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read this, read that

modeandthelikesaga1and2

Welcome to “Read This, Read That,” where I invite friends, bloggers, and bibliophiles of all sorts to share some of their favorite books or writing with Mode and the Like. From novels and poems to cookbooks and art tomes, you’ll find here a diverse selection of recommended reading in this monthly feature.

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Saga, written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples
recommended by Lisa

At its core, Saga is that age-old Romeo and Juliet story: two people from opposing sides of a conflict fall in love. Unlike Shakespeare’s version, however, Saga follows the couple through their ongoing struggle to be together in a warring universe—and raise their child.

This comic series is the perfect example of ideal science fiction. It explores the human condition using a fanaticized setting to underscore the points it’s making. This is no shitty pulp fantasy novel. Set in a futuristic fantasy world, not a single aesthetic decision is superfluous, and all of the conventions work on two levels (for example, the robot people are called “bluebloods,” both because of the color of their blood and their standing in society).

The series starts in the middle of a war between the winged people of Landfall and the horned people of Wreath, Landfall’s moon. Alana and Marko, our main protagonists (though far from our only storyline) have had a child, one that neither side is terribly enthusiastic about. We follow them through their ups and downs, their triumphs and defeats. And yet, as we find out more about satellite characters, we can’t help but root for them, too—which can be confusing when their interests go against Alana and Marko’s. This is truly a story with no antagonist.

The plot is compelling and the world creation thoughtful, yet for me it is indeed the characters that put this series head and shoulders above much of the sci-fi/fantasy out today. Saga has one of the most diverse casts I have ever seen, and my heart goes out to characters on both sides of the conflict equally. Alana is the ultimate “strong female character,” including her flaws and three-dimensionality, and at one point is the provider for her little family. The journalists investigating the rumors of a mixed child are a gay couple, and the bounty hunters are an equivocally badass crew regardless of gender or age. And all of these characters feel truly human. There are no stereotypes in Saga, no crude caricatures meant to fulfill some quota. Just people trying to find their way in a messed up world, and really, is that so fantastical?

lisaportrait

Lisa Ellis is studying Creative Writing at the University of San Francisco. She spends her time making up names for hypothetical pets and blogging about her ongoing struggle to keep herself not starving.
mangeonsmangoes.blogspot.com

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books

read this, read that

modeandthelikertrtkendramcphee

Welcome to “Read This, Read That,” where I invite friends, family, bloggers, and bibliophiles of all sorts to share some of their favorite books or writing with Mode and the Like. From novels and poems to cookbooks and art tomes, you’ll find here a diverse selection of recommended reading in this monthly feature.

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The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson / Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen / The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern 
recommended by Kendra

I’m always reading. Most of the time I’m drawn to non-fiction books on wellness and business, like Blue Zones by Dan Buettner or Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh. This month, however, has been grey and rainy in San Francisco, compelling me to dive into mysterious historical novels. Rich with themes of murder, magic, and romance, these novels take place at some of history’s most exciting social engagements—the World’s Fair and the traveling circus. None of these books are particularly challenging reads, but they are incredibly imaginative and entertaining.

If you can read only one of these in the near future, I highly recommend grabbing Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White CityIt is the most murderous of the selections. You’ll be lured into the story by either Dr. H.H. Holmes, the story’s cunning yet charming serial killer, or Daniel Burnham, Chicago’s brilliant dreamer and architect, and you’ll stay for the drama that unfolds in the heart of the 1893 World’s Fair.

Water for Elephants is the most romantic of the three, centered around the love between a circus performer and a vagabond veterinarian who “ran away with the circus,” finding home and family in the most unlikely of characters. I walked away from this book wishing Rosie, the elephant, were more central in the story, touched by her tenderness and intelligence and saddened by how much she was misunderstood—much like the novel’s central character, Jacob.

The plot of The Night Circus dances between magic and illusion. The characters are as mysterious as the story, weaving mystery and seduction into their circus act AND their interactions with each other. You’ll be drawn into the exciting, surprising world of the circus and torn between the power of cruelty and the power of love.

modeandthelikekendramcphee

Kendra grew up with her nose in a book and her head in the clouds. When she’s not developing children’s literature-inspired apparel at her organic baby apparel company, Obébé Organic, she can be found whipping up a recipe from the Against All Grain cookbook or conversing with friends over a glass of wine.
obebeorganic.commedium.com/@krmcphee / twitter.com/krmcphee

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book lover’s gift guide pt. 2

modeandthelikebookloversgiftguide2

For the bibliophiles and English majors in your life, finding a gift can be hard. In September I posted part one of the Book Lover’s Gift Guide. However, since these people can be notoriously hard to shop for, I figured I’d save you the trouble of searching tirelessly for the perfect book and provide some more alternatives. Happy gifting!

(Clockwise, from top left: Scrabble Coaster Set / 2015 Great American Authors Calendar / Writer’s Block Journal / Shakespeare Socks / Jane Eyre Mug / Library Due Date Pashmina / Personal Library Kit / Quotable Chocolate Bars / Wizard of Oz Tote Bag / Whale Bookends / Pen Nib Lapel Pin / Metamorphosis Brooch / Haruki Murakami Typewriter Quote Pin / Jane Austen’s Schoolroom Bookplate)

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read this, read that

modeandthelikefemalefriendship

Welcome to the inaugural post of “Read This, Read That,” where I invite friends, family, bloggers, and bibliophiles of all sorts to share some of their favorite books or writing with Mode and the Like. From novels and poems to cookbooks and art tomes, you’ll find here a diverse selection of recommended reading. I asked my friend Charlie to kick off this monthly feature, since I truly admire her voice, opinion, and style, so without further ado, I give you Charlie’s pick.

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“Transformation and Transcendence: The Power of Female Friendship” by Emily Rapp
recommended by Charlie

Fittingly, a female friend sent Emily Rapp’s eloquent essay to me, a reminder of the many ways she, like other female friends in my life, knows me well. In this impactful essay, Rapp discusses stereotypes about women, age, and friendship, touching on how we are often tempted to look outward, marking success by socially acceptable (and expected) achievements of others, and how, by looking inward to the female friendships we seek and form, we are more supportive and nurturing of the lives we and our friends lead.

Rapp hits on a resonant note – that there is a unique and intriguing unity that females form with one another, it’s a type of love that is resilient and loud. We vehemently (and quickly) declare love to one another, and in a far more honest way than I think we ever announce our love to men. It’s a different kind of love. It’s fierce. Protective. Unconditional.

Never has a family member or past boyfriend been able to pick me up in the same way as a close female friend can. There are friends I can count on to tell me when I’m being plain stupid, friends that I know, whether on the phone, over wine, or through email, will readily listen when I need a sympathetic ear. There are those who understand and accept my need to shut myself away, an introvert trapped in an extrovert’s body, and those who can bring out my unashamedly goofy and social ways. My female friends form the very essence of me. Whatever my life brings – womanhood has my back in a way that no other relationship – wonderful in its own right – can offer. My female friends understand me, whether I fit into an acceptable societal convention or not.

modeandthelikecharliephoto

An England native, Charlie is a graduate of the MFA in Creative Writing program at the University of San Francisco and now lives in Los Angeles. She’s a contributor for The Children’s Book Review, and when she’s not reading, she’s happily working on her first novel – stopping only to photograph the sunset. She misses the San Francisco fog, sometimes.
www.fromthecafewindow.wordpress.com

Would you like to contribute to “Read This, Read That”? Send me an e-mail.

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on the shelf | all-time favorites edition

modeandthelikealltimefaves

It should probably come as no surprise (based on the diverse subject matter I post here) that I have a broad range of tastes when it comes to fiction. I enjoy strange narratives in unconventional forms, books that comment on culture and society, stories that are complex and not always easily understood. That being said, I’m sharing my ten favorite novels today (I left out Never Let Me Go and As I Lay Dying since I covered them recently).

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