Holiday Gift Guide 2015 - Fairy Tales & Mythologies

Holiday Gift Guide 2015 - Fairy Tales
For the Fairy Tale fan!

Holiday Gift Guide 2015 - Greek Myths
For the Greek Mythology nerd *cough* me *cough*!

Holiday Gift Guide 2015 - Egyptian Myths
Know someone who loves the myths of ancient Egypt?

Holiday Gift Guide 2015 - Cthulhu Mythos
For the newest student at Miskatonic U!
Happy Holidays! Merry Christmas & Happy New Year. Christmahanukwanzakah is my favorite time of year. One of the best parts for me is finding the perfect gift for everyone! I adore themed gifts as well. Know an amateur bartender? How about pairing a book on whiskey and a set of tumblers or whiskey stones! Architecture fanatic on your list? Try a book on Frank Lloyd Wright's architecture paired with tickets to tour Falling Water (Bonus points if you make a whole day out of it with the lucky recipient)! Know someone who's an absolute nerd about mythologies and fairy tales? Why not give them a gorgeous book on their favorite mythology/folklore paired with some great gifts that fit the same theme? As someone who fits firmly in that last category, I can tell you that this would be a homerun kind of present. Check out the four gift boards I put together for Grimm's Fairy Tales, Greek Mythology, Egyptian Mythology, and the Cthulhu Mythos. I would have loved to pull in more mythologies for this and maybe next year I'll give myself enough time to accomplish that goal. (It takes time to hunt this stuff down, y'all.) Click on the images for product details!


Book Style: The Master And Margarita

Master And Margarita

This Book Style is dedicated to my friend Anton, who is incredibly only slightly obsessed with The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov (Михаи́л Афана́сьевич Булга́ков). Dearest Anton, maybe one day I'll be able to read it in Russian like you do!

Let's start with the cat-printed dress. which is a great echo of the Penguin cover art. And, no, I'm not partial to Behemoth just because he's a cat; I love his unparalleled sarcasm as well. You can choose to wear this "Hella" blouse - for the witch Hella - under or over the dress. (Personally, I like it layered underneath for a prim, schoolgirl vibe). On the legs we've got some tights featuring the Moscow Metro lines, because the novel is set partially in Moscow. Slip into these "Devil Lady" red flats and your outfit is complete! The Devil, incidentally, is a character in the book - pretty sure Anton and I both love books featuring authors interpretations of hell, the devil, or the (often avoided) apocalypse. 

Now onto accessories. A "New Q Natasha" purse, for Margarita's maid Natasha, matches the turquoise of the cat's eyes. A multi-colored "Margarita" bracelet blings up your wrist while a fang ring - for Azazello - adds sparkle to your hands! The two elements I pulled from the Jerusalem-set portion of the story are the cross earrings and the "Levi" necklace!


I'm (kind of, maybe, not really) Famous!

Apparently during my long hiatus from reading, creating, writing, blogging, and basically anything else that wasn't part of my actual day job, I got some amazingly awesome press from, not one, but two stellar publications!

Paste Magazine feature Book Style back at the end of July - right around the time my brain decided a vacation was no longer optional. I was absolutely floored when I heard about it and am still beyond words about how flattering and surreal I find this all. Check out the article and slideshow here.

Then towards the end of September, Mental Floss also gave Book Style a write up! Again, so crazy surreal for me and I still can't wrap my head around the fact that anyone besides for my direct family likes what I do. To me it's a fun hobby that has turned out to be marginally lucrative. So thank you to everyone who's been here since the beginning and clicks on my links! Check out the Mental Floss article here.


Book Style: How The Grinch Stole Christmas

How The Grinch Stole Christmas

Happy Holidays!

I've been away taking time for myself these past few months. Much needed mental decompression following a tough spring and a busy summer. In anticipation of my more comprehensive return to creating and blogging, enjoy a Grinchtastic Book Style!


Link Love: 07.25.15

Back cover of The Magic Box

This Link Love is so overdue. I think I've been hoarding some of these for months now, but life has been crazy and this blog doesn't always get the attention it deserves. This is my way of saying, if it seems like old news, it probably is.
"In the time since I’ve started editing young adult fiction for the Kaleidoscope imprint at Twelfth Planet Press, I’ve learned a lot about what people do and don’t think about YA. In particular, I’ve seen a lot of people dismiss it as unimportant, insubstantial, all the same, and for kids. Essentially this is the exact same stuff people in the Science Fiction community complain about hearing from people who shove SF into the “genre ghetto.” It isn’t fair for SF, and it isn’t fair for YA, either."
"We have forgotten Lolita. At least, we’ve forgotten about the young girl, “standing four feet ten in one sock,” whose childhood deprivation and brutalization and torture subliminally animate the myth that launched a thousand music videos. The publication, reception, and cultural re-fashioning of Lolita over the past 60 years is the story of how a twelve-year-old rape victim named Dolores became a dominant archetype for seductive female sexuality in contemporary America: It is the story of how a girl became a noun. "


Book Style: Peter Pan

Peter Pan

I'm a little obsessed with the Puffin Chalk series by Dana Tanamachi-Williams (of Tanamachi Studio), I've done Alice's Adventures in Wonderland before and I had, just had, to put another one together. Today is Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie. For those of you only familiar with the big screen adaptations of this tale - Disney's Peter Pan & Hook are the usual suspects - let me give you a brief background. Barrie originally wrote Peter Pan; or, the Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up as a play in 1904 and then reworked it for a book originally titled Peter and Wendy in 1911. The bit of the story that was the jumping point for Hook wasn't part of the original play but was written in later and appears in the final chapter of Peter and Wendy as When Wendy Grew Up. An Afterthought. The play still rarely uses An Afterthought's content but occasionally producers elect to include it. The character of Peter Pan was actually based on Barrie's brother who died at fourteen. Barrie took comfort from that idea that since his brother died a boy, he would remain in that carefree space forever. Peter's first appearance is actually in Barrie's 1902 novel The Little White Bird.

Don't think of this outfit as a lady Peter Pan or as a modern Wendy. It's not either one. One of Peter Pan's most enduring lessons is that we are never too old for whimsy, so I made an outfit that is whimsical and fun and just a little bit overgrown schoolgirl. I'm not gonna lie, I want twirl around in this "Work to Play" dress. Peter may not appreciate the work part of that, but he would appreciate the Peter Pan collar. Fun Disney's Peter Pan boyshorts underneath these mind-blowingly perfect mermaid tights will give you adequate coverage should you decide to also spin about with me. Peter Pan inspired salt-and-pepper oxford booties are practical and cute. This "Wasson Pirate" cardigan will keep you warm should you decide to set sail with Captain Hook and his crew (not advised, but to each their own). A Tinkerbell purse and a "Neverland" beanie (special Shadow Edition) are up next. I wish I could afford this adorbs little crocodile bag charm! A "Wendy, Darling" phone case will keep your phone Neverland chic. For the jewelry I added a Peter and Wendy silhouette necklace, a pair of tiger lily earrings (Tiger Lily is still my favorite character from the Disney film - even if "What Makes The Red Man Red" and the representation of the Indians in general makes me cringe a bit), and a pirate skull cameo ring. For the finishing touch, brush on some super-sparkly "Mermaid's Dream" nail lacquer. Now sprinkle that pixie dust and away we go!


Book Style: Watership Down

Watership Down

I feel like I'm cheating a bit with this Book Style for Watership Down by Richard Adams. I mean, I chose THE rabbit book because I wanted to do rabbity stuff. Which means that this outfit is just 95% bunny/rabbit themed and only like 5% inspired by any other element from the classic adventure novel. Okay, I did the actual math - of 13 items, 12 are thematic, and 9 of those are rabbit/bunny pieces, which means, technically, I only coasted on 75% of this one. But, bunnies!!!! 

Depending on who you ask, Watership Down is either a children's book or not, but I think it's a bit like Little Women in that it is totally acceptable for kids, but adults will get way more out of it. Kind of like a Pixar movie. The really cool thing about the novel, in my opinion, is that the animals are all completely anthropomorphized but are still completely in their natural environment. There's none of this adorable clothing or placing them in human-style cities nonsense, but their civilization and motives are completely human. True, you'll have to bear with some incredibly outdated gender roles, but it's not the worst thing you'll encounter when reading a "classic". The way Adams was able to craft an entire society -  morals, military structure, history, mythology, religion, etc - for these brave and extraordinary little rabbits never ceases to amaze me.

For the outfit, I decided to use this twilight-hued Puffin edition as the inspiration. (Purple is my favorite color and I will use it at every single opportunity.) The rabbit/bunny stuff first: a "Bunny Skeleton" tank top because I kind of picture Black Rabbit of Inlé looking all skeletal, woolen shorts with rabbit-fur patch pockets, rabbit tights!, leather "Bunny" hi-tops, a bunny-shaped rabbit-fur wristlet, a bone cuff made from actual rabbit bone molds (it's considered good luck to wear rabbit bones - think lucky rabbit's foot), bunny earrings, a "Rabbit Leaping" silver pendant necklace, and a bunny ears headband. The cardigan is just a pretty complement, no meaning. The "Dandelion Drops" earrings are for Dandelion and his bravery. The "Blackberry" ring is for Blackberry and his incredible smarts and logic. Finally, the "Suzi has a Swede Tooth" nail lacquer is for, and I know this is stretching it, Kehaar (the gull) who is based on a Norwegian resistance fighter Adams knew during the war. Honestly, this is the closest I could come to Norway with a matching polish shade. Sweden and Norway are both Scandinavian... I'm sorry, I know I failed you. 


Book Style: Poisonwood Bible

Poisonwood Bible

Since my husband has finally started reading some of my favorites, those books that I've been begging him to pick up so that I could share all of my feels with him, I have realized that I've never Book Styled many of them. Like the Hitchhiker's Guide one I did last, I think it's because the covers don't easily lend themselves to being styled. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver is a perfect example, I look at all that beige and panic. But my love for this book runs deep. I've never really liked any of Kingsolver's other works, yet I read and reread The Poisonwood Bible at least every couple of years. It speaks to my soul, often in new ways, at each reading. 

I wanted a Congolese/African feel to the outfit and thankfully crop tops and flowy skirts evoke the right imagery without being too appropriative of African culture (a fine line, I know). I started with this "Leah" one-shouldered crop top; Leah being my favorite character, and it's only partially because that's my middle name. Next a "Leah" skirt - honestly, it was just a lot easier to find Leah stuff than Rachel, Adah or Ruth Ann! The shoes are "Congo" sandals from the Brother Vellies x Madewell collaboration. And they're made in Kenya! The "Anatole Bonbon" bag is for Leah's love interest/Nathan's foil.. A crocodile leather cuff for one of Nathan's largest (and most obvious) failures at understanding the local people, a "Mamba" ring and necklace for Ruth Ann's tragic demise, a pair of parrot earrings for the wonderfully crass Methuselah, and a "Modern Primitive" ear cuff from Rachel Entwistle for Rachel and for the Prices' initial assumption about the nature of the villagers of Kilanga take care of the jewelry. Toss on an "Out of Africa" silk scarf and you're set. 

If you've never read The Poisonwood Bible, I swear it is phenomenal. It deals with cultural misunderstandings, the dangers of hindering your own progress through pride, family issues, interracial issues, and is a great jumping point for digging into African colonialism and Congolese history. 


Book Style: Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy

Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy

I'm a pretty big, large, massive, gigantic, (do you get the picture yet?) fan of all things Douglas Adams/Hitchhikers Guide. So you may wonder why it's taken me so long to create a Book Style for the books. I really don't know, to be honest. In all fairness, the covers of the individual books are a little hard to work with. Even this The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which includes all five of the novels, gave me some palette conundrums. I also kept overdoing the space theme in all my previous efforts and ended up with something that only a really bad extra in a really campy '70s sci-fi film would wear. Nothing felt like it captured the spirit of the Guide. Nothing until now, that is. I kind of, in all my humble honesty, feel like I nailed it this time. 

It's important to remember that while set in space, the world of the Guide begins (at least) in the late '70s early '80s. A large chunk of Adams' aesthetic influence came from that era, so I decided to embrace it. This outfit may not be my most wearable creation for most people, but if you're into to whole '80s revival, classic hip-hop, retro roller derby thing, I think you'll dig it as much as I do! Let's start with some base layers - a "Petunia" thong (for the very important bowl of petunias) and some "Galaxy" tights. Next we have some Dolphin shorts (for the dolphins! duh!  - also dolphin shorts are a style of short, I swear), a rocket-embroidered top, and "Demolition Derby" jacket (for the demolition of Earth). A pair of retro-style high top sneakers anchors the outfit and were absolutely necessary to mimic the look of The Heart of Gold, which is sneaker shaped in the novels unlike the orb shaped one in the 2005 film. 

A terry cloth (for your towel!) purse has ample room for your Guide, and any sandwich making tools you may carry with you. I added a digital watch, because, according to Adams, humanity is a bit obsessed with them. A "Don't Panic" necklace (rather comforting words), a whale ring (not sure it's a sperm whale, but close enough), a "42" cuff (the ultimate answer), and some mouse earrings (sneaky little hyper-intelligent pan-dimensional beings projecting into our universe) complete the jewelry. Top everything off with this sparkling "Across the Universe" nail lacquer and head off to The Restaurant at the End of the Universe!


Book Style: Water For Elephants

Water For Elephants

When I asked my sister-in-law which book was her favorite, Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen was the answer. I totally get why this period romantic fiction captured her attention and her heart. Gruen did a fantastic job of  evoking the mysterious glamour of the 1930s as well as the bleakness and desperation of life during the Great Depression. It's always hugely disorienting to me that these images are from the same year (1936) and same country (USA):

I wanted an outfit that I could see Marlena wearing in her downtime but that would also work in a more modern context. Luckily the bohemian glam aesthetic that I envision for an off-duty circus lady (who happens to be married to one of the big shots and is therefore just a little bit privileged and pampered) works very well for a festival worthy outfit. Or, if you're me, standard weekday wear. Some Big Top-esque stripes work well on these cotton trousers. I paired them with a "Marlena" camisole and a decadent kimono-style jacket (trés '30s chic) and "Queenie" flats. Marlena for protagonist Jacob's love interest and Queenie for Kinko/Walter's Jack Russell. I added an elephant cross-body bag because elephants are kind of an important thing in this book, in case the title didn't clue you in at all ;) Those eye catching horse hoop earrings are a nod to Marlena's talent/career and the "Ginger" ring is for poor Camel and all the tainted Jamaican Ginger he drank that left him helpless. The feather necklace is mostly because I like feathers and I can't picture a circus horse and stunt rider without copious amounts of feathers. Finally I added a bandeau style headband in Marlena's signature red satin. 


Book Style: Eating The Cheshire Cat

Eating The Cheshire Cat

Eating the Cheshire Cat by Helen Ellis is the first real YA I ever remember reading that wasn't a classic. It's also the first time I read a book review in a magazine and actively sought out the book in question. Before Eating the Cheshire Cat I'd never gone to a store looking for a specific title that wasn't either a) Nancy Drew or b) assigned school reading. As a result this novel, Helen Ellis' debut, truly was my introduction to the world of making my own reading choices and developing my own unique literary taste. I love this book is what I'm saying. It's got dark comedy blended with Southern Gothic themes. It's got real teenage girls struggling to mature in the extremely homogenized and image-centric South - something I was struggling with a lot when I first read it. I clearly remember being intrigued by the Wonderland reference in the title (Alice fangirl for life!) and it's crazy to me that this book only came out in 2001 because I feel like I read it before 11th grade, which clearly is inaccurate, but this book was so momentous to me that it seems like it's been part of my life for much longer. My little sister currently has possession of my coveted copy, long overdue since I spent a good few years trying to prevent her from reading it, convinced the more adult themes would be exposed to my mother and she would try and keep me from reading more realistic YA (which is pretty crazy when you consider that the same year I was assigned Ellen Foster and The Poisonwood Bible as school assignments...). And I am now going to stop blathering on about how much I adore this dark and twisted coming of age story and how life-changing/shaping it was for me because I will just keep on talking and we'll never actually get to the discussion about the Book Style and Brandi just stop talking just type a period and start a new paragraph come on you can do this...

This is a hard, I mean hard book to Book Style. That's why, besides it's apparent nearness and dearness to me, I haven't tackled it before now. You can thank my wonderful sister for the prompt. I wanted an outfit that I could see a young woman of good social standing in the South wearing, needed it to have at least some tie-in to the book (there's not a lot of blatant symbolism that would work), and I needed to match a neon green, orange and floral cover?! All in all, I'm pleased with the result. This maxi dress is way beyond my budget reality but I will now be actively looking for a suitable lookalike. I added a light cardigan on top in "Fire" because it matched the goldfish and it also ties in to the story's fiery conclusion. "Sarina Billy" slingback heels keep the look a little dressier while referencing one of three main characters, Sarina. The "Vendetta" purse also ties into the twisted relationship between Sarina and another main character, Bitty Jack. An axe ring and earrings are another nod to Sarina, her mother, and the shocking opening to Eating the Cheshire Cat where a (deliberately) drunk sixteen year old Sarina allows her mother to smash her crooked pinkie fingers with an axe so that they will be reset straight, thus eliminating her one physical imperfection. A "Roll Tide" necklace and an Alabama necklace reference the novel's setting. The "Southern Belle" lipstick, "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" nail lacquer should be pretty obvious references - it's a book about three Southern belles after all. I tossed in some cat-eyed sunglasses because I think sunglasses are a crucial part of any wardrobe and they're catty, just like Nicole (the third main character), Sarina, and Bitty Jack. 

I wholeheartedly endorse this novel. Just don't confuse Southern Gothic with goth. For that matter you probably shouldn't confuse Gothic with goth when it comes to literature, or you, like many disgruntled reviewers, will be confused and disappointed. 


Feminist Primer

So you're digging feminism and want to find out more? Excellent! I know it seems daunting to stare into the face of women's studies literature and to come out the other side more informed and confident instead of sobbing with overwhelmed emotion, but you can do it. Just like feminism is a lot simpler than people try to make it out to be - it is, after all, only "the radical notion that women are people"* - the world of feminist non-fiction need not be over-challenging. Below are my suggestions for where to start your reading - many of these are newer titles because I personally feel like the dialog is more relevant than some of the classic feminist books and I also find them easier to read. Feel free to leave your own suggestions or questions in the comments!

Sexy Feminism: A Girl's Guide to Love, Success, and Style by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong & Heather Wood Rudúlph

As a bonafide feminist killjoy who's into glitter, makeup and fashion, I jumped for joy at this title. There is still, yes still, a huge misconception that ALL feminists are unshaven bra-burners who hate men. None of which are actually part of the description of feminism. Believing that we're just as human as men doesn't mean we don't like traditionally feminine trappings. Sexy Feminism covers this alleged dichotomy, being a conscientious consumer and being kind to other women.

I mean, when the titular essay was originally published in 2008, it went viral, and the responses prompted the feminist Internet to coin the now easily recognizable portmanteau, "mansplaining". You could easily entertain yourself for hours by searching out comment threads and reading the male objections to the article, where they all manage to do exactly what the article was discussing in the first place. Men Explain Things to Me contains, of course, that first, historically important essay, along with six other perfectly matched essays. 

Colonize This!: Young Women of Color on Today's Feminism by Daisy Hernandez (Editor), Bushra Rehman (Editor), Cherrie Moraga (Foreword by)

Did you know that women come in more colors than just white? Well, the feminist movement doesn't always appear to know. Colonize This! is important for many reasons, but giving voice to the non-white population is the most important. Mainstream feminism tends to ignore or marginalize issues of race, and that's just not cool.

This is a new one and it's getting a ton of press for a very good reason: despite the multiple waves of feminism to sweep through the last century, a single woman is still an object of pity to too many people. This book helps break through so many preconceptions about what it means to claim your life for yourself. I think this is an important read for everyone, single, dating, married. Because, ultimately, you can't define yourself by your relationship status, and you shouldn't have to defend that status to anyone.

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

It's not the longest, but it makes a compelling argument. That's probably why we got Adichie's badass Tedx Talk finally printed for mass consumption and distribution. I adore Adichie's point of view because it's not specifically American or western; the fact that she hails from Nigeria helps expand the feminist conversation to the rest of the world. The problems are everywhere and we need to recognize and accept this fact if we're going to move forward.

So here's the thing, feminism sucks if we're not including every woman in it. That means transsexual women, gay women, queer women, women of color, and straight woman. Serano is one of the leading voices in this incredibly important call to action. If your feminism isn't including and respectful of everyone I just listed and if you don't take their special circumstances into consideration, this needs to move to the top of your TBR stack, ASAP.

Bad Feminist: Essays by Roxane Gay

This essay collection deals with the flaws in us all, especially women, and how we can fixate on what we’re doing wrong instead of embracing all that we’ve done right. Let’s be honest, I think each and every of us has lamented how bad we are at fulfilling all the ideals we claim to support and embody. Gay’s exploration of this theme is cathartic and incredibly resonant. “Bad Feminist” is also a product of a mind that follows pop culture and maintains a strong social media presence, making her inconsistencies and struggles all the more real. 

SLUT: A Play and Guidebook for Combating Sexism and Sexual Violence by Katie Cappiello, Meg McInerney, Jennifer Baumgardner (Preface by), Carol Gilligan (Afterword)

I can honestly say that I have never spent so much time discussing, raving, sharing, dissecting, and meditating on one book before or since reading SLUT. This book contains the titular play (a must-see, watch the Talks at Google here), a background and guide for presenting the play, and several essays pertaining to the subject material. Vitally important for everyone to read, doubly so if you work with teens.

Leora Tanenbaum has been a leading voice on the topic of slut-shaming for years now. This is her newest book on the subject and it's incredible timely. The internet has radically changed the way we interact with and judge one another. Specifically, it has removed a lot of accountability people feel when dealing with others and has led to a generation of teens and young adults being threatened and verbally and emotionally assaulted online.

Also, just go ahead and check out Feministing.com, DameMagazine.com, BUST Magazine and Bitch Magazine. Honestly, just subscribe to those last two. 

*Thank you, Marie Shear ♥


Book Style: The Wind In The Willows

The Wind In The Willows
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame is one of those classics that you know even if you've never read the book. Disney's animated retelling, which is honestly one of their truest-to-the-original-source-material retellings ever, is largely responsible that. But this classic children's tale, created by Grahame originally for his own children's bedtime stories (very similar to A. A. Milne and the residents of Hundred Acre Wood), is a rollicking look at British upper society and life on the idyllic Thames all told through the lives of several anthropomorphized animals. 

For this Book Style, I wanted to draw in as many of the main characters as possible, while still creating a wearable outfit appropriate for an afternoon on the Thames. I started with a "Willow Willow" faux wrap dress and a blazer reminiscent of the boating stripe blazers worn by old school rowing teams. A pair of "Thames" booties keep the outfit from being too casual, but the chunky heels won't prove problematic on a river bank or country road. The accessories and jewelry mostly all reference a main character in the story:
Toad: Toad brooch made from a real page of the book and handcuff earrings for his inevitable imprisonment.
Ratty: That adorable rat/mouse ring. (Incidentally, the character of Ratty is actually a water vole... "The More You Know!") 
Mole: The little, wooden mole brooch.
Badger: The Badger tote bag.
Weasels: The weasel skull necklace.
The only item that isn't character specific is the bracelet set which is made of rolled pages of the actual book. And I topped everything off with Butter London's "British Racing Green" nail lacquer because Toad and motorcars cause a lot of problems.