Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Recommended Reads: Reality TV


So, if you're in any way connected to entertainment publications, a functioning Twitter account, or a culture-vulture lady in between the ages of 16 and 96 - or, God help you, all of the above - you know exactly what last night was: the premiere episode of Rachel's season of The Bachelorette!

I've been anticipating last night since Rachel became one of my personal front-runners early into Nick's season of The Bachelor earlier this year. She's charismatic, intelligent, gorgeous, and incredibly funny... the perfect lady for America to walk alongside, as she picks out both her own Prince Charming, as well as the next hunk of man candy to cast in the subsequent installment of the hit franchise!

(My favorite article published in anticipation of the new season, is a data breakdown by FiveThirtyEight, charting how best to predict which suitors will make it to the final rounds of competition. It's been pretty helpful in determining how to structure my Bachelorette Fantasy League! And yes, of course there's a Fantasy League... ABC is owned by the same company as ESPN!)

Still, if TV itself helps rot your brain, reality TV can be like dousing the entire thing in lighter fluid and striking a match. As we all disappear into the fire and drama of a new season of hot summer programming, it's important to remember that it's a good thing - a great thing, even! - to pick up a book every once in a while, instead. And yes, of course those books can be about reality TV, too!

Here are some of my personal favorite hits from some of my reality franchise favorites. Pink, but not precious, these lovely ladies with glam gams and spray tans are here to spice up your summer beach reads! And you don't even have to wait for Monday nights to get the scoop.


23215469Down the Rabbit Hole: Curious Adventures and Cautionary Tales of a Former Playboy Bunny, Holly Madison


One of the most throwback picks on this list, the gossip from this tell-all - courtesy of one of the most famous Playboy bunnies of all time - isn't just for rabbit ears only. Going behind the scenes of Madison's time on E!'s Girls Next Door, this memoir shades out the greater insanity of the iconic early '00s show, giving context to some of its most notable TV moments, and illuminating more of the insidious darkness of their production.

My sister read the book before I did, and in a moment of curiosity, went back and re-watched some of the episodes we had viewed for the first time, back when the show was on the air and we were in middle school. Apparently, Holly's words ring true: while the dusty and dark mansion Madison describes seems so far away from its bubblegum depiction on the show, there's an element of falsity that permeates the whole setup... and you can even see it in their dialogue.

You'll also be happy to know that Madison also wrote the book herself: those manicured fingers certainly know how to type, too! Not only was Holly one of the show's stars and a cover model, but she also maneuvered her fame into long-term stints as an editor of the iconic magazine. She's no Stein, or Steinbeck, but she's an accomplished career woman who turned her own circumstances around, and now has the book deal, the bestseller status, and a sequel, to prove it!


4758093The L.A. Candy series, Lauren Conrad


Can I be honest for a second? I don't think there's anyone who can turn a fluffy MTV reality show into a multimedia fashion and entertainment empire quite like Lauren Conrad. Between her lifestyle website, fashion brands, home goods line, and bestselling books - as well as adorable husband and soon-to-be baby! - I think she's found that yes, the rest is still unwritten... but she wants to be the one who's holding the pen.

She got her start straight off the series with these sweet little New York Times bestsellers, following the fictional lives of a group of friends living in L.A., and the camera crews that follow them, too, on a reality show documenting their not-so-real lives. Of course, I feel weird about using the word "fictional" to describe any of it, because as anyone who have seen more than three episodes of Lauren's shows - MTV's Laguna Beach and The Hills - can tell you, it's barely concealing the truth. (Backstabbing costars! The awkward dating scene! Near-sociopathic producers!)

Those longing to get a little more perspective on Conrad's early years should definitely pick up a copy... and, of course, her nonfiction books Style, Beauty and Celebration are all excellent, too.


25986991It's Not Okay: Turning Heartbreak into Happily Never After, Andi Dorfman


Absolutely no citizen of Bachelor Nation was shocked when Andi Dorfman announced to the world that she would be penning a tell-all tome of her time on the hit ABC series. As one of the Bachelor franchises' most no-nonsense contestants, and one of the Bachelorette franchises' most vocal stars, Andi has a TV habit of voicing her displeasure... and she's not about to stop doing it now.

For the benefit of the uninitiated, the title comes from a now iconic Bachelor moment, when then-Bach Juan Pablo Galavis attempted to subdue the frustrated Andi by telling her, "It's okay," after she confronted him about his self-absorbed and narcissistic behavior the night before, in the Fantasy Suite. She dumped him then and there, and came back for Round Two as the Bachelorette, eventually bestowing Josh Murray with her final rose. Still, things weren't all "okay": it was only a matter of time before the ring was back in Neil Lane's pocket, leaving Andi with a lot of relationship drama to fill a book with. 

Dorfman tears into her Bachelor surroundings with the barest veneer of nondisclosure, but anyone who watched her seasons - let alone someone who watched her seasons with her entire sorority providing commentary - would know exactly who she's talking about when she mentions a few key exes. While this may come off across as a little vindictive, once you've been on national television, I think the boundaries get a little blurry as to what is and isn't appropriate to spill the beans on... and once a dude has copped to your hookup in front of a million viewers, I think it's alright to call him out for being a bit of a jerk.

And let's be real for a moment: if you're looking for more good-natured Bachelor reflections, go read Sean Lowe's For the Right Reasons (I've yet to myself, so tell me if you like it!).



Well, I think that sums up some of my more blatantly bad reality TV habits. What shows do you like to watch? Got any recommendations for reality TV reads yourself? Let me know, in the comments below! 

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Review: The Book of Joan: Tales of Mirth, Mischief, and Manipulation

24994836
It's no secret that celebrity memoirs are often one of my favorite sources of reading material. It's equally apparent, when looking at my reading habits and frequent recommendations, that there's nothing better in my book, than the book of a very funny lady. The best of both were combined in this surprisingly moving and equally hilarious account by Melissa Rivers, of her life with her comedy star mother, Joan. 

I was always a big fan of Joan Rivers, and would often watch Fashion Police not for any of the actual sartorial commentary, but just because her humor made up such a significant part of it. This remembrance of her, told by her daughter Melissa, contains so much of that spark of irrepressible humor that was so quintessentially Joan. Funny, loving, and laced with enough struggle between strong personalities to remind you of your own relationship with your parents, I really enjoyed reading about Melissa's fond memories of her mother. And just in time for Mother's Day!

Melissa described her efforts in writing this book, were primarily to create something that would make her mother laugh. As such, the book is sprinkled throughout with not only the late Rivers' original style of humor, but also an attempt at replicating it by her daughter. 

The effect of this is sweet, but still a little odd. In the relationship, Melissa was always the straight man - something she openly cops to in the book - so to see her attempt to take on her mother's comedy mantle is a little difficult, because the humor doesn't exactly transfer. However, I don't think it was her trying to start a new kind of career in comedy, it was definitely in honor of Joan.

The style of humor itself, being Joan's, was almost kind of retro. In today's humor environment of shock comics on television and the movies, political satire blowing up in response to the current insane political climate, and whatever the hell kind of humor we're getting from the Internet - especially YouTube - Mrs. Rivers' kind of comedy, with a straightforward format, a diagram-able buildup to a punchline, and tongue-in-cheek meanness, comes off as quietly nostalgic. No one tells jokes like these anymore... and maybe that's because Joan Rivers isn't around to tell them.

The look into her personal life was sweet and hilarious. Joan Rivers was exactly the person you saw on screen when she was back at home: a workaholic who exaggerated the truth and didn't suffer fools kindly, this sharp broad was also a terrible driver, a stickler for manners with the kind of deadpan sarcasm that could flatten a bus, who loved junk food and jewelry, and hated sports. She lived unapologetically as herself, and that personal bravery has clearly made an impact on her daughter.

The one thing that threw me a little bit, were the repeated jokes within the book of how Melissa is now out of a job, and hopes to work for various influential people in Hollywood, often to the point of being a little subservient about it. On one hand, this is just like her mother's often self-deprecating style - one of the reason Joan dealt criticisms so openly, was because she paved the way by mocking herself first - but it was still a little sad: so much of Melissa's life and career was shaped around that of bolstering her mother's, so now she's having to manage her own way with Joan gone.

By the time I reached the end, I thought I could have read this in one afternoon, had I been less busy. Well-organized, and constructed in a pattern that makes sense, the overall story of the two's relationship is incredibly easy to read, and  Rivers' passion for grammar makes for a book that just flows easily.

Final Verdict: This remembrance of a comedy legend would have been just the kind of thing Joan Rivers would have loved. A humorous, caring reflection on the life of one of America's original funny ladies, by someone who absolutely knew her best, fans of hers should take an afternoon to indulge in this quick read.



What is your favorite celebrity memoir, of either themselves, or another? Who's your favorite celebrity mother-daughter pair? Let me know, in the comments below!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Things on my Reading Wishlist

"Top Ten Tuesday" is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

You know that saying, "write the book you want to read"? Well, here's the problem... I've got a lot of books I'd like to read, but really not all the time in the world to write them. Is it too much to ask to have the Universe take some of those great ideas off my hands, and turn them into brilliant plotlines, enmeshed with epic world-building and realistic characters, snappy dialogue, and grand action sequences? Is it too much, people?

Clearly, there are plenty others out there, like me, who have dreams of books galore that they'd like to see poof into being on the shelves of their local Barnes and Noble. That's why today's Top Ten Tuesday theme - "Top Ten Things on my Reading Wishlist" - is probably going to be such a unique one... everybody's got something different they'd like to see more of in books, be that a particular time period, characterization, issue under discussion, etc.

Basically, we're all a bunch of nerds, and more than that, we're nerds of our own particular branding. We'd just like to see more of our favorite things, in our favorite format! And here are some of my ideas...


1. Shakespearean adaptations
Even before I found out the Hogarth Shakespeare collection was a thing (for those who have yet to, please pick up Anne Tyler's Vinegar Girl as your first reading assignment), I've long been a fan of the Bard. And such classic stories and characters could surely find a place in the more contemporary range of fiction, too!

2. 1930s Great Depression and 1940s WWII
These are some of my favorite time periods, and ones that will always attract my attention for historical fiction, due to their rather incredible, transformational effects on American history. And while we're on the subject, why not ask for a little more...

3. Cultural history, rather than Political history
Is it too much to ask, that historical fiction doesn't necessarily focus on prominent historical figures - like Marie Antoinette, which I feel like is super overdone at this point - and instead, the literal thousands of normal people also happening to be going through life at the same point? I get that big names help sell books, but man... too many works of historical fiction get bogged down by marketable personalities and huge defining moments instead of just the everyday, of a bygone day.

4. Pirates, especially famous female pirates
Okay, you know how every little kid goes through phases where they get obsessed with certain things and then feel the need to learn every little thing about that thing? Pirates were one - a BIG one - of mine. Like, in the first novel I ever tried to write, there was a piratical bookstore, named Bonny Reads, in honor of Anne Bonny and Mary Read. Like, I just love pirates, you guys.

5. Asian - esp. South Asian - influences and perspectives
Growing up, I was lucky to hang out with a lot of really cool and interesting people in my neck of the woods, widely thanks to the fact that Tacoma, and the state of Washington, happen to be pretty open and inclusive spaces. One of my best friends is Cambodian, and it dawned on me the other day, that I could name very few works of fiction set in Asia, let alone Southern Asia.

6. Media innovation in ebooks and internet publishing
Okay, these next two might sound strange, but hear me out... after watching a TED Talk by comic book author Scott McCloud, I'm convinced that we've really yet to push the boundaries on electronic publishing. Wouldn't it be cool to have a book go viral, and become a bestseller, not just because the book itself is good, but because it's an innovative platform experience? I just feel like that would be awesome.

7. Multimedia book experiences in general
This one's more inspired by Mark Z Danielewski's House of Leaves, which - in addition to its print format - has accompanying internet content and even music (which only lends more cult credence to one of the most immersive and subversive books you will ever read). Connecting books to multimedia experiences is also something we've also seen with the geniuses over at Pemberley Digital, with the Lizzie Bennet Diaries vlog series, multiple linked character Twitter accounts, and accompanying published books. Clearly, it can be done, and well. So why not do it more?

8. Paranormal towns, like in Gravity Falls or The Darkest Part of the Forest
I guess I'm just a real sucker for small towns beset by supernatural forces, particularly when they're set in the Pacific Northwest. And yes, I recognize Twilight technically fits this description, and no, I've obviously not talking about that one.

9. Accessible eco-consciousness for the Millenial set
Maybe it's the March for Science still ringing in my head, but I'd love to see more concrete ways for people to approach daily, routine eco-friendly living. Some of my favorite YouTube series revolve around people buying zero waste or consuming responsibly-grown food, and I want to see that reflected in print content.

10. Modern-day, contemporary updates on British childhood classics - Secret Garden, The Little Princess, etc. 
My brother just got the chance to see the musical version of The Secret Garden in Seattle with his high school drama department, and it got me thinking: what about a contemporary update, where orphaned teenager Mary goes to live with her eccentric uncle in New York, only to stumble upon a secret rooftop garden that's fallen into disrepair? And her cousin Colin is a hypochondriac who turns to WebMD instead of a real doctor, and Dickon is the cute British guy who lives across the hall? Someone write this, please!



Got any recommendations for books that fit my Reading Wishlist? What's in your Top Ten? Let me know, in the comments below!

Friday, May 5, 2017

Long Time Loves: Agatha Christie Mysteries

In honor of Goodreads' 2017 Mystery and Thriller Week - as well as the recent release of photos from the set of Murder on the Orient Express - I thought I'd dive into one of my oldest novel fixations... and no, it isn't Nancy Drew!


It started when I was in middle school... two of my best friends, Jule and Megan, were total Anglophiles - mainly because both of their families had direct-transplants from Britain - and it colored a lot of our mutual interests (like breakfast tea!). Especially when Megan had sleepovers at her house, we loved listening to The Beatles, watching British television (more Red Dwarf than Doctor Who), and, of course, talking about Agatha Christie novels.

Both Jule and Megan had their favorites long before we founded our little group, which meant I had some serious catching up to do, spawning the second largest collection in my already-voluminous bookshelves (the first of which is, of course, Nancy Drews. You can tell that I definitely have a type.). Pretty soon, I had already amassed over 30 titles, picking up at least one or two every time I visited a bookstore, especially when I went on vacation.

My obsession lasted a little over 20 books in, until we got to high school. With that, we splintered, at least for the time being: Megan went off to a local Catholic high school, while Jule and I stuck close with a larger friend group we'd been in the middle of since middle school, as well. While I still loved reading mysteries in my own time, I wasn't talking about books with my peers as much (unless we were the ones writing them: this was the same friend group that introduced me to NaNoWriMo!).

From that point, my love of mysteries developed in various directions: with the popularity in Sherlock Holmes stories in movies and television that hit when I was in high school, I started gravitating towards that particular British standby, Arthur Conan Doyle, while my Dad's love of local mystery writer Aaron Elkins led me to one of my other favorite mystery-solvers, forensic anthropologist Gideon Oliver.

I recently read an Agatha Christie that had long been sitting on my shelves, in my favorite way to do so: with the accompaniment of tea, in one afternoon. It's my enjoyment of that particular novel - Mrs. McGinty's Dead - that prompted me to write this blogpost: while the titles are long-missing from both my blog and Goodreads backlog, it's because for a long time, I powered through these so quickly that I didn't know how to go about discussing them!

So, it's an old love, and a long-term one, and one that I know I can always come back to in the case of needing a little buffer room in my reading habits. At the end of the day, Agatha Christie was known as the "Queen of Crime" for a good reason: her prolific canon of work, as well as the standard of excellence they were known for, have made Christie a standby in the overall mystery genre, as well as my own bookshelves.

I thought I might as well brainstorm a list of why these particular mystery novels will always chart among some of my favorites. Hopefully, you can find a good reason or two to pick up a copy yourself!

  • They follow the classic mystery-solving format. While the typical plot progression of your standard mystery novel might come off as formulaic for casual fans in the genre, for those of us with the power to power through multiple Scooby Doo episodes in one sitting, it's par for the course. After the grand reveal at the end of the novel, it's nice to reflect on the straight-forward nature of the overall story... one of the reasons they serve as a great palate-cleanser for me is because it still can be engaging, without needing to color too far outside the lines. 
  • They're essentially period pieces, and are so totally British. Mrs. Christie's canon stretches through several decades, but each still retains a quaintly historical and distinctively English tone. I think this is why they often lend themselves so well to film adaptation... it's always a sure bet with a '30s or '40s fashioned Brit mystery! 
  • Her characters are classic, yet not: instead of a hard-boiled footprint-follower or dogged detective typical to the Mystery and Thriller genres, we get genial Belgian Hercule Poirot, and unsuspectingly sharp granny Jane Marple (who is also probably the reason behind my high school obsession with reruns of Murder, She Wrote). Even Tommy and Tuppence, some of her lesser popular detectives, are pure fun! So while they now set a standard for mystery protagonists, they still stand out as novelty voices in a novel genre. 
  • She absolutely defined the Mystery game. Christie laid the groundwork for modern mystery novels, and her impact gave credence to the legitimacy of an entire genre. There are awards named after her, and some of your favorite contemporary authors probably hold her up as the stuff of inspiration, too.

And to think: during a period of history that stretched for multiple decades, there were both new Nancy Drews and new Agatha Christies coming out at the same time! Still, I think I may have got it better now: I don't have to wait for any new book releases, and can carefully collect the installments of each, from a few more comfortable decades away. 


Are you a fan of mystery novels? Who is your favorite author? What's your favorite Agatha Christie story? Let me know, in the comments below!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

News and Things: April Favorites

Not to sound like a broken record... but where the heck did April go? 

To be fair, it's been one of my busiest months of the year so far. With everything from my UW Research project wrapping up our preliminary drafting, to the extensive work I've been doing writing for The Daffodil Festival this year, to spending a week in one of my favorite places on Earth - Sunriver, OR - April was jam-packed with plenty of events and occasions to keep me busy.

Thankfully, this year's high school musical, Hairspray, was able to keep my two younger siblings out of my hair! (Well, for the most part.)

I was able to round out my month with a little time spent in Seattle, too, playing Dungeons and Dragons with sorority sisters, meeting up with my Big - who I haven't seen since last summer - and checking out a few Seattle-area restaurants I've been missing. I even celebrated Independent Bookstore Day in Seattle all by myself, by camping out for a little under two hours inside of Elliot Bay Book Company! I actually ended up breaking my Resolution for this year... but I have several key enablers to thank:


But enough about that, mainly because I'm pretty sure I'll be bringing it up in a separate blog post.

Clearly, April has been a busy month, and not just for me: there's been a lot of News. There's been a lot of Things. So, without further ado, here's the April edition of "News and Things"!



Sometimes, it's hard to listen to criticism. Of course, it's much more fun to hear, when it's not for you! Epic Reads asks their Harper Collins YA authors to talk about their worst reviews, in a sort of bookish-Mean Tweets format that I hope gets more installments.

In a rare instance of direct corporate interference with White House business, Twitter has sued the government to stop the unmasking of one of many Anti-Trump accounts, which have sprung up in the wake of Trump's presidency. These "rogue" Twitter accounts have no direct oversight by the government, despite professedly exposing the work of said departments, which means this case will no doubt bring forth exploration into how far the First Amendment stretches.

As someone who regularly enjoys Instagram-ing special meals and plating her food as if it was the last three minutes of a round of Chopped, I felt especially vindicated by this study explained by YouTube channel Eater, discussing why indulging in food rituals boosts enjoyment. It's all about mindfulness!

In an administration who proposes "alternative facts" while blatantly ignoring concrete evidence, it's no surprise that the White House - and its supporters - are now picking fights with a dictionary. Trump's war on words, tackling lexicographical juggernaut Merriam Webster, poses an interesting argument: at what point does providing accurate, public information become a political statement?

I love well-read celebrities, and our own Hermione/Belle is no exception. This Entertainment Weekly list breaks down every book Emma Watson has recommended through her work as a UN Ambassador, through her Shared Shelf initiative on Goodreads, and even just generally on Twitter.

Of course, as you know, I live in Washington. You really think I'm not going to bring up the March for Science?



It's always awesome when you attempt a new craft or recipe, only to find that you're actually, secretly super good at it. That's what happened this month, when I decided to try my hand at constructing those persnickety French macarons... and it worked perfectly! (Imagine my surprise when taking it one Pinterest-inspired step further - painting them watercolor-style with food dye - worked wonderfully, too!)

If you're a fan of Rachel Bloom in the CW's Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, you're going to love the song "Ladyboss" she wrote for Vanity Fair, extolling the difficult balancing act of women in managerial positions. ("How much boob is too much boob?")

Before catching the high school production my younger siblings were in, my friends and I made some time for a bite at Shake Shake Shake in Stadium District, a '50s style burger joint with some of the best milkshakes you've ever had. My personal fave: the Onion Rings have a super light batter and perfectly tender insides, while the Custom Dippers provide a delicious counterpoint (try the curry ketchup!).

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am also a Pope Francis super-fan, so as soon as I heard that he released a surprise TED Talk on inclusivity and equality, that was pretty much the only thing I watched online that day.

As a dedicated YouTube and stickers obsessive, when I found out that one of my favorite bullet journalers, Myriad Inklings, ran her own trendy Etsy shop - Paper Kumaco - I immediately placed an order. These watercolor succulent stickers are some of my favorites! 

Like I said in the intro, I recently got the chance to hang out with my Big in Seattle this past weekend, and such a sweet occasion was only made sweeter by the Strawberry Rhubarb crumble pie, courtesy of Pie Bar in Ballard. Our favorite part? The silent video of Nick Offerman drinking scotch in front of a roaring fireplace, playing on loop on one of the TVs next to the bar. 

My parents made time in their busy schedules this past month to take me to see Fate of the Furious - the newest installment of one of my favorite film franchises - on a random Friday, while my siblings were busy with the musical. Yes, I am the goober who cried at the end of the movie. 

And just in case you needed me to prove how much time I spend with both my parents and in Stadium District in Tacoma, Indo Asian Street Eatery is a relatively new restaurant that has sprung up and immediately made itself indispensable. Their Wellness Shot cocktail was a table fave, as well as their Sesame Cracker Spicy Shrimp appetizer.

One of my favorite recurring installments on YouTube is the "Seven Bucks Moment" series, from The Rock's YouTube channel. In this iteration, YouTube celebrity Lilly Singh  details the painful depression that sprung up during her senior year of college, and how making the decision to pursue creativity helped her recover her sense of self. Let me tell you, it's exactly the kind of story I needed to hear this month.



What have been some of your favorite news headlines this month? What else has been catching you attention this April? Let me know, in the comments below!