Wednesday, July 30, 2014

College Fashion Link Up: Outlander

When it comes to choosing novels to adapt for use in a College Fashion article, I have some general criteria I follow: the novel should be accessible and well-read, it should be pertinent to the lives of twenty-somethings, and it should be at least a little bit timely and relevant to contemporary pop culture, so that I have something to go off of in comparing it to its depiction in other forms of media.

It seems that this grading scale has come to the attention of some of my more regular readers, because recently, one put forward a new series for contemplation based on its coming adaptation for Starz television network: the Outlander novels, by Diana Gabaldon (printed as Cross Stitch in the UK). A historical romance, you say? Alright, I can dig it.

Oh Lord, I was not prepared. I was not prepared at all. 

Outlander, the first novel in the series, follows Claire Beauchamp, who served as a field nurse in WWII, vacationing on a second honeymoon with her husband, Frank Randall in Inverness, Scotland, when a rift in time at the Craig na Dun transports her back in time to the time of the Jacobite revolution; in fact, she lands right in the middle of a skirmish between the British and Scottish highlanders! Taken by the clansmen to Castle Leoch, Claire desperately tries to find a way back home... but when she suddenly finds herself married to handsome Jamie McTavish, will she ever want to go home again? (Not with all the raucous sex they're having.)

Historical romance, I was prepared for. A historical romance EPIC, I was not. Topping out at over 800 pages, I was questioning what I had managed to get myself into with this hefty tome.

It wasn't so bad. But it might have gone down easier with me if it hadn't been so much of a romance... it leaned pretty heavily on the side of a bodice-ripper with enough cultural history pumped in to keep it anchored into the realm of not-so-distinctly-pink bookshelves. It reminded me of some kind of hybrid between Game of Thrones and The Secret of the Pink Carnation... the former, because of its length, sex, and near-sadistic bits, and the latter for its distinctly female audience and tendency for snatches of history lessons mixed into all that gooey material.

Well, it's over now, and though writing the CF article for it was a little bit hard without entire outfits composed out of plaid or lingerie to sum up exactly how MUCH of a Scottish romance it was, I think it turned out well.

Here's my favorite outfit from the article, based around Claire's status as a nurse, and later, a healer for the Castle: 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Review: The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet

 I bought myself this book, as a pre-order, as a reward for successfully escaping my first Final of this past Quarter relatively unscathed. Despite the rather agonizing weeks of waiting before it finally came out, I couldn't be more happy with this purchase... as a diehard fan of the series. 

There's no possible way for me to have hidden from you all my deep and abiding adoration for all things Austen, with The Lizzie Bennet Diaries being a recent cultural fixture of mine, with its sister series, Emma Approved, being an ongoing one, as well (with past Thursday's episode taking on the cringe-worthy, ill-fated Box Hill excursion and the classic "Badly done, Emma" in a perfectly updated fashion). 

The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet, written by show writers Bernie Su and Kate Rorick, attempts to fill in the blanks a little bit... and by blanks, I mean the agonizing voids left between the times of upload every Monday and Thursday during the show's production. For those not in the know, the web series was a modern adaptation of Jane Austen's swoon-inducing classic, Pride and Prejudice; it's heroine, the witty and critical Elizabeth Bennet, transformed into webhead graduate student Lizzie, who embarks on a vlog documentation experiment for use in a thesis project, who soon finds that the topics she talks about how real world consequences for herself, her family, and one Mr. Darcy. 

A hallmark of the success of the webseries was its impeccable multimedia integration, updating Twitter in real-time alongside the videos from the points of view of various characters, and now, with Emma Approved, manning a fashion blog alongside it, as well. The novel attempts to reference, as well as capitalize, once again, on this integration, by linking to the episodes through its web-enabled eBook editions, and "documenting" some of the media themselves in the book. This is where it gets a little tricky. 

See, the claim is made that you can read the book without having to watch - or ever have watched!- the videos; however, some very crucial moments in the narrative are captured on film alone, so demonstrated by the fact that scripts of some of those moments are substituted for further elaboration, with transcripts of dialogue for the episodes standing in for Lizzie's personal narration. 

While this only happens in one or two places - barring the occasional and much-enjoyed glimpses of web-viewed "Lizzie-ism"s and favorite pieces of dialogue cropping up in the journal writings, as well - it is a little annoying for long time viewers (I don't know about y'all, but I certainly haven't been re-watching Episode 98 all this time for the "illuminating" dialogue). 

However, I understand their status as being integral to the story line, and Bernie Su himself did some explaining of the creative choice in a recent Reddit AMA. Overall, it is very apparent that such close cohesion between the beloved show and the new novel came through a lot of deep thinking about why the fans loved the series, and decisions were made to best benefit that. 

Final Verdict: For diehard fans of the show, this is an overwhelmingly essential purchase (More Charlotte! More Lydia! Both of which add more depth and interest to characters that didn't necessarily make a more dimensional splash on the webseries). For everyone else, I'm going to turn you to the videos themselves... give it a day or two, and you'll be diehards, as well. 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Happy (Belated) Fourth Blog Birthday (To Me)!

Momentous occasion, friends from the Blogosphere! 'Tis, indeed, Playing in the Pages' Fourth Birthday!

Well, at least it was four days ago, on the 24th. But hey, better late than never, right?

Looking back to the very dawn of embarking upon this project - for the love of all that is printed in black and bound in hardcover, please don't go read my first post - I can't really say what I thought would come of it all. At the time, I was enchanted with the format and style of fashion blogs, like Cupcakes and Cashmere and Who What Wear Daily, which I followed rigorously, and both of which have come a long ways since 2010, as well.

I was completely unaware of any kind of book blogging community in place at the time - in fact, the more active parts of this network I care about so much were only really discovered within the past two years or so - and I primarily saw this experience as a means of furthering my reading goals, and developing additional writing skills (hence, why you should not read my first post... it's pretty bad).

However, not only have I made it my own, but it has revealed opportunities for me in places I would never have thought to look: into a position as a columnist for College Fashion (I position I have proudly held for over the past year), on the receiving end of free books in the form of ARCs and giveaways, etc. As one of my longest and most unique personal accomplishments, it stands out on my resume, and I maintain it was a solid chunk of extracurricular in my corner come college application time.

Granted, my little book of the internet has its flaws.... I've never been able to post quite as regularly as I've wanted to, never been able to invest the time necessary to ensure it grew, never told many people about it. However, I can seriously say that I see something worth celebrating. 

And you can bet this Blog Birthday came with its fair share of presents: a veritable downloading blitz of new reading material, a trip to two of my favorite places - the library and Trader Joes (I lead an exciting life) - and, most excitingly, four prizes perfectly suited for a fourth birthday, issued from the back corners of my new favorite bookstore on 6th Ave... four new-to-me-Nancy Drews, first editions from the '30s and '40s!

Unfortunately, the celebration didn't necessarily come together how I would have liked it, due to a College Fashion post due tomorrow (and coming up on the blog on Wednesday) that has been giving me trouble, but now that it is squared away, I can FINALLY... tackle more of a 8 million things on my to-do list right now.

Well, it was fun while it lasted, celebrating something that itself has lasted quite a while. Onwards to the Fifth! 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

College Fashion Link Up: Nancy Drew

Junior Year of High School, I wrote a research paper for my AP English class, about "Nancy Drew and Her Ties to Female Empowerment in the '30s and '60s." The assignment called for six pages of size 12 font, regular-margins typewritten exposition. My teacher, Mrs. Wyma, commended me on my work in front of the class, being that she loved Nancy Drew as well as I did. What she didn't remark upon, was how when I turned the paper in, I had paper-clipped to the back a second copy... this one twelve pages, with "My Best Work" written across the top in red pen.

I can call to mind the details of where I was and what I thought on the day I received my first Nancy Drews: we were in the dining room, I was sitting on the ground in front of the couches that were laid out parallel to our large front windows, and all I could look at were the large rectangular presents that I couldn't wait to tear apart. However, when I did, I was surprised: stack upon stack of shrink-wrapped yellow covers, all with an unfamiliar name - Nancy Drew - stamped across the tops of the spines. I remember feeling ambivalent at the time, but my mother and three aunts wouldn't stop cooing over my new collection.

I elected to stay in from recess at the Montessori school my sister, The Cheerleader, and I attended, to read on a daily basis, so that was nothing unusual; I just curled up on one of the mats in the corner and read. However, the day I brought in my first Nancy Drew was different: my reading was interrupted. Every time I saw an adult headed towards me, I groaned inwardly, knowing I would have to listen quietly while they talked to me about how much they loved the books I was, well, trying to read.

I remember just this past year, when my mother and I were attending the Bi-Annual Puyallup Antique Show at the Fairgrounds, and walking up to my favorite vintage bookseller's stand, I see the most heart-breaking sight ever: a middle-aged man, placing that distinctive cover of my much-sought-after, precious 1930s copy of The Secret of the Old Clock into his tote bag. If I had been five minutes earlier, I would have got it.

What I'm hoping to impress upon you, was not just how much I love Nancy Drew, but how much she has affected my life and the way I read, in general. It's because of Nancy that I'm obsessed with collecting Agatha Christie novels, and why I pressured my Dad to help fund the Veronica Mars Kickstarter campaign (we saw the movie in our matching tee shirts). I DVR the '70s television show whenever its on some flashback channel, even though it isn't very good; the 2007 version is continually downloaded to my iPod, even though that wasn't great either. It's just because it's Nancy. 

(And because it's kind of what I do, as if you needed another reason to click over, here's my favorite outfit from the post, oriented around updating old sleuthing favorites!) 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Review: Tiger Lily

7514925A popular YA novel considered "under-rated" but still well-loved by many of my favorite YA bloggers, I can definitely understand - after having read the novel - how it generates so many conflicting opinions in its audience. 

I was actually just thinking about Revisionism - the literary practice of subverting a previously established story line or character for greater emphasis from a different point of view, basically revising a story to tell a different story - recently, in terms of its ties to the Feminist movements during the Early Twentieth Century.

I presented the genre as a part of a half-hour presentation I had to give in this past quarter's English 336 class, and the topic really stuck out in my head (mainly because my group partner and I kept arguing about whether something like Wide Sargasso Sea - the story of Bertha Mason from Jane Eyre, written by Jean Rhys in 1966 - was comparable to more ground-level works, like fanfiction). During this time period, Revisionism was used to give women greater voice in writing, by allowing them to speak up for women in fiction who might have remained voiceless.

Similarly, Tiger Lily, by Jodi Lynn Anderson, finds itself subverting the familiar stories and characters of Neverland, to better contrast gender role norms, conventional femininity, racial relations, and imperialism, while also touching on topics like sexual assault and suicide. Ironically, the one doing the talking this time 'round, has been famously voiceless in most iterations of the tale: the fairy, Tinker Bell.

The novel follows its titular character, a quiet, mannish young orphan feared by her tribe, but adopted by the shaman, Tik Tok, as she stumbles across one dangerous secret after another on the island of Neverland, from a Englander stranded on its banks, to the mysterious boy in the forest her tribe tells her to fear. Her new-found friendship with the enigma that is Peter Pan could shatter the fragile peace treaty her village keeps with the nearby pirates, and soon the crow-feather girl finds herself dreaming of a life outside the one she's always known... an illusion shattered by the arrival of yet another English vessel, this one bearing a yellow-haired girl, named Wendy.

The story itself is well-written and accomplishes the task of treading its own footprints in a much-traversed landscape: Neverland as seen through unexplored eyes, from the point of view of the oft-seen, but never-heard mute fairy. Tinker Bell proved to be a completely capable and interesting choice of narrator, being that as someone who couldn't speak otherwise, was deeply in tune with the emotions and thoughts of those around her; most particularly, the stoic, reserved Native girl with whom she develops a deep bond.

That being said, the word "Native" is never used; the Natives are only delineated by words like "village" or "tribe." In terms of the depictions of said customs and traditions - clearly taken after Native American heritage, like the original J.M. Barrie novel - I don't know, I felt like Anderson did a half-okay job. She had to have done at least a little research to understand the complexity of the status of "two-spirit" personhood (represented in the characterization of Tik Tok), and I thought that the parts of the narrative dealing with imperialism - with the villagers fearing catching disease from the Englanders, and the ideas of religion that man brings to the village - were handled true to history.

However, you don't grow up next to the Puyallup Reservation your whole life without knowing that taking on issues of Native American race, even one that isn't prescribed to a particular tribe, is a tricky business. I felt it was accomplished with an intermediate degree of success, with major points docked for names like "Bear Claw" and "Stone," and the undefined and indeterminate nature of the transmigration of the English language learned by the various villages (as taught by the Englanders).

(You can find an interesting perspective from a Native American blogger on the subject here.)

With the veritable laundry list of contemporary cultural pressure points listed near the beginning of this blog post being among its hot button issues, it should come as no surprise that the novel gets its strengths from its emotional core, the depths of the contrasts in gender roles, and divisions between the villagers versus the Lost Boys and pirates, ringing home the most. However, in some key territories, the narrative steers a little close to being preachy or heavy-handed, where the text almost screams the injustice at you in a way that isn't even thought-provoking, just obvious. The subtleties present within the work are much more poignant than the glaring "teachable" moments.

Furthermore, the book was advertised to me by its fanbase as being a book that would make you cry, and I can understand where they were coming from, but the novel didn't ever bring me even close to tears. If anything, the novel is dark and hard to choke down in parts, due to the explicitly depicted pain the characters are going through, but it made me wince, not cry.

Final Verdict: Tiger Lily gets its power from an emotionally-driven narrative that provides a series of jumping-off points for further discussion and contemplation of serious topics for today's young adult readers, as well as questions the implicit nature of a coming-of-age story, as told about a girl who never grew up. Revisionism, indeed.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Blogging Confessions

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

I haven't done a "Top Ten Tuesday" post in a pretty long time, but what a great topic to kick things back off with! It's time to take things personally, with a post about my Top Ten Blogging Confessions...

1. I never have felt comfortable telling people about my blog. It usually ends with me devaluing the very things that I care most about... "Yeah, I write about books and stuff, I like to review things, I know, I'm such a nerd."... inevitably leaving me guilty.

2. In fact, I'm more likely to bring up my College Fashion column more often than the blog I've been writing for four years, because I feel like it's more "real" or "legit."   

3. Layout has been a constant battle for me. I just went through a major revamp in style and format just over a year ago, and I'm still not one hundred percent on it. 

4. If you comment on my blog - especially if it's not a meme-type post, like if it's a review or something - you have completely made my day. It's easy to feel like what you're doing, as a blogger, is just kind of shouting into the abyss, so to get a real response is incredibly satisfying. 

5. I get extremely intimidated by other peoples' reading habits and schedules. Like, if I've read three or four books in a week, that's a pretty good week for me, especially if I'm juggling things like school work, sorority life, writing for College Fashion, and my own journaling as well, but if I then go on to Goodreads and see one of my friends has been racking up major reads in the past week with some heavy page counts and impressive subject matter, I get embarrassed. 

6. I have definitely had my dalliances with blog adultery... Sure, I had this book blog first, but since getting it, I've not only been writing for CF, but have had brief affairs with a lifestyle Wordpress, and several personal Tumblrs. All in all, I still like the Blogger format the best. 

7. I have a really hard time judging what kind of personal information to put in my posts. One of the things that I really love about the book blogger community is how you really feel like you know people, but I'm also incredibly protective of my privacy, and sometimes have a hard time figuring out where that line is. 

8. I thought, when I began writing this blog, that I wasn't just going to do books exclusively, but also integrate other things I love, like fashion, cooking, school tips, and later on, sorority life, etc. into the subject matter, as well. I've kind of wedged fashion in as well as I could, but not bringing in some of those other things is something I'm still working against. I want to broaden my scope. 

9. I'm a very visual/organizational person. I will or will not pick up books based on covers, and same goes for the blogs I follow: if your blog is bright with minor color in undertones, with a clean layout, nice header, and interesting format in your posts, then I will most likely follow you. 

10. This blog has the most longevity out of any project I've ever undertaken, even with its fits, starts, and stalls, and I am incredibly proud of the work I've put into my little corner of the Internet.

What are your Top Ten?

Thursday, July 3, 2014

College Fashion Post Link Up: Anne of Green Gables

I've already displayed some of my mother's more agonizing habits in recent posts - like her distaste for one particular book of my choosing, with The Devil in the White City - but don't let me lull you into thinking that her displeasure is strictly reserved for the scandalous. She has a pretty sharp disregard for what you'd assume would be innocent and innocuous things as well, like Micheal Cera. And, as it was recently revealed to me, L.M. Montgomery's childhood classic, Anne of Green Gables. 

Her argument lies in the declaration that Anne is too saccharine and chirpy for her tastes; however, despite the fact that I was raised to dislike the main character, I somehow found the book - and its sequels - in my possession when I looked among the family bookshelves, and after more than one request from CF readers, I figured, why not actually see if it's as bad as she says?

All in all, I found myself to be pleasantly surprised.

Perhaps I'm a bit of a sucker for the whole "moralistic pastoral children's stories with strong heroines thing" - that's totally a thing, right? It's totally a thing - but I really enjoyed it. I loved the setting of Avonlea, and I wished I grew up with a friend like Diana Barry, and yes, even Anne, came off as a very smart and capable girl (once she finally stopped talking). I actually plan on reading her further adventures once I've quite recovered from these recent ones.

And, you know, the fact that the novels were Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton's favorites growing up, that didn't sway my opinion by any means.

Check out my favorite outfit, inspired by Anne's affinity for flowers, as well as plenty more floral and fun summer looks in my latest College Fashion "Looks from Books" article!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Coming Attractions: July

{a fruity and fun desktop wallpaper for the month of July, from one of my favorites, Oana Befort!

I'm emotionally torn: on one hand, it feels like school's been out for forever, and I miss my sorority sisters, and I kind of miss homework, and I'm unbearably jealous of The Cheerleader, who got to spend all of yesterday and all of today on the UW campus for her Orientation... but on the other, more important side, I'm constantly reminded, it's summer, you nitwit! Climb a tree, get sick on Push Pops and unbaked cookie dough, and cherish the precious few moments of sunlight we see here in Washington! As a couple of wise men once said, "Summer... it's like the world's best story, and it's waiting to be told."

(Phineas and Ferb. They said that. I watch a lot of Disney Channel for a twenty-year-old.) 

At any rate, I've got a lot more living to do in these fine bright months, and a lot more work to do, be it Daffodil or the blog, besides. Hopefully Savannahbot is solar-powered during the summer, because I'm sure planning on spending a lot of time outside (with sunblock, of course... and a book). Happy July! 


{"Finishing strong, like Marshawn" with Skittles during Finals week; The Cheerleader finally graduated high school!; The Ballerina tackles three different acts in her middle school Talent Show}

these are a few of my favorite links...

1. Team Epic Reads tackles the tender feelings of a book hangover with this hilarious PSA video, "When the Words Stop." 

2. And speaking of the Team, here's another video, about a specific Book Nerd Problem I am near constantly prey to (and one I unfortunately often find in myself, too!), involving Unhelpful Recommendations. 

3. Alternately dreading/anxiously anticipating/pumping yourself up for the impending premiere of The Giver this upcoming August 15th? Here's what the author, Lois Lowry herself, has to say about its upcoming twenty year anniversary. 

4. During the ongoing Amazon v. Hatchette and "YA shame" debates taking place in the media recently, it was only a matter of time before mass media mogul and bookworm Stephen Colbert put his two cents in, during a conversation with John Green. 

5. Everyone knows I love a good "Out of Print" tee... but I may have gone a bit into overload when I saw their new exclusively Sci Fi collection! "Don't Panic," indeed. 

quote of the month

Girl | via Tumblr
{Calamity Jane makes for a pretty good Summer Spirit Animal, don't you think? Time to go tackle all those big plans I've been making this Spring, and get the job done!}