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! 

Thursday, September 8, 2016

What Would Dipper Do?: Book Recommendations Based on Gravity Falls

This post is a little behind the times, but I'll just blame it on trying to soak up the last few dregs of summer, as well as the stress of sending Delaney back to college, and my younger sibs off to high school (one for the very first time!). 

Still, I love nothing more than sharing vacation photos - and talking about my favorite cartoons! - so it really was only a matter of time before this post popped up on your feeds. Enjoy! 

So the whole trip was a total surprise to my brother... but we tried giving him hints via a chalkboard in the kitchen of our vacation home! Would you have been able to guess?

On August 23rd, my awesome little brother - the youngest of all of us! - turned 15. To celebrate his birthday, we decided to do something a little out of the ordinary, putting a bookmark in our annual Oregon vacation, and taking a brief excursion farther down I-5, winding through to the towering Redwoods of California. Our goal? Hit up some of the coolest attractions Southern Oregon and NorCal had to offer, in a grand homage to one of our favorite television shows of all time: Disney's Gravity Falls.

Image result for gravity falls poster
The show follows a summer in the lives of Dipper and Mabel, the Pines twins, as they go to stay with their Grunkle Stan for the duration of their vacation. What the twins originally think will be the worst summer ever, is quickly transformed upon the discovery of a mysterious Journal, detailing the existence of creatures and secrets hidden throughout the oblivious town, and forces beyond their control lying active and undisturbed within its limits. From run-ins with pesky gnomes and giant floating eyeballs, to interactions with secret societies and urban legends alike, the Pines twins are tasked with saving the town, themselves, and their summer!

So, we made our way down the coast, traveling through tourist-trap towns and in between towering trees (uck, I'm sorry, so much alliteration!) to find some of the sources of inspiration for some of our favorite settings on the show. From the House of Mystery to the Trees of Mystery, from purchasing "Bigfoot Lives" stickers at pushy roadside giftshops to trail hikes to spot the mythical monster, this road trip highlighted not just the basis for our favorite fictional town, but some of the most beautiful parts of the West Coast.

{A picture of the family outside the Oregon Vortex... my brother's the insanely tall one!; snapchatting the Trees of Mystery for my friends back home; the Pines twins' triangular nemesis, Bill Cipher, carved into a visitor's sign!}  

And, of course, I would be completely remiss talking about Gravity Falls on a book blog, without mentioning the fact that a book was recently released, as a part of the celebration for the end of the series! Journal 3 contains secrets not even revealed on the show, and plenty of more backstory to not just the town's mysterious past, but the inhabitants of Gravity Falls, human... and not. Written in part by series creator Alex Hirsch, you know this is a key component to any Falls fan's bookshelf (which is why we might be buying it for Delaney's birthday, coming up this week!).

Still, maybe you're a Pines-enthusiast who already has everything you can collect of GF merch. Never fear! Here are a handful of books I think are perfect for fans of the show: involving tales of towns whose borders ride alongside magical lines, stories of sibling support (with lots of twins), and, of course, plenty of supernatural mayhem only our heroes can tackle. Nothing can replace the Falls, but maybe these fun reads can help you pretend that summer lasted just a little bit longer.

The Spiderwick Chronicles series, Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black

444304When the Grace twins, Simon and Jared, stumble upon a mysterious room in their new house - the strange and dilapidated Spiderwick Estate - they also find a series of hallways hidden in the walls...  destroying the nest of a brownie, named Thimbletack, in the process! The mayhem caused by the creature leads the children, alongside their sister, Mallory, to discover Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You, an old book handwritten by the house's previous owner. They quickly come to realize, they aren't the estate's only inhabitants... just the only human ones!

This is not only one of my favorite middle-grade series of all time, but one of the reasons I tried my hand at fencing when I was 13!

The Sisters Grimm series, Michael Buckley

After Sabrina and Daphne Grimm's parents mysteriously disappear, they are sent to live in a small town in New York with their grandmother... a woman they'd believed to be dead! As it turns out, their Granny Relda is a lot more than what meets the eye, which could also be said for their new home: the town is full of residents dubbing themselves "Everafters," characters and creatures straight out of fairy tales, folk lore, and so much more, who aren't really so made up after all. Can Sabrina and Daphne take up the Grimm mantle, and save their new home from a scary giant?

Another fantastic middle-grade series! I swear ABC's Once Upon a Time is at least partially inspired by this book series, but for a different age demographic... it's probably perfect for fans of that show, too!

The Lumberjanes series, Noelle StevensonGrace EllisShannon WattersBrooke A. Allen

Jo, April, Mal, Molly, and Ripley are a set of five girls excited to have a fantastic summer at Miss Quinzilla Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet's "camp for hard-core lady-types"... but this isn't any summer camp you've ever been to. The woods are full of supernatural critters - like a pack of snarling, three-eyed foxes - and even stranger people - like the pack of scouting lads at the camp nearby - and these girls are ready to brave it all... together! 

Absolutely required comic book reading for spunky girls who are down for adventure. Mabel would absolutely love these books! 

The Darkest Part of the Forest, Holly Black

The town of Fairfold was already a strange place to live long before Hazel and Ben were born. For decades, tourists have fallen to the tricks of local sprites and brownies, faeries rule the woods, and a mysterious monster made of moss and twigs roves the outskirts of the forest. A horned prince has slept in a glass coffin for generations, the object of both Ben and Hazel's daydreams... until, one day, he's vanished. As the boundaries of the mortal and magical worlds begin to shift, Hazel's going to have to remember how to fight back against the forest... but is that going to be enough to take back the town? 

It's definitely the most mature reading on this list, but this YA novel is a fun and atmospheric read that still captures the fun of living alongside faeries, sprites, monsters, and more! 

Have you ever watched Gravity Falls? Ever made your own expedition through the Redwoods? I want to hear about it! Let me know, in the comments below!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Perfect Timing: Graduating Late and the Myth of Perfection

Last Day of Classes, Spring Quarter, Freshman Year.

This past Spring, I got a lot of questions from friends, about the lack of graduation news on my Facebook: how they hadn't seen any pictures of me at Commencement, or having a big blow-out grad party like my parents had always threatened, or even any over-effusive posts from distant relatives. They joked that because I hadn't taken part in those hallmarks of what it means to graduate college, I hadn't really graduated at all. I joked back plenty, but really did my best to cover up what I saw as the ugly truth: they were right.

I didn't really graduate this past Spring Quarter. Due to a series of failed Math/Science classes and three damning unfulfilled credits, I really just graduated, a few days ago, after my final grades for one last ESRM class came in.

Yes, I realize things could have been a lot worse... I could be graduating a year late rather than a Quarter, or have flunked out of UW entirely. But you have to understand: graduating late was never something I was afraid of; it was never something I imagined happening to me. As a result, adjusting to the fact that I didn't graduate on time was really difficult. To be perfectly honest, I've written this post twice already just trying to tell you about it.

The first draft blamed my incomplete college credit status on my identification as a "Book Person," criticizing the idea that culturally, we place a huge division between what it means to be good at Arts versus good at Sciences. I wrote it when I had first got the news, and it carries a lot of the self-directed anger and frustration that I was still feeling back in June.

The second was more representative of what was present in my journals, replacing those negative feelings, with a move into a super-manic mode, determining that this personal failure was really an opportunity for me to get ahead - write a book, lose weight, change my life! - instead of feeling like I'd been left behind

Each illustrated various facets of a problem I've encountered multiple times in my life: the idea of perfectionism. 

You know that feeling you get, when you're running down a flight of stairs too fast, and you miss the last step... that swooping terror that grips your heart and stomach as you plummet a foot farther down? It's trying to prevent that feeling which always stopped me from raising my hand in class, in order to guard against even one wrong answer. It's what made me feel like I should have been pursuing a more difficult sphere of study, so that every time I was asked who I was, my answer was "just an English major." Now, after graduation, I had friends who weren't just finishing up their scholarly lives, but embarking on entirely new journeys: acceptances to grad school, announcements of new positions with major companies and organizations, and marriage proposals had been flooding my social media feeds all Spring. There was a whole world open to them, a new door of opportunity, and I had tripped trying to cross the threshold. That swooping feeling felt permanent.

Last Day of Classes, Spring Quarter, Senior Year.

While I grappled with feelings of rapidly plummeting self-worth and the subsequent rebound of all-too-high self-expectation, my summer passed, primarily without incident. When I wasn't surreptitiously doing homework in the odd hours of the afternoon, while my roommate was at work, I searched for what I thought of as a "grownup" job - unsuccessfully - and an apartment in Seattle - unsuccessfully, as well. However, something interesting happened.

I began spending more time around the city (easier for me, due to the continued existence of my UW-provided ORCA pass), making my first foray into areas of Capitol Hill and Ballard I'd never visited before. I made plenty of time for initiating plans with my Greek family, and spent days with my biological one, too, as I helped support my sister through her SeaFair experience. I explored the ideas of freelance writing and wrote up more outlines for short stories, while taking time to install elements like AdSense on my blog. Happy hour at Matador made me feel like an adult; touring the neighborhoods and taking public transportation alone made me feel independent; researching alternative job opportunities made me feel like my future could be profitable; and spending time with friends and family reminded me that I was not alone.

Long story short, I lived. I got through it. If I had spent the summer agonizing over the idea of failure, it's something I never would have really gotten to do.  It is only when I really let go of the idea of doing something perfect, that I was able to do something great: I completely aced that 5-credit ESRM class, and therefore, got a 4.0 in the very last class I took in college!

Most parents buy their recent grads a laptop.
Mine did that... and a little something extra!
I had seen my inability to graduate on time as something shameful. I even made my parents promise not to tell anyone, even my two youngest siblings, and I'm pretty sure most of my Greek family still doesn't know. While I thought I was saving my pride, what I was really doing was sacrificing my support system: if we take the responses of the people who did know as any indicator, had I told more of my friends how I had been suffering, I would have had that many more people waiting at the finish line for me, cheering me on as I (quietly) passed it.

I didn't graduate on time, but I graduated. I'm not living where I want to be, but I have a place to live. I don't have a job lined up, but I've got time to find one. The problem with the myth of perfection, is that you're so focused on the places where you're not "good enough," that you miss out on all the good that you already have. I had been staring down this idea of failing, of losing everything I felt like I finally had a grasp on, and that idea of not taking the perfect next step was preventing me from understanding how much I still had gained through the experience.

So, I'm proud to say, I graduated the University of Washington with a Bachelor of Arts in English Language & Literature! I have no job, I'm moving back home, and I've now got a ton of student debt to grapple with.

But beyond all that, I know this: I am a very, very lucky girl, and I'll take "lucky" and "hopeful" over "perfect" any day. 

Congratulations to everyone who graduated with me in the Class of 2016! What areas of your life do you deal with perfectionism? Let me know, in the comments below!

Friday, August 26, 2016

Review: American Gods

Vacations are the perfect place to get some heavy reading done: with an absence of any work (or homework) standing in your path, it's one of my favorite opportunities to really take a swing at some of the titles I've been holding off on my TBR list. Hence, why I made sure to pack this title in my suitcase as we headed down on our annual trip to Oregon! 

American Gods, by Neil Gaiman, follows the story of Shadow, a recent felon, released from jail, and greeted by the crippling news of his wife's death. While traveling home for her funeral, an enigmatic plane seatmate - dubbing himself Mr. Wednesday - enlists Shadow to be a part of a mysterious enterprise, tracking down ancient gods and goddesses across the United States in a final standoff against the new crowd: the burgeoning mythical brethren who guide the ideals of America today. With war on the horizon, Shadow begins to understand that the forces at play are far more powerful than he could have ever imagined... and that he, himself, could tip the balance of the world as we know it.

Okay, all hype aside - because if you're a fan of fantasy, you're sure to not just recognize this title, but the name of its prolific author - this book was awesome. Amazingly inventive, with an enthralling concept that allowed for the creation of an entire world, I was left astounded by creative characterizations, surprising plot twists, and a new paradigm with which to view the "melting pot" origins of the country.

In terms of the foundation of the story, with the idea of gods and goddesses living and walking among us, it's easy to draw comparisons, be it to a grown-up Percy Jackson, or that one Joan Osborne song. However, the ways that Gaiman classifies and explains their presence in contemporary culture make it inherently unique, as well as set up a comprehensive universe within which such powerful beings can exist alongside things we interact with every day.

One particular view that you can't necessarily get from Rick Riordan, is that the novel makes no exceptions for the more gruesome points of religion. Sacrifice, bloody and human, plays a part in too many theological contexts to go unrepresented; almighty power comes alongside a serious amount of gore. Sexual activity has always been a hallmark of ancient religion as well (ahem, Zeus), and makes its appearances within the narrative, too. While the explicit/graphic nature of some of these elements might throw some readers off, I seriously respect its inclusion, if only to remind you of the fact that religion has always been a bloody practice.

Something else I really loved about the novel was the absolutely monochrome nature of the characters: almost everyone in this novel is gray in at least one fashion. While I really liked and respected Shadow as a main character, even he had a lot of darkness to his framing, and no allowances were given in order to make individuals more or less redeemable. That way, even with the extraordinary nature of the powers at play, gods were made mortal... or, at least, humanized.

And on another side of cultural implications, I felt like the novel offered a fascinating perspective of America's consciously collaborative status: we are a nation of many peoples, and believe in a lot of different things, so to have everything from Norse to Native to many more creeds and cultures, interacting and jockeying for position and power, was pretty terrific. While it was fun to call out characters I recognized from a childhood spent devouring myths and folklore - Anansi! Kali! Loki! - it was just as much so to meet the gods of our new culture, like Media, hair-sprayed and shiny-teethed, or Technical Boy, a stylized wiz-kid who smells like burnt circuits.

Despite its 600+ pages, I zoomed through the novel. Partially, I chalk it up to interest, because once I started reading, it's all I wanted to do, but I also have to factor in language, because the more formalist elements of the novel, like diction, were still really accessible. Keeping the reading easy was only a benefit to the topic, by making imaginative and large-scoped concepts more approachable.

Final Verdict: In case you couldn't tell from my review, I really, really loved this novel. Total five stars, even if there were parts that I thought were a little squirmy. I don't have a subscription to Starz, but I feel like I'm going to have to get one, just to see how the new TV adaptation is going to play out!

It was only after I finished American Gods that my younger sister, Delaney, realized that Gaiman also wrote Stardust and Coraline! What's your favorite of his works? Let me know, in the comments below!

Friday, August 19, 2016

Review: The Girl from Everywhere

You know how growing up, everyone had one or two historical time periods or cultures they were obsessed with? For me, it was the Titanic disaster, Egyptian and Greek mythology... and Pirates. Even to this day, I know way too much about flag symbology and swashbuckler slang, and yes, I have my favorite figures among the pirate population. So, if I read a book review on Goodreads that includes the words "modern-day pirate ship," you can bet that I'm picking it up! Especially if it also involves time travel... 

In Heidi Heilig's The Girl from Everywhere, Nix's father is a Navigator: as long as he has a map and his ship, he can sail to any place - or time, for that matter - whether the destination is real, or not. She's grown up for sixteen years on that vessel, traveling through centuries and trading in exotic and impossible treasures, alongside her father's crew... and the mystery of her mother, who died in Honolulu in the 1800s, shortly after she was born. Driven to save the woman he loves, it is her father's greatest ambition to return to 1868; however, if he does, Nix might just blink out of existence entirely. She's traveled through fairy tale lands and encountered fantastical creatures, but the greatest adventure of all, might just be finding her family. 

I've been making pretty good time on my Goodreads goal for this year, with my expected summeer bump, but out of everything I've tackled so far, this book has probably summoned the most summer spirit! There's something about the sea, and adventure-type books, that makes me reminisce on reading Treasure Island for the first time, or watching Pirates of the Caribbean in theaters.

I've got to chalk up that sunny summer vibe to the exceptional world-building and involving action that forms the foundation of the entire novel. The story's concept itself is fantastic: ships + time travel + fantasy worlds = a pretty winning combination in my book, and in this one. It's a dizzying combination of elements that might be hard to tackle on their own, but are fairly well-meshed within the context of Nix's narrative.

Unfortunately, as a result, it becomes a little unevenly paced... especially in the second half of the novel, when the stakes are raised and the dates and locations become more convoluted, as the action overwhelms the execution. Of course, it has a lot to do with the fact that a comprehensive time-traveling system is always a little difficult to explain fully, so it's understandable that it got a little muddled.

Where the story truly shines, however, isn't the action or the suspense, but the historical setting and accuracy to detail, which keep the novel interesting, complex and dynamic. Integration of elements of Hawaiian and Chinese histories amplify the believability of an unbelievable concept, while a set of diverse main characters emphasizes even more cultural presence from further destinations and populations across the world.

However, at the end of the day, it's Young Adult, and there's going to have to be some points deducted for involving a love triangle (I know; all that imagination in creating a time traveling pirate ship, and you can't even let your heroine breathe without two guys tripping over themselves). At the same time, I've got to add points for a different kind of relationship you don't typically see done well in the genre, through Nix's interactions with her father: Nix's struggle to understand a significantly flawed parental figure results in differences that are actually worked on, rather than avoided, and that makes up a little for the uninspired romances.

Final Verdict: Cool and complex plot and characters sometimes ran a little ahead of themselves, to the detriment of pacing and understanding; however, the concept was too fun to pass up. I'm really glad I read this during the summer, so make sure to fit it into your TBR before September starts up!