Monday, February 24, 2014

Tight-Rope Walks, Farming, and Medieval Punishment: Visit the Korean Folk Village 한국민속촌


February marks the last month of over two years' posts about living and working in South Korea as Foreign English Teacher. It's been a lot of fun reminiscing and processing all of the beautiful and colorful experiences in and around Seoul, but in honor of St. Patrick's Day, this March The Wanderer Blog will be jetting over to none other than Dublin. Yep, it's time for an Ireland Travel Series. I have an uncle who practically lives over there, and in 2005, I got to see why he fell in love with those rolling green hills during a five month stay. I hope a spotlight on Ireland can bring back many fond memories for those of you who've been there, as well as encourage future travelers.

So although it's time to say goodbye to South Korea for a little while, it will still stay a major presence in this blog, and it is definitely going out with a bang as we visit the Korean Folk Village outside of Suwon, Gyeonggi-do:  


The Minsok village is an immersive walk through the village experience of South Korea during the Joseon Dynasty era. Housing styles varied not only by class--peasant, landowner, or the elite yangban--but also by region. After strolling through the huts common in the northern and central parts of Korea, where various employees can be seen sewing, farming, and making furniture, the complex opens up to the southern style homes found as far away as Jeju Island.  

Check out this cow's day job.

A relative took me out here by car along with her young daughter. It immediately became apparent that her daughter was no stronger to the village, pulling me over to a giant cart horse patiently standing by while tourists gawked and petted it. She also showed me a popular game in both China and Korea during the new year and Chuseok, which was called Tuho. In Tuho, one attempts to throw long slender sticks into a ceramic pot. There were plenty of people enthusiastic to play despite the game's difficulty; I was quickly shown up by the seven-year-old's skill.
I get to work.

Fan of the Korean drama "Dae Jang-geum/대장금" (Translation: "The Great Jang-geum," also known as Jewel in the Palace)? This popular time period show follows the trials and romantic entanglements surrounding Jang-geum, based on the life of the first and only female physician to King Jungjong during the Joseon Dynasty (est. early 16th century). Parts of it were shot here in the folk village. I haven't seen the show myself, which fictionalizes Jang-geum's early career as a chef, but my relative assured me that this scene among the kimchi pots was quite famous. You can learn more about the show here.
After being put to work and discovering how long it takes to pound rice, we were awarded by catching a late show. Interactive performances of namsadang, which consists of such theatrical feats like acrobatics, pungmul nori (spinning hat dance), and salpan (tumbling) reoccur throughout the day, but we'd spent a lot of time exploring the park. We managed to see one of the last shows, the eoreum, or tightrope dancing. I kid you not, it was something like thirty degrees Fahrenheit outside, but once this older performer warmed up to the icy rope, he was unstoppable. 

We rounded out the trip with a visit to my relative's daughter's favorite spot--the ghost house. It does cost a little extra to take the tour, but there's all sorts of spooky fun inside. My relative told me to go through the house with the daughter, since she'd already been through in the past multiple times. It was quite entertaining to see a few other boys lose their cool inside, but my relative's daughter didn't bat an eyelash. I almost wondered if she had fun, she was so quiet during the ghost house walk, but afterwards, she squealed and wanted to go again. 


Sunlight catching off the ice in winter.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Twinja Book Reviews Talks Diversity in YA Fantasy/Sci Fi on "A Kind Love" Radio


And the more times I have it, the more I become aware

As someone who is incorporated into the "dominant" narrative--white, heterosexual, Puritan America--it is sometimes too easy to forget (or overlook) the historical/social infrastructure propping it up. As I grow older, however, I realize that a fantasy book full of white characters isn't the world I live in. When I watch TV shows and listen to the language used to describe the cast, it becomes increasingly obvious which types of characters are marginalized.

This is the sort of conversation that needs to happen many, many times at different times and in different places. If the dominant narrative is constructed, then it can be re-constructed in a different way--a way more open to old identities and new ones that will inevitably emerge from all of our beautiful, painful, scarred interactions.

Guinevere and Libertad of Twinja Book Reviews recently sat down with "A Kind Love: A Kind Voice on Books" radio host Eden Blackwell (beautiful name) along with three other fellow book bloggers to talk story, share book recommendations, and explain in-depth the mission behind Twinja's multicultural platform. Thank you so much for featuring Changeling Sisters I: "Year of the Wolf" among your recommendations, Libertad!

Memorable Quotes of the Interview:

“When I walk down the street, I see many different types of people... So I find it very difficult that a person could only write a book full of one thing.” --Guinevere on challenging a publishing world that solely promotes a "dominant" narrative of white, heterosexual characters

“I don’t feel like I can identify with just one thing” --Libertad on sharing the twins' personal background of many interweaving identities that resonate with them.

You can listen to the radio broadcast here

Featured Book Bloggers: 

Guinevere & Libertad: Twinja Book Reviews
Katie Cross of: KCross Writing
Kim Ukura of: Sophisticated Dorkiness
Al Kunz of: Big Al's Books and Pals

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Read and Review THE TRIBE OF ISHMAEL: Sign-up now through Feb 13

The Tribe of Ishmael has been selected as a Read & Review Book through the Paranormal Fantasy, Dystopia and Romance Readers and Reviewers Group! Sign-up now through Feb 13 to receive an EPUB/MOBI/PDF copy to read and review~ 9 copies left~


Thanks everyone!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

February 2014 Book Review: Ink


By Amanda Sun

~Book Review~

*Moderate Spoiler Alert!*

            IF YOU are planning to buy this book, a print version is highly recommended, just to run your fingers over the cover’s gritty texture and to feast your eyes on the original artwork in the most unexpected of places as you flip through the pages. The gorgeous art makes Ink an immersive reading experience, and for the most part, the writing lives up to the sketches. However, the heroine’s lack of agency and confused sense of place in the plot created an awkward hole that oftentimes threw me out of the storyline.

            After her mother’s death, Katie Greene moves across the globe to live with her aunt in Shizuoka, Japan. Amanda Sun brings the city to life with attention to detail (slippers worn indoors) as well as heavenly descriptions of the food (I needed gyoza, ramen, or udon STAT after reading this book!). And oh, when it’s cherry blossom time, the beautiful imagery exuded a timelessness that suspended all urgencies and filled your mind with softly-fallen pink blossoms. The author mentions she’s lived in Japan before, and it does feel like she has great enthusiasm for its people and a high commitment to accuracy. Likewise, in a YA marketplace saturated with every reinvention of Greek/Roman mythology or Western European folklore that you can think of, I was thrilled to find a book based on Japanese lore. Paper gods? How unique does that sound!

            Katie Greene is immersed in a total Japanese-speaking high school, where she feels like an awkward outsider, fumbles with chopsticks, and repeatedly mentions that she’s had little connection with Japan before this—although somehow after just five months, she can speak and understand Japanese on an extremely high level. I half-expected her to be able to pick up a newspaper and flip through those difficult Kanji characters, no problem! Yes, I was a little skeptical of the ease at which she picked up the new language—but hey, how else is the plot going to advance with her mysterious bad-boy crush, the notorious Tomohiro?

            I liked Tomohiro as a lead. He does kendo, is pretty sarcastic but funny, and of course, houses a dangerous secret that is fast alienating him from everyone he cares about. Despite Tomohiro’s warning for her to stay away from him, Katie is drawn to this rumored baby daddy, yakuza-affiliated dude, and spends the first half of the book stalking or staring at him (maybe she’s not so confident having a normal conversation in Japanese after all).

            I suppose this is my biggest problem with Katie: she’s hinted to be more than the average foreigner—she’s kind of like a power amplifier, a job usually delegated to inanimate objects in fantasy books—but being a person who amplifies other peoples’ powers doesn’t exactly advance the plot or prove exciting to read about. Basically, she’s just there to be Tomohiro’s girl and cheerleader, to talk him down when he gets too upset, and there’s nothing I hate more than a heroine who is needlessly dependent on others to defend herself. Don’t get me wrong, Tomohiro’s power and his future role among the Kami sounds super exciting to read about, but I wish Katie had come into her own more in this book. Having some sort of deeper cultural or family connection to Japan would also be nice to explain *why* she has this special-ness.

            I’m definitely willing to give the second book, Rain, a try when it hits the shelves. After all, even though this book felt like a big set-up introducing readers unfamiliar with Japan to the setting and mythology, it did introduce a potential badass villain, and I’m sure there’ll be more phenomenal artwork. Who knows, even Katie might grow on me.

Recommended for fans of: Colleen Houck (ah, that’s who Katie reminds me of—she is a total Kelsey Hayes, from the Tiger’s Curse series), Kiersten White

Upcoming Book Review: Sanctum, by Sarah Fine

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

February Book News: Year of the Tiger currently 50% off at

FEBRUARY is the shortest month of the year, which means everything comes up faster, including rent *sigh*. For this month's special book promotion, Changeling Sisters Book II: Year of the Tiger, will be available for 50% off on it will stay that way for the full thirty days, through 3/4. Simply type in this Coupon Code during check-out: MK22S. features a variety of ebook formats from EPUB to PDF, so make sure to check it out! Stay warm, everyone. It's even quite stormy down here in Hawai'i.

Monday, February 3, 2014

February 2014 Book Review: The House of Hades


By Rick Riordan

~Book Review~


Warning! Major spoilers for The House of Hades and earlier Percy Jackson/Harry Potter books!

*CHEST SWELLING with extreme happiness*

Everyone knew not to approach me while I spent several blissful hours devouring The House of Hades. My faves Percy and Annabeth fighting and out-witting their way through the pit of ultimate darkness, Tartarus? Check. Hazel coming into her own as an independent heroine and Frank overcoming his securities to become a badass? Double check. I loved those two as much as the endearing Leo, who finally gets a serious love interest in this book. It’s not who you’d expect. But Riordan had convinced me within pages that yes, I am on board *grins*.

Jason and Piper are still hanging around, and although Jason impressed me with his maturity in this book and his brotherly relationship with Nico grows, Piper is still just kinda “there.” Ah well, six out of seven demi-gods hitting the mark is pretty damn good.

Even more than Percy, Nico has always been that “I heart you” character for me—he’s the type who has had such a depressing life, even for a son of Death, that you just want to gather him up and give him a big hug (of course, he’d probably shove you off with a clever sarcastic response). His sister Bianca’s death was one of the most touching moments in the earlier Percy Jackson books. That being said, I loved how Riordan broached the topic of Nico’s sexuality and revealed that for something so simple as liking another boy, the politics and implications of embodying such an identity in a hetero-normative society are complicated. He gently asks us to consider why things are that way. Again, really appreciated Jason’s response and support. Popular author JK Rowling implied that Albus Dumbledore was gay in the 6th and 7th books of the Harry Potter series, but only confirmed it after the series ended in an interview. Here, Riordan is acknowledging that “Hey! Gay people exist!” during, which is fantastic to create a multi-layered fantasy world diverse in racial and sexual identities to which many more readers can relate to and join the conversation. Parents reading to younger readers can have a gateway to discussing the topic with their child, instead of living in fear of slippery slopes.

Since I’m kinda a huge “underworld” fan, I really enjoyed Percy and Annabeth’s journey through Tartarus and the monsters—some old faces, some new—that they encounter along the way. Riordan proves all over again that he is the master of suspense, because in the face of all the odds against our young heroes, you’ve really gotta wonder if they’re getting out of there or not. Percy in particular questions some of his “heroic” acts in the past after encountering old enemies post-destruction, and I enjoyed the “world is gray” viewpoint he comes away with.

For those who lit the torches after the last book’s cliffhanger, rest assured that The House of Hades ends in a resolute place—perhaps we’ll be less impatient for the last book in the series, The Blood of Olympus, because it’ll be time to say goodbye for a little while to the rich Greek/Roman-inspired mythological world we’ve come to know and love so well *sniffs*. Highly recommended.

Recommended for fans of: JK Rowling, Suzanne Collins

Upcoming February Book Review: Ink by Amanda Sun