Updates

On vacation the rest of this week, so won’t be posting any reviews until next week. Almost done watching the Kdrama Awaken, which is fantastic, so look for that review coming. I’ve started Dostoevsky’s The Possessed, loving it, of course, but it’s very long, so I am not sure when I’ll finish it. Planning how to resist buying more used books on my trip, but it seems like a futile task, because I will surely find something I just have to get. Slowly figuring out what a TwiP is, so look for that, too, in the near future. TfD3 is coming along, coming along, just rather a hobble right now. Despite all the craziness going on in the world, I am happy and confident in Christ and salvation. God is ultimately in control and always wins. Gab is an exciting place to be these days. God be with you ’til we “meet” again. 🙂

Good Times, Evil Times

We are living in evil times these days, times when lies are everywhere and from almost every so-called source of human authority. Our fellow man is being cajoled and coerced into harming their bodies by participating in a medical experiment about which there are many, many unknowns. The real goal is power, power at any cost. Informed consent is so far gone, we might as well be living in the Third Reich. Fear is the main instigator that evil is using, fear of being sick, of getting even a cold, fear of being ostracized, of losing one’s job, friends, family, etc.

But the evil times are also good times, for God’s hand is in all of this. He is allowing evil to show its hand, to force its agenda, so that more and more people will wake up to the truth and turn to Him: God is the only being and authority we can trust for our future security. The only one. Few, if any churches, have even stood against this on behalf of the people. This is such a good time for believers in Christ to shake off the trappings of the world. All those other stories we deem so important–they don’t matter, not really. God’s story, Christ’s story, is the one that matters. The forgiveness of sin, the salvation of the world. The call to repentance and a new life. We are in His hands, and he uses all times, but especially bad or evil times, to remind us of that.

I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind. –Ecclesiastes 1:14

Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. But I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory was dressed like one of these. If this is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow throw into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, you of little faith? Do not constantly chase after what you will eat or what you will drink. Do not be worried about it. To be sure, the nations of the world chase after all these things, but your Father knows that you need them. Instead, continue to seek the kingdom of God and all these things will be added to you. –Luke 12:27-31

Touch Your Heart: A True RomCom

Why it took me so long to watch Touch Your Heart, which came out in 2019 is this: One, it looked boring. Two, I wasn’t confident in the acting skills of either of the leads. Despite how good they were in Goblin, in much of their previous works I found both Lee Dong Wook and Yoo In Na rather boring and without good screen presence. However, as they’ve aged, they have improved much, and Goblin showcased that. Lee was especially good as the lead in Tale of the Nine-Tailed, so I thought I’d give him another chance.

Coming close on the heels of the successful romance fantasy Goblin aka Guardian: The Lonely and Great God, Touch Your Heart snapped up the second lead couple in that drama to star in this one. I don’t know how Lee and Yoo relate to each other in real life, but on screen they are gold. And gold is gold. Both could have continued success simply starring together in romances from here on out. Chemistry like that cannot be bought or manufactured. They are actors that bring out the best in each other. They also seem to not age, which is a plus in their industry.

Despite how many romantic comedies exist, it’s rare to actually find a movie or show that is fully romantic and comedic. Touch Your Heart was both, but I was very glad for the comedy because the romance was almost too perfect and promotes unrealistic expectations–no one is that caring for the other person, right? Based off a web novel, the story follows a down-and-out actress Oh Yoon Seo (Yoo), who dearly needs a break. When reluctantly offered the lead in a courtroom romcom, Yoon Seo eagerly accepts, promising to work at a law firm for a few months as research for her role. Fortunately her agency boss is BFFs with a CEO of the law firm Always, and the CEO is an embarrassingly big fan of hers. Yoon Seo is assigned to apprentice as secretary with lawyer Kwon Jung Rok (Lee) and immediately her bright and bubbly personality clashes with Jung Rok’s prickly introvert style.

As the main characters begin to fall for each other, the minor characters come out to play, and they are hilarious! They seamlessly replace the comedy of the leads as the leads take over the romance part. The biggest standout is Oh Jung Se (It’s Okay to Not Be Okay) as the CEO, who has great and sarcastic deadpan humor. The second lead couple are also amazing, and as in Goblin, they nearly upstage the main couple. Lawyer Choi and Lawyer Dan could easily headline their own show. Choi, played by the almost too good-looking Shim Hyung Tak (Melting Me Softly), and Dan, played by Park Kyung Hae (Goblin), seem an unlikely fit at first, but by the end they’ve convinced us (and themselves) they have something together that they couldn’t have with anyone else. Shim really needs to star in his own show, already. He’s stuck on comedy, but clearly has the presence and skills to do much more. He is definitely my latest Kdrama crush.

Props to whoever chose the opening song in the first episode, which became an instant addiction for me: “Strike Up the Band” by The Kinnardlys. It’s peppy and talks about living well and sincerely, a good fit for the story we are about to watch. Both leads live life to the fullest no matter what they are doing and have solid hearts and characters. Props also to the sound effects people! They had to do a lot of work in this one, but every weird sound makes it all more hilarious. They did a great job.

If you’re looking for a satisfying and heartfelt RomCom, check out Touch Your Heart. It won’t disappoint, the lead actors are gold together, it delivers unexpected thrills, and it is satisfying both romantically and comedically.

Dr. Mütter’s Marvels: Book Review

After reading a mystery story about a cabinet of curiosities, Dr. Mütter’s Marvels, A True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine, was a good next nonfiction read. This book is by Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz, and not only is it a fascinating tale, but the book is very artistically designed.

Thomas Dent Mütter was a famous surgeon in Philadelphia, 1811-1859, at a time when surgery and medicine were a free-for-all. One didn’t have to have a medical license to practice, and surgery itself was positively barbaric compared to today. Mutter, who later added the umlaut affectation to his name, was quite a character, brilliant to his students, compassionate to his patients, and a true innovator, especially in the field of plastic surgery. He often worked on the poor unfortunates whose defects and deformities no one else would touch. O’Keefe Aptowicz visited his famous museum in Philadelphia as a child and became so fascinated by him that she ended up researching his life and writing this story.

What an amazing story it was too read! All the infighting between doctors and surgeons and all out in public, the dramatic and bombastic medical lectures, the competition between the University of Philadelphia (America’s first medical school) and Jefferson Medical College, the weirdness of Mütter, who often wore silk suits to surgery, and his colleagues like Charles D. Meigs, the differences in experience from Paris to Philadelphia, the amazing surgeries and cases–this story would make an awesome TV show. Meigs could even be the villain in the piece, but he’s more to be pitied than anything else. Sometimes time passes people by, sometimes people don’t change with the times when really they should.

Doctors and surgeons are not gods; neither is the medical industry infallible. In the early 1800s, perhaps the mistakes made in medicine can be excused somewhat, as everything was just getting started with regulating and licensing and all that, but in many ways doctors and medicine have not changed. Even today there are big controversies and differences of opinions in the field, and as it was then, the doctors that don’t fit the industry narrative are silenced as much as possible. It’s sad that more aren’t willing to let all opinions be heard, but that’s they way it so often is with many things. That Mütter made any change is remarkable, and it seems to me he was blessed by God in this, but also that God had him born at the right time, a time when people were willing to change and to consider change. Near the end of his life, America went through a Civil War over slavery, that’s how much things were changing. Today, it’s tempting to think we’ve figured things out medically, but it wasn’t so long ago that most did not know or did not believe that infection and disease could be transmitted by not washing ones hands. Meigs was one such surgeon and refused to change. How many died by his hand when they didn’t need to? It’s a sobering thought. How many die today at the hands of medical professionals who refuse to looks at standards of care that are doing just the opposite for their patients? Fortunately, there are always some, like Mütter, who are true forward thinkers, people with genuine smarts and common sense.

The most striking aspect to me about Mütter was his compassion for the patients–the time he took to get them used to what would happen in the surgery in a time when the only anesthesia was wine, the quickness with which he performed his cutting and stitching, and his brilliant idea of installing aftercare. He really brought the “care” into medical care. It’s mind boggling now to think that patients were given wine and held down for a surgery or amputation and forced to go through with he surgery no matter what, then dumped into a bumpy carriage to recover at home, all performed in front of hundreds of medical students. Compassionate care is more or less standard in America today, though we still have a long ways to go, too. So, so many people are sick today, especially with things like cancer and chronic illness, that it’s too easy to start treating patients like numbers. That’s what I see with vaccines and COVID, the patients are numbers and everyone wants a part of the staggering amounts of money being thrown in at both things. There are doctors who very clearly disagree with the narrative, who have tried explaining that COVID is fairly easy to treat, that it’s not the worst thing since the Black Plague, and that for most a vaccine isn’t even necessary. A step beyond that, there thankfully are many medical professionals also decrying the hasty use of the COVID experimental vaccines, calling attention to the concerning reactions and side effects. As in Mütter’s day, they are purposefully being drowned out, but not for long, I think, for the truth does will out.

Take anesthesia, a new innovation in Mütter’s time, and something that actually bypassed the need for his brand of surgery preparation, which was to meet for weeks with he patient touching and massaging the area to be cut open, so that they wouldn’t be afraid when the surgery finally happened. Instead of being angry about it, however, Mütter embraced the technology, knowing that if it was better for the patient, it would be better for the surgeons too. He also stressed that for the doctor and surgeon, a surgery should be a last and best step–most all other avenues should be tried first. This is a big way we fail today. Surgeries are recommended today so often as to make them routine. Perhaps this should not be. Perhaps there are other ways and better ways to heal. I think of the experience people have had changing their diet, going on keto or carnivore. Much of their inflammation and distress disappears. The truth is getting out there, little by little, especially as people perhaps now have less money to spend on expensive surgeries, but it’s still only a precious few doctors that really embrace these cheaper means.

This story is a great read and of course whatever one’s experience in the medical field, different aspects will resonate more keenly. What I got out of it, would not be what you get out of it. What a fun trip it would be to go to Philadelphia someday and see Mütter’s museum and all of the curiosities collected there. It is amazing that even today we really don’t know sometimes what causes odd growths and deformities on a person. God’s creation is complex and we have a long way to go.

RRR: The Grand Passion

And so, we come to another Regency Romance Review! This one is The Grand Passion by Elizabeth Mansfield. Although I didn’t like this one nearly as much as the wonderful The Fifth Kiss by Mansfield, I read the whole thing and enjoyed it. If I get any more Regency Romances from thrift stores, she is now an author I will look for. This book was published by Jove in 1986.

The plot has a good hook right at the beginning: We are introduced to the newly engaged Matthew John Lotherwood, Marquis (above a count and below a duke) of Bradbourne. He’s a party his aunt is having, and for entertainment she’s hired a fortune teller. Although he doesn’t believe in that stuff, Matt ends up getting a reading anyway, and the fortune teller says he will soon be married, but not to the woman he is engaged to. Instead, she points out a different young woman to him, tall, with short, dark hair, and blue, mesmerizing eyes. With that as his first introduction to the heroine of our story, there was no way Matt was walking away from this without falling in love with her. No way. As an aside, I didn’t like the name Lotherwood and wished all throughout to change it. It just didn’t seem fitting.

Next we are introduce to Tess Brownlow, the heroine, and a lady who lives in the country. She, too, gets engaged, though with misgivings, as she doesn’t feel as much love as she should for Jeremy Beringer. Her mother has pumped her with stories of what love and romance are all about, that a woman must have at least one “grand passion.” Tess isn’t sure what her mother means by this, but she’s sure she hasn’t experienced it yet. Sadly, she never gets to find out if what she feels for Jeremy will ever turn into a grand passion, for the night before their wedding, he is killed in an awful stagecoach accident. Months later, Tess is still stewing over this and tries to find out who the driver of the coach was. The man wasn’t a real stagecoach driver, but a member of the gentry, drunk with drink, and also part of the four-in-hand club, or FHC. Basically, the members of that club are expert drivers of horse-drawn everything. The gentlemen insisted on driving the coach that night. Tess eventually learns this man’s name was Lotherwood and she is determined to make him pay for what he did.

Tess’s idea is ridiculous, although it is very much punishment fitting the crime: Get the man to fall in love with her and then fake her death the night before their wedding. She engages the help of her friend in London to help carry out her plan, and hires the fortune teller to give a very special reading to Matt Lotherwood. Matt’s rich aunt, Lady Wetherfield is also in on the scheme, as she doesn’t like who’s he’s picked for a bride, so, yeah, no chance for the poor guy. Tess is introduced to him as Sidoney Ashburton.

Everything goes according to plan, except that it doesn’t. That is to say, Matt instantly becomes smitten by her, leaving his bride-to-be, who’s really nothing more than a placeholder to him. He’s happy that Viola Lovell is pretty and accomplished, but not a woman he can “lose his head over.” He’s proud to be a Corinthian, a man young, rich, handsome, and interested primarily in sport and gaming. Even so, because Matt is the one who proposed to Viola, society says he can’t go back on his offer: Only the girl has the choice to end the engagement. I’m trying to imagine any modern man submitting to such a rule…oh dear. But men truly are about honor, so my bet is few of them would really propose to a woman without planning to follow through. Yes, the plan works, Matt falls in love, but so does Tess! This, she doesn’t expect, and she falls in love even though she knows he must be a drunkard and murderer.

Yes, you guessed it, Matt is her grand passion. And yet she seems to not be able to put two and two together. Matt never gets drunk around her or behaves drunkenly. In fact, he saves her from a drunken lout, and mentions with some embarrassment that he himself has been drunk before. But everything about him indicates that that is something that must have happened far in the past, long before the stagecoach accident. Despite now being in love with her quarry, Tess stubbornly insists on carrying out her plan, thinking this drunken lout and murderer must be punished. Her friends relay to Matt her sudden death under the wheels of a stagecoach and she retires back to the country despondent and depressed because she doesn’t have her man. And Matt, reeling in shock and grief-stricken, becomes depressed as well. Why do people do this to themselves? Ah, but then we wouldn’t have a story.

Eventually, the truth comes out. Tess’s mother takes her abroad, hoping to cheer her spirits and who should she happen upon, but a drunken lout going by the name of Lotherwood, although it’s not Matthew. Yes, yes, Matt has a younger brother named Guy, and although he clearly hasn’t kicked his alcoholism, he is truly sorry for what he did, causing the death of Tess’s fiancee, Jeremy. Tess’s reaction to all this is revulsion. Revulsion at herself for planning out a punishment that she now realizes is worse than the crime.

It’s only through a similar chance encounter that Matt finds out the truth–and when he’s does he’s boiling mad, and I don’t blame him. His eventual confrontation with Tess is accusatory. What right had she to act as judge, jury, and sentencer without him even knowing he was accused? Without even hearing what he would have had to say? He’s right, and Tess is doubtful of ever getting him back, as she really does love him. He rightly tells her that he would never do something like that to someone he loves. True, men have honor; women often don’t. Oh, we have other good attributes, but honor isn’t really one of them. It’s a good thing Tess doesn’t have honor, for otherwise she wouldn’t get him back. And of course she gets him back, because that’s how these stories go.

This time she takes up the name Annie and becomes a servant in his large estate house, helping Matt in any way she can to be more comfortable and successful in his house and efforts to improve and protect the estate. Good thing all her suggestions are the right ones and she has a knack for knowing how to assist in what he needs, or she’d really be up a creek. When he finally realizes that “Annie” is actually Tess, Matt is boiling mad again, but not for long. He really does love Tess, too, and I think all her crazy schemes kind of excite him, despite him lecturing her to stop taking on assumed names and roles. Really, their “grand passion” is physical chemistry, which is so often what it really boils down to, isn’t it? But, the two went through a lot together, and sometimes a journey like that will cement things in a way nothing else can.

As for Viola, Matt’s former betrothed, she’s at least smart enough to know that he doesn’t really want her and that it’s better to be “married to a viscount who truly desires you than a marquis who feels trapped.” Thus, she moves on to Matt’s friend, the viscount, who admires only her and truly cares for her, too. She can also be herself around him without being belittled–Matt has always seen her as beneath him, a placeholder who is pretty and just someone to get married to because he has to get married to someone as some point. The viscount is also very rich, handsome in his way, and “more easily controlled.” Ha. If only Matt knew the controlling side of Viola, it may have actually increased his impression of her. She has calculated exactly what she wants in a man and in marriage. I do agree with her that it’s better to be with a man who wants you, who truly wants you and loves you. Like her, I don’t think it necessarily has to be a “grand passion,” but everything probably works a lot better if both parties in the couple have passion for each other.

A good read, and I look forward to reading more of Mansfield’s stories. Also, Tess is oh, so tacky. I mean, with her imagination, she could almost be a writer or something…

Up next time: A review of Dr. Mütter’s Marvels.

Half-Book Review: Unwind

Being a fan of Neal Schusterman’s Arc of a Scythe series, the third book of which I have yet to read, I wanted to try another of his series. Schusterman likes weighty moral topics and is a great writer for young adults. Not many authors are truly able to write YA. It’s a delicate balance between being too childish and too adult. He succeeds by simply treating his characters as people, and giving them introspection without navel gazing. Although teens and toddlers are the ages of humans in which we are most likely to act the most immature and the most selfish, these are stages of life, not a place where any human stays. Toddlers grow out of their tantrums and teens eventually get a handle on their hormones and emotions. Basically, I like that Schusterman doesn’t dwell so much on the kids being teens as he does on the societies in which they find themselves.

I really loved Unwind, but only got halfway through. Right now the topic is just too heavy for me. Unwind is set in an alternate America where there was a Heartland War with the pro-life people fighting the prochoice people. Yes, as in for or against abortion. Really don’t know why the abortionists get a pass with “prochoice.” The stance is really pro-death, not really about having more choices. Certainly not more choices for the babies in question. Anyway, in this war, the pro-life side basically ended up losing. A compromise was made that is a mockery of honoring life. Abortion is now illegal–unwed mothers and/or fathers, and or married/unmarried couples who conceive a child are required to complete the pregnancy and bring the baby into the world, caring for it as they should. However, once a child reaches the teenage years, their life is suddenly forfeit. The parents or guardians can sign away their lives, marking them to be “unwound,” or all of their body parts used in transplants to other younger or older people who need them.

This plot immediately brought to mind Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, as it deals with a similar world and plot: Clones are raised to be come organ and limb donors and everyone pretends this is okay. As the teens in Unwind are not clones, and still live and interact with supposedly loving parents who decide to unwind them, Schusterman’s world strains credulity a bit more than Ishiguro’s does. However, when considering the topic of abortion and the atrocities done to those babies, not only murdering them, but murdering them for body parts and research to improve the lives of older people not denied life, Schusterman’s world could be possible if the love of most for human life continues to grow colder and colder.

The most terrifying thing about reading this book was how normal everything was, how legal, how every i of the law was dotted, how every t was crossed. But of course that’s how it works with psychos who want to take life. Psychopaths will say they talked too loud or something, psychopath abortionists will say the babies are unwanted, or won’t live full lives. Same with euthanasia advocates. And then once the abomination is sufficiently normalized, the dotting and crossing doesn’t matter so much, and Schusterman gives us evidence of that in this world, too, as pretty much any teen can be unwound for most any reason, and one can guess that things didn’t start out that way. Even religion is in on the scam, pretending some teens to be unwound are “tithes” or “offerings,” presumably to the God Creator, but it never actually said, though the religion seems nominally Christian. Could be a revival of any number of ancient religions that practiced child sacrifice. Nothing new under the sun.

The biggest legal framework still in place with this open season on human life is the age definition. You can only kill teens, not before age 13, and not after 18. And in this way the society can pretend it still values life. And, I’m getting so worked up already, which I why I just couldn’t take anymore of this story for now.

It’s a difficult topic. There are unwanted children. There just are, and what to do with them is tricky. Do other people, not their biological parents have a responsibility towards them? Does society? Unwind takes this question a step further, do legal parents have a responsibility to raise teens to full adulthood? Does society have responsibility towards unwanted teens? They get away with all this in justifying their actions due to the teens’ behavior. Many of the teens marked to be unwound are juvenile delinquents or belligerent in some way. (One would think uncooperative teenagers were a new invention). Eugenics is put into practice by trying to weed out undesirable behaviors from society, but then there’s a requirement that all body parts of the unwinds must be transplanted and/or used on a living human being. It’s just bizarre and totally fitting, for once regard for human life is thrown out the window, everything is permissible, including illogical double think. And most likely the teens are going to find that nobody’s really following the rules. That’s it’s a free-for-all.

This book hit closer to home than the Arc of a Scythe series. Scythe, for right now, seems something truly of fantasy, but Unwind…oh, boy, it’s possible. Heartbreakingly possible. There’s a great part in the book where some of these kids marked to be unwound discuss when they think life begins. Like many, they conclude they just don’t know, but people conveniently pretend not to know things when they don’t want to deal with reality. Life begins at conception. Before conception, there is no life. It’s really not that hard, but in this society, and in ours, too, we’ve fallen so far away from actual science and truth, that it’s easy to think we really just don’t know the answer to some things. But, if we truly don’t know the answer, why not err on the side of caution? Why not err on the side of life, not death? In this society they have in part, they’ve made abortion illegal, but in wanting to stop a war, they’ve made an even bigger error by allowing the mass murder of those in a certain age group. If they were smarter, they would have picked an age group that’s not so volatile. But of course, it’s really about the body part harvesting, and for that to work the best, the young must be used.

It is my opinion that those on the side of life should not compromise with those on the side of death. Pro-death is evil. We shouldn’t compromise with evil. Even to stop a war. War is preferable to a society like this. War is often necessary to fight evil, and it’s something we forget. Time and time again I see those who are supposedly on the side of good compromise with those on the side of evil. I’m sure I’ve done it myself–go along to get along. It is a truly cowardly sin. And society moves more and more away from God instead of towards him.

Someday I hope to come back to this series and see how it plays out. Really like the life topics that Schusterman focuses on in his stuff. It makes one thing, really think about the logic and emotions behind life and death issues and human rights. Do the characters become solidly pro-life, wanting life for all, a chance for all human beings? Some probably do and some do not. Was this truly the only way to stop the Heartland War? Likely not. Likely as it is today, the society is being lied to about what actually happened and how it happened. But, the truth will out.

One additional thing: The religious tithe kid had a party, kind of like a Bar Mitzvah, and this is an idea I had too, for my vaccine story that I was working on awhile ago. In my story those kids, too, were excited to get a one-time vaccine that promised to prevent all sickness in their lives. As reality became stranger than my fiction, I simply stopped writing the story. It’s jaw dropping to me all that has happened in recent years, the trampling of life and liberty, the outright lies from everyone, the continuing silencing of the truth, the rush to coerce people into vaccinating–even against their will–and refusing to look properly at all of the negative consequences of the experiment–and it is still an experiment, not something properly approved. The quickness to forget simple truths, like sunlight and fresh air being the best medicine for respiratory diseases. Every day, I feel like shouting the mantra I created in my story to all the vaccine zealots: The Science is Safe, the Science is Sound, the Science is Settled. Say it enough times and it’s all true, right?

Okay, okay, stepping off the soapbox again. Kudos to the writer, but I just couldn’t finish the story at this time.

Shelves with Stories Built In

My new bookshelves already filled with stories

Although inanimate objects don’t have souls, we sometimes think of unique furniture or houses that way. We say they have “character,” and what we mean is that those objects are full of stories that whisper happily to our imaginations. This bookshelf definitely comes with stories built in, including its own story, of which I’ll tell you in a little bit. It’s sad that sometimes due to lack of interest, and more likely due to lack of funds and time, furniture like this doesn’t get built much for the average person. They would get a kick out of designing something and see it brought to fruition.

First, let me tell you a little bit about where I live, because I never would have come up with this design if I didn’t live in this particular place at this particular time in my life. I live in both a lakehouse and a treehouse…and a tiny house. Well, a studio apartment above a garage, but I like to think of it as a tiny house. The builder made this place with his own two hands and out of his own imagination. His imagination told him that his apartment was steampunk, and so it has places where the vaulting brackets were left up, pilot-y knobs in the bathroom, and a floor that showcases its would-be flaws to perfection. This quiet place, overlooking the lake in a cold Minnesota spring is where I came up with my design. And let me tell you, I was pleasantly surprised to find I could design a set of bookshelves, for I’d never tried it before.

The second thing that happened was that I suddenly had a group that wanted to talk about books every week. Someone offered to build bookshelves as he likes doing that sort of thing, and I decided to take him up on it. Probably the builder didn’t expect it to be this much time and work, but we both really learned a lot during the process–and what a process!

To say that I don’t build anything, is an understatement–I never build anything! Stories are my thing and maybe some crafty things every once in awhile. And I’m not much of an artist, so design stuff? Ha. The first problem I came up against was that my builder actually wanted me to design what I wanted! Yikes. What did I want in bookshelves? Quickly, I realized I couldn’t just say, oh this high and this wide, and maybe this many shelves. Nope. Specifics were needed. So I dutifully bought a tape measure and began measuring and dreaming. My heart set on a secret drawer, but of course I was imaging something out of the National Treasure movies, not something actually, you know, buildable. Slowly, my mind turned to practicality, but also to steampunk. Steampunk is a difficult genre to describe. It’s sort of modernity mixed with rustic, Victorian era decor, and that usually manifests in things like a modern computer decked out in gears and clocks. And pipes. The pipes stuck with me and ended up being the fixtures holding up the top two shelves.

Secret drawer thrown aside, still my brain ran to the impractical. Long have I loved the Cambria quartz countertops and I thought that maybe that material could make the shelves. Not so, not so, for the sales clerk mournfully told me that first, the shelves would be insanely heavy, and secondly it would break my bank account. With a sigh, I threw that idea out, too. Here is my final design:

My design that almost has straight lines

It took me an embarrassingly long time to draw, but when it was done, excitement overtook me. Was it really possible that this bookshelf could actually become a reality? Fortunately, my very good friend, who is also a builder who likes building bookshelves, didn’t laugh in my face. He said he could build it and would I please pick out the wood that I wanted to use. Oh dear. I had no idea, really no idea, but, again, I dutifully went to the lumber store and looked at all the wood planks and they started to run together and I didn’t know what I wanted. More confusing was the possibility that whatever wood I chose, it could always be painted to any color. What colors did I want? Red, yellow, blue, green, why did God make so many amazing colors?

For some reason, I kept going back to the blue stain pine. But with misgivings, because it only seemed to come in thin boards, not wide, bookshelf-sized ones, but maybe online there were other options? My builder found out there were no other sizes. Oh, but my heart was set on it! He said he could make it work.

Weeks and weeks later, after a lot more time and effort and money than either of us were prepared to invest at first, the bookshelves were finished. And how wonderful and remarkable they are. Nowhere else can you find a bookshelf like this. The boards are all unique for they were made patiently and carefully by pegging and gluing blue stain pine boards together and sanding them down to become one board. Their very imperfections make them perfect for this steampunk, lakehouse, treehouse. The pipes at the top add an elegance and make the shelves look truly steampunk. I wouldn’t paint any part now, not a single part. I’m sorry to say it doesn’t come with the brick background, that’s a bit of staging from my friend who actually works on stages from time to time. Here they are in the space:

The shelves in the lakehouse treehouse – and isn’t the floor awesome?

Notice the crowded bookshelves nextdoor? That’s the likely future for this set, but it will mean they are loved, very loved.

As for the drawer knobs, what a job that was trying to decide. Do you know Hobby Lobby carries about a thousand cool drawer knobs? Seriously. But I ended up falling in love with the water diving guy and then it was an aquatic theme: 2,000 Leagues Under the Sea–er, in the trees–Steampunk. Steampunk with a capital S!

Aquatic Steampunk

Seeing the shelves finally finished and in place, I did tear up a little. I couldn’t believe that my design was actually reality. And I was awed that my builder had stuck with me all the way through, and I’d stuck with him, too, for there were surely a lot of moments that the bookshelf project seemed headed for disaster. Through this project, I learned a lot, like how important specific dimensions are. Like how the choice of materials can make something a lot more difficult. But I also learned that persistence, hard work, and giving each other grace are key, no matter what or whom you’re working with. It was a privilege to be a part of this project from start to finish, to be a part of all the excitement, the worries, the triumphs and pitfalls. And to do it all with a friend was a joy and something I will always remember.

I learned that designing something isn’t just about making a pretty something, the design needs to be actually buildable. What a greater respect I now have for builders, woodworkers, and carpenters, especially in working with custom designs and super rookie designers. But the biggest thing I learned, was that sometimes friends will nudge you in a direction in which you need to go. They’ll help you spread your wings and they’ll use your love of stories to do it. Horrible friends! No, no, awesome friends, and they get to learn from the experience, too. Sometimes this begins with a simple offer to build bookshelves. And those bookshelves will always have stories built right into their core, their soul.

No name for the shelves as a whole, but I’m thinking of naming the little diver guy Rusty or Teague. Rusty Teague? Captain Rusty Teague! Who owns a diving vessel with lots of pipes and steam. He’s a punk, he really is.

Doom at Your Service: No Action Figures Here

Doom at Your Service is the latest in a recent slew of paranormal romance TV shows out of South Korea. And because it stars excellent actor Seo in Guk (The Smile Has Left Your Eyes) and Park Bo Young (Strong Woman Do Bong Soo) I really, really wanted to like it, but it just ended up being a meh story for me.

Make no mistake, Doom has everything going for it, a unique paranormal figure and world, a fascinating dilemma our heroine faces, good music, great acting and very pretty actors. Almost too pretty, like, how could they possibly be real people? I joke, I joke.

So, what went wrong? After a few episodes, the main couple and storyline began to suffer from lack of action. Doom, or Sa Ram (Seo), is a cool looking dude who really doesn’t do much physically. He doesn’t get into many or even any fights, and although he visits doom on the people of the world, we really don’t get to see how it plays out very often. A symbol of this would be Sa Ram’s smoking. He never actually smokes, but only puts a cigarette in his mouth. Even at the end of the romance, I found the payoff to be very lackluster, especially compared to the recent Tail of the Nine-Tailed, which is very action packed, having the benefit of a clear villain.

The biggest sign for me that something was amiss with the writing was that I became way more interested in the secondary love triangle plot, to the point that I actually forgot about the other storyline and had to continually remind myself of the show I was watching. The triangle, too, started to suffer from lack of action, though. Sometimes a passionate kiss is necessary. Instead, we got quite a lot of talking. Sometimes you can have to much talking–and I like to talk–a lot.

To the writer’s great credit: All of the characters in the entire show had change and growth. I don’t think a one of them was missed, and that is a feat to be proud of, so if the action problem is fixed, I look forward to whatever he or she writes in the future.

One interesting takeaway: Okay, so if you’ve followed my blog enough you know I like to puzzle out how men and women interact together. With the love triangle, the woman is talking to her friend about the guy she used to like. She used to want to kill him. That sounds bad, but she didn’t really want to kill him, it was just frustration because she’s so attracted to him. Then they start talking about the new guy and she can’t figure out which one she likes. Her friend says, “Ah, so this new guy is the one you want to kill now?” Problem solved, now she knows which one she really likes, which one gets her all hot and bothered. Don’t know why, but I can say for at least some women we find the men we like to also be the people who irritate us the most. Probably just attraction and sexual tension or something, but men will probably find these women are easy for them to tease and to get a reaction out of. It’s kinda similar to when Hitch (the movie with Will Smith) tells his clients that hitting is a good thing. It’s not really hitting, it’s about the women being attracted to the man.

To some it up, although Doom at Your Service is a solid show with stellar acting and some great interactions with the characters, the severe lack of action and catharsis had me bored. The main romance would have worked much better as a shorter story, I think, and the secondary love triangle story, as well as the whole world of editors and writers, could have simply been its own show and entertaining in its own right.

Book Review: The Good Son

Spoilers ahead.

Like a lot of great thrillers, The Good Son by You-Jeong Jeong starts out with the main character waking up to a mess of some kind, one which he doesn’t understand, and one in which he spends the rest of the book putting the pieces together. Although the story started well, it became apparent far too quickly that Yu Jin was an unreliable narrator, so I couldn’t take any of his reasoning and excuses very seriously.

The mess Yu Jin wakes up to is the murder of his mother–someone has cut her throat and blood is everywhere, especially all over his own person. Throughout this story it is amazing that no one in his Seoul apartment complex seems even aware anything is amiss in his apartment, but that’s kind of how life goes sometimes. For being innocent, Yu Jin sure knows how to tidy up the mess and hide the evidence, and then later on it’s obvious he just doesn’t want to admit to himself what he is, a psychopath who will not only kill people he thinks are in his way, but kill people simply because he gets off on their fear. He also is addicted and triggered by the smell of blood, much like a shark.

Yu Jin is shocked partway through the story to find that he doesn’t have epilepsy but a psychopath tendency. But his shock isn’t real, he’s not like Ba Reum from Mouse who genuinely is surprised and remorseful at the awful person he is. People in general are really good at deluding themselves about themselves and why should psychos be any different? The one thing to admire about him is that he wants to live and to live on his own terms. He does feel a sense of obligation to his family, but not so much as to prevent him from killing them. As to him being a “good” son, he clearly was nothing of the sort, though his adopted brother might have been.

I enjoyed the read, but it’s limited in scope and Yu Jin’s is not as interesting as other fictional psychos like Ripley in The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith. Although Ripley is referenced on the cover of this book, The Good Son cannot hold a candle to that chilling masterpiece. And Yu Jin has few of the amusing and exasperating gamma thoughts and behaviors of Raskolnikov from Crime and Punishment. And the religious aspect does not ring home at all, it’s just there, but offers no food for thought unlike Mouse and C&P. So, although I made it through The Good Son, I found it to be just ok, but not holding its own against better stories of the same genre or similar plots. Maybe it’s better in Korean.

Probably the most thoughtful aspect of the book, was Yu Jin’s family, and how delusional they were about him and about what they could do for him. Clearly, he should have been under care of some kind a long time ago and kept away from society. Yes, Yu Jin maybe had no life, or at least not the life he wanted, but neither did his mother. Her sudden adoption of his friend is her grabbing what she sees as a life line. The adopted brother is someone Yu Jin views in a better light than is warranted. I think it could have to do with Yu Jin’s desire to be out in the world and that his brother goes out in the world all the time. His mother does not; his aunt does not. But, with almost all of the other characters, Yu Jin makes a number of assumptions that are either lies he’s telling both the readers and himself, or are simply flat out wrong. Even at the end of the book, it’s obvious he really doesn’t know, he’s just assuming and imagining things to be a certain way, and it’s more pitiful than chilling.

Better, more thrilling stories of this nature are: The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith, Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky, Atonement by Ian McEwan, and the Korean drama Mouse starring Lee Seung Gi.

In Search of Romance

With the dearth of romance in my own life, I often rely on stories to make up the difference. Sad to say, but as of late, whether dramas or tacky Regency Romances, nothing is really engaging me. Real life is actually more interesting for once, though no particular romance to be found, but…let’s just say God has an interesting sense of humor.

Here’s what hasn’t worked: Kdramas Doom at Your Service and Touch Your Heart. Not bad stories, good acting, just really slow. Touch Your Heart will probably heat up a bit as I’m not very far into it, but Doom…sometimes chemistry can’t make for a lack of action. The couple(s) are together constantly, but it’s just not exciting. And the second lead love triangle is a lot more interesting than the main romance. Even that, though, falls flat. It’s like dating someone for a long time, but you never really progress or go to the next level or whatever. The relationship is just…there. Which is fine in real life, but to watch, is so boring it’s almost painful.

As for the tacky Regencies: Tried Julianna by Judith Nelson. It was boring, boring, boring. I really did like her short story Christmas at Wickly, though, so might give her another shot if I come across one of her other books at the thrift store. Next, I tried two Candlelight Regency Specials published by Dell and authored by Lucy Phillips Stewart. Bride of a Stranger jumped around a lot and stopped making sense after awhile. The dialogue was supposed to witty, but was ridiculous, which was unfortunate, because that’s really the only place any chemistry with the leads shone through. Her Bride of Chance, again, the dialogue just was not good. It’s hard enough to write really good modern day dialogue, much less Regency talk, but whatever the author was going for, was not working. It would be amusing to finish both stories, as they are pretty tacky, but I’m not in the mood. I need some good romance, so am turning to Elizabeth Mansfield.

In the Regency surprise box I bought last summer, there is another book by Mansfield called The Grand Passion. Doubt it will be as good as The Fifth Kiss, but I’m hopeful. I’m always hopeful when it comes to romance, both in stories and real life.

As for other stories: So far The Good Son by You-Jeong Jeong is trippy, very trippy.