Monday, August 31, 2015

A Fond Farewell: I've Moved!

Have you all been wondering where I went? Probably not. But for anyone who was, I can finally tell you.

I have officially moved to a self-hosted wordpress blog: Katsyxo.com!

I have been planning this move for awhile and I am super excited that it is finally official. I had really been struggling to blog here ever since I decided I was going to make the move, so I do apologize for disappearing like that. I had intended to start using the other site a few weeks ago, but as anyone who follows me on twitter will know, I had issues with bloglovin that took an absurd amount of time to get resolved.

Hopefully all of my bloglovin followers will be getting transferred over to the new site within the week, but you can also just pop over to the bloglovin page and follow me that way!

While I may be bias, I personally think my new site is just absolutely gorgeous and I am so excited to start blogging on it. I hope you'll all make the move with me and go check it out. And as some added incentive, I have a giveaway going on to celebrate moving to the new site! So please head over to Katsyxo.com and have a looksie!

Thanks so much to everyone who has kept up with me here at Paperback Planes. I've had a lovely year blogging here. But I was ready to move to something more permanent; so onward we go.

See you soon!

Monday, August 3, 2015

A Bit of Rambling into the Void

Do you ever have those days weeks where you just cannot seem to find the motivation to do anything?

Those days when your mind focuses more on all the reasons you totally won't be able to accomplish all those things you want to do instead of on what you should be doing today to get yourself a bit closer to those goals?

In order to be a writer you have to actually, like, write. But I just jump from one idea to the next, super excited about this or that story for all of ten days until something else pops into my head or, worse, I get bored of the last idea without any alternative to turn my attention to.

I just cannot seem to get myself to focus on anything productive lately. And I am hyper-aware that every day I am getting closer and closer to classes starting again and having no free time to write, and that at this rate I will have nothing to show for this whole summer that I was so determined I would spend writing. Something. Anything.

And even worse after this year, that's it. The real world is waiting for me at the end of these two semesters. I have less than a year left to get a foothold somewhere that will give me a decent starting point on a career path with no real lines to follow. I would really like to have somewhat established myself somewhere in someway that will make graduating a little less terrifying and my dreams a little more achievable.

So why can't I get myself to do anything?

Friday, July 31, 2015

Feature Friday: The Bletchley Circle

Hello everyone and welcome back to Feature Friday! I do want to announce that I have decided to make this a bi-weekly feature, rather than a weekly one. I want to make sure the recommendations I am making are things that I genuinely love and find worthy of featuring, rather than something I write about just to make a deadline. Cool? Cool. Moving on.


London, 1952. Susan is living a quiet life with her husband and two children. But she has a secret she is legally bound to keep from even her husband: during WWII she worked as a code breaker at Bletchley Park, the institution whose soul purpose was breaking the German Enigma Code. You can bind a woman to secrecy, but you can't take the code breaker out of her, so when a string of murders start occurring in London Anna cannot help but attempt to solve the puzzle. When it becomes clear that the police are not going to catch the culprit and that she cannot solve the crime on her own, she calls fellow former Bletchley code breakers Millie, Jean, and Lucy to help her catch the killer before another girl is taken.

Look me in the virtual eyes and tell me that is not the greatest premise for a detective show you have ever heard in your entire freaking life.

Aside from that absolutely flawless premise, the feminist history nerd inside me loves this show for highlighting an aspect of WWII that is often unknown and even intentionally erased: the role women played during the war. And I'm not talking about Rose the Riveter and all the woman who took up work in the factories; I'm talking about the women who were directly involved in the war in institutions such as Bletchley Park, scientists and mathematicians working in an effort to end the war. It is a common misconception that women were involved only as secretaries, which was admittedly the official report for decades after the war. Men and women alike were forced to sign contracts binding them to secrecy about their jobs during the war, and as a result many of the women involved insisted they had done mere clerical work. However, when the files were finally declassified and the truth about such projects became known the role women played went largely unannounced and unnoticed, so while the men of the time received their rightful praise, the women, save a few notable exceptions, continued to be excluded from the narrative or included only as extras, as secretaries in the background. As fantastic of a movie as The Imitation Game is, and it really is, it did further perpetuate the idea that aside from a few particularly exceptional women, the intellectual side of WWII was dominated men. The Bletchley Circle is finally, finally bringing attention to the fact that that is simply not true.


You were right. They're never going to find him.

The show is also really interesting simply because of the strategy the women use to solve the crimes. They are not your typical Sherlock Holmes characters who pick up on the tiniest of details and magically put everything together in a way no normal person would ever be capable of doing. Instead, these detectives use the same systematic analysis as they used during the war to identify patterns and connections between the murders that the police have failed to recognize. I really feel like it sets this show apart from other detective stories and makes it one worth watch amidst the ocean of other choices.

I have so far only watched the first season, but I cannot wait to sit down and binge my way through the second one on my next Netflix night, and I am hopeful that maybe just maybe there will be a third. Fair warning: the first season has only three, one hour long episodes, so it is nothing huge, but I think the pacing worked well and I don't think the brevity of the first story hinders it at all.

What do you all think? Seen it? Want to see it? No interest? Chat in the comments!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Monthly Faves: July 2015


*Nonchalantly returns to monthly post I've forgotten about like 3 months in a row*

*Acts as if I've been completely consistent*


Seriously though I am so on top of it this month. I had a page in my blogging journal specifically dedicated to noting cool things I found during the month that I wanted to share with you. Aren't you proud of me? 

Well I'm proud of me. Anywho, without further ado here are my faves from this past month!

Blogs


1. JoieFatale

JoieFatale is a beautiful mix of fangirl and fitness inspiration, and turned out to be exactly what I needed this month to get my ass in gear. While all her posts are nerdy and wonderful, what really sets her blog apart are her workout cosplays. She has put together workout outfits based on a variety of characters, ranging from Garnet from Steven Universe, to Ana and Elsa from Frozen, to the Colossal Titan from Attack on Titan. Any fangirl looking for a way to represent some fandom pride at the gym is sure to find something on her blog. When I asked where she got the idea for her workout cosplays this is what she told me:
"...I wanted to feel empowered with me working out. Since cosplay is one of my goals on losing [weight]...I figured making cosplay a part of the workout progress was ideal for me."
Go get empowered with her. You're sure to find something that will encourage you to get back on track with whatever your fitness/health goals might be, and probably another show or 20 that you need to add to your Netflix queue. And stay tuned for a really cool collaboration we're planning together!



2. Tea Time Tails

Amanda and I decided shortly after discovering each other that we were pretty much blogger twins. We just share a certain nerd frequency, you know? I initially fell in love with her blog because I was just so excited to have found another gamer in the blogging world, but it was realness and honesty of her posts that kept me around. When I was trying to fit the "blogger image"- whatever that even means- Amanda was unapologetically sharing her inner nerd, struggles she was facing at a given time, and whatever else she damn well pleased. And I love her for that. Reading her blog is a big part of how I realized just how much of me was absent from my blog, and that I was allowed to change that. Definitely pop over and check her out; she'll make a fabulous addition to your bloglovin feed.


Podcasts


I got super into podcasts this month. I never used to listen to them, because I had a hard time paying attention to them. I'm a very visual person and without anything for my eyes to do I wound up getting distracted and forgetting I was supposed to be listening, but after starting my own podcast, I figured I should probably start listening to others'. To solve this problem I started listening when I was doing the dishes or taking a shower, stuff that lent itself to focusing on something else at the same time. And now I'm addicted. Here are the best ones I found this month!



And now the weather.

Okay so I don't live under a rock and Nightvale was on my radar long before this month. I actually tried listening to it a few years ago when it got really popular, and when I decided I was determined to start listening to podcasts, this is the first one I went to. For those of you who don't know, Welcome to Nightvale is a story based podcast told in the form of a radio show for the secluded desert town of Nightvale. The strangeness of the town is made immediately obvious and is really the driving force behind the podcast. It is weird and slightly creepy and just so, so good. It is also really great if, like me, you like things that take not-so-subtle digs at problematic political and social institutions (racism, xenophobia, etc), sort of like The Onion does with its headlines. Oh, and the character cast of this podcast is more diverse than pretty much anything coming out of mainstream storytelling at the moment. As a whole it is a bit hard to explain, but I would highly recommend checking it out.


2. Nerdette 

Because everyone is a little nerdy about something.

I am seriously in love with this podcast. Nerdette is a podcast hosted by Greta Johnsen and Tricia Bobeda that is meant to be a fun safe space for nerds of all passions to share what they love. Every episode features a different guest who shares what their particular passion is. The great thing about this podcast is that you can find something for you no matter what it is you're nerdy about. History? Here's an interview with narrative non-fiction writer Erik Larson. Science? How about this episode with nuclear engineer (and former Survivor contestant) J'Tia Taylor. There is even an episode where they spoke with the creators of Weclome to Nightvale, which is a great one to listen to if you want a better explanation of it than what I just gave, though it contains some brief spoilers. I really love this podcast because it introduces you to little pieces of things that other people are really passionate about that you might not otherwise be exposed to or spend time thinking about. I'm not a science person at all, but I really love listening to the episodes with science-y people because it makes it accessible to me. There is just nothing better than listening to someone talk about what they're super passionate about, no matter what it is.

Songs


I seriously belt out this song in the car. I get very emotional when it comes on. I feel you Rachel.

And honestly everything else by Fifth Harmony as well because lets be honest.

3. Uma Thurman by Fall Out Boy
If there were ever lyrics that demanded to be shouted from the rooftops "I CAN MOVE MOUNTAINS I CAN WORK A MIRACLE, WORK A MIRACLE" would be them.


That about wraps out this months favorites. I am hopeful that next month I'll also be able to include books and/or t.v. shows, etc, but July was just kind of crazy and I did not do a whole lot of reading or watching anything. Hopefully I can get my shit together for August, but who knows.

Also I felt like my blog was distinctly lacking in GIFs. I just really feel like that was a thing this site needed. How do you all feel about that?

What have been your faves for the month?

Monday, July 27, 2015

Currently Reading: All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr



I borrowed this book from the Barnes and Noble I work at, because saving money and all that, and then half way through the book I decided just to buy it because I could just tell this one is going to give me feelings and I'm just going to want to be able to take it off my shelf and hold it sometimes. You know?

All The Light We Cannot See tells the story of  Marie-Laure, a blind French girl living in Paris, and Werner Pfennig, an orphaned German boy with a curious mind and a knack for fixing radios, whose lives were swept up in the chaos of World War II. The book tells their stories in alternating chapters, following Marie-Laure as she and her father are forced to flee Paris for Saint-Malo during the German invasion, and Werner as he escapes his fate working in the mines only to find himself forced into a much more unnerving world at one of the country's top military schools.

I'm currently about half way through the book and so far I absolutely adore it. I just want to wrap up Marie-Laure and Werner and hide them away in a safe place where none of the terror or grief of the war can ever find them.


So far I personally am more interested in Werner's story. Marie-Laure is a beautiful character and I am very emotionally invested in her well being, but at the same time I feel like the most interesting aspects of the narrative are in Werner's chapters. He is a young boy who initially understood very little about the war or the school he was being sent to; he was just happy to have escaped his father's fate working, and likely dying, in the mines. But the longer he is at the school the more uncomfortable he becomes and he really begins to question the nature and morals of the system he has become a part of. I feel like I'm getting close to a turning point in his narrative, but I'm not sure what exactly that turning point will be or what it will mean for him.

I am really looking forward to finishing this book and finding out where they both end up at the end of the war, but at the same time I don't want it to end because then I will inevitably have to move on from it. I think that, like The Book Thief, this book is going to be difficult to follow, because I'm not going to want to let go of this story in order to enter another.

If you've read or are reading All The Light We Cannot See tell me what you think of it. If not, I highly recommend looking into it!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Musical Confessions: Come to the Dark Side; We Have Fiddles

Do any of you have a musical genre that you love that simply does not exist on the radio? A genre that requires you look up songs on Youtube or put together your own Pandora playlist in order to listen to them or find new music, because lord knows WCSX or whatever is never going to play it on your morning commute.



Here's the thing: I love folk music. Mainly Celtic, but folk music in general really. I just absolutely freaking love it. And let me tell you, that is not a discovery you make without some effort. I honestly don't even remember how exactly I stumbled upon it. I believe it entered my life via a movie soundtrack playlist I had put together on Pandora for when I was writing or doing homework. You know how Pandora is; no matter what you intend a station to be it always throws in something unexpected from time to time. And for me that something was Siuil a Run by Celtic Woman.

It was just down the rabbit hole after that.

And now I just sit at my computer listening to Pandora wondering how on earth anyone is not obsessed with this music. Songs range from hauntingly beautiful to the type of bubbly upbeat music that you simply can't not dance to. And there are fiddles. Like, the fiddles alone are reason enough to lock yourself in a room with a pair of headphones and a Celtic Woman cd, let's be real. The music is just so pretty and so much fun. I cannot think of a single reason not to love it. Plus when you sing along you get to pretend you can speak Gaelic for the bits not in English. I can't be the only one who loves to sing along to songs in other languages. As long as it sounds similar it's all good, right?

Basically, what I'm trying to say is if you love yourself you will head straight over to Pandora and create a folk music playlist for yourself. On top of being amazing and beautiful and everything else, it is also, I think, really great productivity music. My Blackmore's Night playlist is my writing music and it has seen me through many a college essay.

Here are some of my absolute favorites to help start you off on your new musical journey.

Teir Abhaile Riu by Celtic Woman
Ready for the Storm by Deanta
A Spaceman Came Traveling by Celtic Woman
John Riley by Grada
The Voice by Celtic Woman
A Mhuirnin O by Clannad
Nil Se'n La by Celtic Woman
Fires at Midnight by Blackmore's Night
At The Ceili by Celtic Woman

Do you have a favorite music genre people might not expect? Or any musical loves you simply will not find on the radio?

Monday, July 20, 2015

Book Cover Makeup Inspiration: A Thousand Pieces of You



I am a nerd of many passions, and if you've been hanging out on this blog for longer than 30 seconds you know that two of those passions are books and makeup. And awhile ago I was thinking, wow I would really love to find someone who does makeup looks based on book covers, like how freaking cool would that be?

But I couldn't find anyone. So I decided to try it out for myself, because amateur book cover makeup look is better than no book cover makeup looks, right?

I knew right away that the first cover I would try would be A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray, because it is just such a gorgeous cover. If you have not read this book yet I highly recommend to add it to your TBR list; I cannot wait for the second one! You can find my review of the book here!

I opted to stick to color inspiration, mainly because that is about as far as my current talent will allow. I'm neither a huge fan of nor am I particularly good at really bold eye makeup. I tend to stick to the type of makeup I would be willing to wear out in public, so it is nothing crazy, but I hope these end up being something fun anyway. And who knows, maybe as I keep going I'll branch out a little bit.

For this look I used:



What are your thoughts on both this look and this project in general? Would there be any interest in me trying out other book covers as well? And if so which ones? Let me know!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Feature Friday: Death Parade

I had a weekly series called Feature Friday on this blog when I first started, but it fell through the cracks when I was trying to decide what exactly this blog was going to be. I recently decided to bring it back, so from now on every Friday I will be featuring some bit of pop culture that I really enjoy and think is worth sharing. Unless, you know, I forget. It happens.

This week I submit for your consideration, Death Parade, an anime written by Yuzuru Tachikawa that aired earlier this year.



I want to include the opening just because it cracks me up. The music is so upbeat and the animation is so goofy, and it makes it seem like you're getting ready to start a silly, lighthearted anime. And then the first episode happens and you just sit there feeling confused and betrayed. By the end of show I had actually decided it really fit the feel and message behind the show quite well, but that was definitely not my first impression. So if you want a giggle, watch this first, and then read the premise of the show.



The premise of Death Parade alone should, I think, be enough to convince you to add to your Netflix queue. When two people die at the same time, they are sent to an arbiter to be judged. The individuals do not know they are dead, and the arbiter uses this fact to convince them to play a game, with the implication that they are playing for their survival. In reality, the games are meant to bring out the darkness of each person’s soul, so the arbiter can determine whether that soul should be reincarnated or sent into the void. The games themselves are variations of the usual classics, bowling, darts, air hockey, but all with a twist intended to increase the players stress levels. The main character of the show is Decim, the new head arbiter of the bar QuinDecim, and each episode showcases one pair of humans sent to him for judging.

Didn't see that coming based on the opening, didja?

Death Parade is fascinating because it is far more focused on character development and psychology than on an evolving plot. The primary question of the anime is, or at least was to me, pretty clear from the first episode: is it truly fair to judge humans and determine the fate of their souls based solely upon their actions in extreme situations? The show actively questions the very structure of the rules of its own world, and it heavily emphasizes the impact and consequences that question has on and for the characters, both the arbiters and the humans they are judging. What happens when a system with so much at stake is fundamentally flawed?

I found the psychological aspect of the show endlessly fascinating. It essentially raises the question of what it means to be a good or bad person. Many of the humans sent to be judged crack under the intense pressure of believing their lives are staked on the games, but does that make them an inherently bad person? During the judging you are also given flashes of the humans’ memories leading up to their death and, at least for me, these memories often offered explanations for the way the people reacted to the games. I found myself disagreeing with many of Decim’s decisions, because to what extent can you judge a person’s actions and responses to stress without putting those actions in context with their individual life experiences? What I really loved about the show is that Decim himself is not stagnant in this regard. He regularly questions both his judgments and the very system of judging he represents. And that, I think, is the best part of the show. It establishes a flawed system and, rather than suggesting nothing can be done to change established institutions, it forces us to ask what could be done differently, better.

I’m really struggling to explain how fantastic this show is without giving spoilers, and I’m not sure that what I’ve written will make sense to someone who hasn’t seen it. If that is the case you’re just going to have to trust me and queue it up because even if I failed at explaining it, Death Parade is such an amazing show and I would highly recommend it to anyone that is even slightly interested in the premise: it will not disappoint. As an added incentive, the show is only one season long, so there is not a huge time commitment to watching it like there are with many other anime (*cough* One Piece *cough* Naruto *cough cough*). I flew through it in two nights of watching. I am normally skeptical of single season anime because they always feel unfinished or rushed to me, but even in this respect I think Death Parade is pretty much flawless. The pacing is great and the ending is satisfying; it leaves it open to potentially being continued in an OVA or second season, but it does not need one, and I highly doubt it will get one. Even if I do desperately just want more Decim in my life (and oh my gosh I freaking do; I have so many Decim feelings you don't even know) I can honestly say I was happy and satisfied with the way it ended.

Have any of you watched Death Parade already? What did you think of it? And if you have not seen it, would you consider it? Let me know! And if there is something you love that you think I should check out and potentially feature in the future, tell me about it below!

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Problem with the "Strong" Female Character

*EDIT: THIS POST HAS BEEN EDITED SLIGHTLY AND RE-POSTED TO MY CURRENT BLOG AT KATSYXO.COM WHERE THE CONVERSATION HAS CONTINUED. I WOULD LOVE TO HEAR YOUR THOUGHTS, SO PLEASE SHARE THEM THERE!*

In recent years the feminist community has been calling for an increase of “strong female characters” in popular media, be it books, movies, video games, or any other form of storytelling. And I think that was probably a mistake.


Don’t get me wrong; the intentions were good. Of course we need better representation of women in pop culture. The mistake, I think, was in the word choice of our war cry. We demanded strong female characters, when we should have demanded complex female characters. Of course we want to see more “strong” women in popular media. Of course we have grown tired of being the damsels in distress, the passive princesses waiting in the tower to be rescued. But I am also tired of being the two-dimensional love interests, the tragic death that inspires that male hero, the busty background decoration, the sexy but silent prize to be won.


As a result of this linguistic misstep, the layer of grimy misogynistic film that currently covers popular media was given a crack to seep through. “Look,” the writers said. “We gave this one a gun. She even knows how to use it. Now sit down, shut up, and leave us alone” Our desire for more balanced and more progressive representation was met with faux-feminist films like “Sucker Punch” and are you happy now nudges in the form of characters like Doctor Who’s River Song and Shelock’s Irene Adler. (Okay, so maybe I specifically have some Steven Moffat issues, but the point stands). On the surface it certainly seemed like progress, but if we measure progress on a scale of Princess Peach (constantly kidnapped and 100% useless) to Princess Zelda (constantly kidnapped, but plays mild roles in the plot and sometimes shoots a bow in the final battle), we are setting ourselves up for a low scoring game. What the early crusaders of this battle failed to recognize, or at least failed to articulate at the time, is that a character can be strong and still be two-dimensional, male fantasy fulfillers, or exist for no reason than to complicate or further a male character’s story. 


Let's take River Song, for example. I do not believe anyone would accuse her of being weak; she knew how to take care of herself, was extraordinarily headstrong, and certainly never let anyone boss her around. On the surface she seems like exactly the kind of character we have always wanted. But the more you consider her role in the story, the more apparent it becomes that she was more of a plot device than anything. She was a mystery, a point of confusion, someone neither the viewers nor the Doctor could make sense of (which, as it turned out, are the only kinds of female characters Moffat is capable of writing; oops, am I ranting again?). She is a recurring and prominent character for three seasons, but as soon as the truth about her past and her identity was revealed she was phased out of the story, a convenient and timely removal that Moffat had built into her character from the very first episode she is featured in, “Silence in the Library.” On top of that, her entire life revolves solely around the Doctor. She is kidnapped as an infant with the intention of training her to kill him; when she finally meets him she falls in love with him instead and spends the rest of her life chasing him throughout time and space, until at last her story ends (begins?) with her sacrificing herself for him in “Forest of the Dead.” In short, River Song did not exist independently of her relationship to the Doctor, and as soon as her role as the mystery in the plot came to a close her character was removed entirely. Not exactly my idea of brilliant representation.


Compare River Song with Sansa Stark. She is far from being physically strong and she is certainly not a fighter, as is emphasized by the repeated juxtaposition of her and her younger sister, Arya. Sansa is abused both physically and psychologically, and while her sister would likely have lashed back with fists and steel, Sansa never once attempts to fight her way out of King’s Landing. She is, perhaps, one of the more universally hated upon characters in the series, with many a feminist decrying her for being so “weak” a female character, which just seems unfair to me. First of all, she is 13 years old. Second of all, what would you have done?


Many compare Sansa to Arya to prove how weak she is for never fighting back against the Lannisters. But take some time to consider whether Arya would have survived King’s Landing, considering her quick temper and impulsive behavior. Sansa, I argue, and will argue to the end, is so much stronger than anyone has given her credit for, just not in the typical sense. She proves time and time again just how intelligent she is as she navigates the harsh world she has found herself in. She learns the game being played around her, and slowly but surely she learns to play it herself. When Stannis attacks King’s Landing Sansa attempts to convince Joffrey to lead the Vanguard in hopes that he will be killed, but does so in a way she cannot be punished for and that appears to be a sign of respect for Joffrey as the true king:
“So you'll be outside the gates fighting in the Vanguard?”
“A king doesn't discuss battle plans with stupid girls.”
“I'm sorry, Your Grace. You're right, I'm stupid. Of course you'll be in the Vanguard. They say my brother Robb always goes where the fighting is thickest. And he is only a pretender.”
How then, could Joffrey refuse to lead the Vanguard, being reminded that the false King of the North always leads his? Of course, Joffrey is a certified coward and runs from the fighting as soon as the opportunity arises, but Sansa’s clever comment should not be ignored. She knows she cannot fight with force; she must instead fight with wit and clever words. And she does so at every opportunity.


My point is Sansa is by no means a “strong” female character in the traditional sense, but that should not disqualify her from being considered an excellent character in terms of representation. She has strengths and weakness, fear, courage, hope. She cannot be reduced to her physical weakness anymore than a real person could.


If what we want is better representation of women in media, we need to be calling for female characters that are every bit as complex and diverse as real women are. I want every girl and woman to have characters they can relate to, and forcing pop culture from one extreme to the other is not going to achieve that. And beyond that, it encourages the continued creation of two-dimensional characters. Sansa has been derided as a terrible female character, where River Song has been acclaimed as a fantastic female character. But personally, I prefer a thoroughly developed female character doing the best with what she has to a female character whose exists solely to complicate a male character's story, but who happens to be an excellent shot with a pistol.


What about you?

*Disclaimer: In talking about Sansa I am speaking directly about her as a character in and of herself and not about the horrific way her character has been treated by the writers of the show. As a character, she is phenomenal. But the writers have shown her nothing but disrespect in recent seasons. These, for me, are both valid but different issues.*

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Cross Cultural Collab Part 2: What Life is Really Like in the US

A few weeks ago Apoorva from Girl in a Whimsical Land and I posted the first part of our two part cross cultural collab, where we both wrote a post detailing what we thought life was like in the other's country. You can read my post on life in India here, and her post on life in America here!

Today we are sharing part 2 of our collaboration by each posting what life is actually like in our respective countries!



So first of all explaining "life in the US" is really kind of weird and impossible, because this country is freaking huge. And there are huge disconnects between regions of it *cough cough* that make life in one state very, very different from life in another state. I have lived in the US my entire life and I have not even traveled half of it. I think I've maybe been to 12 of the 50 states, and that is only if you include driving through states, not actually visiting those states. In terms of states I've actually visited and done stuff in, I've only been to 7 or 8, depending on your definition of "visited."

As Apoorva suggested in her post, life in the US is absurdly convenient. It is kind of our thing in a way. I live 10 minutes away from a Meijer, where I can buy food, clothes, housewares, video games, movies, and health care products all in one trip. Most of this stuff is pretty expensive as a result of being so convenient, but what you gonna do? If I don't feel like cooking one night I can make a frozen pizza, order pizza, or drive 2.5 minutes from my house to any number of fast food restaurants. Healthy? No. Convenient? Yep. It is also pretty awesome to be able to consistently get food from all over the world. I know it is not super environmentally friendly, but I really, really love pomegranates and it is nice knowing that I'll usually be able to find them.

We live in a very face paced culture, which I think is probably why we've sought to make things as quick and convenient as possible. Everything is scheduled. We live our lives at the mercy of the clocks here, and any time lost is treated as time wasted. This is something I am personally very aware of and I really, really struggle with it. Like I am very aware of how much time out of my days and weeks I lose just driving to and from work. Or during the school year I am constantly aware of how much productive time I lose going to and from campus. It causes me quite a bit of anxiety to be honest. It really is not healthy I don't think, but I also don't really know how to escape it because it is what I've grown up with.

High school in the United States is, to be frank, kind of awful. The education system in general here is, in my opinion. I had fantastic teachers for the most part, don't get me wrong, but the system itself is highly flawed. The expectations are determined by people with no educational experience (i.e. the government) and the amount of pressure put on students is suffocating. Not to mention the fact that the emphasis in schools is not even on actual learning. Rarely do you really engage with any material or, heaven forbid, learn to think critically about anything. In the US schools teach to the test. They teach you to repeat information that the government decides you must be able to repeat, which is not the same thing as learning.

For all my issues with the education system, there are a few things I am grateful for. In the US you are 100% able to choose what direction you would like to go in so far as your college major goes (barring any un-supportive family, personal issues, etc). There is no test that tells you which degrees you do and do not qualify for, which is something I know some countries, such as Turkey, do have in place. I cannot imagine desperately wanting to do one thing and being told that my test scores disqualified me from even trying. Of course some people do find that they are unable to pass the classes required for their desired careers, but you are at least given the chance to try.

I did laugh a bit at Apoorva's comment about cliques in American high schools. They do exist, but the lines are not so strict as Hollywood makes them appear; they do blur quite a bit. I will say that I was in marching band in high school and as a result 99% of my friends were band geeks. Because you simply did not have enough free time outside of band to even meet anyone else. And in my school band and choir were pretty much one entity; music kids stick together I suppose. But that was just my high school, so I can't really speak for anywhere else!

The other thing that really made me chuckle was the idea that it is accepted drop out of college and work in the service jobs that don't require an education. While the issues might be different between here and India, it is certainly not something that goes unnoticed in the US. We are currently having huge issues with our minimum wage because people honestly believe that if you work in those service positions (fast food, retail, etc) you do not deserve to be paid a living wage. People will flat out say that if you want a wage you can live off of and support a family off of you should have gone to college; which completely ignores the fact that many of the people working in those positions did in fact go to college, but were unable to find the better jobs that an education was supposed to offer them. Americans are kind of famous for having very strong opinions about things they don't actually know anything about.

Race and sex are still huge issues here, obviously. In the south people are currently fighting over whether or not southern states should still be allowed to fly the confederate flag. That's right, in 2015 we are fighting about whether or not the symbol of slavery and the white supremacy movement should still be allowed. That is a thing that is happening here. And in 2015 a woman deciding to go to college means she also increases her chances of being sexually assaulted, because 1 in 4 college women will be raped during their time at university. And most of the time absolutely nothing will be done about it. But we are at least allowed to go to college, so we are supposed to take that as a win and be quiet about the rest of it.

Okay so obviously I have some issues with my country. But there are many things that I am also grateful for, maybe the biggest being that I can post all of this about my country and my government and know that I won't get arrested or disappeared for it. There are many things that need to be addressed in this country, but step one to solving any problem is acknowledging that it exists, and while not everyone in the country will acknowledge these issues exist, those of us that recognize them are free to speak up about them and raise awareness, which makes working for change that much more productive. I know there are activists elsewhere in the world who put themselves and their families at risk for being willing to speak up, and I am fortunate that, for the most part, that is not something we are forced to deal with here, at least from the government.

I am also very very proud of my country (and that is something I never thought I'd be able to say) for finally legalizing same-sex marriage nationally. Of course there is still a long way to go on the path to equality, but this was a much needed and long-time coming step in the right direction. Seeing all of the supportive posts and comments since the the decision has been really refreshing and has really helped to restore some of my faith that the problems and inequalities facing my country can be solved.

I will also be forever grateful for the stability of the internet and internet connections in the US. We had a bit of a scare for a little while with Comcast trying to take over the world and all, but that is another thing the government surprisingly got right. And as a citizen of the internet, and someone who really appreciates the community and opportunity it offers, I am so, so happy and lucky to know that I will consistently have access to it. This is something that some countries around the world are still working to accomplish, so I consider myself very lucky to have grown up in a country where it was never an issue. That might sound like a weird thing to be grateful for, and I really wish I could properly explain why it is so important to me, but it just really is.

Holy crap this post got entirely too long. Sorry about that. And sorry if it was a bit pessimistic! I don't want to make it sound like I hate my country; it is the exact opposite to be honest. I am so very aware of how much potential this country has and how much better it could be. I am so, so very aware of how many people in this country desperately need many of these problems to be solved, because right now so much potential is going to waste because of the inequalities still plaguing this country. I do not want to sound pessimistic, because on the contrary I am very optimistic that these issues can be resolved and that this country could actually be as great as so many people like to say it is. But first we have to talk about it, you know? And as someone who is constantly so aware that these inequalities are operating around me, it really kind of defines my experience living here.

American friends please share your thoughts on life in this country! There are so many more things I would like to say, but this post is quickly turning into a small novel. Be sure to pop over to read Apoorva's post on life in India!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

I Started an Online Business; And You're Going to Love it


You guys I started an online business. Well I say I. Joe and I started a business. And I have been so freaking excited to share it with all of you and now it is all official and I finally can!

What if I told you there are cleaning products safe enough to be used in homes with children without fear and made without many of the chemicals that harm the environment?

What if I told you you could have amazing haircare, skincare, and cosmetic products with none of the guilt that comes from using something you know is awful for your body and the environment?

What if I told you you could get 2 servings of fruits and vegetables in a drink that doesn't taste like tomato puree, meal bars that don't taste like mud, and energy drinks that give you essential vitamins instead of liquid sugar?

All of this and so much more is what you have access to through our store (which you can find here!) And we are so, so very excited about it.

For obvious reasons I am going to be focusing a lot on the beauty product half of the business, because it is something that I just know really well, but I am just so super excited about all of it. I'm not going to go super in depth about any of the products in this post, I'll save that for future posts dedicated to one or two things, but I will say that I have yet to be disappointed in anything I have tried for myself. I'm already getting ready to place a rather huge order for myself because I ran out of my sample sizes for the cleanser, toner, and shampoo/conditioner. I hope you all know by now that I would never recommend anything on my blog that I do not genuinely believe in, so I do really hope you'll take some time to check out what we have to offer.

We are currently offering 10% off newly registered customers' first orders. You are free to shop the store without registering with us, but without registering we have no way to offer the discount. It only takes a minute and registering with us in no way obligates you to then buy something.

Registration also lets you shop affiliate stores, such as Target, Charming Charlie, Best Buy, etc, through our site. Which means you can online shop at the stores you already online shop at and support my attempt to pay off student loans at the same time. Win-win, right? (:

If you have any questions about the site or any of the products please feel free to email us at JKShoplines(dot)gmail(dot)com. And if you are interested in ordering anything please let us know you have registered so we can give you the discount before you purchase! We also plan to start offering a referral discount in the near future, so if you try something you love, tell someone about it!

I am really excited about this. I can't wait to start sharing some of my favorite products with you all!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Sunday Confessional: The Lies Behind Lifestyle Blogging


I want to start this post by saying I do not intend the title to be all encompassing. I am in no way suggesting that all lifestyle blogs or bloggers fall into this trend. It is simply an observation of my own personal experiences lately. This post is also probably gonna run a little long, but I hope you'll take the time to read it.

I feel like blogging, or at least the lifestyle genre of blogging, is so often centered around people who have their shit together who are trying to help others do the same thing. Posts about improving your eating habits, exercise schedule, time management, budgeting, style tips, etc are everywhere. People love reading this posts, so they tend to bring in some decent traffic, which is probably why so many bloggers have turned to writing them. And don't get me wrong, they are great. Who doesn't need some time management tips now and then? And getting to see how other people have worked through what you're dealing with is always comforting.

At the same time, however, I feel this trend has put bloggers into this weird authority position. Like blogging is for those select few who have figured it all out and are ready and willing to share their success secrets with everyone else. If you scroll through the most popular lifestyle blogs, they read like real life fairy tales. Perfect relationships complete with Instagram pics from rom-com style date nights. Always runway ready hair and makeup. Elegant recipes that they insist take less than an hour to prepare (lies, always lies) complete with food magazine worthy photos. Many blogs seem to have caught Facebook syndrome, where people only share the good, where everyone's life seems so much better than yours and nobody wants to admit otherwise. In short, lifestyle blogging has become very 2-dimensional. And I have to be honest, guys, that sucks.

The thing I love about blogging, and frankly about the internet as a whole, is that it gives anyone the opportunity to share their truths. It is the opportunity for everyday, real people to share what matters to them with people thousands of miles away. It gives all of us the chance to remember and remind each other that the magazines, the models, the fairy tale lives are all fake, and to be comforted in knowing we are not alone.. But more and more blogs are reading like Cosmo articles: all this could be yours if you x, y, z... It has made it really hard for me to engage with other bloggers lately, because I simply cannot relate to a lot of their blogs. They are too put together, too collected, too organized, or at least that is what they seem to want us all to believe. There was nothing for me to grab onto, nothing to make me have that "oh my gosh me too" moment that makes me fall in love with a blog. Instead I just felt lonely, like I was the only one struggling, like this was a community people like me are not really meant to be a part of. And I simply refuse to accept that.

The truth is I cannot help you get your shit together, because I am a certified hot mess. And I believe this subconsciously led me to stop blogging: I felt like I did not have anything worth sharing. I suck at time management and I have no work-life balance. I am not an authority on any of the things I felt like bloggers need to be an authority on. And that is just really frustrating to me, because that is never what my blog was supposed to be about in the first place. So here is the truth I would not share, the ugly, Instagram un-worthy part of my life.

  • I am currently working two jobs and making just enough for rent, food, and the occasional Steam sale splurge (I just bought Banished for $5; crazy day, whoa).
  • My anxiety is through the roof because I feel like all I ever do is work. I don't even work that many hours, but the schedule that comes with working two retail jobs is killing me.
  • I am terrified every single day that this, this weird, awful limbo, is going to be my life. That I will spend forever knowing exactly what I want to do and not being able to do it because I don't have the time, or I'm too stressed out to focus, or I just really, really need to freaking sleep. All I want is to be a writer and to build a community around my work and my content online. I have so many ideas. I want to start a Youtube channel, and a podcast, and I have so many big dreams for this blog. But I can barely keep up with the blog alone right now. And I know this is temporary. I know that I will find a way, because I won't be happy until I do. But damn the real world is scary.
  • I feel like I in general just make a really terrible adult. They say school is meant to prepare you for the real world and they are the biggest freaking liars. Seriously.
  • I often feel just generally un-important to the people around me. Always a treasured acquaintance, never a close friend. When I got to college I realized I had forgotten how to make friends and it is a skill I just never really got back.

I don't want to bore you with every detail, but the point is my life is messy. And I am willing to bet yours is too. I might not be able to help you fix everything, but I can let you know that you are not alone in the chaos. And that, to me, is the real beauty of online communities. That is why I started blogging and is what I want to contribute to. I don't want to portray this seemingly perfect lifestyle. I want to be a reminder that life is messy and amazing, and scary, and wonderful all at the same time. I want to build a real community of real people sharing and engaging in real conversations with each other. I want to make a difference, and I cannot do that by pretending I am anything other than the passionate, stubborn, anxiety ridden, determined human that I am.

I am thinking about making Sunday Confessional a weekly thing, a post dedicated to sharing the messier part of life that never makes it into the pictures. I would love for any other bloggers to join me. Leave the two-dimensional models and picturesque lives to the magazines. I am a happy and proud citizen of the internet, and I'll be damned if I let the plastic molds of mainstream media take it away from me. So as of today I'm taking it back, starting with my little corner of it here on my blog. Will you join me?




Sunday, June 14, 2015

Review: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir


(Sorry that I don't have a better picture! I borrowed this book from work as part of the bookseller loan program, and when we borrow books we have to leave the dust jackets at the store!)

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

It has been way too long since I sat down and plowed my way through a good fantasy novel. People were just raving about this book, so naturally I had to know what all the fuss was about. And you know what? I totally get it. I loved this book.

First of all I must just be super into narratives with alternating perspectives this summer. I guess I like it because it offers the same direct insight into characters' minds and personalities as a regular first person narration without being forced to narrowly focus on the experiences of a single character, so you can still offer multiple perspectives. That works particularly well in this novel, as the two focused on characters have very, very different experiences and perspectives to offer the reader. Laia is a slave girl who has spent her life fearing the empire and who has lost everything at the hands of a Mask, whereas Elias is the most promising up-and-coming Mask at the military academy. Talk about a difference in life experiences, am I right?

I also really loved Laia's character. She is a great example of a female character who is in an oppressive situation, but who still has agency and is still a well defined, well written character. So many writers get hella lazy when writing female characters when they are placing them in oppressive situations, and on the flip side many critics are quick to accuse writers of writing weak characters simply based on the situation the woman is put it. Laia is an excellent reminder that one does not need to be powerful within her world or society to be well written or strong. She is slave, but she is also so, so much more, and she still commands quite a bit of agency over her own life.

Honestly, the female characters are pretty fantastic across the board. Despite being heavily outnumbered by male characters, they range from slave girls to warriors to the steely commander of Blackwater. They all have their own strengths, weaknesses, flaws, and motives, you know, like real people do. It is pretty sad that in 2015 I have to get excited over a book that manages to offer three-dimensional female characters, but there it is, so A+ to Tahir for that. It's almost like having female writers makes a difference in how women are portrayed. Weird.

Overall, I think what I enjoyed most about the book was that the story went in a completely different direction from what I was expecting. I'm not saying there was a huge plot twist that blew my mind, it was nothing like that, but I did have a clear idea of where I thought the story was going and it just very nonchalantly did not. That doesn't happen very often, so I was pleasantly surprised by that. I don't want to say specifics because spoilers, but I was happy that the book did not take what seemed to me to be the obvious route.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for a great new fantasy series to jump into. There are some hints throughout the book that something big is happening in the background, and I cannot wait to see where Laia's and Elias' stories take them next!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Wishlist: Look Human

One of my favorite things to do when I get bored is to peruse through LookHuman.com. If you don't know, Look Human is an online apparel shop that specializes in all things internet culture. To be honest, most of their shirts are ripped off of viral Tumblr text posts, and there are some serious gray areas in the copyright there I'm sure, but it's the only place I know of where you can find so much fandom related gear all in one place! I don't do a whole lot of actual shopping at the moment because my bank account would cry, but when I become hugely successful and money is no object I'm going to buy pretty much the entire website.

Until then, I thought it would be fun to share a few things off my ever growing Look Human Wishlist! The list is far (far) longer  than just the few I'm sharing here, but these are some of my absolute favorites. If you like what you see and are interested in browsing for yourself, you can sign up for a Look Human account here! All it asks for is your email, and by using my referral link you'll get a $5 credit towards your first order!



I have to be honest; right now I pretty much want this tank top more than anything else in the world. I'm having Fairy Tail feelings this week.


Because Sailor Scouts have better things to do, okay?


Seriously, though. No one is safe.


If you want to get technical, I'm training to become Zero Suit Samus. Everytime I play Super Smash Bros I'm like damn. This could be me, but I'm playing. Step one: get in shape. Step two: kick boxing classes!


If you win, you live. If you lose, you die. You can only win if you fight.


Notice me, Levi Senpai.

Obviously I've been hanging around the fitspiration section quite a bit lately. What can I say? Nothing inspires me more than my favorite badass characters. 

They have so much more than the few I've shown you here. They have a whole array of Disney shirts and accessories to choose from, and a ton more that I could never fit into one post. I do have one t-shirt from them that says "Introverts Unite We're Here We're Uncomfortable And We Want To Go Home." Is there a better shirt in existence? I think not. If nothing else it is a fun way to pass the time, and I'm willing to bet you'd find at least one thing you desperately need right this very second (that Fairy Tail tank top oh my god).

Don't forget to sign up using my link to get your $5 credit! And let me know what fun things you find! They add new stuff all the time, so every visit is a new adventure.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Motivational Monday


Do you ever feel super insignificant and like nothing you do will ever really make a difference, because I do. When you are one person in a world of seven billion it can seem like everything is so big that nothing tiny little you could do would ever make an impact.

But here's the thing: what if everyone thought that way? What if every person in the world resigned themselves to being utterly insignificant and therefore never bothered trying to make a difference. Its like voting; so many people refuse to vote because they don't think their one vote will make a difference, but when tens of thousands of people have that same mentality, suddenly you have a pretty big voice missing from the equation, right?

Everything about society is made up. Seriously. Nothing about the way society functions is inherent. There is absolutely zero truth in the sentence "that's just the way things are." Things are the way they are because we decided to abide by those rules and boundaries. Society's only restrictions are what we put on it. That means if we want to change something, all it would take is people agreeing to change it. Easier said than done, sure. But it is so much better than sitting back and saying "that's just how it is." (Seriously I hate that phrase. Stop telling your children that. Its toxic and problematic and teaches kids that they are powerless against injustice; why would you want to tell your kid that? Just stop.)

It might be hard to make real, honest change in a world of seven billion people. But it is so much harder if you don't even bother to try. All the progress society has enjoyed has been because of determined, like-minded people coming together to make that change a reality. There is absolutely nothing stopping any of us from being one of them.

I leave you today with a video Hank Green posted to Vlogbrothers a few weeks ago. I think it sums up today's motivational thought pretty well. Go forth, future dead people, and change the world.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

One Year Blogiversary!


As of today I have officially been blogging here at Paperback Planes for one year and that is just really pretty exciting, don't you think?

I'm bummed because I don't really have anything big to do to celebrate this milestone. There are a lot of big plans I have for my blog that I had hoped to execute in time to unveil them today, but money happened and I just haven't been able to afford to do what needs to be done just yet. I am still planning on making them happen this summer, though! Instead of shooting for my one year mark, instead I plan to wait until I hit 200 followers on Bloglovin, which I really hope will happen in the near-ish future. If you wanna help me hit my next milestone pop on over to my Bloglovin page and hit that beautiful follow button at the top!

A lot has changed for me in the past year. I went from planning on going to Grad School for history to wanting nothing more than to be a writer and an online content creator, and I owe a lot of that self-discovery to this blog. What I used to consider a hobby has become the first step in some much larger dreams I have for my career and for my life in general. I have hopes of starting a Youtube channel and creating a podcast soon. I've started writing again; like really writing. More than anything in the world now I want to be a creator and a part of the amazing community that exists on the internet. When I think of how many fantastic friends I've made just on twitter, and when I watch videos by Grace Helbig, Markiplier, and the VlogBrothers, I know that what I really want to do is have community build up around my work as well. I want to be another awkward, nerdy introvert out in the world saying if I can do it so can you.

I don't want to ramble on and get all sentimental too long today. I'm planning on sharing more on the changes in my personal goals in a later post. But I do want to say right now that I have much bigger dreams for my little corner of the internet than I did when it started. I have some really big ideas just waiting for me to find the time and the money to implement them, and slowly but surely I am working towards making sure that happens. And I would never have come to the realization of how important the internet community is to me if it was not for this blog, and for all you beautiful people who spare a few minutes every now and then to read it. So thank you for that. I hope you'll stick around to see what I have planned; it is going to beautiful journey, friends.

Much love,

Katie

Friday, June 5, 2015

Cross Cultural Collaboration: Life in India as Told by Someone Who has Never Been There


The lovely Aria over at Girl In A Whimsical Land and I decided to do a post collab awhile back, and being the brilliant person that she is, she came up with a fabulous idea for it. You see, Aria is from India, whereas I live in the USA, so we thought it would be an interesting experiment to share what we think life is like in each other's countries. There is a second part to this collaboration coming up soon where we will both respond to each other's posts with what life is actually like in our respective countries.

For those of you coming from Aria's blog, I'm terribly sorry my post is up so much later. The time difference did not really occur to me, so I was not ready with mine when she posted hers. I'll do better with part 2!

As excited as I am, I am also a bit nervous, so please know I mean no offense if I get anything wrong (which I'm sure I will). The idea really was to show how stereotypes operate and to try to break some of those down, so please forgive me if I'm way off!

When I first started brainstorming for this I realized that there is a big difference between knowing cultural facts about a place and knowing what life in that place is like. I can spout off a few random facts about India or Indian history, but understanding what life is like for someone living in that country is just entirely different I think. Aria joked with me that her ideas about the US come exclusively from movies and television, but I haven't seen many movies based in India, let alone with Indian leads or that focus on Indian culture. Basically what I tried to do is imagine what I would be expecting if I were to hop on a plane and move to India tomorrow.

1. Summer All the Freaking Time

The first thing I would do if I was moving to India is sell all my winter clothes because I would not need those sweaters taking up suitcase space. I feel like to some extent this might depend on where exactly in India you live, but I'm pretty sure it is pretty warm on a regular basis across the board. I remember Aria telling me she's never seen snow before, so at the very least I could ditch my snow boots!

 2. Travel in Groups

As a woman, I do not think I'd be super ecstatic about going anywhere by myself, given all the horror stories that have been on the news in recent years. I do know that American news media likes to overplay rape stories from other countries because people like to point and say "look it could be so much worse you're so lucky" and pretend that we don't have a rape culture in this country (spoiler alert: yeah, we do), but nonetheless there has been some scary stuff going on, so I'd probably be dragging my boyfriend around like a body guard. 

3. Spicy Food

Okay I'm super embarrassed, but pretty much all I know about Indian food is that it includes a lot of curry. And I only know that because my Grandma has Alzheimer's and there are scientists that think something in curry might help fight Alzheimer's because India has next to no Alzheimer's patients in the entire country. Fun fact. I'm also pretty sure rice is involved a lot. Right? I'm pretty sure that's right.

I'm also pretty sure India has open markets as opposed to the giant supermarkets we have here. That would be pretty cool. I wish we had more of those here. I bet it really cuts down the prices on food, because you don't have to pay for all the middlemen and for shipping and everything like that. At the same time, I feel like they would be kinda stressful. I might have to sacrifice my first born for a bag of cherries, but at least I don't have five people yelling at me to buy their cherries. And haggling is the worst. I had to do it in Turkey. I'm not good at it.

4. Hella Crowded. 

I'm pretty sure that trying to get around the cities on a daily basis, like for work or school, would drive me up the wall, because there are just so many people! I would probably hide inside for days because my anxiety would not be able to deal with that. This would probably be another draw back to the open air markets, but then again Meijer can get pretty crazy too I guess.

5. Public Transportation for Days

This one I'm less sure about, but I thought I'd read that it is fairly easy to get around India on the cheap using public transportation. I don't know if that means buses, or trains, or what, but if that is true that would be a major plus for me because public transport in the US is basically nonexistent. I would love to be able to travel around the country pretty easily without the added stress of having to rent a car or something like that. Especially considering India has some of the most beautiful locations in the world to visit. My camera would run out of memory on a daily basis if I got the chance to travel around there.

6. Most Beautiful Traditional Dress in the Entire Freaking World

I do not know how prevalent traditional Indian dress is today, if most people still wear it or if it is a dying tradition like chopsticks in Japan, but oh my gosh saris are the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. I have honestly been known to just Google "Indian Weddings" because the pictures are absolutely gorgeous. With the wedding saris and the henna and the jewelry, oh my gosh nothing tops that. Google it an tell me you've seen something more beautiful than an Indian bride, just try it.

7. Zero Social Mobility

This is so where I'm gonna get in trouble if I'm wrong. Like I know this is still a thing, but I guess I don't know if it is still prevalent across the entire country? But at least in the more rural parts of the country I would assume, the caste system makes it impossible for people to really improve their social/class standing. If I remember correctly it links to the Hindu belief in reincarnation, so people believe that their social standing in this life is determine by their behavior in their past life, so if they are born impoverished they must stay impoverished as a punishment for poor behavior in their previous life, and by living a good life you can improve your standing in your next life. Right? That is one thing that is really frustrating. It is sad to me that your religion would say you deserve an impoverished life and you can do nothing to change that.


As a random, I also know that people in India usually have two names, a public name and a pet name that only their family and close friends use. Or at least I know that was an Indian tradition, but again I don't know if it is still prevalent. I read The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri, so that is what I'm going off of.

And there you have it! That is me imagining what life in India would be like. I hope I'm kinda close on most of it at least. I am super excited to pop over and read Aria's post (which you can find here!) and see what she thinks life is like on my side of the pond. I hope you'll come back and read both of our posts on what life is really like in our countries and to see how well we did!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

What I'm Looking Forward To: June 2015


A new month means a whole new list of things coming up right around the corner to get excited about! The header picture is a tad misleading, because barring the most amazing surprise ever I will not be anywhere near any place with palm trees this month, but there are still a few things I am looking forward to about June 2015!

June 2, 2015: Charlie, Presumed Dead by Anne Heltzel


In Paris, family and friends gather to mourn the tragic passing of Charlie Price—young, handsome, charming, a world-traveler—who is presumed dead after an explosion. Authorities find only a bloodied jacket, ID’d as Charlie’s. At the funeral, two teens who are perfect strangers, Lena Whitney and Aubrey Boroughs, make another shocking discovery: they have both been dating Charlie, both think Charlie loved them and them alone, and there is a lot they didn’t know about their boyfriend. Over the next week, a mind-bending trip unfolds: first in London—then in Mumbai, Kerala, and Bangkok, the girls go in search of Charlie. Is he still alive? What did their love for him even mean? The truth is out there, but soon it becomes clear that the girls are harboring secrets of their own. 

I do not even have to wait for this one, because the book released 2 days ago, but I am looking forward to snagging at copy from work to read after I finish The Death Code. I'm not normally one for romance-y dramas, but this one sounds pretty interesting, don't you think?

June 7, 2015: 1 Year Blogiversary!

That's right! My little corner of the internet's birthday is this Sunday! Exciting, right? I have some pretty big blog stuff planned that I was hoping to unveil that day, but I have unfortunately had to postpone them for money and time reasons. Hopefully those will come later this summer, and I will still have a special post for the occasion!

June 16, 2015: The Night We Said Yes by Lauren Gibaldi


Before Matt, Ella had a plan. Get over a no-good ex-boyfriend. Graduate from high school without any more distractions. Move away from Orlando, Florida, where she’s lived her entire life. 
But Matt—the cute, shy, bespectacled bass player who just moved to town—was never part of that plan.
And neither was attending a party that was crashed by the cops just minutes after they arrived. Or spending an entire night saying “yes” to every crazy, fun thing they could think of.
Then Matt abruptly left town, and he broke not only Ella’s heart but those of their best friends, too. So when he shows up a year later with a plan of his own—to relive the night that brought them together—Ella isn’t sure whether Matt’s worth a second chance. Or if re-creating the past can help them create a different future. 

Apparently June is a month of romance mysteries. I for some reason really enjoy stories that attempt to untangle the truth about past events. We Were Liars was my favorite book of last summer, I read and loved Vanishing Girls about a month ago, and this book just seems like the next logical step in this reading trend of mine.

June 28, 2015: Date Day in Grand Haven, MI


Mine and Joe's work schedules line up exactly never. We had to request specific days off just to get 2 full days off together over the entire course of the summer. And June 28 is one of those days! Weather pending, we are hoping to spend the day at Lake Michigan and enjoy a night out in downtown Grand Haven. In my 4+ years living in Grand Rapids, I have never once made it over to Grand Haven or Lake Michigan, so I am really excited to finally get to go!  As an added bonus, June 29 mark five and a half years for Joe and I, so our day out will be like a mini halfaversary vacation.


I do have to say, I'm pretty disappointed with this month's box office line up. There really is not a single movie coming out this month that I am particularly excited about. But on the plus side that means I can save the money on movie tickets to go see Pitch Perfect 2, which I have yet to see.

What are you looking forward to this month? Any fun kick-off-the-summer plans I can enjoy through you?

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