Freitag, 25. Dezember 2015

SERIES REVIEW: I Remember You (Hello Monster)

Tadaah! After months of thinking about how to jazz up my blog content I'm proud to present you a new segment of mine, in which I obviously will review TV series I've been recently obsessed with. That also includes Korean dramas, since they are rather short and sweet in its length compared to Western series. Just because the language barrier is there doesn't mean I should limit myself to English/German/Malay series; there are plenty of quality K-Dramas out there, that, honestly, should have had a bigger following than some of their Western equivalents. And the eyecandy doesn't hurt either.

Truthfully, I've been on the Kdrama bandwagon since the hype of Boys Over Flowers back in 2009 (it was horrible!), but unfortunately slipped away from the Kdramarama scene morethan just a few times. There were some dramas that got my attention in between (Shut Up! Flower Boy Band in 2012 and The Heirs in 2013), however for most of the time I stayed with the Western TV series adn also Japanese Animes. Th endless boredom during my autumn break caused me to catch up with the latest dramas (Mrs. Cop), and surprise, surprise - I got hooked, but this time I intend to stay. I proceeded to watch almost all of the hyped up dramas of this year, and of course you need to count the masterpiece that was I Remember You (Engl. title: Hello Monster) in.

The Premise
Lee Hyun (Seo In-Guk) is an excellent criminal profiler, but he possesses a spiteful tongue. Cha Ji-An (Jang Na-Ra) is an elite detective. She observes Lee Hyun. They work on solving cases and develop a romantic relationship. - AsianWiki

I must admit, I wasn't exactly intrigued by the flat plot description, which is also why I procrastinated watching the drama until right now, although it did air back in June this year til August. I also wasn't really thrilled seeing Jang Na-Ra alongside Seo In-Guk - I thought their age difference was way too obvious. Also, her big eyes kind of freak me out, because no way she is 34 years old! In the end, my thirst for anything Seo In Guk convinced me, and boy, how do I wish I discovered this drama sooner!

The plot was heavily layered and obviously very well thought-out, since it deals with rather heavy psychological themes than the usual whoissit in your standard cop dramas. Already in the first episode the key question Are monsters born? Or made? is already layed out very well, so that it threads through the episodes like an itch in the back of your head, or consciense in this case. And although there were new cases for our Team Good very few episodes, it seems like every case is somehow tied to the seemingly missing brother of Lee Hyun, who in the course of the drama doesn't seem as monster-like as he was in the first few episodes. With the lines between Team Good and Bad blurring more and more, there are missing identities being brought to light, as well as expected and unexpected betrayals. Seriously, I haven't gasped so much in a drama like in the last few episodes alone.

As turned off as I was with Jang Na-Ra's appearance, I must admit I came to love and root for her character as the plot progressed. Cha Ji An had a rather rocky start in the drama - a stalker of Lee Hyun for 20 years? Really? way to fuel and romaticize the stalker-like obsessions of hopeless romantics - but turns out she had a (albeit weak) reason to do so. She really solidified herself as a badass, but practical female lead, but still keeping herself grounded to her morals.
Her partner Lone Wolf Lee Hyun turns out to be human after all, and with all the traumatic crap he had to go through (to be thought by his father to be a monster and being incarcerated in the basement in his childhood), he indeed got the better end of the schtick than his psycho little brother and the even greater psycho child abducter/serial killer/Itachi Uchiha wannabe/kind-of vigilante Lee Joon-young. He was just straight up horrifying; I still get goosebumps whenever I think of him.
The investigation squad aka not-so Team Good was endearingly funny in a way that most cop drama teamworks are. I adored their dynamic and antics and I was devastated when SPOILER the great betrayal came, I totally did not see that coming! Team Leader was heartbreakingly adorable, and I was really really glad they did not make his puppy love too serious, because I don't think I could've taken a love triangle in this already suspenseful mess of relationships.

SPOILER: The end was... fine. It isn't the best out there, but it tied in most of the plot lines neatly. There are some glaringly open questions swarming around in my head just hours after watching the finale though: What happened during the time skip? If Lee Joon-young is still on the run, what the hell did Lee Hyun do during that time? How did Min survive two stabbings? Why is Lee Joon-young's chick still there? What did Min decide after all? But even with all the questions still there, the ending didn't seem to be open for the sake of rushing it. I Remember You is one of the very few dramas, that I didn't know what kind of ending I wanted it to have, so I'm not exactly displeased either. SPOILER END

The actors were all fantastic and presented overall a very splendid performance. The lack of idol/model actors does wonders. The only idol actor I spotted (correct me if I'm wrong) was Do Kyung-soo from EXO as young Lee Joon-young and he creeped my guts out at least as much as his adult counterparts. I also watched him in It's Okay, It's Love and I must confess, creepy roles does suit him well. Seo In-guk was not only gorgeous, but also captivating - what is new? I only saw Park Bo-gum in the movie Coin Locker Girl before, but here he impressed me so much more. I will never forget his murderous psychotic glare turning into a deer-in-the-headlights look within 0.2 seconds.

It's such a shame the drama never got ratings higher than 5%, even though plot-wise its competitors weren't as thoughtful and layered. But I guess the general Korean audience does prefer light airy chaebols/saeguks than this psychological madness of a masterpiece.

4.6 out of 5 stars.

To satisfy my drama-inhaling needs I just started watching Healer, so I hope to finish it before school starts again. Fingers crossed for me being consistent in delivering reviews or even blog posts during this winter break!

Dienstag, 8. Dezember 2015

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Top Ten New-To-Me (Not So) Favorite Authors I Read For The First Time in 2015

Today is Tuesday and that means....

This Week's Topic
Top Ten New-To-Me Authors I Read For The First Time in 2015

As usual, it is hosted by the lovely ladies of The Broke and the Bookish.
I haven't done a TTT in a while, so I figured, why not :). I have been very lazy with my reading this year though, therefore I switched the topic up a bit, so that I can also cover some authors I rather dislike this year - just to make it to an actual Top Ten, heh. 
Because of my senior year in school I needed got to know many German classics, even though I hate reading German books. So that explains the great presence of German authors in advance.

1. Franz Kafka
This semesters' main topic in German Literature was the Modern Age, so of course who could represent this literature era better than Kafka? You may know him from the word kafka-esque, that's because of his tendency to write about hopelessness and surrealism in life. I didn't really like the plot in his books, but his writing style was pleasant to read - which is a rarity in German classics (at least for me).

2. Stephanie Perkins
Perkins is already known for her cute and loveable books, but I really didn't pick them up until I got bored in summer break. Her books are a delightful and light alternative to what I usually read.

3. Courtney Milan
She wrote one of the few NA books I actually like - it's not overly filled with sex(ual attraction). Also the POC main lead is also a plus.

4. John Lancester
I wish I could write such a great ensemble cast with enough depth in both story and characters. His way to tie the different characters together is amazing.

5. Julie Kagawa
Smilarly to Perkins her books are an easy read in between exams. But I've heard many great things about her latest "darker" books; I can't wait to see how she handles vampires and dragons - my favorite mythical creatures!

6. Katie M. Stout
She does like to play up the White Savior card doesn't she?

7. Sabaa Tahir
I can't believe An Ember in the Ashes is her first book! It was so so good. 

8. Joseph von Eichendorff
Absolutely hated the Romantic Era, so that didn't made Taugenichts better. Also, the main character is such a Gary Stu.

9. Kevin Kwan
Even his side characters are so loveable. A pity, that Kwan doesn't seem to know what to do with them in the end.

10. Agatha Christie
Ever since I read The Orient Express earlier this year, I made it my goal to read every thriller she has ever written (which is, quite honestly, most of her bibliography). But I wouldn't recommend reading Express in an actual train my paranoia sucks, I know.

What do you think of these authors? 

xoxo Nana

Montag, 7. Dezember 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

Welcome back Busy Me to the Bloggersphere!

I can't believe it has almost been a year since my last blog post. I must admit, school has taken most of my time in this year, and on top of that I unexpectedly went to an exchange program in Italy. Looking back, I wish I would have documented my experience in a blog post, but, to be honest, I completely forgot about the existence of my blog for the better half of the year. That, until a classmate found my blog after autumn break (how embarassing!) and wanted me to continue writing. Honestly, comments like this are secretly the only motivation I need to pick up my blogging life again :).

As lazy as I was in the Bloggersphere, the same could be applied to my reading life this year. I barely completed half of my Reading Challenge goal of 2015 - a shame compared to how diligent I was the last year. But anyway, now that (most of) my exams are done (only one exams and two presentations next week!) I started reading again, mainly books that have been on my TBR list for a long long time.

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan was actually one of my first (if not THE first) book I added to my TBR list back in summer 2013 when I was still a newbie on Goodreads. It was recommended to me by one of the commenters on the K-Media website NetizenBuzz regarding the similarity of the plot of the then pretty overhyped K-Drama The Heirs. Although I never picked up the book until this December, but I did watch The Heirs, and, God, it was a mess. Sure the glitz and glamour was to be admired, but the characters were painfully boring, helpless and as clichéd as you can get in Kdramarama land.

Maybe that was one of the reasons why I never picked up the book until earlier this month. Or maybe I just found my 15-year old self disturbed from all the shallow rich people problems. However, with my recently newfound obsession with Korean dramas I researched a bit more about those chaebol families, that Kdramarama land likes to glamourize so much. Crazy Rich Asians is such a book, that gives us a insight in the lives of the Wealthiest of Rising Asia. 

The book mainly covered the happenings on Singapore, the country with the highest percentage of billionaires, where also the author Kevin Kwan hailed from. Right at the beginning an intricate family tree is pictured, giving us an overview over the three powerful families the book focuses on: the Youngs, the Shangs and the T'siens. Not gonna lie here, I did always have a finger on the page with the family tree just to see how the characters are related. But fortunately the book mainly depicts the lives of the three cousins of the Young branch Astrid Leong, Eddie Cheng, Nicholas "Nick" Young and his girlfriend from America Rachel Chu.

Kwan really has his thing with his characters, where they never feel to shallow, not even the tiniest of the minor characters. The main cast is pictured very realistically, that I had a hard time hating even the supposed to be rather not good characters. Eddie Cheng is a pain in the ass to read; not only is he snotty, but also very much focused on the appearance of his family, which is very much an important thing still common in Asia. But that did not come out of nowhere, he had a valid reason to turn out this way, for his best friend is being handed everything on the golden plate by his father, so that Eddie feels the need to show off his worth, too. Astrid is such a exquisite, but lovely woman, that, even with her very luxurious tastes, she never comes off as snobby, but feels very much a real character with worries and hopes of her own. I wholeheartedly rooted for her since the beginning of the book and I really felt her suffering through the affair of her husband, while she has to keep quiet, like in most Asian marriages. Rachel Chu might look like Mary Sue/Cinderella-ish on the first glance, but she turns out to be quite headstrong and clever after a few chapters already. Growing up in a single mother household, she learned to be practical, and I like that she still carries that quality even when she was pampered by Nick and Peik Lin's houses. Nick, on the other hand, pales  in comparison to the other three main characters. Yet, he still was a pleasant character to read, as he, as Rachel likes to describe it, carries the "humbleness of a Englishman" - if that doesn't make you swoon, then I don't know. The variety of Asian characters were also a plus, fortunately the author did not take "Asian" as just China, but also has characters ranging from Indonesia up to Turkey.

The first half of the book is pretty slow-paced, but with the enseble cast of this size, it was okay for me to get to know them, similarly like the first season of Gossip Girl. Fortunately the pace of the book picks up around the second half, even though in the last few chapters it went a bit too fast for my taste. The only downside of the book is the weakness of the ensemble cast: They were too many strong (side) characters, that were not given a proper story line, or even role, even though their characteristics shown would allow them so. With so much wasted potential for conflicts, it's such a shame that Kwan fleshed them out in the first half of the book only to drop them in the latter half.
Additionally the ending conflict went into a whole another direction, than one would think (with Peik Lin's dad researching about the Youngs, Dr. Gu's past...) and it seemed like Kwan suddenly got the final conflict idea right before he was writing the last few chapters.

But anyway, as a huge fan of Gossip Girl, I can see why many compare it to the series and The Heirs - it is a perfect blend of both series, with his own twists on them (like it or not). I may be biased, but I haven't read a (English) book with such a great diversity of a cast before (there was literally no White character present, which surprised me positively!), so I am willing to overlook the loose ends in the end. I give this book a solid 4 out of 5.

I'm planning to return blogging at least twice a month now, so I do hope that it will last longer that the measley three months I managed the last time heh.