Tuesday, October 18, 2016

There Are Few Cool Reasons to Turn 23: A Birthday Haul

This past weekend, I celebrated my 23rd Birthday. 

The entire experience was a bit of a lesson in irony... Whereas usually, when you say, "I'm turning so-and-so years old," there is an abundance of people responding positively to that information, on my birthday, when I informed people that it was 23 I was turning, those I encountered openly responded with, "Ohmygod, it totally sucks, right?" So, I guess I've hit that point: the pinnacle of birthday excitement has passed... I am officially over the hill.

Despite my old age, my Mom really wanted to make sure I celebrated my birthday with good cheer, especially because she knew how much I was missing spending it with my sorority sisters. So, she made sure I had plenty of time in Seattle to have dinner with some of my best friends, as well as my sister, Delaney, and my birthday itself was spent hitting up a local theater's costume cleanout sale, my favorite specialty grocery store, and my local library.

And, of course, there were presents, presents galore! Naturally, there was an abundance of printed material, and so, I figured I would share my bounty with you, in a sort of mini-haul:

First off, I got two magazines, which are among some of my favorites: Frankie, an Aussie import that encompasses art, photography, fashion, food, travel, vintage, and more - and best of all, totally fits my personal aesthetic - and Jamie, the gorgeously photographed and deliciously inviting publication of super-Brit Jamie Oliver, aka, my eternal middle school #ManCrushMonday.

I also received four books: two memoirs, one work of historical nonfiction, and one poetry collection.

  • The first, I bought for myself: Bloom, by Estee Lalonde, is a recently published memoir from one of my favorite lifestyle YouTubers. 
  • The Ghost Map, by Steven Johnson, is a historical account of one of the deadliest diseases to have ever hit London, the cholera epidemic! 
  • Sylvia Plath's iconic poetry collection, Ariel. What  excites me about this particular edition is that it has been arranged into a facsimile of what her original manuscript would have looked like. 
  • and, courtesy of my Dad's knowledge of my favorite subjects, The Ride Delegate: Memoir of a Walt Disney World VIP Tour Guide, by Annie Salisbury. It's small-press-published, and that sort of self-made quality is what excites me the most... it means it's probably going to be really juicy! 

Of course, I got plenty of non-book presents, too, however, there were a few more that were kind-of book-related, so I figured those deserved a mention, too!

I've been on a total handbrush-lettering kick recently, and my parents are feeding the obsession with two packs of Dual Brush Pens from Tombow, as well as a Calligraphy Starter Kit from one of my favorite pen companies, Staedtler. They also got me a sort of instruction manual on the matter, which I'm definitely looking forward to marking up in the near future!

And remember that awesome Austen movie Callie and I saw over the summer? It's on DVD! Love and Friendship was a super welcome gift, though it had originally made my younger brother a little nervous: apparently, listing the words "Love and Friendship" on your bday list - even if it's underlined, like a title is supposed to be - can raise some concern for your personal well-being.

I also got a gorgeous Julep nail polish inspired by my Zodiac sign - Libra, duh! - and to wrap it all up, I got the background piece for both of these displays: the "Banned Books" scarf from Out of Print Clothing! My family got a kick out of reading between the blacked-out lines, to find some of their favorite titles among the print.

Overall, my birthday was super-fun, despite the age that I was turning itself being distinctly less-than. I am so blessed and grateful to be surrounded by the amazing friends and family that I have, who can fill up a weekend with my absolutely favorite things.

And thank you to you all, too, for sticking by me for yet another trip around the sun! Hopefully, 23 won't be as bad as everyone's chalking it up to be.

What's your favorite way to celebrate a birthday? What's the best book you've ever been given as a present? Let me know, in the comments below! 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Book Reccs

"Top Ten Tuesday" is a bookish meme hosted every week by The Broke and the Bookish!
This week's theme on Top Ten Tuesday - Top 10 Books You've Been Recommended by a Friend - is one that took me about five minutes to compile a list for, because really, if I'm getting reccs from anywhere, they're coming from one of three places: my great friend, Callie (whom I've talked about before), the wide and abundant sources of the Internet (Goodreads in particular), and my Dad (the one person who Google +s every single post on this blog). 

The funny thing is, though, they each carry their own kind of hallmark for what books they're telling me to read, because each lender has their own signature set of genres and categories that we have in common! So, for convenience's sake, I've lumped the two together. 

And, of course, they're all titles I'd recommend to you, too! 

but I know, it's all callie's fault // Callie and YA

Image result for red queenImage result for a court of mist and fury goodreadsImage result for the darkest part of the forest

Callie is absolutely no stranger to this blog, being that I've written about her quite a few times, whether it was about our summer movie viewing, or her incredibly gracious lending habits. Our fave titles to trade include high fantasy and YA, especially when combined. She's a laugh and a half, and always down for coffee dates, which makes her one of my favorite bookish people!

Red Queen, Victoria Aveyard
A Court of Mist and Fury, Sarah J. Maas
The Darkest Part of the Forest, Holly Black

the internet is for books // Goodreads and Comic Books

Image result for nimonaImage result for rat queens vol 1Image result for fables vol 1Image result for hark a vagrant

I have plenty of great sources for awesome Comic Book reads - including my great friend Bernie, who is currently having an awesome time in France, as well as our local comics hot spot, Destiny City Comics in Tacoma - but an especially surprising place for high quality recommendations comes straight from everyone's Internet bookshelf, Goodreads! While Bernie and I like to swap around physical copies, usually my first encounter with great comics, comes from a more digital source. 

Nimona, Noelle Stevenson
Rat Queens, Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch
Fables, Bill Willingham and Lan Medina
Hark! A Vagrant, Kate Beaton

i got it from my daddy // Dad and SciFi/Horror

Image result for dune frank herbertImage result for the martian book coverImage result for stephen king book cover skeleton key

With almost 40 community theater shows under his belt even since he's left college, you can tell that my Dad has a flair for the dramatic, and the stuff he reads is really no different: if there isn't an earth-pummelling, heart-stopping, spine-tingling plot at its heart, he wouldn't read it. So, despite the fact that both the books I gave him for his birthday in January and Father's day this past summer have both continued to gather dust on his shelves, I know he appreciates the crazy, killer reads I lend him, because of how willing he is to pay back the compliment. Some of the best (and only) science fiction and horror books I've read, have been because of him! 

Dune, Frank Herbert
The Martian, Andy Weir
Any and all Stephen King

What's in your Top Ten? Let me know, in the comments below!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Review: Sleeping Giants

Image result for sleeping giants
I originally got the ARC of this book secondhand this past Spring, after a promotional event at a local Seattle book retailer, but I'd been saving it for a good summer night... mainly because I honestly feel that's the optimal time for science fiction reading! Unfortunately, in the end, it took me a lot longer than a couple blissful, balmy evenings to finish. 

I don't usually do in-depth reviews for 3-star reads, but this one had enough interesting plot and structural elements, that I felt like I just wanted to talk about it. So, strap in! 

Dr. Rose Franklin never expected herself to be working on a top-secret government operation, piecing together fragments of lost alien technology, found across the globe... then again, she never thought she'd have originally unearthed it so many years ago in the first place! Alongside a team of military professionals, a geneticist, a linguist, and more - including a mysterious and seemingly all-knowing project supervisor - Rose is tasked with reuniting the broken pieces of what just might be Earth's deadliest weapon. Told through the perspective of classified government files, including interviews and personal journal entries, the characters in Sylvain Neuvel's Sleeping Giants awakens not just a long-dormant extraterrestrial power, but the ambitions of those foolish enough to try and command it for themselves. 

The book is billed for fans of Andy Weir's The Martian, due to its document-oriented format, lending itself to categorization as intense science fiction realism. However, Sleeping Giants loses a key facet of that book that did so much to humanize its intangible characters: humor.

When you parse out a narrative's components through the fractional viewpoint of a series of external focuses - whether its a journal entry, a back-and-forth interview, etc. - you lose the personal connection of firsthand "experience," whether that's from the external observations of an omniscient narrator, or the deeper internal exposition of a firsthand one. That distance needs to be remedied by a harder-working stylistic or tonal element to bridge the gap, that provides a point of connection, which, for The Martian, was humor. Without that element of outreach, Sleeping Giants, and its occupants, seemed removed and distant, which did not do much to make me connect to the characters or story line.

Perhaps the situation could have been remedied - or at least alleviated - if I was more invested in the characters themselves; unfortunately, the people involved with this alien project were all pretty darn unlikable (or, at least, uninteresting). Had I been more compelled by their stories or viewpoints, I might have been more invested, but instead, it just looks like yet another layer of missed connection with the audience.

(Okay, t-b-perfectly-h, I was kind of interested in one character in the story: the know-it-all interviewer and political master manipulator of the novel, our project's mysterious supervisor, who managed to play every character in this book like a chess Grandmaster. In my head, I cast him as a cross between Agent Coulson from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and the Cigarette Smoking Man from The X Files, which is probably why I liked him.)

In terms of the production element of the format in itself, I felt like there was a lot of clunky exposition overlaid in those interviews. I saw words around various other reviews like "infodump" and "overwhelming," and I agree. Being that you're denied the opportunity as a firsthand observer to witness what something looks like through primary description, I'll give a pass for the extensive detailing of various aesthetic values...but what I won't excuse is the clumsy mishandling of providing backstory or demonstrating personal development. You think I'm going to believe an actual person was willing to say some of that stuff in front of not just a project superior, but also a functioning tape recorder?

Any additional suspense that was supposed to be added by the mysterious epilogue, I'm counting as not-very-effective as well, by sheer presence of one of my least favorite cliches in any story: if the only way you feel like you can cap off an ending is by saying, "We have much we need to discuss," then you didn't do a good enough job generating a conversation I even want to be a part of.

I also think the book summary overall is a little misleading, because I never for a second thought that this story revolved around the project's original scientist, Dr. Rose Franklin. If you wanted to make such a big deal about her having found the original alien component, and then revisiting it as an adult, then you should have made it a big deal... if anything, the book managed to effectively pass it off as mostly coincidence, and then shunted her aside into a stock character role. I understand there might be additional interest generated in the book's sequels towards her, specifically, but I feel like there wasn't enough done to capture focus in the first place.

In total, it took me a couple of weeks to get into this book. So, it was one of my last books of the summer, and, the fifth that I finished this Fall.

Final Verdict: A new and interesting narrative, told through a format which - while wholly appropriate and true to the nature of the story - did little to actively engage the reader. Unreachable characters and intangible plot points did little to bring me in further, and in the end, it just seems like a bit of a wasted opportunity. I'll give it a 3-star for its innovation, in terms of use of format, and in terms of performing technological marvels within the scope of science fiction realism. I'd probably read another book written by this author, but not if it's a sequel.

Have you read Sleeping Giants? What did you think of it? Do you think I'm being too harsh on the narrative style? Let me know, in the comments below!

Friday, September 30, 2016

The Thing About Banned Books

So, as you've probably seen at some point in the past couple of days, we're currently in the middle of Banned Books Week! AKA, one of my favorite unofficial reading holidays of all time. 

I wasn't sure about what I wanted to write to celebrate this annual event - Top 10 faves? List of books that I can't believe have been banned? A reprint of my 10th-grade research paper on the practice of banning books? - until I actually sat down to write it. What I actually ended up with, was a self-directed conversation about why Banned Books are so important to me. I hope you enjoy!

... is that any attempts at banning them, are only going to make them more popular. (To be fair, not all of them need the publicity boost, but then again, almost none of them need to be getting banned in the first place.) The thing about banned books, is that if you've ever wanted to insure a kid gets their hands on something, it's by telling them they can't touch it. The thing about banned books, is that they're as integral to the ways developing minds source new material, as the school must-read book list does. 

And the thing about banning books?

It's a garbage thing to do. It restricts access to diverse and complex ways of thinking, and it promotes fear and ignorance as effective tools for teaching and leading. It homogenizes one of the primary resources young people have, for being introduced to and understanding new ways of thinking, while barricading the clientele libraries, schools, etc. are supposed to be serving, from reaching a viewpoint other than what you deem socially acceptable. 

You need no reminder that I love books. Books are the best; books have saved my sanity and soul on more than one occasion. Beyond all measures of genre and category, I like to read books that reflect the world I live in: a unique, diverse, complex, and varied place. 

Sometimes, things in books are tough things to read about, because sometimes the world is a tough place. Sometimes, I like to read to get away from those tough things, and seeing them in books I'm reading can be a rough reminder of the world outside my front door. If those "tough things" you don't like reading about include topics of sexuality, homosexuality, religion, gender, etc., then I hate to break it to you, it's you who's got a problem, not the books. Still, I'll defend your right to not have to read about them... to an extent. Because the second you start infringing on someone else's right to access that same information, then I've got a problem with you. 

Like I said, books are modeled off and reflective of our realities... most of the time. But books also mold and form the realities of the people who read them, especially young people. Kids and teens are the most impacted by the books they read, as it's not only integral to their educational process, but it's one of their first chances at learning how to define themselves; we're just supplying them with the appropriate set of dictionaries to do it. When you take away representation in books, you rob them of a set of definitions. You restrict them to the labels and ideas you deem "worthy" or "right." 

One of the reasons I really want to work in the publishing field of YA, isn't just because I love reading YA books (mainly because, as any reader of this blog could tell you, I read a lot more than that, too). It's because the books that people read in that age group play the most significant part of shaping who they are. 

Here's the two-step process of how I define a book as YA: 1. It stars characters who fall within a certain set of ages, and 2. It is most popularly read by a group of people who fall within those same age limits. Guided by these criteria, you are confronted with a bookshelf packed with some of the most influential books within the scope of literature: Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, J. D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye, Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time, and many more, are all technically YA books. You know what else those books all have in common?

They all make the Banned Books list. 

And so do the Harry Potter books. Cultural juggernaut they may be now, but even when I was in high school, I still knew friends in my classes who were restricted from reading them by their parents, on the basis of religious difference, or aversion to violent or provoking content. The Goosebumps series shaped a love in me for the spookier side of literature - as well as appreciation for a good plot twist - but has been banned for its "inappropriate" subject matter, while Where the Wild Things Are has for the same crime, too. 

I understand why it may be important to parents and educators, to want to minimize the risk of their wards coming into contact with ideas they're not prepared to discuss; however, those conversations rely on the involvement of the parents and the wisdom of the educators, not the content "allowed" by the administrations of the schools or libraries. I'm the eldest of four kids in my family, and I know a little bit about censorship for the sake of age: there are just some movie scenes or kinds of music I didn't want playing when my younger siblings were in the room, back when they still had so much growing up to do.

However, I also remember reading Mark Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer for the first time at a young age, and being confronted by plenty of well-meaning adults, who asked,  "How did you get your hands on that?!" The book changed my life. How different would I be if I had never read it? 

If you're the kind of parent who believes some books should be made less available than others - or even not available at all - then I have to tell you, you're fighting a losing battle. Books just don't get banned as much anymore, because we can all recognize, like I've said, that it's a garbage idea.

However, if you're still worried that your kids might encounter something at their local library you're not prepared to explain, then I do have some good advice for you: Explain it anyways. Have conversations. Lead where you can. But at the end of the day, trust your kids to make a good decision with the information you've given them, and don't infringe upon the rights of kids who are not your own by attempting to protect them beyond your bounds of authority. Sure, mistakes happen, and sometimes the process of learning can get uncomfortable, but these kids are smart, resourceful, and so much more - and so are their librarians! They can handle what a book can throw at them. 

Besides, even if you try and take it away, they're going to find plenty of other ways to get it. 

some of my favorite banned books you should read this weekend

  • Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain
  • The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • anything by John Green or Sherman Alexie (Yep, sad to say, most of them have been banned at one point or another!) 

How have you celebrated Banned Books Week? What's your favorite banned book, and why was it banned? Let me know, in the comments below!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Bullet Journals, Blue Sky, and Brand New Stickers : Planner-ed Out Perfect, Part Five!

Long time, no see! The wifi at my house is no longer with us, so I'm currently camped out at my local fave Starbucks, desperately trying to get this post sent off before the battery pack on my laptop dies. Still, even the stressful deadline or the rush of caffeine still can't compete with how excited I am to talk about my fave new and notable planner things! 

From the rise of bullet journals, to new planner lines at everyone's top shopping mecca, to the best new stickers I love to decorate my planner with, we've got lots to discuss: 

For starters, I started looking at cool planner options for this coming year back in August, and let me tell you, there are some new agendas that were almost enough to tempt me away from my beloved Day Designer! We already knew that they had teamed up with Whitney English and the DD Team this past year, but it seems that Target is back with even more affordable versions of some of the best. Touting new lines from planner-world faves through collaborations with Blue Sky Planners, Target is bringing in the cute once again this year, alongside Emily Ley, Super Paper Co., and more. There are plenty of planner notables you can't find online tucked away in the regular planner section at their stores, so you're going to have to go in, in person, to peruse some of the best!

And those aren't the only planners that have been grabbing my attention. After being introduced by some of the amazing women I follow on YouTube, The Get to Work Book and The Happiness Planner are also looking like cool and creative new ways to get your plan on in 2017:

Image of 2017 GET TO WORK BOOK

The Get to Work Book appeals to me for its minimalist design and can-do attitude, and coming in at about $55 a purchase, it's striking a similar cost to many of the other big-name planners we're seeing these days. It's got lots of room for customization and follows a similar format to most other planners, but still isn't provided in a daily format, so unfortunately, it can't tempt me. But it may be perfect for you!

Meanwhile, the Happiness Planner seriously stuck out to me for its beautiful colors and trendy design, and besides, who can resist something that pledges to help make your life more happy? Touting inspirational messages wrapped in a beautiful package, I've got to think that this new paragon of positivity has got a lot to offer, even beyond its yearly and monthly goal-setting pages and adorable color combos. Coming in at $59 for its Jan-Dec edition and with only a limited quantity available, I think that there's going to be quite a few of these coming up on Instagram this year... and I'll be following the hashtag to see how people make use of them!

I'd also be completely remiss in not mentioning the meteoric rise of the Bullet Journal in this past year... to be honest, the phrase has become one of my most-search Pinterest queries, even with my own planner sitting alongside me. While there are plenty of merits to debate over the adaptability and personality of the BuJo movement, I'd already found my planner soul mate!

Still, some of the best parts of BuJos aren't just the weekly layouts, but the artistry and creativity behind it. Some of my favorite users on Pinterest and Instagram don't just use theirs as an organization tool for a weekly basis, but the means by which they focus and direct their months and years, using elements like "habit trackers" or list pages to orient their mindset for the weeks ahead. Unconsciously, I began implementing more artistic elements - like collages and calligraphy - as well as unconventional organization - like trackers and mind-maps - into my own paper life... but in my journal, not my planner!

 The way I tracked my summer reading - like you've seen in my "Summer Wrap-Up" post - and a collage I used as a page separater, both from my Journal!

It's much more colorful now that we're most of the ways through September, but this Self-tember habit tracker has been one of my favorite BuJo-inspired pages in my journal yet!

I've been journaling since I was in the second grade, with only about a year ever spent without a paper collection of my thoughts and feelings by my side. When it came time to pick out my journal for the summer, I took a risk, and decided to forgo my usual staid-and-sturdy composition notebook, in favor of an unlined and metal-spined sketchbook. Not only did this free up a lot more room for marathon journal sessions, but it gave me space to utilize those more creative parts of my brain, with lots of decorations and bright colors, as well as plan out things that just don't fit in my regular planner.

Alongside all of that progress, I've recently taken up hand brush lettering as well, which makes for plenty of beautiful page title additions, too!

And it works for more than just my journal... I brush-lettered the names on envelopes for some of my Sigma Kappa sisters, before they embarked on their Work Week/ Recruitment journeys this year! What can I say, I'm an alumnae who just can't let go...

However, despite how enamored I am with my journal, my heart still belongs to my Day Designer, which becomes more and more thick and beautiful every day, with the addition of even more stickers, washi tape, etc., than ever before! I had a mini-sticker-buying-session right before we left for vacation in August, and was able to come home to plenty new pieces of decor that I'm slowly rationing out to myself over the course of Fall (so that I don't just lose it and go completely sticker-crazy on one day).

And, of course, Target comes in clutch once again, with the inexpensive and adorable contents of their dollar section. It requires a little digging, but you can often find plenty of cute stationery buried in there, like giant paper clips or mini to-do lists, as well as a rainbow of post-it note options that I've been having tons of fun sticking in with double-sided tape.

 two quick peeks at some planner pages this past summer... as you can see, I'm still totally in love with my decos!

So, that's what's going on in my paperly life right now. It was a long post, but I still managed to make it all before my battery drained! YES!

As you all know, I'm always happy to share my planner passion. You can find all of the posts in my "Planner-ed Out Perfect" series collected under a new tab on my top menu, under the tab "Just Planner Things"

Have any new planners managed to catch your eye for the coming year? Do you keep a Bullet Journal? Do you love Target as much as I do? Let me know, in the comments below!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Top Ten Favorite Books By Comedians (and Comedy Writers)

"Top Ten Tuesday" is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish!

When I saw today's Top Ten Tuesday topic - "Top Ten All-Time Favorite Books of X Genre" - I was thrown for a bit of a loop. My first inclinations sent me towards the kinds of genres I've been reading all summer, like "high fantasy" or "comic books," but both of those categories are way too broad in scope to summarize in just one list!

It was only after I saw a recommendation to think about sub-genres that I knew what I wanted to do... because if there's anything I love, it's funny people! Even, perhaps, when they're not being quite so funny. Here are my Top Ten Favorite Books By Comedians (and Comedy Writers!).

Amy Poehler - Yes Please
We already know to expect everything from zany antics to straight-shot zingers from this effervescent blond SNL alum, but this semi-memoir, semi-collection of essays from Tina Fey's comedy wife still managed to catch me off guard.

Steve Martin - Born Standing Up and An Object of Beauty
To be honest, one of my favorite things about comedians, is they know that there's more to life than laughing. The memoir Born Standing Up provides a little levity from Martin's past - like his time spent working in Disneyland to doing gigs on the road - but also includes the shadows that make the brightness of his humor so vibrant. On the other hand, the fictional novel An Object of Beauty illustrates a young New York unrequited romance, oriented around one of his non-comedy passions, curating and collecting fine art!

Mindy Kaling - Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me and Why Not Me? 
While the titles of her books might make it sound like Kaling gets a little left out, that couldn't be less true: this television darling fills her memoirs with accounts of a life lived surrounded by plenty of friends, many of whom she has found along her comedy journey! Including this next author...

BJ Novak - One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories
This Office alum and television writer wunderkind saves some of his best work for this hilarious short story collection. All of them will make you laugh... but some will also make you think, and that's what really matters.

Bo Burnham - Egghead
Straight from one of my sister's first serious celebrity crushes, this collection of poetry matches Shel Silverstein rhyme schemes with the same kind of humor that made What. and Make Happy such smash hits on the standup scene.

Sloane Crosley - I Was Told There'd Be Cake
This journalist junkie may never have explicitly set out to become a comedy writer, but with this collection of essays, she was catapulted into the comedy market, especially because her second collection - How Did You Get This Number - is rumored to be just as funny as her first. And if you've already read both of those, then don't worry! She's done pieces in The New York Times, The Village Voice, GQ, Elle, NPR... 

Kelly Oxford - Everything's Perfect When You're a Liar
This serial blogger and truly prolific tweeter originally found fame in the big blue Twittersphere, but her humor is even more funny when stretched beyond 140 characters, something easily apparent in this 2013 bestseller.

SNL Cast, Crew, and More - Live from New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live
James A. Miller and Tom Shales edited together this compilation of stories from behind the scenes of one of television's most enduring and loved comedy juggernauts. Including everything from drug use, to terrible hosts, and cross-cast personal vendettas, across the show's extensive history, this kind of work really needs no introduction.

What's in YOUR Top Ten? Let me know, in the comments below!

Monday, September 12, 2016

What I Read This Summer : A Complete Wrap-Up

I saw this kind of a post on a fashion and lifestyle blog I follow, and it made me want to take a deeper look back at some of the reads that really made my summer! With 24 titles under my belt, and one more on the way, I knew I was in for a bit of a ride. Here's what I read! 

Summer is always going to be a prime reading time for me... Really, is there anything better than sitting out in the sun, a drink in one hand and a book in the other, with nothing but time and sunshine on your side?

Ever since I was a kid, I used my summer vacation to get serious amounts of reading done - usually with the added incentive of scoring a cool prize from our local library - and this year was no different. I tackled a ton of reads, both new and old... so many, in fact, that it's hard to get a grasp on the kinds of books I read without seeing them all together in one place! So, here's a mini-catalogue of  every book I managed to read between the end of Spring Quarter, and the end of Labor Day! 

(Chronologically, of course.)

Return to the Isle of the Lost (Descendants #2), Melissa De La Cruz
Last summer's obsession for my family was the Disney Channel Original Movie Descendants, which, of course, meant reading its companion novels from Disney Hyperion. The saga continues in this sequel installment, and filming has already began for the movie's sequel, as well!

I Hate Fairyland, Vol. 1: Madly Ever After, Skottie Young
Books about young girls, transported to magical lands, and tasked with completing a personal quest, have long held a place in fantasy canon. But what happens if those little girls never really make it out? This madcap and surprisingly gorey comic answers.

A Court of Mist and Fury (A Court of Thorns and Roses #2), Sarah J Maas
A massive upgrade from the series' less-than-thrilling first installment, this book expands its world-building, character development, and romance, while also sensitively confronting issues like PTSD. What's in your YA high fantasy?

East, Edith Pattou
A middle-grade retelling of a Norwegian fairy tale with ties to Beauty and the Beast, this quick read was a fun and fantastic snowy counterpoint to the bright weather outside.

Shakespeare: The World as Stage, Bill Bryson
This slim and forthright examination of Shakespeare's life uses the whole truth, and nothing but the truth... which explains why it's so short. We know almost nothing concrete about Shakespeare that hasn't been remediated or rewritten by someone else!

Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant (Delilah Dirk #1), Tony Cliff
One of Disney's newest franchise purchases, this comic book series - centered around a fearless female jetsetter from the 1800s - is sumptuously illustrated and compellingly written... while also keeping the stage cleared for plenty of swordfights and explosions!

Uprooted, Naomi Novik
This Nebula Award Winner has been captivating readers all year with its unique subversals on high fantasy tropes, matching breakneck pace with powerful characters and a lushly-described world... plus, I loved it for its realistic and moving portrayals of positive female friendship!

Rebel Belle (Rebel Belle #1), Rachel Hawkins
High school is hard enough without having to factor in mysterious superpowers and combative evil forces into the mix. Even more so when these new abilities are bestowed for the purpose of defending the most annoying kid in said high school.

The Defining Decade, Meg Jay
People say your '20s are your decade to explore, invent, challenge, and engage, but what happens when you get to the threshold of your '30s, with nothing to show for it? Here's why your grand entrance to adulthood starts a little earlier than you might think,.. and what you can do to make the most of it!

A Visit from the Goon Squad, Jennifer Egan
One of the most powerful books I ever read in college, was one I encountered in a freshman-level, entry-to-English class. Rereading this Pulitzer-winner was like a reminder from the Universe of how important the relationships you have and the time you invest in them are... a poignant lesson for a graduated senior.

Rat Queens, Vol. 1: Sass & Sorcery, Kurtis J. Weibe
A Spring spent obsessing over Dungeons and Dragons would surely result in a Summer spent with high fantasy and comic books, especially when those two genres combine into something this fun. Clearly, no one gets it done quite like a party comprised of magical female characters!

A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic #1), V. E. Schwab
Exploring the magical lines between three separate, yet overlapping, Londons, results in a battle for supremacy between those starved for power and those desperate to keep it. Starring an androgynous thief, a bisexual prince, and a one-eyed dimension-traveler, this is probably one of the most unique and engaging books I read all summer.

One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories, B.J. Novak
If you're dying for a laugh, and ready to die laughing, read this complex and intelligent collection of short stories, courtesy of a master television writer.

Persepolis (Persepolis #1), Marjane Satrapi
Mediating the power dynamics of war, torture, and death through the eyes of a child - and the black-and-white illustrations of a comic book - Persepolis is worth every single accolade it's ever gotten. (If you haven't read it yet, do it during Banned Books Week!)

How to Be a Heroine, Samantha Ellis
If you are what you read, then I am a product of some seriously influential heroines... and so is Samantha Ellis. Exploring the trajectory of her life as a writer and a feminist through the lenses of characters like Lizzie Bennet, Anne of Green Gables, and Scarlett O'Hara, Ellis re-examines the fictional females of her youth.

Rat Queens, Vol. 2: The Far-Reaching Tentacles of N'rygoth, Kurtis J. Weibe
My favorite installment of the series thus far, this continuation of the Rat Queens story rallies our characters against - naturally - demonic squid creatures summoned from the sky. Isn't high fantasy just the best?

The Girl from Everywhere, Heidi Heilig
An interesting and cute YA perspective on time-traveling that still succumbs to some of the foibles of both the YA and time-traveling genres, this was a fun example of a pretty fantastic beach read. And with Hawaii as a setting, the beaches are included!

Rat Queens, Vol. 3: Demons, Kurtis J. Weibe
My least favorite installment of the story thus far, an illustrator switch-up and supremely irritating storyline get a veto from not only me, but most people I know who read this series. Hopefully Vol. 4 will get us - and our girls - back on track?

The Song of Achilles, Madeline Miller
Published in 2012, and a forerunner of the LGBT and #WeNeedDiverseReads movements, this intimate and emotional perspective on the relationship between mythical Achilles and his companion - and lover - Patroclus, is an engaging romance that still stays true to what we know of ancient history. Are you ready to cry?

Delilah Dirk and the King's Shilling (Delilah Dirk #2), Tony Cliff
Delilah Dirk has rallied against plenty of fearsome foes along her journeys, but when her travels take her back once again to her native England, dealing out retribution gets a little more dicey... it's easy to trip in all of those petticoats, you know?

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain
A childhood favorite and American classic, this book begs for a reread every single summer, and who am I to say no to such an old friend?

American Gods, Neil Gaiman
When gods walk among man, a man might find himself the crux in a battle for life and legacy, as religions and beliefs from all over the world match power in the heart of America. One of the longest books I read all summer, it was also one of the most compelling.

Why We Write About Ourselves, Meredith Maran
It's easy enough to talk about yourself, and its easy enough to tell a story, but there couldn't be anything harder than telling a story about yourself, and making it interesting, relatable, and compelling. Somehow, this collection of 20 authors all found the right way to do it.

Fables, Vol. 1: Legends in Exile, Bill Willingham
My last comic book of the summer, this hyped and librarian-touted series follows the lives of fairy tale and storybook refugees hiding out in modern-day New York. When one of their members goes missing, some of  your childhood favorites just might make it on the list of suspects!

What I ended on, and haven't actually ended yet: Sleeping Giants, by Sylvain Neuvel.
A bright and curious scientist is forced to confront one of the greatest mysteries of her childhood, when the giant metal hand she unearthed in her youth serves as subject in a top-secret government experiment.

These books made their way into not just my Goodreads Challenge count for this year, but a Summer Book Bingo, hosted by Seattle Public Libraries, Seattle Arts and Lectures, and plenty of independent bookstores, all around the city! As soon as I saw it, it reminded me of the numerous summer library book challenges I completed in my youth, and I knew I needed to spend time checking off the boxes on this list. Not only did it encourage me to pay more attention to the genres I'm reading, but it convinced me to break out of my normal habits, too. And while I still have a couple of blank spots that prevented me from earning a full blackout, I know that they'll serve as the perfect jumping-off point for determining my Fall reads, too!

How many books did you read this summer? Which was your favorite? Let me know, in the comments below!