Eye on Art / 13

Happy Monday!Eye on ArtHow was your weekend? Did you get any snow? I only have a few days of school left until my February vacation, but this is also the tech week for my school’s Cabaret production; needless to say, it’ll be a busy few days of stage managing, studying for my remaining tests and quizzes, and, of course, sneaking in the newest episode of How to Get Away with Murder :)

Before I focus on stage cues and physics formulas, however, I wanted to share another edition of Eye on Art, a long-running series in which I feature three different designers. As someone who appreciates all things visual, I love the opportunity to share the work of artists I admire, whether they be an illustrator with a fondness for bright colors or a hand-letterer whose form and wit brings a smile to my face – media doesn’t matter so long as the creator has the power to inspire. Have you been crushing on any art this month?

Laura CallaghanIt’s hard to miss a portfolio as colorful and detailed as Laura Callaghan’s work, but it was by only a stroke of luck that I came across her site; I hate to think I could have overlooked it had an image of hers not popped up in my Pinterest feed. Nevertheless, I have since become captivated with Laura’s illustrations, not in the least because of her saturated palettes and layered compositions.

You may label her art provocative, but I think a term better suited to it is, to be blunt, interesting. Study each picture carefully, and you’re sure to find a new element to note each time; study them as a group, and you’ll be quick to see Laura’s skill in proportion and pattern. Picking a favorite from the bunch proved to be an impossible task, so I’ll just ask instead: can she make a coloring book? {website}

Chris DeLorenzoEqually fascinating of an artist, albeit in a much different manner, is Chris DeLorenzo, an illustrator recognized across social media for his minimalistic style and unique perspective. These traits are no better seen than in the images above, such as the boat floating on a sea of books or the woman enjoying a day on the beach.

Also worth noting: geometric shapes and clean rough edges are signature elements to his artwork, a rising trend I have noticed many artists attempt to emulate, but only a few, like Chris, to truly master. He works in a limited color palette, an unusual, but entirely effective choice. And, finally, he’s not afraid to make a statement with his illustrations, if it means the viewer will ponder what he presents. To put it simply? I really dig his work. {website}

Carla HackettLast, but certainly not least, is Carla Hackett, a letterer based in Australia. I’m a sucker for examples of gorgeous typography {graphic designer at heart I am}, so it was love at first sight when I came across her portfolio. She works both on paper and on the computer, producing logos, advertisements, and posters, a few of which you can see above.

Carla’s personality shines through each piece, so that her work is fun and inviting comes as no surprise. Her script has an elegant, almost retro quality, while her other letterforms demonstrate a trained eye in typography. I aspire to reach the same skill in lettering, but, for now anyways, I’ll settle on imagining a piece of hers on my wall, t-shirt, or tote bag – nice type deserves to be displayed. {website}

Have an amazing start to your week!

The Distance from A to Z: A Book Review


I apologize for my mini hiatus – it’s simply been one of those weeks! Fortunately, I’m home from school today due to a wet and heavy snowfall, allowing me a leisurely morning of reading Jenny Lawson’s memoir, Furiously Happy, watching a few episodes of Scandal {my sister and I, as you can likely guess, are hooked}, and finishing up this book review that has been sitting in my drafts. What’s up for your weekend? What have you been reading?

The Distance from A to ZTitle: The Distance from A to Z
Author: Natalie Blitt
Published: January 12th, 2016 by Epic Reads Impulse
Pages: 316
Genre: Young Adult / Contemporary
Source: Author / E-Book
Series: Nope! This is as adorable of a standalone as it gets.

This full-length novel by debut author Natalie Blitt is a pitch-perfect blend of Stephanie Perkins and Miranda Kenneally that proves the age-old adage: opposites attract.

Seventeen-year old Abby has only one goal for her summer: to make sure she is fluent in French—well, that, and to get as far away from baseball and her Cubs-obsessed family as possible. A summer of culture and language, with no sports in sight.

That turns out to be impossible, though, because her French partner is the exact kind of boy she was hoping to avoid. Eight weeks. 120 hours of class. 80 hours of conversation practice with someone who seems to exclusively wear baseball caps and jerseys.

But Zeke in French is a different person than Zeke in English. And Abby can’t help but fall for him, hard. As Abby begins to suspect that Zeke is hiding something, she has to decide if bridging the gap between the distance between who she is and who he is, is worth the risk. {Goodreads}

A love of reading and a love of traveling go hand in hand – that is to say, not the logistics of the trip, booking reservations and plotting daily schedules, but the experience, visiting cities and sights outside of your daily norm. Trips quench one’s thirst for knowledge or new adventures with ease, but when a lack of funds or shortage of time prevent you from voyaging any further than your home state, I think a good book has a similar effect. My own wanderlust has long been fueled by the settings of novels I’ve read, whether it’s the cross-county road trip in Amy or Roger’s Epic Detour or the European tour of The Conspiracy of Us. Natalie Blitt’s first publication, The Distance from A to Z, serves as yet another testament to that fact, creating a Francophile out of any reader with its immersive setting. Through it, Blitt proves herself an equal to established contemporary authors, and, more importantly, it has me excited for the books that remain in this year’s batch of debuts.

Unlike the rest of her baseball-obsessed family, Abby’s interest lie more in language than hitting a home run, so much so, in fact, that she jumps at the first opportunity she gets to enter a French-study program. Abby attends her first class, only to find herself face-to-face with sports again: this time, in the form of Zeke, her French study partner and avid athlete. Romantic contemporaries often get a bad rep – the common complaint is that they’re too light and all fluff – but The Distance from A to Z holds weight. Readers looking for nothing more than witty banter {some in French, no less} and cute kissing scenes will take pleasure in Abby and Zeke’s relationship, while those who want a more serious contemporary will appreciate the discussions on social anxiety and secrets.

What talent Blitt demonstrates in the plot appears in her characters as well. She crafts them all with a realistic eye, a fact illustrated no better than the interactions between them. Abby and Zeke’s relationship grows naturally, for example – taking a cue from Pride and Prejudice, they start as enemies only to find themselves feeling something more – as does the friendship between Abby and her roommate, Alice. These relations drip with an intensity that is unique to adolescents, and, better yet, they show that love comes in a multitude of forms. In addition, the characters’ passions are central to their development. Abby’s love of French is most prominent, as she quotes lines from the classic Amélie, describes French monuments in vivid detail, and translates from English into French before she even realizes she’s doing so, but Zeke’s appetite for sports and Alice’s enthusiasm for poetry are just as significant to the story.

Just as Abby often felt alienated from the rest of her family, however, so did I when it came to connecting with the characters. Perhaps it’s only a matter of the format I received it in or the slow pace at which I read the book, but I was never fully invested in Abby’s story, nor did I find a point in which I clicked with Zeke or Alice. This is not a discredit to their development, only an observation that I always felt as if I was observing the narrative from afar. Similarly, because the entire story takes place within a New Hampshire summer high school program, it was difficult for me to imagine Abby and Zeke outside of their French classroom. In other words, I couldn’t picture a future for them, as I believe Blitt wanted her audience to do. Nevertheless, the ability to connect with the narrator changes from reader to reader, so whereas I couldn’t relate to Abby, that’s not to say that the next reader will have the same problem.

There is a wedding saying that begins, “Something old, something new.” Britt applies that same philosophy here, taking what is known to work in the genre and adding her own signature elements: an intelligent protagonist who’s in the midst of growing up, as well as obsessed with French culture; a funny, if cocky, love interest, who happens to have an interesting hobby of his own; a supportive and caring friend, who has her own obstacles to defy. It’s in the same vein as Stephanie Perkins and Jennifer E. Smith, but don’t be fooled: Blitt has made a name for herself. If anything, it’s a fun, fulfilling read for your next snowy afternoon – I say that, speaking from experience.

Have a terrific weekend! :)

Psst. If romantic contemporaries are your jam, here are a few more selections for you to try: Anna and the French Kiss, More Happy Than Not, Better Off Friends, and Just One Day.

January 2016 Monthly Recap

Hi!Monthly RecapHappy February, friends! Did your January fly by as quickly as mine did? I feel as if I was just celebrating Christmas with my family, and yet, warmer temperatures, blooming gardens, and my third and final trimester of the school year are all on the horizon {related: the psychology of time is an interesting read}. It’s the idea of “losing” time and its opposite, living in the present, that inspired these monthly recaps; through them, you get to catch up on my latest batch of posts, while I get to share what made my month. I haven’t posted one in quite a while, but with the new year now in full swing, it seemed as good of a time as ever to start them back up again! How is your winter coming along?

These Shallow Graves{I love historical fiction and mysteries alone, but together? It’s a combination, as Jennifer Donnelly illustrated with These Shallow Graves, that can’t be beat.}

Reads: Reviews were not as frequent as usual, but I hope the smaller amount is made up by the quality of content. I find review-writing, as crazy as it sounds, relaxing, so when I found a free afternoon or evening, I took the time to write down my thoughts on an impressive Gilded Age mystery, an interesting contemporary novel, and a heart-breaking realistic fiction. Take a peek at them all below!

  • These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly | “Donnelly takes full advantage of what the period offers her, crafting an immersive narrative that combines the personal struggles of her characters with the social and political issues at large.”
  • Tonight the Streets Are Ours by Leila Sales | “What could easily turn into a story of stalking gone wrong, Sales forms, instead, a well-written observation of how we warp information and memories to fit our needs in the digital age.”
  • Breakaway by Kat Spears | “This is not an easy story to read, nor, can I imagine, that is was an easy story to write; in other words, if it’s an emotional roller-coaster for the reader, then it can only be more intense of a ride for the author.”

January BooksIn regards to what I read last month, I couldn’t ask for a better way to kick off my year! I was able to sneak in eight books in January, and what a range they were: a handful of middle grade mysteries from beloved authors, newly released contemporaries, and a heart-warming memoir. Fingers crossed my reading streak continues into February, particularly during my winter break where I can read the days away.

As always, reviews are on their way!

Fudgy Chocolate Chip Cookies 2Eats: Your cookie jar won’t suffer from a dessert shortage anytime soon with these posts on hand! I started off the month with a recipe for delicious, if decadent, fudgy chocolate chip cookies – they’re not to be missed when you add in a large glass of milk. I then finished off the month with the instructions for shortbread chocolate chip cookies. Clearly, you’ll need to stock up on chocolate if you plan to whip these up :)

Alex Ry{Alex Ry has a creative eye when it comes to her Pinterest feed; I, for example, love the gorgeous samples of typography that she finds.}

More: As is tradition here on Ciao Bella, features were aplenty in January. Picture Perfect, a feature that celebrates photography, aesthetics, and, yes, shopping, made another appearance last month – the new edition’s bohemian mood has me thinking of spring – as did Font Freebies, a series where I round up my recent favorites for you to download. In addition, I took part in Top Ten Tuesday to bring you two new lists: my goals for the new year and novels that caught my interest in the past few months. Finally, I’m a shameless Pinterest fanatic, as I explained in this post of my favorite Pinterest accounts.

Over at Lit Up Review, I highlighted Julie Berry’s newest release, The Passion of Dolssa, in a Waiting on Wednesday; I thouroughly enjoyed Berry’s previous work, so I’m excited to delve into the historical thriller set in Medieval France. I also shared in two Ten Illuminations in January: find novels I’m looking forward to here {Morgan Matson forever} and books for your next snow day here {I’ll never turn down a well-written historical fiction}.

Rowan Blanchard Sorry Not Sorry{via Rookie}

Favorites: Blogging is just as much about the community as it is your individual posts, yes? Here are a few January links from bloggers I admire and bloggers I’m lucky enough to call my friends.

  • As a lover of language myself, I’m smitten with A Love of Sentences, a site created by Rachel to collect lines from stories and essays she’s read. Reading through them emphasizes the power of words, and it’s even inspired me to record the passages I come across and adore in my reading.
  • If I had to choose someone who has made positive changes in the book blogging world as of late, I’d nominate Aneeqah in a second. Her post “Can Book Bloggers Get Paid?” sparked a conversation that’s long overdue – the fact that it’s a well-written argument is only an added plus.
  • Jen has been exploring different avenues with her blog, J'(en) Adore, and I couldn’t be happier that she has found success in doing so! Prime example? Her first fashion post, which illustrates her superb style sense { I’m crushing on that cozy plaid poncho}. I can’t wait to see where this direction takes her.
  • I wrote on Twitter that this Rookie article is “intelligent and inspiring,” but I think that those traits can be applied to its author as well. Rowan Blanchard is one among many celebrities I admire for their advocacy efforts, and her essay on being a girl in today’s society is well worth the read.
  • Finally, I’m such fan of the “new” DesignLoveFest, in which more focus is applied to art and design and less on DIY tutorials and giveaways. I could recommend a number of posts from the January archive, but I liked this interview with Bri and the other DesignLoveFest editors the best.

February Calendar{Because no one can hate on a pretty calendar, I’ll be sharing my dry-erase version in this section every month :)}

Looking Ahead: February happens to be my favorite month of the wintertime, and I think the coming weeks will hold true to that statement! I have several productions lined up {I’m stage managing my school’s Cabaret performances and directing a one-act play festival entry}, a Boden Warehouse Sale to look forward to {spring wardrobe stock-up, here I come}, and a school vacation coming soon {I’ll be rehearsing, reading, and writing like crazy}. What’s on your agenda this month?

Have a lovely start to your week!