Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Seven Recent Reads ( + 3 I Know I'll Love When I Get to Them!)

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish!
Well, the first day of my last Quarter of school has come and gone, which means we're now back to our regularly scheduled programming... ie, another Top Ten Tuesday! This time, we're running down some of my top rated reads from the first third or so of 2016. I wasn't able to come up with 10 unique titles, I tagged on a couple near the end of books I know will be 5 stars, too... just as soon as I actually get around to reading them! 

10 out of 10, would read again

1. The Book of Lost Things, John Connolly 
This reread from my middle school years was a really enjoyable way to work some middle grade lit into my regular reading schedule... even though I still don't think the subject matter is all that kid-friendly!

2. Hark, a Vagrant! and 3. Step Aside, Pops, Kate Beaton
Beaton's clever riffs on literary, historical, and pop cultural references bring new nuance to the ways we think about these stalwart studies. Well, most of them do. Some of them rely on irreverent and inappropriate humor. The best often include both.

4. Bad Feminist, Roxane Gay
This accessible and eloquent collection of essays, reflecting on many aspects of modern-day feminism, successfully transforms a nuanced and delicate topic into a discussion that I would recommend to any woman - or man! - I know.

5. Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness, Susannah Cahalan 
Probably one of my favorite books so far this year, this non-fiction account with one woman's desperate struggle to be diagnosed - and her subsequent attempts to reconstruct the harrowing experience after the fact - is another must-read for me.

6. Blue Lily, Lily Blue (Raven Cycle #3), Maggie Stiefvater
Out of all the series I've struggled to get into over the past couple of years, I never thought that The Raven Cycle would be so close to my heart. But it is, and I love it, and I still think it deserves better cover art that more adequately reflects its themes (I'm sure it's not just me!).

7. Beka Cooper: Terrier, Tamora Pierce 
Another reread from my middle school days, I reread this first installment in the Beka Cooper trilogy shortly before Break, and I've got its sequel sitting on my nightstand right now. Forever and always, one of my favorite Tortall heroines!

i know i'd love them, but i just haven't gotten there yet!

8. Fates and Furies, Lauren Groff
My very wonderful sorority sister Alyssa lent me her copy of this recent release - one that even President Obama said was one of his favorites of 2015! - and I honestly meant to get to it over Break, but I just couldn't dedicate the time necessary to meaningfully sitting down with it, and giving it a try. Soon, though!

9. As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride, Cary Elwes
I recently picked up this hardcover for about six dollars at a recent University Bookstore sale, and my heart fluttered a little bit just walking it to the cash register (along with five other titles of course... should I do a mini-book haul?). I'm so excited to read it!

10. Ms. Marvel Vol. 1: No Normal, G. Wilson, Adrian Alphona, and Sara Pichelli 
I not only have Volume 1, but also Volume 2, as well as installments in the Captain Marvel series saved up, as well. I'm just waiting for the kind of sunny, lazy Spring Sunday, where I can lay in a patch of sun on my couch, in my leggings and a sweatshirt, and just give myself over to contentment.

What's in your Top Ten? Let me know, in the comments below! 

Monday, March 28, 2016

Savannah's Side: The Beginning of the End

Yes, this is going to be a short post, and yes, the cover image is just a Snapchat of my breakfast I took this morning, but I really needed to say something about the significance of today and how I'm feeling about it. 

Today is the first day of school, in my last Quarter of school. In just a handful of months from right now, I'm going to be graduating from the University of Washington Seattle, and suddenly, all of that comfort of the structure of schooling that has, up to this point, dictated my life, is going to be wiped out. Any confidence I found in the idea of "potential Savannah" - the things I might become or be able to do, only once I had struck off the yoke of mandatory education and set out to seek my own fortune - will be resolved only into the actions that I take. I can't just make the excuse of being too young or inexperienced anymore, because not only am I not that young, I'm plenty experienced.

True to the same feelings that I had when I graduated high school almost four years ago (!!!), I feel like I only just started making the most of my time here. The University of Washington is a big school, in a big city, rife with possibilities and opportunities to explore not just the area around me, but the people who occupy it, and the ways I relate to both of them. I have a notoriously strong barrier around my comfort zone, something that is borderline insurmountable on most days, but in the past year and a half or so, I've finally been feeling my way out of it, and the experiences I've had as a result have come to define my collegiate experience. Panhellenic, Alt Spring Break, working as a Student Caller... these are all opportunities that I only made the most of relatively recently.

However, one personal platform stands firm through it all: even when I was still a scared freshman sitting on the floor of my sorority room, too shy to even walk through the house by myself until about a week and a half into my Freshman Fall Quarter, I knew I had this.

By this, I mean not just my blog itself, but the ability to express myself in a way that drew self-reflection, greater understanding, and a means of both projecting and focusing on the things I enjoy. Playing in the Pages has given me the break I needed from the outside world, the outlet I craved for voicing my opinions, and the point of reference I use to measure the ways I developed as a person, as a  writer, and as a critic, for over the past five years. It's grown in so many ways, just like I have, over all this time, with changes in organization and format to match my increasing ability to write and edit. It helped me secure the opportunity to write for College Fashion for two awesome years, and it's still something I'm proud to know my family and friends read regularly.

Playing in the Pages reflects just a fraction of the world I occupy and the things I love, but it's been here for the entirety of the duration of my college experience. I've been having difficulties expressing to people the extent of the deep-rooted panic I feel at my impending graduation, and the job hunt and bevy of "adult" expectations that follow it... but this blog serves as a stalwart example of all of the experiences I've had, all the places I've gone, and all the friends I've made, as well as all of the books I've read.

I'm so happy I have it, and I'm happy to have all of you along for the ride with me, too.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Books on my Spring (Break!) TBR

"Top Ten Tuesday" is a weekly bookish meme brought to you by The Broke and the Bookish!
Currently stuck deep in the mire of Finals Week here at the University of Washington - I've got one paper due today, and my last Final is Thursday morning! - all I want to do is pack my luggage, grab a few books off of my nightstand, and make my way back to my home, where my younger sister, Delaney, has been happily installed since Sunday afternoon.

And curse you, sunshine and cherry blossoms - and dying laptops and power outages! - for only making it harder to concentrate!

While daydreaming about a week's worth of free time over Spring Break makes for the perfect study interruption, I've become more fixated on the special stacked shelves over under my window, and thinking about all the books I'm going to read. SO, today's TTT topic couldn't be any more appropriate, not just for what books I want to read this Spring... more like what books I want to read this Spring BREAK!

for the first time (fiction)

1. Shivaree, J.D. Horn
I've reviewed work from this author before, but not for a long time... I was recently sent this novel as an ARC, and I can't wait to dive back in to Horn's creepy Southern style!

2. A Fine Imitation, Amber Brock
Another ARC I've been sent recently - this time, in eBook form! - I'm pretty excited to dive into one of my favorite time periods, the 1920s!

3. Vicious, V. E. Schwab
I've had my eye on this for a ridiculously long time, and have had my hands on a physical copy since I bought it January 2nd, so I've been waiting for just the right time to read this one... which means I've been waiting way too long!

4. The Rest of Us Just Live Here, Patrick Ness
Yet another title I've been making grabby hands at for too long, I have had this copy on my shelf for an awful amount of time, just like Vicious. You can bet that these are two that are going to be ticked off my TBR as soon as I can!

5. The Book of Lost Things, John Connolly
I read this book for the first time back in middle school, after the well-worn copy was passed on to me by a friend. That copy has long since been returned to its owner, but a couple of weeks ago, I picked up one for myself, after hearing other bloggers talking about its recent cover redesign! The cover itself is awful, but I'm looking forward to jumping back into this creepy fairy tale again soon.

for the first time (non-fiction)

6. The Autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux
My Lenten promise for this year was to read more works of faith, and while I'm still happily chugging along through Pope Francis' The Name of God Is Mercy, I was really looking forward to reading this one. Besides, it's short!

7. Why Not Me?, Mindy Kaling
Yet another copy I lusted after forever, only to sit despondently on my shelves once I had it in my grasp. Badly done, Savannah! No time like Finals Week Recovery for Kaling's lighthearted stories. If Is Everything Hanging Out Without Me gave me any indication, I'll be rolling on the floor!


8. Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
When the daffodils and tulips poke their heads out of the ground every Spring, I'm tempted to return to one of my favorite stories from my childhood. Even the movie soundtrack is enough to send me into a nostalgia tailspin...

9. Hamlet, William Shakespeare
I just switched my Capstone class from an intensive reading of James Joyce's Ulysses, to explorations of the influence of printed periodicals into the rise of Modernism; however, the recommended Spring Break reading of Hamlet was an idea that stuck with me through the change. There's never a wrong time for Shakespeare!

10. Bloodhound (Beka Cooper #2), Tamora Pierce
I just reread my copy of Terrier, the first in the series, for Read Across America Day, and now I have a sincere need to reread the rest of the trilogy, too. Can't be helped!

What's in your Top Ten? Let me know, in the comments below! 

Monday, March 7, 2016

Bits of Books: Non-fiction Women

We're heading into the start of Dead Week here at the University of Washington, which means buckling down, finishing off those class portfolios, and stapling together that last set of notes. Or, if you're me, working 16 hours a week at the student calling center, having wine-fueled solo X Files nights, and tearing through comic books with the velocity of a speeding bullet. And studying.

At any rate, having Winter Quarter draw to a close has forced me to pay attention to all of the books I've read so far this year... and despite the fact that 16 is not a number to sniff at, it's a little disconcerting that not many of them have showed up so far on this blog!

So, let me catch you up, with a couple of cool non-fiction highly-recommended releases from my 2016 thus far!

Two highly personal accounts from women, talking about subjects that defy norms: a New York Post reporter whose life is thrown into chaos when she develops a debilitating mental illness no one can seem to diagnose; and the chronicles of one serial-single lady's attempts to normalize her lack of relationship status while living and working around the East Coast. Though both of these topics carry their own sets of cultural stigmas, these fearless females speak openly about their experiences. 

Brain on Fire, Susannah Cahalan

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness, is a non-fiction account, written by Susannah, about her experiences undergoing a scary and undiagnosable illness, one that manifested itself in bursts of unbidden emotion, and lapses in time and judgement that leave her stunned, reeling, and without control over her own feelings and actions. 

It's one thing to go into a book understanding it was an attempt at reconstructing a troublesome time on the behalf of the memoirist, but quite another to be informed, at multiple points towards the end of the first part of the book, that the author cannot hold herself as a reliable resource for translating these events... on the sheer base of the fact that she doesn't remember most of what happened to her, and the parts she does recall, she can't 100% believe to be true. The book is constructed with the help of her family and friends, hospital records, surveillance tapes, and more official documentation of her descent into, as she says in the title, "madness." 

Hearing about such an ostracizing experience, in terms of both herself from the world, but even her mind from her body, was a total trip. The fact that it was brought on so suddenly and without warning - as well as that it was left undiagnosed for so long - is truly terrifying to watch play out, even though you knew the book would have a happy ending (it is a memoir, after all!). 

Stark and honest in its attempts at reconstructing a half-life, lived through this crippling disease, Cahalan still retains a hopeful and casual tone that make it more accessible to readers. I admired the author's candor and tenacity, and would definitely recommend this book to fans of Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar.

Spinster, Kate Bolick

Spinster is Kate Bolick's firsthand account of her life as a perpetual single lady - despite having been in several romantic relationships, accounted as well - alongside histories of the famous single ladies she's discovered, through her quest to define female singledom. 

 T-b-perfectly-h, from the cover of this book, I expected things to be a lot more hip and quirky, more in the style of typical tales of singleness, like Never Have I Ever, from Katie Heaney. And let's face it, when we think about the accounts of a single woman in the city - especially New York City! - there's a couple of TV shows that stick out in our cultural conscience.

In terms of stylistics, Bolick stays very scholarly, very modest, as objective as she can be in accounting her own life. She gives absolute amounts of respect to both her romantic partners, and coupled people in general, while still staying true to her own journey. The book was chock full of statistics and historical perspectives on the lives and livelihood of singlewomen, but preserved plenty of room for Bolick's sense of humor and candor.

Unsurprisingly, I related to this book. As someone who is nearing a jumping-off point in her life - hello, graduation! - it was reassuring to hear one woman's account of personal and professional success, which didn't necessarily coincide with other peoples' definitions of either. I loved looking up each author she mentioned as she was describing their lives and styles, because, let's be real: I have my own set of personal heroes, too. It was interesting getting perspective on someone else's.

Have you read any good non-fiction recently? Have any advice for someone trying to get their work done... or a good book to take my mind of off Finals? Let me know, in the comments below! 

Wednesday, March 2, 2016


Real quick check-in, to wish all of you a very happy "Read Across America" Day! 

"Read Across America" is an annual effort on behalf of the National Education Association, celebrated on the birthday of Dr. Seuss (Ted Geisel). According to the official "Read Across America" website, the event is "an annual reading motivation and awareness program," which provides resources and activities for NEA "members, parents, caregivers, and children" to continue reading the whole year 'round. The day is celebrated by influential community members, from politicians to celebrities to school administrators, and the children in their communities, as a means of encouraging readership!

Of course, I'm getting involved, even as a college student, because - duh! - reading is just the best, but also, because Dr. Seuss is one of my personal bookish heroes (My laptop background is even a Dr. Seuss quote!).

Today, to celebrate, I'm reading a book from one of my favorite authors, whom I originally started reading in middle school, Tamora Pierce. 

Popular with the fantasy fans I know and love, Tamora Pierce's Tortall books have been among my young adult favorites for a long time; in particular, I've always been drawn to the perseverance and bravery of Keladry of Mindelan, in the Protector of the Small series. However, I've chosen instead to read one of the first Tamora Pierce books I'd ever gotten my hands on, back in 2006: Terrier, from the Beka Cooper series, to celebrate this special day.

I would recommend Tamora Pierce's books to every young reader I know, especially those getting into middle grade reading, because of her smart and intelligent young heroines, immersive fantasy environment, strong characters, and enthralling adventures. And even though they feature female lead characters, I know plenty of boys who've enjoyed them, too! Everyone can appreciate a good sword fighting scene, right?

So, before I turn back to my book, I'd like to leave you with some words of wisdom from Seuss himself: "The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go!" Remember to pick up a book today, and appreciate those educators, parents, caregivers, and more, who helped grow your love of reading! 

What book are you reading today? What book would you recommend to young readers? Let me know, in the comments below!