Two Fathers 《两个爸爸》

Two Fathers 《两个爸爸》Title: 《两个爸爸》 Two Fathers
Actors: Lele, Yang Yizhan, Lin Youwei, Lai Yayan (Megan Lai), Liang Jing
Genre: Comedy, Family, Contemporary
Rating: ★★☆☆☆ | 2.0 of 5.0

[spoilers, but they’re pretty much forgone conclusions]

So like, not to be a hipster, but I was into this drama back when it was popular (in 2013). But then I completely forgot how much I loved it, or that it even existed, until I saw one of my friends posting on Snapchat about it, and she told me that it was on Netflix. And I can’t read and do my homework at the same time, right, but I can watch Netflix and do my homework. Which is exactly what I did.

Two Fathers follows the story of aspiring lawyer Tang Xiangxi (Yang Yizhan) and student horticulturalist Wen Zhenhua (Lin Youwei)––college friends who find out that a girl they both slept with, Su Wenwen, has had a baby––one of theirs, but she doesn’t know whose–and then promptly skipped town because she was unable to give up her dreams, leaving the child in their care. Fast forward eight years, and Xiangxi has his own firm, Zhenhua has a flower shop, and they’ve made their own unique family with their daughter, Tang Wendi. The series takes place between the winter break and through the summer vacation of Wendi’s first grade, when the two fathers meet her new teacher, Fang Jingzhu (Lai Yayan), which sets in motion a series of events that allows three families––the Tang/Wens, the Fangs, and the Wus––to find their own happiness.

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Master of the Idle Clouds | 闲云公子

%e9%97%b2%e4%ba%91%e5%85%ac%e5%ad%90Title: Master of the Idle Clouds | 闲云公子
Author: Yu Qing
Genre: Romance, Historical Fiction
Rating: ★★☆☆☆ | 1.5

Here’s the thing: I really like this novella. I still really enjoy this novella. I plan to make so many edits for this novella that I drown in them. But my god, in good conscience there is no way I can ignore some of its massive problems.

Which brings me to prelude #2: how can something that went so right in the first 3/5 of this novella so quickly take a turn for the worse in the last 2/5th of it? It was meant to be a romantic comedy, so why is the last 2/5th so determinedly unfunny?

Huangfu Yun is the Guardian of the Left in the Baiming Sect, which is known among the mainstream Chinese warriors and gallants as the Demon Cult. Orphaned from youth due to infighting within the sect, Huangfu Yun learned how to protect herself, to avoid attention in order to survive until adulthood. But when she was fourteen, she accidentally crossed paths with Gongsun Yun, a disciple from the Yun Family Manor, who are in charge of compiling histories. In saving his life, she accidentally brought him into her debt and left a deep impression on him. Six years later, she and her slave He Zai enter the Chinese heartland in order to attend a funeral, and her path crosses Gongsun Yun’s again, and this time, he’s less willing to let her go.

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Prom Queen Perfect

29331371-_uy1600_ss1600_Title: Prom Queen Perfect
Author: Clarisse David
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, YA
Rating: ★★★☆☆ | 2.5

Alexandra de la Cruz is perfect: perfect family, perfect older sister, perfect clothing, perfect life. She’s the most popular girl in school, and she’s on track to become prom queen––just like her sister. Just like her mother’s favourite. And if she becomes prom queen, maybe her mother will stop finding fault with her at every turn.

So when childhood friend-turned brother-in-law turned nuisance Adam Cordero tells her she’s selfish, she’s determined to prove him wrong by taking Christy Marquez on as a project, turning her from social reject to social butterfly. Her plan works, but it works too well, and suddenly the title of prom queen, which was so within her grasp, is slipping away, and she has to contend with the true nature of friendship.

This was a cute pick-me-up during finals week––it’s short, utterly predictable, and its characters were bland and vacuous enough that I didn’t feel so caught up in their struggles that I neglected my studying, which is good. For finals week. Not really so good for when I need a substantial story to keep me occupied.

But I’ve mentioned this multiple times across multiple reviews and I am always going to be the first to say: fluff entertainment has value, too, and I’m not going to dismiss the novel because it doesn’t have substance. Books are entertainment, and English minor I may be, but I will meet you behind the gym at 3:00 pm with my fists ready if you entertain the notion that all books have to meet some arbitrary standard of Literary Value to have Worth™.

That being said, while I enjoyed the novel for what it is––the written version of, say, She’s All That––it wasn’t much beyond that. I don’t really know what else to say. It was cute, it was okay, it’s the equivalent of watching a teen movie with a tub of ice cream and some popcorn on a lazy Saturday when you should be doing other things. I don’t regret purchasing it, but I’m also probably not going to reread it. The characterisation was jerky––who becomes a best friend mere hours after meeting?––but overall it was inoffensive enough that it went down like jello. It didn’t stir up any strong emotions or attachment, but I was also not really expecting it to.

shrug-2

The Pirates (2014)

The Priates (2014)Title: The Pirates
Starring: Son Ye-jin, Kim Nam-gil
Genre: Historical, Comedy
Rating: ★★★★☆ | 3.5

Give me a historical slapstick swashbuckler about pirates and bandits fighting in a time of dynastic transition against the corrupt court and add to that a whale and imperialism and you have a recipe to make me the happiest girl on the world.

Yeo-wol is a pirate who’s successfully mutinied against a faithless captain, and she’s just been offered a contract by disgraced army captain Park Mo (AKA Ahab): bring back the imperial seal bestowed upon the newly-established Joseon by Ming, which was swallowed by a whale (hi, Moby Dick), and be rewarded with riches beyond imagination. Unfortunately for Yeo-wol, however, former lieutenant-turned-bandit Jang Sa-jung, who had opposed the rebellion that put Yi Seong-gye in power, has also heard about the prize, and he is willing to go to sea to save his failing bandit outpost. Sa-jung and Yeo-wol clash multiple times, but when both their demons come knocking, they’re forced to work together to build a future they want to live in.

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And I Darken

and-i-darken_kiersten-whiteTitle: And I Darken
Author: Kiersten White
Genre: Historical Fiction, Alternate History, YA
Rating: ★★☆☆☆ | 2.0

For a stretch of about 30 minutes, I thought I might actually like this novel. Imagine: a novel about Dracula, but Vladimir is Lada, and Lada is ugly, and brutal, but ultimately sympathetic. Add that to the fact that the novel was super hyped by a bunch of book bloggers whose opinions I usually trust, and I jumped into this pit like there was a feast at the bottom of it.

To its credit, there are things that it does try to do well––Lada is certainly an unconventional protagonist. She isn’t likeable and she’s unapologetic about wanting power. There’s something I love about women who want power––it’s not so much that I think it’s empowering for women to take power, because it’s really not (see: Margaret Thatcher), but because I love that girls can be fucked up pieces of shit and still be worthy of having our stories told.

And insofar as they stay in Wallachia, the story felt nuanced: Lada’s self-hatred, the internalised sexism that she displaces onto her mother, her desperation for her father’s love and her frustration at his inability to protect Wallachia from Ottoman invasion.

Past this, the book goes so quickly downhill. Even if you weren’t concerned with diversity (which if you aren’t, yuck), the writing is extremely dry. There were a few pretty lines, but they felt incredibly false and formulated, just a bunch of words strung together to sound #empowering but lacking any real understanding of oppression or true subversive potential.

And once the novel hits the Ottoman Empire…yikes.

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무사 |《武士》| The Warrior

942 Title: Musa (The Warrior)
Starring: Jung Woo-sung, Joo Jin-mo
Genre: Historical Fiction, Realistic Fiction, Drama
Rating: ★★★★★ | 5.0

warnings: violence, gore

I’m probably not going to do a good job reviewing it properly for this blog because I have too many thoughts to even begin to summarise, but if you guys can handle gore/bloody battle scenes, I highly recommend y’all watch Musa (The Warrior), which stars Jung Woo-sung and Joo Jin-mo. It’s an old favourite of mine and it honestly does everything right.

The overall plot is about a small diplomatic mission from Goryeo (Korea) that gets sent to China right around the turn of the Ming Dynasty, when Zhu Yuanzhang emerged victorious from the war with Toghon Temur, the last Mongol Emperor of the Yuan Dynasty in China. Because Goryeo had previously plead allegiance to the Yuan Dynasty, the diplomatic mission is jailed and then sent into exile in the Gobi Desert.

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《杉杉来吃》Boss & Me

e69d89e69d89e69da5e59083Title: 《杉杉来吃》
Actors: Zhao Liying, Zhang HanGenre: Romance, Contemporary
Rating: ★★★★☆ | 4.0/5.0

Rare is the trope I hate more than the “in love with the boss” trope. I make no secret of the fact that I despise emotionally stale male protagonists who can’t do any of their own emotional labour. I hate authors who idealise extreme power differences in a relationship. And most of all, I abhor the Chinese trope of the 霸道总裁. Somehow, though, every winter since its release, I’ve found time to rewatch Boss & Me.

It’s not for the acting, that’s for sure. Zhao Liying is incredibly talented, and her bubbly and sweet Shanshan comes across as genuine and kind, with a heart as big as her appetite. But Zhang Han leaves me cold, like he always does in every drama that isn’t titled Queen of SOP, mostly because he doesn’t know how to move his face, and he has the perfect excuse not to in human iceberg Feng Teng. (No microexpressions? Blank expression? Zero personality? I mean, okay.)

It’s not the story, either, because it’s a fairly standard one. After Shanshan donates blood to Feng Teng’s younger sister Feng Yue during a difficult pregnancy, she comes to his attention, despite not being outstanding at work or particularly competent outside of it. When she begins to eat on the balcony outside his office in order to escape office rumours, he becomes enamored with her optimism and her sweetness, and, not really knowing how to interact with her, orders her to come up and eat lunch with him daily, which of course, only begins to fan the flames of the gossip.

Why! O why! Do I like it so much?

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