Friday, December 3, 2021

Book Review: A Native Peoples' History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

Published: September 16, 2014
Publisher: Beacon Press
Received: purchased
Read from October 17 to November 28, 2021

Synopsis from Goodreads:

The first history of the United States told from the perspective of indigenous peoples.

Today in the United States, there are more than five hundred federally recognized Indigenous nations comprising nearly three million people, descendants of the fifteen million Native people who once inhabited this land. The centuries-long genocidal program of the US settler-colonial regimen has largely been omitted from history. Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz offers a history of the United States told from the perspective of Indigenous peoples and reveals how Native Americans, for centuries, actively resisted expansion of the US empire.

Spanning more than four hundred years, this classic bottom-up peoples’ history radically reframes US history and explodes the silences that have haunted our national narrative.

Review:

This is the third book in the ReVisioning American History series, and it's also my favorite that I've read so far.

Only the -beginning of the book discusses Native cultures before colonization. The majority of the book is devoted to Indigenous history since colonization began. That fits with the idea of the book as it's about the history of the United States, and there was no United States prior to the arrival of Europeans in North America.

This focus on more recent Indigenous history also felt important because Indigenous people are so often talked about in the past tense when discussed at all in US history. It's important to have books like this that center Indigenous people throughout the entire course of US history and don't treat them as people who disappeared long ago.

While the earlier books in the series seemed to suffer from how much they were meant to cover, I didn't get that sense from this book. That's impressive to me considering how many Native nations there are across the present-day United States. While certain nations definitely were mentioned more than others, the book flowed very cohesively and what was covered seemed to be chosen for a good reason.

The end of the book also included a "suggested reading" section, which I loved. I added a lot of books to my TBR. I think this is excellent because one book is always going to be limited in what it can cover, and a section like this helps keep information flowing and expands what the book can do. I mentioned in my review of A Disability History of the United States that the book had made me want to dive deeper into the history of different disabled groups. A suggested reading section in that book would have been a great head start for me doing just that.

Indigenous history deserves far more focus in the US. This book is only a starting point to that, but it is a great starting point that I would recommend to everyone.

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Star Trek: Discovery Review: 4x02 "Anomaly"

Discovery always jumps into stories faster than I expect them too. Lots of things that I think will happen later in the season instead happen within the first couple of episodes.

In a perfect example of what I mean, we get to see what will hopefully be Gray's body in this episode! I thought they would still be searching for ways to even give him a body, but nope. We still don't know for sure that it will be successful, but they're much further in the process than I expected. I'm excited but also nervous that this means that something will go wrong in transferring Gray's consciousness to the body, as that would draw out the storyline until later in the season.

Saru also arrives back on the Discovery in this episode! An example of yet another thing that happened faster than I thought it would. Though I thought he might come back relatively early in the season, I thought we'd see a bit more indecision from him about leaving Kaminar first. Instead, he was right back at headquarters in this episode. Not that I'm complaining. (Though I would have found it cool to see more of what Kaminar is currently like too.)

This episode was an excellent reminder of the important role Saru plays among the crew. It was wonderful to see him comforting people and offering guidance. Discovery just isn't the same without him, and I'm so happy he's acting as Michael's number one. Even though they sometimes have conflict between them, I think they work well together and help compliment each other's strengths and weaknesses.

A dynamic that came out of nowhere this episode was Samets and Book. We get a lovely scene between them after they're able to complete their mission. I hadn't considered how Stamets would feel about Book's role in rescuing Culber and Adira (and Gray), but it makes sense that he would feel indebted to him in a way. I loved his promise to figure out what happened to Kwejian for Book's sake. It makes me excited for the possibility of a future friendship between them and perhaps Book becoming closer with other members of Discovery's crew, not just Michael.

Tilly and Culber have a scene together where Tilly opens up about not feeling like herself and asks to have an appointment where they can talk about it. I felt as awkward as Tilly while watching that scene, but I'm happy it was there. Detmer didn't seem all right last season either, but then that was kind of brushed aside later in the season and not dealt with again. I'm a little sad that Tilly is getting that storyline now. Though I love Tilly, we don't get to see Detmer that often, so it would have been nice to have that storyline with her. However, I'm glad the mental health of the crew is still being addressed somehow.

This is a small detail in the episode, but Michael reveals that the computer has named itself Zora. I do know of the short film about Zora and the theories surrounding that, so this moment was yet another connection between that short and Discovery. I kind of wish I didn't know about the short though. On one hand, it's fun to theorize, but on the other, I feel like I know too much about where the story might be heading. If you want to know more about that theory, then you can look it up yourself, since I don't want to reveal too much to people who might rather stay in the dark about it.

The data that they've gathered tells them that the anomaly is randomly changing direction in a way that they can't explain and that is unpredictable, so I'm guessing that will be the big mystery of the season. I'm curious to see where it goes. I've seen some suggestions that the anomaly could be alive. Between the tardigrade and the sphere or even Su'kal being the source of the Burn, that feels similar to what they've already done, but I'll wait and see.

Monday, November 29, 2021

Book Review: Birds Art Life: A Year of Observation by Kyo Maclear

Published: January 3, 2017
Publisher: Scribner
Received: purchased through Life's Library subscription
Read from October 9 to November 24, 2021

Synopsis from Goodreads:

A writer’s search for inspiration, beauty, and solace leads her to birds in this meditation on creativity and life – a field guide to things small and significant.

In 2012, Kyo Maclear met a musician with a passion for birds. Curious about what had prompted a young urban artist to suddenly embrace nature she decided to follow him for a year to find out.

Observing two artists through seasonal shifts and migrations, Birds Art Life celebrates the particular madness of chasing after birds in a big city, and explores what happens when the principles of birdwatching are applied to other aspects of art and life. It looks at the ecology of urban spaces and the creative and liberating effects of keeping your eyes and ears wide open. Far from seeking the exotic, Kyo discovers joy in the birds she spots in city parks and harbours, along eaves and on wires. In a world that values big and fast, Kyo begins to look to the small, steady, slow accumulations of knowledge, and the lulls that give way to contemplation.

Moving between the granular and the grand, peering into the inner landscape as much as the outer one, Birds Art Life asks how we are shaped and nurtured by our passions, and how we might come to love and protect not only the world’s natural places but also the challenging urban spaces where so many of us live.

Review:

Birds Art Life has probably been the quietest, most contemplative book I've read all year. It has a tone and pace that I don't typically gravitate towards in books, but since this was a Life's Library pick, I was going to give it a shot. Life's Library doesn't usually let me down, and that was true this time too.

This book is a memoir that takes place over a year, with each chapter representing a month. The author befriends a bird watching musician after deciding that she wants to try bird watching herself. What follows is a lot of reflection on birds, art, and the author's life, hence the title.

I wasn't on the edge of my seat while reading Birds Art Life, but reading it was an enjoyable and relaxing experience.

If you want a fast-paced book, this probably won't be the one for you, but if you're looking for something reflective and slow-paced, this is a great choice.

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Star Trek: Discovery Review: 4x01 "Kobayashi Maru"

Discovery is back! I've been excitedly waiting for this season for what feels like ages, especially after I re-watched season three. I don't feel disappointed by the first episode either.

The episode starts with Michael and Book on a diplomatic mission, which gives us a good idea of what Discovery have been up to in the gap between the seasons. Things don't go well, and I have a lot of questions about why they kept talking when everything they said just made it worse. But my favorite part about it was getting a glimpse at the Federation building up support again.

The Discovery crew have new uniforms this season, which isn't a surprise as we saw them at the end of the last season. I don't know how I feel about the uniforms themselves, but it does help solidify the feeling that we're in a different era now.

We get a glimpse of Kaminar, where Saru and Su'kal have been for six months. After everything that happened with Kaminar earlier in the series and the tidbit last season about how Su'Kal had been taught both Kelpien and Ba'ul traditions, I was very curious what Kaminar looked like now, so I appreciated getting a glimpse of that. Though we didn't see much of the planet, it did give us a good idea of how Kelpians and Ba'ul work together. It's a pretty hopeful scene considering the state of the rest of the world.

Su'Kal, though, knows that Saru isn't very happy there, and he makes a good point about Kaminar not really being the home that Saru lost anymore. That must be freeing in a way because it leaves him to go with the Federation without mourning the life he could be living (at least not in the same way). I'm assuming Saru will be back with Star Fleet by the end of the season, but it'll be interesting to see if it happens right away or if we'll get more of Kaminar first.

The president was an unexpected addition to this episode. I've found that I'm very distrustful of every new Federation person that pops up since season three, and each time so far it's ended up being a little unwarranted. Still, she provided a lot of tension in this episode, and the thought of everyone doing their jobs with her there watching them... I feel stressed on the characters' behalves. That's especially true for Adira, who was nervous and then has the president there for the whole thing too.

Speaking of Adira, they've been made an ensign. We also see them speaking with Gray a bit, and that scene was such a fun one. I love seeing them joke around together after what they went through last season, and Gray's joke about getting a body makes me wonder what we're in for this season in terms of that storyline. It seems like something that will definitely come up again.

There was enough light-heartedness in this episode that the ending came as an even bigger shock. Book's home planet is destroyed just after we got a sweet scene of him with his nephew. I'm assuming that what caused the destruction of the space station and Book's home planet is going to be what drives this season.

At the end of the episode, the president also questions Michael's abilities as captain. This was discussed last season too, in way, when Michael was stripped of her position. The president makes comments about how Michael is going to get everyone killed, and I have a feeling that was foreshadowing of some big disaster later in this season, which has me nervous.

Despite the ending, the tone of this episode did feel more hopeful than the beginning of season three thanks to seeing the graduation and talk of more planets joining the Federation. Time will tell if that holds throughout the season, but it's nice to have an episode that feels a bit more light-hearted compared to the last season.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Book Review: A Disability History of the United States by Kim E. Nielsen

Published: October 1, 2013
Publisher: Beacon Press
Received: purchased
Read from September 10 to October 14, 2021

Synopsis from Goodreads:

The first book to cover the entirety of disability history, from pre-1492 to the present

Disability is not just the story of someone we love or the story of whom we may become; rather it is undoubtedly the story of our nation. Covering the entirety of US history from pre-1492 to the present, A Disability History of the United States is the first book to place the experiences of people with disabilities at the center of the American narrative. In many ways, it’s a familiar telling. In other ways, however, it is a radical repositioning of US history. By doing so, the book casts new light on familiar stories, such as slavery and immigration, while breaking ground about the ties between nativism and oralism in the late nineteenth  century and the role of ableism in the development of democracy.

A Disability History of the United States pulls from primary-source documents and social histories to retell American history through the eyes, words, and impressions of the people who lived it. As historian and disability scholar Nielsen argues, to understand disability history isn’t to narrowly focus on a series of individual triumphs but rather to examine mass movements and pivotal daily events through the lens of varied experiences. Throughout the book, Nielsen deftly illustrates how concepts of disability have deeply shaped the American experience—from deciding who was allowed to immigrate to establishing labor laws and justifying slavery and gender discrimination. Included are absorbing—at times horrific—narratives of blinded slaves being thrown overboard and women being involuntarily sterilized, as well as triumphant accounts of disabled miners organizing strikes and disability rights activists picketing Washington.

Engrossing and profound, A Disability History of the United States fundamentally reinterprets how we view our nation’s past: from a stifling master narrative to a shared history that encompasses us all.

Review:

This is the second book in the series ReVisioning American History, which seeks to tell the history of groups that have been underrepresented in most US history books despite their impact on the country. I reviewed the first book in the series, A Queer History of the United States, a while back, and some of what I said in that book holds true for this one as well.

It's true that disability history isn't told as much as it should be, and that needs to change. While this is a starting point, it can only really be a starting point. People with various disabilities have come together to form a disability movement because it makes them a more formidable force. Despite this, the "disability movement" remains a coalition of very diverse groups. It's just impossible to tell the full history of all of these groups in one book. You can't cover them all in that much detail.

As one individual, I definitely can't name every disability out there and decide if they got adequately covered in the book, but from my own personal perspective, it did seem like some groups got covered more than others. Deafness and physical disability (lost limbs in particular) seemed to be covered more than anything else. Other disabilities, such as blindness or some mental health disorders, seemed to be spoken about less often.

I did enjoy what history was there. I think the stories told in the book are stories that are important to talk about and are things people should know. In the end, though, I think it comes down to the same thing I said about A Queer History of the United States, this book is a starting point, but it's really only a starting point. What I would really love is a series of books that focus on specific disabilities and are therefore able to go more in depth about each of them, but I recognize that that isn't what this book was meant to be from the start. I'm sure books like that must exist somewhere, and I'll make an effort to find them, which I suppose is a positive outcome of having a book like this.

Saturday, October 2, 2021

High School Musical: The Musical: The Series Season 2 Review

This is going to be a review of HSM season two. Like I mentioned in my video about season one, I got really into this show, so I have a lot to say. But I'm going to try not to go too overboard talking about every little detail.

This season introduces Lily, and whereas last season I expected Gina to be Sharpay 2.0 and then she wasn’t, Lily is a lot more of a Sharpay 2.0. We get hints about her backstory that could possibly flesh her out, but she doesn’t change much over the course of the season. It seems like she’s going to be in season three, so I’m curious if she’ll develop more then. But she is kind of an exaggerated villain in this season with how easily she gets a role at North High and all of that.

We also meet Howie in this season, and eventually, we find out that he’s North High’s Beast. He adds a bit more depth to North High since everyone else at that school just seems like villains. But it’s interesting because we never really see him interact with his classmates. Lily gets shooed out of Slices in the finale, while Howie's there and no one minds. Howie himself doesn't seem to really want her there. It’s an interesting dynamic.

I was worried that he was working with Lily during the show when he was acting weird around Kourtney, but luckily, he seems to really just have been nervous because she was so good. Which is really cute. They’re adorable together.

Ricky and Nini also break up in this season, which isn’t hugely surprising after what happened earlier in the season. I do feel a little frustrated that getting back together was such a big thing in season one but then they broke up in season two. Because when relationships are back and forth like that in shows, it gets frustrating to watch. Obviously, breaking up is normal for teenagers, but in terms of a story, I don't want to watch the exact same thing happening over and over.

In terms of what happens with Rickey and Nini in season three, I don’t know what I want for either of them now. But it’s definitely not Ricky dating Lily. At least that’s how I feel now. Maybe that’ll change in the next season if Lily becomes more interesting.

Gina and EJ was a storyline that I wasn’t expecting but absolutely loved. The way their relationship developed over the season was cute. I loved that so much. Really. That was one of the highlights of the season for me.

Carlos and Sebastian were another highlight. They were adorable in this season. Carlos also sings Disney’s first same-sex love song, which has been a long time coming. Everything they did with them this season was great. I loved it too.

During the final show, Lily steals the harness. The show goes on anyway, and we hear that the transformation was passable but don’t see it. But nothing huge happens with that. We don’t find out the results of the rewards. Lily doesn’t get found out. So I’m curious if that’s something that will carry over into next season.

Since Ricky did contact Lily what I’m wondering is if something will happen between them and then he’ll learn the truth about what she did, which will start drama. Then Lily will feel guilty and that might be what spurs her to change. That’s what seems most likely to me at this point, but I suppose that we’ll see.

There are still a lot of things I’m curious about next season. Like where Lily's going as a character. And is that really it for the awards? (I get the statement of them not caring, but I admit that I care.) The love triangle between the teachers and Ricky’s dad just kept going this whole season with no resolution. I’m definitely ready for season three to see where it all goes.

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Book Review: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

First published: September 20, 2011
Edition published: August 28, 2012
Publisher: Ecco
Received: purchased (through Life's Library)
Read from May 6 to September 18, 2021

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Achilles, "the best of all the Greeks," son of the cruel sea goddess Thetis and the legendary king Peleus, is strong, swift, and beautiful, irresistible to all who meet him. Patroclus is an awkward young prince, exiled from his homeland after an act of shocking violence. Brought together by chance, they forge an inseparable bond, despite risking the gods' wrath.

They are trained by the centaur Chiron in the arts of war and medicine, but when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, all the heroes of Greece are called upon to lay siege to Troy in her name. Seduced by the promise of a glorious destiny, Achilles joins their cause, and torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus follows. Little do they know that the cruel Fates will test them both as never before and demand a terrible sacrifice. 

Review:

The Song of Achilles was another Life's Library read that I'd been meaning to pick up since it came out in 2011 and I saw reviews for it seemingly everywhere. Life's Library has been doing a great job of helping me catch up on my miles-long "to read" list recently.

As is pretty clear from the title, this book is a retelling of Achilles' story in Greek mythology. Because I, like many people, was aware of parts of Achilles' story already, I had a good idea of what direction the story was heading in, but I wasn't familiar enough with Achille to know every single piece of the story as it unfolded. Of course, even if I was more familiar, I know there are various versions of certain stories that are in the book, so I'm sure that the way the author adapted certain parts would have still provided something new.

There are some aspects of the book that stay true to Greek mythology, especially in regards to sexual violence, which makes certain scenes uncomfortable to read. At the same time, I found it interesting how the author seemed to have made certain decisions that highlighted that these things happened but also to try to exonerate the main characters from being "too" guilty of these same actions. This was particularly seen in Achilles' and Patroclus' treatment of Briseis. I won't go into details because it's a spoiler, but I got the sense that their treatment of her was heavily influenced by our time period and the two of them needing to be heroes in the story. That doesn't mean the main characters get off scot free. Achilles in particular does some pretty abhorrent things later in the story, but there did seem to be an effort not to make him as terrible as he could have been.

Overall, I enjoyed the book, though the time period did make the characters difficult to relate to at times. The story being told in Patroclus' point-of-view instead of Achilles' made it particularly interesting to me as he's not the supposed "hero" of the whole story. It was such a great way to explore this part of Greek mythology.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Book Review: A Queer History of the United States by Michael Bronski

Published: May 10, 2011
Publisher: Beacon Press
Received: purchased
Read from July 20 to September 5, 2021

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Winner of a 2012 Stonewall Book Award in nonfiction

The first book to cover the entirety of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender history, from pre-1492 to the present.

In the 1620s, Thomas Morton broke from Plymouth Colony and founded Merrymount, which celebrated same-sex desire, atheism, and interracial marriage. Transgender evangelist Jemima Wilkinson, in the early 1800s, changed her name to “Publick Universal Friend,” refused to use pronouns, fought for gender equality, and led her own congregation in upstate New York. In the mid-nineteenth century, internationally famous Shakespearean actor Charlotte Cushman led an openly lesbian life, including a well-publicized “female marriage.” And in the late 1920s, Augustus Granville Dill was fired by W. E. B. Du Bois from the NAACP’s magazine the Crisis after being arrested for a homosexual encounter. These are just a few moments of queer history that Michael Bronski highlights in this groundbreaking book.

Intellectually dynamic and endlessly provocative, A Queer History of the United States is more than a “who’s who” of queer history: it is a book that radically challenges how we understand American history. Drawing upon primary documents, literature, and cultural histories, noted scholar and activist Michael Bronski charts the breadth of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender history, from 1492 to the 1990s, and has written a testament to how the LGBT experience has profoundly shaped our country, culture, and history.

A Queer History of the United States abounds with startling examples of unknown or often ignored aspects of American history—the ineffectiveness of sodomy laws in the colonies, the prevalence of cross-dressing women soldiers in the Civil War, the impact of new technologies on LGBT life in the nineteenth century, and how rock music and popular culture were, in large part, responsible for the devastating backlash against gay rights in the late 1970s. Most striking, Bronski documents how, over centuries, various incarnations of social purity movements have consistently attempted to regulate all sexuality, including fantasies, masturbation, and queer sex. Resisting these efforts, same-sex desire flourished and helped make America what it is today.

At heart, A Queer History of the United States is simply about American history. It is a book that will matter both to LGBT people and heterosexuals. This engrossing and revelatory history will make readers appreciate just how queer America really is.

Review:

A Queer History of the United States is an attempt to explore exactly what the title says: the history of queer people in the United States. It's part of a whole series of books that explore often overlooked aspects of American history, but covering all of queer American history in one book is a big mission. The book starts before European colonization and ends with the year 1990. It doesn't cover anything beyond that except very briefly in the epilogue, and some more recent events, such as Obergefell v. Hodges, aren't mentioned at all because they happened after the book was published in 2011.

Considering the length of time this book is meant to cover, it's pretty short. Unfortunately, this means that many aspects of queer history are rushed through instead of being explored deeply. This book feels a lot like a highlight reel. It touches on each subject briefly before quickly moving on to the next.

While I do understand the value in a book that tries to cover the breadth of queer American history, this aspect of the book also seemed to do it a disservice. It wasn't just that what was touched on was only touched on briefly; it was also that there's a lot that didn't get touched on at all.

The term "queer" covers a lot of ground, and though the book uses that term in its title, the various groups that fall under the queer umbrella don't get equal coverage within the book. There are a number of queer identities, from asexual to nonbinary, that I don't believe were even mentioned within the book.

These limitations were also found in the language used in the book. It's difficult to use modern terms to label historical figures who never would have known those terms. Of course the book should acknowledge that and discuss how people identified themselves during a given era, which the book does. My concerns are more about the language used even when talking about more recent events.

The word "homosexual" gets a lot of use in this book. It's funny because this book does discuss how the term was coined to make sexuality sound more "scientific," and it also discusses the implications of that as homosexuality came to be viewed as a clinical mental illness. Of course, the word "homosexual" in and of itself isn't offensive, but it struck me as odd that it seemed to be the book's preferred term despite it sounding outdated today. It's also limiting because the term isn't an umbrella term for the entire queer community, but it kept being used throughout the book as if it was. And when "homosexual" wasn't used, "gay men and women" was often the phrase used instead, which, of course, are also not umbrella terms. In fact, those terms only describes a fraction of the queer community, yet they kept being used as if they were inclusive of everyone the book was talking about.

In the end, a lot of my frustrations with this book lie with what's not in it. Queer history is so often overlooked in American history that having just about anything that discusses any part of it feels like it should be a good thing, but I have a hard time overlooking all the places where A Queer History of the United States falls short. It might work as a starting point, but there's a long way to go beyond it.

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Book Review: All Systems Red by Martha Wells

Published: May 2, 2017
Publisher: Tor.com
Received: purchased
Read from March 9 to 15, 2020

Synopsis from Goodreads:

In a corporate-dominated spacefaring future, planetary missions must be approved and supplied by the Company. Exploratory teams are accompanied by Company-supplied security androids, for their own safety.

But in a society where contracts are awarded to the lowest bidder, safety isn't a primary concern.

On a distant planet, a team of scientists are conducting surface tests, shadowed by their Company-supplied 'droid—a self-aware SecUnit that has hacked its own governor module, and refers to itself (though never out loud) as "Murderbot." Scornful of humans, all it really wants is to be left alone long enough to figure out who it is.

But when a neighboring mission goes dark, it's up to the scientists and their Murderbot to get to the truth.

Review:

This book was a Life's Library read, and when I first got the book in the mail, I wasn't sure what to think. While I like sci-fi, the cover of All System's Red with a robot front and center, dark colors, and the series title that included "Murderbot," it felt very ominous. Despite liking sci-fi, I don't typically like movies that are all about action and little else, and that's what the cover initially had me thinking about. But Life's Library usually picks great books, so I was going to give this one a shot.

And I'm really glad I did because it's nothing that I thought it would be from the cover. Despite the cover also being a good representation of the book.

All System's Red takes place in a world where humans live across various planets. Companies have created humanoid robots that serve various functions, with certain types of robots specializing in certain functions. Individuals or groups generally rent the robots from the company for a set time period, and then the robots are returned to the company to be rented out again. In between being rented out, the robots "live" at the company.

Murderbot, the main character of the book, has begun calling itself Murderbot. That isn't the name the company or anyone else gave it. It's "proper" name is a Security Unit, or SecUnit, and as its name suggests, it's meant to be used for security. Murderbot has taken to calling itself that because it's aware of how easily it could kill everyone, even though it's choosing not to.

We learn early in the book that Murderbot has overridden its governor module, so it doesn't actually have to obey people like it should. Still, Murderbot is choosing to follow orders. All it really wants to do is watch soap operas, which it does constantly. All of which creates a fascinating premise that had me hooked immediately.

The way robots work in this universe also creates an interesting problem for readers. Robots are referred to using "it" pronouns, which is quite jarring and raises a number of interesting questions. First, how much of a person is Murderbot, considering it's not living and has been programmed to behave a certain way? (A question that's particularly fascinating with Murderbot compared to other robots because Murderbot no longer has a governor module controlling its actions.)

That answer to that question has implications for the system in this world too. Robots are treated like property by both the company and the people who rent them. Referring to them as "it" reinforces the idea that they're only objects, and it distances people from feeling any guilt for treating them as property. Are people wrong to do that? Well, it depends on how much personhood robots actually have, and Murderbot, having overridden its governor module, complicates a lot of those beliefs.

Overall, All Systems Red was an incredibly fun read while also raising some fascinating questions about problems we may face in our own future. Since it's a novella, it's also a very quick read. There are other novellas in the series and even a novel now. I will absolutely be reading them because I grew to love Murderbot even over the course of a novella, and I absolutely need more.

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Book Review: Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler

Published: April 20, 2019 (First published: October 1993)
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Received: purchased
Read from January 29 to February 24, 2020

Summary from Goodreads:

When global climate change and economic crises lead to social chaos in the early 2020s, California becomes full of dangers, from pervasive water shortage to masses of vagabonds who will do anything to live to see another day.

Fifteen-year-old Lauren Olamina lives inside a gated community with her preacher father, family, and neighbors, sheltered from the surrounding anarchy. In a society where any vulnerability is a risk, she suffers from hyperempathy, a debilitating sensitivity to others' pain.

Precocious and clear-eyed, Lauren must make her voice heard in order to protect her loved ones from the imminent disasters her small community stubbornly ignores. But what begins as a fight for survival soon leads to something much more: the birth of a new faith...and a startling vision of human destiny.

This highly acclaimed post-apocalyptic novel of hope and terror from award-winning author Octavia E. Butler “pairs well with 1984 or The Handmaid's Tale” (John Green, New York Times)—now with a new foreword by N. K. Jemisin.

Review:

When I learned that we'd be reading Parable of the Sower for Life's Library, I was excited. I had heard about this book for years, and it had always been one that I intended to get to but never did. I'd heard a lot of good things about Octavia Butler as a writer, and dystopian is one of my favorite genres. Not having read a dystopian book in a while, I was excited to get into this one.

Right off the bat, I was intrigued by the world building in the book. It takes place in California starting in 2024, a year that feels very close. It's been more than twenty years since Butler wrote the book, yet the future she imagined doesn't feel incredibly shocking. In fact, it feels a little too close to home at times. We only hear bits and pieces about the president in this book, but he calls to mind current US politics. In fact, the strangest part was probably that we didn't hear more about the politics.

Climate change is also a big factor in the world building, and with the massive wildfires and other natural disasters happening now, that all felt perfectly believable too. I'm not sure that we'll be exactly where Butler imagined three years from now, but we're already too close for comfort.

Religion is also a big focus in the novel. Lauren's father is a Baptist pastor in their community, so Lauren has grown up with religion. However, during the novel she starts creating her own religion called Earthseed. Earthseed very much draws upon Christianity but also other beliefs that Lauren gathers. Her ultimate goal is for Earthseed to colonize space. Her fixating on such a goal makes sense when you consider the state Earth is in. Even now, colonizing Mars or another planet is a hot topic.

These religious aspects presented an interesting layer to the novel. Lauren also believes that she has "hyperempathy" and can experience the feelings of others more than a normal person. This is something that many of the people around her accept as true too, but it lends almost a fantasy-like element to the book. Is Lauren actually experiencing something special there or is it just a normal human reaction to things that, while stronger than what some experience, is explainable? You don't get an answer to that in the book, but it does help explain how Lauren could come to view herself as almost a savior figure who's saving people with Earthseed. She's very much convinced that she has this power.

It was also Earthseed and Lauren's supposed "hyperempathy" that made me very wary of Lauren as a character. The book is in her point of view, and I did come to empathize with her in many ways. She loses a lot over the course of the book and faces many horrific things. She is undoubtedly suffering from trauma, and little to no one in this world have the resources to actually treat that trauma. Watching Lauren grow into a person who believed she could be a savior was almost alarming when what I really thought she—and every other character in the book—needed was help.

That created an extra layer of tension on top of the immediate dangers Lauren and those around her faced throughout the book. The ambiguity of just how special Lauren is was what drove the book for me. This is fiction after all. Maybe within the pages of the book Lauren does have "hyperempathy" and is meant to be a savior. In the end, it felt like there were more questions than answers, but the questions were fascinating ones.

There is a sequel called Parable of the Talents that I would like to read. From what I understand, it explores Lauren continuing to establish Earthseed. I'm very curious to see that explored even more and maybe get more answers. Or maybe not. Either way, I do hope to read it.

Monday, July 26, 2021

The Mandalorian Review: "Chapter 15: The Believer"

Because the Mandalorian wants his help, they get Migs Mayfeld out of prison in this episode to go with them to find Moff Gideon. While I expected to see some of that group again, Mayfeld wasn't the one I was expecting to be completely honest. Overall, he seemed to have the least interesting potential based on what we learned about them.

In this episode, though, he becomes a much more fleshed out character. He starts the episode swearing that there's no difference between the two sides, and he seems pretty indifferent towards what happens because he thinks it will all be the same. Then, by the end of the episode, it's clear that he actually hates the Empire quite a lot, even if he doesn't entirely believe in either side. It does make sense why he'd have left the imperial army considering what we learn about him. While I can't say I care much for him even after this episode, I like that he feels more complex now.

I'm still not sure how I feel about him just being let go considering the things he'll probably still do, but I am curious if that means we should expect to see him again.

At the end of the episode, they are able to get the coordinates to Moff Gideon's ship. Since there's only one episode to go, it's pretty clear that we'll be seeing it next time.

The Mandalorian Review: "Chapter 14: The Tragedy"

 In this episode, the Mandalorian takes Grogu to the planet that Ahsoka told him to visit, and after a bit of a rought start, Grogu starts to meditate. At the same time, Fennec Shand appears with Boba Fett, who wants his armor back. I figured Shand would play a bigger role in the show, but I expected it to be as a villain. Instead, her and Boba Fett end up helping the Mandalorian after he returns Boba Fett's armor. It's exciting to see the two of them working with the Mandalorian instead.

Some imperial troops appear while Grogu is still meditating, and it's impossible for the Mandalorian to snap him out of it, meaning that they have to fight them instead of escaping. Unfortunately, Grogu gets taken in all of the fighting. I wasn't expecting that, so it did come as a shock. I was expecting them to get close to taking him but get thwarted at the last second.

Shand and Fett agree to help the Mandalorian get Grogu back though, which I love. They make a good team, and I was looking forward to seeing them continue to work together.

Honestly, it feels like a lot happens in this episode, so it's strange to sit down to write this and have so little to say in the end. I think that's because a lot of what happens is fighting and such. Still, this was an exciting episode and the first episode that genuinely surprised me in a big way. It left me on the edge of my seat for the next episode.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Star Trek: Discovery Review" 3x11 "Su'Kal"

The Mandalorian Review: "Chapter 13: The Jedi"

(We're doing the out of order thing again. Whoops! I filmed a video talking about chapter twelve earlier today. That will be edited and posted tomorrow.)

This episode is, in many ways, what I've been waiting for. Before watching The Mandalorian, I had already picked up from the internet that the Child was Force-sensitive, so I expected the Jedi to come into play, and after learning that Rosario Dawson was cast as Ahsoka Tano, I knew that was coming too. And this is the episode where Mando finally meets Ahsoka and learns a bit more about the Jedi.

Before Mando meets her, though, we see her fighting against an imperial magistrate and her forces who are controlling a city. Ahsoka asks for the location of the magistrate's master. The cinematography of that scene makes it very spooky. Everything is dark and foggy, and it makes Ahsoka's lightsaber stand out in the darkness. I loved it!

When Mando arrives on the planet, he meets this magistrate before finding Ahsoka. She asks him to kill Ahsoka for her in exchange for a beskar spear. Even though he agrees, I had a pretty good feeling that he wasn't going to even attempt to kill Ahsoka. At this point, we know he cares deeply for the Child and wants to return him to his people. Ahsoka's his best chance of that, so I didn't see him trying to kill her.

Sure enough, he meets Ahsoka and tells her about the Child, who we learn is named Grogu. We also learn that he was raised at the Jedi Temple on Coruscant (i.e. the same one where Anakin/Darth Vader killed all the children). This raises some interesting questions about how Grogu survived. We know some Jedi did survive, but it's surprising that so young of a kid did. Did he do it on his own? Or did someone help him, and if so, why him instead of one of the other children?

I've wondered before if the Empire's focus on Grogu was about something more than just him being a Jedi. I wondered if there was something particularly special about him. I still wonder that. There aren't many Jedi left, so it's completely possible the Empire wants him because he's one of a few and also still a child, making him easier to control. Still, we're learning now that he was also saved from the temple somehow, and that makes me wonder even more if there's something more to him that the Empire wants than just being Force-sensitive.

Ahsoka won't train Grogu because of how attached he is to the Mandalorian, but she does tell him how they might find another master for him. I would probably have more to say about Ahsoka's feelings towards training Grogu if I'd watched Clone Wars and knew more about Ahsoka as a character. From what I do know, there are things in her past that are almost certainly coming into play here.

After discussing Grogu, Ahsoka and Mando work together to take down the magistrate. Ahsoka faces the magistrate one-on-one. She wins, and this is when we learn that the master she's looking for is Grand Admiral Thrawn. This is another piece of Star Wars canon/legend that I know of but don't know that well. I know he's an incredibly popular character that showed up in some of the Legends books. I know he's also been in a series of books in what is now considered the canon universe. I have a lot of those books on my (much too long) TBR list but haven't read any of them yet. I know we're getting an Ahsoka series, so I'm intrigued by what this means for that show.

The episode ends with Mando taking Grogu to the planet where Ahsoka says they may be able to find him a master. Season two is also getting close to an end now, so you know something dramatic is going to happen, but I'll talk more about that next time.

Sunday, July 4, 2021

Star Trek: Discovery Review: 3x09 "Terra Firma Part 1"

This episode largely focuses on Georgiou and her illness. We find out that others who've traveled through time and across universes have developed similar conditions. There's no known cure for this, but of course, the Sphere data has an idea.

I'm not gonna lie, the Sphere data is starting to jump in and save the day a little too often. It feels too good to be true, and I'm hoping there's eventually a downside to it because it's getting to be too much. It's too convenient, but I don't want Georgiou to die either, so I guess I can go along with it.

The Discovery goes to Dannus V to find whatever the Sphere data is leading them to, and they find a random guy and a door. This whole situation might be one of the most bizarre in the show yet. It's a little hard to suspend my disbelief for this, and I don't feel like we ever get a good explanation for what's happening. It doesn't make sense.

Somehow, going through the door takes Georgiou to the mirror universe where she is once again emperor, and she's forced to relieve part of her life.

While I expected Georgiou to be different after her experiences, I wasn't prepared for just how much the prime universe has changed her. Considering how she's acted towards Saru, her apparent horror at the idea of him being eaten was jarring. Of course, it shows that she has actually come to admire Saru in some way even if she doesn't let on, but the outburst is surprising when she had lived a whole lifetime where eating Kelpians was commonplace. I'm not saying that she shouldn't feel guilty for it now, but the way the "no" bursts out of her seems strange since she should have been expecting it.

On a lighter note, we get to see Airiam! It's mirror Airiam, so she's actually an entirely different character, and she's probably terrible if we got to learn anything about her. But it was a nice surprise. I'm happy that the actress agreed to come back to play her, and it makes me sad all over again that Airiam has died.

We're in Terra for the next episode too, and I'm looking forward to talking more about what choices Georgiou ends up making.

Star Trek: Discovery Review: 3x08 "Sanctuary"

 In this episode, we get to meet Book's home planet as well as his brother. They live on a sanctuary whereas most of the planet seems uninhabitable. Even the sanctuary is being taken over by creatures that are apparently there because of Osyraa. Book's people can apparently communicate with these animals, but there's so many of them that they can't do much about all of them at once.

It's clear that Osyraa has quite a bit of power, and she's no match for the planet on their own. We don't actually get to see much of the planet itself in this episode, which is a shame. It seems like a very interesting place, and I'm especially curious about what it's like when Osyraa isn't such a threat.

Adira comes out as nonbinary in this episode! They tell Stamets that their pronouns are they/them, and Stamets is great about it, which is what I expected. It's great to see Star Trek finally have nonbinary representation. That was by far my favorite part of the episode.

To be honest, I wasn't as into most of this episode as I have been other episodes this season. I can't pinpoint exactly why that is, but it just didn't hold my attention in the same way, which is sad since I've loved the rest of this season so much.

They figure out that the Burn originated from a nebula, so we're one step closer to having some answers. I'm excited to see what comes next.

Monday, June 21, 2021

Star Trek: Discovery Review: 3x07 "Unification III"

 Once again these reviews are coming a little out of order. I filmed a review about episode six earlier today, so it will be up in a couple of days. For now, let's talk about episode seven.

I'm aware that the title of this episode is a reference to episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation that were titled "Unification" and "Unification II." It's also entirely possible that I've seen one or both of those episodes before. Before Discovery, Next Generation was the Star Trek show I'd seen the most of because it was always on in our house when I was younger, but most of the time I wasn't paying that much attention to it. So I can't say anything about how this episode works as a continuation of themes in those. Thanks to the internet, I am aware that those episodes dealt with Spock uniting the Vulcans and Romulans, so I do have some sense of the connection. Still, I can mostly just talk about this episode on its own.

In this episode, the Discovery learns that the Vulcan and Romulans have united, and because of this, the planet formerly known as Vulcan is now called Ni'Var. Romulans and Vulcans being the same people was actually a piece of Star Trek lore that I knew thanks to the bits and pieces I absorbed over the years, so that wasn't a big shock. What I really enjoyed was seeing Michael's reaction to learning that Spock worked to make that happen. It was done so well, especially the scene were she watches a recording of him speaking, which I believe it actually from the Next Generation episodes.

We learn that Ni'Var considers itself responsible for the Burn and that's why they've left the Federation. It's good to have an explanation for that, and I like this development. Michael's personal connection to the planet provides her with an even stronger drive to find out what really happened in order to show Ni'Var that they're innocent (something which she fully believes).

While I knew that Michael's mom would have to come up at some point, I wasn't expecting her to be living on Ni'Var. It seems like such a random (in the universe, very much not random for the story) place for her to end up on.

Tilly is asked to be Saru's Number One. In a move that's very in character, she's not sure about taking it at first, but Stamets gets the whole crew together to encourage her. Even Michael wants her to talk it, and it's such a heart warming scene. With all the emotional heaviness in the rest of the episode, I enjoyed getting something as warm as that, and it makes me excited to see how Tilly does in the position.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

The Mandalorian Review: "Chapter 5: The Gunslinger"

In this episode we meet Toro Calican, who wants to join the Guild but must capture Fennec Shand first. He asks the Mandalorian for help with capturing her, so we spend the entire episode with a character who might be the most annoying one on the show so far. I'm going to be honest with you: I'm kind of glad he dies at the end just so we don't have to see him again. While some of his confidence might be an act to cover up that he doesn't know what he's doing, his arrogance (despite being the least experienced one by far) throughout the episode led to me face palming repeatedly. Was it believable that someone like that exists? Yes. Did I want to see more of him in the future? No.

Shand, on the other hand, I found very interesting. We don't learn much about her in this episode, but she's clearly experienced and an important target for a reason, The episode ends with a mysterious figure approaching her body, which I'm assuming is foreshadowing for something, and I'm excited to see what comes of it.

By far my favorite new character in this episode, though, is Peli Motto, a mechanic who ends up becoming a babysitter for the Child. She's brash, but she comes to like the kid. It was fun seeing her not know what to do with him but also arguing with the Mandalorian about how he doesn't know how to take care of a child. It added some lightheartedness and fun to the episode. I don't know if we'll ever see her again, but I'd be excited if we did.

In terms of the larger story, I'm assuming that the big piece of foreshadowing we got was Shand and that figure we see at the end. That's definitely hinting at something, and we got so little about Shand besides her being a high profile target. With Calican dead, that's the only thing I can think of that will play into the later story, and I'm curious about the figure and what will happen. 

Book Review: You Will Get Through This Night by Daniel Howell

Published: May 18, 2021
Publisher: Dey Street Books
Read from May 18-21, 2021
Synopsis from Goodreads:

There’s a moment at the end of every day, where the world falls away and you are left alone with your thoughts. A reckoning, when the things you have been pushing to the background, come forward and demand your attention.

Written by Daniel Howell, in conjunction with a qualified psychologist, in an entertaining and personal way from the perspective of someone who has been through it all—this no-nonsense book gives you the tools to understand your mind so you can be in control and really live. Split into three chapters for each stage of the journey:

This Night - how to get through your toughest moments and be prepared to face anything.
Tomorrow - small steps to change your thoughts and actions with a big impact on your life.
The Days After - help to look after yourself in the long term and not just survive, but thrive.

You will laugh and learn—but most of all, this book will assure you that even in your darkest times, there is always hope. 

You will get through this night.

Review:

You Will Get Through This Night is a self-help book designed to give strategies to help people improve their mental help. It's separated into three sections "This Night," "Tomorrow," and "The Days After That." Each section focuses on different kinds of strategies: ones you can do immediately when your mental health is bad, ones that come after that, and ones you can continue over longer spans of time to improve your mental health. I thought that dividing the book that way was very clever.

I'm not sure if I would have picked this book up if I didn't subscribe to Dan on Youtube and watch his videos. While I read self-help books on occasion if they come across my radar, they're far from being a go to genre for me. Still, I think it's great that Dan wrote this, and he's doing great work in general with spreading awareness of mental health. I know there's a lot of cynicism when it comes to Youtubers writing books, but it's clear that Dan put a lot of work into this book. I was particularly happy that it was written with a professional psychologist who fact-checked everything that went into the book. And it's mentioned several times that these strategies aren't a cure all and to seek professional help when you need it.

Throughout the book, Dan brings up details about his life, a lot of which will be familiar to people who watch his videos, but these details always related to the message he's trying to send in a particular section. The introduction is by far the most personal section, where you get the most information about his life, and after that, the focus is on the strategies. It was nice to get those details because I think they make the book feel more accessible. Reading it, you know you're not alone, and it provides encouragement that things can get better. If someone were to pick up this book without knowing who Dan was, it would still feel accessible.

I think this is a great book to have. Everyone has moments were some or all of the strategies included could be useful. While I had heard of essentially all of them before, it's handy to have them laid out in a book like this and explained in such an easy to read style. I know it could be useful to a wide variety of people.

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

The Mandalorian Review: "Chapter 4: Sanctuary"

We're doing the thing again where I write a post about an episode before editing and uploading my video about the episode that came before it. The video about "Chapter 3: The Sin" will be up in a couple of days! For now, I'm going to talk about chapter 4.

The Mandalorian and the Child end up on Sorgan. Because it's quite isolated, the Mandalorian thinks they'll be safe there, but it's too early in the season for that to be true. Something is obviously going to happen on this planet.

While this is a bit of an aside, I can't help but mention: Julia Jones guest stars in this episode as Omera. This is the only thing I've ever seen her in aside from Twilight, where she played my favorite character, so that made me especially curious about this episode and her storyline in particular. (Ironically, this episode was also directed by Bryce Dallas Howard, another Twilight actor.)

The Sorgans are being attacked by Klatooinians, so they seek help from the Mandalorian. Over the course of the episode, the Mandalorian and Cara Dune, who's also hiding out on the planet, teach the Sorgans how to fight and protect themselves. Overall, it's a nice, heart-warming story. It was especially cute seeing the Child interact with some other kids, and it's probably the most we've seen the Mandalorian actually connect with anyone (aside from the Child) since the start of the show.

However, this episode does still feel like it's progressing the story very slowly. At the end of the episode, someone has successfully tracked the Child to Sorgan, so the Mandalorian realizes they aren't safe, so they leave. Other than that, not much seems to happen that advances the plot. From what I've heard, Cara Dune will continue to play a role, so I suppose her introduction is important to the ongoing story. But other than that, this episode feels quite episodic, with most of the story's events being concluded at the end.

That's not bad, but I'm still fascinated at the slow way this story is progressing, and I'm curious about what it will lead to.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Shadowhunters Review: 3x22 "All Good Things..."

Book Review: Prejudice Meets Pride by Rachael Anderson

Publisher: HEA Publishing
Published: May 2nd, 2018
Read from May 27 to June 3, 2019

Synopsis from Goodreads:

After years of pinching pennies and struggling to get through art school, Emma Makie's hard work finally pays off with the offer of a dream job. But when tragedy strikes, she has no choice but to make a cross-country move to Colorado Springs to take temporary custody of her two nieces. She has no money, no job prospects, and no idea how to be a mother to two little girls, but she isn't about to let that stop her. Nor is she about to accept the help of Kevin Grantham, her handsome neighbor, who seems to think she's incapable of doing anything on her own.

Prejudice Meets Pride is the story of a guy who thinks he has it all figured out and a girl who isn't afraid to show him that he doesn't. It's about learning what it means to trust, figuring out how to give and to take, and realizing that not everyone gets to pick the person they fall in love with. Sometimes, love picks them.

Review:

Welcome to a review of a book that I read two years ago (and have been meaning to review since). Usually, that would mean I'm struggling to remember what happened in the book. I got so behind on the reviews of books I read around the same time as this one that I actually don't plan on reviewing a few of them because I can't remember what happened. This one is different.

Around the time I read this book, I had been working my way through an anthology of novels that I'd gotten. As it turned out, I disliked every single one of the novels in that anthology, but I powered through it anyway because... Well, I don't have a good reason, but I did. And I did review a few of those novels back when I read them, but then, reviewing them all when I disliked them so much wasn't fun, so they make up the bulk of the books that I just haven't gotten around to reviewing.

This book is the one that broke me out of the funk that came along with reading so many books I disliked back to back. At that point in time, it was the first book I'd read in a while where it was just genuinely fun to read.

As is probably obvious from the title, this book is based on Pride and Prejudice. Emma is taking care of her brother's kids for the summer, and they move next door to Kevin, a pediatric dentist. Lots of miscommunication and misunderstandings ensue.

This book is a lot of fun, and it was something I needed after a string of fantasy novels that left me banging my head against a wall. Reading Prejudice Meets Pride put a smile on my face. It's a bit cliché. You know what's going to happen, especially since it follows the basic plot of Pride and Prejudice, but it's just so fun as it does so! I enjoyed it so much that I ended up getting my sister a copy of it later in the year for her birthday present, and she said she enjoyed it to.

If you're looking for a fun, easy-to-read romance, then I'd highly recommend Prejudice Meets Pride.

Monday, May 3, 2021

Shadowhunters Review: 3x19 "Aku Cinta Kamu"

 We begin to see the consequences of Asmodeus being loose in New York City right at the start of this episode. He finds Magnus and immediately gives him his magic back, insisting that he only wants to be there for his son. Luckily, Magnus doesn't fall for that and refuses to talk with Asmodeus further. It's clear that that's not going to be the end of things though.

And it's not Magnus remembers times with Alec throughout the episode, all of which are quite sad to watch back. He even destroys a lock that they'd placed together. It's interesting that we see Magnus suffering like this but not Alec. Alec is preoccupied with saving Clary, but even so, it's clear he is upset. We just don't get to see it in the same way.

Magnus also goes to Brother Zachariah, who I was so excited to see again! I really wish we'd gotten to see him on the show more. It's a shame.

Eventually, Magnus is so worn down and vulnerable that he gives into Asmodeus, and they share a scene that would be heartwarming if different people were involved but is instead very sad and worrying.

Jace decides that he's going to pretend to be with Clary and Jonathan in order to protect Clary. Every single scene with the three of them in this episode is painfully awkward to watch. Clary has become essentially an entirely different person in a way that strike me as odd and not necessarily fitting with the idea that the rune just made her want to protect Jonathan.

I feel for Jace here because the whole thing is just painful.

Despite everything happening with Clary, Jace still manages to make time to ask Alec what's up with him and Magnus, which is the closest thing to a real parabatai moment we've gotten between them for a while. I'm glad that he was willing to make sure Alec was okay when so much else was already going on. I just hate that Alec refuses to really open up to him about it despite that Jace is supposed to be one of the people he's closest to.

Simon and Izzy continue to be interrupted before anything major can happen between them. They have a few very cute scenes in this episode though, including one where Simon learns that Izzy watched Superman. I love seeing more of them together so much.

Another scene that I really loved was Raphael showing up to apologize to Maia and Jordan. (It was strange realizing that Jordan and Raphael hadn't met before this though!) It was a nice heartfelt scene.

However, after Jordan and Maia find out about the serum, they go straight to the Institute to ask about it. I completely get how there being only one vial could turn up a lot of conflicting feelings in Maia, Jordan, and other Downworlders, but I do think that having more of the serum would be very dangerous. We don't really know what they plan to do after this though, so I'll save talking more about it until the next episode.

At the end of the episode, Isabelle manages to forge a new Glorious, which will hopefully be able to separate Clary from Jonathan. But, once again, I'll save talking about that for the next episode!

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Shadowhunters Review: 3x18 "The Beast Within"

This episode was a Halloween episode, but if I remember correctly, it didn't actually air around Halloween because they delayed the second half of the season to film the series finale. Regardless, it has some fun Halloween elements while still managing to move the story forward, which makes it a great episode.

Becky arrives at Simon's apartment in a vampire costume. She's come from Florida and wants to celebrate the holiday together. We learn here that she understands very little about the Shadow World and even thinks that Simon sleeps in a coffin. They don't seem to talk much, which is sad considering she's the only family member Simon can still talk to. It's possible they do talk and Simon just leaves out all of the supernatural elements, but even that feels sad considering they make up so much of his life.

It also seems a little odd that she didn't so much as call to tell him that she was coming but expected him to be free on Halloween. That adds to making it seem like they never talk.

Maia is back! Unfortunately, we get Jordan along with Maia. I do think the TV show handled his storyline better than the books did, but I still don't like him. And I would much rather Maia get a storyline that has nothing to do with him, especially with the end of season three becoming the series finale.

Alec sends Magnus to help Maryse at the bookstore in a thinly veiled attempt to distract him so he can contact Asmodeus. What Alec does next is really upsetting, but I love the chance to see more interaction between Maryse and Magnus.

The show has always switched up things here and there from the books, but that is particularly true at the end of season three. Alec contacting Asmodeus like he does in this episode is unlike anything that happens in the books, and it filled me with dread the first time I watched this episode. Even though Alec tries to contact Asmodeus in a way that will keep him from breaking free from Edom, it's not surprising that he manages to free himself anyway. I knew right away that seeing Asmodeus wasn't going to be a one off thing, and it's distressing to see him loose in New York City.

Alec wanting to make Magnus happy to the extent that he'll break up with him is, sadly, in character for him. I hate that he makes the decision without consulting Magnus. It's so frustrating! I feel like one Malec break up was enough for the show, and it kills me that we get two.

In happier news, Izzy has figured out a way that should break Clary's connection with Jonathan. Luke arrives just in time to be there when it happens, which makes me even happier. Unsurprisingly, Jonathan doesn't take dissolving the connection well, so it's nice that Luke and the others are there to support Clary. There's a lot of focus on her needing Jace in this and the previous couple of episodes, but I'm happy to see her getting Luke's support as well. I don't like the idea of Jace being such a huge focus in that way and sidelining the other people in her life. It's not healthy to only rely on one person.

The heavenly fire burns both Clary and Jonathan, but once the burning his over, they both still have the rune because the formula the the heavenly fire was used in was too weak. Isabelle says she can make a more potent formula. I love seeing scientist Izzy working out problems like that! It always makes me happy.

We get a parabatai moment between Jace and Alec in this episode. Alec asks Jace about a hypothetical situation involving Clary to help him make his decision about Magnus, but he doesn't explain to Jace what's actually going on. I hate that he doesn't own up to Jace and tell him the whole thing. We don't get parabatai moments between them often, and I wish that we had more of them because I'm pretty lukewarm about their relationship. We see so little of it compared to their relationships with other people. It would have been nice to see Alec completely open up to Jace there, and it's sad that he didn't. I'm not sure why both the books and TV show have such a big problem portraying their relationship. We're constantly told things about how close parabatai are without ever getting to really see it between Jace and Alec except in rare moments that don't match with the rest of the story.

Clary also snaps at Isabelle about Jonathan being a victim, and it's Jace who has to snap her out of it. Clary and Isabelle have a more parabatai-like relationship than Jace and Alec throughout the show despite not actually being parabatai, so I hate seeing a moment like that between them. It would have been nice if more people than just Jace could snap her out of it. Like I mentioned before, it's not healthy to only rely on one person, and Isabelle would have been a great candidate for someone else who could have gotten through to her.

Maryse opens up to Magnus about her feelings for Luke, and it honestly seems like she's more open with Magnus than Alec is with Jace. (Yes, I really did get caught up in how poorly executed Jace and Alec's relationship is while watching this episode.) Then Magnus follows it up with being honest with her about his drunken break down in front of Alec. I love seeing that between Maryse and Magnus, but this time around, it made me more frustrated with Alec and Jace.

To make matters worse, Alec does end up opening to Isabelle and telling her everything. I'm so torn about this scene! I love love love Alec and Isabelle's relationship, and I really appreciate seeing them share a moment like this. But why can't he open up to his parabatai the same way!? We get told that being parabatai are supposed to be a strong relationship repeatedly, but we only ever see Alec or Jace react strongly when the other one is about to die. The rest of the time, it's just not there, and this would have been the perfect opportunity to show us more!

We get another glimpse of the Seelie Court. The Seelie Queen wants to kill Jonathan and doesn't care that it will also kill Clary in the process. It's not surprising that she would stab him in the back like that. It's a good illustration of why trusting the Seelie Queen is never a good idea.

Becky gets saved from a demon by Isabelle and Alec, so Becky gets to see Simon and Izzy flirt with each other. I love the moment when she bugs him about it. It's such great sibling content that we didn't get much of in Becky's other appearances.

At the end of the episode, the rune gets to Clary, and she knocks Jace out to go save Jonathan. I expected this the first time I saw the episode because of the promos we'd gotten before it aired. It's definitely dramatic though sad to see at the same time. That's especially true when she still interacts with Jace like everything is normal. It's frightening to think that someone you love so much could be lying like that. It's true that Jace did it too when he was the Owl, but in that case, he didn't remember it when interacting with Clary. Clary isn't herself either, but it's also a lot different.

Simon and Isabelle wind up alone together at the Institute, and Becky's words have made Simon awkward. Simon finally makes a move and almost kisses Isabelle, which I've been waiting for since the start of the series! They're interrupted when a Seelie breaks into the Institute to get to Jonathan. But it's progress!

There's definitely a lot of tension between the Seelies trying to kill Jonathan and Clary killing the Seelie to save Jonathan. It's an ominous way for the episode to end.

The only thing that tops it is when Alec breaks up with Magnus at the end of the episode. Honestly, I was tempted to just turn the episode off instead of watch this scene because it breaks my heart. Magnus had been so distraught with the idea that Alec couldn't love him without his magic, and then Alec goes and breaks up with him. I'm getting tears in my eyes just typing it out. It's a lot more painful than their first break up, which is saying something. It's so frustrating because it's so obviously a bad idea no matter how Magnus feels about losing his magic.

Alec says some really messed up things to Magnus, and even though he thinks he's doing it for the right reasons, I want to reach through the screen and shake him. I'm not looking forward to re-watching the following episodes where they're both heartbroken either.

The last scene of the episode is Asmodeus breaking free from Edom. As I mentioned above, I saw it coming, but it's definitely a great cliffhanger.

Shadowhunters Review: 3x17 "Heavenly Fire"

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Reading Habits Book Tag

This is an older tag that I’ve had sitting in my list of things to do on the blog for years, so here I am finally doing it!

I found this blog through rachaelrexds, but it was started in a YouTube video that no longer seems to be available.

1. Do you have a certain place at home for reading?

The short answer is no. Up until recently, I was living in Japan in a rather small apartment. I did everything in one place because it was the only place to do anything. I’ll pretty much read wherever I happen to be. I prefer it to be quieter so I can concentrate, but anywhere it’s quiet is fair game.

2. Bookmark or random piece of paper?

I’ve been known to do both in the past. I won’t really buy bookmarks myself, but because everyone knows I’m a reader, I get given them as gifts sometimes. And they’ve come in Life’s Library packages as well, so I try my best to use those as much as I can.

3. Can you just stop reading or do you have to stop after a chapter/certain amount of pages?

I usually stop at the end of a chapter. It just seems like a natural stopping point, and stopping in the middle of action can confuse my brain once I pick the book back up.

An exception to this is when a chapter is really long and I just can’t finish it before needing to do something else.

4. Do you eat or drink whilst reading?

I will if I’m hungry or thirsty. At times, I’ll read during meal times, but I don’t do that often because I find it difficult to both eat and focus on the page. But it happens sometimes! Eating small snacks while reading is more common for me, but I don’t do that all of the time either.

5. Multitasking: music or TV whilst reading?

Nope! I can’t focus on anything else if music or the TV is on. I know there are people who even write better with music on, and my brain has trouble comprehending how that’s possible. I can’t even read. I’ll get too distracted, even if it’s instrumental music. I need as much quiet as possible.

6. One book at a time or several?

Usually, I’m reading several books at a time. In the past, that was usually because I was reading books for school as well as books I personally wanted to read. Now, it just tends to happen for various reasons. I don’t have trouble keeping track of what’s happening in each book. I read a wide variety, so they’re usually quite different from each other anyway.

7. Reading at home or everywhere?

This question feels a little different in 2021... 

As a kid, I took a book with me everywhere. Now I tend to only read at home. Like I mentioned before, I read best when it’s quiet, and that doesn’t usually happen out and about. I also just get distracted by more things in general if I’m outside or something.

8. Read out loud or silently in your head?

Silently 100%! I would get so tired reading out loud all the time.

9. Do you read ahead or skip pages?

When I was younger and really eager to know what would happen, I would sometimes flip ahead to see if I could catch any hints, and sometimes I did. I don’t know if it’s just because I’m older now, but I tend not to even think about reading ahead anymore.

10. Breaking the spine or keeping it like new?

Keeping it like new if at all possible! Honestly, that’s probably the biggest reason why letting people borrow my books makes me nervous.

11. Do you write in your books?

College (I was an English major) made me a lot more receptive to writing in books. It was expected for us to either do that or to at least keep a set of notes with each book.

These days, I don’t write in every book I read, but sometimes, there are books that just give me certain feelings and I end up scribbling notes throughout them. It’s not necessarily about liking them more either; it’s just when I feel like I need to engage with the book in a certain way.

And that’s all for the tag! If anyone else answers the questions, please let me know in the comments. I’d be interested in hearing your answers.

Star Trek: Discovery Review: 2x13 "Such Sweet Sorrow"

These reviews are going to appear a little out of order again. I've filmed a review for episode twelve, but I haven't edited it yet, so you're seeing this one first. I'm also in the process of uploading my review of episode ten, so that will be up later today. Then the video review of twelve will be up tomorrow.

At the start of this episode, Michael touches the time crystal that Pike got in the last episode, and she sees visions of the future where there's a battle. She reacts surprisingly well to the visions, but then, I suppose, she already had a pretty good idea that something like that was going to happen.

A bit later, they realize that they're not going to be able to destroy Discovery like planned because Control is already attached to the ship and is protecting itself. Michael realizes that she's going to have to take Discovery to the future. Since this is the second to last episode of the season, this makes it pretty obvious where the next season is going to go. 

Discovery is evacuated, with the entire crew heading to the Enterprise, which looks just as crowded as it seems like it would be. It's pretty bizarre to see the Discovery crew mingling with the Enterprise crew. The Enterprise has the same aesthetic as in the original series, and those two aesthetics clashing together is a lot to take in. When Georgiou arrives, she makes a disgusting comment about the orange on Enterprise that made me laugh. She does look particularly out of place there in her all black outfit. It's pretty startling.

There are some new signals which take them to the planet where Po, who Tilly previously met, is queen. It's cool to see something that didn't seem largely important to the ongoing story before to come back and be so important. Unfortunately, the queen tells them that when Michael goes to the future, she won't be able to come back to the present time.

I'd already kind of expected that once they brought up time travel, but it was shocking the first time I realized this was where the show was going because it's such a big change and means leaving behind so many characters. It's definitely dramatic for a finale though!

We get one emotional scene with Culber and Stamets where they both talk about their plans once they complete their current mission. Them going in different directions sounds very final, yet it's also clear that neither one of them are actually pretty unsure. It's heartbreaking to watch.

Sarek and Amanda come to say goodbye to Michael, and they have a nice moment between the three of them. I'm glad we could see that before the jump to the future.

Right after that, Michael finds out that most of the Discovery's crew (at least the ones we regularly see on the bridge) are going with her. It's touching and a relief. Otherwise, we would either have a show about the same crew without the main character or a show about Michael with an entirely new cast for the next season.

Spock is part of the group that says they're staying though, which is startling considering we know he is there in the original series which is in the immediate future, not where the Discovery is jumping. Obviously that will be something to discuss when I discuss the next episode. For now, though, I just want to say that it's kind of sad that going would mean that Spock didn't get to say goodbye to his parents like Michael did. I suppose it could have happened off screen, but with the way things played out, it doesn't seem like it did.

Ash is also with the group, but he pulls Michael aside to explain that he can't go. Michael understands, but they're both also upset. I am too. I love their relationship, even when we got a little less of it this season, and it sucks knowing that Ash won't be in the next season. I think that's what left me more disappointed with the time jump more than anything else.

But, right now, Discovery hasn't jumped yet, so I'll save talking about that for the next episode.

Monday, April 19, 2021

Star Trek: Discovery Review: 2x11 "Perpetual Infinity

Before I start talking about 2x11, I wanted to mention that I've filmed a review of episode 2x10 instead of writing a blog post. I haven't edited it yet though. That will probably happen in a few days, which is why you're seeing this before you do that one.

The episode starts with Michael having a nightmare of the day her parents died. She wakes up and learns that her mother actually is the Red Angel, which is understandably shocking to her. I can't even imagine what something like that would feel like. Her mom has been anchored to a point 950 years in the future when all sentient life has been destroyed, which sounds like one of the most horrifying situations a person could be in. Even though she keeps going back in time, she can never stay more than a few minutes.

Control decides to take control of Leland’s body. I admit that my memories of that scene actually made the whole thing even scary than it actually was for some reason.

Georgiou is suspicious of Leland/Control right away, and what we get of her working against him are some of my favorite moments in this episode, especially when she contacts Ash and gets him to help her as well.

We get a lot of complexity in Georgiou’s character in this episode. Control tries to use her affection for Michael against her, picking up on it despite how she tries to hide it, and Dr.  Burnham says something similar when she thanks Georgiou for protecting Michael. It’s great seeing her character get even more fleshed out.

Dr. Burnham demands that they destroy all of the Sphere's data to defeat the AI. While many of them, especially Saru, are reluctant to do this because of how much data they'll lose, it was definitely the right thing to do in my mind. I don't think I would have hesitated to do it. No matter how much data that Sphere held, it was either that or Control wipes out all sentient life.

The Sphere, however, tries to protect itself by encrypting data. This episode made me more curious about the Sphere too and what exactly it was. I doubt it's an AI like Control because its motivations seem entirely different and who would have created it? But we'll probably never understand it more, which does make me sad.

Spock also learns that his dyslexia is why Dr. Burnham appeared to him and no one else, which is a detail that I'm absolutely in love with. Spock had spent most of his life feeling ashamed of himself because of it, so it's satisfying to see that turn out to be such a huge strength for him.

This episode ends with everything high tension. Control is still out there, and Ash is serious injured. It's almost tempting to start mentioning things that I know happen in the next episode, so I'll stop here before I blurt out too much. But I am interested in knowing what I think about it the second time around.

Friday, April 16, 2021

Star Trek: Discovery Review: 2x08 "If Memory Serves"

 Episode eight of this season starts with a "previously on Star Trek" that includes clips from the original Star Trek pilot. It was unexpected the first time I watched the episode, but I appreciated getting that. The episode relies heavily on that episode for backstory, and I have never seen the pilot. I actually paused the episode the first time I watched it and read a plot summary of the pilot, which I think helped me follow what was happening better. I'm fairly certain that I would have understood what was happening anyway. It wouldn't have been confusing, but I preferred having that background knowledge.

I'm sure for people who have seen the pilot, this episode was even more exciting.

After the pilot clips, we find out that Section 31 is telling Discovery that Michael has Spock and ignored Section 31's hails. Discovery is ordered to search debris and not participate in the search for them. As a viewer with more knowledge, it's frustrating because we know what actually happened with Section 31. Ash tells Pike to trust Michael in this scene though, and the Ash/Michael shipper in me loves that moment.

Meanwhile, Michael and Spock arrive at Talos IV, the same planet the Enterprise visited in the pilot. Spock has brought Michael here because he knows the Talosians can help him. This was the first time I'd seen the Talosians, and while I don't know exactly how they come across in the pilot, I find them quite creepy despite them helping Vina and, in this episode, Spock.

Still, it was interesting to see Michael and Spock share their memories with each other to help both themselves and the audience understand. We know for sure after this that Spock didn't murder anyone and Section 31 is lying, which isn't a huge surprise.

Spock also reveals that the Red Angel's thoughts were those of a human. It's one of those reveals that kind of raises more questions than it answers because there's no telling how a human got the ability to do everything the Red Angel seems to be doing.

Culber is still adjusting to being back, and it's still not going well. Stamets is showing him around the ship, and he's irritable. Culber sees Ash for the first time since his death, and understandably, he doesn't take it well. He ends up fighting Ash in the mess hall on top of fighting with Stamets.

His emotions are extremely understandable. He says that he has his memories intact, but his senses aren't connected to those memories, so he tastes his favorite food but doesn't recognize the taste in the same way despite his memories of it being there. It's heart breaking.

Vina appears to Pike as an illusion created by the Talosians. They have a conversation about her being happy because the Talosians have created an illusion of Pike for her to be with. He tells her he's happy about this which, to be perfectly honest, wasn't a moment that sat well with me. Vina may claim to be happy with the illusions, but it just strikes me as incredibly sad. It's like she's living with these illusions without actually healing with actual help. To me, it doesn't seem all that different from people who use alcohol or drugs to momentarily forget problems instead of actually dealing with them.

Of course, a lot of people do that, so I get Vina as a character making that choice. It's merely the moment where Pike expresses happiness for her irked me a bit.

The crew of the Discovery also discovers that someone has corrupted the spore drive, and they did it using Ash's code. Ash gets confined to his quarters, which is an understandable reaction, though I can't imagine that Ash would be as obvious as using his own code if he was actually behind it.

As viewers, we get a look at Airiam's eyes flashing red, and it's quite obvious that she's guilty of something and it almost certainly has to do with the spore drive being corrupted.

Towards the end of the episode, before they leave Talos IV, Michael also shows Spock her memory of telling him she didn't see him as a brother. It adds a lot of context to their relationship although it doesn't seem to change anything between them at the moment.

The episode ends with Michael and Spock on the Discovery and Discovery now a wanted ship, which is sure to lead to some drama.