Quick Review: Night of the Dragon by Julie Kagawa

In some ways I’m sorry that I read this book now when I was so distracted because it was a good book and a solid ending to an entertaining series. It took me a month to get read it not because I wasn’t enjoying it but that I just had trouble concentrating long enough to get what I was reading. I’ve talked about my struggle to read while self isolating. I’ve been doing some thinking and realized that maybe it’s not just that I’ve had hard time concentrating during this time but I also have a hard time concentrating on reading on home. In the before time, I did most of my reading during my commutes to and from work. I would read at home but usually no more than a chapter or two right before bed. For me to read as many books as I did before, I have to change my reading habits on a whole to do it. This kind of makes me feel better. Also I have to remind myself that I need to stop holding myself to the standards of life before the pandemic because we are not living in the world anymore and may never again. So enough about that. Let’s talk about this book.

We we last ended our heroes, they have to race across the country to get to wish point before Genno, who has all the pieces of the scroll summons the Dragon and gets his wish. Unknown to Yumeko, Tatsumi and gang there is another person out there that has been pulling the strings and the task ahead of them is much tougher than they thought. Yumeko continues to shine with her brave spirit and kind heart. Despite the risk she always did what she could to protect her friends and complete strangers. This strength is ultimately what gets her and her friends through all the trials along the way. The ending was admittingly heartbreaking but powerful and maybe the most realistic way to end. Which is kind of funny when you think about because Yumeko is a kitsune, Tatsumi is sharing his body with a Demon and they are trying to stop the bad guy from summoning a Dragon to get a wish. If you are looking for a good fantasy novel based on mythology but want something not based on western stories, this is a good series to check out. The rich Japanese folktales that fill this series really gives it a lush setting that works so well with the fantasy it created.

Midnight Sun is Finally Coming Out.

In 2005, Stephenie Meyer released her first book, Twilight, and it took the world by storm. Kate and I are not ashamed to admit that we got caught up in. Over the last 12 years the Twilight series has gone through so much. Sequels, movies, backlash, Robsten stans and true the books are completely flawed but they also ushered in a whole wave of YA books. After the success of Twilight publishers went all in on Teen novels looking for the next big thing. It could be argued that book series like The Hunger Games, Divergent and so many more would never got the great light if Stephenie Meyer hadn’t been able to prove that books written for a teen audience could make money. So if the legacy of Twilight is remembered for anything it should be for that. Fans of the books may have remembered that around the time that back in 2008, Meyer’s was working on a companion novel named Midnight Sun. It was the events of the first book but from the perspective of Edward. Readers would finally get to see inside his head and truly know how he felt and struggled. We would get to know what he did when went to Alaska for a week to escape the temptation from Bella. The fandom was excited! It was not meant to be. The partial manuscript was leaked online and eventually Meyer’s herself released the unedited chapters and put a hold on writing. There have been rumors for years that she had begun working on it and even that she was ready to release it but again it didn’t happen. The release of the Fifty Shades of Grey novels is rumored to have delay her even longer. For the uninitiated, Fifty shades started out as a Twilight fan fiction from the male perspective that turned into a phenomenon of it’s own. Why do I bring all of this up now? If you haven’t heard, Stephenie Meyer’s announced today in the year of our lord 2020 is finally going to released the full novel on August 4th. Admit it, you’re kind of excited to read it as I am. I mean, there has been very little to look forward to this year so while this wasn’t something I we were desperately looking for it may be what we truly need in a year full of hardships and tragedy. So who’s up for a Midnight Sun read-a-long this summer?

Checking In: What We’ve been Binging Edition

Hey, How’s everyone doing? As we continue to live in a virus-laden world, I thought it might be nice to check in again. I am very lucky because my job can be done remotely, so I have still been working. (Teaching not-online classes online is a special kind of exhausting, but it is nice to have work.) When I haven’t been working I’ve been trying to finish projects around my house. I’ve started growing lettuce and will soon transition them outside. I started a compost bin. I’ve been doing a lot of baking (so far I’ve made bread, cinnamon rolls, donuts, brownies, more bread, danishes, and cookies). The county I live in hasn’t closed the trail heads, so I’ve been trying to get a hike in at least once a week. The cat has been sunning himself on the patio everyday. And, importantly for this blog, I’ve been reading brutal books and, as per usual, not finishing the fun/cute/uplifting books for my YA fiction book group. (Next month’s selection is Internment by Samira Ahmed, so you know I’ll finish that one.)

In addition to this, Thanks to Netflix Party, Beth and I have watched a number of K-dramas together. Here’s what we’ve been binging (using the English titles you’d search for on Netflix).

Crash Landing on You. This is the story of a South Korean woman who gets caught in a tornado and thrown over the border into North Korea and the army unit that saves her life. This was so good. The romance at the center was A+ and not at all stupid or cloying or, “Ugh, don’t marry that dude.” The army dudes are straight up my favorite, every single one of them. The North Korean women are also freaking awesome. The B plots in this were great. It was touching and funny. 10/10 would recommend.

Memories of Alhambra. Starring one of the leads from Crash Landing on You (and also featuring Chanyeol from Exo), this is about a CEO from a video gaming company getting way too into an AR game he’s trying to get to market. Honestly, it left me with so many questions that I was a little disappointed in it after the fact (like, why was there no second season???) but, while we were watching it, I was constantly trying to fix my schedule so that we could get as many episodes in a night as possible before Beth went to bed.

Bring it On, Ghost. This is a show about a college kid that can see ghosts (and send them packing), and the lady ghost who needs his help to solve the mystery of her death. This is cute, a little twee, but cute.

My first first love. We actually started this in January and finished it while Beth was here in February, but I’m putting it on the list. This is one of those, “A ragtag bunch all end up living in the same house and hijinks and romance ensue” scenarios. I liked the relationships. I liked the characters. Low key and undemanding (I mean, aside from the subtitles), this was also pretty good.

Itaewon Class. OH MY GOD THIS SHOW. I laughed! I yelled at the screen! I needed to know what happened next! The villain was so villainous! The hero so virtuous! The team of folks helping the hero achieve his dream were so delightful! I loved this so much. I also loved the styling. As Beth can attest, there are a couple of episodes where you may just want to text pictures of characters in suits to that one friend who understands how much you enjoy menswear. Not sorry, Beth. I regret nothing. SUITS.

Busted! We also started this one in January, I think. And, we only started this one because I was like, “Wait, I think that’s Oh Sehun (also of Exo).” I was right, it was. (Listen: this time last year I knew 1 (one) K-pop group. One. And, it wasn’t Exo. It was BTS. But, now, there is literally a wall of K-pop in my house. What is wrong with me? Why am I like this? But, also, I didn’t have anything on that wall before (and the other art in the house is mostly comic book related) and now I have a conversation with Min Suga every time I make coffee, so it works out for me. God, I hate self-isolating so much. I am talking to my walls.) Anyway, this is a dumb show where celebrities pretend to be detectives and play ridiculous games and puzzles to solve outlandish mysteries. And, if there is one genre of “reality” tv I can get behind, it is this one: Entertaining People doing Stupid Shit. (As opposed to Exasperating People doing Stupid Shit. An example of this genre is Love is Blind, which I am hate-watching. If Beth goes to bed at midnight, it’s only 9 pm for me. And, I could go back to work, but I already work a lot, so I’m trying not to do that. And, I can crochet while I’m yelling at Jessica to just end it with Mark already.)

Hospital Playlist. This is about Five friends from med school getting jobs at the same Hospital. It’s like, Grey’s Anatomy only instead of being about the interns, it’s about folks much higher up the food chain. The main plot is fun (Actual Adults With Jobs Also Have Time For a Band They Started Together…which might be more enjoyable if I were more familiar with the music they played, but meh. The music is nice and I’m just going to assume that they’re playing whatever was popular when the characters would have been in college and also be thankful that it isn’t Limp Bizkit.) We’re all caught up on this one, so we actually have to wait and watch our episode a week on Thursdays. At first I was annoyed by this, but now I’m happy to have something to look forward to.

The King: The Eternal Monarch. Lee Minho from Boys over Flowers plays another standoffish dude with enough money and power to make the Pharaohs of Old weep who also doesn’t understand women. It’s about a King from a parallel universe in which Korea is a constitutional monarchy who was once saved by someone from this universe from an evil Uncle who tried to kill him and steal a magic stick. That’s the worst description ever if I’m trying to sell you on it. We’re only five episodes into this (it comes out on Fridays), so I don’t know that I am. The love interest and her friends in this universe are great. I would watch a show just about them. I’m not sold on stuffy King. But, I wasn’t sold on Gu Joon Pyo, either, so we’ll see about this one.

Prison Playbook. Pitcher about to move to the States to join an MLB team is sentenced to a year of Prison after he beats a man nearly to death for attempting to assault his sister. Aside from using the Tragic-Things-Happen-to-Lady-Family-Member-as-Main-Character-Motivation trope, I’m enjoying this so far. The other folks in prison are entertaining and likable. The guards are a mix of good and effing awful. There are some cute romantic subplots. And, dear god to I miss baseball. In the alternate universe in which there is no Coronavirus, in three weeks, Beth and I would have been seeing a baseball game together. Now, we’re settling for baseball-adjacent fiction. It’s made by the same people who did Hospital Playlist, and so a fair number of the actors overlap. Fair warning, though: go into this one knowing the episodes are about an hour and half each, sometimes longer.

We’ve also been watching episodes of Community, Kim’s Convenience, and I’ve been trying to get Beth into Letterkenny.

So, that’s what we’re up to. What have you been doing with your time? Got any netflix recs for us? Book recs? Game recs? (No puzzles, though, Beth might fly to Nevada just to murder me if I make her do another puzzle.)

Quick Review: Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow

Continuing on with my reading of brutal texts while self-isolating, I finally got off the wait-list at the library for this book and decided to go ahead and go for it. This is about news agencies, like NBC, catching news stories about sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape and keeping them from coming out. If you know about Harvey Weinstein and wondered how he could have gotten away with hurting so many people, this is a read for you.

But, it is not an easy read. (Or an easy listen. The audiobook actually contains a segment of a police sting recording.) This book was really upsetting. But, it is really good that we are talking about the structures that protect people in power and allow them to hurt others. Now we just have to change the structures. Ha. Just. No big deal.

Review: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Non-spoiler review: Brutal speculative fiction that unravels a mystery in a medically advanced future while following the lives and recollections of three boarding school students.

The rest of this review is full of spoilers.

So, the story is told by Kathy and is full of her recollections of being a Hailsham student along with Ruth and Tommy (whose lives we also follow). Kathy is a caretaker for donors. Caretakers themselves always become donors after they are caretakers for awhile. You spend the first however many pages hearing about Kathy driving from one recovery center to another, looking after her donors, and remembering what it was like being a Hailsham student, thinking to yourself, “What are they donating? They’re not donating what I think they’re donating, are they? And, they all went to the same school so… is this a book about raising people specifically so that they can be organ donors? What did I get myself into?” And, that is eventually what is revealed. It was a lot horrifying how relaxed and accepting and blasé everyone in the book was about this. It was mind-blowing, in fact. I realized, at some point, that this might be because the caretakers and donors seem to have almost no interaction with other people and they are raised knowing exactly what is going to happen. This is their trajectory, their lives. They have no reason to expect otherwise. This isn’t a love story about people from two different groups coming together to disrupt an unfair society. This is the story of two people from one group destined to die for the benefit of others who just want a little more time with each other.

Aside from the teachers at the school, one of whom are very adamant that the students aren’t be told enough about what will happen to them, there are no (from my recollection) named characters who aren’t themselves donors. Maybe the caretaker of the house that they lived in between school and becoming caretakers had a name. If he did, I don’t remember, though. The teachers at Hailsham spend a lot of time teaching the students humanities subjects and getting them to engage in art and creation because they have a broader outside goal of proving the humanity of the children to the outside world. (A world that has already decided that raising this children to be organ donors is worth the cost of their lives for the benefit of society.)

A large part of the book is Kathy and Tommy trying to get in touch with someone from their old school because they’ve heard that if you are in love, and can really prove you are in love, that you can get a deferral on donations to live a little of your lives together. It is so touching how pure and naive that is. The school has been closed, though, so there is some difficulty in finding their old headmaster.

There are some heartbreaking detours. Kathy, Tommy, and a couple of others, help Ruth find a woman who looks like her (and who may have been the source for her). This woman works in an office and that is Ruth’s dream job. There are other donors who were at other schools who hear that kids from Hailsham are special and I want to hear what it was like. So, horrifyingly, we’re only being told the best parts of this world. Some of the children raised to be donors get to live some of their lives as people. While we never are told stories from other schools, the implication is that many other places they’re treated like animals.

This was well-written. The prose was great. And, that made it even more horrifying to think about the subject matter. So, I would recommend it, but go into it knowing that is DARK and the ending will not make you feel better about humanity.

What I’m Reading Now: Night of the Dragon by Julie Kagawa

So I’m an idiot. There are a couple of new books that have some out in the last week or so that I’ve been waiting for. I got a notice from one of my credit cards that I earned enough points for a gift card so I was waiting for the card in the mail. However, if I read it more closely I would have known that they sent me the GC in the email letting me know about the GC. Self isolating has not improved my comprehension skills. Anyway, this book seems like the perfect book for me to read right now. It’s loosely based on some Japanese mythology. There’s a kitsune, samurai’s and dragons. Besides, a power hungry crazy lunatic raising a dragon to take over the world, it is nothing like our current reality. I think this is just the book to get me out of my book funk!

So How’s it going?

So how’s it going out there ? You all staying safe and staying inside? What are you reading while self isolating? Me? Well not a whole lot. I thought when this started about a month ago (I can’t believe I’m going on my 4th week here!) that I was going to read all these books and that hasn’t really happened. I did finish two books and they were good and I enjoy them but since then I’ve really hard time focusing. I’m sure we are all feeling the same anxiety and stress of the times and it makes it really hard to concentrate. I’ve tried to start a few books but either I’m just not in the mood for them right (it turns out I have a lot of books that center around rebuilding after a global pandemic or disaster of some sort. A little bit to close to home at the moment.) or I just can’t focus long enough to comprehend what I’m reading and I end up reading the same paragraph over and over. Instead I’ve been watching a lot more on Netflix and TV. I find putting on a TV show or a movie is easier because I can be a little bit more passive. If I tune out for a bit it’s okay and still be okay. I don’t have to focus quite as much. I also wonder if the reason I’m having a hard time reading is that I used to do most of my reading on my commute to and from work. I’m obviously not commuting now. So maybe since my routine has been interrupted and I haven’t found a way to include reading in my new routine. Maybe I need to try audio books. Anyways, I hope that you all doing well and taking care of yourself. Let me know if you have any suggestions. Be safe everyone!