Picture Perfect / 06

Hello!

Picture PerfectHow are you? Anything new and fun to share? I miss posting on a more regular basis – and it’s my hope that the calendar comes together again in the fall – but I truly can’t complain: summertime so far has been all sorts of wonderful. Before I head out on today’s day trip, yet another college tour, I thought I’d whip up an edition of Picture Perfect in belated celebration of National Ice Cream Day. If you’re new to the feature, not to worry: Picture Perfect is simply an opportunity to group objects around a particular photograph, as in today’s ice cream and nautical related items. I think it pleases the arts and shopping lover in us all!

Picture Perfect 06{via}

I’m drawn to sun-drenched images these days like a moth to a flame {blame the summer-loving mindset}. It’s no wonder, then, that I felt a photo from Julia’s recent trip to the pier was so fitting for July; with boats in the background and dripping ice cream in hand, the stylish fashion blogger, who showcases her wardrobe daily on Gal Meets Glam, shows a day trip done right. I don’t share the same funds for shopping as Julia, but I nevertheless took delight in picking out objects, from a quirky coin purse to a classic floppy hat, to match the themes of the image. Do any of the objects catch your eye?

Picture Perfect 061 ◊ The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson from Amazon

2 ◊ High Summer Collection Ice cream from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams

3 ◊ Expand Your Horizons Cruise Ship Coin Purse from Kate Spade

4 ◊ The Way, Way Back from Amazon

5 ◊ Factory Trim Pocket T-Shirt in Gentle Sea from J.Crew Factory

6 ◊ Aerie Floppy Knit Hat in Soft Muslin from American Eagle

7 ◊ Ice Cream Print from Old English Company

Have a wonderful Tuesday!
Bella

Psst. Want more art-related posts to keep you busy? Here are a few picks: a recent edition of Eye on Art; another summery round of Picture Perfect; and an interview with shop owner and photographer Rachel Ball.

When We Collided: A Book Review

Hello!

Happy Thursday, friends! It’s been so long since I last wrote a traditional book review that I found stringing my thoughts together quite difficult. Nevertheless, I hope you enjoy today’s review of When We Collided – I’m convinced Emery Lord can do no wrong.

Title: When We Collided
Author: Emery Lord
Published: April 5, 2016 by Bloomsbury USA Children’s Books
Pages: 352
Genre: Young Adult / Contemporary
Source: Library / Hardcover
Series: None!

We are seventeen and shattered and still dancing. We have messy, throbbing hearts, and we are stronger than anyone could ever know…Jonah never thought a girl like Vivi would come along.
Vivi didn’t know Jonah would light up her world.
Neither of them expected a summer like this…a summer that would rewrite their futures.
In an unflinching story about new love, old wounds, and forces beyond our control, two teens find that when you collide with the right person at just the right time, it will change you forever.
  {
Goodreads}

It will come as no surprise to regular readers when I say that English is my favorite subject. The bookworm I am, I’ll take any chance to read and discuss novels, but additionally, I enjoy the opportunity to go deeper: to see how authors shape stories through language and structure; to find parallels in characters’ lives and storylines; to ask questions like “Why is it raining here?” or “Is the grass merely green or is it of greater importance?” {I’m nothing if not an English major in the making}.

Outside of the classics I read in class, the critical reading strategies still apply, even if not in the form of an essay or project. Take the main character, Vivi, in Emery Lord’s When We Collided, for example. “Vivi” has ties to the words ‘living” and “alive,” so a reader could only expect such a name to be matched to a vibrant and effervescent character. Vivi delivers, her personality shaped by longings for authentic relationships and a life of “paint palettes and sumptuous fabrics and star-flecked skies and dancing on [tiptoes] and the smell of jasmine.” As she adjusts after a move to California, she makes friends on the street, brings change to her new home, and explores all that the small beach town has to offer. A character with that level of expression can be difficult to portray on the page – a less experienced author may falter and lose connection with the audience – but Lord strikes a balance. Vivi is not always likeable, but she is human, and anyone can relate to that.

The name, however, serves a dual purpose, highlighting Vivi’s artistic energy, but also emphasizing the contrast between her “good” and “bad” moments. Mental illness has long been overlooked or worse, treated as nothing more than a plot device, in the young adult genre, so I applaud Lord for tackling the storyline with such delicacy and respect. I have no personal experience with bipolar disorder, so while I can’t speak to the accuracy of depiction, I can write on its emotional integrity: the extremes in Vivi’s feelings are written with a powerful sense of honesty, serving as the crux of the story and granting readers an open admission of life with a mental illness. Furthermore, that various methods of treatment are presented without judgment is further testament to Lord’s willingness to do right by the diverse YA community.

Vivi is joined in narrating the story by Jonah, a sweet-hearted teen and aspiring cook who meets Vivi at the pottery store. Jonah has worries and fears also, albeit of a different kind: what to do after the death of a dad and with a depressed mother? As I enter into my senior year, I’ve given more thought to the characters I encounter and how they relate to the teenage audience; in other words, for every YA book I read, I try to picture its characters as my friends, classmates, or peers {after all, they’re supposedly my age}. Jonah is realistic in every sense, his maturity not left without moments of temper or jealously. So too are the other inhabitants of Verona Cove; from Jonah’s adorable little sister Leah to Vivi’s gruff dining companion, each character is dynamic and purposeful, carrying stories of their own.

Lord, as she proved in her previous two releases, has a way with words, not just in character development, but in shaping the setting as well. She weaves details together to evoke the five senses, painting pictures of a bonfire on the beach, a moonlit dinner party, and open pottery sessions. In other words, she makes it easy to immerse oneself in the charming town of Verona Cover. Similarly, if you take away on lesson from reading When We Collided, let it be this: if you want to capture a reader’s attention, vivid descriptions of delicious meals can’t hurt.

My complaints are minor – many of them simply storylines that required more closure – and they certainly didn’t ruin my enjoyment of the story. I finished feeling as if Vivi and Jonah had grown, but not to the point that there was nothing else for the two of them to learn – in other words, a natural close to an overall impressive story. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to Lord’s next book, because I know what to expect: developed, realistic characters; deep, relatable storylines; and, most importantly, cute romances :) Now if only I could get us to read YA in lit class.

Have a terrific Thursday!
Bella

High Five / 07

Hello!

High Five 07Happy Sunday, friends! Is your July off to a good start? I’ve been keeping busy with work {sixth graders continue to be the cutest} and rehearsals {we’re only a few weeks away from opening night!}, but my weekends run at a welcome slower pace; I think today, for example, calls for nothing more than a good book and a glass of lemonade. Before I settle down on the porch, A Tyranny of Petticoats in hand, however, I thought I’d share a new edition of High Five – it’s been so long since I last posted one! How was your week?

[1] When it comes to music, my tastes range widely. From the impressive numbers on the Hamilton soundtrack to the indie recordings from Florence and the Machine, I find it hard to settle on just one genre! Thanks to a brief mention in the most recent Rolling Stone issue, my love for Jake Bugg’s music was rekindled, making him yet another artist to add to my varying favorites. His most recent album, “On My One” was released earlier in June, and needless to say, I’m a fan. While it doesn’t quite compare to his previous work, I appreciate the experimental route he takes, particularly in the tracks “Gimme the Love” and “Never Wanna Dance.” To be brief? It’s made the rotation on my Spotify playlists. What songs are topping your summer radio?

[2] If the charming movie The Lady in the Van proves anything, it’s that Maggie Smith can take on any role and imbue it with her trademark dry humor and passion. In the film, she stars as Mary Shepard, an elderly woman who lived in playwright Alan Bennett’s driveway for fifteen years – in a broken down, dirty van, no less! It’s a bittersweet true story and is treated with care by the actors and production team alike, and so, it comes as no surprise that it premiered to wide acclaim last fall. After watching it with a few friends, I hope now to track down a performance of the stage production, as this theater fan enjoys drawing distinctions between the two forms of media, in addition to grabbing the book.

[3] Day trips are aplenty come the summertime, so to kick off the season, my mom, sister, and I visited the Heritage Gardens and Museums in Sandwich. With perfect walking weather and free admission to boot, I couldn’t have asked for a better way to start my month. A few other highlights from our day: we had an early morning slot at the Adventure Park, a zip-lining. tree-climbing experience just minutes away from the gardens themselves. It was incredibly fun, if a bit scary, making my way across the treetops! We also grabbed a bite to eat at Cafe Chew, a small restaurant with an adorable interior and tasty sandwiches. Are you traveling anywhere this summer?

[4] After wrapping up what episodes are available of Jane the Virgin on Netflix in just a matter of weeks, my sister and I were left with a dilemma: what show to watch next? Thankfully, it took only a few days before we found our answer, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Starring the hilarious and talented Rachel Bloom, the show follows former New York lawyer Rebecca Bunch as she moves to California in pursuit of her childhood crush Josh. What may seem like a typical “girl obsessed over a guy” storyline is actually sharp and witty commentary on friendship, confidence, and mental illness {I suppose it also helps that much of this is done in song!}. In addition, this is one of many shows I’ve seen this year that have a smart, complex female character as the leading role  – yet another thumbs up from me!

[5] Finally, my sister is considered the ice cream expert and maker in our household, a role I’ll happily let her keep so long as I can request another batch of s’mores ice cream! With temperatures predicted to soar in the next few days, I’m certain she’ll agree a batch is in order; who can beat the tasty combination of toasted marshmallows, crushed graham crackers, and a fudge ripple? If you’re more inclined to buy your ice cream rather than make it and you’re in the New England area, here are a few of the excellent ice cream spots I’ve visited over the past few summers: Three Sisters, Gray’s Ice Cream, The Inside Scoop, and The Ice Cream Sandwich. Yum! {picture via Add a Pinch}

Have a terrific rest of your weekend!

Psst. My heart hangs heavy after reading and learning more about the numerous events that have dominated the news over the past week. I don’t consider Ciao Bella the place to discuss the issues – I try to keep it as a light, creative space – nor do I feel it’s my place to start a full-on discussion, but I encourage you to research, advocate, and listen with an open mind as America moves forward {recommend reads: this post, this book, this article}. Black lives matter, and I hope change is on its way.