Wednesday, August 28, 2013

College Fashion Post Link Up: Divergent

Sometimes, like Dorothy followed the yellow brick road and Ron and Harry followed the spiders, you've just got to follow the hype. 

With fans abuzz with Veronica Roth's Divergent movie news on their lips, all I've been hearing is that this newest of the "new Hunger Games" set is going to take over the box offices upon its release next March (even though that's the same thing they were saying about The Mortal Instruments series, with City of Bones majorly tanking after it was released only a week ago). It's also been the most-often requested source of inspiration on my College Fashion "Looks from Books" series; therefore, I figured, why not just follow the masses, and give the people what they want? 

Divergent features a futuristic Chicago, where society is divided into five “Factions,” each dedicated to an all-encompassing virtue, guided by what they best believe to combat the evil that grows in society: Abnegation (the selfless), Erudite (the intelligent), Candor (the honest), Amity (the peaceful), and Dauntless (the brave). Upon turning sixteen, all citizens of this future lone city - closed off by towering walls, patrolled by the Dauntless - must choose which Faction they will devote their lives to, and when the time comes for Beatrice “Tris” Prior, she leaves behind the Abnegation world in which she grew up, to move into the realm of the Dauntless. Her path is a difficult one, and she soon finds that being brave doesn't always mean she’s not afraid. And what she’s most afraid of, is for her new family to find out what she truly is… Divergent.

Like most of the popular YA I've read, it carries a few marks of familiar style: lower reading comprehension level, easily explained "bad guys," familiar plot tropes and popular genre application. Initially, these distracted me a little, because I was so used to what I was seeing that it all read as a game of travel bingo: Young female protagonist in median age? Square. Who isn't as normal as she initially thought? Square. Overcoming adversity to rise in people's esteem based on hard work and help of her friends? Square. 

Then, all of a sudden, you start to realize that this thing really pops, sizzles, and spins into an entire new realm of color, instead of just the typical dystopian gray, charred muddle of stakes. To borrow from one of my favorite SNL characters, "This here is real!" Whereas other current dystopian YA might wait a little too long establishing the "normal" of the lead character in an attempt to mask over obvious flaws in the construction of their social structure, Divergent throws itself headfirst into the mess of what makes this society so broken and dangerous, by simultaneously endangering the life of its lead characters numerous times. It was fabulous. 

Because of this unforeseen need to put Tris in as much danger as possible, I had no idea what was coming at any given time. The pace frenetically flew by with the speed of a passing train (Divergent fans get it), and sometimes left me with a vertigo rivaling the view from the top of a Ferris wheel (fans get that, too). This plot moved, and fast, and I had no idea what I was speeding toward most of the time. 

Veronica Roth did her best to take her readers for as much of a ride as possible, making something new out of a shopworn genre, elevating the stakes to a dizzyingly high point in a very short period, and letting them speed down the tracks as fast as they could. And bonus points: she wrote the first book while finishing up her time as an undergraduate at Northwestern University, which speaks of some seriously impressive time management (or at least some very heinous homework). 

Check out my College Fashion article here, and here's a sneak peek of one of my favorite outfits, based off of the Abnegation uniform: 
Tell me what you think! 

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Dark Side of Beauty

There's nothing quite like author loyalty. As soon as I'd finished A Great and Terrible Beauty all the way back in the sixth grade, I knew it would stick with me (and it did: it's still one of my favorite-to-recommend YA novels). However, while I still have space reserved on my bookshelf for that series, I've never tried sampling any of her other works... until I saw the intriguing cover of Beauty Queens on the library book shelf. It was time to put my faith in Libba Bray to the test.

The novel is centered around the Miss Teen Dream beauty pageant, which suddenly finds its contestants crashed on a seemingly-deserted tropical island, teeming with native species of poisonous spiders and giant snakes. It is also a secret location of secret weapon holds and  armaments for The Corporation, the megalomaniacal organization that holds a tight monopoly over America and clamp on not only consumer's wallets, but society's expectations of beauty and perfection (which explains why they sponsor the pageant itself in the first place). With such obstacles in their path - as well as others, like mind-altering flowering berries, sexy British reality show TV pirates, an Elvis-obsessed and volatile dictator, and the active volcano on the island - these girls have a lot cut out for them if they hope to get back home safely. Suddenly, the smile-and-wave act isn't going to cut it.

The topic of the novel itself was interesting, but through the rest of the plot, it got progressively more and more ridiculous. The ludicrous nature of the elements involved made the novel over-stylized with satire and over-saturated with progressively more insane plot twists. Satire itself typically thrives in the nature of the unreal, but as the novel drew on, the instability of the world Bray created simply got so unbelievable, that it didn't read like any kind of a statement at all... the whole "exciting and new" surprise of unexpected elements, itself, grew tedious and expected.

The element of the book that could have used a little more reality, was in the inclusion of lesbian, trans-woman, disabled, and ethnic minority characters. All of these offer really unique perspectives and deserve a larger place in YA, being that the current social attitudes and government treatment of these types of people are more important to upcoming generations. But because of the zany nature of their reality, as well as the current attitudes of society, it seemed like the calm-faced normality and expressive breakthrough with which they were treated, could only exist in a world as insane as the one they inhabited in the novel. It didn't help that it seemed like every other character beyond this set was pure stock, too.

Overall, the novel tackled some heavy topics, like government inability, materialism, corporate monopoly, and the ideals of modern feminism and femininity. But instead of bringing out the big guns like the AK-47s the girls could handle so well, it was more like staring down the barrels of Yosemite Sam's pistols: it was simply too cartoonish to be taken seriously.

The writing of the novel was, additionally, a little sloppy. In some places, prosaic and to the point, in others, cutting and sarcastic, in others... well, let's just say that I assumed a girl was part werewolf for a portion of the novel because her "curse" was explained in such a poor manner, in an attempt at being poetic.

In the end, I read the entire novel, not because I was enjoying it all that much, but just to see how bat-sh** crazy things could get before the page count was up. Definitely for fans of weird summer beach reads, maybe not the best for anyone taking a plane soon.

An in terms of my loyalty to Libba Bray... it is unchanged. AGaTB had it's weirdo moments, but was for the most part, refined and efficient, in terms of building suspense and maintaining a realistic view of a world. Beauty Queens was so absolutely opposite of that. However, both having something in common: they were things I had never seen done in YA before, involving the inclusion of unique and personable characters, humor and wit, and plot elements that no one else would ever think of (I mentioned the sexy British reality show TV pirates, right?). I will continue to read her works, to see how many different kinds of out-of-the-box, as well as refined, elements she can bring to the table.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Savannah's Back-to-School Shopping for Bookworms

Even though there's still a little bit of August left for most of us, before school and homework and rain and Fall come to claim us yet again, everyone knows that it's prime time for back-to-school shopping, and, most importantly, Fall fashion (yes, I can say "most importantly," because I write for a fashion website, remember?). 

Inspired by my increasingly frequent trips to Target, H&M, Nordstroms, Sephora, and thrift shops all around my beloved Tacoma, I decided to compile a list of the top ten necessary items for back-to-school shopping for my fellow bookworms

1. The Cozy Cardi - perfect for all the time you'll be spending in drafty libraries on campus.  Aeropostale, $35.
2. The Knitted Beret - to hide yesterday's bed hair, so you can read tomorrow's big title. Charlotte Russe, $8.
3. Under-eye Concealer - for covering up the evidence of last night's cram session (or trip to Mordor. No judgement here). Sephora, $24.
4. The Messenger Bag - for carrying loads of books across the Quad. Tillys, currently sold out.
5. Hair Ties - for keeping your hair out of your face while you're reading. Pink Mascara, $14.
6. A Good Planner - to schedule more reading time into your suddenly-busy-again life. Target, $8.
7. Out of Print Clothing tees - Wear your heart on your sleeve, and your favorite book on your shirt. I really shouldn't have to sell you guys on this prospect. Out of Print Clothing, $28.
8. Two-In-One Lip & Cheek Stain - to allow for more reading time in your already-busy mornings. Sephora, $30.
9. Boyfriend Jeans - for loose and lazy lounging with a good book on a chilly afternoon. Aeropostale, $25.

...and Number 10. The Perfect Fall Novel!

10A. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen. I read this book every Fall, just because I feel like while Summer is built for Americana, Autumn and Winter are designed for British Classics. Any classics fan or romance lover is, at some point or another, destined to read -and subsequently, fall in love with - this book.
10B. Crown of Midnight, Sarah J. Maas. Probably the most-anticipated release of August (it comes out on the 27th), I won't be able to read it until later in September, due to sorority-Recruitment-related activities. And it's totally killing me.
10C. Bitter River, Julia Keller. Another soon-to-be-released, but here's the coup: I have an ARC! Expect a review coming up on the blog shortly, and chances are, it's going to be good words, based on what I've heard of it so far.
10D. Brooklyn Girls, Gemma Burgess. I'm in the middle of this novel right now, and I'm pretty sure that there's going to be a permanent indent on my floor, due to how many times my jaw has hit it at this point. And I'm only on page 30! This book is hilarious.

Well, that concludes my list of Back to School Shopping for Bookworms. What's in your shopping cart for back to school? What great books are you looking forward to reading this Fall?

Friday, August 16, 2013

Boss Lady

I've already spoken out about my love of that hallowed institution of late night laughs, Saturday Night Live, as well as comedian memoirs, like those from television juggernaut Mindy Kaling (Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?) and past SNL frequent guest, Steve Martin (Born Standing Up); therefore, the constant buzz surrounding Tina Fey's Bossypants was wholly unnecessary in hooking my attention. I was sold on this book before I had even taken it off the shelf.

The memoir is filled with humorous accounts from all parts of the comedienne's life, from a doomed one-sided college romance, to her background as a theater-camp nerd, to her time she logged at SNL as a writer and co-anchor of Weekend Update, to the feat of juggling politics and impartiality (yes, she's talking about Palin).

From the get-go, Fey's book is, as expected, horrendously funny: each chapter reads like a comedy set, with her trademark sarcasm and wit fully present throughout. It's almost like you could hear it in her own voice... which makes me wonder whether she has an audio book. The jokes are constantly coming, the wisecracks at a consistent pace, like a steady drum beat, punctuated by rim shots. The woman knows what she's doing when it comes to doing, essentially, her job. 

The problem was, though, that each chapter was its own little sketch: a series of vignettes loosely strung throughout, held together by general themes, no correlating chronological order. Even comedy needs rhyme and reason, and if not that, a timeline in the front of the book spelling out which parts of her life happened when. In more than one place, I got lost in the joking nature of it all, and couldn't find as much of the substance I felt it lacking, as if she felt, in writing it, that candor and simplified storytelling got in the way of a near-constant parade of humor. If I hadn't already had a good idea as to the chronology of her career, I might have been dashed to incomprehension against the bulky masses of her witticisms and jokes, lost in the sea of her constantly moving stories, leaving little time to simmer in how her life actually has been thus far.

References drawn to shining gemstones in the crown of her comedy career were thus difficult to frame, with the lack of solid background, and it was obvious. 30 Rock references weren't even bothered to be staged or fully explained, so a non-viewer like me - or the majority of America, as she fully admits that the critical darling was not a regular ratings-drawer - couldn't follow the jokes to a recognizable source, while her now-iconic turn as the VP candidate was scripted out in it's entirety. It seemed like a ploy to the audience's familiarity, by drawing emphasis to the parts of her body of work that they would find most recognizable, and it didn't work well. 

Regardless, Fey is a champion among comedians, a well-intentioned feminist, a carefully-weighed political informer, a great mom, and a regular human being, and all of those are displayed in this memoir. She is a multi-faceted funny lady, and while her sarcasm and humor sometimes glossed over her real-ness in a way I found really disappointing, she remained very cool. (And if you haven't read "A Mother's Prayer for her Daughter" yet, be aware that you need to. Google it.) 

For longtime fans of the comedy darling, and champions of the career woman model, not looking for much by way of substantial life experience or background on Fey's work, but definitely looking for a good laugh, this book is for you. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

College Fashion Link-Up: Rambling Man

Summer is winding down, and there's no better time than the heat of August for a great summer road trip. I should know; at this time, two years ago, I was scouting out Eastern Washington's colleges, and at this very moment, several members of my family are holed up at a hotel in SoCal, deciding whether my sister, The Cheerleader, could make it a home. (My guess is yes, being that they bisected the straight line traveling between universities with quick trips to Universal Studios and the Winchester Mystery House. I don't think her heart's ever going to leave the state now.)

Then again, while I may be enjoying the time I have left in my beloved Tacoma, I can still take this mental vacation, courtesy of Jack Kerouac, with On the Road.

The story follows the young recent divorcee Sam Paradise, through his cross-country adventures, and his relationship with the hedonistic and un-anchorable Dean Moriarty. Based off of the true 1940s travels of Kerouac and his fellow Beat man, Neal Cassady, the tale was written on a single continuous scroll of typewriter paper in 1951, and is lauded for its lyricism and jazz style, as well as being a manifesto of sorts for the rebellion and exploration of the Beat generation, of which Kerouac became the official mascot when it was published in 1957.

I'm not one to dwell much on the romantic ramblings of quintessential rebellious, moody American Manhood (Here's to spitting in your eye, Ernest Hemingway, the unofficial drunk uncle of this type of literature). The constant sexism masquerading as a lover's temperament was degrading and dulled the first half or so of the book, as well as all of Dean's relationships, and the racial romanticism and ill-depiction of the ethnic representation in the book was stereotypical and served little purpose. This all being said... this was a young guy, an aspiring writer, in a time where behaviors and themes like these were en vogue. Of course he was going to be an overly macho, woman-using, racially insensitive, over-thinking pavement chaser and un-tethered philosophist. This was, after all, the era of the Beats.

I was fully enraptured in, while not what he was saying, the way he was saying it. If you are ever misguided enough to ask me what my favorite style of writing is, I'm always going to say the flighty, floaty dreaminess, yet deeply mentally-focused practice of "Stream of Consciousness" style. While Kerouac was not really a "SoC" writer, he was definitely not one to be confined by typical writing practices of punctuation and grammar. It was as if the fact that he wrote the entire book in three weeks on a constant coffee drip (true story), had granted him enlightenment, in some fashion, and his every word was escaping off the page with his ascent into nirvana. It was, honestly, glorious, and I loved it.

I was so inspired by the prose - the sentences that stretched on like sections of roadway, the paragraphs that lasted as long as road construction in Washington and made just as much sense - that I ended up using the novel for my most-recent article on College Fashion. I even mixed in some of my favorite lines from the novel, as well! While you'll have to follow the link to see it yourself, here's a sneak preview at one of my favorite looks from the piece, involving the personal philosophies of the Beat boys of Kerouac's generation:

Pretty cute, huh? Unfortunately, I won't give away the thought process behind the outfit; you'll have to journey over to my "Looks from Books: On the Road" article yourself to read it. 

While I didn't necessarily love the narrator, or what he had to say, I really appreciated the structure - or is it more like mis-structure? - cadence and pacing of Kerouac's rambling tale, and that's enough for me. Fans of interesting and unique writing styles - as well as philosophical journeys towards what is youth, progress, love, and dependency - this book is a must. Best take it for a spin before school starts, and enjoy it in the remnants of the summer sun. 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

A Really Big Reveal, and News for the Future of "Playing in the Pages"!

All right, let me just say this first: I have been cheating on you. That's right, my readers, I have been two-timing you... with another blog! 

After having posted on Playing in the Pages for three years, the art of blogging was pretty entrenched in my being. And yet, I wanted more than just what was available to me on the Blogger platform... I knew that there was more out there in the blogosphere, and I wanted to find out just what I could do. Here's how I explained it in my first-ever post on my secret lifestyle blog, Savannah Sweet:

Proof of my infidelity, at SavannahSweet.Wordpress.Com
"No matter how much of a boon it has ended up to be to be a blogger – impress your teachers, and land exciting editor positions with national websites, novices! – you know that there’s always so much more going on in the blogosphere, and as blogging has grown as an industry, I’ve become more interested in learning the secrets behind a well-run personal space. What makes a blogger interesting to readers, why people return to view similar information day after day, what sort of content proves to be most alluring to the general public, how bloggers parlay online experience into further forms of communication, etc. 
My first experiment this year took place starting in October through December, when I headed over to my friends in the Tumblr set and asked them to teach me their ways. Within a month, my blog (the now defunct) DrivingWithMiloandTock.Tumblr.Com, had amassed approximately 100 followers… and I was glued to my computer screen approximately 12 hours out of the day. Not so willing to sacrifice my mental sanity on the altar of a strictly scientific experiment, I deleted the account, and thus ended that blogger-ship. However, I am not one to be daunted by failure, and vowed to try out a new experiment when I had a little bit more free time
They say that genius is a product of necessity, thus explaining why I was most recently inspired during a jam-packed Dead Week, getting ready for Finals, last quarter. I read the likes of Cupcakes and CashmereThe Londoner, and Kendi Everyday, on the daily, so why not try my hand at a lifestyle blog
I was already familiar with the WordPress format as a contributing editor for CollegeFashion.Net (“Looks from Books” column, in case you were wondering why I didn’t take this opportunity for blatant self-promotion ), so I decided to take a second look at this foundation for a blog of my own. I plan on keeping and building it throughout the summer, and seeing what sort of good work I can do on this platform, within the space of about three months.
I by no means plan on neglecting my other blogs; if anything, what this experiment means is that I can simultaneously compare various types of blogging formats: Blogger, Single-Author-and-Developer WordPress, and Multi-Author-and-Developer WordPress. I mean, I’ve already worked the majority of angles in the social networking microverse, so this shouldn’t be much more to juggle. And who knows? Maybe I’ll learn some coding while I’m here." 
I tried to keep everything on the new blog as basic as possible, with minimal writing and an emphasis on visuals, as well as simply employing the bare bones of what the Wordpress formating and themes had to offer. I didn't actively seek out new and interesting content, but instead, made a direct decision to incorporate only things that I was doing in my day-to-day life anyways.

And yet, by the last day of my experiment with Savannah Sweet, after only two months of blogging, I hit 50 individual "likes" on my blog, with 31 followers on Wordpress Reader, having made only 25 posts total, not including the "origin story" (documented above). In the time I had been blogging, I had garnered 117 site views, and 11 comments, which is more comments than I had achieved in the first two years of blogging on PitP altogether. Therefore, I would document my meanderings within the Wordpress format as a success!

I didn't learn much coding, but I did learn a couple of things about how blogs work, what sort of content interests readers the most, and which blogging platform I thought was best for what I do, and what others do. While the experiment may be ending early, as I find that as back-to-school prep kicks up again, I am, once again, left with a dearth of free time, and will stick to blogging on Playing in the Pages only.

However, I am taking some of those lessons I've learned on my other blogs with me. And they're going to be driving me to make some VERY big changes for PitP in the very near future. Expect a new and exciting updated look for the blog, and some interesting new features to come in the Fall!

And if that news doesn't excite you enough, here's a sneak peek at the new header graphic...

If anything, these experiments have made me so appreciative of the wonderful readers I have had across all of my blogging platforms, you lovely people, who continue to support me and other bloggers, by seeking out new and exciting content across the web. Thank you so much, and I can't wait to show you all what I have in store! 

Monday, August 5, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Books and Their Sequels

"Top Ten Tuesdays" is a weekly countdown meme, hosted by the Broke and the Bookish!

I don't think this topic needs much of an introduction: despite the fact that I much prefer stand-alone novels for their solidity and literary clout, sometimes, you just want to spend a little more time in a wonderful world with wonderful characters.

(Or, just to see how much more havoc might be wrought: what would happen after the funerals in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet? Would Montague and Capulet ever re-kindle their hatred-between-houses? Would the Prince ever get a handle on his city? And what of Rosaline? I've got to know!) 

Regardless, here are some of my favorite books, and their status with sequels these days. 

Books That Have Sort-of Passable Sequel Stand-Ins

1. Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
Sequel: Death Comes to Pemberley, P.D. James
A mystery surrounding the inhabitants of Pemberley at the time of a party, and the description on Goodreads mentions the presumed murder of George Wickham (come on, don't tell me the last half of that sentence doesn't make you smile). And now, the BBC liked it so much, it's becoming a miniseries. 

2. Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte
Sequel: Jane, April Lindner
It's a modern retelling, sure, but that doesn't mean you can't learn something new the second time round with a new perspective on things. 

3. Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte 
Sequel: Catherine, April Lindner
Ditto to #2. I swear, April Lindner works magic, and I'm not joking. Read my very recent review here

4. Beastly, by Alex Flinn
Sequel(s): rest of Alex Flinn's modernized fairy tales
Alex Flinn has a very specific approach to the tweaking and twisting of classic and iconic fairy tales to fit into the life of the average teen, and her magic touch extends to some perfectly sparked YA romance, as well. I'm okay with less of Beastly, if I get things like A Kiss in Time or Towering... for now. 

5. Peter Pan, by J.M. Barrie
Sequel(s): Peter and the Starcatchers series, Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson
This book series is already beloved, including by the fifth grade version of me, as well as fans of the Broadway stage. Therefore, while they could never compare fully to the original's iconic and emotional nature, they satiate our need for Neverland in current forms of entertainment. 

Books That Don't Have Sequels and Never Will, and That's a Real Shame

6. Poison, by Bridget Zinn
Why Not? Zinn, tragically, died from cancer before her book was even published. She never got the chance to see firsthand what sort of an effect her novel had on fans, but at least her family knew that her talent was appreciated. So, despite the fact that her book was so immediately embraced, there cannot be a sequel. 

7. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
Why Not? The Pulitzer Prize winner had originally planned to follow up her instantly classic novel with another, involving a mystery and a murder trial, but she never did. Critics guess that it may be that she knew she could never reach the fame TKaM did, but still, decades later, fans wish that we knew the woman Scout grew up to be. 

8. The Witch of Blackbird Pond, by Elizabeth George Speare
Why Not? First of all, do not mock me for still being hung up on a book I read in the eighth grade for English class. While there is not a shortage of spunky, spirited, ethically-minded young women in YA today, there are no books about "witches" nowadays that fill the bill left by an amazing portrayal of an ill-fought witch hunt without any actual magic occurring in it. Where are Kit and Nat now? Unfortunately, this book was published in 1957, and the author has since passed away. 

9. The Secret Garden, by Francis Hodgson Burnett
Why Not? There was a flawed 2000 movie (capitalizing on the 1993 successful adaptation of the original novel) called Return to the Secret Garden, starring a young Camilla Belle, but that doesn't count. At all. AT ALL. Does anyone other than me wonder what happened to the likes of Mary, Colin, and Dickon? And what happened to that glorious garden? 

10. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Why Not? Shut up, shut up, SHUT UP, you naysayers: Yes, I fully understand that he was the voice of the Jazz Age, that he perfectly captured the end of the American Dream before the Roaring '20s crashed with a whimper into the Great Depression... but the man died in 1940! What would it have been like, to hear the voice of Nick Carraway speaking through his masterfully-crafted words again, as the nation experienced success after hard times, with the economic uplift in WWII? After speaking so eloquently and famously about the downfall of American excess, what about the success of America's rallying cry? Instead of fighting the demons within ourselves, clamoring for "more, more, more," we're also fighting the demons we see across the ocean, similarly on the warpath for power and conquest! Am I the only one who thinks that sounds cool? 

What are your feelings about books and their sequels?

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Sugar High

I am an ardent fan of The Hills, as every member of my family now knows, as I have subjected them to MTV's Retro Brunch for essentially its entire run - at the gym, at home, even at other people's homes (think plant-watering and puppy-sitting, not breaking-and-entering) - and the episodes I haven't been able to see quite yet, number well past 30 on our DVR. Because I am such a huge fan of the show, I am also, as to be expected, a huge fan of Lauren Conrad, a.k.a She Who Can Do No Wrong (Except Say No to Paris). Therefore, being the book-lover and Lauren-enthusiast I am, it totally makes sense that I read her L.A. Candy seriesL.A. Candy, Sweet Little Lies, and Sugar and Spice - in three days, while on vacation. (It's totally normal.)

The series follows Jane Roberts, a sweet SoCal transplant into the L.A. scene, as an assistant at a premiere events planning firm, hoping to strike it big as an party coordinator for celebrities, as well as her best friend, Scarlett Harp, a bold, brainy bombshell with a mouth that could run a mile, as well as speak fluent French. Together, these two are velvet-roped into the glittering world of reality television by PopTV superstar Trevor Lord, who knows that they - along with socialite Madison Parker and dim-bulb beauty Gaby Garcia - would make the perfect combination to put him back on the celebrity map. Together, the girls fight and feud with not only each other, but abusive and unhealthy relationships, the machinations of a carefully-constructed business, and those pesky paparazzos, while figuring out that maybe L.A. isn't as sweet as it seems.

The element that first struck me about this book was the technicality of the descriptions of life on a TV show, with particular insight into the realm of reality television. Lauren herself explained, upon the publishing of the first novel, that such descriptions that especially drew my interest - of getting miked, staging shots, receiving direction off0camera, the veneer of artificiality that such shows projected mixed with the imperfections of reality - were basically straight out of her experiences with The Business.

The novels obviously drew comparisons to the show itself: before I had even finished the first book, I had already cast the novel in my head with people from the show, despite pesky details like personality incongruities or differing descriptions. The perky, optimistic, and fashion-savvy Jane Roberts was obviously Lauren Conrad, being the leader of the pack, despite the fact that the real woman never came off as self-doubting or, dare I say it, slightly vapid as Jane. It wasn't personal; it was that the script had changed, but the cast was pre-set, just because this was already territory we had tread with a specific set of people.

It also helped that the novels were, essentially, written for television. Descriptions of action and physical direction took up the space not filled by dialogue, diction was primarily basic language peppered with helpful technical descriptions of L.A. life and witty commentary, and most deeper feelings - when delved into at all - could be conveniently conveyed with the eyes or a smile... just like TV.

For me, this was perfect. It was a reality show airing in my head! Better yet, you could tell that was the intention: to not only give a show, but do so by exposing the show behind the show. If reality television really is as difficult a world as Conrad describes, I can't blame her for wanting to be at the helm; not as director or creator of a tough-to-wrangle world, but as author, where absolutely every element could be subject to her own direction.

For fans of Lauren Conrad, or similarly-minded stories from the West Coast's glittering city, this novel will definitely fill the gap left behind by the show, and maybe give a little more insight into what was really happening in those iconic Hollywood hills when the cameras stopped rolling.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Coming Attractions: August

{A bedside snapshot of my vacation reading material, A new book-themed book bag from Out of Print Clothing I picked up at a local bookstore, A shout out to my hometown from within the pages of Sunset magazine}

And so it was that all that we had originally predicted, indeed, came to pass: summer was slipping through my hands like sand at the beach, melting away like a Fudgesicle laid out in the sun, burning out like the dying embers of a campfire, speeding away like my younger sister on her new bicycle along the trails in Sunriver Resort, Oregon, within the boundaries of which the fam and I are currently safely deposited. That's right, I'm on vacation, and yet, all I can do is watch the minutes tick by before those same free hours are gone for good. 

We'll have to cram as much fun as possible into the next 31 days, then, before I'm mustered up back at Sigma Kappa at the University of Washington for Formal Fall Recruitment! This month, I've got a lot planned for Playing in the Pages, including...
  • The big reveal of a blogging secret I've been keeping for the past two months! 
  • The return of "The Novel and the Movie" showdown with a popular new title! 
  • Some fun ideas for Back-to-School shopping for bookworms! 
  • and Maybe even some changes in format and theme for the blog! 

And, of course, there will always be more reviews, more Top Tuesday posts, and more reasons for me to keep on reading! So keep on coming back throughout August, so you can see what  I do with the remainder of my summer months.