturday and kept reading until 1 in the morning with only an hourish break for dinner. In that 8 hour time span, my dear reader, I felt unbearable warmth, happiness and most of all nostalgia. And at the end, even though I knew it was the end, I still felt like there was so much more story left to these characters, that these characters have blossomed into people that I knew.

As with any last book in the series, I felt that preanxiety that comes with having such high expectations of a final novel. The story of this book’s inception is heartwarming in its own way. In an interview, Jenny Han spoke about how she was working on her new project but couldn’t because she kept thinking about what Lara Jean and Peter were up to.

Last winter, I was working on a new book, and I just couldn’t figure out how to unlock it. My mind kept drifting to Lara Jean and Peter, I kept thinking wistful thoughts, like, I wonder what those two are up to now. When I finished P.S. I Still Love You, I truly was done with the series. Always, it had been meant to be just the two. But I suppose time and space had made me nostalgic, because they were all I could think about. One night I called up my best friend and sometimes co-author Siobhan Vivian and asked her, would it be crazy if I wrote just one more book? She said not at all. She told me to try and see. So that same night, I started writing, and I couldn’t stop. I wrote until the sun came up.

-Jenny Han from EW article

There is something so natural about this story that I’ve never been able to find in other YA contemporaries. In this one, Lara Jean and Peter are in their final year of high school. They have graduation coming up and all the other things high school seniors look forward to: the senior trip, prom and of course the anxiety of college admissions. Lara Jean has plans for her future but they all start to unravel and she starts to question what is truly the right path for her.

I swear some scenes in this book took me back to some exact moments of my high school career. Not gonna lie, I kind of teared up a little when Lara Jean is anxiously opening up her email that determines whether she got accepted or rejected to UVA. Moments like these are what I’ve always loved about this series. Most YA contemporaries kind of skip this part or shove it in near the end as a sort of cherry on top of the icing at the end of the book and more often than not, they just get accepted into their dream school nbd. I just completely love the detail that Jenny Han puts into this series from the food (yaas to all the chocolate chip cookie baking in this one) to Lara Jean’s clothes (Lara Jean’s prom dress) and even to Peter’s lacrosse experience. Jenny Han even did research, people, research to make the college admissions part as true to life as possible. She even spoke to the Dean of Admissions and the lacrosse department at UVA.

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University of Virginia campus

It just encapsulates a high school experience that feels so authentic, like this is truly what a YA contemporary should be about. I understand that YA contemporary is not suppose to be 100% realistic, otherwise where the hell is my Peter Kavinsky but just adding these tiny details that you only subconsciously absorb brought me more into the story, this more visceral experience. And I love it. Some scenes just brought me back to my final days of high school, my final class of high school which I probably just spent signing yearbooks, my final day of walking the grass behind my school for AP Government. and having this sense of finality and this feeling of an end but also this anticipation that things are just starting for you.

I also love seeing that reflected in Lara Jean. Throughout this series, she has always been content with where she is but she’s realizing that she can open herself up to new possibilities that she never thought were right for her.

And on top of that, Lara Jean learns more about her relationship with Peter. I feel like this book was the perfect combination of the fluffiness and cuteness of book 1 and the angst and them dealing with real problems from Book 2. I just love how you can see how much they love and care about each other. They have to think about what every high school couple thinks about, if they’re even going to survive being apart and the delicate state of a high school relationship.  Peter’s arc also has a wonderful sense of growth. His dad makes a reappearance in this one and he has to decide whether to let him into his life or not. I really like how Peter’s insecurities are put to the forefront. Peter has always been one of my favorites in this series because he is not necessarily this arrogant boy with a heart of gold or this nerdy guy who will understand all of your Star Wars references or even this sickly sweet nice love interest who can do no wrong. Let’s face it, most of your favorite YA contemporary male heroes will fall into one of these 3 categories. I’m really satisfied with the way Han wrote this relationship that feels as though it’s always evolving and not this you-are-my-soulmate-that-I-found-at-the-age-of-18-and-we-live-happily-ever-after type of relationship. I love them so much.

And of course, without a doubt, these books always come back to family. It’s bittersweet and ever changing. There is so much change happening around Lara Jean that she doesn’t really even notice. How Margot is now slowly living her own life in Scotland, how her Dad is marrying Ms. Rothschild, and how Kitty is growing up. And although Lara Jean is consistently changing and figuring out more things about herself, she will always fall back on her family and their support. Her mother is still an ever present force in her life and she’s always thinking about how her mom would approach a situation even as she is learning to find her own way.

I will always love these books, for their authenticity but also just for their feel-goodness and how they always bring a smile to my face. I know I will be swooning over Lara Jean’s mundane adventures for many more rereads.

Let me know if I should read Jenny Han’s Summer I Turned Pretty series. I’m not sure how it compares to this one so any advice is welcomed! And of course, let’s discuss this book in the comments because I need to vent.

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Uncategorized · wrap up

April Wrap Up 2017

April was a pretty awesome reading month for me. I think this is the most I’ve read this month than I have in the earlier months of 2017. I DNFed a few things but read 9 books and 2 short stories.

As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner (3/5)

Faulkner has an interesting narrative style. He writes this from several different Image result for as i lay dying bookperspectives but sometimes the character will refer to another character solely by the pronoun, he, and you kind of have to read the next perspective  to confirm who the character was even talking about. While this does increase the fluidity of the story, it also lends to a lot of confusion on my part. This book was both successful and not successful in portraying grief and I think that boils down to certain characters. It seemed like Faulkner liked some characters more than others. For instance, Jewel is probably the most compelling character in the entire cast. His attitudes towards his mother remain ambiguous even till the end and his independence-to-a-fault was really interesting to read. The other interesting character was the father and though he may respect his wife’s dying wish, we all know he is long past caring about her. Faulkner also does a good job portraying the grief of a child, the way they want to transform that grief into something tangible. But the other characters felt disposable. As far as satire goes, the ending was fucking hilarious. But overall, it was quite meh.

By Prudence Ruled by ehmazing (4/5)

I don’t know why I’m including fanfiction in my wrap up but I am because I never read fanfiction, like, ever. This is how you know I’ve really descended into fandom hell. TBH Related imageI’m simultaneously proud and ashamed to be in the Voltron fandom. It’s literally the most toxic fandom I’ve ever been in, there’s like 50 ship wars, ship hate every hour, and just general no-mercy attitude and bashing of the creators and writers. I just hope the VLD staff do not go through the Tumblr tags. But simultaneously I’m proud of the fandom because earlier last week, there was a photo leak from the show from a newly casted voice actor and she accidently posted a photo from the upcoming season and she deleted it from her instagram story but it was way too late. I swear people in fandom actually make the best detectives. ANYWAYS, this fanfiction follows my non-canon (so far) OTP Shiro and Allura. By Prudence Ruled is one of the most well-researched and accurate-to-the-characters fanfiction I’ve ever read in my basically non-existent fanfic history. It just captures the character’s voices so well and it’s inspired by The Bodyguard so I mean that speaks for itself. Also, it’s really well-researched in terms of worldbuilding which I really appreciate.

Related imageThis is My Idea by Teukiewookie (3/5)

Does anyone remember the movie The Swan Princess?

Well this fic is based on the movie except in space and with Voltron characters.  It is so fun and relatively accurate in character voice as far as surface-level character goes but not so different as to disengage me from the story. Plus the chapters are short so..

 

 

These next few books, I will have reviews for.

In my 2017 reading resolutions, I resolved to read more translated fiction and I made my first few steps this month. The first ones I will be doing mini reviews for in my translated fiction spotlight.

Silence by Shusaku Endo, Translated from the Japanese by William Johnston | Before the Feast by Sasa Stanisic, Translated from the German by Anthea Bell

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I also read some translated short stories that will be featured in the mentioned post as well.

Wither and Blossom by Suvi Kauppila translated by Suvi Kauppila (4/5)

Faces and Thoughts by Abdul Wakil Sulamal translated from Pashto by James Caron (3.5/5)

I also finished History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera (4/5) which I actually wasn’t planning on reading but ended up loving. I will have a full review on this in May. Just expect a lot of YA contemporary in the upcoming future period.

And then I have reviews for two YA books I read this month in a mini review post.

Alex Approximately by Jenn Bennett | Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor 

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The Girls by Emma Cline (2/5)

The Girls shines when Cline discusses the intricacies of girlhood. She does it so well and because of that I wish the whole book was solely focused on that. What does it feel 26893819like to come into adolescence wanting to own your body but at the same time wanting to feel desired and be desirable.

 That was part of being a girl–you were resigned to whatever feedback you’d get. If you got mad, you were crazy, and if you didn’t react, you were a bitch. The only thing you could do was smile from the corner they’d backed you into. Implicate yourself in the joke even if the joke was always on you.

But honestly, everything else was just kind of boring. This is ironic because this book was suppose to be about the mysterious Manson murders. One of the most compelling characters was suppose to be Charles (or whatever his name is) who we are suppose to believe is this really alluring person who persuades these girls to leave everything they have but he turned out to be kind of boring and predictable as were the other characters. I will say that Cline really knows how to write. Her writing is intoxicating and feels like reading through the subconscious. It feels very Gone-Girlesque. But all in all, I would not recommend this one.

Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang (3.5/5)

Ted Chiang has some really cool ideas–both visually and scientifically which translates very well to a movie like The Arrival (based off of Stories of Your Life). But I wish there 31625351was better execution of these ideas. Most of his stories feel unfinished as if he suddenly had a good idea and had to write it down but didn’t know where the thought was going. They also feel like unfinished ideas because he sort of left them to meander on their own so a few of them lacked focus. But nevertheless they were still fascinating to read. My favorite stories were the first one, The Tower of Babylon, which is about people building a tower to reach heaven; Stories of Your Life which visually was better represented by the movie but the story itself was better in the book, and the last story Like What You See: A Documentary which is about a fictional debate about whether or not to undergo a procedure to “unsee” beauty. I still think this collection is definitely worth reading because his stories just raise so many thought provoking questions about religion, technology, mathematics, and linguistics.

Planetfall by Emma Newman (3.5/5)

A mysterious man enters the one and only colony on Planetfall. Renata Ghali is shocked and terrified because the colony she lives in is suppose to be the only home to any living inhabitants on this planet. It turns out that this man is the grandson of Suh-Mi who was 24237785the leader of the first colonization trip to Planetfall. As we get further into the book, we realize there is a lot more to this colony that we initially thought and that Renata is keeping a lot of secrets from the people around her. I will tell you this from the start: nothing will really make sense until the last 20 percent of the book and even the last page leaves off on an ambiguous note which I’m still not sure if I understand but that’s totally ok with me. I often found myself wondering why the author was focusing so much one aspect of this character and other times why the plot seemed to be falling apart and it only made sense to me after finishing the book. I really liked the worldbuilding in this book. There’s lots of mentions of 3D printing and building houses which just reminded me of the Sims. The biggest issue with this book are the characters. They felt so two-dimensional and can be listed off with a few traits. The ending was satisfactory to me but I get the feeling that if it wasn’t it would’ve marred the entire experience of reading this book for me so make your own judgement about that. I will say that I haven’t read a lot of science fiction mysteries/thrillers if any at all so this was refreshing.

DNF

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne (2/5)31395274

As you may have noticed by now, I’m really picky when it comes to contemporary romances. I thought the banter between the two characters was kitschy and super tacky and the “hating” part of the haters-to-lovers trope was over a little too quickly. The side characters were overly quirky and purely ornamental to the main characters which is just a recipe for a boring story to be honest. I started skimming this around the 50 page mark and it progressively grew cheesier and cheesier to the point of fanfiction so hard pass on this one.

 

Let me know if you’ve read any of these and what you thought of them and what you plan on reading in May. I hope your May is going well so far and I will see in my next post which will probably be my April Favorites =)

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movie reviews · Uncategorized

Mini Movie Reviews: Coming of Age

Why do I even try calling these “mini” reviews? I can literally write a whole review on each one of these but then I would never catch up on my reviews. If you’ve been following my blog for the past couple of months, you’ll know how much I completely adore the coming-of-age genre. I just love the exploration of identity and just discovering what you want out of life while at the same time, faced with these growing burdens and expectations from the people around you. I think it’s such an interesting dynamic and I’ve been watching a lot of TV and reading books that revolve around this but I haven’t really talked about coming-of-age movies.

Lemonade Mouth

Musical | Directed by Patricia Riggen| Disney Channel | D

To be honest, I only watched this movie because I wanted a point of reference to the other movies. In a sense, comparing a “bad” coming of age movie to a “good” one. Image result for lemonade mouth posterLemonade Mouth tries so hard to portray an authentic high school experience but it doesn’t work. It’s like making someone who has never been to high school make a movie about high school.

And because of this, this entire movie is so unintentionally funny. I’m not kidding you when I tell you there was a part in this movie where the school bully falls in someone’s lap and then for some reason the entire pizzeria starts fighting and everyone starts throwing empty red cups at one another. I’ve never been so painfully aware of a movie’s limited budget. There is no mystery to these characters or the fact they are having inner lives apart from the page. You know exactly what their deal is the minute they are introduced and their subsequent story arc only serves to confirm what you already know. For one, there is Charles whose parents want him to play soccer like his perfect older brother but guess what he doesn’t want to play soccer. Who would have thought? And of course at the end, it’s suddenly revealed that his brother is actually not so perfect (surprise). The dialogue leaves no room for conflict and neither does the story.

The songs aren’t particularly great either. The lyrics are too bright and dare I say it, too inspirational if that makes any sense at all. It’s kind of funny that this movie would be more of an inspiration for little kids or tweens rather than people who are actually in high school. It’s got that unrealistic teen empowerment message–like yeah I can do anything type thing and that cheesiness to go along with it. I will say that I have to give it credit for its diversity. That makes it feel more true to recent times but alas that’s really the only thing it’s got going for it.

The Breakfast Club

Directed by John Hughes | B+

So apparently this is the quintessential coming-of-age film. I can see why from just watching its beginning lines unfold. The most notable of which is in Brian’s monologue Related imagewhere he’s telling Mr. Vernon, “You see us as you want to see us…in the simplest terms and the most convenient definitions. You see us as a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and a criminal.” And every single high school coming-of-age film afterwards has tried to answer this statement. To show these kids as more than just their stereotypes. How does someone break into themselves in the pressure pot that is high school? The Breakfast Club is smart is so many ways, instead of tediously showing what life is like for these people, wasting scenes of waking up and showing what their room is like and things like that or following them through a typical school day where we mostly know what’s going to happen to them, Hughes puts them all together in the same room, where these so-called stereotypes would have never have met and forced them to interact in the same playing field–in detention. Slowly their layers are peeled back layer by layer. There is a lot of explosive angst especially from Bender who basically adds fuel to the fire in whatever he says. And there’s a lot of anger in these kids that is just brilliantly acted.

Although what they reveal about themselves isn’t terribly original like Vernon, who is stereotyped as the smart, straight A student is actually failing a class and of course Andrew who is presumably the star of the wrestling team, shocker, does not have the perfect life and has to live to his father’s persistent expectations, the way these secrets are revealed is explosive and surprising. And there’s really nothing better for me than to see a group of unlikely friends become well..friends.

This movie was produced in 1985 so while it feels timeless in some aspects, it also feels dated at the same time. It is sexist and the romances are so off-kilter, and while the cast is supremely more talented than the cast of Lemonade Mouth, the same can’t be said about its diversity. If there could somehow be a good remake of this movie, I’ll be the first one to see it.

Sing Street

Musical | Directed by John Carney | Ireland | A-

This movie is the reason this whole post was started. Sing Street is the most charming movie I have seen in a long time.

It is so inspirational and caught with youthful optimism but never descends into cheesiness because it is so grounded in realism. There are so many ways this premise could have gone wrong. I mean this movie takes Image result for sing street posterplace in Ireland in 1985 and it is about a boy who starts a band to impress this mysterious girl that he likes but doesn’t know anything about. But I was so unexpectedly and pleasantly surprised. It finds this perfect balance between the raw realism of the inner life of Conor as a teen with parents who constantly fight and dealing with kids and staff (who btw are priests) who bully him and the wish fulfillment optimism of of starting a band. The dialogue is so well-written, full of dry one-liners that you almost miss and reactions that never feel over-the-top or dramatic in any way.

 

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Basically, they skip all the unnecessary parts and just get straight to the good stuff. There was this one part where the school bully tells our intrepid main character to dance naked in the bathroom, Conor says no and the bully just leaves. Just unexpected moments like that are what make this movie work. Or like the part when no one questions the unrealistic nature of starting a band. They just do it. It shouldn’t work, there usually is a period of disbelief that the characters go through because they think they can’t actually pull off start a band but the movie skips those parts we expect. I adored each and every song. They were so catchy and nostalgic and inspirational and so feel good. Easily could have fallen into Lemonade Mouth’s trap but it effortlessly avoids the same pitfalls by painting its characters with subtle and nuanced inner lives.

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And let me tell you that the female love interest is not nearly as manic pixie dream girlesque as one would expect.

The Edge of Seventeen

Directed by Kelly Fremon Craig | A

The Edge of Seventeen is my favorite out of the bunch and that’s because it’s just got the best ingredients of the coming-of-age genre. Nadine is a character that isn’t “likeable”. Most ofImage result for the edge of seventeen poster the awkward situations she gets into are of her own doing. This is truly someone whom no one understands and even she doesn’t understand herself. She’s self-centered and melodramatic and is always ready to pick a fight. And the one person who did understand her most was her dad who died when she was just going through middle school. The dialogue is crude and unapologetic but the story is so sincere and charming. It’s as if the person who wrote this movie has been Nadine before and is chuckling and shaking their head at their past self. And hey, there is an Asian male love interest who is into drawing and is even more awkward than our main character. It’s so wonderful. Image result for the edge of seventeen gifThis coming-of-age film is not necessarily about finding her own identity so much as finding a way to make the most of her present as shitty as she thinks it is which is honestly how a lot of high school teens feel. This feeling that even though you know this is temporary, this part of your life feels so permanent and you’re just waiting for the day when you can find your way out. This movie is also just funny. I love the wit between Nadine and her history teacher played by Woody Harrelson, the one and only Haymitch, and he was such a great casting choice for this role. Like the Breakfast Club, it’s about the character’s perceptions of other people, just as we try to see past our perceptions of the characters, we see from the very beginning, that Nadine’s “hate” for her older brother is a little misguided. Her brother who appears to be golden boy the one who gets everything he wants and doesn’t give a shit about anyone else. But though many of the things Nadine thinks about her brother may be true, there’s many other things that she doesn’t quite know about her brother.

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I actually watched this movie a 2nd time just so I can write this review and I don’t regret a single moment.

Let me know if you’ve seen any of these movies and if you have any other coming-of-age recommendations.

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mini book review · Uncategorized

Mini Book Reviews: Hyped YA books

Sometimes I read/watch reviews of highly anticipated books and it just makes me want to read them so much even when I know that it probably won’t be as good as reviews make it out to be considering my tastes. I guess that’s kind of the point of glowing reviews. This is the story of how I got sucked into hype once again…do they live up to that hype? Or will they falter??

Alex Approximately by Jenn Bennett (3/5)

YA Contemporary | Goodreads 

Tis the season for contemporary. And the contemporary buzz book of the season is Alex, Approximately. And let me tell you, the buzz around this book was insane around the booktube community. The hype train always gets me even when I say it doesn’t. And I Image result for alex approximatelywas in the mood for contemporary so why not. And this is a reminder that I should take the hype train with a grain of salt. This is a You’ve Got Mail retelling (which I haven’t seen but really need to). At the beginning of the book, Bailey moves from DC to California to live with her dad. She’s a film buff, so much so that she is a member of an online forum for the film community where she’s been talking back and forth with fellow film buff and Californian, Alex, who she may or may not have feelings for. In fact, moving to California will give her the perfect opportunity to meet Alex in real life. Meanwhile, she lands a summer job at a museum where she meets Porter and it’s hate at first sight until it’s not….

First of all, this book feels like it was written by someone who does not live in SoCal because it feels so stereotypical. It’s basically like the California you see on the Hannah Montana set except with the inclusion of churro carts (I need that in my life) and poke (because we eat poke a lot too apparently) and of course, the surfers.

Image result for hannah montana beach scene

But I guess Jenn Bennett must be doing something right because after reading it, I just felt like going to the beach and having a bonfire. And there was something exciting and fun about having adventures in an underground museum. In terms of the romance, what you see is basically what you get. Porter was basically spat out from the formulaic YA boyfriend machine–he’s kind of a nerd but he’s just so cocky and omg if I hear that word one more time, I will sue–but he kind of missed the step where they give him a unique personality and any kind of flaws really. I did like that Bailey got to grow throughout. She’s someone who tends to avoid confrontation and being put on the spot but she learns to be comfortable with herself (even though the character development felt random and sudden; I get the gist). They both have tragic pasts that are discussed throughout and it felt off but maybe that’s just me.

The thing I hate about YA contemporary is that the 1st 10% of the book is spent developing the side characters like the parents and the friends and the backstory and the next 80% of the book is spent developing the relationship and then the last 10% suddenly the author remembers she has other characters so they suddenly have more page time but it feels like too little too late. This happened to Grace who works with Bailey at the museum. She feels kind of like the token diverse best friend considering that the author describes her father’s voice as having an “African sway”. What does that even mean?? There’s also Davy who is Porter’s ex-bestie and is basically there to make Porter look better. Also, he turned out to be a lot worse than I anticipated so the storyline turned out to be really melodramatic (complete with guns and drugs). The dad is there to instill wisdom and curfew times although I did like all the Settlers of Catan references. They all just felt token and bland.

My point is, this is YA contemporary and it doesn’t bring anything original to the genre but it’s fun and cute and actually kind of the perfect beach read literally.

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor (3.5/5)

YA Fantasy | Goodreads

I think after this series Laini Taylor and I might need to part ways. I enjoyed this book when I was reading it. It is magical and mysterious and as surreal as Laini Taylor’s previous works with mythic worldbuilding. Years ago, the city of Weep was erased from the minds of all the people in this world. Now it is only the stuff of legends, a good story but not real. However, Lazlo remembers Weep, in fact, he’s obsessed with it. He’s a librarian whose head is always in the clouds (“Strange the Dreamer”) and spends his free Image result for strange the dreamertime researching Weep dreaming about the day when he will be able to see Weep for himself. I have to applaud Taylor’s ephemeral writing; as over written and dramatic as it is, it does make you feel as if you were living a legend, a hero epic. There’s no other way to describe her worldbuilding except that it is epic like the libraries of Zosma. It’s completely sweeping and otherworldly, larger than life but is still grounded in what the reader knows which only makes the reader imagine it better.  I loved Lazlo’s dream landscapes of Weep, so imaginative like the fever dream of a child who has only read books about unicorns and rainbows.

But I realize after reading it why I can’t fully love this book. It’s because the payoff to all this buildup is just not satisfying. Lazlo has spent 7 years researching about Weep and it feels to the reader like an unattainable goal but then suddenly the answer comes right in front of him like all that buildup was for nothing. When they arrived at Weep, again the problem seemed insurmountable, but then when the solution arrived it didn’t feel satisfying? There’s also this instalove that annoyed me. It was almost like Laini Taylor was trying too hard to make me believe in their love by coating their instalove with frosting, with copious amounts of descriptions of how beautiful Sarai’s skin is and how mysterious Lazlo’s nose is. Are there really that many ways to describe someone’s crooked nose?? And omg this is the first time, someone has seen me!! The first time someone said I wasn’t disgusting!! Cue the blushing.  I think my eyes rolled straight out of my head. At points, it seemed like Sarai was a manic pixie dream girl and the ending didn’t help that theory either. The other side characters had a lot more potential to be intriguing characters such as Eril-Fane who was involved in the war that occurred before the events of Strange the Dreamer. I liked the concepts and themes that Laini Taylor introduces, about grief after war and guilt over the part you played in a war, how to figure out how to live with yourself after all the devastation. I wish there was more of that instead of the woe-is-me, melodramatic romance. If you liked Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, you will adore this, it’s actually quite eerie how similar the two are if you think about it.  The premise of Taylor’s books always hook me but the execution somehow always falls flat for me though.

Let me know if you’ve read these two books or if you’re planning to (they’re actually quite perfect for spring/summer) and what your thoughts are!

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movie reviews · tv review · Uncategorized

Mini TV/Movie Reviews: Animation

So I’ve noticed I’ve been watching a lot more animation lately. Usually, animation is not something I normally gravitate towards especially animated TV and anime but there are always exceptions (See Voltron: Legendary Defender). I do tend to like animated movies more just because there are studios like Disney and Pixar that are always making really good content but even then I usually they don’t have quite as much emotional impact on me as they seem to on other animated fans but again there are exceptions (See Zootopia). And the ones I’ve seen recently are as expected a hit or miss.

Tangled Before Ever After (TV Movie) & Tangled: The Series

Starring Mandy Moore, Zachary Levi|Disney Channel | Currently 4 episodes released

Image result for tangled the seriesI’ll admit I was pretty excited but also really hesitant about watching these two. I didn’t know how well the 3D CGI would translate to 2D. The movie animation was absolutely stunning and I was worried the TV show would lose a lot of the feel of the original. But I was totally surprised. At first look, the 2D looks juvenile and a little sloppy but after watching it, it is absolutely stunning in its own way. The background and scenery are so bright and vivid but really detailed at the same time. They look like drawings in a picture book. It also helps that the voice actors for Eugene and Rapunzel are the same as in the movie and they do an equally good job in this one. The TV movie and TV series take place after the events of the 1st movie but before the Tangled short film where Eugene and Rapunzel get married. The first few episodes that have been released follow Rapunzel as she learns how to be a princess after being locked up in a tower. The relationship between Rapunzel and Eugene is just as cute and cheesy but there are worse things to show in a relationship than being cheesy. It is very healthy and respectful and I do like that they are getting separate storylines as they each figure what they want to be. There’s also a new character that’s introduced, Cassandra, who is Rapunzel’s lady-in-waiting and she’s awesome. She’s fearless and adventurous and a great foil for Rapunzel. She has an interesting hate relationship with Eugene which is fun. The storylines aren’t terribly original and I can forgive that because the show is very clearly targeted towards very young children (8-12) but they are refreshing in many ways and just solid storytelling. Fun and easily bingeable. I have a feeling shows based on popular Disney movies are going to continue being a thing in the upcoming years. I am particularly excited for the Big Hero 6 show coming out this Fall (again 2D) and the voice actors for most of the original cast will be the same which is exciting.

Trollhunters

Created by Guillermo Del Toro | Season 1: 26 episodes | DNFed: Episode 7 |Netflix

It’s very clear to me from seeing Pacific Rim and now Trollhunters that Guillermo Del Toro has such an imaginative and epic visionary style but I wish he paid as much Image result for trollhuntersattention to his stories. The world of the Trollhunters is riddled with interesting trolls and troll lore. The city that the Trolls reside in is beautifully animated (in the same CGI as Tangled) but as beautiful as the animation is, the story is lacking soooo much. It is overly cliche with by-the-book humor and one-note characters. It has the bare bones of an underdog-turned-hero story. Our hero, Jim Lake, is living in the suburbs with his doctor mom. He is kind of the outcast of the school and is bullied by the blonde-haired jock at school. His best friend, Toby, is the fat and lovable sidekick who is obviously fodder for a bunch of fat jokes. And to add on top of this mountain of cliches, he has a crush on one of the girls at school but of course does not think he is good enough for her attentions. But he’s a special snowflake so he finds this jewel and turns out that he is the savior of the trolls. Do you see where this is going? Much like the Kaijus and the Jaegers, the Trolls are extremely well-designed and varied. I really wanted to like this show because it seems like a show that I would like but 7 episodes in, I just couldn’t get past the bland storytelling. I’ve heard it gets less cliche as it goes on with the side characters getting their own development separate from their association with Jim but I don’t have enough patience to stick around.

Kimi No Na Wa (Your Name)

Directed by Makoto Shinkai | Based on the manga: Your Name by Makoto Shinkai

This is one of those unfortunate instances where I’m wondering if everyone is watching the same Image result for your namemovie as me. I won’t deny that the animation and directing is beyond gorgeous. Much like Hayao Miyazaki’s films, the animation is hyper realistic and detailed especially in its scenery. But the storyline falls so flat for me. I think my biggest problem with the story is the fact that they were trying to insert 3 whole storylines into 1 movie which was too much and each storyline suffered because of it. What I thought I was getting was a body swapping storyline and eventually a romance but then halfway through, that sort of changed and went into more fantastical explanations for why this was happening that felt contrived. And to be honest, I didn’t really need to know why the body swapping was happening. And because of this deviance in plot, the characters never get past the stage of typical high school teens. In fact the things that happen when Mitsuha and Taki switch bodies are completely forgotten the next time they go back to their own bodies which makes me wonder how the fuck they could fall in love. And the parts where the relationship is being developed is filmed in a montage which is just annoying. This might just be me, however, I don’t like “they are bound by fate” storylines but I still felt like these storylines were not integrated well enough and felt like they were totally separate storylines. And then that random plot point at the end??

Image result for why gif
And at the end, I just didn’t care about these characters and I was just bored. There are two reviews that explain my thoughts in a more well-written manner, however be warned they both contain spoilers.

Review #1 | Review #2

Let me know if you’ve seen any of these and what you thought of them (especially Your Name). And if you have any animated recommendations for me, I’d love to know 🙂

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Uncategorized

Reread Discussion: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before & PS I Still Love You

Image result for to all the boys i've loved before          Image result for ps i still love you

Probably no one is going to analyze a YA contemporary series as much as I do but I have a lot to say so let’s pour out my bookish feelings out. MAJOR SPOILERS

I should start off by saying that these two books are two of my favorite YA contemporary books of all time which is not a statement I give lightly. I obviously do not rate YAC the same as I would a modern classic or a hard scifi novel but but I’m still harsh. I find that a lot of fluffy and feel-good YA contemporary like The Boy Next Door, Meant to Be, and Anna and the French Kiss are a) just not memorable, b) unrealistic c) sickly sweet or d) fluffy and cute but unsatisfying.

I can’t pinpoint exactly what makes these two so different from the others. However I do think one of the reasons is its emphasis on family. I love the family dynamics between Lara Jean and her sisters. True to form, she has a different relationship between the one with her older sister Margot and her younger sister Kitty. She looks up to Margot as a role model and has a sort of sibling rivalry with Kitty. I like that Han takes the time to develop Margot and Kitty as people who are integral to Lara Jean’s life. Most YA contemporaries color their families only as side props that have cliche roles only meant to provide some sense of multi dimensionality to the main character but they’re either just really quirky or don’t have enough of a presence for them to really register. They’re also very important to Lara Jean’s development. As we move on into the second book, we see how her sisters have moved on with their lives. Margot has settled into Scotland; Kitty has new friends and we see how resistant Lara Jean is to change; she is comfortable with the way things are and even when the people around her are growing, she doesn’t want to move away from her comfort zone in her sheltered life. I love seeing the pains but also the joys of having two sisters. From borrowing your older sister’s clothes to making up after a fight.

It’s hard to strike that perfect balance of being unrealistic and realistic at the same time in YAC. Because fluffy YAC should be feel-good but at the same time, it shouldn’t abandon all sense of logic.  I like the first romances and endearing friendships and that sense of adventure and uninhibited fun. But I kind of don’t want to hear about how you’re getting grounded by your parents  And I think it’s even harder with a book like To All the Boys because Lara Jean lives a relatively privileged life and her problems probably feel very trivial and mundane to a lot of people. But maybe it’s the fact that she’s worried about whether she can make enough cupcakes for her sister party the next day and that triviality that makes it feel-good. In some ways, her life is unrealistic but it’s the little details of realism that pop through (the fact that  and evens everything out. I like that we can actually see her doing things at home.

Peter Kavinsky and Lara Jean are an interesting pair and one of my favorite aspects of these books. On paper, they are very much a cliche. And not just a cliche but probably one of the oldest cliches in romcoms and YACs. More Disney Channel movie, that sickly sweet, eye roll worthy trope that no one can really take seriously. Even its wish-fulfillment quality is marred by its cringey dialogue. Peter is the popular guy at school, he plays lacrosse, everyone really likes him etc. etc. and while Lara Jean is not necessarily the outcast at school, she definitely doesn’t have the same type of presence that Peter has. She’s really into vintage clothes, baking and being a homebody basically.Image result for snickerdoodles But together I cannot help but love their dynamic. And I think most of that credit belongs to Han’s writing of dialogue. It’s snappy and fun but feels natural and graceful at the same time like something that could actually come out of a teen’s mouth. I loved their banter and their past. It doesn’t feel cringeworthy because Peter is actually a really sweet guy who is oh-so-different than the other popular jocks around him (see Hilary Duff’s Cinderella) but the fact that they both have very realistic flaws that are not even obvious at the start is just written really well. Most of the people who wrote good reviews for the 1st book really liked Peter but then totally did a 360 and ended up supporting John Ambrose in the second book because he was really nice and sweet. And I get it. Peter is honestly kind of a dick in the second book and I felt really betrayed by him sometimes especially the part when he admits that he knew Genevieve sent that video of him and Lara Jean in the hot tub but didn’t tell her out of loyalty to Genevieve. He is loyal to a fault and much like Lara Jean goes back to what he is comfortable with which was Genevieve in this case. He’s also kind of insecure at the same time but hides it behind his I-don’t-care facade. In fact, most of the second book, he acts like he couldn’t give a fuck about what Lara Jean does but then ends up getting really anxious when she appears to be moving on without him.

And much like when he told Lara Jean his mom made those fruitcake cookies when in reality he was the one that made them. He’s constantly trying to impress Lara Jean (again with the poem he “wrote” lol) but he’s also trying to hide it as if he doesn’t really want to get too attached.

In some ways, I think Lara Jean and John Ambrose would have worked really well together and if Kitty actually hadn’t sent those letters,

they might have found their way to each other considering that Peter and Lara Jean weren’t even talking to each other or were even in the same social circles (“So much of love is chance”). But I like that in the second book, we really got to test the boundaries of their relationship to see if they can make that chance work and whether they would even work together. And even in the second book, a lot of the side characters are extremely surprised when they realize that Lara Jean is with Peter (“because he’s not your type”); I thought it was interesting how maybe people had all these preconceptions about how innocent and simple Lara Jean was when there was a lot more to her than that. A lot of YA contemporaries focus on how they’ll get together but they never focus on the aftermath of getting together because YA contemporaries rarely have sequels.

Most of the negative reviews criticize this book for having a protagonist with such a young voice. Lara Jean is 16 but sounds like she’s about 14 or even younger according to the reviews. And to me, that was actually a refreshing change. Not every 16 year old matures at the same rate. In Lara Jean’s case, it kind of makes sense that she would be so naive in a way. She’s been relatively sheltered her entire life, taking tips and advice mostly from her sisters or her one friend Chris. Although I have to admit I kind of laughed when Lara Jean found out Peter cheated; her reaction was hilarious. It’s funny because in Korean dramas if she acted this way, it would be totally fine. I think it kind of speaks to the age that Americans are expected to reach “maturity”. I guess I forgive Lara Jean because she’s in high school but probably not if she was like 30. Or if there is a sense of immaturity, there also has to be a sense of maturity or growth. I really enjoy reading Lara Jean’s development, I think she’s become a little more worldly and sure of what she wants and knows about the world.

You know I actually didn’t mind the love triangle in these books because it was really about who Lara Jean would end up with that was my main concern. My concern was what she would get out of both of these boys. Obviously, John is great and near perfect to what Lara Jean wants out of a boyfriend and yet she chooses Peter again. And the love triangle is all about Lara Jean, she has to choose between the ideal version of what she wants versus trying her hand at a real relationship with a real person with flaws. I think Jenny Han also does such a great job with writing how someone like Lara Jean would act and not explaining to us how she would act or making her this very self-aware person that is going to tell you how they are changing. She changes slowly. She is hung up on comparing herself to Genevieve until the 2nd book. I think one scene that really shows this is the part when Lara Jean wants to play assassins because everyone thinks she is not the type of person to win because she’s so gullible but that just makes her want to play more to prove that she can win. It pretty much sums up who Lara Jean is.

Anyways, my favorite scenes from these books:

Halloween when Lara Jean dresses up as Cho Chang (because otherwise she is just an anime character) and Peter was Spiderman. So damn cute.

Any scenes with Lara Jean and Stormy when Stormy is giving out advice to Lara Jean and it’s just cute.

That scene in the hot tub. Not just because it was cute but because this was Lara Jean finally owning up to what she wants.

Whenever Lara Jean bakes anything or spends time together with her whole family.

I’m excited to see how this series will conclude because when we left off Lara Jean and Peter, they were finally going to go all in and I’m excited to see Lara Jean make decisions about where she wants to go after high school.

This post probably made less than zero sense (I hope my discussion posts can improve over time) but if you have any thoughts on anything I just wrote or about the series in general, don’t hesitate to comment as always. And as always, all the gifs and photosets were found on Tumblr.

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