These are a Few of My Favourite Things: FLOWER BOYS NEXT DOOR

Welcome to THESE ARE A FEW OF MY FAVOURITE THINGS, the KDrama edition!

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FLOWER BOYS NEXT DOOR

I’ll say right now that FLOWER BOYS NEXT DOOR contains pretty much everything I love about KDrama, and most things I love about the best T.V. shows–and, in fact, story-telling as a whole–within its bright little bubble.

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The description of this KDrama interested me straight away (a free-lance editor with agoraphobia is set upon by a boy-puppy type hero and chivvied out of her comfort zone? yes please!) and when I learned that the female MC was played by Park Shin-hye, it was a no-brainer.

The Players

Go Dok-mi (Park Shin-hye)

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I love Park Shin-hye. I love the fact that she’s not horrendously, unhealthily skinny. I love that she’s always adorable. I love watching her act. I’ve also found out that she has a gorgeous singing voice (she’s actually part of the soundtrack for Flower Boys Next Door), so there’s that too.

It’s no surprise, therefore, that I absolutely adored her character in this. Go Dok-mi is a freelance editor who, as a schoolgirl, was so much bullied by both enemies and (supposed) friends, that she almost tried to kill herself, and ended up as an agoraphobic shut-in. From her small apartment, she watches the world outside (and particularly the guy next door, with whom she has fallen in love) with her bright yellow binoculars.

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I love Go Dok-mi’s frugal cost-saving measures. I love her infrequent, nervous trips Outside, when she can’t put them off any longer. I love the fact that although she doesn’t care for herself, she has an incredibly caring nature, and will always do the kind thing for others. I love her quiet, undemanding, unrequited love for the man next door. I love her humble self-knowledge.

One of my favourite Dok-mi moments? When, after seeing her through 5 or 6 episodes where she won’t put the heater on to save electricity costs, wearing multiple layers to keep warm, and sleeping with hot water bottles (which she uses, when cold, to flush the toilet)– when Enrique says thoughtlessly upon entering her apartment “Oh! So cold!” we see her turn on the heater immediately. It’s the trademark of this beautifully written drama to place such quiet, effective moments in the most unexpected places.

My other favourite moment is when she tells Jin-Rak: “You had it wrong the whole time. I’m not the princess. I’m the witch who locked her in.”

Enrique Geum (Yoon Shi-yoon)

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Okay, this was only the second KDrama I watched (after something like 10 KDramas) where I didn’t get 2nd Lead Syndrome. That should tell you something about how delightful Enrique was.

How to describe Enrique? Well, he’s a world famous games designer, but the first word that springs to mind is puppy. This little puppy of a hero is warm, and kind, and enthusiastic. He doesn’t give up, he’s teachable, and he has a heart that is just as kind as Dok-mi’s. His unrelenting bouncing around Dok-mi’s seemingly impenetrable facade of untouchability is just delightful to watch–as delightful, in fact, as watching him fall in love with her all unknowingly, and her falling in love with him with barely greater knowledge.

As much as I love each character separately, I love them as a couple even more. I don’t know if there’s an actual age difference between them, but Enrique’s bouncing youthfulness combined with Dok-mi’s decidedly womanly dignity is a truly gorgeous dynamic. (Guys, he calls her AhjummaAhjumma!) And it’s not just his relationship with Dok-mi that is heart-warming: his relationship with Jin-rak is also a huge highlight of the drama.

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Oh Jin-rak (Kim Ji-hun)

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Oh Jin-rak. Some of the best comic moments in this drama come from Oh Jin-rak. He’s been in love with Go Dok-mi ever since he first saw her at their shared apartment building.

Remember I said that I didn’t get 2nd Lead Syndrome with this drama? I didn’t, but that’s not because Oh Jin-rak, the 2nd boy of Flower Boys Next Door, wasn’t an awesome character.

He totally was.

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For starters, he’s a writer. How could I not love him? Not only was he a writer, but the very nature of this drama (wherein Jin-rak is part of a team who write a webtoon based on their life) means that the fourth wall is constantly being broached in the most delicate and delicious manner. Jin-rak is the source of most of this assault on the fourth wall–the rest coming from the Editor–and he is one of the most self-aware characters I’ve had the joy of watching. Plus, he’s a Facilitator, and if you’ve read my posts on KDrama, you know how much I love Facilitators.

Despite that, I was very happy to see him not end up with the girl. (Oh, yeah, SPOILERS).

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A big joy for me in the character of Jin-rak was how much we got to see of his personal growth and shenanigans. This was followed closely by the joy in the relationships grown between him and Enrique, and the even sweeter seonbae/hubae, hyung/dongsang relationship between him and Oh Dong-hoon. It’s so rare for a western show to focus on brotherly love that it was a constant refreshment.

Oh Dong-hoon (Go Kyung-pyo)

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This kid is another actor I’ve loved in everything I’ve seen him in. As Oh Dong-hoon, he plays an impoverished kid who is bunking with Jin-rak while co-writing a webtoon with him. Their hyung/dongsang relationship is sweet and hilarious to watch, and it’s not Jin-rak alone who grows over the course of the drama.

Even sweeter is the budding (yet entirely practical) romance between Dong-hoon and the Editor. I loved seeing those two together.

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Editor (Kim Seul-Gi)

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I’m quickly gaining new favourite actors, because Kim Seul-Gi is sheerly hilarious. All the quiet incursions of the fourth wall that Jin-rak isn’t responsible for, the Editor is, and as I’ve said before, her relationship with Dong-hoon is just perfect.

The Editor is (obviously) the editor of Jin-rak and Dong-hoon’s webtoon. She gets four hours of sleep per night, and therefore spends the remainder of her time with the cutest panda eyes I’ve seen, and a raging case of bipolar disorder that is even cuter than her panda eyes.

OBVIOUSLY she’s a favourite character.

Cha Do-Hwi (Park Soo-jin)

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Blurk. Cha Do-Hwi is your requisite bad guy gal who used to be a friend of Dok-mi’s in school, and then both betrayed and bullied her to the point of suicide because Cha Do-Hwi fell in love with the teacher who seemed to be falling in love with Dok-mi.

My biggest fear was that Jin-rak would fall in love with her, because I really hated her.

She’s unpleasant and highly toxic, and never actually gets to the point of admitting total fault. What I like about this character is, that although you never see her change, exactly–well, you never see her change. And that was oddly satisfying. Because although Dok-mi was able to grow beyond her boundaries, by the end of the drama you could see that Cha Do-Hwi would never change, and that, to my justice-loving mind, was punishment enough.

Also, I hated her clothes.

Watanabe (Mizuta Kouki)

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This kid was basically there to look pretty and be a plot device, though he was a pleasant one and rounded out the group nicely. Watanabe is a Japanese boy who is cooking his way around the world. There’s not too much to say about him, but he fit in with the whole drama beautifully, and he’s a constant thread through it.

The Plot

Well, I’ve already really told you most of the important stuff. There’s other stuff going on, of course: the residents picketing their apartment for better terms, the mystery of who really owns the apartment building, the packing up and leaving of Dok-mi’s one-sided love from the apartment across the road, Enrique’s first love– not to mention a totally sweet, budding romance between one of the older, female residents of the apartment building and the elderly security guard.

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Then there are the mobster-looking types who are following Jin-rak around, and the scurrilous goings on within Enrique’s gaming fandom…

The Writing–oh my goodness, the WRITING!

I don’t remember the last time I actually squealed in glee while watching a movie or tv show. With Flower Boys Next Door, I was doing it constantly.

The metaphors, guys! The subtle, beautiful metaphors, in both dialogue and situation.

The constant, delicate encroachments upon the fourth wall.

The downright lovely, delightful characters!

I’m actually so overcome with how amazing the writing is that I have almost no words to describe it, and after watching Flower Boys Next Door I just sat in my chair saying to Mr.G: “I will never be able to write like that!”

I loved the comedy. I loved the way they played with viewer expectations, and the way they subverted those expectations.  Oh my goodness, I LOVED how they directed and obscured the narrative, and then tore the rug out from under my feet in the most hilarious and heartwarming ways!

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You’ll see what I mean when you get to this part. And then, like me, you will laugh until you cry at what they’ve done with your expectations.

*Breathe, WR, Breathe*

Okay, you can probably tell I loved this one to bits (it’s one of my top 4 KDramas that I can rewatch over and over again) so go out and watch it already before this blog post runs beyond its already ridiculous word count as I try to convince you.

The best part? I get to watch it over and over, and it’s STUDY, GUYS, because I’m learning Korean.

 

 

 

These Are A Few Of My Favourite Things: AUSTENLAND

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Today, the Favourite Thing I want to tell you about is AUSTENLAND.

“Ah,” you say, nodding and looking wise. “Ah. But which AUSTENLAND? The book or the movie? Because the book is always better than the movie.”

To you, I say: “Not in this case, matey. Not. In. This. Case.”

Because, quite frankly, AUSTENLAND the movie is something special. (So is the book, but we’ll get to that later).

“Ah,” you say, nodding and looking wise. “Ah. It’s a movie with great underlying themes and fantastic acting, a positive boon to art and existence. It speaks to the human condition.”

To you, I say: “–Pahahahahahahahahahahahahaha! Um. No.”

“Okay. So what is so special about AUSTENLAND?”

To you, I reply–oh, stuff this. The thing is, AUSTENLAND is not great literature, nor is it lofty film. What it is, is entertaining. Oh my goodness. Endlessly. Entertaining. I’ve watched this movie about six times since it came out, and I’ve laughed my way through the entire thing every time. The book, I’ve read about three times. This is not because the book isn’t great. It is. But the film–oh, the film is something else entirely.

Austenland movie coverWell, the director, Jerusha Hess, described it as a period comedy. That alone should have you interested. Apart from A KNIGHT’S TALE (also pretty funny, but nothing like as funny as AUSTENLAND) I don’t know that I’ve ever heard of a movie described as period comedy. Period drama, yeah. Historica drama, yeah. Not period comedy.

It’s at the same time irreverent of Austen and deeply appreciative of her. It’s somehow American: an American look at period British living. And it’s flamin’ hilarious.

It’s ridiculously over the top.

I mean, insanely, ridiculously over the top. And the actors have such fun with that. Part way through the film we have actors who are playing actors who are in a setting, acting a play. It’s the inception of Austen. And somehow, all that over the top-ness totally works.

It’s sweet. It’s so, so sweet. Austenland book cover

The romance is just so delightful. I love the two main leads, and as for their dialogue–throughout, but particularly
toward the end–is simply sigh-worthy. Keri Russell gets some of the most piquant lines, but J.J. Fields gets a few really wonderful ones as well. They’re an on-screen couple I can see every bit of the chemistry for.

All in all?

Oh, just go out and buy it (but be careful, ‘cos Miss Elizabeth Charming is going to bowl you over, one way or another). There were a few naughty references, but nothing too over the top (unlike the acting). Enjoy this one, and then put it away for next time, because I guarantee you’ll find more to delight in next time you watch it.

(Oh, and look out for the fake lamb and the fake pug. And definitely watch the Q&A session with the actors afterwards.)

These Are A Few Of My Favourite Things: THE HILLS IS LONELY by Lillian Beckwith

I found a book in an opshop one day. That’s not unusual, of course. I’ve found many books in many opshops around Australia (and a few in America). It was in one of my book-binge shops, where I ended up with a whole plastic bag full of books at 10c each, paperback and hardback alike.

That book was THE HILLS IS LONELY by Lillian Beckwith. I picked it up sheerly because I liked the title, but the blurb on the back really sold it. The blurb read:

The Hills Is LonelyWhen Lillian Beckwith advertised for a secluded place in the country, she received a letter with the following unusual description of an isolated Hebridean croft: ‘Surely it’s that quiet even the sheeps themselves on the hills is lonely and as to the sea it’s that near as I use it myself everyday for the refusals…’

Her curiosity aroused, Beckwith took up the invitation. This is the comic and enchanting story of the strange rest-cure that followed and her efforts to adapt to a completely different way of life.

It sounded wonderful, and I’d been meaning to read more non-fiction anyway. THE HILLS IS LONELY seemed like a good place to start.

It was. I’m not sure exactly how much of it is from Lillian Beckwith’s actual experiences and how much of it is made up (she writes fiction also), but whatever the breakdown is, the whole of it is enchanting. She has such a way with words, and such a fine hand for characters that you can’t help feeling that you’re there, and that you never want to leave.

“I like the way you townfolk seem to be able to dance on your toes,” panted my partner admiringly.

“You’re dancing on them too,” I replied with a ghostly chuckle that was half irony and half agony.

“Me? Dancin’ on me toes?”

“No,” I retorted brutally, “on mine.”

“I thought I must be,” said Lachy simply, and with no trace of remorse; “I could tell by the way your face keeps changin’.”

Hebrides

photo from visitscotland.com

I’ve a link here for the Kindle Version of THE HILLS IS LONELY, though I really recommend getting the paperback. This is one of those books that you’ll want to feel in your hands and smell the scent of as you read it.

But whichever format you prefer to read, just read this one. I promise you, you’ll want to go on to the next, and then the next…

These Are A Few Of My Favourite Things: BROOD OF BONES by A.E. Marling

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I was wondering what my next entry in the Favourite Things Series would be when I came across a reminder on my Twitter feed, in the form of a ‘check out my book’ tweet. That tweet was by A.E. Marling, and referenced his book DREAM STORM SEA (which, however much I loved it, is not the book I will be sharing today).

The book I’ll be sharing today is one of A.E. Marling’s books, though. It’s the first of his that I read–and still my favourite so far–BROOD OF BONES. In BROOD OF BONES, the women of Morimound have all suddenly become pregnant, and no one knows why- or how. It’s left to a Somnolant (narcoleptic) enchantress, with the help of her trusted maid and her bodyguard–plus one rather wicked Lord Of The Feast–to find out why, and to what end.

Broof of bones

And isn’t the cover so GORGEOUS?!?

“A man can never tell how much a woman cares about him until she threatens his life”.

BROOD OF BONES features female lead Hiresha, who has the distinction not only of being one of my favourite book heroines, but of being one of the most convincing male-written females I’ve had the privilege to read. Her 27 dresses and her fascination with gems that borders on the obsessive-compulsive is delightful to read. Her interactions with her fellow characters are spiky and sharp, as is her personality. And although she grows and learns, Hiresha remains herself throughout the book, flaws, cracks and all.

As for the main male lead, Tethiel – well, you just have to read him. He’s delightful and hilarious and a perfect match for Hiresha. His flaws aren’t white-washed, but they’re things that make him, him. There’s a tendency in modern fiction to have an anti-hero type male lead, but oh! he loves puppies, and oh! he’d never kill anyone, and oh, I suppose he’s just misunderstood. Tethiel isn’t one of those. He’s a true anti-hero, with his own reasons and motives for doing things. His interactions with Hiresha are gloriously, frivolously fun.

The only slight annoyance I had with the book was the amount of times we were told about the outward signs of pregnancy, and how Hiresha could tell how far along the women were. I think I counted five or six times, and by the sixth time I was saying aloud: “All right, I get it!” But it was a VERY slight annoyance, and if I’d been reading in the way I used to read as a child (ie, speed reading) it’s entirely possible that I’d have missed a few of the references.

I’m going to be doing a re-read soon, but I want to make sure I have all of the books in paperback (my favourite format still 🙂 ) first. And I have yet to read the spin-off title, A GOWN OF SHADOW AND FLAME, so yay! goodness to look forward to!

Verdict? Buy it. This is one of the books that I’ve bought both an ebook and physical copy of.

At times gritty, at times endearing, and at all times fabulously entertaining, BROOD OF BONES is a book well worth your time, and a wonderful first book in its series (which is likewise fantastic). Do yourself a favour and check it out. It’s some of the best that self-publishing (or in fact any kind of publishing) has to offer.