Thursday, June 30, 2016

June 2016 Wrap Up and July 2016 TBR

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Pigeon Forge, TN and Great Smoky Mountains National Park 06/23-26/16

Monday, June 27, 2016

Reign Review: 3x28 "Spiders in a Jar"

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Life Post: Vacation in Tennessee

I'm attempting to write this post from Chrome on my phone. We'll see how it goes. I deleted the Blogger app from my phone a long time ago because it didn't work the way it was supposed to, and while this is an improvement over that, typing an entirely blog post on my phone sounds exhausting. I doubt I'll write much.

The reason I'm on my phone in the first place is because I'm in Tennessee on vacation. Technically, our hotel has Internet, but nothing loads once you're connected. It says that there's a limited connection. That means that the 4G on my phone is really the only Internet I've got. For the most part, that hasn't been a problem because we're doing so much, but there are times like now, sitting in the hotel room, where having wifi would be nice.

Yesterday, I got to pet horses, and today, I saw a bear in the national park. Those were probably my favorite parts of the trip. Of course, I've pet horses before, but that was the first time I've seen a bear in the wild where there was nothing between us. It was much less scary than some talk of seeing bears is (although I think grizzly bears are meant to be the mean ones, and we saw a black bear). It was pretty cool.

We go home tomorrow though, and I'm so exhausted now that I'm looking forward to having time to rest once we're home.

Monday, June 20, 2016

A Music Video Just Because

So, here's the thing. I've been in this mood the past week where I don't want to write. And that's to say that I don't want to write anything whether it be this blog or my fanfiction or my novel. I've been pushing myself to work on my novel anyway, but after that, it's even harder to convince myself to blog.

I feel bad about that though. I really want to post something. It's just that, when I do attempt to write a post, I can't bring myself to publish it. I'm not happy with it at all.

That's lead me to today where I'm going to post one of my favorite music videos by Little Mix, i.e. my favorite girl group.

Hopefully, I'll get back to actually writing posts soon.



Sunday, June 19, 2016

Life Post: Writing and Teeth Struggles

I've been terrible about writing absolutely anything for the past week or so. That includes blog posts but isn't limited to them. The past week has also included me struggling to work on my novel with varying success every day. I don't think I actually managed all that much. That's just the sort of mood I've been in the past week. Pretty much since the shooting in Orlando.

Hopefully, I'll be past that soon though. I plan on finishing up some edits on a fanfiction I've been working on. My first ever Mortal Instruments fanfiction actually. I've been working on it for months because I completely re-wrote it after not being happy with it. Considering it's only a one-shot of several thousand words, it's ridiculous how long it's taken me. I'm really excited to post the finished product though, so I think going through and doing the final edits will put me in a better mood towards writing. Plus, I'll finally have something I've been working on for ages out of the way.

In my last life post, I mentioned that my tooth was bothering. I've been to the dentist since. There was an explanation as to what was causing the pain, but I know I'll butcher it by trying to recount it. It was something about how my filling was too flat, which caused pain when I bit down. She reshaped the filling in about ten minutes but there wasn't anyway to test if eating would still hurt while I was there. Luckily, it doesn't hurt as badly. There are still times when I'm eating something crunchy or somewhat hard where there will be a bit of pain as soon as a bite down. Maybe I should go back to the dentist, but I honestly don't want to. I already had the filling done twice on top of this latest event. I'd rather just be done with it.

Talking about both troubles writing and my tooth problems led to this post being more negative than I would have liked. Whoops. In happier news, I've been packing for vacation yesterday and today, and I'm excited about that. Unfortunately, that's not exactly a topic that provides me with much to say.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Book Review: Bream Gives Me Hiccups by Jesse Eisenberg

ISBN: 0802124046
Published: September 8th, 2015
Publisher: Grove Press
Received: Christmas present
Read from June 15th to 16th, 2016
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Taking its title from a group of stories that begin the book, Bream Gives Me Hiccups moves from contemporary L.A. to the dormrooms of an American college to ancient Pompeii, throwing the reader into a universe of social misfits, reimagined scenes from history, and ridiculous overreactions. In one piece, a tense email exchange between a young man and his girlfriend is taken over by the man’s sister, who is obsessed with the Bosnian genocide (The situation reminds me of a little historical blip called the Karadordevo agreement); in another, a college freshman forced to live with a roommate is stunned when one of her ramen packets goes missing (she didn’t have “one” of my ramens. She had a chicken ramen); in another piece, Alexander Graham Bell has teething problems with his invention (I’ve been calling Mabel all day, she doesn’t pick up! Yes, of course I dialed the right number – 2!).
United by Eisenberg’s gift for humor and character, and grouped into chapters that each open with an illustration by award-winning cartoonist Jean Jullien, the witty pieces collected in Bream Gives Me Hiccups explore the various insanities of the modern world, and mark the arrival of a fantastically funny, self-ironic, and original voice.

Review:

I am sure there is someone out there who would enjoy this book, but...it's not me. The book gave off the feel of trying to be original but not being enjoyable. Each section (technically, they're each stories, but I'm not sure I'd call them that) is  short, and that may have been the only thing that kept me going with the book. There was nothing long that I had to push myself through.

There were a couple of parts that held my interest slightly, but for the most part, I was bored. It's kind of a strange thing because you can tell that Eisenberg was trying to be creative with the way the stories were presented. I just feel like it missed the mark and failed to be humorous in the way it was intended to be.

The right audience for this book would be a small one I think. It's not going to be everyone's cup of tea, and I doubt I would recommend it to anyone unless I knew they were a huge fan of Eisenberg himself. That's just about the only group I can imagine recommending the book to.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Book Review: We Are an African People by Russell J. Rickford

ISBN: 0199861471
Published: February 1st, 2016
Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
Received: Netgalley
Read from June 11th to 13th, 2016
Synopsis from Goodreads:
By 1970, more than 60 "Pan African nationalist" schools, from preschools to post-secondary ventures, had appeared in urban settings across the United States. The small, independent enterprises were often accused of teaching hate and were routinely harassed by authorities. Yet these institutions served as critical mechanisms for transmitting black consciousness. Founded by activist-intellectuals, the schools strove not simply to bolster the academic skills and self-esteem of inner-city African-American youth but also to decolonize minds and embody the principles of self-determination and African identity.
In We Are An African People, historian Russell Rickford traces the brief lives of these autonomous black institutions created to claim some of the self-determination that the integrationist civil rights movement had failed to provide. Influenced by Third World theorists and anticolonial movements, organizers of the schools saw formal education as a means of creating a vanguard of young activists devoted to the struggle for black political sovereignty throughout the world. Most of the schools were short-lived, but their stories have much to tell us about Pan Africanism as a social and intellectual movement and as a key part of an indigenous black nationalism.
A former journalist, Rickford uses a virtually unknown movement to explore black nationhood and a particularly fertile period of political, cultural, and social revitalization that envisioned an alternate society.

Review:

This book is dense. It's offers as much information as you could want, but because it requires that you're thinking and taking in a lot of information, it is not always an easy read. This is a book meant for people who go into it with a high level of interest in its topic. As someone studying to be an educator, I viewed this information as important for me to know and take in.

The one thing I struggled with while reading was keeping track of the dates. The various chapters sometimes jump around in time, and as someone who struggles to remember dates, I did struggle with keeping track of when things were happening, particularly in comparison to each other. However, that was by far my own failing rather than the book's.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in learning about independent black schools in America over time and who isn't afraid of the time commitment that comes from reading this book. It's a nice resource and full of information.

I received this book through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Reign Review: 3x17 "Intruders"

I'm happy to say that Reign is getting better in my eyes after that span of several episodes where I wasn't thrilled with the story. This episode was fun to watch despite having parts I wasn't as thrilled about (something I expect) as others, and that's a good thing considering it was the penultimate episode of the season, something I didn't realize until the preview for next week's episode.

Going ahead and getting the negative out of the way: I was less than thrilled about Narcisse and Lola reuniting. Not surprising since I've been vocal about how much I dislike Narcisse and his relationship with Lola. I'm not looking forward to whatever happens with them, but it's not like this was something I was unprepared for. I knew it would happen eventually.

Just about everything else in the episode was exciting for me. I have this feeling that Elizabeth and Lola are going to have a falling out, even if Lola doesn't kill her like Mary's letter asked her to. That's sad since I love their friendship, but I do feel like Elizabeth would easily turn on Lola if needed. Plus, Lola has been Mary's friend since they were children, and I would hate for there to be a storyline where Lola puts Elizabeth first. I also don't particularly want Lola to become an attempted murderer as enough characters on this show already are, but I'm intrigued by the storyline they've started with the possibility.

The end of the episode when Mary marches into her castle full of confidence and with blood all over her dress was my favorite moment of the entire episode. If I hadn't already been liking the episode, that one scene might have changed everything. I'm in love with it. I knew she would have to show up before the council's decision was final, but I still felt tension over the possibility of her being late. When she did burst through the doors, I felt like celebrating.

The finale looks like it's going to be epic too. I'm not sure how they're going to tie up the drama they've started in only one more episode. I think that's a large part of why I can't believe that next week is the finale. It seems like there's too much to accomplish. That most likely means we'll have a lot of loose ends going into next season, which I'm also up for. Whether the loose ends do get tied up somehow or not, the finale seems like it's going to be an exciting one.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Book Review: The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling)

ISBN: 0316206849
Published: April 30th, 2013
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Received: Christmas present
Read from May 26th to June 11th, 2016
Synopsis from Goodreads:
After losing his leg to a land mine in Afghanistan, Cormoran Strike is barely scraping by as a private investigator. Strike is down to one client, and creditors are calling. He has also just broken up with his longtime girlfriend and is living in his office.
Then John Bristow walks through his door with an amazing story: His sister, the legendary supermodel Lula Landry, known to her friends as the Cuckoo, famously fell to her death a few months earlier. The police ruled it a suicide, but John refuses to believe that. The case plunges Strike into the world of multimillionaire beauties, rock-star boyfriends, and desperate designers, and it introduces him to every variety of pleasure, enticement, seduction, and delusion known to man.
You may think you know detectives, but you've never met one quite like Strike. You may think you know about the wealthy and famous, but you've never seen them under an investigation like this. Introducing Cormoran Strike, this is the acclaimed first crime novel by J.K. Rowling, writing under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith.

Review:

As someone who, unlike so many others, loved The Casual Vacancy, I wasn't too worried about not liking this book when I started it. (For the record, the two are entirely different books that are difficult to compare, so I wouldn't say anyone should be turned off about reading The Cuckoo's Calling based on their feelings towards The Casual Vacancy.) That being said, I didn't expect to be blown away the way I was. Mystery isn't a genre I read often, and this book left me wondering why that is. When I have read mysteries in the past, I've found them to be highly enjoyable, and this one was no different.

Of course, I spent the entire novel trying to figure out the truth, but my theory changed every few pages. Actually, it might be accurate to say that I had five or more theories running through my head at all times, and I was constantly revising them, trying to fit the new information into the possibilities I had already come up with. It was fun, even as I was reading about less than savory characters and events. And, for the record, I never saw the ending coming even after all that theorizing.

While I don't read many mystery novels, I think that fun with guessing what is going to happen exemplifies what a mystery novel should be. You want it to be a page turner that makes you think about what's both going to happen and what already has. The Cuckoo's Calling has all of that. It's left me wanting to read the sequel as soon as possible, and I can only hope that it's as fun of an experience as the first book was.

Book Review: Hair in All the Wrong Places by Andrew Buckley

ISBN: 1942664982
Published: June 7th, 2016
Publisher: Month9Books
Received from: Chapter by Chapter Blog Tours
Read from May 23rd to 26th, 2016
Synopsis from Goodreads:
What has he done?
What's happening to him?
And what on Earth is that smell?
For Colin Strauss, puberty stinks. Blackouts, hallucinations, and lapses in memory are the perils of growing up werewolf.
Worse than that, Colin worries he might have had something to do with the recent attacks on the townspeople. He may have eaten a person. It doesn’t matter that it’s someone he doesn’t particularly like. What kind of boy goes around eating people?
Foolishly, all Colin can think about is how Becca Emerson finally kissed him for the first time. Yep, hormones are afoot. Yikes!
But girls will have to wait. Collin better get himself under control before someone else ends up hurt or worse . . . dead.

Review:

I was excited to read this book because it sounded like such a fun werewolf book. As someone who really loves stories about werewolves, it had been far too long since I had last read one, so it was only natural that I would be excited about this book.

While I know we are talking about a book where the main character turns into a werewolf, I had difficulty believing some of the elements of the plot (going into more detail would be too much of a spoiler), which did pull me out of the story at times. That being said, this is a middle grade novel, and I don't think the vast majority of the target audience would find the same details as unbelievable. For that reason, I don't view it as that big of a deal.

The book was fun enough that I didn't think I should care about more unbelievable aspects of the plot, it was an enjoyable story. I just had to suspend my disbelief for a bit and accept what was happening. That was the kind of book this is, I think. I can easily imagine middle grade readers getting a lot of enjoyment from the book. It seems like the perfect story for any middle schooler who wants to read about werewolves and other supernatural creatures.

I received this book for review through Chapter by Chapter Book Tours. A schedule for this tour with links to the other posts can be found here.


Sunday, June 12, 2016

Cursed Child Feelings (Spoiler Free)

Note: This was written the night of the first previews. It's not entirely reflective of my current feelings. Mostly, the events in Orlando today have left me unable to think about Cursed Child much, but I still felt this way for the most part until this morning. Who knows how I'll feel later. I'm not even going to edit this because I can't be bothered to get back into the negative feelings in this post.

I will say that I've accidentally stumbled on one spoiler since I wrote this that I'm neutral towards (but would have rather not seen). I've also read things about fans who've read the spoilers not being happy about them, so that doesn't help anything. But I'll wait and see.

After trying to stay optimistic I grew a bit vocal about my less than enthusiastic feelings towards the upcoming Fantastic Beasts film. By now, I've talked about that more than I would have cared to, but throughout my changing feelings about the movie, I also kept saying over and over that I felt extremely optimistic about the play.

I was so thrilled and excited and happy. Just all of the positive adjectives, but then today something strange happened.

The first public previews were today, meaning that members of the public have now seen the play. Don't worry about spoilers here. While I know they're on the Internet, I haven't read any. (I did, however, see someone going on about them and saw a vague comment that still felt like it should have been under a spoiler warning, but I'll save my complaints about that for another time.)

Once the spoilers starting coming out on the Internet, I suddenly felt terrified. This was probably due, at least partially, from fear that I was going to see something that I didn't want to (and, to be fair, I nearly did), but it either started out as more than that or has morphed into more than that. While at first I felt cautious and kept thinking "Okay. Now I have to be careful online until the end of July," somewhere along the line today, I started feeling straight up terrified. It's an overreaction to be sure. One that some people would scoff that.

The thing is, I realized that we've had the ending of Harry Potter for nearly ten years. For ten years I've had the comfortable knowledge that I knew how everything ended. Now, that's over. I don't know what happens to those characters in this play. It could change everything. While I hate how disappointed I feel about Fantastic Beasts, a story about Newt Scamander can't disappoint me as much as a play about all of the characters I already love potentially could, and now that the play feels like even more of a reality, that truth is slapping me in the face.

I don't even know if I could call myself excited anymore. I'm just scared. It's entirely different from how I feel about Fantastic Beasts, which I already have specific concerns about before the movie. I don't have that with the play. I just have this feeling of fear that isn't based on anything about the play itself. It's not that I don't want this story. I'm just scared of it.

It's a strange feeling really. One that I'm not sure I've ever experienced before because I've never cared this much about a book series that was supposed to be finished only for there to be a new story years later. I guess what I'm saying is that I'm worried this will be the Go Set a Watchman of the Harry Potter universe. Not because I have any evidence saying it will be that bad but because I just have this blind fear that it will be.

So, yeah, I've been feeling a lot of things today. I'm sure my exact thoughts on the play will fluctuate as the next two months go on. Hopefully they won't change because I saw spoilers, but with how long the wait is, I wouldn't be surprised it something makes its way through to me.

We'll see.

Reign Review: 3x16 "Clans"

Last week, I made a video review for Reign, which boiled down to me saying that I still wasn't that happy about what the show was doing. However, I also mentioned in that review that I understood that transitioning to showing Scotland was going to be difficult, and I was hopeful that it would get better once they were in Scotland.

We now have one episode in Scotland under our belts, and I don't think my optimism was displaced. While this week's episode didn't blow me away, I did enjoy it more than the episodes preceding it.

Of course, that was after I rolled my eyes at Mary, Narcisse, and Bash being the only three people to survive that ship wreck. Conveniently.

Ignoring that one detail that I think could have been handled better, I think the show is doing a good job with Scotland so far. I like that the people that everyone expected to be violent were the ones who  helped Mary, while the more "upstanding" group is the real danger.

One interesting bit from the story in Scotland was the Druid woman telling Sebastian that he has magic. I'm wondering what that could mean in the future.

Narcisse is a step closer to getting to England, but I don't understand why he left when he did. As everyone keeps mentioning, traveling through that area is dangerous, yet Narcisse went off alone. In my mind, it would have been safe (and smarter) for him if he'd stuck around until they got to Edinburgh and then convinced Mary to give him protection for traveling to England. At least until he was closer to the border. I don't understand why he made the decision that he did, but either way, I'm not a fan of Narcisse. I'm  fine with him no longer being involved in Mary's storyline, although I'm not looking forward to him reappearing in front of Lola.

Lola who currently believes Mary is dead. If Narcisse makes it to English court, I'm assuming he'll tell her the truth, and since I do think the writers will have him make it, I don't suspect she'll be mourning long.

Still, I'm glad her and Elizabeth's friendship is still on a positive path instead of Elizabeth punishing her over what happened with Mary. I love how their relationship has been handled. I only wish we could get a similar friendship between Mary and Elizabeth. I know what happens between them historically, but I think there's so much potential for an awesome friendship there in the show.

Meanwhile, in France, Charles takes up an ambitious challenge to overthrow his mother, which I knew from the beginning was going to blow up in his face. It seemed so obvious that I watched those parts of the episode while cringing, especially once Leith got wrapped up in it. It also seemed obvious that one of Charles' friends was going to be a traitor, although I'll admit that I guessed the wrong one.

What sucks about it failing is how close Leith and Claude came to being married. Despite not being able to let go of Greer/Leith entirely, I wouldn't be opposed to a Claude/Leith marriage, and while I knew it was doubtful that it would happen, I kind of hoped for it. Leith has begun to prove himself to Charles though, and that could mean a lot when it comes to being able to marry Claude. We'll see.

Overall, this episode seemed like buildup for what's coming next, and that holds true for the stories in France, England, and Scotland. I don't see that as a bad thing. It's gotten my attention, and I'm back to eagerly waiting to see what happens next.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Naruto Shippuden Review Episodes 331-335

Life Post: Animals, Teeth, and Things

A lot of what I said in my last life post holds true now as well. By now, I've more or less settled into a summer break routine, and the days have begun doing that thing where they all blend together. If I didn't use my planner so obsessively, I doubt I'd know what day it is.

That being said, there have been some days that broke the routine. Last week my family and I went to the Indianapolis Zoo. It had been a while since I had been to the zoo, and it was fun. I got to touch a shark and see a baby monkey. Honestly, I think the cutest moment for me was watching the polar bear because it was adorable floating around in the water, but my favorite moment was probably with the birds. I held a parrot on my hand for the first time, and I think the experience kind of made me want one. In the past, parrots were one of the few types of animals that I wasn't too interested in owning, but now it seems so much more appealing.

Other than that, most of the fun stuff that's happened to me has been going out to lunch with my grandma and then one of my best friends and stuff like that.

In less than great news, the fillings that the dentist had to fix about a month ago (and 'fix' as in do it a second time) are hurting me. They've been bothering me on and off since the appointment, but at first, I thought it was temporary. Now, I can't really eat on that side of my mouth, especially if the food is even remotely hard. Brushing my teeth isn't too bad, but flossing almost kills me every night. I always forget about that tooth until the floss is down in there and there's nothing I can do but suffer.

At this point, I feel like I'm going to have to go back to the dentist and get something done with it again, and I am beyond dreading it. Fingers crossed that I don't actually have to have anything done, but I'm not sure how else this would be fixed. I don't think it's normal to not be able to eat on one side of your mouth one month after getting a filling. Let's just hope that, if it gets fixed again, this time it actually gets fixed.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

5 Books I Wish More People Would Read

Fictional Foods I Wish I Could Try

Most books don't include foods that you can't find in the real world, but there are still numerous examples of foods that authors have created for their worlds over the years. Over the years, I've been able to amass a list of fictional foods that I wish I could try, and I imagine the cravings will stay with me for years, since there's no way I can create most of these.

Chocolate frogs from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. As far as fictional foods go, the wizarding world's food could form a list of its own. I'd try it all for the experience, even the cockroach clusters, but chocolate frogs hold the most draw for me. I would have chosen butterbeer, but I debated with myself whether drinks should count for this list and decided that they wouldn't. Plus, you can try butterbeer (and pumpkin juice) in the theme parks, studio tour, etc. that (in my mind at least) tastes a lot like "real" butterbeer (and is delicious).

Chocolate frogs are available in the theme parks as well, and I've had them along with the Harry Potter Alliance's chocolate frogs and a chocolate frog that was given to me by a woman cosplaying as McGonagall at LeakyCon 2011. They're good, as I would expect them to be, but it can't measure up to the experience of eating a real chocolate frog from the Harry Potter universe. We can make the butterbeer and the Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans (even if they contain less flavors) and whatnot, but we can't make chocolates that jump around like frogs. Without that, I'm never going to have the experience of eating a chocolate frog, even if I won't complain about getting any Muggle chocolate frogs either.

Fire flakes from Avatar: The Last Airbender. I have more questions about fire flakes than answers. Are they like potato chips, coconut flakes, or something else entirely? In my mind, they look like red coconut flakes, but I can't place their flavor other than "hot". We don't learn what they're made of other than "spices", so it's hard to pinpoint what you'd be eating.

The thing is, I don't like foods that are as spicy as these are implied to be. If this was a food available in grocery stores, I doubt I'd pay it much attention, but after being in my favorite TV show and being unavailable to me, it's created a curiosity that would lead to me buying them if given the chance. Even if I only took one bite and then was done with them forever.

Lembas from the Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien. Who wouldn't enjoy the convenience of having lembas around? I certainly would. It's another one of those foods that we could try to imitate shallowly, but we'd never be able to re-create its magical properties.

Peeta's cheese buns from the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. This choice is different from the others in that we could make a good imitation of it in our world. I'm sure the ingredients are easy to find, and someone somewhere has probably made some of these that are exactly what Peeta was baking. Still, we don't know Peeta's exact recipe, and that's what I'm most curious about. These are Katniss' favorite, which only makes me want to try them more. (Plus, cheese and bread is always a nice combination.)

There are plenty of other fictional foods out there that people crave, whether its something that could never exist in our world or just a specific recipe that you know that you'll never be able to get. What fictional foods do you wish you had the opportunity to try?

May 2015 Wrap Up and June 2015 TBR