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the real kwon
17 January 2017 @ 09:06 pm
Intisar Khanani's Sunbolt Chronicles is an ongoing fantasy serial which currently consists of Sunbolt (novella) and Memories of Ash (novel.) It stars Hitomi, a Plucky Street Urchin with magical talents; she begins as a bit player in a revolution and subsequently bounces through a rapid succession of plot elements including but not limited to:

- an escape from a sinister dungeon!
- a bond with a life-sucking supernatural individual!
- a mentor with a mysterious past!
- a mission from a phoenix!
- a missing mother with inexplicable motivations!
- a wedding invitation in the middle of a feud in the middle of the desert!
- vampires!
- werewolves!
- tanuki!
- magic school!
- a heist!

The series definitely has a protagonist and it definitely has a villain, but otherwise it is structured more or less as A Series Of Interesting Events; Hitomi always has a goal of one sort or another, but she's frequently thrown off-course into other adventures in a way that makes the story feel TV-episodic in a way that novels usually don't. I find it interestingly difficult to predict what's going to happen next. Part of that is because of the serial structure, and the other part of it is --

OK, you know how when you read a novel it is frequently very easy to tell who the thematically important people are going to be, especially love interests, because the author will take a moment to indicate something about their appearance or manner that's interesting, and you're like, ah! We're meant to care about THAT person, they will most likely play some sort of important role later on.

The thing is that pretty much every named character who shows up in the Sunbolt Chronicles gets this treatment. Everyone is important! It's pretty refreshing! This, and the interestingly weird weird structure, and one or two other factors (one and a half whole books in and there has as of yet been no romance!) make it stand out for me from the other present-tense first-person YA which it otherwise resembles.

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the real kwon
16 January 2017 @ 09:46 am
As mentioned, I had a strong urge to reread some E. Nesbit thanks to Everfair, so I took The Enchanted Castle with me on vacation.

The Enchanted Castle is quite possibly the ur-Nesbit. It has everything:

- a group of squabbling but affectionate siblings
- a ring of invisibility! (or is it a wishing ring?) (or is it a TOKEN OF THE GODS THAT EXACTS A TERRIBLE PRICE FOR ITS USAGE?) (or is it just going to make you repeatedly and unfortunately late for tea?)
- a background tragic long-lost romance
- people turning into statues! statues turning into living statues! (quite useful, as it turns out that "all statues that come to life are proficient in all athletic exercises")
- implausibly friendly Greek myths come to life; see also 'living statues' (Eros is "a really nice boy, as the girls instantly agreed" and Psyche is "a darling, as any one could see")
- A DINOSAUR; see once again 'living statues'
- an unsubtle critique of capitalism
- a fair bit of probably accidental period classism
- a brief unfortunate incident of blackface
- a collection of construct puppets that come horribly alive and demand, in the most Uncanny Valley fashion possible, to be shown to a really good hotel!

The bit with the puppets that come alive is probably the most memorable set piece of The Enchanted Castle, a book that contains a number of extremely memorable set pieces; they are simultaneously so disturbing and so hilariously banal, requiring Our Plucky Heroes to screw their courage to the sticking point and NOT ONLY cunningly walk them to the tunnel where they plan to imprison them, but ALSO at the same time answer polite questions about their schoolwork and whether they play sports. The worst of all possible things!

Really, nowhere does E. Nesbit show how much she knows her way around writing kids more than in The Enchanted Castle. The magical adventures are wonderful, and occasionally rise up into the numinous and almost haunting -- I'm fascinated by the dropped remark at the end that this book would have absolutely been an epic tragedy, were it not for the convenient fact that the people who found the magical ring were children and not yet adults -- but the parts that are just kids hanging out complaining at each other without any magic at all are just as compelling, and also hilarious.

More Nesbit rereads are almost certainly in my future, though I don't remember loving any of her books quite as much as The Enchanted Castle. (Edward Eager rereads, too, since every single thing he ever wrote is an ardent love letter to E. Nesbit, which is how I discovered her in the first place.)

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the real kwon
15 January 2017 @ 06:44 pm
Nisi Shawl's Everfair is an alternate history in which a group of British socialists and African-American missionaries form an unlikely partnership to buy up a parcel of land and found an independent Utopian nation in the Belgian Congo. Unsurprisingly, things do not go 100% Utopian from there. On the downside, the colony has to deal with international intrigue and attacks by hostile Belgian forces as well as internal conflicts about race and religion and governance; on the upside, everyone does get mechanical limbs and mechanical airships!

The book covers about 30 years of story-time, beginning in the 1890s and progressing up past the end of WWI. Some things change as a result of the existence of Everfair, and others don't. As a thought experiment, it's extremely compelling and well-thought-out. As a story, I found it interesting to read but a little difficult to fall into completely -- the story progresses as a series of brief chapters from a variety of POVs, and often skips ahead months or years in between chapters. This allows for a thorough and complex picture of the whole colony, but, on the flip side, made the individual character arcs feel really choppy (at least to me).

The only character thread that really spans the whole book is the fraught romance between Daisy Albin (AU E. Nesbit -- most major characters are AUs of historic figures, but she was the only one I could recognize without looking it up because I am not an expert on the Fabian Socialists but I am an expert on E. Nesbit's Life Choices) and Lisette Toutournier (AU Colette, whom I feel I ought to have recognized, but did not, because I have never actually read any Colette.) SpoilersCollapse )

Anyway. Everfair is worth reading, and I'm glad I read it, but I did not like it as much overall as Shawl's short stories, which I now want to reread. Along with a lot of E. Nesbit.

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the real kwon
02 January 2017 @ 10:17 pm
For my first post about television in 2017, I want to grab all of you by the collar and tell you at great length about Age of Youth, now on Netflix as Hello My Twenties.

Age of Youth is about five college roommates, almost all of whom are haunted by a DARK SECRET of some sort or another -- murder! ghosts! crushing debt! loan sharks! stalkers! even more murder! -- and yes, all of these are problems, but you can't worry about them all the time when you're also sharing a house with four other people, and the trash always needs taking out, and someone is ALWAYS borrowing your stuff without asking, or looking out the window and whistling obnoxiously when you're trying to have a romantic moment, and also there is ONLY ONE BATHROOM.

Although there are a couple of love interests floating around here and there, the primary focus of the show is emphatically on the relationships between the girls; there's maybe one reverse Bechdel pass in all twelve episodes. And let me tell you, every time we got a fakeout where it looked like a girl was about to call on a love interest for help and instead the roommates came charging to the rescue, MY HEART GREW THREE SIZES.

Also, the general lack of tolerance the show has for male angst is ... kind of amazing.

Cut for more on the girls and further picspamCollapse )

Anyway, as aforementioned, I highly recommend this drama -- though please ask me if you want trigger warnings, as trigger warnings may be needed.

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the real kwon
02 January 2017 @ 10:14 am
Annual reading log post! As always, I have very good and optimistic intentions of writing up everything that doesn't have a post linked yet (I REALLY DO), but if you would like me to talk about anything feel free to leave me a comment on this post too.

Books read, 2016Collapse )

122 books overall is more than last year and meets my ideal average of 10/month, so that is not bad at all! And only 15 rereads (plus the ENTIRETY of Skip Beat), so 107 of them were new-to-me. But only ten nonfiction books, which is not amazing, and I definitely wanted to read more new-to-me manga and graphic novels than the amount I actually did, which was ... zero. Next year!

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the real kwon
01 January 2017 @ 01:38 pm
Yuletide reveals! I had two fics in the archive this year:

Statistical Methods in Risk Assessment, The Bletchley Circle

This was my assigned fic -- the excellent prompt was to write a fic focused on Jean, the oldest of the Bletchley Circle women, femslash optional but encouraged -- and I fell neck-deep into the research hole on it. I have a post coming about the several WWII-era history books that I read over the past few months while figuring what I actually wanted to write about, but most of what actually went into the story ended up coming out of what I learned about the Special Operations Executive branch, the only arm of the British government that sent women behind the lines as spies. And IT'S ALL FASCINATING, so thank you for such an amazing prompt, [personal profile] xylaria! (Also, it finally gave me the push to actually watch season 2 of The Bletchley Circle, which I'd been meaning to do for literally years.)

Or, What You Will, Singin' in the Rain

I would very much have liked to fall neck-deep down the research hole on this one also -- [personal profile] emma_in_dream's excellent request was for Singin' in the Rain fic that incorporated historical of Golden Age Hollywood -- except I grabbed it as a pinch-hit on December 18th and I did not have time! So I did what I could with background knowledge, Wikipedia, and enthusiasm, plus a recent hallucinogenic Busby Berkeley musical experience. Don't ask me where the fake Twelfth Night movie musical part came from because I really do not know; it just sort of arrived fully-formed and would not leave.

Thank you to [personal profile] genarti, [personal profile] saramily, [profile] gramary1971, and [personal profile] innerbrat for amazing beta work, and to [personal profile] genarti especially for pointing out how to use Malvolio to foreshadow the oncoming banhammer of the Motion Picture Production Code.

(Also, thank you again for my amazing Healer fic, [personal profile] china_shop!)

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the real kwon
30 December 2016 @ 02:09 pm
I really wanted to love Peter Beagle's newest novel Summerlong, because I love Peter Beagle and I never thought we would get a new Beagle novel, but alas I did not like it so well as I wished.

Summerlong follows long-term stable romantic partners Abe Aronson, a cranky Jewish retired professor that it's difficult not to read as Beagle's self-insert, and Joanna Delvecchio, a flight attendant counting down the years until she can retire and do what she wants.

Their relatively settled patterns are disrupted by the entrance of Lioness, a Mysterious Beautiful Young Woman who is Vaguely Greek And Somehow Unworldly, Strongly Identified With Spring, Makes Flowers Bloom, and appears to be Fleeing Or Hiding From Someone, Maybe, IDK, A Divine Greek Husband...?

Basically this appears to be Peter Beagle's stab at a divine-mundane novel in the vein of DWJ's Eight Days of Luke, in which a brush with myth triggers a change in the lives of the humans caught up in it. This is all well and good as far as it goes, and certainly Peter Beagle has the chops for the numinous mundane, except that the mundane part interwoven with the myth has all the features of those professor-midlife-crisis novels that have long been my nemesis, featuring irritated spoilersCollapse )

...however, the whole thing was almost worth it for how hard I laughed during one particular sequence in which Abe reads the entire Lymond Chronicles while repeatedly flying back and forth between Chicago and Seattle. This is as far as I remember the only other fiction namechecked in the entire book. Why the Lymond Chronicles, Peter Beagle? Did you just now read them and decide you had to tell the world?

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the real kwon
27 December 2016 @ 07:16 pm
Hey! So you guys may remember Further Arguments In Support of Yudah Cohen's Proposal to Bluma Zilberman, a short story which I published in Diabolical Plots earlier this year.

If you liked this story, I have two pieces of good news:

a. You can now listen to it as an audio short from PodCastle

b. Also at PodCastle, you can also now read OR listen to a NEW related story, Shaina Rubin Keeps Her Head Under Circumstances Nobody Could Have Expected, in which Bluma's cousin Shaina is deeply embarrassed to discover herself in need of rescue from supernatural danger (especially if rescue comes in the form of annoying cousins)

Both of these stories should stand alone, for the record! I made very sure (thanks [personal profile] aberration!) to find a second reader who had not read the first one to test this.


This is Shaina Rubin, I think you all have a good sense of her personality now

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the real kwon
25 December 2016 @ 10:19 am
I read Charlotte Bronte's >Villette for the first time last week. I don't know why I didn't anticipate how wildly entertaining I would find it, given how much I love Jane Eyre, but in fact it was a delightful surprise which I did not anticipate at all.

Also, there ... are gayer nineteenth-century novels? But NOT MANY.

Length, spoilers, ROMANTICAL GAY THEATRICALSCollapse )

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the real kwon
24 December 2016 @ 10:38 pm
And speaking of Yuletide, I won again? HOW DOES THIS HAPPEN. I swear I only had one gift when I checked this morning (I wasn't actually present-shaking, it's just the easiest way for me to get back in to do edits) and now I have three? ALL DELIGHTFUL???

Just in Spring

In the back of her mind, she’d kept an inventory of every picture, every absurd figurine, just in case she be called upon to explain its absence. By jettisoning everything, she’d cast it out of her mind and into oblivion. And now, she thought, this house was truly hers, as it should have been all along.

This is seven thousand words of slow, careful Gaslight recovery fic and it is gorgeous and goes places I did not think to expect.

citizens of the same country

Jung Hoo’s jaw drops. “I can’t,” he says, after a moment. “I don’t know anything about journalism or politics. I don’t even watch the news.”

“Well.” Moon Ho leans across the desk, his eyes bright with challenge. “Maybe it’s time you started. If you want to clean a wound of its infection, you need to learn some first aid.”

This short postcanon Healer fic feels like a slice of the show, from the pitch-perfect voices to the focus on journalistic integrity and using truth to fight power! which I'm not going to lie feels very important right now!!

The Dame's Only Doing It For That Doll

She was always dressed impeccably, her man’s suit tailored perfectly. She felt like the closest thing you could get to Marlene Dietrich or Katherine Hepburn. She would sit in the common room playing solitaire while Sgt. Sarah sat next to her reading the Bible, just as they had every night for at least twenty years.


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the real kwon
24 December 2016 @ 08:41 pm
It's the first night of Hanukkah, also Christmas Eve! Normally at this time I would be prepping to go to New York for the traditional Chinese food and a movie, but I have had too much travel this year and yet more coming up, so instead I am home on my couch with Chinese food, and that is also pretty OK.

Meanwhile, as we wait for the Yuletide archive to open, seems like it's a good time for another costume poll!

Last time, we actually ended up with a neck and neck tie between the two wardrobe extremes of Jeremy, a complicated man who contains multitudes:

The people love Prince Jeremy! The people also love weird yellow plaid-skirted hobo Jeremy.

But will the people also love ...

Top five You"re Beautiful Episode 9 costumes under the cutCollapse )

-- and while I was doing this, Yuletide came out! HAPPY HOLIDAYS EVERYONE.

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the real kwon
23 December 2016 @ 03:03 pm
Friday action postCollapse )

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the real kwon
18 December 2016 @ 01:53 pm
Rogue OneCollapse )

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the real kwon
15 December 2016 @ 10:12 pm
I have an original fantasy novella out today from The Fantasist, a new magazine which publishes (as you might guess) original fantasy novellas.

It's called Suradanna and the Sea and features trade routes, magical fertilizer, and one girl's centuries-long effort to impress a woman who is already in a committed relationship with a boat.

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the real kwon
12 December 2016 @ 09:20 pm
I have been reading some more Jennifer Crusie! Top-tier Jennifer Crusie, this time.

My favorite of the three was Faking It, which I devoured in a sitting on a plane ride today. It is definitely, DEFINITELY screwball -- 'let's have a running gag of calling each other by the names of side characters in screwball comedies' screwball -- and features the romance between Tilda, a reformed art forger desperate to recover some early false-identity paintings before they are exposed, and Davy, a reformed con artist that she meets in a closet belonging to the owner of the paintings while he is attempting to ineptly burgle the house at the exact same time that she is. SO MANY hijinks ensue. Also, so much time in the world's largest fictional closet. At one point three separate people are hiding in that closet and TWO OF THEM DON'T KNOW THE OTHER ONE IS THERE. I kept expecting them to find Narnia in the back of it.

This is also definitely another of my favorite kind of trapped-in-an-inn sort of comedy which features a number of zany side characters who all end up living in the same house with our leads, including:

- Tilda's sister Eve, a nice kindergarten teacher who has a wild dance club alter ego named Louise; it has reached the point where people buy Eve and Louise separate Christmas presents
- Eve's best friend and ex-husband, Andrew, who owns the night club where Louise works and is hypocritically a little concerned about Louise's wild ways
- Andrew's very nice new lawyer husband Jeff, whom everybody loves and relies on in his role as (ironically) the zany family's token straight man
- Eve and Andrew's teenage daughter Nadine, who is constantly trying on boyfriends in an attempt to see if their career paths will suit her; Nadine and her boyfriend du jour are also constantly accompanied by Nadine's loyal retainer who appears to be perfectly content with his lot as the one permanent member of Nadine's rotating harem
- Tilda's mother, who channels all her frustration at being fifty-something and trapped in an art gallery she hates into constantly tearing through Double Acrostics until she finds herself suddenly caught in a dramatic love triangle between
- the boring rich man who owns all the paintings that Davy and Tilda keep attempting to burgle
- and the cute hit man who might be attempting to murder Davy and is definitely attempting to get Tilda's mom to come away with him to Aruba

And these are just relatively major characters, and does not even mention Davy's father who seduces the depressing painter who lives upstairs, and Eve/Louise's temporary love interest who hasn't yet figured out they're the same person, and the caterer who is secretly an FBI agent, and -- I mean, there are five billion things going in in this book and they're all completely ridiculous, but it's all super cute family-who-cares-about-each-other ridiculous which is just about my favorite kind of ridiculous.

Welcome to Temptation, to which Faking It serves as a sequel, is also very much about families, but rather less zany (although not zero amounts of zany.) Welcome to Temptation stars Davy's sisters Sophie and Amy, who have been hired to come to small-town Temptation in order to shoot some very tasteful soft-core porn. The love interest is the town's single dad mayor, and the book's emotional focus is on figuring out how to break out of dysfunctional family patterns without completely destroying the important relationships at the heart of them, which is one of the reasons it feels more serious and bittersweet than Faking It despite the fact that the actual plot is "SMALL TOWN SCANDALIZED WHEN ASSHOLE FOUND MURDERED AT PORN SHOOT."

The best part of this book is definitely the end, when spoilerCollapse )

And then there is Bet Me, perhaps the first Jennifer Crusie I have read that features no dead bodies, gangsters, or hit men whatsoever! Instead it has a lot of good solid adult important friendships, which is actually really nice to read about. It is probably also the most satisfying of the three as romance, with a nice slow-developing Beatrice and Benedick kind of trust-and-friendship-out-of-irritable-rivalry thing. I keep trying to come up with a pithy summary of the plot, but there isn't one really -- mostly it's really just various scenes of Min and Cal and their pals hanging out and forming one friendship-family out of what was previously two friendship-families, held together with a great deal of banter.

(...that said, I realize what Crusie was going for with the whole 'Cal appreciates chubby Min's body exactly the way it is and therefore pushes her to eat what she wants,' I know the sexy donuts thing worked for many people as body positivity, but dang, DO NOT SHOVE FOOD INTO SOMEONE'S MOUTH IF THEY'VE SAID THEY DO NOT TO EAT THE FOOD, do not do this, consensual donut eating only please!)

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the real kwon
11 December 2016 @ 01:32 pm
I'm a little sad the cover of the copy of Belva Plain's Crescent City that I snagged off the free bookshelf at the Traveler Restaurant is not as amazingly EIGHTIES! HISTORICAL!! as the one on the Goodreads page, but we can't have everything.

Anyway, I grabbed Crescent City because, EIGHTIES! HISTORICAL!! aside, it's about a Jewish family in New Orleans during the Civil War -- not a thing one sees frequently in historical romance -- and I was super curious how that would play out.

(Sidenote: I'd never heard of Belva Plain before, but apparently she was basically like the Jewish Philippa Gregory and spent the 80s and 90s writing tons of bestselling books about Jewish women having dramatic historical times and/or Contemporary Issues. Reviews seem to think Crescent City is pretty same-old as far as her stuff goes, but it was new to me!)

Crescent City starts out when Ferdinand, a formerly poor European Jew who has Made His Fortune in New Orleans, comes home to collect his two kids David and Miriam from their aunt and grandpa in the shtetl and bring them to their new life of Southern debutante wealth and fortune!

And then, eventually, the Civil War, but it takes a whileCollapse )

I'm not sure I necessarily need to seek out anything else by Belva Plain after this, but I am glad I picked up and read this one. The book is, you know, the kind of EIGHTIES! HISTORICAL!! that it is, and certainly its Jewish-but-nonetheless-extremely-white perspective on the Civil War leaves a LOT of room for intersectional improvement, but it is pretty cool to see historical fiction about Jewish people that has the fact of their Jewishness interwoven into the story without making specifically-Jewish-suffering the entire point and plot. And there's still not a whole lot of that going around.

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the real kwon
04 December 2016 @ 03:05 pm
In last week's resurrected You're Beautiful costume polls, our favorite crossdressing nun Go Mi Nam pulled out her very first victory. The audience has spoken: the elfin poncho of woe is this winter's must-have accessory!

Congratulations, Go Mi Nam, and enjoy your victory while you rest on your laurels this episode; you earned it.

Top five You"re Beautiful episode 8 costumes under the cutCollapse )

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the real kwon
03 December 2016 @ 06:25 pm
A month or two ago, I went to the Yiddish Book Center for an archives conference that happened to be hosted there.

The idea of collecting Yiddish books was first conceived of by Aaron Lansky in the late 1970s, when Yiddish books were being thrown away by the thousands as a generation of Yiddish-speaking immigrants were starting to die and leave their possessions to children who didn't see a point in keeping a lot of books around that they couldn't read. Lansky -- at that time a graduate student in Eastern European Jewish Studies who was having a near-impossible time actually getting his hands on any Yiddish books to read -- put out a call in his hometown that if people were thinking of throwing away their Yiddish books, they should send them to him instead. Pretty soon, the story goes, his parents called to tell him that he had to figure out another solution because they were fairly sure the second floor of their house was about to cave in from the weight of the books that people were passing onto them. The Book Center, as it now exists, seeks out Yiddish books and digitizes them; sorts titles to identify unique ones; provides copies of Yiddish books to other libraries; runs a translation program to print Yiddish titles in English; and runs cultural and educational programs, among a bunch of other stuff.

I can't speak Yiddish -- it's a language lost to me by several generations -- but I've been starting to look into classes; I'd give a lot to be able to read Yiddish books. Until then, the next-best thing is reading about Yiddish books, so I put Aaron Lansky's Outwitting History: The Amazing Adventures of a Man Who Rescued a Million Yiddish Books on library reserve.

Anway, last weekend [personal profile] aquamirage and I went to go see the Broadway production of Fiddler on the Roof, and it was amazing, and all my Yid-lit feelings came roaring to the surface again. I came home and immediately picked up Outwitting History, which turns out to be a relatively light and cheerful collection of anecdotes about salvaging a language and culture that has at several points throughout the 20th century been the target of brutal and deliberate extinction. This is entirely in keeping with the general tone of Yiddish literature, which is often funny and depressing and uplifting and pessimistic all at once. (After seeing Fiddler, [personal profile] aquamirage said, 'I knew the whole plot but I didn't know how funny it was going to be!') So, you know. Come for the cute stories about enthusiastic elderly Jews stuffing the faces of bemused book-collectors with kugel and borscht, but stay for stuff like the first shipment of Yiddish books back to the Soviet Union after the fall of the Iron Curtain.

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the real kwon
29 November 2016 @ 09:01 pm
Some of you who were around here in 2011 may remember when I used to do tv fashion costume polls. I got all the way through sixteen episodes of my beloved flora-fedora-filled Capital Scandal and six episodes into You're Beautiful, the kdrama featuring a nun who joins the world's most amazingly-dressed boyband, before grad school proved to be enough of a timesuck that I gave up.

Well, it is a dark time, friends, and as a result, I have been rewatching You're Beautiful with [personal profile] tenillypo, and AS A RESULT, I think it is time -- half a decade later! -- that I finish what I began five years ago, because I personally feel I could use some quality time with some really astounding fashion and I'm guessing I'm not the only one.

Let me start by catching you up on the winners of the first six You"re Beautiful costume polls.Collapse )

So ... now that you all have a sense of what you can expect, who's ready to THROW DOWN with You're Beautiful, episode 7?

Top five outfits from You"re Beautiful, Episode 7, under the cutCollapse )

And the ultimate most fabulous costume of You're Beautiful, Episode Seven is ...

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the real kwon
23 November 2016 @ 01:10 pm
It has taken [personal profile] shati and me over a year to watch Sandglass after my surprise-kdrama-fan colleague dropped it on my desk one morning in 2015. I'm honestly not sure if it's great or terrible timing that it worked out so that we finished it right after the election, but here we are!

Sandglass aired in 1995, and focuses on the political oppression and corruption of 1970s and 80s Korea. It's notable for:

- interpolating archival footage of significant events, most significantly the Gwangju Uprising, in with footage shot for the show
- breaking a fifteen-year media silence about said significant events
- influencing the prosecution of the former president responsible for aforementioned significant events, who eventually ended up jailed for the abuses committed during his regime
- being one of the most overwhelmingly popular dramas in Korean history
- launching the career of the beautiful and impressively eyebrowed Go Hyun-jung, previously seen on this blog as Seju Mishil, ruthless aspirant to the throne of Korea!

Here of course she is just starting out, and therefore Go Hyun-jung"s character Yoon Hye-Rin is only ruthlessly aspiring to control of a casino empireCollapse )

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