Hello Kitty Cafe in Seoul, South Korea (near Hongik University)

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The Hello Kitty Cafe has been on the top of my list of places to visit in Korea since I found out it existed. I have been a Hello Kitty fan since I was 15. I can honestly say that coming to Korea has not only heightened my love for Hello Kitty, but has turned it into an obsession. (as if asking for the Hello Kitty bedset for my 16th Birthday wasn’t an obsession…)

I had been trying to figure out which Hello Kitty Cafe location was best for us to visit (there are several) and I finally chose the one near Hongik University in Seoul. We took the train from AK Plaza in Pyeongtaek to Seoul, then took Subway Line 1 to City Hall and then transferred to Subway Line 2 to Hongik University. From there we took exit number 9, walked straight out of the exit past the first left (it was immediately after we walked out the exit) and turned down our second left (there was a TGI Fridays on our left as we turned.) We walked to the first cross walk and turned right to cross the street. We then turned right again when we were across the street and made our first left at this corner:IMG1025We continued to walk on the left side of the road and looked left as we walked. The Hello Kitty Cafe was on our left down a small ally. (It is directly past the Ho Bar, but there is more than one Ho bar in this area.)

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The Hello Kitty Cafe is AWESOME! This place is a MUST SEE for any Hello Kitty fan or anyone with little girls who like Hello Kitty. There are two levels; we sat on the top-level where there is more seating. Hopefully, I’ll be able to go back before I leave, or visit another location; it is just too cute!

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Book Review: The After Girls by Leah Konen

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Best friends, Sydney, Ella, and Astrid, had high hopes for the summer after their senior year of high school , but when Astrid is found dead from an overdose, Ella and Sydney are left to pick up the pieces and try to move on with their lives. Not only are Ella and Sydney left with so many unanswered questions, but they are also left to wonder if they ever really knew Astrid, at all. When Ella starts getting cryptic messages from Astrid, she wonders if she is really dead or if someone is playing tricks with her head. Sydney, on the other hand, feels responsible for her friend’s death and doesn’t know how to cope emotionally. As summer moves forward, and college becomes reality, the girls wonder if their lives will ever be normal again.

I wish I could say The After Girls, Leah Konen’s debut novel, is now one of my favorite books, but I can’t. I had high hopes for this book, but it didn’t move fast enough for me. The plot kept getting thicker, but then nothing was resolving itself in a timely manner. At one point I thought the book was going to turn into a series, because it was nearing the end and it hadn’t started to wrap itself up, but luckily, that isn’t the case.

When I first read the synopsis of The After Girls, I thought, “Oh, this sounds kind of like Pretty Little Liars, I’ll read it!” But instead of being LIKE Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard, it basically IS Pretty Little Liars, but with different characters. I kept picturing the girls from the Pretty Little Liars TV show, as the characters in the book, and couldn’t get my mind away from them. This was unfortunate because I kept thinking that the good guys were the bad guys and vice versa.

I almost stopped reading this The After Girls twice: once when I first started reading it, and once about halfway through, I even read two books between the time I started this book and finished it. But in the end, I’m glad I finished it. The ending was not what I expected at all. I had all of these ideas of who did what, and I was dead wrong, no pun intended.

Even though I didn’t love the book, I did like the characters, especially Sydney and Ella. Sydney is in a band and is a part of an awkward love triangle with her band mates. She plays violin and is hoping to become famous with her band. Sydney’s band sounded really cool and I think if they were real, I would go see them play. Ella works in a coffee shop, but not Starbucks, and I enjoyed the coffee shop scenes; it reminded me of the good times I had working at Starbucks, and all of the hustle and bustle. Ella also becomes a part of an awkward love triangle between her high school boyfriend and Astrid’s estranged cousin.

If you like mysteries and can get over the fact that this storyline is way too similar to Pretty Little Liars, then the The After Girls by Leah Konen is worth reading. If you haven’t read or watched PLL, then I think you will definitely like this book, as well.  If I hadn’t invested so much time into PLL, then I definitely would have enjoyed The After Girls a lot more. For a debut novel, Leah Konen does a good job at creating likeable characters and an interesting storyline; who knows, maybe she’s a huge PLL fan, as well.

I was given an ARC e-book of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rosie’s Favorite Quotes: Paper Towns by John Green

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Most of my friends were in band, and most of my free time during school was spent within twenty feet of the band room. – Quintin, pg.11 (This sums up my senior year of high school, perfectly.)

You see how fake it all is. It’s not even hard enough to be made out of plastic. It’s a paper town. I mean look at it Q: look at all those cul-de-sacs, those streets that turn in on themselves, all the houses that were built to fall apart. All those paper people living in their paper houses, burning the future to stay warm. All the paper kids drinking beer some bum bought for them at the paper convenience store. Everyone demented with the mania of owning things. All the things paper-thin and paper-frail. – Margo, pg. 58-59

I always felt like you had to be important to have enemies – Quintin, pg. 60

I mean, at some point, you gotta stop looking up at the sky, or one of these days you’ll look back down and see that you floated away, too. – Detective, pg. 150

The longer I do my job,” he said, “the more I realize that humans lack good mirrors. It’s so hard for anyone to show us how we look, and so hard for us to show anyone how we feel.” – Quintin’s Dad, pg. 196

Book Review: Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham

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Franny Banks is a struggling actress, living in Brooklyn, New York. She is in her mid 20’s, doing what all struggling actors do: going to auditions during the day and waiting tables at night. Franny, who is named after a character in the short stories “Franny and Zooey” by J.D. Salinger, lives with her best friend from college, Jane, and Jane’s brother’s friend, Dan. She has given herself a three year deadline to make a name for herself in the big city. If she isn’t the next big-thing after three years, she has promised her dad she will return home to Connecticut, become a teacher, and marry her college sweetheart. With only six months left to succeed, Franny has to find an agent, book some jobs, and prove to everyone, but mainly herself, that she can be the successful actress she’s always wanted to be.

As soon as I found out that Lauren Graham, actress who played Lorelai on Gilmore Girls and currently plays Sarah Braverman on Parenthood, wrote a book, I knew I had to read it. Gilmore Girls is one of my all-time favorite shows and I also really enjoy Parenthood, I couldn’t make it through one episode this season without crying. Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham is delightfully funny. It’s cute in a very Gilmore Girl kind-of-way; so many of the scenes reminded me Lauren Graham’s character on the show.

Every character in this story is fast-talking and quick-moving, much like the characters on Gilmore Girls. Franny kept me smiling, laughing, and entertained, throughout the entire novel; she is a very loveable character. Dan and Jane are also enjoyable characters. I fell in love with Dan’s kindness and his own dreams to become a screenplay writer. Jane is the kind of best friend everyone wants and needs, supportive and honest.

Franny’s quirks are what make her such a unique character. She is a very superstitious person who believes that if she does something a certain way, or resists checking her answering machine for a certain amount of time, something good will happen or something bad won’t happen. She always looks both ways, three times, on one-way streets, and carries her filofax (personal organizer) everywhere she goes. Franny is hopeful about her career, but also realistic. She understands that if everyone could act, the industry would not be as special as it is known to be.

Someday, Someday, Maybe is set in 1995, before cell phones were popular. Franny is always aware of where the payphones are, wherever she may be, just in case she needs to call someone about a job or about a date. I forgot about how inconvenient it was to go home and check an answering machine or use a pay phone to call someone if you were not at home to do so. Each chapter starts with all of the messages that Franny missed while she was out of the apartment. Sometimes they are from her dad, sometimes they are from a friend, sometimes they are about an audition, and sometimes they are from a guy. Franny definitely could benefit from a cell phone.

Someday, Someday, Maybe is the type of book that makes you want to write your own book. It gave me confidence that someday, I can be a successful writer just like Lauren Graham…maybe. I really want to call her up and tell her that she did a wonderful job on her first novel and how she made me feel good about myself, in a way that I don’t think I have ever felt after reading a book.

I enjoyed the entire book up until the very end. It left me wanting so much more, which seems to be happening more often than not, these days, when I am reading. I kept hoping there was another chapter, but there wasn’t. I am sad that I am done reading the novel, but hopeful that maybe there will be a follow-up, soon.

Now, all I want to watch the entire series of Gilmore Girls from start to finish, all over again, to get my Lauren Graham fix. She is simply wonderful and inspiring.

According to Random House Publishing, Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham is semi-autobiographical. Lauren’s debut novel hits shelves on April 30. You can order your copy here. You can also listen to an audio excerpt read by Ms. Graham herself, here.

I was given an ARC e-book in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Paper Towns by John Green

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Neighbors since they were two and friends until they were nine, Margo and Quintin have a special connection that will last the rest of their lives. One night, near the end of senior year, after not talking to each other for at least nine years, Margo knocks on Quintin’s window and asks him to help her complete eleven tasks throughout the night. All of these tasks, good and bad, are important to Margo and she needs Quintin, and his mom’s mini-van, to help her accomplish them. Throughout the night, between anxiety attacks, Quintin falls even more in love with his mysterious neighbor, Margo Roth Spiegelman.

The next day, after the adventure of a lifetime, Margo isn’t at school. Quintin assumes she skipped because they were out until 6 AM, but the next day passes, and the next, and still no Margo. With the help of his best friends, Radar and Ben, the three guys set out on a woman hunt to try and find Margo with only few mysterious clues she has left behind. Throughout their journey, they make new friends; learn more about the girl behind the blue eyes, Margo; and discover the in and outs of Orlando, Florida.

Paper Towns by John Green is an interesting read. I can’t say I liked it, but I really can’t say I disliked it either. As far as page-turners go, this one wasn’t as addicting as The Fault of Our Stars by John Green, but the story still kept me interested throughout the entire novel. The book is a mystery and I kept wanting to know what was going to happen next, hence the page turning, but I was able to put it down and take a break from it for a day or so.

The novel is divided into three parts. The first part revolves around Quintin and Margo’s adventure, the second part is about the search for Margo, and the third part is about, well I can’t tell you because John Green does not like spoilers.

I liked the tie in of Walt Whitman’s poem, Song of Myself: Leaves of Grass within part two of the novel; part two is full of quotes from the poem and analysis, perfect for anyone who has to figure out what Walt Whitman is really saying in regards to meaning and metaphors. I never particularly liked the poem; although I do like Walt Whitman, of course I kind of have to because I am from the Philadelphia area. Quintin finds the Walt Whitman book in Margo’s room and believes it to be a clue to finding her. He reads and rereads the highlights she has made, hoping to figure out what they all mean.

I didn’t feel attached to the characters in Paper Towns, and at the start of the novel, I really thought I would. Radar and Ben are band geeks, just like I was in high school. Quintin isn’t actually in the band, but only hangs out with band kids. On the very first page I said to my husband, the protagonist in this novel is my soul mate, he was not amused. But, as the story moved along, I became annoyed with the high school senior year type story. Somehow, the cool kids became friends with the band geeks and they all partied together because high school was ending. In the real world, this doesn’t happen.

Even though I didn’t feel a connection with the characters, I really did like Ben and Radar. I laughed every single time Ben called the girls at school “honeybunniess” and I found Radar’s obsession with his website pretty comical as well. I also really enjoyed the fact that Radar’s family had the largest black Santa collection. You don’t get to read about many male friendships in novels, and I think this was a good portrayal of boys being boys.

At the end of the novel, I felt relief; I was happy to be finished and was completely ready to say goodbye to everyone in the story. I felt like the last part of all three parts drug on, even though it was the shortest.  I feel satisfied with how it ended, a feeling I haven’t been feeling a lot at the end of a novel. Everything that had to be said was said and everything that had to be done was done.

I did enjoy learning about paper towns, though, and how they are places on maps that don’t actually exist. I am now determined to find a paper town of my own. Once, our GPS said there was a Dunkin Donuts in our neighborhood. Would that be considered a paper coffee shop?

All in all, Paper Towns by John Green was just okay. If you like John Green, you will probably enjoy this book, but I wouldn’t recommend starting with it as your first John Green book. If I had read this before The Fault in Our Stars, I probably wouldn’t have been so eager to get another one of his books. Even though I didn’t love Paper Towns, I am still looking forward to reading Looking for Alaska, another John Green novel.  Anyone who enjoyed this book would also enjoy reading The Curious Incident of the Dog at Night-time by Mark Haddon.

To learn more about John Green and his other novels, check out his website!

Coffee On: Another delightful coffee shop in Pyeongtaek, South Korea

There are so many different kinds of coffee shops in Pyeongtaek; I always have trouble picking one to go to, or not going back to one I already love. Yesterday, I was on a hunt for a specific coffee shop someone told me about almost a year ago.

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Coffee On is located down the ring finger(using your right hand) of the five fingers across from AK Plaza. If you go down the street Puffins is on, you will turn right at the next corner past Puffins (it’s a pretty big intersection.) Coffee On is on the left side of the street.

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When you walk in, (and even from the outside,) it kind of looks small, but there is plenty of seating. There are two rooms that are separated by doors, which are on your right when you walk in. The bigger of the two rooms is what we believe to be a smoking room, and the smaller room is like an outside patio because the floor to ceiling windows open.

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If you walk past the two rooms, there is open cafe seating with couches and then on your right there are small rooms, kind of like dollhouse rooms, that contain individual tables. Those rooms seem to be the hot spots and people were actually waiting to be seated there. We went around 3:30 and it was crowded the whole time we were there.

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I tried to take as many pictures of the little rooms without being creepy. We ended up sitting in the room with the floor to ceiling windows that were open a little bit to let the lovely spring breeze in.

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The register and coffee bar are all the way in the back of the room. Everyone working there seemed to speak enough English so that you could place your order. They were very friendly.

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I had an Iced Vanilla Latte and Jim has an Iced Caramel Macchiato (we’re very predictable.) The total for our two drinks was 11,000 Won. The menu also offered a variety of drip coffee, tea (iced and hot,) espresso drinks, smoothies, and waffles. The waffle portion of the menu was only in Korean, and it was the middle of the afternoon, so we did not order waffles. My latte was very good, not a good as the one at 63th Africa Coffee, and Jim said his caramel macchiato was very strong, but good. I love the glasses our drinks came in.

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The walls of the coffee shop had a wide variety of paintings. I can’t wait to sit closer to them and look at them without having to be stealth to take photos. Jim and I decided to classify Coffee On as elegant but rugged; good for guys and gals. I also think it would be a great place for a little girls tea party.

Overall, as far as atmosphere goes, this is my favorite coffee shop so far. I loved the way the shop was decorated and the music was nice on the speakers. As far as taste and price goes, it wasn’t the best. I definitely could have purchased a better tasting drink for a lot cheaper somewhere else, but the experience was worth the price we paid. Even though I didn’t see any children there, I think it would be good for a cute afternoon out during the week. It was really crowded, since it was a Saturday, but I doubt it is as crowded during the week.