Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: My Favorite Halloween Reads for Kids

Top Ten Tuesday is a bookish meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish
If it wasn't for the boxes of Boo Berry, Count Chocula, and Frankenberry cereals all shoved into my modest, college-sized cabinets right now, I would honestly have forgotten all about Halloween. 

Which is terrible, because back at home, Halloween is one of those big-deal holidays, one that necessitates a full-house makeover, complete with fake gravestones, black lace mantle drapings, and glittery candles that we aren't allowed to actually light, because they're just for decoration. And - of most importance to me - there's a stack of children's books about a mile high, piled on top of the living room coffee table. 

These books make up a collection that we've been building, piece by piece, every year since I was old enough to say, "Trick or Treat!" (We've got a similar stack for Easter and Christmas in turn... on last count, Christmas' pile had grown to over 53 titles!). I managed to sneak home for a haircut this past Saturday, and only got a night back at home, but you know that a good half hour was spent leafing through picture books that I'm a good fifteen years too old for.

So, for today's Top Ten Tuesday "freebie" post, I'm choosing to illuminate some of my favorite titles from that stack, as well as other spooky reads I enjoyed when I was younger.


1. and 2. Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich and Frankenstein Takes the Cake, Adam Rex
From the author of Fat Vampire, these two collections of monster-inspired poetry turn the frightening funny on its green, flat-topped head, in a whole ghostly host of ways. My personal favorite series from the collection is a saga of The Phantom of the Opera getting various songs stuck in his head.

3. Edgar Allan Poe's Tales of Mystery and Madness, illustrated by Gris Grimly 
I am a huge, huge fan of Gris Grimly's creepy, twisted takes on children' illustrations, and I think reading this book's iteration of "The Black Cat" as a class in the 6th Grade is one of the reasons why.

4. Spider and the Fly, Mary Howitt, illustrated by Tony DiTerlizzi 
This poem is a classic, and it stands as a great work on its own... but when amplified by author and illustrator Tony DiTerlizzi, it really shines as a creeptastic children's book.


5. Boris and Bella, Carolyn Crimi, illustrated by Gris Grimly
Once again, Gris Grimly takes the cake, but mostly because of how he enhances this whimsical romance between two oddball monster neighbors.

6. Cinderella Skeleton, by Robert D. San Souci, illustrated by David Catrow
Because, naturally, this wouldn't be a "Savannah" list without the inclusion of a fairy tale retelling! Beautifully creepy illustrations and clever updates on an old classic make Cinderella Skeleton a perfect Halloween read for the princess in your life.

7. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, Alvin Schwartz, illustrated by Stephen Gammell 
At this rate, I'm pretty sure these weathered, black and white illustrations are iconic. These books were always falling apart because of how many times they were checked out of our elementary school library... I'm sure many a nightmare came from perusals of this collection of urban myths, folk tales, and classic spooky stories.


8. Bunnicula, Deborah and James Howe
It is an absolute testament to the mental state of elementary schoolers, how insane my classmates and I got about the idea of a vampire bunny that sucked the juice out of vegetables. In case there are any non-believers out there, this bestseller spawned several sequels, and even a stage adaptation.

9. Coraline, Neil Gaiman
I don't think I have to sell anyone on this particular creepy read... even if you haven't read the modern kid's classic, you've probably seen the equally perturbing stop-motion film. It's phenomenal. And you'll never look at Lalaloopsy dolls the same way again.

10. random assorted ghost-hunting guides 
No, I'm not joking. My Dad is a firm believer, and some of my most fond middle school Halloween memories were of the family gathered around the television, watching SyFy's Live Ghost Hunters Halloween Special. I'm pretty sure there's a school assignment floating around somewhere, where I've listed my dream occupation as "parapsychologist"(which is only somewhat less of a lofty goal than "editor").

So, what are some of your favorite reads for the spooky season? Let me know, in the comments below! 

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Bits of Books: The Ones With Long Titles

While school is picking up in sheer volume of assigned material, and my planner finds itself jammed to the spiral binding everyday with new tasks and to-dos, I'm finding less and less time for pleasure reading (which makes the copy of A Court of Thorns and Roses, by S.J. Maas, sitting on my bedside table, a very special kind of torture).

Still, after taking a cursory glance at my Goodreads Reading Challenge for 2015 - on track, for now! - I realized there were a lot of books that I read towards the end of the summer, that never got a write up on the blog! Usually, I'd go more in-depth with my reviews, but because I've already read them some time ago, I feel like it would be better just to gloss over them a little bit, and move on from there. Hopefully soon enough, I'll have plenty of new reviews to post!

Key word being "hopefully."

The Darkest Part of the Forest, by Holly Black 
One of my managers at my work happens to be a voracious YA fan, just like me, and it's pretty stinking perfect that we managed to find each other like this. She was the one who lent me Red Queen, and currently, I've lent her my copy of The Wrath and the Dawn, in exchange for the previously mentioned ACoTaR copy. She convinced me to read this book, too!

It reminded me a little of Wildwood, but in choice of topic and setting, mostly: Holly Black leans more dark and gritty, and a lot less whimsical. Sure, it was still sarcastic and funny, but TDPotF brought more of the creepiness and high stakes that I love, and reminded me maybe more of The Various than your typical contemporary-set fairy story. In fact, the book hearkened back to some of the middle grade material I had grown up on, and gave me quite a bit of a Spiderwick vibe... until I realized that, duh, Holly Black was one of the authors of The Spiderwick Chronicles!

All in all, tremendous world-building, and a fun and fast-paced story, with just enough danger and suspense thrown in to keep the reader on their toes. Plus, bonus points for LGBT representation and diversity in a YA novel, and who doesn't like a little bit of romance, just for good measure?

15749186To All the Boys I've Loved Before, by Jenny Han 
I'm going to start out this summary of a much-hyped, very popular contemporary novel with the disclaimer that I don't read contemporary. It's kind of a miracle to get me to that section of the library in the first place. And yet, I made it there for this book.

It's because Jenny Han was one of the authors of the Burn for Burn series, which I immensely enjoyed. And it honestly had nothing to do with the plot summary, or any of the recommendations of my peers... it was the cover. The cover was SO pretty, and the author name was enough to suck me in past the promise pink-lined world of contemporary teen romances.

I didn't like this book, but I tried really hard to, and I finished the whole thing, and even got halfway into it's sequel before I DNF'd. The actions of the main characters just weren't realistic at all, and the idyllic teen utopia they lived in was too much of an emotional disconnect for me to overcome. There's just no way I could keep reading it and find it was a believable world, because everything about it was at least a little contrived and cliche.

Still, if I saw another Jenny Han title one of these days, I'd probably pick it up.

You're Never Weird on the Internet, by Felicia Day 
My little nerd heart fluttered in my chest the day I found out Felicia Day was releasing an autobiography. I've been a huge fan of her work since I first saw Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog, and then died again when I watched all of The Guild in one week (yay, Finals). I knew I'd be crazy in love with this book before I ever even read a blurb or excerpt, and was crushed when I saw that it wouldn't be released until after my Blog Birthday, so I couldn't buy it myself. Luckily, my Dad's as big of a nerd as I am, and he not only bought a copy the day it came out, but let me read it first, too.

And I was not disappointed. I knew it would be crazy wonderful, but had no idea how crazy relatable it would be, too! As it turns out, yes, Felicia is prodigious at basically everything, and is way too smart for me in a whole lot of ways, but she also is a ball of anxiety, a serial procrastinator, a self-doubter, and more. We even have the same dream superpower (being able to speak every language), and an affinity for the song "One Night in Bangkok."

Basically, this book was my grown-up, geeky version of a Tiger Beat interview, and I was very content to read about the life of one of my fave celeb girl heroes.

So, while these titles haven't been read really recently, they're obviously still pretty fresh on my brain. What have you been reading? Let me know, in the comments below!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

I Went to Vegas for the Weekend... and Wrote a 5-Page Paper (Here's How!)

My study set up at SeaTac airport, shortly before boarding was announced. Look at that headway in my notes section! (And yes, I know... the cover of my Theories of Reading copy is very creepy.) 

So, I went to Las Vegas, Nevada, this past weekend. Ostensibly, it was to celebrate my 22nd Birthday... but really, my parents would have been going whether it was with me or not, because Jimmy Buffet was playing that weekend, and eldest daughter's Birthday be damned, they were going. Recovering from a celebration with friends the evening prior, I packed for a weekend getaway with no less than 8 outfit changes - not so much approved as mandated by my mother, a chronic over-packer - and left early the next morning, for the land of yardstick drinks and having your bra count as a shirt.

One of the most important items in my carry-on, also happened to be the only fiction I packed for the trip. House of Leaves, by Mark Z. Danielewski, is the cornerstone of one of the classes I'm currently taking, and its companion for the Quarter, Theories of Reading, was the only other reading material I packed. Together, they make for some dense close-reading... and for a 5-page paper on paratextual material that was due the Monday morning after we returned from Vegas.

Needless to say, I was up Margarita Creek without a salt rim or a lime wedge in sight. What's a girl with a looming school deadline to do?

Well, let me tell you, in less time than it takes to stack a buffet plate (not that we went to any while there... *sob*). Here are some of the means by which I was able to finish my paper, in between rocking out at Rock of Ages at the Venetian, and dodging creepy 30-something dudes at Whiskey Down at MGM.

  • Take every smidgen of time you get. Twenty minutes of quiet at a mostly-vacant terminal at the airport totally counts. Double points for an hour logged on the plane, while resisting the urge to stare out the window or reach for the nearest People magazine. Those fractions of moments you're used to filling with the mundane are absolutely viable writing time. 
  • Then again, you are on vacation! I'm somewhat notorious for my anxiety, and believe me, my parents knew how tempted I was to forsake time spent on the Strip for a good outline session. However, no matter how much I wanted to get out of the sun and get a couple ink stains on my hands, I knew that wasn't why I was there. So, I left my notes section alone to marinate for most of the weekend, because really... there was so much more to look at.
  • But also, take care of yourself. There's no way you're going to be able to write a decent paper with any of the litany of residual issues that might follow you home from Vegas - hangover, sleep deprivation, having one too many Jimmy Buffet songs stuck in your head - so make sure that you're keeping in decent enough shape so that when you get back, you're ready to be back. 
  • When it comes to getting started, make an outline, with a thesis, as soon as you can, because there's no way you're getting things done with just a mess of vague verbage floating around in your notes section. The first thing I did, at the top of my notes page, was set out a solid thesis and several ambiguous sounding directions I wanted to take it, so I would have a tentative set of keywords to look for while rereading my material. 
  • Find good quotes first, develop your ideas second. It's easy enough to start throwing around complex ideas to see if they stick, but it's also kind of like tossing a whole handful of cooked spaghetti at a wall: sure, the material's all there, but it's also just going to cause a big mess. Instead, reread your text first, and pick the quotes that best apply to or fit in with your ambiguous outline, so that you can craft a more complex argument from actual evidence, rather than what you came up with on the fly. 
  • And finally, don't underestimate a good last-minute panic. As any procrastinator knows well, there's no muse quite like a ticking clock. Two out of my five pages were the product of the hour before my class started on Monday, logged in while being a shivering, antisocial keyboard-gazer in my sorority's study room. 
All things considered - and by all things, I mean mainly the food - the trip was a pretty decent birthday gift. Then again, I also got a purple lap desk, a copy of Rainbow Rowell's Carry On in hardcover, and a whole mess of grocery-oriented gift cards, so jury's still out on which one's my favorite.

Do you have any good last-minute paper-writing tips? How do you do homework on vacation? Let me know, in the comments below!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Books I'd Buy for My Birthday... If I Could

You know what sucks? (If your answer was "a vampire," consolation points for seasonal appropriateness, but no.)

Not being able to buy books during the Fall, is what my answer is. That's right, my 2015 Resolution is still holding strong - by God knows what means at this point - and it is only getting more and more difficult as we draw more towards the end of the year.

And all of these absolutely gorgeous and alluring Fall releases have NOT been helping me out any.

So - because this is my corner of the Internet, and my birthday is coming up in the next couple of days, and who knows? maybe this will be a good enough sign to whoever I know actually reads this thing that I REALLY need new material - here are five books that, if I could just somehow manage to get my hands on, might help me make it through the year in one piece!

23734628Carry On, Rainbow Rowell

The not-sequel to Rowell's best-selling Fangirl, Carry On is the epic fantasy fanfiction her character Cath produces while working through the trials and tribulations of her first year of college. Following the lives of star-crossed Simon Snow, and serial frenemy, the vampire Baz, as they attend a prestigious school of magic, Carry On is basically the real life version of what every fangirl worth her word count wishes she could do: make her OTP canon.

I've been sold on this one since I first even heard it announced, and saw the fan art on the inside covers of the special edition of Fangirl. I need this like I need my left arm, and I need both of my sisters to read it immediately after I'm done, too!

22910900The Rest of Us Just Live Here, Patrick Ness

I've had more than one English teacher in my life tell me that relating to characters stands in the way of objectively analyzing them, so while I might not be able to critique TRoUJLH, I know for a fact that I'll enjoy it.

When you go to a school that has a serious apocalypse-of-the-week problem, staying alive in gym class is basically on par with staying alive in general. But what if you aren't the Chosen One? What if you're just a normal, trying to stay out of an impossible situation?

Basically, this book was written for all the Xanders of the world, just like me... we love our Buffys, but damn, guys. Take a break.

The Sleeper and the Spindle, Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell

Realistically, there could be about 3 or 4 more graphic novels on this list, but there are only two that are making me get the most chronic, serious case of the grabby-hands right now, and this is the first one.

The Sleeper and the Spindle is a reinvented retelling of the classic "Snow White" and "Sleeping Beauty" stories, with a twist, told by one of modern fiction's favorite storytellers, and an equally accomplished illustrator.

I mean, come on. Fairy tales? And they use metallic ink throughout the black-and-white illustrations? How could you NOT.

23848136Slaughterhouse 90210, Maris Kreizman

Billed as "the perfect book for anyone with a Netflix account and a library card" - that's me, that's me! - Slaughterhouse 90210 matches literary themes and signature lines with some of pop culture's memorable moments.

This book is actually the offspring of popular blog Slaughterhouse 90210, which I personally think is like if Humans of New York was made up of TV screencaps and bookish quotes. It's really great.

23848561Step Aside, Pops!, Kate Beaton

And the second "graphic novel" I have on this list isn't actually a graphic novel at all, but instead, a collection of some of the irreverently hilarious Kate Beaton's ahistorical takes feminism, fantasy, heroes, and most importantly, Heathcliff, with her comic series, Hark, A Vagrant!. (Part One, Part Two, and Part Three, of why I originally fell in love with H,aV.)

I'd actually love her original Hark, a Vagrant, collection, too, come to think of it... I mean, if anyone's offering.

What books have you been lusting over recently? What books would you ask for your birthday? 
Let me know, in the comments below!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Where'd You Go, Savannah? My Unexpected September Hiatus in Photo Form

So, I think we need to talk. Mainly, so I can explain why the relative radio silence since the tail end of August!

The short story is, life just got in the way of blogging for a little bit: my family went on quite a litany of vacations, then came Sorority Recruitment at the University of Washington - in which I played a pretty pivotal role, as both a member of the Panhellenic Executive Board, as well as an RC - and before you knew it, school was starting up again, and my Senior Year was in full swing before I had even managed to buy my textbooks.
Oh give me land, lots of land...

But here's the thing: it's one thing, for me to tell you this all happened... which rings a little bit too close to making an excuse for me to be wholly comfortable with. However, if I could show you how it all was... that makes us more like friends. Right?

(No, I won't show anyone's faces, Dad. Always be safe on the Internet!)

So, here is my photo documentation of some of the crazy things that consumed my September, and a fraction of my October. Hopefully, 1. It makes up for the fact that I pulled a bit of a disappearing act, and 2. You all like nature pics, because that will account for about half of this post.

(Case in point: see accompanying screenshot of my Camera Roll on my iPhone. And yes, all of these photos were taken with my iPhone.)

So, wanna see Yellowstone?

Check out the difference in color between the hot springs in front of us, and the blue water in the lake beyond!

What can I say? I'm hilarious on Snapchat. Also, after seeing your 800th buffalo in the span of three days, you get a little jaded.

Let me ride through the wide open country that I love...

Alien wasteland or another example of Earth's weird topography? Check out the white "socks" on the trees... 

Ooh, waterfall. Not pictured: the accompanying rainbow.
 So, basically, Yellowstone combined all of the jaw-dropping beauty of nature at its most gorgeous, dry, and sunny, with the absolute crippling discomfort of severe altitude sickness. Wyoming was beautiful, but the thirteen-hour road trip to get there? Not so much. I don't know if I'd go again any time soon, but maybe when I have kids or something down the line... that sort of an experience really builds character.

And by "experience," I'm talking about the fact that we basically had no wifi or cell reception.

Meanwhile, goings-on were already going on in Seattle, deep in preparation for Fall Formal Recruitment for NPC Sororities at the University of Washington. By the time I got back, it was already time for Work Week to begin, and soon enough, I was thrust deep into that yearly gauntlet of late nights, and crying girls, with this year's special twist... four solid days of insane rain. I may have been making jokes outside of chapter houses that we were appointing a committee to build an ark.

Thankfully, Bid Day arrived, beautiful and clear, and I was able to make my triumphant return back to my lovely ladies of Sigma Kappa!

A part of the outside decor of our Dr. Seuss-themed house. "One friend, Two friend, Old Friend, New Friend!" 
And here's the inside! Or at least part of it. Not pictured: our beautiful "Welcome Home" banner for all of us RCs! 

Not part of Bid Day, but still worth mentioning: All of my Sigma Kappa ladies participating in the Annual Walk to End Alzheimer's in Issaquah! (Way to go on that creepy looming fog, Washington.)
So, there's the only documentation I have that I haven't been shirking the blog on purpose. Thankfully, it seems like life is starting to normalize at least a little bit, and I swear I'll be posting regularly again soon... after I get back from going to Vegas for the weekend, of course.

To the straggling few: thank you for sticking with me, and I've got a new blog post coming up for you tomorrow!