Currently Watching in CDramaland!

Monday, May 3, 2021

Hilarious in the Extreme: Watching Miss Crow with Mr. Lizard (2021)

36 episode series on VIKI (click here to watch)

Seen episodes 1-12.

The series is new so not all episodes are released yet.

💗 Watch the trailer with English subs below! 💗

Allen Ren and Fair Xing (from Put Your Head on My Shoulder fame) are the leads, and Chloe Zhao (villainous VP role in The Brightest Star in the Sky) plays Fair Xing's best friend (a super refreshing change for her since I've only seen her play a you-know-what).

Due to being a victim in a horrendous car wreck when he was in his early twenties, architectural designer Gu Chuan (Allen Ren) undergoes an experimental heart surgery that replaces his own heart with a mechanical heart that is only supposed to last around 10 years. Ten years into the future, not only is he living on borrowed time, but he can't drink alcohol, can't really exercise since it elevates his pulse, and, you guessed it, romantic intimacy is out.

While he's living his calm, boring, borrowed time life, Jiang Xiao Ning (Fair Ching) comes on board at his company as his PA and driver. And she brings with her a bright, positive breath of fresh air. What's more, even if his pulse is elevated due to agitation, when he touches her, he doesn't give her an electric shock the way he normally does if he touches anyone or anything when he's in that condition (I'm hoping he wears rubber-soled shoes).

So, what we have here is a romantic comedy in a business setting with a science fiction twist! 

I'm only 12 episodes in, but I am LOVING this series so far. 

This will be a slow-burn romance, I can tell already, and that's perfectly fine with me. There have been a ton of belly laughs so far due to the antics of everybody, including the supporting cast, and I'm just really excited to see where Miss Crow with Mr. Lizard goes.

Warning: For anyone who might be triggered, there are a few scenes of attempted sexual assault and sexual coercion (not from any of the main male characters) and it is not graphic, but it is scary. The ML shines quite a bit though and I appreciate that both the FL and the SFL are made of pretty tough stuff.

Wild Adventures with Z. Tao: Watching Hot Blooded Youth (2019)

58 episode series (Fully subbed) from 2019 on VIKI (click here to watch)

Seen episodes 1-22.

💗 Watch the trailer with English subs below! 💗

My knowledge of Chinese history is absolutely zilch. So I have no clue how accurate Hot Blooded Youth. I also realize that it will be prejudiced a certain way, so, yeah, that's expected.

I do know that Hot Blooded Youth involves the Shanghai International Settlement as it was in what appears to be either the late 1920s or the early 1930s. So we have foreigners (in this case the French and the British) who are given an obscene amount of privileges running around and causing chaos in Shanghai, rather like America's extension of the diplomatic immunity olive branch. As I see it.

Then we have our hero character, Wu Qian (Huang Zi Tao), wreaking another kind of havoc. He's the Dickensian type of Dodger character, the Jack Kelly from Newsies, the street rat named Aladdin, or the Thomas from The Maze Runner. He's the crazy kid with the bloated ego and enough charm to woo the tusks off an elephant. All of this explains why I love him and why I've become a dedicated Z. Tao fan in the last 6 months. He plays the obnoxious, charming, snarky type of male hero that I like.

Wu Qian is a street rat, or as he calls himself, king of the slums. He rules over one particular street in Shanghai and takes care of all its inhabitants. But circumstances throw him in the path of He Hong Yi (Sophie Zhang), a dedicated member of a revolutionary group. Together they take on a crazy challenge that could either kill them or win them a fortune. Throw in Wu Qian's oldest and best friend Wei Cheng Feng (Liu Yu Ning) and you have a complete set, made even odder because Cheng Feng is a temporary police officer which should put him completely at odds with his BFF.

The series is dynamite to watch. I've never watched anything from China set in the 1920s or 1930s and I gotta say that they worked at it with the women's clothing. Not the FL since she's unconventional in her clothing choices, but all of the other gals (or even molls since a lot of them are involved with gangsters) are dressed in very accurate 1930s clothing, hair, makeup, the works. It's awesome.

The first couple of episodes are campier than the rest. The filming style is a bit like Guy Ritchie, especially the openers which change based on what "chapter" of the story you're in. You finish one chapter and it leads into another one. Like, where I am right now, Wu Qian has been falsely imprisoned in a maximum-security prison. One of his enemies wanted a pet of his rescued from the prison and he also happens to hate Wu Qian so he kidnapped him and plopped him in there as a replacement. It's amazing what money can buy.

If you have time and are at all fascinated with the 1920s or 1930s then you will probably love this series. If you're expecting romance, this isn't your drama. It may get romantic since there is a zing between Wu Qian and He Hong Yi, I don't know, but that's not the main plot point. It's also possible that everyone may die at the end. I won't know until I get there, and it is slow-going since watching this show is a marathon, not a sprint. But for me Hot Blooded Youth is like potato chips, one episode is never enough.

Warning: Definitely a PG13 or TV14 rating for violence. Especially once Wu Qian makes it to prison. You would have really thought Z. Tao was being tortured by the reactions he gave. I actually cried a time or two. I don't like watching anyone being tortured. But miraculously, like Jack Bauer from 24, Wu Qian heals pretty quickly. 😉

In other news, Happy Birthday to Z. Tao! I'm a day late, probably 2 with the time difference, but I wish you absolutely the best as you turn 28, and I am so sorry for the loss of your father that has made this birthday more painful than it probably should have been. Praying for you, Baby Panda. 💗

Li Ge Yang as the Male Lead: Watching Always Have, Always Will (2021)

24 (30 minute) episode series available with English subs on Amazon Prime with a subscription (click here to watch). Or it's also available on YouTube if you search.

Seen episodes 1-7.

💗 Watch the trailer with English subs below! 💗

I usually don't go for the shorter episode series, but do make a few exceptions, like in this case, for Li Ge Yang! If you don't know how much I love him, read my review for The Love Equations where he plays a nerdy second male lead (I was afraid playing the SML would be his fate forever). And the FL played by Dawn Chen is silly but cute.

Always Have, Always Will is your typical college romance story between a cold guy Luo Yan and a warm girl Fang Li. They were enemies ( ? ) in high school, from her perspective, and she's fuming that he's at the university. Not only that but during a round of something that looks like spin the bottle but not quite, he has to kiss a girl of his choosing and he picks her. She's mortified and determined to enact revenge!

It's not a super original theme, and I'm not usually a fan of the colder ML syndrome, but Li Ge Yang could probably play almost any character and make me like him. The characters are rather silly and I wish the subtitles on Amazon Prime were better since I think that would clear up some confusion. Crossing my fingers that VIKI will take the series on as a project someday. Li Ge Yang is growing in popularity and he's got several ML roles lined up in the future, but this is his first male lead role ever so I'm cheering him on.

There are some unfortunate bullying tactics at use in Always Have, Always Will, but I expected that going in with the enemies-to-lovers theme. I'm excited for the moment when they can acknowledge that they like each other and not be at war. I mean, I can tell the characters are attracted to each other, but they're just a little ridiculous when it comes to showing it. His jealousy isn't very pretty and he gets snide and arrogant pretty quick, one of the least attractive attributes in a man, IMO.

But Always Have, Always Will is fun and overall pretty bubbly and just a fluffy watch. Nothing too serious going on so a nice break from reality.
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Chinese Drama Review: The Love Equations (2020)

Saturday, April 24, 2021

A review and praise for the 2020 college Chinese drama "The Love Equations" starring Simon Gong, Reyi Liu, and Li Ge Yang.

  • Drama: The Love Equations 
  • Country: China 
  • Year: 2020 
  • Genre: Slow-Burn Romance, College, Friendship 
  • Starring: Simon Gong, Reyi Liu, Li Ge Yang 
  • My Rating: 9 ★s 
  • Romantic complications arise when forensic science student Zhao Fan Zhou (Simon Gong) falls hard for the adorable Zhou Xiao (Reyi Liu), a literature student in the same university. Zhou Xiao loves all things detective-themed, even down to creating a detective club for the university. At first, her relationship with Zhao Fan Zhou is all about his majoring in forensic science, since she's writing an online novel from the perspective of a forensic scientist, but soon he wins over her heart. Their feelings blossom into a full-fledged relationship much to the annoyance of two friends, Zhao Fan Zhou's arrogant childhood friend Jia Yi Chun (Zhu Yun Hui) who has always crushed hard on him, and Zhou Xiao's childhood friend, Cai Ya Si (Li Ge Yang), who has equally been in love with Zhou Xiao for about as long as he can remember.

    While their relationship seems to thrive for a long time since they are such a well-matched pair, eventually health concerns for Zhao Fan Zhou's mother (bipolar disorder) and his fear that he might develop symptoms as he ages, interferes in their relationship. Helped along a little bit by the underhanded conniving of Jia Yi Chun. Are Zhao Fan Zhou and Zhou Xiao meant to be? Or should they go their separate ways and find love in different places?

    The Love Equations is both a frustrating and wonderful drama.

    A review and praise for the 2020 college Chinese drama "The Love Equations" starring Simon Gong, Reyi Liu, and Li Ge Yang.

    I attribute much of its success to the performance of Simon Gong as Zhao Fan Zhou. In the Japanese realm, the character's what is known as more of a tsundere, meaning he's pretty cold at first but emotionally warms up when you get to know him. Simon is the oldest of the main actors, having been about 27 when they filmed the series, and he's clearly familiar with romance and love and how to emote all of that through his eyes. He makes a difficult character like Zhao Fan Zhou very approachable and likable. The end of the series, particularly episodes 23, 24, and 25 are painful in that the leads have been driven apart, made even more painful because of Simon Gong's stellar performance. He made me cry!

    A review and praise for the 2020 college Chinese drama "The Love Equations" starring Simon Gong, Reyi Liu, and Li Ge Yang.

    Reyi Liu as Zhou Xiao is the typical cutesy, clueless female lead that the Chinese college dramas seem to be so in love with. I like the character and I don't like her at the same time. She does tend a bit on the annoying side sometimes, but once she and Zhao Fan Zhou are actually in a relationship, I really started to like her. She grew into herself, and the actors have dynamic chemistry. Overall, Reyi Liu brought a passionate bubbliness to the role that was necessary. So long as you don't binge-watch the series, you'll continue liking her up through the end. 

    A review and praise for the 2020 college Chinese drama "The Love Equations" starring Simon Gong, Reyi Liu, and Li Ge Yang.

    I have to praise Li Ge Yang. He's more of a newcomer, sort of, and this is a support role for him like most of his work through 2020. But he makes Cai Ya Si such a lovable, adorkable nerd. He's so playful and goofy! If I were in my early twenties and had my choice of male characters in The Love Equations, I would have chosen Cai Ya Si, hands' down. I adore nerds and he's absolutely my type, plus he can wear yellow, one of my favorite colors, and I absolutely cannot! His loyalty to Zhou Xiao, especially when she's emotionally hurting, is beautiful. On a total side note, Li Ge Yang is like a Chinese version of Kento Yamazaki, which I think is pretty high praise. He's got the same vibe. I would have given anything for him to be a male lead in this series and get his own girl, rather than be the doomed alternate love interest for the female lead. Fortunately, Li Ge Yang has quite a few upcoming dramas in his line-up where he's playing the male lead, so I'm excited for that. I probably will never see him play a nerd again, so sad, but it'll be interesting to see how he approaches different character personalities.

    One of the unique aspects of The Love Equations is that it tackles the topic of mental health, a bit of a taboo subject in many cultures. Zhao Fan Zhou's mother is a woman paralyzed with untreated bipolar disorder, at least until they finally get her into the hospital after a correct diagnosis. His home life was unpleasant growing up, and the character suffered a lot of emotional trauma and unwillingness to connect with others because his mother had been undiagnosed for so long resulting in the strife between his parents. So he has to work through a lot of that stress and angst while his mother receives treatment.

    A review and praise for the 2020 college Chinese drama "The Love Equations" starring Simon Gong, Reyi Liu, and Li Ge Yang.

    I do feel that the series has far too many support characters. Like Zhou Xiao's college roommates/friends who you see and then don't see, and you're involved in their love lives and then you're not. It would have pared the series down if there hadn't been so many different characters. I think there are something like 5 or 6 other characters that weren't strictly necessary. If they'd been chopped, then the series might have fit more into the 24 episode range.

    Speaking of, since this is a Chinese drama, yes, we have 27 full-length episodes, rather than the 10 or so that most Japanese dramas dish out. It's refreshing because it does give the characters time to grow, but it also gives time for all of those tropes to fully flesh out, like the evil girl from Zhao Fan Zhou's childhood. I say evil because it's true. I'm surprised she doesn't stab Zhao Fan Zhou through the heart with her "if I can't have him, nobody can" mentality. I pity the actress Zhu Yun Hui since this is her first role and I'm pretty much conditioned to hate any character she plays going forward. This female character is the nastiest jealous love rival I've ever seen, by far.

    A review and praise for the 2020 college Chinese drama "The Love Equations" starring Simon Gong, Reyi Liu, and Li Ge Yang.

    But jealous love rivals aside, The Love Equations is well worth the watch. It's a slow-burn romance, like most of the Chinese dramas that I've seen, so it just takes time to develop. Let it. Zhao Fan Zhou and Zhou Xiao are precious and even though they suffer waaaaaaay more than necessary, there is a happily-ever-after.

    I encourage watching the show on VIKI since it's a legal streaming service and the subtitles are terrific. You might need a subscription, but I have one for $4.99 a month which is barely a drop in the bucket. And if you already watch Asian dramas, then you're probably already subscribed to VIKI anyway.

    If you do watch The Love Equations, tell me what you think of the show. And tell me what you think of Li Ge Yang!

    Enjoy this sweet MV from Youtube.

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    Classics Club: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (1953)

    Friday, April 23, 2021

    Read for The Classics Club. You can find my reading list HERE

    Fahrenheit 451 . . . the temperature at which books burn. 

    I seem to drag Fahrenheit 451 out of the old bookshelf every 7 years or so for a re-read, forgetting many of the book's details in the years in-between. The story always surprises and terrifies me, even more so with this particular re-read due to the current infestation of "cancel culture" and self-imposed "censorship" in my society.

    And before anyone asks what I mean by censorship, know that I am NOT in favor of letting sex and violence run wild in the streets (and on our screens). Ironically, sex and violence seem to be the only thing NOT censored anymore. I don't mean permitting and encouraging and praising every kind of depravity. I hope and pray that there is still moral decency left in mankind, although it's dwindling fast. And it will dwindle faster if the brakes aren't applied quick.

    No, when I say that I hate censorship, I mean that I hate when only one side of an argument is allowed to be presented. Freedom and liberty is the ability, no, the permission given, to present both sides of an argument or a theory. Where the pros and cons to a topic are given equal talking time without having one side shouted or "canceled" out of existence by the opponent. The canceling what we don't want to hear or throwing modern "morality" in the faces of historic authors/public figures is what I hate the most. You like spitting on your ancestors and their mistakes with your hypocrisy and judgment? Wait 100 or 200 years into the future and see how you like your descendants spitting on you because you weren't clairvoyant enough to suit them.

    Off the soapbox and on to the book.

    Dystopian stories are almost NEVER happy ones.

    Doesn't that strike you as odd? 

    They're always tragedies where the world has gone insane due to one group's mismanagement or increase in political power that always strikes down freedom of thought, speech, religion, etc. Our poor fireman, Guy Montag, can't even remember where he met his wife, at least, not until the end of the book. He gets up at night, goes to work, drives with the other firemen to wherever an individual has been reported to own books, burns their home down, and returns to the firehouse to wait for another report. He goes home, wondering if his wife will have overdosed on sleep aids again and need her stomach pumped, then lies in his bed, separate from his wife's, and listens to the not so silent stillness that is broken by the seashells in her ears constantly pumping in data, data, data to her overstimulated mind.

    And the books, always the books. Before he even knew it, he'd snatched a couple, and then more, and more besides until there's a tidy little hoard in the heating vent just waiting to catch him up. There's Clarice the girl next door who still looks up and around at the world and whose family still sits on their front porch laughing and conversing. She wakes him up, this 17-year-old kid, and once Montag is awake there is no returning, not even at the command of his fire captain, Beatty, or the desperate pleas of his wife, Mildred. He has one old professor, Faber, on his side at the end of all things.

    The war begins, Montag against Beatty, a desperate flight for his life, a real war that wipes out towns, and the promise that maybe someday the world can return to a place of respect where history and stories aren't rewritten just because they're inconvenient or might hurt somebody's feelings.

    The book itself is not a quick read for me, despite being less than 200 pages. 

    I spent maybe 3 weeks reading it, 10 or so pages snatched here and there, until I finally blazed through the final 30 pages, including the afterword and the coda. If you've never picked up a copy with those letters to the general idiotic public and publishing houses, then you should find one. They're worth reading because Bradbury literally didn't give a damn about censorship or that he might offend somebody. He was who he was and he wrote what he wrote, and anybody who didn't like it can go write their own stories instead of trying to mess with his. Or they can go boil their heads, he definitely gave that impression too.

    Everyone should read this book. I don't care if you like it or not. Fahrenheit 451 is a book that MUST be read.

    "Frightening in its implications . . . Mr. Bradbury's account of this insane world, which bears many alarming resemblances to our own, is fascinating."  - The New York Times

    Favorite Quotes from Fahrenheit 451

    "You're afraid of making mistakes. Don't be. Mistakes can be profited by. Man, when I was younger I shoved my ignorance in people's faces. They beat me with sticks. By the time I was forty my blunt instrument had been honed to a fine cutting point for me. If you hide your ignorance, no one will hit you and you'll never learn." - Faber, Fahrenheit 451

    "Remember that the Captain belongs to the most dangerous enemy to truth and freedom, the solid unmoving cattle of the majority. Oh God, the terrible tyranny of the majority." - Faber, Fahrenheit 451

    "There was a silly damn bird called a phoenix back before Christ, every few hundred years he built a pyre and burn himself up. He must have been first cousin to Man. But every time he burnt himself up he sprang out of the ashes, he got himself born all over again. And it looks like we're doing the same thing, over and over, but we've got one damn thing the phoenix never had. We know the damn silly thing we just did. We know all the damn silly things we've done for a thousand years and as long as we know that and always have it around where we can see it, someday we'll stop making the goddamn funeral pyres and jumping in the middle of them. We pick up a few more people that remember every generation." - Granger, Fahrenheit 451

    "Someday we'll remember so much that we'll build the biggest goddamn steamshovel in history and dig the biggest grave of all time and shove war in and cover it up." - Granger, Fahrenheit 451
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    My Least Favorite Part of being a My Drama List member

    Thursday, March 25, 2021

    My Drama List is like IMDB, only it's a fairly complete listing of Asian dramas down through the years encompassing multiple cultures and countries.

    In theory, My Drama List has useful knowledge for the following reasons:

    1. It provides user reviews, some of them quite cohesive and helpful.
    2. It provides links for where the dramas can be viewed with English subtitles.
    3. It lists the actors, genres, and tags so if the viewer loves a drama, they can easily find others with the same theme or even the same actor.

    In practice, My Drama List could use a few changes:

    1. There's distinct favoritism for South Korean entertainment over any other entertainment as represented by the sheer influx of articles, reviews, videos, and fans to that effect. It's unfortunately very one-sided, even their YouTube channel that only lists K-drama entertainment.
    2. Continuing on with the South Korean favoritism, a South Korean drama that's pretty and well-filmed and well-cast will receive at least an 8.5 or 8.9 rating overall on MDL. A Japanese drama that meets the same criteria will rarely get over a 7.5 or a 7.9 rating. In my experience from checking people's watchlists, people who primarily watch K-dramas are going to rate dramas from other countries lower than necessary, particularly Japan.
    3. There is also a Comments section on each of the dramas/movies pages. Instead of using this portion of the website to uplift and inspire one another, it is usually used for minor complaints such as hating the actor's hair, voice, clothes, relationships, etc., or complaining about the overall storyline. Cringey is a very popular term used for anything that a viewer dislikes in a drama and many people in the Comments section use it frequently.
    Is there a solution to the problem?

    First, get rid of the Comments section. It is being used as a means of bullying and belittling and should not be tolerated. If people want to have conversations, they can IM one another based on actual reviews that are being left, not a two-sentence whine-fest. At least give users the option to opt-out of seeing Comments. I can't be the only one who wishes for that.

    I have nothing against the K-drama fanbase. But it's time that MDL took a more active approach to market entertainment from the other countries. K-drama related articles, polls, videos, conversations, reviews, etc. shouldn't be the only thing I see when I open the main page. And the YouTube channel is super disheartening if you love anything other than K-dramas.

    In other words, guys, let's be nicer to each other and try to balance out the fanbase a little bit and give fans of other countries a voice. And also cut down on the nasty that crops up in the Comments section. It gets really, really old, to the point where I wish there was an alternative source. But there isn't, so for now, MDL is what I'm stuck with.

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    Kazuya Kamenashi's new 2021 Japanese drama, Red Eyes!

    Thursday, March 18, 2021

    I am SO in love with Kame's new show, Red Eyes!

    It's airing right now, only 2 episodes to go and it is AMAZING!

    You know that vibe from classic suspense shows like 24, Person of Interest, or Criminal Minds? That's what we've got going on here, even a little bit of The Mentalist in that there's a Red John type of character.

    Kame plays Kyosuke Fushimi, a former police detective who left the force when his girlfriend was murdered 3 years prior to the events of the show. Working as a PI on infidelity cases, Fushimi is approached to join a unique division of the police force called KSBC that works solely off information and data collected from 5 million surveillance cameras placed through a specific prefecture. He brings his highly trained team of 3 ex-cons with him to join this specialized police force group. But it doesn't take long for KSBC to be under attack by an individual/individuals unknown who target the loved ones of the members. Fushimi discovers that his girlfriend was the first victim related to this group of people and his crazed desperation for revenge kicks into high gear.

    I've mentioned it before, but it's worth repeating.

    Kamenashi is incredible. There is an unfortunate stigma against idol actors, claims that they're not talented performers, etc. Technically they're living on borrowed time since the male idols age out of the industry around the 35-40 year-old mark. But Kamenashi is a damn good actor and I pray that this is not his fate. He's 35 now and I do NOT want to see his career end because he's suddenly considered too old. Maybe his boy band will disband, okay, that's understandable, but the dude needs to continue acting. I'm happy to keep watching his dramas until he's old enough to play the grandfather figure. I'm serious. He's so good at it!

    His charisma, his energy, his athleticism are all incredibly alluring. He's such a physical actor, and Red Eyes showcases the fighting skills that I've seen Kame use so many times before. You have the team who works inside the command center, the geeks and nerds if you will, manning the computers and the surveillance camera footage. And you have Kamenashi as the feet on the ground chasing down the bad guys and kicking butt. 

    I love suspense and thrillers, I do. There's that instinctive breath-holding moment when you're just not sure if something is going to work out or not, and you're terrified. There's a lot of that happening here. Such an adrenaline rush.

    It could literally all fall apart and everybody dies at the end of the show, but I don't actually care at this moment. Red Eyes is amazing and I love it.

    Sorry, guys, no English subs for the trailer, but it gives you a rough sketch of the first episode.

    There are 2 episodes left in the series to air (10 in total), and all 8 of the aired episodes are fully subtitled by Mia-Maw Fansubs! If you want to watch the hardsubbed episodes of Red Eyes (meaning the subs are already merged into the episodes), you can request access to her member's only section and then go to THIS PAGE for the episodes. Her subs are super high quality and I look forward to seeing more of her work in the future. She apparently subtitled another of Kame's series called Strawberry Night Saga that I haven't watched yet, so that's exciting.

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    Japan Drama Review: Five (2017)

    Wednesday, March 10, 2021



    Country: Japan

    Year: 2017

    Episodes: 8 episodes, 25 minutes each

    Genre: School, Romance, Friendship, Reverse Harem

    Starring: Nana Asakawa, Ryuji Sato, Koudai Matsuoka, Mario Kuroba, Yukito Nishii, Takuya Negishi

    My Rating★★

    Click to read more of my reviews for Japanese entertainment.

    When you delve into Dramaland you quickly discover that there are good dramas and bad dramas. Five is so bad that it's funny and wormed its bizarre little way into my heart just a little bit. Not enough to ever rewatch it, but still.

    My Story Synopsis for Five

    When Hina Aso joins her new high school, she is put in an all-boys A-Class (these are the smartest kids in school). The only friends she makes are the 5 most popular boys in the school, Toshi, Takui, Jun, Nao, and Kojiro. Get it! Yes, the name of the series makes sense now! *eye roll* Naturally, this makes her an enemy of all the girls in the school, as well as, for some unknown reason, the student council who seems to thrive on trying to take their A-Class students down a peg or two and disperse them into the other classes. Add to that Hina's feelings about Toshi and Takui's feelings about Hina and we have a glorious love triangle, one of many.

    My Thoughts on Five

    This drama starts out ridiculous and ends ridiculous. 

    The Acting and The Story

    It's overdone, over-dramatized, over-acted, pretty much any over you can think of. The entire series is a collection of stereotypes thrust together. You've got the playboy with the heart of gold, the intellectual, the kendo (sports) enthusiast, the best friend, and the gay boy (although the jury's still out on that one). To say nothing of Toshi's best friends from childhood who are both in love with him (a girl AND a boy). Because that happens so often. The stereotypes are remarkably weird. Yamato Nadeshiko Shichi Henge also had stereotypes but they were less, shall we say, PRONOUNCED than in Five. There was more to work with, even though it had its absurd moments too. Hopefully, I'll actually review YNSH at some point since it's one of my favorite dramas and it's sort of a crime that I haven't written about it yet.

    Five is also awash with popular Japanese tropes, like love triangles/squares/quadrangles, etc. There's the bullying girls in the school, the bullying boys in the school, the good girl falls in love with the bad boy trope (although he's a straight-A student so how is he a delinquent other than his bleached hair?). There's even the "hero and heroine get locked together in the school basement overnight" trope. His fear of the dark was somewhat original. As is her bizarre personality change when she drinks coffee. That was just weird. Caffeine doesn't do that. There's the sports festival, although it's not the traditional kind usually seen so that was different. There's even a crossdresser. And of course, the biggie, the reverse harem, meaning one girl and many boys in love with her. 

    The Screenplay

    I'm sorry, folks, but the episode screenplays are just not good.

    There's a problem with the dramas under 30 minutes in length per episode. These are usually of lesser quality than the ones in the 45 - 60 minute an episode timeframe. Five proves that point. It's a lesser drama created from a lesser manga. Thankfully, it's not one of the more content-heavy mangas turned dramas since that's a whole other issue that's been cropping up in the last 5 years or so. Overall, Five is definitely a B Grade drama, possibly even a C Grade since I almost feel like labeling it B Grade is doing a disservice to B Grade dramas. It feels like they're running out of decent material so they work with the manga leftovers.

    Objectionable Content

    Planned rape that doesn't get off the ground, highly stylized fistfights, a couple of Japanese no-touchy non-kisses that they disguised pretty well with clever camera angles, minor swearing, a girl presenting herself as male for unknown reasons considering she's actually in love with her male childhood friend who's definitely straight (that was pretty weird since there was a near kiss involving another girl), and of course, the bizarre idealized reverse harem in the first place. It's an easy trope to get wrong, and Five gets it weirdly wrong. There's also potential triggering for any bullying victims.

    All the Feels

    At least we have Hina. She's fairly sweet but has tougher skin than I expected. I like her and I kind of like her and Toshi together. She doesn't let herself get pushed around and she stands up for herself and her friends. It's not always the guys leaping to the rescue, which amazes me. But whereas My Little Monster (CLICK HERE FOR MY REVIEW) did the weird boy vibe so well with Suda Masaki as the male lead, Five just doesn't quite get there. Ryuji Sato tries, but the character is just a little too stereotypical reformed bad boy (again, not sure how a straight-A student is a bad boy) so there isn't much he could do. I give all the lead actors kudos. They all exhibited enthusiasm, but the story is just too absurd for words. I laughed a bit and by the end was somewhat invested, but I did an awful lot of eye-rolling. I'm amazed I watched the whole thing.

    If you're new to Japanese dramas, Five probably isn't the place to start. It's too absurd for newbies, and almost too absurd for me. I do sort of wish there'd been a 2nd season since that would have helped wrap things up, but oh well. That's another issue with the under-30-minutes series; there's rarely a follow-up season when one is needed.

    Where can I watch Five?

    If you want to watch it with English subtitles you can try this page at DramaCool. That is if you actually want to even try it and have 3 hours or so spare for a drama that's probably not really worth your time.

    WARNING: There are offensive ads on DramaCool. I have an ad blocker (Kaspersky) that I use when on DramaCool so I don't see them. Go read my reasons why I think you need an adblocker before viewing content on DramaCool.
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    #justiceforgina - Supporting conservative actress Gina Carano after her firing from Lucasfilm

    Wednesday, March 3, 2021

    I've been pretty much disenchanted with the world at large since the mid-February unjust discriminatory firing of Gina Carano from the Star Wars series The Mandalorian by Emporer Palpatine a.k.a. Kathleen Kennedy.

    I'm pissed that Disney hasn't done a damn thing about it even though the top shareholders are supposedly furious at KK's handling of Gina's firing. Who lets social media tell someone they've been let go? Really KK, really?

    Does that mean the top Disney shareholders think Carano should be reinstated? Not necessarily. It just means they're pissed that so many fans are pissed because a lot of us are. Lucasfilm listened to the wrong "woke" crowd and now that "woke" crowd has moved on to the newest fresh meat, leaving the actual fans snapping and snarling at a franchise we used to love but that's been utterly destroyed because KK allowed her leftist political leanings to affect how she manages Lucasfilm. Unacceptable.

    Have you gone on the Star Wars YouTube Channel? Do it for chuckles. 

    The number of downvotes on any new content they're publishing is incredibly validating to me, as is the lack of any positive comments on the videos. Lucasfilm and KK currently deserve everything the fans are throwing at them. Star Wars is an institution that existed long before Disney took it over. They need to start listening to the people who actually love the franchise and would come back if it was treated with respect.

    There are actually some of us who loved Gina Carano as Cara Dune in The Mandalorian and know it's discrimination for her to be fired over making a point about how fascism works. A lot more of us than I realized. It was refreshing to have a woman not scrawny as a toothpick in a strong, leading female role. And for the actress, Gina Carano, to actually be a conservative? WOW! That's a humongous shocker and was equally refreshing because it meant that maybe people could be hired based on their merit and not because of whose back they scratched.

    What a crock, Disney. So much for your "we love strong women" vibe. Only if they go along with your agenda do you love strong women. As soon as they start to think for themselves, they're gone. I would love for an apology to Gina Carano and an offer to rehire. I'm not holding my breath, but it's what I hope for.

    And if they won't rehire Gina, well, I just want Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni to take charge of Lucasfilm. That's all. They get Star Wars. They get the fans. They get and respect the rich history of Star Wars legends. It's what made The Mandalorian so good.

    The toxicity that is Kathleen Kennedy has to go.

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    Ladies of the House: A Modern Retelling of Sense and Sensibility by Laura Edmondson (2021)

    Wednesday, February 17, 2021


    It’s unfortunate that a modern retelling of Sense and Sensibility felt the need to forgo, or actually decry, any sense of moral restraint and instead delved deeply into American politics with a liberal agenda being the end all/be all of feminism and liberated women. I’m so sick of American politics that I could puke, and Ladies of the House did not improve my mood one iota.

    Turning Mr. Dashwood into a sleazy politician with a propensity for young things in their twenties made me sick. Any chance I had for liking Daisy and Wallis, and there were moments because I like the sister theme, was immediately undermined by the next political undercutting maneuver. I liked Wallis a tick more than Daisy, just a tick. She is the most accurate of the women and has a very Marianne feel. And Atlas? Well, to be fair, he’s just as spineless as Edward Ferrars, but at least Edward had a controlling family keeping him under their thumb, unlike Atlas who’s just lily-livered. And heaven forbid that Blake should turn against Wallis to run for his mother’s senate seat under a political banner different from Wallis’ own! Horrors!

    I did get the inspired by Sense and Sensibility vibes, which was more than I was expecting, but at the same time, it didn’t impress me. The author would have done much better if she had just steered clear of a Jane Austen retelling and just written her political novel. If she had, I would have never read it and we would have both been happy.

    As it stands, I read it. I will never read it again. I would rather re-read Sense and Sensibility for the umpteenth time than this half-baked reboot chock full of political posturing. The only other Austen retelling I hated this much is Unleashing Mr. Darcy, a novel I loathe to the core of my being.

    Thanks to Netgalley for an ARC. I wasn’t required to give a positive review.

    Ladies of the House

    Author: Laura Edmondson

    Year: 2021

    My Rating:  ★

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    A high fantasy adventure - The Stolen Kingdom by Jillian Boehme (2021)

    Tuesday, February 16, 2021

    Jillian Boehme delivers top-notch high fantasy with The Stolen Kingdom. Not since J. R. R. Tolkien or C. S. Lewis have I experienced such a perfect blending of faith and fantasy.

    Stories of rightful heirs to a throne intrigue me, which is why I elected to read this novel in the first place. Maralyth comes from a line of rightful kings to the land of Perin Faye, a truth unknown to her until she is forced into a bid for the throne. Magic has always dwelt in the veins of the true kings and queens of Perin Faye, a gift from the Holy God given only to those leaders. When the magic was stolen by a usurper to the throne 100 years before Maralyth's time, it turned into something dark, evil, and twisted, the complete antithesis of its healing and merciful purpose.

    Prince Alac, second-son of the usurper lineage, and not expecting to be in line for the throne, also ends up in a bid for the throne when the rebellion against his family becomes all too real. His affection for Maralyth deepens every day since the first moment he met her during the events leading up to his older brother's wedding. But when he discovers she is not what he believed her to be, even though he never desired the power of the magic, it begins to whisper dark things to him, turning him even against Maralyth.

    There must be a way for the rightful rulers of Perin Faye to take the throne without bloodshed or without breaking the deepening bond between Maralyth and Alac.

    Jillian Boehme's characters are richly developed, from Maralyth to Alac and even to Alac's best friend and loyal guard, Tucker. The story never flags, never wavers, never turns to the right or to the left. Common tropes are avoided, leaving nothing to distract me from the story. It is strong and cleanly thought out from start to finish. The prose is colorful without falling into the pit of purple prose. I felt by the end of the book that I knew and loved both Maralyth and Alac.

    Maralyth especially is a solid example of what a YA heroine should be. She is strong without demeaning others. She avoids petty squabbles or fits of childishness. She is imaginative, gentle, and fun, a deeply authentic person who feels real, as if she could just walk off the page of the book and be someone I would enjoy calling a friend. She is a true ruler who puts the well-being of her people far ahead of herself.

    As for Alac, I loved him from the beginning. A reluctant prince who ends up being enticed by magic that doesn't belong to his family. He yearns for it and is repulsed by it at the same time because he knows it is not meant to be his. Every emotion he undertakes feels natural, even down to his rage and hurt before he finds his way to forgiveness and love. It also helps to remember that Alac is being negatively affected by the stolen magic. It is changing him, little by little, and not in a good way. Ultimately, the true Alac that he is on the inside and who she finally frees from a burden that wasn't his to carry is a perfectly equal love interest to Maralyth and they are ideally suited.

    Sexual content is kept to a minimum. A young woman is almost forced into a political marriage with a much older man against her will. Alac's brother and his fiance have been intimate before their marriage and Alac interrupts one of their intimate sessions, but nothing is seen. Alac's love for Maralyth is both intellectual and decidedly physical, so he suffers from all of the effects that go along with being a teenage boy in love for the first time. There are some kisses shared between them, but nothing else.

    Finally, I love the religious aspect of the story. Jillian Boehme approached the idea of magic uniquely. It isn't something that can belong to everyone but is a gift from a Holy God who loves His children, to be used for good by the rulers of Perin Faye. When it is stolen, the world erupts into chaos and great damage is done.

    Many, many congratulations to Jillian Boehme for her marvelous book. I hope to read many, many more from her in the future as she continues her writing career.

    Thanks to Netgalley and Tor Books for a free ARC of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own and I was not required to give a positive review.

    The Stolen Kingdom

    Author: Jillian Boehme

    Year: 2021

    My Rating:  ★★★★★

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    Pretty in Pink: A Lesson in Unrequited Love

    Sunday, February 14, 2021

    Blane, Andie, and Duckie in Pretty in Pink (1986)

    Written for the Unhappy Valentine's Blogathon hosted by PEPs.

    So many times, unrequited love happens because one member of a long-standing friendship falls in love with the other member.

    Such is the case with Pretty in Pink.

    A cinematic stunner written by John Hughes, Pretty in Pink puts 1980s teen romance on display with one of the most used and abused tropes in the history of fiction, that of the love triangle.

    Andie (Molly Ringwald) and Duckie (Jon Cryer) have been friends since before forever. Best friends, even. And somewhere along the way, Duckie fell in love with her.

    Unfortunately for him, Andie has been in love with pretty-boy Blane (Andrew McCarthy) for just about as long as Duckie has been in love with her. 

    What a mess!

    And of course, Andie from the lower-income family ends up with rich boy Blane instead of best friend Duckie because that's just the way the world works.

    Duckie and Andie going to prom (that is admittedly a hideous dress)

    Duckie is a goofball and no mistake. But he's a sweetie. He comes from a similar low-income background to Andie and they've been like twins since forever. His yearning for her makes my heart break every time because the audience can see how dearly he loves her, and we can also see how clueless she is and that it's just never going to work.

    Ms. Ringwald much later actually outed Duckie as gay, and all I can say to that is that if it's news to the author of the screenplay and the actor playing Duckie, then you're barking up the wrong tree, girl. Apparently, the character is too flamboyant? More than likely his flamboyance is due to his personality type and not his sexuality. I know my fashion and my sister's fashion are both due to our personality types so, to me, that makes the most sense. I suspect Ms. Ringwald just didn't like Jon Cryer, so she undermined the characters' relationship. Shame on her if it's true.

    I guess the biggest question is should Andie and Duckie have ended up together? They have more in common, by far. Duckie has more personality in his pinkie finger than Blane has in his entire body, so there's that. And he's just one of those guys that makes you feel warm and comfortable like you've wrapped yourself in a favorite quilt. so, yes, it's a shame that Duckie and Andie were fated to never get off the ground. It's not fair, but I put the blame more on Ms. Ringwald's stubbornness than on Jon Cryer's vibrancy. If she'd tried just a little bit harder to perform with some chemistry, then maybe Duckie and Andie would have had the ending they deserved.

    Ultimately, Duckie gets the short end of the stick against the will of John Hughes himself who was bullied by the studio into changing the end of his story.

    Duckie and Andie

    Pretty in Pink is not one of my favorites of John Hughes' films because Andie and Duckie were sidelined in favor of the rich boy. Not that I'm against falling in love with a rich boy, but it's the same issue I had in the tv program, Veronica Mars. Veronica and Duncan are boring. There are no sparks whatsoever and yet, fans endured waaaaaay too many episodes of them together. It's the same here. Andie and Blane are boring, and on top of that, he's a bit of a bully which is a whole other problem, end of story.

    Duckie deserves kudos, though. Apart from John Bender in The Breakfast Club, Duckie is my favorite of Hughes' male characters. He's proof to me that the boy next door can be brilliant. I know, that's another old trope, but sometimes it's one worth using. 

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    Valentine's Day Period Drama Tag

    Friday, February 12, 2021

    Here are my answers to Heidi's tag for her Valentine's Day Period Drama Blog Party at Along the Brandywine. It was immensely fun to fill out and made me stop to think and remember some of my favorite period dramas. That was exciting.

    My main blog post for her blogathon is about Christine and Raoul from The Phantom of the Opera, in case you're interested.

    1) Your current three (or up to five!) favorite period dramas?

    I'm not watching very many period dramas at the moment but if I were to pick, it would probably be the following:

    Sense and Sensibility from 1995 because the film is just so pretty to look at and I just love Emma Thompson as Elinor Dashwood. It's stunning.  It's also rather funny seeing Hugh Grant bumble about so awkwardly in Regency clothes. Poor soul, he's much more suited to films like Music & Lyrics or Paddington 2

    The Personal History of David Copperfield from 2020 with Dev Patel because the casting is so remarkably clever and it's just a truly excellent film, and very clean, practically no objectionable content. My favorite adaptation so far and that's saying something since Maggie Smith is hard to beat. I wish it had gotten half the acclaim as that heinous miniseries Bridgerton. 

    And then the 1982 film adaptation of The Scarlet Pimpernel with Anthony Andrews and Jane Seymour. Because no one can beat this adaptation and the lead couple is darling. It's a truly stunning film and it just makes my heart happy.

    2) What would you recommend to someone who’s never seen a period drama as a starter?

    Probably something that's Jane Austen, maybe the 2005 Pride and Prejudice with Keira Knightley, or the 1996 Emma with Gwyneth Paltrow and Jeremy Northam. They're film length so nothing too intimidating and they're extremely pretty, plus, they star fairly well-known actors and that can be a help when people are first starting out in the period drama realm.

    3) A favorite couple that wouldn’t be included in answer #1 (cause I’m figuring those are already top favorites ;)) and/or a favorite secondary character romance? 

    Oh the tragedy of it all, poor Ivanhoe and Rebecca, doomed to fail before they ever got started. And why you ask? Because he is a Christian knight and she is a Jewess. It crushes my very soul. As you may have guessed, I'm not a fan of the main romance in Ivanhoe (specifically the 1982 version with Anthony Andrews), but instead, I wish it could have been different and Ivanhoe and Rebecca could have been together. They were so clearly drawn towards one another, but alas, it was not meant to be. Pardon me while I go weep in a corner.  I wrote in greater detail about Ivanhoe and Rebecca in my Sacrificial Love: Ivanhoe and Rebecca blog post.

    4) What do you consider foundational qualities for a healthy romance? 

    The ability to respect boundaries, have mutual interests, and mutual political and religious associations. The ability to still maintain and even grow other relationships in addition to the romantic one, that's a biggie. So in other words, not Edward and Bella from Twilight. They're the antithesis of a healthy relationship.

    5) Worst villain/antagonist?

    I truly despise Mr. Grandcourt from Daniel Deronda. He absolutely makes my skin crawl. He's just horrendous on so many levels, but especially for forcing his wife to have intimacy. It was just so bad. It's a wonder I can stomach Hugh Bonneville in anything else, but I'm actually very fond of him as an actor, just not in Daniel Deronda. I guess it means he did his job right.

    6) A favorite proposal scene?

    I'm sorry guys, but I LOVE the absurdity of Mr. Darcy's first proposal. He muffs it, big time, and I always laugh in every single version I've seen.

    I'm especially partial to the proposal in the 1938 version where Laurence Olivier's eyes pretty much pop out of his head in astonishment at her refusal, which you can see above. Ignore the inaccurate costuming, I know they're off in era, but for me, it doesn't matter.

    7) Favorite period drama characters based on a real-life couple?

    I don't really watch a lot of biographical type period dramas, but if I were to take a stab in the dark, I would go with Victoria, meaning Victoria and Albert. I only watched the first season, but it was very good and I enjoyed their relationship.

    8) Any classic b/w period dramas you like?

    I love the 1938 Pride and Prejudice with Greer Garson and *flutters eyelashes* Sir Laurence Olivier. I know, I know, it doesn't match the Regency era and the fashion is all wrong. But I LOVE it anyway. It was my first introduction to Jane Austen when I was a teenager, and I have loved it ever since.

    Laurence Olivier does this thing with his gloves when he takes them off. It just makes me giggle every time. Seriously.

    9) Most mature romance in a period drama? (mature as in age and/or characters who are consciously and wisely ripened by life experience, etc.)

    Mmmm, I would say Doctor Thorne and the American heiress Martha Dunstable. I love the miniseries Doctor Thorne, and this couple truly made me happy. I realize she's not that old, but Doctor Thorne has charming grey hair. Their attraction is downplayed by the younger couple, but it's quite real and quite charming.

    10) Most excruciatingly long, slow-burn romance in a period drama?

    Margaret Hale and John Thornton in North & South. It takes them FOREVER to get ANYWHERE. It's a beautiful miniseries, but it does drag on endlessly. And then even more endlessly beyond that. It is an endless trail of endlessness.

    11) A story that has multiple film adaptations where you love more than one of them?

    I'm partial to 3 versions of Jane Eyre.

    The 1943 version with Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine is excellent, although his Mr. Rochester terrifies me the most of all of them. Then there's the 1983 version with Timothy Dalton and Zelah Clarke. That one's my personal favorite. And, of course, the 2006 version with Ruth Wilson and Toby Stephens.

    All 3 of them have their merits and considering I've never gotten past 100 pages in the novel, I'm not busy comparing film to book, just film to film. And I happen to love Timothy Dalton as Mr. Rochester and I adore Zelah Clarke's unbridled spunk. They're brilliant.

    12) A book you think needs to be made into a film (or a new adaptation)?

    Would somebody please remake Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey and do it RIGHT, without all of the stupid visions and imaginings that they love to put Catherine Morland through? Could she please be allowed to just be an innocent girl who enjoys reading who falls in love with a charming and slightly snarky vicar? That's all I ask. Just do it RIGHT, with the proper casting (a feat they haven't managed yet), without adding any politically correct nonsense or rewriting the story to be just shy of absurd. It shouldn't be so hard to do a proper adaptation!

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    Childhood Friends: Raoul and Christine in The Phantom of the Opera (2004)

    Thursday, February 11, 2021

    Written for the Valentine's Day Period Drama Blog Party hosted by Heidi at Along the Brandywine.

    And many thanks to my blogging buddies who helped me choose my topic! As you can tell, PotO had the most votes. 😉

    There has always been and will always be the age-old battle of the love triangle in The Phantom of the Opera.

    Do we love the Phantom and Christine or Raoul and Christine? 

    I was on the side of the Phantom and Christine for many, many years. Erik (the Phantom) is a pitiable character and there's something appealing about being worshipped. He's desperate for connection and relationship and we can all relate to that reality. 

    But approaching relationships in such an obsessive way is dangerous. Especially when people start dying. Erik is a terrifying figure, lonely or not, and Christine is more afraid of him than in love with him. A relationship built on fear is bound to fail.

    Somewhere along the way, my loyalty shifted to Raoul. 

    Not every Raoul, mind you, but Patrick Wilson's Raoul possesses a tenderness that is sometimes lacking in the character. I don't know if it's simply because his costar, Emmy Rossum, was so young, or if that's the approach the director wanted, or if it was his own idea. But whatever the reason, it works.

    Here is their rendition of All I Ask of You. It's sometimes easy to miss the importance of Christine's desire to not live in the night, and Raoul's desire to be light for her. It's a deeply moving moment in the film and any of the stage productions.

    What it really comes down to is Christine's choice. One man is her choice and the other is not. Raoul could be the nicest man in the world, but if Christine had chosen Erik? It would have been her choice, foolish, but still, her choice and Raoul wouldn't have really had a right to interfere.

    Christine's only hesitations to develop a relationship with Raoul openly are born out of fear. Fear that she would upset her Angel of Music, that he would turn against her, and even that he might hurt someone if she disobeyed him. Her requests to keep her engagement with Raoul a secret until the right time, even her reluctance to go with Raoul after the performance because she knows her Angel will visit, none of those moments speak of trust or respect to the Phantom, simply of fear of repercussion.

    I adore their reunion scene (minus Raoul's not listening, but we'll get into that later). Christine is sitting at her dressing table, brow furrowed, afraid, and then Raoul comes and her smile lights up the room. The relief on her face when they embrace is palpable. It's beautiful, the banter, and the shared memories they possess from a sweeter, more innocent time.

    As it stands, Raoul and Christine move from reunited childhood friends to an affianced couple super quickly. Raoul never gives the impression of being a playboy. He recognizes Christine from when they were children (I'm guessing an age gap of maybe 4 years). He remembers Little Lotte and when he renews their acquaintance, he's reminded of all the reasons he liked Christine to begin with. He's not wooing a theatrical ingenue. He's wooing the girl he grew up with.

    The downside to Raoul is that he doesn't listen. He doesn't listen when he wants to take Christine out for dinner after her first performance and she tells him it will anger the Angel of Music. And he doesn't really listen when they're trying to coerce her into performing in Don Juan Triumphant in order to trap the Phantom and she's completely terrified and begs him not to put her through this. Unfortunately, this means he's a Victorian man and Victorian men rarely listened to the feminine concerns or worries or reluctances of their women. 

    Does this make Raoul any less in my estimation? Maybe a little bit, but his ultimate nobility makes up for the lacking, or what we see as a lacking from our very modern perspective. Regardless he treats Christine gently as if she's precious to him. There is no roughness or harshness in him and that's the main reason why I adore Patrick Wilson's Raoul. 

    Raoul is the light and Erik is the dark. In the end, all Christine truly wanted was the light. Erik's attempted corruption of her innocence is horrifying as I view it now through older, more mature eyes. And Raoul's attempts to preserve her innocence endear him to me tenfold.

    I would have included the confrontation scene at the end of the film buuuuuuut, I think it might be a little much for this post. So, to sum up, for both Raoul and Christine, romantic love was hovering just out of reach, waiting for them to meet again. And when they do, love awakens.

    Many thanks to Heidi for hosting the blogathon and I'm glad I could participate.

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    A Peter Pan retelling - Lost in the Never Woods by Aiden Thomas (2021)

    Friday, February 5, 2021

    When children go missing, people want answers. When children go missing in the small coastal town of Astoria, people look to Wendy for answers.

    It's been five years since Wendy and her two brothers went missing in the woods, but when the town’s children start to disappear, the questions surrounding her brothers’ mysterious circumstances are brought back into light. Attempting to flee her past, Wendy almost runs over an unconscious boy lying in the middle of the road, and gets pulled into the mystery haunting the town.

    Peter, a boy she thought lived only in her stories, claims that if they don't do something, the missing children will meet the same fate as her brothers. In order to find them and rescue the missing kids, Wendy must confront what's waiting for her in the woods.

    Peter is what really shines in this book. The author clearly had a solid vision of what their Peter Pan should look like, feel like, act like, and the book really brings him to life. I appreciate that Peter is slightly different from the usual incarnations of a boy who refuses to go up and constantly runs from trouble. Peter is a shepherd of sorts, in a way that I won't go too deep into since I don't want to give spoilers. He's generous, compassionate, and merciful, a very sweet boy with a universe of stars in his eyes. And all the emotions that go along with first love.

    I had a bit of a harder time pinning Wendy down. Peter's obvious right from the beginning, and I love him, but Wendy is difficult to like. You feel bad for her, yes. Grieve for her, absolutely. But liking her is a different thing altogether. She would be a very heavy weight in anyone's life, so I have to say that Jordan is a much, much better friend than I would be capable of being. I did love Wendy's fairy lights that she's got strung up by her window. It makes sense since I have fairy lights too. And once she's acknowledged that Peter is who he says he is, well, it makes her more relatable. Along with all the girly emotions of crushing on Peter Pan because, seriously, he's always been one of my crushes. So, as the story progresses, I grew to like Wendy more, and she becomes quite a courageous heroine by the end.

    One thing I did think was a little difficult was the prose. It feels a little too juvenile for the age of the characters, and that's unfortunate. There's also a ton of passive descriptors used instead of active ones. Active sentences are my jam in fiction so I hate it when authors don't use them enough.  I also get tired of the anti-police trope that's in full force right now. I just can't go along with that stereotype. And unfortunately, Lost in the Never Woods is full of incompetent, bullying cops. Not cool. One of the reasons I love the tv series Teen Wolf is because Stiles' dad is the town sheriff and he's amazing, a great dad, and a terrific sheriff. It would have been nice to see something similar done here.

    There's also a distinctive gap of action in the middle of the novel, but at the same time, this is when we see Peter and Wendy really interact, so it's a toss-up. They're charming when they're together, and their physical attraction is very real. Peter cherishes her, if that's even a thing anymore, and I loved watching their relationship grow stronger. Kisses are nice.

    Also, I'm not sure if the author has seen the Rise of the Guardians film, but Peter and his Shadow have a LOT in common with Jack Frost and Pitch Black. I mean, a LOT. So that was a bit, mmm, on the iffy side for me. I'd seen it before, so that plot device didn't feel very original. That being said, I liked the use of shadows in this retelling, and that they're built of people's fear. That was pretty neat.

    Overall, it was a light-hearted read with just a few hiccups. My favorite Peter Pan retelling at the moment is Dust by Kara Swanson, but I did enjoy most of Lost in the Never Woods. It'll be interesting to see if there's ever a sequel since the book finishes a little open-ended. I'm good either way, sequel or no sequel.

    On a completely random note, the cover is super pretty.

    Many thanks to Netgalley and Swoon Reads for a free ARC. I was not required to give a positive review, and all thoughts and opinions are my own.

    Lost in the Never Woods

    Author: Aiden Thomas

    Year: 2021

    My Rating:  ★★★

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    Top Ten Tuesday

    Tuesday, February 2, 2021


    I've never done this before, but I think it might be a fun goal for the new year, except for January because, yah, that's gone already. The Top Ten Tuesday was started by That Artsy Reader Girl and I found it through Elza Reads.

    I have read countless books that were written before I was born, in fact, some of these books are my favorites of all time! So this was not a difficult list to compile.

    Number Ten - Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (1847)

    This is one of those terrifying novels because I don't actually like any of the characters and I grieve for the depravity, sorrow, and loss of all the characters. It's a terribly tragic novel, and one I can easily imagine being penned by a girl who lived out on the moors. It's truly a cautionary tale of obsession.

    Number Nine - The Sign of the Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1890)

    I love The Sign of the Four because Holmes seems particularly amusing in it and we get to meet the woman who would later become Mrs. John Watson. I still resent the fact that Doyle killed her off with just a random mention in one of his later short stories. How unfair is that? The story is very exotic with theft and murder and adventures in India. We also get to experience a lively chase down the Thames and meet the Baker Street Irregulars, Holmes' little band of street urchins who find him answers when he's unable to.

    Number Eight - Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (1953)

    The movie is ghastly, but the book is brilliant. Fahrenheit 451 a dystopian tale where firemen actually start fires, where books are burned without remorse, and where people can live in a world of their own making if they can afford to purchase the ear seashells and the screens for their walls. It's terrifying and ghastly. A movie that's sort of similar is Equilibrium starring Christian Bale, quite a brilliant film, and it involves the same idea of censorship and destruction.

    Number Seven - The Shining by Stephen King (1977)

    The Shining is the story of one man's reluctant descent into insanity, provoked by the spiritual and supernatural evil residing in a hotel high in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. I only read this book for the first time last year, but it is brilliant, and I grieve for the loss of Jack Torrance, a man who desperately loves his wife and son, but couldn't find the alcoholism and the whispering voices of temptation alone. The ending is profound because it implies redemption, an implication realized in the epic sequel Doctor Sleep, published in 2013. As for film adaptations, I despise the 1980 film but love the 1997 miniseries because at least the miniseries got the characters right.

    Number Six - Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen (published 1817, written in 1803)

    I love Northanger Abbey the best of all Jane Austen's work because it is playful, the heroine loves novels, and she is allowed to grow and develop without losing sight of who she is as a person. Catherine Morland thinks the best of people but also knows what she does and does not like in the people she meets, like John Thorpe, an odious man well worth despising. Catherine and Henry Tilney are well-suited for one another and it's simply a delightful read. There has yet to be a decent film adaptation.

    Number Five - The Silver Chair by C. S. Lewis (1953)

    If we're going chronologically, The Silver Chair is the 7th book in The Chronicles of Narnia series. I love it because we get to return to Narnia with one of the characters from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Eustace, who underwent an extremely spiritual and emotional transformation due to his time in Narnia. It's specifically about a quest, finding the Prince Rilian who has been missing for a decade. And we get to see a partnership between Eustace and a girl named Jill Pole from his school, to say nothing of the brilliance that is Puddleglum, the marshwiggle. It has adventure and giants and danger and people who live beneath the earth's surface, and all sorts of glorious things. And best of all, it has Aslan continually acting as a guide for the children when they go astray, which happens quite often, especially when they stay with the giants. And I love that Aslan grieves the death of King Caspian and restores him to his youth when he takes him home to Aslan's country. It's a beautiful story.

    Number Four - The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (1952)

    The Voyage of the Dawn Treader comes before The Silver Chair and is my favorite of the Narnia books because it stars Prince Caspian as a teenager instead of a child, and we get to see the outer edges of Narnia, all of the islands and their various purposes and peoples. It's a high adventure. I'm also partial to Eustace being turned into a dragon because he was a rather beastly little boy, but Aslan has profound mercy on him. It's a beautiful little book with lots of excitement. We also get to see Caspian fall in love with the daughter of a star. How often does that happen?

    Number Three - Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

    I just love the pure craziness of this book. A crazy lady who wanders around in her tattered wedding dress and still has her wedding cake of decades ago decaying in the dining room? Who wouldn't love that! In my mind there really isn't all that much in terms of social commentary in Great Expectations, just a really creepy read that I find deeply enthralling and have loved since the very first moment I picked up a copy from the library. I suppose it's also an interesting look into how money can and does alter people the way it alters Pip and not for the better. For quite a while we barely recognize the sweet little boy at the beginning of the story.

    The best film adaption in my opinion is the 2012 film with Holiday Grainger, Jeremy Irvine, Helena Bonham Carter, and Ralph Fiennes. I say this because the screenplay manages to capture all of the relevant details of the book without having to be 3 hours long. It also includes the marvelous character of Wemmick who lives in his version of a castle with a drawbridge and is utterly devoted to his elderly father, who he calls his Aged Parent. It's excellent.

    Number Two - The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë (1848)

    The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is tragically underappreciated. The story begins from the perspective of Gilbert Markham, a young man suitably attractive to the ladies, but who is finding himself drawn to the mysterious female lodger Helen Graham and her son who have just moved into his neighborhood. As the story progresses, we switch from Gilbert's perspective to Helen's perspective and discover she is a woman who married for love, but to absolutely the wrong man, a man who would introduce her sweet and innocent son to all sorts of depravity. And so she left him, a woman on the run from her marriage to protect her child because she cannot obtain a divorce. It's a very unsettling tale, but an excellent commentary on marriage and divorce.

    I wish I could praise the miniseries as much as I praise the book, but the miniseries is terribly lacking. It changes elements of the story that should not have been altered, and that is frustrating. Not even Toby Stephens could save it for me, and I love Toby Stephens.

    Number One - A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

    And finally, A Christmas Carol, one of my favorite books of all time. Such a powerful message of redemption and change crammed into such a small package. I love how Scrooge undergoes his slow and steady transformation from cold and cruel miser to a generous benefactor. Salvation is at the heart of A Christmas Carol and the belief that anyone can change for the better. I read this book every Christmas and it always moves me to tears.

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