Book Review: Neverworld Wake

Neverworld Wake book review

Even though I have tons of books to read on my shelves and even though I have 11 books currently checked out from the library (some of which I waited months to come in), I felt the need to read Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl as soon as I heard about it from Alexandra Roselyn’s 5 Star Predictions video.


I checked it out of my library through Overdrive, started reading, and by the time I put it down it was morning. Pessl found such a unique and mystical way to tell a story, I had to know how it ended.

When I put down my Kindle, I spent 10 minutes trying to process my thoughts and feelings. I sat staring off in silence, wrote a quick reaction on Goodreads, then told Lexi how much I loved the book. But I still had these deep emotions I couldn’t shake. So I woke my husband up, curled up, and had him hold me until I felt like I could function again.

My only wish was that the characters were a little more fleshed out. I wanted to know more about them and more about their motivations. I think it was pretty well covered, I just wanted to go in deeper with them.

I don’t know what else to say without ruining the experience. If you want a sci-fi mystery rooted in our reality, but with an otherworldly feel (kinda like the feeling Inception gives), check this out for sure.

Book Review: Stay a Little Longer

Stay a Little Longer book review

I received an ARC (Advance Reader Copy) of this book courtesy of Andrews McMeel Publishing & NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Stay a Little Longer by Dawn Lanuza
Published by: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Genre: New Adult
Pub Date: May 28, 2019
ISBN: 9781524851057
Price: $14.99 (USD)

They were perfect strangers—all perks, no strings. Until they weren’t.

Elan wasn’t supposed to meet Caty. She lived halfway around the world, and he barely left Manila. Yet here he was, giving her a ride to the airport. Convinced that they would never have to see each other again after that day, Elan and Caty started to bond over truths, dares, stolen kisses, and games in hotel rooms and bars.

With brief encounters that turned them from acquaintances to friends — tipping to the point of lovers, always — will Elan and Caty keep settling for a day, or will someone finally dare to stay long enough to discover: Is this love?


What I Loved:

» A Filipino author!
I never made a concerted effort to read Japanese or Filipino authors until recently. I specifically want to read my ethnic background. It’s easy to find English text of Japanese authors, but difficult of Filipino authors. I stumbled onto this title through pure luck of browsing and I couldn’t be happier.

» Building of Elan & Caty
I hated Caty at first. I hated Elan and Caty interacting. Their dialogue was so clunky and stilted. Caty was so immature and brash, while Elan was such a doormat. I almost DNF-ed the book so many times in Part 1. But then at the end of it, she shows she’s self-aware of how awful she can be.

Then, they get to know each other better. They both share more of themselves and I began to understood why she’s like that and why Elan is overly patient with her. As Elan and Caty open up to each other, their dialogue becomes more fluid and natural. After Part 2 I was full-on rooting for them.

» The Dance Scene
LOVE! I could see it in my mind and I loved it.

» The Long Distance Relationship
My husband and I met by chance and spent almost 2 years in a long distance relationship before we got married. Even after we got married, we spend a lot of time separated because of the military. So the angsty goodbyes and the awkwardness of seeing each other for the first time in months made complete sense. There’s a part when Caty doesn’t know how to handle having Elan in her space and it really resonated with me. When Cass came home from his first deployment, I didn’t know how to exist with him physically in my life again. Lanuza did a great job of capturing those feelings and the difficulty of articulating them to Elan.


What I Wished For:

» More of their pasts
They give each other the quick rundown of their complicated pasts, but I wanted more details. I get the gist of how these events from their pasts have effected them, but I wanted just a little more. Especially from San Juan. Caty talks about how everyone gossips about her. I wanted to see more of that.

» More of Jules
She’s friends with both Elan and Caty and I wanted more of her in their story. They talk about and around her, but she doesn’t have much a presence until a chapter toward the end.

» More info in the epilogue
[Spoiler alert! Highlight over the blank section below to read]
There were very real reasons why Elan lived in Manila and Caty in Toronto/New York. They didn’t address how they were going to bypass Elan’s mother’s health problems and Caty’s career aspirations. Elan felt all that pressure to take care of his mom because his sister had a daughter and her husband worked on a freighter and was gone a lot. Caty was building a styling career in New York and was gaining some traction. They were such huge reasons throughout the story and they felt swept aside with no real explanation.


TL;DR:
Realistic long-distance love story with great character development

Bookemon Badgathon


Readathon Creator’s Announcement

This will be where I update my progress on Bookemon Badgathon for my own record keeping.

The Creative Badge – Art / Music
The Memory Badge – Biography / Memoir
The Exemplary Badge – Classics

The Pictorial Badge – Comic / Graphic Novel / Manga
The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
While I understand the hardship and horror Marji went through, she was a spoiled rich girl and it showed throughout her story. Se doesn’t seem to realize how much freedom she was given because of her family’s money. I found the history lessons interesting and I liked reading about the parts when Marji was in Iran. I appreciate her honesty and showing the darkest parts of her life.

The Amour Badge – Romance / Contemporary
Stay a Little Longer by Dawn Lanuza
I thought the long distance relationship was realistically portrayed. The angsty goodbyes and the constant texts about anything and everything brought me right back to when my husband and I were dating and whenever he’s deployed or on TDY. My full review.

The Chiller Badge – Crime / Thriller / Mystery / Suspense
Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl
Wow. Such a unique and mystical way to tell a story! I checked it out of my library through Overdrive, started reading, and by the time I put it down it was morning. Pessl found such a unique and mystical way to tell a story, I had to know how it ended. My full review.

The Fantastical Badge – Fantasy
Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan
My initial thoughts: I finished this in one sitting so it was definitely an engaging read. But I wish the world building was a little better done and the characters more developed. I loved all the Asian culture woven into the story. I’m greedy and I want more of it added in! I’m curious to see where this story goes.

The Scientific Badge – Science Fiction
Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray
I’m pretty sure I’m in love with Abel and Noemi. I found myself rooting for both of them as individuals and as a team. I really liked the side characters too. I hope Virginia pops up more in the second book. She was so fun!

The Rainbow Badge – LGBTQIIA+ Rep
The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang
Such a charming and beautiful graphic novel. Can Frances please make me a dress!? I loved the artwork. I didn’t realize how long the book was until I logged my page count. I was so into the story, I didn’t realize how many pages had gone by. I also thought it was really fun to see the author’s process at the end.

The Archival Badge – Historical Fiction
The Panic! Badge – Horror
The Jester Badge – Humor / Comedy
The Know It All Badge – Non-Fiction
The Prose Badge – Poetry

The Diversity Badge – POC Main Character or AOC
Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman
I didn’t relate to Kiko on every level, but the parts I did hit me hard. I loved reading about a half-Japanese character! I understood her insecurities and experiences surrounding her race. I really connected with Kiko over her social anxiety. I handle it better outwardly than she does, but her inner dialogue and her feelings of awkwardness may as well be taken straight from my brain.


Asian Book Month

Asian Readathon and Asian Lit Bingo are going on this month and I didn’t really have a set TBR list for either. I actually just found out about Asian Lit Bingo so I haven’t even looked over all the categories yet.

I figure my strategy for both will to just read a bunch of own-voices Asian authors and see what sticks at the end. I’ll be updating my progress here on this blog post for my own record keeping.

Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan
Malaysian author/intersectional Asian character/queer romance
My initial thoughts: I finished this in one sitting so it was definitely an engaging read. But I wish the world building was a little better done and the characters more developed. I loved all the Asian culture woven into the story. I’m greedy and I want more of it added in! I’m curious to see where this story goes.

The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
Iranian author/graphic novel/auto-biography
While I understand the hardship and horror Marji went through, she was a spoiled rich girl and it showed throughout her story. Se doesn’t seem to realize how much freedom she was given because of her family’s money. I found the history lessons interesting and I liked reading about the parts when Marji was in Iran. I appreciate her honesty and showing the darkest parts of her life.

Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman
Japanese author/intersectional Asian character/contemporary w Asian MC
I wish I had this book in high school or middle school. I didn’t relate to Kiko on every level, but the parts I did hit me hard. I loved reading about a half-Japanese character! I understood her insecurities and experiences surrounding her race. I really connected with Kiko over her social anxiety. I handle it better outwardly than she does, but her inner dialogue and her feelings of awkwardness may as well be taken straight from my brain.

Book Review: Winter

Winter book review

FINALLY! Finally, I’ve read conclusion to the Lunar Chronicles. I skipped Fairest so I’ll have to read that and Stars Above to really be done with all of the books. But the main 4 books of the series are officially read. Finally.

What I Loved:

» How memorable the series is
It’s been almost three years since I read Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress so my main concern was that I’d start reading Winter and I’d be so lost that I’d have to stop to go back and reread the first three books of the series. But I found that the characters and main plot points have stuck with me and that’s saying a lot.

» None of the title characters are perfect
All the main characters, and even their romantic pairings, are flawed in a significant way. I loved it! Perfection is impossible…and boring.

» The conclusion
I’m so happy the book was as long as it was. I needed a nice long book to finish off the series and I didn’t want anything to be rushed. I saw some reviews complained that the very end was too blah, but I disagree. I got exactly what I wanted in Winter.

What I Wished For:

» More complex romance story lines
I get that these are fairy tale re-tellings, and I guess in a chaotic world it was kind of nice to have such predictable “easy” romances. But I wished for a little more complexity.

» More of Levana being powerful
I wanted to see more of her being a badass villain. She had her moments, but I wanted more.

» More of Winter
So much of the book is about her frailty and beauty. In her moments of lucidity I wanted to see her being strong and inspiring. Also, for being the titular character, she (and Jacin) didn’t seem as fleshed out as the other characters.

TL;DR:
Awesome conclusion to the Lunar Chronicles.

A Guide to PCS-ing with Dogs to Japan: Flying on the Rotator

PCSing to Japan with Dogs

How did we get two coveted pet spots on the rotator (AMC flight)?

1) We PCS-ed in October.
2) My husband keeps a ton of leave reserved for times like this. We told them we’d prefer to leave at the beginning of October, but he had enough leave to fly anytime in the month and still have leave left over.
3) Luck. The schedule seemed to open up early for some bases because I saw posts on Facebook about people securing their spots on our target travel date. Cass went into TMO and got our second date since the first one had already booked up.

The reason we wanted the AMC flight and sacrificed some of my husband’s precious leave was because I had already stressed out enough doing their FAVN and setting up everything for the health certificates. I didn’t want the added pressure of having to fly commercial with the advanced notice, transfers, and all that goes along with international travel.

Like I said in my A Guide to PCS-ing with Dogs to Japan: First Steps post, I was living in Portland while Cass was doing a short tour in South Korea. When his tour was up, he came to me in Portland to spend a few weeks with friends and family; then we left from there.

The Health Certificate

The first step of our trip was to drive up to JBLM in Tacoma, Washington for the dogs’ health certificates. It’s SO much easier to use this office than any others because they process health certificates for international travel on a regular basis. They have the process down and at the end of our visit they neatly bundled all the necessary travel documents, as well as copies, and put all of them into manila envelopes for us.


We had a day and a half in SeaTac so we booked a room at La Quinta. The chain is super dog friendly with no pet fee so we always stay with them if we can when we travel with Lexi & Gambit. The staff at the SeaTac La Quinta LOVE dogs and if they weren’t busy, they’d come say hi and give them treats. There are some great parks to explore in the area too if you have a car and want to take your dogs out.


Angle Lake Park in SeaTac, Washington. A nice park just a short drive down the street from our hotel.

Seahurst Park
Seahurst Park in Burien, Washington. Lots of trails, beach access, and so pretty!


Checking In

If you’re facing the building and the check-in desks, the AMC desk is all the way on the left. Just keep going to the very end. The USO is awesome and there are stairs behind the check-in area as well as at the center of the building.

If you’re traveling with pets and/or children, there is a separate family line. So you don’t have to get in line at midnight. Cass dropped me and the dogs off at the curb while he returned our rental car. By the time he got back the check-in desk had opened up so we hopped into line and it moved along fairly quickly.

I did hear from some people that they arrived at 5 and AMC had already given away their pet spots. So even though you don’t need to get there super early, it’s better to be safe and be in line when the desk opens.

After check-in, we left their crates upstairs and took the dogs to walk around outside. We walked up and down the sidewalk outside the baggage claim to make sure they took care of business. There are dog relief areas on either end of the terminal, but the one at the far end is next to a big smoker’s area so we didn’t linger on that side. After the dogs got their jitters out, we found a quiet area with some benches and rested until it was time to go.

We were the last people to leave our dogs. I think everyone else had kids so they had to worry about getting them through security and set up. It’s just us and we’re seasoned travelers so we could spare the time to spend with our dogs until they were loaded up.

A tip to set up your pets’ crate:

Tape down a pee pad, then tape down a blanket or towel over it. That way if the dogs start scrambling around when their crates are picked up, they don’t shred their pee pads and everything doesn’t end up in a ball in the back of the crate. If you forgot to bring tape (like we did), the check-in desk had a roll of packing tape they let us use. They also had zip ties for the doors.


Layovers

We only saw our dogs once during our journey for about 15 minutes. We deplaned and eventually someone made an announcement for pet owners. Just wait by the doors and they’ll gather everyone together to be escorted out onto flightline. They cut off everyone’s zip ties and there was a small fenced grassy area for the dogs to relieve themselves. No one took their dogs off leash because it would have been chaos.

We had a carry-on dedicated to the dogs. It made it easy to whip everything out as we needed them. They had no interest in eating, but they drank the water and took a couple treats. Lexi had soiled her crate, Gambit’s was clean. Cass used our wipes to give the crate a quick wipe down and tossed the dirty towel. We replaced it with a clean one and a clean pee pad. Since we forgot the tape Cass tried his best to reuse the tape we had gotten at SeaTac, but it was trashed. By the time we got to Okinawa, everything was a jumbled ball in the back of her crate.

Our escorts had zip ties to re-secure everyone’s crates again. The worst part about this layover was that the dogs were kept in the next room and we could hear all the dogs barking and crying. They kept that room locked, but there’s a big window between the two rooms and there’s a big opening with a grated gate (like the ones they have at the mall) in the hallway that leads to the bathrooms. So we could practically see the dogs, but we couldn’t be with them.

What was in our dog bag:

A water bowl, a reusable water bottle that we filled after security, extra zip ties, two replacement towels, two pee pads, a bag of treats, a small bag of food (they didn’t touch it), and dog wipes (in case they pooped on themselves and also to clean the crate if they used the pee pad). What I wish were in there: a roll of tape to retape the pee pad and towel.


Landing at Okinawa

It was a ridiculously long journey and the dogs were so amped up when they saw us at baggage claim. We had their bark collars on us, but at first we were told not to open their crates until after we left the secure area. I think Lexi’s annoying unrelenting shrill barks made a point and they let us cut the zip ties to put on the collars.

A sweet USO volunteer filled the water bowls attached to the crate doors when they were unloaded, but the dogs trampled the bowls in excitement when they saw us and made a huge mess. If you want to give your dogs a water container, get one of those rabbit style ones so they can’t splash it everywhere.

While we waited for our baggage we filled out some paperwork with the vet workers, they checked our travel paperwork, and we got instructions for registering them on base within 72 hours. After getting our baggage, everyone had to go through a customs check.

Then the Okinawa adventure began!

Shogun Inn Outside Shogun Inn


If you have any questions, I’ll do my best to answer them or steer you toward the right direction.


If you just got an assignment to Okinawa and don’t know where to start, part 1 of my guide might be helpful for you:

flying on the rotator

BarkBox Unboxing – March 2019

This is one of Lexi & Gambit’s last BarkBox unboxings! This month’s theme is The Spy Who Licked Me.

Lexi is LOVING the cocktail toy and we like to take out the olives, put a treat in the pocket, and put the olives back. It’s a great puzzle for her and keeps her occupied for awhile. But it’s also a puzzle for us trying to figure out where the heck the olives went after she pulls them out. The last time she lost them, they were nudged under the couch up against the wall.

I got a new camera (DJI Osmo Pocket) and this was my first time testing it out. There’s definitely a learning curve and I’m struggling a bit. I thought I had a lot more footage opening up the box and showing the papers…but it turns out I was taking pictures not videos and they were horrible.

But the dogs loved their BarkBox as always and we can’t wait to sign up for our new dog subscription box. We have it narrowed down to a few companies. If you have any recommendations, send them our way!

Book Review: I Owe You One

I Owe You One book review

I was tired, but I wasn’t sleepy so I started reading thinking I’d fall asleep part way through and finish it in the morning. I accidentally stayed up all night reading this in one sitting…lying…whatever. There was a chaotic Shakespearean quality to the story and I just had to find out how everything is sorted out in the end.

What I Loved:

» How slimy Jake (Fixie’s older brother) & Ryan (the boy she’s been in love with forever) are
They’re so easy to hate. They’re the type of guys who never really say anything, but always have something to say. They rely solely on their charm, looks, and money. They’re all flash. It was fun to be able to have someone to completely hate and root against because they really had no redeemable qualities.

» Easy to read
Like I said, I read it in one go and it didn’t feel like it. I looked down to see my progress and was shocked that I was over halfway and next thing I know I was at 90%.

» Sebastian
I’m not going to say too much because it’s fun to be introduced to him and learn more about him as you go along. But I love the name (mostly because of Sebastian Stan) and I love what he stands for and the way he runs his company.

What I Wished For:

» More of Fixie fixing things
There was mostly moments of her meddling and trying not to. I wish there were more small moments throughout the book where she’s fixing something. Don’t get me wrong, they’re there. I just wanted more.

» More of the late Mr. Farr
They talk a bit about him. Mostly that he was charming, level-headed, and put family first. But I wanted more anecdotes and fond memories of him in the store and with them as children.

» A bit of a longer ending
The ending felt rushed through and I had to reread a few sections because I was a little lost in all the flurry of the windup.

TL;DR:
Fun chick lit with some infuriating chaos. Easy to read; I read it in one sitting.

Book Review: Always Never Yours

Always Never Yours book review

The cover has some To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before vibes which threw me off a bit at first. But Megan is very different from Lara Jean so I stopped comparing them right away.

What I Loved:

» Megan embraces her high school role
She knows she’s not the girl these guys will choose for a long-term relationship (or as best as high school can get) so she leans into it. She flirts with all the cute single boys because why not have fun? She also knows she wants to go into directing and everything she does is to improve her résumé for college. She knows exactly where she wants to go and she knows what she needs to do to get in. I hate it when “ambitious high schoolers” are taken by surprise by admissions requirements.

» The authors are married
How cute is that!? This is their first book together and they’re releasing a The Taming of the Shrew retelling soon! I love the play and I’m curious to see their take on it.

» The book is set in Oregon
It never fails to make me happy to find out that a book I’m reading is set in Oregon. Bonus, I’ve been to a play at The Oregon Shakespeare Festival where Megan’s theater program puts on their big show and Ashland is ADORABLE!


What I Wished For:

» More of Megan’s flirtiness
There was some of her overt flirting, but not as much as I was expecting. She’s the school flirt and I wanted to see a lot more of it.

» More of Megan’s exes and where they are now
She’s the one before the one and I only got a real sense of one of the couples and I have questions about the others. How quickly did these guys find their ultimate high school loves after breaking up with Megan? How many of them did she have real feelings for? Where does she find these guys? Does she know/like all the girls they ended up with?

» Megan’s assertiveness
There were several times I was screaming at Megan to speak up. She’s so confident in who she is in school and in the theater, I hate that she doesn’t always stand up for herself or express her feelings in her personal life. Don’t get me started on her theater teacher.

TL;DR:
Super cute high school love story with Shakespeare connections.

Fantasy AdventureAThon TBR

I was browsing through Twitter and came across the Fantasy AdventureAThon. I loved the idea of a choose your own adventure challenge and it’s been a while since I’ve read fantasy so this sounded like fun!

I came up with my path and team fairly quickly.


My TBR took more time because all my books are still packed in boxes. I dug through them to find as many of my fantasy books as I could without taking every single book out. I don’t think I’ve mentioned it, but the only books I’m buying are graphic novels to complete collections. Everything I read is either books I already own or books I borrow.

I was hoping more of my holds at the library would come through, but they didn’t. I picked some popular books and new releases, so they were long shots. But I still have a week so fingers crossed.

If you want to join, it’s not too late! Go here for the details.