Monday, September 18, 2017

Television Review: Shadowhunters 2x16 "Day of Atonement"

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Television Review: Shadowhunters 2x11 "Mea Maxima Culpa"

Note: Cheers to posting this months after writing it. I'll get the others I have stored away up as soon as I can.

The Shadowhunters season two mid-season break went by faster than season breaks typically seem to. I guess I can attribute that to having plenty of other things occupying my mind since we last got a new Shadowhunters episode. That doesn't mean I wasn't excited for the show to finally start again.

I'll start off talking about Sebastian, since I was anxious to see how he'd be portrayed on the show. Even before he was cast, I was a bit nervous about what they'd do with him. There's definitely a right way and a wrong way to go with him, and there's really no way to tell what he'll be like after this one episode.

As I don't want to reveal any spoilers from the book series in this post, I find it difficult to talk about Sebastian because I can't help but compare him to the Sebastian from the books. There's one scene in the episode that makes it blatantly obvious that there's something more going on with Sebastian than what he tells Izzy, which seems quicker than he became suspicious in the books.

After what he tells Izzy in this episode, I do have some questions. Sebastian tells her that he left the London Institute. Now, he either had to leave without telling anyone where he was going or they would know where he is. If it were the first, I would wonder if there were people looking for him. If it were the latter, you'd think the London Institute would have let the New York Institute know that Sebastian was coming to the city (even if he didn't plan to go directly to the Institute), and as Izzy is pretty well connected, I'd imagine she'd have known about his presence in New York. It's interesting to me that she doesn't question any of that, but I can also see how that could easily be attributed to what she's going through (and the fact that she really wants someone who understands her).

I'm surprised at how blatant Jace was about still having feelings for Clary when he talked to her about not being her brother. He didn't even try to pretend that he didn't, which is what I would have expected him to do considering the circumstances. I'm curious as to how the love triangle is going to play out because from here on out I think we're far away from how it played out in the books. I think we'll get the same endgame couples, but it seems like we'll get there in an different way.

I loved the scene where Alec finds Jace crying on the rooftop. It was emotional but such a nice moment at the same time.

Another smaller aspect of the episode that I enjoyed was the Simon and Maia reaction. I love their friendship and can't wait to see it develop more over the second half of the season. I have my fingers crossed for a lot more interaction between the two of them.

If I'm remembering correctly, Azazel is the first demon we've seen in human form since the pilot episode, which isn't important so much as something that I find interesting. This episode did a good job of showing why he's more terrifying than any of the demons we've seen so far too.

Before watching the episode, I'd already heard something about a body swap with Magnus, so I figured out what was happening with Azazel and Valentine rather quickly. I have to admit that body swap stories aren't usually my cup to tea, so I'm not super ecstatic about watching this play out.

I just hope that nothing horrible happens to Magnus and that Valentine doesn't wreak too much havoc before anyone knows what's going on.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Television Review: Shadowhunters 2x15 "A Problem with Memory"

Monday, July 24, 2017

Life Post: Settling into Japan

Five days ago, I arrived at the school I'll be working at. It was overwhelming, to be sure. I was put on a train in Okayama and got to watch new (to me) parts of Japan fly by outside. We even got to drive over the ocean, and the scattered islands and mountains were unlike anything I'd seen in person before.

By the time we arrived in Tokushima, I was ready to get the initial day over with. I don't mean that in the "I just want it to be done" sense but in the sense that I'd been waiting for so long that I really needed to jump into it finally.

Arriving at the school didn't actually feel as scary as I had thought it would. I'll remain vague about school here. I can't publicly give out information about my co-workers or the students from work, and admittedly, that makes it a bit difficult to go into detail about everything I felt over the first several days.

What I will say is that I made a lot of memories that will likely stick around forever. Since I started this blog, I haven't written anything in a journal because, aside from a few scattered memories here or there, there was never anything I really wanted to remember that I wouldn't share here. As it is though, I'm starting to write down memories that I'm making here.

Tokushima is different from Okayama (where I was in training) in a number of ways. It's smaller, for one thing, and that leads to a number of qualities that are shared with smaller cities in the US. 

There are plenty of stores, restaurants, etc. in Tokushima, but they're a bit more scattered than in Okayama. For instance, our training center was quite close to a mall, which we went to during training. There's a mall in Tokushima, too, (even owned by the same company), but despite living near downtown, I can't get to that mall without walking more than half an hour. (Strangely enough, there's no public transportation to the mall. It's very odd how out of the way it is considering you'd think it would want to be in a busy part of down, but, again, this is a more rural Japan and more people here likely have cars.)

Being in a more rural area also means that fewer people here have seen foreigners before. (Or, if they have seen foreigners, they've seen very few of them.) In Okayama, I didn't notice anyone staring, and no one really cared that there was a white girl walking around. In Tokushima, I'm getting more stares, which I was expecting and also warned about by several people. 

Yesterday, a group of teenaged boys drove by me on their bicycles while I was walking home from the store. One of the boys noticed me, and was so shocked that he yelled something really loudly to his friends. All I caught from it was "gaijin", which means foreigner, so that was an experience unlike one I'd ever have in the US. It was something I was expecting to happen, though, so that's one thing to check off the list. 

While I can't share more stories about work, it is going well. I feel as if training prepared me, but I also think having studied teaching in college gave me a boost. (And I got told during training that the speed with which I learned the lesson steps was extremely rare for trainees, but I don't know how I managed that. I've always thought that I'm really bad at memorizing information.) I'm feeling pretty good about the upcoming week. Tomorrow I teach my preschool class for the first time, so that's a little intimidating. I've easily taken the "something will definitely go wrong but it won't be the end of the world" view though, so I'm not too worried about it.

Everyone at my school has been incredibly helpful and keep telling me to ask them if I need anything. They made sure I had a new skillet, new blankets, laundry detergent, etc. in my apartment and that I was able to find things I've needed at the store. I know that just how great of an experience you have with this company depends on the people at your school, and so far the people at mine have been wonderful. I'm really grateful for that.

There's more I could likely share, like eating at an izakaya and eating a fish whole or eating my first ramen that wasn't instant (which was delicious), but I don't want this post getting ridiculously long. I'm sure I'll have more to talk about in the future.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Life Post: Being in Japan

In the two weeks since I last posted, quite a lot has happened, not the least of which is finally moving to Japan.

I left the U.S. on July 5th and, after layovers in New York and Shanghai, landed in Kansai airport on July 8th. It was a long trip. My last two of three flights were delayed. One (from New York to Shanghai) was delayed for several hours, and instead of taking off at 1:45 a.m. like it was meant to, left the airport at 4 a.m.

That long flight to Shanghai was also unlike anything I've ever experienced in that it was like entering an alternate reality that you become convinced you're never going to escape from. All of the blinds on the plane were kept closed the entire flight until landing, so it was a bit strange to sit in New York through most of the night, then a 15 hour flight, and then arrive in Shanghai having skipped a day. I tried sleeping for most of it, but I was only slightly successful. The first time I woke up, I thought I'd slept a lot longer than I actually had. By the end of the flight, time felt like it had no meaning anymore.

Japan has been really great so far. Right now I'm still in training, so I'm not yet in the city I'll be living in.

I was pretty nervous to begin training because I knew that it was going to be intense, and while it's been busy, I'm having a lot more fun during it than I had expected to. Everyone here has been really great, and I think I'm going to go into the job feeling more prepared than I actually thought I would feel.

Plus, I've gotten to visit a Japanese castle, go grocery shopping, and eat conveyor belt sushi (among other things) over the past week. It's been hectic in a really great way.

In just a few days, I'll be making the trip to the school I'll be working at and will see my apartment and the rest of the city. I'm really excited for it. I've already spoken to a couple of people from there both online and in person, and I'm really excited to see everything for myself.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Book Review: Some Go Hungry by J. Patrick Redmond

ISBN: 1617754676
Published: May 17th, 2016
Publisher: Kaylie Jones Books
Received: purchased
Read from May 17th to 25th, 2017
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Some Go Hungry is a fictional account drawn from the author's own experiences working in his family's provincial Indiana restaurant--and wrestling with his sexual orientation--in a town that was rocked by the scandalous murder of his gay high school classmate in the 1980s.
Now a young man who has embraced his sexuality, Grey Daniels returns from Miami Beach, Florida, to Fort Sackville, Indiana, to run Daniels' Family Buffet for his ailing father. Understanding that knowledge of his sexuality may reap disastrous results on his family's half-century-old restaurant legacy--a popular Sunday dinner spot for the after-church crowd--Grey struggles to live his authentic, openly gay life. He is put to the test when his former high school lover--and fellow classmate of the murdered student--returns to town as the youth pastor and choir director of the local fundamentalist Christian church.
Some Go Hungry is the story of a man forced to choose between the happiness of others and his own joy, all the while realizing that compromising oneself--sacrificing your soul for the sake of others--is not living, but death.

Review:

As soon as I heard about this book, I knew I had to read it. Some Go Hungry takes place in southern Indiana, the same place I grew up. While the town in the book, Fort Sackville, is fictional, it seems to be a fictional version of Vincinnes. Portions of the book also take place in Evansville (which is essentially considered a metropolis to Fort Sackville just like it is my hometown), and while they're never shown in the book, it was cool to see Indianapolis and even Greenwood mentioned.

The book is about a gay man who has grown up in Indiana. His family owns a restaurant that he now manages, and he's stayed in the closet in Fort Sackville his entire life because he doesn't want to ruin his family's restaurant. He knows that no one in town will continue to eat there if they know that he's gay.

This book doesn't offer an idyllic picture of southern Indiana, but it is, without a doubt, realistic. I could recognize the town and how it operates. It was cool, if had times disheartening, to read. For me, that really helped the book.

There were a lot of times where I wasn't a huge fan of the writing style. There was a lot of description that felt unnecessary. That was the biggest fault of the book for me. There were also times where the characterization felt off. Sometimes a character would be in a scene but go through the whole thing and only speak one line, making it easy to forget that they were even there. It didn't feel quite like a realistic conversation. Even more than that, after reading the entire thing, I was left feeling like some characters would have been better off being cut out completely (such as the main character's brother) because they did/said so little and seemed to serve no purpose to the plot other than just being there and barely speaking.

The story, though, was touching, and I did enjoy it more than I disliked it.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Life Post: Preparing to Leave

Wow, it's been a long time since I've written one of these. Considering I'm in the midst of preparing for the biggest move of my life, though, I thought I should give a brief update.

Recently, I have posted two phone vlogs on Youtube that mention a bit of what has been going on. While I usually post my videos here as well, I didn't with those purely because they were uploaded from my phone and I just didn't take the extra step of sharing them to the blog. Since I plan to more or less say what I said in those videos here, I won't bother with those now, but I'll try to get better about it in the future.

I've had my Japanese visa for a while, as well as my plane ticket and all of the other necessary paperwork. Currently, the only thing left for me to do is pack all my stuff up and say goodbye to everyone. Packing is an ongoing process as I try to sort through what I'll take and what I won't. From the beginning, I planned to take very little with me, but I keep having moments of worry where I think that maybe I should take a certain item after all.

The biggest source of stress, however, is my carry-on. I'll only have access to my carry-on during the week of training, and I'm not sure I can fit all of the clothes I need in it (and I'm not talking about an entire week's worth of clothes). That's currently my biggest challenge, but I'll make it work.

When my visa came, it became much more real that I was moving to Japan, but it still felt far away. Last night I had a moment where it truly hit me how soon I'll be leaving. Today, though, it's like that reality has faded a bit, and once again it feels far away despite my departure being only a week away.

I'm incredibly excited but also nervous. Funnily enough, my current nervousness comes largely from a fear that something will happen with my luggage. (Not packing the right stuff, it getting lost, etc.) I'm sure I'll get nervous about plenty of other things as they happen, but I also think how excited I am will outweigh most of that.

I really can't believe it's next week.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Book Review: X-Wing: Mercy Kill by Aaron Allston

ISBN: 0345530594
Published: August 7th, 2012
Publisher: LucasBooks
Received: purchased
Read from May 6 to 16, 2017
Synopsis from Goodreads:
The intrepid spies, pilots, and sharpshooters of Wraith Squadron are back in an all-new Star Wars adventure, which transpires just after the events of the Fate of the Jedi series!
Three decades have passed since Wraith Squadron carried out its last mission. Taking on the most dangerous and daring operations, the rogues and misfits of the elite X-Wing unit became legends of the Rebellion and the Second Galactic Civil War, before breaking up and going their separate ways. Now their singular skills are back in vital demand—for a tailor-made Wraith Squadron mission.
A powerful general in the Galactic Alliance Army, once renowned for his valor, is suspected of participating in the infamous Lecersen Conspiracy, which nearly toppled the Alliance back into the merciless hands of the Empire. With orders to expose and apprehend the traitor—and license to do so by any and all means—the Wraiths will become thieves, pirates, impostors, forgers . . . and targets, as they put their guts, their guns, and their riskiest game plan to the test against the most lethal of adversaries. 

Review:

I'll keep this review brief as this is the tenth book in a series.

This book felt like it might have been better as a standalone than as part of the X-Wing series. Not only was it published more than a decade after the book that comes before it but the story also takes place long, long after the previous book. Few characters from earlier in the series appear in this book, and though Piggy was meant to serve as a bridge, I'm not sure that it was effective.

Mostly, it felt like this story was too removed from what came before it to be part of the same series.

On top of that, I found it difficult to get into the story and found myself bored for the majority of it. I don't regret having read it as I had read all of the others, but it wasn't my favorite.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Reign Review: 4x12 "The Shakedown"

I know, I know. When was the last time I wrote one of these without starting it off by complaining about Darnley? To be fair, though, it's difficult to talk about anything else when the majority of my thoughts while watching Reign recently have been about how angry Darnley makes me.

There's no doubting that Darnley wants glory and power for his own sake. There's very little he wouldn't sacrifice for it, and he's shown a level of recklessness to get that power that make him a terrible king. He's the type of person who might manage to get power but who would lose it easily due to his own mistakes. At this point, he's proven to Mary that, if she gave him power, he'd ruin Scotland. Maybe, just maybe, actually proving himself to be a good ruler would have done more to convince her to give him the crown matrimonial. Just an idea.

Actually, Darnley should embrace the idea of getting to be king while leaving all the hard work to Mary. He can still get the praise (which seems to be what he really wants) but not have to do much (which also seems to be what he enjoys).

Another frustration during this episode: that Lord making it clear to Mary that she would be blamed should the privy council discover that the crown's money had been mismanaged. It's hard not to be angry that she couldn't place public blame on Darnley. The fact that, even if she did, she would still be wrapped up in the blame is frustrating.

Knox and Darnley becoming allies is something that I feel I should have anticipated, but I hadn't given much thought to them meeting prior to this episode.

The following paragraph has "spoilers" from history, though I have no idea what the show itself is going to do.

I'm starting to think that the show is going to end the season with Darnley's murder, which is condensed compared to the real timeline. I've brought up my dislike for Bothwell before. I know there are two camps of thought in regards to his motivations historically, and I very much feel that Reign is going to make Mary his co-conspirator, not his victim. However, I can't say I particularly like Reign going that direction when there are many who believe that he may have raped Mary to achieve power. The show will likely, at any rate, use that suspected rape in the show as the reasoning for why Mary marries Bothwell, and I'm dreading it. I don't want to watch Mary and Bothwell fake a rape to allow themselves to be together.

As far as Charles goes, I don't feel as if I have anything to say after this episode that I haven't said before. He would be better off without the pressure of being king, but that being said, I don't want to give Henry the satisfaction of being king either (and I'm not convinced that he would do a better job).

I had a feeling that Claude and Luc would fall in love, and now I believe even more that that's how their stories will end. That's fine and all, but I'm rather upset that we seem to have seen the last of Leith. The fact that he had such a sad ending when I believe that he, more than possibly anyone else, deserved a happy one upsets me.

Elizabeth's paranoia is new, as far as I can tell. It has never seemed this bad before. While she seemed bothered by Lola's death and betrayal, that hadn't been dealt with in a long time. I think it would have been nice if we'd had reminders of it more frequently before suddenly getting thrown this episode where it comes up again out of the blue.

I was hoping Jane would prove herself to be a friend, but she's seems to be a spy. I'd like to know who she's working for because I don't have any good guesses at this point. I don't feel as if it's for Mary or any of Mary's allies because I feel as if we'd have more hints at this point that they had a spy directly in England's court. The only other possibility that's coming to mind is Knox, though I'm hesitant to believe that this is his doing, and I have no other ideas.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Armchair Book Expo 2017: Wrapping It Up


Yesterday marked the end of this year's Armchair Book Expo, when we were meant to post our wrap up posts. Instead, you're getting this on Monday, keeping with my inability to post anything on time for this year's event.

It was frustrating not to be able to participate more. Last year, I participated in just about every aspect of the event, from the Twitter chats to the Instagram challenge to getting blog posts up on time. This year, I managed to respond to daily topics (though late) and comment on some other posts, but that was it.

There isn't a specific reason for why I didn't get posts up on time if anyone's looking for one. I had actually written all of the posts except this one ahead of time, but I like to look over posts and edit them before posting. That's what didn't happen on time. (I also ended up deleting a lot of what I said in some posts to shorten editing time. Otherwise, I probably would have had more to say.) There's been a lot going on lately, including three doctor's appointments in one day on the second day of this event, and I just didn't have the time to participate to the extent that I would have liked to.

Next year, I hope, will go better for me. I'm still glad that I participated in whatever way I was able to.

If you'd like to check out my other Armchair Book Expo posts from this year. Here they are:

If you participated in Armchair Book Expo this year, I'd love to hear about your thoughts on the event in the comments. Do you plan to participate next year (whether you did or did not this year)?

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Armchair Book Expo 2017: ISO Books

(This is the last day with a topic for Armchair Book Expo. Once again I'm late, but I have to admit that I got this up earlier than expected. I will still be posting a wrap-up post.)


Today's topic is all about book suggestions. We've been given a chance to talk about what kind of books we've been looking for recently in the hopes that someone will have a recommendation or two.

I both want and need to read more racially diverse books. While I already have a list of books that I want to read, I'd welcome more suggestions from a variety of genres. In particular, though, I'd really love some fantasy book recommendations as I feel like my TBR as a whole is really lacking in fantasy (especially since it's my favorite genre).

Neurodivergent protagonists are almost entirely absent in books I've read, so I'd love some suggestions.

Really, I'd welcome any recommendations with characters that fall outside of your typical white, straight, cisgender, neurotypical, etc. characters

Armchair Book Expo 2017: Diversity and Dining with Authors


Diversity

We have further to go with diversity, and we will for a long time. That's true for a lot of inequalities in our society, not just literature. I'm glad that it's talked about so frequently now because things will only keep moving forward if we keep talking about the subject.

Dining with Authors

Maureen Johnson would be a fun choice. Following her on Twitter makes for a lot of fun, and I'd love to talk to her both about the Shades of London series (I'd try not to push her to reveal too much) and about other stuff.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Armchair Book Expo 2017: What Readers Want

(Note: I'm still working on getting caught up on Armchair Book Expo posts. I'm sorry they're all late.)

With the rise of self-publishing, it's more common to find yourself with books with errors bad enough that you pause while reading. Sometimes I'll find a sentence that it's difficult to make sense of, and I wonder how that wasn't caught. This is something that I have also seen in traditionally published books though. I know that's at least as much the editor's fault as the writer's (unless the book is self-published and the author didn't hire an editor), but if there are too many of those, I may not find it in me to finish the book. (There's also the middle ground of finishing but the mistakes negatively affecting my review.)

There are several "make or break" things that I mention constantly in reviews when books have them. For example, I know that I bring up my love for strong friendships a lot. On the flip side of that, I've grown really tired of the trope where a boy and girl are friends (the girl is almost always the main character) and the boy has secretly had a crush on her for years. There will usually be a love triangle, and the friend's feelings are revealed when a new boy catches the girl's attention.

It's not that I think that trope is bad in and of itself. I'm just tired of seeing it over and over. What really annoys me about the trope is that I feel like the male-female friendships I read about almost always include one of the friends secretly having feelings for the other. I would greatly appreciate more books where a boy and a girl legitimately are just friends. Recently, I feel like I've become instantly unable to get into a book once a friend reveals secret feelings.

Diversity is also something I notice more these day. It's getting harder to read books where every single character feels like essentially the same character. If every character is white, straight, cis, able-bodied, etc., then it's noticeable, and it's reached the point where it very much annoys me.

I think good literature and good story are largely the same. Although a good story riddled with errors (like I mentioned above) may become so difficult to read that I can't consider it a good book, I still think the two should be the same thing as long as the story is easily readable. We have this idea that good literature is inherently different from popular literature, which I see as flawed. If something it popular, it typically has some sort of worth (even if I personally dislike it), and it's worth discussing what that worth is.

Everyone has tastes. There are a number of classics that I dislike. (Don't get me started on how boring Ernest Hemingway is, and I'll tell you now that it's not worth trying to convince me otherwise.) Other people find value in those same classics, and that's fine. It's all relative, and I don't think there's some key, underlying "thing" that makes literature great. What constitutes great literature is different for everyone, and despite having been an English major who had to study various works from the canon, I don't subscribe to the idea that there is (or should be) a definitive canon. The fact that we're still arguing over what's worthy of being in "the canon" helps convince me of that.

(And even books that you think are terrible can sometimes be worth reading for various reasons, and that can provide them with worth no matter how well-written you believe them to be or not be.)

The books you like are great literature to you; maybe they're not to someone else. That's fine.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Armchair Book Expo 2017: Introduction

(This is more than a day late, and I'd like to apologize for that. There's been a lot going on, but I'm going to do my best to catch up before everything's over.)


It's another year of Armchair Book Expo (a bit of a name change from last year's Armchair BEA). Last year was my first year, and I really enjoyed it. I'm excited to participate again.

Introduction

We've been given a list of sentence starters to introduce ourselves instead of a list of questions and are supposed to choose 3-5 to complete. Here are mine:

My favorite thing in the entire world is probably Harry Potter.

My current read is one of the Cormoran Strike books; I read the first one a year or so ago and am only now getting around to reading more of them.

My summer plans all revolve around my move to Japan because I'll be leaving and starting my new job in July.

Reign Review: 4x11 "Dead of Night"

Monday, May 29, 2017

Book Review: On Being Stuck: Tapping Into the Creative Power of Writer's Block by Laraine Herring

ISBN: 1611802903
Published: May 17th, 2016
Publisher: Shambhala
Received: Goodreads First Reads
Read from April 15th to May 7th, 2017
Synopsis from Goodreads:
What if writer's block became your most precious teacher? An empowering new process for writers who struggle with the seemingly insurmountable middle of a project, from the author of Writing Begins with the Breath
Writer's block is not a mysterious force that has aligned with your writing to stop you in your tracks. Writer's block occurs when hope meets fear—when our expectations for a project or ourselves as writers run head first into the fear(s) that are uniquely tied to that hope. Writer's block is not external. It is not part of a vast conspiracy. It is a signal from deep within to pay attention to the writing and to pay attention to what the writing is asking of us as writers. Using deep inquiry, writing, body and breath exercises, and a range of interdisciplinary approaches, On Being Stuck helps writers uncover the gifts hidden within their creative blocks and deepen their relationship not only to their work but to themselves.

Review:

To be honest, this book wasn't for me. While I like to read books on writing, this one was focused around how to motivate yourself to write. You don't get any practical advice beyond motivating words and journal/meditation topics about writer's block.

The author is a proponent of mindfulness and meditation. Each chapter is very short (a few pages at most) and each ends with a task meant to motivate you to write. These tasks are prompts that you can write about in your journal (that the book encourages you to keep) or meditations that you can do. While I think journaling and meditating can both be helpful, I didn't get anything out of the activities in the book.

There are more than thirty chapters, and many of them felt repetitive. They were essentially the same thing said with different words, so the book felt even less worth it as I continued to read.

I would say this book is worth checking out if you want to start keeping a journal and/or meditating on writing (and need help getting over a mental barrier to write) and you need prompts. Other than that, you're not going to get much from this book.

I received this book from Goodreads First Reads in exchange for a review. This did not affect my opinion.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Thoughts On Rating Books You Don't Finish

Almost every book blogger I follow has written about their views on reviewing books that they didn't actually finish (or DNFs), but I've never written abuot my own opinion. After seeing a couple more of these posts recently, I decided that maybe I should do so.

There are reviews here on my blog of books that I haven't finished, though recently I have done this less often. I haven't stopped doing so because I'm against the idea of it. I've just decided I don't want to spend my time writing reviews for those books. The entire thing would often be negative, and unless there's a good reason for it, I'm just not in the mood to go on about why I hated the book without having anything good to say about it. Still, I make the decision over whether I'll review a book on a case-by-case basis.

That being said, I almost always give any books I abandon a star rating on Goodreads, and I support people doing so. While I get why some people might consider it unfair, I don't see it that way myself. If I disliked a book so much that I couldn't finish it, then I think that's a valid experience that should be expressed through a rating or review.

Sure, there are other people who would undoubtedly love the book even if I couldn't finish it, but the same is true if I read an entire book and still gave it a negative rating.

Say a book has ten reviews that are average or positive, which makes that book's overall star rating rather good, but what you don't know is that another ten people disliked the book so much that they didn't finish it and didn't leave a review at all. I think that, in a case like that (albeit an unlikely one) that book's star rating is inaccurate, and it would be helpful if people could see that there were just as many people who disliked the book so much that they abandoned it as there were people who enjoyed it. I don't think that's unfair information to add into a rating. Ratings are, after all, to help people find books worth reading, and adding DNFs into the rating helps that.

If there were another option of Goodreads, Amazon, etc. where I could publicly mark the book as abandoned instead of giving it a rating, then I'd happily do that instead. (I know you can make your own DNF list on Goodreads, but I mean something that people would see while looking at the book information.) Maybe there would be information available on the book's page such as "this many people abandoned this book". I think that would be helpful, and I don't necessarily think it would need to be displayed as prominently as the average rating if it was there for people who wanted to see that information.

As that option doesn't currently exist, I'm going to keep rating books I abandon because I think that's information that's helpful for others and is as valid of a rating as a rating from someone who read the entire thing and gave it a negative review.

The other issue surrounding abandoned books is whether or not you add them to your "read" shelf on Goodreads (therefore letting them contribute to your numbers for the yearly reading challenge). I typically mark abandoned books as "read" if I finished more than half of the book. I think that that's fair enough and don't feel bad doing so, especially since, with the varying lengths of books, that can sometimes mean I read more of that book than another book that I actually finished.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Naruto Shippuden Review: Episodes 386-390

To be honest, I was getting a bit bored by the Obito-focused episodes by the time I reached their end. It felt as if I was watching the same things happen over and over.

Reaching the Gaara-focused episode was a nice change of pace. It had been so many episodes since Gaara had done much, and each time an episode dives into Gaara's past, I tend to enjoy it. Episode 387 was no exception.

I was waiting to see if we would see Gaara and Shukaku come face-to-face, so I was paying close attention during that scene. I liked the dynamics of it. I liked seeing Shukaku agree to help Gaara despite being the only tailed beast not to meet Naurto, even if it was due to jealousy towards Kurama.

Episodes 389 and 390 were two of my favorites in a very long time. Of had been so many episodes since Hinata was shown much, and it's the most Hanabi has ever been in the show. As someone who really loves Hinata, I was excited to watch those episodes, and I don't feel disappointed in the slightest. I loved understanding Hanabi more and getting to see her perspective of Hinata and how Hinata has inspired her.

I actually wish that we could stay with Hanabi a bit longer.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Book Review: Harry Potter and History, Edited by Nancy Reagin

ISBN: 0470574720
Published: May 1st, 2011
Publisher: Wiley
Received: purchased
Read from May 1st to 6th, 2017
Synopsis from Goodreads:
A guide to the history behind the world of Harry Potter just in time for the last Harry Potter movie, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part II)
Harry Potter lives in a world that is both magical and historical. Hogwarts pupils ride an old-fashioned steam train to school, notes are taken on parchment with quill pens, and Muggle legends come to life in the form of werewolves, witches, and magical spells. This book is the first to explore the real history in which Harry's world is rooted.
Did you know that bezoars and mandrakes were fashionable luxury items for centuries? Find out how Europeans first developed the potions, spells, and charms taught at Hogwarts, from Avada Kedavra to love charms. Learn how the European prosecution of witches led to the Statute of Secrecy, meet the real Nicholas Flamel, see how the Malfoys stack up against Muggle English aristocrats, and compare the history of the wizarding world to real-life history.
Gives you the historical backdrop to Harry Potter's world
Covers topics ranging from how real British boarding schools compare to Hogwarts to how parchment, quills, and scrolls used in the wizarding world were made
Includes a timeline comparing the history of the wizarding world to Muggle "real" history
Filled with fascinating facts and background, Harry Potter and History is an essential companion for every Harry Potter fan.

Review:

Harry Potter and History is a collection of essays about Harry Potter and history. Pretty straight-forward. It was the first Harry Potter-related non-fiction book that I had read in a long time, and I was excited for it. I love almost anything that discusses Harry Potter, and I also love history. I had to give this book a shot.

And despite having some flaws, I had an enjoyable time reading Harry Potter and History. It was an interesting decision to write each essay as if the Harry Potter universe were real. Each writer uses "Muggle" as if it were a real term used to distinguish us normal people from the wizards and witches of Harry's world. Historical events from the wizarding world were also mentioned alongside real world events as if both had happened. I could see the potential for that getting confusing in a book like this, but it tends to be obvious what's real and what isn't. No one's going to think the formation of Quidditch teams is an actual historical event.

There were several points where I noticed that "facts" from the Harry Potter books weren't exactly accurate, and that got a little frustrating. You'd think that information from the books would be checked in a book entirely about Harry Potter. As far as the historical facts go, there was nothing I noticed as being wrong, but I'm not a historian (and didn't fact check the majority of the book). There are sources listed for each essay though.

I also can't avoid mentioning (because I'm sure there are people who would want to know this before picking up the book) that one essay in the book tries to make the point that werewolves in the Harry Potter series are a metaphor for pedophiles in the real world, which is not the first metaphor I would choose when there are others that (I think) work better. While the writer does a good job of explaining what makes them see it, I don't agree with that interpretation. I also don't remember how that part of the book was supposed to be connected to "history".

Still, much of the book was a fun read. I liked getting to read about stories of the past that I'd never heard before, including details about past magical practices. I particularly enjoyed reading about how perceptions of witchcraft changed over time and what signs of witchcraft were accepted at different times. (Apparently, it was once thought that witches being able to fly was ridiculous. If they thought they had, they were believed to be hallucinating, but this changed later when the idea of witches flying around on brooms at night became common. I find that interesting as it might seem "backwards" to us that they'd dismiss flying as impossible only to come to believe in it later.)

There are people out there who would enjoy this book, though I wouldn't go into it with incredibly high expectations. It's entertaining to read if you have an interest in Harry Potter and history. If you're looking for something like that, it might be worth checking out.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Reign Review: 4x10 "A Better Man"

Yet another episode has cemented my belief that Darnley is more of a risk as king than anything resembling an asset. I will give him this though: This was the first episode where I thought he was trying.

We get Greer/James in this episode for  five seconds and then James is exiled. I've given up on anyone being happy by the time this series ends, so I can't say that I'm surprised, though I was expecting more to happen between them than what we got.

Mary's dismissal of Emily Knox gives me a lot of conflicted feelings. I do understand that what Emily did was terrible, but she is also being abused. Who knows what Knox is willing to do to her, and there's no doubt that she's scared of him. There are a number of ways Mary could have punished Emily for her crime without sending her back to Knox.

As I mentioned before, I'm not expecting many happy endings on this show, so I'm wondering what's going to happen between Elizabeth and Gideon. Obviously they're not destined to get married. Elizabeth never married, which means she's not going to successfully set anything up in this season either.

Nicole as a character seems to jump between personalities on any given day. First she's an "innocent" farm girl, then she becomes manipulative, and then she believes she's in love and becomes desperate. All of it happens so fast, from episode to episode, that I feel like I don't know what her personality is like. She feels more like a convenient plot device, doing whatever the writers need, and that bugs me.

Henry looks far older than his supposedly older brother Charles. (I have no idea what the actors' actual ages are, but you can't look at them both and tell me that Charles appears to be older. Henry looks as if he's the same age Francis was when he died.) We don't know anything about him yet (though I think he's going to be more hostile to Henry than he implied to Catherine), but the age thing is going to bug me.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Book Review: The Bane Chronicles by Cassandra Clare, Sarah Rees Brennan, and Maureen Johnson

ISBN: 1442495995
Published: November 11th, 2014
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Received: purchased
Read from April 17th to 20th, 2017
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Fans of The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices can get to know warlock Magnus Bane like never before in this collection of New York Times bestselling tales, in print for the first time with an exclusive new story and illustrated material.
This collection of eleven short stories illuminates the life of the enigmatic Magnus Bane, whose alluring personality, flamboyant style, and sharp wit populate the pages of the #1 New York Times bestselling series, The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices.
Originally released one-by-one as e-only short stories by Cassandra Clare, Maureen Johnson, and Sarah Rees Brennan, this compilation presents all ten together in print for the first time and includes a never-before-seen eleventh tale, as well as new illustrated material.

Review:

In my review for The Infernal Devices I talked about knowing quite a bit about the series before reading but also not all that much, and I feel like it was the same way for The Bane Chronicles. I had an idea of what happened in a few of the stories (namely the ones with Malec), but there was plenty I didn't know as I read.

This book is a collection of short stories that follow Magnus Bane, the only character to appear in every Shadowhunters book. While having read other Shadowhunters books isn't necessarily a requirement for reading The Bane Chronicles, I do think it would be a good idea. As these are short stories, there isn't much worldbuilding, and it seems to be assumed that readers will understand the basics.

That being said, as Magnus is a Downworlder, the world of the story actually looks much different than that of the other Shadowhunters books. Of course, The Infernal Devices also has a main character who is a Warlock like Magnus, but she spends the entire series with Shadowhunters, meaning that series still focuses on the world primarily through the lens of the Shadowhunters. Magnus, however, tries to stay out of Shadowhunter business, and despite how often that doesn't go as planned in The Bane Chronicles, you see the universe from a point-of-view that's different from the other series, which makes it a unique experience.

As for the merits of each short story, I enjoyed some more than others. I think that's the nature of short story collections. There will always be a few that aren't as good as the others. I found myself getting into the later stories more than the earlier ones, which was probably combination of having gotten into the book and the stories overlapping more with events and characters we already knew from other books.

Camille is definitely portrayed in a different light in this book. This is the first time where I could say that I understood why Magnus fell in love with her in the first place. It's not something that's easy to see from The Infernal Devices and Mortal Instruments books.

This is undoubtedly because I'm biased, but my favorites of the short stories were "The Course of True Love (and First Dates)" and "What to Buy the Shadowhunter Who Has Everything (And Who You're Not Officially Dating Anyway)" because of the Malec. I love having those empty spaces of Magnus and Alec's relationship filled in a bit as we don't get to see much of the start of their relationship in The Mortal Instruments, and both stories were adorable, even if the demon sitting around Magnus's loft was a bit odd.

Overall, I would say that this book is meant for people who are already fans of the Shadowhunters books and of Magnus, but if you are a fan of the books, it's great to get a better look at Magnus's life and things he's been through.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Book Review: Wonder Women: 25 Innovators, Inventors, and Trailblazers Who Changed History by Sam Maggs

ISBN: 1594749256
Published: October 18th, 2016
Publisher: Quirk Books
Received: giveaway
Read from April 13th to 15th, 017
Synopsis from Goodreads:
You may think you know women’s history pretty well. But have you ever heard of. . .
· Alice Ball, the chemist who developed an effective treatment for leprosy—only to have the credit taken by a man?
· Mary Sherman Morgan, the rocket scientist whose liquid fuel compounds blasted the first U.S. satellite into orbit?
· Huang Daopo, the inventor whose weaving technology revolutionized textile production in China—centuries before the cotton gin?
Ever heard of Allied spy Noor Inayat Khan, a woman whom the Nazis considered “highly dangerous”? Or German painter and entomologist Maria Sibylla Merian, who planned and embarked on the world’s first scientific expedition? How about Huang Daopo, the inventor who fled an abusive child marriage only to revolutionize textile production in China?
Smart women have always been able to achieve amazing things, even when the odds were stacked against them. In Wonder Women, author Sam Maggs tells the stories of the brilliant, brainy, and totally rad women in history who broke barriers as scientists, engineers, mathematicians, adventurers, and inventors, complete with portraits by Google doodler Sophia Foster-Dimino. Plus, interviews with real-life women in STEM careers, an extensive bibliography, and a guide to women-centric science and technology organizations—all to show the many ways the geeky girls of today can help to build the future.

Review:

Wonder Women showcases the stories of a number of women in a variety of fields. There was so much diversity within these stories that I never found myself bored while reading. Every single woman in this book lived a fascinating life and did something both impressive and important to the world, yet I had heard of very few of them prior to reading Wonder Women. That's a huge shame and one of the reasons why I'm grateful that this book exists and that I read it.

The writing style of the book is also fantastic. Each and every story is told in a fun, humorous way that nonetheless manages to be serious when it's important to be. It made me want to read more from the author.

This book is one that I would highly recommend to almost anyone.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Reign Review: 4x09 "Pulling Strings"

We got an entire episode of Catherine helping Mary. This might go down as my favorite episode of this season. Catherine is really the the only mother figure that Mary has or possibly ever has (since her actual mother was in another country).

At this point, Mary is no longer Catherine's daughter-in-law, and Catherine isn't gaining anything from helping Mary to the extent that she does, but she does it anyway. You can tell that she's doing it and offering advice because she wants Mary to be happy, and I want to cherish that we got these moments between them before the show ends.

Mary confides in Catherine that she's pregnant with the child that she believes is the child of the prophecy, and at the risk of spoilers (though the show will never get there), she's not wrong that the kid will be important (though the kid was actually born eleven months after her marriage to Darnley).

Rizzio is also an actual person from history, but the way Reign has chosen to portray Rizzio as gay when rumors persisted at the time that he and Mary were having an affair is very interesting. (The actual Rizzio was accused of being the real father of Mary's child instead of Darnley.)

I love Rizzio on the show. He seemed like a cool guy when he was first introduced, but this episode cements it. He's one of those rare characters where you can tell he's a good person who doesn't have any ulterior motives. His presence is a breath of fresh air, and Mary needs more trustworthy friends in addition to Greer.

This episode was heartbreaking when it came to Emily Knox. It was inevitable that John Knox would discover the truth at some point, but that doesn't make watching it any less sad. And then Emily had to see James with Greer on top of that. I want her to have a happy ending, though I have no idea what that would look like. Hopefully we get some sort of hint that her life is heading in a positive direction before the show ends.

Catherine confronting Lady Lennox is the confirmation I didn't need that the two women are extremely similar yet also very different.

Another part of the episode that I enjoyed, though I don't have much to say about it, was getting to see Marteen with Rose. That was cute. (I wonder if Rose will still have the earrings next time we see her.)

The actual wedding of Mary and Darnley is as upsetting as you would imagine it being.

It did take me a bit to figure out what was going on with the people talking down English flags and putting up Scottish ones since I wouldn't have thought that changing allegiance was that quick or easy, but I suppose it works well enough symbolically.

Elizabeth and Gideon kissing wasn't a surprise, but I do wonder how that will develop over the rest of the season.

Parks and Recreation Review: 2x04 "Practice Date"

Monday, May 15, 2017

Reign Review: 4x08 "Uncharted Waters"

I could complain for a long time about how ill-fit to be king Darnley is. If for that reason alone, Mary should rethink marrying him. I don't know how she plans to keep the country running smoothly with him around.

Lord Bothwell shows up again in this episode. Ugh. I really would have rathered Reign not have dealt with Bothwell at all, which would have been easy enough since this is the last season. As it is, I feel uneasy every time he's on screen.

Honestly, I get that Darnley would be upset about Kiera's death, but I don't like him blaming Mary for it. I would understand him directing his anger towards James (even if it was an accident), but blaming Mary, when she couldn't have known what was going on or that an accident like that would happen, seems cruel, especially to blow up at her like that, and I'm saying that as someone who's not particularly torn about about Darnley's threat about never being able to love Mary. Darnley just made me hate him more in that scene whereas, if the situation had been handled differently, I might have felt sorry for him.

I don't understand the point of the Hawkins story line. It shows England exploring the Americas, I know, but what point does that serve in the show? And I didn't like Hawkins either, but that's becoming a common refrain for me when Reign introduces a new character.

The best part of this episode by far was Mary and Catherine reuniting. I'm so glad we got that before the show ended, but since it happens at the very end of the episode, I'll wait until my review for that episode.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Parks and Recreation Review: 2x03 "Beauty Pageant"

I have to admire Leslie's determination to pick a winner of the beauty pageant based on more than looks even if it makes her look foolish, or downright stupid, in the eyes of everyone else. I was hoping that she would win in the end, but of course, that's not what happens.

Watching the support for Trish as she answered the question about improving America was extremely frustrating to watch.

So far, I like Dave. Him not recognizing any of the female politicians in Leslie's office and then memorizing them impress her was a nice touch to the episode and makes me want to root for him.

Ann had to discover that Andy was living in the pit at some point, though it's unfortunate that it happens during a date. I admire Mark for wanting Andy to come inside to get out of the rain despite it being in the middle of a date.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Book Review: Jefferson's America by Julie M. Fenster

ISBN: 0307956482
Published: May 10th, 2016
Publisher: Crown
Received: Goodreads First Reads
Read from March 20th to 28th, 2017
Synopsis from Goodreads:
The surprising story of how Thomas Jefferson commanded an unrivaled age of American exploration—and in presiding over that era of discovery, forged a great nation.
At the dawn of the nineteenth century, as Britain, France, Spain, and the United States all jockeyed for control of the vast expanses west of the Mississippi River, the stakes for American expansion were incalculably high. Even after the American purchase of the Louisiana Territory, Spain still coveted that land and was prepared to employ any means to retain it. With war expected at any moment, Jefferson played a game of strategy, putting on the ground the only Americans he could: a cadre of explorers who finally annexed it through courageous investigation.
Responsible for orchestrating the American push into the continent was President Thomas Jefferson. He most famously recruited Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, who led the Corps of Discovery to the Pacific, but at the same time there were other teams who did the same work, in places where it was even more crucial. William Dunbar, George Hunter, Thomas Freeman, Peter Custis, and the dauntless Zebulon Pike—all were dispatched on urgent missions to map the frontier and keep up a steady correspondence with Washington about their findings.
But they weren’t always well-matched—with each other and certainly not with a Spanish army of a thousand soldiers or more. These tensions threatened to undermine Jefferson’s goals for the nascent country, leaving the United States in danger of losing its foothold in the West. Deeply researched and inspiringly told, Jefferson’s America rediscovers the robust and often harrowing action from these seminal expeditions and illuminates the president’s vision for a continental America.
Review:

Honestly, my feelings towards this book are rather neutral. Essentially, it recounts the stories of several expeditions during Thomas Jefferson's presidency in what would become the American West, including that of Lewis and Clark. Jefferson organized these expeditions largely as a way to stake a claim to the land.

In the book, you get some politics, which I admit to not being that informed about before reading the book. I'd known that both Spain and France had claimed New Orleans at various points of course, since that's crucial to New Orlean's culture, but I hadn't known the details of how it was transferred between countries before and even after the Louisiana Purchase. The book is largely stories of the expeditions themselves, though, along with quite a bit about the preparations for them. That means stories of what they needed to survive, new wildlife, rivers, etc. that they encountered, and, of course, a lot of interaction with Native Americans.

The Native Americans play a significant role in his book (and the history the book discusses), especially in Lewis and Clark's expedition. I can't speak to how well their cultures are portrayed in this book, though I know that's always something to be cautious about as a lot of false information is still taken as fact or is misinterpreted. I do remember a comment that annoyed me about the men on the Lewis and Clarke expedition becoming less "civilized" because they'd begun to eat dog (which they'd apparently picked up from the Native Americans). I think this was potentially meant to be framed as the way (white) Americans would view them once they returned, but it didn't always come across that way. (People acting like eating dog meat is inherently different than eating any other type of meat is also a pet peeve of mine, and I don't even like meat.)

This book thoroughly covered its topic. In fact, it covered so much that it potentially covered too much. It jumped between expeditions and sometimes years, which led to me being very confused at times as I tried to put it all into context. The positive of that, though, is that you can read about more than just the Lewis and Clark expedition, which is obviously the most well-known. There were times where it held my attention far more effectively than at others.

I received this book from Goodreads First Reads in exchange for an honest review.

Anything But Books Tag

It's been a while since I've done a tag here, but after seeing Bianca over at The Ultimate Fangirl do the Anything But Books tag, I decided to as well. This tag was created by Katie at ReaderRot.

1. Name a cartoon(s) that you love.

Avatar: The Last Airbender will always win out as my favorite TV show ever, not just cartoon. Legend of Korra, its spinoff, is also way up there though.

2. What is your favorite song right now.

I'd probably go with "Power" off of Little Mix's album Glory Days.

3. What could you do for hours that isn't reading?

Writing. I typically spend about the same amount of time both reading and writing every day.

4. What is something you love to do that your followers would be surprised by?

This one is really difficult because I can't quite think of anything. The bulk of my free time is spent reading or writing, and when I'm not doing either of those things, I'm typically not doing anything that would surprise people. It's all pretty typical stuff.

One thing I just thought of that may or may not be surprising to some people is that I used to run a forum that, while it was never huge, got a lot more popular than I had expected it to. I kind of miss those days actually.

5. What is your unnecessarily specific thing to learn about?

I tend to Google the slightest of curiosities and then spend far too much time reading about random things. It's harder to think of something unnecessarily specific that I learn about constantly. Everything I can think of is a larger category, and there are so many of those that I can't narrow it down to one.

6. What is something unusual that you know how to do?

I feel like such a boring person trying to come up with answers to these questions. There has to be something, but perhaps because it doesn't stick out to me as unusual, I can't think of it.

Random thing that I thought of that a lot of people probably wouldn't find unusual: When I was in middle school, I spent a year and then another grading period being one of the people who put up and took down the school's American flag each day. When we took it down we had to fold it, so for a while I could correctly fold an American flag while hardly thinking about it. (I was always the one who actually folded it into a triangle while the other person just held the other end.) It's been nearly a decade since I've needed to though, so I bet I couldn't do it anymore.

7. Name something you've made in the last year.

I about two months ago I finished posting a Harry Potter fanfiction that I think is the longest single thing I've written so far. (Which is not to say that it's that long as I tend to write stories with smaller word counts than many other fanfic writers.) It's also been my most popular as far as kudos, reviews, and such go. I attribute that more to the active nature of that fandom and ship than anything else though.

8. What is your most recent personal project?

Recently I've been writing the sequel to the fanfiction I mentioned above, but I've also finished a shorter one-shot not too long ago.

9. Tell us something you think about often.

There are so many things. I love that period of time after you read a book that you loved when your thoughts are constantly drifting back to it. I'm at the tail end of that phase with the Infernal Devices and have pretty much only been reading TID fanfiction. I'm just now starting to be able to think of other things.

10. Give us something that's your favorite, but make it oddly specific.

Going back to Avatar, I love when one of the episodes starts to play and I hear Katara's opening narration. I have to say it along with her. I don't even think I'm capable of sitting quietly during those 30 seconds or so.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Reign Review: 4x06 "Love & Death"

Between knowing about the historical Darnley and maybe it was his behavior on the show, I did not like the romance that was happening between Mary and Darnley in this episode. There have been couples I don't particularly care for in the past, but as far as Mary goes, I don't think I've actively disliked one of her love interests so much before (not really liked, yes, but not disliked like I do Darnley).

Admittedly, as I write this review, I'm further than this episode, so I know some more. Still, while watching, I was very off put by it all because Darnley isn't easy to trust.

Darnley also seems like a terrible potential king. He likes showing off and impressing others more than anything, which leads him to not think about possible consequences and what would be the best option. One thing that irked me about his safe house being found is that it made him seem like he was right when in reality is own idea of staying at the party would have gone rather badly as well.

I see him acting the same way as king, getting offended and immediately doing something stupid to "prove" himself without thinking through any consequences. I don't see that ever changing, and I can easily imagine Mary having to deal with a bunch of trouble that Darnley's caused.

Leith being tempted to almost kill Luc had me very nervous. I don't know how I would have coped if Leith had gone there, but of course, this is Leith, so he saves Luc's life after all. I loved this largely because I did get legitimately worried that he would do it, and it was such a nice pay off when he didn't.

While I completely get why Leith would ask for land so that he can leave, I hope this isn't the end of Leith on the show. He's been through so much, and I'm still hoping for some sort of happy ending for him. Him disappearing after all of this wouldn't be satisfying to me.

The scenes with Elizabeth, Gideon, and Agatha are very upsetting, but I like getting to see Elizabeth connect with the little girl.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Reign Review: 4x05 "Highland Games"

In this episode, Darnley gets challenged to a boxing match in replacement of a duel. I liked Mary's insistence that Darnley approach the duel fairly, but it felt a little hypocritical when she helped him cheat later on. It's not that I don't get the position she's in, and for sure, it's no more than countless other things that characters have done in the past. My problem is more that Mary lectured Darnley on fighting fairly considering what she then does.

Emily Knox is one of those characters where you know something bad is going to happen to them and that they certainly won't deserve it. Every time she's on screen I'm worried that it'll finally be the moment when everything falls apart for her. It's only a matter of time.

Clearly, she has feelings for James now, but I'm uncertain as to how James feels about her. After what we've seen so far, I could see his feelings as being anything from "she's a good person who deserves better than all of this" to "I'm falling in love with her". Based on what we've seen so far, I don't know which side I should be leaning towards.

There seems to also be some hints of something between Greer and James, which makes me wonder even more what they're going to have play out between James and Emily.

Charles's storyline is going differently than I expected. I am happy that they're exploring the ways that becoming the ruler of a country while still a kid would be immensely stressful and even harmful. Charles has had a lot of responsibility put upon him at too young an age, and it happened to him after the shocking, tragic death of his brother.

While I did wonder if he was hurting people before, even then it was clear that he needs help, which makes it frustrating to watch the other characters, particularly Catherine and Narcisse, continue to push him.

Claude discovers that Leith is alive in this episode, and it's rather heartbreaking. Despite still considering myself a Leith/Greer shipper, I care enough about both Claude and Leith that I hate watching them go through this.

I do appreciate Luc though. He's trying to help. He was willing to get an annulment, even though it meant lying, until Narcisse made that impossible, and once that option was out, he was willing to do whatever else he could to help both Claude and Leith. He could have easily been made into a villain along the lines of his father, and I think that would have been the easy way out. I much prefer this, and while I want Claude and Leith to both be happy, I'm hoping Luc continues trying to help them and doesn't turn into a villain.

This is another storyline where I can't guess how it'll end. Will Luc somehow die, allowing Greer and Leith to be together? Will the open marriage arrangement work out? Will Leith find someone else? (Is there a part of me hoping that Leith and Greer somehow magically end up back together despite being in different countries? Yes, but I'm not actually betting on that outcome. It lives purely in my fantasies, and if it were to happen, I'd hope that Claude found happiness too.)

Friday, May 5, 2017

Book Review: Clockwork Prince and Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare

ISBNs: 1416975888 and 1406321346
Published: December 6th, 2011 and March 19th, 2013
Publisher: Simon & Schuster, Margaret K. McElderry
Received: purchased
Read from March 4th to 19th, 2017
Synopsis (of Clockwork Prince) from Goodreads:
In the magical underworld of Victorian London, Tessa Gray has at last found safety with the Shadowhunters. But that safety proves fleeting when rogue forces in the Clave plot to see her protector, Charlotte, replaced as head of the Institute. If Charlotte loses her position, Tessa will be out on the street—and easy prey for the mysterious Magister, who wants to use Tessa’s powers for his own dark ends.
With the help of the handsome, self-destructive Will and the fiercely devoted Jem, Tessa discovers that the Magister’s war on the Shadowhunters is deeply personal. He blames them for a long-ago tragedy that shattered his life. To unravel the secrets of the past, the trio journeys from mist-shrouded Yorkshire to a manor house that holds untold horrors, from the slums of London to an enchanted ballroom where Tessa discovers that the truth of her parentage is more sinister than she had imagined. When they encounter a clockwork demon bearing a warning for Will, they realize that the Magister himself knows their every move—and that one of their own has betrayed them.
Tessa finds her heart drawn more and more to Jem, but her longing for Will, despite his dark moods, continues to unsettle her. But something is changing in Will—the wall he has built around himself is crumbling. Could finding the Magister free Will from his secrets and give Tessa the answers about who she is and what she was born to do?
As their dangerous search for the Magister and the truth leads the friends into peril, Tessa learns that when love and lies are mixed, they can corrupt even the purest heart.

Review:

I read Clockwork Prince and Clockwork Princess one right after the other, so it's very difficult for me to remember where one ended and the other began. Because of that, I'm going ahead and combining my review for them both, but I am going to try to keep spoilers to the minimum, especially for Clockwork Princess.

One aspect of the Infernal Devices series that I enjoyed was the focus on how, while sexism works differently in Shadowhunter society, it's still there and greatly affects all of the female characters in the series. I read a blog post by Cassandra Clare recently that discussed how she purposefully showed different ways sexism affected women in that period through different characters, and I think that became especially prominent in this book.

In my Clockwork Angel review, I said that I strongly disliked Will. I had written that review when I was about halfway through Clockwork Prince, so I knew I was going to have to discuss how my feelings had changed after the first book. Here's the thing: I did come to like Will in the last two books. He was a great person who I loved in the last two books. I do get why he acted how he did in the first book, and I appreciate that there was a reason for it as opposed to it just being how he is. However, I will still say that how he acted in the first book was playing into a trope that I flat out despise in male characters. Because of that, there's a part of me that's still annoyed by it purely because of that strong distaste that I already held for the trope, and it makes me feel a little annoyed with the first book despite what happens later.

The friendship that develops between Magnus and Will was a highlight of Clockwork Princes especially. We know, perhaps more from the Mortal Instruments than this series, how Magnus has always been treated by Shadowhunters, and to see his surprise when Will doesn't treat him like that was nice.

Charlotte and Henry are another favorite of mine on the relationship front. They're both endearing characters. I mentioned in my Clockwork Angel review that most of the characters felt very flat but Henry was an exception. I will say that this book turned that around, with all of the characters feeling far more fleshed out, which led to me feeling far more attached to them than I had after the first book. Because Henry had been one of the few characters I was drawn to during the first book, however, I feel like I have a special soft spot for him, and Charlotte I just love because she puts up with so much to be taken seriously despite being the best leader in this entire series. The best couples are always the ones where you love both characters separately and as a couple, and Charlotte and Henry fit that description for me.

Another couple that surprised me in this book was Sophie and Gideon. They were also adorable. I appreciated that Gideon immediately shattered what I may have thought about him from what we hear secondhand in the first book. I also absolutely adored the way Sophie spoke her mind to him.

The love triangle between Jem, Tessa, and Will is also at its most dramatic in Clockwork Prince (even more so than in Clockwork Princess I think). I really like how the love triangle plays out in comparison to most love triangles. One aspect of love triangles that annoys me the most is the constant fighting and such between the two love interests, so Jem and Will's deep love for each other provides a nice change. While it's somewhat heart breaking to see Will hide his own love for Tessa because of how much he wants both Jem and Tessa to be happy, it also manages to be heart warming at the same time. It's just really nice to see how strong Jem and Will's friendship is and to know that Will cares far more for Jem and Tessa's happiness than his own. (Plus, you see enough to know that Jem would do the same if their roles were reversed and he knew about Will's feelings.)

There are a million and one things I could say about every relationship within the Will, Jem, Tessa triangle, but I'm going to refrain myself. Otherwise I'd never finish writing this review.

Book Review: Women of the Smokies by Courtney Lix

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Parks and Recreation Review: 1x06 "Rock Show"

I can now say that I'm on season two of Parks and Rec, even if season one was only six episodes long.

At the end of season one, I can say that I'm not a fan of Andy. He annoys me. I'm hoping that he becomes a more complex character over time. Most of the characters are pretty shallow at the end of the season one, and considering it's only six episodes so far, that's not surprising. Right now, though, I'd label Andy as the most annoying.

Leslie's business meeting/date was one of the most awkward things. If I were Leslie, I feel as if I would no longer be on speaking terms with her mom. Essentially everything she does is something that I feel like Leslie should get far angrier about than she does, especially considering how frequently these things happen.

We meet Tom's wife Wendy, who comes out of nowhere, in this episode. While looking at the episode synopsis and such to help jog my memory, I noticed that Jama Williamson, who plays Wendy, was born in Evansville, which got me very excited since I'm from the same area of Indiana. (We don't have that many notable people from around here.) I've also read enough to know that she shows up again, and I'm excited about it for that reason alone.

I did wonder how much the story of the pit would carry over into season two because I thought the show might diverge into something else entirely, but it seems, at the very least, that the pit story will be continuing.

While I am enjoying the show so far, I am hoping to get a bit more depth from the characters over the course of season two, especially since it's longer. I think that would help me get into it more.

Reign Review: 4x04 "Playing With Fire"

Mary and Greer's vacation in this episode reminded me of how thankful I am that Greer has stuck around for this season. I really thought that she would go back to France at the beginning of the season, and back at the end of season three, I didn't think she'd be making an appearance in season four at all. If I'm thankful for one thing this season, it's that Greer is still around. It's reassuring that Mary still has one of her ladies in waiting.

Darnley shows up and proposes pretty early in the episode. No surprise there. This was the first episode where I stopped to wonder if we would be seeing their wedding this season. Now that I've seen the later episodes I know the answer to that question, but at the time I thought it might be the series finale.

Here's something I wrote right after seeing this episode, and I'm going to leave it as is since my perception is different now, having seen later episodes: They're dropping little doses of Knox into each episode despite nothing all that significant happening with him for a while. I wonder what the situation with Knox is going to lead to. Something big has to happen with him before the end of the season. My best guess is that it will involve his wife considering how that's being set up.

During this episode, I was still completely clueless as to who Mary's anonymous source was. I don't feel like we were given enough hints to even begin to guess.

After Charles took off with Bianca I was worried that she was dead, so it was nice to see that that wasn't the case. This was the first episode were I felt reassured that Charles wasn't off doing something violent, which made me feel a lot better.

Claude is forced to marry Narcisse's son. I've never been a big fan of Narcisse, so it's nice to see that his son is a lot different than he is. That difference seems to be genuine, not an act, too, which is refreshing on this show. I don't think we've gotten a new character on the show for a while who comes across as having as good of intentions as Luc seems too. It makes me worry that there's going to be a reveal later on that he's not who he seems to be.

I never expected Leith to be alive, but I am beyond thrilled to see that he is. Leith has always been one of my favorite characters, and while the timing of his return is terrible, I'm happy about it. Actually, his return is a bit conflicting. I've always shipped Greer and Leith, but while I never liked Greer with Castleroy, I had come to accept Leith with Claude. I can't say that I enjoyed them together quite as much as Leith and Greer, but I liked them well enough. I wanted them to both be happy at any rate, and it was clear that that was only going to happen with each other.

Now Leith has lost both Greer and Claude, and that's really upsetting. Leith is such a good person, and he deserves to be happy. I don't know how they're going to do that at this point, but I hope that they do.

Watching Elizabeth put up with the bluntly sexist Maxford was frustrating (because of him) as much as it was enjoyable (because of Elizabeth). I loved her smirk when she successfully shot the deer. I also feel like this is such a thing that Elizabeth (and Mary) would have had to deal with frequently and it hasn't always been quite as overt on the show as it likely was in real life.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Naruto Shippuden Review: Episodes 381-385

History within fictional worlds is often fascinating to me. That's why I loved learning that the Ten Tails was actually the source of all the world's chakra.

It gives us a reason for the tailed beasts' existence, but even more than that, it explains why they're important to the world despite being presented as monsters earlier in the series. We've seen the monster thing turning around thanks to Naruto, and I think this furthers it.

I'm also struck by how much the story of the woman eating the fruit from the tree reminds me of the fall in the Bible. If there's a similar story in Japanese mythology, then I wasn't able to find anything about it. (I did look after watching that episode.) I really do wonder where the inspiration for that came from. I don't necessarily believe it came from the Bible, but the parallels caught my attention.

Madara's statement that the Shinju would bloom within fifteen minutes doesn't feel all that accurate while watching the episodes, but that's to be expected with Naruto.

As I said before, I enjoy learning about the history of the world, so I liked getting another peek at Hashirama's past. This flashback made him seem even more like Naruto, which is a parallel that I appreciate, and I liked seeing the Kage coming together for the first time, especially when we've been seeing the present Kage fighting together as well.

To a certain extent, Naruto actively seeking out the "good" in everyone he fights can be a little annoying to watch play out again and again, but I also believe that it's a crucial character trait of his that I have to accept, if not embrace.

I liked what Naruto and Obito said to each other in 385 and how their outlooks were compared, with Obito believing he was doing what a Hokage would do and Naruto insisting that he was taking everyone's freewill away and would therefore never be accepted.

Monday, May 1, 2017

HESS Interview Process

Yesterday, I wrote about moving to Japan. While my ultimate goal was working in Japan, I did also apply to work for HESS, which owns a chain of English schools in Taiwan. Here is a post describing that experience.

On HESS's website, they make you go through a checklist before you're able to access the application. The checklist is essentially a short series of questions that are meant to make you think about whether or not you actually want to work for HESS. It's obvious what the "right" answers are, and nothing about this part is complicated though I did think it was interesting that it's necessary for reaching the application.

After the checklist, you'll get a button to take you to the actual application. Since I can no longer see my application, it's difficult for me to recall the specific information that it asks for. You will want to make sure that you have references (and I think a reference letter) that you can upload to the application. I think I also uploaded my college transcripts and a cover letter. HESS also requires that you provide them with pictures of yourself.

After submitting the application, I got an email from HESS asking me to answer more questions through a Google form. This was shorter than the application but still detailed. I'm not sure if they eliminate people before this step, but because HESS has you put preferred location on your first application, this part of the process gets more specific about what area you would like to work in.

Not long after I completed the Google form, I got an email from HESS asking to schedule a Skype interview. I really liked their process for scheduling interviews. I could see all of the available interview times, and I clicked on the one that worked best, which automatically scheduled that interview time for me.

In the email I received about the interview, I was told to prepare a lesson plan based on a topic given to me in the email. I did this. However, it turns out that I didn't need to, which I'll explain in a moment.

On the scheduled date of the interview, I was ready, if nervous. Then, Skype wouldn't connect. The interviewer tried several times; I tried calling them; and then they messaged me via Skype asking if they could call over the phone. I, of course, said yes, and the interviewer, after verifying my phone number from the application, called over the phone.

I'm not sure how completing the interview over the phone instead of Skype changed the process. I didn't do much talking during the interview though. Most of it was the interviewer explaining HESS to me and telling me what would happen if I got a job. There wasn't much "selling myself" at all. While I had been nervous prior to the interview, I was significantly less so after realizing that I wouldn't be saying that much.

While I didn't time it, I feel like I talked for maybe fifteen minutes during the hour and a half interview. I was asked about the lesson plan I had created, and instead of having to teach it like the email had implied, I just had to explain what I'd put in my lesson plan. I have no idea if this was because the interview was over the phone or if they would have done this anyway. I also had to answer a question about what I would do if a student misbehaved in class and continued to misbehave even after being redirected several times.

Those were the only times, at least that I can remember, where the call actually felt like an interview. I feel like most of their decision was based on my application itself and that they likely accept most applicants. I can't confirm this of course, but it's certainly what it felt like.

Almost a week after the interview, I got an email from HESS saying that they would like to offer me a position. There was a button in the email that I had to click in order to confirm said position. As I had taken a different job in Japan, I emailed them back to think them but declined the offer.

They did email me several days after the initial offer with a reminder to confirm (as I hadn't yet while I waited to hear back about the job that I did accept). In that email they said something along the lines of, "If you've already accepted, please ignore this email. If you've rejected the offer, we'll record your answer shortly," so I'm not sure how often they go through the responses and figure out who accepted and who didn't (or how many applications they have going at a time).

Sunday, April 30, 2017

April Wrap-Up and May TBR (2017)

I'm Moving to Japan!

This has to be the biggest announcement I've ever made on the blog. In fact, I think it's the biggest announcement I've ever had period, unless you count getting into college, but that seems small in comparison. It's actually weird to type it out because I'm still having trouble processing that it's real but:

I'm moving to Japan!

I'll be working in Japan as an English teacher. While I know the exact city I'll be living in, I can't reveal that online yet.

I first started considering teaching English abroad after graduation during my freshman year of college, and it was something I was looking at on and off over the years that followed. I've been seriously making plans, applying, etc. for months now, but I didn't say anything online. That was largely because I was convinced it would fall through and wouldn't actually happen, and I wanted as few people to know as possible if that were the case.

Even as far as people I actually know are concerned, I wasn't telling many people for a long time. My family were really the only people who knew at first. I waited a while before even bringing it up with my friends.

Then, my last semester of college (which ended in December), I needed to get recommendation letters, so just about every single education professor and some of the English professors knew by the end end of the semester. My mentor teacher during student teaching also found out and was kind enough to be one of my references. Even all of the student teachers found out at the "party" they threw for us when we finished student teaching.

As it spread throughout the people I know, I felt an increasing sense of pressure because it meant more people who would know if I "failed" because, at this point, I hadn't actually gotten a job yet. I was just applying. Hence not telling the Internet and adding to my nerves.

Now I can now say that I have a job. Actually, I got one more than a month ago, yet I'm still struggling to believe that it's reality. The contract has been signed, and my working visa is being processed as we speak. I'll be sharing more about the process of getting the job in the future. This announcement was only meant to be a "just so you know, I'm moving to Japan" post and is already longer than I expected.

I'm incredibly excited. It's going to be a huge change. So far, the company I'm working for has been really great and helpful. I haven't spoken to anyone at the specific school I'll be at yet, but I'm excited for everything to come. While there are sure to be difficult times, it will, without a doubt, be an experience.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Dragons: Race to the Edge Review: 4x12 and 4x13 "Shell Shocked: Parts 1 and 2"

Watching Astrid and Hiccup try to hide their relationship from everyone was amusing and led to an adorable scene. My favorite part about them in this episode was them confronting the fact that they can't let their relationship change how they treat each other, particularly when they're in dangerous positions.

One of the things I love so much about Hiccup and Astrid is their dynamics both as friends and a couple. It was nice getting to see them openly discuss needing to treat each other the same as before and growing together in that way. The fact that that could be explored in the finale is possibly the biggest reason why I'm thankful that they got together before the final episode of the season.

Often I can more or less figure out how a Race to the Edge episode is going to go before it's over, but even I wondered just a little about whether Viggo or Ryker was telling the truth. They're both so untrustworthy, and when you have little to go on but their word, you just don't want to trust either of them. It was a great way to establish conflict for the finale.

I wasn't expecting the season to end with Viggo's and Ryker's deaths. Of course, we have thought characters have died before only to see them alive later, but it would undoubtedly be difficult for Viggo to have survived falling into a volcano that erupted not long after. For right now, I'll lean towards him actually being dead. Ryker actually seems like the more likely one to still be alive to me, but I still think he's actually dead.

After watching episode three of this season, I thought that Krogan might make an appearance in the next season. After Viggo's and Ryker's deaths, I'm even more suspicious that Krogan might be playing an important role next season as a villain. It's largely a guess though, so we'll see.

We end the season with the rest of the group finding out about Hiccup and Astrid's relationship, which was a cute moment, and then the volcano erupts, which was an unexpected cliff hanger. I'm not sure what to expect from that in season five, but I suppose we'll just have to wait and see.