Sunday, August 31, 2014

College Fashion Link Up: If I Stay

I'm just going to get right to it, with Unpopular Opinion time: I absolutely hated Gayle Forman's If I Stay. 

The novel follows the story of Mia Hall, a young cellist about to graduate high school and move away from her boyfriend, after the car her family is driving in is involved in a collision, and are grievously injured. With her mother and father dead, and her younger brother nowhere to be found, Mia follows the after-effects of the crash in an out-of-body experience, watching those she loves gather and contemplating whether life will really be worth living. 

I had made the decision to read the novel specifically for the benefit of my College Fashion "Looks from Books" column. Thankfully, for me, the book is barely novel length. I'd actually call it a novella. Either it was the extraordinarily short length I thought it was, or the reading level for the words involved in its construction were at such a low comprehension setting that I was able to soar through it with extraordinary speed. I've finished books in one sitting before... but never in one hour.

The concept behind the narrative, I also found, was a holistically unproductive, and maybe even a little damaging, one: the entire novel promotes the idea that while Mia is in the hospital, she has complete control over whether she lives or dies. Even as she lies unconscious, in a coma, she is broadcast as having the choice of sustaining her own life... after her "spirit" even considers the possibility of passing on, her health is shown as failing. As  the daughter of a hospital administrator, I call super-shenanigans on that shit. That is not a healthy way to approach something as serious as death... if someone in a coma dies, it is not because they've consciously made that decision, "given up," or chosen to leave. It's because their body was no longer able to sustain itself or function properly.

And this may count as a spoiler, but the reason she ultimately considers life, is a stupid one, as well. 

Even outside the novel, the comments made by the star of the movie - Chloe Grace Moretz - also ticked me off, in the same way that it ticked off a lot of people who love to read and enjoy YA novels. The sheer fact that that Moretz thought of the novel as anything "above" or "better" than the regular level of this kind of fiction is a sheerly laughable concept... the blurb on the cover compares it to Twilight, for crying out loud!

So, in total, my experience in reading the book was not a pleasant one. At least the College Fashion article turned out okay. Here's my favorite look from the article, based around the conflicts of future between Mia and her boyfriend: 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Re-Reading Review: Peeps

My most recent College Fashion post factored in an interesting novel for me: a re-read, a book I hadn't picked off of a library shelf since the years I spent at the hallowed halls of Meeker Middle School, over seven years ago. It got me thinking that maybe there was more to be gained from revisiting some old favorites than I had originally thought. 

It isn't the first time I've had to make this proclamation, nor do I believe it will be the last: I loved vampire books before they were cool... back when everyone saw you slugging around a hefty hardcover tome with a black cover and a red apple splashed across the front, and immediately pegged you as some kind of library-dwelling deviant weirdo.... obviously a couple years before the remaining teenage civilization of America managed to catch up with us early adopters, who would eventually find more interesting imagination fodder in other genres long before such earlier inclinations became popular (no, I'm not bitter).

Hence, how I wound up reading Peeps, by Scott Westerfield, by the dying light of the sunset on a six-hour car ride to Sun River, Oregon, during the summer after my seventh grade year... and why I figured that the long-forgotten, much-enjoyed  novel was worth a revisit shortly before making the same journey this year.

The novel follows parasite-positive "peep" hunter, Cal, as he attempts to track down everyone he's kissed since goth girl Morgan infected him with the creepy-crawler a year earlier. Stalking the progeny of his parasite at the behest of the Night Watch, a bureaucratic, top-secret government organization specializing in the containment and control of the peeps, Cal starts to get feelings for pretty, normal Lacey at around the same time he starts to get the feeling there might be more going on in New York City than the Watch is letting on...

I honestly forgot about it. I really did. Until I grabbed the well-worn hardback off of the library shelf, I forgot that it was kind of thick. But a quick glance down at the bottom - "from the author of So Yesterday," another one of my middle school faves, and one of the reasons why fashion and trend-forecasting have always been so interesting to me - and it all came rushing back. I had to pick it up. Besides, isn't that cover enough to grab you?

The novel intermixes the narrative of Cal - a snarky smartass perfect for catering to the snarky smartass-ness idolized by the YA set - with gruesome and gut-chewing stories of real-life parasitic problems, utilizing their presence within the narrative to lend realism to what is, essentially, an amped-up action-y version of the typical vampire hunter tale. Micheal Crichton-lite with its attempts at using real-life science to back up one crazy storyline, this book even warranted its own sequel (The Last Days), back in 2007, when this kind of stuff was called "horror" instead of the teenybopper title of "paranormal," and books didn't automatically come backed with a full trilogy and at least three novella companions.

With the narrator's voice and the science-y fun facts scattered intermittently and the vamp-heavy content, there's little reason why I wouldn't have read this book in middle school. But what did I like about it now? Had things changed between me and Peeps since I had last read the novel?

Fear not, the love is still there. However, upon re-reading, I thank my lucky stars that my parents never tried to reign in my reading material, because here, for certain, is a tale with which my mother would not have approved (my father, on the other hand...). Language, sexual references, underage drinking... it's a veritable minefield of inappropriate material for a middle schooler. Heck, the main character is even in his sophomore year of college... wouldn't this kind of thing classify itself as New Adult in the current literary climate? 

Final Verdict: This novel stands the test of time, and I loved it as much as I did when I was still wearing headgear at night. With interesting mythology, snappy narration, and plenty of action, Peeps stands out from its genre as one of many vamp-books produced during the mid-'00s.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

College Fashion Link Up: The Giver

 I've been on a bit of a re-reading kick lately, partially because I feel like summer always leads to a bit of nostalgia to the long, lazy days in reading chairs from my youth, but also because I'm still struggling to get out of the Summer Slump that I've been talking about recently. While returning to some of my favorite stories doesn't earn me many points in knocking down that bordering-on-disastrous TBR pile currently terrorizing the top shelves of my bookcase, it's definitely a fun trip to see just how much you hang on to from when you last read a great novel.

Which brings us to an oldie-but-goodie, with a brand spankin' new movie coming out, just begging for its own College Fashion post: Lois Lowry's seminal sci-fi-for-kids book, The Giver.

When I first read The Giver, it was a part of the disastrous kinds of "challenge" books placed on many a middle school reading list. However, unlike most of those kinds of reading material, I was able to look beyond the fact that it was required for school, and really enjoy it! And, like many who've read the story of Jonas and his community, I found the story itself enthralling, but hated the ending... but maybe because of a different reason than you would think! I was such a stickler for rules and regulation - and, in many ways, still am - that when I first read the novel, I loved the idea of a society where everything is equalized, sterilized, and taken care of for you, providing you followed directions.

Obviously, I grew out of that. In fact, when re-reading, I had to stop myself time and again, and just ruminate on the steady suspense being built within the narrative. I didn't catch it so much as a kid... I was more focused on the utopian side of things, than the slow erosion of the facade of comfort and contentment built up in the community. On first reading, I was focused on the composition of the setting, the rules, the construction of the plot; on second reading, the sinister undercurrent running through the novel was basically hitting me in the face with every turn of the page.

If anything I'm most happy, after revisiting the novel, that I really felt like I experienced it more completely than I originally had. I got the best of both worlds: the "reader response" kind of comprehension when I was twelve, and the scholastic side of comprehension now, with eight more years of dystopian literature knowledge under my belt. It's so impressive to see not just the things Lowry was able to convey in her writing, but how the book has affected those that came after it in the YA dystopian canon, like The Hunger Games, or Divergent.

Which is funny, because my favorite look from The Giver's "Looks from Books" post, had everything to do with railing against the dystopian regularities, with colorful chaos, called "Experience." It really brought together the things I love in fashion, as a contrast to the Sameness of the Giver quartet.

Monday, August 11, 2014

I Need a New Planner! : Planner-ed Out Perfect, Part One

In case anyone was still harboring any suspicions about how much of a total geek I am, let me just lay this down for you: should any kind of producer feel the need to turn my life into a reality show, at some point in time, I will be seated in a confessional booth, talking about my adoration for... notebooks. Notebooks galore. Notebooks for blogging, notebooks for writing, notebooks for journaling, notebooks for random to-do lists that I just need to get out of my head, and especially, the best notebook, the high holiest of notebooks, the Emma Watson of notebooks... the planner. 

I am a planner freak. I love lists and making plans in general, and let's be real: I've got quite a bit in my life that requires wrangling, so with a planner, I have tons of room for making sure everything and everyone is getting taken care of! So with the impending school year, I am once again faced with the quandary of selecting my new planner. Seeking my stationery soul mate, I took to the Internet to find just the right one! 


If you're in college - and if you're in the Greek System - then you've seen these colorful planners dipping in and out of the totes and carryalls of many a sorority superstar. The tried-and-tested planners come with plenty of options in both print and sizing, and are chock full of lots of goodies, like stickers and fun illustrations for each month. They're also durable, and well-loved by basically everyone I know who owns one.

And funny enough, even though it is a brand-name planner, it costs about the same as the Etsy planner included in this post, and, depending on the size, even comes down to be one of the least expensive! So don't let the fancy pedigree get in the way of all your whimsical planning needs.

However, while they are the ultimate in collegiate chic planners... that also means that everyone has one. So, without as much expense, with all the bells and whistles, but without the unique quality that would make your planner stand out against the masses, the Lilly Pulitzer planner could be a serious contender.


Patent Organiser
So, I used to think this was kind of a retro-type option for how you were supposed to organize yourself, mainly because the last time I saw one of these puppies before this summer was back at our after-school daycare, in the "Pretend Office" bucket, along with brick-sized cellphones and fountain pens long missing ink.

However, nowadays, thanks to a veritable litany of Filofax users scattered all over Etsy and Pinterest, there are plenty of options for colorful customization, from free printable pages you can insert, to washi tape decorating tips and other ways to make it your own. 

However, this is also a reasonably expensive option... your average starter Filofax runs at about $50. And if, despite those alluring freebies, all that customization adds up to an ever-increasing budget, then the professionalism of this planner system might be well out of my college-student price range. 


A close runner-up for the Lilly planner in the hands of sorority women, Erin Condrens were made for the Panhellenic girls with too much passion for just one planner: if you like to-do lists, if you like doing the readings for the homework before class, and if you like organizing your closet by color, you'll like these planners. Hence, why I was originally planning on buying one before the last school year started!

However, don't go on the company's Facebook page: it's a veritable minefield of unhappy customers at the moment... yikes! Apparently, should the reviews and complaints ring true, the customer service department isn't the best at fixing mistakes, and production quality isn't always at its top form. 

So, is the astronomical cost worth all that hype (as well as all those unhappy reviews on Facebook?).


Lauded by many as Erin Condren's knock-off cousin, and touted by many a mommy blogger, Plum Paper Planners present a lot of options, without quite as hefty a price as some of their competitors. However, you also have to take into account that these aren't subjected to the kind of scrutiny that something like Lilly Pulitzer, or even a growing cult brand like Erin Condren, are, in terms of durability and user testing.

The planners are much more simplified in terms of layout: less colorful, with less flashy additions cluttering up the place. It also allows for more interior customization, with multiple planner options available - teacher and student planners, fitness planner, wedding planner, etc. - and tons of covers. .It's all a little overwhelming to sort through, but that just goes to show how much customization they offer

Also, unanimously in the fours and fives, the Plum Paper Planners have next to no unhappy customers. However, they're still asking for quite a bit in terms of pricing, at $31.


No lie, this is how I got through this past summer: by printing out my own scheduling space, and storing it all in a 1/2 inch binder that we had lying around. Fully customizable contents, day-by-day sheets perfectly tailored to what I wanted, allowing me to micromanage my own matters to my very heart's content, my summer planner has been absolutely stupendous... but isn't really the right fit for my hectic school year schedule.


You're going to laugh. An afternoon after writing the first couple of sections of this post, I went to Target, and made a decision that my mama would be justly proud of: I went the thrifty route, and picked up a basic black Mead July 2014 - June 2015 Planner, for about $9. After so many colorful options displayed above, how did my brain rationalize such an austere, minimalistic decision? Well, let me tell you. 

With the above selections, I was perfectly ready to drop $50+ on a planner, and a part of me still thinks that would be a reasonable decision, due to the inhuman amount of time I spend with my that particular article of schedule organization. However, when I saw the Mead planner, I had an epiphany: I could spend $50 bucks on a colorful planner that was customized for me, but that I had no guarantee of liking, or I could buy a $9 planner and customize it myself! Instead of just a planner, I could now treat myself to back-to-school supplies like colorful pens, washi tape, stickers, and more, all of which I plan on using to make my new planner special. And because the planner itself already has open calendar space for the month of August, I can start breaking it in before school even starts! 

And hey, if for some reason the Mead doesn't work out, I can always buy a new kind of planner system at the start of 2015, and no harm done... but for now, I'm excited to get artsy! 

Thanks for sticking with me throughout this (incredibly long) planner journey. Look for future posts about the rest of my 2014-2015 school supplies haul, and other back-to-school topics, appearing on the blog in August!