Monday, November 20, 2017

2017 NaNoWriMo Update #3: Writing on Pain Meds, and Squaring Up for Turkey Day Weekend

I may be saying this a little prematurely, but I'm almost done with NaNoWriMo! 

As of 7:32pm last night, I officially hit the "under 10,000 words left" mark, and I couldn't be happier. This mark has always signified the sort of Final Lap of NaNo for me, the culmination of the good writing habits I've been building up in the weeks prior, truly put to the test!

Of course, one of the reasons I'm so happy, is because I actually hadn't written any words at all in the two days preceding, with zero words logged on either last Friday or Saturday... because I had been undergoing, and then recovering from, surgery! After a lithotripsy on my right kidney, I was feeling pretty knocked out, and definitely not in the presence of mind required for writing so many words. Truth be told, I was kind of bummed when I came out of my pain-med-daze and realized I had given up the "updated every day for thirty days" participation badge... but let's be real, what better reason to miss a day or two, rather than a literal medical procedure?

So, in celebration of my successful - but still totally unpleasant - surgery, and hitting that 10,000 words mark, I've actually already ordered my NaNoWriMo Victor's Shirt. Yes, it's still a few days early, but I can honestly say, I've never, ever been more certain I would take the title, than now.

If I can write my way out of post-op recovery, I can definitely finish a little over 9,600 words before my remaining week and a half of November is up.

So, hopefully I'll have plenty of time to celebrate my victory - or pre-victory - this upcoming Thanksgiving weekend! I'm not sure how much time I'll have to write with all of my family here, but I always find a way, somehow. If anything, maybe what I'm most thankful for this holiday season, is that my parents and siblings are always so supportive of what I do.

(As well as willing to deal with my pain-riddled brain for a weekend!)

nano weekly stats, week three
total words: 40, 383
average words per day: 2,125
my best day: 3,309
short stories completed: "SuperKids," "Keep It Down," "Leave the Light On," and getting started on my final short story, "Sisters Forever"

How is your NaNoWriMo project going? How close are you to that elusive finish line? Let me know, in the comments below!

Monday, November 13, 2017

2017 NaNoWriMo Update #2: What I've Been Doing When I'm Not Writing

We're officially about two weeks into NaNoWriMo, and about halfway through the month. However, thanks to more than a few late nights writing, and very productive afternoons, I'm more than 3/5s of the way done with Leave the Light On, my supernatural short story collection!

I'm not going to lie, I think this year's NaNo feels a little bit different to me... maybe it's that I'm working a little harder to make this draft easier to edit, or its that I don't have as much going on in my life as I did in years past, but I find myself really wanting to take my time with writing this stuff. Which is a little weird, being that I'm already a little farther ahead, right?


comparing myself to others... and myself


Hearing about Cait's epic victory with her NaNo project, over at Paper Fury, made me burst into applause (and maybe turn a little green). There's a significant amount of competitiveness that comes through in NaNo, and I'm far from exempt. Far and away, however, my favorite person to compete against is myself. That's why I can't help but compare my pacing and writing from this version of NaNo, to projects I've worked on in Novembers past.

My first successful run, in 2015, with Dead Beat Reporting - which, at the time, was still going by the somewhat more morbid title Blood Read - was very much alongside the pace of what you're supposed to be doing during NaNoWriMo, averaging around 1,667 words per day. That November, not only was I still a full-time student, but I was also still writing for College Fashion, and successfully secured a spot on the UW Panhellenic Executive Board for the following year. I lived in a sorority with over 100 other women, and shared a room with three others, so it wasn't exactly easy to find time and space to write, but I still managed. My numbers were done by-the-day, and I ended a little early, only because coming home for Thanksgiving allowed for a fair amount of alone time.

My second win, last year, with Hit, was such a wholly unexpected and joyous victory, that it temporarily shoved me out of the depression spiral I'd been in after graduating college. The first eight days of November were spent in Disney World with my best friend, so I did no writing... then the next four once I'd gotten back, I was pretty confined to my bed, after experiencing shooting pains in my right side. Which meant I didn't really start writing for my NaNo project last year, until about today. Still, I pulled out a surprise completion that was pretty significantly tied to the support I got from my family, and re-instilled a lot of faith in myself that there was work worth doing, even though I've been having a really tough time finding a job.

So, as someone who's always found a lot of joy in being busy, it's hard to just pledge myself to work at NaNo at a normal pace. I feel like I have to keep finding other ways to fill my days, because if I'm not writing, then what the heck am I doing? 



taking sewing classes at Jo-Ann Fabrics

For my birthday, my mom signed me up for three sewing classes at Jo-Ann's, as the first steps in fulfillment of a long-time goal of mine, to be able to sew my own clothes. In our first class, we created a super cute and basic pillowcase - which is now the comfiest thing in the world, and perfectly matches my new bedding - and a drawstring bag, and for my next class next Wednesday, we're making snuggly flannel pajama pants, just in time for winter!


buying new journal supplies and stickers 

So, I'm not a huge believer in retail therapy... unless, of course, there's a sale, and it's on things I will always need, like a thick new journal (for $4), my favorite nerdy stickers from Redbubble (on super discount, with about 20 stickers averaging out to $23), and major themed sets of washi tape, which were also on sale! I'm still trying to wrap things up in my journal and planner for this year, but it's next too early to stock up on supplies... and I know it's going to feel great on January First, to know that my new journal for 2018 is ready to go!




going shopping for new Fall clothes

Like I said, shopping is not a huge thing, for me... so when we started to head into October, and the temperature outside started dropping, and I found myself layering up on my favorite thrifted sweatshirts and coats inside my own home, it forced me to confront the fact that my closet is currently in a bit of a pickle. Thankfully, my mom knows just how to contend with my fitting room agoraphobia, and led my siblings and I in a whirlwind of Veteran's Day weekend shopping! Now, with two new sets of jeans (that actually fit), several new sweaters and blouses, and even a sort of fashion-y cardigan, I'm ready to face the seasonal changes ahead, with some outfit changes of my own! 

stats for NaNoWriMo, week two
total words: 30,388
average words per day: 2,337
my best day: 4,193
short stories completed: "Superkids," "Keep It Down," working on "Leave the Light On"


What's your NaNoWriMo project looking like for this year? What's your word count so far? Let me know, in the comments below!

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

2017 NaNoWriMo Update #1: What I'm Writing, and What I'm Reading

Y'all know what time of the year it is: it's November, which means, it's time for National Novel Writing Month, aka, NaNoWriMo. I'm so absolutely excited to get started on a new writing project again... I've been waiting for this since July!

And for the first time, I'm doing something a little new. But I'm hoping to come out of this not just with a collection of relatively finished short stories - a structure I haven't really written in since high school - but to find that drive to write every day again. It's hard to push yourself out of your comfort zone, and NaNo is really great for helping me find that off-center mark: the more you're working on, the less afraid you are of failing. You don't have time for fear, here. You barely have time to write!

So, without further ado, just like last year, here's my mock cover and blurb synopsis for this year's NaNoWriMo project: Leave the Light On, a collection of supernatural short stories.

A father's visit to a local parenting support group, reveals a secret community in need of help. A new collegiate, excited to take part in sorority life, comes face to face with a neighborhood ghost. A down-on-their-luck couple finds an unlikely source of protection, in a lamp that won't turn off. An angry teen finds his life is left a lot quieter, after damaging an old woman's strange music box. 
Finding their footing in real, daily tragedies, the true ghouls of this collection are not otherworldly so much as firmly grounded in the realities of many, from grappling with the heartbreak of losing a relative, to the inescapable loneliness of feeling abandoned, and the pervasive social ills of sexual assault and domestic violence. 
These supernatural stories, and the characters within them, explore the boundaries of personal horror, by flipping the focus from the ghosts and demons found within, to the misfortunes of the human experience. Together, they form a compendium of shorts, which highlight all the ways the exaggeration of horror and fantasy give way to pedestrian truths: pain cannot help but be felt, everyone deserves your respect, and true love can transcend anything.  
Meanwhile, if there's anything that stands as a daily struggle during NaNo that's not just tied to writing, it's figuring out what to read, too. I have a big problem with reading fiction during the month of November, just because I feel like inevitably, the voice of the writer I'm reading, interferes with my ability to write using my own voice.

But it's not like I'm just going to stop reading, because that's neither productive, nor is it, in the long run, going to help my own writing all that much. I still need a ways to relax, take a break, and get out of my own head every once in a while, and that's why reading can be such a crucial resource during the month of NaNo.

So, I went to the library last week, and picked up a couple of good books to prepare for the month ahead. Because I wasn't invested in reading too many stories that would distract me, here are the genres I chose as my focus, instead:
  • business-oriented and self-help books : I'm still caught in the miserable throes of trying to find a job, so at least this way, I'm still being productive in my down time. I'm excited to finished with Leave Your Mark, by Aliza Licht, so I can get to Drive: the Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, by Daniel Pink, and Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resistance, and Finding Joy, by Adam Grant and Sheryl Sandberg.  
  • cookbooks: It's no secret that whenever I go to the library, I return with at least one cookbook, so nothing too out of the ordinary here. I'm big on breakfast, and these freezing Fall mornings have been making it difficult to get out of bed, so I'm excited to go through Rise and Shine, by Katie Sutherland Morford, to find something delicious and new. 
  • poetry: I've had an itch for poetry since this summer, when I found out some of my friends and favorite Internet creators still had a habit for writing it. I haven't really devoted myself to poetry since maybe middle school, so it would be nice to get back into the habit, which is why I picked up The 100 Best Poems of All Time, edited by Leslie Pockell. 
Hopefully, these reads will still be entertaining enough to loosen up my strained brain when I need a writing break, without being so distracting that I'd rather spend my time reading than writing! 


my stats for 2017 NaNoWriMo Week 1, as of the end of Sunday, 11/5: 

total words: 12,528
average words per day: 2,505
my best day: 3,361
short stories completed: "Superkids," working on: "Keep It Down"

Are you taking part in NaNoWriMo? What does your writing project look like this month? Let me know, in the comments below!

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Review: Final Girls


32796253
Boo to you, goblins and ghoulies... I hope you're having a horror-rific Halloween! 

In my attempts to get into the season's readings this month, I ventured over to the spookier side of my TBR, with a special thriller I've been anticipating all year... unfortunately, the results were frightfully disappointing. While I'm still scaring up a few last minute favorites to fill my haunting hours, here's why this recent release left me feeling gravely underwhelmed. 

Final Girls, by Riley Sager, finds its heroine standing in a culturally significant space: at the violent ends of horror flicks, as the last ladies left alive to tell the tale... only, in this novel, the massacres that breed these fierce survivors are all too real. There's Lisa, who somehow escaped after a madman claimed the lives of nine of her sorority sisters; there's Sam, who outmaneuvered the Sack Man, during a harrowing graveyard shift at the Nightlight Inn; and there's Quincy, the sole survivor of a horrifying night in a cabin in the woods, at a college party gone terrifyingly wrong.

Quincy, however, has tried her best to put the title behind her. She's a baking blogger in New York City, living in an apartment financed by the extreme legal fallout after her attack, desperately hoping that her carefully-manicured image makes up for a young adulthood spent in the limelight for all the wrong reasons. However, that perfect tableau falls apart with the news that Lisa has been found dead, especially once Sam shows up on her doorstep. After all that these women have been through... could it be that someone still wants them dead? 

With a blurb that promised an intriguing mystery, and a title featuring a favorite cinematic tropes, this book was set up to be one of my most anticipated of the year. It had a Stephen King promo on the front! When I had the chance to buy only five books when celebrating my bloggoversary, interrupting an otherwise year-long buying ban, this novel was one of the chosen few that made the cut!

Unfortunately, all this hype set it up so that when the main characterizations fell flat, motivations got murky, and action escalated at an uneven pace, it made it all the more disappointing. 

In fact, I only made it about 50 pages in before I told my Dad, "This is actually turning out to be kind of a bummer." I had all the information I needed, in order to get a read on my current reading: the book lacked any kind of cinematic quality - a definite issue, once you consider the distinctly cinematic nature of its title and concept - our main character was unrelatable, and frankly unlikable, too, and none of the backgrounds given for the leading characters were especially believable or interesting.

And the pacing was uneven. It didn't just gap in places, it yawned, especially in between Quincy's current timeline, versus flashbacks to the night of the carnage at Pine Cottage. Not to mention that by certain contrivances of the plot, by the time you get the full story on the murders, you don't really get the impression Quincy necessarily deserved to be a Final Girl; it kind of seems like she survived on a fluke. Even before you reach that particular plot apex, suspense is built through attempts to construct her as an unreliable narrator, but those fell extremely flat, as well, as amnesia-centered-plot lines tend to do.

So with plot development, our main heroine, and a key conceptual literary device, all lacking luster, I had one thing on my mind: this cannot be this author's home genre.

You see, the notes in the back of the novel mention that "Riley Sager" is actually a pseudonym, covering for an already established author. My immediate bets arranged themselves towards the romance or chick-lit genres, or maybe even a contemporary YA author, because that's the only way I found myself able to justify the strange characterizations or lack of standard Horror or Thriller background demonstrated in this novel.

Internet exploration quickly led me to the author's real name: Todd Ritter, who deals in Crime Fiction. Unfortunately, this clarified nothing for me. 

For someone whose main series centers around a female detective, it was strange that none of the police characters in Final Girls demonstrated much agency or aptitude beyond their two-dimensional renderings. I also have a lot of questions as to why he would elect to use a deliberately gender-neutral pseudonym for a genre that's a kissing cousin to the one in which he already writes, in order to somehow lend credence to the belief that the author of this book was female. 

In the end, perhaps the book's greatest downfall, in my view, is due to its reliance on the cultural collateral typically ascribed to a Final Girl, when those aren't the only variables in a horror story necessary to creating a compelling plot: it's not just Nancy, it's Freddy. It's not just Laurie, it's Michael. It's not just Sydney, it's the numerous men (and women) behind the Ghostface mask. To create a compelling and powerful Final Girl, you need to experience the horror of what she's up against firsthand.

So with a story line that focuses on deliberately obscuring that fact until the last possible moment, you're holding back on a very important function of what it actually means to be a Final Girl. By not examining the backgrounds of the killers that led to the formation of these other women, a disservice is does to the complexity of their characters. As a result, everything just feels uneven: we're told we should root for Quincy - as not only the titular Final Girl, but as a lead character - but are never given complex or significant reasons to do so.

Final Verdict: While this dead read may have been one of my biggest letdowns of my reading year, it did help me cross the finish line for my Goodreads Challenge of 2017, just in time for NaNoWriMo! Plus, there's plenty of leftover Kit Kat bars to help numb the pain...



Who's your favorite Final Girl? What are you reading this Halloween? Let me know, in the comments below!

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Review: Vicious

13638125
From A Darker Shade of Magic, to This Savage Song, to  her short story in the Because You Love to Hate Me collection, and even her Twitter account, I've pretty much cemented the fact that Victoria Schwab is one of my favorite authors. That's exactly why I've been saving this particular creepy read for a chilly October day... and now, I'm stuck deciding whether I wish I'd read it sooner, or if the wait made it all the better. All I know, is that I'm looking forward to repeating the adventure soon! 

Vicious, by V. E. Schwab (the non-YA writing alias for prolific author Victoria Schwab), follows Victor Vale through two parts of his life, decisively divided into a "before" and an "after." There's ten years ago, when he and his best friend, Eli, decided to explore the pathway to achieving super-abilities as an EO - or ExtraOrdinary - human, in a college thesis experiment gone rogue. Then there's ten years later, as Victor plots revenge, alongside his prison cellmate Mitch, and Sydney, a twelve year old girl with some interesting powers of her own. As the two timelines converge in a mishmash of interconnecting chapters and viewpoints, betrayal and loss are brought to the forefront, as two archnemeses prepare for the ultimate showdown.

When it came time to write up my initial thoughts on this book, shortly after turning the final page, I typed the following note: "I feel like I should wait until tomorrow morning in order to write a more comprehensive review. All that's going through my head right now is a chorus of 'That was awesome!'"

Schwab is an expert at constructing grey characters, and this book seems to deal exclusively in that palette. Ranging from a serial murderer with a religious hero complex, to a self-described villain with the ability to manipulate pain and a habit for saving others, everyone occupying the city of Merit seems to lie somewhere between charcoal and slate. Except, of course, when they're dealing in red... because there's a whole lot of murder here, only slightly remedied by a girl with a penchant for raising the dead.

The non-chronological time order required careful attention to the chapter headings, but getting used to it came quickly, especially as the tones between the differing timelines are fairly distinct. The effect was a purposefully muddled and deliberate shielding of certain moments and information until it became absolutely necessary to the reader's understanding of the narrative, and the gradual reveal of our shadowy characters' true stories and selves were completely in line with their own ambiguous moral codes.

In any superhero movie, the question is inevitably raised, as to the level of responsibility the character in question has in protecting anyone else. In Spider Man, Uncle Ben delivers one of the most iconic lines in the entire genre, equating the possession of power with the burden of mastering it for a greater purpose. In Vicious, this dynamic is turned on its head: EOs are pretty exclusively shown manipulating their power for personal gain, and the one among them who self-identifies with heroics does so not through saving those in need, but by destroying others. Even our narrative focus, Victor himself, isn't necessarily preoccupied with protecting civilians, either, but is motivated almost solely by revenge.

This helps solidify one of my favorite elements of the novel.

Because of the attention paid to the development of the somewhat reckless self-benefit of EO abilities, a character focus established early on, is whether these mutations make them something that aligns less with being a man, than being a monster. Is becoming something superhuman an act against God, and his creation? What do you sacrifice - what does your soul sacrifice - in becoming something that strays so far from the boundaries of humanity?

One of the best things Schwab does, is keep this answer subjective, especially when it comes to the ways her main characters grapple with their newfound abilities. Clashes about how personalities are reflected and changed in the acquisition of superpowers, forms a central conflict, without an answer ever truly being found, as compelling arguments are generated on both sides of the spectrum.

Are these new rough edges and hard faults something that comes to the surface when you become something new, or have they already been there? Has something else shoved its way in? The moral debates that formed the catalyst for action were so much more compelling than any typical revenge plot, that it allowed for significant forms of personal and relationship development that affected the ways characters interacted, without having the question ever fully resolved.

As a whole, the novel leaves plenty of room for sequential development, while still standing solidly on its own. The final page ends with loose ends pretty much tied, but enough give in them to where there was room to knit something just as new and compelling together to it.

Final Verdict: A gritty, grey variation on the traditional superhero origin story, Vicious is another perfect addition to Schwab's expertly curated canon of novels. Fans of movies like Unbreakable and Chronicle - and probably Sin City - would love this uniquely dark, action-packed adventure.


Are you a fan of Victoria Schwab? Which of her books is your favorite? Let me know, in the comments below!

Monday, October 23, 2017

Twilight Reread: The Podcast, The Novel, My Brother, and The Movie


At the start of my summer reading, I mentioned my intentions for generating a very specific kind of book club: one involving my younger siblings, a podcast, and the series of novels that turned paranormal romance into a publishing genre juggernaut.


into the twilight


The idea came in the wake of a growing obsession with a podcast run by a friend from college: Into the Twilight. The podcast recaps two chapters of the book series with every episode, with our two hosts - Cody and Ally - providing modern commentary, calling out problematic (or just bad) writing, and even exploring their own relationships with the series itself. Over time, other elements, like movie reviews, online quizzes, and readings of excerpts from all-too-recently-published fan-fiction, were added to the show lineup, adding only more hilarity to what was already a pretty surreal media experience.

After listening to the series for a while, what had originally been intended as a sweet and awkward nostalgia trip through the reading material of my younger years, had actually revitalized a long-dormant interest, in one of the cringiest book series I'd ever read. I decided that after I finished all of the podcast series recaps for the first book, I would take a trip back in time myself.


back to middle school


It's truly amazing how rereading Twilight felt familiar and nostalgic, but different. More than anything, it was like opening a time capsule of my earliest preteen years. 

Here's a quick flashback to the personal significance of reading Twilight when the books were first published, in 2005: I was eleven, entering the sixth grade, and was all too aware at that point of the social damages I'd already accrued from admitting I read vampire books. I had gone through R. L. Stine's Dangerous Girls with desperate fervor, a friend had lent me a few copies of Amelia Atwater-Rhodes' various novels, and I had even tried my hand at Bram Stoker's Dracula (only to generate a compulsion to lock my windows and shut my blinds before I went to sleep every night, a habit I only managed to break in college).

It was a hobby I entertained exclusively in private... until two years later, in 2007, when suddenly, Team Edward fever swept through our middle school with such ferocity, you'd think the local high school was playing Forks HS for Homecoming. Eclipse - the third in the series - was published that year, and previews would soon be running for the Twilight movie, premiering the following November. Vampires were now in vogue, for the teenage set.

The same kids who though me strange before, now considered themselves to be ahead of the trend, with this hot new reading material. The books I had originally embraced for their genre, I abandoned with just as much feeling. In my mind, they weren't really vampire novels at all, because if they had been, then why was everyone else reading them?

I felt just as embarrassed about Twilight at 23, as I did at 13. Instead of taking the book anywhere in public, I read it on a camping trip.


my brother joins in


After I was done  - and still reeling from the resulting time warp - I handed the book off to my baby brother, Beau, who, even at fifteen-turning-sixteen, has a tendency to ride on the same reading wavelength as me. It's one of the reasons I was so interested in seeing his reaction to the book: with similar tastes, and differing history, what would he think of this teen lit phenomena?

What I hadn't accounted for, was the factor of something akin to socialized expectation. His understanding of its story was generated from an outside-in standpoint, rather than one that went inside-out: he grew up knowing of and observing Twilight's background and cultural collateral, he was raised seeing its wider impact and subsequent backlash firsthand, long before he knew its plot or characters well enough to decide for himself.

It's one of many reasons why the book, to him, was absolutely hilarious.

Because of this element of previous cultural engagement, for him, the novel ran closer to satire, brimming with unintentional irony and meta-humor constructed not from the objective nature of the text itself, but of his already-developed understanding, of what the text generated in mainstream culture, from its original popularity to pretty much a decade after its publication. When he read the book, he wasn't interacting with the text first: he had to wade through twelve years of pop cultural understanding, before he even had the chance to get to the simplistic YA romance of a girl and a vampire.

But even when he managed to - when he set all of those preconceptions of the novel, and its miscellaneous media extremities, aside - he still ended up really liking it. So, of course, we had to watch the movie.



kristen, robert, and my sister, delaney


One of my younger sisters, Delaney, is a movie buff, and a Twilight fanatic.

She watches all of the movies on a somewhat annual basis. An "Edward + Bella = Forever" tee shirt we found in the XXL women's section of a Value Village a couple of years ago, is a regular staple in her wardrobe. She near-exclusively drinks Rainier beer, because that's what Charlie Swan drinks in the movies, and when she had an opportunity to meet Billy Burke - who plays the character - it was one of the first things she told him. The photos of this exchange are currently her pinned tweet on Twitter.

You'd think she'd have been a super-fan since Twilight first hit teen bookshelves everywhere, but that's not necessarily the case. She saw the first movie, loved it, read all the books in one go, and saw the rest of the movies in theaters... but the real hype didn't actually kick in until years later, in college.

She demanded to be able to watch the movie with us, while on vacation towards the end of summer.



bella, edward, and the family


For Beau, it was his first time watching the whole way through; for Delaney, she was so well-acquainted with the material that she interacted with the television in a pseudo-Rocky Horror manner, calling out phrases that interacted with on-screen activity, or quoting lines alongside some of her favorite characters. The jokes made it clear that while this was one of her favorite franchises, even she knew that it was not above criticism or comedy. If anything, her enjoyment of the movie was, in some ways, constructed around the fact that it was more than a little ridiculous.

I'd forgotten a lot about how this movie interprets the plot, and even found elements of the novel absent from the movie that I was surprised I missed, like some of my favorite lines (for instance, the scene where Bella pressures Edward into eating a slice of pizza in the school cafeteria, which contains one of my favorite pieces of dialogue in the whole series).

There were aspects of the movie's construction that threw me off, too, yet seemed so emblematic of the franchise as a whole that I can't believe I forgot them: the strange blue color filtration, the intensity of close-up camera angles, and the prevalence of great music covering up otherwise completely silent scenes. The fact that the movie soundtrack was so much better than I had ever given it credit for, was just something I had never paid that much attention to, until Ally and Cody made frequent mention of it on the podcast.

By the time the credits rolled, my brother had already given his initial verdict: "When I was reading the book, I didn't imagine them just... staring... quite so much."



my baby brother writes a review


After about a month of simmering, and a return to scholastic reading with the advent of the new school year, I asked Beau again what his overall thoughts were, not just of the book, but also of the movie, and of our family's coveting of both.
"Overall, reading and watching Twilight was a blast, though it should not be said that these books are objectively good. In my opinion, these books are bad, but this faultiness is one of the reasons I love it.  
I have grown up around three different sisters who have all individually read this series and over time I have obtained a small portion of understanding of what this series was about: a girl named Bella meets hot vampire dude, and romantic adventures ensue.  
However, this limited foresight is what allowed me to truly enjoy this book. A vague and warped understanding of the plot, caused me to know what to expect ahead of time, but also allowed me to appreciate some of the features of the story more.  
Twilight, the book, is filled to the brim with classic cheesy scenes, many of which made me laugh. The movie is very similar, with the addition of strange acting choices. Sadly, the movie also loses some so-bad-it's-good lines and moments along the way, to shorten up its run time (Though, as previously stated, it is a great time with good friends).  
In conclusion, Twilight was a fun read and I am glad I read it. It is a much more hilarious book if you don't take it too seriously. One thing for sure, is that I’m planning on finishing the series.


rereading New Moon


Now, I'm finishing up the last couple of podcast episodes covering New Moon. My brother is impatient to get to read it as well, with absolutely no shame in carrying it to school as a proud sophomore high school student, exhibiting more self-confidence than I ever had in my first readings of these novels.

In that way, it's been an interesting experience exploring what this franchise means to each of us. For me, it was a source of preteen shame, that lost all fun once swept up in the crowd; now that I've been able to let go of some of that social anxiety, I've can enjoy the book for what it is. My sister was a part of the initial craze, but found she could love it more once the rest of the frenzy had already past. My brother grew up in the "post-Twilight" pop culture experience, and the books are more fun for him now than they probably would have ever been, had he been a part of the initial phenomenon.

While there are still plenty of issues with the books as a whole, there's one element of their popularity I've always found necessary to highlight: this series got people reading. However, the power of this statement doesn't come from the idea that lots of people were reading these specific books, but that these specific books were being read by a diverse and multi-faceted population of people. 

From a variety of backgrounds and life experiences, ages, genders, sexualities, careers, and other forms of social divide, a whole lot of us read this book. If my sister, brother, and I could all come from different ways of thinking, and enjoy something as silly as a YA vampire romance together, then who's to say what it might mean to other people, too?





When was the first time you read Twilight? Would you think about rereading it now? Let me know, in the comments below!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

24 Karat Magic: My Birthday Haul!


Well, it's official: as of this past Sunday, I officially turned 24. While it's weird contemplating yet another trip around the sun, thankfully, my existential dread has been put on hold for a moment... so I can play with all the new toys I got!

(Just kidding. To be fair, though, I'm really most excited for is for the new bedding I ordered to arrive tomorrow afternoon, so I can rest easy in Garnet Hill Signature Navy Toile Flannel Sheets, instead of on the as-to-now-sheetless double bed I was handed down earlier this year.)

Still, I'm not joking when I say my parents (and friends! and siblings!) are awesome, and took advantage of my inability to buy my own books in order to pick out a few just for me. Resolution 2017 is still holding strong, but my shelves still get filled with oodles of awesome new reading material... and that's the best bday present I could have asked for!


thrifted fashion reference books for women's styles in the 1800s
While my birthday itself was mostly spent in Seattle, Washington, playing Dungeons and Dragons with some of my sorority sisters (and biological sister), I had gone thrift shopping with my other younger sister the day before, and she was determined to use the excursion to find the perfect present. She did, in these reference books for 1800s women's fashion, focusing on European styles in the later half of the century. While I'm mostly planning on using them for scrap-booking, but also think that some pages will look amazing in the new gold frame I picked up on the same trip!

The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine, by Mark Twain and Philip Stead, illustrated by Erin Stead
My mom knows that I read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer every year, and that Twain is one of my all-time favorite authors... which is why she made a perfect guess in picking up this new picture book, based off of stories that Samuel Clemens told his own daughters before bed.

Dear America: The Fences Between Us: The Diary of Piper Davis, Seattle, 1941, Kirby Larson
I've been a long-time, hardcore fan of the Dear America series since I first started reading them as a kid, but this has probably been the first that I sought out specifically because of its content. Not only is this 2011 release set in my city of choice - Seattle, WA - but it deals with a historical moment that has been close to my heart throughout college: the West Coast Japanese internment during WWII.

Before the Devil Breaks You (The Diviners #3), Libba Bray
To be perfectly honest, my younger brother - with whom I share a love for this series - and I definitely did not realize that its most recent release was due for publication just weeks ago. Whether it's the lengthy waiting time between each installment of this fantastic series, or the fact that the publisher is changing the cover style for the third time with the third book, we were taken completely by surprise! But not too surprised that he couldn't run out and buy me a copy... with the expressed intention of reading it right after me, of course.

The Lemonade Cookbook, Alan Jackson and JoAnn Cianciulli
Lemonade LA - one of the most Instagrammable restaurants in existence, touting fresh salads, cafeteria-style desserts, and over fifteen different candy-colored flavors of its titular beverage - has long taunted me due to the sheer distance I'd need to cover to taste its fare. Now, there's no plane ticket required, because I've finally got my hands on some of its "California comfort food" recipes!


of course, it wasn't all just books...


  • One of the presents I was most excited for, actually came two days after my birthday, on the 17th: the season one DVD of Starz's American Gods - based off of the Neil Gaiman book of the same name, which I freaked out about only last summer - has finally arrived! 
  • And while it's not based off of a book of its own, it might as well be: influenced by the enduring legacy of British period crime novels (like those penned by my beloved Agatha Christie), and serving as the reason why Julian Fellowes was able to give us Downton Abbey so many years later, the Academy-Award winning Gosford Park is one of my favorite rainy day movies... and now I can watch it whenever I want! 
  • I've been geeking out about my beautiful Tombow dual-brush pens for a full year now, as I only received my first set of them for my birthday last year. Now, the obsession is back... and in pastels! 
  • Like I mentioned before, I spent my birthday playing D&D. While the hobby itself can be a relatively cheap one - all you really need is a set of dice, a Player's Handbook, the Character Sheet app on your phone, paper and pencils, and some good friends to play with - it's always fun to upgrade with game-specific goodies. That's why I'm so excited I got a HeroForge gift card from my friend Bernie: this complete-customization mini-figurine company allows you to build one that looks just like your character... so you don't have to just use a d6 as a stand-in on battle maps, like I've been doing for the past two years! 
  • True, I took sewing lessons as a kid. But now, as an adult, my Project Runway and thrift-flipping obsessions have made themselves manifest once again, in a request to take some Joann's classes on improving my non-existent skills. So I'm signed up for three of them! 
  • And, of course, one of the rare and few benefits to spending all of my time at home, is the fact that I get to rock Zella Live-In leggings whenever I want... which is probably why the pairs I've owned since freshman year of college all recently bit the dust. No worries, though: the two new pairs I got for my birthday should keep me comfortable for a while! 



Much and many thanks to everyone who helped me celebrate my birthday, even though there's nothing exciting about turning 24! 
What's your favorite way to celebrate a birthday? Let me know, in the comments below!