Wednesday, December 31, 2014

College Fashion Link Up: The Phantom Tollbooth

Well, we're finally at the end, my friends, and what more fitting for a final blog post for College Fashion's "Looks from Books" column, than one of the first books I was ever read as a kid? 

Just like my last post dealt with The Little Prince - the first book my Mom ever recommended I cover as a part of the column - my final post, ever, will be featuring the first book my Dad recommended I use as inspiration: The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster, and illustrated by Jules Feiffer. 

I had a really good time rereading it. As you might remember, I also reread it my freshman year of college as well... in fact, shortly before embarking upon my journey with College Fashion!

I had been feeling uninspired, homesick, and more than a little paralyzed - not with fear, or confusion, or anything, but more of like that feeling when you're too comfortable to bother change anything while also feeling like you haven't really done anything at all worthy of feeling that way - and the Phantom Tollbooth and Norton Juster cleared out all the cobwebs in my brainspace, and made me able to work again.

Revisiting it again for the purposes of a College Fashion redux came from much happier origins, and as a final laurel to rest my head on, I'm fairly happy with the results.

Here's my favorite look from the post, featuring two of my favorite figures within the story: the princesses - naturally! - of Sweet Rhyme and Pure Reason:

The Big Announcement: An End to an Era with College Fashion

"Gatsby Green and the American Dream," The Great Gatsby
It's been a long time coming, this grand reveal, but with the very last day of 2014, I finally feel ready to make my next move: with this afternoon's new College Fashion post in my "Looks from Books" column, I will be ending my time spent as contributor editor for that website.

For the past two years - since January 2nd, 2013, when my first article, on Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, went up  - I've worked diligently to put forth a quality post every other Sunday. That's evened out to fifty-three articles having been published on College Fashion... and today's is that 53rd.

First thought: I mean, YIKES, right? I've put a lot of labor and love into this thing, and I'm not really moving on to another ingenious plan just yet. There's no exit strategy for my departure; it's just the culmination of so much work, saying, "I think it's time to go now."

"Follow the Star," Stardust

"Timeslessly Trendy," Nancy Drew
"Havisham's Desk," Great Expectations

I applied for this position not just before I knew who my Big was, but before I even knew who my friends in college really were, or even who I really had the potential to be. College Fashion was something to beef up my resume and take up space in my newly lackluster schedule. For a while, it's been something I've kind of had to built my lifestyle around, and now, it's something I'm leaving behind.

Second thought: Let's look at alittle simple arithmetic, here: between brainstorming themes, creating outfit ideas, researching novels and their respective histories, and writing the whole damn thing - not to mention reading the books they're based off of in the first place! - I spent at least fifteen hours every two weeks reading and writing and clicking before submitting. Now that I don't have to fit all of that work into my schedule, look at how much more time I'll have to spend on books!

"It's Okay to Spill Tea on This," Fangirl 
"Summertime Sadness," Gone Girl
"Gimme a Beat, Boys" On the Road

But seriously: the last time I've spent more than a couple of days ruminating over a book outside of school - regardless of its themes or origins or even how much I really, really liked it - was when I read Anna Karenina. I spent about three weeks carving out a hole in my brain for that book to live in, and when I was done with it, I knew it had been worth it. It became my first College Fashion post.

Unfortunately, I haven't been able to read a book like that since then... even though Gone with the Wind, Madame Bovary, and The Brothers Karamazov are all sitting on my bookshelf as we speak, and have been waiting patiently for me for so long.

"The Horseman," Sleepy Hollow
That doesn't mean that I haven't been learning from it, however. Between finding AP teachers who have linked their class blogs to my posts - like one did to Wuthering Heightsas well as getting my participation grade bumped up by an especially enthusiastic professor, by doing a post on Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tales while taking a course in that subject, I've had plenty of grades to show for my hard work.

And there have been plenty more than teachers who've been with me for the journey: whether it was friends of friends at UW expressing their appreciation, or engaging commenters online with interesting discussion points, there's been plenty of bookish buddies found through this column!

"A Different Point of View," Alice in Wonderland
So, don't be glum, chum. It's a fond parting for me and College Fashion, and I'll always be happy to have spent such a long time with such a great website. It's helped me develop my voice, my style, and my portfolio, and I am proud of the work that I've done there. I hope you've all enjoyed the journey as much as I have! 

Now, for the fun part: since I'm parting ways with the column, I thought it would be fun to take a little trip down memory lane, and pick out some of my very favorite outfits from my very favorite posts! (Hint: You're looking at them!)

And, of course, stay tuned for my last College Fashion "Looks from Books" Link Up post, coming this afternoon!
"Perfect Match," Emma

Monday, December 29, 2014

Top Ten Books I Read in 2014

Now that the year's winding down to a close, I figure it's time once again to review all of the books I've read in 2014, and weigh the merits of some of my absolute favorites (and also, not-so-favorites).

According to the count of the many titles I actually managed to plug into my Goodreads account, I've read 68 books in the past year - surpassing my Challenge of 55! - and through them all I've found some really great YA, really terrible nonfiction, and just about everything in between, including quite a bit of comic books, too.

So, without much further ado, here's my bookish year in review! (*self-high-five for the sweet rhyme*)

Killer Thrillers with A Twist

Chock full of the kinds of jaw-dropping, heart-stopping twists and turns that can only follow murder and mayhem... but neither of them the typical kind of thriller novel, either! 

Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn
I'm not the only person in the world who fell in love with this story this year - mainly because of the movie that has won international acclaim - but I seem to be the only one who can't shut up about it.

The Intern's Handbook, Shane Kuhn
Even a handful of months after I published this review back in September, I still am struck by how quickly I made it through this break-neck barrage of violence and wit... not to mention how much I LOVED it.

Making Old Love Stories New Again

Classic tales of epic romance, flipped through the lens of a more modernized approach, and two that take on the new scope of storytelling powers afforded by new mediums! 

The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet, Bernie Su and Kate Rorick
I've already remarked upon my absolutely obsessive love for Austen, and the Lizzie Bennet Diaries web series fangirling continues in the novelized compendium to dearest Elizabeth's annotation on the modern version of the classic comedy of manners.

Fangirl, Rainbow Rowell
Speaking of fangirling, despite a rising acknowledgement of fanfiction in the realms of popular reading - hey, Fifty Shades started out as an explicit-grade Twilight fanfic, right? - there definitely isn't all that much acceptance for it - with the previous bit of trivia probably playing a part in that, actually - so it was interesting to see it play such a large part in a contemporary Young Adult novel.

Cinder and Scarlet (Lunar Chronicles #1 and 2), Marissa Meyer
It may be my obsession for hometown author heroes, but Tacoma's own Marissa Meyer is a pretty fantastic creative type in the forefront of young adult science fiction, specializing on finding yet another new angle to take classic fairy tales.

The Hard Truth of It All

Three hard-hitting works of nonfiction that explore facets of human history and experience strange enough to be fiction, and one heart-breaking work of fiction just painful and real enough to be completely true. 

Freakonomics,Stephen D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
Once again, a widely-praised title long before I came around to it, but this nonfiction exploration of everyday kinds of economics in action makes difficult concepts easy to experience.

Devil in the White City, Erik Larson
How many amazing history-oriented non-fictions have I been missing out on? This is yet another that has won a couple of awards, and holds the specific point of interest of featuring the mechanisms of an infamous American serial killer.

Barbie and Ruth, Robin Gerber (I didn't end up doing a review on this one!)
If you're as enamored with the glittery pink legacy of Barbie as I am, then this nonfiction account of the origins of not just the long-lampooned busty blonde and her ingenious entrepreneurial inventor, Ruth Handler, will no doubt make you at least a little interested.

Still Alice, Lisa Genova
Besides Gone Girl, this is probably the novel I recommend the most to others, half because it's a guaranteed ugly-cry-fest, and half because it links up with something else in my life that I care about tremendously: philanthropy. And since the movie's coming out in January, you could definitely work this one into your Winter Break reading list before school starts up again!

What were some of your favorite titles from this past year?

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Review: Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Book Club

I had a very different idea of what this book would be about before I started reading... but even though the subject matter was so wildly different, I still enjoyed this adventure into the similarities between publication and immortality... 

As Clay faces his grim future in the unemployment line - thanks to the collapse of the bagel company he served as designer for before the Great Recession - he chances upon a small bookstore, looked over by the enigmatic owner Mr. Penumbra. Frequented by a select clientele who don't even buy the books that populate the store's high-reaching shelves - just check out a copy or two of mysterious coded texts  - the bookstore holds a series of secrets Clay can't help but try to uncover... with a little help from Google. (The novel takes place, after all, in San Francisco.)

If you were a little bit taken aback from the inclusion of technology in that blurb, then you're in good company. That was actually the thing that surprised me the most about this novel: the heavy integration of computer-y bits, from the basics of data visualization, to project outplacement through a steady stream of supercomputers, makes for a bit of difference from what I thought I was getting into from just the cover alone. When you look at the sunny yellow psuedo-bookshelves and chicken-scratch writing, you would think it would be something like a Carlos Ruiz Zafon Shadow of the Wind kind of situation, or even a Cornelia Funke kind of Inkheart, but while the books share similar tone - preaching the prolonged endurance of the printed word - they really couldn't differ more in subject.

One attitude taken by the novel I did appreciate, wa the projected ingenuity and optimism represented in the future of Generation Whatever... instead of focusing on the romantic nostalgia of the musty smell of books and the magic contained between moldering pages, there was a Tomorrowland-style appreciation for all the ways technology makes our future even that much more interesting. There was a twin respect for the wonder of books and the wonder of human development, basically unheard of in books about books...

In terms of writing construction, the interior, more personal, form of narration was an incredibly interesting stylistic choice, as well. Instead of a standard format for dialogue, Clay's questions are built into the inner narration, which makes for a wonderfully absorbing character, which makes the job of connecting to him that much easier. You know you're following the story along with Clay, because you're finding everything out at the same time he is.

One thing, though, is that I feel like the inventive plot and format kind of rendered some of the characters a little bit more one-dimensional - from the imposing, mustachio-ed baddie, the fluttery and kind old bookstore owner/mentor, and the geeky and utterly irresistible intelli-girl love interest (see SNL's recent form of parody, One-Dimensional Female Character from a Male-Driven Comedy, for a more complete diagnosis of this particular stock character) - and the happy ending was just a bit too idllyic.

(Then again, an idyllic, tech-driven future, built on youth and ingenuity, that manages to satisfy all consumer groups, is kind of Google's thing, isn't it?)

In the end, I'm just waiting for it all to be unearthed as a conspiracy, planned on the part of Google's PR department, on how to promote a more positive public image for the company in the wake of so many evil-tech-empire scandals in recent years (this year's Christmas miracle will hopefully involve me convincing my father he shouldn't be buying so completely into all of Amazon's splendor).

Final Verdict: Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Book Club was actually a fun and interesting quick read, especially recommended for those studying communications or invested in conversations about the durability of the written word.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

College Fashion Link Up: The Little Prince

The very first book my mother insisted I had to cover for my "Looks from Books" column, as soon as I had been informed of my position writing for College Fashion back in November 2012, was The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. 

However, it's taken til the second-to-last post of 2014 to actually cover the classic source material for an upcoming big-screen adaptation, whose trailer was released just earlier this month, to international excitement. While the French version of the teaser is the only one available right now, I knew it was going to be making waves worldwide, and quickly got to work on translating it to some cool fashion looks. 

I hadn't read the book in a while, but it wasn't long before the whimsical philosophies and heart-touching truths covered by the short novel were zooming around in my head once again. If the movie does the book any justice at all - which it looks like it's going to - I'm going to be walking into that theater next year with a whole box of Kleenex shoved under my arm. 

But I don't need to tell y'all any of that. In fact, being that it remains one of the most-printed books worldwide, chances are you've already read it... and are probably as excited about the adaptation as I am. 

Here's my favorite look from the article, based around two of the novel's most interesting characters: the pilot who narrates the story, as well as the snake who brings about its climax. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Review: Yes Please

I've never been coy about my deep and abiding love for comedian memoirs of all shapes, sizes, and schools of comedy. I blame my Dad for his part, but its honestly just because of the continued interest I have in the not-always-funny lives of my favorite funny people, exhibited through every new edition of memoirs. 

The latest of which was Amy Poehler's Yes Please...

In the rare case you haven't heard of the new collection of life anecdotes from the effervescent long-time SNL alum and star of the fading Parks and Recreation on NBC, Yes Please is a rambling, tangent-traveling, saga of dead-funny and open-hearted truth-embellishment, courtesy of the blonde half of America's favorite comedy duo. 

In comparison to some of Poehler's female comedy compatriots, Yes Please takes a more deliberately funny approach than her "comedy wife" Tina Fey's Bossypants, or Mindy Kaling's Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me. One of the many reasons why I like comedian memoirs that give better scope to why they pursued comedy, and after reading Yes Please I think I've come to the conclusion that Amy Poehler is just a straight-up, inherently funny lady.

Here's the thing, though: Tina Fey, by contrast, manages to project a professional veneer even when she's being self-effacing, with this superhuman effect of making everything she does look perfectly deliberate, even when you know she's been secretly exhibiting a Dickensian amount of work to get there. Meanwhile, Poehler is perfectly aware of the fact that writing is hard, and comedy is hard, and spends more time impressing on readers as to the importance of why its all worth the work rather than the importance of the work itself.

This was especially true when she was talking about her time working on the comedy juggernaut of Saturday Night Live, complete with stories of pranks and pitfalls she took during her time with some of my favorite key players of the '00s. I love reading about what goes behind the scenes on one of my favorite television shows, and this provides even more highlighting as to the scope of exactly what kind of very special people can exist in that blessedly chaotic ecosystem. None better than this unapologetic loudmouth with a heart of gold and an affinity for going balls to the wall when committing to an act.

That being said, she also knows how to apologize. And stick up for herself, and her fellow women. She's fearless and loving and really damn smart. I had no idea that this tiny blonde smile-making-machine was such a courageous person, in both attitude and actions, and this book did a great job at giving a greater context on who exactly Amy Poehler is, and what she's been able to do.

Final Verdict: What I'm struck by most after finishing this book, is how much I wish I could be more like Amy Poehler.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

College Fashion Link Up: Grimm's Fairy Tales

Alright, so I've been pretty strapped for time recently.

With NaNo and Panhellenic and prepping for Finals - btws, I rocked the heck out of my English Final today, guys! - I've been dying to get just a couple of pages for myself, but there just hasn't been the time. So with a College Fashion article due November 30th, you can understand how I was feeling a significant schedule crunch this past weekend! 

Luckily, the Cheerleader has been singing the two lines she knows from "Agony" from Into the Woods around the house since the marketing has been ramping up for the film adaptation - "Dwarves are very upsetting!" -  so I was easily able to find a good source of inspiration for the article. 

I couldn't really give Into the Woods the kind of attention the Cheerleader would have necessarily liked, but I did get the chance to focus on some of my favorite fairy tales, including "Red Riding Hood," "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves," and "Rapunzel." Even though I'm pretty sure the curriculum covered all of these tales during my Fairy Tales class last Winter Quarter, I was more than happy to revisit each of them, and remember exactly how messed up the original colloquial versions were! 

The outfits turned out to be just as whimsical and woeful as Into the Woods, with as much winter-y wonder punched in as I could. Here's my favorite outfit from the post, featuring the naturalistic elements and luxe happily ever after of Rapunzel:

Monday, December 1, 2014

Coming Attractions: December

{the adorable and seasonally-appropriate desktop from Oana Befort decking my computer screen}

Well, thanks for sticking with me through the month of November, because that one sure was a doozie (side note: is it spelled "doozie"? or it is "doozy"? The Internet is telling me two different things!). 

So after living through what turned out to be both the busiest and most rewarding month of my life - Elected to Panhellenic! Got a new GLittle! Aced most of my midterms! Conquered NaNoWriMo! - I'm winding things down now by heading into Finals, and will soon enough be venturing back to Tacoma once more once Winter Break gets here next week. I can't WAIT to get back to tons of reading, cooking, and generally enjoying the wealth of flex room in my schedule that occurs when I no longer have to contend with things like... group papers (*shudder*). 

But the return of Reading Time and all the joy, warmth, and wonderment of the Freezin' Season aren't the only things that are making me happy this season: the end of December is going to bring about the End of an Era. What that means exactly, I'm not ready to tell just yet. Just bear in mind, big changes are a comin'... 


{Nothing Sweeter than a Sigma Kay, am I right?, NaNoWriMo Writing Station during Midterms, Photographic evidence of my sushi fixation} 

these are a few of my favorite links...

  1. From Buzzfeed, a pretty extensive list of 33 book recommendations based on popular movie favorites. I haven't read (or watched) a lot of these before, so it's giving me some pretty great ideas for what to do with my Winter Break!
  2. I'm feeling some residual NYC wanderlust after watching the Thanksgiving Day Parade, so here's a great list from Refinery 29 about 10 Great NYC Bars and the Books to Get Caught Reading in Them.
  3. I'm so sad I'm just finding out about this AMAZING Kickstarter now! But at least I know that the company's doing well... and that I can put plenty of their super-sweet temporary tattoos on my Christmas List! 
  4. I was pretty pumped to stumble across this Buzzfeed list - of 20 Debut Writers Under 40 You Should Be Reading - and even more so to see that I had some personal faves on the list as well! 
  5. But back to that Christmas List thing: make sure to check out Paddywax's line of Library Candles, with signature scents inspired by the works of various classic authors, including Jane Austen (gardenia, tuberose, and jasmine), Leo Tolstoy (black plum, persimmon, and oak moss), and Mark Twain (tobacco flower and vanilla). 

quote of the month

"The woman who does not require validation from anyone is the most feared individual on the planet."--Mohadesa Najumi #dailydose (photo: Kitchener Photography)
As 2014 winds down, I've been having a lot of second thoughts about the amount of growing I've done in the past year... but what it comes down to, is the fact that I know I've accomplished a lot. I don't need anyone else's recognition of that.