Bridgerton (Season 2)

Been some time since I last wrote a TV show review, and I have to say that I have not been watching that many TV shows as of late.

The second season of Bridgerton brings back our local gossipmonger and tabloid author Lady Whistledown (in the dulcet tones of Julie Andrews), and introduces a new romance, which matches eldest son and known playboy Anthony Bridgerton (Jonathan Bailey) with Kate Sharma (Simone Ashley), who becomes one of Lady Danbury’s (Adjoa Andoh) new wards. A love triangle quickly commences as Kate finds herself getting in between Anthony’s desire to win over Edwina (Charithra Chandran) to become his new viscountess.

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SPOILER ALERT if you haven’t watched Bridgerton season 2 as of yet, since a lot of what I’m writing has to do with the content of Season 2.

  1. I have a better appreciation of the other Bridgertons besides the diamond of Season 1, Daphne, who is picture perfect in every aspect. I’ve always found Daphne to be a quite boring character, except for her torrid romance with the duke in Season 1 (wherein we get a lot of sex montages amidst Taylor Swift’s Wildest Dreams instrumental playing in the background, which a lot of viewers obviously enjoyed since it’s refreshing for one of its conservative genre) and have always found myself relating more with Eloise, the outspoken sister who never seemed to really fit in. She’s given a lot of material to work with in this season, with a new potential social class cross over romance that befits her intellectual capacity and satisfies her inner curiosity. I just loved Eloise’s story arc this season. She’s still awkward in forced social interaction during society balls, and she is still as outspoken and free-spirited in that she openly hates on the cage she is kept in. I think I actually would be her, all the way down to reading books during social events, should I have been a part of 19th century London society. I love how her mind is as quick as a whip, and how she quips that women are not given the same opportunities as men during one of the dances her mother forces her into. She’s still the main funny bone of Bridgerton, given her quirks, and I can’t wait to see more of her knowing that each season will highlight a different Bridgerton sibling.
  2. In saying that Eloise is a much beloved character of mine, I have also come to appreciate how the Bridgerton family dynamics were given more of a center stage this season.
    1. Well, obviously not as much as the main romance storyline, but a lot of airtime was given to flashbacks to the day that Anthony’s life was inevitably changed, what with insensitive servants and his pregnant mother grieving for the loss of the father, Edmund, to a bee sting. (which reminds me to research how one can die from a bee sting). Jonathan Bailey was superb in these flashbacks – his evident horror at becoming the viscount without being allowed the time to properly grieve for the father he just lost. A lot of mother-son dynamics and obvious resentment from the past, wherein Anthony cemented his resolve into becoming the leader of the family. I also loved this small scene towards the latter part of the season wherein Anthony and his brother Gregory get to talk to each other, Anthony explaining to Gregory what kind of a man their father was and how Gregory took after him “He had my seriousness perhaps… he shared your love of a prank. He once put glue in Benedict’s shoes.” and the lines “Your father was the best man I have ever known. He was good for a laugh of course, but.. he was courageous, and never afraid to fight not just for his family but for everything else too.” I loved how this showed Anthony’s more vulnerable side as against his veneer of civility and appropriateness that society calls for.
    2. Even in the way that Daphne seemed to know exactly what Anthony was going through at the most opportune moments, and knew right away what Anthony couldn’t see for himself, and how she relentlessly called him out on it out of her concern and love for him.
    3. How, despite the family’s close ruin in the last few episodes, they all stuck together and made the most out of a ball in which no one besides the Sharma family and Bridgertons attended. The country dance scene was so memorable because these are one of the few moments society truly sets them free from rigid expectations.
    4. Ahh, and how we’re given a few scenes with younger brothers Benedict (Luke Thompson) and Colin (Luke Newton) sparring with Anthony wherein they share thoughts and Benedict constantly challenges Anthony’s thoughts and seriousness in life with his own contrasting appreciation for the finer points in life, his dedication and love for the arts and poetry. I could watch more of these scenes.
    5. And who could forget the pall mall matches, which were really just amusing to watch and full of the siblings’ competitive nature. They were really most themselves during these matches.
  3. Next up – I really grew to love the dynamic of the new Whistledown chasedown. I think this season really took it to the next level, wherein we get a lot more of Penelope’s side of the story and how she manages to avoid near disasters such as her best friend Eloise’s rigorous cat-and-mouse game with finding out the real identity of Lady Whistledown. The suspense and all emotions come up to the surface as we’re given scene after scene of Penelope’s disappointments and silent “empowerment” (I would call it true empowerment had it not been for the fact that Whistledown’s gossip has the tendency to destroy lives and create scandals in an already uptight society of the time). I could see how Penelope’s grasp of her Whistledown identity throughout the series gave her the power to embody an entirely different personality when she writes, and that it gives her the same freedom and independence that she and Eloise both constantly chase, except for the fact that Penelope is too scared to bring this all to the surface in the life she leads.
  4. In terms of the romance department – well, to put it bluntly, it’s way more of a slow burn this season. The show has traded in its most risque scenes as prominent in Season 1 in favor of more smoldering stares and almost-kisses of Season 2. And you know what? I actually like it. It’s not because the romance is a quite predictable love triangle that’s been done time and again and you could actually predict the likeliest outcomes and who is stubbornly in denial and will not admit to the truth in face of responsibility, but because of the nuances that I rather enjoyed.
    1. Simone Ashley and Jonathan Bailey did incredible in these love-hate roles. Their onscreen chemistry is undeniable, and their love-hate relationship quite adorable too at times. It’s the type of romance wherein you know where the twist will be coming from, yet when it actually plays out onscreen, it still feels painful nonetheless. Both Ms Sharma and Viscount Bridgerton are for putting their family duties before their own personal desires and because of this repression, they manage to alienate everyone else in their lives this season. The theme of denying one’s own desires in favor of assuming more responsibility for the family is prominent with both Anthony and Kate, and it really worked for me and made me relish the later episodes.
    2. I was a big fan of how Edwina handled herself towards the portion wherein she comes to a decision about not marrying Anthony. That declaration really struck me. “You cannot provide me with what it is that I want. What it is that I deserve. What everyone deserves. I may not know exactly what true love feels like, but I certainly know what it is not. It is not deception or wandering eyes, or a role to be fulfilled. I cannot marry you because I cannot betray myself. You will never meet my eyes in the same manner that you met my sister’s on the altar today. You will never look at me the same way.”
    3. And what she said to Kate: “You say you have spent your life trying to give me everything I lacked, but really, you simply gave me everything you really wanted for yourself as though my life were not my own. So today, I can be sure that what I leave behind is not my loss. It is yours. Your dream, your plan, your feelings that I had merely borrowed. Today, you have lost your power while i have made up my own mind. And that is victory enough for me.” I knew Edwina had so much more heart and passion bubbling underneath the surface of propriety and her articulateness, but I didn’t realize how much of her own power she was coming into as a result of the circumstances. She is truly a smart and capable woman despite the fact that she had been truly deceived and betrayed out of all the characters this season.
  5. Adjoa Andoh as Lady Danbury has always been the classiest and most regal character (even more regal than the actual Queen, if I dare say so). I loved the way she played her supporting role well – she was always at the forefront with Kate, and was always challenging her ideas and her decisions, even more so than Lady Mary (Shelley Conn), the girls’ mother. I quite liked her motherly side and friendly / more playful side with Lady Violet Bridgerton (Ruth Gemmell).
  6. Couldn’t stand the Featherington family this season, then again I really do think that the subplot involving their family and near financial ruin meant to show how the mostly patriarchal society and the rules in the household go, and how despite the odds, it was Lady Featherington who schemed her way out of things.

Overall, I just really enjoyed watching the second season of Bridgerton for all the feels. I know it’s a guilty pleasure of mine, but one that I enjoy nonetheless. I don’t know if anyone had the same opinions as I did watching the second season and how it trumps the first (for me at least). I am still on a Bridgerton hangover and am considering actually reading the book series after this.

P.S. The corgi is adorable.

Year 2021 Reading Journey

More on https://www.goodreads.com/user/year_in_books/2021/26162652

Looking back on my Reading journey this 2021, I realized that it’s been my most productive reading year yet. I stumbled on several booktubers and book bloggers and reviewers that I loved, I read some amazing series this year, and started some that are unforgettable. I think I’ve developed more of a taste of the books I want to read, and the fact that I’m so excited to start with my 2022 Reading Journey just goes to show that I’ve found a niche that I’m happy with.

I realized that I’ve developed a strong taste for SFF books, from high fantasy to sci-fi to epic fantasy and even the grimdark variation of fantasy, which really hit a nail on the head for me this year. This is a big leap for me, because the past few years I have been reading YA fantasies and novels.

That being said, here are my lists for 2021:

Best Books Read in 2021:
Last Argument of Kings by Joe Abercrombie
Before they are hanged by Joe Abercrombie
The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson
The Poppy war by RF Kuang
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir
Blood song by Anthony Ryan
The Shadow of the Gods by John Gwynne
Southern Sun, Northern star by Joanna Hathaway
Dune by Frank Herbert
The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson
Atomic Habits by James Clear (the only self-help book I’ve read this year haha)

Surprising Great Reads:
Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse
Unsouled by Will Wight
Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

Classic Re-reads:
A Little princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
An Ember in the ashes by Sabaa Tahir
The Return of the King by JRR Tolkien


What was the worst book you read in 2021?
This would have to go to The Last Battle by CS Lewis (7th in the Narnia books) or The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna. The Last Battle because it threw Susan under the bus which was very un-Narnia to me, and The Gilded Ones because it was too ambitious and it had potential, but it just really missed the mark on a lot of things for me.

What are your reading plans for 2022?
Looking back on my 2021 reading journey and reading my answers back in 2020, I realized that there were some books I did read and some books I didn’t read based on my planned TBR list. And the biggest thing I realized? TBR lists are so fickle and prone to change, and get messed up and re-organized. Well, I think I won’t pre-empt myself too much this year, but here are some of my priorities to read for the year ahead:
– my next read – summing up the Grishaverse, we have King of Scars and Rule of Wolves
– Dragon Republic and Burning God by RF Kuang
– The Green Bone Saga by Fonda Lee
– continue The Wheel of Time, starting with The Great Hunt (book 2)
– Senlin Ascends and the other books by Josiah Bancroft
– The House of the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune
– Grace of Kings and the Dandelion Dynasty by Ken Liu
– Rage of Dragons by Evan Winter
– Age of Madness trilogy by Joe Abercrombie
– Empire of the Vampire by Jay Kristoff
– The Blacktongue Thief by Christopher Buehlman

and so much more!

3. The last book I read for 2021 is The Eye of the World (Book 1 of The wheel of Time) which introduced me to a whole new world and journey which I’m eager to continue. The fact that it’s 14 books long intrigues me as well.

4. Book acquisitions:
2021 has to be my most impulsive year for acquiring books yet. I remember telling myself back in 2020 that all the books I purchase in hard and softcover have to be books that are “worth it” since there are always e-books for other books that I want to read and don’t have the bookshelf space for. However, 2021 was a year when I really stockpiled a lot of books and ended up with more than I anticipated. Even then, I still find myself searching online for more and more books in the genre that the book bloggers and booktubers I watch rave about, and find my TBR list growing and growing. Book buying is a totally different hobby from book reading is for sure. And it’s already become an addiction for me (healthy? haha). Here are some of the books I’m planning to buy as soon as I save up:
– Wisdom of Crowds by Joe Abercrombie
– Priest of Lies + series by Peter McLean
– The Divine Cities (City of Stairs, Miracles, etc) by Robert Jackson Bennett
– Of Blood and Fire by Ryan Cahill
– The Bone Shard Daughter and Bone Shard Emperor by Andrea Stewart
– Dragon Mage by ML Spencer
– The Wheel of Time (4-15) by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
– The Realm of the Elderlings series by Robin Hobb
– Mistborn Series 4-6 by Brandon Sanderson
– Other books in The First Law (standalones) by Joe Abercrombie – Heroes, Best Served Cold, etc
– Ash and Sand Trilogy by Richard Nell

… and knowing myself, ten times more than that are merely screenshots on my phone just waiting for my brain and my wallet to compute. 

Last Argument of Kings (First Law Trilogy # 3)

I’ve heard constant praise about Joe Abercrombie’s grimdark masterpiece of a trilogy, from vloggers and booktubers I follow and the like – and this trilogy has always been on my perpetual reading list which is growing so much the longer to accommodate my ever-shifting science fiction, fantasy and grimdark loving bookish self.

Well, today’s the day I’ve finally finished reading Last Argument of Kings, and boy am I head over heels hyped after reading this series, which is quite weird after reading all the bleakness and unfairness of the grimdark world that The First Law has to offer. Well, here are my thoughts!

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD for those who haven’t yet read the first two books in The First Law!

Last Argument of Kings pretty much picks up where Before they are hanged left off, with Logen Ninefingers, Jezal dan Luthar and Ferro Maljinn returning to the Union after a harrowing trip with Bayaz, first of the Magi, towards the ends of the earth trying to recover “The Seed”, which Bayaz planned to use to overcome the flesh eaters we encounter in the first and second books. Logen Ninefingers joins his Northern comrades, with the Dogman as the “new commander”, while Ferro sticks around in the Union trying to figure out what to do because of her unfulfilled vengeance. Jezal tries to rekindle old flames with the beautiful Ardee West while getting promoted to a higher position after his “ordeal” with Bayaz and the others. And of course, Sand dan Glokta completes the roster of main characters, as he gets back to Arch Lector Sult and fulfilling political agenda. We see him in his finest form back to blackmailing politicians in the Open Council to support Arch Lector Sult in gaining the nation’s vote for the next heir to the throne of the Union.

There were some curveballs in this story that threw me off the scent of what was really happening, and I enjoyed the novel all the more because of it. The most fascinating thing about this series is that I found myself more invested in the characters and their morally gray backgrounds and complexities rather than the story plot, which came as a secondary / supporting role, really. And that’s one thing I can definitely say is unique about Abercrombie’s hit of a series. I don’t know if I would have believed it if I told myself months ago that I would get to like these anti-hero characters (none of them are blameless or pristine unlike in other stories that have clear protagonists and antagonists). And I think readers naturally gravitated towards these characters not only because they were really well written, but because they were a bite realistic and as complex as we humans all are. We have to admit that we make the choices that would save our sorry hides sometimes, even if these choices aren’t actually the most selfless choices or “the higher road”, and this is most often than not painted in the entire First Law trilogy. And I kind of love that there is a lot of moral ambiguity, with characters who are less than apologetic for their actions.

Most of the book describes and puts the reader on a front seat as to where the wars are concerned. Wars with the North and with the Gurkish can really put you at the edge of your seat wondering how all of this would conclude. And in saying this, I do enjoy Joe Abercrombie’s writing style when it comes to the vividness of his battle scenes. I’m not a reader who necessarily loves action scenes in books, but with Abercrombie (as well as with John Gwynne) I find myself hanging on every word and clearly visualizing in my head how that scene must have looked like. For that, I can clearly say I enjoy Abercrombie’s writing style so much, and he’s definitely on my roster of authors whose books I am sure to enjoy.

In this third installment, I particularly loved the twist that I never saw coming, even though the truth is dangled right in front of our noses, and I enjoyed every minute of reading through the pages. There weren’t points of view that I didn’t enjoy, which makes me think I must be more bloodthirsty than I think I am? Or perhaps that’s just how much I enjoyed reading the last book. The events definitely snowballed from the 2nd book as the conspiracy thickens. Some well-placed dominoes that toppled over during the course of the book. And as the jigsaw puzzle pieces were transitioning into a much clearer picture, I found myself shaking my head in amusement.

I think Sand dan Glokta has to go down in SFF history as one of the very best written characters of the genre. His internal monologues, the sharpness of his tone and his mind, and his bitterness at some points were all so very well placed and believable. For him, something as simple as going up or down the stairs is a pain, which I think is so relatable, even for people who don’t have the penchant for complaining too much aloud. And what I loved most about his character was that he was never afraid to face death, but he was always out to win. Sure, he made a lot of questionable choices, and most of the times he was painfully aware of how much of a pawn in the chess game he was, but he was effortlessly smart and cynical that his biting remarks never fail to satisfy. There were some points wherein he experienced the lowest of the low, especially when he takes on the difficult role of inquisitor and then Superior. There was even a point wherein he questions Jezal’s fortunes despite the fact that Glokta once had a past that was much like Jezal’s, with infinitely as much potential before the Gurkish took that forcibly away from him. Those lines in the book really underlined the fact that is a realistic truth of today: life can be, at times, quite unfair. And it’s a recurring theme throughout the entire series.

Jezal dan Luthar is a character who’s near to unrecognizable from start to end, and is probably the character who experiences the most “growth”, and at the same time I think he’s the character I ended up pitying the most with the third installment – for reasons that I can’t name lest they be spoilers for other readers who are about to read Last Argument of Kings. Suffice to say, Jezal is no longer totally unbearable like he was in the very beginning.

Bayaz is also another character I never fully appreciated until this very last book, for spoiler-riddled reasons as well. He was a really well written character, and thinking about the role he played in this series really makes my head reel.

Overall, I truly enjoyed this series and it’s one for the books (excuse me for the bad pun). The First Law is truly as memorable as other SFF readers have claimed, and with that, I feel I will greatly enjoy the other first law novels, as well as the recently concluded Age of Madness trilogy.

The Glass Alliance (#1-3)

My review (sorry I couldn’t write this without having some spoilers!)

The Glass Alliance series is just plain beautiful and bittersweet on so many fronts. There were scenes that just made my gut and my heart wrench, I was so emotionally invested in the whole story and the characters. I found myself crying mostly while reading the third book, by then I felt so much love and the need for freedom from each of the characters that I felt gutted everytime things took a turn for the worse or for the unpredictable. This series just made me fall in love with how beautifully it was written – from the heartfelt letters in between chapters, and how loyalty and love for family come into crossroads with social justice, duty and values.

Overall, I felt that this is not the typical and shallow Young Adult type of series – For one, the romance is important, but it never felt overbearing at any point. I also loved the depth of the emotions conveyed by each character, and how each character’s motivations changed eventually after uncovering hidden family secrets. This series also made me see how big the role of choices can be – at each turn, the author emphasizes the power of choice and how each character could have chosen differently every step of the way, but didn’t because they were fighting for something. I found that really relatable to real life, and despite this being a fictional series, it couldn’t have been more realistic.

Athan Dakar and Aurelia Isendare were both such well-written characters. They are the sort of characters that grow on you, whether or not you personally agree with their life decisions. So it does start out a bit Romeo and Juliet-esque since both are almost always on different sides of the war, and both find out that their parents have a shared history. Athan starts out this series fueled by anger and purpose, wanting a different life apart from his father’s commands, while Aurelia lives a charmed and pampered life, full of optimism and at times, naivete of the world. When they meet, they become friends, and are later on drawn to each other in the first book. Athan, gaining firsthand exposure of the warfront in his fighter plane, goes through the thick of things, and he comes to hate what he has to do, but his honor and duty become a forefront for his character. Aurelia, on the other hand, initially had a smaller worldview after being sheltered by her mother in Etania, and as she is faced with truth of the war crimes being committed, she finds her voice and begins to fight for others. Both characters start out relatively carefree and slowly realize their innocence being taken away by the struggles brought about by war. They both end up with their different views on the world, each wanting peace through different means. I also loved how you eventually realize the role reversal of the two main characters towards the last book in terms of lies and deception, and that last truth that started it all, but eventually didn’t matter after what each of the characters have been through towards the end. It was all so bittersweet, especially in the third book when you realize that the scene you read is that of the prologue in the first book, and when you get to better appreciate the circumstances – it all falls into place at such a critical standpoint in the story. Most of all, I loved how their love and hope played such a critical role in the choices each of them make. That was truly heartbreaking and at the same time, even though there were some decisions I personally doubted, I could respect the reasoning behind them. I think that’s what truly made the entire story so compelling.

The backdrop of having a World War inspired world was really convincing – how an assassination triggers the call to war, military training and warfare by land and by sea, how communication was handled via decoded messages, and the grit, grime and blood on each set of hands – this was portrayed really well in the series. Despite being born into a world post World War, I found myself fascinated by the details and the narrative of the entire series – how it affects the frontliners, the commoners and the like. It also struck me how some lines in the 3rd book made me realize that wars written in books are forever immortalized as text, while the real war taking place “at the present” never makes it into history books. It’s different for the people who have lived through it, creating a world for the people who read about it in history. That made me reflect as well on world history.

Overall, reading this series was enjoyable and at times heart wrenching – it’s the perfect balance, and the depth of the story is so fully realized that I’m still on hangover after reading the last book. I know this review probably had too many spoilers, but I would recommend this to people who love reading historical fantasy.

Malice (The Faithful and the Fallen #1)

Malice starts out with a precedent of the God War, the ancient war that will come to pass in the Banished Lands as foretold by the writings of Halvor, a giant who was known as the Voice of the King and a historian of the times. The Gods’ war, which was originally between Elyon (the maker) and Asroth takes on another epic level as it becomes prophesied that each god would have a champion – The Black Sun and the Bright Star.

We’re given characters and a story told from seven different points of view –

Corban, a young boy living in Ardan, dreams of one day becoming a fierce warrior and is trained firsthand by the stablemaster Gar;

Cywen, his sister, who tends to the stables and has a lion’s heart;

Veradis, a baron’s son who is loyal to a fault, and is made to join the warband of Nathair, prince of Tenebral;

Kastell, nephew to the King of Isiltir, Romar, who has a longstanding rift with his cousin Jael;

Camlin, a brigand who is first introduced in this story as a woodsman who falls in with a bunch of outlaws under the leadership of Braith;

Evnis, a high ranking official under King Brenin of Ardan’s rule and has the shadiest set of motives.

After my first read through of Malice, and during my reading experience, I couldn’t help but think wow, what a complex world I’ve gotten myself into. I love how the world starts out very black and white – there are obvious themes of Good vs Evil and there were a lot of characters who had a skewed morality and on the other hand, characters with a high value of loyalty and friendship. The first set of chapters and pages would have you rooting for some of them, while a few chapters were setting the stage for something to really happen.

There’s a whole sense of foreboding and foreshadowing that Malice was able to create, and it’s the kind of book you get so immersed in that you can’t possibly begin explaining things all in one sitting because there is a lot going on – this is on a positive note since it’s done really well – it’s got a whole rich historic backdrop and an unresolved war that started with the giant clans, fast forwarding to the present where giants are being hunted down by different warbands of men; there’s a lot of politics, kingslaying (big nod to Game of Thrones here) and a fair share of loyalty and betrayal. I also loved how it was at the same time a coming of age story especially with Corban, whom we see grow and shape up slowly into a warrior with ideals. Malice teases that there is more to Corban than we know at the moment, and it hints how he might become a part of the bigger picture of the story in the next few books.

The book started out pretty slow paced, with nuances on the lives of each character and introducing the readers to the different lands, different creatures like wolven, draigs and wyrms; and not to mention the giants of the different clans like the Hunens and the Benothi. It also outlines the different kingdoms like Tenebral, wherein King Aquilus takes it as a sign of the times that the God war is about to happen and takes it upon himself to call a council for the rulers of the Banished Lands to come together and fight the war with him. His son Nathair, an ambitious prince with political ideas of his own, forms alliances with the former raiders of the lands called the Vin Thalun, an alliance that his father never approves of. Most of this story is told through the eyes of Veradis, who becomes a member and soon the trusted first sword of Nathair.

The storybuilding is enjoyable and exciting and I was completely sucked in, hook line and sinker. It’s Writing this review also gets me excited to start reading the next one in the series.

John Gwynne is also amazing at writing about the nuances of swordplay and each fight scene he writes is so immersing, and I would not say I love action scenes 100% and yet I’m fully immersed. Also had this experience while reading his newest work Shadow of the Gods.

Overall, I know the book references a lot of fantasy tropes and while it really is full on fantasy, I can’t help but want to read more.

The Bold Type

The Bold Type is a drama/comedy American series that revolves around the lives of three women-the “bold type” being a double entendre referring to both these girls’ occupation and strong personalities.

The three main characters are millenials employed at Scarlet Magazine, a fictional publication with a strong feminist point of view, based in Manhattan. While being colleagues, these three are also the best of friends.

Under the mentorship of longtime editor in chief, Jacqueline Carlyle (Melora Hardin), Jane Sloan (Katie Stevens) starts out as one of the contributors to Scarlet and finds herself drawn to investigative journalism as a way of helping others. Kat Edison (Aisha Dee) is Scarlet’s social media manager, and meets a photographer named Adena (Nikohl Boosheri) with whom she discovers a newfound romance and exploration of her sexuality. Meanwhile, Sutton Brady (Meghann Fahy) hides a secret relationship with Richard Hunter (Sam Page), a member of Scarlet’s board of directors, and begins to find her voice as she becomes an assistant to Oliver Grayson (Stephen Conrad Moore) who works in the stylist / fashion department of the magazine.

I started this series thinking that it would be a pretty shallow series that I can play in the background while working. Boy, did that first season prove me wrong. Before I knew it, I was watching this series without other background distractions, and believe me, it is worth your full attention for a lot of reasons. Here are the reasons I really loved the show and thought of writing this review.

I love how the Bold Type doesn’t just refer to these women taking charge of their lives and living it their own way, but also “bold” referring to how brave and courageous this series is for bringing up topics that are relevant to the current and changing times. Some themes that came up were the MeToo movement, wherein the series takes a stand against domestic and workplace violence, racial privilege, transexual rights – the list goes on and on. The Bold Type also promotes a strong feminist stance, and starts conversations about body positivity, being unafraid of exploring one’s sexuality, making bold statements about women’s bodies, etc. And quite frankly, it’s one of the reasons I keep watching. The series in itself is quite compelling, given how it’s so relatable – not just to relevant societal issues, but also to regular everyday life.

I love how the series is unafraid of showing imperfections and how each character’s wins and losses somehow become a part of you without you really noticing – and I would say I got completely invested in the storyline and the characters because somehow, the character arcs also give me something new to think about each time and to ponder how I would act if I were in a certain character’s shoes.

I’ll be honest in saying that not all of the characters directly appealed to me at first – for instance, I thought Sutton was not really my cup of tea, having started the series with her taboo romance – only to prove me wrong in later episodes when we see more dimensions to her strength and independence, and here I was realizing how much more like her I was than I originally thought. She is the one who tends to have trouble delegating or letting other people help her – as do I. She is also highly devoted to her career, and it’s clearly important to her to have a career that she is passionate about. I also love her character’s headstrong personality and fearlessness to set about doing what she wants to do.

I also ended up loving Kat and Jane – they are both such strong women in different ways. Kat, whom I first thought was the most soft spoken of the bunch, is actually the most politically active. From being a strong social media creative, she later on develops to societal activism, which I think was a natural move to her story arc, while not being afraid to venture towards a deeper understanding of her sexuality. I think among the girls, I find myself most unlike her – I would see myself more in Sutton and Jane – but it doesn’t stop me admiring Kat and seeing the motivations behind her decisions. Her passion for activism even spans to a point that she is not afraid of what she gives up in order to make a difference.

On the other hand, I also loved Jane and her story arc – she is anything but a plain Jane – her love for investigative journalism and finding the deeper meaning in the story is for me, the real voice of the magazine she writes for. Her exceptionally pivotal pieces and impeccable talent for discovering hidden story gems are almost always thought provoking, just like Kat’s social activism stances. I love how Jane shows both her inner strength and her vulnerability in this series, in a lot of ways. I also think that her personal and professional growth through out the series are really the meat of the show, and it shows how she matures and sees different perspectives through her growth. Her love story is also quite an interesting story that reveals her personal trust issues, and it was interesting to see how she dealt with these issues in her own time and space.

Besides me gushing about the characters, I also found some really beautiful things about the show that give me inspiration and hope. First would be the “friendship goals” as millenials would call it – among Kat, Sutton and Jane. This trio really is friendship goals. It is the one constant on the show that really drives a strong storyline and is the backbone that keeps it whole. The three really make it a point to be there for one another and have each other’s backs in the best ways possible. It’s so easy for each of them to open up about each other’s lives, and they really make it a point to be there for each other and to listen to each other’s problems and feelings. Watching their friendships blossom throughout the course of the show really makes me feel like I’ve gained a new friend myself. The show is effortlessly human and relatable in so many ways.

I also love how The Bold Type takes a powerful stand for women and the LGBTQ community. The message that the show communicates is all about women solidarity and empowerment, which is powerful in societies that are still mostly dominated by men who tend to put women into a box. The Bold Type finds creative ways on expressing its views and getting that message out there – I have on occasion found myself tearing up at the bold and powerful arc that an episode takes on, the first one being Episode 10 on Season 1.

Another thing I greatly treasure about the show is how well it portrays the value of true leadership, the most obvious role model being Jacqueline Carlyle, who stands as a mentor figure and a powerful leader. She is so passionate about what she does and truly believes in the media’s role to portray a magazine that talks about the stories that deserve to be heard. Jacqueline is also extremely supportive yet firm and confident, and just observing her behavior and attitude on the show teaches me a lot about leadership dynamics. She doesn’t have to be as forceful as Jessica on Suits to get what she wants, but she handles so many concerns with that effortless grace, wisdom and class. Having that figurehead in Jacqueline really put the show on a different plane of experience for me, being a leader in my chosen career as well.

Overall, I just really wanted to rave about The Bold Type, especially now that it’s bowing out at its fifth season, with only 3 episodes left. It’s one of those shows that has truly left its mark on me since it’s as human and vulnerable as it gets without being cringe-worthy or overtly cheesy. It’s a very strong and mature show that doesn’t revolve around the gossip or the romantic arcs all the time without having you realize something in the process. I’d recommend this show to just about anyone looking for a show that features a strong point of view and is looking for something aspirational yet very relatable.

Vincenzo (K-drama)

I’ve finally finished this binge-worthy k-drama on Netflix and still in a bit of a whirl over everything. So to start off this review, here’s a short summary of Vincenzo.

Vincenzo Cassano (Song Joong Ki) is a mafia consigliere who flees Italy to go to Korea when Paolo, the new Cassano family head, attempts to murder him. While in Korea, Vincenzo is set on his goal to recover a basement full of gold bars that he helped a Chinese businessman store secretly under the Geumga Plaza building.

When the powerful and corrupt Babel Group illegally acquires the land rights to Geumga Plaza, Vincenzo gets caught up and embroiled in the fight and begins to work hand in hand with lawyer Hong Yu Chan (Yoo Jae Myung), owner of Jipuragi Law Firm, in trying to stop the injustice instigated by the Babel Group.

Vincenzo begins an unlikely partnership with Hong Yu Chan’s daughter Hong Cha Young (Jeon Yeo Bin) when she begins a vendetta against Babel Group and her former law firm Wusang in a battle for justice.

REVIEW

Here are the top few things I loved about Vincenzo:

1. The retribution storyline and mafia-esque genre mixed in with trivial comedic moments. I can understand why this factor might be jarring or not okay with some viewers because it poses so many extremes – the bloodbath and gruesome torture scenes (most of them perpetrated by our protagonist himself) interspersed with a generally light and comedic mood, usually in the scenes showing the Geumga plaza inhabitants and at times, Hong Cha Young’s witty antics, or Mr Nam (the paralegal)’s acting. At times we also get Choi Myung hee (Kim Yeo Jin) doing Zumba in a public laundry shop, or that scene with Vincenzo in the shower that did give me some laughs.

There is no lack for the comedy in Vincenzo, which is quite surprising at first for the fact that the premise is a quite serious one. This is one of the things I did like about the whole storyline, and the variety presented by the wittiness and the more serious underlying plot kept me interested and hooked for most of the episodes in the series.

The fact that this is a mafia story intrigued me all the more, having seen and having been a fan of Mario Puzo’s The Godfather starring Al Pacino and Marlon Brando. This is a very modern portrayal of the mafia, with the presence of elements like very well planned out betrayals and well executed brutalities between warring families, or in Vincenzo’s case, warring corporations. Which brings me to my next point…

2. The creative ruthlessness exhibited by Vincenzo. I seem to have a penchant for shows that really showcase a brilliant mastermind, with well-executed plans and pre-determined outcomes. It’s also the reason I really loved Money Heist (La Casa de papel). The parallel here in Vincenzo is the fact that Vincenzo is almost never caught off guard when making plans to outmaneuver or outsmart his enemies. Here’s the double edged sword though: either Vincenzo is just that good that he never is caught dead without a Plan B, or the fact that his vigilante justice is never called out by the police, or is ruled to be another type of murder or suicide that can’t be traced back to the perpetrator.

In fact, what kind of disturbed me was how Vincenzo is in a bubble of his own – the fact that he was on the trail of serving vigilante justice to corrupt politicians and businessmen and is being glorified or validated by the people around him for it. I understand that the show is trying to point out that sometimes the justice system isn’t enough or isn’t adequate to put the evildoers behind bars, though there are times that I seriously questioned Vincenzo’s moral compass and momentary shows of ruthlessness and terror. It isn’t without reason or motivation for the matter, but I guess I had a problem with his playing God too often in the series, especially in his decision making. Then again, this might be too much of a nitpick since Vincenzo is portrayed to be a mafia lawyer in any case, and acts done with a skewed moral compass are what define the terror that is the mafia. I think Vincenzo tends to settle too many things behind the scenes rather than in an actual court, for someone who is actually a lawyer by profession.

3. The characters and the acting is so well done. I have to say that the acting for Vincenzo was truly top notch. I think the antagonists were the ones who really made their mark from the onset. You know the villains are really amazing when they make you feel like you want to kill them off, and that includes Choi Myung hee’s character and Jang Han Seok. Hands down, the acting skills portrayed for both their characters really slayed. Taecyeon’s portrayal of an eccentric and pretentious psychopath was really and truly scary. His acting had me grab on to the edge of my seat multiple times, and the duality of his personality in this series was so well done. This is his best role yet, among the roles I’ve seen him play, and his performance was chilling and at the same time very convincing, and I love Taecyeon all the more for it. Choi Myung Hee is almost always out for blood and has a major superiority complex as a twisted form of competitiveness. She doesn’t care who she steps on or whom she hurts in order to achieve a means to an end. Kim Yeo jin’s portrayal was also so on point that she blended with her character so seamlessly.

The protagonists side was also very well done. There was not one character I didn’t like, and all roles were done so convincingly. Song Joong Ki – wow, this is his best role yet, not only with the action packed sequences he did throughout the series, but also with his versatility as an actor. I loved his clear vulnerable side as he comes to care for the patient Oh Gyeong Ja (Yoon Bok In), and even more I loved how his facial expressions can spell a million words and emotions. He could perfectly pull off emotionless and brutal rage, which is characteristic of mafia family members, and I can count a few episode endings wherein his face is the last thing we see, and he portrays that wide array of emotions so well without needing to say a word. That for me was real depth.

Vincenzo also plays the cute and silly side cast card, with the Geumga Plaza family, similar to that of Crash Landing on You wherein all of them were super endearing and amusing to watch. Their roles were actually great and pretty fundamental to the storyline, since they worked really well as a team, executing Vincenzo’s crazy plans.

And of course, this cast wouldn’t be complete without Jeon Yeo Bin’s Hong Cha Young, whose character went a complete 360 – from being the stuck up, snotty girl who cared about trivial things, to growing organically into a resourceful and kindhearted lawyer, taking inspiration from her father. I liked her story arc and her antics – she’s the kind of actress who’s funny and charming without even trying. The romance bit got a bit sidestepped here in Vincenzo, but her onscreen chemistry with Song Joong Ki and his character undeniably worked really well.

3. The stunning visuals and well thought out details. I was shocked that the first episode wasn’t actually shot in Italy – and that Song Joong Ki was working with green screens. And the whole Italy scene was all CGI. I was blown away by that. Plus the scenes are all very well thought out, from Jang Joon woo’s nicely designed apartment to the contemporary design of the Wusang offices – I liked the interior design for the setups. I also liked the attention that the production team made to each character’s appearance, including the Booralro suits and all of the luxury watches that Song Joong Ki was sporting every once in a while as he dressed for the part of an Italian consigliere.

Overall, there is much to love about Vincenzo, and probably the only nitpicking I could think of while watching was “Does Jipuragi have nothing better to do than rage on Babel Tower when there are so many other corrupt individuals or corporations out there?” But it’s a nitpick, because having the story focus on one major villain really put a focus and highlight on the story, and allowed the viewers to get to know the characters more. I’d recommend this show to everyone who’s into K-Drama (I can’t believe how much Kdrama has leveled up over the past years – Vincenzo is really one that shows the evolution) with cautions on the triggers that the show may have (ie. bloodbaths and gruesome murders).

P.S. [SPOILER ALERT, please don’t read the next lines unless you’ve seen Vincenzo] My favorite episode to date is the one where Song Joong Ki’s character is forced by Hong Cha Young to pretend to be attracted to the heir of the bank investing in Babel. I think it showcased some of Joong Ki’s best acting skills yet, and was the perfect hook-Line-sinker kind of baiting to get an actual win. The Disneyland date was such a nice touch, and the Geumga family’s zombie enactment was very amusing. Any Vincenzo thoughts you’d like to share? Leave a comment below! 🙂

The Way of Kings (The Stormlight Archive #1)

A Short Summary of the Stormlight Archive Book 1

This series is told from a few characters’ point of view:

Kaladin, son of a surgeon and a soldier-turned-slave, is first seen on the battlefields of Alethkar when he is conscripted under Amaram, a brightlord, and chosen as the leader of his small army of soldiers who have given him unquestioning loyalty. Kaladin is later on sent away from the battlefield and becomes a slave physically hand-carrying bridges under the domain of High Prince Sadeas in the Shattering Plains, wherein Kaladin faces the inevitability that bridgemen would be expendable to the war efforts. Kaladin is then given a choice of giving into his wretched thought of simply giving up all hope, or to take the higher road of claiming leadership over the bridgemen.

Dalinar Kholin, late King Gavilar’s brother, is a High Prince, war general and uncle to the current King Elhokar. He finds himself in the midst of the war effort on the Shattering Plains, and is forced to deal with court politics and is seemingly plagued with visions of the past during the arrival of the high storms. He becomes continually concerned with defending his nephew the King, when some evidence turns up that someone may be plotting to have Elhokar killed. Dalinar’s son, Adolin, a fierce and strong-minded youth, continually becomes concerned when Dalinar gains a reputation of perceived weakness – something unheard of in the culture of the competitive Alethi high princes. In these books, Dalinar is faced with trouble after trouble when he is told by his visions to “unite the kingdom” and struggles to balance his brother’s legacy and his king’s own need to satisfy their vengeance against the Parshendi, who assassinated Gavilar several years before.

And lastly we have the point of view of Shallan, an aspiring scholar who is determined to seek out Jasnah, the heretic princess, and is willing to commit a daring heist to save and help her family drowning in debt and at the brink of ruination. Shallan is a talented artist, and she seeks to win over Jasnah in her quest to become the princess’ ward.


My review of The Way of Kings:

I bought the UK editions of Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive, having read many good things about it, and I was personally curious about Sanderson’s writings. Little did I know that I was getting into a world I wouldn’t want to leave willingly. I was up late at night reading, wanting to know what happens next, and flipping through pages wanting to know more.

The experience or reading about this universe was mind-blowing to me, and until now I am marvelling at how easily the Stormlight Archive has sucked me in its depths and how committed I was to the story and its characters, which are so compelling. Stormlight Archive has easily become one of my new favorite fantasy series, and I immediately knew I would want to work on a review of these books after reading.

Let’s start out with the reasons I loved this first installment:

  1. The Characters. All of The Way of Kings characters are really well written and have their own set of motivations. I resonated a lot with Kaladin, and how his altruism, courage and determination bring out the natural born leader that could lead armies, and in this book he mostly leads bridgemen, who are viewed as expendable by the war leaders. I loved how layered a character Kaladin is – I immediately resonated with his fear of failure, constant worry about the people whom he couldn’t save. He literally starts out from the bottom, with his fellow bridgemen ignoring him and calling him an uptight lordling, but the tides shift as Kaladin begins slowly to prove himself worthy of leadership. He doesn’t outright convince these bridgemen to follow him, but they do so of their own accord when they see something special about Kaladin. I also love the spren (little creature – uh I’m not sure exactly how to define this word in Sanderson’s world, but spren make up all things) who hangs out with Kaladin and encourages him during the times Kaladin feels he wants to give up. I also loved Kaladin’s relationship with his men, and how you could really empathize with his character because Kaladin was just so brave and so human at the same time. I went through the book rooting for him and wanting him to succeed. I also loved Shallan, and her parts were all page-turners too. I loved how she rose above her fear of rejection when she faces up to Jasnah multiple times, despite Jasnah’s strong personality. Shallan is impulsive at times, and is shown to make some reckless mistakes, but you can’t help but root for her anyway when she snares Jasnah’s attention. On the other hand, Dalinar Kholin – boy, does he remind me so much of A Song of Ice and Fire’s Eddard Stark in terms of nobility and the refusal to compromise his honor or his beliefs. In fact, Eddard plays the game of thrones with enemies who are more underhanded and devious, much how Dalinar navigates the Alethi political kingdom composed of highprinces. Dalinar is steadfast in his own beliefs, yet he does a lot of rumination about whether or not he was slowly becoming senile. I loved how self-aware and stubborn he was, and the weight of his own honor that he doesn’t willingly compromise even with the highest stakes. I became so invested with each and every one of Brandon Sanderson’s characters as they are so relatable, and you just can’t help but keep rooting for them throughout the novels.
  2. The Worldbuilding. Yep, obvious reason to love Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive – a lot of reviewers do say this, and the claim is true – the Cosmere universe is a richly inspired epic universe, and Sanderson is able to pack it with layers of culture and a rich history. You know the worldbuilding is amazing when you keep flicking back to the map at the beginning of the novel and wondering where your heroes are making their stands. I also think his worldbuilding is on point from the fact that I could clearly see each and every event happening so clearly and vividly in my mind. There’s never a dull moment in the first book, and the funny thing is that it doesn’t have to be all action to keep me hooked to the story. I loved the power play, politics, the introduction of faith and religion, and how people, places and things are so vividly and lovingly detailed.
  3. The Story and Plot layering. As you can tell, I really loved the way the story played out. The story is not hard to grasp even though there are so many facets to it that it becomes difficult to summarize the story, let alone explain why things are this way. Sanderson does this so flawlessly in my opinion, and he has such a lovely way of storytelling that just brings everything to life. The plot and subplots were clear, and the story arcs were very well written. It makes me want to delve into the next books and learn about what happens next. I also didn’t understand at first why Sanderson has so many mini novellas out (for background, I read a couple of Reddit threads and I always see readers recommend others to read Edgedancer before reading Oathbringer (the third book in the Stormlight Archive). Now I see clearly why this is so. It would greatly confuse the story to focus on so many aspects rolled into one universe, and I like how you always manage to discover something new as you read through the novels.

Again, I have to reiterate that Brandon Sanderson just has this magic way of easing you into the story, bit by bit, even if you have no clue as to what the Stormlight Archive is all about. He doesn’t overwhelm you with a lowdown of the facts and the universe, and instead builds it slowly while you are perceiving his world through the eyes of each of his characters. Short of saying, I find his style of writing magical and with just the right balance of intrigue and thrill. He introduces a lot of new concepts as with any fantasy, but Stormlight Archive as a whole is built on such a solid and unshakeable foundation.

It’s easily one of the best fantasy epics out there, and given the rave reviews I’m hearing about Rhythm of War (his latest novel to date), this series is gaining a firm foothold in the throes of the fantasy genre. Would definitely recommend this book to fantasy lovers out there, and this is just one must-have series to have on your bookshelf.