Saturday, January 30, 2016

Totally Should've Book Tag

I'm taking a Youtube tag and doing it as a blog tag instead again. This tag was created by emmmabooks on Youtube. I'm doing it after I saw malarayofsunshine do it in a video. As you can tell from the title, these are all "totally should've" questions about books.

1. Totally should've gotten a sequel...
This is difficult for me because, if for no other reason, I feel like everything already has a sequel. I was looking through my absolute favorites list, and while there are stand-alone books there, there aren't any that I feel like warrant a sequel. (But let's be honest, I'd still read a sequel if one was written.) I'm going to go with The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare. It's not easy to say why I made that decision without spoiling the book. The story wraps up nicely, and I'm not sure what the characters would get up to in book two. But now I'm thinking up several ideas that I
might like to see yet will never happen.

2. Totally should've had a spin off series...
Here's the most shocking answer I've ever given: Harry Potter. I debated choosing something unique for a bit, but no, we all know I'd want a spin off Harry Potter series more than anything else. Yes, there's Fantastic Beasts, which technically counts, and the play, which also technically counts. However, since neither of those are in book form (I think think Fantastic Beasts counts here), I think it's still a valid answer. As for what the spin off would be, who doesn't want a Marauder Era series? Though I'd take just about anything else too.

3. An author who should totally write more books...
I'm going to choose Maureen Johnson for this because I'm impatiently waiting for the next Shades of London book. But I also feel uncomfortable choosing her because I know she's been dealing with health issues. I don't want to rant about not getting the next book when I know it's not her fault. When it does finally come out though, I will be so happy.

4. A character who should've totally ended up with someone else...
This one is tough because I tend to be pretty accepting of canon couples. Even when I dislike one, it's rare that I'll have strong feelings about how one of them should have ended up with someone else. Then I remembered the Uglies trilogy by Scott Westerfeld. So my answer is Tally, but I'll keep it vague to avoid spoiling the books. What I will say is that I very much disliked a certain character in that series.

5. Totally should've ended differently...
This is also a tough one because I think I block out endings I'm not happy with. I didn't like the ending of Specials, the third Uglies book, but that goes along with my last answer. If I really hate a ending, I tend to dislike the book as a whole, so it's not so much about how it ended as it is the book overall. Changing the ending wouldn't fix it. The one book I can think of that I enjoyed except for the ending is Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon. Everyone else who reads it seems to love the ending. I really enjoyed the book but felt the ending was a bit off. It was just a bit too unrealistic to me.

6. Totally should've had a movie franchise...
If you'd asked me before Shadowhunters was announced, I'd have said that because I really wanted an adaptation of all the books. Now my answer is the Star-Crossed series by Rachel Higginson. They're some of my favorite books, and the fact that they're self-published means they have even less of a chance of ever being adapted. I'd be so excited for that though.

7. Totally should've had a TV show...
I'd say Harry Potter if it weren't for the fact that I've already used it in an answer. I'm going to say City of Blaze by H.O. Charles. It's been a while, but I raved about this book back when I read it. I still haven't gotten around to reading the rest of the series, but I have such great memories of the first book. I'm still anxious to get to the others. I think it would work well as a big fantasy show, but like
Star-Crossed, it's self-published.

8. Totally should've had only one point of view...
I'd say this for just about any book with more than one point of view with only a couple of exceptions. In fact, that's just going to be my answer. I very much dislike shifting point of view in books. (I don't consider omniscient third person to be the same thing, so focusing on different characters that way doesn't bother me.)

9. Totally should have had a cover change...
I tend to think about self-published books when I think about this. I'll be honest, I'm not that fond of a lot of self-published book's covers. However, I'll answer with a different book: Chasing Mona Lisa by Tricia Goyer and Mike Yorkey.

10. Totally should've kept the original covers...
Original cover
I don't like the new covers for the Mortal Instruments series all that much. I don't know what it is about them, but I don't. The thing is, I'm not that fond of the original ones either, so it's not like I strongly want them to stick around. I just don't like either of them all that much.

11. Totally should've stopped at one book...
This is hard because if I get excited about the first book, I typically like the rest of the series, even if it's not quite as much. I'm going to choose Peeps by Scott Westerfeld for this. The thing is, I haven't actually read past the first book. The first book just feels so much like a standalone that I don't know what the sequel does. From what I've read, it is basically a separate story, which I think is the only thing they could have done.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Shadowhunters Review: 1x03: "Dead Man's Party"

I'm still feeling so excited about each episode of the show, so that's a nice feeling. I've said this a million times by now, but the show does have problems. I think that felt particularly true of this third episode, which I liked slightly less than the second. I can't pinpoint why. But that being said, I did enjoy this episode. It included some details that had me trying not to squeal early in the morning when I got up to watch it and my roommate was still asleep.

For the first two episodes, I watched both of them twice before my reviews. This time, I haven't. I only just watched the episode this morning. I do plan on watching it again (mostly to pick out what details I can), but I'm writing this review ahead of time. I feel like I'm going to forget to say more than I did with the first two. Particularly because I didn't write any notes this time. (It was dark in my room while watching it after all.) I think I can still find plenty to talk about.

Considering the cliff hanger from the last episode, it was a given that this episode would center around the vampires. Camille and Raphael are essentially the only two we're introduced to. I suppose there was also the guy Clary talked to, but I don't know if he counts so much.

Having Camille in the story so early is an interesting decision and one of the bigger changes so far. I like it. While I hate Camille as a person, she looks like she'll be a good villain on the show. It'll be interesting to see how many of her actions from the books will work their way into the show now that things are different. Alec knows who she is already, for one, so that means that, if the circumstances from the book play out, it would feel a bit different than in the books.

The change makes sense though. Being the head of the clan, I like actually seeing her early on. We also got Raphael's line where he told her to go instead of confront the Shadowhunters because she was too valuable. I'm wondering if she will regularly disappear throughout the series and be a character who pops up every so often. I think it could be interesting if we're left wondering when she'll make an appearance again.

The hotel itself looked much different than the one I had imagined in my head, but I liked it. It felt like an appropriate setting for the clan. The idea of them having all these artifacts lying around is interesting to me.

I spent the entire episode wondering if Simon was going to get turned into a vampire. Lo and behold, he didn't, but there was that bit at the end with him looking at the vein in Clary's neck, so I think it's safe to assume that we're on the way there. I'm excited for it.

One thought that only just occurred to me: I've been so caught up in when Simon will become a vampire that I haven't thought about when he'll become a daylighter. And that's kind of important considering he would have to avoid the daylight before that. It'll be interesting to see how they handle that.

I haven't said much about Raphael because, for whatever reason, I don't feel like I have much to say about Raphael yet. His actions largely felt like the actions the Raphael of the books would take, so I'm happy about that. We'll see what happens with him in the future.

Meliorn was also introduced in this episode, making him the first Seelie we've seen on the show. Knowing what I know about Meliorn from the books, I hate him, but I think I would even without having read the books. He just gives off that sort of vibe. Which isn't a criticism. It's the vibe that I think all of the Seelie are meant to have, so I'm glad that was in there. I do particularly hate Meliorn though, so I'm not so sure I want him appearing in a lot of episodes. Every now that then would be okay, but I don't want to have to deal with a lot of him.

There was a much larger development of Clace in this episode, with Clary and Jace spending quite a bit of the episode alone together. It felt a little quick to me considering how much time a TV show gives you to develop a romance, but that isn't inherently bad, I don't think. I don't know. We'll see how I feel after a couple of episodes when I can see what their relationship is like then. Clace is my least favorite (which isn't to say I dislike it) of the main couples, so to be honest, I'm less worried about how their relationship will be handled than I am Sizzy or Malec.

Unsurprisingly, Alec was my favorite part of this episode. I know that he's perpetually cranky in all of these episodes (as he is in the first several books), but that's part of what gets me so excited. I love seeing the early version of Alec and knowing how he's going to grow over the series. It just gets me really excited.

What I particularly loved about this episode was the conversation between Hodge and Alec about Alec being like Hodge. Obviously, that's not at all true in the end, but I like what it's setting up. I think Alec's going to get a chance to develop a bit more quickly in the TV show than he perhaps did in the books. Part of that comes from the freedom the TV show has to focus on the characters other than Clary more than the earlier books did. It gives them more chance to develop Alec right now instead of later.

Between that conversation with Hodge and Alec's conversations/arguments with Jace, I'm looking forward to what happens with Alec in the coming episodes. I'm excited to see him build up his confidence, come to terms with himself, and all of that. It's one of my favorite things of the entire books series, and I'm pretty sure it will be the TV series too.

Also, it looks like we're going to see Magnus again in the next episode, which I am, of course, excited about. Who knows what sort of role he's going to play. Maybe he and Alec will finally meet. If they do, you can look forward to me absolutely freaking out about it next week. We'll see though. I don't want to get prematurely excited about that if it takes a few more episodes. I am excited he'll be in the episode in any sort of capacity though. I can't wait for it.

Life Post: Busy Week

It's been a busy week. I had a club meeting on Monday that was the first of the semester. We wound up painting, and I was the only one who came out of it covered in paint. I blame it on being a secondary education major surrounded by elementary education majors. It was fun though. It had been a long time since I'd done anything that could qualify as arts and crafts.

One of my classes tomorrow is canceled, and I'm planning on using that time to try and catch up on some stuff I'm feeling behind on. Since it's a three hour class, I'll have a lot of time.

Since my last life post, I posted a Reign review over on Youtube. It's for the week before last, not this past Friday's episode. I got behind. I did also post a Naruto Shippuden review for episodes 286-290 though. I'm glad I didn't go as long between video reviews for Naruto as I did last time.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Book Review: Chasing Mona Lisa by Tricia Goyer and Mike Yorkey

ISBN: 0800720466
Published: January 1st, 2012
Publisher: Flaming H. Revell Company
Read from January 17th to 25th, 2016
Synopsis from Goodreads:
It is August 1944 and Paris is on the cusp of liberation. As the soldiers of the Third Reich flee the Allied advance, they ravage the country, stealing countless pieces of art. Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring will stop at nothing to claim the most valuable one of all, the Mona Lisa, as a post-war bargaining chip to get him to South America. Can Swiss OSS agents Gabi Mueller and Eric Hofstadler rescue DaVinci's masterpiece before it falls into German hands?
With nonstop action, Chasing Mona Lisa is sure to get readers' adrenaline pumping as they join the chase to save the most famous painting in the world. From war-ravaged Paris to a posh country chateau, the race is on--and the runners are playing for keeps. 


I don't have much to say about this book other than the fact that I found it extremely boring. The synopsis claims nonstop action, but I don't feel like that's actually what the book contains. Despite knowing that stuff happens, nothing felt high stakes. I don't know why it failed to considering the book centers around a war and events that should, reasonably, be high stakes. It just didn't feel that way while I was ready.

This isn't a bad book by any means. The writing was fine on its own, and I think the plot had potential. It's hard for me to pinpoint the exact reason the book didn't work well for me. There was just something about it when it was all put together that led to the book not holding my interest well. Other people could very well enjoy it, but the book wasn't for me.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Book Review: Democracy in Black: How Race Still Enslaves the American Soul by Eddie S. Glaude Jr.

ISBN: 0804137412
Published: January 12th, 2016
Publisher: Crown
Read from January 17th to 22nd, 2016
Synopsis from Goodreads:
A powerful polemic on the state of black America that savages the idea of a post-racial society

America’s great promise of equality has always rung hollow in the ears of African Americans. But today the situation has grown even more dire. From the murders of black youth by the police, to the dismantling of the Voting Rights Act, to the disaster visited upon poor and middle-class black families by the Great Recession, it is clear that black America faces an emergency—at the very moment the election of the first black president has prompted many to believe we’ve solved America’s race problem.

Democracy in Black is Eddie S. Glaude Jr.'s impassioned response. Part manifesto, part history, part memoir, it argues that we live in a country founded on a “value gap”—with white lives valued more than others—that still distorts our politics today. Whether discussing why all Americans have racial habits that reinforce inequality, why black politics based on the civil-rights era have reached a dead end, or why only remaking democracy from the ground up can bring real change, Glaude crystallizes the untenable position of black America--and offers thoughts on a better way forward. Forceful in ideas and unsettling in its candor, Democracy In Black is a landmark book on race in America, one that promises to spark wide discussion as we move toward the end of our first black presidency.


Democracy in Black discusses many of the current race issues and movements in the United States, and it often does so by connecting them back to the past. I think it does a really nice job of it. The book itself discusses the different political positions most common within the black community and the different ways they look at race, including current power structures that have been created.

I think this is an excellent book for anyone wanting to learn more about what is currently happening in the black community, including movements like #BlackLivesMatter. The book does a great job of laying out where it all comes from, and the author discusses his own belief as to what needs to be done. Not everyone is going to agree with him, but regardless of that, I think his words are ones worth listening to.

This book contains so much information that everybody today should know, and it's one that will definitely have you thinking as you read.. I would recommend it to everyone.

I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.

Shadowhunters Review: 1x02 "The Descent Into Hell Isn't Easy"

I reviewed the first episode of Shadowhunters as a video. I wasn't expecting Freeform to release the second episode early on their app like they did, so I had watched it already when I filmed my first review. I debated for a bit making the review for the first two episodes, but then I decided to separate them. That being said, I did kind of talk about the second episode already in that review. For that reason, I'm going to try to stay briefer in this review. The first review involved me rambling for far too long.

Since this is my first review of the show here, I do want to say that I've enjoyed the show as a whole so far. It's not perfect by any means. There's some stuff I don't like. The special effects aren't always great, and sometimes the acting makes me cringe. Overall though, I think they're doing a good job of capturing the tone of the book, and that's keeping me optimistic. For the most part, I think the actors get their characters, which is good, and I'm hoping they can keep improving as the show goes on. We'll see what happens.

I did talk about this in my video review, but I have to say that I'm quite happy with how Sizzy was dealt with in the second episode. They really felt like Izzy and Simon from the first book to me, and I appreciated that. I think they're doing a good job both with the romantic relationships and the friendships as a whole so far. I'm not blown away by Clace (which I know I'm not alone by), but that's the same as with the books really. I enjoy them together well enough, but I'm not that enthusiastic about it.

As my favorite character, Alec had me worried going into the show. So I'm happy to say that I like what they've done with his character so far. Matthew Daddario's acting is, like everyone else's, not perfect all the time, but for the most part, I think he's playing Alec in a way that shows he understands Alec. I appreciate that if nothing else, and for the most part, I like what they seem to be doing with Alec from a writing standpoint. We'll see how that holds up in the future.

The Silent Brothers had completely slipped my mind going into the show. I hadn't thought about how they might be presented and what they might look like. I thought the makeup for them was actually quite good. I think there was a nice balance where they were creepy but not terrifying, which is how it should be.

We find out in the second episode the Simon's an only child, meaning they cut out his sister. Not really important considering she's hardly in the books, but I found it interesting that the fact got thrown out there so early on like they wanted to establish that she'd been cut out.

The last thing I want to mention about the episode (since I think I said most everything else in the video review) is about Simon being captured by Raphael at the end of the episode. Ever since the promotion that hinted heavily at Simon being a vampire, I've figured that he'd get turned early on in the show. They have said they kind of combined stuff from the first several books, and I think this is one of the things they're doing much earlier.

I actually think that's a great idea after the first couple of episodes. Simon's been floundering along as a mundane, so I get why they want to turn him into a Downworlder as quickly as possible. It will help him have more to do, and he'll fit into the world better. I don't know if it'll happen in the next episode or a handful of episodes from now, but I have little doubt that it will be within this season.

It's tempting to end with "we'll see" when it comes to Simon being a vampire, but I think I've said that too much already. I think that's still my overarching sentiment when it comes to the show. For the most part, I like where they're going, but it's still early enough that I still feel cautious about everything and whether or not it's good or bad. But, like I've said, we'll see. I'm excited for episode three and seeing what happens at least.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Book Review: Household Workers Unite: The Untold Story of African American Women Who Built a Movement by Premilla Nadasen

ISBN: 0807014508
Published: August 25th, 2015
Publisher: Beacon Press
Read from January 11th to 16th, 2016
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Premilla Nadasen recounts in this powerful book a little-known history of organizing among African American household workers. She uses the stories of a handful of women to illuminate the broader politics of labor, organizing, race, and gender in late 20th-century America. At the crossroads of the emerging civil rights movement, a deindustrializing economy, a burgeoning women's movement, and increasing immigration, household worker activists, who were excluded from both labor rights and mainstream labor organizing, developed distinctive strategies for political mobilization and social change. We learn about their complicated relationship with their employers, who were a source of much of their anguish, but, also, potentially important allies. And equally important they articulated a profound challenge to unequal state policy. Household Workers Unite offers a window into this occupation from a perspective that is rarely seen. At a moment when the labor movement is in decline; as capital increasingly treats workers as interchangeable or indispensible; as the number of manufacturing jobs continues to dwindle and the number of service sector jobs expands; as workers in industrialized countries find themselves in an precarious situation and struggle hard to make ends meet without state support or protection--the lessons of domestic worker organizing recounted here might prove to be more important than just a correction of the historical record. The women in this book, as Nadasen demonstrates, were innovative labor organizers. As a history of poor women workers, it shatters countless myths and assumptions about the labor movement and proposes a very different vision.


Before reading this book, I had a limited knowledge of current issues surrounding domestic workers. I also also aware of the stereotypes of domestic work and workers in both the past and present in the United States, as I'm sure most Americans are. I had essentially no knowledge about the household workers movement described in this book, which is remarkable considering how many years the movement stretches over.

The book is a detailed account of so much work done by black women to fight for household worker's rights. Because I knew so little about it beforehand, I was fascinated by the information in the book. There was exploration of the role both race and gender played in the struggle and how the view of housework as being separate from the work world leads to household workers' rights being overlooked in comparison to the rights of other workers.

I'm glad this book exists because I don't think this is a topic written about as often as it should be, and it deals with an issue that includes the intersectionality of race and gender. If you're at all interested in this topic, I would recommend this book.

I received this book through Goodreads First Reads for an honest review.

Life Post: A Nostalgic Saturday

I went to get coffee this morning, and I stumbled upon a crowded Starbucks. Usually when I get coffee on weekend mornings, there's no one there except me and the workers. They'll be working on homework and stuff like that when I come in. Today the line was backed up to the door, there were more workers than normal, and they were constantly in motion.

I can't tell you definitively who all the people were, but I know only one or two of them were college students. Most of them were adults and teenagers with adults, so I'm going to go ahead and guess they're here for one of those days where they visit colleges and whatnot. It's been so long that I can't even remember what my school calls those days, but I felt a bit of nostalgia seeing those kids going through the same thing.

When I was walking across campus later, I also saw a campus tour. I remember that too. It's crazy to think I'm a senior now. Sometimes I don't even believe I was ever in the position of having to learn about campus and figure out where everything was. I had so much trouble finding the buildings on campus freshman year, and that's laughable now.

So my Saturday has turned into a nostalgic one. It's better than focusing on the One Direction drama I woke up to. (My frustration with that mostly being the people freaking out about it on Twitter and Tumblr, not with the One Direction news itself.)

Anyway, I filmed my Reign review this morning that's for last Friday's episode, not this Friday's. I know I'm late, but I'm importing the footage now so that I can edit it and get it up. It might take a while to load since our wifi's been pretty terrible this semester, but it should at least be up today.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Life Post: It's Cold

I'm happy that we managed to miss the massive blizzard that other parts of the country are currently getting. At the same time, it feels like the temperature suddenly dropped, and not even our dorm feels warm right now. Still, I can't complain if we're not getting more snow. The snow from last time is still on the ground. I don't think it's melted at all, so we definitely don't need anymore.

On Sunday I think it's supposed to get above freezing again, and I'm looking forward to it. It will be so nice for the now to melt and to not freeze when going outside. Right now I just want to stay indoors and not leave. Walking around campus earlier today was not fun.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Life Post: Work and a Signing

It's strange how we got Monday off, but this week feels like it's been one thing after one thing. I've been so busy just working on stuff. It's good though. I think I've liked it. It's not the sort of work I had most of last semester. It isn't as difficult. I've just been working on a lot of it.

My sister and I went to a Roxane Gay reading last night. She signed copies of her books afterwards, so I have a signed copy of Bad Feminist. I'm really excited about it. She also write "Embrace your bad feminist" on the inside, which is perfect. I love it. Her reading was great as well. Not only is she a very talented writer, but she's excellent at reading it to an audience.

I only got to talk to her briefly while she signed my book, but she also seemed like a very nice person. She was chatting with everyone in line, laughing and making jokes, and she told us to have a nice night as we left. She said some really awesome stuff in the Q and A as well about not bothering trying to talk to people about feminism when you know you can't change them and about social justice being tied up in people's lives. It managed to be both hilarious and really intelligent. In other words, the event and Roxane Gay were the best.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Life Post: The Second Week

Today has felt pretty busy after having four days off. It's been a good one though. I'm really enjoying all of my classes at this point, and I think it's going to stay that way. The workload I have this semester is really not bad at all in comparison to the last several semesters, and I think that's making me enjoy completing it more as well.

Tonight I'm going to a talk with my sister though, so I'm not going to have as much time to study tonight as I would have hoped. I still have quite a bit I want to get done today that most likely won't be done. We'll see what happens though.

Over on Youtube I posted my review of the first episode of Shadowhunters (after having computer problems that led to editing it multiple times). I think I'm going to review the second episode here on the blog, so look out for that soon. Obviously, I'm extremely excited about all of it.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Alan Rickman

Alan Rickman died four days ago as I'm writing this. I've really wanted to write something in honor of him since shortly after it happened, but I haven't because of a lack of ideas as to what I could contribute. I didn't know him, and there's absolutely nothing I can add to what's already been said about him. I don't have some wonderful, touching story about what effect he had on my life.

All I can tell you is that Alan Rickman's portrayal of Snape was an extremely important part of my childhood, and for years, I've considered him one of the greatest actors in the world. His death was a shock to me, and it took me a while to even process it. I've never before had such a strong reaction to a celebrity death. It was the first time I cried over one. The combination of the surprise and it being Alan Rickman really effected me.

Reading all of the stories from people who knew him since he passed has only made it harder to know that he's died. He seems to have been such an amazing person, and the fact that cancer had to take him is heart breaking.

As I said before, I really have nothing else to say other than that, but I felt like I needed to dedicate something (even if it's just a blog post) to Alan Rickman. It's the least I could possibly do, even if it means almost nothing in the long run.

Life Post: A Monday That's Not a Monday

Despite sleeping in today, I can hardly keep my eyes open. I have no idea why that is other than that my allergies seem a bit worse today. It's not the most convenient. Since I have a day off classes today, I'd planned to get ahead on my work for the week, but instead, I can't focus. I've been struggling to read one of my textbooks, and writing this is my break even though my eyes still don't want to stay open.

All of that being said, it's nice to have another day off. I can't complain about that. I only got dressed an hour ago, and I still only put sweatpants on (which I rarely wear). Come to think of it, that might be part of the reason why I feel so tired. Who knows.

Earlier today I posted something on my writing blog called Hypocrite. The negative tone of it makes me sound angrier than I am I think. I labelled it as fiction because it's more fiction than a realistic look at how I think.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Life Post: Hectic First Week

I haven't posted a life post since the second day of classes, and the rest of the first week was definitely busy. I don't have much to say other than that. It's nothing like last semester. I'm not a stressful busy. It's just that I'm constantly doing something. If this was the entire semester though, it has nothing on last semester.

I still really think this is going to be a great semester, and I'm excited about it. I just found up a few minutes ago that something particularly exciting might be happening later this week. But I'll talk more about that after it happens. I'm sure I'll be dying to talk about it.

The power did go out twice today, and it made me lose a video I was editing both times (despite the video being supposedly saved before the power outage). Now I put off editing it until tomorrow when I'm in a better mood to deal with it.

That being said, I did get a video up the other day. It was a review of the Reign episode before last Friday's. That one was my own fault that I didn't get it up until the day of a new episode.

Now, I can hardly keep my eyes open, which is making writing this post difficult. I'm going to go listen to this podcast and possibly fall asleep.

Book Review: Haven by A.R. Ivanovich

Published: January 5th, 2016 (first published May 26th, 2011)
Publisher: Alloy Entertainment
Read from January 1st to 11th, 2016
Synopsis from Goodreads:
From missing socks to missing people, nothing could remain hidden from seventeen year-old Katelyn Kestrel for long, but after locating a forbidden passage out of her isolated country, Haven, she discovers for the first time that there are some things that should never be found. Outside the safety of her homeland's borders, Katelyn meets Rune, a young soldier who will die without her immediate aid. She never considered that helping him would lead to her capture. While being held prisoner by the handsome Lord Dylan Axton, she learns that the outside world is rife with war and controlled by people with extraordinary powers. It becomes clear that there was a very good reason the founders of Haven locked their people away from the rest of the world. The depth of her peril reaches a fever pitch when a ruthless Commander wants Katelyn dead. Her only hope is to return to Haven, but can she survive long enough to find her home?


I started off my reading year with Haven, and I'm so glad I did. I talked about this quite a bit in my end of year survey, but 2015 wasn't the greatest reading year for me as far as fiction goes. Aside from a couple of really great books, most of what I read I seemed to either hate or just find okay. I can think of about three fiction books that I really enjoyed. I wound up enjoying the nonfiction I read much more, and while there's nothing wrong with that, I was really hoping this year would be better as far as fiction goes.

Which is why starting off my year with Haven was such a great idea. I wound up loving it (and the book I read next thankfully), and I'm so glad that I already have the rest of the series. I'm pretty sure I also mentioned in my end of year survey that my goal was to finish some of the million series I'm reading, not start anymore. Clearly, I broke that first thing, but I don't feel too bad about it largely because Haven was excellent and I already have all the books.

Haven was an excellent start to the series. I found all of the characters compelling. The book takes place across two worlds, neither of which is our own. I knew the book was labelled as dystopian going in, but I wasn't expecting to wonder just which world was the dystopia as I was reading. After reading, I'm still not sure about one of the worlds. I have so many questions in the best possible way.

I'm fascinated with the world of this story. All of its rules and how it was laid out and the characters within it. The romance too was a great part of the book. Romance, I think, was one of the areas that really felt blah to me last year, so I was delighted to love the romance in Haven as much as I did. The whole book had me on the edge of my seat as I tried to figure everything out, and I never quite knew what was going to come next.

If you're looking for a great fantasy book, I would recommend this one. I can't wait to get to the next in the series.

(Also, unrelated to the story itself, but I'm in love with the cover. I don't say that all that often, but this happens to be the second book recently where the cover struck me.)

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

Book Review: Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

ISBN: 0451474708
Published: May 5th, 2015
Publisher: Viking
Read from January 3rd to 10th, 2015
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Peyton, Sydney's charismatic older brother, has always been the star of the family, receiving the lion's share of their parents' attention and—lately—concern. When Peyton's increasingly reckless behavior culminates in an accident, a drunk driving conviction, and a jail sentence, Sydney is cast adrift, searching for her place in the family and the world. When everyone else is so worried about Peyton, is she the only one concerned about the victim of the accident?
Enter the Chathams, a warm, chaotic family who run a pizza parlor, play bluegrass on weekends, and pitch in to care for their mother, who has multiple sclerosis. Here Sydney experiences unquestioning acceptance. And here she meets Mac, gentle, watchful, and protective, who makes Sydney feel seen, really seen, for the first time.
The uber-popular Sarah Dessen explores her signature themes of family, self-discovery, and change in her twelfth novel, sure to delight her legions of fans.


Sarah Dessen is one of my favorite authors. She also happens to be the first young adult author I remember reading back when I was fourteen. I remember reading Just Listen and feeling really mature because of it, and I've been reading her books ever since.

I also got lucky enough to meet her on the book tour for this book at the beginning of last summer. Now only did I get my copy of Saint Anything signed, but she also signed that copy of Just Listen that I bought at fourteen and my copy of This Lullaby which has, for years, been my favorite of her books.

All of that influences my review I think. It took me a year to actually read this book, which is ridiculous. Most of it comes down to me trying to read all of the older books I had sitting around before I got to newer ones, but I'll also admit that the anticipation of having a new Sarah Dessen book on my shelf that I have yet to read is a nice feeling.

I knew I would like this book going into it. Not only do I like Sarah Dessen's books in general, but this one received so much praise after it came out. It felt like even more than what I remember from previous book releases of hers, and it had me very hyped up about this book. Luckily, I wasn't disappointed in that regard.

Remember how I said that This Lullaby has been my favorite for years? I honestly just don't know anymore. I'm reluctant to say it isn't for nostalgia reasons if nothing else, but Saint Anything blew me away. Typically I would worry that this is a case of me getting caught up in something new and nothing more, but I've never had this reaction to a Sarah Dessen book since reading This Lullaby.

Saint Anything both felt like a Sarah Dessen novel and also like something more at the same time. There was a different quality there that led me to forget at times who the author is. Now, I love all of her other books, so this isn't a criticism of them. I enjoy having that familiar Sarah Dessen feel when I read her books. It's a good feeling. And I still felt that to a certain extent with Saint Anything, but I also found myself forgetting sometimes who had written the book.

I feel like that almost creates a conundrum. I fell absolutely in love with this book, but I also wonder if I would recommend it to someone if it were the first Sarah Dessen book they were going to read. Maybe I would want to point them towards a book that feels more quintessential Sarah Dessen to me, but at the same time, I want to just recommend this book to everyone regardless. I don't know.

When it comes to my feelings about Saint Anything though, I'm just going to go ahead and say it's tied with This Lullaby as my favorite Sarah Dessen book. For now. We'll see what conclusion I come to in the future.

I also realize that there's so much that happens in the book that I haven't mentioned in this review. While I debated for a bit over whether or not to talk about that, I decided not to. There's a lot I would really like to say about the characters and their actions, but I went into this book knowing almost nothing about the plot. While I typically don't care about that sort of thing, I liked it in this case, so I'm going to keep quiet about most of it. What I will say is that I found all of the characters compelling, although often in a very frustrating way, and I enjoyed the way everything felt so realistic even though that meant spending a good portion of the book feeling angry. I think that, more than anything else, is what the book managed to do so well.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Life Post: Ice Breakers and First Classes

After the second day of the semester, I can say that I've now gone to each class I'll be having this semester. Each class looks like it'll be a good one.

One of them is three hours long, but for a lot of that time, we'll be in a school. So that's not all that bad.

The other class also includes a practicum, so even though it's also shorter, we won't be spending every single class period in the classroom. That class is also with a professor I've had before and really like, so I'm excited for it.

This is probably something I've never explicitly told the Internet (not much reason to without it being out of the blue), but I'm a terrible liar. Even if I'm not lying but I think that people think I'm lying, I start acting suspicious because I'm worried that they'll think I'm lying.

In one of my classes today we played an ice breaker game that involved writing down secrets and then the class guessing whose was whose. I kept getting picked on over and over because everyone thought I looked suspicious when in reality I was just so conscious about looking guilty that I looked guilty.

There was also someone else who chose the secret that they were writing a novel, which is also true for me but not what I picked. One of the guys chose me because he said it sounded like me. When I said that it wasn't, he was like, "But you are writing one, right?" And when I said yes, he tried to lobby the professor for half a point for getting that right (didn't work). I thought it was interesting because this isn't someone I'm close to, just someone I've had classes with because we're both education majors. I'm sure I've talked about being a writer in his presence before, but I always get caught off guard when I'm reminded how small my school is. People you don't talk to outside of class all that much can pick up a surprising amount of information about you just because you wind up in so many classes together.

The only bad thing about the semester so far remains the weather. It was warmer today, but the wind was so bad that you couldn't actually tell. It also snowed again. (There was ice/snow on the ground Monday, but it wasn't coming down like it did today.) I think we're supposed to be done with it now though. Sometime later this week I think it's even supposed to rain. I hope that stays just rain and washes the snow away.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Life Plost: The Penultimate Semester Begins

Today was the start of my penultimate semester of college, and that fact is hitting me hard today. There have been several times where I was walking across campus (and freezing) where I couldn't stop thinking about how this is the last semester I'd do this on a daily basis. (Next semester is student teaching for me, so all my time during the typical school day will be spent at a school.) I can't believe I've reached this point.

So far this semester seems like it will be significantly lighter than the last few too. I'm finishing up the last thirteen credit hours that I need aside from student teaching, and that's the fewest credit hours I've ever taken in college. In addition to that, one's an online course (and 100 level) that doesn't feel like it will be that stressful as long as I don't forget to do things.

I've never taken an online class before. My school doesn't have them. The one I'm taking now is through Ivy Tech (but there's special program between our schools that allows the credit to show up as if it came from my school instead of a transfer credit on my transcript). I wasn't sure what to expect, so one of the first things I did this morning was log on and check everything out. Ivy Tech uses a different course management system than my school (Blackboard instead of Canvas), so I was a bit worried about messing up with it. Canvas was difficult to get used to at first. So far it all seems to be straightforward though.

At the same time, I went through and copied the entire schedule into my planner. Now, I plan a lot, but never a full semester in advance. I'm trying that this year because the last two semesters almost killed me. (That's not me exaggerating by the way.) It feels a little over the top since this semester is almost guaranteed to be easier, but I'm doing it anyway.

My first in-person class was also today. It's adolescent psychology, and it went well. I find psychology fascinating, and I'm going to be working with teenagers (obviously). I think it's going to be a pretty great class. (And I already have it all scheduled out in my planner too.)

The only thing I can complain about today is how cold it is. We would have the first significant snow of the season a day before classes started. Crossing campus is miserable. I've had to go through the long process of completely bundling myself up far too many times just today. Luckily, I think it's supposed to get warmer later in the week (above freezing that is). That's after we get through tomorrow which is supposed to be strong winds and even colder temperatures. The greatest combination in the world. (Fingers crossed there's no snow on top of that.)

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Book Review: Arab and Jew: Wounded Spirits in a Promised Land by David K. Shipler

ISBN: 0553447513
Published: November 10th, 2015
Publisher: Broadway Books
Read from December 25th to 31st, 2015
Synopsis from Goodreads:
The expanded and updated edition of David Shipler's Pulitzer Prize-winning book that examines the relationship, past and present, between Arabs and Jews
In this monumental work, extensively researched and more relevant than ever, David Shipler delves into the origins of the prejudices that exist between Jews and Arabs that have been intensified by war, terrorism, and nationalism.
Focusing on the diverse cultures that exist side by side in Israel and Israeli-controlled territories, Shipler examines the process of indoctrination that begins in schools; he discusses the far-ranging effects of socioeconomic differences, historical conflicts between Islam and Judaism, attitudes about the Holocaust, and much more. And he writes of the people: the Arab woman in love with a Jew, the retired Israeli military officer, the Palestinian guerrilla, the handsome actor whose father is Arab and whose mother is Jewish.
For Shipler, and for all who read this book, their stories and hundreds of others reflect not only the reality of "wounded spirits" but also a glimmer of hope for eventual coexistence in the Promised Land. 


This book is an excellent look at a very complicated situation. It stays away from taking a side in the conflict and instead talks to both Jews and Arabs within Israel and Palestine to learn about their points-of-view. There is an examination of prejudice and terrible acts on both sides of the conflict as well as more optimistic stories.

It really feels like there's no a stone left unturned in this book. The book explores the wars themselves, the role each education system plays in influencing children, feelings on intermarriage between Arabs and Jews, and more, It's hard to imagine being able to explore it all so well in only one book, but this book does it excellently.

While the book was originally published decades ago, the revised edition discusses both where things haven't changed much and provides any new relevant information. The way it was done (keeping much of the original text but adding post scripts to discuss what's happened since) provided a way to see both what has and hasn't changed since the first edition of the book was published.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone hoping to learn more about the conflict. It is an excellent source for learning more about it in depth.

I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Life Post: Nearing the End of Break

Right now there are two days until I go back to school, and while I've been packing the last couple of days, I don't feel like I'm backed at all. What I do have together feels like a lot less than what I brought home. That would technically be a good thing, except I feel like I'm forgetting about important stuff. Packing to go to school always seems more difficult than packing to go home. When I'm here with all my stuff and everything's gotten mixed up, it's difficult to remember what I need at school and what I don't.

I'm trying to spend the last few days of break doing nothing before I go back to school. I'm not sure how well that's working out since I'm mostly writing and stuff though.

However, I'm reading two books right now that are both amazing. I wrote in my end of year book survey about how last year wasn't the greatest for me as far as fiction goes, so I'm really excited about this. Both of them are so good, and I'm glad I managed to start off the year this way. I hope it's a good sign.

I posted on my writing blog about writing according to seasons. On Youtube, I posted a book review on Nothing to Envy, which is the stories of six different North Koreans over the span of more than ten years.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Naruto Shippuden Review: Episodes 281-285

My last Naruto review was a video after realizing that I hadn't filmed a review for Naruto in months. This time I'm going to go ahead and do another blog post (but I still plan to not wait as long to do one as a video again).

Of these five episodes, two of them fit together pretty well, and the other three are completely unrelated. That being said, I actually enjoyed episode 281 and how it focused on the kids sticking back in the village. At least, I liked it more than expected. I would still have preferred no filler at all. It was more lighthearted, which often feels out of place to me as filler, but I appreciated it for what it was.

Episode 284 focused more on Sai. However, not only was this filler, I also didn't feel like I got anything from it. I'm saying this as someone who adores Sai as a character. I think I got more out of episode 281 than 284. I can't pinpoint the exact reason that is. There was the stuff about Sai using emotions as a weapon and him realizing that Lee uses them differently. That was nice, and I even think it was a good realization for Sai to have. I feel like I should have enjoyed that episode more than I did, and I haven't quite been able to pinpoint why I didn't.

Episode 285 was surprisingly touching. I don't typically enjoy episodes that center around one-shot characters that much, and while I probably would have preferred something else, I thought this one was a good one, if sad.

The other two episodes in this set of five center around Naruto and Bee attempting to get past the Raikage and Tsunade. I appreciated these episodes mostly for the background we got on Bee and his brother, namely the fact that they're not actually brothers.

I find their story interesting, and while I'm not the biggest fan of the Raikage all things considered, I do really like Bee so far.

The other thing I liked about these episodes had to do with Tsunade and Naruto's relationship. I appreciated her declaring that he needed to be allowed to pass. There were some nice moments in those episodes. I'll be careful about saying more though. I've watched episode 286, and I could easily go into some of the stuff that happened in this episode.

Overall, these episodes were hit or miss with me. None of them were bad. They were infinitely better than some of the other filler I've watched in the decent past, but they weren't great either. We'll see what the next five episodes hold.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Life Post: Writing and Reading During Break

I woke up far too early today for a day during my last week of break. I don't have a specific reason other than that I wanted to get things done today, which I'm achieving mostly.

For Christmas, I promised my sister I'd write her a story, but since I didn't know what she wanted me to write for her until a few days before Christmas, it wasn't done before Christmas. It's still not done. While she told me some stuff she wants in it, she didn't give me an actual plot, so I decided to wing it. But the truth is I still have no idea what the plot is even as I keep adding things hoping it will shape into a decent plot. I even have an antagonist, but I don't know where they story's going. So I'm still trying to work on that.

I'm also in the middle of drafting a new fanfiction. I think it's more than halfway done. Starting it may not have been an amazing idea when I already have three fanfictions written that need to be edited and posted. I'm glad I'm getting this one out though. One of the characters in this one is very important to me, and it's the first time I've written a fanfiction directly about him. I'm pretty happy with how it's shaping up so far.

I honestly think I'll spend most of the rest of my break working on both of those and also reading two books I just started and am absolutely loving. I mentioned several times over the course of last year that I felt it wasn't the greatest year for me as far as fiction reading goes. Luckily, I'm starting off the new year with two amazing books, and I hope that's a good sign for the rest of the year.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Book Review: The Impossible State: North Korea, Past and Future by Victor Cha

ISBN: 0061998516
Published: July 9th, 2013 (first published April 3rd, 2012)
Publisher: Ecco
Read from December 14th to 18th, 2015
Synopsis from Goodreads:
In The Impossible State, seasoned international-policy expert and lauded scholar Victor Cha pulls back the curtain on provocative, isolationist North Korea, providing our best look yet at its history and the rise of the Kim family dynasty and the obsessive personality cult that empowers them. Cha illuminates the repressive regime's complex economy and culture, its appalling record of human rights abuses, and its belligerent relationship with the United States, and analyzes the regime's major security issues—from the seemingly endless war with its southern neighbor to its frightening nuclear ambitions—all in light of the destabilizing effects of Kim Jong-il's death and the transition of power to his unpredictable heir.
Ultimately, this engagingly written, authoritative, and highly accessible history warns of a regime that might be closer to its end than many might think—a political collapse for which America and its allies may be woefully unprepared.


While I read three books about North Korea back-to-back, this one was notably different from the other two I read. The other two books I read were focused on the personal stories of North Koreans, but this book focuses on North Korean on a broader scale. The author served in George W. Bush's White House as Director for Asian Affairs. His personal experience with North Korea while in that position is incorporated into this book as well as a wider discussion of North Korea.

The book is a great source for learning more about how North Korea operates on a more international scale instead of just within its own country. While the treatment of the North Korean people by their government is a hugely important issue and one talked about within the book, it is not the only focus within this book. I found it fascinating to learn more about how North Korea interacts with other governments and how it makes money internationally through various means, including distributing drugs to other countries that are made within North Korea.

I enjoyed learning more about so many different aspects of North Korea especially from a foreign affairs perspective. The only criticism I have of the book is that it had a tendency to get repetitive at times. There were points of the book where I felt like I was reading exactly what I had read before, and I would wonder if I had somehow wound up flipping back in the book without realizing it. That would throw me off, and I eventually took to skipping passages that I swore I had read before. I wish those sections had been trimmed down as it was unnecessary to have the same information multiple times.

Still, I would recommend this book if you're interested in learning more about North Korea. It is a good source of information and is written in a style that is easy to read when it's not repetitive.

Life Post: The Last Week of Winter Break

There's officially one week left until classes start up again. I've been looking over my schedule trying to have it memorized as best as I can before the semester starts. It's strange because it looks so bare compared to last semester. I'm only taking two fewer credit hours this semester than last, but I have a four credit hour online class this semester, which means it's not on the part of the schedule that lays out the times for each class. That's what makes it look emptier than past schedules.

I'm not entirely sure what to expect from this semester workload-wise. I don't want to underestimate the semester just because of that schedule. Since I've never taken an online class before, I'm not sure what to expect from it in terms of work. My other classes are all education classes (although one is technically a psychology class meant for education majors), and it's always hard to gauge just how much work those will be until you're in them. It can go either way.

I'm excited for this semester though. No matter how the classes turn out, it's doubtful they'll have me as busy as last semester, which included senior seminar and a very long practicum at a high school. Despite not wanting to underestimate it, I already feel like this semester will feel like a light one in comparison. If I get stressed out later on, I'm going to remind myself of what it was like last semester.

I posted my first wrap-up and TBR of the year yesterday, which wound up being far longer than I had expected it to be. I got ramble-y. You can check that out if you're interested in knowing what books I read last month and what I'm planning to read in January.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Life Post: Update on Our Dog

Luckily, I'm not writing another post about our dog because things are worse. In fact, he's acted completely fine today. In the morning, I noticed that he was blinking a bit more than normal, but even that has gone away throughout the day. His behavior is entirely normal now. Nothing seems wrong.

It's such a relief after I was so worked up about it, and I really do feel so great today just because he's doing better. I'm still petting and cuddling him more than is typical, but it's out of relief and not out of worry or fear.

We're still not really sure what happened. He tried to go after a stray cat that was in our backyard the day he started having problems with his eyes, but my mom and sister were there and got him away from the cat. Neither one of them saw our dog and the cat actually touch each other. Plus, I noticed him acting off a day before that (I'm also wondering if that was part of what lead to him going after the cat), although no one noticed anything wrong with his eye then. And despite not being able to open his eyes, noting actually looked like it was wrong with them.

I don't think we'll ever actually know what it was that happened for sure. Not to judge a dog's reaction to pain, but a lot of his yelping the other day seemed like he was in more pain than just what an eye infection would cause. I just don't know.

At least he's feeling better now.

Movie Review: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

After sixteen days, seeing the movie twice, and thinking about it a lot, I'm finally writing my review of The Force Awakens. This feels so daunting. There's so much I could say, and I know I'm not going to fit it all into one post. Stuff will surely be left out. But here goes nothing.

Starting off with my general feelings about the whole movie: I loved it. Loved it. It was such a good movie. It was also an interesting experience. When I'm extremely excited about a movie, I'm far more used to it being a book adaptation. While there is a certain level of uncertainty there because you don't know how loyal they will be to the books, you still have a good sense of what will happen. Star Wars was so secretive about this movie that I couldn't know what to expect.

That feeling really hit me right as the movie started the first time I saw it. Everyone in the theater was cheering, and it all hit me at once what we were about to watch and how I didn't know how this was going to end. It was strange for me, and also really awesome. I loved having to guess what would happen next throughout the entire movie like I do when I read a really good book. Of course, that happens in good movies too, but I'm not usually at that level of excitement for those (again, unless they're a book adaptation).

Force Awakens definitely lived up to my excitement, and I can't wait to see what happens in Episode VIII (or Rogue One for that matter).

As for everything else, I'm going to try and talk about a few things but to not go overboard. I'm not ruling out the possibility of writing more posts in the future specifically focused on different aspects of the movies (or theories for the next movies) because there's so much I could say.

When it comes to characters, I would have to name BB-8 as my favorite. I want BB-8 in my life. I know I'm not alone in that. As far as my favorite of the other new characters though, I really can't decide. Rey, Finn, and Poe are all great characters. We didn't get to see much of Poe within Force Awakens, but I assume he'll have a bigger role later. I'm looking forward to that because I really enjoyed him when he was on screen. For now, I'm just going to say I really love all the new characters and not declare a favorite. Maybe I will come Episode VIII or I'll have a change of heart before the next movie. I don't know. But right now I just think they were all excellent characters.

I love both Rey and Finn's backstory and the way they developed over the course of just this one movie. It has me very excited to see where they go in the next one.

I know I can't talk about new characters without bringing up Kylo Ren. As far as villains go, I think he's an excellent one. Since I saw the movie the first time, I've been trying to figure out whether I think they'll kill him off or attempt to redeem him. (I'm just going to go ahead and assume that he's not just going to live and continue to be evil.) I'm not sure yet, but right now, I'm probably leaning toward redemption. We already learn in the movie that he still senses light within him, and I wouldn't be surprised if they had his story arc closely mirror Darth Vader's in that way. Like I said, I don't know for sure what I think will happen, but if he redeems himself somehow only to immediately die afterward, I wouldn't be surprised. (This might be one of the things I write a post on later.)

Of course, it was also amazing to see the old characters again. I think they played just the right role in the story. They didn't overtake it, but we got to see them and learn about what has happened to them since the last trilogy. It was fun to be in the screening opening day and hear the audience get excited when we first see the Millennium Falcon again and everything else. The decision to place Luke only at the end of the film (and R2-D2 for that matter) was a good one as it kept the focus on the new characters (not that BB-8 could be overshadowed by R2-D2. Come to think of it, I have my fingers crossed for more interaction between those two in the future.), but I'm also excited to see the role he plays in Episode VIII.

Han's death is another part of the story that I can't not mention. As much as I hate character deaths, I don't know if a character dying has ever felt so right for the story to me. (For the good guys that is. Villain deaths are another story. I can't imagine Harry Potter is Voldemort had survived the last book.) I know there was speculation about him dying beforehand, and either that or just the tone of the scene, let me know it was going to happen before it did. It was a sad moment, but I think because I had it on my mind as a possibility and because I thought it was a good decision, I'm not upset about it like I might have been otherwise.

The last thing I think I'll bring up in this review is the speculation about who Rey's parents are. Going into the movie, my best guess was that her parents would be Han and Leia. For a while in the movie, I was trying to work out if that was right. From the first hint about Kylo Ren's parentage though, I was certain his parents were Han and Leia, and to me, that made it less likely that they were Rey's parents. When Rey first discovers Luke's lightsaber, I became pretty confident that Luke was her father, and the end of the movie only made me more sure.

To me, that's the theory that makes the most sense, although I do see the reasoning behind some of the other theories. While I think Luke is the best guess, I can't decide who I would want to be Rey's parents the most if I had the opportunity to make the decision. Obviously, I'm just going to have to wait and see what happens to find out what I think about it in the end.

That's all I'm going to say in this review. It's long enough now, but like I said, don't be surprised if I write more posts in the future. I'm already thinking about writing something up on what I think will happen to Kylo Ren, what I think about Rey's parentage, and several other things, although I'm not sure I could say anything that hasn't already been said by countless people. We'll see. This is definitely a movie that I don't want to stop talking about.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Life Post: Our Dog's Health Issues the Past Few Days

By the time we reach January, winter break always feels like it's flying by. It's hard to believe there's only a week until I go back to school, but then again, our break is a week or two shorter than normal this year. (I have no idea why.)

There's been a bit of drama here the last few days. One of our dogs got kind of sick, and we're still not exactly sure what's going on. He got oddly lethargic at first. I noticed it a day before things got significantly worse. By Thursday, he was hardly moving at all. He'd just lay there. He began letting out yelps at random times when he wasn't doing anything, so it became clear that he was in pain even though we couldn't figure out what was causing it. Everything on the outside looked fine, and there was nowhere we touched him that seemed to cause pain.

Around the same time, we realized he was hardly opening his eyes, but at first, I think we all took that as a sign he was feeling tired, not because he couldn't open them. Until it became obvious that there was something more than that. By Friday, he was opening one eye all the way, but the other would hardly open and would twitch when he tried. That made it obvious that something was wrong with at least one eye. (I don't know if the other one just got better much quicker or what.)

Today things are significantly better. He's not as lethargic. For the most part, he's acting normal. One eye still twitches, but he's opening it wider than before. We still don't know what's causing it because his eyes look fine when opened. There's nothing visibly wrong with them (except the twitching).

It's really torn me up. On Thursday night, I was terrified for him, and I wound up having a nightmare that night that he died in the most gruesome way possible. That shook me up pretty badly, and I went to check on him immediately after waking up. Luckily, he was doing better at that point, and I felt much better. And he's only kept looking better. So I've been worrying about him for several days, but other than a few panicked posts on Tumblr that I used to release my fear, I've tried to only talk about other things on the Internet. I didn't want to go on terribly as it was happening and sound upsetting. I feel better about it now that he's improved so much. Fingers crossed that he keeps getting better and that his eye is fine.

Our other dog's already partly blind though, and if he winds up losing vision in his eye for whatever reason, that would be highly preferable to so many other things. It's the younger of our two dog's that this has been happening to, and since I've always worried less about his health than our older dog's health (who's partially blind and deaf enough that she can only hear extremely loud sounds), I think the whole thing caught me even more off guard.

Book Review: Dear Leader: My Escape from North Korea by Jang Jin-sung (Translated by Shirley Lee)

ISBN: 147676655X
Published: May 13th, 2014
Publisher: Atria / 37 Ink
Read from December 6th to 13th, 2015
Synopsis from Goodreads:
In this rare insider’s view into contemporary North Korea, a high-ranking counterintelligence agent describes his life as a former poet laureate to Kim Jong-il and his breathtaking escape to freedom.
“The General will now enter the room.”
Everyone turns to stone. Not moving my head, I direct my eyes to a point halfway up the archway where Kim Jong-il’s face will soon appear…
As North Korea’s State Poet Laureate, Jang Jin-sung led a charmed life. With food provisions (even as the country suffered through its great famine), a travel pass, access to strictly censored information, and audiences with Kim Jong-il himself, his life in Pyongyang seemed safe and secure. But this privileged existence was about to be shattered. When a strictly forbidden magazine he lent to a friend goes missing, Jang Jin-sung must flee for his life.
Never before has a member of the elite described the inner workings of this totalitarian state and its propaganda machine. An astonishing exposé told through the heart-stopping story of Jang Jin-sung’s escape to South Korea, Dear Leader is a rare and unprecedented insight into the world’s most secretive and repressive regime.


Dear Leader is a unique book in that it is a memoir written by a North Korean defector. That makes it stand out as it is so rare to get such a first-hand glimpse of what life is like inside North Korea. Jang Jin-sung worked as a poet in North Korea and even received praise from Kim Jong-il, allowing him to reach a privileged position within North Korea's power structure. That makes his story unique even among North Koreans. Jang Jin-sung wasn't starving when he lived in North Korea. In fact, he describes within the book the horror he felt when he traveled outside of Pyongyang and realized how horrific life was for those outside of the capital.

Because of his position, I think Jang Jin-sung's story feels somewhat complicated. There are so many people starving within the country, and he wasn't one of them. In that respect, his life was easier. Still, he lived in a society so repressive that there is little doubt it would take a psychological toll. (His description of the dinner he ate with Kim Jong-il comes to mind.) I think the privileged outlook he provides into life within Pyongyang is an important one.

Between the stories of his life in North Korea to the story of escaping and running from the authorities in China as he struggled to get to the South Korean embassy, which would grant him citizenship, his story is extremely remarkable. I was left feeling extremely emotional about not just Jang Jin-sung's experiences but the experiences of others that he meets along the way (both North Koreans in the country and those he meets after defecting).

I appreciated getting to read a first-hand account of North Korea from a North Korean, and I appreciated how much humanity Jang Jin-sung incorporated into his story. He also incorporates the stories of others from those of his friends living in his hometown (who he discovers are starving upon going home for a visit) to the women who have also escaped North Korea, been sold by human traffickers, and yet remain determined to not go back to North Korea. In addition to all of that, Jang Jin-sung describes how he believes North Korea's eventual downfall must come, and I believe his perspective, as a North Korean, should be very valued in that respect. (Even today, living in South Korea, Jang Jin-sung faces threats from North Korea because of his continued writing on the country. He created New Focus to write about North Korea from the perspective of North Koreans now living outside the country.) I highly recommend this book to everyone.