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Easing myself into 2021, or what I've been watching lately, Part 2

So, it took me so long to write about the books I enjoyed last year, as I'm out of practice, that I had to postpone the talk about dramas I've been watching and shipping lately until now.

Are you ready? Here we go!

1. Mr. Queen (2020)
Synopsis from Viki
Jang Bong Hwan is a male chef that has risen up the ranks to find a job cooking for the country’s top politicians in the South Korean presidential residences, the Blue House. He is something of a dreamer – but one day finds himself in the body of a young queen from Korea’s past, Kim So Yong. 

Kim So Yong’s husband is the reigning monarch, King Cheol Jong. However, he is only king in name – the late King Sunjo’s Queen, Sun Won, has taken advantage of Cheol Jong’s better nature, and is ruling the realm in his name. Queen Sun Won’s brother Kim Jwa Guen also has designs on power. However, Kim So Yong soon discovers that King Cheol Jong harbors secrets, and is not as gentle and meek as he seems...

Folks, this is exquisite and it's still ongoing series. First of all, the plot. An arrogant, talented male chef falls into coma after an accident, and wakes up in the body of a queen from Joseon era. Her husband is supposed to be a decadent womaniser and a total idiot, but nothing is as it seems. While Bong Hwan is panicking and trying to survive in this cruel new world, he is uncovering Cheol Jong real plans for the royal coup and revenge while the duo becomes allies. The twist is that the king used to hate his bride, but this new Só Yong fascinates him, while Bong Hwan's spirit starts merging with the queen's and developing very uncomfortable feelings. This is comedy and action and romance at the same time, and it's pure class!


2. True Beauty (2020)
Synopsis from Wikipedia
True Beauty is a romantic comedy about a high school girl Lim Ju Gyeong, who rises to pretty girl fame after she masters the art of make-up from YouTube. She turns into a goddess because of her makeup skills, but would rather die than reveal her bare face to anyone. It tells her love story with the only boy that saw her without makeup, Lee Su Ho. Lee is an attractive and handsome boy who appears cold because of his dark past but is actually very caring. They grow when they meet each other sharing their secrets and finding love with each other, but can Su Ho make Ju Gyeong find her true beauty?

This is another ongoing series, and it's full of heart. Originally a webtoon, True Beauty is an ugly duckling story. She has massive skin problems and she is a total nerd and gets so bullied in her previous school that she nearly commits suicide. A move to another school and hours of work to master make up, and suddenly she is a gorgeous girl, popular but still very self conscious. After a series of accidents and mistakes she falls for the top student of the school, aloof and unapproachable. They met and bonded over comic books and he knows her without her makeup, and she also knows some of his secrets. Both are recovering after a trauma and he is very protective of her but also comically as naive about relationships and love as she is. There is a rival of course, and an evil girl, but the best thing about it is Ju Gyeong's family. They are loveable and constantly bicker and a total mess, but they would do anything for each other. This is really warm and cozy, peeps. Much recommended.

3. Cherry Magic! (2020)
Synopsis from AsianWiki
While still a virgin at 30, Adachi Kiyoshi gains a magical power – the ability to read other people's minds by touching them. At first, he’s overwhelmed by his new ability, and it’s not proving to be helpful to him.

But that all changes when he accidentally touches Kurosawa Yuichi, whom he learns has romantic feelings for him. 

This is a Japanese BL drama, folks, and it's super cute and adorable. I am dipping my toes more into Japanese culture now after watching old Gokusen and the original Boys Over Flowers, which made me understand it a bit more, and this short drama was fun! I am totally shipping Adachi and Kurosawa, their chemistry was off the charts. It's a sweet office romance, too cute to miss out on.


4. A Love So Beautiful (2017)

Synopsis from MyDramaList
It starts off with high school classmates Chen Xiao Xi and Jiang Chen who are also neighbors. Xiao Xi, a cheerful girl who doesn't study much, is expressive about her admiration towards Jiang Chen, the popular guy known for his looks and high grades. Together with their fellow classmates the funny Lu Yang, athletic but loyal Jing Xiao, and cool swimming team member Wu Bo Song, they embark on high school life to university until their adult life.

I've heard mention of this drama before, and now that Korean remake is out, I had to watch original Chinese. Plus, I really liked this male lead actor in The Handsome Siblings and Go, Go, Squid! Again, this was a typical YA/NA romance, super cute and with a lot of chemistry. Expect to cringe and laugh and melt at the same time, it was 100% feel good drama.

5. A Discovery of Witches Season 2 (2021)

Synopsis 
Matthew and Diana are hiding in time in the fascinating and treacherous world of Elizabethan London. Here they must find a powerful witch teacher to help Diana control her magic and search for the elusive Book of Life. Matthew and Diana's romance faces a barrage of new threats; Diana’s unleashed magic takes a dark and frightening turn, while Matthew struggles to re-inhabit the dangerous life he led over four centuries ago. They must overcome deep personal fears and jealousies, bearing their darkest secrets to one another if they are to stay alive, stay together and find a way back to present day. While Matthew and Diana hide out in Elizabethan London, back in present day, Diana’s beloved aunts, Sarah and Em must take shelter with notorious witch hunter Ysabeau de Clermont at her ancestral home, Sept-Tours. Meanwhile, in Oxford, Marcus and Miriam take on Matthew’s mantle to protect Daemons Nathaniel and Sophie, whose pregnancy is advancing. And Gerbert, Knox, Satu and Domenico are determined to hunt down every clue they can to Diana’s and Matthew’s disappearance, and the secrets their allies are keeping from them.

For once, a European drama, heh? 😂 I binge watched all 10 episodes in 2 days on HBO Portugal. Freaking excellent production, costumes, imagery and acting. You know who was the best? Phillipe de Clermont. His presence stole the limelight in all the scenes. Beautiful. I am overwhelmingly grateful that so far both seasons did the books justice. Watch it, much recommended.

This is to for now. Let me know if you've watched anything noteworthy recently and share below in the comments.

Urban Fantasy Review: Blood Heir by Ilona Andrews

 

Blood Heir by Ilona Andrews (Aurelia Ryder #1)

bought on kindle

Synopsis from Goodreads

From Ilona Andrews, an all-new novel set in the Kate Daniels World and featuring Julie Lennart-Olsen, Kate and Curran's ward.


Atlanta was always a dangerous city. Now, as waves of magic and technology compete for supremacy, it’s a place caught in a slow apocalypse, where monsters spawn among the crumbling skyscrapers and supernatural factions struggle for power and survival.


Eight years ago, Julie Lennart left Atlanta to find out who she was. Now she’s back with a new face, a new magic, and a new name—Aurelia Ryder—drawn by the urgent need to protect the family she left behind. An ancient power is stalking her adopted mother, Kate Daniels, an enemy unlike any other, and a string of horrifying murders is its opening gambit.


If Aurelia’s true identity is discovered, those closest to her will die. So her plan is simple: get in, solve the murders, prevent the prophecy from being fulfilled, and get out without being recognized. She expected danger, but she never anticipated that the only man she'd ever loved could threaten everything.


One small misstep could lead to disaster. But for Aurelia, facing disaster is easy; it’s relationships that are hard.

Amazon US/UK | Book Depository

                                              9/10


Aaah, this is what I call a good start of the year! I've been waiting for this book for so long. And why is it that every time I read anything by Ilona Andrews I want to re-read everything else by this duo of pure awesomeness?!!


Julie and her mini me Kate persona made me so nostalgic. I also loved the chemistry between her and Derek. I had expected her to say "here kitty, kitty" to him apart from that he is a wolf.


Derek was a major surprise, he is so different, full of secrets and larger than life. 


The plot is excellent as usual, action packed, and with the fight scenes flawlessly executed.


There were plenty of interesting secondary characters, like Marten. She seems like she has an important hidden identity to be revealed later. Julie's Grand-Uncle was absolutely delightful as well. From the snippets of it, I'd have loved to read about her daily life in New Shinar because it sounds like a riot.


Nick surprised me with his choice of partners, Ascânio disappointed me with his bullheadedness. I hope he'll redeem himself in the next book. And I hope there'll be a next book, because the story arch with Moloch is nowhere near finished.


Overall, absolutely fabulous! As much as I've been struggling with reading books for the last year, I went through Blood Heir effortlessly. Very much recommended.

                                                          * * *

Какое замечательное начало года! Я так долго ждала эту книгу... И почему вот так всегда случается, что после каждой книги Илоны Эндрюс мне хочется перечитать все предыдущие этой мега авторской пары?!


Джули ака Орелия и ее мини Кейт характер ввели меня в ностальгический настрой. Добавьте к этому ее шикарную химию чувств с Дереком, и я чуть ли не ждала от нее слов "сюда, котенок" как у Кейт с Курраном. 😂


Дерек меня удивил. Так он вырос и заострился как персонаж. У него много тайн и истории, раскрытия которых я понемногу ожидаю в продолжении серии. Сама Орелия хорошо передает безапелляционный тон Кейт, и ее схватки в Атланте описаны просто шикарно, в обычном безупречном для четы Эндрюс стиле.

Удивили меня изменившийся Ник и разочаровал Асканио, от которого я ожидала большего. Очень интересными оказались уличная девочка Мартен, которая мне кажется окажется следующей Джули, полной сюрпризов и сильной воли духа, а также Почтенный Дядя Джули из Нового Шинара. Столько в нем было сумасшедшего юмора и драйва!

Молох и его жрецы были достойными злодеями и я знаю, что Эндрюсы к ним вернутся в следующей книге серии.

Вот сколько я в прошлом году замучалась читать книги долго, эту я проглотила на одном дыху. Вот что значит, прекрасные авторы и динамичный, лёгкий, меткий сюжет. Очень рекомендую. Классная книга!

Easing myself into 2021 gently, or what have I read and watched lately, part 1

Happy New Year, my gentle readers! Hope everyone walked into 2021 with a lighter and more hopeful heart ❤️.

We worked hard up until Christmas, and it feels like a real luxury to do gentle tasks and potter around the farm right now.

I've watched some excellent dramas, which I'll recommend in a bit, but first let's talk about books. I've read abysmally little this year and DNFed way more than I finished. However, I can still recommend a few books I managed to enjoy.

T.A. White's excellent second book in Firebird Chronicles
Third book is already out, but I haven't finished reading it yet. Total catnip for the fans of Ilona Andrews and Jessie Mikhalik, guys. And some sort of fae/jedai knights. In Space!
Synopsis

War hero and daughter to two Houses, Kira is just beginning to learn how deep the rabbit hole goes. 

Agreeing to accompany her father’s people back to their homeworld, Kira Forrest prepares for the fight of her life. She’s agreed to undertake the Trial of the Broken, a rite of passage every member of her father’s House must pass. It offers a path to independence and freedom that is too tempting to deny. 

Not everyone welcomes this lost daughter of Roake. There are those who fear what her presence might bring to light. Betrayal stalks the halls of Kira’s birthplace—its roots embedded deep in the events that claimed her parent’s lives and set her on her current path. 

Walking the wire’s edge between truth and deception will test the person Kira has become as she separates ally from betrayer. An old enemy has put into motion a plan that could topple the balance of power in the universe. Letting them succeed spells doom—but the price might be more than Kira is willing to pay. 

The Vine Witch by Luanne G. Smith
A beautiful audiobook which reminded me of Chocolate by Joanne Harris. 

Synopsis

A young witch emerges from a curse to find her world upended in this gripping fantasy of betrayal, vengeance, and self-discovery set in turn-of-the-century France.

For centuries, the vineyards at Château Renard have depended on the talent of their vine witches, whose spells help create the world-renowned wine of the Chanceaux Valley. Then the skill of divining harvests fell into ruin when sorcière Elena Boureanu was blindsided by a curse. Now, after breaking the spell that confined her to the shallows of a marshland and weakened her magic, Elena is struggling to return to her former life. And the vineyard she was destined to inherit is now in the possession of a handsome stranger.

Vigneron Jean-Paul Martel naively favors science over superstition, and he certainly doesn’t endorse the locals’ belief in witches. But Elena knows a hex when she sees one, and the vineyard is covered in them. To stay on and help the vines recover, she’ll have to hide her true identity, along with her plans for revenge against whoever stole seven winters of her life. And she won’t rest until she can defy the evil powers that are still a threat to herself, Jean-Paul, and the ancient vine-witch legacy in the rolling hills of the Chanceaux Valley.

Sinister Magic by Lindsay Buroker

So much fun! Really perky storytelling, reminiscent of Ilona Andrews and Darynda Jones plus one grumpy, reticent, magnificent dragon.


Synopsis

I’m Val Thorvald, and I’m an assassin. 

When magical bad guys hurt people, I take care of them. Permanently. 

This doesn’t make me popular with the rest of the magical community—as you can tell from the numerous break-ins and assassination attempts I’ve endured over the years. But thanks to my half-elven blood, a powerful sword named Chopper, and a telepathic tiger with an attitude, I’ve always been able to handle my problems with aplomb. Maybe some cursing and swearing, too, but definitely aplomb. 

That changes when my boss is afflicted with a mysterious disease, a government agent starts investigating me, and a godforsaken dragon shows up in the middle of my latest job. 

I’ve taken down vampires, zombies, and ogres, but dragons are way, way more powerful. And it doesn’t look like this one is going to like me. 

Worse than that, he wants to use his magic to compel me to do his bidding, as if I’m some weak-minded minion. 

That’s not going to happen. I’d die before being some dragon’s slave. 

But if I can’t figure out a way to avoid him, save my boss, and get rid of the government spook, I’m screwed. Or dead. Or screwed and dead. And that’s never comfortable.


 All three books of Winternight trilogy by Katherine Arden

I know I am late to this party, but they were magical, just like Naomi Novik books are. You know I am usually very critical of historical fantasy set in Russia, but this was crazily authentic, impeccable accents on audio. It was just like the fairy tales of my childhood, it made me so very nostalgic.




Synopsis

At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn't mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse's fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.


After Vasilisa's mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa's new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.


And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa's stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.


As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse's most frightening tales.

The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty

Another absolutely amazing listen on audio. Not only the background story is rich and distinctly Middle Eastern, but the actual plot twists also had me guessing till the very end. There are two male protagonists, and the reader is forced to swing like a pendulum between liking and disliking them from time to time, which was very refreshing.


Synopsis
Nahri has never believed in magic. Certainly, she has power; on the streets of 18th century Cairo, she’s a con woman of unsurpassed talent. But she knows better than anyone that the trade she uses to get by—palm readings, zars, healings—are all tricks, sleights of hand, learned skills; a means to the delightful end of swindling Ottoman nobles. 

But when Nahri accidentally summons an equally sly, darkly mysterious djinn warrior to her side during one of her cons, she’s forced to accept that the magical world she thought only existed in childhood stories is real. For the warrior tells her a new tale: across hot, windswept sands teeming with creatures of fire, and rivers where the mythical marid sleep; past ruins of once-magnificent human metropolises, and mountains where the circling hawks are not what they seem, lies Daevabad, the legendary city of brass, a city to which Nahri is irrevocably bound. 

In that city, behind gilded brass walls laced with enchantments, behind the six gates of the six djinn tribes, old resentments are simmering. And when Nahri decides to enter this world, she learns that true power is fierce and brutal. That magic cannot shield her from the dangerous web of court politics. That even the cleverest of schemes can have deadly consequences. 

After all, there is a reason they say be careful what you wish for...

The Tarot Sequence series by K.D. Edwards
Wonderful urban fantasy series with an intricate world building and a very likeable duo as main characters just the way I like them, smartass and sneaky and total underdogs. Superb on audio as well. Reminded me of Anne Bishop's characters.

Synopsis
Rune Saint John, last child of the fallen Sun Court, is hired to search for Lady Judgment's missing son, Addam, on New Atlantis, the island city where the Atlanteans moved after ordinary humans destroyed their original home.
With his companion and bodyguard, Brand, he questions Addam's relatives and business contacts through the highest ranks of the nobles of New Atlantis. But as they investigate, they uncover more than a missing man: a legendary creature connected to the secret of the massacre of Rune's Court. 

In looking for Addam, can Rune find the truth behind his family's death and the torments of his past?

A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik
If Scholomance by R.Lee Smith and Harry Potter had a child that would have been A Deadly Education. It's a magical school alright, but with much darker, more sadistic setup I'd expect from R.Lee Smith. Mind you, Naomi Novik is never afraid to make her characters bleed. I thought the setup and the heroine who is a powerful dark witch trying to fight her own nature were absolutely brilliant. A fantastic and rich in details listen!

Synopsis
Lesson One of the Scholomance: Learning has never been this deadly.

A Deadly Education is set at Scholomance, a school for the magically gifted where failure means certain death (for real) — until one girl, El, begins to unlock its many secrets. 

There are no teachers, no holidays, and no friendships, save strategic ones. Survival is more important than any letter grade, for the school won’t allow its students to leave until they graduate… or die! The rules are deceptively simple: Don’t walk the halls alone. And beware of the monsters who lurk everywhere.

El is uniquely prepared for the school’s dangers. She may be without allies, but she possesses a dark power strong enough to level mountains and wipe out millions. It would be easy enough for El to defeat the monsters that prowl the school. The problem? Her powerful dark magic might also kill all the other students.




This is it, peeps! Please share with me the books which rocked your world in 2020. I will be splitting the post in two, so we can talk about the dramas I wanted to share with you separately. Thank you for reading! ❤️

Korean Fantasy TV Series Review: Arthdal Chronicles (2019)


This one is another Netflix original, and I have no idea why it took me so long to actually watch it. I think maybe the trailer was not inspiring so I overlooked it initially?

Folks, this is a true gem! It reminded me of Grace Draven's writing and Game of Thrones although on a much smaller scale.

Synopsis
So, this is a Bronze Age fantasy, folks. It depicts Tagon, a conqueror with a dark secret and a dream to become the first king of Arthdal, which is a union of tribes, each of whom is vying for power. Next to Tagon is fierce Taealha, a spy trained by her father from an early age, and who wants to became Tagon's queen. And opposite to their plans is an old prophecy coming to life. 3 children born on the same day and in the same hour, who will end the world as we know it. Two of them grew up together in Iark, place where Arthdal gods can not reach, but the third was picked on a whim by Tagon and brought up as his own son.

While Tanya and Eunsom were taught the idealistic values of Wahan tribe, Eunsom twin, the third child grows into a beautiful, cold sociopath. And their paths collide, when Arthdal conquers Iark, enslaving Wahans. Tanya gets caught up in power games of Tagon because of her lineage and psychic powes, Eunsom tries to gain power of his own to save her, and Saya, the other twin, falls for Tanya and in his list for power will work against everything the other two were taught and believe in.

Guys, the plot is tight! You get the intensity from the first episode, and it doesn't let up until the end. Beautiful scenery, costumes, music. Epic dialogues. Powerful female and male characters. Great fighting sequences!

I adored it, and can not wait for season 2. Also, there is just so much juiciness here. The three races, Neanthals, Igutus and Sarams with their different strengths. Fantastic supporting characters. Song Joong Ki who plays both Eunsom and Saya is amazing. So different in each of his roles. Even Tagon is likeable despite his role of a conqueror. Same for Taealha. She is a product of her upbringing, but you can still relate to her and feel for her.

Here, look! Maybe this will convince you.

9/10, folks. 
Highly recommended.

Romantic Comedy Kdrama Review: Do Do Sol Sol La La Sol (2020)


This one just came out on Netflix, peeps. I was watching for the release and jumped on it as soon as it became available.

Synopsis
Goo Ra Ra is a naive rich girl, who dreams of being a great pianist with her father's love guiding her. But her path becomes rocky when her father passes away, and she finds herself going bankrupt. Being scammed of a home and needing an escape, she goes on a ride where she encounters an accident trying to avoid Sun Woo Joon, a diligent worker trying to meet ends. Being hospitalized with a broken arm and no place to go, guilty Sun Woo Joon decides to take responsibility and take care of her. With Go Ra Ra’s naive personality, she slowly begins creeping into Sun Woo Joon's heart, while trying to deal with the challenges of living an adult life.

Review
I fully admit that I was watching this rom com purely for the warm fuzzies and because I've been shipping Lee Jae Wook, who is a relatively new actor, since his role in Extraordinary You in 2019.

This is a really pretty visually, light hearted series following a classic trope of former rich girl with zero life skills landing in a very small town and trying to survive, while a mass of people around her help her solely because she is cute and kind and can play piano really well. *snorts*

Joon steals the limelight here with his judge-me-by-my-actions-not-my-words routine. I was also delighted that he played a younger character than the heroine, which I don't see often in romantic dramas. So many cute moments, peeps. Supporting cast was damn good too, fully fleshed out and sweet. How the music connected everyone and made some of them rediscover joy in life was very touching too. It certainly made me nostalgic for playing the piano, which I haven't touched since I was 17.

It's a feel good drama through and through to the first 12 episodes, folks. I would definitely give it 8/10 until then. Last 4 episodes was a disappointment, especially the second half of episode 16. You've been warned, and reading anything after would be a spoiler.

Now, let me rant a little bit. So, the screenwriter must have felt the age conflict was not good enough for this drama, so they introduced a freaking leukemia for poor Joon and forced him to keep it secret from his love interest, try to break up with her and pretend to go abroad while he was getting treatment.

Pretty shitty, right? 

It gets worse. After a heartwarming Christmas concert in Ra Ra piano's academy, which Joon can't attend, his mom comes to see Ra Ra and tells her about his illness and makes us all believe that he died. Okay, this threw me and made me gulp tears. Wow, the screenwriter has the gall to kill the main character of a rom com! Very brave, but also understandable, because cancer.

Fast forward 5 years, and we see everyone getting over their grief and being positive and moving on with their lives. Until in the last 10 mins Joon walks into Ra Ra's doors like nothing happened.

Guess what? He had to wait 5 freaking years to make sure he is completely healed before coming back to life! What kind of stupid comeback is this?!! For all he knows, she could have married and had kids in that time. Expecting a woman who grieved for you and overcame that grief to stay loyal to her love for you is very cruel and sends a bad message. And what's worse, she accept it with no fuss at all. So, if you are okay with this cluster f*ck of the last episode, you are a better person than me. I was fuming!

Overall rating is 6.5/10. Great first 12 episodes with a letdown of last four. Proceed with caution.




Reporting back with another Feel Good list of Korean dramas!

I don't know how about you, but I haven't been reading much in the last two years. I don't really know what it is but if you are in a long reading slump speckled with an excellent book here and there, you've probably ended up watching more TV or listening to books and podcasts, right? Right?!!! 😁

I'm sure you've figured out I haven't stopped bingeing on Asian dramas since probably 2018. Yes, that's when my blogging took a dive too. It's perfect escapism, and the feeling I get out of it is the same wirlwind of of emotions I had in my teens discovering historical romance genre.

So, if you need a bit of the same cozy, comforting feeling without reading, here are my recs to you for the next somewhat less festive month than what we've used to with lockdowns, restrictions and all.

Ready? Steady.. Go!

1. THE KING: ETERNAL MONARCH 
Having a bit of a hangover after watching Goblin? Never fear, newest Netflix hit comes to the rescue. The screenwriter from Goblin and my favourite goblin's bride Kim Go-eun are here, joined by one of the most famous Korean male actors Lee Min Ho. 
So, this is a romance, action drama and fantasy across parallel world's, and the twist isn't revealed until the very end. Just like Goblin, it's bittersweet and magical with an excellent soundtrack.

Synopsis
Lee Gon (Lee Min Ho) is the third Corean emperor of his generation. His citizens regard him as the perfect leader. But behind this flawless appearance, hides a deep wound. When he was eight years old, his father was murdered before his eyes following a coup. Today, instead of respecting his filial duty, he prefers to escape the palace to attend university conferences. During one of his escapades, he sees himself propelled into a parallel world into Republic of Korea where he meets Jeong Tae Eul (Kim Go-eun), an inspector with whom he teams up with to defeat the criminals but also close the door between their two worlds.
Watch all 16 episodes on Netflix.

2. DON'T DARE TO DREAM
This is also known as Jealousy Incarnate. Pure romantic comedy, full of silliness and it totally laughs at itself. There are at least three love triangles and so much over the top drama! And yet, it's warm and light-hearted. Mostly, because the main actress Gong Hyo Jin always plays really warm characters and I'm drawn to her acting, but also because the chemistry between her and the sulky, arrogant protagonist is off the charts. But wait, there is bromance too! The twist of the story? He develops breast cancer and his ego takes a massive dive. While the girl who had a massive crush on him in the past is falling for his best friend and helping him to get through the treatment, so he falls hard for her while at his most vulnerable. The OST is delicious. Look at this for a teaser and watch with English captions otherwise you'll miss what's being said during the song.

Synopsis
Lee Hwa Shin is a handsome anchor with notable journalistic talent, a well-to-do family and commendable education. He is also as fierce a competitor as one will find in the world of reporting, and goes after stories relentlessly. 

But as luck would have it, he also comes across another fierce competitor -- meteorologist Pyo Na Ri. Pyo Na Ri doesn’t have the shining resume of her anchor counterpart, went to a third-rate college and only has a temporary contract with the station. Although her dorky exterior hides an inner fire, Na Ri has worked extremely hard to get where she is, even doing odd jobs like lifting boxes. Both anchor and meteorologist now see each other as rivals in their race to becoming the station’s most valued employee. 

But what happens when the two rivals start to fall in love? The drama may be too much, even for a broadcasting station. 
Watch all 24 episodes on Netflix.

3. MOON LOVERS: SCARLET HEART RYEO
I've mentioned this one couple of years ago but I only watched it all the way through (binged on it, really) recently. Historical drama, check! Time travel, check! A borderline psychopath antihero, check! Settle down for Beauty and The Beast trope, peeps. And yet, both IU and Lee Joon Gi have amazing chemistry together. I am yet to watch the Chinese original, but this was despite a couple of unnecessary slow episodes excellent series!
And watch this if you need more persuasion.

Synopsis
When a total eclipse of the sun takes place, Go Ha Jin is transported back in time to the start of the Goryeo Dynasty of Korea during King Taejo's rule. She wakes up in the body of 16-year-old Hae Soo and finds herself in the house of 8th Prince Wang Wook, who is married to her cousin. She soon befriends several of the princes and meets the ostracized 4th Prince, Wang So. Although she knows she should not get involved in palace intrigues over the succession to the throne, she inadvertently becomes a pawn in the struggle, as several of the Princes fall in love with her. 

I think, Ondramanice has it. It's not currently on Netflix or Viki.

4. Dr. ROMANTIC 
This an excellent medical drama, warm hearted and touching. A genius doctor collects oddball surgeons for his extremely busy small town hospital while fighting corporate greed. This was such a successful drama, that it just released it's second season, which is freaking rare in kdramas. Lovable and charismatic characters, and it'll make you feel good. 

Synopsis
Kim Sa Bu was once a famous surgeon at the peak of his career at a major hospital. But he suddenly gives it all up one day to live in seclusion and work as a neighborhood doctor in a small town. He now goes by “Teacher Kim” and refers to himself as the “Romantic Doctor”. Meanwhile, Kang Dong Joo became a doctor to make something of himself after growing up poor, and he seeks out VIP patients to achieve the success that he desperately wants. Yoon Seo Jung is a passionate young surgeon who is haunted by a mistake from her past and tries to get over it. When Dong Joo and Seo Jung meet the quirky Teacher Kim, their lives and careers will never be the same again. 
Watch both seasons on Netflix.

5. KILL ME, HEAL ME
I just finished it the other day, and I have to say, it was really gripping because it portrays a young guy struggling with multiple personality disorder and and an eccentric psychiatrist working closely with him. There are all the usual tropes. Rich boy, poor girl romance, check! Tragic past, check! Drama interspersed with comedy moments, check! The best thing about this drama is Ji Sung playing 7 different characters. He was awesome!

Synopsis
A traumatic childhood experience leaves Cha Do Hyeon, suffering from memory loss and dissociation. The latter has resulted in the creation of seven distinct personalities. Wanting to regain control over his life, he asks Oh Ri Jin, a first-year psychiatric resident, to help him, but she eventually falls in love with one of his personalities. Ri Jin’s twin brother, Oh Ri On, a famous mystery novelist, investigates Do Hyeon and his family.

Watch it on Netflix.

6. LOST ROMANCE
This Taiwanese romantic comedy gets a honorary mention because it's so bloody delightful. The main character is a romance novel editor in a small publishing house and she is sick and tired of editing books about overbearing CEOs. Guess what, she has a secret crush on a CEO next door and when he falls into coma due to nefarious reasons, she goes down with him into the world of the novel she is editing!
So. Many. Tropes.
And the heroine uses them all to get out of the book she is in. As a reader I was ecstatic. It's bad and cringy, and she cringes with us but plays along and falls for it too. Expect great chemistry and much eye candy, tons of playfulness plus some good soundtrack. It's cheesy and at the same time great. There are sketches from some great kdramas sneaked in as cameos. Don't thank me, you've been warned.

 Synopsis
Zheng Xiao En works as an editor of romance novels at a publishing company, and secretly dreams about falling in love with a CEO. When she isn’t working, she spends her days daydreaming about He Tian Xing, the handsome chief executive of the company that occupies the building opposite her company’s offices.
One day, Zheng Xiao En magically finds herself transported into the pages of a romance novel – and comes face-to-face with her crush He Tian Xing. However, she soon discovers that in this fictional universe, his name is Si Tu Ao Ran – and his personality is very different. She hopes to use all the tips and tricks she has learned from the romance novels she has edited to help snare his heart. But she soon discovers that in this fictional world, she isn’t the heroic female lead – and instead is an evil side character!
Can she flip the story on its head – and end up with the man of her dreams?

Watch it on Viki

Korean Paranormal Fantasy TV Series Review: Goblin (2016) 19 Episodes


Synopsis

Kim Shin (Gong Yoo), a decorated military general from the Goryeo Dynasty, is framed as a traitor and killed by the young king. Years after his death, he is cursed by the almighty to stay immortal forever and endure the pain of seeing his loved ones die as punishment for the kills he committed in the wars to protect his country. He becomes an immortal goblin, helping people with his powers and being a kind man in spite of his grieving past. The only way to put an end to his immortality is the Goblin's bride, whose aid in pulling out the sword will end his painful immortality.

Ji Eun-Tak (Kim Go-eun) is a bubbly high school student who remains cheerful and hopeful despite her tragic life. She summons the goblin by chance and their fates begin to entwine. The Goblin's nephew Yoo Deok-Hwa (Yook Sung-jae) leases the Goblin's house to a Grim Reaper (Lee Dong-wook) and the two end up living under the same roof. Sunny (Yoo In-na) is a charismatic young lady who runs a chicken shop where Ji Eun-Tak works as a part timer.

As the lives of Kim Shin, Grim Reaper, Ji Eun-Tak and Sunny interweave, a deeper story unfolds, as they are not just strangers who met by chance but people with deep-rooted relations.


***


Guys, gals, if this one doesn't convert you into a fervently passionate fan of k-drama, I don't know what will! As urban fantasy genre goes, this is it. It's Buffy's goofiness and sass with Ilona Andrews' depth of worldbuilding and snappy dialogues.

It's funny, it's sad, poignant and so freaking beautiful... Of course, I cried in the end, and I just know this drama and its heroes will stay with me for a long time.

All four characters have a fantastic chemistry. Kim Shin, the immortal general is what Christopher Lambert wished he could have been as Highlander! There is no doom and gloom here, he is goofy, snarky, awkward with trying to catch up with all the technological advances, but underneath it all is this incredible weariness and sadness. He is tired of caring for people and watching them die while he carries on. The possibility of this cute little cheeky girl as his bride who can end his immortality is met with huge cinicism and disbelief. He's been there, got the t-shirt and had enough of hope.

The beauty of his curse is that the more he meets Eun-Tak, the more he gets to know her, the more he wants to live. She brings back all the forgotten feelings: seeing joy in small things, feeling warmth of someone's touch through hugs, experiencing wonder of new places and people. She is hungry for life, she has been barely surviving for years, and this opportunity she grabs with both hands.

Grim Reaper who is forced to share a house with Goblin is just as amazing character. He starts the series as an unmoving bureaucrat, who loves his paperwork and strictly adheres to the rules, but the more he interacts with Goblin and the people in his orbit, the more his character unravels. You see, fate brought them all together to resolve things which were left unfinished many centuries ago, and no matter how much they want to fight against it, it will prevail.

Be ready to laugh and cry, folks. I was definitely gulping back tears in some episodes,and the ending left me wrung out, empty and at the same time very satisfied. It's available on Viki app, so give it a go and let me know what you think in the comments.



Release Day Fantasy Romance Review: Dragon Unleashed by Grace Draven

Dragon Unleashed by Grace Draven (The Fallen Empire #2)


ecopy courtesy of the publisher

Synopsis from Goodreads

A dragon shapeshifter and a healer with power over the earth fight a corrupt empire in this thrilling and deeply emotional romantic fantasy from the USA Today bestselling author of Radiance.

Magic is outlawed in the Krael Empire and punishable by death. Born with the gift of earth magic, the free trader Halani keeps her dangerous secret closely guarded. When her uncle buys a mysterious artifact, a piece of bone belonging to a long-dead draga, Halani knows it's far more than what it seems.

Dragas haven't been seen for more than a century, and most believe them extinct. They're wrong. Dragas still walk among the denizens of the Empire, disguised as humans. Malachus is a draga living on borrowed time. The magic that has protected him will soon turn on him--unless he finds a key part of his heritage. He has tracked it to a group of free traders, among them a grave-robbing earth witch who fascinates him as much as she frustrates him with her many secrets.

Unbeknownst to both, the Empire's twisted empress searches for a draga of her own, to capture and kill as a trophy. As Malachus the hunter becomes the hunted, Halani must risk herself and all she loves to save him from the Empire's machinations and his own lethal birthright.
 

Amazon US/UK | Amazon kindle US/UK | Book Depository

8/10

* * *
I've read Dragon Unleashed within a week of starting it, but had to re-arrange my thoughts for a few weeks before I was comfortable enough to share them with you.

Paranormal Fantasy Review: Semi-Psychic Life by Elizabeth Hunter

Semi-Psychic Life by Elizabeth Hunter (Glimmer Lake #2)


ecopy courtesy of the author

Synopsis from Goodreads
Who says you can’t live the rock and roll life after forty?
You just need a lot more vitamins and a bigger bottle of aspirin.

Valerie Costa was pretty sure she was rocking her forties. She had an amazing coffee shop, two cool teenagers, and a new superpower that gave her insight into any random object she touched.

Okay, she wasn’t thrilled about that last one.

Ever since Val and her two best friends had driven their car off the edge and into Glimmer Lake the year before, Val has struggled with her new abilities. She’s not exactly sure she wants to be psychic, she could live without her newfound glove addiction, and honestly no one wants to know that much about their teenage sons.

But when Val’s ex-husband goes missing, and police show up at her door with questions she can’t answer, Val, Robin, and Monica are going to have to use their sudden psychic abilities to solve a mystery none of them saw coming.


Semi-Psychic Life is a standalone paranormal women’s fiction novel in the Glimmer Lake series by USA Today bestseller, Elizabeth Hunter, author of the Elemental Mysteries and the Irin Chronicles.


Amazon US/UK | Amazon kindle US/UK | The Book Depository

8.5/10

* * *
 First of all, not surprisingly, I loved it.  What's not to love, boys and girls? Paranormal cosy mystery, check. Middle-aged, settled into their own skin and their friendships heroines, check. A sexy sheriff in a small town, rawrrr! Check. A punk, rebellious, interesting heroine with a snarkalicious attitude and a swanky coffee shop, check.

Korean Romantic Drama TV Series Review: Extraordinary You (2019)

Extraordinary You (2019)


Korean Romantic Drama TV Series
16 episodes
Completed

Watched on Netflix

Synopsis from MyDramaList
 What would you do if you found out that you were, in fact, a character in a comic? And an extra character on top of that? Change the course of the story, obviously! Eun Dan Oh is a 17-year-old high-school student from a wealthy family who suffers from a lifelong heart condition that inevitably means she will not live past her teenage years. However, when Dan Oh realizes she is experiencing long gaps in her memory as well, she comes into the unhappy inheritance of another fact in her life: she is a character in a Korean webtoon and all of her actions are predetermined by the artist who draws her. To make matters worse, she discovers she is only a supporting character in the cast. With her newfound understanding of the world she inhabits, she is determined to find true love in her own plot-line and circumvent the author’s plans for her character by utilizing the flashes of storyboard she alone is able to see. (Source: onehallyu) ~~ Adapted from the webcomic series "July Found by Chance” by Moo Ryoo.

8.5/10

* * *
 
I finished it last night at 1AM and cried my eyes out. Here, I fully admit it.

To me, in many ways, Asian dramas are an extension of my love of all things fantasy, and especially urban fantasy. They feel fresh, pure and raw. In contrast, for quite a few last years I've been struggling to stay interested in Western TV series and movies, and then gave up. They make me tired, they are jaded and cynical, and I want something emotionally uplifting instead.

Extraordinary You delivers in spectacular fashion. The premise is fantastic. An extra in a comic book suddenly snap out of character which she is forced into on stage and discovers that she, Eun Dan-oh is completely different underneath. She is chafing against her doormat of a character who is forever moping about, is potentially dying soon from a weak heart and loves a man who despises her. Instead, she is determined to live her life to the fullest between scenes in the comic book and change her fate.

Her force of character allows her to discover an even more insignificant extra in the comic book who has the strange power to alter scenes on the stage and warp the continuity of the plot creating a butterfly effect. Soon, more and more characters are waking up and walk the strange balance between the cliched comic book and their actual life.

Dan-Oh and Ha-Ru develop strong feelings for each other and discover that underneath the light romantic plot of their comic book there is another sinister layer, and it leads to many struggles and heartbreak, but above it all, there is an overwhelming hope in the power of their love for each other.

I really don't want to give you any spoilers, but I loved this series! Dan-Oh and Ha-Ru characters are magnetic and have beautiful chemistry. Dan-Oh's stage fiance is not as villainous as we are led to believe and has layers of character which were wonderful to peel off. The supporting characters are pretty memorable too. I had a kick out of all the things which were left unsaid and were played out with the eyes and the way people were holding their bodies. It's like they were these whole hidden silent dialogues in between words.

Overall, a fantastic plot, great acting and an uplifting, emotional story. Loved it, recommended.


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KARINA IS READING

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The Night Circus
Legacy
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In case of zombie apocalypse

Hey, guys! I feel like I should say this just in case :)
If you'd like to sponsor a fellow book addict who sometimes can't sleep at night worrying that she won't have enough books to read if internet goes down in the event of zombie apocalypse (I'm convinced it's one of the top five ways to go for human race) you can donate through Paypal to olivesandacorns at gmail dot com or buy a book through any of the links provided with my reviews which will send me a small percentage from the sale. All proceeds will go towards my enormous TBR. I will also shelter you on the remote farm in Portugal when zombie apocalypse starts provided you survive getting there. There will be books, yay?
Thank you! Love you all

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