As a self-identified dectuple-booker (someone who reads ten books at once,) there is always something new on my reading list. This usually happens when I go to Barnes and Noble to pick out one new book, but I realize there are about 7,569 books I’d ideally like to read as well. So I add them to my mental list, and slowly but surely, I get through all of them. Currently, these are the five books I’ve got my eyes set on reading right now.

American Street | Ibi Zoboi

I was really pleased to see that Barnes and Noble dedicated an entire section to Black young adult authors, and while I wish I could have bought all of those books on the shelf, I decided to settle for just one in my budget. This book stood out to me the most because I think it has a perfect combination of elements: education, strong story-telling, and page-turning emotion. The book has almost five stars on every site I’ve visited, and it was even nominated as a National Book Award Finalist! I am super excited to crack open this one and get started on it.

The All-Night Sun | Diane Zinna

I actually picked up this book on the same Barnes & Noble trip as the last book I mentioned. I always judge a book by the inside blurb, and as soon as I opened this one and read it, I was immediately dying to know more about what happens. I love a book with a good twist, and this story sounds like it has some juicy ones! I’ve never heard of this author before, but I’m looking forward to checking out some of her other work if I end up liking this novel! I’ll be sure to let you know what I think.

Gingerbread | Helen Oyeyemi 

I’ve read books by Helen Oyeyemi before, and I really think she is such a phenomenal, unique author. Her writing style is so fresh and the characters are so memorable, they stick with me for years after reading. I’ve actually been pushing Nathaniel to read Mr. Fox by Oyeyemi, which is one of my favorites. Gingerbread sounds like such a sweet book to me, especially considering the name, and it’s definitely going to be the next book I purchase at Barnes and Noble.

Second Chance Summer | Morgan Matson

This is actually a book I’ve read a few times before, but I didn’t actually own it until yesterday, when I picked it up at Barnes and Noble. The first time I read it was in high school, and I cried so hard, I didn’t even know what to do with myself after I finished it. I read it again a couple of years later, and it was another round of the waterworks, so I’m fully expecting to cry a third time! I think the reason I get so emotional from this book is because it focuses around the complicated relationship between a father and his daughter, and that really hits home for me. I’m glad it’s finally officially in my collection, and I can’t wait to read it again. And probably cry. 

The Likeness | Tana French

Slowly but surely, I am indulging myself by eating up every Tana French title available. I just simply love her mystery novels, and every few months, I make a point of picking up a new one. Her plots are so singular and complex, I can’t even imagine having so much creativity and organization to pen these stories! Each one is so different as well, but they all share similar themes: deceit, nostalgia, secrets unearthed, and chilling plot twists. If you’re a fan of mystery/thrillers, Tana French’s work is a MUST. My favorite thus far is In the Woods, so I’d recommend checking out that one first. 

That’s everything I’m currently looking forward to reading right now! As you can see, I already own a few of them, but I’d like to finish up some of the other books I’m reading before I start more. I’ll be sure to update you guys in a few months on my progress with these!

Hi friends! This is actually an interview I conducted and posted on Analog about two weeks ago, but I wanted to post it here as well for my personal following to read as well. Feel free to like and share. And thank you Wendelin for your time and thoughtful answers!

Often in life, there are books you discover in your childhood that stick with you forever. For me personally, that was the case with the Sammy Keyes mystery series, penned by award-winning author Wendelin Van Draanen. The series follows a junior high school girl, Sammy, and her journey through both finding herself and solving the mysteries of the world around her. It’s humorous, witty, creative, and filled with loads of fantastic characters.

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Wendelin Van Draanen has written more than thirty books for young adults and teens, but her two shining stars are, of course, Sammy Keyes, and the novel Flipped, which was transformed into a beautiful movie, directed by Rob Reiner. She’s an incredibly talented writer, and as I’m sure you can tell, her work has had a large impact on my young adult life. For that reason, I was so honored when Wendelin agreed to be interviewed by my publication. She had much to say about her spunky heroine, Sammy, but she also gave me loads of invaluable advice on how to navigate the world as a creative person and a writer.

Analog Magazine: What was your upbringing like, and how did reading and writing lend itself to you in your formative years?

Wendelin Van Draanen: My parents were Dutch immigrants, and we lived the immigrant lifestyle in which we were frugal. My parents were working towards their American Dream, and they were very much about, “You come to a new country and you become part of the fabric of that new country”, so they wanted to raise their kids as Americans. We were kind of insulated (not necessarily isolated,) but we were different from the neighbors in that [my parents] had an accent and they approached life in a very vigorous way and there was a lot of work to be done. We were always working on something, so there were no idle hands. When my siblings and I did get free from the chores, we would go out and just be wild in the neighborhood, to counterbalance the restrictive nature of home. We had lots of wild adventures that my parents would not have approved of. Books were a big part of growing up because we could go to the library, so every other week or so we would go get a haul of books, bring them home, and take them back. I was one of those flashlight-under-the-covers kind of readers, because we had a bedtime and we stuck to it. Then I could escape with my flashlight and my book and meet up with my friends under the covers. 

AM: What were your favorite subjects in school and what did you excel at as a student? What were your challenges?

WVD: My favorite subject for all levels of school was math, because math was the only subject that totally made sense. If you understood the concept and the building blocks for math, it made sense and it was easy. My least favorite subject was language arts. Those English teachers, man- you just could not please them! No matter what you did, you were going to get back your essay and there were going to be little problems with it here and there and then you’d have to redo it. Ugh, it was so frustrating. As you can probably tell from my upbringing, we were encouraged to excel, so a B+ was a very frustrating grade to get. With math, if you knew what you were doing, you were good. I feel like people who don’t like math are missing one of the building blocks. When I was a teacher, the subject I taught was math. And people say, “How do you go from being a math teacher to writing mysteries?”, and that is kind of weird until you think about it. Because a math problem is just a puzzle, and I love puzzles. I think it’s my mind just trying to make sense of something and find a solution for it. So I’m very attracted to mysteries, because I want to put those pieces together in a way that makes sense.

AM: What different careers have you had along your journey to becoming a full-time writer?

WVD: Ramping up to become a full-time teacher, I did a lot of odds and ends. I drove a forklift…I did a lot of different things. But my career-job was becoming a math/computer programming teacher, and then it was while I was working as a teacher that I was influenced by the kids in my class and inspired to try writing a story. 

AM: What inspired you to create the character of Sammy Keyes and flesh out her story into such an extensive, vibrant, staple of young adult literature?

WVD: I think it was being a teacher and seeing that students were still reading Nancy Drew, and that my students had very little in common with Nancy Drew. I just thought it would be cool to take someone who represented the kids who I saw every day in the classroom, and put them into situations where they would stumble their way through right and wrong. I think when you’re an adult and you can see the behaviors of people and recognize the mistakes that you yourself have made… there’s not a big reception on a teen’s part from an adult, you know? Their peers are very important to them, and so I wanted -more important than the adults- to create a peer who would have these experiences and think about things, and about right and wrong, and the steps to take given dangerous or stressful or emotional situations. I wanted to have her make the mistakes a normal teen would make, but then have her draw conclusions that she would then apply to the next time she was faced with a similar situation. I think that those factors are what drove me to write about Sammy. Growing up is hard- it’s much harder than calculus!

AM: The first Sammy Keyes book was written in the late 90s, and the last book was finished 18 years later. However, in the Sammy Keyes universe, only 2-3 years passes. Was it difficult for you to develop with modern technology while trying to keep up with the timeline of the story?

Wendelin Van Draanen
Source: Hollywood.com

WVD: Technology, man. It is a beast and it keeps messing with you. Being a writer and including technology in your writing is a dangerous thing, because it may completely change in six months. Having a series that spanned 18 years which only spanned 2-3 in Sammy world was challenging. She doesn’t have a cell phone; how do you explain that none of her friends are texting? How do you make it relevant to kids now when all the technology makes the world such a different place? So, when they went and redid the covers recently, I asked if I could go through the entire series and emphasize little references to technology. When’s the last time you’ve seen a payphone? Sammy has a payphone! It’s like, “Okay, kids don’t even know how to use a payphone anymore.” But how do you change the series so that it is still relevant to today’s kids? And so, I went through and I would add a little word or I would subtract a little word, so that it would kind of mold to technology. Instead of flipping open your phone, you would tap on your phone. So I would change “flip” to “tap.” And I couldn’t get rid of the payphone- it was a big thing- so I would add the word “ancient” in front of it. So she goes to this ancient payphone. Just the technology and updating it across the series, and especially at the very beginning, there were some challenges. When we get to the end, Heather’s got a cellphone and technology’s referred to, but I had to get rid of CD players. There were things that were already outdated, like in Psycho Kitty Queen she had a CD player. I think with all the experience of writing over the years, I’ve become a better writer, but not applying my improved skills to Hotel Thief and Skeleton Man and Sisters of Mercy and other early books, I had to tell myself, “You’re just here for technology. That’s all you’re here for.”

AM: The Sammy Keyes series is full of several diverse, unique, well-developed characters. Are any of the characters inspired by real people from your life?

WVD: That’s interesting, because the answer to that is pretty much no- Sammy’s a hybrid of the characteristics that I liked in the students I saw everyday. I would say that if there were, it would be an amalgamation of people. The ones who are the bad guys- they are more a person who has become a character than a character who was just a character. I usually start from a place with the bad guys, I start from a place of annoyance about a person, and then over time, they become the character. I usually hold onto who they were to begin with. You have people who are mean to you in life, and sometimes you can’t do anything about it. But if you do something about it on a page…it’s very satisfying. 

AM: One of the most notable aspects of the Sammy Keyes series is the undertones of real-life social and human issues, such as gang culture in Snake Eyes and environmental awareness in Wild Things. Did you purposefully add in these elements to introduce young readers to these topics in an accessible, creative way? 

WVD: Absolutely. I always have a theme that I work with, and I have something that I want to say, but my approach to saying it is usually the backdoor as opposed to coming at you with a message. Mostly, I just want to present a situation and I want my readers to come away thinking about it, discussing it or expanding their view of it. In Wild Things, the whole thing about Sammy is that she thinks, “Why would anybody want to save a condor? It’s stinky and eats dead stuff, it’s ugly, what’s the big deal about saving a condor?” And then, by the end, she understands. But I think a lot of kids would relate to Sammy thinking, “Oh, well, it’s a bird who eats dead stuff. Who cares.” It’s like a game of basketball as opposed to running laps. You get to play a game, you get a little competition, you’re jumping and you’re running…as opposed to “Here’s the whistle, you’ve got to go around the track.” I’d way rather have my readers play a game of basketball than feel like I’m marching them around a track.

AM: Was it difficult for you to ultimately end the series after eighteen books, or did you feel relieved by the sense of closure to Sammy’s story?

WVD: Oh my gosh, it was so hard and emotional for me. She was like the daughter I didn’t have. First she was my peer, and then time went by, and she didn’t get any older and I did. I had  two sons, so I didn’t have a girl. The eighteenth book came out about the time my son turned eighteen, so he was leaving home, and there were all these things ending at the same time. I was so emotional, and just the thought that I’d been with this girl and I’d lived in her world for all these years, and I’d think about her all the time. To create a story, you need to have a character and their world in your head, and I had her in my head all the time. And then, all of the sudden, it’s like I’m reaching the end and this was the last one. I do feel like a series should have what I call a “swan dive”: you should go out big and strong. You shouldn’t fizzle away. Anyway, I reached my goal, she had survived middle school (barely), but it was time, and it was really hard. People have asked me if I’ve planned to write a YA version of Sammy, and I just don’t. I think she belongs where she is; there’s a reason that she exists where she does. I think middle school years are the hardest years, and if you have a friend like Sammy to help you through those, I think you’re going to be alright.   

AM: Do you have a proudest series that you’ve written so far, or would that be like picking a favorite child for you?


I guess that it seems from the outside, I have everything, and I realize that is, in fact, partly true. But there’s been a lot in the past that could easily have taken me down, and I’ve battled really hard not to let that happen.”


WVD: I have two short series for younger readers, and I have Sammy Keyes. If we’re talking proudest series, that would have to be Sam. It took such a big part of my life to create. Picking a favorite title of any kind is not something I want to try to do, because they’re all special in their own way. 

AM: What is something that you wish more people knew about you?

WVD: Wow. I’ve always tried to keep myself secret. I think that I have an initial impression that is not in keeping with what is actually me. I have blonde hair, I’m tall, I’m thin… but I’m not that person. I am someone who struggles with her ups and downs. I run a lot because it helps to stabilize my mood, and I get cloudy- let’s put it that way. I get cloudy and I feel misunderstood. I think it’s partly my own fault because I’m blonde (and I can’t help the tall), but this is just my structure. I think it projects an image which is not in keeping with who I am and my soul. You would hope that people would judge you on your work and the way you conducted your life, but in our society, we’re very snap-judgmenty. And so, I withdraw. I tend to withdraw as opposed to fighting a battle that I feel one couldn’t possibly understand. I guess that it seems from the outside, I have everything, and I realize that is, in fact, partly true. But there’s been a lot in the past that could easily have taken me down, and I’ve battled really hard not to let that happen. And so, just the notion that “You’ve got all that” doesn’t reflect what it took. Anyway, that got a little heavy.       

AM: What are your other hobbies besides writing?

WVD: Reading, running, and rock ‘n’ roll. There is nothing more freeing than rock ‘n’ roll. My husband’s a drummer, and he’s also a young adult book writer. He and I, and our two sons once they became teenagers, started a band together. I have trouble sitting still, so rock ‘n’ roll is very physical for me. It’s just a fun release, and doing it with my family is so cool. Reading is what I do because I love to read, and running is for my health, my cardiovascular system, and mostly, my sanity.  

AM: How do you think social media has lent itself to you as a writer and a creator? Do you feel like it has created a more personable relationship with your audience?

WVD: Yeah! I would say that for the positives, that’s true. I would also say that it helps me still feel connected to my career of being a teacher. Teachers on Twitter are very positive people. Twitter has a lot of negative people, but the teachers put forth support, they share ideas, they’re very forward-thinking, and I love feeling like I still have exposure to that community. That to me has been the best part of social media- the teacher presence.     

AM: Lastly, what advice would you give to other young writers and readers?

WVD: To be a writer, you need to be a reader. I really firmly believe that. Read read read, and then to be a writer, you have to write. And writing, actually, is work. You have to sit down and do it. I have a lot of people in my life who have always said they always wanted to write a book. Maybe they got to chapter one, and then they discovered that it’s work. If you really want to be a writer, you have to read a lot, and then you have to write a lot. Like anything else, you only get better at it when you do it. ★

You can keep up with Wendelin by checking out her website or by following her on instagram @wendelinvand

If you clicked onto this article thinking reading four books was a lot, I have news for you: I’m actually reading twelve books. These are just the new additions to the other eight I was already reading. 

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I’ve always been someone who loved to read multiple books at once, and every time I find a new title I love, I’ll just throw it into the mix! Two of these books were sent to me from my favorite author, Wendelin Van Draanen, and the other two are books Nathaniel lent to me. I won’t bother going through the over handful of books I’m reading, because I already summarized them in another article. 


Hope in the Mail | Wendelin Van Draanen | Reference work, young-adult nonfiction

Like I mentioned before, Wendelin Van Draanen is my favorite young adult author, and she very graciously offered to send me some of her books after I interviewed her a couple of weeks ago. I was so happily surprised, especially when I discovered that she had autographed the books for me. Wendelin, if you’re reading this, thanks so much! Hope in the Mail is an autobiographical reference book for young readers who love writing. As a writer myself who has always wanted to publish my very own book, I have found Hope in the Mail to be so sweet and inspirational. Wendelin has a very strong voice in her writing, and reading this book feels like having a conversation with a friend. I’m planning to write a more in-depth review of the book after I finish it, so keep an eye out for that!


Road Rash | Mark Parsons | Young adult fiction

This was another title sent to me from WVD, but this book was actually written by her husband, Mark Parsons. She sent it to me because we discovered that Nathaniel is a drummer who loves to write, just like Mark, and she thought Nathaniel and I could have a cute little book club together. So Nathaniel has his copy, and I have mine. It’s not a book I would normally walk into a store and pick up for myself, but that actually makes me love it more. I’m really excited to see where this story goes, and I’m looking forward to hearing Nathaniel’s thoughts on the book as well. 


Cat’s Cradle | Kurt Vonnegut | Satirical postmodern

Speaking of Nathaniel, the next couple of books are ones that he has kindly lent out to me. He had previously given me Slaughterhouse Five to read, and I enjoyed it so much, he decided to follow it up with Cat’s Cradle to continue the Vonnegut streak. I never thought I would like Vonnegut, to be honest: I struggle with media and literature that is dark and bleak, but there’s something about this author that I (and so many others) love. He’s dark and bleak for sure, but Kurt Vonnegut also has an irresistible sense of humor that draws you in and leaves you wondering which direction the story will turn next. Slaughterhouse Five destroyed me in the best way possible, so I have high hopes for this novel as well. 


Lou Reed: A Life | Anthony DeCurtis | Biography

Last but not least, this is another novel from the Library of Nathaniel. As some of you probably know, I’m a huge fan of The Velvet Underground, and I’m particularly very fascinated by Lou Reed. Nathaniel dug this out of his closet for me a few days ago and I immediately started reading. He’s definitely the stereotype of a classic rockstar: damaged, entitled, and wild, but he’s also such a true artist with an incredible life story. I haven’t picked up a biography in a while, so this will be a nice expansion from my usual preferred genres. 

Anywho, those are all the new additions to my bookshelf this month! It’ll probably take me a few months to get through all of these, but that’s okay; I have all the time in the world to read. Let me know what books you guys are currently reading in the comments below!

I’ve seen my fair share of bad movies, particularly since I grew up in a pretty sheltered household and I wasn’t allowed to watch a lot of the movies my friends were watching. With that being said, this left a lot of room for awkward, early 2000s, family-oriented films (with the exception of The Room– that is definitely nowhere near a family film.) Today I thought I would share with you some of my favorite bad, nostalgic movies, and see if you guys have seen any of these as well. 


The Master of Disguise

Master of Disguise- Turtle Club - YouTube
Interesting fact: this scene was being filmed when the first plane crashed into the Twin Towers on 9/11. 

When I was growing up, The Master of Disguise was literally a staple family film for me. Actually, I even had a birthday party when I was twelve, and this was the movie I picked to watch with my friends. In retrospect I can see just how cringey and bad it is, but I honestly still adore it for how nostalgic and creative it is. And even though I’m older and my comedy palate is a bit more refined, this movie still makes me laugh out loud. You have to applaud Dana Carvey for being able to pull off so many different characters in a convincing, humorous way, and I think this film really lends to his skills as a versatile comedian.  


The Room

What the cast of The Room looks like today
ICONIC

If you’re between the ages of 15-30 and this movie isn’t one of your favorite bad movies, well, you must be living under a rock. The Room is nothing short of a cinematographic masterpiece, albeit, it’s definitely one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen in a technical sense. The movie is written, acted in, and directed by one man, Tommy Wiseau, whose own life is just as mysterious as the film. Nobody really knows where he comes from, how old he is, or how he acquired so much money to make The Room. I’m not even going to bother trying to explain the plot here. It’s really just something you need to experience on your own and form your own opinions about. 


Spy Kids

16 Celebs You Completely Forgot Were In The Spy Kids Trilogy - MTV

I’m not gonna lie, I haven’t seen Spy Kids in a hot minute, but I remember it being a childhood favorite for me and my brother. Like many other 20-somethings, we also grew up loving the sequels and the rest of the Spy Kids franchise, particularly the 3-D Game Over film. However, even though the first film was met with high ratings, Game Over only scored 45% on Rotten Tomatoes. I’d love to go back and watch these movies today, now that I probably have a better eye for cheesy green screens and special effects. What was your favorite Spy Kids movie?


How The Grinch Stole Christmas

Pin on Jingle Bells

I was actually shocked to hear that this movie didn’t receive great reviews from critics, because I considered this movie to be a Christmas classic. I do agree that the Who-people are creepy as all hell, but that’s really the only criticism I can hand this film. I love the music, I love the set, and I love the wacky performance by Jim Carrey. One critic even referred to it as “a dank, eerie, weird movie about a sour creature.” I guess that is true to some extent, but as an adult, those three adjectives are actually what make me love the film even more. On a spiritual level, I feel like I am the grinch. 


From Justin to Kelly

Kelly Clarkson Hated From Justin To Kelly So Much She Thought It ...
Oh god, those chunky highlights.

I’ve actually never seen the full movie, but trust me when I say I know the soundtrack like the back of my hand. There’s something about a cheesy, early 2000s romance that really gets me going, and that’s essentially the epitome of this film. It stars Kelly Clarkson and Justin Guarini (the two finalists on the first season of American Idol) in a beachy, cringy romantic summer smash. You’ve probably never heard of it because it sort of tanked once it hit the critics, but that’s partly why I love it. It’s a little hidden gem that my best friends and I can sing along to in the car, and believe me, that’s made for a lot of fun memories and inside jokes. In fact, my best friend Eli and I have claimed the finale song, “Timeless,” as our song. 


Anyway, those are my top five favorite bad movies! How many of them have you seen? Let me know in the comments.

Not having seen too many notable things is something I am teased about relentlessly from my friends and family. The last time I visited my boyfriend’s family, his mom was literally shocked that I’d never seen Pretty Women or The Town, so those were the movies we watched during my stay. In my defense, I had a pretty sheltered upbringing and I wasn’t allowed to watch ANY R-rated movies as a tween or teenager, and then by the time I grew up, I just…never got around to it?

So I’ve seen the essentials, like The Wizard of Oz and Star Wars, but that’s really all I can vouch for. Read on to learn what famous films I still haven’t seen as a 21 year-old and the excuses I have for them. You also have to remember that I grew up in the early 2000s- if you didn’t own the movie on DVD, there was a good chance you probably didn’t watch it. 


  1. The Godfather 

This movie is a classic example of “nobody else in my family really watched the movie, we didn’t own it, and even if we did own it, I would have been too young for it. I also don’t know if it’s something I would have even liked as a kid, because I was pretty picky with movies (still am) and I didn’t like sitting still for things that weren’t appealing for me. Nowadays, I would probably give The Godfather ago. I think Italian Mafia plots are interesting (I actually wrote a 300 page book about it in high school,) and if it’s topping the ‘Best Movie’ charts on every website, well, I’m convinced. 

The True Stories Behind 'The Godfather' - Biography


  1. Citizen Kane

Unlike several of these other films, I actually know virtually nothing about Citizen Kane. I couldn’t tell you the genre, plot, cast, or even when this movie came out. Nathaniel says it’s the story of “one man’s life, basically.” I suppose I could probably give this movie a go, but I’d probably have to do a bit more research on it. As you’ve probably caught onto by now, I’m a bit picky in the film department.


  1. The Shawshank Redemption 

My knowledge of The Shawshank Redemption is extremely limited, so for fun, why don’t I try to explain what I think the plot is with this very limited knowledge? I think it has Brad Pitt and Samuel L. Jackson. I think it takes place in the 1940s and Brad Pitt and Samuel Jackson become friends in prison. I’m sure one of them dies at the end. That’s really all I’ve got, so if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to whip over to Wikipedia and see how much of this I got wrong.

(Update: I’m ashamed)


  1. The Lion King

When people find out I haven’t seen The Lion King, they’re usually personally offended and I completely understand why. However, before I get verbally attacked, let me just say I DO know the plot, and I DO get the jokes and the references, and I HAVE seen the very famous live musical. “The Circle of Life”? A bop and a half. I feel like at this point, I don’t even have to see the movie because I already have a pretty good handle on the key notes. 

Ranking The Classic Lion King Characters - CINEMABLEND


  1. Casablanca 

I confuse Casablanca with Gone With the Wind quite a bit, but I feel like those two movies are probably similar in some regards. I know they’re both old movies, and they both have a lot of smarmy romance going on in them, so just from that alone, I’m not sure if this movie would be my cup of tea. That being said, I’m not totally opposed to watching it if the opportunity presents itself. 


  1. Schindler’s List

If there’s anything you need to know about me and movies, it’s this: I do NOT do sad. Hell, I cry at movies that aren’t even marketed as being ‘sad’ movies, like The Iron Giant, and The Princess Bride. Nathaniel made me watch an animated movie called My Life as a Zucchini a couple of months ago, and I literally sobbed through the entire thing.

So you get the point: emotional plots and I don’t mesh well. And I like to think I already have a fairly good handle on The Holocaust, because I had to study it for an entire unit in the 8th grade and I’ve read The Diary of Anne Frank a few times now. But Schindler’s List? Yeah, I don’t think I could handle it. 


  1. 2001: A Space Odyssey 

I’m not going to lie, until my best friend Eli told me about the movie, I actually thought it was a David Bowie song or album. However, before you’re too ashamed of me, I promise I know who Stanley Kubrick is. Actually, it’s a little known fact that The Shining is one of my all-time favorite films. I’ve heard that Space Odyssey is a little weird and nonsensical, so I’m not really sure if I would enjoy it or not. Nonetheless, I’m willing to give it a try. Clearly, my knowledge of the film is limited. 


  1. Forrest Gump

I don’t really have an excuse for why I haven’t seen Forrest Gump. because I’d honestly probably like it. I’ve always sort of gotten the impression that it may give off similar vibes to The Truman Show, but that could obviously be totally off. And I can’t use the “I wasn’t old enough” excuse, because even my MOM was shocked to learn I’ve never seen Forrest Gump. I’ll definitely have to give it a go, because I think Tom Hanks is a wonderful actor, and I’ve really enjoyed seeing him in some other beloved films. 

I've never seen ... Forrest Gump | Film | The Guardian


  1. Gone With the Wind

I’m really embarrassed to say that I don’t know anything about the plot of this movie. I think there might be a really beautiful, bratty lady named Scarlet O’hara, but I’m also not sure if that’s Casablanca or Singin’ in the Rain. See? I’m absolutely useless.

I feel like Gone With the Wind is one of those movies you have to have grown up with to really develop an appreciation for. Unfortunately, I didn’t ever watch this film when I was a child, and now I don’t know what people are talking about when they make famous references to this movie. Honestly, this one is all my fault. 


  1. Goodfellas 

I already kinda explained how I didn’t really grow up watching a lot of mob movies and television, so this one probably doesn’t need much explanation. For all I know, this movie could be exactly like The Godfather. You could probably put on one of those two movies, not tell me what it is, and I don’t think I would be able to tell you the difference between them. The chances are, if a movie had violence, sex, bad language, and drugs, I wasn’t allowed to watch it when I was growing up. From what I can take away from Goodfellas, it sounds like this movie probably had a mix of all four. 

Anywho, those are the top famous films I’ve never seen? Have you seen most of these movies? And which ones do you think I would enjoy? Let me know in the comments below.

Slowly but surely, we are making our way through all of Regina Spektor’s fantastic studio albums (I believe there’s only two to go after this!) Today, of course, we are tearing apart her most recent album, the 2017 goodie Remember Us to Life. Regina, if you’re reading this, we need a new album pronto!

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Per usual, I’m going to go through the album song-by-song and give you all of my unfiltered thoughts on the melody, lyrics, and themes of the pieces. I genuinely love every song Regina has ever put out into the universe, and I’m fascinated by her unique writing style. 

One of my favorite things about Remember Us to Life is the political undertones Regina incorporated into most of the songs. Although she’s done several political pieces in the past, this album in particular really struck a powerful note in me between her analogies to power and the broken corporate beast that is America. She also discusses themes of motherhood, aging, and the general concept of time passing, which I will get into more specifically later in the analysis. 


Track 1: “Bleeding Heart”

“Bleeding Heart” is the leading single of Remember Us to Life, and it’s also one of the only songs which is also accompanied by a music video on the album. It’s a bit more fast-paced than some of her usual pieces, and subsequently, I often find the melody is stuck in my head. My interpretation of the lyrics is that Regina is reflecting on her childhood and adolescence, and the feelings of self-doubt and low self-esteem that come with that period. She discusses feeling like an outcast, her outfits being a “crime,” and begins every chorus with “Nevermind your bleeding heart,” perhaps as a way of self-soothing. My favorite part of the song is the bridge, in which Regina recites the following:

How long must I wait till you learn that it’s not too late?

How long must I cry till you know that you really tried?

How long must I try till you learn that dreaming’s hard?

How long must I dream till you heal your bleeding heart?

Never mind your bleeding heart

To me, this is about Regina talking to her ‘younger self,’ and wishing she had the opportunity to go back and share some of her future wisdom. The themes do resonate with me enormously, especially since my own emergence into adolescence was vulnerable and painful. Additionally, the music video is filled with photographs and video clips of Regina when she was a young girl, and ends with an old clip of Regina playing her piano at a talent show/recital. It’s a bittersweet song, and a beautiful introduction into the rest of the album. 


Track 2: “Older and Taller” 

“Older and Taller” is another faster-paced, cheerful melody, but this song unfortunately does not have a music video like “Bleeding Heart.” The first couple times I listened to the album, I specifically remember this track being my absolute favorite. There’s something about the strings and the guitar that sounds reminiscent of her older work, and in that sense, the song struck me as so sweet and nostalgic. Similarly to “Bleeding Heart,” I believe that this song is an ode to youth and the yearning one feels for it as they grow up. In particular, there is one satirical part of the song that really speaks to me: 

‘Enjoy your youth’ sounds like a threat

But I will anyway

In a deeper sense, I believe that the song is also exploring the phenomenon that we think aging will be so glamorous and satisfying, but the reality is, it rarely pans out the way we imagine it will. It’s a beautiful song about finding peace in growing old, and even though I myself am small and youthful, the song means quite a lot to me. 

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Track 3: “Grand Hotel” 

“Grand Hotel” is one of those classic storytelling pieces by Regina Spektor, and upon each listen, you discover a deeper meaning or a metaphor you hadn’t realized before. As with several of the other pieces, it has tones of nostalgia and reflects on older times using several dark, beautiful metaphors. One of my favorite things about Regina’s lyrics is how they read like poetry, and “Grand Hotel” is a beautiful example of this:

Under the floorboards there’s a deep well

That leads to a spring that sprung up in hell

That’s where old devils danced and kissed

And made their blood pacts in the ancient myths

And running through forest they screamed in chorus

While piercing fair maidens’ chests with their horns

And then they lay in the grass ’til the dawn came

Sleeping away ’til the dawn came

Lay in the grass where now stands the Grand Hotel

I chose this stanza to transfix on because I love the juxtaposition of the polished hotel description and the words she uses to describe the people of the past- “old devils.” It’s a mischievous exploration of the evil that may lay below the floorboards of the Grand Hotel, haunting the modern world with memories.


Track 4: “Small Bill$” 

“Small Bill$” is another track accompanied by a music video, and to date, it’s probably one of my all-time favorite Regina Spektor videos (behind “Ne Me Quitte Pas” and “Fidelity”.) It’s a bit more fast-paced and upbeat than some of the other tracks on the album, and the piano is not as prevalent as it is in her other songs. I consider Remember Us To Life to be a relatively politically charged album, and this song in particular really criticizes advertising and capitalism. She warns that our current economic climate could lead to fates such as poverty, hunger, and class consciousness, such as with the Russian Revolution. It’s always a learning lesson for us listeners when Regina spits out her Soviet-remnisent tracks, and the visuals of the music video really add to the entire aesthetic.

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Track 5: “Black and White”

“Black and White” is a beautiful, ballad-y track which once again uses juxtaposition to tell a story within the lyrics. Usually, when we hear someone say that something is “black and white,” it translates into something being crystal clear and easy to understand. However, Regina’s lyrics seem to suggest that things are left unfinished or complicated. The song discusses themes such as love and heartbreak, and how, just like a black and white photograph, love can feel antique and ‘out of time.’ Alternatively, her lyrics can be interpreted as a reflection on how little photographs are able to actually capture the full spectrum of emotion that is attached to memory. It’s slow and beautiful, and certainly sad, but I truly think it’s one of the most underrated songs on the album. 


Track 6: “The Light”

This particular track holds a very special place in my heart, as it is nothing short as a tender, loving ode to her husband and her newborn baby. Throughout the song, which primarily relies on the piano, Regina sings about her memories of the past and the curiosities she has for the future, and particularly, how her past decisions have shaped her into the woman she is today. The song does feel a bit melancholy at times, particularly when she’s singing about the unfamiliar grounds of motherhood and the depression which comes with it, but there are also uplifting lines. In particular, this one is my favorite:

So many stories, I want to tell you

I wish that I could show you the many things I’ve seen

You and your daddy, you both look like poets

Your eyes are open wide while you are in a dream

For me, this stanza represents how motherhood has affected her view of herself, and even her view of her own music. It’s truly a gift to watch your little baby grow and develop into his or her own independent person, and begin to see the world through their own little eyes. And yes, Regina’s husband, Jack Dishel of Only Son, really does have that poet look to him.


Track 7: “The Trapper and The Furrier”

Now that we’ve had that brief sentimental interlude, it’s time to jump back into something politically motivated. After listening to the song a few times, I came to the conclusion that it is about the unfair social structures and injustices throughout the world, but particularly in the United States. Throughout the song, she tells three stories: the tale of the trapper and the furrier, the owner and the manager, and lastly, the lawyer and the pharmacist. Unlike the softer songs on the album, this track is accompanied by howling strings and intense vocals, which really add to the menacing overtones of the lyrics:

The lawyer and the pharmacist went walking through paradise

And all the sick were around them with fevers unbreaking

Crying and bleeding and coughing and shaking

And arms outstretched, prescription-collecting

The lawyer and the pharmacist went walking through paradise

Pressed suits in a courtroom, aroma of chloroform

And they smiled at the judge, disposition so sunny

Cause they didn’t have the cure but sure needed the money

I don’t think it’s a secret at all that this song is about the greediness of corporations and the lack of care which goes into patients who actually need support. I would have loved to have seen a music video for this track; I think intense visuals would have really complemented the hard-hitting nature of the song, similarly to how “Small Bill$” tells such a vibrant story of capitalism. 


Track 8: “Tornadoland”

I love so many of Regina’s instrumentals, but the instrumental for “Tornadoland” might be my favorite off the entire album. Actually, that’s a lie. “Obsolete” is my favorite instrumental, but “Tornadoland” is a close second. Unlike many of Regina’s metaphorical, abstract songs, I think Tornadoland is pretty straightforward and literal. To me, it sounds like she is singing from the perspective of being inside of a tornado, or even being a tornado, and the song comes and goes without even so much as an intro. She sings about wanting to be heard and wanting to be “louder than the storm,” and the tornado is a reminder that we, as individuals, are insignificant. My favorite thing about the song, however, is the melodic interlude of swirling sounds and flutes, as if a tornado is actually spiralling through the middle of the piece.


Track 9: “Obsolete” 

This is my absolute favorite song on the album, and maybe my favorite Spektor song of all time. If it’s not my #1 favorite, it’s at least in the top three. The song is quite long and slow in tempo, and she drags out the words in a way that sounds both hopeful and dismal. I believe the song, similarly to Tornadoland, is about feeling insignificant and perhaps even left behind by life as time passes you by. I think the other reason I love this song so much is because it analyzes the feeling of not being understood, which is a sensation I have grown up with and hold close to me:

Minds grow dark, so suddenly

I was lost on your street

Hey I’m talking to myself

I can hear you listening in

To my thoughts, to my dreams

What I want, can’t compete

Obsolete

The most beautiful portion of the song comes towards the end, when her voice unexpectedly rises like a wave and the ethereal backing vocals increase as well, adding to the overall feeling of desperation and pain. It gives me goosebumps every time, and I could probably listen to this song on repeat forever. As quoted by Regina, there can sometimes be beauty found within sadness:

“Sometimes when I feel happy, for whatever reason, it just feels very good to listen to sad songs. I feel very comforted by beauty, especially when it overwhelms you with all its colours and sounds.”

Regina Spektor tickles the ivories and tugs at the heartstrings ...


Track 10: “Sellers of Flowers” 

Every single Regina song contains beautiful imagery, but this piece in particular reads like sweet poetry for the ears and the mind. In short, however, I think this song is just about death. Winter represents the oncoming and inevitable ending of everything, here to claim the roses that die before the morning. The changing phases of the sun represent how even the happiest, brightest lives will come to the same tragic demise:

Cause winter is coming

Soon after summer

It runs faster, faster

Chasing off Autumn

We go from a warm sun to only a white sun

We go from a large sun to only a small one

It’s really a substantial, meaning-packed song, so I recommend giving it a few listens to really get a handle on the full scope of the song. That is, if you’re into exploring the beautiful but twisted mystery that is life and death. 


Track 11: “The Visit” 

The last official track on Remember Us To Life is “The Visit,” as the next three songs are actually bonus tracks from the deluxe version of the album. “The Visit” is an absolutely lovely and sweetly penned reflection on the dynamic of friendship, and how the passing of time can often weaken our relationships with others. The lyrics are upbeat but melancholy, and discuss Regina’s happiness upon reuniting with someone from her past. It reminds me a bit of one of the bonus tracks, “The One Who Stayed and the One Who Left,” and in fact, I actually mix them up sometimes. I appreciate the hopeful overtone of the song, and as usual, I enjoy following along with the story when I listen to this piece. 


Bonus Track: “New Year” 

For late 2016, I think this track was a pretty timely addition. Not only because the subject is reflecting on her life experiences and the years ahead, but because it comes at a time of turbulence and unrest in the United States after the presidential election of Donald Trump. Even though 2016 was a pretty terrible year for most of us, the song is a reminder to focus on the good this year brought, and that we should (and must) be hopeful for what the next years will bring us:

She sets her alarm five minutes to midnight

And wakes just in time to say her goodbyes

Thanking the old year for all it has brought her

No mention of the things it took away

It’s really a beautiful song and an ode to hope, and even though I’m sure Regina is playing a character in the piece, as usual, it does feel like she herself is wishing the audience a very happy new year. So thank you, Regina! 


Bonus Track: “The One Who Stayed and the One Who Left” 

As I said earlier, I sometimes get this track mixed up with “The Visit,” or, at the very least, I think of it as a continuation or alternative perspective. This song discusses the story of two old friends who meet again after being detached for a long while, and how, even though they did end up going in separate directions, they are satisfied with their decisions to do so. I think detaching and moving in new directions is sometimes coupled with a negative connotation, so I actually appreciate that this song offers a more positive, healthy perspective on the notion of moving on in life, even if it means leaving people behind along the way.


Bonus Track: “End of Thought” 

Last but certainly not least, the fourteen track on Remember Us To Life is a chillingly deep, yet comforting piece about the vastness of our existence and how our problems are essentially meaningless. Upon first listen, the melody is simplistic and maybe not even memorable to most listeners, but once you really notice the words, the song becomes quite powerful. Here’s a particularly beautiful stanza:

You cannot make a mistake

The universe is too big

This song has been particularly comforting to me lately, as I’ve been thinking quite a lot about the vastness and mystery of the universe, and how terrifying that is. However, it’s also such a beautiful thing, knowing that our actions are essentially meaningless in the long run, and we can’t really hurt people as badly as we think we do. If that makes sense.


Anyway, I hope you guys enjoyed reading my analysis. I know it was an absolute monster of a post, but I’m really trying to pour all of my true thoughts and feelings into these album reviews. Remember Us To Life is utterly gorgeous and powerful, and the work Regina put into this album truly shines through to me as a listener. Let me know what you guys thought of the album in the comments!

With the current circumstances, I’ve had a lot of time to crack down and get some much-needed reading done. I’m the kind of person who loves to re-read books, so if some of these titles look familiar, that’s why! However, there are several new books that I’m super excited to dive into right now. I hope you find this article helpful and informative, and maybe, it will encourage you to pick up some new novels as well. *Side note: these are not all of the books I’m reading, just about two thirds of them! Altogether, I’m currently reading about sixteen books.*


Memoirs of a Geisha | Arthur Golden | Historical Fiction

Amazon.com: Watch Memoirs Of A Geisha | Prime Video

This is probably my fifth time reading Memoirs of a Geisha, and I can assure you it will not be the last. I LOVE this book. I remember the first time I read it was for a school project in high school, and though I dreaded the idea of a book assignment at first, it didn’t take long for me to fall in love with the story and devour the entire novel. I think one of the reasons I love this book so much is because of how much I identify with Sayuri’s sensitivity and empathy. It’s truly a beautiful, fluid, elegant recount of Japanese history, and I get a great deal of peace and clarity from reading these pages.


Slaughterhouse Five | Kurt Vonnegut | Satire, War Novel, Science Fiction

Epix Developing Slaughterhouse-Five TV Series Adaptation

I’d always heard of Slaughterhouse Five, but I’d never read it before now or even knew what it was about. However, about three weeks ago or so, I was in my boyfriend’s dorm room and noticed a copy of the book under his bed. He assured me I would love it and gave me the copy to borrow, and goodness was he right. It’s not a difficult book to read grammatically, but the subject matter and the themes are really deep and sometimes quite difficult to stomach. I laughed a few times throughout the book, but to be honest, I mostly cried. I’ve been touched so much by this unique, unexpected story, and I almost don’t want it to end. Highly recommended by me if you haven’t read it already!


Disappearing Earth | Julia Phillips | Mystery, Psychological Thriller

Disappearing Earth: Julia Phillips: 9781471185861: Amazon.com: Books

I actually just finished reading this book a couple of days ago, and since then, I’ve been scouring the internet for forums, threads, and discussions about this incredible book. It’s a perfect combination of mystery thriller with soft, elegant storytelling, and unlike many mystery novels, it’s not gory or graphic at all. The story can seem a bit fragmented at times, but trust me when I say it all comes together beautifully at the end. The final chapter of the book absolutely shocked me, and I’ve been thinking about it (and searching the internet for discussions) ever since. I would recommend this book to all book lovers, crime junkies or not. 


The Tale of Genji | Murasaki Shikibu | Novel, Fiction

BBC - Culture - The Tale of Genji: The world's first novel?

I tend to be drawn to big books, so it’s no surprise I had to buy this giant 1300 page piece of beauty. Fun fact about this book; it’s believed to be one of the first (or even THE first) novels ever written. I’ll be upfront now and say this book isn’t for light readers- it’s translated from ancient Japanese, and it’s LONG AF, but I personally think the story is very interesting and beautiful. Considering the history of the novel and the amount of times it’s been translated, I actually find the writing to be very fluid and elegant to read. Essentially, the novel centers around a man named Genji and his intense mommy issues (and how that manifests in his love affairs.) So far, I’m a fan. Only about 1200 pages left. 


Anne of Avonlea | L.M. Montgomery | Novel, Fiction

Blythe family | Anne of green gables, Green gables, Jonathan crombie

Although many people don’t know this, Anne of Green Gables is actually a part of an eight-book series that details Anne’s entire adult life, and even the lives of her children. Anne of Avonlea is the second book in the series, so it picks up right after Anne and Gilbert rekindle their friendship and become teachers. I love reading about the adventures and mishaps of our hero, Anne Shirley, so of course I am always excited to see where her story continues and flourishes. If I am correct, this is my third time reading the story, and I am just as interested now as I was the first time I ever picked up Anne of Green Gables. It’s a perfect, classic story, and I think everyone should read it at least once in their life. 


Sisters in Law | Linda Hirshman | Biography

Interview: Linda Hirshman, Author Of 'Sisters In Law' : NPR

This book is a little bit different than the other ones I’m reading, because it’s a nonfiction, biographical account rather than a whimsical story. I’m actually very interested in history and nonfiction pieces, particularly those centered around women, so I was really excited to pick up this book. I really enjoy a review on the back of the book that describes it as “gossipy,” because that’s exactly how the book feels. I love kicking my feet up on the couch and cracking open this book to see what Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sandra Day O’Connor are up to, and I especially love the cultural and historical insight this book gives me as a woman. It’s truly a remarkable recount. 


The Tubman Command  | Elizabeth Cobbs | Historical Fiction

The Tubman Command: A Novel: Cobbs, Elizabeth: 9781948924344 ...

It’s a little known fact that I am a huge Harriet Tubman stan, as I have been since I read all about her in second grade. It probably goes without saying that I was absolutely thrilled when I came across this book over winter break in a local bookstore, and I had to buy it on the spot. I love that this story is historically accurate in several ways, but also adds a sense of whimsical and magical adventure. If you love historical fiction and strong female leads, I highly recommend picking up this book. 


In A Dark, Dark Wood | Ruth Ware | Psychological Fiction

In a Dark, Dark Wood | Book by Ruth Ware | Official Publisher Page ...

This is yet another book I’ve read before, but I loved it so much, I had to pick it up again. I’m really drawn to mystery novels and psychological thrillers, and this book in particular really pulled me and left me feeling amazed by the last chapter. I also loved the setting of the novel: a bachelorette party in the middle of the woods? Of course it’s bound to be a wild story. It’s not as creepy as some of the other mystery stories, but it’s still a great story that I enjoy getting sucked into. 


America: The Last Best Hope | William J. Bennett | American History

AMERICA: THE LAST BEST HOPE VOL. 2: William Bennett: 9781595550873 ...

Like I said before, I’m really interested in history and nonfiction, so I’ve been slowly but surely getting through this giant recollection of American history. I have to say, I’m not a huge fan of William J. Bennett himself, but this is an interesting book and I’m finding the content to be very informative. I feel like it’s really important to have an understanding of where you come from and what has shaped the modern times, and that’s exactly why I’m reading this collection. I’m especially looking forward to reading about World War II, which comes in the second volume. 


All The Light We Cannot See | Anthony Doerr | Historical Fiction

Amazon.com: All the Light We Cannot See: A Novel (9781501173219 ...

Admittedly, I bought this Pulitzer-prize winning book ages ago and just haven’t stuck with it (and then I forget what happened, so I start over!) However, I am determined to get through the book this time. It’s a beautiful, elegant, almost poetic fictitious story of two paths crossed during World War II, and I absolutely love the writing style. Interestingly, the short yet impactful lines actually remind me quite a bit of Kurt Vonnegut’s writing style. If you liked Memoirs of a Geisha, I guarantee you’ll like this story as well. They’re both gorgeous, fluid retellings of true history, with a storytelling twist. 


I hope you found this article helpful and informative! Maybe it will even inspire you to pick up a few new reads yourself during this awkward period of quarantine. Have you read any of these books before? Let me know in the comments!

As I’m sure most of you know by now, reading is one of my absolute favorite hobbies. 80% of the time, I have a novel in my bag with bent-down pages stashed between school assignments. It’s a great way for me to focus my energy, relax, and take a break from the regular strife from life.

Today I want to take a chance to reflect on some of my favorite books that I enjoyed in middle school, high school, and even college. No matter what your age is, I’m sure you’ll love some (if not all) of these books!


Matched Trilogy | Ally Condie | Dystopian Fiction

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When I first started writing this article, the Matched Trilogy was the first book series to pop into my mind. I first read this novel when I was in sixth grade, which was around the same time I began to think more critically about the dystopian reflections and problems in our own society. This book in particular was a spectacular wake up call to these issues, while still remaining intertwined with a beautiful life story. To sum it up, this book has a little of everything: romance, dystopian drama, and even a little hint of mystery. Even though it’s been a few years since I’ve read the book, I’m sure I’d love it just as much today as I did when I was younger. 


Sammy Keyes | Wendelin Van Draanen | Mystery

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Without a doubt, the Sammy Keyes mystery series was my absolute favorite treasure in middle school and high school. Even as a senior in college, I think these books are phenomenal and such a joy to read. Sammy is quirky, brash, and extremely smart- three traits that I believe make her a great role model for young girls (and all readers in general). Take note that there are eighteen books in the series, so you’re an adamant reader, this is the series for you. Even just writing this, I’m already welling up with nostalgia and thinking about starting up the series again. It’s an action-packed, deliciously well-written collection of tales, and I truly think there’s a place in everybody’s heart of Sammy Keyes. 


Little Women | Louisa May Alcott | Fiction

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I’m a big fan of the classics, particularly novels that center around strong (yet sensitive) female leads. Additionally, the release of the Little Women movie this past year, the story is getting even more attention and love than usual. Although a fictional story about four young women in the mid-1800s may not sound too exciting, it’s actually extremely interesting and endearing. As an ambitious young writer myself, I felt a particular love and appreciation for the feisty Jo March. 


Anne of Green Gables | L.M. Montgomery | Fiction

Image result for anne of green gables

Similarly to Little Women, Anne of Green Gables is considered a classic example of literature, particularly with feminist notes. I truly believe that everyone should read this book at some point in their lives, regardless of age and gender. Anne Shirley is a spunky, strong, and entertaining female lead, and I immediately felt inspired by her after reading the series (yes, there are seven more subsequent books!). I would also recommend checking out Anne with an E on Netflix, if reading just isn’t quite your thing. The story is amazing in both print and on the screen.


Where the Crawdads Sing | Delia Owens | Mystery

Image result for where the crawdads sing

Where the Crawdads Sing is actually a book I read last year in a book club, but the story has always stuck around with me. This novel is a breathtaking example of a true coming-of-age story, and I enjoy that it curates both a male and female perspective. Although a large portion of the book is the mystery aspect, it also incorporates elements of romance, family, and even environmentalism. Although it’s heartbreaking at times, it’s a fantastic read and I highly recommend it to everybody who loves books. 


Memoirs of a Geisha | Arthur Golden | Historical Fiction

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Lastly but certainly not least, I have a very special place in my heart for this book. The first time I read it, I was in high school, and it absolutely changed my life. Have you ever read a book that destroyed you in the most beautiful way possible? That’s precisely how I feel about Arthur Golden’s gorgeous writing and fictional recount of Nitta Sayuri. Sayuri is a celebration of highly sensitive people, of beauty and grace, and notably, the celebration of womanity. It’s truly a vibrant look into a fascinating chapter of Japanese history, told through the voice of a genius storyteller.

It’s officially the holiday season, which means it’s time for me to revisit all of my favorite Christmas movies. In my twenty years of living, I have six all-time favorites, which I’ve numbered from best to…not as best? I genuinely love them all, so I don’t have a “worst” on this list. But come on…of course Elf has to be number one. That movie is an absolute joy.

Without further adieu, these are my favorite films to enjoy around the holidays!


Elf (2003)

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As I just said, Elf is my absolute favorite Christmas movie, and I look forward to watching it all year long. I’ve noticed that a lot of people say they’re sick of this movie, or they don’t find it funny anymore, but it really never gets old for me and my mom. I just love the sweet humor of the movie, the unique characters, and of course, Will Ferrell’s acting is such a treat. I haven’t had a chance to watch it yet this year, so maybe that’s what I’ll do tonight! I can’t imagine that anyone hasn’t seen this movie in 2019, but if you haven’t, you are seriously missing out. This is a beautiful, laugh-out-loud comedy, and it really gets me into that fuzzy Christmas mood.


The Santa Clause (1994)

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Following as a close second, The Santa Clause is another movie I grew up watching and have loved my whole life. This movie is one of my favorites because it’s absolutely hilarious, above all, but it also holds a nostalgic place in my heart. When I watch this movie, I get those same happy feelings that I felt around Christmas time as a little girl. On a side note, do you ever think about how movies where Santa does exist doesn’t make any sense? In other words, in Christmas movies where Santa exists, but the parents don’t believe in him, where do they think the gifts come from? This question has plagued me for years. I will be bringing it up again when I talk about The Polar Express


How The Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)

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God, I adore Jim Carrey. Speaking of this movie, I actually just watched it last night with my mom (yes, she is my #1 partner for watching movies with). Although I will admit the Whos’ weird puffy faces kind of freak me out, it’s still a sweet, endearing film to watch around the holidays. Additionally, the older I get, the funnier I find The Grinch and the more I relate to his humor. While watching this movie last night, I couldn’t stop thinking about how Jim Carrey as The Grinch reminds me of Jeffree Star’s dry humor. I really hope this makes sense to somebody else out there, because once I realized the similarities, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I was honestly shocked when I read that this movie tanked when it came out, and that some critics described it as “dank”, “weird”, and “eerie.” I genuinely think it’s hilarious. The only thing I find scary, like I said, is the disfigured Whos appearances. 


National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)

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I actually just watched this movie for the first time last week, but it’s already quickly becoming one of my favorites. I love the opening score, the quirky characters, and the charming acting delivered by Chevy Chase. The whole running gag with the lingerie sales lady was a little uncomfortable, but hey, that’s the 80s for you. Christmas Vacation is basically a giant homage to the 80s, and I appreciate the movie for that reason. If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s absolutely a must-see! It actually reminds me a bit of Scrooged, which I’m going to be talking about next.


Scrooged (1988)

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I watched Scrooged for the first time last year, so I haven’t really grown up with it, but I loved it nonetheless. This movie is essentially an updated version of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, hence the title. If you’re a fan of cynical humor, satire, and of course, Bill Murray, you’ll find a place in your heart for Scrooged. It’s certainly not everybody’s cup of tea, and I can see how a kid could probably find it scary, but I honestly enjoyed it quite a bit. I’m looking forward to watching it again this holiday season. 


The Polar Express (2004)

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Last but not least, I also enjoy watching The Polar Express, though I actually haven’t seen it in a couple of years. It’s a sweet, thoughtful movie, and the only Christmas film on this list that isn’t a comedy. What this movie lacks in laughs, it makes up for in catchy film scores and incredible animation, although I won’t lie, the animation is a bit…Uncanny Valley-esque. Hey, that’s 2004 for you. Anyway, I’m definitely going to watch this movie again, because I think it’s lovely and perfect for the holidays. However, I’m still plagued by this whole parents vs. Santa thing. Seriously, WHERE do the parents think the gifts come from? A pretty substantial chunk of this movie is based around the idea that the parents don’t believe in Santa, hence why they can’t feel the magic. If that’s the case, who do they think puts the gifts under the tree? This is one of life’s greatest mysteries. 


Anyway, that’s going to be it for today! I hope you liked this article and enjoyed my mini-rant. Comment your favorite Christmas movie down below! Do we share any favorites? Let me know 🙂

This is a continuation of the first part of my analysis for Soviet Kitsch, so if you’d like to read Part I, I will link it down below!


Track 7: “Whisper”

“Whisper” isn’t so much a song as it is a spoken intermission piece. The piece, which is a conversation between Regina and her brother, Bear, is sometimes listed as “***”. 

[BEAR]

When is that song gonna start?

[REGINA]

Which song?

[BEAR]

The song that goes like, “Duh na-nuh-nuh-na-nuh-nuh duh-na-nuh-na-nuh?”

The “duh na-nuh-nuh” song Bear is referring to is “Your Honor”, the next song on the album. I think it’s really sweet that Regina added this spoken-word piece between her and Bear, and in regards to the piece, Regina said the following: “That was my little brother whispering in a tent we made out of a sound blanket on the studio floor…. I’m so glad I get to keep that memory on record…. so sweet!”


Track 8: “Your Honor”

Following the quiet, placid nature of “Whisper,” “Your Honor” hits us with a bang. The first line of the song, I kissed your lips and I tasted blood, is actually a callback to the first line of “Sailor Song”: She will kiss you till your lips bleed. The “duh na-nuh-nuhs” Bear references in “Whisper” are Regina impersonating a guitar rift- another callback lyric on the album. Regina often adds “nonsense” sounds and onomatopoeia to her songs, including the dolphin sound in Far’s “Folding Chair” (one of my favorites!). My impression of “Your Honor” is that Regina’s boyfriend got into a fight, and he’s explaining to her that he fought to defend her honor. I think the bigger metaphor of “Your Honor” is poking fun at the patriarchy, and denouncing fighting on the behalf of any honor. My favorite line is the following:

I said, “I don’t kiss losers and I don’t kiss winners”

De-nu-mwah du-nuh-mwah mwah mwah

“And I don’t fight for honor ’cause we all are born sinners”

Duh na-nuh-nuh duh na-nuh-nuh duh-na-nuh-na-nuh

Could Regina’s character be a pacifist? There’s no way of knowing.


Track 9: “Ghost of Corporate Future”

This is possibly my favorite song on the album, behind “Chemo Limo.” I’m obsessed with the story and the message of the song, especially how Regina winds humor into the lyrics.

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I’m sure you’re all familiar with the tale of A Christmas Carol: A money-hungry man is visited by three ghosts who warn him of a miserable future, unless he decides to become kinder and gentler. That’s essentially what the ghost of corporate future is telling the man in this story: if he doesn’t loosen up and enjoy life, he’s going to be miserable and miss the important parts. It reminds me a lot of Rebecca Stead’s passage about metaphorical veils:

“Mom says each of us has a veil between ourselves and the rest of the world, like a bride wears on her wedding day, except this kind of veil is invisible. We walk around happily with these invisible veils hanging down over our faces. The world is kind of blurry, and we like it that way. But sometimes our veils are pushed away for a few moments, like there’s a wind blowing it from our faces. And when the veil lifts, we can see the world as it really is, just for those few seconds before it settles down again. We see all the beauty, and cruelty, and sadness, and love. But mostly we are happy not to. Some people learn to lift the veil themselves. Then they don’t have to depend on the wind anymore.”

The ghost of corporate future is an analogy for greed destroying mankind, but optimistically reminds him that it’s never too late to change. When you lift your veil and pay attention to the bigger things in life instead of worrying that the world is ending, you’ll find that life is much more pleasurable and fulfilling.


Track 10: “Chemo Limo” 

As previously stated, “Chemo Limo” is another one of my all-time favorite Regina songs. It’s quite dark, seeing as the subject matter is centered around a mother with cancer. In the first line, the character discusses the financial burden of childcare while fighting her disease. “Crispy crispy Benjamin Franklin” is a metaphor for one-hundred dollar bills.

I had a dream

Crispy crispy Benjamin Franklin came over

And babysat all four of my kids

The song is called “Chemo Limo” because Regina is saying she’d rather spend her money on a limo ride for her and her kids, instead of going through the pain and burden of chemotherapy. Like I said, quite dark.

Here’s a passage from the second half of the song:

Then I got dressed

I dressed the kids as well

The limousine pulled in, and we piled in

The doctor he asked

Which way we were headed

I said “Sir, let’s just go west”, and he listened obediently

Sophie only wants to listen to radio BBC

Michael sat on my knees and whispered to me

All about the meanies

Jacqueline was being such a big girl

With her cup of tea looking out of the window

And Barbara

She looks just like my mom

Oh my god, Barbara

She looks so much like my mom

While the mother is in the limo with her kids, she’s reflecting on what her children’s lives will be like after she passes. Will Michael grow up being bullied at school? Is Jacqueline old enough to handle being on her own? And Barbara reminds Regina of her own mortality, and her mother- who perhaps also passed away from cancer.

Essentially, the second half of the song is about the anxiety Regina’s character has for the future of her children after her death. It’s quite sad, but eerily touching and impactful.


Track 11: “Somedays”

Finally, Soviet Kitsch ends with “Somedays,”  a slower piece that discusses the general topic of depression. She talks about the melancholy passing of time, and the depressive tendency to isolate oneself when dealing with depression or bipolar disorder. 

Downtown, downtown

I’m not here

Not anymore

I’ve gone away

Don’t call me

Don’t write

She sounds desperate to be alone with her thoughts in the song, especially towards the end when she repetitively repeats “Don’t call me, don’t call me, don’t call me, don’t write…” I personally don’t deal with depression, but I do have anxiety, which can cause me to become reclusive and sensitive during difficult periods in my life. It’s a brace topic to discuss- the sense of feeling “unlike yourself” and losing control of your stability during bad bouts. 


It’s been a pleasure to record my thoughts about Soviet Kitsch and share my theories with you. Do you have a favorite song on the album? What do you think about the themes of power, patriarchy, and wellness? Let me know below!

Part I: https://diplomatsdigest.wordpress.com/2019/11/25/analyzing-soviet-kitsch-part-i/