First Impressions: Sweet Dreams (2018)

Sweet Dreams Posters 1
Chinese Name: 一千零一夜
Brief Summary: A chance encounter inspires Ling Ling Qi (Dilmurat Dilraba) to dream of becoming a florist, and she idolizes Bo Hai (Deng Lun), the founder of a well-known floral company. Meanwhile, an experimental bracelet causes Ling Ling Qi to meet Bo Hai in her dreams.
Stream It: DramaFever

After watching the first few episodes, I was concerned that this was going to be a bust for me – I can’t stand dramas with a lead character who is hopelessly obsessed with someone. Luckily, this passes quickly, and there’s a lot I’m liking about this drama!

The Cast:
I like Dilraba but I find that she plays characters too pitiably. The worst was Pretty Li Hui Zhen, which was based on a Korean drama that I loved. The way she played the female lead was unbearably cringy. In Three Lives Three Worlds, Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms, her supporting character fell under the aforementioned hopelessly-obsessed category, and I’ve only watched half of The Flame’s Daughter (abandoned it for now). Despite some cringy moments where Ling Ling Qi becomes embarrassed too quickly, I’m liking her a lot in this drama!

I liked Deng Lun a lot in Because of You so I was excited to see him as the Bo Hai, the male lead. I think he plays the character well! He’s so boyishly cute.

The supporting cast is great, and although I’m not familiar with any of them, I hope to see more of them!

The Characters:
I really appreciate loyal friendships in dramas, so I love Ling Ling Qi’s best friend Bao Ni! Their friendship with Mo Nan is a lot of fun. Bo Hai’s friends are also very loyal to him. I can’t say that I like Xin Yan, but I love Chen Mo & Bo Hai’s friendship.

The Dreams:
Initially I was skipping through the dreams but once the leads meet, the dreams become more interesting.

The Story:
There’s a lot of potential for the various storylines – I’m on episode 13 so it’s too soon to tell if they will be satisfying. I am really hoping to Ling Ling Qi will have a chance to show her talent. I’m always a fan of characters who work hard to achieve her dreams, and she seems underutilized in her job!

I’m definitely going to keep watching, and regrettably I’ll be caught up before DramaFever finishes adding the episodes so I’ll have to suffer through an episode a day. -_-

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Live Review: My Love from Another Star (2013)

my-love-from-another-star-2013

I’m calling this a “live review” because I’m on episode 6 and I’m going to continue to update this post as I watch. After many years of resisting this drama, I finally caved and decided to try it out. I’m intrigued by it so far but at the same time there are SO MANY plot holes that I have to rant about it somewhere.

On a side note, I was pleasantly surprised to see some familiar faces in the supporting cast! I loved Ahn Jae-hyun in 2016’s Cinderella and Four Knights, and was excited to see him here as the female lead’s younger brother. Also, Yoo In-na from Goblin (2016) and Park Hae-jin from Cheese in the Trap (also 2016, lol).

SPOILERS FOLLOW.

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Review: Summer’s Desire (2018)

summers-desireI’m so disappointed – I was really looking forward to the Summer’s Desire remake, since I recall enjoying the angsty 2010 drama version. However, while initially the storyline changes/additions seemed promising initially, the drama overall was too problematic. (Also, why is this poster/promotional image so sweet looking… so misleading!!)

Here’s a quick spoiler-free run-through of my issues with the Summer’s Desire remake:

  • The two male lead characters, Ou Chen and Luo Xi, are both appallingly controlling and manipulative, while the female lead character Xia Mo’s feelings never seem clear.
  • The story takes a turn in the last ~5 episodes that seems way too rushed and sudden, and spends too much time on certain storylines in the beginning.
  • Some of the conflicts with side characters weren’t adequately developed or resolved.

I liked the OST though – the songs are still stuck in my head. I liked Sophie Zhang as Xia Mo and Qin Jun Jie as Ou Chen. Huang Sheng Chi seemed a little too young for Luo Xi though and just can’t compare to Huang Xiao Ming from the original drama version.

***SPOILERS FOLLOW***

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First Impressions: Here to Heart (2018)

here-to-heartChinese Name: 温暖的弦
Brief Summary: Wen Nuan (Janine Chang) broke Nan Xian’s (Zhang Han) heart seven years ago. She returns from abroad and takes a job at Nan Xian’s company and gets promoted to his assistant. Meanwhile, they both have a fake significant other…

I am on episode 20 and I am not only frustrated by this drama but also infuriated. I was looking forward to this because I like the two leads, Janine Chang and Zhang Han, but the pacing is awful, the story is underdeveloped, and some of the characters are unbearable. Here are my rants, which are as spoiler-free as possible.

1) Nan Xian (Zhang Han) treats Wen Nuan (Janine Chang) coldly and cruelly. He manipulates and schemes. He is unbelievably petty. I understand that she broke his heart and he’s still not over it, but all he does is play mind games. He clearly must be smart to have become so successful – so why can’t he consider the possibility that Wen Nuan had a good reason for breaking up with him? Especially since A) she returns and works as his assistant, and B) she’s cleary changed from the vibrant girl he once knew.

2) Wen Nuan’s actions are also excruciating to watch. She’s such a passive character and constantly puts herself in the position to be hurt by Nan Xian. There are so many times when I wanted to yell at her to just quit. The worst is when Nan Xian puts her in the middle of his vendetta against Lin Lu (and I’ll get to him later). She clearly still has feelings for Nan Xian so the way I see it, she could either stay far away from him or try to make peace with him. Instead, from the start they just don’t talk about anything so they’re continually stuck in the same place.

3) In episode 20, we still have no idea why Nan Xian and Wen Nuan broke up. Since there are a whopping 46 episodes, I guess I shouldn’t be that surprised, but come on – give us a reason to root for the leads!

4) Initially, Lin Lu wasn’t much to root for either but as the drama has progressed, he’s definitely come through as the better man. He’s a good friend to Wen Nuan and he’s good to his parents. (His scenes with Wen Rou, Wen Nuan’s sister, are actually really endearing. I really enjoy their friendship.) Even though he makes mistakes, his heart is in the right place. He has never tried to hurt Wen Nuan deliberately, unlike *somebody*. I feel bad for him, and with 26 episodes to go, I hope he doesn’t turn into a villainous character because that would be the last straw.

5) Yi Xin is so obnoxious, and the flashbacks both made me despise her and feel bad for her. She schemes as much as Nan Xian so they deserve each other, but we know she’s not going to end up with Nan Xian and it’s really his fault for leading her on (and using her to torture Wen Nuan). Also, Pan Wei Ning’s relentless devotion for her is so random and annoying.

6) Why are there so many flashbacks?! The ones from seven years ago add value, but the ones from 15 minutes earlier in the episode are so unnecessary. We didn’t get amnesia in the past 15 minutes (but I kind of wish I did so I could forget this drama).

7) Wen Nuan’s sleep-calls were referenced a couple times early on and then never again. What does it mean? Is it important???

I do not recommend this drama at all, but I did see someone say that if you start at episode 29 it’s watchable so if I make it that far, I will report back.

Where to Buy K-pop Albums in the USA

I’ve recently started collecting k-pop albums, and just wanted to share my experiences and recommendations. So far, I’ve only purchased from sellers based in the US, with the exception of Mwave for signed albums. However, for Mwave orders, I recommend purchasing with a group order. More on that later! I live on the West Coast and I’m biased towards sellers closer to me because it’ll arrive quicker and it’s less likely to encounter any damage from prolonged travel time.

Choice Music (LA Store + online)
I’ve been to the store in LA and placed an online order exactly once. I preordered an album that was released on 3/13 and I received it on 3/19.

Music Plaza (LA Store + online + eBay)
I’ve been to the store in LA and placed an online order exactly once. Even though I ordered an album two months after its release, they still had the preorder benefit, which was nice.

Kpop Trash (online only, but allows LA pick-up option)
They are relatively new, but my favorite thing about them is that they offer free shipping for orders over $50! I placed an order in the morning and it was shipped out the same day. Everything was very well-packaged in lots of bubble wrap and there were a bunch of free gifts. For one of the albums, they didn’t have an option to select the album version, but I asked for a specific version in the comments and they confirmed in an email that they had sent it! (Plus, I pulled the photocard I really wanted so I am eternally grateful.)

They generally do not have albums on sale until after the release date, but they do also sell cosmetics and some merch. You can get 10% your order by using my referral link (a popup will appear on the right and you can enter your email to receive the code).

eBay
I’ve ordered new (sealed) albums from the following sellers on eBay and both were fine.
kpopstoreinusa9 on eBay (ships from Atlanta)
get_importcds on eBay (ships from Kentucky) – they frequently offer a 20% discount off orders of $60+

I’ve also ordered an unsealed album and I regretted not contacting them beforehand for additional pictures/details. But I was in a hurry to use a coupon code before it expired…

Note: Every once in a while eBay will have codes for 15% or 20% off your order (with a minimum purchase amount). So keep your watchlist stocked with things you’d buy if they were a little cheaper!

Amazon
I’ll order from any seller that qualifies for Amazon Prime shipping and is fulfilled by Amazon. Don’t expect folded posters to always arrive in great condition but my albums have been fine. I’ve ordered from the sellers valueflag and PiKACHU, and I always keep an eye out for sellers who include free gifts! Sometimes they will also still have preorder benefits, which should be noted either in the item title or description.

Group Orders (GOs)
Group orders are when one person orders a ton of albums in bulk to save on shipping. You can find them on Facebook and Twitter. Frequently, group order managers (GOMs) will also ask you for your photocard preferences and open all the albums to sort them. I’ve only joined an Mwave group order, so I can’t say if joining a GO is cheaper than buying the album from a US seller yourself. Sometimes, a GOM will cover the EMS shipping fees (shipping from Korea) themselves, so you’ll only have to pay for domestic shipping. However, GOs can also be risky because GOMs prefer not to accept PayPal Goods & Services payments.

For Mwave, some of their albums are signed by a random member rather than signed by all members, so if you have a preference for whose signature you want, definitely join a group order so your odds are higher! A lot of GOMs buy extra albums.

Facebook and Twitter
There are general k-pop buy/sell/trade groups on Facebook as well as groups for specific k-pop artists. These groups have been SO helpful for helping me collect some albums that are out-of-print and past Mwave signed albums. I definitely recommend paying with PayPal G&S for buyer protection. Ask about damage/defects before you pay and ask about how your goods will be packaged. (I forgot to ask once and received a photocard that wasn’t protected in a toploader.)

On Twitter, I follow some GOMs for groups I like and they will frequently RT posts from other people who are selling albums or merch. They also sometimes sell extras themselves. Be careful though! Check for proofs (tweets from past buyers with photos of the goods they received) and try to pay with G&S when possible.

That’s all I’ve got! If you have any questions, please leave a comment!

Love & Life & Lie: Episode 1 Recap

Alright, I will give recapping a try! Love & Life & Lie is a 2017 Chinese drama starring Zhen Dong Yu (Sparrow) and Chen Xiao (Romance of the Condor Heroes). We’ll see if I can make it through all 41 episodes.

Ep1-1
Love & Life & Lie begins with our female lead, Xin Tong, taking on three students at a taekwando class. It turns out, she’s not a student here but a delivery person who makes regular deliveries to this class. She gave up going to college to support her mother by working part-time jobs, but sneaks in to classes when she can.

Ep1-2
Xin Tong stops by to see her mother, and we see that she is kind and caring. Her mother feels guilty that Xin Tong has given up college, but Xin Tong is positive and cheerful. She seems like a character we can root for.

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Review: Love & Life & Lie (2017)

lovelifelieChinese Name: 遇见爱情的利先生
Episodes: 41
Quick Summary: Liu Xin Tong (Zhou Dong Yu) is a kind-hearted, hardworking girl who foregoes college to help support her mother. When her life intersects with the family of wealthy businessman Ji Bai Jun by chance, her mother gets a job at their home and they move in. She meets Li Yao Nan (Chen Xiao), and they fall in love, but he happens to be the fiance of Ji Bai Jun’s daughter, the spoiled Ji Zhi Zhen (Ye Qing), who hates Xin Tong and her mother. Ji Zhi Zhen’s adopted brother, Ji Zhen Yu, also falls for Xin Tong, while Yao Nan’s younger half-brother has been secretly plotting…
Stream It: Viki
Recommendation: Watch it if you’re into melodrama?

Ok, Love & Life & Lie seemed promising in the beginning – the cast was appealing and Xin Tong is a very likable character. She’s the classic selfless, hardworking girl, but also knows how to stand up for herself. I loved her cousin Shan Shan, who was a true friend to her. I confess, I skimmed through the first half of the drama and watched all of the last half. There were a lot of villains in this drama, which made this a very tumultuous watch. I can’t 100% recommend it because I was SO frustrated constantly, but you could do a lot worse.

Zhou Dong Yu (Xin Tong, the female lead) was fantastic, while Chen Xiao (Yao Nan, the male lead) was cute but had questionable acting skills. Ye Qing was Guo Guo in Across the Ocean to See You, so clearly she can play spoiled, bratty characters, but I’d love to see her as the lead sometime soon!

***SPOILERS FOLLOW***

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