Friday, December 27, 2019

Being an Adult: Thoughts at 26

Here I am at the age of 26, and the fact that I'm an adult seldom crosses my mind. I’m more or less past the stage of feeling like I'm not one or wondering when I'll magically feel like I've entered adulthood and onto acceptance that being an adult is not a sudden switch from being a teenager. The two periods flow into each other, and there's never a real time when you transition between the two, even if we like to create artificial milestones to make it feel like you do.

Often, I wonder if getting married, buying a house, having kids, etc. would make me feel more like an adult. Maybe it would. I couldn’t know, but I also know that not having those things doesn’t make me less of an adult now. (Being home for Christmas and hearing what my cousins of various ages are doing now makes me even more sure of that.)

I often have to take a step back and remind myself that I’m on equal footing with the other adults around. I still feel like I should be looking to other people for guidance in any given situation. When I first started my job, just feeling like I could make suggestions to my co-workers (many of whom are my age) felt strange to me, and for a while, touching anything in the office felt forbidden. I wanted to ask for permission before touching anything.

This isn’t unique to work.

Anytime I need to be seen as an adult by strangers, I have a brief moment where I think they're going to question my age because there's no way they could look at me and see a capable adult.

Back in college and in the time after college when I was living with my parents, my parents would constantly remind me that I didn’t need to ask for permission to do things, and though I logically knew that, I kept asking as if it were an instinct I couldn’t shake off.

Perhaps I would understand that if I'd had more overbearing parents, but even my parents laughed about my inability to stop asking for permission. They gave me quite a bit of freedom as a kid and teenager anyway, so transitioning to adulthood shouldn't have been that big of a change.

And at work, one of the most frequent pieces of feedback I got in the beginning was that they wanted me to speak up more and take more initiative.

It's clear to me that a lot of this comes from my personality or, perhaps even more, my social anxiety. Reflecting on it, I realize that almost all of this comes back to how others see me, not how I see myself. I expect other people to not see me as a capable adult, and I'm hesitant to act like one sometimes because I feel as if I'll be called out for faking it.

There are other things that I believe factor into this that I don't want to throw out publicly for the first time in a post ultimately about something else, but following rules as a kid was very easy for me. I liked having clear expectations, and when I didn't know what was expected of me, I faltered. I never got detention, and when I did get in trouble, I got very panicked over it. I liked knowing what was expected of me.

Technically, there are still rules as an adult. Aside from the ever important laws I have to follow, there are rules I have to follow at work and social rules that I'm expected to follow at all times. But, in many ways, I'm still freer than I was as a kid, and part of me is terrified of that.

It's not just the rules though. As a teacher, I'm often teaching students who are older than me, which was difficult at first. During my student teaching, I had a hard time feeling like I had authority over my students (who were in high school) because I didn't feel old enough, and when I started teaching adults, I honestly had no idea how to balance the idea of "don't let them off easy if they don't do their homework" but also "they're adults, not children." I think I've gotten there, but there was a learning curve, just as there's been a learning curve to interacting with all adults since becoming one myself.

My first eight (at least in the legal sense) years of being an adult have definitely been interesting. There's essentially no way I could call myself a kid anymore. I live in a different country from my family, work full time, pay my own bills, and have plenty of student loan debt.

But it feels nothing like what child me would have imagined, which I guess is the truest thing I can say about adulthood.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Life Post: Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to everyone who celebrates it! (Even though it's almost over here and already is in many parts of the world.)

As you know from my previous posts, I'm in the US for Christmas now. Before I left, I'd been getting a cold, and the first night here it really got bad, so I've been dealing with that along with the jetlag. I slept more than 15 hours when I got home, and last night I slept much longer than usual too. I think that's helped with the cold though, and I feel better adjusted to the time now. So, cheers for that.

Yesterday, my dad's side of the family got together for Christmas. I saw a lot of them in August when I visited, but some of them I hadn't seen for a couple of years. Some of our family from Georgia was there, and I hadn't even seen them for a while before I left for Japan, so it had been years. It was good to see everyone and get updated about their lives. I only wish I hadn't been sick and had a pounding headache the whole time.

Now, I plan on spending the next few days recovering until I head back to Japan with my mom and siblings to be a tourist for a week. Fingers crossed that the jetlag doesn't take me down a second time.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Book Review: Marked by Kim Richardson

Published: March 15, 2011
Publisher: self-published
Read from February 25 to March 2, 2019
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Sixteen-year-old Kara Nightingale’s ordinary life is suddenly turned upside down when she dies and wakes up in a strange new world with a new career—as a rookie for the Guardian Angel Legion. Kara is pulled into the supernatural, where monkeys drive the elevators, oracles scurry above giant crystal balls, and where demons feed on the souls of mortals.
With the help of her Petty Officer and friend, David, Kara hurtles towards an adventure that will change her life forever…


It's time to review another book I read as part of the Gods and Mortals anthology. Spoiler alert: I disliked it just as I disliked every other book in the anthology.

Out of all the books in the anthology, this is probably the one that had the most ridiculous sounding premise from the start. It's the kind of thing that I can see working well as a comedy, particularly a parody or satire of some kind, but it read as if it was meant to be taken seriously, which was near impossible to do.

This book is set in Horizon, which is essentially a (strange) version of Heaven where monkeys operate the elevators. Because heaven isn't capable of elevators that run themselves and heavenly monkeys need jobs I guess?

Oh, and the angels have to put on these creepy "body suits" in order to visit earth because they don't have bodies of their own. Even though the angels not having physical bodies makes sense, the way the process of putting the suits on was described in the book was off putting for me.

There are two uses of offensive language that I want to point out. (Trigger warning for albleist language.) Kara describes someone as a "psycho" in chapter one and herself as a "spaz" in chapter three, neither of which were a good start to the book.

The bizarre elements like the monkey-operated elevators stuck out, but the actual plot itself was cliche and easily forgettable. All I remember about this book are the laughable parts. I don't remember being particularly engaged by the story itself or the characters.

Some choices made narration-wise were frustrating. Kara, the main character, talks out loud to herself way too much when we could have gotten the same information through her thoughts in the narration. David's speech also struck me as sounding child-like despite his age. There are a lot of cringe-worthy language choices throughout the novel, including one piece of dialogue that's, "HOLY CRRRAAAAPP!!!" And yes, that is how it's formatted in the book.

And my last complaint is a spoiler for the book:

Kara finds out her mother was an angel, which is supposed to explain a lot of strange behavior she saw from her mother over the years. But this is never explained in a way that makes sense. Kara is forbidden from going back to earth once she's an angel, yet she saw her mother regularly as a kid. (Presumably, her mother raised her and was there every day even if she sometimes disappeared randomly.) How exactly could her mother do that considering the rules?

And if angels don't have bodies, how exactly did the pregnancy work? Did no other angels realize that she was pregnant? If her body suit was pregnant, then what happened when she went back to Horizon?

That all seems like a huge, gaping plot hole.

There are these things called elemental children in the book, and if Kara's mom was an angel, then Kara must be an elemental child. She learns about these elemental children before learning her mom's an angel, but then, when she later discovers she's an elemental, she's shocked despite having had all the information necessary to link that together for ages. It's treated like a big reveal when it's already blatantly obvious to the reader (and should be to the characters themselves). It made me feel like I was being treated like an idiot.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Life Post: And More Stress

It's been one week since my last life post, and I hate that this is also going to be about how stressed I am. It's honestly unbelievable how much happened after I posted that last post.

More than half of our staff were gone for most of the week last week for different reasons, including the flu. While I'm very grateful to not have had the flu, that meant work was hectic, and as you can probably guess after my last post, I felt pretty run into the ground by the end of the week.

Today's my only day off before I leave for the United States for Christmas. Tomorrow, I have training for work followed by five days of work. A week from now, I leave for the US.

I've bought Christmas presents, including my secret Santa present for work, but none of them are wrapped yet. I also haven't packed, and my apartment is a complete mess after everything that's been happening recently. While I should probably be working on all of that right now instead of writing this post, I need a break from all of the cleaning I've been doing. I fully expect to be running around packing the night before I leave now, but maybe I can still get at least some of it done today. (Just please don't let me forget my passport or something else crucial.)

I don't know if the trip itself will help relieve my stress or just make things worse. I'm hoping it'll be the former, but considering I'm flying just a few days before Christmas, who knows. All I know right now is that I don't feel prepared at all.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Naruto Shippuden Talk: Episodes 396-400

Man, it's been a long time since I've talked about Naruto, hasn't it? It's also been a long time since I actually watched these episodes, and I don't have time to re-watch them before I write this, so... I'm going to try my best because I've been doing this for so long that I feel like I just have to talk about all of the episodes (eventually).

Episode 396 is in the midst of a flashback arc about the chunin exams that were conducted while Naruto was gone from Konoha (during the first series and Shippuden).

As an ardent ShikaTema shipper, I'm always up for Shikamaru and Temari interacting, so I loved getting to see them work together for the chunin exams. It didn't disappoint, even if it was a minor point of the episode.

This should be somewhat of a throwaway storyline. While many of the characters becoming chunin could be considered important, actually seeing them do it (when we already know they do) isn't necessarily stuff to keep you on the edge of your seat. Still, I was pleasantly surprised by how interesting I found Shikamaru's task. I love the idea of needing to know your teammates well enough to know how you should answer the questions on the test. It's a really cool mix of logic and teamwork, and I think it was executed in an interesting way within the episode.

While I've found the other tasks entertaining so far as well, the test was probably my favorite. It's stuck with me the most since I watched the episodes as well, but I remember finding some of the scenes in the desert with Lee quite emotional and enjoying them as well.

Hopefully, it won't take me too long to get another post about about the next several episodes. I haven't actually watched any episodes past this, and it's been nearly a year. (Believe it or not, it's harder to watch Naruto in Japan than America when you don't want to do it illegally.) I'll get on that soon.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Life Post: Christmas Stress

In the week since my last life post, my stress levels have increased dramatically. If you read my last post, that may not be the most surprising thing in the world, but I'm feeling it even more.

It's hit me how little time I have to prepare for my trip to the US considering how many days I'll be at work, including an extra day for training. I still have two Christmas presents I need to buy, and they absolutely need to be bought this weekend. That might be a little less stressful if I had any idea what to buy, but I don't. I'm going to the store tomorrow to look and hope I find something. If not, I'm kind of screwed there.

Honestly, though, I'm feeling pretty exhausted today. Yesterday my allergies started flaring up. One of my co-workers got sick, so yesterday, everyone was saying, "I'm not getting sick," throughout the day. I don't think I'm actually sick; it's just allergies. However, my allergies are bad enough that I woke up at 4:00 a.m. last night and couldn't fall back asleep for an hour, so I'm feeling quite exhausted today.

Logically, I know that tomorrow's a new day, and I could feel way better (or at least not as bad). Still, I keep thinking about how I have to go buy the presents, and it feels me with dread. (My anxiety refuses to let me just forget about it until tomorrow.) So, fingers crossed that it all works out. After that, I just have to pack, which I'd also prefer to think about it.

Other than tomorrow, I also only have one more day off in Japan before I leave for the U.S., which is strange to think about because if you include the days I'm working it's much longer.

Maybe once I get the shopping done, I can take the time to watch some Christmas movies and actually feel the holiday spirit a bit.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Book Review: Nolander by Becca Mills

Published: April 2, 2012
Publisher: Recompense Press (self-published)
Read December 26-29, 2017
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Nice girls don't believe in monsters. They're wrong.
Amateur photographer Beth Ryder is in trouble. She's taking pictures of things she can't see, things that aren't human. Beth has her own dreams, but people like her don't get to go free. She's seized by a dangerous organization dedicated to keeping Earth's shadow world -- and its frightening inhabitants -- a secret. Forced into otherworldly politics and uncertain whom to trust, Beth must come to terms with a radically altered future -- one in which her own humanity seems to be draining away.


TW: rape

This was another one of the books that was in the Gods and Mortals anthology that I downloaded for free. It's also the one I remember the least about, and I hardly wrote any notes while reading (which I typically do to help me write reviews later). Interpret that how you will, but because of that, I'll try to keep this brief and just run through what I did make note of.

One of the things I do remember about this book was that it felt like the author had brought out a thesaurus to throw in some fancy-sounding words. These big words didn't sound natural and took me out of the story. It was one of those scenarios were it felt like the book was trying too hard to sound smart.

The book contains statutory rape, with one character describing how he raped a fifteen year old. His actions are even described as statutory rape on the page, but he does not care. I've re-read that passage for this review, and it's really disgusting how it's handled. And the rapist in question isn't a villain in the story either; it's one of the love interests who did it.

In fact, all of the men in this book are complete creeps who you want to yell at Beth (the main character) to stay away from, not kiss.

Overall, what I remember most about this book is how terrible the guys were and how confused I was by the whole thing. It's good to have suspense, of course, and leave readers wondering what happens next, but I was just baffled by the whole thing. I'd feel uncomfortable recommending this to anyone.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Life Post: Welcome, December

By the end of November, it finally began to feel like fall, and there's no doubting that winter is coming now. This will be my third winter in Japan, and last winter happened to be unusually warm. This winter is shaping up to be colder than the last (more like my first winter in Japan), and while that's great in that this is more typical, I'm also not looking forward to it exactly.

Winter is always a weird time of year for me because, on one hand, I love wearing sweatshirts and wrapping up in blankets and drinking hot chocolate. But I like all of those things because I like being warm, and a lot of the time, I'm not warm in the winter. If I get to stay home huddled in a blanket, that's great, but actually being productive in the winter is difficult. Waking up in the morning is already a much longer process than it was a month ago because I have to convince myself that I can brave the cold. (My apartment's heater has a three hour time limit, so it shuts off during the night, leaving the apartment very cold come morning.)

Things are a bit hectic right now. I'm going home for Christmas, and it just hit me the other day how soon that is. I still need to buy Christmas presents, and I love packing to do. Cleaning my apartment before I leave would also be a good idea, but one that may not happen to the extent I'd like it to.

My goal for this winter is to stay positive even when the cold is getting to me though, so I'm excited for the weather and the holidays and everything else that winter brings. (If I say that enough, it'll be true.)

Maybe I'll be back with another one of these posts before I leave for the US, so I can update you on how much I'm actually getting done. We'll see. If not, I'll at least update you on the trip afterward.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Book Review: The Forgotten Ones by Laura Howard

Published: April 28, 2013
Publisher: self-published
Read February 11-13, 2018
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Allison O'Malley's plan is to go to grad school so she can get a good job and take care of her schizophrenic mother. She has carefully closed herself off from everything else, including a relationship with Ethan, who she's been in love with for as long as she can remember.
What is definitely not part of the plan is the return of her long-lost father, who claims he can bring Allison's mother back from the dark place her mind has gone. Allison doesn't trust her father, so why would she believe his stories about a long forgotten Irish people, the Tuatha de Danaan? But truths have a way of revealing themselves. Secrets will eventually surface. And Allison must learn to set aside her plan and work with her father if there is even a small chance it could restore her mother's sanity.


This review will contain some slight spoilers. Also, content warning for mentions of consent issues and rape.

There are a lot of problems with the way this book portrays mental illness. We're told at the beginning of the story that Allison's mom has schizophrenia, but it's clear early on that this isn't true. We learn later that she fell in love with Allison's father, who's fey, and not being around him is what causes her symptoms. (It's described as being a kind of addiction in the book.)

Portrayal of schizophrenia is rare in fiction, and to be told a character has it only for that to not be true and there instead by a magical explanation isn't fair for the people who so rarely see themselves represented in fiction. I don't like how that was presented at all, and the whole idea of humans becoming "addicted" to fey also left me uneasy. I'm supposed to believe that Allison's parents are in love with each other, but that's not possible if her father is like a drug to her mother. That's not love; her mother doesn't actually have a choice.

That was a problem throughout the story. Considering the effect the fey—or Danaan as they're called in the book—have on humans, there are a number of situations where consent is iffy at best in this book. This is something that I think books about fey often have problems with, but that didn't make it less disappointing. Ethan is nearly raped at one point in the book.

Allison's love interest also sucked and constantly made comments about how hot girls were. It got old very fast, and I definitely wasn't rooting for them to be together.

Allison is also vocal about not liking "kids" (she uses that word even though she's supposed to be 21) her own age. Throughout the book, she's incredibly judgmental of everyone around her, and it made her unlikable and just a pain to read about.

A character named Rachel makes a "joke" that Allison must be a lesbian because she's a virgin at 21. Do I need to discuss all of the layers of cringe there?

I just didn't like this book at all, and I wouldn't recommend it.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Life Post: Sick

For once, it's only been a couple of weeks since I last posted.

After Halloween, I expected things to calm down since the parties were all over, and for the most part, that turned out to be the case. I've had a lot less to do the past couple of weeks, which turned out to be very good because I got sick not long after Halloween.

It was unsurprising because a number of illnesses have been floating around. Though we can't really tell you if they're the same thing or not. When I went to the doctor, he basically said, "There are several things it could be, but it's no use running tests to see which it is. Here's some medicine." So, I basically took four different pills that were for different illnesses, and most of my friends who've been sick got the same response from the doctor. Some of our symptoms are similar and some different, so there's no telling really whether we've had the same thing or not.

I took the medicine the doctor gave me, and I felt a lot better while taking it, though my symptoms would come back quickly once it started to wear off. I had a lot of chest pain and a sore throat.

Now that I've finished the medicine the doctor gave me, I feel better than before but still stick. I've been taking over-the-counter cold medicine, which seems to help with most of the symptoms, like pain and congestion.

Yesterday, I got a little freaked out. My throat had been very sore and swollen, but that had mostly gone away. Then, I taught two classes in a row yesterday and my voice started going during them. It wasn't painful like it had been, yet it was much harder for me to talk than it had been when it had been much sorer. Today, I have more classes than yesterday, so I can only hope that my voice holds up for it.

Things do seem to be getting better though, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that everything will be fine soon. And then I can hopefully avoid getting sick for the rest of the winter.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Book Review: Eyewitness Testimonies: Appeals From The A-bomb Survivors by Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation

Published: July 15, 2003
Publisher: Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation
Read: June 4-5, 2018
Synopsis from Goodreads:
On August 6, 1945, the 350,000 people of Hiroshima experienced the cruel tragedy of the world's first atomic bombing. The conditions inflicted by that bomb transcend the capacity of words and even pictures to convey. Only those who were here at the time can know the full reality, and the survivors of that horror know from their experience that nuclear weapons are incompatible with human life on Earth. Many have spent their lives appealing constantly, "Never again! Nuclear weapons must be banned and eliminated." In this book, we present the thoughts, feelings, and memories of fifteen survivors (two of whom are now deceased). All have taken part in peace studies programs held by this Foundation, telling their A-bomb experiences to students who come to Hiroshima on school excursions. In addition, because so many Koreans and other non-Japanese were exposed to the bomb, we present a chapter contributed by an expert in that field.


This book is exactly what it sounds like. It's a collection of stories from people who survived the atomic bombing in Hiroshima during World War II. There's no way their stories couldn't have been powerful.

As many of the survivors have now passed away, it's incredibly important that their stories be collected while they're alive, and I'm glad that there's a book like this to serve as a record. (I bought this at the museum in Hiroshima where you can also watch countless recorded interviews with survivors that are perhaps even more powerful as you can hear their emotions as they speak.) I think this book holds tremendous value, and I'm thankful to have picked it up at the souvenir shop.

Many of the stories contain similar details (as you could imagine), but there is also a large diversity in the stories, as some were farther from the epicenter than others, were different ages, were with people or alone, etc. As you read, you feel as if you're getting an idea of the scope of the devastation as you read now just the survivor's story but the story of those around them too.

It's a heartbreaking book, but it's an incredibly important book.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Book Review: Relentless by Karen Lynch

Published: December 26, 2013
Publisher: self-published
Read from March 10 to April 3, 2018
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Sara Grey’s world shattered ten years ago when her father was brutally murdered. Now at seventeen, she is still haunted by memories of that day and driven by the need to understand why it happened. She lives a life full of secrets and her family and friends have no idea of the supernatural world she is immersed in or of Sara’s own very powerful gift.
In her quest for answers about her father’s death, Sara takes risks that expose her and her friends to danger and puts herself into the sights of a sadistic vampire. On the same fateful night she meets Nikolas, a warrior who turns Sara’s world upside down and is determined to protect her even if it’s the last thing she wants.
Sara’s life starts to spin out of control as she is hunted by an obsessed vampire, learns that her friends have secrets of their own and reels from the truth about her own ancestry. Sara has always been fiercely independent but in order to survive now she must open herself to others, to reveal her deepest secrets. And she must learn to trust the one person capable of breaking down the walls around her.


I read this book for free as part of the Gods and Mortals anthology, and I disliked it as much as I disliked the other books I've reviewed from that same anthology.

The writing in Relentless feels like it's attempting to be formal in a way that's out of place. A lot of phrases were written out that would have sounded more natural as a contraction. I felt like the book was trying too hard, but it was unnatural and took me out of the story.

The main character, Sara, only has friends who are boys because she tells us that girls don't like her. She then proceeds to insult all girls as a monolithic group, so you understand right away why most girls aren't lining up to befriend her. Comments like that from a character always put me off a story. The "I'm not like most girls" bit is always annoying, but outright insulting all other girls makes it even worse. It's always strange to see it done in a book whose target audience is teenage girls. Are the girls who read this book all supposed to be exceptions to Sara's judgmental comments? Or are they supposed to read about someone who mocks them?

Mohiri are the supernatural race that this book centers around. They apparently received their powers from Archangel Michael, and these powers were given to them specifically to hunt demons. This backstory immediately made me think of the Shadowhunter Chronicles, where Shadowhunters were given powers from the another angel, Ithuriel, to fight demons.

However, the Mohiri are meant to be half demon and half human; Shadowhunters, on the other hand, are half angel and half human. I'm not including this in the review to accuse the author of plagiarism; I'm bringing it up because I couldn't help but compare the two series as I was reading this one.

There were a number of tropes employed in the book that made me uncomfortable as well. I won't bother going into detail about them but will briefly list some of them to help others be aware of them before they read (while also acknowledging that I may have missed some):
  • Sara and Roland are chased by men who are all described as German or Middle Eastern. (How interesting that they can identify some of them by a specific country but no country is ever named in regards to the "Middle Eastern" men.) At one point, one of the men, who is described as Middle Eastern, says this: "In my country, a female is beaten for interfering in the business of men."
  • Men constantly belittle Sara because she's a girl. I don't think there was one male character in this book who didn't do it repeatedly.
  • Nikolas barges into Sara's room when she's only wearing a towel and doesn't care. He knows she has just gotten out of the shower and could easily be changing, but he doesn't knock or care at all about respecting her privacy.
  • There's a supernatural creature called a Hale witch, who is from Africa (no specific place in Africa is given) and only uses what's described as dark magic. There's a lot of emphasis placed on the Hale witch's black skin.
  • Almost every Mohiri and werewolf in the story is male; there are no women with a significant role anywhere in this book except Sara.
To be quite frank, I'm rather disgusted by this book. While I disliked many of the books in the Gods and Mortals anthology, this one had a number of particularly terrible tropes in it that I cannot believe someone thought were okay. I wouldn't recommend this to anyone.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Life Post: Reverse Culture Shock and Happy Halloween!

A lot has happened in the four months since I last posted one of these updates.

I passed my second anniversary of living in Japan. Just the other day it hit me for the first time how long I've been there. It hadn't quite felt real until that moment. Sometimes I still seem to forget that I'm living in Japan. The fact that my life here has become normal to me adds to that. I just forget what country I am a lot of the time, and then it'll suddenly hit me all over again.

In August, I visited the U.S. for the first time since I left in 2017. It was kind of strange yet not strange at all. I don't really know how to describe it. In many ways, coming back to Japan felt more comforting and like a return to the familiar than being in the U.S. did. In the States, the TSA was super pushy, and that was my overall feelings about being there: People were more aggressive. And I didn't like it.

Don't get me wrong, there were a lot of reasons I liked being in the U.S. It's just easier there for me because everyone's speaking my native language, I understand the culture on a deeper level, and whatnot. Still, I feel like the U.S.'s bad points all stood out more than anything, including how just straight up unsafe I feel there compared to in Japan.

I'm going back again for Christmas in December. Maybe I'll have even more thoughts about it then.

Because Halloween is a few days, we've been celebrating recently at work. We always have two Halloween parties: one for adult students and one of kid students. For privacy reasons, I won't be going into detail about either party here, but the kids' party was just today, so I'm a little tired from that. I helped with games, which was probably easier than helping with the craft, so I can't complain. The kids were also all adorable in their costumes.

I dressed up as a bat. All I did was cut some wings out of fabric and safety pin them to a black jacket. I also made some ears out of black wire that I bobby pinned into my hair. It didn't look the best, but it was the first time I've really made my own costume, so I guess it was a decent enough attempt.

This week is actually Halloween week at work, so we're "dressing up" all week, though I'm really only wearing a cat ear headband at work. It's fun though. I also put some fun Halloween nail stickers (colorful ghosts) on for the kids' party, and I don't really want to take them off.

I hope everyone reading this who celebrates Halloween has a nice holiday! I'll try to write another update soon. If I did this more often, maybe I could actually get into what day-to-day life is like for me in Japan... We'll see.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Book Review: Blood Debt by Nancy Straight

Published: July 15th, 2012
Publisher: self-published
Read from January 28 to February 5, 2018
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Her whole life, it had just been the two of them. Before her mother’s last breath, she gave Camille the information she had craved her entire life: the identity of her father. Daring to contact him, Camille was welcomed by an entire family she never knew existed. But nothing comes without a price, as she discovers when her family claims a legendary heritage tracing back to a centaur touched by Zeus.
As she learns the secrets of her Centaur bloodline, she is drawn into a forbidden love with Drake. Her life may be the blood debt required to pay for her mother’s transgressions. The same person who once held her mother captive, and forced her into decades of hiding, now controls Camille. Her only chance is to seek a piece of her mother’s past that will win her freedom and the life she desperately wants.


I was intrigued by this book because it's about centaurs. Books with centaurs front and center aren't common, at least that I've seen, and I had no idea what to expect. As far as I can tell, very little to none of the centaur lore in this book is from actual myth, as the centaurs in the book are nothing like what you think of when you think of centaurs. In fact, pretty quickly on, I figured it would be easier to just call the beings in the books something else because they aren't mythological centaurs in any sense of the word.

Just don't go into this book expecting to read about centaurs. They're beings entirely of the author's creation.

The writing in the book felt off to me. The main character Camille's emotions change frequently. She meets her father for the first time at the beginning of the book, and she very quickly fluctuates back-and-forth between thinking something is suspicious to being entirely at ease with her new family. It didn't make sense and left me unsure how I was supposed to feel about them as a reader.

There were also moments where the tense would suddenly change from past to present, which was disorienting.

The backstory of the centaurs should have been a lot more interesting than it was. We're told repeatedly that the centaurs are matriarchal. The head female of any given group is supposed to be in charge, but over and over again throughout the book, we see the men controlling everything while they're wives do absolutely nothing. It completely contradicted the matriarchal part of their culture and made it seem like they were lying about who actually controls their society. Something that could have been interesting if done well, but that, instead, felt like it was an idea that wasn't followed through on properly, which left the world building feeling shallow.

Part of Camille's backstory is that she grew up around murder and a lot of other crime, but that didn't feel genuine either. Nothing about her characterization or what happens to her throughout the book hints that she faced anything traumatic in her past.

There were a lot of other small things that irked me. Camille's blood apparently "calls" to Drake, which makes him struggle not to touch her. That felt very Twilight.

The sentence, "She's got the complexion of a Mayan goddess," was also in the book, and it's used to describe a white girl. I shouldn't have to elaborate on everything wrong with that sentence.

Overall, most of my problems with the book came down to shallow development of both the world and the characters. It was hard to be invested in the story when I was told things that were never actually shown. This book felt like it had potential that wasn't fleshed out enough.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Movie Talk: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

With The Rise of Skywalker just around the corner, it's about time that I get my thoughts on The Last Jedi posted. I re-watched it recently, which was the first time I'd actually done so since watching it in theaters.

I wanted to make sure I hadn't forgotten anything, but I was surprised how well I remembered everything despite having only seen it once more than a year before. Maybe it's a sign of how saturated I am with Star Wars stuff all the time, but everything in the movie felt fresh in my mind.

The first time around, I very much felt how long the movie was, and this time, since I'd seen it before, that feeling was worse. I paused the movie several times to get up and move around because I couldn't focus and was just zoning out staring at the screen. To be fair, I do this a lot when rewatching things, but at a certain point, watching The Last Jedi did almost begin to feel like a chore.

That's my biggest problem with the movie. I don't hate it. I definitely want to emphasize that. It is, overall, a perfectly fine movie, but it didn't keep me on the edge of my seat in suspense. By the time I got to the climax, I was kind of exhausted by everything that had come before, and I felt like I should have been feeling more than I was.

The first time around, I didn't consider that Rose and Finn's mission is not only unsuccessful but actually makes the situation worse for the Resistance. Their plan actually leads to more deaths on their own side. That should have been something that left me reeling emotionally, but I didn't even connect the dots that Finn and Rose themselves were responsible for that huge setback until I was rewatching the film. The characters themselves are obviously disappointed by their failure, but not even they directly acknowledge that more people have died as a direct consequence of their actions. That could have provided some amazing moments for their characters, but instead, it wasn't utilized at all.

The entire storyline with Finn and Rose feels more like filler (inside a movie of all things) than anything else. The fact that the mission fails really adds to that filler feeling, and the fact that it doesn't seem to have much impact on them as characters makes it worse. They either should have gone further with the emotional pain at the end or had the characters do something more worthwhile with their time.

Another aspect of the movie that I was thinking about more this time around was Hux. He's quite popular with the fandom for some reason, but his over dramatic approach to everything got on my nerves. There's a lot of, "You shouldn't romanticize the villains," discourse within the Star Wars fandom that I don't want to get into here (because I could go on about it for quite a while), but disregarding that part of it, I just don't get what's appealing about him. The only real opinion I have of Hux is that he's petulant and annoying.

There's a moment when Luke tells Rey, "Just like me, they're the last of the Jedi religion." The line stood out to me because I can't remember the Jedi being referred to as a religion within the movies before. I know it's discussed that way within fandom (and also within the Expanded Universe I believe), but I can't recall a character using the word 'religion' within the movies. It struck me as an interesting word choice. (This could also just be a blind spot of mine. Me not remembering it doesn't mean it's not there. It's been ages since I've watched many of the movies.)

Leia using the Force to make it back to the ship was amazing, and I love seeing that Leia has power with the Force. The second time around, though, I wondered why she was so disheartened when the rocks were blocking their way out of the cave at the end of the movie. After her earlier stunt, you'd think she'd at least try to move the rocks using the Force. Of course, I know  they wanted to give Rey her big moment here, but I wouldn't have been against Leia and Rey moving the rocks together either.

One of my least favorite parts of the movie is when Kylo and Rey are speaking to each other and Kylo doesn't have a shirt on. Rey even makes a comment about him putting something on, and he just stares at her as if he didn't hear her. The whole moment stuck me as very fan service-y in the worst possible way. There's no reason for him to be shirtless here, and Rey's comment that goes ignored just draws even more attention to the ridiculousness of it. I think it's supposed to be funny, but it just made me cringe.

I like that Luke confesses to considering killing Kylo for a moment. It adds a great dimension to his character, but he still didn't do it in the end. I love how it shows that Luke is a flawed human while remaining someone who ultimately chose to the right thing.

Rey becoming convinced that she can save Kylo had me groaning in the movie theater the first time I saw the movie. Since the movie came out (and I've read a million and one thought pieces about it), I've analyzed my feelings on it to death, and I'm not as against the story decision as I once was. That's mostly because she fails in the end, and I think the story is much more realistic that way. I like that the movie portrays the idea that you can't just save everyone, at least not with the ease Rey was apparently expecting. (Going back to Finn and Rose's plan failing, I think Rey's own failure was a good example of a similar situation where the consequences of the failure felt like they held the right amount of weight.)

Right now, I can't say where Kylo will be at the end of the next movie, but even if he does "come back to the light", I don't want it to be something that's as easy as Rey saying, "There's light in you," and Kylo just coming around. That wouldn't have worked. (But part of me is still worried that they'll try to redeem Kylo and that it'll feel as flimsy as this.)

Yoda showing up and burning the Jedi texts when Luke hesitates was another decision that, much like the use of the word 'religion', I found very interesting. After the word, 'religion' was used earlier, I couldn't help but think about real world religions and the idea of burning holy texts. The fact that Star Wars had Yoda actually burn the texts and say that they weren't needed when burning the Bible, the Quran, or other real world holy texts is considered offensive... I just wouldn't have expected them to do it. It's hard not to think about Yoda's words without thinking about them in a real world context as well.

It's no secret that I both expected and wanted Rey to be Luke's daughter. By the time we got to the, "Your parents were nobody," part of the movie, though, I'd already seen it coming. At first, I was a little annoyed, but after participating in and seeing so much discussion about it for the past year, I don't hate the decision. While part of me will always wish Rey was a Skywalker, I also completely understand the decision to make her a "nobody".

One thing that came out of nowhere the first time I watched the movie was Rose kissing Finn. I hadn't expected it. Nothing that had happened between them felt romantic to me. (I do, quite honestly, think there was more romantic tension between Poe and Finn in the first movie than there was between Finn and Rose in the second.) As someone who loves fictional friendships, I do wish Finn and Rose had stayed just friends instead of adding what felt like a largely forced kiss. I guess they really wanted some kind of romance since it didn't seem to be coming from anywhere else? But then, why weren't there more hints towards it earlier in the movie?

As far as shipping goes, I'm pretty open to just about any combination of the younger main characters winding up together. (Within the good guys, that is. I don't want any Reylo.) My lackluster reaction to the kiss doesn't mean that I'm against Finn and Rose being together. That's fine with me. I'd just like some more development if they're actually going that route.

What I care about far more than shipping at this point is an awesome friendship between Rey, Finn, Poe, and Rose. I can't believe how late in this movie we had Poe and Rey even meeting each other for the first time, and Rey still hasn't actually met Rose. If there are no romantic couples by the end of the next movie, I'll be fine with that, but I will be very disappointed if the four of them don't have a good, solid friendship with each other.

The fact that absolutely no one answers the Resistance's distress call makes me wonder how things will play out in the next movie. The Resistance is almost microscopic at this point, and it's clear the First Order still has quite a bit of power. This definitely feels like a David and Goliath scenario. It seems like at least part of the next movie is going to involve rounding up more help. We see the potential at the end of this movie with the little boy and his Resistance ring.

All of that is exactly what you'd want from the second movie in a trilogy, and I also recognize that many of my problems with this movie are almost certainly because of its position as the second in the series. A lot of what I've criticized it for are things often said about the second movie, book, etc. in a trilogy, so for that, I don't want to be too harsh on it.

In light of that, I'll end by mentioning what was probably my favorite scene in the movie: the stand off between Luke and Kylo. Luke telling Kylo that he can't be saved is a huge contrast to Rey's belief that he could be earlier in the movie. Of course, at this point, Rey's likely doubting he can be saved too. I think it's Luke's words that have me leaning towards the belief that Kylo won't be "saved" in the third movie. (And if he is ultimately "saved", I don't imagine it as a happy, feel good type of thing.)

Oh, and I can't end this post without an acknowledgement for Carrie Fisher. No matter how many times I see the dedication for her at the end of Last Jedi, I'm sure it will hurt my heart.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Shadowhunters Talk: 3x10 "Erchomai

Another episode full of some heavy stuff.

Jonathan and Lilith

This episode starts with a flashback to Jonathan arriving in Edom and the first time she burns him. I appreciate getting that scene because it helps us understand Jonathan better. Before, we'd gotten bits and pieces of information about what happened to Jonathan, but with something as messed up as this, it's more powerful to see it. The scene also gave us a better idea of what Jonathan and Lilith's dynamics are like, since we hadn't see them actually interact much before, and it shows that Lilith isn't really a mother to Jonathan despite both of them using that word.

Simon and His Mom

While that scene made me feel bad for Jonathan, Simon's storyline in this episode was the most upsetting because I'm more attached to him. Watching him wipe his mom's memory was heartbreaking. While it's understandable that she's better off not knowing (look what happened to Ollie after learning about the Shadow World), I'm sad that Simon couldn't maintain any kind of relationship with her, even one where she doesn't know the full truth.

Special Effects

My least favorite part of this episode has to be the CGI fire they used when Magnus sent himself to Edom. I don't expect Shadowhunters to have blockbuster movie special effects, but that one did make me cringe, I'll admit it.

Magnus and Asmodeus

We get a better sense of what Asmodeus and Magnus' relationship has been like in this episode too, and I liked seeing them interact, especially when it being in Edom meant that it mirrored Jonathan and Lilith even more closely. That being said, some of the lines in the scene confused me. Magnus refers to himself as Asmodeus's "chosen son", and it's not entirely clear what he means by that. If the show is following the books in this respect, Asmodeus is Magnus' biological father, but the wording on top of the given backstory of him picking Magnus up off the streets kind of imply that he just adopted Magnus.

Considering they did give Asmodeus cat eyes like Magnus, it's more likely that "chosen son" was only meant to imply that Asmodeus had more biological children and Magnus was the one he chose to raise. If I didn't know from the books that he was Magnus' biological father, though, I don't think that's how I'd have interpreted that scene.


Maryse tells Luke that the Owl broke Clary out of the Gard, and they track Lilith down together. I'm really impressed with Maryse's commitment to remaining part of everything despite losing her runes. It's also impressive how much information she's able to get when she's supposed to be completely cut off from the Clave. While it undoubtedly had some major connections before, I think it's interesting how many people are apparently willing to help her despite her crimes.

The Ending

The episode ends with Magnus giving up his powers, something I'll talk more about when I discuss the following episodes and the aftermath of it.

The biggest cliffhanger here is that Clary and Jonathan both seem to be dead. Again, since I know what comes next, I won't talk about that much in this post, but I did enjoy both Jace's and Simon's reactions to thinking she's dead. They were powerful.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Shadowhunters Talk: 3x09 "Familia Ante Omnia"

In this episode, we learn that the Clave executes death row prisoners by burning them alive. Clary describes the practice as barbaric, and I definitely agree that it's messed up. The idea that they put a large number of people to death in one go and that the consul stands there and coldly watches the whole thing with no concerns blows my mind. Honestly, I know the show has been canceled, but if it had gone on longer, this is something I'd want the show to come back to and make the Clave improve on.

Simon learns that it's the Mark of Cain on his forehead in this episode. That isn't news to anyone who's read the book, but since he knows exactly what the mark is when he receives it in the books, it's interesting to watch him figure it out in the show.

Lilith seeking Heidi's help was a good idea, but it's frustrating to watch Heidi fall so easily for Lilith's manipulation while thinking she's empowering herself. Watching Heidi threaten Simon's family was particularly difficult. Both because the blood made me squeamish and because it's just sad to watch, especially when Simon's mom begins yelling at him that he's a monster.

Clary uses a rune to bring Valentine back to life, which is kind of terrifying as well. That's the kind of power that no one should have, and as far as I can remember, it's not mentioned again after this episode, which is kind of wild if you think about it. It's something I'd imagine becoming extremely classified, with Clary being forbidden to share the rune with anyone in the future. If I were part of the Clave, I'd certainly be worried about her being capable of such a thing.

Between bringing back the dead and Simon's family calling him a monster, this was an intense episode, but I really like how they did it.

Race to the Edge Talk: 5x06 "Return of Thor Bonecrusher"

This episode opens with Snotlout sees some women in wigs, and when he finds out they're women, he says it's "false advertising". Ugh. Snotlout is always portrayed as a misogynistic jerk, but even for him, that joke went way too far. It shouldn't have been in the episode for a long list of reasons that I just don't want to list, and I felt sour towards the whole episode after that start.

Snotlout also proves how stupid he is in this episode by hypnotizing Fishlegs into Thor Bonecrusher again and making him an antihero instead of a hero. I totally buy that Snotlout wouldn't know what that term meant, but it was a strange phrase for him to choose given the circumstances. It felt out of place.

Fishlegs snaps out of being Thor Bonecrusher when Snotlout claps, but he continues to pretend in order to keep his cover from being blown. I liked seeing Fishlegs act bravely. It was nice for him.

The end of the episode features Kronan and Viggo, and we learn that they're working together. It's an effective cliffhanger I think, leaving us wondering just what it is they're up to.

All in all, I realize that this is shorter than my usual Race to the Edge posts. I couldn't get into this episode at all after the beginning with Snotlout, and it left me pretty angry with the show for a while. I'm still uncomfortable about it, and to be honest, it's left me feeling uneasy whenever I watch Race to the Edge since.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Shadowhunters Talk: 3x08 "A Walk in Darkness"

Unless I'm forgetting something, this episode marks the first time we see Lilith move the apartment she's using, something which will become important later on.

The demon inside Jace taunting everyone was hard to watch because you know he's hitting them where it really does hurt the most. Despite knowing it's not really Jace, I struggled not to feel angry with him in that scene.

Alec wants to use his parabatai bond to help Jace, saying that he's nothing without his parabatai. The parabatai bond is something that's tricky to convey well, I think, because parabatai are supposed to be closer than siblings or lovers. I'm not sure how often, if ever, Jace and Alec appear that way. They're close, yes, but I've never felt that they come across as close as they should be. Losing his parabatai really should be the ultimate loss in Alec's life, but based on what we see in the show, I don't think Alec would be more upset losing Jace than if he lost Izzy or Magnus or someone else, which kind of makes his lines in this episode feel melodramatic.

Seeing Jace vulnerable was one of the highlights of this episode for me. It's not a way we've seen him often. Even in other supposedly vulnerable moments, I've never felt we were going very deep, but I did feel that way in this episode. It was the most broken we've seen him, and I think that it was good to finally see his character like that.

Clary gets a nice burn in when she says that she's glad the wish is gone because she doesn't see the mass murder of Downworlders as something to celebrate. I like small reminders that the Clave isn't a friend to Downworlders and is downright cruel to them most of the time.

Another nice moment in the episode was Izzy singing Jace the lullaby to show she was his friend. One thing I think the show does well compared to the books is showing that Jace is Izzy and Alec's sibling after being raised by the Lightwoods. In the books, I always got the sense that Maryse and Robert were constantly gone, giving the Lightwood children free reign at the Institute and making them feel less like they were actually Jace's parents. Details like this in the show, though, help show us that Maryse really was a mother to Jace, and I appreciate that.

One of the biggest reasons I hate Jordan (both in the books and in the show) is how hard he tries to worm his way back into Maia's life and find redemption for himself by using her to make himself feel better. I hate watching it play out, and every time we see him, I hate him more.

He also prompts Maia to leave town for to clear her head. I'm mixed on how I feel about that. From a character standpoint, it makes complete sense that she'd want a break. From a story telling standpoint, it's odd to take one of your main characters out of the story for the time that Maia is gone. When I first watched this episode, I didn't think she would be gone for as long as she was, and I'm not a huge fan of that.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Shadowhunters Talk: 3x07 "Salt in the Wound"

This episode begins with Maia finding Jordan in the apartment and revealing to Simon that he's the werewolf who changed her. I remember being relieved when this episode first aired because I could call him Jordan again. Before, I didn't want to spoil anything for people who hadn't read the books, but calling him Kyle also felt weird.

At the same time, it hurts seeing Maia have to deal with the guy who caused her so much pain again.

It struck me that Clary called Simon when she was horribly injured instead of calling Izzy or Alec or Magnus. Their friendship seems to have been put on the back burner with everything else going on, so I was glad to see her reaching out to him instead of anyone else.

Alec hugging Clary felt a little awkward to me. I'm all for Alec and Clary forming a stronger friendship, and I also get Alec being thankful that Clary saved his parabatai. At the same time, the hug felt strange and out of place. It was hard to believe that Alec would do something like that, even in such circumstances.

As I have a blood phobia, watching Lilith drain people's blood was probably the worst part of the episode for me.

It's revealed that Luke is the one who called the Praetor for Simon. I'm always up for Luke acting like a father to Simon. We even get a small detail about Luke bringing Simon to the station for Bring Your Child to Work Day. That warmed my heart.

Imogen got more character development in the show than she did in the books, and I admit that I have warmer feelings for her in the show because of it, particularly in this episode. If nothing else, I'm glad she cares enough about her grandson that she's willing to hide what's happened to him from Consul Penhallow to protect him.

Catarina and Magnus' friendship will always make me happy. I loved seeing her build up his confidence a bit.

Isabelle tells Clary that Jace has been a happier person since she joined them. To be honest, I don't get the impression that's the case from what we see on the show. We see flashbacks where he's happy with Alec and Izzy as a kid, and he hasn't seemed all that happy since Clary joined. That's mostly because of what's going on around them, but it still makes Izzy's words here feel straight up wrong to me. Jace seems the same he's always been if anything.

Overall, I supposed this episode was a mixed bag for me. Some of the story decisions were questionable, but there were a number of moments that I liked, particularly with Catarina and Magnus.

Book Review: Twin Souls by DelSheree Gladden

ASIN: B004C43HI2
Published: November 12, 2019
Publisher: self-published
Read from December 29, 2017 to January 22, 2018
Synopsis from Goodreads:
He avoids her because of the strange physical pain he feels when they touch. She avoids him because the way everyone seems to do what he says scares her. But when Claire needs to escape a bad situation Uriah is the first person she thinks of, and he is eager to rescue her. Faced with each other for the first time, both Uriah and Claire find it impossible to listen to their fears and stay away from one another. They soon find out, though, that there is more than they ever thought possible trying to keep them apart.
Following tradition the pair approaches the Elders of their Tewa tribe to ask permission to marry. Everyone is shocked when the shaman refuses them, claiming they are not Twin Souls. Confused and angry Uriah refuses to listen, and promises them that he will never abandon Claire. When Claire is poisoned by her vindictive father his resolve is tested. Ancient Native American myths and legends spring into reality, doing everything they can to keep Uriah from saving Claire’s life, while beginning to reveal the truth behind the lies he has been told all his life.

It's been a year and a half since I read this book, and I've been dreading writing the review ever since. This is one of those cases where I feel like I need to write one because it's important to address the problems in the book, but as I also have nothing positive to say, I don't like having to get into all of this.

This was part of a collection of ebooks that I downloaded for free. If it hadn't been for that, I probably would have avoided it based just on what little I could see from the synopsis.

As you can tell from the summary above, the two main characters in Twin Souls are Native American. As soon as I saw that, I became cautious. The first thing I did was look into the author to see if they were Native American themselves. The phrase "myths and legends" being used in the summary had me on guard as I've heard Native Americans reject such words being used to describe their religious stories as it trivializes their legitimate beliefs.

Gladden makes no reference to her background on her website except to describe herself as "native to New Mexico", which I'm going to assume doesn't (despite the background of her characters) mean she's Native American. There are no evidence or direct claims anywhere that she is on her website. Because of that, I was careful going into the book, and I wanted to try and figure out what was fact and what was fiction in her portrayal of the Native American culture in the book.

As a white person myself, I feel like I'm limited in what I can say here. All I can do is rely on the perspectives of Native Americans that I've read over the years, but what I can say is that I have read a multitude of Native American perspectives that are against white people making up Native American "myths" of their own, which is precisely what is done in this book unless the author has some kind of source that I can't find despite a lot of searching on the internet.

The fact that the characters are described as belonging to the "Tewa tribe" is probably a good place to start when it comes to what's fiction in this book. From what I've been able to find, Tewa is a linguistic group that is comprised of multiple communities in New Mexico. Despite the phrase "Tewa tribe" being used in the book, there seem to be multiple "federally recognized tribes" that are all Tewa. Words like "nation" are often preferred to "tribe" as it is, so the fact that the phrase "Tewa tribe" was used when no such tribe uses that name was a sign of how the rest of the book would go.

I can't tell you how exactly how accurate this book is in portraying Tewa culture, but even if I hadn't done any extra research, I would have had trouble believing any of it was rooted in an actual indigenous culture. Some would probably say that justifies it, as it's merely meant to be fiction, but that's a huge problem as it's a white person making up their own story while trying to dress it up as a Native American story and attribute it to a culture that it has nothing to do with. It does this while also indulging in some bad stereotypes.

Even as a white person, I felt right away that the Native characters in the book had been written by another white person. In the book, the Tewa have members of their communities called Shaxoa (a term that I couldn't find outside of this book). Claire calls the Shaxoa "witches" and vilifies them despite them being an important part of her culture.

The idea of Claire using the term 'witch' (a term from European mythology) to describe a role within her community made no sense, and her hatred of them felt more like an outsider's (i.e. white person's) perspective of the Shaxoa than the perspective of someone inside the culture. She didn't feel like someone who had grown up within a culture where the Shaxoa were important and valued.

That continues throughout the book, with both Claire and Uriah viewing their own culture negatively. And the book presents it as if the reader should view it the same way they do, as their culture is preventing them from being together. If this book were a dystopian novel, Tewa culture and the elders would be the evil government who the protagonist was trying to overthrow. It made me very uncomfortable with how the supposedly indigenous culture was being presented.

It wasn't as if there was questionable Native American content but the rest of the book was good either. The book was just bad.

In addition to the Native characters feeling like they were written by a white person, they didn't feel like actual teenagers. They didn't act realistically to anything.

As an example, one character refers to a "pack of other teens" at one point. I can't for the life of me imagine a teenager referring to other teenagers using that phrase. I actually laughed out loud when I read that line because it felt like something an adult would say, not a kid.

There are also problems with the ways the Tewa elders often speak, which plays into many stereotypes, but as I'm not Native myself, that's not something I can really analyze in detail.

The book also has multiple jumps in time that made it hard to follow the progression of Uriah and Claire's relationship. We don't see their relationship progress because we're just told that time has passed and now their in a long term relationship. As a reader, I was supposed to believe that they were deeply in love only because they'd been together a while, even if I hadn't seen any of that happening for myself.

Because of this, I wasn't invested in them as a couple. It was a bad case of telling instead of showing. I was told they were in love, but I didn't see it for myself. When everything else in the book was so bad, that took away the last chance I had of emotionally connecting with the characters. I just didn't care. They could have died; they could have been separated forever; and it wouldn't have mattered to me.

Since the harmful Native content is my primary reason for even writing this review, I won't delve into various other ways I disliked this book, but I will say that I have a long list in the notes of my phone, and I've only written about a small portion of it. There are just a few other issues that I think need to be at least briefly mentioned:

Soul mates (or twin souls as they're called in the book) are part of Tewa culture within this book (and, again, were not something I could find sources for when researching). They are meant to be two halves, and the way it is presented heavily implies that twin souls can only be one male and one female. No one bothers to acknowledge the existence of queer people, and there are no queer characters, but it's heavily implied that soul mates are only opposite sex couples.

Claire's father is also emotionally abusive, and his actions don't make sense. I'm not saying the way abusers act is always logical, but he's written as if he's a cartoon villain at times. He tries to scheme only for things to fall apart, and he does things that have no logical backing. That entire part of the story was a mess.

As this is getting far more negative than I like being, I'll leave that here. As I've stated multiple times, I can only write from the perspective of a white person, so I'd welcome feedback from any Native Americans about what I've said, how I've phrased it, language I've used, etc.

I haven't seen a review of this book written by a Native American, but if I find one, I would definitely like to add a link to it here. As it is, this is a book that I would have avoided buying from the synopsis alone if I hadn't discovered it in a bundle books I got for free. I don't at all recommend it.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Shadowhunters Talk: 3x06 "A Window Into an Empty Room"

The first thing I have to comment on in this episode is Kyle putting on that padding and making Simon attack him as if it's going to help them figure out anything at all. Honestly, what was he trying to accomplish? Was it just a confirmation that the mark really would hurt someone? Because I have no idea what else he expected to get out of it.

I'd forgotten how almost reasonable some of the stuff Heidi says is when she first meets Simon. Of course, that quickly changes as she starts murdering people. Still, understand her feeling betrayed when Simon wants nothing to do with her after Raphael tortured her. I feel bad for her, and I do feel like her story is tragic. It's made very clear that she's never really had anyone who cared about her, and it makes me wish that the show had handled her story differently.

I like that Maia recognizes the similar positions she and Heidi were put in after they were turned. It helped emphasize that Heidi reached the point she did because terrible things happened to her, not because she was naturally a bad person.

Alec and Magnus have an argument about Alec aging that breaks my heart. The fact that it gets a little petty did help lighten the atmosphere a little. Alec getting drunk later in the episode kind of proved Magnus' point that he was acting like a child, but this is Alec's first relationship and he's centuries younger than Magnus, so it makes sense that they'd find themselves in such a situation eventually.

I loved seeing Maryse this episode and the aftermath of her being de-runed. I love that she came to see her kids after and that she included Jace when she was looking for them. We also get the beginnings of Luke/Maryse here as Luke offers help to Maryse if she ever needs it. This episode really helped strengthen my fondness for the show's version of Maryse.

Jace randomly bumping into Alec, who happens to be on a walk despite admitting that he never going on walks, was hilarious to me. Why did Jace not put some effort into hunting for people in places his siblings wouldn't be? Or did Alec's walk also take place in some far flung part of New York that Jace figured he'd never be in?

There's some nice dramatic irony in Heidi thinking that Izzy is Simon's girlfriend. That was a small detail that I really liked.

We see Jem (or Brother Zacariah) for the first time in this episode. Considering they can't use material from the Infernal Devices series, they did a good job teasing those books in Jem's conversation with Clary and Magnus. I do wonder what that scene looks like to someone who hasn't read the books because I imagine that it raises some questions. Jem even says, "That's a story for another day," in reference to him not looking like the other Silent Brothers. In most circumstances, I'd consider that a hint that the show will explore it later, but here, not even taking into account the the cancellation, that's not the case because they can't legally tell that story. I wonder if it felt off to some viewers, but as someone who has read the books, I loved those bits.

When this episode aired, I was still holding out hope that we'd get some kind of glimpse of Tessa too. Unfortunately, we never got that, but I did like the bit of fan service this episode gave us.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Shadowhunters Talk: 3x05 "Stronger Than Heaven"

I have a lot to say about this episode even after more than a year since I first watched it, so let's dive in.

Lilith Visits Magnus

The first scene of this episode is Lilith going to Magnus for help. I love this because it's another reminder of how powerful Magnus is. This incredibly powerful demon needs help and she goes to Magnus instead of someone else.

At the same time, I'm surprised that Magnus isn't capable of identifying Lilith. She does live in Edom along with Asmodeus, and we know that Magnus spent time with Asmodeus. If he's never come into contact with Lilith before—not even once—I would be surprised. The body she's using isn't her natural form, but later episodes especially imply that it's the human form she always (or at least typically) uses when she wants to appear human. I feel like Magnus should have recognized that it was her, but I suppose that's a question that I'm not too distracted by while watching the show.

Jace's Mental Health

I have mixed feelings about the way they handled Jace's suspicion that he has a mental illness. For one, they keep talking about how his mother suffered from mental illness, but they only use the vague term 'mental illness.' There's not one mention of what mental illness she actually had, which I think is doing a disservice when talking about mental health. It's an easy way out because it means they can talk about what she suffered without bothering to be accurate to any particular illness.

(It's worth nothing that they have the canon excuse of Shadowhunters not taking mental illness seriously and no one bothering to take her to a doctor. But there's a lot I could say about that, and I'd probably end up ranting for several paragraphs at least.)

All in all, that was a small thing to me. What really got me angry about how mental health was handled in the episode was Clary's reaction to Jace raising the possibility of being sick (especially after having a nice scene of Alec and Jace both wanting Jace to get help).

Clary doesn't want Jace to assume that he has a mental illness, and though there are angels and demons involved here, I know plenty of stories about people who struggle with mental illness and are told that there's actually nothing wrong with them. It can get harmful because the people around them won't help them get treatment when they need it. I don't like that Clary is doing the same thing here.

She also explicitly says that she's worried about him being declared unfit for duty, which is a terrible thing to be worried about when someone wants to get help in my opinion. She's encouraging him to bury what's bothering him so that he can keep fighting even if it isn't healthy for him. If he's declared unfit, then that's a good thing because it gives him time to get better.

Clary feeling guilty that she might have caused Jace harm makes sense. There were ways they could have done that without her trying to guilt him into not getting help. And even though we know demons are involved here, seeking help could have only helped him in the long run. I fail to see how it would have been harmful. (If nothing else, the Silent Brothers might have realized that he was being influenced by Lilith instead of Jace continuing to deal with it on his own.)

Alec and Magnus' 'Moving In Together' Conversation

Watching Alec ask to move in with Magnus was one of those moments where you feel secondhand embarrassment as you watch it. I wanted to pause the episode for a second to escape from the awkwardness.

Having seen later episodes, this conversation makes some things that happen later feel out of place. Since eliminating this conversation wouldn't change anything else in this episode, I wish it hadn't been there. That would have made future events make a lot more sense.

Jace Helps Simon

There's something endearing about Jace deciding to help Simon because Clary cares about him. Of course, I'd love to see Jace and Simon become genuine friends who help each other because they care for each other, but it's also nice to see them getting along and helping each other for Clary's sake. It's a nice acknowledgment that they need to at least try to get along.

Alec's Snooping and the Immortality Problem

Magnus being a very private person, him leaving that box out feels like a huge sign of trust, which makes it more painful that Alec snooped through it. That being said, I appreciate that Alec went to Magnus and apologized without Magnus calling him out on it first. That made me feel a lot better about the whole thing and was a nice show of honesty in their relationship.

The conflict over Magnus being immortal and Alec mortal had to come eventually. Not only is this in the books, but it's something they'd have to discuss eventually. In romance stories, growing old together is seen as the happy ending, but Magnus and Alec can't grow old together. If they just pretended like that wasn't the case, it would seem a bit unrealistic.

Luke's Farm

We see Luke's farm for the first time in this episode. This is another detail from the books except in the books Clary grew up coming to the farm. In the show, I'm curious about the farm's sudden appearance in the story. How often does Luke visit? Because it looks pretty well maintained. Even before Cleophas lived there, it seems like someone had to be maintaining the house. If Luke was leaving the city that often to look after it though, what was he telling Clary about where he was going?


This episode also marks the introduction of Underhill, who because quite a hit with the fandom. I have to be honest and admit I don't understand the appeal of him. I love the fact that someone thanked Alec for coming out and showed him that he had a positive effect on other Shadowhunters. But when it comes to Underhill as a character, I say him as a stale character from the beginning. He doesn't have a personality when we meet him, and this really never changes in later episodes.

Izzy and the Doctor

Even after more than a year since I first watched this episode, I don't know how I feel about the storyline with Izzy and the doctor. The thing is, it's cute. It just doesn't go anywhere or provide anything to the larger story. There's no larger plot, and it doesn't give Izzy any significant character development. It feels pointless.

Alec Brushing Off His Own Problems

Alec telling Jace, "Just stuff with Magnus. Nothing I'd want to bore you with," kills me. Alec, Jace is your parabatai. The fact that Alec thinks his feelings would bore Jace really upsets me. The fact that Jace doesn't push back on this and ask again what's bothering Alec upsets me even more. There was such a great opportunity for parabatai bonding in that scene, and instead, I feel like the scene made their parabatai bond look weaker than it should be.

Obviously, Alec knows that Jace is going through a lot, and that likely was a big reason for it. It could also explain why Jace doesn't bother pushing for more I guess, but it feels strange when they're supposed to have such a strong bond. One of the show's weak points in my mind is not giving us more heart-to-heart moments with Jace and Alec.

Lilith's Love Potion

The episode ends with Lilith giving Jace the potion to fall out of love with Clary. Do you know what? I don't remember how this ends. I know that the effects of the potion must be reversed at some point, but I can't for the life of me remember how it happens. I'm not sure what that says about this particular part of the story. I guess we'll see how I feel as I watch it play out again while rewatching the episodes.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Race to the Edge Talk: 5x05 "A Matter of Perspective"

Once again, I forgot that Adelaide Kane was in this show until her character began speaking. I don't know how I keep forgetting that considering she's one of my favorite actresses.

At the start of the episode, Astrid asks Hiccup why he's hiding something, but she's also confident that he'll tell her what's up when the time is right. I love how much trust they have in each other. It's rare to see something like that play out, with one character not very worried about another keeping a secret. It was a small moment, but it was one I really appreciated between them. That one moment alone does a lot for reminding me why I love their dynamics as a couple.

The main events of the story center around the Eruptodon getting old and preparing to die. That means they have to send him off to his final resting place.

The moment in this episode where Hiccup says they have to stay away from dragon culture like that was an amusing one when you consider that this is a show about vikings. Sure, the vikings in this franchise never leave their archipelago, but it's still a little ironic.

It was an interesting choice for Hiccup to use the word 'culture' too, since we never think of real world animals as having cultures. That's an acknowledgement that the dragons are sentient, at least to a certain extent. That's pretty obvious after the movies and TV shows of course, but that word use still caught my attention.

Later in the episode, Fishlegs gets excited on Vanaheim because he discovers evidence that dragons can understand abstract thought. That seems like something that it would have been easy to assume earlier, especially with Hiccup acknowledging that they have a culture just a day earlier. I suppose there's a philosophical debate to be had about whether beings can have a culture without understanding abstract thought, but my own thought process would be that such a thing would be near impossible.

This episode also introduces the sentinel dragons who guard Vanaheim. It's quite interesting to think that an entire species of dragon evolved in order to protect the final resting place of other species of dragons. What happens to the sentinels when they die is never answered here either, and they don't seem to have a final resting place on the island when the characters are talking about what dragon tombs they've found (unless I missed something). That's an interesting detail to me.

I like how this episode explored the idea of dragon culture and just how complex dragons are. It isn't like the idea was thoroughly explored, but it still raised some interesting things to think about, which isn't too shabby for a less than 25 minute episode of a show that's typically quite episodic. I enjoyed it.

Race to the Edge Talk: 5x04 "Snotlout's Angels"

(A note before the review: I had filmed a review for 5x03, but I deleted it because I was annoyed with the video, which is kind of a long story. I didn't have much to say about the episode, so I'm not bothering to do it again.)

This is the episode I've been most dreading talking about because it plays into harmful indigenous stereotypes of native islanders trying to eat people who wind up stranded on their island.

First of all, it doesn't even make sense of these women to be branded 'natives'. Throughout the course of Race to the Edge, the characters have encountered people from different islands all over the archipelago. There's no indication that these women are living outside the archipelago, and there's nothing to mark them as 'other' from the vikings when Snotlout and Tuffnut both use the phrase 'native women'. It's clear that the writers only used that phrase because they were playing into a trope that they shouldn't have been using in the first play.

In fact, the women make it clear that they follow the same religion as the others by talking about Freya. Sure, they probably place more emphasis on Freya than people on other islands, but that doesn't make their religion drastically different (and that's quite common in many old polytheistic religions). They also have no trouble communicating with each other, showing that they have few, if any, differences in language. It's very obvious that they're operating within the same culture as the other characters. There's nothing more 'native' about them than any other particular character we've been introduced to.

Snotlout also uses the phrase 'native woman costume', which makes no sense. Both because the use of 'native' makes little sense here but also because what they're wearing isn't drastically different from what we've seen on anyone else. Yes, they have a specific style, but it's not something that Snotlout should have viewed as inherently foreign.

Plus, the fact that there are no men on the island leads me to believe that these women are recruited from other islands to come take care of the dragons. They clearly view their role in a religious light as they say they were given the responsibility to care for the dragons by Freya. I'd assume that their role is a lot like that of a priestess in ancient Rome or a nun in a convent in Christianity. It seems logical that these women were all born in different places and only later moved to the island as they felt a religious calling to the role, meaning that none of them are native to the island.

So, even ignoring the harmful nature of the stereotypes this episode uses, the language itself is just straight up absurd to use.

The event that sets the rest of the episode into motion is Snotlout stealing Astrid's ax and then saying something particularly hurtful to her when she gets angry about it. We never learn what he said to her as the characters only whisper it to each other, but I wish that we did. As it is, I have no clue what he could say to her that was so bad it couldn't be said on the show itself as he's said plenty to her at other points on the show. That felt like a bit of a cop out. It was funny at first to see the characters whispering, but I wanted to find out what was said by the end of the episode.

Seeing the women retaliate against how terribly Snotlout was treating them was nice, but I desperately wish it had been done differently. This felt a lot like an attempt at a feminist episode by a man who assumed women would handle a situation one way when it's not at all accurate. (The episode was, in fact, written by two men.) Messing with Snotlout would have been amusing, but tricking him into thinking he'll be eaten and then hanging him up in a cave by his ankle without telling him the truth? Not the most effective way of teaching him a lesson if that's what they wanted to do. I found the way this episode tried to teach Snotlout a lesson on sexism just strange.

Between the harmful stereotypes about indigenous people and the messy way this episode kind of tried to address sexism? (Because I guess that's what they were trying to do?) This episode really just felt like a mess to me, and it's probably my least favorite episode of Race to the Edge ever.

It baffles me that this episode made it through with no one questioning the stereotype it was using. I assume this was largely because the episode flips the trope and reveals that the women were never going to eat him. That doesn't make playing into it at first okay. This episode too shallowly handles it for that to ever work, and the basis of it (that these women are supposed to be natives) doesn't even make sense.

The episode's shaky dealing with sexism on top of that just made it worse. This episode feels like a great reminder of two things: If you want to write an episode that flips a harmful trope about indigenous people, probably don't unless their are indigenous people writing the story (and hopefully working on it in other positions as well). And if you want to write about sexism, even in a funny way for kids like in this episode, you're going to need more women working on the story than this episode clearly had if you want it to be done well.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Shadowhunters Talk: 3x04 "Thy Soul Instructed"

This may be something I'm alone in, but I found it hard to believe that everyone was so convinced something was wrong with Jace beyond sleep deprivation.

Back in college, I remember my psychology professor telling us that the quickest way to have a mental breakdown was by not sleeping, and that moment pretty much solidified my intense need to always get enough sleep. So, when Alec tells Jace that there has to be more wrong besides Jace staying up practically all night every night, I had to disagree.

Obviously, we know that there is more going on because Lilith's controlling him, but without knowing that, it's completely believable that the sleep deprivation could be messing with his head that much. This was one of the moments where I wanted to reach through the screen and talk to the characters even though they were actually right (which kind of makes me more annoyed about it to be honest).

The mention that Morgan's cells have turned demonic  after being attacked was interesting to me. I'm not sure about the logic behind that, even within the magic system set up by the show. Is it because of how powerful Lilith is or something else?

Maia telling Luke off for abandoning Simon feels ironic considering what happens later in the show, but I loved how that scene played out regardless. Not that that's surprising since I tend to like any scene Maia's in.

Since it's revealed at the end of the episode that Kyle has an ulterior motive, I'm glad I can comment on this without it being a spoiler for future episodes: Was he just watching Simon all along waiting for the perfect time to nearly run him over with his bike? Because, if so, I have to laugh at that image. It was also an incredibly risky move considering that Simon has the Mark of Cain.

I also want to know how Kyle put together that perfect apartment so quickly. Something tells me that big arcade game should have been at least a little difficult to find.

Jace goes to Luke to ask him about Celine's mental illness. One thing I like about this scene is that it shows how much Jace has come to trust Luke. I know there are a number of reasons why he didn't want to talk about his fears with Alec, but the fact that he's willing to discuss it with Luke says a lot.

Magnus trying to make Alec eat and comforting him was such a sweet scene. I appreciated getting to see that. Even though it's in the context of a larger plot, the scene itself was just a quiet scene between them, which I enjoyed.

Heidi chaining up Raphael and leaving him out in the sun felt like a scene from a horror movie. These sorts of scenes are not my favorite part of the show. They make me feel anxious and not in a good way. I don't like watching people get tortured like that.

We get a cliffhanger in this episode with Lilith going to Magnus. I do remember that I was pretty worked up about it the first time I watched the episode, but now, of course, I know what happens next, so I'll stay quiet about it here until I talk about the next episode.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Life Post: Getting My Sleeping Schedule Back on Track

In the month since my trip to Korea, things have been a little exhausting to be honest.

I mentioned the TV show Druck a few posts back, and season three of the show ended in early May. By then, though, it had really messed up my sleeping schedule. The show is structured to send out the clips on the internet in real time, so you see everything as it is supposedly actually happening. Because the show is set in Germany, this meant a lot of clips aired while I was sleeping. My brain picked up on that, and I would wake up at odd times of the night. When I was asleep, I also don't think I was going into a deep sleep.

Once the show was over, you'd think the problem would go away, and it did, but it took a couple of weeks before I slept through an entire night. By then I was exhausted.

This past week, I had to travel twice for work. While that didn't impact my sleeping schedule, it did leave me a little exhausted because it was a big deviation from my usual routine, which I never do that well with.

Then, this week, Druck decides it's going to have a special episode and starts releasing clips again. Just when my schedule was finally getting back on track.

I'm thrilled, don't get me wrong, but I'm also preparing myself to be exhausted once again. Sure, it's only one week this time around, but I don't know how long it will take to adjust back to normal afterward. Fingers crossed for the best.

At least the clip we got today was adorable...

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Life Post: Home From Korea

This is going to be an incredibly quick post as it's just turned midnight, and that means it's my bedtime. I did want to update the blog after my last post though. As I mentioned there, I went to Korea over Golden Week, and I had a rough first day because I was tired.

Well, it turned out that I wasn't just tired: I was getting sick. The next few days got steadily worse. It was just a cold, but between the travel and not sleeping well, it turned into a particularly terrible cold. I probably made it worse as I was determined not to miss out on being in Korea and kept going. That means I did the things I meant to do (most of them at least), but I nearly killed myself doing them.

There was one point where I nearly had a break down at the subway station because of how terrible I felt. Then a Korean woman stopped to help me and stayed with me for about fifteen minutes, which only made me want to cry more because of how thankful I was for her. (Honestly, the highlight of the Korea trip was how warm and helpful Korean people were. I wasn't expecting to get so much unsolicited help from people. I'm not sure it would have felt strange to me if I'd come from America, but after living in Japan as long as I have been, I'm very unused to strangers just coming up and talking to you. I forgot that it's a thing that happens.)

In the end, the trip left me feeling quite miserable, and that led to some disappointment over the whole thing, but I can't be upset with myself or anything else. I just got sick; there's nothing to blame for it. Because a lot of people in Japan were sick before I left and because I was already feeling so tired when I got to Korea, I'm also pretty sure I got the cold in Japan, not Korea.

Hopefully I can go back soon and not get sick. I went to Seoul this time, but I'd really like to visit Busan. I met a number of people from there in Seoul actually who stopped to talk and introduce themselves.

So, the biggest takeaway from the trip is that Koreans are great people and very welcoming, but my immune system failed me this time around.

The important thing is that I started feeling better yesterday, and today, on my first day back at work, I could make it through the day without feeling too bad. You can still tell I'm sick from my voice, so I was coughing some, and I can't hear well because of the congestion in my ears. Still, I feel amazing compared to just a few days ago, so here's hoping it's even better tomorrow.