Sunday, May 21, 2017

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

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

Review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Reign Review: 4x10 "A Better Man"

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 18, 2017

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

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

Review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

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

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

Review:

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

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

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

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Reign Review: 4x09 "Pulling Strings"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Parks and Recreation Review: 2x04 "Practice Date"

Monday, May 15, 2017

Reign Review: 4x08 "Uncharted Waters"

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, May 12, 2017

Parks and Recreation Review: 2x03 "Beauty Pageant"

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anything But Books Tag

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

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

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

2. What is your favorite song right now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8. What is your most recent personal project?

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

9. Tell us something you think about often.

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

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

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

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Reign Review: 4x06 "Love & Death"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Reign Review: 4x05 "Highland Games"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, May 5, 2017

Book Review: Clockwork Prince and Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare

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

Review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book Review: Women of the Smokies by Courtney Lix

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Parks and Recreation Review: 1x06 "Rock Show"

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reign Review: 4x04 "Playing With Fire"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Naruto Shippuden Review: Episodes 381-385

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, May 1, 2017

HESS Interview Process

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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