Friday, January 31, 2014

Coming Attractions: February

{Super duper adorable calendar desktop wallpaper from Oh So Lovely

I'm sorry, but I seem to have misplaced my January somewhere... between winding down from Winter Break and starting off a new quarter at school, heading into new and challenging classes guns blazing, applying for (and being accepted into, eek!) the English Major Program, watching the Seahawks majorly kick some ass this season, and generally having a good time up here at UW, I think that it managed to slip away from me! 

But honestly, this month went by so quickly, I didn't even realize that I'm still sticking with my Blogging Resolutions for 2014 (go me!). I've been really great at posting this month, and I'm totally loving it. And you're going to be seeing way more of that from me in February as well, continuing to post as much as possible, getting my hands on as many books as possible, and generally trying to make this blog as busy as possible, primarily to distract myself from the fact that my schedule is already as full as possible. 


{Buying my Little her first ever copy of Harry Potter (I know, I couldn't believe it either!; Saying goodbye to my darling Big, who is now safely deposited in Manchester, England, for Study Abroad; Spending some quality time with one of my favorite people: my awesome sister, The Cheerleader!} 

these are a few of my favorite links...

  1. Buzzfeed's list of Twelve Historic Bars Every Book Nerd Needs to Visit. Well, I am turning 21 in October... 
  2. GReads!'s list of 20-Something Year Olds in Fiction. Why not read about someone your own age, instead of yet another 16-year-old saving the world? 
  3. It was the bookish engagement heard 'round the world, and it happened in my own  hometown! A Tacoma lady gets surprised by a Pride and Prejudice-themed engagement from her boyfriend (now fiance, duh). 
  4. Another Buzzfeed list of 23 Epic Literary Love Tattoos. (Don't tell my mom I'm linking to this...) 
  5. And this sweatshirt. And this sweatshirt. And this sweatshirt. 

quote of the month

{Print via Society 6}

What did you love about January? What are you most excited for in February?

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Review: The Jane Austen Book Club

Maybe I should hold back on the Austen for a while... it seems I'm getting a little burned out on Regency ruffles and perfectly-written gentlemen. After all, there's only two more days until February, which will hopefully soon usher in the return of Emma Approved, and fix my Jane-dependence in short order. But the disappointment of Death Comes to Pemberley left such a bad taste in my mouth that I just had to try and rinse it out with something better... which is why I picked up an old recommendation of some of my aunts, and started Karen Joy Fowler's The Jane Austen Book Club.

The novel follows the lives of six friends - Jocelyn, Sylvia, Prudie, Allegra, Bernadette, and (the lone dude) Grigg - as they make their way through each of Austen's novels in their book club, while using the classic stories to examine the love - or lack thereof - in their own lives. Over the course of the six months they are together, they find relationships tested, and others come together, while the under-running current of Jane's stories provide some lessons they just might need to hear.

This book is yet another on loan from my mom, who, before her, had been recommended the novel by two of her sisters, which led to a bit of expectation before I had even began the novel that it would be a fairly girly romance with a lot of heart. And for the most part, my prediction was spot on. This is definitely not a book most dudes I can think of would pick up of their own volition. And the emotional core of the novel was definitely the focus: relationships - between a mom and her daughter, between two old friends, between a husband and a wife - are definitely the focus, and are both well-described and well-constructed.

However, what really struck me the most about the novel - especially for one written with the centralized idea being the function of Jane Austen's writing in people's lives - was the more literary nature of the writing style. There were some instances of really lovely language in there, and, honestly, it was unexpectedly nice. I didn't really guess that there would be more complex language and extended metaphor or anything, but I liked it. The overall style was one I really liked, and it was fitting for a book about books.

Not that the stories within TJABC really had to do with Austen; primarily the novels just served as a basic jumping off point for some interesting, three-dimensional characters, to touch on some pertinent contemporary themes in relationships. But it wasn't anything spectacular, mind you: whether it was because I wasn't the ideal demographic for reading it, or just that it never really connected with me on a personal level, there wasn't much of anything between me and this book. It was good. I liked the writing. It was interesting... but in the end, it wasn't for me.

Overall, it was a nice and comfortable feel-good read to pass the time with, that never slips into stereotypes and leaves breathing room for imagination, but never really sparked anything in my mind, either.

(Oh, and don't watch the movie trailer... I think it actually made me like the book less.)

College Fashion Post Link Up: Howl's Moving Castle

Sometimes, you just need a little magic in your life. And let's face it: this gloomy Seattle rain is pretty much the least inspiring thing for me right now, not with the pace of the quarter picking up, and plans for the summer being made, and my Biggie moving all the way to Manchester, England (with their own kind of gloomy rain) for Study Abroad until Fall. I've had a pretty rough time of it this past week, which is why I've been so surprised of the reception of this past College Fashion article. 

I've actually been so swamped recently that I totally forgot I had anything coming out today that I was pleasantly surprised to see my Dad linking to it on Facebook (he's always better at keeping track of these things). So I followed the link, gave the article my customary one-over of approval, and went to check my email to see if there had been any comments. I almost threw up when I saw there had been eight. EIGHT. EIGHT OF THEM. IN AN HOUR AND A HALF.

Since then, in the three-and-a-half hours since the article has been posted, there have been 13 comments posted to the article. In the very prime of my "Looks from Books" articles - when novelty was matched with time and patience, the former of which has long run dry after a year of posts, and the latter two dwindling far more rapidly on my part - I had, on average, about 12 an article, and a cap of 17 individual positive comments on one article, most of them having occurred overnight. I am incredibly curious to see what numbers this article rounds out to... 

At any rate, I'm just glad to see the college girls of the world all enjoy a great fairy tale. Here's my favorite look from the article, based off of Sophie's curse from the Witch of the Waste:
To find out more, just follow the link to my most recent College Fashion article.
Let me know what you think! 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Worlds I'd Never Want to Visit

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

When I saw today's "Top Ten Tuesday" theme, I laughed a little bit, then shuddered. I, my dear friends, am a total and complete coward, and am not afraid to admit it, so the sheer fact that books are primarily motivated by conflict, and I hate conflict, there certainly weren't a dearth of fictional realms to consider as the timeshare from Hell. Without further ado, here are the places I would never, ever want to visit. Ever.

1. The Hunger Games' Panem
If I couldn't succeed in gym class, then how could I possibly survive in the Arena?

2. Alice's Wonderland
My homegirl Alice here has a world I love passing through via her books; however, little known fact about me: the Disney movie version terrified me to pieces as a kid, because I just couldn't wrap my head around the fact that nothing made sense, and that it was all so unfair.

3. Divergent's Chicago
Dystopian as a genre itself should probably be steered clear of when thinking about what sort of books you'd actually be able to survive in.

4. The moors of Wuthering Heights
Despite the initial murdering-every-character-upon-meeting-them-due-to-sheer-exasperation, I'd barely survive at all due to the unforgiving and desolate nature of the moors themselves. Get me the hell out of those heath and harebells, thankyouverymuch.

5. Oliver Twist's London
Depressing, gloomy, lonely and scared. This rough and dirty period of urbanization was both revered and hated by the illustrious Dickens, and his plights of the poor dissuade me from ever wanting to take a trip.

6. The world of Fahrenheit 451

7. Games of Thrones' Westeros
For reasons incredibly similar to The Hunger Games, I would not like to live in Westeros, due to the fact that I basically would have grown up and matured to the ripe old age of three before being hacked to bits in some coup and serving as collateral damage in a bid for the crown.

8. Basically anywhere involving zombies.
Does anything I've said so far make it sound like I can run fast?

9. Or vampires. 
I read Dracula in the sixth grade and still have to lock my windows and close my blinds before going to sleep at night.

10. And basically anytime set before the 20th century. 
Vaccinations. Central heating. Women's rights. Things I need that weren't all that up to snuff until recent centuries that I don't think I could really live without all that well, guys.

So, those are my Top Ten! What are yours? 

Monday, January 27, 2014

DNF Review: Death Comes to Pemberley

This is my first-ever DNF review, and while I'm disappointed how it all came about, I am fully confident in my decision to stop trying to enjoy this book at about 40% of the way through. It's a sad occasion, but I'm determined, because this just wasn't a very good book.

Death Comes to Pemberley, by P.D. James, details the story of the famous fictional house's residents - Mrs. Elizabeth and Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy - as what was originally supposed to be a time of excitement and celebration takes a turn for the macabre, when the oft-shunned Lydia Wickham stumbles out of a coach screaming that someone has killed her husband.

I don't have to remind you that I'm an Austen lover, right? Because the intense amount of excitement that followed the promise of George Wickham's murder would have clued you in otherwise. From the very blurb on the back of the cover, the novel promises excitement, a bit of gore, a mystery, and a fair amount of comeuppance for one of Austen's most despicable fellas. However, I'm going to puncture that little bit of hope that ballooned up in front on anyone who thought that this description actually sounded interesting: Wickham's not dead, and it's figured out in about the first 50 pages or so. What's worse, is that it didn't even take that long to figure out that this ain't no work of Austen. Let me explain...

Reasons (Besides That Wickham Isn't Actually Dead) That I Hated This Book: 

  • DCtP is, essentially, fanfiction. And that's not knocking fan fiction: sometimes you really wonder about what happens after the end of a story, and it's interesting to hear other fans' takes on the matter. However, when a work is proclaimed to carry the voice of the author as transposed into another era, you're immediately attuned to the fact that the author is writing with an adopted pen. By the end of the first chapter, I had already ticked off in my head everything Austen wouldn't have done... wouldn't have mentioned war, wouldn't have mentioned the names of minor servants (and certainly wouldn't have main one of them a main figure in the story), wouldn't have pointedly remarked on the political state of England, etc. The shoe, simply put, does not fit. 
  • Our favorite characters are given significantly ill treatment. Anyone who read Pride and Prejudice can attest to the enduring devotion that holds fast in the heart of any Austenian for that indomitable pairing. Layman's terms: Liz + Darcy= 5Ever. And yet, in this novel, our darling Lizzie's sparkling wit and playfulness are reduced to a simpering servitude, and Darcy is transformed into a wooden, stoic, and heavy-handed wall for her to bounce off of. They are never acknowledged as the rightful team they are - even by Regency era standards - and get rare amounts of time together at all. Minor characters are transformed into stock and static, which I can't stand either: Jane's not a saint, and Lydia's not a petulant idiot (well, not completely). There's complexity of character that was sacrificed for the complexity of plot, which, let's face it, was also pretty useless. 
  • If anyone actually wanted CSI: Regency Gentility Unit, they would have already made the TV show. And that's both a comment on the enduring nature of the television show and the exploitation of classic literature for popular entertainment format (here's looking at you, Elementary). But what is admittedly interesting about the concept of a period piece procedural is simply undermined by the sheer stupidity of police procedural standards for this time period! What they did was pretty basic stuff, and yet, we are subjected to in-depth descriptions of every aspect... even if it's just everyone staring at a dead guy on a table (What do you mean the victim's extreme and bloody amount of blunt force head trauma is the real cause of death? Well, you're the doctor). 
  • Send this one off to the Department of Redundancy Department. At the beginning of nearly every chapter - and then again, in more depth, at the beginning of each of the novel's individual sections, we are subjected to a rehash of the previous action, and given a role call of the mystery's key players in the matter. Do we need to be reminded of what's going on every 20 pages? Admittedly, maybe they were wondering whether the reader would have stopped paying attention between them. 
Regardless of the numerous other stumbling blocks thrown in my way by the book that came between me and contentment, I'm going to cut myself off here. Thank goodness I only paid $1 for it, and now I don't have to wonder about why a near-new copy was sitting on the shelf of a Goodwill's fiction section anyways. 

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Stacking the Shelves: The Why-I-Can't-Be-Trusted-In-A-Bookstore Haul

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly Saturday book meme from Tynga's Reviews, all about sharing the books you've added to your shelves over the course of the week.

Well, we had a three day weekend for MLK Day, so I decided to return home for the weekend, seeking some R and R... and in spectacular Savannah fashion, I saw the opportunity to go back to King's Books, and took it. What resulted was almost an hour spent holding my mother and sister hostage within the bookstore while I aimlessly browsed for whatever titles suited my fancy in every nook and cranny (including a science fiction and fantasy section I had never before encountered, oooohh). Me at my worst: after having noticed the kid sister wasn't looking for her own books anymore, I assigned her to scout out specific authors in other sections, and report back to me on what works were there available, while I was still looking on my own. It's not something I'm proud of, but just look at the goodies that came out of it! 


Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Just in case any of you guys like watching a high speed bandwagon with me attempting to throw myself at it as hard as I possibly can, you've got that to look forward to.

Songs of Willow Frost by Jamie Ford
The incomparable Jamie Ford - whose first novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, broke my heart and opened my eyes to more of Seattle's history - has got another book out, and it's also about Seattle. And opera. And it's Depression-era. So, go, Jamie, go!

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
You've just got to give props for a kick-ass cover... this futuristic novel comes highly recommended and has a Kiera-Knightley-and-Carey-Mulligan-helmed motion picture to its name, and apparently packs one hell of a plot twist.

The Keep by Jennifer Egan
Jennifer Egan is my fiction-writing-lady-crush. I said last year that her award-winning A Visit from the Goon Squad was one of my absolute favorite novels and I'm disappointed to say that I haven't read more of her work yet. I originally sought out Look at Me for my sophomore reading effort, but they had this one instead, so I went for it.

The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
Every good bookstore trip needs a classic (or two). One of my mom's favorites.

The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens
(Aforementioned second classic of the shopping trip). One of my English 333 professor's favorites.

The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley
I've been looking for some solid fantasy to get into recently, and I recognized the name of the author, due to the fact that I've gotten several recommendations for their work via my Goodreads account, so I just figured, why the hell not?


London Falling by T.A. Foster
My first attempt at reading New Adult, and I'm so excited! A shmoopy romance about a college senior whose Communications partnership turns out to be more than expected. What's wrong with shmoopy novels, every once in a while?

Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
Just in case you were wondering, yes, I do oftentimes automatically make up my mind for purchase of a novel when it happens to have Seattle in the plot blurb. I love Seattle.

Perfect Ruin by Lauren deStefano
Young adult dystopian post-apocalyptic science fiction ... with an interesting and original plot premise? Shut the front door.

What books did you get this past week?

Friday, January 24, 2014

Plot Playlists: Get Down and Study-Udy-Udy

(And why yes, I really did just dub this post after an episode of Hannah Montana.) 

So, it's now the end of the third week of school, and assignments are starting to pick up. I've got my first midterm on Monday, and I'm already falling behind in my demanding Informatics class, so despite my excitement over the arrival of the weekend - seriously, for a four day school week, it sure felt like running a marathon - these next two days are going to be jam-packed with some serious nose-to-textbook action.

However, it's one thing to say "I'm going to study for the next couple of hours," and quite another to actually studying. I've got my own working system of study set-up (I'll probably spell it out in a post for you around Finals season, so look forward to that!), but despite my own preferences, I feel like the one thing that everyone needs to actually commit to studying for a long duration of time is some appropriate study jams. 

Here are the study jam rules (as according to me): 

1. Must be instrumental. 

This is a bit of a hotly debated topic: some research shows that listening to music while studying impedes the learning process due to the intrusion of outside stimulus, while others have proven that it assists in cognitive recall. However, we can examine this issue easily ourselves... isn't it just harder to write an English essay when you've got Eminem yelling inside your ears? No words, no problem, but still all the benefit of good music. 

2. Must be appropriate for accompanying study material. 

Research shows that classical music - operating at around 70 beats per minute - effectively stimulates that specific form of information processing, while English or Arts studying requires something a bit faster, like a 90-100 pop-or-hip-hop beat pattern. While I don't think you necessarily need to match your study materials exactly with which beat pattern would suit it best, still, isn't it nice to know?

3. Must make it interesting. 

There's only so much Mozart you can take. Switch up your music every once in a while to keep it fresh, or find/make playlists that are made up of music you already love. If I had a dollar for every time I've listened to the Disneyland Park Soundtrack while I've been studying, I could probably afford an actual trip to the park. Disney is what I like, so I'm motivated to study, because I get to listen to some really good music.

SO, without further ado, here are some of my favorite study mixes, easily available on 8Tracks: 

 For the intellectual bad-ass who has a history paper due within 24 hours, there's "Move," by RekindleTheLight, a compendium of the instrumental tracks for popular rap, hip hop, and R&B hits from recent years, perfect to get you into the study groove. The high beat count will help with keeping your writing pace lively, and the energy of the music will help sustain your all-nighter until the paper is finished.
 For the English major looking for a bit of background music to keep her reading responses short and sweet, there's "Fly Away" by LadyKrona, a poppy, bright set of backtracks to some of today's hottest radio hits. Covers covering The Killers to Skrilex to Maroon 5, with mostly acoustic versions without any words to impede your own flow, and an up-tempo beat to keep you flipping pages until you're done.
 For the math and science majors who can't seem to do their homework without imagining themselves to be holding the fate of the Universe in their hands (here's looking at you, Physics and  Astonomy people), there's "Biodigital Jazz Man" by JamesSteward, a dramatic and down-tempo playlist of Tron Legacy remixes to keep you calculating far into the future, with all the drama you need. (Note: the soundtracks to the Assassin's Creed games work really well here, too!)
For the foreign language stud whose translations need a little inspiration, try these jaunty instrumentals, in "Le Fabuleux Destin D'Amelie Poulain," which is essentially just the soundtrack to the Academy Award-winning film Amelie (coincidentally, my favorite film!). I can't say it'll help you with your Mandarin, but it's a fun set of up-tempo tunes, and you Latin-rooters have definitely got a couple of good tunes in this one, right?

What's your favorite kind of music to study to?

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Review: The Fault in Our Stars

You guys. YOU GUYS.

You know how there's always that one book/movie/TV show episode/etc. that everyone says is going to make you cry? Like, Finding Neverland, or the Prom episode of Buffy? So, I'm that girl who always, always cries at those sorts of things... but never books. I don't know why - they totally used to make me tear up when I was a kid and more likely to get sucked into novels like they were a vacuum cleaner for your emotional stability - but there's little-to-no response from me when a beloved character dies or something tragic happens.

What I'm basically trying to say is, I thought I was strong enough to read this book, but I wasn't. 

The Fault in Our Stars is a best-selling novel penned by quintessential Contemporary Young Adult novelist John Green. Detailing the story of a teenage terminal cancer patient living on the borrowed time of a medical miracle, Hazel Grace meets the love of her life, Augustus Waters, at a Cancer Support Group. TFiOS has already wowed readers across the globe, and has a major motion picture adaptation, starring Shailene Woodley, set to premiere this summer.

It definitely has a reputation for being a heart-breaker, but I just wouldn't listen. Both of my younger sisters were rocked to their core, and ended up even scaring our mom a little with their deeply felt emotional reactions. Nearly everyone I've talked to who read this book felt it like a bomb, and for whatever reason, I thought I'd get away clean. Not so: my mom just so happened to walk into the room at the precise moment when my red splotchy face and squinted-up eyes were gushing with tears, in a way that's more akin to what the underbellies of the Titanic must have looked like after the iceberg hit. This book hurts, as it should. 

Structurally, it's solid. Narratively, it's perfection. It's got the dual benefit of being an incredibly well-written story with an incredibly interesting and involving plot. I've heard people try and write this off as simply one of the better spectrum of a Contemporary YA novel, but I think it transcends genre conventions entirely. I'd recommend this book to anyone, regardless of the shelf it came off of at Barnes and Noble. 

Honestly, it's no use trying to even write a review for this one, because I'll only be repeating what so many have said before me. It's beautiful, charming, and engaging; a tragic romance of star-crossed lovers that still manages to leave you with a little bit of hope. It touches on a difficult subject with a mix of a careful hand and a willful disavowal of the seriousness that has to accompany the topic of dying, creating a loving and fun cushion for the inevitable painful blow that you know is going to be coming from page 1. Seriously, this book is deep, and wide, and worth it.

This book made me both chuckle to myself and cry like the day I was born, and there's essentially no way to talk about it that won't sound cliche or overused. Just, please read this book.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

WWW Wednesday: Jan. 22nd

W.W.W. Wednesdays is a reading meme created by Should Be Reading


 One of these novels is going to be the star of an upcoming College Fashion article, and one is just for funsies. A classic young adult fantasy everyone loves, and a new take on an old classic with it's own BBC Christmas miniseries... can you guess which is destined for which purpose? 


Both thoroughly enjoyable contemporary works of fiction, and ones I am looking forward to reviewing, just for the opportunity to get my thoughts out there, especially on The Fault in Our Stars


An ARC for a much anticipated release from one of my favorite imprints of Random House, and a book recently adapted into an upcoming film that looks so, so, SO good. Can't wait to read them!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Review: The Chaperone

What can I say, I'm a giver. So when I saw that my mom's birthday was coming up towards the end of 2013, I wanted to give her a present that reflected both her tastes and mine, and got her a copy of Laura Moriarty's The Chaperone. However, what with my mom's Fellowship, and my constant need for new reading material, she handed it back to me - alongside a stack of other as-yet unread novels - and actually I ended up reading it before she did. Oops. Well, isn't it the thought that counts, anyways?

The Chaperone, by Laura Moriarty, follows the story of Cora Carlisle, a bored, middle-aged Southern woman who agrees to accompany a burgeoning dancer, the fifteen-year-old girl who would become movie star Louise Brooks, to New York for one hot summer in the 1920s, as her chaperone. However, she didn't bargain for Louise's headstrong and impertinent nature, nor did she factor in the importance her own motivation for the trip would play in her journey, and as the two try and track their dreams around the bustling city, the generation gap closes as Cora learns a little more about what it means to be young, free, and in love.

If any part of that synopsis I wrote up there sounds in the least preachy, self-serving, or over-moralized to you, that's because it was. By the end of the novel, I honestly had to put it down and say to myself, "Wow. I expected a lot less sentimentality from a New York Times Bestseller." Personally, I thought it came off as saccharine and overdone, like a Costco-bought sheet cake with three clear inches of frosting that nobody needed.

I may sound a little harsh. Good. Remember, this is a book that I felt confident in - assured by both NYT and USA Today that it was a #1 pick - enough so to recommend it to my own mother. It promised a character-driven fictional narrative detailing the life of tabloid-maker Louise Brooks, and was set in a terrifically promising time and setting... I mean, who doesn't love New York in the Roaring '20s? However, instead of gritty, historically accurate realism, I got a Lifetime Original Movie. What was marketed as delving into "rich history" and a peek at the "burgeoning movement for equal rights and new opportunities for women" was really just an excuse to exploit past tragedies and inequalities for a new and more involved use. 

One of my biggest problems with the novel was the lead character, who, promised in most marketing blurbs to be sparkling, cynical beauty Louise Brooks, was in fact the dowdy, over-condemning Cora Carlisle. And the book didn't so much as focus explicitly on the summer in New York, but use it as a specific focal point for illuminating on the rest of the book, detailing Cora's depressing past, and dingy future. It shouldn't have been so, either: Cora's life is not at all a bad one, in fact, she essentially gets everything she wishes for, only to find herself discontented with what she does have. Her insufferable whining wasn't even that well-written, either... If I had gotten the impression that her character was meant to be so needy, self-involved and self-important, then I would have lauded it as a solid characterization via inner narrative, but the fact that I think we were actually supposed to root for this egotistical biddy was a major source of annoyance.

I understand that a lot of people liked this book. I didn't. It just lacked anything to really recommend itself to me... no cultural realism, distinctly unlikable characters, misuse of solid plot points and setting, and poor fulfillment of hype really broke it for me. Even if I hadn't gone into it with such high hopes, I still wouldn't have liked it all that much. All in all, I'm going to have to say I wish I hadn't sprung $11.59 for this paperback, because I could have gotten my mom something a lot better.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Stacking the Shelves: Three-Day Weekend Reading List Haul

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly Saturday book meme from Tynga's Reviews, all about sharing the books you've added to your shelves over the course of the week.

Two weeks into school and beginning to get settled down into the monotony of everyday university life... sounds like the perfect time for a three day weekend, right? There's plenty of time to do all of that and more, thankfully, including taking a glance at some of the new titles my bookshelf earned this past week. It's a brief one - one title per day in the extended weekend, actually - but I'm excited about all of them. 


The Maze Runner, by James Dashner
A popular title on sale, and highly recommended by a friend whose excitement for the upcoming movie is beginning to near a mania level, I just had to have it.

The Diviners, by Libba Bray
I was obsessed for years with her A Great and Terrible Beauty series, and this one is set in the 1920s and has witches, so it was really only a matter of time, really...


The Divorce Papers, Susan Rieger (publish date: March 18th, 2014)

This is definitely a case of something-I-didn't-know-I-wanted-until-I-had-it for me.

Anyone can tell a story about a couple getting divorced - especially in this day and age - and only slightly fewer can write that story convincingly from the viewpoint of the lawyer handling one side of that case, but to tell it exclusively in memos, letters, emails, court documents, and other forms of non-narrating paper, is a brave, brave move, and one I'm excited to explore.

So, that's what I got this week. How about you? 

Friday, January 17, 2014

Review: The Line (Witching Savannah #1)

18010355(This novel was purchased through Amazon's new Kindle First feature, which allows for editor's picks of upcoming ebooks to be purchased prior to their release date. The Line (Witching Savannah #1) will be available on February 1st). 

Alright, I'm beginning to realize how much of a cover snob I really am, after exercises in organizing my review library and some general perusing of Amazon's Kindle Daily Deals... I mean, it's my Kindle! I don't even have to look at the covers, and yet, I will choose a book with a gorgeous cover, even if their contents aren't as in my line of preference, over an ugly one that was practically written for my tastes.

Which is why I borderline started salivating when I saw this fantastic cover for The Line, by J.D. Horn, which actually happens to be both gorgeous, and full of fun twisty plot points and relatable characters and everything else I hold dear in some of my favorite books. And I got it for $1.99? Lord, save me from myself. I was diving into the first few pages mere moments after the contents had fully downloaded onto the device, and I finished the book in one sitting. I'm not joking.

The Line details the story of Mercy Taylor, one of the youngest members of Savannah's preeminent witching family, but sadly one whose twin sister got all the power, leaving her with the family nickname of The Disappointment. Dealing with the scorn of her clan and some very unwelcome feelings of attraction to her sister's dedicated beau, Mercy goes to a Hoodoo witch for some help... and ends up getting into a lot more trouble than she asked for, after the powerful matriarch of the Taylor family winds up dead.

The book has been marketed towards fans of the Sookie Stackhouse series, and honestly, after finishing this book, that fact alone makes me really, really want to get to watching True Blood, because this was awesome. I never really got on board the whole "witch" train - I got bored with a lot of paranormal after people started switching to mermaids, and there's enough of that "bitchy witchy" stuff on even The Vampire Diaries or the current season of American Horror Story - but I guess I'm going to have to re-evaluate my stance, because the mythology of this book straddled just the right line between magic and reality. 

One of the things I loved most about it was the incredibly fast pace: it just thrashes through plot twist after plot twist at breakneck speeds, and successfully builds a captivating world of witches and magic at the heart of the history-wracked Southern city of Savannah. I mean, it's true that sometimes the constant plot reveals can gave you  a bit of whiplash, but honestly, it was nice going through a modern urban fantasy novel where you couldn't guess everything ahead of time. It has a bit of a clunky start, but give it two chapters, at least, before you even think about DNFing, because once you start moving into the actual plot, you're not going to want to put it down. 

Special kudos goes out to our sweet and spunky heroine, Mercy, too, who underwent a spiritual journey of her own, without sacrificing any of the friendliness and moral grounding that made her so appealing in the first place. She's a good kid, which was also nice, because she was written by a guy, so I appreciate the well-rounded character, who can totally kick ass, but still has her moments of insecurity, and always takes the higher ground. A well-written lady. 

But of course, everyone's got their problems, and The Line did have a couple of plot holes and a few kind-of stock characters. But honestly, it was just so much fun, that I didn't even care. 

For a book that's all about magic and mystery in one of the South's sweetest cities, that's short on simmer and big on bang, pick up a copy of The Line, while I go pick up a copy of Charlaine Harris' work. 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

College Fashion Link Up: J. D. Salinger's Franny and Zooey

I'm just going to put this plainly: I am totally having the best day ever. Woke up happy, saw Disney got 8 Oscar noms, it's my Dad's birthday, Psych class had movie day, English class got canceled, so I was done with all of my classes for today at 10:30am, SyFy not only had a new season opener of Face-Off, but it was "Beauty and the Beast" themed, I had a really good turkey burger for lunch, and I've basically been sitting around since then working on blog stuff, planning for the upcoming three day weekend, and listening to the Frozen soundtrack. It's been REALLY good to be me today.

Which is why it hasn't really bothered me that I haven't gotten any comments - positive OR negative - on the College Fashion post for J.D. Salinger's Franny and Zooey that went up yesterday.

The story follows the titular pair of Franny, an ambitious and impressionable college student, and Zooey, her brilliant and hardened older brother. After a mental breakdown compounded with a religious obsession renders Franny sick, and others sick with worry for her, Zooey attempts to strike some sense into his sister with only the kind of brotherly compassion and commiseration that he can bestow.

It's a short novel, actually a compound of the short story "Franny" and novella Zooey, which both originally ran in the New Yorker in the '50s, only to be released in a novel form of their own in 1961. And I think this kind of brevity really suited the strengths of the stories themselves: they didn't put much stock in events or settings, with the main scenes playing out briefly in a train station, a restaurant, and an apartment. The major action was that of the subtle dynamics in the relationship between the protective older brother and his damaged younger sister, and I think that was something really special about the novel. 

However, I don't have much more to say about it other than it was written in Salinger's detail-oriented and kind of glib style. The entire ordeal was written with a really tender hand, choosing to emphasize aspects of character development that wouldn't necessarily get much spotlight, like an involved effort to demonstrate intonation (seriously, check out the italics used in here) and emotional output (lots of angst), alongside the same crusade against inauthenticity and selfishness that was championed by Zooey's brother-in-literature, Holden Caulfield. 

But I didn't like it. It was interesting, but it was short, and it regurgitated ideology I already found insanely irritating when we were still stuck inside Holden Caulfield's head. But I needed a source of inspiration for College Fashion, and since Seventeen Magazine had thrown it a reference in their back-to-school issue, I figured there was a chance that it might resonate in some fashion (haha, get it) with CF's readers, but alas. It's been exactly a year since my second post on CF, which was about Catcher in the Rye, so at least there's a nice kind of symmetry about all of it. 

Even if the book wasn't exactly my fave, that doesn't mean there weren't some cool outfits that came out of it. Here's my favorite look from the article, based on Franny

To find out more, just follow the link to my most recent College Fashion article
Let me know what you think! 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: Boy, Snow, Bird

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature created by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that gives bloggers the opportunity to highlight upcoming releases about which they are extremely excited. 

This week, I'm getting really pumped about a mature re-imagining of a classic story, transplanting a well-worn fairy tale into 1950s suburbia, called Boy, Snow, Bird, by Helen Oyeyemi, set to be published March 6th

The story follows ex-New Yorker Boy Novak as she fruitlessly searches for the kind of beauty that she couldn't find in the big city - or in any other place, for that matter - until she lands in a small town in Massachusetts. Once there, she quickly falls for a widower, and suddenly finds herself the new stepmother to young, beautiful Snow Whitman. However, in a new and dramatic twist on the classic tale of crippling disgust for an aesthetic aberration on the part of an evil stepmother, Boy's condemnation of her new family stems from the birth of her own daughter with distinctly dark skin... resulting in the revelation that the Whitmans themselves are actually light-skinned African Americans, only passing themselves off as white to survive in the heated social scheme of mid-century East Coast life. This is the 1950s, and America is far from colorblind, but Boy has to look deep into the mirror for herself to figure out how much reflection really matters. 

Why I'm excited? 
Um, if you know me, then you definitely know that fairy tales? They're my jam. And not just the Disney version... I 4.0'd my class last quarter on Hans Christian Andersen's Fairy Tales without bothering to go to half of the actual classes (and if you don't think that stuff is dark enough for you, go look up "The Story of a Mother." Seriously, I dare you). I feel like Oyeyemi is reinventing the fairy tale in such a revolutionary way here, by harkening back to the darkness of "Snow White" in a way that's totally modern, calling out the horrifying aspect of violent familial aversion through the scope of one of the darkest periods of America's sucky track record for social equality. 

Also, it's supposed to be beautifully written, and I believe it. Helen Oyeyemi is a British-raised, Nigerian-born novelist and playwright whose take on the subject will be very noteworthy, I can just feel it. 

What novels are you waiting on this Wednesday? 

Big Screen Books: BBC's Emma

You've already heard me wax poetic about Jane Austen's intrepid heroine, Emma Woodhouse, and the amazing recent efforts on the part of Pemberley Digital to make her story live again. However, you've also already heard that for the month of January, Emma Approved is taking a brief hiatus... and it's slowly but surely eating me up inside and if I didn't take drastic action soon, I was destined to suffer the same tragic withdrawal that affected me the first time I finished Pride and Prejudice in the eighth grade.

Thankfully, my cure for lack-of-Darcy was simply to watch the movie on repeat, so if that worked then, why wouldn't a little more of Emma in my life relieve the pain of the hiatus? I turned to BBC's 2009 adaptation  as a stand-in for all of my Emma/Knightley feelings...

This version - served in four hour-long episodic installments - stars Romola Garai as our affable Emma, Micheal Gambon (aka, Dumbledore) as her father, Mr. Woodhouse, and Johnny Lee Miller (aka, Elementary's Sherlock) as Mr. Knightley. Another significant casting standout - for me, at least - included Mrs. Elton, as perfectly played by Christina Cole (you know, the mean blondie opposite Amanda Bynes in What a Girl Wants). The least you can say about this miniseries is that it has some seriously good-looking and talented people running the show.

One of the things you can always count on BBC for is that they take the time to honor one of their own, and this adaptation of yet another Austen classic is yet another perfect example of that. I had just rereading the book previous to watching the miniseries, as a means of tracking the accuracy of the action of Emma Approved as it unfolded (...and we're going to go ahead just ignore the extreme nerdiness of that sentence), so I had a very strong grip on the ties between conveyance of plot in both versions, and I can tell you that it was damn near perfect in every aspect.

I've already commented on the pretty people, right? Well, let me elaborate: Romola Garai - an actress I've never encountered before with a mouthful of a name - is Emma to perfection, in my book, playing the demanding and stubborn heroine with an incandescent enthusiasm and youthful verve that you can't help but wish the best for, which is difficult, as it is a little difficult to make her a sympathetic character (Remember, Emma's the one whom Austen herself said no one other than her "will much like")! She's totally the standout here, and the fact that she and Johnny Lee Miller have such excellent on-screen chemistry only sweetens the deal further. The two of them steal the show completely - as they should, duh - and it made it all the more agonizing to watch their chemistry build up so slowly... but that's just how the book was written!

Special shout outs to the costuming team, for making sure everyone looked timely and appropriate while also reinforcing the status of the characters: I was dying over Romola's outfit options for Emma, which weren't overly numerous, but still all beautiful and perfect for maximizing her own sweetness and the whole "gentility" factor. The guys looked suitably dapper as well! Not a hair out of place on anyone, which makes it suitable that they won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Hairstyling for a Miniseries or Movie. The soundtrack is also pretty outstanding, and worthy of a good listen.

Anyways, I  think that well contains my Austen madness for the time being. However, there's still two more weeks of not-enough-Knightley stretching before me... we'll see how things go. After all, there's always the Bollywood Emma adaptation (titled Aisha) to try my hand at!

Monday, January 13, 2014

What I've Learned from Organizing my Review Library


Yes, it's true, I've updated my Review Library! Not necessarily groundbreaking news, but for someone who, until recently, was without one, it certainly is important to me. Simply a list of the reviews I've written, conveniently divided along genre lines and alphabetically arranged to better benefit anyone who wants to check out an old review on a book I may have covered not-so-recently, the Review Library is now up and running under the tag just below the heading. 

Because I spent so much time organizing this thing, it gave me ample opportunity to study my own personal genre preferences... and I must say, I figured out some things that I expected, as well as some that really shocked me. Take a look, for starters, at the four genres that were most popular for me: 
Okay, let's be real: Young Adult, Fantasy and Paranormal, I could see coming from far down the line. I mean, those are just two popular trends within the type of novel itself that I most frequently read, so it made sense that I'd have read a lot of them, as well. But seriously, my most popular genre was Adult Contemporary Fiction... um what? I mean, you can't dispute the titles: I read a lot of this type of novel this past year. But why is that? For now, I've got to chalk it up to an unfamiliarity with the novel type itself, because I only really started reading outside of my "YA and Literature" comfort bubble within the past year. Maybe once I broaden my take of Adult Contemporary Fiction, I'll figure out all the subtler tastes that will define it further. (And I've already just talked enough about how much I love comedy memoirs, so we can really just thank Chelsea Handler, Kelly Oxford, and Tina Fey for filling up that second-most-popular category.)

Other trends I noticed? I most often review young adult novels and adult fiction novels, with nonfiction coming in third and classic literature coming in last. Also, going over a couple of those again, I'm realizing it's difficult to draw genre lines, because I saw multiple categories where books could have fit in either slot. But this is made harder by the fact that I read a lot more differentiated genres than I originally thought I did! I feel like I'm constantly reading things from the same genres, when in actuality, they're divided far more equally across many different genres than I suspected!

However, I thought there were a couple of under-represented genres in my review list as well... Like, where are all my mystery novels? I read plenty of those! And what about some of my other favorite genres in young adult fiction, like historical fiction? Where are all my works of classic literature? And my nonfiction science books?

Honestly, this Review Library has really opened up an analysis of my reading - and reviewing - habits. I learned, for instance, that alphabetizing is definitely not one of my strengths (ironic, when you think about all of the time I've spent in libraries). I learned exactly how much of a cover snob I am, being that I was originally going to post the cover by each title, but decided against it when I thought that some of them weren't that great. And I learned that no matter how much I loved the book, there's still an incredibly significant chance that I will never remember who authored it.

Now, I've got even more things to think about, as I'm determined not to let this introspection just go to waste. There are definitely things I'm going to try and do differently, like pair up my College Fashion Link Ups more consistently with substantial reviews on the novels they depict themselves, and definitely read more from genres I've enjoyed that don't display many titles. And, for starters, I have to actually remember to add reviews to the review library itself (a more difficult task than I bargained for, due to the fact that I've already forgotten twice).

So, go check out my new and beautiful Review Library! And let me know if you have any organization/ genre comments, okay?

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Stacking the Shelves: Back to School Book Haul

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly Saturday book meme from Tynga's Reviews, all about sharing the books you've added to your shelves over the course of the week.

The first week of school is FINALLY OVER, and thank the Lord for that. Now I've got the weekend to relax, recuperate, and read and read and read, until the couch cushions are permanently conformed to the shape of my butt. We're back in school, but not back to the school grind just yet, so I'm taking this rare free time seriously, and you can bet that my bookshelves have been the better for it. 


Remember this post? Well, my all-too-brief scouring of one of my favorite stores resulted in the purchase of a couple good classics: 

Lady Chatterley's Love, D.H. Lawrence
A scandalous story, and one recommended to me by my own mother.

Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut
A classic, and said to be one of Vonnegut's most powerful books.

Winter's Tale, Mark Helprin
Let's be real: my motivation to buy this book belongs one hundred percent to the beautiful trailer for the upcoming movie adaptation, starring the fantastic Colin Farrell. I'm really excited about this one!

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, J.K. Rowling
To be fair, I didn't know whether to include this one in the list or not, because the book wasn't actually for me: after witnessing a stunning confession from my Little that she had never read the books NOR seen the movies, I felt morally obligated to buy her the very first in the series, as an act of sisterhood. I gave it to her yesterday, and I think she really likes it!


The brave, brave woman, as I've mentioned before, is just starting off on her Fellowship, and since she won't have any time for reading, she didn't want her bedside table's stack of books to go to waste:

State of Wonder, Ann Patchett
The Snow Child, Eowyn Ivey
The Dovekeepers, Alice Hoffman
Love Medicine, Louise Eldrich
The House on Fortune Street, Margot Livesey
The Highest Tide, Jim Lynch
Flight Behavior, Barbara Kingsolver

(Simply for the sake of simplicity itself, I've only highlighted three of my favorite covers from the bunch for the visual.)


Yep, I severely reined in my spending habits on Amazon this week, and purchased this beauty of a novel for only $1.99: The Rosie Project: A Novel, Graeme Simsion. Aren't you proud of me? 

So that's my haul for the week. Thank goodness for some new material and a little bit of reading freedom before studying is really required again. Hope you all get some great reading in this weekend! 

Friday, January 10, 2014

Review: Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

Some books, despite their engaging covers and intriguing contents, are simply doomed to languish on my bookshelf until some sudden urgent whim or fancy overtakes me. Recommended by all, but still left without a single page perused, they are fated to gather dust... until, of course, their destined reader (aka, moi) gathers forth resolve to read at least one nonfiction book a month this year. That's when they're finally taken off the shelf, have the dust wiped off their dust jackets, and are broken into with gusto. Or at least that's what happened towards the tail end of Winter Break, with this sweet piece of nonfiction.

Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner is a thoroughly engaging account of new uses for Economics practices in real-life situations, instructed with gusto and well-fitting anecdotes that illustrate the rational behind seemingly unrelated factoids, like abortion and crime rate, as well as how teachers cheat their students, the pyramid scheme of a drug empire, and how a person's name is connected to their potential for success in life.Written by one of the world's most creative economists with a flair for explanations, and a skilled journalist with a knack for good storytelling, Freakonomics is a nonfiction wonder that will change the way you look at the way the ways of the world all relate to each other. 

Yet another much-hyped book that surprisingly lives up to said expected success, Freakonomics provides exactly what I look for in nonfiction: it's easily accessible for un-indoctrinated readers, and includes ties to pop culture, biographical anecdotes, trivia to offload on my friends in moments of  social necessity, etc. And it is a well-constructed account of a topic that I will not even begin to pretend I know anything about.

Which may have hindered a bit of my enthusiasm going into it: I have virtually no background in economics or sociology, which are two driving factors of the books origins of information. Even in reading the book, despite the fact that I was interested in and fully able to understand the "what" and the "whys" of their conclusions, I was still left a bit hanging on the "hows," like how this information was tabulated and how it corresponds to greater theories of Economics as a whole.

However, Levitt's status as some kind of Economics wunderkind and expressed leanings towards the unconventional render the conventional understanding of Economics that I was so desperate for rather superfluous. In this book, information itself, and the roundabout truths its exposes, reigns as capital currency, and dazzles readers with unexpected - yet, with Dubner as your guide, fully comprehensible - tidbits of previously unexplored circumstances in the realm of cause and effect.

For one of the first books I read in 2014, this one sure started me on the right foot for nonfiction in the new year! 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Review: Lola and the Boy Next Door

It is only Thursday - the fourth day of school this Quarter - and despite the fact that we have yet to officially round out the one week mark (out of ten!) for this school term, I am already desperate for another break. After going to all these new classes and meeting these new teachers and having to find not-weird people to routinely sit next to in all of your new classes... it's been an exhausting week. So, with all of this struggle going on in my day to day, what better way to relax than with a sweet, short romance from an author of whom I am already a fan? Yeah, I finally read Stephanie Perkins' Lola and the Boy Next Door. 

The story follows costume-obsessed San Francisco seventeen-year-old Dolores "Lola" Nolan, as what she sees as her uniquely perfect life - hot rocker band guy boyfriend, two loving fathers -  comes to a screeching halt, with the reemergence of two figures from her past: Calliope Bell, ice queen (in more ways than just that she's a champion figure skater), and Cricket Bell, Calliope's twin brother, an inventor extraordinaire, who's always been seemingly content to stand in his sister's shadow. However, when it's made clear that not only are the twins coming home for good, but that Cricket's looking to repent for some past misunderstandings, Lola has to figure out which guy is right for her: the boy of her dreams, or the boy next door. 

Yes, it's a little sappy and sweet in places, but that's what all good contemporary teen romances are supposed to be, and besides, Perkins does a fantastic job with grounding her romances in a lot of coming-of-age-style personal growth, which is arguably necessary in the novels: growing up is a lot of figuring out how you relate to other people, and it's important to figure out who you are yourself before you get all tangled up in a relationship. Bonus points for the seamless continuation of Anna and Etienne's story from the first novel, too!  It's a smart and interesting narrative choice, and I totally love it!

However, despite the fact that this novel was another well-constructed, unique, and engaging, I had a harder time connecting to and understanding Lola and Cricket than I did with Anna and Etienne. It sucks that I feel like I have to make a comparison, because, honestly, it was still a really good book, and had a lot of merits that were different from Anna and the French Kiss, but I still liked the first novel in the series a lot more. I think what it came down to, for me, at least partially, was the integration of the setting as a secondary character in it's own right.

Throughout Anna and the French Kiss, you never once forgot they were in Paris. Stunning imagery and visual direction made the cultural differences have a life of their own, and we learned along with Anna as she explored what became one of her favorite places in the world. As she fell in love with Paris, she fell in love with Etienne; it was almost a natural extension of their blossoming relationship. However, in Lola and the Boy Next Door, you could tell Perkins was really trying to draw out the beauty of California and the Bay Area for you, but it was a lot less susceptible to the Paris treatment. If anything, I think any of the names of the places mentioned could have easily been swapped for a lot of different places in America. It's a good thing to note, then, that Isla and the Happily Ever After takes place, at least partially, in Paris again.

And before I end this post, let me just raise a point really quick: why couldn't we have had the pretty covers in the first place?

I am the kind of person who never, ever likes redesigned covers, but seriously? These are gorgeous! And totally capture the spirit of the books more. This literally has nothing to do with the books themselves, but man, are those covers giving me some feelings. 

Anyways, Lola and the Boy Next Door is a great, albeit not perfect, follow up to the precedent of romance and growing up that was so incredibly well done in Anna and the French Kiss. And if you get the chance, by the new editions of both novels, just to tide you over until Isla and the Happily Ever After is released on May 15th.