Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Life Post: Sick

For once, it's only been a couple of weeks since I last posted.

After Halloween, I expected things to calm down since the parties were all over, and for the most part, that turned out to be the case. I've had a lot less to do the past couple of weeks, which turned out to be very good because I got sick not long after Halloween.

It was unsurprising because a number of illnesses have been floating around. Though we can't really tell you if they're the same thing or not. When I went to the doctor, he basically said, "There are several things it could be, but it's no use running tests to see which it is. Here's some medicine." So, I basically took four different pills that were for different illnesses, and most of my friends who've been sick got the same response from the doctor. Some of our symptoms are similar and some different, so there's no telling really whether we've had the same thing or not.

I took the medicine the doctor gave me, and I felt a lot better while taking it, though my symptoms would come back quickly once it started to wear off. I had a lot of chest pain and a sore throat.

Now that I've finished the medicine the doctor gave me, I feel better than before but still stick. I've been taking over-the-counter cold medicine, which seems to help with most of the symptoms, like pain and congestion.

Yesterday, I got a little freaked out. My throat had been very sore and swollen, but that had mostly gone away. Then, I taught two classes in a row yesterday and my voice started going during them. It wasn't painful like it had been, yet it was much harder for me to talk than it had been when it had been much sorer. Today, I have more classes than yesterday, so I can only hope that my voice holds up for it.

Things do seem to be getting better though, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that everything will be fine soon. And then I can hopefully avoid getting sick for the rest of the winter.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Book Review: Eyewitness Testimonies: Appeals From The A-bomb Survivors by Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation

Published: July 15, 2003
Publisher: Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation
Read: June 4-5, 2018
Synopsis from Goodreads:
On August 6, 1945, the 350,000 people of Hiroshima experienced the cruel tragedy of the world's first atomic bombing. The conditions inflicted by that bomb transcend the capacity of words and even pictures to convey. Only those who were here at the time can know the full reality, and the survivors of that horror know from their experience that nuclear weapons are incompatible with human life on Earth. Many have spent their lives appealing constantly, "Never again! Nuclear weapons must be banned and eliminated." In this book, we present the thoughts, feelings, and memories of fifteen survivors (two of whom are now deceased). All have taken part in peace studies programs held by this Foundation, telling their A-bomb experiences to students who come to Hiroshima on school excursions. In addition, because so many Koreans and other non-Japanese were exposed to the bomb, we present a chapter contributed by an expert in that field.

Review:

This book is exactly what it sounds like. It's a collection of stories from people who survived the atomic bombing in Hiroshima during World War II. There's no way their stories couldn't have been powerful.

As many of the survivors have now passed away, it's incredibly important that their stories be collected while they're alive, and I'm glad that there's a book like this to serve as a record. (I bought this at the museum in Hiroshima where you can also watch countless recorded interviews with survivors that are perhaps even more powerful as you can hear their emotions as they speak.) I think this book holds tremendous value, and I'm thankful to have picked it up at the souvenir shop.

Many of the stories contain similar details (as you could imagine), but there is also a large diversity in the stories, as some were farther from the epicenter than others, were different ages, were with people or alone, etc. As you read, you feel as if you're getting an idea of the scope of the devastation as you read now just the survivor's story but the story of those around them too.

It's a heartbreaking book, but it's an incredibly important book.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Book Review: Relentless by Karen Lynch

Published: December 26, 2013
Publisher: self-published
Read from March 10 to April 3, 2018
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Sara Grey’s world shattered ten years ago when her father was brutally murdered. Now at seventeen, she is still haunted by memories of that day and driven by the need to understand why it happened. She lives a life full of secrets and her family and friends have no idea of the supernatural world she is immersed in or of Sara’s own very powerful gift.
In her quest for answers about her father’s death, Sara takes risks that expose her and her friends to danger and puts herself into the sights of a sadistic vampire. On the same fateful night she meets Nikolas, a warrior who turns Sara’s world upside down and is determined to protect her even if it’s the last thing she wants.
Sara’s life starts to spin out of control as she is hunted by an obsessed vampire, learns that her friends have secrets of their own and reels from the truth about her own ancestry. Sara has always been fiercely independent but in order to survive now she must open herself to others, to reveal her deepest secrets. And she must learn to trust the one person capable of breaking down the walls around her.

Review:

I read this book for free as part of the Gods and Mortals anthology, and I disliked it as much as I disliked the other books I've reviewed from that same anthology.

The writing in Relentless feels like it's attempting to be formal in a way that's out of place. A lot of phrases were written out that would have sounded more natural as a contraction. I felt like the book was trying too hard, but it was unnatural and took me out of the story.

The main character, Sara, only has friends who are boys because she tells us that girls don't like her. She then proceeds to insult all girls as a monolithic group, so you understand right away why most girls aren't lining up to befriend her. Comments like that from a character always put me off a story. The "I'm not like most girls" bit is always annoying, but outright insulting all other girls makes it even worse. It's always strange to see it done in a book whose target audience is teenage girls. Are the girls who read this book all supposed to be exceptions to Sara's judgmental comments? Or are they supposed to read about someone who mocks them?

Mohiri are the supernatural race that this book centers around. They apparently received their powers from Archangel Michael, and these powers were given to them specifically to hunt demons. This backstory immediately made me think of the Shadowhunter Chronicles, where Shadowhunters were given powers from the another angel, Ithuriel, to fight demons.

However, the Mohiri are meant to be half demon and half human; Shadowhunters, on the other hand, are half angel and half human. I'm not including this in the review to accuse the author of plagiarism; I'm bringing it up because I couldn't help but compare the two series as I was reading this one.

There were a number of tropes employed in the book that made me uncomfortable as well. I won't bother going into detail about them but will briefly list some of them to help others be aware of them before they read (while also acknowledging that I may have missed some):
  • Sara and Roland are chased by men who are all described as German or Middle Eastern. (How interesting that they can identify some of them by a specific country but no country is ever named in regards to the "Middle Eastern" men.) At one point, one of the men, who is described as Middle Eastern, says this: "In my country, a female is beaten for interfering in the business of men."
  • Men constantly belittle Sara because she's a girl. I don't think there was one male character in this book who didn't do it repeatedly.
  • Nikolas barges into Sara's room when she's only wearing a towel and doesn't care. He knows she has just gotten out of the shower and could easily be changing, but he doesn't knock or care at all about respecting her privacy.
  • There's a supernatural creature called a Hale witch, who is from Africa (no specific place in Africa is given) and only uses what's described as dark magic. There's a lot of emphasis placed on the Hale witch's black skin.
  • Almost every Mohiri and werewolf in the story is male; there are no women with a significant role anywhere in this book except Sara.
To be quite frank, I'm rather disgusted by this book. While I disliked many of the books in the Gods and Mortals anthology, this one had a number of particularly terrible tropes in it that I cannot believe someone thought were okay. I wouldn't recommend this to anyone.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Life Post: Reverse Culture Shock and Happy Halloween!

A lot has happened in the four months since I last posted one of these updates.

I passed my second anniversary of living in Japan. Just the other day it hit me for the first time how long I've been there. It hadn't quite felt real until that moment. Sometimes I still seem to forget that I'm living in Japan. The fact that my life here has become normal to me adds to that. I just forget what country I am a lot of the time, and then it'll suddenly hit me all over again.

In August, I visited the U.S. for the first time since I left in 2017. It was kind of strange yet not strange at all. I don't really know how to describe it. In many ways, coming back to Japan felt more comforting and like a return to the familiar than being in the U.S. did. In the States, the TSA was super pushy, and that was my overall feelings about being there: People were more aggressive. And I didn't like it.

Don't get me wrong, there were a lot of reasons I liked being in the U.S. It's just easier there for me because everyone's speaking my native language, I understand the culture on a deeper level, and whatnot. Still, I feel like the U.S.'s bad points all stood out more than anything, including how just straight up unsafe I feel there compared to in Japan.

I'm going back again for Christmas in December. Maybe I'll have even more thoughts about it then.

Because Halloween is a few days, we've been celebrating recently at work. We always have two Halloween parties: one for adult students and one of kid students. For privacy reasons, I won't be going into detail about either party here, but the kids' party was just today, so I'm a little tired from that. I helped with games, which was probably easier than helping with the craft, so I can't complain. The kids were also all adorable in their costumes.

I dressed up as a bat. All I did was cut some wings out of fabric and safety pin them to a black jacket. I also made some ears out of black wire that I bobby pinned into my hair. It didn't look the best, but it was the first time I've really made my own costume, so I guess it was a decent enough attempt.

This week is actually Halloween week at work, so we're "dressing up" all week, though I'm really only wearing a cat ear headband at work. It's fun though. I also put some fun Halloween nail stickers (colorful ghosts) on for the kids' party, and I don't really want to take them off.

I hope everyone reading this who celebrates Halloween has a nice holiday! I'll try to write another update soon. If I did this more often, maybe I could actually get into what day-to-day life is like for me in Japan... We'll see.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Book Review: Blood Debt by Nancy Straight


Published: July 15th, 2012
Publisher: self-published
Read from January 28 to February 5, 2018
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Her whole life, it had just been the two of them. Before her mother’s last breath, she gave Camille the information she had craved her entire life: the identity of her father. Daring to contact him, Camille was welcomed by an entire family she never knew existed. But nothing comes without a price, as she discovers when her family claims a legendary heritage tracing back to a centaur touched by Zeus.
As she learns the secrets of her Centaur bloodline, she is drawn into a forbidden love with Drake. Her life may be the blood debt required to pay for her mother’s transgressions. The same person who once held her mother captive, and forced her into decades of hiding, now controls Camille. Her only chance is to seek a piece of her mother’s past that will win her freedom and the life she desperately wants.

Review:

I was intrigued by this book because it's about centaurs. Books with centaurs front and center aren't common, at least that I've seen, and I had no idea what to expect. As far as I can tell, very little to none of the centaur lore in this book is from actual myth, as the centaurs in the book are nothing like what you think of when you think of centaurs. In fact, pretty quickly on, I figured it would be easier to just call the beings in the books something else because they aren't mythological centaurs in any sense of the word.

Just don't go into this book expecting to read about centaurs. They're beings entirely of the author's creation.

The writing in the book felt off to me. The main character Camille's emotions change frequently. She meets her father for the first time at the beginning of the book, and she very quickly fluctuates back-and-forth between thinking something is suspicious to being entirely at ease with her new family. It didn't make sense and left me unsure how I was supposed to feel about them as a reader.

There were also moments where the tense would suddenly change from past to present, which was disorienting.

The backstory of the centaurs should have been a lot more interesting than it was. We're told repeatedly that the centaurs are matriarchal. The head female of any given group is supposed to be in charge, but over and over again throughout the book, we see the men controlling everything while they're wives do absolutely nothing. It completely contradicted the matriarchal part of their culture and made it seem like they were lying about who actually controls their society. Something that could have been interesting if done well, but that, instead, felt like it was an idea that wasn't followed through on properly, which left the world building feeling shallow.

Part of Camille's backstory is that she grew up around murder and a lot of other crime, but that didn't feel genuine either. Nothing about her characterization or what happens to her throughout the book hints that she faced anything traumatic in her past.

There were a lot of other small things that irked me. Camille's blood apparently "calls" to Drake, which makes him struggle not to touch her. That felt very Twilight.

The sentence, "She's got the complexion of a Mayan goddess," was also in the book, and it's used to describe a white girl. I shouldn't have to elaborate on everything wrong with that sentence.

Overall, most of my problems with the book came down to shallow development of both the world and the characters. It was hard to be invested in the story when I was told things that were never actually shown. This book felt like it had potential that wasn't fleshed out enough.