Saturday, December 31, 2016

Eyewitness Review: Episodes 8 and 9

End of Year Survey 2016

For the last several years, I have been participating in Jamie at the Perpetual Page Turner's annual end of year survey, and this year is no different. I look forward to getting to reflect on my reading each year. I'll go ahead and warn you now: This is one of the years where I repeat a lot of the same books over at over. I read fewer books this year than the past several years, and a lot of what I read was non-fiction, so you'll be seeing a lot of the same fiction books listed.

Number of books you read: 51 (Just one over my Goodreads reading challenge goal!)
Number of Re-reads: 7 (Though I re-read Cursed Child several times.)
Genre you read the most from: Harder to calculate, but I believe I read more non-fiction than anything else.

1. Best book you read in 2016?
Some years this is easy, and other years it's difficult. This year it's difficult solely because the only additions to my "all time favorites" list on Goodreads were one particular series. I'll go ahead and choose the first as my favorite I suppose: Haven by A.R. Ivanovich.

2. Book you were excited about and thought you were going to love more but didn't?
Frey by Melissa Wright is about elves, which are magical creatures I don't think I read about enough, but sadly, I didn't get that into the book.

3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read?
Because I Love You by Tori Rigby. I got far more into that book than I had anticipated. There were a lot of tears.

4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did)?
This should probably go to Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by Jack Thorne because it was new Harry Potter material and I needed to talk to as many people as possible about it despite not liking it much.

5. Best series you started in 2016? Best Sequel of 2016? Best Series Ender of 2016?
I'm going to somewhat cheat for this question. I read all of the War of Princes series by A.R. Ivanovich this year, and that series takes this entire question.

6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2016?
A.R. Ivanovich. I've only read the War of Princes series, but I really did love it so much.

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?
I read Dear Chairman by Jefferson Gramm, which is about shareholder activism, not a topic I knew much about. It was interesting, though I'm not sure I'll ever seek out more information on the topic.

 8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?
I'm tempted to bring up War of Princes again, but instead I'm going to choose Fifteen Lanes by S.J. Laidlaw.

 9. Book You Read In 2016 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?
The War of Princes series. I'm already planning to re-read them.

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2016?
Paper Hearts, Volume 1 by Beth Revis

11. Most memorable character of 2016?
Scorpius Malfoy from Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by Jack Thorne

 12. Most beautifully written book read in 2016?
Street of Eternal Happiness by Rob Schmitz

13. Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2016?
Fifteen Lanes by S.J. Laidlaw

 14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2016 to finally read?
The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith

 15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2016?
“Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.”
― Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
Admittedly, this was a re-read for me, but I taught the book to high school freshmen you by and large were not fans of reading, which made discussing this quote incredibly interesting.

16.Shortest and Longest Book You Read In 2016?
Shortest: Little House on the Prairie: From A to Z by Patrick Loubatière
Longest: Longman Anthology of British Literature, Volume 1B: The Early Modern Period by David Damrosch

 17. Book That Shocked You The Most (Because of a plot twist, character death, left you hanging with your mouth wide open, etc.)
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by Jack Thorne (The Trolley Witch. Do I need to say anything else?)

18. OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!)
Scorpius Malfoy and Albus Potter. I think this may be the first year where I've chosen a couple that isn't actually together in the book they are from.

19. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year
I really loved Katelyn and Kyle's friendship in the War of Princes series by A.R. Ivanovich.

20. Favorite Book You Read in 2016 From An Author You’ve Read Previously
Can The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith (i.e. J.K. Rowling) count? I read very few books actually by authors I had read previously, which I'm just now realizing.

21. Best Book You Read In 2016 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure:
The Art of Slow Reading by Thomas Newkirk

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2016?
I genuinely can't think of one. I'm too busy shipping characters with each other.

23. Best 2016 debut you read?
Because I Love You by Tori Rigby

24. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?
War of Princes series by A.R. Ivanovich

25. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by Jack Thorne

26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2016?
Fifteen Lanes by S.J. Laidlaw

27. Hidden Gem Of The Year?
Street of Eternal Happiness by Rob Schmitz

28. Book That Crushed Your Soul?
Fifteen Lanes by S.J. Laidlaw

29. Most Unique Book You Read In 2016?
Love and Decay, Volume 1 by Rachel Higginson

30. Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by Jack Thorne

1. New favorite book blog you discovered in 2016?
Read at Midnight

2. Favorite review that you wrote in 2016?
Because I Love You by Tori Rigby

3. Best discussion/non-review post you had on your blog?
I'm quite proud of the #CritYourFaves post I did about queerbaiting in Cursed Child.

4. Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)?
I really loved participating in Potterhead July and getting to read everyone's Harry Potter posts all month.

5. Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2016?
It was probably the Twitter chats that came out of Armchair BEA (which is the close runner up to answer four).

6. Most challenging thing about blogging or your reading life this year?
It was probably finding the time to keep up with both blogging and reading while I was student teaching.

7. Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog (whether it be by comments or views)?
My review of the "Malec" episode of Shadowhunters got a ton of views, and I think I can guess why.

8. Post You Wished Got A Little More Love?
Perhaps my post about the controversy surrounding Magic in North America on Pottermore. Largely because it's important and it still hasn't been addressed by J.K. Rowling or anyone on her team.

9. Best bookish discovery (book related sites, book stores, etc.)?
This one is difficult because I'm not sure if I have one. Maybe I should make it a priority to discover something new in 2016.

10.  Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?
I finished my Goodreads reading challenge!

1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2015 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2017?
Last year for Christmas (well, with giftcards I got for Christmas) I got the Avatar and Korra art books, but I haven't read them yet. That's ridiculous when I was looking forward to getting them for so long, and I plan to rectify that in January.

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2017 (non-debut)?
The Pants Project by Cat Clarke

3. 2017 Debut You Are Most Anticipating?
The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich

4. Series Ending/A Sequel You Are Most Anticipating in 2017?
I've tried not to start any series in 2016 (although a one or two slipped through I'll admit) because of the sheer amount of series I've started but not finished. While I still need to finish many of those, they are all a bit older and, largely, finished. Because of that, I'm not sure if there's a sequel coming out in 2017 that I'm necessarily anticipating.

5. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging Life In 2017?
Read all of the books currently sitting un-read on my shelf.

6. A 2017 Release You’ve Already Read and Recommend To Everyone:
I haven't read any 2017 releases.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Book Review: Atmosphere of Hope by Tim Flannery

ISBN: 0802124062
Published: October 6th, 2015
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press
Received: Goodreads First Reads
Read from December 7th to 14th, 2016
Synopsis from Goodreads:
A decade ago, Tim Flannery’s #1 international bestseller, The Weather Makers, was one of the first books to break the topic of climate change out into the general conversation. Today, Earth’s climate system is fast approaching a crisis. Political leadership has not kept up, and public engagement with the issue of climate change has declined. Opinion is divided between technological optimists and pessimists who feel that catastrophe is inevitable. The publication of this new book is timed for the lead-up to the Climate Change Conference in Paris in December 2015, which aims to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate from all the nations in the world. This book anticipates and will influence the debates.
Time is running out, but catastrophe is not inevitable. Around the world people are now living with the consequences of an altered climate—with intensified and more frequent storms, wildfires, droughts and floods. For some it’s already a question of survival. Drawing on the latest science, Flannery gives a snapshot of the trouble we are in and more crucially, proposes a new way forward, including rapidly progressing clean technologies and a “third way” of soft geo-engineering. Tim Flannery, with his inimitable style, makes this urgent issue compelling and accessible. This is a must-read for anyone interested in our global future. 

Atmosphere of Hope provides an excellent look at climate change. It doesn't shy away from discussing just how dire the circumstances are, but the focus of the book is on finding ways to lessen the impact in whatever ways we can. While the book leaves you with the impression that there is no perfect fix and that we must prepare for difficult consequences no matter what we do, it is also clear that not acting at all will mean much worse.

I would recommend this book to everyone. It provides an important look at what is currently happening in our world in terms of climate change and its consequences and also explores many of the proposed ideas for combating climate change. This is an issue that will affect everyone in the world, and it is important that we learn everything we can about it. This book provides an excellent opportunity to do just that.

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

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Incorporated Review: Episode 3: "Human Resources"

Incorporated continues to create a world that I am very interested in learning more about. The most fascinating part of episode three for me was the brainwashing of the children that we got to see at Inazagi. The corporations on this show have been presented in a very negative light, but showing an Inazagi employee defecting because she doesn't want her child brainwashed interests me largely because of the contrast it provides between Inazagi and Spiga.

Throughout the first two episodes it's been pretty obvious that Spiga is corrupt and a scary organization to work for, but now we've seen that there's another corporation who's gone a step further than them in at least one area. (Although I'd also argue that Spiga is brainwashing its employees in less overt ways.) That gives Spiga perhaps the first even remotely positive PR we've seen on the show, though it's only in comparison to another corporation. Spiga is, without argument, still corrupt.

Elizabeth's regard for Diana's child was also interesting to me. In the past, we've seen her carrying out the banishment of children to the red zones without hesitation (until her daughter protests). But throughout this episode, she asks about the well-being of Diana's child, and I can't tell if she wants the child to be okay purely to keep Diana happy (that is their deal after all) or because she actually cares.

I was pretty confident that Elena wasn't dead throughout the episode because that would be too easy. Her message through the ring was sad, but I'm not sure if it changes anything. I know thinking that she was dead briefly made Ben try harder with Laura, but now that he knows Elena is dead, it seems that we're right back where we started at the beginning of the episode. Her potential death felt like a momentary tension builder in the episode as opposed to anything that drove the plot forward.

Laura is, in every episode, getting lesson after lesson about how bad life is in the red zones. Ben knows how bad it is, of course, but I'm not sure that she's aware of his knowledge of it. Ben definitely doesn't realize how much is wife is learning. I think this will serve to get them on the same page in the future, where they're both aware of how terrible the corporation is and want to get out of it. I don't believe that means that they will be happy together, however, since his feelings for Elena are unlikely to disappear.

The primary gain from this episode, I believe, was seeing the terribleness of another corporation. Well, that and Laura's continued exposure to life in the red zones. Other than that, I'm not entirely sure this episode had a significant purpose in the plot, though maybe there are smaller details here that I have missed. Nonetheless, I'm rather fascinated by the idea of Inazagi brainwashing children when that's a level that Spiga hasn't stooped too, and I'm wondering what role Inazagi will play in the story in the future.

Life Post: Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah

This is going to be a really quick post that is really just to say both merry Christmas and happy Hanukkah to anyone celebrating either holiday. We just got back from Christmas with my dad's side of the family and opened our gifts. I'm pretty excited about a Marauder's map phone case that my sister got me as well as a Little Mix hoodie from my parents.

Right now I'm exhausted though. I've reached the point where I find absolutely everything funny. I was just laughing at one of our dogs eating a treat.

Anyway, I hope everyone has a good end of 2016 (though I expect I'll post again before new year's). I can't believe we only have a week left in the year. That doesn't seem like it should be possible.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Shadowhunters Season 2 Talk

Since I filmed this, Emeraude commented in an interview that there would be a new sexuality in season two. That's made me even more hopeful that Simon will actually be openly pansexual in season two, but we'll see what happens.

Book Review: In Wartime: Stories from Ukraine by Tim Judah

Published: December 1st, 2015
Publisher: Allen Lane
Received: Blogging for Books
Read from November 25th to December 6th, 2016
Synopsis from Goodreads:
From one of the finest journalists of our time comes a definitive, boots-on-the-ground dispatch from the front lines of the conflict in Ukraine.
Ever since Ukraine s violent 2014 revolution, followed by Russia s annexation of Crimea, the country has been at war. Misinformation reigns, more than two million people have been displaced, and Ukrainians fight one another on a second front the crucial war against corruption.
With "In Wartime," Tim Judah lays bare the events that have turned neighbors against one another and mired Europe s second-largest country in a conflict seemingly without end.
In Lviv, Ukraine s western cultural capital, mothers tend the graves of sons killed on the other side of the country. On the Maidan, the square where the protests that deposed President Yanukovych began, pamphleteers, recruiters, buskers, and mascots compete for attention. In Donetsk, civilians who cheered Russia s President Putin find their hopes crushed as they realize they have been trapped in the twilight zone of a frozen conflict.
Judah talks to everyone from politicians to poets, pensioners, and historians. Listening to their clashing explanations, he interweaves their stories to create a sweeping, tragic portrait of a country fighting a war of independence from Russia twenty-five years after the collapse of the USSR." 


I feel as if the war in Crimea is a current event that many outside of the region have lost interest in, though Russia and Ukraine continue to fight each other in Donbass. While I knew about the conflict, before reading this book my knowledge of the historical context of the conflict was very limited. I knew that Ukraine used to be part of the USSR, and I knew that a lot of the borders created when the Soviet Union split up were arbitrary. However, I did not know why Russia would go after Crimea of all places within Ukraine. I had never even heard of Crimea until 2014.

This book was excellent at providing me with a deeper knowledge of what was happening historically when Russia laid claim to Crimea. This book doesn't just explore the current war, it looks backwards to explore what led to this point in history. It was without a doubt written for people like me who have little knowledge of the various regions of Ukraine and what their relationship with Russia is like. It was fascinating to read about what many Ukrainians think about Ukraine and Russia.

That was one of the largest strengths of the book: getting the opinions of people involved in the conflict. The author isn't just writing about historical context. Throughout the book, he travels throughout Ukraine and talks to people from a wide variety of regions and demographics. You get a good picture of how much thoughts on Ukraine v. Russia differ among the people of Ukraine. He talks to people who want to be Russian, believing that will bring them prosperity that Ukraine hasn't provided. Others are very anti-Russia for a variety of reasons. Others don't care which country they are a part of as long as the fighting stops and life can go on.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to better understand the current situation in Ukraine. It did a great job of exploring both the historical context that led us to this point and of getting a variety of opinions from the people actually living through this conflict.

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

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Film Review: 13th, Directed by Ava DuVernay

I had heard about the documentary 13th before. I think I'd seen the Netflix ads for it when it was released, and I added it to my queue because it sounded like something I wanted to watch. Still, I hadn't yet gotten around to watch it when the documentary showed up on the Activist Advent calendar that I'd been following.

With their recommendation, I took the plunge and watched it the next day, and I don't regret it a single bit. 13th is spectacular and something that is very much needed now.

13th is about modern racism, but it roots modern racism very firmly in the past. The documentary explains how the racist systems of the past have morphed into the modern justice system. It explains how the police brutality today is just a continuation of the brutality of earlier years. The film never abandons the past to talk solely about the present because it recognizes that the two can't be disconnected from one another.

Really my biggest praise of the documentary comes from how thoroughly it discussed how everything is connected. It discusses how prisons and police brutality are connected. It discusses all of the reasons for America's overpopulation of prisons. It discusses why all of these problems have led to Black Lives Matter. It's a very thorough documentary that covers all of its bases and covers them well.

One of my favorite moments of the documentary came when one of the interviewees was describing conversations he had had with people where those people went on about how they couldn't believe people had once allowed slavery and then segregation to happen. These people said they never would have allowed that had they been alive back then, and then the interviewee states that we currently are allowing those same things to happen because we don't stop to think about what's actually happening. It was a powerful moment and one that captures perfectly why this documentary is an important one to watch.

I would highly recommend this documentary to everyone. It's on a topic that is as relevant today as it always has been.

Life Post: Not Feeling So Great

I'm going to go ahead and apologize in advance for this post mostly being about how I've felt sick for the past several days. I can't even remember what day it was, but earlier this week, I woke up in the middle of the night feeling nauseous and I did wind up being sick. While that was a one off thing, my stomach felt somewhat strange for several days afterward, especially after I ate.

My best guess is that connects back to my allergies, which have been particularly bad over the past week or so. Actually, I'm not entirely sure that it's not allergies as opposed to something else.

I've been dog-sitting for my aunt and uncle this week. By far the most exciting thing with that was letting the dogs out without realizing there were a bunch of deer behind the house. Somehow, the dogs and deer both went about their own business. One of the dogs did wander right through the deer (the other dog stayed further away), but the deer didn't seem bothered. I stood there and watched them until one of the dogs wanted back inside and the other had wandered away from the deer.

As far as my fish goes, he has continued to do better. He's still eating, and he eats as soon as I put the food in his tank. He's also having regular bowel movements when he wasn't before. I also swear that his fins are growing back where they were damaged, but it's so little of a change so far that I can't be positive that I'm not imagining it. At least he seems to be feeling much better even when I'm not.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Life Post: College is Over and Fish Update

I am completely done with college. As in, I've graduated and moved out of a dorm for the last time, and I have no idea when I'll step foot on that campus again. (Presumably the actual graduation ceremony in the spring if I attend it.) It's all very strange, which I've already touched on in past posts. In fact, I think I've talked about this enough that I shouldn't bother anymore. There's no doubt though that it feels strange. I don't quite know what to do with myself.

Of course, it's also exciting, but it's exciting in a way that's equally terrifying. For the most part, I've been trying not to think about how it feels at all.

In other news, I think my fish is doing better. He's started eating again. He's eaten all of the food I've given him for nearly a week now, which seems promising. The fungus did go away and then come back, but it seems to be going away once again. He's also been more active than he was for a while. I'm hoping those are all good signs and that his fins will begin to grow back as well. I'm feeling a lot more optimistic about it than I was the last time I posted.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Film Review: Moana

Moana is going to be difficult to review because much of the discourse surrounding it has been whether or not Disney did a good job portraying Polynesian culture in the film. I can't really speak to that as I'm not Polynesian. I have seen people both praise and criticize the film. Personally, I would never try to say that Disney did a perfect job (I did cringe at the Kakamora), but I did get the sense that they were trying. I do feel that they did a better job than on certain past movies.

As a film, I enjoyed Moana immensely. Disney did some amazing things with it, and I love that some of those things were acknowledged in the film itself. Moana and Maui's exchange about whether or not Moana is a princess was fantastic and had Disney poking fun at its own princess movies. (I do wonder if Moana will be added to the princess lineup in the future. If she is, it might be odd considering her own feelings about being called a princess and the fact that she isn't really, but then again, it would be nice for the princesses to be more diverse.)

Moana has no love interest, much like Merida in Brave (one of my favorite movies), and I am extremely happy about that. She is determined to do everything herself, and in the end, (spoiler alert) she does, even if it's with a little help.

The music was wonderful. I'm in love with "We Know the Way", and it added such a great atmosphere to the film.

While I do take certain criticisms the film has received seriously, it is an enjoyable film, and I think it's a step in the right direction for Disney. I almost feel like this is a step that Pixar took with Brave (which is far too underrated in my opinion) and now Disney Animation is doing the same. Here's hoping for more of that in the future.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Incorporated Review: Episode 1

It's not often that I start watching new shows soon after their premiere. Often, I don't hear about things I'd want to see before they air. Whenever I watch TV, I'm skipping or at least not paying close attention to the ads for other TV shows, so if I watch a show, it's because I heard it talked about by someone else. Incorporated was a different case. I did see the commercials on TV before it aired, and they managed to catch my attention.

Incorporated takes place in a dystopian world in the year 2074. As a dystopian fan, that was enough to catch my attention. In this particular dystopian world, corporations control everything, and the people who work for these corporations live great lives in what are called green zones. They're isolated from the red zones, which are suffering due to climate change creating a shortage of resources.

As soon as I got the basic premise for the world from the previews, I wanted to watch, and after the first episode, I'm still as intrigued as I was before. The dynamics created between the characters when everyone living in the wealthy parts of the world are working for the same corporation is fascinating. (There are multiple corporations, but their employees don't live in the same areas.) The corporations fight each other for control, including launching terrorist attacks made to look like a different corporation's fault.

The characters of the show are compelling as well. Ben, the main character, isn't black and white. You know early on that he's doing some not great things though he has his reasons. The corporations are also harsh on anyone seen as a 'traitor' (workers have to go through security scans to get to work), and because of this and the competitive nature of this society (after all, you're relying on work with the corporation to remain in the green zone), makes it so that you feel quite sure that every character on the show is capable of some nasty stuff.

Even Ben's relationship with his wife Laura has me wondering just how, well, un-shallow it is. From the first episode, I picked up hints that he cares for her to a certain extent but not necessarily as much as she does him. Her mother has a high position within the company, and I finished the first episode wondering if that was more of the reason he married her. Laura, however, might be my favorite character so far. We know she went through something traumatic in the past, though not many details are revealed, and I get the sense that she has purer motives than any of the other characters.

This first episode was only a small taste of what's to come, but it has me excited to see where the show goes. I feel like it has a lot of potential, and I'm looking forward to episode two.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Life Post: Nursing a Fish Back to Health

I haven't written one of these posts in a while not because I don't have time but because I'm not entirely sure what to say. I feel like I'm living in some strange sort of limbo. As of right now, I have finished my college education, but I'm still living on campus until next week. It's weird walking around campus during classes again (since I was student teaching during the day all semester) and knowing that, if I ever do that again, it'll be a long time from now.

I've been a student for more than a decade and a half, so I still don't quite know how to not be one. The fact that I'm still here just makes it weirder, but I'm trying to soak it all in and take my few remaining days of still being considered a student.

Also, I'm trying to use up my meal plan money, so the amount of Starbucks I've consumed over the last week is absolutely ridiculous.

Remember that pet fish I now possess? He has fin rot, and all the signs indicate that it's made its way inside of him by now. He had it when I got him, but I didn't know the signs of it until I noticed strange behaviors. (Pro tip if you're buying a betta fish: know the signs of fin rot.) I've done what my research on it said that I should do, but I'm not sure if it's working. It's been days since he's eaten despite my best attempts. He's also had stress stripes for about a week now (since he stopped eating). He's still alert, coming to the side of the tank whenever I get close to him, which is supposed to be a good sign.

I'm hoping for the best, but I don't know at this point. Since I don't have student teaching anymore, I have to admit that trying to nurse this fish back to health has been taking up a lot of my past week, which only makes it more frustrating that I'm not sure if it's working. At the very least, he no longer has fungus growing on his fins, so I figure he has to be better than he was before. Perhaps I'm just too impatient and he really is on the road to getting better. We'll see.

November Wrap-Up and December TBR (2016)