Thursday, December 31, 2015

Life Post: The Last Post of 2015

This is really just a short post to mark the end of the year. I'm feeling too tired to write something long and drawn out or well thought out for that matter. This is just happening at the last minute.

This year was definitely a busy one, and I think I neglected the blog a bit because of that. There was so much going on with school, but next semester looks like it's going to be more manageable, which means I'm determined to be a better blogger. I'm also starting several other new things in the new year that have me excited. Their not resolutions so much as they are continuations of things that are happening in January because it's convenient.

2016 will be the year I graduate college. Maybe I'll find a job, but I won't jinx myself. It should be an exciting and anxiety-filled year if nothing else. It will be fun to see where I wind up come next January. Because at this point, I don't even know where I'll be living come the end of the year, and it's the first time in my life that I can say that.

While I'm here, I did the Christmas Songs Book tag over on Youtube. It's late, but maybe you'll be interested anyway.

End of Year Book Survey 2015

I'm celebrating the last day of 2015 by doing Jamie over at The Perpetual Page Turner's end of the year book survey for what I believe is the third year in a row. I really enjoy the way this survey forces me to stop and think about all of the books I read each year. It helps jog my memory about a lot of great books, and sometimes I feel shocked that some books were only read in January of this year because it feels like so much longer.

2015 Reading Stats
Number of books you read: 87 (Technically 86 as I write this, but I expect to finish a current read before midnight tonight.)
Number of Re-Reads: 8 (Just the Harry Potter series and Pride and Prejudice unless I've mistakenly forgotten one. I didn't actually finish the seventh before the end of the year, but I'm going to count it anyway.)
Genre you read the most from: Non-fiction seems to have at least tied with each genre of fiction this year. I'd estimate that it made up somewhere near a fourth of what I read, which is interesting to me. While the majority of those books were great, I really feel like I've been slacking on reading fiction lately, and I want to fix that in 2016. I think it happened because this past year has left me feeling kind of down when it comes to fiction. More of what I read felt disappointing compared to the norm.

Best in Books
1. Best book you read in 2015?
Fiction: The Shadow Cabinet by Maureen Johnson (the third book in the Shades of London Series)
Non-fiction (I admit that I was only able to narrow it down to six on my own, so beyond that, I choose the one with the highest collective rating. I wanted to list them all.): Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick

2. Book you were excited about and thought you were going to love more but didn't?
Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon. Okay. Here's the thing. When I requested this book for review, I hadn't heard any hype yet. Then I read the first rave review I saw for it a couple days before reading, and more and more seemed to pop up while I was reading. I've never in my life been a victim of something being hyped up too much. Hype just never seems to bother me when reading, but I think it finally did. I really, really enjoyed this book. It was an incredibly good book. It just didn't feel like it lived up to everything I was hearing about it, and it left it feeling somewhat inadequate as I read. I feel terrible for that though, and I wonder how things would be different if I hadn't heard all the things I did.

3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read?
Unfair: The New Science of Criminal Injustice by Adam Benforado. So much of what I love about non-fiction is its ability to make you think. Fiction can have that quality too, but I love non-fiction books that accomplish it. I was lucky enough to read so many non-fiction books that made me think about things I hadn't before this year. I'm choosing this one because I think it has some really surprising information in it. This was one of those books where I knew the information on some level, but I'd never had it laid out for me like it was or had it all connected together in my head and thought about the implications.

4. Book you pushed the most people to read (and they did)?
I don't know about the "and they did" part. This definitely goes back to all of the amazing non-fiction books I've read this year because I want to make people read most of them. I want to talk about as wide a variety of books as I can in this post, so I'm going to pick one I haven't picked so far: Dear Leader: My Escape from North Korea by Jang Jin-sung is the story of one North Korean defector. Unlike Nothing to Envy (mentioned above), in which six defectors stories are told by an American journalist, this book is a defector writing his own story (although translated into English by Shirley Lee). It's a powerful story, and unique from Nothing to Envy in another way too. Nothing to Envy tells the stories of "normal" North Koreans, whereas Jang Jin-sung was a North Korean elite (who still faces personal threats from North Korea today). I think getting to read a first hand experience of how North Koreans are manipulated by their government and the terrible events that happen in the country is very important.

5. Best series you started in 2015? Best sequel of 2015? Best series ender of 2015?
Series I started: Lumiere by Jacqueline Garlick. I went crazy about this book back when I read it. I was hesitant to even read it because I was in the middle of too many series, but I'm glad I did. It was fantastic, which was something I really needed considering my relationship with fiction this year. It was such a fun mixture of fantasy and steampunk and romance.
Best sequel: The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson. I know I've already mentioned the third book in the series, but this is the second. I become more in love with this series with each book. I can't believe it took me so long to read the second two. (The first was featured in my 2014 end of year survey.) I'm waiting impatiently for the fourth book now.
Best series ender: Time for an admission: Roseblood by Lelia Eye is the only series ender that I read this year. I'm just having this realization now. That's terrible because I'm in the progress of reading far too many series. I need to make it finish significantly more of them in 2016. Plenty of them have already been released in their entirety.

6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2015?
I would like to list a lot of non-fiction authors here to be honest. However, I also don't typically like to declare someone a new favorite author until I've read more than one of their books. The only authors I seem to have read more than one book of in 2015 are J.K. Rowling and Jane Austen, both authors I had read previously. Despite that, I'm going to choose Kenji Yoshino, whose book Speak Now: Marriage Equality on Trial was a very powerful book to read.

7. Best book from a genre you don't typically read/was out of your comfort zone?
Grace's Guide: The Art of Pretending to Be a Grown-up by Grace Helbig almost feels like cheating since it's written by a Youtuber I watch frequently. Of course I would eventually read her book. However, I don't read a lot of humor, so I think it can count.

8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?
There will probably start to be repeated answers from here on out. For this one, two different books come to mind, both of which I've already mentioned. I'm going to choose The Shadow Cabinet by Maureen Johnson.

9. Book you read in 2015 that you are most likely to re-read next year?
Like I said, I don't do re-reads often. I'm re-reading Harry Potter, but I highly doubt I'll re-read them again within the next year. Maybe though. I also want to re-read The Hunger Games trilogy after I re-read Harry Potter, but I didn't read those this year.

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2015?
In 2013, my choice was The Name of the Star, the first Shades of London book. I've talked many times (almost every time I bring them up) that I love the covers, even though they changed them after the first book. Both versions of the first book are gorgeous.

Since I chose that series before though, I'll choose Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon. It's pretty much exactly what I would describe my favorite book covers to be.

11. Most memorable character of 2015?
I have to go back to the Shades of London series. More specifically, I need to talk about Stephen. Because when I read the first book, I liked Stephen, but I pretty much just liked Stephen. He was a good character to have in the story and everything, but I didn't think much about the character when I thought of the book later on. Then I read the second and third book, and suddenly, he's one of my favorite characters in the series. Stephen becomes such a wonderful character in the later books I think. When both Rory and the readers get to know him evne more, he becomes very compelling. I think part of the reason he's so memorable to me is that development over multiple books.

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2015?
It's some of the non-fiction books that come to mind when I think about this. Quite a number of them were pretty powerful. I'm going to choose Speak Now: Marriage Equality on Trial by Kenji Yoshino because it's such a touching book and really got to me.

13. Most thought-provoking/life-changing book of 2015?
Arab and Jew: Wounded Spirits in a Promised Land by David K. Shipler. I talked about this in my wrap-up/TBR video that will be up in a couple days, and I'm sure I'll talk about it in my review. But The Palestine/Israeli conflict is one that I've known about for a long time and had a limited knowledge of, but it's always mystified me. I knew it was complicated, and I could never quite make sense of it. I don't think this book helped me make sense of it, but it did provide me with far more information than I've ever had about the conflict. It helped me think about it more deeply. It was a type of book that I very much wanted to read and now finally have.

14. Book you can't believe you waited until 2015 to finally read?
The second Shades of London book by Maureen Johnson. Why didn't I make it priority to read it sooner after I finished the first book? It made me fall so much more in love with the series (which I already enjoyed immensely).

15. Favorite passage/quote from a book you read in 2015?
I know there were a number of these, a portion of which I posted in other places online. I really need to collect my favorite quotes somehow because I never know what they all were come times like these. Here are a few I can come up with (all non-fiction because they've stuck with me the most):

"North Korean exiles are a living testament that there does exist a difference between freedom and tyranny. Their stories are not merely a vehicle to evoke pity. They cry for justice on behalf of all those who have died without a voice and who have been buried with the world as their dumb witness. Their insistent voices are the triumph of humanity, having survived a brutal struggle with a despot." - Dear Leader: My Escape from North Korea by Jang Jin-sung, translated by Shirley Lee

"Someday in our future it may be possible for women everywhere not to be restricted to those roles society deems natural, God-given, or appropriately feminine. A woman will not need to be disguised as a man to go outside, to climb a tree, or to make money. She will not need to make an effort to resemble a man, or to think like one. Instead, she can speak a language that men will want to understand. She will be free to wear a suit or a skirt or something entirely different. She will not count as three-quarters  of a man, and her testimony will not be worth half of a man's. She will be recognized as someone's sister, mother, and daughter. And maybe, someday, her identity will not be confined to how she relates to a brother, a son, or a father. Instead, she will be recognized as an individual, whose life holds value only in itself." - The Underground Girls of Kabul: In Search of a Hidden Resistance in Afghanistan by Jenny Nordberg

I'll force myself to stop there even though there a quite a few others I want to add...

16. Shortest and longest book you read in 2015?
Shortest: A Student's Guide to Liberal Learning by James V. Schall. This thing is just long enough to be considered an actual book instead of a pamphlet. It's also a textbook for one of the classes you have to take your first semester at my school.
Longest: The Broadview Anthology of British Literature: Concise Volume B edited by Joseph Laurence Black

17. Book that shocked you the most.

Without You, There is No Us: My Time with the Sons of North Korea's Elite by Suki Kim, which is about a Korean American who ends up teaching English to college-aged boys in North Korea's capital Pyongyang. This was the first book on North Korea that I read, and as it obvious from the amount of books on it that I read afterwards, it really stuck with me. Somehow, even though you know to expect the worst of North Korea, North Korea still manages to be shocking.

18. OTP of the year (you will go down with this ship).
Rory and Stephen. Rory and Stephen. Rory and Stephen. After reading the first Shades of London book, I didn't ship them. I still don't know if I missed massive signs or what while reading it, but wow, by the end of the second book I desperately needed them together. That's part of the reason why I need the fourth book so badly. I need them to sort their feelings out as quickly as possible.

19. Favorite non-romantic relationship of 2015.
I'm really upset about how much I'm struggling with this. The fact that I read more non-fiction than fiction and the fact that most of the fiction I read focused on romance, I'm having trouble pulling out other relationships to choose. I don't want to go with Shades of London again... I'm gonna go ahead and cheat. I'm choosing Harry, Ron, and Hermione (as a trio, I'm going to say Ron and Hermione's romance doesn't count) since I'm re-reading the series.

I talk about how much I love good friendships in fiction, and typically, I would rather read about a great friendship than a romance. Here's hoping I manage to find more amazing friendships next year than I did in 2015.

20. Favorite book you read in 2015 from an author you've read previously?
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen. It was one of my favorites of her books and the last one I needed to read.

21. Best book you read in 2015 that you read based solely on a recommendation from somebody else/peer pressure?
This Star Won't Go Out by Esther Earl was a big book in the Nerdfighter community that I had to read it, and I'm very glad that I did.

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2015.
I probably talked about this last year at least, but I don't really get crushes on book characters that often. I tend to get too caught up in shipping them with each other, and this year is no different.

23. Best 2015 debut you read this year?
I haven't talked about The Amber Project by J.N. Chaney, which was a great apocalyptic/dystopian book that I read this year.

24. Best worldbuilding/most vivid setting you read this year?

The world of Pria from The Perfect Outcast by Melissa Ott Hansen since I read it back in January. The world was so vivid and created such a strong impression on me that I was shocked to see that it had been nearly a year since I read it. The society in that book was fantastic as far as dystopian societies go.

25. Book that put a smile on your face/was the most FUN to read?
The Shadowhunter's Codex by Cassandra Clare and Joshua Lewis is a companion book to the Mortal Instruments series. It is meant to be the Codex that shadowhunters use within the series, specifically Clary's copy. Clary has taken notes and drawn throughout it, and Jace and Simon have both taken it to write notes in it as well (which often involve them insulting each other). Plus, there's a bit that Magnus is supposed to have written about why people become shadowhunters. To be honest, it wasn't as fun as it could have been. A lot of the notes didn't feel genuine. You're left wondering why they wrote so much down when they could have just talked to each other. I would have appreciated the notes being more believable as notes. Still, I love the Mortal Instruments and the characters (which did make the notes fun as well), so I enjoyed the book and actually getting to look at the Codex. 

26. Book that made you cry or nearly cry in 2015?
Dear Leader: My Escape from North Korea by Jang Jin-sung, and I don't think I have to explain why.

27. Hidden gem of the year.
The majority of what I read were lesser known books, including several self published books. I'm going to go back to The Amber Project by J.N. Chaney.

28. Book that crushed your soul?
I don't know about crushing my soul per se, but I'm going to go with The Underground Girls of Kabul by Jenny Nordberg. Most of the books I read were inspiring as much as they were sad. This one was definitely that as well. It was sad to read about what so many women and girls have gone through. At the same time, there was this hope that things will get better, but you're left wondering just how long that is going to take.

29. Most unique book you read in 2015?
I'll go back to Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon. I had never read a book where the main character wasn't allowed to leave her house for health reasons. In addition to that, the super short chapters gave the book a different feel too.

30. Book that made you the most mad (doesn't necessarily mean you didn't like it)?
Arabs and Jews by David K. Shipler. This book deals heavily with prejudices and the terrible results of those prejudices. I think it's impossible to read this book without feeling anger.

Your Blogging/Bookish Life
1. New favorite book blog you discovered in 2015?
I'm having so many realizations while writing this post. Guys, I don't know if I began following any book blogs in 2015 unless it was early in the year. I think I've been reading the same ones I have in the past. There might be a reason I didn't notice this though. I got quite into reading travel blogs over the summer, so I became more focused with following new travel blogs instead of book blogs. I need to change that in 2016. I know there are amazing book blogs out there that I haven't found yet.

2. Favorite review that you wrote in 2015?
This is always so difficult for me. I struggle to decide what I think the "best" is of things I wrote myself. I'll choose Lights Out by Ted Koppel.

3. Best discussion/non-review post you had on your blog?
I feel like I really slacked on the blog this year, which makes this difficult. I look back at the beginning of the year, and I'm amazed at how much better I was doing then. Later in the year, I hardly have anything of note. I'm going to choose my reaction to the first Shadowhunters TV show footage we got.

4. Best event you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)?
I met Sarah Dessen this year at a signing. That has to go down as the best. It was great.

5. Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2015?
Meeting Sarah Dessen can win this too, right?

6. Most challenging thing about blogging or your reading life this year?
I think school was the biggest reason I feel like my blogging wasn't as great this year, particularly in the final months of the year. Then there's also the slump I feel like I've been in fiction wise.

7. Most popular post this year on your blog?
My most popular post is a surprising one for me. It's one of my life posts, and those are never popular. But I wrote about getting cavities and setting up a writing blog, and that managed to get hits. I guess a lot of people Google information on cavities?

8. Post you wished got a little more love?
I'm actually going to go with that Shadowhunters post again because I'm still really excited about the show airing, and it's always great to fangirl over that some more.

9. Best bookish discovery?
Another thing I need to work on in 2016.

10. Did you complete any reading challenges or goals?
I completed my Goodreads reading challenge to read 70 books before the end of the year.

Looking Ahead
1. One book you didn't get to in 2015 but will be your number one priority in 2016?
Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen. I got it when I met her back in May, but I haven't even read it yet. So many people have said that it's her best yet, so I'm incredibly excited about it.

2. Book you are most anticipating for 2016 (non-debut)?
Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare. This will be the first book in the Dark Artifices series that takes place after the Mortal Instruments.

3. 2016 debut you are most anticipating?
I'm going to be honest. I haven't been able to keep up with what books are coming out next year, and I don't know of any yet.

4. Series ending/sequel you are most anticipating in 2016?
I know of a next book that I wish was coming out in 2016, but we have to wait longer... In fact, it seems that for all of the series I'm reading, the books are either already out (but I haven't gotten them yet) or the sequels don't have confirmed release dates for 2016. I guess I'll wait and see what happens with those.

5. One thing you hope to accomplish or do in your blogging/reading life in 2016?
Get back into writing posts that aren't life posts or just reviews.

6. A 2016 release that you've already read and recommend to everyone else?
I don't have one.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Supernatural Review: Season 7 First Half

It's been three months since my last Supernatural review. Not the quickest amount of time. To be honest, at this point watching Supernatural has started to feel like a bit of a chore. There are times where I actually feel like watching it, but it's far more likely that I'm forcing myself to watch an episode because I know I need to.

That's not to say this season is bad. Overall, I'd say it's a good season. It's just that I've reached the point where I feel like I've seen all of it already, and nothing is new enough to really excite me anymore.

Cas hasn't been in this season since the very beginning. I miss him a lot. I almost feel like I would be enjoying this season more if he were in it, but I don't know if that's true. I probably only think so because he's not there and has become any easy thing to point out and say could make things better.

Sam starts off the season hallucinating about Lucifer, and then that just seems to stop. Aside from a few mentions here or there, it hasn't been talked about since the beginning of the season either. From what has been said, I'm under the impression that Sam is still hallucinating at least sometimes, but it's not a focus of the story anymore. I don't really know what they're doing with that. I would like either some closure or for them to actually deal with it. Maybe they do in the future. I can't possibly know, but even then, it will feel like there was this far too long gap of it being shoved in the background. I don't like that.

Another thing that feels shoved in the background is the leviathans, who are apparently supposed to be the overarching villains in this season, but they don't feel adequately a part of the story. There there, yes. More than Sam's hallucinations at least. But they haven't really done anything major since the beginning of the season either, and they don't feel as threatening as past antagonists despite how much power they apparently have. I know they're influencing a lot of what Sam and Dean are facing this season, but how it's handled just doesn't emphasize the threat they pose for me. The effect of it all just doesn't have me as excited as past threats.

Of course, I can't not talk about Bobby's death in this review. I knew ahead of time that it was coming, so I sensed that this was finally it before it actually happened. I think it was an attempt at shaking things up a little, which I can't blame them for considering my overall feelings about this season so far. To be honest, I'm surprised that happened at the point in the season it did. Because in reality that's only a couple of episodes away from where I am now in the season, but it feels like so much longer. I guess that's a sign of how much it's dragging for me.

None of this is to say that there weren't good points of this season so far. There have been plenty of moments that I enjoyed, but I think the problem is that they've mostly just been moments. It rarely translates into full episodes, and it definitely doesn't translate into the whole season so far.

All of that being said, I don't want this review to read as if I feel extremely negatively about things. I don't. It's more that I don't feel much of anything. Everything is fine. Each episode taken on its own is a fine episode. All of it together though just isn't that remarkable, and while I know I'll watch the rest of the season and the rest of the show, it's become more of a chore than anything now.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Book Review: Deal Breakers by Laura Lee

ISBN13: 9781311340108
Published: September 1st, 2015
Publisher: LAN Fiction LLC
Read from December 2nd to 10th, 2015
Synopsis from Goodreads:
How were they supposed to know that one night would change everything?
Devyn has life all mapped out. She just needs to accomplish one more thing before graduating college and becoming a full-fledged adult—lose her virginity. And who better to assist her than her best friend, Riley?
Riley is the self-proclaimed king of fling. His college years have been filled with meaningless hookups until the one night that ruined him for all other women. The one night he spends with his best friend, Devyn. Right before he screws it all up.
Balls to the wall, baby!
Now five years later, Riley is determined to atone for his mistakes and prove that he can be the man that Devyn deserves. Little does he know that Devyn’s been keeping a secret from him all these years. A big secret. Now he has to figure out how to win back the only girl he’s ever loved while navigating the pitfalls of her unexpected revelation.
Deal Breakers is filled with lots of laughs, a sexy romance, and an overflowing swear jar. 


For full disclosure's sake, I didn't finish this book. I read the first few pages and already didn't think I was going to finish the book, but since I hate abandoning books, I kept going. I was determined to at least make if halfway because then I could say I really tried. I actually made it a bit further than halfway. For a while, I thought I might be able to make it, but I couldn't. There was one scene that had be immediately go, "Nope. Nope. No," and close the book for good.

It's hard to pinpoint what I hated about this book because I hated just about everything. I think the character's were the worst though. Riley is so obnoxious. He's more obnoxious at the beginning, but he never stops being obnoxious. It was hard to root for him when I couldn't stand him. Devyn wasn't that great either. She tended to mock other girls for things, which was frustrating. There was a lot of that in this book by every character actually. Everyone kept going on about how Devyn was different from other girls, and they all suck, but Devyn's great because...I don't really know why to be honest. Nothing about her stood out to me.

Aside from all of that, the plot wasn't really realistic. I knew what the story was going to be from the summary before reading the book. It's pretty obvious. But I have a hard time believing that Devyn actually called Riley that many times and then gave up or that Riley didn't pick up once. None of it made sense to me, and I pretty much spent time entirety of the book rolling my eyes.

I genuinely think this was the worst book I'd read in a while.

I received this book through Netgalley in exchange for a review.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Life Post: Christmas 2015

I hope everyone who celebrates Christmas had a good one. To be honest, I still feel exhausted from Christmas, so this post probably won't be too long or recount everything from my holiday.

Basically, we had my dad's side's Christmas on Christmas Eve. We were the last ones there because my dad had to go to this out of the way church for mass (he's a deacon), but it was nice. I have half asleep the whole time because I had woken up at three that morning. For that reason, I wanted to wait until Christmas morning to open presents, but I was overruled and we opened them that night. That's not something we ever used to do, but we have for the past three years or so because my siblings team up and convince everyone else to do it. I'll admit that it's not my favorite thing. I'd much prefer waiting.

I got some awesome stuff though, including an Appa plushie like what I've wanted for years. It's sitting proudly on my bed now. I also got new video editing software that I still have to experiment with. And then I got some books, like always.

Afterwards, we went to midnight mass, and I actually had to leave mass early. It got incredibly hot in the church, and not having slept for almost twenty-four hours, I started feeling like I might pass out. We only live a block from church, so I walked home, collapsed in bed, and was out before anyone else was home.

Today is my mom's birthday, so we went out to dinner, and tomorrow is my mom's side's Christmas, so the holiday hasn't really ended for me. I'm honestly just really tired. I'm hoping I can get some good sleep tonight.

After having a lot of uploading problems, I did finally post a vlog from the day before Christmas Eve if you're interested.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Life Post: It's Not Beginning to Look a Lot like Christmas

Merry Christmas Eve to those who celebrate! I know it's cliche, but I honestly can't believe that it's already Christmas. I know the weather is at least partially to blame for it not feeling like it's time for this. We had snow up in Indianapolis once before I came home for break, and that hadn't been much of anything. Then, yesterday, we had a tornado here in my hometown. In December! Needless to say, the weather isn't helping convince me that it's the time of year for Christmas.

It's been nearly a week since my last post, and most of what I've been doing since is writing. I'm writing my sister a story for her Christmas present that's been a struggle recently. I already told her she's probably not getting it actually on Christmas because none of her requests involved an actual plot, and I'm quite stuck at the moment. I'm not just working on that though. I've also started working on two new fanfictions since break started, not that I needed to do that to myself. I'm quite excited about both of them though.

Then I've been beta reading quite a bit. I started beta reading for someone new who sent me a much longer draft than I usually get (typically fanfic writers send one chapter at a time), so I've been working through that over the past week. I just sent it back this morning, and now my goal is to get a different chapter back to another author I beta for. She sent me the chapter more than a week ago now, and I haven't finished with it yet because of the other draft. I know I'll manage to get it back to her within the next couple of days though.

Other than that, I've just been using my break to read a lot. I also went to go see The Force Awakens a second time, which was an excellent decision. I picked out a lot more details this time than I did the first. I've also now seen the movie in the front row and in the second-to-the-very-back row. I've got to experience the movie every way I can. I'm glad I saw it a second time before doing my review because it also helped me gather my thoughts together much more neatly. I plan on doing that review soon.

Over on Youtube, I've posted my first video review of Naruto in six months (embarrassing). I also did a vlog that includes plenty of dog footage.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Life Post: Seeing Star Wars Opening Night

Since my last post, I've both gotten through finals week and gotten home for winter break. I am so relieved to say that I'm completely finished with the semester. There were tons of awesome things about last semester, but there's no denying that it was exhausting. Next semester looks lighter (in comparison to the last at the very least), and that is also a relief. (If I start complaining about my workload next semester, someone remind me to compare it to this one.)

While all of that's exciting though, my excitement over it being winter break has been overshadowed since yesterday. I went to one of the first showings of the new Star Wars at our local movie theater. Guys, that entire movie theater was Star Wars showings. Maybe five theaters were playing different movies. The other screens were all Star Wars, and I swear at least half of those were for seven o'clock showings with the others for slightly later showings.

We walked into the movie theater to see a reporter and a camera guy from one of the local news stations right inside the door. We stood in line to give the theater worker our ticket (something that doesn't normally involve a line at this theater), and the line was right next to where they were filming. A bunch of people dressed up as Stormtroopers, Darth Vader, and Kylo Ren were taking pictures with people, and that's what the news people were mostly focusing on. It was exciting. The whole atmosphere of the place was just fun.

I'm going to do a full-fledged review of the movie, so I won't go into that here. No worry about spoilers. What I will say is that I loved it. Aside from a few things I would have changed, I think the movie was overall amazing. BB-8 is amazing, and I feel terrible admitting that he and R2-D2 are warring it out for my affections. I'll just leave it at that for now. That's the initial reaction I've posted online aside from my excited tweets immediately after the movie that boiled down to, "AMAZING. I want to say so much but spoilers." I've calmed down a bit now, but not much. If I let myself go now, I'd ramble for ages about the movie, which I'm borderline doing now. I need to make myself stop. This is why I'm waiting a bit to write (or possibly film, I'm not sure yet) the review.

I also have to mention that there was a Fantastic Beasts trailer before the movie. When we were sitting in the theater a few minutes before the trailers started, it occurred to me for the first time that the Fantastic Beasts trailer had just been released several days ago, and I had an "Oh my God. Is it going to be in front of the movie?" moment. But I forced myself to calm down because it probably wouldn't, and I shouldn't get my hopes up. Then lo and behold it was in front of the movie, and I got way too excited.

Speaking of getting really excited though, one of the greatest things about seeing the movie opening night was the reaction from the audience. I won't go into everything that got reactions because that guarantees spoilers, but the cheering as soon as the trailers started, as soon as "Star Wars" popped up and the music began playing (oddly enough it happened then and not for "a long time ago..."), and at the very end of the movie all helped make the whole thing feel more exciting. I loved it.

Like I said though, I'll keep going on forever if I don't make myself stop. I need to save something for the actual review. (I say as if I don't still have enough thoughts to fill a hundred blog posts.)

The last thing I have to mention is that I posted again on my writing blog. I really am getting better at updating it again, guys! It's just something short and pointless that I wrote during one of those moments where I was just trying to get words out. Then, over on Youtube, I reviewed The China Mirage, which is a book about America's relationships with China (and to a lesser extent Japan) over a long period of time.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Book Review: Lights Out by Ted Koppel

ISBN: 055341996X
Published: October 27th, 2015
Publisher: Crown
Read from November 24th to 30th, 2015
Synopsis from Goodreads:
In this tour de force of investigative reporting, Ted Koppel reveals that a major cyberattack on America’s power grid is not only possible but likely, that it would be devastating, and that the United States is shockingly unprepared.

Imagine a blackout lasting not days, but weeks or months. Tens of millions of people over several states are affected. For those without access to a generator, there is no running water, no sewage, no refrigeration or light. Food and medical supplies are dwindling. Devices we rely on have gone dark. Banks no longer function, looting is widespread, and law and order are being tested as never before.
It isn’t just a scenario. A well-designed attack on just one of the nation’s three electric power grids could cripple much of our infrastructure—and in the age of cyberwarfare, a laptop has become the only necessary weapon. Several nations hostile to the United States could launch such an assault at any time. In fact, as a former chief scientist of the NSA reveals, China and Russia have already penetrated the grid. And a cybersecurity advisor to President Obama believes that independent actors—from “hacktivists” to terrorists—have the capability as well. “It’s not a question of if,” says Centcom Commander General Lloyd Austin, “it’s a question of when.”
And yet, as Koppel makes clear, the federal government, while well prepared for natural disasters, has no plan for the aftermath of an attack on the power grid.  The current Secretary of Homeland Security suggests keeping a battery-powered radio.
In the absence of a government plan, some individuals and communities have taken matters into their own hands. Among the nation’s estimated three million “preppers,” we meet one whose doomsday retreat includes a newly excavated three-acre lake, stocked with fish, and a Wyoming homesteader so self-sufficient that he crafted the thousands of adobe bricks in his house by hand. We also see the unrivaled disaster preparedness of the Mormon church, with its enormous storehouses, high-tech dairies, orchards, and proprietary trucking company – the fruits of a long tradition of anticipating the worst. But how, Koppel asks, will ordinary civilians survive?
With urgency and authority, one of our most renowned journalists examines a threat unique to our time and evaluates potential ways to prepare for a catastrophe that is all but inevitable.


I knew very little about the power grid and how it all worked when I began this book, but I admit to being intrigued by the idea of a possible cyberattack. It's such a new thing, so dealing with one is uncharted territory, and as someone who spends a great deal of time online, knowing more about the possibilities interests me.

And I did find many aspects of this book addressed the interest I had. Even when it came to discussion of how the power grid works I was interested, which I wasn't expecting. I'd never given much thought to how the power grid works. I'm a little ashamed to admit that I've always just taken it for granted. I got that power lines transported power from power plants, of course, but I'd never stopped to think about the interconnectedness of it all. I don't think I'd ever known that various power plants were even connected through a grid before this book. I enjoyed learning more about how that worked.

I also enjoyed much of the discussion on how a cyberattack on the power grid could potentially happen and the possible aftermath. Maybe part of it is the thrill of reading about potential disaster, but I believe it's true that being aware that such an attack could happen is at least the beginning of being prepared for one.

Unfortunately, those aspects of the book seemed to be far less of the book than I would have expected. A large chunk of the middle of the book (it felt like more than half of it actually) focused on preppers. These preppers are preparing for disaster, but they're not exactly preparing for a cyber attack on the power grid. In fact, the author describes his experience at a prepper convention, and when he mentions that he brought up a potential attack to preppers, he notes that his suggestion was accepted but that he could tell that wasn't a disaster the preppers had on their mind. They were preparing for other things.

That's perhaps why focusing on preppers felt so out of place. It didn't feel like it had enough to do with what the author had set out to write about. I didn't read this book to learn about preppers. In another context, reading about the Mormon church's intense preparation for disaster would have fascinated me, but since it wasn't what I picked up the book for, I found myself bored. I wanted to read more about cyberattacks and what the book was supposed to be about. Instead I was reading about preppers who were preparing for events that could have nothing to do with cyberattacks.

I have no idea why the author decided to focus on preppers so much like he did. It almost felt like he should have just written a book about them and thrown the parts about cyber attacks out or taken what he had and turned it into two separate books on each topic. As it was, I think there was some great stuff on cyberattacks in this book, but I wanted more.

I received this book for review from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Life Post: The Calm Before Finals Week

I've been having a surprisingly relaxing weekend considering the fact that next week is finals week. I've talked about how my finals week isn't all that heavy in various places on the Internet, so I don't want to repeat myself yet again in this post. I just turned in the last paper I had to write three days early to get it out of the way. Now I just have one conference with a professor and two finals. Neither one of those finals are finals that I'm freaking out about, so having this three day weekend has been amazing. I'm just basking in it before my short day of finals week and then home.

That means I don't have much to talk about here though. Although can I mention that I'm amazed that Star Wars is in less than a week? Because that feels way too close. Each time I see it written down in my planner, I get really excited.

Over on my writing blog, I posted a tribute to the Hunger Games. (One of my goals over winter break is to get better about posting over there again.)  On Youtube, I posted my Project for Awesome video for this year, which is about RAINN. At the time of posting this, Project for Awesome was still happening, so please check out my video and learn more. You could help so many great charities, not just RAINN. Lastly, I posted a vlog. My first vlog in nearly a month and a half actually, so that's another achievement, I guess. Look what I can do when I'm not bogged down with school work.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Life Post: Defense and Courses

We're so close to the end of the semester. I can't believe it. Today was the last class for two of my classes, and tomorrow is the last day of classes for the whole semester. Then it's just finals week. That's unbelievable. I was in such a good mood today though because that was all I could think about.

The fact that I passed my defense yesterday is what really helped start the good mood though! Yep. After a long semester full of a done of stress, I had my defense yesterday and passed. It was such a relief, and it feels like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I cried out of relief afterward. No joke. It feels so good to be past that.

Helping my good mood was the fact that I found out I was enrolled in the Ivy Tech course I needed to get my science credit. I can't remember if I wrote about everything going on there or not, but I wasn't able to schedule a science course that is required because the only times it was offered were at times of other classes. My school has this program with Ivy Tech (and some other schools) that I can take a class there and not even transfer credits; it's as if my credit is from my school. You get last choice for classes that way though, so I was worried the class would fill up since it is a gen ed. It didn't though, and I'm in. That was such a huge relief because I was going to have a huge problem otherwise.

I guess I'm technically done with classes though because the class I have tomorrow is actually going to be a final exam, even though it's technically supposed to just be our last class period. So this semester really is coming to an end. No one remind me how close I am to finishing college. I can't deal with that thought.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Book Review: Hot Body Year Round by Cassey Ho

ISBN: 0804139040
Published: April 7th, 2015
Publisher: Harmony
Read from November 27th to 30th, 2015
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Cassey Ho, internationally renowned fitness instructor, is known for her irresistibly popular workout videos which have been shared millions of times online. She runs the #1 women's fitness channel on YouTube, Blogilates. Her unique format, POP Pilates© is a fusion of ab-chiseling, butt lifting, total body sculpting exercises that are performed using only your bodyweight. Cassey's personality is bubbly, inspiring, and infectious. But don't let the smile fool you - her workouts will leave you sweating and sore for days. By following Ho's super effective workout plans and clean-eating recipes, you will transform your body towards a stronger, sleeker, and happier version of you.

Hot Body Year Round is your ULTIMATE exercise and nutrition guide to living a fit, happy, and healthy life while sculpting your HOTTEST body.

Cassey will show you how to stay motivated throughout the year, no matter what the challenges are. You will get:
- 120 of Cassey's BEST total body transforming exercises
- The complete POP Pilates exercise library - fully photographed and easy to follow
- 20 full length workouts
- 40 brand new, ridiculously delicious & nutritious recipes
- Foods for beautiful hair, skin, and nails
- 4 complete clean eating meal plans & grocery lists that complement each season
- Cassey's personal daily meal plan
- Motivational tips to stay inspired year-round
- 256 pages of full color, glossy inspiration


I've loved Blogilates for a couple of years now, but honestly, there are those times where you're just not in the mood to workout with the videos. That's why I was pretty excited when Cassey announced that she was writing a book with workouts in it. I think that's great both for days where someone would just rather follow along with the book than a video and as a way for new people to discover Pop Pilates.

I also love that there are recipes included within the book. I haven't tried any of those yet, but I want to. Some of them look so good!

I would recommend this book to someone who was maybe interested in Pop Pilates but not sold on the workout video format of Blogilates. This might be a good starting point for them instead. If you already follow Blogilates, I still think you may enjoy having this around just as another option to the videos sometimes. The entire book is well put together, and I enjoyed the little bits of inspiration that Cassey had written throughout the book.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Reign Review: Season 3 Episode 7: "The Hound and the Hare"

I did the last two Reign reviews over on Youtube if you're interested in those, but this week I'm getting back to doing a blog post.

It feels strange to watch Reign without Francis there. I don't think I really knew how much you felt his presence in Reign until he was gone. The thing I really love about Francis being gone though is how much it has brought Catherine and Mary together. I love it. I love it so much. My two favorite characters working together is such a beautiful thing. While I still feel really excited about the idea of Mary going back to Scotland, I also kind of want her to stay in France forever just so we can continue to have such awesome scenes between Catherine and Mary.

Seriously though. After this episode, I think it's obvious that Catherine will actually go to great lengths to help make sure Mary makes an alliance (which is really a way of protecting both Mary and Scotland in the long run).

That death scene though. That was unexpected. It was also bloody than I would have liked to be honest, since I really hate blood. Ignoring that detail though, it was just kind of...shocking I guess. It really did come out of nowhere, and it happened in such a...bizarre way. Now I guess we get to find out what Mary and Catherine do next though, which I'm hoping will be a good storyline.

It's treated as a small detail in this episode (although I'm sure it'll be a much bigger one later), but Narcisse cheats on Lola with Catherine. Not surprising. This is another one of those things that I feel absolutely terrible saying actually makes me happy. I hate Narcisse so much that I just want Lola to hate him too. I really do hate saying that I want Lola to despise her husband, but I do. Their entire relationship just irks me so much precisely because Narcisse is like he is and does stuff like that.

Delphine and Bash wind up thinking that Greer is the killer's next victim and hang out at her tavern for the night. I appreciated that storyline because it allowed Greer and Leith to have screen time together. When's the last time we got that? They're so cute, and I just really love them having a nice conversation. At this point I've resigned myself to just letting their stories go wherever they go, so I'm not treating that scene as a "they must get married now!" thing, but it was just nice to see them getting along and whatnot again.

Greer is also pregnant, which was about as surprising as the death scene at the end of the episode. I wasn't expecting it. I think that made the Greer/Leith scene before even sweeter to me just knowing all of that. My guess is that it's the pirate's baby, since that makes more sense than anything else. Greer's taken on being independent so perfectly that I feel like we're going to be seeing her as a single mother, still being awesome and independent. As much as I love the idea of Greer and Leith together again, I can also really look forward to that.

I'd definitely say this was a great episode, and it has me excited to see what happens with Mary, Catherine, and Greer.

Life Post: The Finish Line Is in Sight

I'm so relieved it's the weekend. I can't even begin to tell you. Yes, I have been working on stuff all day, and yes, the majority of it was school stuff. Still, just getting to work on stuff feels so good right now instead of having to take care of class and meetings and whatever else I have to run around to do during school days. Today I could just sit at my desk and get stuff done. I still have a draft of an essay to finish up and submit for comments tomorrow, and there was another paper I didn't even work on today that's due in about a week. I got a lot done though.

When I was walking to dinner earlier and kind of lost in my thoughts, I think it really hit me that winter break is only a little more than a week away. That's kind of crazy. This semester has felt both long and short at the same time. I think that's because there's been so much to do over the entire course of it.

I can't start thinking about that too much now though. I have my defense this week, which feels nerve-wracking. Plus, there's two finals to study for and papers to write. There's still plenty to do. It's just that I can finally see the finish line to it all.

Over on Youtube, I posted my reading wrap-up and TBR for the month if you're interested. Unlike last month, I didn't forget, so I managed to film it before we were more than a week into December.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Life Post: Star Wars Tickets

Today's to do list is currently as long as most of my to do lists are when I wake up in the morning. And it's past seven at night. That's not because I haven't done anything today. This is less than half of what was on the list this morning. Thank god it's the weekend tomorrow, so I'm not too worried about it. Tomorrow's to do list isn't incredibly long, so it looks like I'll be finishing all of this stuff up then.

I'm not going to complain though. So far the end of the semester is going as well as it can be expected to. There's a lot going on, but things are good. At least I enjoy most of my classes. Even the one that I'm not overjoyed about isn't terrible. Things could be so much worse.

Oh! I can't forget to mention that I bought Star Wars tickets today for the Thursday it comes out! I'm so excited! Yay! That's actually the Thursday after finals for me, so that's excellent timing.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Movie Review: Mockingjay Part 2

It's been almost a week since I've seen Mockingjay, and I still feel like I can't really talk about it largely because it feels so important to me as a movie. You see, despite all of the hate Mockingjay gets in comparison to the other two books of the series, it's my favorite of the Hunger Games books. While the entire book is my favorite, there's so much that I particularly love about the parts that became the second Mockingjay movie. Add that it was also the final Hunger Games movie, and this movie just makes me really emotional.

Long story short, I loved it. I knew it was going to be great because all of the others had been. All of the actors did a fantastic job, and after being worried that my favorite scene from the entire series would be cut, I am still so happy that it was in the movie.

Of course, not everything can be perfect, so I did find two things that felt off to me. But one of those I can't even fault them for really, and they're not huge. (*SPOILER WARNING for the rest of this paragraph and the next*) The first was Haymitch reading the letter from Plutarch to Katniss. I appreciated the use of "Plutarch can't be seen with you now" to explain why he wasn't there, but it still felt strange to me, especially knowing that this scene was supposed to mimic the scene with Plutarch on the hovercraft in the book. I felt a little jarred during the scene, and because I was thinking about it, I realized that the scene must have been reworked because of Philip Seymour Hoffman's death. Because of that, I really can't fault them, but it did feel like it played out strangely to me.

The next part that was strange to me was the epilogue, which was probably what I was also most worried about going into the movie. I really wish they had left it without dialogue like how it is in the book. Katniss' speech to the baby felt a little strange to me and also not Katniss-like. I didn't really like it at all, which is a shame because I was hoping the epilogue would be done really well. (But I also wasn't surprised that it wasn't my favorite part of the movie. I do really love it in the book.)

I don't want the negatives to overwhelm this review though. I really did love the movie. I think the problem was that I loved so much of it that it's hard to pinpoint which things to talk about. So much of it felt like the book despite changes, and I think that's always one of the biggest things with book to movie adaptations.

I'm really sad that the series is over. Part of me doesn't know what to do with myself, which has made it harder for me to write this review. I want to pretend like there's more of Hunger Games in the future. Since it has to be over though, I'm really happy with the movie, and I'm just very thankful that we got as good of an adaptation of the series as we did.

Life Post: Just Think About the Weekend

I'm writing this after a difficult morning where I woke up at my alarm and then fell back asleep (without hitting the snooze button or anything like that). I woke up to noise in the next dorm about twenty minutes later, and I wasn't late to anything. Still, it's left me feeling a bit out of it, and I woke up with a headache. Not the funnest situation in the world.

This week has still been packed full of things to do. Today is the day where I only have one class, which is awesome, but I still have plenty that I have to get done today. I just keep reminding myself that there's today, tomorrow (which will be even worse because I have an early, three-hour class), and then it will be the weekend. I can make it until then.

Over on Youtube, I did manage to get up a Star Wars tag video that I filmed days ago. You can go watch that if you're interested in what Star Wars planet I would live on, my Star Wars name, etc.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Book Review: Decorum by Kaaren Christopherson

ISBN: 1617735213
Published: March 31st, 2015
Publisher: Kensington
Read from November 12th to 26th, 2015
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Kaaren Christopherson's brilliantly observed novel captures the glamour and grit of one of the world's most dazzling cities during one of its most tumultuous eras--as seen through the eyes of a singularly captivating heroine...
In 1890s New York, beautiful, wealthy Francesca Lund is an intriguing prospect for worthy suitors and fortune hunters alike. Recently orphaned, she copes by working with the poor in the city's settlement movement. But a young woman of means can't shun society for long, and Francesca's long-standing acquaintance with dashing Edmund Tracey eventually leads to engagement. Yet her sheltered upbringing doesn't blind her to the indiscretions of the well-to-do...
Among the fashionable circle that gathers around her there are mistresses, scandals, and gentlemen of ruthless ambition. And there is Connor O'Casey--an entirely new kind of New Yorker. A self-made millionaire of Irish stock, Connor wants more than riches. He wants to create a legacy in the form of a luxury Madison Avenue hotel--and he wants Francesca by his side as he does it. In a quest that will take her from impeccable Manhattan salons to the wild Canadian Rockies, Francesca must choose not only between two vastly different men, but between convention and her own emerging self-reliance.


I was really torn over how I felt about this book. I still am a bit to be honest. There were parts of it I really liked, but there were also parts of it that I strongly disliked. While it feels like there were more parts of it that I disliked than liked, that could also just be because I'm remembering the negatives more than the positives. Either way, I didn't enjoy this book that much. I would start to finally get into it again, and then something would happen that either made me annoyed with the book (not in a good way) or it just got boring and difficult to pay attention to.

There were many times where the story felt long winded to me, and I think the story would have benefited from trimming out some bits that felt unnecessary in the grand scheme of things. I think the book tries to follow a lot of people at once too, and some of the stories seem to fall off as loose ends. I think some of those stories would have been better off having had a lesser focus in the beginning.

The books is, overall, I think, supposed to be an historical romance, but it didn't feel much like a romance to me. If I was to peg it as anything, it was historical fiction that felt like a slice of the life of the characters. There wasn't anything overtly romantic. I despised Tracey from the moment he was on the page, and there was certainly nothing about his and Francesca's relationship that could be determined as romantic.

I didn't like Connor much either truthfully, but setting that aside, his "romance" with Francesca felt very abrupt and out of nowhere. It really doesn't come in until close to the end of the book really, and I'm still not sure if I was supposed to find it romantic or not. I think they could have a nice marriage. There was nothing horribly wrong with their relationship as a relationship. It just didn't feel like I was reading a romance. They were far too practical and logical for that. Neither of those things are unable to be in a typical romance novel relationship, but there didn't seem to be much romance between Connor and Francesca either.

That isn't something I would count against the book. I enjoy reading stories that aren't romances after all. It just left me a bit unsure about what I was reading. What made me dislike the book was all the parts where I got bored with the story and began zoning out. That happened far more than it should have.

It was still a nice book. I enjoyed some of it at least, but I can't say it's a book that I would recommend.

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

Life Post: Too Much

It's only the second day back after Thanksgiving break, and I am over my head with work. I'd had a calmer period leading up to break, and now everything has hit me full force. There's so much to do, and I know it's going to be that way straight through finals week. The one thing keeping me from losing my mind is knowing that there's only a couple of weeks left. I don't think I could keep up with this level of work for longer than that.

I'm going to keep this short since I have so much to do today (more than I can realistically get done, if I'm being honest). Soon, it will be Christmas break, and despite it only being three weeks this year, that's at least three weeks where I won't have to worry about school work.