Thursday, February 7, 2019


As we ventured into the new year, and I was writing out my Resolutions for 2019, the thought crossed my mind: "How am I going to change up the blog this year?" 

Longtime readers - hi, Dad - know that the layout and format of my corner of the Internet has remained widely static over of the course of my eight-and-a-half years of blogging. It feels like so many of the components that make up its foundation have grown over time, and yet, there's so much of it that has continued on throughout its near-decade without meaningful development: for instance, one of my favorite parts about looking back on posts is observing how my writing style and critical voice have expanded, my graphic design skills have altered alongside talent and trends in design, and my book choices have even grown up as I have... but in its total history, the actual layout and look of my blog have only changed twice. 

At first, Playing in the Pages was a pre-set design offered by Blogger, light pink, and one of four of its kind to choose between. As I got older, got a laptop, get more interested in how I can customize this platform to my own tastes, things got a little cooler around here: creating a logo on my phone, from a picture taken of my own bookshelves, I wiped the slate clean with an all-white background, smaller type in a font I thought was a little more hip than your average Times New Roman, and started mocking up interesting headers in Canva, rather than relying on photos in the posts themselves.

But that was back in college, and I've been doing a lot more different work since then. I've gone from a design Newbie to adequate Novice, and I have maintained my blog-adjacent Instagram profile (@playinginthepages) with its own kind of theming. I pay a lot of attention to how others promote and style their own platforms, and over the past year or so, I felt a growing sense that mine wasn't as cohesive as I would have liked it to be.

Sure, there were elements that I had a tendency to rely on in my own work - I had preset headers for things like "Bits of Books" and "Top Ten Tuesday" posts, and an affinity for a particular lighter shade of red - but nothing felt all that cohesive, and it was beginning to affect my excitement for generating content for both of my platforms. I wanted a sense of "Savannah" that felt consistent whenever I talked about books, and it frustrated me that I couldn't narrow things down.

Obviously, the right thing to do was switch it up.

"Style Inspo" (aka, some of my fave #bookstagrammers), clockwise from top-right: @ejmellow,
@thebiblionet, @literatureandchill, @thebiblionet, @literatureandchill.

I've created a new Style Guide, and the blog's layout has gone through a bit of a makeover, much as it will continue to do as I try to decide on what look translates myself and my thoughts best across the Internet. I've got a comprehensive color scheme, a new profile photo, a large-and-in-charge logo, and font choices that speak in my voice. I've got series headers set in place, and a clearer vision of what kinds of photos I want to be taking.

With any luck or decision-making on my part, this will all not only beautify my blog, but also make it easier for me to make graphic design-oriented decisions, instead of taking forever to put together a good-looking header, or agonize over what colors to use in a post.

Not exactly starting the new year with a new look, but having found one just the same, I'm happy with the current version of the "new and improved" Playing in the Pages. I'm excited to put it to good use in the coming couple of years, too!

So, what do you think of the new design? My favorite part's the new font choice. Let me know, in the comments below!

Friday, January 25, 2019

Book Versus Movie: Dumplin'

I have a slight confession to make: I do not like movies. "But how?" you cry. How can someone dislike an entire form of media?

The short answer is that I don't have the patience for it. The long answer has a lot more to do with what I feel are shortcomings of the genre - stuff like how limiting the scope of two hours' worth of visuals are as a narrative format, or how the portrayals of characters onscreen as constrained by stereotypical beauty and aesthetic standards damages plot - and the fact that sitting around for that long is just plain boring. I can lounge in one spot and read a book cover-to-cover over the course of several hours... but ask me to do the same for a movie (or television!), and I'll probably cry.

(Notable exceptions include Beauty and the Beast, ParaNorman, Black Panther, Treasure Planet, The Godfather, and the second half of the Fast and the Furious franchise, but that's a whole other thing.)

Why am I telling you all of this? You're on my book blog, which means my movie preferences are probably not why you're here. But it all explains why, when it comes to movies, there is a particular subset I handle with a whole lot of scrutiny: Movie Adaptations.

I've done it before for Love, Simon last year, and even Wild the year before that. So, I'm taking on one of my favorite YA novels of last year, and it's Netflix counterpart, to see how both stack up!

the story

Julie Murphy's Dumplin', originally released in 2015, follows the story of Willowdean Dixon, a fat girl growing up in a small town in Texas. Her mother, Rosie, is a faded star of the local beauty pageant - Miss Teen Bluebonnet - who can't seem to let go of that past, choosing instead to help run the pageant every year, famously wearing the same gown she won in every time she crowns a new winner.

Willowdean has never seen herself reflected in the lifestyle of her mother, but after the untimely death of her beloved aunt, Lucy, she feels compelled to change that. Joining the pageant as an act of rebellion, Will finds herself joined by a whole new group of cohorts, eager to challenge the status quo.

Meanwhile, she juggles not just school, but a job at a local burger place, as well as the affections of two boys, who couldn't be more different. As tensions rise, and Will begins to wonder how confident she is in her own plan, she's forced to question whether she's as comfortable in her own skin as she really thought... especially after her beautiful best friend Ellen joins the pageant, too. 

the book

The figure of "the fat girl" is easily tokenized in YA literature, but Dumplin' soars past those boundaries with glee, as well as the stereotypes typically ascribed to other body definitions in fiction.

Willowdean is not perfect, nor shy... far from both. The front-runner of the pageant, Bekah, is skinny, blonde, and beautiful, but also incredibly kind and humble. None of the "outsiders" Will befriends were meek or otherwise wallflowers, and one of them was even widely a pain in the ass, including to her fellow friends. They talked frankly about sexuality. They had flawed relationships with parents who refused to recognize their body as something that is a part of them, rather than something outside and separate from themselves. The characterizations allowed them to be both fully-formed and full-figured, instead of being relegated to stereotypes of "the jolly best friend" or the "juvenile weirdo."

Because these classifications are so unique and relatable, it doesn't allow the reader to brush the book off as an attempt to settle a score, or present a "Big Topic" kind of narrative. Willowdean's entire objective isn't that she's doing something to stick it to the man, it's so that she can do it for herself, and the same goes for her friends. There's an emphasis on the fact that it sucks that something that is somehow normal for other people shouldn't be normal for her, just because of her size. It's something she tries to explain to her ex-beauty queen mom, to no avail.

Here's the bottom line: representation is SO important. I read this book in a way that I know my two younger sisters never will be able to.

Notes from the Field 
  • Loved the small-town Texas perspective, something I've never read before but want to look out for in the future. It's far outside the realms of what I'm used to experiencing in my daily life, and I thought it was communicated really well through both description and characterizations of its inhabitants. 
  • A lot of background male characters who were also interesting, instead of only the two love interests, and that included a diversity in male rep as well as female.
  • Naturally, the book meant a little more to me, too, because I myself was in a pageant when I was in my senior year of high school (one that got its start in the 1930s, no less!). Granted, it was not your average pageant - while others give the excuse of being "a scholarship thing," ours literally was a community service type thing, and we rarely wore our gowns - but the experience still meant a lot to me, so when Willowdean described the fervor over things like preparing for interviews, or the bonds she formed with the friends she took part in the pageant with, I totally got it.

the movie

As is typical for any movie adaptation, Dumplin' - released by Netflix on December 7th, 2018 - streamlined elements of the book narrative for greater concision, but did so without losing any of its heart. 

Granted, this meant relying a little more heavily on character stereotypes, while also punching up some of the thematically-oriented moments for greater emotional payoff (kind of like what we saw with the Love, Simon movie). However, it is a fair adaptation of a contemporary YA novel, that never felt like it was dumbing down its source material for its audience; if anything, it made some of the foundational aspects of the novel shine.

There were different objectives in play, of course: reorienting what could ostensibly be defined as a romance-centered novel, into the greater frame of a coming-of-age story, the movie focused more on Willowdean's development, especially in terms of how her relationships with her friends, her crush, her late aunt, and her mom, intersected with her self-perceptions of confidence and worthiness. This lead to a near-expulsion of almost all named male characters, which to me, made the film really unique.

This choice of focus made the movie an exercise in realistic portrayals of teen lifestyles, and the overall production design really strove to drive that point home. The wardrobe of the entire cast is really darn exceptional, defining aspects of character background like socioeconomic class, occupation, and objectives in a subtle way that you can't get from a written description. Director Anne Fletcher (also responsible for The Proposal, praise be) did a great job with making everything look very down-home and authentic, painting the portrait of a small Texas town with a broad brush of rural Americana that feels recognizable. Danielle McDonald was a perfect casting choice as Willowdean, as was Jennifer Aniston as Rosie.

Overall, the whole thing really set the standard for quality of content that I expect out of Netflix these days. 

Notes from the Field 
  • The soundtrack - which, despite the fact that some are remixes and plenty have features from other artists, is made up exclusively of Dolly Parton songs that she helped produce - is far, far better than anything I could have ever expected. It even got a nom at the Golden Globes!
  • It's difficult to portray hero-worship in a way that makes sense through visual media without going overboard, but I thought that it must have been a little difficult finding the right amount of Dolly fixation when she's also one of your movie's producers. Like, we all love Dolly, but... it's a lot! 
  • This casting was stupendous! I could not have been more impressed. Especially the supporting cast: 
    • Dove Cameron (whom my family adores from her work on Disney Channel, and off-Broadway) struck a perfectly sweet note as pageant front-runner Bekah, 
    • Odeya Rush (from another family favorite, the 2015 Goosebumps adaptation) was a great girl-next-door Ellen, 
    • Maddie Baillio (Tracy Turnblad in NBC's Hairspray Live) was the Millie sent from Heaven that we all desperately needed, and 
    • Bex Taylor-Klaus killed it as Hannah, who was actually one of my least favorite characters from the book, but played the role with such sincerity that it made her feel more real, and less stereotypical. 
    • Even Luke Benward - who plays Willowdean's handsome work crush, Bo - hit the right intersection of being both approachable, yet vaguely unattainable, that was so fundamental to their relationship. 

the verdict

At the end of each of these kinds of posts, I choose which of the two formats I felt delivered a story better. However, this is going to be the first to divert from that pattern... because I thought both shared different versions of the same great story, and were so varied in their approach, I can't award any kind of outcome that would evenly match them.

Instead, I think that each different medium, served a different need.

 The book, carrying the responsibility as both the original format, and the more complete narrative - giving background, development, and explanation in a more nuanced way than the visual nature of a movie could - might be for those looking for a deeper dive into an engrossing story. Not only is the cast of characters much larger (even including a second love interest!), but they are more fleshed out, while the narrative still gave room for more interior thinking from Willowdean.

On the other hand, the movie only took out what was necessary for a more cohesive and concise plot, one that maintained all of the emotion, while only losing minor plot elements. The aeshetics and production design make for a beautiful viewing experience, one that truly transports you in a way that simply dreaming up the setting and characters yourself might not. It kept some of the book's breakout moments more subtle (such as Ellen's relationship with her boyfriend Tim, or Hannah's big reveal at the end of the pageant), in order to put greater emphasis on others (getting to know Aunt Lucy, or Will's resolution with her mother). In total, the movie felt like more of a feel-good experience, and even offered more plot resolution at the end: instead of leaving the winner of the pageant ambiguous, they announce the name!

I can honestly say that I personally enjoyed both, and would recommend them. If you're asking me which is your best option, I genuinely believe in both. It just depends what you're looking for! At any rate, figure out which medium suits you best right now, and if you enjoy it, make time to try the other.

Have you seen or read Dumplin'? Which version was your favorite? Let me know, in the comments below!

Monday, January 14, 2019

Bits of Books: Lost Reviews from 2017, Part One

It's a little shocking, really: here I was, just scrolling through my old Drafts folder for the blog from 2018, trying to see if I had any half-finished reviews lurking around anywhere, when I saw them. Like a digital graveyard of discarded words, I found seven different Draft posts from 2017, just sitting there, waiting for publication. I had written down a paragraph or two of scattered words - some of them a little more than that, and some of them even more little than that - and left them there, in good faith that I would return. 

So here I am, returning, to these poor forgotten books that I had thought about so long ago! And, for fun's sake, I thought I'd include a few words on each on what I think of them now, in retrospect, as well. I mean, it's been over a year... my thoughts can't have changed much, can they? 

Boy Snow Bird, Helen Oyeyemi

This purchase came as a direct result of how absolutely gorgeous this cover is. Oyeyemi's writing style is similarly enchanting, and I quickly fell in love with her voice, which perfectly fleshed out a period novel of racial tension and unique magic into a story that could really capture your attention for an afternoon's quick read. Unfortunately, the story kind of lost its way in the second half, and I felt the ending was a little confused, but for the most part, I enjoyed this novel a lot, and take it as a welcome introduction to this author's work.

Now Me: My only recollections of this novel are positive: I read it while on a camping vacation, so my immediate recalls involve plenty of sunshine and a whole lot of greenery. Funny enough, though, I can't remember what I didn't like about the ending! I think 2019 would be a great year to revisit Oyeyemi's voice... 

Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? And Other Questions You Should Have Answers to When You Work at the White House, Alyssa Mastromonaco

31176294This engaging and lighthearted account of a White House insider's extraordinary job, and extraordinary experiences, was an easy read and a fast finish. While I wish the book's chapters had been ordered chronologically, instead of by career principles - as the author explained she did on purpose - I thought her deliberate attempts at sounding young and conversational were unique perspectives to take, as they aren't typical to books of this nature. The book also also could have benefited from an index of names, to keep track of her many work friendships and the ways they interacted. I thought the best parts of the book involved Mastromonaco's interactions with D.C. notables, and the frenetic pacing of her job schedule.

Now Me: To put it very bluntly, the idea of reading a political memoir in today's social climate makes me want to hurl chunks immediately and repeatedly... but I do remember this one being fairly fun and funny, and her career trajectory was interesting to follow. And I remembered the author's full name without having to Google it, so I must have liked it that much. The only plans I have for reading politics this year come in the form of Michelle Obama's Becoming, though. 

Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things that Happened, Allie Brosh

17571564I was so excited to finally get the chance to read this memoir, told primarily through Brosh's characteristic and Internet-famous rudimentary-figured comics, that I finished the whole thing in two sittings. The book was both a quick read, and so compellingly written, that it was easy to fly through, enjoying the whole experience. In particular, Brosh's openness about her history with depression, and ability to communicate her struggles in an empathetic and accessible way, were some of the most enthralling elements of the book; however, her exceptional use of simplistic artistic designs to evoke big laughs was another significant strength of this long-popular read.

Now Me: Fans of Brosh might remember that in 2017 - when this post was written - she had widely retreated from the public eye... she has always been incredibly open and well-documented about her struggles with anxiety and depression, as they are a main focus of her works, and she had not published on her blog in a very long time. While the same remains true now, at the top of 2019, I would love nothing more than a resurgence of this honest and gifted writer. 

Do you have any older reads that you've been thinking about lately? What kinds of files are buried in your computer? Let me know, in the comments below!

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Review: The Financial Diet

Was one of your Resolutions for 2019 to get your financials in order? Then do we have a book recommendation for you... because not only is this read one that might help you on your path to money mastery, but it could even help you with some of your other plans for the new year, too! 

The Financial Diet is a financial blog oriented towards young women, which boasts not only a high reader count and rotating roster of writers on their own domain, but also a popular accompanying YouTube account, which creates videos on similar topics. Based around topics like money mistakes, career advice, and a budget-friendly lifestyle, the blog has been a favorite of mine for a while now.

I picked up Chelsea Fagan and Lauren Ver Hage's book with the expectation that it would be more of the same that I get from their website, and was happy to see that was true... most of the time.

The book is chock full of solid advice, explained in a way that is accessible and understandable for those just starting to pay attention to their finances, with an emphasis placed on learning the basics to build up to greater financial comprehension. Divided into neat sections like "Budget," "Food," "Home," and "Love," the book takes a multi-faceted approach to learning how your personal perspectives on money interact with the other parts of your life, and how to make sure you are living well without spending big. The segments that get a little more technical - like the chapter on how to "Invest" intelligently - spends a lot of time laying groundwork, and makes good use of the glossary of terms at the back of the book.

The topics are diverse, the writing is straightforward and focused on creating understanding, and the diction is deliberately conversational. The only thing that leaves something to be desired, is the style.

The Financial Diet, like I said, has a fan base that is primarily built up of young women, which has been achieved not just due to their various authorial perspectives, and light-hearted writing, but due to the Millenial-friendly aesthetic their blog has used as a part of its design and layout. They tried to carry this over to their book, and unfortunately, the results are a little jarring.

Of course, the content is all still there, but instead of using real photographs of people, places, etc, they employ the use of cutesy illustrations. The information is wrapped up in a cohesive series of color palettes you could probably recognize from the blog, but utilize multiple different fonts throughout the construction of the book, and you could see where the editor or graphic designer mixed a few up on the page. While the actual writing of the book was great, it was the way it was packaged that was a little grating to me.

However, one place where the graphic styling was an enormous bonus to the book, was in the inclusion of mini-interviews and queries to notable industry names, in order to gain more understanding of finance than just the authors'. In each chapter, a breakout section cataloged perspectives of people like Ashley Ford, Hank Green, and even the author's own mother, in order to present alternative ways of thinking, complete with such portrait illustrations. These sections were interesting, informative, and created division points in the chapters that made reading through each feel like a breeze.

Final verdict: all in all, the book is relatively short, able to process through quickly, and laid out in a way that makes it very appealing to their core demographic. I enjoyed it, and I'm sure the several people who already have holds on the library listing are going to enjoy it, as well!

Are you trying to get a handle on your finances this year? What were some of your resolutions? Let me know, in the comments below! 

Saturday, January 5, 2019

2018 Year in Books Review

Another year older, and another year wiser (well, hopefully). But was it another year spent reading successfully? Absolutely! Which prompted me to once again check out my annual reading stats - thanks, Goodreads! - to see how I fared in 2018. 

by the numbers

Overall, none of the quantity-based data about my reading in the past year really surprised me... I was kind of expecting it all. Despite the fact that I read about 1,000 less pages total than I did last year, my average number of pages per book stayed the exact same - seriously, 306 for both years! - and I read around the same number of books.

However, there are more quality-based trends that affected my goals instead... including the fact that, on average, I rated books at about a 3.9, which meant that either I spent my year reading a lot of books that I really liked, or I just felt like being a little nicer when I reviewed them!

lowering my goodreads goal
I wrote a longer post about this two years ago, but for me, lowering my Goodreads Book Challenge goal felt like a necessary step in upping the caliber of the kinds of books I'd been reading. I figured that if I put less pressure on just numbers, then I'd reach for heavier or denser books, ones that might require more time. For the most part, that didn't end up happening.

taking part in nanowrimo again
If you've followed me through the Fall, you know that reading during NaNo is always a major struggle for me, being that I get a little afraid that the voice I read is going to end up coming out on my pages, as well. However, with the writing process being so difficult this year, I really should have taken a break to escape to a different book or two.

failing my Harry Potter resolution with my brother
One of my only major Resolutions for 2018, was that I was going to completely reread and rewatch all of the Harry Potter series with my younger brother, and we totally tanked. The problem is, we were completely on schedule for the first half of the year, and were keeping a good pace going into late summer... but then, we got around to Order of the Phoenix, and all progress immediately halted. There is such a sizable and boggling tonal shift that comes around in the fourth book, that gets so dark by the second, it was hard to keep reading. However, I'm keeping it as a personal goal this year, to finish out what we started!

reading romance for the first time
On a bit of a whim, leading into the summer, I began to contemplate any genres that I hadn't explored before, and the one glaring example I kept coming up with, was Romance. This launched what I dubbed my "Summer of Reading Romance," and over the course of the second half of the year, I read a total of about 8 of these kinds of books. And - surprise! - I absolutely fell in love with the genre all about love! I'm looking forward to posting more about these explorations in the new year, especially all of the nonfiction work I've been doing while exploring the genre.

some minor bookish resolutions in 2019

It wouldn't be a new year without this goal-setting junkie getting a few Resolutions written down, don't you think?

#nonewbooks... kind of 
While I seriously toyed with the idea of doing yet another installment of the Book Buying Ban resolution that has served me so well in recent years, I just couldn't give up the idea of one more Book Outlet order, or another trip to Powell's. However, there are still a jam-packed number of books on my TBR shelves -147, to be exact! - and that's not even counting what's on my Kindle. So, I'm instituting a sort of halfway rule: I can't add any more books to my TBR, be they purchased, or from the library, unless I've finished at least one from my own collection. Hopefully, I can beef up the ratio as the year goes on!

60 books on Goodreads
I'm taking on a small step up from the number that I successfully outread this year, but am staking it with the same stipulations that I had hoped for previously: I'm trying to read more books that challenge me, that teach me something, that bring me out of my comfort zone. I'm going for more critically reviewed and rigorous literary fiction, with the objective of reading at least one book from my "100 Essential Novels: Millenials Edition" poster per month. Wait, you haven't heard about this poster? Aren't you following me on Instagram?

over 1,000 followers on my @playinginthepages Instagram
Because speaking of, I have an Instagram handle specifically associated with my blog, that has been live and functioning since late June. I've amassed a little under 500 followers in that time frame, and have kind of plateaued in my engagement... but with any luck at all, and a whole lot of work, I'm hoping to build that to at least 1,000 followers by the end of next year.

How was your year in reading for 2018? What are you most excited to tackle in 2019? Let me know, in the comments below!

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Books I Read in 2018

Happy New Year!

It's 2019, which means there are brand new places to be, people to see, things to try, and, of course, books to read. So while I want to get going as quickly as possible on all of these new opportunities, it's only fair we close out 2018 the way it deserves, and honor all the great reads we explored in that time, as well!

Here are my Top Ten reads of 2018:

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, J. K. Rowling
We may not have made it all the way through our Harry Potter reread challenge - more on that in later posts! - but one thing I'm really thankful for, is re-exploring this childhood least-favorite among the series.

Dumplin', Julie Murphy
The idea of an above-average-size girl competing for a tiara isn't exactly a new concept in my life, which might explain how much I absolutely loved and identified with Willowdean Dixon. And the Netflix movie is perfect, too!

In Other Lands, Sarah Rees Brennan
Another reread for me, but one made way more fun since it was my first time rereading it since my younger brother picked it up, too... and it quickly became one of his favorite books of all time. Sometimes a great book can just be made greater when shared with others!

Children of Blood and Bone, Tomi Adeyemi
This dynamic and diverse new YA Fantasy gained a huge amount of press this year, for all the right reasons. I adored the main characters, and the lush, beautiful magical world they inhabited, and I cannot wait to see where things go in the sequel!

Twice a Hero, Susan Krinard
The mass market paperback, scrounged up from the $2 section of a dingy thrift store, that started it all: my summer reading challenge of tackling romance novels started off with this book.

The Magician's Land, Lev Grosman
Not an ending, but a beginning: I finally finished out the Magicians trilogy this year, and loved it so much that I almost immediately began watching the SyFy television adaptation.

Every Heart a Doorway, Seanan McGuire
What can I say, I'm an absolute sucker for a great children-falling-through-to-mysterious-worlds story. What is probably my favorite trope, was subverted into a masterful exploration of Fantasy, in this novella, which I was overwhelmingly happy to find is an ongoing series.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F***, Mark Manson
In a world where self-help books overflow with mantras about how there is only one you, and that you are infinitely special, I prefer it when they lean a little heavier to the other side: yeah, there's only one you... but not only are you not special at all, you're also going to die one day, so get to doing something about it, man. This book fits that bill.

Kitchen Literacy, Ann Vileisis
A recently-raved-about exploration of the anthropology of food producer-consumer relationships, this book has not only changed the way I think about meals, but gives me a lot of hope for reading good non-fiction in the coming year!

Six of Crows, Leigh Bardugo
You know how I mentioned earlier how special it was, to be able to read In Other Lands with my brother? I can only imagine it was the same for him, as I closed out the year by reading his favorite book of all time, Six of Crows. 

honorable mentions 

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, Gail Honeyman
The Simple Wild, K. A. Tucker
Down Among the Sticks and Bones, Seanan McGuire (EHaD #2) 
The Hazel Wood, Melissa Albert

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

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Joy to the Shelf: A Quick Holiday Bookish Haul, and Bookish Gifts I Gave my Family!

The holidays have come and passed, and with them, have arrived plenty of new books to fill my shelves! Thankfully, I was in the position to do the same for others, and boy, did I make the most of that opportunity. Care to hear what Santa placed underneath my tree, and what I gift-wrapped for others? Then read on!

what I got 

Becoming, Michelle Obama
I picked this title up with my mom within the first week of November, which is what has made it absolute torture to see spotted across the various desks and Instagram pages of my friends. Now that I've finally gotten my hands on it, it's going to be one of my first reads of 2019!

Around the World in 72 Days and Other Works, Nellie Bly
As someone who believed they'd be going into newspaper for the majority of their high school career, I grew up as a huge fan of the talented and intrepid Nellie Bly, who not only helped carve a place for women in journalism, but changed public perception about everything from world travel, to mental health facilities. (There's actually a Drunk History segment about that second part!). I'm excited to finally get to read a collection of her writings for myself!

Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain
When the passing of the late, great Bourdain earlier this year hit everyone so hard, one of the most frequent things I saw online was people sharing passages from the works he's created, be it his show, or this seminal culinary memoir. My mom had read the book before, but unfortunately gave away her copy, which is why I'm glad to have one of my own to read.

Over the Garden Wall: Distillatoria, Jonathan Case and Jim Campbell
Actually the only surprise on this list - I had picked out all of the others for myself! - this comic book was purchased by my Dad, who grew to love the series, when we watched it with him this past Halloween season. My sister and I got matching books, while my brother got a different one, and we're all excited to read them, and swap, to see how the characters we enjoy so much have continued onwards.

2019 Day Designer Daily Planner in "Climbing Floral" and planning supplies 
Naturally, I could never start a new year, without yet another iteration of my beautiful, beloved daily planner! Expect another "Just Planning Things" post on this topic sooner after 2019 hits.

Paddywax Library candle in "Jane Austen" 
Smells like gardenia, tuberose, jasmine... as well as social miscommunication, judgmental elderly female relatives, and empire waists!

Powell's Books Mug 
Something else you should be expecting to see on my Instagram very soon... and again... and again...

100 Essential Reads "Millenials" Scratch-Off Book poster
I had bemoaned to my sister how much I enjoy the concept of bookish scratch-off posters, but couldn't fully get behind them, because they leaned a little too heavy towards the "straight, white, male" author side of things, and weren't wholly reflective of what kinds of books existed in the world. This "Millenial" version - charting notable books between the years 2000 and 2016 fixes that issue!

what I gave

my sister, delaney
My celebrity and culture-obsessed younger sister was an obvious recipient for one of my favorite reads of 2017, All the Lives I Want: Essays About My Best Friends Who Happen to Be Famous Strangers, by Alana Massey. She also loves memoirs and humor books, too, which is why I decided to take up a friend's recommendation of Kanye West Owes Me $300 & Other Stories from a White Rapper Who Almost Made it Big, by Jensen Karp. 


my sister, madeline
A theater student, I knew one of the titles I'd be buying her as soon as I read the title Drama High: The Incredible True Story of a Brilliant Teacher, a Struggling Town, and the Magic of Theater, by Michael Sokolove. She also has aspirations of moving to Disneyland and becoming a character performer in the park shows - because she's a collegiate, and who doesn't dream of those sorts of things when you're in college? - so to fill her thirst for contemporary Disney drama, I picked up Keys to the Kingdom: How Micheal Eisner Lost His Grip, by Kim Masters, which I was glad to see she's already started reading!


my mama 
Nothing makes my mama excited quite like the promise of a good food memoir, especially if it's centered around her dream retirement place, which made In a French Kitchen: Tales and Traditions of Everyday Home Cooking in France, by Susan Herrmann Loomis, an easy choice. And over the past year or so, my mom has made a point of bringing up one of her favorite observational humorists of all time, Erma Bombeck, so I trekked my way down to Powell's bookstore in Portland to pick up a compendium of her works, too, in the form of Forever, Erma, by Erma Bombeck. 

What books did you pick up this holiday season? Did you give books as presents this year? Let me know, in the comments below!