Book Review: All We Ever Wanted

Not gonna lie…I thought this was a fluffy read and I was super in the mood for one of those. I completely judged the book by the cover and I judged so wrong. I’m kicking myself for not knowing better, but it ended up being a good read despite my mood for something different.

A high school prank/joke gone wrong creates a controversy at an elite private school (Windsor Academy) and, by extension, the upper-class community of Nashville. On one side is Lyla, a sophomore scholarship kid from that part of town and her over-protective single father, Tom. On the other side is Finch, the handsome senior who just got into Princeton and his mother, Nina, who comes from humbler roots and is realizing that her family’s money may be corruptive.

What I Loved:

» Nina doesn’t bury her head in the sand
She knows there’s something wrong with her marriage, her husband, and her son. Her husband is old money who makes his own fortune selling his tech company. She understands that her son isn’t the innocent child she raised and that he’s capable of making bad decisions. She also sees that letting her husband handle the situation may be the easiest solution, but not the best.

» Tom doesn’t bend to the will of his daughter
Lyla just wants to put her head down and wish nothing happened, but Tom refuses to let her. He advocates for her and stands up for her, even when she begs and demands that he doesn’t.

» The different perspectives
I enjoyed seeing how Tom, Nina, and Lyla approach the incident from their perspectives. They come at it in different ways and work together and separately to work past it.

» This quote:

“Minigolf,” she said with stone seriousness, “is a metaphor for life.”
I smiled and said, “Oh, really?”
“Yes. I mean, think about it….Do you take it seriously? Too seriously? Do you enjoy it? Do you keep careful score? Do you get upset when you lose? Do you cheat? And if you do cheat, how do you react when you’re busted? Are you sheepish? Sorry? Do you do it again?”

She’s not wrong. It’s a good way to judge someone’s character.

What I Wished For:

» Finch’s perspective or the subtraction of one of the perspectives
It seemed so lopsided to hear from 3/4 of the most involved parties. Halfway through, I was screaming to get a glimpse into Finch’s thoughts. If Finch isn’t going to be included, I wish we could take away one of the others. Either Tom & Lyla as the father/daughter duo going through this together, Tom & Nina as the parents trying to deal with their children’s predicament, or Lyla & Nina as women from two generations and two different families. It would have created a much better balance to have two in any combination.

» A less rushed ending
After so much build up, the ending seemed rushed. I couldn’t keep up and I had to reread parts to make sure I caught everything.

» Better closure
I know the ending was very much how real life goes, but I wished for more closure than that. That epilogue seemed a little too disconnected from where the story ended.

If you want a quick read with a heavier subject handled with a medium weight and an open-ended conclusion, you’ll enjoy this book.

Book Review: Warm Bodies

Warm Bodies book reviewThis is a Romeo & Juliet retelling with a zombie named “R” (Romeo) and a human named Julie. A zombie love story!? I was so curious, I’m shocked I haven’t read it sooner. It’s been on my radar for awhile, especially after the movie came out.

My TBR is a mile long and I had other books that came up sooner. But I finally remembered to grab it from the library via Overdrive. Also, I didn’t know until I had finished that this is a series. Not only that, but it’s a four-book series!

What I Loved:

» Going into the mind of a zombie.
Having a front row seat to R’s struggle for life and love and meaning was fascinating. He was also so easy to root for.

» The zombies’ desire for a human life
The airport is a full-on zombie community with elders and families. They can’t remember their past lives, but they’re always grasping for it. R’s quest and evolution begins from that primal desire they all feel, but can’t understand.

» Such a quick read
I was shocked how quickly I read chunks of the book. For the most part, the books moves along at a nice pace. The middle section really lagged for me, but it picked up again just as I was starting to lose interest.

What I Wished For:

» More explanation
I know this problem of mine might be solved by reading the next books in the series, but I had so many questions. So does R and Julie, but it’s just one of those “They don’t know, so we won’t know” situations. I had flashbacks to all the questions I had while reading The Maze Runner series and I kept reading those books and I never did get my questions answered. That whole experience makes me hesitant to jump into the second book of the Warm Bodies series.

» More Perry
His life force/soul/whatever is seemingly the reason R is evolving and I wanted to know more about Perry earlier in the book. It took too long to get to his motivations.

» More zombie transitions
I want to see more of a transition for other zombies. R spent a little time with them and I wished to see him see them changing.

» More M
I don’t know what it is about that bearded giant, but I wanted a lot more of him.

If you’re looking for something fun, not too deep, and the idea of a zombie/human version of Romeo & Juliet sounds interesting, you’ll have fun with this one. If you want a deep dive into zombieism, you should pass.

If I ever see Warm Bodies on Netflix or Prime or Hulu, I’ll definitely check it out. But I’m not compelled to rent it right now.

Okinawa Zoo Lights – Snow & Light Winter Story

zoo lights bokeh

As soon as ITT announced zoo lights tickets, I sent Cass to pick a pair up. I didn’t go to the zoo lights when I was in Oregon and I wish I did. But I also hate crowds and driving at night so…I guess I don’t regret that decision.

food stands

If you like light tunnels, you need to check out the Okinawa Zoo Lights. Tunnels over stairs, a Christmas themed tunnel, a snowflake themed tunnel, a heart tunnel…so many tunnels!

Christmas tree of lights

There were also so many interactive displays and lots of fun things for the kids. There was even a snow play area! We timed our visit perfectly so that by the time we were done walking through the zoo we were just in time for the laser light show. Purely coincidental!

Okinawa Zoo LightsOkinawa Zoo Lights

It was a windy night so the fog machines weren’t very effective, but it was still a really cool show. I thought the fireworks were only for Christmas and New Years so it was a surprise when they shot off. I also didn’t know there was a water cannon element…which was fun and all, but it sucked when the mist rained down on the crowd. It was too cold for that.

laser light showlaser light show

Next year we’ll have to go during Christmas week to see the Christmas Fantasy lights. I’m guessing the displays stay the same and the light show and other entertainment changes.

Okinawa Grand Sumo Tournament 2018

Okinawa Sumo Tournament

I grew up watching Akebono, Konishiki, Takanohana, Wakanohana, and Musashimaru so I knew we had to go see the Grand Sumo Tournament at the Okinawa Convention Center. I’m pretty sure everyone from Hawaii knows who Akebono, Konishiki, and Musashimaru are. Israel Kamakawiwo’ole even performed a song about them!

sumo warm ups

We got there soon after the doors opened. The wrestlers were on the floor stretching and doing some drills. At first, the guys stuck to the ring or the pathways leading up to it. But after they did some practice rounds, they started wandering around the venue. They took pictures and chatted with fans or just hung out and talked among themselves.

Ginowan Seaside ParkGinowan Seaside ParkGinowan Seaside ParkGinowan Seaside Park

Because of Cass’s work schedule, we didn’t get much sleep and had to wake up early to get to the venue. We were getting sleepy so skipped some of the demonstrations and took a walk through Ginowan Seaside Park. We ended up at Tropical Beach with some gorgeous ocean views.

Tropical Beach

We came across wrestlers all over the park and at the beach relaxing or stretching their legs. A couple of them were singing and they sounded really good! We found out later that they were practicing for their performance before the tournament kicked off.

Okinawa sumo tournament

There was a mochi pounding so we got in line to get some for free. I don’t know how other people eat it, but my mom always ate it with shoyu and sugar. They had another topping we didn’t recognize, but we tried it anyway. It was like a slightly sweet powdered graham cracker. Confession: I never liked mochi. But the last time I had it was when I really young so I thought maybe I’d like it now. Not so much. It’s a texture thing.

Okinawa sumo tournament

I had so much fun watching the bouts. It was an informal event so the wrestlers were still out and about. Some of them went straight from the ring to stand behind the back seats on the floor to watch. Most of them happily took pictures and signed autographs. They were immediately mobbed though. People were flat out running up to them.

Okinawa sumo tournament

What was most interesting was the evolution of the sport from when I watched in the early 90s to now. My aunty and I had a conversation about how back then it was all about brute strength and size. The biggest guys still made it to the end, but it wasn’t a given that the big guy beat the little guy. During the preliminary rounds, everyone chuckled when a shorter, skinnier guy went up against a much larger opponent. There was a loud gasp when the smaller wrestler dodged around, strategically pushing his opponent off balance and out of the ring. We knew he had a chance, they all do, but the speed at which he won was shocking.

If you ever get a chance to see sumo in person, do it! We loved it!

Want more? Check out my vlog from the day!

Dog Vlog: Thousand Acres Woof Pack Play Date

I brought Lexi and Gambit to meet up with the Woof Pack for a doggie play date.

Thousand Acres/Sandy River Delta is a gigantic off-leash dog park that’s basically a dog’s paradise. There are tons of trails along open fields, on the waterfront, and through the trees. Lexi and Gambit love going here!

A Guide to PCS-ing with Dogs to Japan: First Steps

PCSing to Japan with Dogs

A little back story: Cass is doing a short tour in South Korea and I chose to move home to Portland while he’s gone. Instead of driving up to the JBLM vet, I decided to do it all with a civilian vet. Then we found out we were able to get on the rotator with the dogs and the unanimous opinion in the Facebook groups I’m in was that it’s worth the hassle to go to a military vet to do the international health certificate. The main reason is that most civilian vets aren’t familiar with the paperwork and there are more steps involved. My vet is AWESOME and did everything she could to help with the process, but she hadn’t done it before and it was a blind leading the blind situation.

I gathered together all the information I found from the USDA APHIS site, the Japan AQS site, and from Facebook groups’ advice. If anything is incorrect, please let me know so I can fix it.

Step 1: Get your dog an international microchip.

My dogs were both chipped with AKC Reunite Chips and according to their website, they are both within the specifications listed on the USDA APHIS site.

Step 2: Two Rabies Vaccinations

If your dog has had the proper chip and has had two rabies shots, you’re good to go.

If you needed to chip your dog, you can get the first shot on the day of the chip and the second shot 32 days after (it needs to be done more than 31 days after the first).

The important thing is that the shots were done AFTER the chip is in place.

***ETA: Make sure there are no gaps between rabies vaccines. I was a few weeks late between Lexi’s two shots and one of the employees at the JBLM vet office noticed when I registered the dogs before making the appointment for the International Health Certificate.

I had recently gotten her a third rabies shot so we were able to redo the FAVN right away and I paid to rush it to get the report before our flight. The vet put all three rabies vaccine dates and both FAVN dates on her health certificate, but the Japanese authorities accepted the second date. Her quarantine start date was set to the second FAVN blood draw date and she had to be quarantined on base for almost five months after we arrived. Luckily we were given on base housing so she got to stay with us.***

Step 3: FAVN Test

Your dog’s blood will need to be tested for the rabies antibody.

My USDA accredited vet did the blood draw and provided the paperwork for my dogs. They also packed everything up for me so all I had to do was fill out my payment information and personal information before taping it up and overnighting it to the approved testing facility.

If your vet doesn’t have the paperwork or information on where to send the blood, I found everything on the Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory site (which is the approved testing facility). There are more links and information on the left under “FAVN test”.

Your 180 day waiting period/quarantine starts from the date of the blood draw on the FAVN report. This report is good for up to 2 years so it’s best to do this as early as possible.

If your 180 days aren’t up by the time you arrive in Japan, they have to be quarantined on base for rest of the time. If you get TLF and housing on base, they can stay with you. If the pet friendly rooms are full at lodging and you have to stay off base, your dogs will have to be fostered by someone on base (who doesn’t have pets of their own) or boarded at Karing Kennels.

I emailed Karing Kennels to find out what to do if we can’t get a pet-friendly room on base when we get there. They said I can make a reservation ahead of time. They’ll need your on-island sponsor’s name/contact information, your name/contact information. If you’re not able to check your dog in, they have paperwork that they’ll have to send to you and you’ll have to send back. They also let me know that they may only be able to book 2 weeks at a time. You can book online here.I found out from a Facebook group post that they have separate PCS slots from regular boarding slots.

Step 4: Advance Notification

If you’re flying on an AMC flight, you don’t need to do this step.
***ETA: I had a link to a Facebook post that the SeaTac AMC Passenger Terminal had put up that referenced this, but it’s so old it expired. But essentially it said since you’re not entering through a Japanese port of entry, this step doesn’t apply.***

If you’re flying commercially, make sure to do the advance notification more than 40 days ahead of your arrival. There’s a link to notify electronically on the AQS site.

Step 5: International Health Certificate

If you can’t get to a military vet, you’ll have to find a USDA accredited veterinarian. I emailed my state’s NVAP coordinator and they got back to me very quickly with a short list of accredited veterinarians near my zip code.

Japan’s paperwork is a little confusing, but they encourage you to fill it out and send it to them ahead of time to get checked. The USDA APHIS site lists several different form options. Japan’s AQS site suggests Form AC which covers both the health certificate and the exporter’s declaration.

Our plan is to stop off at the veterinarian on JBLM on our way up to SeaTac from Oregon. We need to register Lexi & Gambit with them before setting an appointment and they asked for all of their records, including the FAVN report and rabies certificates.

I hope this helps. If you have questions, let me know and I’ll try to help you out. It’s all very overwhelming, I know. If you see anything incorrect with my guide, please let me know so I can fix it.

Here’s a list of important links (all linked throughout the post). I highly recommend you read over both official government sites carefully (the first two links). They have all the info you need, including links and forms. I personally found the Japanese site to be more helpful.

Japan’s AQS site
SeaTac AMC Passenger Terminal Facebook Page
Okinawa Veterinary Activity (The Veterinary Office on Kadena)
Karing Kennels

Here are the two groups I got most of my advice from. The people in both groups were incredibly helpful.
Okinawa Pet Information & Supply Sales
Kadena Wives Group

I also wrote our experience flying on the rotator (AMC flight) with the dogs:

flying on the rotator

2018 Reads 11-16

Back in April, Cass and I were wandering around Powell’s and I found a few graphic novels and manga that I was curious about. I’m not buying any new books this year so I checked to see if Multnomah County Library had them…and THEY DID!! I put them all on hold and they all arrived at my local library really quickly.

Ōoku: The Inner Chambers, Volume 1 was the first to come in at the library. I love that it’s about a harem of beautiful men and that women have taken over the titles and jobs that are traditionally exclusively for men.

However, I got bored/lost in some of the back stories. I got mixed up between characters and time jumps, but by the end I (think) I got them all sorted out. Eventually I want to come back to this series when I can approach it with more focus because I think it’s a really fascinating story.

A noir graphic novel set in Oregon featuring a flawed female detective? YES, PLEASE! I had a lot of fun reading this first volume. It was a stand alone story so I was relieved that there wasn’t a cliffhanger at the end of the volume because it seemed like it was heading that way.

I think the hardest part was trying not to compare Dex to Jessica Jones. There are a lot of similarities between the two and it’s really unfair to compare a graphic novel character to a show character.

I wasn’t the biggest fan of the style of artwork, but the writing was strong so it pulled me through. I’ll definitely check out Volume 2 in the near future. I doubt the library at Kadena will have this series so I better read it before I leave Portland.

Finally, I read the whole Erased series.

Basically this is about a 29-year-old man named Satoru who travels back and forth in time. In the past, he is 11 and is trying to prevent the disappearance and death of his classmate. In the present, he’s being framed for murder by the murderer from his past.

I enjoyed the first 3 volumes, especially his efforts in the past to prevent his classmate from dying, but the 4th volume lost me with all the recapping. If I hadn’t just read the first three volumes, it wouldn’t have irritated me so much. There was a lot of recapping and “reviewing what we know” in general throughout the series as he goes back and forth. Sometimes it was helpful to kind of wrap my mind around everything that happened. Sometimes it was annoying and I just wanted to get along with the story already.

I think the translation was just okay. Some of the word choices or syntax are odd, but not technically incorrect.

Overall, I’d say I enjoyed the series a lot. I might do a spoiler post in the future with more specificity on my thoughts.

Netflix did an adaption, but I’ve only watched the first episode. I hadn’t finished the series and I was worried it might span the whole manga series and I didn’t want to get spoiled. When I have time/focus, I’ll sit down and finish the Netflix series because I really liked what I saw so far.

DIY Snuffle Bins for Dogs

DIY Snuffle Bin

Snuffle mats are awesome, but my dogs have gotten pretty good at sniffing out their food quickly. I wanted to give them more of a challenge. I searched Pinterest and found this pin.

You can find bins pretty much anywhere, but I got mine at Dollar Tree. I got 2 yards of fleece from Fabric Depot. I could have made all 3 bins with 1 yard of fabric; but with all the experimentation with strip lengths, I’m glad I went with 2.

DIY Slow Feeders

I used a loop knot instead of a square knot because I like the way it looks. I tried varying the strip lengths: long, short, long, etc. I tried extra long strips. I tried one row and alternating rows. I had Lexi test out all the different variations and we figured out what worked best.

I cut the strips so they reached 3/4ths across the width of the bin and created 2 layers. One layer worked fine, but I like that I can hide food at the bottom of the bin and between the 2 layers. Anything to slow the dogs down and make them work for their meals or treats.

DIY Snuffles for Dogs

For Joie’s bin, I flipped the bin upside down, swirled a hole in the center, poured her food in the bottom, then combed the strips with my fingers over to tangle them up some. But then I realized all she had to do was snuffle to the bottom and find the pockets of food.

With Lexi & Gambit’s bins, I poured their food over the top and mushed it around with my hands a little to mix the food into the strips. It worked much better to have some food on top, some between the layers, and some at the bottom.

DIY Brain Teasers for Dogs

2018 Reads 6-10

I’ve heard so many good things about Brandon Sanderson and I’ve been wanting to read one of his books for awhile. I started out with a standalone (SO rare for the fantasy genre).

I think this was the perfect introduction. This story is set in a world where the magic system is powered by color. How cool is that? There’s much more to it, but I think it’s best explained in the book. The pace is a little slow at times, but I never felt so bored that I wanted to quit.

I’m not sure which of his series I want to try out. If anyone has a suggestion, throw it my way. If you’re a fantasy fan or if you want to try it out, I highly suggest Warbreaker. It’s not too complicated that you’ll be confused and it’s a fun storyline.

I love reading books set in Portland. When I heard of this one, I immediately put it on hold at the library.

This is about a teenage girl named Jade from the poor neighborhood of North Portland who attends a prestigious private school in downtown Portland on a scholarship. The book tackles racial and class issues. It’s not a particularly deep or hard-hitting book. But it brings to light some issues that maybe you didn’t consider. Even though I related a lot to Jade as an Asian and as someone who relied on some low-income programs to get a leg up, some of her story still gave me some new things to think about.

I’m not going to give away too much so if you’re curious about specifics about my story and what I learned, feel free to message me.

I hate reading hyped series as the books are released because I have no chill and no patience. I almost always wait and read the whole thing at once. I don’t know why I tortured myself by snatching up the first of The Belles series.

But I couldn’t help myself when I heard about The Belles. The idea of an ugly grayscale population and Belles with the power to bring color and beauty to the people was too intriguing to pass up. It was an interesting read, but predictable at times. I’m curious to see where the story goes so I’ll read the next installation when it comes out.

Four young siblings hear about a woman who could predict a person’s death date. They go to see her and one by one speak to her alone.

The book debates the idea of fate. Does knowing their predicted death date cause the siblings to make certain choices in their lives that lead them to that date. Or will that death date come true regardless of how they live?

I had a hard time putting this book down. I found the Gold siblings so fascinating and so tragic. I highly recommend it to fans of thought-provoking books or literary fiction.

Wow this book made me sad and frustrated. It’s a story about Alice (a manic pixie dream girl type) and an incident with Brandon (the best quarterback their small town has ever seen) told from the perspective of four of their peers.

I was surprised how much the reader learns about Alice and Brandon without ever hearing from them. It was a really cool way to tell a story. However, it did leave some holes in Alice’s story since we don’t see her view. The story is told through rumors and gossip. By the end, most of the truth comes out through bits and pieces.

To me, the last few chapters fell flat. After so much build up, I was expecting more than that. I also wish there was more character development of the four narrators. They came off one-dimensional. I wanted them to show a little more of themselves and show a little more complexity.

But despite my complaints, I devoured the book and I liked it. A solid 3/5 stars.

2018 Reads 1-5

Technically this was a carry-over from 2017, but since I finished it in 2018 Goodreads counts it as my first 2018 read.

This was FASCINATING! I’ve always been interested in Psychology and Sociology, but not so much so that I wanted to major in it or formally study it. This book was perfect for me. It weaves the real-life stories of celebrities with science: studies, past forms of treatment, current forms of treatment, etc.

One of my favorite chapters was on George Gershwin. I listened to the songs referenced as I read and I highly recommend you do the same if you read this book. It’s too bad he died so young, he really was a genius. PS – Frank Lloyd Wright sounds like a real dick.

I had such high hopes for this book. The chapter titles intrigued me and made me excited to read the chapters. Examples: If you have just sent your ex a very intense emotional e-mail, Read about Caroline Lamb and Lord Byron. If you were dumped, Read about Edith Wharton and Morton Fullerton. If you deserve an apology, Read about Norman Mailer and Adele Morales Mailer.

However, I hated the author’s style of writing. Some of the stories, especially the oldest ones, have very little documentation that carried over so she sprinkled in a lot of her own commentary. She was going for a tone of snarky fun comments, but I found her interjections distracting and obvious filler.

I did enjoy the stories about the couples by themselves. It’s insane how awful some of these people were to their significant others/flings. My go-to consolation to any of my friends were “Boys are assholes.” or “Girls are bitches.” and these stories show I’m not always wrong.

I needed something fun and fluffy after those last two and this was exactly what I needed. This book is truly for a sci-fi/gaming geek though because there are a lot of references that not everyone will get.

Basically, if you’ve ever considered going to Comic-Con or any type of Con and you like romcoms, you’ll get a kick out of this book. It’s also a Cinderella retelling, which I had no idea. I almost wish Starfield were real. I’m sure I wouldn’t love it as much as Doctor Who, but I’d totally binge it if I could.

I have never read a Stephen King before and this came recommended by a BookTuber (I’m kicking myself for not writing down her name) as one of his lesser-known books that she liked. This one was written under his pseudonym, Richard Bachman.

I can’t explain what was so compelling about the book. It’s this competition where these boys walk until they last one is left standing. The writing is SO good and I was tired every time I set the book down (which only happened a couple times because I couldn’t stop reading). They never stop walking and I could feel their pain and exhaustion.

It messes with your head a bit and I’m still torn up when I think about that ending. If you read it, let me know because I need to get your thoughts on it.

Also, if you have any Stephen King’s that you recommend, hand them over because I want to read more of him.

This was on one of those “2017 must read” lists that float around on Pinterest.

It was weird. Really really weird.

But really well-written.

That’s all I have to say about it. You just have to experience it for yourself if it’s something that sounds intriguing.